SNV30239

SNV30239

Blogging about

I love blogging about...

Friday, 28 June 2013

Books, and the day I couldn't put one down,...

You know I love reading. Crime, chick lit, historical novels, non fiction, biographies , young adult fiction, picture books.I'm a voracious reader of books and I'm even writing one.

I have my favourite authors of course ...but I'm willing to read anything, which transports me to a different world, which engages me, which makes me laugh, cry or think.

I'm lucky enough to be part of a group of children's writers, which meets every fortnight....once a month we meet for lunch....we all read a children's book and critique it. It's all very civilised....it's not a bitchfest where we pull a novel apart ...unless it is really dire! No, we begin with a drink (coffee, tea or a cold drink), we all bring a dish for lunch, a salad perhaps , a pasta dish, some chicken ...who knows...it's all very ad hoc. We eat, chat, talk about the publishing world in general...and then we discuss the book in question....over coffee.

Last week it was here at my place....and the sun was actually shining, so a very rare event indeed....coffee in the garden........

left to right...Alex Gutteridge, Pippa Goodhart, Sue Hague (who's an illustrator and Debbie White I love this photo of the giggles....

The other meeting per month is a workshop. We all bring something we want advice on...it may be the merest germination of an idea, it may be a  chapter or a synopsis we're not sure about...but we all pitch in with our ideas and comments. I have to say this is a lovely, cohesive, supportive group  which means so much to all of us, and it's a prolific group too with well over a hundred novels and picture books published by everyone.

So it's especially good to attend a book launch...when it's one of  "ours". A few weeks ago, it was the launch of "Last Chance Angel" by Alex Gutteridge at the Reading shop in Oadby, and our group were out in force.


Left to right: Rose Griffiths, Debbie White, Alex Gutteridge, Me, Ros Adam and Josephine Feeney

As well a wine and canap├ęs...so delicious, there was a beautiful, and I mean beautifully stunning cake, which exactly matched the cover of the book.




So, a little break for cake, and then another group photo...but our group is not complete...the outstandingly talented and creative Pippa Goodhart was unable to be with us.



 And yes, we're all holding the copies of the book which we bought...and it was particularly gratifying for  us all to get a mention in Alex's speech...

It's one thing listening to the germ of an idea, to hear a chapter in isolation and comment on what we like, what we don't or make suggestions for another way of expressing something. But to read the finished novel is a completely different matter entirely.

So what did I think to the book?  Honestly? And I am going to be honest here.....it's an engaging and gratifying read.

Teenager Jess has an accident and lies in a coma in hospital but Darren, the somewhat tatchy Angel of Death, has accidently given Jess the kiss of death a few days too early.

Jess manages to persuade Darren (after all it was his fault ) to let her live those days back in the real world until she has to go up to heaven...but the thing is, she must remain  invisible to all her friends and family. So dropping in all them all unseen, Jess learns so much more about them all....their lives, how they feel...and how they are all so desperately worried about her in a coma. And it
's at this point of the book  that Jess learns some emotional truths....and I, as  a reader became so emotionally involved in the story. So much so that I as lay reading this book under a tree in the sunshine on a surprisingly hot afternoon, I cried.

But Jess is no angel, she's a teenager, so breaks the rules and does see her family.....but through doing so, she realises how precious life really is...and how she has taken certain things for granted. No more about the storyline, I want you to read the book, and personally think that every teenager should read it. But it's not mawkish or overly sentimental., there's just the right of pathos, energy and humour in this...yes even  humour, especially when it comes to Darren,the Angel of Death.

Today's track has got to be my favourite song about angels, performed by one of my great musical loves. ...I give you...Jimi Hendrix and Angel HQ.



 

Thursday, 27 June 2013

A day at the BBC Good Food Show

So, my trip to the NEC in Birmingham the other week was my first ever foray to the BBC Good Food Show. I 'd heard and read lots about the show of course, but it was so interesting to go, see and try for myself.

