Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Tins: Memories From The Past

Mum's Birthday Tin

I made a tin as a special surprise present for my mum's 87th birthday. It includes a picture of the streets where we lived in the 50s and early 60s. The border inside is a map showing the town, Stourton (now completely demolished, church, schools and all). The inset picture is of mum and dad in their courting days, sitting on a bench in Stourton Park. 

Mum was only about 15 or 16 at the time. The streets we lived in were called 'The Idas' after the wife of the man who built them. We lived on Ida Terrace. The houses were constructed from the bricks and rubble left from slum clearances. People used to say that the houses had the fleas built into them! 

Here's a fuller map of the location on the back of the tin. I used a Pontefract Cakes tin because the road on the picture is Pontefract Road. 

Mum was delighted with the tin and likes to tell the stories behind it to all the people who visit her. Here's mum on her birthday surrounded by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren!

My poem 'Google Earth' recently published by The Letterpress Project mentions Ida Terrace. You can read it on the site here.

Here's an image of the poem as it was originally published in the magazine Mslexia.

More Writing Bits and Bobs

666 Horror Anthology

This arrived yesterday.  I have four stories in here: 'Loft Conversion' (competition second prize); 'The Pond' (shortlisted entry); 'Bad Vibrations at Stratisfest' and "a Perfect Match' (both longlisted entries). I've had fun reading the other pieces of flash fiction in this Fantastic Books Publishing anthology. Love the cover!

Here's a taster - the opening paragraph from 'A Perfect Match'.

A Happy Anniversary - Roald Dahl

This year is the centenary anniversary of the year of Roald Dahl's birth. On November 3rd, the Letterpress Project launched a book of writings by adults and children celebrating Dahl's work. 
The book Roald Dahl: The Man Who Believed in Magic is available from Letterpress in paperback form or in a free PDF. My poem 'The Whoopsy-whiffling World of Mr Dahl' is included. 

A Sad Event

On November 7th, we heard of the sad death of the wonderful poet and singer-songwriter, Leonard Cohen. On an online blog, I shared my memories of a long-ago meeting with him. This was published by the BBC in an online article, listing experiences of everyday folk meeting him. You can read the article here.

The article includes a picture of me in the location where I met him. I and my friends used to sunbathe on rocks on the Greek island of Hydra close by to his favourite sunny spot! I'm the shy one in the frock!

Wow - this is almost 40 years ago! When did I get old? Here's another pic - converted by Prisma (more on Prisma later). This shows me sailing to Hydra.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Creative Writing at Rose Cottage

Now that the weather is getting cloudier and the nights are drawing in, I'm looking forward to getting back to a few of my writing projects. Some new publications are in the pipeline. 

Flash Fiction in 666

On Halloween, Fantastic Books Publishing will be launching a collection of horror-themed flash fiction in their anthology 666. Many of the authors included are winners, short-listers and long-listers from a recent Fantastic Books competition. The brief was to write a horror story in just 666 words. My story 'Loft Conversion' came second in the competition and my other entries were short-listed ('The Pond') and long-listed ('Bad Vibrations at Stratisfest' and 'A Perfect Match'). All four will be in the book.

Image copyright of FBP

Here as a taster / temptation are two images that inspired two of the tales. 

This is a picture of one of my tins. An inspiration for 'A Perfect Match'.

And this is a spot near Rose Cottage. Look closely and you might see the inspiration for the spooky element in 'The Pond'.

This is the second time I've come runner-up in a FBP competition. My story 'Bar-code' came second in their science fiction short story competition and was published along with another of my stories. 'Human Fossil' in their winners' anthology Fusion.

I'm really proud to be included in the author team at Fantastic Books Publishing. It's a friendly publishing house which supports a range of charities. Here's a quotation from Dan Grubbs the CEO:

'We support over 20 charities, run an annual convention, sponsor a horse rider, a heritage railway and a small rally team, own a sound studio, have a fledgling film division and take care of the work of almost 100 authors while achieving our aim of giving our authors a fair share of the profits from their books.' 

Short Writes in Short Flights 2

I'm delighted to have had some some short snippets and aphorisms accepted for publication in James Lough's and Alex Stein's Short Flights 2 (now retitled Short Circuits) to be published in April by Schaffner Press. This follows the success of the first volume Short Flights: Thirty-two Modern Writers Share Aphorisms of Insight, Inspiration and Wit 

My interest in such forms developed a while ago when I created a Twitter Project based on the sayings or Gregueria of a Spanish writer, Ramon. Here are links to my Twitter page, Gregueria,  and to James Lough's Twitter page.

