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Category: Thoughts
What Do You Like To Drink? Iced Tea, Anyone?

Perfect for garden parties, long summer evenings and other staple events in the summer social calendar, Newby’s teas and tisanes preserve the fruits’ natural sugars and make a luxurious iced brew which can be drunk without added sweetener, making them the perfect iced-tea recipe.

From Newby’s popular Classic Tea Bag Collection comes a healthy, delicious and refreshing alternative for the discerning customer who wishes to avoid artificially-sugared summer drinks: Iced Summer Berries and Iced Green Lemon.

Summer Berries combines a rich berry taste with notes of hibiscus and vanilla. Green Lemon is light yellow-green, with a delicate citrus taste and a tangy finish.

Each luxury tea and tisane is presented in a Newby sachet, sealed the Newby way, a proprietary system which preserves the freshness and aroma of the tea, keeping it safe from adulterates.

Gwen Hustwit, General Manager Creative & Marketing at Newby Teas said:

“All you need to do to make our summer iced teas is brew, cool and add ice. Use one teabag per person, add boiling water, then brew for 3-5 minutes. Alternatively, for green tea, you can use our specially-developed recipe.”

“At Newby Teas, we are dedicated to reintroducing quality and uncompromising flavour to every one of our products. Our teas are fresh and full of flavour and character, and our tisanes retain the fruits’ natural sugars, offering the perfect sweet indulgence, which can be served sugar free without calories, making it the perfect summer refreshment.

“From weekend garden parties to warm summer nights, this year’s Newby iced teas are the ultimate luxury treat.”

Newby Teas Classic Tea Bag Collection was relaunched earlier this year with a series of unique designs created to celebrate craftsmanship. Newby Teas, is substantially owned by the N Sethia Foundation, which supports, among other good causes, the Chitra Sethia Centre for Robotics and Minimal Access Surgery at UCH, the Chitra Sethia Autism Centre in Cambridge.

Green Lemon and Summer Berries cost £5.50 per 25 bag packet and are available online at (www.newbyteas.co.uk)

Newby’s ‘Green Mojitea’ iced-tea recipe

Serves 4-6

4-6 Newby Green Lemon Tea Bags

3 Tablespoons of Sugar

600ml Sparkling Water

3 Unwaxed Lemons

 

In a large heat proof jug, brew 4-6 Newby Green Lemon tea bags using 400ml of water just below boiling (80°C). Steep for 3-5 minutes then remove tea bags. Stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar (adjust to taste) and allow the tea to cool before adding the juice of 2 lemons and 600ml of sparkling water. Serve with ice, and fresh lemon (fresh mint optional).

 

Newby’s ‘Strawberry MarTEAni’ recipe

Serves 4-6

6 x Newby Strawberry & Mango Black Tea

Juice of 2 unwaxed lemons

2-3 tablespoons of sugar (optional)

Fresh mint

Fresh strawberries

Fresh mango (optional)

In a large pitcher, brew the sachets in 400ml of boiling water and infuse for 4-5 minutes. Remove tea bags and stir in sugar (adjust to taste). Add 600 ml of cold water and the juice of 2 fresh lemons. Top up with plenty of ice, a handful of fresh mint and some fresh strawberries. Lovely served in martini glasses for a special occasion.

Are You Sabotaging Yourself?

There are many theories in this world that support the idea that what you think determines the outcome of your life. The mind is a marvellous, untapped resource that is potentially infinite in its influence over what you do and how things turn out. The Law of Attraction is just one of these theories, and it is a fascinating read.

Even if you don’t believe in how it works exactly, there is no doubt that having a positive outlook affects how you perceive things, and how you are perceived. So it is important to think positively whenever possible.

If things have been going badly with regards to your work or writing – or any other creative pursuit – then could it possibly be your thoughts and feeling about it all that is causing the problems? Could it be that you are sabotaging yourself? Let’s take a look at how you might be, without even realising that you are.

