Further pondering…

Over the last couple of days I’ve been pondering on various questions – which actually have no correct answer, only people’s opinions.

My character Thomas Radwinter does a lot of pondering – he is quite a muddled thinker and his mind wanders off in all directions, but in the end he always solves the puzzle, even if it is in rather a circuitous way!

Here he is wondering about his wife’s ancestors:

Back to the convalescing French people… tidying through my notes before snuggling down next to sleeping beauty, I notice I have jotted down that the inmates and patients were all sent from a French hospital in London, so I tootle off to look for information on that. Why would there be a special hospital for French people? I guess there must have been French people living in London, French servants to the French business people, and French diplomats and ambassadors… but was there a French community? Even as I pondered on this a little memory tugged at the corner of my mind. Ponder… I seem to be doing a lot of pondering recently, a funny sort of word, I wonder where it comes from…
Well, I find out that the word ponder came from the 1300’s and originally meant to try to estimate how much something was worth, or to appraise its value, and it comes from French apparently, from the Old French word (Old with a capital O) ponderer which meant to weigh… but that in turn came from Latin as you might guess and the Latin verb was ponderare which meant…. Well, actually it meant to ponder… so there you are… but I also came across ponderation – I like that, ponderation!

  • U or non-U? Did it ever matter, does it still matter?

I think manners and being polite and courteous to other people is important; I certainly appreciate it when people are polite to me! However I certainly don’t judge people by whether they have the same way of holding their cutlery as I do – it’s how people behave towards each other which is important. The terms U and non-U are overlaid with snobbery – people doing something differently is not merely different but wrong and some how inferior and ignorant… I really do not agree with that!!

  • Is it acceptable to dunk biscuits into tea/coffee/drinking chocolate?

Coffee, Eccles cake, giant custard cream

No… simply no.

  • Should privet hedges be banned?

Yes the smell of them in flower is nauseating! Privet is a popular shrub used as hedging in the genus of Ligustrum; apparently there are fifty species and they are native to Europe – and like many other pests, have been introduced to Australia and has become an invasive pest. My main objection is the stink of the flowers, nauseating!

  • Should St George’s Day be official?

I’m not sure St George’s Day should be an official national day but i do think it would be an idea to have a national day, just as other nations have. The trouble is nationalism has a nasty whiff of superiority over others rather than just a celebration of one’s selves.

  • Should there be a list of acceptable names for children in the UK, as there is in such countries as Germany and Iceland?


Of course not, people should be free to name their own children. At present the court can stop people call their children names which are offensive or would bring the child ridicule;  two years ago a woman was stopped from calling her child Cyanide.

Is it you?

I’m going through some notes for a talk I’m giving on writing… and one of the things that people new to writing don’t properly think about is who is actually telling the story. I know when I write a story I sometimes go back and change the narrator or the narrative for various reasons, and I know I have preferred ways of using a narrator – maybe most writers do!

The narrator is an important and vital aspect of your story and quite often who’s telling the story is established in the first few pages.

So, who is telling the story?

  • is it you? The unknown all-seeing narrator, who knows what is going on in every character’s mind and who can see it from everyone’s point of view?
  • is it from a single character’s perspective and if so is the character a main player or an observer? is the story told in the first person? Is the story told as if looking over a single character’s shoulder and seeing inside their head?
  • do several characters tell the story in the first person?
  • is the story told from several different points of view? If an incident occurs the different characters would understand different things, feel different things, maybe even see different things.
  • stories can even be told in the second person – this often happens in songs

Even in a short story, and more especially perhaps in a short story, all these aspects are really  important so the reader can properly understand and see what the writer wants them to see.

If you want to find out more of my thoughts on writing, here is a link to my little book So You Want To Write:



An extra P

When I was teaching, like most teachers I wrote material for my students. They were heading towards their public exams and in my case they were working for their English exam. I put my different bits and pieces together into a booklet for them, and later I pulled it all together and eventually produced an actual book which I called ‘So you want to write’ (no question mark because it was a statement!)

