‘A Respectable Life’ . . . Goes Live

The lead-up to the launch of a novel is always fraught – but here they are ready for this Friday and looking splendid! arl-mass-1

A website that kept freezing, a code that could not be read, a pdf – with embedded fonts – that was somehow rendered with the wrong font in the proofs – these are some of the extra trials in the run up to the launch of A Respectable Life. {up-date – and a whole box of books delivered to the wrong address!}

You will recall the poll I took on the way the words should be placed on the cover (Thank you all for your comments and votes) It was a close-run thing – but both of the main choices had the word ‘respectable’ split up and uneven on the right hand side.

After much discussion the choice was made – with the hint of a shadow added to deepen the font and make it more serious.

All of this carefully placed on Anthea Lay’s painting of Hingsbury so as not to hide any of the main features of Hingsbury village – the pub, The Old Chapel (where Cordelia lives), the Church, the shop and Hideaway Cottage – I wanted all of these visible on the cover.

Anthea had an interesting task – to create this fictional village from a sketch map and set it into the landscape where I wanted to plant it – and then to squash everything over onto one side – the front cover! Explaining this to a number of people I was told that they ‘love a map’ – so I have included this in the front of the book too.

SO… the book is ready to launch. What to do? Where to hold it?

Now, you have to know that Cordelia organises the prestigious Hingsbury Art Fair – raising thousands for charity – and it is this backdrop that flows behind the events of A Respectable Life – so the Book launch will be in Hingsbury Art Fair!

OK… so St Dominick Hall will be masquerading as Hingsbury hall – with a Pop-Up Art Fair provided by five local artists, Anthea being one of them! Each of these five artists is very different – there’s oils and acrylics, encaustic wax, gouache and pen and ink, fine botanical paintings and quirky multimedia work as well. Something for everyone. There will be a short talk and Q&A followed by refreshments (& cake) and opportunity to chat – look at the art – or buy (signed)books and art (Think Christmas pressies for special people – or yourself 😉 )

Now, if you are in the area – and you haven’t already received an invitation via facebook, twitter or email – please consider this yours!launch-invite-2(click on picture to enlarge and make clearer!)

And we all look forward to seeing you there …

X Ann

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Who put the butter in the jam?

Who put the butter in the jam? No, it isn’t a fussy query from the person who deals with such things as the butter dish on the tea table – this is something I wondered aloud – though there was no-one to answer me  (yes – I talk to myself even when there is only the radio to listen).WP_20160917_20_51_23_Pro

I was making some bullace and apple jam (recipe for Bullace Jam is HERE – but the bullaces (wild damson-like fruit) were not as numerous or as large and juicy as usual so I had a feeling that the 4½ lbs lbs would make nothing like the 10 x 1lb pots I hoped for.

SO, as the windfalls have started to come off – I added half a pound of cooked apple per 2 ¼lb lot of bullace.

I cooked the bullace in the microwave with the three tablespoons of water, allowed to cool a little then drained them and squished them around and around in a large-hole colander until all I had left in the colander were bare stones and tough skins.

The apples I peeled, cored and cut into slices (on the apple/peeler/corer contraption which I love (see here) then just cut the prepared apple into 4 and spread them out in a covered pyrex dish and cooked until mushy.

This I added to the bullace and reheated – proceeding to then add the 3 lbs of granulated sugar and stirred well to dissolve it before returning to the microwave. When this mixture had heated to bubbling point I added a “knob” or ‘walnut-sized piece’ of butter … and said (aloud)

‘Who put the butter in the jam?’ … in fact I added, laughing to myself … ‘Who on earth, while making jam, thought – I know – I’ll put some butter in this!’

The effect of putting butter in the jam is to prevent (or largely prevent) a ‘scum’ forming on the top of the jam as it boils, giving a brighter, cleaner jam, and obviating the need to ‘skim off the scum’ – which always sounds pretty revolting – even though it isn’t.

Useful … yes … but who would have known this would be the result? Why would they even think to try it? Beats me!

(you know – it is the jam recipes that keep bringing random new people to the blog – maybe I should be writing microwave jam recipe books instead of fiction – lol)

On another jam note altogether – people will go and eat it! Unfortunately I couldn’t even enter this year’s village Autumn Show – though I had promised I would enter some jam this year – as people had only gone and eaten ALL the jam I made last year! I’m hiding a nice jar or two this year – so at least I can participate next year!