As I entered the huge hall, I noticed lots of drinks stands.....



serving wines from all around the world....and they'd come from even as far as New Zealand...

All, well mostly all, were tempting passers by with a tot or too...some made sure their customers sat down for the hard sell before handing out free samples



There were drinks of all kinds....





and at every stall, there were crowds necking down two or three samples from each stand. At eleven o clock in the morning....who would be drivng home I wondered...

The one drink that did delight and surprise was Harrington Gin, distilled just across the border from me in Northampton.
I'm not a gin connoisseur ...I use cheap gin to make my own sloe, damson and raspberry gin each summer and autumn. (for my brilliant raspberry gin recipe see here ... http://thinkingofthedays.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/gin-fuelled-days.html.  )
and yes, I've had a little fling with Bombay Sapphire...but this is something else. Taking the tiniest sip at a time...the fresh, clean smell waved itself under my nose, but  I could taste cardamon , then as the gin warmed in my mouth, there was the faintest taste of toffee...This one drink which will never be tainted with tonic I can tell you. Well not in my house anyway! And to think it's distilled only a few miles away from here....


On other stands, some sophisticates were starting with oysters...




many were wolfing down some of the wide range of sausages, hams, salamis, pasties and pies on offer....these were the prettiest pies I saw...



Other fancied the tarts.....

Before ending with some of Tom's fudge. This fudge is legendary in Leicestershire..run by three guys all called Tom who met at Loughborough University.In fact I watched quite a few people making a return trip to the stall before going home..I have to confirm that this fudge is absolutely delicious........


Obviously you expect to taste, try and eat at this show...I was enjoying myself and bought quite a few bits and pieces after trying them ....the gluten free sausages from Pig and Co were a huge hit, especially the Mostly merguez and walnut and fig sausages, a few pies etc, the gin,  but seeing some people swooping in, elbowing others out of the way...and then hoovering up as many free bites as they could....was enlightening , if not entertaining.

At least they were keeping their energy levels up I suppose - but it's amazing watching people grazing in such an ad hoc way. I would have felt quite nauseous if I'd eaten some strong cheese, a cupcake, a hot pork pie, some chocolate, washed down with toffee vodka, wine and liqueurs in the space of 20 minutes....

After visiting all the stands, I managed to grab a chair and watch a demonstration....I'd just missed this year's Masterchef Champion , Natalie Coleman, but I did see Dale Williams , one  of the finalists.


 
Watching the demo,  realised how, for modern day chefs, being able to cook and create isn't enough. They all have be able to do a turn, be photogenic, keep up the patter ready for their opportunity to shine on the telly ...to satisfy the wonderful growth of interest in cooking .
 
As I made my way out of the food hall, I saw many of the grazers and swoopers staggering out of the  NEC with billowing carrier bags full of food and drinks....they weren't going to go hungry on the way home either ....
 
 
 Tonight's track is by Kathryn Williams...who has one of the purest voices I've heard. She is amazing to watch live...and a lovely person to interview. She's doing a tour in September....I shall definitely be going to see her perform. ...I've been drinking a glass of wine listening to this tonight watching the summer rain on the windowpanes....
Here's "Come with me" with Neill Maccoll
 
 
 



Thursday, 20 June 2013

A day out at Gardeners' World Live

Summer is whizzing by so quickly...and I've already missed certain gardening events that I really would have liked to go to. I wasn't able to go to the Chelsea Flower Show this year, and I had withdrawal symptoms, especially after having such a wonderful time  there last year ( see what I got up to last year  here http://thinkingofthedays.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/day-at-chelsea-flower-show-part-2.html  and here http://thinkingofthedays.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/day-out-at-chelsea-chelsea-flower-show.html)

I've not even been to visit any Open gardens either, so I've been in dire need of some botanical inspiration , I had a definite desire to see other people's creativity brought to life, and I rather fancied doing a little shopping.

So, would this fit the bill?




