Lucky me!

I’ve been so lucky this year… in many, many ways, but one I was thinking about the other night in conversation with a friend was how lucky I’ve been with seeing my favourite band and favourite singer. I went to Glasgow in January to see the Mavericks, and went with my dear friend Elly and met up with our other dear friends Hannah and Jenna. What a brilliant time we had, and the biggest thrill of all was having a conversation with Raul Malo, it wasn’t just a brief couple of words, we sat at the same table and had quite a chat… the only trouble is that I was so overwhelmed that I can’t really remember much that we spoke about… he is the most talented man,  I can’t think of a better singer with a greater voice in any genre of music, and he is such a talented song writer too. We spent a couple of days in the beautiful Scottish city, and also met up with some cousins I hadn’t seen for a very, very long time!

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DSCF2728The Mavericks were kind enough to their British fans to come over again and together with Hannah and Jenna I saw them in Manchester and Birmingham! Wonderful, amazing and we met our friend Susie and new friends Jan and Tom!  And no, twice was not enough!

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DSCF3162I said I’ve been lucky… the boys came back again, this time they came to Plymouth, a beautiful city I had never visited before, and Elly came with me again to see them! Lucky us

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Telling All The Truth…

The first novel I ever completed, and I can’t remember the title, something about ghosts and screens or mirrors, was quite short and it was about a young early twenty-something’s passion for a much older man who went on to marry her mother! As I was a young early twenty something myself, I expect I thought it was deep and rather daring (not by the standards of today, of course) but now I read it and it’s gauche and rather embarrassing to acknowledge as my work… except that some of it is quite well written, and when I’m not writing about love and passion, some of it is not too bad. The characters are all stereotypes, as if I didn’t trust myself to write about real people, or realistic people! I can’t imagine ever being able to do anything to it to make it readable for anyone else… and even the plot no longer appeals.

The second novel I completed, ‘The Man in the Sun’ was much longer and was about a group of young people who met on holiday in the south of France, in Menton; a glamorous brother and sister, a young Anglo-Chinese woman and an English lad who was working in a café and pretending to be Italian. They returned to the brother and sister’s home in the west of England. It was a farm, and the night they arrived the farmhouse and surrounding land was flooded, and they were cut off for several days in the house with the father, uncle and the housekeeper. That was pretty much the whole cast of characters with the addition of the English/Italian waiter’s sister who arrived unannounced and flirted with pretty much everyone. There was a murder, but that all fizzled out without being very interesting or exciting, and the denouement was when the uncle was revealed to be the father of the young man… complicated? A bit, but not enough to be interesting. It wasn’t quite as embarrassing as the first, and again there were some quite readable passages as well as many more toe-curling parts! Again, I don’t think there is much to salvage from it!

My third novel was ‘Telling All The truth’; and was my best so far. It was better written, tighter, with more believable characters and a fairly intriguing premise.  Susie, the cousin of the main character, Viv, rings her to say she has just shot and killed her fiancé (Susie’s fiancé) Viv rushes round to Susie’s flat to find the police have arrived (who Susie has also called) and that a body has been found up on the moors, although not where Susie has described. The body is the fiancé and he has been shot. Susie is arrested and Viv is left puzzled because the one thing about Susie is that she always, always tells the truth, doesn’t even tell a white lie to save someone’s feelings. So if she has told the truth about killing the fiancé, why has she lied about where it happened? This story has more characters, Viv’s best friend, an annoying policeman who fancies Viv, his superior who warns him off, the murdered man’s two strange cousins,  and a stranger who is found slumped in Viv’s porch overcome with pneumonia. There is humour, there are a couple of exciting chases through the back streets of Manchester, there are a variety of scenes and settings and although it is a bit raw and rough round the edges, I can see that with a bit of work it could be knocked into something presentable… maybe… or maybe not!

Simon Hopkinson’s aubergines!