I outlined six specifics needed to write a story, which I called the six P’s –

Decide on the story line or action or series of events you are going to write about, and the order in which they are to be written (you can use flashbacks and other devices to make your story more interesting, intriguing or unusual) (think plot)

Decide on your characters, not too many of them in a short story; imagine what they are like and what they look like and how each fit into the pattern of events. Are the characters in some sort of relationship with each other? (think people)

Decide on who is telling the story, you, a single character, several characters, a detached observer (Think point of view – think POV)

Decide why they are telling the story; why is the story being told, the reason (think purpose)

Decide where your events are taking place in terms of a physical setting and in terms of when the action happened. (think place)

Decide what events take place to carry the story and your readers along. (think pace)

Remember the Six P’s

  • Plot
  • People
  • POV
  • Purpose
  • Place
  • Pace

Since then I have realised there is an all important other P missing! Polish! Think Polish!!

What I mean by that is what you do when you have finished your story or your writing; yes, you will check it over for errors, mistakes and typos – and yes you will read it through to check it ‘sounds’ alright, you might even read it through out loud for a real check to make it sure it actually does sound right… but then, before it is launched, share, published, it needs a bit of polishing. Work on it so that it’s the best it can be, look out for little things like repeated words or corny phrases or trite expressions or pretentious language or overused jargon. Sometimes you might have found a word you really like, numinous for instance, or paneremos, and because you like it you keep using it like a lovely little friend… but for your reader it will be an annoyance and a conceit.

I did include the idea of polishing your writing, but did not include it as a P

 A story has to be worked on and polished as a gem cutter might polish a precious stone, or a jeweller buff up a piece of jewellery, or a wood carver rub beeswax into a carving…

Yes, definitely an extra P!!

Household hints… dealing with pests, insects and flies… and nervous disability

I often look at old newspapers, particularly household recipes; I was looking through some one hundred and fifty year old editions of Australian newspapers. I guess many of the readers lived in places were common household preparations weren’t available, and ordinary things you might need had to be home-made. I was looking at an article which had ‘recipes’ for cheap puddings (one was quarter pounds each of  currants,  raisins,  flour, ground rice,  sugar,  suet, and a small teacup of warm milk and bicarbonate of soda, all to be well mixed, the other was a six-cup pudding of preserve,  sugar,  flour,  suet,  bread crumbs,  raisins, and the usual bicarbonate of soda) and then there were the helpful hints.  How to remove ink stains from canvas – hydrochloric acid, how to make tracing paper – Canada balsam, and  spirits of turpentine, and then a remedy for ‘nervous disability’. If you are disabled by nerves you need sulphate of quinine, homeopathic preparation No. 1… and the amount you need is as much as will cover a fourpenny-piece, not piled up… very precise!

I found another list of helpful hints – how to make pastry (very similar to how I make it!) and then how to keep insects from birds (I wonder if they mean chickens or pet birds?) which involves scalding the cage… a good idea I guess. Then came a problem I’m not sure many of us have these days, but how disgusting if you do – how to clean a cellar of flies… yuk!!! The answer is brimstone, two or three pounds of brimstone which we know as sulphur. If you should suffer a plague of flies in your cellar, you need to make it airtight and then burn the brimstone – wow, I bet that smells ghastly. You must keep the cellar closed for twenty-four hours and then open everything to ventilate it. At the end of the instructions is a helpful tip – must be burned in centre of room, and not on wooden floor.

After all the brimstone you may very well have a sore throat and the writer of the article helpfully adds a remedy:- a remedy for dryness of throat will be found in a small piece of muriate of ammonia, about ten or fifteen grains every two hours. Use the best quality, and allow it to dissolve slowly in the mouth…

And muriate of ammonia?

Muriate of ammonia – sal ammoniac , ammonium chloride, NH4Cl, a white crystalline volatile substance having a sharp salty taste, obtained from gas works, from nitrogenous matter, etc….

I think I will just take lemon and honey in warm water, thank you!

Happy birthday, Judy

Although a lot of old names are becoming fashionable, I don’t think Judith is one of them, although it’s a name I like very much. I have known some lovely Judiths in my life, at school, at the swimming club, at college, at work… I never thought of it as a name for my daughter, although considering her surname I’m not sure it would have fitted.

Judith was a Biblical character, known for beheading an enemy while he was half-asleep and drunk. The name means woman of Judea, and there have been a number of famous Judiths, including Judy Garland, the actress Judi Dench, who was originally Judith Dench, and the singer Judith Durham.

