Heart and teeth

No, this is not the latest title I have in mind for my next book… this is a news item I saw which seems to confirm a link between plaque on teeth and heart disease… It reminded me of an old friend of my dad’s, probably long dead, who was a well-loved and well-respected doctor. I thought of him because he had a habit of using a pin, which he kept in his lapel, as a toothpick… yes, I know it sounds disgusting… Anyway, he ended up in hospital with some serious heart-problem which was caused by him nicking his gum with the pin. My dad went to visit him several times and fortunately he recovered. This must be at least thirty years ago so the connection between teeth/gums/heart has been known for a long time.

Anyway… this made me think of another story about him; I’ll call him Dr Séan  O’Keeffe… which isn’t his real name at all.

Séan was very popular with all his patients, he was a very kind, nice man, and a good doctor. He had a very old lady as a patient, and she wasn’t in good health so he would always pay her a home visit. She was a dear old thing, but lived in rather decrepit circumstances, and to be honest, her home was actually quite a mess… more than a mess… it was actually pretty filthy.

She was always so grateful for his visits, and on one occasion when he had been particularly  helpful to her she asked if he would like a cup of tea. She was obviously very lonely, so Séan accepted despite the dreadful state of her kitchen. She made tea and poured it into a grimy cup, and gave it to him with a toothless grin. He looked into her smiling but very grubby face, yesterday’s dinner still round he mouth, and thanked her.

Then he turned the cup round to drink with his other hand, so he would be sipping from back, and hopefully less dirty side.

“Ah, Dr  O’Keeffe!” she exclaimed. “I see you’re left-handed, just like me!” and she too took a sip from her cup, holding it the same way round as Séan.


Bake-Off has Baked-Off!

After a triumphant finish with the right decision – in my opinion, made, the last ever BBC Great British Bake-Off winner was crowned! The programme is going to continue elsewhere but with three of the component parts missing… it won’t be the same, it can’t be the same, and I’m not sure I shall watch it. It might be different and better – although I can’t imagine how – but it certainly will be different. Even if the same format is kept, male and female judge bakers, a pair of presenters (either a well-known double act or two random people from other fields) and the three-part weekly competition in a tent – even if that all copies what has gone on for the last seven years, it won’t be the same.

Everything has to change, of course; the present series is very different from the original, and there is nothing worse than a programme, film series, book series, running out of steam and becoming stale and flabby. However, I think it is a great shame that this star programme has ended as it has. The BBC will no doubt put something together with the remains of the team, who knows what, cooking or something different, and I will certainly watch that and see how it goes!

The ending of the show has been disappointing – the way it has ended is disappointing, but it has made me think about things – shows, programmes, films, book series, going on too long. When I write my first Radwinter novel I had no intention of there being a sequel. I had been tempted to write sequels for some of my other novels, and indeed, the plot lines continued in my head long after I finished the writing! However, on finishing Radwinter in which a character follows his father’s family history, it seemed only half written – what about his mother’s side of the family? Then closer to himself, what about his parents? What happened to them to make them as they were? By this time, after three books, there had to be a fourth as a final dark secret was discovered, and the ongoing mystery of someone who had disappeared needed to be solved.

I am now nearing the end of the fifth story in this series, and I have a plot outlined for another… but at what point should I say, ‘enough!’ Will I recognise when it is time for my characters to carry on in their own imaginary world without me? I hope I do, before the stories become ‘stale and flabby’!

If you haven’t read my Radwinter sotries, or my other novels, here is a link – and please let me know what you think! Kindly criticism always welcome!



Only umpteen cooking days to Christmas…

My title is a quote from my dear Ruth Drew – I say ‘my dear’ although I never knew her, and even if she had not died so young I am sure I would never have met her anyway! I say ‘my dear’ because she just sounds such a delightful person, so full of enthusiasm, so practical, so jolly – she reminds me of a favourite aunty.

Her book The Happy Housewife, was published posthumously and is a collection of her broadcasts and writings; her personality leaps off the page, what a character she must have been. Here are her thoughts on preparations for the big event:

So make that cake and pudding now.
Passing a famous South Coast hostelry where noble hams and equally notable Christmas Puddings used to hang in conspicuous array under the beams of the ancient dining-room before the war, I was suddenly reminded that the time had come for thinking of Christmas Puddings and Cakes. Much of their quality, let us remember, lies in their early preparation. For both these essential concomitants of Christmastide, fruited and spiced and laced with spirit, certainly do improve with keeping, and although during the last fifty years I have been trying to find recipes which are an improvement on those used in my family when I was a child (and as my mother’s birthday was on Christmas Eve, we always enjoyed on that day a pudding made for the precious Christmas), I have never been able to discover anything better.
When i was young I cannot remember rum having ever been used in my home for Christmas puddings; it was always brandy, and I think that rum was considered not quite respectable. We know better now, however, and it remained for me to discover in later how very far superior rum is for this purpose, for its taste seems more suited to the dried fruits and its comparative sweetness imparts a greater depth of favour and richness to the whole. So today it is Jamaica rum for me every time, and I advise my readers to adopt the same excellent precept.

