Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for September, 2012

Broken Sentiment

We had been invited to, probably the last BBQ this summer.   It was Saturday afternoon and the sun had been shinning all day.   Unusually I had no food to prepare and things were quiet in the house.   We were bringing the drinks including Pimms so I did need to chop and soak the fruit in the alcohol before we left.

I started early as the longer the fruit marinated the better the Pimms tastes. I own a beautiful glass punch bowl which comes with delicate little cups.  The sheer glass has vine leaves bulging with fruit etched delicately round it and the glass spoon sits comfortably poking through the opening in the lid.

This punch bowl has been part of my family for as long as I can remember.  My father a born host produced this bowl from the recesses of his cupboards for every memorable party he gave.    Perfectly chopped fruit, pimms, ice and bubbling lemonade taking centre stage on the drinks table at the summer party.    Warm, spicy cinnamon and red mulled wine pervading the room, hinting at the fruit mix and warmth waiting to  be enjoyed after the bonfire and fireworks display he had already pre-planned.

In fact I don’t remember an occasion he didn’t bring the bowl out and make good use of it, and yet the delicacy of the glass survived them all.   When my father passed away and my mother downsized she gave the bowl to me to follow his guardianship, with the understanding that I too, would put it to good use.   I hoped that I had emulated that custody.

I began chopping strawberries, oranges, lemons and apples.  I dug deep into the cupboard to bring out the bowl and even deeper to count that I still had all the cups to serve the drink in.   Carefully I brought it to the sink to wash it and took the lid off.  The water running, the lid shining I lifted the spoon out.

Crack!

Time stood still.

It was only a gentle tap as the spoon came out but in slow motion the side of the bowl shattered as each shard of splintered glass speared my disbelieving memory.   One side of the bowl remained intact but the one nearest me was in pieces as was I.   Sexy Sporty Dad responding instantly to my cry of pain, tried to find where it hurt.

Inside, where my heart is; where all the memories of my childhood had just converged on my core tearing it to pieces.   I had been given this to use, protect and pass on.  In a moment’s distraction I had destroyed something precious, at least to me; the memory of my father as he entertained his guests and never let anyone be without a drink or a companion at any of his parties.

Sexy Sporty Dad gathered the pieces and with sombre tone admitted that not even he could glue all the slivers back together for me.   He carefully wrapped the offending pieces in newspaper and will dispose of them as if they were a beloved pet that had passed on.  Quietly and secretly so my misery is not re-ignited.

My mind wrenched back to this evening’s activities.  What of the Pimms?  I still needed a receptacle to serve it from.  I knew the friends we were dinning with would have accepted a bottle of wine or other form of drink without damming me; but I had promised Pimms and so Pimms it must be.

Where do you find a punch bowl late on a Saturday afternoon these days?

A plethora of charity shops adorn our high street and there is one that sells all kinds of odd bits of household clearance items that rarely anyone wants.   I started there and trawled the aisles finding beautiful cut glass vases, jugs that would hold enough for two or three drinks even large brandy glasses that might be used instead.   I found a sugar bowl and milk jug that matched Granddad’s cups, I spotted a silver or possible stainless silver jam spoon that it had taken me weeks to find when I was looking for a present for my mother’s new house.   The one thing I could not find was anything resembling a punch bowl.

As I browsed a couple of outfits and smart tops on the way through to the exit I noticed the two ladies at the counter waiting I guess, for someone to say hello, buy something or just a bit of excitement.   I popped back in and asked “I don’t suppose you have anything like a punch bowl?”

The first lady looked at me sadly “no unless it is out on the shelves we don’t”

The other lady seemed a little more thoughtful.   “Could you wait a moment we did have one handed in a while back I am not sure what happened to it.”

Naturally I waited; picking up a top and admiring it; wishing I was 4 sizes smaller and could squeeze into it.  Why are all the best clothes always too small.  After 10 minutes of browsing I was becoming a little edgy, late on a Saturday afternoon and I didn’t know where I might find what I was looking for.