Writer Interview in The Letterpress Project  

I've just had an interview published by The Letterpress Project. This is a fabulous project that celebrates and promotes the love of reading real 'physical' books. Their website and Facebook Page form a wonderful repository of information about and musings on real books and the joy of reading. 

The site also includes author interviews, new creative writing and a host of other resources. You can find my interview here

Painfree Slimming

Well, kind of. Cutting down on drinks is quite a test of will-power. 

We eat a lot of vegetarian meals. The one below is a favourite and fairly low in calories. A variation is to use paella for the stuffing with smoked mozzarella for Nicky and chorizo for me.

Roasted long sweet peppers stuffed with couscous and feta

Non-vegetarian meals usually include free-range chicken. The one below is really easy and not too calorific if you can possibly avoid the skin...

Thai roast chicken with red-curry coconut milk sauce

I love fish (Nicky doesn't) so my low calorie nights often include fish or shellfish. Sea-bass fillets are cheap and surprisingly low in calories.

Thai-spiced sea bass with asparagus and bok choi stir-fry

Here's a recipe with rainbow trout. A bit of naughty mayonnaise added.

Roast rainbow trout with lemon,  garden herbs and sun-dried tomatoes

I once found the following ready-mix at Morrisons (never seen it since) and teamed it with 'zero' calorie noodles.

Seafood mix with Bare-Naked noodles

Here's my own variation using bargain scallops and chorizo mix (down to 99p from £5.50 at end-of-day Morrisons) and added touches.

Scallops and chorizo with red peppers and chilli sauce

Every now and then I treat myself to a juicy rib-eye steak. Quite high in calories but not too bad if you go easy on the extras.

Griddled steak and mushrooms with papaya and cucumber salad

Steak kebab with Indian spices

Black pepper steak kebab

And here's another recipe with Bare Naked noodles, using duck this time.

Chinese duck-breast stir-fry with Bare Naked noodles

Monday, 19 September 2016

Healthy Diet Creations

I've been trying to lose a few pounds. I'm using the MyFitnessPal app to help me set targets, count calories and chart progress. Here is one recent meal at Rose Cottage! More to follow later.

Mushroom and blue cheese pies with garden herbs salad

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Nicky's Crocheted Creatures

Nicky's first attempts at crochet are based on patterns from Edward's Menagerie.

Here they all are (apart from a cat that was given as a present). Baabara the sheep, Baby elephant with mother Bridget, Aurora the lion (name stolen from baby Dorrie), and rabbit Lazarus, so called because he was Nicky's first creation and kept rising from the 'dead'!

Branching Out: More Carvings by Nicky

Having made some of Tomashek's creatures (see below), Nicky decided to have a go at some carving projects of her own.
Here's a Wood Spirit made from a branch taken from the garden at our old house on Weoley Park Road in Birmingham. I think he looks a bit like Kris Kristofferson...

This candle-holder is created from a root Nicky dug out of the garden at Rose Cottage.

Three little mice. The one with the curliest tail is made from a piece of walnut bought from a timber-store. The middle one is made from a piece of a chopped-down cherry tree that used to stand in  our Birmingham garden. The one of the left's made from pine - a piece of our old shed door at the cottage.

Here's Finn after chopping down the cherry tree. It had been attacked by fungus and had to go. Still it's nice to have a memento of it in mouse-form.

The cherry tree in happier days!

We still have a wooden cherry from it - also carved by Nicky! The stalk's made from a twiglet from the tree.

Here's the shed-door before its removal - we had the shed taken down and now have a lovely brick-built outdoor workshop for gardening bits and bobs and larger art projects.

And the lump of shed door on Nicky's work-bench. Just waiting for the bits that aren't mouse to be carved away from it!

Nicky's Whimsical Whittlings

Nicky was inspired by Steve Tomashek's book 'Tiny Whittling' to have a go at some of the diminutive creatures inside. The little red bird is Pimpernel.

She began with a rabbit carved from a carrot.

Lovely at first but doomed to decay! Going...



More than gone!

Here are some more permanent creatures at Rose Cottage. 

Woody Woodpecker - to celebrate the woodpeckers that are regular visitors to our garden.

Woodruff the dog.

With Wilfie keeping a close eye on him.

Chivers the cat. Watch out birds!

Friesia the cow.

Dumpy Dobbin - who turned out slightly more rotund than expected.

Shrawley Fox - so named because he was made from a lump of lime-wood found in Shrawley Woods near our cottage.

Bluey Rabbit - an Easter gift for mum - and named by her...

The wooden clan on our dresser.