So – that’s my blog for today …

And the question still remains – if you know – do tell – Who (first) put the butter in the jam?

best

Ann

BTW – just to keep you good folks up to speed … my new book* A Respectable Life will be released on 28th October! (*for which you can blame my absence from the blog)

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Converting the Americans

Converting them to what – or from what? You may well ask!

One of the things that the internet has brought us, is recipes from round the world.  Recipes from far flung countries with different climates and different languages do not seem to be a problem – usually someone, somewhere, has taken the trouble to convert the recipe from whatever units it is usually made in – into (nowadays) grams and millilitres. Apart from American recipes!

If you are ‘of a certain age’ you are probably still thinking in ounces and pints for cooking. In fact there are a few recipes I really do not think I could work in metric, so long ago were they learnt that I make them on automatic pilot and in imperial. They are, at least, proper measurements.

DSCF5371I have been looking for a particular type of biscuit to set as a competition for our WIs next group meeting. Now, for the uninitiated, a group meeting is where a designated group of WIs in an area get together for a cut-throat friendly set of competitions and a talk – frequently one that would be beyond the reach (financially) of one WI on its own, though not always.

DSCF5377At these events the friendly competition is usually set to reflect the theme of the talk. Hence – the last one we set up was a talk from a man who had owned a Zoo … the competitions were: Floral – a flower arrangement to represent a wild animal, Craft – a decorative border for the poem Tyger Tyger, by Blake and, Cookery – a Zebra Cake!
Just a few of the entries shown Right>

DSCF5369Now the only available versions of this zebra cake were in American Cups – and using a tin size that is just not commonly in the British cupboard. So a lot of conversion and changing of quantities took place until the recipe worked in metric … and then it had to be converted to imperial and checked again, as some ladies of a ‘very certain age’ only measure and cook in imperial.
Zebra Cake!  my metric / imperial recipe here

I struggle to understand why the Americans use their form of measurements in their cooking. I have heard that it was from when they had nothing to weigh with, that recipes using ‘cups’ were simple enough that any vessel could be the ‘cup’ and as long as the proportions (the cup) used was the same the recipe would then work. Understandable then, if true, but when we live in an age when even ‘sophisticated’ scales, that swap between imperial and metric, are available for small amounts of money – why use a method so random?

Just try getting a ‘cup’ of butter  to be right – or using a different type of sugar to the one specified when you run out of one but have the other in the cupboard (granulated, demerara and caster all give different cup measurements) – or even flour – which has to be ‘fluffed-up’ before making up the cups ‘best spooned into the cup and then levelled off!’ What?!

Looking it up I see that many American Chefs and Cookery writers are trying to convert the Americans to use scales and recipes that are more accurate – but there is a huge resistance – ‘Cups’ ‘Spoons’ and ‘Sticks’ are almost seen as patriotic! (by the way – ‘spoons’ as in ‘a spoon of butter’ – not just spoons of fluid ingredients)

At our next group meeting in May 2016 we have the lovely Anthea Lay who was a competitor on The Big Painting Challenge on the BBC, bringing us an interactive Big Painting Challenge Experience to our WI Group meeting – I’m looking forward to it … but before that I have to work out the cookery competition to fit the theme, and soon – so we can notify the other WIs.

I am after a particular type of biscuit that I saw on the internet, one that can be made to look like an artist’s palette. Can I find it in metric or imperial? Can I coco!

So once more I shall set about converting the American measures into Metric and Imperial. It does mean that I’ll have another recipe to add here eventually – which can’t be a bad thing.

Have you ever tried an American ‘cups’ type recipe without converting it?  How did it go?

Do you *sigh* when you find a really nice looking recipe and see it is all in ‘cups’ ‘spoons’ and ‘sticks’?

Do share your thoughts – and any good recipes too, you know I love to hear from you.

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Craft Fairs & Literary Festivals

It is THAT time of year – when people are thinking about  *whisper* Christmas shopping …  WP_20151105_15_26_11_Pro

… and my favourite place to shop is a proper local craft fair – where the goods are made in the area by the hugely talented lot of crafters we have in South East Cornwall (and around) There are two I always go to – and attend with my own books too – one is in my local church, which happened this weekend, the other is at the Parish Hall (for Linkinhorne) at Upton Cross which is also a treasure house of art as well as crafts … and happens on the first weekend of December – truly into the Christmas season!