Finally she appeared staggering under the weight of a large punch bowl box.  Unsure even if the box held what it promised we gently removed the bowl with spoon.  It seemed to be resting on a layer  which we lifted exposing all twelve cups in perfect condition.  This was not delicate thin glass with beautiful etching on it, but thick chunky glass made to withstand even my clumsy washing.  I would take it.  After all the cost would not matter; how much does it cost to replace the priceless memories associated with my broken, shattered bowl.

“That will be £5 please”

“How much?  Are you sure?”  I added another top I had been toying with as I felt so guilty at the cheapness.

Ten minutes later all clean and shiny; the bowl adorned the shelf in the fridge with a small layer of pimms soaked fruit.  The lemonade would be added at the party.

As we drank late that evening in the glowing embers of the sunlight we raised a glassed to my father “Cheers Dad.”

Cheers!

Writing

I seem to have reached a goal; one I was not expecting.  Although my book “Memories” is supposedly going through a revamp and re-edit before being sent to publishers; I have found myself writing a short blog in the newly launched Gillingham Guide. I may only have a remit of 250 words a month to tell my tale, I have gone over on both occasions so far, this is to be a regular, time critical writing that I will have to produce as a filler providing space is available.

With all that is going on currently I am deciding whether I can find time to join NANOWRIMO this November.  How can I write 1600 words a day when currently finding time for 100 per day is  a challenge.  I have several themes going round in my head for the next book but maybe I should get Memories published then write the next one.

On another note my writing coach from our writing group has slated this blog for it’s over use of literary features and clichés. Having recovered slightly from the slating I thought long and hard about his comments.  I could of course drop all the fun features as he suggests and just text speak my thoughts in plain boring words but I think I would lose the essence of what I am saying and I am not sure I would stay focused for long.   I suspect my coach needs to understand blogging, twitter and social media before he can write-off my penned word completely.  After all I am publishing two blogs regularly and now another monthly blog, people are beginning to know my name.  Does he really want me to stop that just as things pick up for me?

I guess I need to get used to these beratings and rejections before I send Memories off.

Tiggy

Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy

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Flapjack

I was at a friends house and we had this flapjack.  One piece led to another with us all commenting how delicious it was. She was eventually persuaded to divulge the family recipe and although mine was slightly different it went down as well and did not last long in our house.

Ingredients
1lb Oats mixture with nuts and sultanas (I used a mix of 70% jumbo and porridge oats; with dried cranberries and apricots rather than nuts)
1/2lb butter or margarine
1/2lb Muscovado Sugar (I actually used a bit less as I am not keen on very sweet things)
4 tablespoons Golden Syrup
2 heaped teaspoons of Baking Powder
2 heaped teaspoons of Dry Ground Ginger





Melt the butter gently, adding the golden syrup and sugar allow to cool slightly




Mix all the dry ingredient together.


Add the dry mix to the butter and mix well so that all the oats and fruit are well coated.


Lay the mix in a buttered tin or on grease proof paper and put in a pre-heated oven at

 350°F/180°C/Gas 4 

for 25 minutes




When the flapjack turns a golden brown but is still soft to the touch (beware sugar content is really hot) take it from the oven and allow to cool.   It will harden once cooled.    Score the portion sizes out and once cooled leave in the fridge before cutting it up.






We like our flapjack gooey and soft but if you cook it slightly longer it will cool much harder.

Enjoy and there are so many variations to this let me know what your family love best.


Tiggy

Find out what I am up to in my other blog  Dawn Chorus






Cottage Pie



I wanted some variation with my usual shepherds pie but it had to be similar enough that no-one noticed.   They actually did notice but they also loved this variation that I produced.


Ingredients
Olive Oil
Onions
Beef mince
Brown Sauce – I had HP in the cupboard
Carrots diced finely
Frozen Peas
Tomato Sauce
Potatoes mashed – I had half a yam left so added this in which sweetened the mash.  
Butter and Milk
Cheese –  cheddar grated

Heat the oil




Add the onions and fry gently, removing when soft and beginning to caramelise.  Line the serving dish.









