It’s getting serious… last editing going on NOW!

It’s June tomorrow… and at some point – I’ll let you know when, ROSA will be published on Kindle. So I am now in the last stages of editing, because as a self-publisher I have to do all that myself… and it’s tricky. I have to admit there were some typos and errors in ‘Farholm’ but I think Kindle sometimes mangles stuff as well… no excuse for me to make a mistake! I also want to make sure my story reads well – I don’t want my muddles to get between the story of Tyche Kane’s hunt for the stalker and my readers.

My husband, the rock drummer is reading it as there are some scenes where a band plays, I want to make sure they are right! There are some intimate scenes – I want to make sure they are not too toe curlingly embarrassing because they are crucial to the story line. The characters sometimes use bad language – real people do swear and it would be unrealistic for a disaster to happen and someone says “Oh goodness me, oh bother!” However, I don’t want it to be gratuitous, every swear word has to be there for a purpose, either as part of a character, or to emphasise something which has happened – or as adults joking with each other.

The rock drummer rehearsing!

So.. I have downloaded ROSA as a PDF onto my Kindle and  I am doing the last read through, seeing it as my readers will on that little grey page. I am going to read it out loud again (“Oh no!” my family groans) and I am going to do my absolute best to make it the absolute best I can!

Here goes…

Kindle ready!

The last of the Wootton cheeses!

So after much enjoyment of Shepherd’s Crook and Old Burford cheeses from Wootton Organic dairy, there was just one cheese remaing from what I had bought at Taunton market. A firm ewe’s milk cheese… sounds good.

Millstone… it was a lovely sunny day!

I opened the wrapper and found a wedge of lovely looking cheese with a knobbly, rough almost bark-like skin. It smelt really good, nutty and strawy, and enticing!

About a sixth of a whole cheese, I guess

The cheese itself looked creamy and clean, with little air bubbles and although firm, was soft and yielding to the touch.

Cheese, baby tomatoes, butter, water biscuits

It looked good, it smelt good, and by golly it tasted good! It was definitely my favourite of the ones I bought, quite strongly flavoured, sweet and nutty and with a good long finish. I really recommend it and will definitely buy some more!


Going fishing… Hooking my readers!

I’ve always been a story teller, first to myself, then to my sister, then to others… I wrote stories as soon as I could write, and poems, and drew pictures to illustrate them… but I’m not an artist, it has always been words, words, words.

Needing a day job I became an English  teacher and I taught through stories and poems, writing my own for my students when there was nothing specific enough for them. My first longer tales for students with comprehension and creative writing exercises were “The Sports Day Fiasco,” and the “Valuables Box Job.” I was teaching English to non native speakers, young people in their teens from Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Vietnam and a variety of other countries. My main characters were young people of a similar age, from similar backgrounds… I think the hero was a lad called Arshad… he was involved in a bank raid, and that plot device is echoed in my next novel to be published THE STALKING OF ROSA CZEKOV!

I began to teach in PRUs, Pupil Referral Units for young poeple who for various reasons were not succeeding in state schools; this may be through violence, truancy, drug-taking, alcohol and other substance abuse,school phobia… anything which stopped them achieving all they were capable of. Many came from disfunctional families and were accustomed to violence and abuse in their lives. Most of them were of average or above average intelligence, some were extremely able and in other circumstances would have been looking ahead to further education and university… but for whatever reason they were with us. They were aged 15-16 years and in their last statutory school year.

These students were great, challenging certainly but such personalities! I loved teaching them, their potential was awesome if only they could realise it themselves! Most of them were reluctant readers, not because they couldn’t but because they wouldn’t read. Convinced of their abilities I pushed them towards doing public exams, GCSE English and as part of the course they had to read poetry, Shakespeare and a novel…  To get them to read.. how to get them to read… They all could read and read fluently, but none of them wanted to.

I wrote a comprehension exercise for them. It was about a lad called Blue who was conned out of some money by a man he had done some work for, went home to find the trailer he lived in had been trashed and his dad was missing. Some angry men were approaching the trailer with baseball bats, the boy grabbed an envelope he had hidden and fled.

“What was in the envelope?” my students demanded.

“No, idea… now let’s look at this comprehension…”

“But  what was in the envelope?”

I prevaricated and continued with the lesson. The following week, time for comprehension and it was another passage about Blue going to his girl-friend’s house and after being insulted by her mother threw a brick through their window and fled. He met up with a weedy little kid called Des who told him three men in black were going round the area asking for Blue.

“Who are the three men? What are they after? Do they want the envelope?” my students asked.

“No idea… now this week we’re going to be thinking about punctuation…”

“But who are the men?”

“Haven’t a clue… Now, speech marks, when do we use them?”

By this time they had realised it was a continuous story they were reading, but they were hooked, they wanted to keep reading.

There were ten or eleven chapters altogether and by the end we were reading a couple of chapters at a time, following Blue’s adventures and discussing his character and those of the others in the story, plot development, use of language, new vocabulary… and doing creative writing based on what they had read as well as the grammar and punctuation.

Blue’s story was finished, but reading hadn’t. The next story featured a girl as the main character and it opened with her staring in horror at her English teacher lying on the floor of the classroom, shot through the hand and with two broken legs.

The cliff-hanger ending of the first chapter hooked the students and over the next few weeks we followed Jo-Jo’s adventures as she ran away from her home in her parent’s pub after an arson attack, hid-out in an old boat house with an illegal immigrant lad Tofuzul, who was also on the run. After escaping from a police station where she realised the baddy was a policeman, she and Tofuzal ended up in the hospital where her teacher lay unconscious… only he could tell her the truth and keep her safe.

Again the students were hooked; I kept them reading, I kept them intrigued and I got them through their exams!

My final story which was written for a different purpose was THE STORY OF RUFUS REDMAYNE. As well as telling the story of Rufus and his adventures in Camel Wood, it was an exercise in writing for different purposes and different audiences. The first chapter is a straightforward narrative written as a story for young teens; the second in the style of fantasy story, with hints of were-wolves and strange creatures lurking in the old forest. The third chapter is written as a fairy tale with archeic language and the sort of repeated phrases there might be in what was orignally an oral tale.

The third chapter is a newspaper report and subsequent chapters are written as dialogues, scenes from plays, TV news reports, chapters from a local history book, diaries …  And the narrator varies, Rufus, the forester Jack Green, me as the author… With all this contrivance the story still had to carry the reader on, still had to have the cliff hanging end of chapter, still had to engage and intrigue the readers, and carry them through not just to the dénouement but to the very last words as spoken by old Ruby Redmayne, Rufus’s grandma.

The novels I am writing and publishing now may not be exercises in punctuation, grammar, creative writing and improving reading… but I still need to be aware of my audience, to engage my readers and keep them  reading. They may not tell me to f*** off if they don’t like what I write, they may not throw things at me – except metaphorically – but I still need them to follow me through my narrative… once they have taken the bait I need to keep them hooked until I have landed them safely at the end of my story!

Organic cheeses… part 2

So… our cheese purchase from Taunton market… time to taste and test… Shepherd’s Crook This is a soft ewe’s milk cheese made by the Bartlett Brothers of Sunnyside Farm in their Wootton Organic dairy.

What a jolly little sheep!

Open the wrapping and the cheese is obviously ripe, a nice aroma of straw and a faint sheepy smell. Nice clean firm crust, soft mould, altogether a pleasing looking cheese!

A rather lop-sided image of a nice cheese.

It cut nicely and as you can see it was a little bit oozy but still firm in the centre. I nibbled a little rind, salty and quite strongly flavoured – more so than the Old Burford. The cheese itself was very pleasant and with a longer fuller finish than the Old Burford. It had a sweet earthy flavour and matured nicely over the next few days although it did not become any more runny… but I don’t think it was supposed to! Verdict? A good cheese!

Iceland… a wonderful country

I have added quite a few more photos and also some captions!

Lois Elsden

In February 2012 I went to Iceland with Coláiste na nGael, “Coláiste na nGael is part of a very lively Irish language scene in Britain and Europe. Coláiste na nGael and its allies run Irish language events, which include classes, all over Britain. This year we are arranging one and two-day events in Essex, Leicestershire and Somerset.”

There is a strong and historic connection between Ireland and Iceland and our trip was to explore those connections accompanied by a TV crew who are making a film for the BBC and TG4 – Teilifís na Gaeilge. We had a wonderful time and here are a selection of pictures from the many I took:

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A great inspiration to me

It maybe breaking copywrite, but I want to publish this obituary I have just come across to someone who had a fundamental and profound influence on me as a child and is the reason I am writing a blog today.

At last I am a writer – I have always written but now I that is what I do, I write. My parents were story tellers, they encouraged me to read and read everything, but programmes on Children’s Hour, formed me as a story teller. It is thanks to David Davis, Uncle David as I shall always think of him, that I published my novel ‘Farholm’ – its available on Amazon but it wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for this programme.

Obituary: David Davis


FRIDAY 03 MAY 1996

Children’s Hour, which stirred the imagination of countless young listeners, reached its heyday under the direction of David Davis, as he was commonly known. These were the days of Uncle Mac, Larry the Lamb, Worzel Gummidge and The Wind in the Willows.

Davis had joined Children’s Hour at the beginning of 1935 as a staff accompanist. After education at the Queen’s College, Oxford he had qualified as a professional musician and become a schoolmaster. When the vacancy for an accompanist occurred on Children’s Hour, one of the regular producers, Barbara Sleigh, recalled a young man who had taught at her uncle’s school and who used to improvise at the piano with skill and pleasure. She found that he had moved to Bembridge School in the Isle of Wight.

Davis was sent a copy of The Listener’s advertisement which got delayed in the post, so that when he applied it was past the closing date. However he was given an audition, did well at sight-reading a difficult piece, and was offered the vacancy. The Headmaster of Bembridge commented: “Sir, this is not the act of a gentleman”, adding “That man will go strumming through life.”

Soon Davis was also found to be an excellent performer at the microphone as a reader. His first long serial reading was Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty. After his retirement he made professional recordings of this much-loved story, as well as of The Wind in the Willows and Kipling’s Just So Stories. He was able to persuade the Kipling estate to allow his stories to be broadcast – provided that there were no changes.

Early in 1936 Davis married Barbara Sleigh. Under the BBC rules at the time a married couple were not allowed to work in the same department. Barbara had to resign from the staff, but as a freelance she continued to adapt books for dramatic presentation on Children’s Hour. Davis himself adapted A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, which entranced countless children over the years with Norman Shelley playing Pooh.

At the outbreak of war Davis was seconded to the Fire Service in London, but soon joined the Children’s Hour team, who were broadcasting from Bristol with Derek McCulloch (Uncle Mac), the Head of Children’s Hour, as the chief presenter. He introduced the future Queen on her first broadcast on Children’s Hour from Windsor Castle on 13 October 1940.

Davis joined the RNVR in 1942, serving mainly in the Mediterranean, and for a time attached to the Hellenic Navy. The staff gave him a pipe lighter – he was always a keen pipe smoker – which went down with the rest of his possessions when his ship was sunk. But he survived, worked for a while in forces broadcasting, and in 1946 rejoined his London colleagues.

Davis became the Head of Children’s Hour in January 1953, with Josephine Plummer as his Assistant Head. His office was in the Langham Hotel, where he had a notice-board of letters and drawings, many from young listeners, and a collection of toy animals. In the corner was a small piano on which he improvised. At this time television began to emerge as a rival for children’s attention. However it did not occur to the Children’s Hour staff that the well-established, popular radio programme would ever disappear.

Nevertheless, children in their millions were now turning to watch the box. By 1964 the daily listening audience to Children’s Hour had dropped to a mere 25,000. Frank Gillard, who had become the Director of Radio the year before, decided it must be terminated. It happened on Good Friday, which Davis thought was appropriate. There was a critical motion in Parliament, signed by 60 MPs, but the deed was done.

Davis spent the last six years of his BBC career as a drama producer, specialising in Victoriana, for which he had a passion. Particularly remembered is George Eliot’s Middlemarch with Jill Balcon. In retirement he continued reading stories on the radio in that beautifully modulated voice.

William Eric Davis (David Davis), radio executive: born Malvern 27 June 1908; Head of Children’s Hour, BBC 1953-61, Head of Children’s Programmes (Sound) 1961-64; drama producer 1964-70; retired 1970; married 1935 Barbara de Riemer Sleigh (died 1982, one son, two daughters); died London 29 April 1996.

A little cheesy…

So it was time to try the cheese I bought in Taunton. I bought three cheeses from Wootton Organic Dairy stall on Taunton market; the cheeses are made by the Bartlett brothers on the delightfully named Sunnyside Farm

A lovely selection of cheeses from Wootton Organic Dairy

I decided to start with the Old Burford, described as “rich and creamy mould ripened cheese” made from Jersey cows’ milk.

I peeled off the label and opened the wax paper:

It was obviously ripe, but still pleasantly firm to a soft touch. The mould was velvety and smelled good, a nice strong, quite sharp smell.

It looked attractive when I cut into it, creamy and still a little firm inside.

I tried a little of the crust – I’m perverse like that, I nearly always do with soft cheeses! It was pleasantly salty and quite tasty – in a crusty sort of way!

… and then to try the cheese, first on its own and then with an oatcake. It had a lovely texture, a nice bite… just enough saltiness… but somehow the flavour died away. it was a good cheese, but the flavour just wasn’t full enough for me. I left it for a few more days and tried it again, very pleasant, but not enough oomph!

I will definitely buy it again and try it again, maybe the sheep had an off day!