Art and Craft … and books? It may seem strange to have books along at such events, but they fit in very well – what an art and what a craft, it is to create the worlds, characters, plots and lives held within the pages of a novel!  And they are local – in that the authors are local and are often present to sign or dedicate the books (though not ‘sitting behind the stall’ in either of these style of craft fair they can be found at certain times stewarding).

WP_20151107_11_12_51_ProToday, if you do not count on-line book sales, there are as many books sold through non-bookshop outlets as there are though bookshops. Every supermarket has books for sale, usually the most popular, the newest and the heavily discounted – but books that catch the casual shoppers eye – and get bought. To  have books at a craft fair therefore is no different in retailing terms – and a signed (and dedicated) novel can make a very special present.

However, it is the Literary Festival that holds up the book in the spotlight. Here the readers go to hear the stories behind the stories. How the authors come up with their plots. Where do they get inspiration from to create the characters? What are the trials and tribulations … and the highlights and triumphs. What was the hardest part to write, indeed, how do they write – most authors have their own way of working – finding out can be fun.

So it is with great pleasure that I can tell you, if you didn’t know, that I am invited along again to the Looe Literary Festival starting on the 12 of November – 15th.

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If you go to their website you can find the schedule – I am talking about Some Kind of Synchrony at 2.45 on Saturday 14th and would love to see you along there – and it is totally FREE. The venue is Upstairs @ Mama J’s  – which is down towards the sea in East Looe.  Scroll down the Full Schedule page to see a map.

 

Before me, at 1.30pm,  you will have the chance to hear my fellow Pendown Publishing author Sally Newton talk about what she learnt when researching her novel, the first of a trilogy, ‘Caradoc – The Defiant Prince’ set in iron-age Britain in AD25.Book launch poster y1

Not only that but, on Sunday at 11.30, you can catch me again with the rest of The Liskeard Poets with our set called ‘Festival’ – also at Mama J’s and also for free!

In fact this festival is so great because they have ensured that there is always something to be seen and heard, regardless of how deep your pockets are, and it is one of the most relaxed and inclusive literary festivals out there – turning the bucket-and-spade town into something completely different – a place where people wander from talk to talk with books tucked under their arms, eat and drink in the pubs, restaurants and cafes and enjoy the peace of being by a Cornish river and close to the sea, with authors, books and talks all around the town.

So – I hope to see some of you along at the weekend – if you read this blog do let me know when we meet!

Do you frequent Literary Festivals?

What do you like about them?

If not – here’s your chance! A laid-back friendly festival to try.

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This is not a real post – just a Litter-rant update

This is not a real post – just a Litter-rant update, honest – the post I was writing and didn’t post will arrive early next week.
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THIS is how much rubbish was collected on our Saturday Litter-pick. THIS MUCH! from just the roadsides round out parish.
So you can see our litter-pick happened but not before yet more hurdles were placed in our way…. as you will know I was railing against the fact that one of the volunteers had to travel a total of 50 miles to borrow the equipment to do this litter-pick with… well .. this is what happened……
We headed off the the Liskeard, Moorswater depot … having checked where it should be… it turned out to be a place so unsigned that we had to ask in two other places before we found it! Even when we drove into the yard it wasn’t clear where to go – the office door having only a sign that said ‘visitors must sign in at reception’ though no sign to say where reception was, whose office this was, or anything. I stuck my head inside and said ‘I’m supposed to be collecting some litter-picking equipment?’ Slight surprise but recollection too, then they went to retrieve it from where-ever.
Boxes were brought… I looked and checked numbers ….. instead of the 25 pickers, 25 hoops, 20 tabards and 50 sacks ALL they had to loan us was 19 litter-pickers, 11 hoops, NO TABARDS and 50 sacks.  It transpired that they DO NOT keep this equipment at Moorswater – it had been delivered to them … and that is all they were sent!
 
Now, what you need to know is that without high-visibility tabards a litter pick should not be able to go ahead, as wearing these is part of the Risk Assessment that has to be complied with to receive the Council’s insurance to cover the event.
I asked for a receipt for the numbers I had actually been given as I did not want a different person telling me I had items missing when I returned them and set off wondering what we could do.
 