In the same pan, fry the meat till it is browned all over, then add a good dollop of brown sauce, Mix well then add to the onions.






Without cleaning the pan,  drain it if there is excessive fat;  add the carrots to begin cooking after a few minutes add the frozen peas and mix well.     Add another good dollop but this time of tomato sauce  and mix well.






Layer this above the onion and meat.   If it has become very dry add a few millimetres of boiled water to keep it moist whilst cooking.







While all this is going on have the potatoes on and boiling so they can be mashed with butter and milk.  You will have your own method of making the perfect mash for your family.   Layer this on top of the carrot and pea mix.




Sprinkle liberally with cheese and put in a high pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes until the mixture is clearly bubbling and the cheese on top is turning a golden brown.




Serve piping hot with a salad or further bright coloured vegetables.   

This is a great pre-prepared dish that can sit ready and waiting till you are ready to cook when you get in from the school run or work.  It works very well for a cosy supper dish with relaxed friends that can be organised before they arrive and then cooked when needed.

Spice it up by swapping the brown sauce for Worcestershire Sauce or add a chopped chilli to the meat.

let me know what you try and enjoy.


Tiggy
Find out what I am up to in my other blog  Dawn Chorus



Pin-less and Portable

Sitting looking around a now all too familiar coffee shop; waiting.    Not as you might imagine for a coffee to arrive, I already have that by my side.   I am waiting for No 1 Son to come out of theatre and back to the ward where I may visit him.

This we hope is the final chapter in a long running saga or at least it seems so to him.

It was just over two years ago reaching the end of a particularly successful rugby season for him having come back from injury once before; he had begun to regain confidence and fitness and was playing incredibly intuitive rugby.    He was warming up for a game when he felt a twinge in his hip but being a boy besotted by his sport he carried on; not telling anyone.

The hip continued giving him pain throughout the game and finally he admitted he was suffering later that afternoon.   Eyes rolling to the heavens; I diagnosed and treated his latest pulled muscle, thanking God it was nothing worse.

The following Sunday when the pain had not subsided I vetoed him joining the sevens competition and became the most hated evil mother in the world.  Did I not understand how important it was for him? All season he had worked up to this very day and I was ruining it.

I, of course already knew this, but having been a rugby mum for many years by then, also knew how long a pulled muscle or torn ligament could take to meander its slow journey back to fit.  After all had he not been on crutches for 10 weeks with plantafacialitis; ruining the whole of his previous summer holiday and delaying the start of this season for him.

I stood my ground and he did not play.   As the pain continued without appearing to get better so we booked into to see the doctor who agreed he had pulled a muscle and gave him a cocktail of medicines; Ibuprofen cream to dispel the inflammation together with an anti-sickness tablet to offset the effects of the cream.  He is allergic to brufen and all derivatives thereof.   Not a good allergy for a rugby player.

Three weeks later the pain was increasing rather than decreasing and another visit to the doctor raised concerns of a slipped femoral epiphysis.  Could we have an urgent x-ray done?  As it was a Friday night nothing could be done and we were put on the urgent list.   One week later saw me taking No 1 Son up to the X-Ray department to check out this irritating hip.    As we left I thanked the radiographer and she told me that the results would take a week to get back to the doctor and if I could make an appointment then for them to be discussed.

The natural instinct in a mother is to protect and nurture her child and to me this had already gone on too long.   The Doctors fears playing heavily on my mind I trawled the internet to find every possible entry for femoral epithisis that has ever been written, becoming more and more anxious as the moments and information flooded my mind.   I phoned the surgery and unable to speak directly to the doctor left a fairly curt message saying that following his request for an urgent x-ray they had done this finally and if he was happy to wait for the result I would accede to his knowledge and experience.

We heard nothing!

Friday evening arrived and a friend came over for a meal.  We’d opened a bottle of wine, served out the meal and called the children down to the table.  That was when the phone rings.   Often I will actually leave it with the knowledge that they will leave a message or if really important ring my mobile.  Something, niggling deep within that I am unable to explain made me answer it as the others tucked into their meal.