I’ve mentioned before how much I love aubergines, I love the texture and the delicate, subtle flavour, I just adore them…. and this recipe sounds absolutely gorgeous! I have everything except the mirin, so next time I go shopping that will be on the list. I will have to divide the recipe by four as only I like aubergines… I suppose I could do it as described and then freeze the other three portions… sounds like a plan! Simon Hopkinson is an amazing cook, and his recipes really work!

Aubergines with ginger, spring onions and red chilli recipe

By Simon Hopkinson

Serves four

  • 200ml mirin (sweetened rice wine)
  • 50ml light soy sauce
  • 1 large knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 4 long purple Asian aubergines (approx 600g), from any good Asian grocer
  • Peanut oil or other neutral-flavoured oil
  1. Pour the mirin into a saucepan, bring up to the boil, then simmer until reduced to about half its original volume. Decant into a bowl and allow to cool completely. Add the next six ingredients and stir together.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7.
  3. To prepare the aubergines, cut them in half lengthways and lightly score their surfaces with a sharp knife in a criss-cross fashion – don’t go too deep.
  4. Heat a couple of tablespoons of the peanut oil in a large frying pan until hot, but not smoking. Lower in the aubergines cut-side down and fry until the flesh is golden (you will have to do this in batches, together with more oil); it will take about 3 minutes. Now turn them over and cook for about the same time, skin-side down. Drain well on kitchen paper, cut-side down, then place them on to a heatproof, shallow baking tray, cut-side uppermost.
  5. Now, carefully spoon over about half the dressing, dividing it as you go between each aubergine.
  6. Place in the oven (top shelf) for 5 minutes. Remove, and add more dressing. Continue to bake the aubergines until very tender and almost drenched in the aromatic dressing; residue will also have collected in the baking tray, which will have become deliciously brown and sticky. Flash under a hot grill to add extra gilding, if you so wish.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/recipes/10322869/Aubergines-with-ginger-spring-onions-and-red-chilli-recipe.html

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Simon-Hopkinson-Cooks-ebook/dp/B00FG6DDAW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1380557054&sr=8-1&keywords=simon+hopkinson+cookery+books

 

Dreams… 2

I’ve always been a dreamer… no I’m not going to write about John Lennon, but I always have been a dreamer, a night-dreamer as well as a day-dreamer, and sometimes the two overlap. As I mentioned before I don’t often write actual dream sequences in my novels, although dreams are often important but they can be such a turn-ff when you’re reading. Beulah, in ‘Night Vision’ has a series of dreams which, if she had reflected on them later, or if the reader rereads the story, then they will show she has already subconsciously  understood the secret at the heart of the novel. When I wake, I sometimes just have fragments of dreams floating around at the front of my mind but they fade quickly.

The only time I have ever used one of my dream as inspiration for a story was one where I was being held captive by a terrorist and he was pointing a gun at me, and all I could focus on was the black round hole at the end of the barrel where a bullet might come flying from at any minute. Some of my dreams, no doubt like most other people’s are so strange that it would be difficult to fashion them into any sensible narrative; last night for example, my bike had teeny-weeny handlebars, so close together that I couldn’t ride it; I took it into a bike shop and laid it on the floor and then went out to buy a bag for my lunch which was two big slices of home-made bread which were falling to pieces. I came back to the bike shop and couldn’t find my bike but came across several people I used to teach with… Not only is that a strange dream it is actually quite boring for anyone else.

A book which made a great impression on  me is ‘The House on the Strand’ by Daphne du Maurier; it was published in 1969 and is about a man who takes part in a scientific drug trial in which he enters his own dreams and gradually begins to become involved with the people he finds there. It is set in the present, but the dream/vision/hallucination is set in the fourteenth century. I’m not sure if I would enjoy it as much now, but it certainly intrigued me, although has never inspired me to write anything similar!