Making It A Competition

If you are constantly looking around you at what other people are doing, you’ll never be able to fully focus on what you are doing – and that can spell disaster for your current creative project. That is one of the best ways of sabotaging yourself. Comparing yourself to others can sometimes work in terms of allowing you to set yourself a goal, but doing it all the time is distracting, and can push you off course from that goal very easily.

It is always better to be looking ahead, towards your next goal, and ignore what other people are doing. Creativity is not a race. It’s not a competition. It is a personal journey. That may sound a bit ‘new age-y’ but think about it; it’s completely true.

 

Getting Angry

Allowing yourself to get angry about things is another excellent way of halting the creative process and sabotaging yourself. If something has irritated you – it could be anything, from a Facebook post by a fellow writer, artist, poet etc, to hearing about someone’s success in the same genre that you work in – the important question to ask is ‘why?’. Why are you angry about this? And what is that anger doing to harm your creative process (hint: it’s another way of sabotaging yourself)?

Is your anger about being envious? Is it that you have a particularly deep competitive streak? Does the news make you feel less secure about your place in the creative world?

Whatever it is, remember that your own thoughts are taking you on a journey, and if you want that journey to be a fulfilling and successful one, then you need to dispense with all the superfluous feelings of anger and just get on with working your way towards happiness. Another artist’s success will not diminish your own. There is no need to be envious as your time will come as long as you work towards it and acknowledge that fact.

 

Complaining All The Time

Complaining to yourself is a waste of time. Complaining to other people… well, that all depends on the complaint. A valid complaint should often be aired – in a well-thought out and calm kind of way. That is how things can done, that is how problems get solved. A general gripe about the state of things, about a tweet that you didn’t appreciate, about someone else’s success or writing ability… that’s usually less productive. Plus this kind of pointless complaining has a knock-on effect. Firstly, it takes up a lot of time when, you guessed it, you could be writing or painting or doing whatever it is that makes you feel complete.

Secondly, empty complaining puts you in a negative frame of mind. One small niggle and suddenly everything is less rosy. Unsure about that? Think of it the other way around – when you see something that makes you happy, or you get some good news, doesn’t your day iimmediately seem better? Brighter? Altogether happier? It’s true, and the same goes for negative things. Your day (if you let it) will go downhill. Don’t let it. Keep positive, and things will improve. That’s just how it works.

For Coffee Lovers On The Go…

It’s a well-known fact that writers enjoy a boost of caffeine every now and then – and coffee fits the bill perfectly.

If you thought standard black Americano was the closest you would ever get to your beloved espresso when on the move, then think again. Let us introduce to you the Minipresso Portable Espresso Maker from The Fowndry.

Providing freshly pressed, frothy topped espresso shots at your fingertips, from the office, to the countryside, to mountain ranges. You won’t want to leave the house without this must have gadget!

Full of cutting edge technology to create barista style shots, the Minpresso brews full-bodied coffee at 116 psi – the same pressure as traditional espresso machines.  All you have to do is pop off the top and bottom caps, add your ground coffee or capsule for the Minipresso Nespresso, add hot water, and pump into the espresso cup included. Once finished, the semi-automatic piston can be locked up and all the pieces cleverly fit back together to give you a single, light and versatile coffee maker that can be taken anywhere.

With the Minipresso’s stylish, compact design, the espresso maker easily fits in bags and pockets, so great coffee doesn’t come at a cost of lugging heavy equipment. Furthermore, due to the hand-pump feature, no electricity is required, meaning no worrying about charging or batteries whether you’re out in the wilderness or camping out at festivals.

So, for your favorite, freshly brewed, steaming hot espresso on the go, with next to no fuss, no cables, no batteries or barista, Minipresso has your back.

The Minipresso Portable Espresso Maker is available online for £47.99 from The Fowndry.

Why Do We Say That? Language And Its Origins

The origin of phrases can be absolutely fascinating. We use them on a daily basis, but not many of us ever stop to wonder why – why the words we say are part of our language, and what they really mean. Here are a few great examples of that – and their origins.