Luckily I had half dozen adult tabards and 19 small (child size) tabards that we have had since we first began our litter-pick and we were sent them from the national Keep Britain Tidy group. These are like bright green plastic bags with writing on and holes  for heads and arms. I then spent and hour  ‘converting’ most of these to fit an adult – so at least the litter-pick could go ahead. Everyone was very understanding, (including one gentleman who squeezed into an unconverted child-sized tabard – I wish I had taken a photo!) and we had a record turn-out of thirty helpers. (some helping at a different time to others) AND many thanks to all those valiant people who turned out and a special mention for Daniel who picks up all the bags and brings them back to ‘HQ’ for collection by the council later.
Was it worth it? Well, you be the judge – above is the photo of this year’s haul, thirty full bags of rubbish plus a couple of dumped tyres, some hub-caps and a television stand. Just think what it would look like if this much rubbish were left to lie beside our roads and lanes, with the same again added year on year.
So my rant stands, I think Cornwall Council are not helping to encourage volunteers who are picking up the litter, that the council should be doing, by effectively charging volunteers to borrow the equipment (that’s paid for through council taxes) by making them travel so far to collect and return it. We all know times are tight for councils, but this is wrong-headed. They have had plenty of advertising for their ‘Clean-Cornwall’ but what use is that if they treat volunteers in this manner?
Promise – the next post is far more pleasant  🙂
Did you come on the litter-pick?
Have you been on one in your area?
Do share- you know I love to hear from you – even when it’s only been a rant 🙂
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Big this- Big that – But Bringing people together

I’d love to tell you about the great atmosphere, the laughter, the absolutely yummy food that was to be had at our village Big Breakfast last Saturday first-hand … but as I spent from half past nine to half past twelve cooking eggs and mushrooms non-stop, without time to even look up, I can only report second-hand on most of it.

Please imagine here a large plate, filled up with two rashers of bacon, two sausages, an egg,  then add mushrooms, tomatoes and baked beans, to the side have a plate of toast and marmalade and a cup of tea – got that? Good – because I didn’t have time to take a photograph – despite remembering to take my camera!

It is true I could hear the buzz roar of convivial chatter and the laughter, and hear the diners who stuck their heads in the hatch to congratulate us on the tastiness of the food, and, when everyone was gone and we had a chance to eat, I could testify to that too. It was wonderful! However I can only remember one time when we were busier, and that time taught us a lesson in table management!

‘What is this Big Breakfast?’  You might ask, especially if you are not even from the UK (as I know some of you aren’t) or indeed, live in an urban environment where this feast has not caught on … yet.

Each year there is a National Big Breakfast week. Consisting of the traditional English Breakfast. This is partly to raise awareness of good quality British produced foods – bacon, sausages, eggs, mushrooms and more – and to raise money for whichever group are running it – traditionally here it has been the WI and Parish Hall funds

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Hedgerows of daffodils without litter!

Then in March we have our Big Tidy – which is a parish-wide litter pick of the highways and byways before our beautiful parish bursts into bloom with hedgerows decorated by daffodils and wild flowers. Again organised by us in the WI but participated in by anyone who likes to get involved.

The result is a HUGE (wish I could make the fonts go bigger on this blog) pile of bags of collected litter – and a really warm feeling of achievement! (though perhaps I should DSCF6776 cropwarn of the side-effect: of being able to spot the tiniest piece of litter at a hundred paces that doesn’t wear off for weeks!)

In reality both these are little events in the world scheme of things … but these little things make a difference – they bring people together, help build community, share in everyday things, feel good about their environment.

Big This – Big That – but these little things DO make a difference. Community, shared environment, shared lives.

What events are run in your area that bring people together?

Who is it that organises them?

Did you come along to the Big Breakfast? Are you going to join in the Big Tidy?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you.

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My Meringue-Snowmen army rides again …

DSCF0041It was our Festivities committee’s BIG EVENT this weekend – it is the one this group was ‘invented’ for … to bring a bit of community spirit and festivity to the heart of the village.. thus a HUGE Christmas tree bedecked with light and a community ‘tree-lighting ceremony’. This is a village event that has grown over the six years it has been running and includes now a ‘lighting’ of the small (planted) tree behind the post-office parking area, the church bells ringing, then the walk to the Hall singing Christmassy songs, where the Hand-bell ringers play and then we have singing of Carols – this year led by the primary school’s brilliant choir. Finally we all get into the warmth of the hall for free mince pies, sausage rolls, juice or mulled cider (wassail) and good fun is had by all……

What has this to do with snowmen … meringue or otherwise?? …. well the mince pies are all home-made and supplied by lots of lovely people including us on the festivities committee. Now I always make my rich shortcrust with egg yolks. Cue meringue –  what else do you use the whites for? However this time I decided to make some mini-mini-pavlova bases as I know I have an event I need to take finger-food along to, and they will do very nicely. I had piped out as many of these as I wanted and still had plenty of meringue mix left and I was suddenly reminded of the mini-snowmen I used to make for the boys to take to their primary school class  party when they were in the infants. (Yes – I know I am mad – as if I didn’t have enough to do 🙂 ) …so I decided to make some of these for the children at the lighting-up event.

However, it was a busy week that also saw me at an event all day Saturday with my books, so I didn’t get them finished in time. After the lighting-up evening I decided to finish them to add to this blog in-case someone out there might  fancy making them too.

Stage one: Make up the meringue mixture as per MY pavlova recipe ( so – 4 egg white – whipped, plus 8 oz of sieved icing sugar – click link for full details – it is an easy and reliable recipe – this would make you two dozen mini-mini-pavlovas and two dozen snowmen)

Stage two: Put in piping bag with large nozzle – I used a very open rose. Grease flat baking trays well. DSCF0004DSCF0003

Stage three: Pipe bodies: Two good squeezes to give a bit of shape. ON a different tray – Pipe heads – one squeeze

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size comparison with a 5p piece

Stage four: Cook – 140 oC  or 120 oC  fan oven best for these very tiny items. About half an hour. Check, should have firm base if picked up. turn oven off and allow to cool in oven. Remove (you can store in an air-tight box until you are ready to use them)

Stage five: Make up 1 egg-white’s worth of Royal Icing (or if you have it – mix some instant Royal Icing) (1 egg white = 6-8 oz sieved icing sugar) beat well until smooth and glossy)DSCF0012

Stage six: divide into 5 portions. Leave one white – colour the others blue, red, black and orange (deep yellow)

Stage seven: Make up 4 small greaseproof icing bags. Follow link (or look under Recipes top-bar drop-down) for instructions.

 

Stage eight: Snip off end of black (little)  and dot in all the buttons ….. then all the eyes.DSCF0026DSCF0029

Stage nine: Snip off end of Orange (little) – add ‘carrot’ noses.DSCF0032

Stage ten: snip off the ends of red and blue – and more from end of Orange. Create scarves on all the bodies.DSCF0031

 

Stage eleven: using a paint brush or a cocktail stick add smiles – red or black – as you think fit – I can never make up my mind about this bit!DSCF0034

Stage twelve: Using the back of a teaspoon add a little blob of white icing to the base of the head … and stick the head on the body of each snowman.

Stage thirteen: If you have enough icing left give the snowmen a contrasting bobble hat.

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meet the motley meringue-snowmen crew

Ah! Memories … the meringue-snowman army on the move …. now I only need to find some small children to eat them 🙂

Hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these little fellas come to ‘life’ …

Do any of you make special sweet-treats for your family  at Christmas?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you

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How to become a Model …

… it was easier than I thought. No starving myself into a size 6 (HaHaHa – I wasn’t that even when I was 6!) ….  it was as easy as putting up my hand

The ladies of our WI were organising a fund-raising event in aid of the local Memory Café – more of which later. One of our members, with contacts within Debenhams, managed to get their agreement to come out to our village hall and bring a range of fashions to show. All they needed from us was the set up, the paying audience and at least half a dozen models. At this point, along with a few other members, I put my hand up – and that was it – committed.

Debenhams Fashion Show St. Dominick
Fashion show ‘special occasion wear’ finale (click to enlarge photo)

A number of weeks later and armed only with the knowledge of our dress-size (and that can be pretty vague can’t it?) and our height, the ladies from Debenhams arrived with over £5000 worth of clothes. They brought with them two bare-Minerals make-up artists who ‘did’ all our faces. (It was fun to hear later from two people that know me well, that they had a little argument as to whether I was actual me – or not, when I did my first promenade – no, I do not usually wear any make-up – can you pick me out?)  We were each given a set of clothes to model, a day-wear set, a Autumn / Winter Coat and a glamorous evening or special occasion outfit.