Well yes it did.....there were a number of show gardens which were competing to be as innovative as they could be using a set list of materials. "Metamorphosis " was the theme, which was interpreted in interesting ways.








There were also some funky gardens



But as time was running short, I made a beeline for the RHS Floral Marquee where I could admire the rows of beautiful plants and flowers from around a hundred nurseries...



It was very muggy in the marquee...I began to flag, and decided I needed some fresh air....but then I saw the David Austin  roses display stand. It called me like a siren and I came closer, the most delicious fragrance wafted along in the still air. Gertrude Jekyll is my favourite rose....yet I still don't have one in my garden. This must be remedied!




Mind you I was so taken with this eglantine rose too...so prettily perfect too with such a delicate scent...I've decided that I must make the trip upto David Austin in Shropshire to see more.



There was lots to admire at Gardeners' World Live outside, but going indoors into the main halls didn't fill me with the same enthusiasm ...overall, there seemed a lack of vitality and pazazz, a cohesiveness and staff on a number of stands looked, quite frankly, bored.

What did interest me was the bonsai exhibition


Precision and perfection everywhere....


 

Not that you'll ever see me carefully shaping something like this. Firstly, putting a pair of scissors or secateurs in my hands is a high risk strategy...and secondly  I simply don't have the patience....although I did appreciate what I saw so much.

My first visit to Gardeners' World Live was all too brief....but will I go next year? Yes I will..... I met some lovely people, especially the persuasive lot on the RHS stand touting for new blood! As for the shopping, I've got a fair few ideas, but in the end I didn't buy anything on the day - unlike others on the bus back to the car park, who were poking other passengers with their purchases and plants. Thank goodness I didn't buy my Gertude Jekyll rose...that could have been interesting....

Today's track is my favourite piece of choral music "Oh Spotless Rose". Every time I hear it, I'm lost in the beauty of the composition and the incredible sounds that voices can make. This version is by the King's College Choir in Cambridge. It's for my friends Shannon Hurst lane, Denise Dube and Susan Lanier Graham from across the pond.....on a cold February afternoon  I took them to Evensong at Kings College, something they said they would never forget.


I

Monday, 10 June 2013

A day of being so near and yet so far....

Another early start this morning. Awake at 4.20am, and by 7am I was at the airport....




Yes,East Midlands Airport....so near and convenient to fly from....


My destination was here......



where people were all milling around ready to fly off to some of these destinations  .....



There were two distinct types of passengers ...the business men with slightly crumpled suits looking harassed as laptops in hand, they made their way purposefully through to airport security.

The others were very pale people showing dulux white legs in shorts and wearing sunhats, ready for their weeks of soaking up the sun. "Passports" one man barked to his wife as they approached the check in desk......loud "hellos"as a group of  golfers met up in the departure lounge, off for a golfing break in Portugal. I could tell they were golfers, the visors and squint in the sun eyes and sunburnt faces gave the game away before I even caught sight of the telltale golf bags.

So where was I going , I can hear you ask. Well, let's put it this way - the departure lounge was as far as I got!

I was there to do a series of pieces for both BBC Radio Leicester and BBC Radio Lincolnshire about the airport itself as it was fifty years ago today that it was decided to create East Midlands Airport on the site of an old air base. ...

Since then it's developed into a thriving hub for both passengers and cargo.





According to Andy Cliffe, the new Chief Executive there, four million passengers take off or fly into the airport each year...and it brings 300 million pounds each year into our region's economy.

All very good news....and I've so many happy memories of trips begun in this very departure lounge. A trip to Africa with the Gambia Experience..for much needed sun, swimming and birdwatching in the middle of a dreadful English winter  and following the journey of a remarkable woman to see how she's transformed and supported a local school for 400 children there.

A trip to Belfast, for a weekend of history, culture, and a very good guided pub crawl...trips to France for quick little holidays....and then the most memorable flight of all, to the Ukraine.....on the Antonov  An-225, the world's largest plane. What a trip that was. I was the only journalist accompanying ten charity workers who were delivering tons of shoeboxes on board which contained gifts and essentials for Ukranian orphans. That was a very emotional four days which will stay with me for the rest of my life.