Don’t Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water

Back in Victorian times, the practice for bathing was for the ‘man of the house’ to bathe first, then the wife, then the children in order of birth. Therefore, the baby would be last in the queue. By this time, so it is said, the water would be so dirty (people only tended to wash once a month) that it was entirely possible (apparently) to lose someone in it. Hence, when emptying the bathtub, the baby might be thrown out too!

 

Raining Cats & Dogs

When the majority of houses had thatched roofs, they were made by literally piling straw up – there was no wooden structure underneath. Now, due to straw being nice and warm, a lot of animals used to climb up and live in there, or at least sleep in there when it was chilly. But, when it rained the straw became slippery, and the larger animals (such as cats and dogs) would be washed right out. It would therefore be ‘raining cats and dogs’.

Bringing Home The Bacon/Chewing The Fat

If you were doing well in your profession, you might have been able to afford some bacon to go with your diet of (mainly) vegetables. If you could literally bring home the bacon, you would most likely hang it up to show it off hen guests came round. And because it was pretty expensive and a rarity to have it, it would be used sparingly. When friends came over for a chat, the fat would be cut off first, chopped into small pieces and handed out. You would ‘chew the fat’ with friends.

 

A Wake

Holding a wake for someone who has passed away has become something of a tradition, but it has a very practical origin. Whiskey and ale was served in pewter cups which contained lead, and this could have the effect of knocking someone out for two or more days. They might even be thought to be dead. But before arranging the burial, mourners would hold a wake – sitting around the ‘body’ with food and drink to keep watch in case the deceased woke up.

Dead Ringer/Saved By The Bell/Graveyard Shift

People were just not that great at knowing whether someone had actually died or were just pretty unwell. Premature burials were a definite thing. So rather than the trauma of worrying about burying someone alive, a bell would be attached to a piece of string, which would be attached in turn to the body. The bell would remain above ground, and, if the person in the coffin awoke, the bell would ring. They were known as ‘dead ringers’ who had been ‘saved by the bell’. And who would hear the bell ringing? It would be the person whose job it was to sit in the graveyard, on the graveyard shift, to listen out for it.

 

So there you have it; language is a fascinating thing. I wonder what phrases the people of the future will use that relate to us right now?

It’s Never Too Late To Start Writing

There is a feeling that steals over me sometimes that I’ve left it too late to be doing this. That I should have started writing earlier in life, a decade earlier, 15 years earlier… If I had, I wonder where I would be now?

And then I remember two things. The first is that I didn’t start writing earlier because I wasn’t ready to. If I had, my writing would not have been of the right standard, and I might have given up after a few rejections. Secondly, I’m not alone. Many writers had other careers first before moving on to new and exciting things.

That’s life.

So here are a few of them to illustrate my point. It’s quite an impressive list.

 

Frank McCourt

Author of the wonderful Angela’s Ashes, McCourt didn’t start writing until he was 65 years old. On top of that, he left school at 13 due to his family’s poverty; he had to start work.

 

EL James

No matter whether you love or hate the Fifty Shades series of books, no one can deny what a phenomenon they became, spawning movies and many copycat versions. EL James was 44 when she began to write these books which began simply as fan fiction.

 

Mario Puzo

Mario Puzo, the father of The Godfather was 33 when he began writing. Whilst that’s not ancient by any means, it is still a lot later than many famous authors – Stephen King was just 12, for example, and F. Scott Fitzgerald was 23.

 

Scott Palahniuk

The Fight Club author was another of the 33 year old club, picking up the pen to write down his incredible stories in his fourth decade of life.

 

Charles Bukowski

Although Bukowski wrote for most of his life, he didn’t get his big break until he was 49 when he submitted Post Office to a publisher. It was published two years later, and at 51 Bukowski’s life changed forever.

 

Donald Ray Pollock

Donald Ray Pollock had a variety of different jobs in his life, but writer came relatively late. He published a collection of short stories when he was 55, and when he was 58 his debut novel, award-winning The Devil Of All Time, came out.

 

Helen DeWitt

Helen DeWitt spent most of her life in academia until she almost had a breakdown and realised she just couldn’t face it anymore. With 100 different novels in fragments around her home, she took some time off just to write – with no interruptions. She would, she said, ‘write until the money ran out’. At the end of that time, she had her impressive novel, The Last Samurai written. She was 44 years old.

 

So there you have it. Many of the writers who are now household names didn’t start writing until they were 30, 40, 50, even 60. And even if they had been writing for longer, being published took the time. So I can relax and enjoy what I’m doing – just write and the rest will follow.

 

Missed out on a place in this weekend’s London Marathon? Book now to take part in the ‘London Marathon Walk’ instead!

The 26.2-mile London Marathon Walk, with challenge specialist Discover Adventure, is a special one-day event taking place on 23 September – and provides the perfect chance to tackle your very own marathon event.

Taking in famous landmarks and lesser-known corners of the historic capital, this entertaining walk will be Cockney-themed and there will be the chance to learn some fun rhyming slang along the way. The route includes the church of St-Mary-le-Bow, centre of London’s Cockney heritage, so pull on your ‘daisy roots’ for a fantastic ‘ball of chalk’ this September!

There will lots of fun-filled elements to provide added entertainment throughout the day, including lively music along the route and a draw with amazing prizes from Cotswold Outdoor.

The perfect opportunity to fundraise for a charity of your choice, or simply to enjoy a wonderful day in the capital city, this is an event not to be missed.

This one-day challenge, usually priced at £75 pp, has a special offer price of just £50 pp until 26 April to celebrate ‘Marathon Month’. The price includes a hot drink and breakfast bap at the start of the walk. There is also the choice of a ‘Half Marathon’ (13-mile) route.

For further information, contact Discover Adventure on 01722 718444, or visit www.discoveradventure.com

 

Why Fairy Stories Are Good For Children

We all like some things that aren’t good for us, especially when we’re children. Children love to do slightly naughty things, they love to eat all the chocolate, they love to stay up late… In fact, we all like to do things that aren’t particularly good for us when we’re adults too – we still like to do slightly naughty things, still like to eat all the chocolate, still like to stay up late (although we regret it in the morning)…

So if things we like tend to equal things that are bad for us, where do we stand with fairy stories? Children adore them; give them a prince, a princess, some talking animals, and a happily ever after and they’re over the moon. And adults have a soft spot for them; they are a reminder of our childhoods.

Which would mean that they are bad for us – that they are bad for our children.

The funny thing is… they’re not. Not in the least. In fact, that are good for children in a number of specific ways.

Imagination

There is nothing quite like the imagination of a child. Even the most imaginative of adults can’t come close to the weird and wonderful minds of prepubescent kids, and being able to make up stories and games is an essential life skill. It can go so far as to define the kind of career they have in the future. So listening to fairy stories, and going on later to read them, can play a big part in the lives of children and the adults they grow up to become.

Morals

Parents do their best. They give children a moral compass and information about right and wrong, but it is the fairy stories that cement it in the little ones’ minds. Fairy stories have a strong moral message – good versus evil, good wins out and so on – that it is easy for children to remember. That coupled with the knowledge they have already been given by mum and dad means that children are going out into the world with a good moral sense behind them.

Critical Thinking

It may sound surprising, but fairy tales can help children with their critical thinking. They can see the consequences of any actions or decisions that may be taken in these stories. They know that the choices they make can have serious implications, so it is best if they stop to think before acting (or reacting) in haste.

Emotional Health

We often hear in the news that younger and younger children are having mental health issues. We’re not saying that fairy stories can prevent this, but they can perhaps allow children to have a good idea of how to deal with internal conflict – something that can cause mental stress. Children identify with the main character in a fairy story, and those characters tend to win out in the end, even if they are going through hardship. They do it with the help of those around them, whom they have confided in. It’s a good lesson and one that children can easily apply to their own lives.

Just Because…

Children are children for such a small amount of time. They will have enough time to be sensible and grown up. They will have enough time for worries and life to take over. So when they are little, they need to have fun. It will give them a good base for the rest of their lives, and with strong foundation they are sure to grow up to be good people. So even if for no other reason than children love them and they are fun, they should be read fairy stories.

 

 

Hire a Canal Boat for Father’s Day at Drifters’ New Day Boat Centre

Ratty’ from ‘Wind in the Willows’, famously pronounced ‘there is nothing half as much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’.

Day boat hire on the canals offers the chance to treat Dads with a fun day out on the water, nourished by a pint and a pub lunch along the way – and with a new day boat centre opening (26 March 2017) at our canal boat hire base at Gayton in Northamptonshire, Drifters (www.drifters.co.uk) now offers day boat hire at 16 of its bases.

Full tuition is included so those new to canal boating can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.  Boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

Here’s a list of Drifters’ day boat hire centres, routes and prices for 2017:

  1. Cruise to the Canal Museum in Stoke Bruerne – from Drifters’ new canal boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, it takes around an hour to chug along to the pretty canalside village of Stoke Bruerne, passing through the 2,795-metre long Blisworth Tunnel along the way. Once there, moor up and take time to visit the intriguing Canal Museum, whose stories, films and collections give visitors a fascinating look at the history of Britain’s canals.  There are plenty of places to eat in Stoke Bruerne, including the Boat Inn, Navigation Inn and the Museum’s Waterside Café. ****Day boat hire aboard Gayton’s new day boat ‘Daylark’ which can carry up to 12 people, starts at £130 on a weekday, £165 on weekends and bank holidays

  1. Historic pubs in the heart of the canal network – from Drifters’ base at Braunston on the North Oxford Canal in Northamptonshire, day boat hirers can enjoy lock-free boating and a choice of historic canalside pubs. The quiet village of Hillmorton is a delightful seven-mile, three-hour cruise away, where boaters can stop for lunch at the canalside Old Royal Oak, or take a short stroll into the village to the Stag & Pheasant.  Alternatively, head south along the Oxford Canal to Napton on the Hill for lunch in the village at The Crown or King’s Head Inn, or canalside at The Folly.  Again this journey is lock free and takes around two hours. ****Weekday boat hire from Braunston on ‘Water Ouzel’, which can carry up to 12 people, is £135, £170 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – Drifters’ base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s a 20-minute cruise to the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways, offering stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  Day boaters can reach the pretty mountain-side town of Llangollen in two hours. ****Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £120 for up to 10 people, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.

  1. Catch a lift on the lowland canals in Scotland – from Falkirk at the junction of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in Scotland, day boat hirers can travel through the incredible Falkirk Wheel, the World’s first rotating boat lift and along the Union Canal to Polmont, where they can moor up and enjoy a short walk to The Claremont Inn. Or continue on to the canalside Bridge 49 café bar and bistro, next to Causewayend Marina. ****Day boat hire on the ‘Jaggy Thistle’ which can carry up to eight passengers, is £220, Friday to Sunday.

 

  1. Visit the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – Drifters’ base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, is next to the historic Anderton Boat Lift. This incredible edifice, also known as ‘the Cathedral of the canals’, looks like some giant three-storey-high iron spider and provides a 50-foot vertical link between two navigable waterways – the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal.  From Anderton, the canalside Leigh Arms at Little Leigh (bridge 209 for Black Price forge), offering home-cooked pub food and cask ales, is an easy day trip away. ****Day boat hire from Anderton starts at £99 for up to 12 people.

 

  1. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62. ****Day hire from Goytre starts at £99.