A swift ‘walk through’ with guidance on where to walk, where to stop and where to turn while the music blared out – and the audience were let in – and we were on! The audience giving each turn a lovely round of applause.  Two-thirds way through the 33 outfits the make up girls gave a twenty minute demonstration, giving us time to change into the glamorous gear.

It was a fun event which couldn’t have been done without the dedication of the Debenhams team, especially the personal shoppers who had made  all the selections which, amazingly since they had so little details to work with, not only fitted but on the whole suited the models! So huge thanks went to them.

The Debenhams team had to rush off at the end to get the goods back to the store and checked in, but the audience and the models (now back in civvies) enjoyed tea and choccy biscuits. What a fun way to raise over £400 for the Memory Café….

Memory Café? What is that?  .. it is a ‘club’ set up for people with memory difficulties and their carers, and indeed anyone of that generation who wishes to spend a bit of time reminiscing. The organisers bring memory stimulating games / quizzes / music / items etc and share lots of chat with the guests while having tea, coffee and cake, on every other Saturday afternoon. As someone who has family that attend I can vouch that it is a very worthwhile organisation that gives joy to our older citizens and values their memories. It also supports the carers, often older people themselves, of those that are struggling due to memory problems whether just getting absent minded or whether diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia.

So have you ever found yourself doing something unexpected by simply volunteering?

What was the strangest or best thing you ended up doing?

 Do share – you know I love to hear from you

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Celebrating small things – country life

Today, yes, today, I was at a village celebration!     …..    Excited? 

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People gathering before the start

Well, if I told you this was a celebration for the opening ceremony of a LAY-BY – would you still be excited?

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Getting the new lay-by ready for the ribbon cutting

Yeah – I know it sounds weird … but this is country life… and when they say things move slowly in the country this lay-by is a prime example.  The post-office corner is a good right-angled bend and the road is just wide enough for two cars to go round it carefully. Opposite the post-office village shop used to be a fairly high bank, seemingly grassed, but as we all know, grass banks in Cornwall hide a slate and granite hedge! There has always been a bit of roadside parking up the little lane leading down towards the ‘main’ road through the village, but not much, and you were always aware that tarrying too long meant others could not park. Then there are the Mobile Library days, when all that space it taken by the Mobile library for half an hour. Or deliveries to the shop, or the postman collecting the mail.

All in all, many would stop on the corner, against that high bank… and thus prevent the bus getting round the corner much to the consternation of the bus drivers ( Yes we are lucky enough to still be on a regular bus route – and I imagine each time the bus is prevented from keeping to schedule the likelihood of keeping the service diminishes)

So, for years … and I mean Y E A R S …….. the idea of having a small carpark opposite the post office village shop has been mooted.  However, up until now, nothing has ever come of the ‘idea’. It has taken a savvy person on the parish council to work though the ever tricky procedure of applying for grants and permissions, others to plan and oversee the works, for a community group to put forward some of the funds to show willing and for the grants to be actually awarded and in the end we have it!

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Two, of the three, vintage cars, parked in the lay-by

It was part of the stipulation of the largest funding body that there should be a formal opening ceremony with press – so it became an event – with posters drawn by children from the village primary school, with official ribbon cutting, with tea and cake, with a procession of vintage cars, one carrying the oldest village resident at 101, and a vintage bike against the bike rack with its basket filled with bunches of flowers for various people handed out by children from the village school and with speeches (short ones!) of thanks to all involved!

And so, it turned out to be a really nice country-style village celebration of something both very small and significant at the same time.  There is now room for 5 cars ( if they park tidily) plus the space for three up the side lane remains, and no excuse to block the path of the bus (or any other large vehicle that needs to turn the ‘post-office’ corner).

We all hope it makes a difference inside the shop too, with more people using it – as we are also very lucky to still have a post office and village shop and that needs the village people to use it and buy a significant amount every week to keep it going.

Lucky people!

The first lucky seven people will be getting their choice of my already published novels arriving in their email inbox on Friday!! There is still a chance to get in on the first draw if you enter before noon on Friday 7th June… but even if you enter afterwards you will be in the draw for the next three weeks draws. If you’re not sure what this is about .. just click on the link to go to my   **Pre-Launch Party** where YOU CAN WIN a copy of one of my novels. (if you haven’t got an ereader these are available as pdf – or download kindle for pc and ask for a mobi version – to read them on your computer) 

I’M GIVING AWAY ONE eNOVEL A DAY ALL THROUGH JUNE!!