My featured picture is of a Christmas cake – my pudding pictures seem to have disappeared!


… and I wonder where the famous South Coast hostelry was, and if it still exists!


Sea stories

Yesterday I was commenting about how much naval and sailors idiom and slang is still in our language. I was actually writing about writing, but I deviated into thinking about words.

Here is what I wrote yesterday, and I have highlighted all the phrases and words I’ve used which have a connection with our maritime hertiage:

Over the last few days, I’ve had a good think about the story I’m at present writing… I started in about January and was soon underway and the narrative was raced ahead; all was flowing well and I’d been working at it off an on while editing another book; however I was a bit taken aback when I was checking it, tallying the wordcount etc, suddenly realised I was 4/5 through the expected length of it. There were so many plot lines which need to be tied up that I ran the risk of completely missing the mark, losing my readers and it was just going to be too long. It gradually began to dawn on me that I’d over reached myself, and I felt a bit overwhelmed. Actually, I felt utterly stranded, marooned in a sea of words. Was I just flogging a dead horse? Had I written so much for so long – especially with the long novel I’ve just finished – was I actually flaked out?

When I read it through some of it was fine, but to be honest, if I stepped back, stood off from it, some of it was rubbish, junk, bilge – if anyone still uses that word! I felt a bit adrift actually, in my heart I knew it needed a complete overhaul; I could see that some of it if not quite first rate, was ok, but some of it was just flimsy flannel!  I fiddled about taking little odd bits out here and there (I do overwrite! I get carried away with something in my head and go off on another tack and before I know it there’s a thousand words I don’t need!) I was getting a bit frustrated, and to be honest I was beginning to feel I hadn’t a clue where to go next with it! There were so many loose ends! The story was just drifting! I was feeling a bit despondent, and to quote ‘Groovy kind of love’ by the Mindbenders (remember them?), I was ‘feeling a little blue…’ So what could I do?

Suddenly I saw in a moment of clarity that a story line had to go! I excised it, and pasted it into a new document to keep for another time… and then last night, I realised that another story line was supernumerary… it too was cut out and saved. Suddenly, my dramatic action has put a new slant on things, and I felt ready to get cracking and attack the keyboard again! With new found emerging, powered by coffee I set to work and suddenly I was forging ahead, the words were flying onto the page/screen!

If you haven’t read any of my books yet, here is a link:



Love Tala!

In case you don’t know, Tala is a brand of what is now called cookware, but used to be called kitchen implements or kitchen equipment. I love Tala, and last weekend bought my daughter one of their iconic dry goods measuring jugs, a sturdy, endurable, elegant measurer with marks on the inside to show where certain weights of dry foods such as rice might come to. Ideal for someone living in a place with a shared kitchen, and someone dashing home from work and wanting to cook in a hurry!

I love Tala ware but have never really thought about where it might be made or come from or its history; I was looking at the little label from the jug I had bought and saw it was manufactured by a British company, George East Housewares Ltd; well, that’s nice to know… but what is its history? Does Tala mean something?

I looked it up on Wikipedia which didn’t actually help me – there are fifteen places (none in Britain) called Tala, it is the seventh month of the Afghan calendar and also…

… Tala may refer to:

  • Tala – a gilr’s name
  • Tala – a goddess or star
  • Tala – a rhythmic pattern in Indian classical music
  • Tala – , a fictional character in DC comics
  • Tala –  a book by Gabriela Mistral
  • Tala – another name for the South American hackberry
  • tālā – money in Samoa
  • TĀLĀ – a musician

I had to go to the Tala website to find out!

In 1899, Frederick Taylor and Thomas Law, established  a company called Taylor Law & Co Ltd to make kitchen-ware and other hardware;  they produced all sorts of different very useful items, and not just for the kitchen. They made tools for the garden, galvanised tubs and even trunks which people used when they travelled. Their market sounds very similar to ours today with a new interest in home cooking, gardening and travelling! They had a factory and an increasing number of people working for them.

After the first world war, frank law, son of Thomas took over the company, and it was he who came up with the name, Tala, combining Taylor and Law. There were all sorts of gadgets being produced, including the famous icing kits for cakes; and it was in the 1920’s that the beloved dry measure was first made.

War came again to this country, and as well as everything else, the factories began to produce munitions. Success built on success, but then in the 1970’s the company was taken over by a French firm. This also coincided with the fashion and trend for bought goods, convenience food, and not home-baked home produced meals. Cakes went out of fashion, decorating them was not a common hobby.

Then, hurrah! The company was bought by George East Housewares Ltd , based in Suffolk, and what with the upsurge in home producing, home baking, home cooking, cake making, cake decorating, Tala became deservedly popular again! Kitchen-ware became fashionable, cookery shops opened selling just bake-ware, just everything you need to decorate a cake! programmes about cakes and cake making were on TV!

What I love about Tala, well among the many things, is that as far as possible its products are made here, home-made! There are factories now in Liverpool, Accrington, Norfolk, Suffolk and Burnley