The doctor had got my message and was not in the least happy to wait, he like I, knew that the X-ray results are instantly on the system and he would meet me at the minor injuries unit in 20 minutes to see them.    Grateful that Sexy Sporty Dad had been delayed getting home from work so had not had an opportunity to have a drink yet, and that the poor friend invited to tea now was there to look after the other two, three of us drove up to meet the doctor.

Needless to say the doctors diagnoses was correct and No 1 Son was admitted that night and operated on the following morning to place a pin in his hip joint holding him together.   The next anguished event was to establish what this meant for his rugby career.   The internet had painted a very doomed pictured of him ever playing sport again let alone a contact sport like rugby.  How could I ever tell a 14 year old his playing days were done.

We began a long relationship that night with a very wonderful surgeon.  He sat down with us and explained that he understood the passion and need for No 1 Son to play but; the young man would be out for a whole year, all being well he could go back then.    I could have kissed the man.  My son on the other hand felt like his world had ended.    He hopefully will never understand how close he came to never, meaning never!

What followed was two years of tears, trials and trauma, as 6 weeks in a wheel chair led onto 6 weeks on crutches and then finally onto walking, slowly beginning to jog and a lot of physio.   Just as his confidence to run began ebbing back he began complaining that the other side hurt.  We spoke to the surgeon who had an X-ray done that day and they operated on his other hip that afternoon.  Back to square one.   Another few days for me in the paediatric ward rushing up and down to grab food from the coffee shop.

Is that not enough for any young teenager to go through without mention of his poor parents who have had enough.  Two years on and we were back six weeks ago after they had tried to remove the pins.  One stubborn one would not be moved and they had to send over to America for the specialist equipment to get this tiny tenacious tack out.

This time it has all changed though; he is 16 and classed as an adult which I clearly dispute.  Having been here at the allotted time of 7.15am, he was finally called for and I was dispatched in the opposite direction, none of this motherly holding of hands as they put him to sleep now.

I left him in the hands of two capable nurses who worked in theatre and assured me they would take care of him.  I will not be called as in the past to bring him out of recovery back to the ward, I have been given a ward name, to go and see him on later.   A little stroll via the hospital chapel, a quiet place I also know well having spent a few hours there each time one of my children goes down to theatre before settling with a cappuccino to wait.

Hopefully this will be the end of a chapter and he will be fit and ready for this season’s even more brutal rugby as he moves from youth to colt.  At least in rugby he is not quite regarded as adult.

Several cappuccinos later and I know he is out of theatre and they are talking about discharging him today but I am not allowed access yet to him.   I don’t care when he turns into an adult he will always need his mother particularly in times of stress and operations.  I am going to find him now and probably embarrass him by creating a scene about him needing me.  Underneath the embarrassment I hope he will be happy to see me.

Tiggy

Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy

PS  I found him eventually having been sent on a wild goose chase around the hospital.  He eventually called me and told me he was still in recovery and as no-one could find me, he could not go home.  Almost jogging with excitement; I arrived to see him sitting up, dressed, signs of recently eaten toast at his side and eager to get going.   They had been calling me on one phone at home, despite me leaving my mobile number with them.  I had been calling on the other line, never the two spoke to each other!

The pin came out in minutes and although still rather tired he had come straight out of the anaesthetic without his usual sickness and long drawn out recovery.

Chapter closed.   Hopefully!

 

Running Rungs

Do you find there is a certain treadmill quality to life?

I know the seasons rotate in an orderly fashion; months following months, hot sometimes following cold.  Cold, wet winter chases the crisp frosty autumn days, just as blossoming spring precedes the fullness of summer and so on. The full moon wanes leading to the next crescent of new moon as the cycle begins again.

Was it only six or seven weeks ago we were all breaking up for that

Keep on climbing

long balmy summer ahead?   Plans of how we would survive those days trying to entertain the children were being drawn up.   Childcare being divided up between parents, grandparents and unusual educational activities.  Holidays to be prepared for, shopped for and enjoyed, precious days spent with loved ones.  The morning rush eased to permit treasured time to lie in or permission to watch CBBC. It already seems a blur on the fringes of our short term memory.