Do you live in a village or tight-knit community?

What makes your community special?

Do you find pleasure in these ‘small things’?

You know I love to hear from you – do share 🙂

 

AND NOW.. the next excerpt from THE ANGEL BUG ……

Gabbi has returned to the Foundation building…

   Andy and Naomi were heralded by their voices, obviously in heated discussion, followed by their persons as they came up the central staircase into the light and airy office space.

‘But it could be Thrips Palmi,’ Andy was saying.

‘What, with the quarantine measures all in place? Besides it isn’t as if it came from some dodgy place.’

‘Well, Kew has been known to have its own problems with diseases and vectors.’

‘Do we have a new problem?’ I cut in.

‘W04, some die-back co-incidentally right beside the new introductions.’

‘Which were quarantined for three months as usual!’ Naomi retorted.

‘Anyhow, we’ll know soon, samples coming over pronto.’

‘Well we’re going to be busy then, I’ve asked for you to see some from the Moringa as soon as they come in. It’s a bit tricky, it’s the last tree we want to have a problem with just now,’

‘Why? Any time is bad for any of them isn’t it?’ Naomi said, shrugging.

‘Ah, but Luke Adamson’s coming and he’s sure to make a bee-line for it.’

‘Why’s that?’ Andy said as he sat down.

I looked at Andy and Naomi, both of them looked puzzled, and young all of a sudden. I smiled, ‘Well back when you two were in nursery school, Luke made his name with the first comprehensive ethnobotanical study of the Moringa.’

‘Oh dear!’ Andy pulled a mournful face, waggling his head in a mocking way.

‘Oh dear, indeed,’ I almost laughed, Andy, at least didn’t seem in awe of the superstar.

The three of us busied ourselves in the portacabin laboratory at Watering Lane, Eden’s nursery a few miles west of the main site, each wearing the standard kit, lab coat, latex gloves, and, when we were cutting, goggles.

‘So,’ I said firmly, looking up from my microscope, ‘it’s definitely not a dehydration problem, these cells are as turgid as we could wish for.’

‘And so far I have found no signs of microbacterial infection,’ added Andy. ‘So I’m going to culture some sections, especially of the red cells.’

‘You just do that!’ Naomi said to his back as he went into the second half of the lab.

‘Nothing?’ I asked, looking across to her. There was an atmosphere between them that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, though it might have just been the cross accusations over the source of the plant infections.

‘Nothing, certainly on this sample, I’m off to take a good look at that tree and the area, put down a few sticky pads to see what insect vectors I catch.’

‘Okay. I have to admit I’d rather we found something concrete before Adamson turns up.’

Naomi turned and gave me a quizzical look as she hung up her lab coat. ‘I don’t know why you’re worrying, Gabbi, that new senior botanist will be here tomorrow and she can talk herself out of any hang-ups Dr Adamson has about our trees.’

Naomi just about slammed the door behind her, leaving me wondering what had ruffled her feathers. There was something in the way that she had said ‘senior botanist’ that suggested that the new boss was a problem, but, as I had not been in on the day of the appointment I’d not met Dr. Ananias. I had heard that she had made an impact on all of them in different ways, some by her looks, some by her ‘air’ and some by her obvious intelligence, however, perhaps not all opinions were favourable. I recalled that Naomi had been unusually reticent at the time.

I turned the leaf over again; the under side was a definite red, not unlike many plants that have a red underside to reflect light back through to the chlorophyll-bearing leaf tissues. I began to wonder whether the Moringa had the ability to adopt this red pigment in reduced-light circumstances. After all the ETFE bubbles of the domes did not allow a hundred percent light through them, then add to that, the fact that many of the largest of the trees in the tropical biome had grown so fast, faster than had been expected, that they had already needed pruning to prevent them reaching the skin of the dome, and so they were cutting out even more light.

‘Hey, Andy,’ I called. ‘I’m going over to reception to see if I can chase up anything on Moringa and low light levels.’

‘Okay, catch you up later.’