However the birthday Judith today is Judy Cornwell, an actress, who was born in 1940. Her family was English but they moved to Australia. She became an actress and at one time it seemed that she would appear in all sorts of different dramas and plays… none of which I can remember now. I guess most people would know her from being in ‘Keeping Up Appearances’; I never watched it but I am sure she acted very well.

Happy birthday, Judy… here’a one of the other Judiths:


I’m heading towards finishing the first draft of my next Radwinter novel… here is a little teaser… Be warned, there is a little bad language:

It took a few moments to work out what had happened… like waking up in  a strange place and not quite knowing where you are or how you got there… usually you realise, oh yes I’m at Paul’s house, or oh we’re in the little bed and breakfast on the Isle of Wight… but the realisation which came wasn’t nearly as pleasant or reassuring..

I was face down on a hard floor, it was dark… because I was blind? The lights were off? No there was something over my head and something on my shoulders, something pressing down hard and heavy … and knobbly… knees someone was kneeling on me!

What? What the fuck? What the fuck had happened? I hadn’t been knocked out or anything because the events tumbled back into my mind, it was the shock of being slammed onto the floor, totally winded…

My first instinct was to heave off whoever was on me, my second was just to lie still and wait to see what happened… I wasn’t in a good situation, I didn’t know how many people there were, I could hear the mutter of voices, I was face down… No, lying still was the best option… especially as I was also very frightened and I’m not much of a fighter, in fact I’m not a fighter at all…

I didn’t move, just tried to work out what was going on… there seemed to be some sort of conversation going on, two voices, probably male, but mumbling or whispering….

I had popped into the  a little pub in Strand; I’d had a meeting with a client which had gone on a bit. Kylie was home early so she was looking after the gang, it was her turn she said, so I’d bobbed into the pub for a swift half, and had treated myself to a sandwich,

All had seemed as normal – Inspector Graham been in sitting at the bar, but he had just finished his beer as I came in. We exchanged greetings but nothing more and he tucked his newspaper under his arm and off he went. I sat in his place and chatted on and off to the landlord, finished my beer and sarnie and went out the back way, I had discovered that going out through the yard and tiny carpark at the back took me into a little street which led down to the carpark I was in today… usually I’m in the one near the Orange Tree and go there… but not today.

You go down the street then cut down an alley then go through a covered passageway and it was here I had suddenly found myself face down…

I moved my head slowly as if I was just coming round and managed by shrugging my shoulders slightly at the same time to dislodge a bit of the… coat it was a coat, I could feel the shiny lining, and smell leather… a leather coat… Someone was going through my pockets… not much in there, and my phone was in my inside pocket which I was lying on…

“Fucking ridiculous!” somebody hissed and I had to agree… “What did you bloody do that for?”

“We don’t know what he knows, always snooping about…”

There was a muffled interchange and then suddenly the knees were off my back the coat dragged off my head and as I tried to roll over there was the sound of running footsteps, and struggling to sit up, I found I was alone…

What the hell was that about? I got up, aches and pains making themselves known and gathered the contents of my pockets which were scattered about… loose change, hankies, I always have several cotton handkerchiefs useful for all sorts of things, phone charging cable, keys… everything was there – what had they been looking for… it sounded as if someone had pounced on me unexpectedly – unexpected by me and by his companion – a pointless and spontaneous action, and maybe not only not caring whether he injured me but maybe actually semi-hoping me might hurt me… he was angry with me, me personally that was for sure…

I was thinking these things as I returned to my car, constantly looking over my shoulder alert for the sound of someone behind me…

© Lois Elsden 2018

Here’s a link to my books:


… and here is the link to the first Thomas Radwinter novel, available in paperback and as an e-reader:


The legend…

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky Mick and Tich… I mentioned them earlier, and now their song about Xanadu has become an earworm, replacing Olivia Newton-John and ELO…

Their number, the Legend of Xanadu, sold over a million singles… incredible! Their other hits included  Hideaway, Hold Tight!, Bend It!, Save Me!, Touch Me  Touch Me, Zabadak! and Last Night in Soho.

Dave Dee  Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich