Puts me to shame… call myself a writer?

All my life I’ve written but had to have a day job; now my day job is writing. I actually describe myself as a writer, and I do spend much of my day writing, blogging and editing my next novel ‘Flipside’ out next month, I hope. I also have started scribbling scenes from new ideas, the Radwinter story, odd bits and pieces which pop into my head…

So, I write, but I spend almost as much time faffing about, I check other sites on the net, I deviate off and do other stuff on the computer… and also I don’t spend all my time writing. I do housework, I meet friends, I garden, I go food shopping… but I could write more, I could write much, much more.

I read an article today about Arne Dahl the Swedish writer and I felt put to shame; he was describing his working day through what he eats:

8am If I haven’t been writing through the night, my day starts with coffee, breakfast and the paper. Wholegrain toast, Greek yogurt, muesli with berries, and low-carb orange juice.

9am Get started on my computer. I’ve tried to write in all kinds of places, but home suits me best. I drink a lot of coffee.

11am As I’ve only moved a few steps all morning, I go for a run around the island near my house in Stockholm. Make a protein drink – not a delicious lunch but quite efficient.

2pm Stop writing for a Thai chicken curry with rice, from the fridge, then return to finish a chapter before answering readers’ questions on Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes I forget about lunch, dinner, and even coffee, and just keep writing.

7pm Go to a local Italian restaurant with my wife for beef carpaccio and then creamy, cheesy pasta. With pasta I make an exception to all my rules about eating lots of protein.

10pm A little coffee and perhaps some cashew nuts while I finish work, then a glass of single malt.


Arne doesn’t mention doing chores… but that is still no excuse for me, I could work much harder. I am going to cut out the article and stick it on the wall; there is a photo of Arne and he’ll stare accusingly at me when I slack!

Scientists say…

My dad was a scientist, and so was my uncle; my uncle achieved international eminence, and my father too published papers but on a more specialised level. They both worked at the lab-bench of science, with all the equipment and paraphernalia of science labs, that particular smell, the long brown lab coats they both had great success and frustrating failure.

There seems to be an interest today, not in science itself, but in ‘what scientists say’… and usually it is a news item which makes some bizarre and occasionally worrying claim that something is a danger to us. Often the claim  is contradictory. Coffee/red wine/beer/exercise/sun/etc is good/bad/, harmful/healthy, life extending/life shortening. Some people reading such things change their lives on what I suspect might be spurious or exaggerated reports; maybe it is the scientists at fault or more likely the media has taken the research out of context and blown it up to make a so-called good story.

I read today that pet owners are at risk from contracting TB from their cats…

A study at University of Edinburgh found that the disease, which is caused by a bacterial infection, is more common among domestic cats than previously thought. Experts estimated that up to 100 out of every 100,000 cats could be infected with Mycobacteria, which include those that can cause tuberculosis, with around a fifth of these being the bacterium found in cattle and badgers.

More common – what is more common – thirty cats have it instead of 3? 30,000 cats have it instead of 30? Previously thought by whom? Experts estimate – which experts? On what do they base their estimation?  The sentences I quote says could be infected  not are infected, and can cause TB, not does cause TB.

How many poor lonely old people are now looking askance at pussy and anxious that their companion might be a danger to them?

The Nina

In August 1928, there was the following report in the San Jose news:

America Yacht Nina Leads in Fastnet Race

London August 18th (AP) The yacht American Nina rounded Fastnet light at 8 o’clock this morning, the first vessel to pass the turning buoy in the fourth annual race from Cowes to Plymouth for the Fastnet Cup. No other yacht were in sight at the time, said a message from Newport, Isle of Wight.

Besides the Nina, there are eight English and one American craft left in the race at this time.

The course is from Cowes in the Isle of Wight to Fastnet, on the southwest coast of Count Cork, Ireland , and back to Plymouth.

Nina went on to win the race, the first time an American yacht had done this in the four years the race had been held,  the three previous winners were British. The following report was published in the Glasgow Herald on August 21st, 1928

Nina Wins the Fastnet Cup

Amercian yacht home first

Four yachts completed the course in the ocean yacht race for the Fastnet Cup yesterday. The first two arrivals were the American Schooners Nina and Mohawk. They were followed to Plymouth by Neptune and Jolie Brise, while several others were reported in the English Channel. The race started at Cowes last Wednesday morning. The yachts had to proceed through Spithead, leaving the Isle of Wight on the starboard hand, thence round the Fastnet Rock, leaving it on the starboard hand and back to Plymouth, finishing inside the breakwater. The course is 615 miles but with the amount of turning to windward involved, the distance ha been considerably increased.

Starters were as follows:

  • L’Oiseau Bleu – French … M. Leon Diot
  • Nina – American … Mr Paul Hammond
  • Lassie -British … Mr R. Arthur Thomas
  • Mohawk American … Mr Dudley F. Wolfe
  • neptune – British …  Lt. Col. G.L. Chambers
  • Jolie Brise  – British … Messers. W.L. Farrer and B. Smith
  • Magnet – British … Mr W.F. Roach
  • Amaryllis – British … Royal Naval College Dartmouth
  • Viking – British … Lt. R.L. Fisher RN
  • Ilex – British … Royal Engineers YC
  • Mamago – British … Capt. F. Stevens
  • Noreen – British … Mr Crankshaw

The report went on to detail the handicapping allowance for each yacht and then continued:

L’Oiseau Bleu early retired from the race and put back to Cowes; Noreen also gave up and returned to Weymouth; whilst Ilex whilst passing the Lizard westbound  signalled that she had carried away her topmast and was under jury rig.

The American schooner Nina which was specially built for the Queen of Spain’s Cup and the Fastnet Cup race, early worked out a lead. She was first at Fastnet at 8a.m. GMT on Saturday, despite the fact that she was becalmed for four hours between the Lizaerd and the Scilly Isles. Mohawk, the other American schooner was seven hours astern of the leader at the Fastnet mark, whilst Jolie Brise was almost two hours astern.

On the journey home the yachts had a fine slant of wind, and, carrying full press of canvas, they tramped up channel at great speed, over ten knots being logged by Nina and Mohawk. When they came home to finish they presented a magnificent spectacle.

The Ocean Racing Club hold their annual dinner today  at the Royal Western Yacht Club of England, and then the trophy, the Fastnet Cup, will be presented to Mr C. Sherman Hoyt, who represents of Mr Paul Hammond the owner of the Nina.

The Nina went on to win many other races, and was a beautiful, elegant and much-loved yacht. I say was, because she has been reported lost somewhere in the Tasman Sea. It is feared her owners who were on board, their 17-year-old son and six other people, may also be lost.

I love watercress

I love watercress but it is quite expensive’; I like the peppery bite and the strong flavour, I like it in salads, in sandwiches, just on its own… but it is quite expensive. I know it needs careful cultivation and wild cress is no longer gathered and sold as it used to be, but it has now for me become a bit of a luxury.

I once went on one of those faddy diets where all I could eat was watercress soup… I know such diets are ridiculous but I thought that as I liked watercress, I’d like watercress soup. Unfortunately the recipe I was given with the diet sheet made something approximating bland dishwater…. unsurprisingly, the diet was not a success, even though I stuck to it rigidly!

I’ve been looking at recipes for watercress and came across one for a pesto using it instead of basil… now that does sound nice, especially if it’s eaten freshly-made. I’m not sure I’d be so keen on a watercress smoothie, even though I’m sure it would be tremendously good for me…. watercress, melon and pear? Or maybe watercress, pineapple and blueberry? Or even watercress, apple and kiwi? I’m not convinced, but watercress salsa sounds interesting; blend the following to a smooth paste and season to taste:

  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 tbsp capers, drained
  • 2 spring onions, trimmed
  • 1 x 85g bag watercress
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

I’m not surprised that watercress is full, burstingly full of vitamins, with more vitamin C than a similar weight of oranges, ditto more calcium than milk, and more iron than spinach and whoohoo! more folate than bananas! It also has vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K, iodine,  manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, magnesium, beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin,  quercetinand glucosinolate. I’m also not surprised that it has been used by herbalists and doctors going back to Greek times and no doubt beyond.

Watercress has gone out of fashion; you see it as a garnish, you find it in bags of mixed salad, but it is not often served for its own delicious sake. Whereas there used to be over 1,000 acres of watercress beds sixty years ago, now there is a mere 150 acres in Britain. Maybe it will become a new super-food trend and return to the countryside of southern England and the shelves of the greengrocer’s of Britain! I think I shall buy some tomorrow!

To find out more:


Poppies… on a sunny day


This is such a sweet poem. Helen Jackson was born in 1830 and was a writer and poet. She was an advocate on behalf of native American people, worrking constantly for better (and even some) recognition of their rights. It is a lovely sunny summer’s day today and I can just imagine a poppy in a wheat field.

Poppies on the Wheat

by Helen Hunt Jackson

Along Ancona’s hills the shimmering heat,

A tropic tide of air with ebb and flow

Bathes all the fields of wheat until they glow

Like flashing seas of green, which toss and beat

Around the vines. The poppies lithe and fleet

Seem running, fiery torchmen, to and fro

To mark the shore.

The farmer does not know

That they are there. He walks with heavy feet,

Counting the bread and wine by autumn’s gain,

But I,–I smile to think that days remain

Perhaps to me in which, though bread be sweet

No more, and red wine warm my blood in vain,

I shall be glad remembering how the fleet,

Lithe poppies ran like torchmen with the wheat.

Something about red shoes…

There is something just wonderful about red shoes, especially shiny, sparkly, silly red shoes. Hans Christian Anderson wrote a story about red ballet shoes, called ‘The Red Shoes’ which was made into a film, released in 1948 about a ballerina who wore red pumps. It is a romantic but tragic story and starred  Moira Shearer, Marius Goring,  and  Anton Walbrook and was written, directed  by the famous production team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburge, known as The Archers.

If you Google red shoes, you get hundreds and hundreds of sites offering every sort of red shoe, slipper, boot, sandal, you could imagine, high hell, low heel, leather, patent, plastic, satin… red shoes… red shoes!