  1. Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote and back (2.5 hours each way), and enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn and a visit to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Mary Arden’s Farm. ****Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Wend your way through Wiltshire – from Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire on the beautiful Kennet & Avon, cruise east through unspoilt countryside to the waterside Barge Inn at Seend, or head west to historic Bradford on Avon, with its stunning medieval Tithe Barn and choice of pubs, cafes and restaurants. ****Day boat hire from Hilperton starts at £99 on a boat for 10 people.

  1. Experience the rural North Oxford Canal – from Stretton-under-Fosse near Rugby, cruise north through open farmland to the pretty village of Ansty with its pottery and Rose & Castle pub. Or head south, travelling through quiet woodland to the village of Newbold, and enjoy home cooked food at the canalside Barley Mow pub.  ****Day boat hire from Rugby starts at £180 for a boat for 12 people, £220 on weekends and bank holidays, £200 on weekdays in July and August.

 

  1. Chug along the Staffs & Worcs Canal – from Great Haywood on the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal near Stafford, cruise to the historic market town of Rugeley and back, through several locks, past Lord Lichfield’s beautiful Shugborough Hall and the delightful Wolseley Arms at Wolseley Bridge. The journey there and back takes a total of six hours.  ****Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Sightseeing along ‘The Shroppie’ – from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Crewe, cruise north past Barbridge and Nantwich to Baddington Bridge. With no locks to negotiate and plenty of pubs en route, it’s a delightful way to spend the day afloat.  ****Day boat hire from Bunbury starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from Tardebigge on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Hopwood House at Hopwood. The route is lock-free but there are three tunnels to pass through, including Wast Hill Tunnel. ****Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

  1. Discover the beauty of Berkshire – from Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in West Berkshire, day-boaters can travel east to Tyle Mill Lock in just over two hours, and take a ten-minute walk to The Spring Inn in the pretty village of Sulhamstead for lunch. Up to eight people can enjoy a day out on Aldermaston’s day boat ‘Wyvern’.  ****Day hire at Aldermaston starts at £125.

 

  1. Visit Foxton Locks – from Union Wharf in Market Harborough it’s a pleasant two-and-a-half hour cruise to the top of Foxton Locks, with stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, plenty of places to picnic and the historic Foxton Locks Inn. Visitors can watch canal boats negotiate the famous Foxton Staircase flight of locks and find out about the intriguing Victorian Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift that once operated there at the tiny little museum dedicated to it.*****Day boat hire at Market Harborough starts at £150 during the week for up to 12 people, £200 at weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Enjoy a Shropshire rural idyll…from Whitchurch in rural Shropshire, day boaters can head west along the beautiful Llangollen Canal, reaching Whixall Mosses National Nature Reserve in two hours. For a longer journey, continue on to Bettisfield Mosses, travelling through unspoilt countryside straddling the Welsh borders.  There are no locks, but there are four easily-operated lift bridges along the way. ****Day boat hire at Whitchurch starts at £99 per day for 10 people.

  1. Perfect picnicking on the Llangollen Canal…from Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, day boaters can head east to Whixall Moss, one of Shropshire’s truly remote wild places, and a mecca for a diversity of wildlife with plenty of lovely places to picnic. Or head West, passing a series of farms, small villages and distant hills, to the Narrowboat Inn at Whittington, with Real Ale and a delightful canalside garden. ****Day boat hire at Blackwater Meadow starts at £99 per day for 10 people.

 

For more information about Drifters Waterway Holidays call 0344 984 0322 or visit www.drifters.co.uk For more information about visiting the canal network, go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

Writing Retreats – Where The Famous Went To Recharge

Writing is hard work. It is emotionally draining, mentally straining, and physically… well, sitting hunched over a computer for hours at a time isn’t good for anyone, writer or not. So it’s not surprising that, every now and again, writers need to get away from their words and recharge. Writing retreats have always been a popular idea, and there are many around today that can be booked by writers who need a little peace and solitude – they are about finding a bit of space to complete that novel or edit that selection of short stories. Sometimes that’s exactly what is needed.