Faffing

I don’t even know if there is such a word as faffing, but I seem to have spent the last week doing it; just faffing about not getting anything properly done, wasting time on trivialities, postponing things I know I need to do, procrastination on things I actually want to do…

The Cambridge Online Dictionary describes it as to spending  time doing a lot of unimportant things  instead of the thing that you should be doing. Exactly, nail has been hit on the head. The Urban Dictionary suggests it is wasting time doing nothing or doing stupid things, dilly-dallying and I would add shilly-shallying! The Urban Dictionary forum has an interesting slant on faffing involving something of a sexual nature, but enough of that,; they also offer faffing as the excessive use of time for nonsense activities… 100%! They have it in a nutshell!

Apparently it is not a modern word as I thought, and has meant to dither, fuss or flap since the 19th century; it is derived  from ‘faffle’ which had been used since the 16th century, via the 18th century use as stuttering or stammering,  and means as it does today, but also of something flapping idly in the breeze, like washing on a line, for example.

I have had washing on the line today which may have been faffing, but the worst faffing, is me… just spent the day faffing about…

Andy Williams, I didn’t know he’d gone

For two days running while driving in the car, Andy Williams has been played and I thought how much I like his voice. I always liked him, partly because I liked his TV show when I was a child, also he was called Andy and so is my sister. In my life I have been close to two other Andies, one from when I was in the swimming club when I lived in Cambridge, and then my best friend I met at college.

I thought I would find a youtube vid and write a little about him, but when I looked I found that he had died last year. I was shocked and saddened even though he had died at the age of 84, and had kept performing into his eighties. here is my favourite song:

 

Blowing our own trumpets!

I was reflecting on what very talented friends I have, and thinking about what they have achieved, and I was also thinking a little tiny a bit about myself and what I’ve achieved.

I’ve known Andrew Simpson since I was eighteen and since he has become a full time writer he has become the expert on Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester; not only has he had a street exhibition with artist Peter Topping, but he has given talks, led walks, broadcast, blogged and written a book. He has several other exciting projects in the pipe-line, I’m so proud of him!

Old friends, best friends

Andrews stories and Peter Toppings pictures in a recent exhibition

andrew bookFind out more about Andrew, an even more about the history of Chorlton, Derby and Eltham as well as much more:

http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/

Ros Cuthbert and I went to school together from the age of 16; she went on to train as an artist; she is so talented in so many ways, and having spent most of her life painting, she has begun a second life in music. She plays, she sings, she performs, she writes and she has just released her second CD. her first beautiful album was mostly covers of standards, but now (so exciting!) Ros has released a CD of her own songs.

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Ros’s first CD ‘Two Sides to Lucky’ and her new one ‘Ghost Child’ are available on her website – you might also like toe explore and see some of her art work!

http://roscuthbert.co.uk/#/music/4554567821

Marianne McAleer is a friend I met through learning Gaelic.

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She is extraordinarily talented and has won countless, countless competitions and fleadhs. She has a sensational voice and she too has just released a second CD. I haven’t got the link at the moment, but just watch and listen to this:

My oldest friend… I mean my friend who I have known for longest is Frankie Partridge; Frankie has probably been drawing and painting for as long as she could hold a pencil or paintbrush; I’ve always loved her work, and can remember paintings she did when she was 11! She has produced work in a variety of styles and used many different techniques, and at present is combining her passion for science with her art; our fathers were both scientists which explains her fascination.

Me and Frankie working in the garden, I wonder what we were writing in those days?

Me and Frankie working in the garden, I wonder what we were writing in those days?

archive_7025_TheLloydGillGallery-1I have a print of this above my fireplace!

You can look at some of Frankie work here:

http://www.frankiepartridge.co.uk/page2.html

My cousin Caroline, a best friend as well as cousin,  is like super-woman; she is always busy, at work, with the family, involved in village life, and yet always has time for friends and relations! She’s amazing… and she can sing! She is part of her village choir, Witchford Voices, and they too have released a CD. What a lot of great music there is these days!

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Here is a link to the CD and to the choir web-site:

http://www.witchfordvoices.com/Witchford_Voices/Our_Albums.html

And me… well, I’ve published five e-books and three children’s books!