I cleared and washed up, then hung up my lab gear and left the laboratory. I glanced up at the vast range of glasshouses that had brought on the bulk of the trees and plants needed to create Eden, and now continued that work, with the sideline of producing plants for sale in the shop. Reception was a building that looked, appropriately, like an overgrown garden shed. Inside, it had the appearance of belonging to a set of artistic hippies; six foot butterflies hung lazily on fine threads from the ceiling, a foam rubber and papier-mâché tree wound itself around a central pillar, and collection boxes for all kinds of recyclable stuff were everywhere. The reception desk itself was little more than a bare board and unmanned as usual, yet above it hung the ubiquitous picture of Luke.

‘Hiya, Jim,’ I called as I circled round to a spare computer.

‘All right?’

‘Will be if we can sort out this blessed Moringa before he comes.’ I nodded to the picture.

‘Yeah, I heard you had a problem. Anything I can help with?’

Jim was one of those truly green-fingered horticulturalists that make you believe in such things; anything he touched grew.

‘Not unless you can tell me why these Moringa leaves should turn red with no obvious reason. I’m just looking up the likelihood of a change to utilise reflected light, though there was nothing in the Forestry guide’

‘No watering problems?’

‘Nope.’

‘Hmm, light sounds like a possibility then, and that guide’s not infallible. I’ll leave you to it,’ he added as he left the building.

Half an hour later Andy broke through the trance that I’d sunk into as I flicked from article to article dealing with plants that utilised the red underside of their leaves. There were no cases where Moringa had exhibited this pattern of adaptation and the only plants where the colour changed, as opposed to always being red, had a well documented histology that demonstrated that they were always ready and willing to change as soon as the light levels decreed it.

‘Ready to go back?’ he asked.

‘Yep, might as well, not getting anything useful here. Of course I might be on to a new research paper,’ I grinned. ‘The adaptation of Moringa to life under ETFE.’

   Andy grinned back; he knew how little I wanted to do any such thing, even though progress in the scientific world was made just that way. I’d said often enough that I was so glad I didn’t have to jump through those hoops as I had no ambition now to be a botanical high-flyer. After all I’d seen at first-hand what it meant. James had been at the top of his field for decades and it had driven him to despair at times, especially when out ‘scrounging’ for research funds, yet it still amazed me when he threw it all in and retired at fifty, many of his colleagues were just getting into their stride at that age.

   We were no further on when I left for home. I drove my mini quite sedately, there being no need to hurry home, and the twists and turns of the high-banked hedges and the road between them meant that being ready and able to stop within a few yards of spying another vehicle was a distinct advantage. My mind wasn’t on my driving however; it was still on the problem of the Moringa.

 ….. to be continued

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Putting the Fun in FUNd Raising!

There are many pluses to living in the countryside, and immediately we are all thinking of green fields, bird song, the lowing of cattle, fresh air, peace (not necessarily quiet – it can be a noisy place in unusual ways) and hedgerows bedecked with wild-flowers. However, here I am thinking of the simple pleasures that may be taken without the censorship of what is ‘cool’ or ‘in fashion’ because, somehow, these things just do not matter here.

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hedgerow bedecked with wild flowers

 

Maybe it is because we know we are blessed there is a lot of fundraising for good causes that goes on out here in the sticks. Not a week goes by when there is not one or even two fund-raisers for good causes within a five mile radius of where we live. These can be as parochial as the fabric of the local church (grade 1 listed building with parts dating back to 1259) or as far afield as a small locally run charity (Tamwed) to enable the rural poor in India to help themselves by growing foods with better nutritional values and supporting mobile health advice and care.

The events are usually the coffee morning, cream tea, pasty and pud, quiz night, craft-fair or bazaar / garden fete variety, and though people try to inject an element of ‘fun’ none of these are a patch on the Evening Meal with Pig Racing that we attended a few evenings ago.

The meal was the main focus of the evening … a chance to share, explore new flavours, and do a quiz that got everyone talking… however, it was the pig-racing that put the FUN into the evening.

So, here we have a short video clip from the evening – the people at the far end of the race-track are the ‘racing-pig ‘owners’ (for that race) They had the privilege of naming the pig and the chance to take home the race-pig owners prize … and the responsibility of catching the pig at the end of the race!

PLEASE NOTE – IF YOU ARE READING THIS ON THE EMAILED POST YOU WILL SEE NOTHING HERE. CLICK ON THE BLOG TITLE AND IT WILL TAKE YOU TO THE BLOG PROPER – WHERE THE VIDEO CAN BE SEEN!

What was the most FUN fundraiser you have ever been along to?

Do share (we are always looking for more ideas) and you know I love to hear from you!

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