My 2017: June

In June this year I was in a reflective mood…

When I was much, much younger, Steve McQueen was my favourite actor; I saw just about all of his films that were on at the cinema or shown on TV, but before the access we now have to media, there were quite a few I haven’t seen. I  was amazed at how he had come from such a troubled childhood to being one of the top stars of the film world; now, his life and the problems he had including massive substance abuse, is known to all.

One of the things which I read about Steve when I was quite young, was his motto ‘You’ve got to make it happen‘… and for a long time I puzzled over this.

  • I wanted to be an Olympic swimmer – how could I make that happen? I trained as hard as I could but this ambition was knocked on the head by glandular fever when I was twelve – off school for six weeks then a long, long recovery and it was over a year before I had caught up with my swimming times… by which time it was too late, I was ‘past it’ – except in fact I never would have made an Olympic swimmer! I didn’t actually have the temperament, I got very nervous,  I was just not competitive enough, I was too good a loser – by which I mean I would whole-heartedly congratulated whoever had beaten me, instead of being angrily determined to beat them next time!
  • I wanted to go to Cambridge University – how could I make that happen? I worked so hard at my studies, and however well I did in my class work, this did not translate into exam success; in exams, despite the mountain of revision I had done, once again temperament conspired against me. Although in every other way I was (and am) confident, suddenly in exams I would become almost paralysed by nerves; I was also really good at revising the wrong thing, misreading questions and lacking focus so I would write reams and reams on the wrong part of the question.
  • I wanted to find true love – how could I make that happen? I had plenty of wonderful boy friends, but I always fell for the most unlikely and unobtainable people: a handsome German who returned to Germany to become a doctor, another someone who was probably gay,  a different someone who was unsuitable in every possible way – and more, and then someone who had commitments elsewhere… Luckily in this case I did find my true love – my mum always said I would marry a tall dark handsome man, and nearly twenty-six years ago I did, and have been wonderfully happy ever since!!
  • I wanted to be a best-selling author – how could I make that happen? I’ve mentioned here so many times that I have always told stories and written them for as long as I can remember. I have written so much over the years, stories, novels, poetry, and sent off manuscripts to publishers without number, more agents than I can count, entered every competition I come across… and apart from a few short stories in a magazine when I was twenty-two, no published success at all. I had no J.K. Rowling moment, I wasn’t picked from the top or bottom of a slush pile and launched to the top of the book sale charts…

So… back to Steve, ‘You’ve got to make it happen…’ I used to puzzle over this because I tried my hardest to make it happen in terms of swimming, going to Cambridge University, finding love, publishing a book… So was Steve wrong?

Looking again at those four things…

  • through the swimming club I made some amazing, life-long friends, I had tremendous fun, I won loads of medals, cups and awards and broke club, city and county records. I had a life other than swimming and training, and the swimming and training I did I loved… would I have loved it if I’d had to go further? Would I have left my friends behind? Would my school and family life have been disrupted? Probably! So what did I make happen through swimming? Friends, fun, success, fitness – and I learned to keep going when things were tough, physically and mentally – and that must have made a big difference to every other part of my life! Also… I probably won’t drown!
  •  I didn’t go to Cambridge University, I didn’t get into any university, in fact I didn’t even make it through ‘clearing’. However by some fluke, and I have no idea how, I was invited to Manchester Polytechnic. I did a fantastic degree which has been of benefit throughout my life – English, history and French subsidiary. It was taught by some wonderful teachers and lecturers, and the three course ran parallel so when I was doing C19 English. European and social and economic history, I was also studying C19 English literature and poetry, and French literature and poetry. I made some fabulous friends, one of whom is still my best friend and the nearest thing I have to a brother, I fell in love with Manchester and the northwest and lived there for longer than anywhere else in my life. if I had gone to Cambridge – the city of my birth and childhood, I’m not sure I would have got a very good degree – not being good at taking exams! I’m positive I wouldn’t have met such a broad range of different people from different backgrounds, parts of the country and actually different countries. I wouldn’t have become as independent – we had to find out own accommodation, no halls of residence for us, and Manchester in the 1970’s was such an amazing place with far more life, and a much better music scene! Not going to Cambridge University changed my life much more and for much better than going there!
  • There’s nothing I can say about not finding love when I was in my teens, twenties or thirties… I found my true love at the perfect time, my tall dark handsome prince! And we have a great family too!
  • Not getting published – this let me live my life outside of an ivory tower; I’ve done some amazing things and met some amazing people, which has given me the stories I now write! Yes, I still want to see my books in book shops – but what I’ve achieved so far with my books I’ve published myself through Amazon as e-books on KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing – well, they really are my own work, all my own work, and, Steve, I made it happen!

Here is a link to my books:

May is also the time for visiting our friends in the Netherlands, and this year we very much amused them on a visit to a nearby village:

Our Dutch friends think we are very odd and rather funny (in the nicest fondest way) because we love to visit what to them is a perfectly ordinary supermarket – Jumbo! It’s not just that it has lots of interesting and delicious looking Dutch foods – everyday items and speciality, it’s just so interesting to see a completely normal supermarket in another country.

There is a big new store, Jumbo Foodmarkt Veghel,  opened in what had been an old factory complex – a milling operation I think. We went there last year, and this year we went again… We’d had a busy morning being good tourists, and by the time we got to the shop it was lunch time! I’m not sure if the restaurant was part of Jumbo – I’m pretty sure it was, but it was in its own space, opposite a beer shop with literally hundreds, if not thousands of different sorts of beer, mostly from the Netherlands, but also from Belgium and other European countries. There was also a big speciality food market, which would have been really interesting to go round, but we were a little pressed for time.

We settled ourselves at a table, our order was taken, our friends wanted a tuna salad sandwich, my husband a burger, and I asked for salad – meat, fish or vegetarian, I was asked. I decided on the veggie option… The tuna salad sandwiches arrived – the most generous size I have ever seen, and the burger, which was like a mini home-made burger, very chunky but lunchtime sized with loads of chips – definitely not frozen but fresh-cut and cooked by the looks of it… and then my salad…

The photo really doesn’t do it justice… every mouthful was different and delicious.. it was so wonderful that I actually made a list of ingredients, as far as I could tell, so I could try to replicate it at home… The man who had taken our orders had also cooked and prepared the meals, and when he came over, I think he was a bit surprised (but also delighted!) by my enthusiasm! I showed him my list and I think I had found everything – except the balsamic vinegar!

here is what I think was in the salad:

  • mixed baby leaves dressed in the lightest of oil/balsamic dressing
  • lightly roasted nuts including almonds, walnuts, cashews
  • seeds including sesame and sunflower (maybe some pumpkin)
  • baby pickled onions and teeny-weeny-tiny pickled gherkins
  • pickled slices of carrot (still crunchy and in a very light pickle)
  • cucumber
  • baby tomatoes preserved in olive oil and herbs
  • tomatoes
  • soft goats’ cheese masked in a dressing of tomatoes, fig, red peppers and paprika (the peppers may have been preserved in olive oil too, or roasted, very soft, savoury dressing)
  • decorated with a creamy dressing, which I think was slightly herby, maybe garlicky
  • what I think may have been seaweed… but not completely sure on that, it did taste lovely though and was bright green!

I know it sounds ridiculous maybe to be so enamoured by a salad – a collection of things just put together (the man said he had just taken whatever he fancied out of the bowls of ingredients and made the salad specially for me) – but honestly, it was just yummy!


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