This weekend found me stepping back to the Rugby club with a new season already upon us.   Youngsters the country over will have been registering with their clubs, learning new laws as they move up an age level, meeting up with old friends they may not have seen since April.

I; too caught up with friends who I have missed over the months. Friends who have stood solidly by me over the years as our children have suffered injuries, lost important games and grown with the game.   There was a certain reassuring buzz of activity, smell of bacon butties and the constant flow of cheap instant caffeine that passes as coffee.

Even the forecasted sunshine kindly waited till the end of training to dry out the drizzle that had arrived on cue to welcome in the new season.   Routine resumed its rightful order as boots were tried out for size, outgrown shorts that had just about lasted till the end of last season were replaced and shiny new mouth guards bought to protect developing teeth.

This rugby heralded the cog in the ever moving treadmill of life; children will this week return to school.  Back from all the holidaying; now only a distant memory, flashing past on the digital photo frame.   The juggling with childcare is finished as we hand our precious children back over to their new teachers.   Some will be moving to new schools, colleges or universities; some will climb a rung on the well-worn ladder of their school hierarchy and some will be out in the world wondering where to go next.

I know this week will bring tears and heartbreak for mothers of reception aged children suddenly seeing their tiny tot in a complete new school uniform, breaking the baby bonds that up until now have been unyielding.  Little people venturing out into a world without their mother’s perpetually protective hand supporting those faltering fearful footsteps.

Other mothers will suffer the effects of their children’s nerves; they will tolerate the self-importance of young adolescence and take a step back as their little one grows independent and superior joining the masses at Top School.   Giving their once infants the space to be a big child in a world of even bigger children and learn to make their own waves in this ocean we call life.

There will be mothers who will reluctantly transport their offspring away to some way off university.   Leaving their homesick tearful teenager in some bleak utilitarian room to carve their own way in the world, knowing this is the final bond to be broken as they allow their child to grow away from them.     Reluctantly, leaving alarmed adolescents with reassurance, resolutions and reliance despite all their own reservations.

I feel lucky this year that I do not have to overcome the emotions of a momentous change in the cogs although No 1 Son is moving into sixth form.  The change for him will not be as dramatic as he stays at the same school; nonetheless he will have to make his own decisions about how much he studies, what he wants to achieve from his A ‘levels and how he will apply them to his life.  It will be a big jump for him to take control of his future; the same future he does not know what he wants to do with.

Middle Son glides up to this final year of GCSEs which he will find harder than before, not only due to the level of work from school but from the level of support for his schoolwork he will receive from his parents.    Here is a boy who could achieve so much if he only focused long enough to acquire the necessary information to apply it.   Had there been GCSE’s in BMXing, X-boxing or I-Padding he would be guaranteed straight A s.  Unfortunately he is going to have to work hard this year to get the grades within his grasp.

Mini Son becomes a big fish in the small pond as he joins year 6, the final year before moving up to big school.   He will be a role model for the younger classes a task he will fulfil brilliantly.  He will be coerced into independence as he learns to accept responsibility and study hard filling in the missing bits of his education before bridging the gap and joining throngs of know it all secondary school children.

I will also return to my job at the school this week, sad to say farewell to the summer that never really materialised in terms of the weather.   Reluctant to welcome those manic mornings trying to get all five of us out of the door in different directions on time with all the remembered kit for the day ahead.  Unenthusiastic to return to the drudgery of routine after my long weeks of freedom from humdrum tedium, I know that it is only a matter of time before the wheel of time turns further.

Before we know it, half term will be upon us with Christmas poking its pointed head in our direction.  The New Year will be here all too soon and then we will be half way through the school calendar.  Exams will be sat and then the long holidays upon us again turning yet another full turn of that wheel.

I shall continue to climb the rungs of the treadmill expecting to reach the haven of happiness at the top but never quite arriving there as the wheel turns again for another season.

Whatever stage of the wheel you are at, keep climbing and keep focused.  It is so easy to fall off the spinning circle but never easy to climb back on.

Tiggy

Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy

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