But unfortunately today, there was no  trip to take....just a short drive back down the M1 to the BBC studios feeling rather miffed that I wasn't off on my jollies. Next time I visit East Midlands Airport, I hope I'll be one of the ones wearing shorts and a sunhat , with my battered old passport in my hand.

Today's track....well, I hope you didn't think it was going to be "Airport "by the Motors...because it definitely isn't. I
Ladies and gentlemen, take your seats, fasten your seatbelts please, and enjoy "Learning to Fly" by Foo Fighters. I love the song...and although I've seen the video so  many times....I still laugh.

 

Friday, 7 June 2013

A day on Radio 4's Food Programme...


I love food. That's why I'm not a skinny malinky kind of woman....I have curves. Ok, so they're perhaps more curvier curves than perhaps I should have...but hey...

It's not that I'm stuffing myself morning , noon and night....I'm not.....but I like to grow my own food.....
 


.

 
 
and cook. Sometimes the urge to cook just takes over...for example I wasn't going to bake today. No way, too busy ...but then I spotted the bananas in the fruit bowl....mmmn, a tad too speckly...and the next minute I was making this...a banana, chocolate and walnut loaf.
 




Food...growing, cooking and sharing it ... makes me happy. Even when I'm cooking a  recipe from someone I've loved and liked, and who's now not with us.......I like to remember the happy times
we shared...and using their recipes keep those happy times alive.

Over the years, I've collected quite a number of recipes from Granny, my lovely mum in law who died seventeen years ago, Mama..that's my gorgeous mum (who thank the lord, is still very much alive and kicking) and lots of friends. The recipe book has now lost it's  covers, it's so tatty and dog eared, and some of the pages are decorated with cake mixture splodges. But it's one of my most valuable possessions.



Cooking their recipes , the smells coming from the oven take me back to conversations, events, and meals gone by. I 've now transferred the  recipes to a new book...lovingly rewritten them out, just in case the original book completely falls to pieces one day...






This week, the addictive and always excellent " Food Programme "on Radio 4 looks at food and bereavement, carefully crafted by producer Anne -Marie Bullock ....and my darling daughter and I will be sharing our memories of Granny et al and talking about my recipe book during the programme.
.
Here's the link to what's coming up

http://bbc.in/12SIddD   


 Do have a look....and do listen on Sunday at 12.30pm or Monday at 3.30 on BBC Radio 4 on FM 92.5–96....or you can sit at your computer and listen on t'internet. Go on, you know you want to......


Today's track is called "Remembering "by the Avishai Cohen Trio.....

 

Saturday, 1 June 2013

cow parsley days

My world is awash with white at the moment....I can't go anywhere at the moment without seeing these delicate white flowers.




Around the village, at the front of every hedgerow, in every lane,  the cow parsley is in blossom



Turning each corner, I can smell it's freshness on the breeze before I can see it and so can Boo...

 
 

 
Huge swathes of  what my granny used to call Queen Anne's lace...
 

 
 
Such a pretty name, but it has another one...keck. Why the heck would someone call it keck? 
 
But it's also known by so many other names too....John Clare writes about "kicksies white "in Asylum Poems , and there's others such as Fairy Lace (one of my favourite names), Gipsy's Umbrella, Cow Mumble, and Adder's Maet .
 
Botanists call it Anthriscus sylvestris. Whatever it's called though, its blowsy charm is so welcome as it signals summer is on its way....finally!
 
What do you call it?
 
 
Today's track is from Kings of Convenience, a Norwegian band who I've really appreciated for quite a few years ....after I saw them play live at a festival. I just love their understated vocals and harmonies, and sublime guitar playing....and this sound suits me down to the ground on a sunny evening like tonight....relaxing with a glass of chilled white wine...