 

Vita Sackville-West

It is perhaps not a surprise that Vita Sackville-West had her own Elizabethan tower to lock herself away in. After all, she was a rather wealthy woman in her own right, coming from an important family (her father was the 3rd Baron Sackville). Vita took to her tower, located in Cranbrook, Kent, when she needed a little space. There were two reasons for needing this alone time. The first was that she couldn’t write with any kind of distractions around her, and so she decided that the tower was the perfect place to complete All Passion Spent. The second was so that she could write her wonderful love letters to her soul mate, Virginia Woolf.

 

J.K. Rowling

The Harry Potter author has made no secret of the fact that she was living in abject poverty when she first started writing. Her retreat, The Elephant House café in Edinburgh, was used out of necessity rather than desire, but it worked well for her. She went there because it was warm – warmer than her home – and, even when it was no longer completely required, she liked it because of the inspiring views. It is said that from her seat at the window Rowling could see Edinburgh Castle, and this led her to create the famous Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

 

George Orwell

When you want somewhere isolated and beautiful, there aren’t many better places than some of the Scottish Isles. Jura was Orwell’s choice, located in the Inner Hebrides. He used to visit a little farmhouse in the middle of some rather beautifully desolate and bleak scenery to write. It is here that he wrote Ninety Eighty-Four.

 

The Inklings

The Inklings were a group of notable authors including C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Hugo Dyson and others. They used to meet in a pub (where else?) called The Eagle and Child in Oxford where they would discuss their works in progress and get further ideas and inspiration.

 

Retreats For You

Retreats for You in Sheepwash, Devon, is my first choice of writing retreat. I’ve visited twice now, and each time I’ve completed a novel (Perfect Murder and the soon to be published Waldgeist of Wanderal Woods). It is a wonderful place and so welcoming – I’d recommend it to everyone.

 

Never Forget The Cake

I used to hate tea. Not just dislike it, not just not mind it, but actually, literally, hate it. The smell, the taste, the feel of a teabag… It was almost a phobia.

A terrible phobia. A debilitating phobia. In fact, there was no ‘almost’ about it. I’d be quite happy, minding my own business, walking down the street, or sitting in a café, when suddenly, that tangy, spicy scent – the smell that made my taste buds shrivel up and try to hide – would hit me. Wafting its way past as a waitress carried a cup of the beige stuff to a nearby table, it seemed to leap out of the mug and assault my senses, slapping me round the face with its jolly old self. Jogging by me in a frantic commute, its consumer blissfully unaware that their beverage of choice had made me feel really rather unwell, it slowed down as it went by, wanting me to get a good dose of its goodness.

And it’s a strange thing, this ‘teaphobia’. Someone who is afraid of spiders gets sympathy, gets people offering to save them from the hairy little beasts. A person afraid of the dark is allowed to sleep with the light on. Anyone afraid of heights wouldn’t be expected to work up a ladder.

But I received no sympathy. Odd looks, disbelieving sniggers, shakes of the head, yes, I got those. And I was not excused from being in the same room as tea – I could not run off and hope that it was gone when I got back. I had to stay or risk being thought of as a fool. I had to listen to friends, family, colleagues slurping their way through never-ending cuppas. I had to watch them licking their lips and sighing in satisfaction. I had to, on occasion, tidy up the remains of their crumb encrusted mugs, the biscuits they had dunked leaving behind remnants that floated in the cold, brown puddle at the bottom of the teacup.

Disgusting. Isn’t it?

Or was it just me?

It felt that way.

When visiting family, all great tea drinkers, I would, of course, be offered a drink when I arrived. “Cuppa?”

I steeled myself. “No, thank you. Coffee would be great. Or something cold.”

“What? No tea?”

Every time. Every time I saw the confusion in their eyes, the worry coursing through their minds. They wondered why I was so strange. They wondered what was wrong with me.

What was wrong with me? Tea was my birthright, surely. I’m British. I should have been sipping tea until the cows came home, dunking Digestives and munching macaroons. I should have enjoyed cradling a hot mug as I sat and listened to the radio. Or gossiping through a mouthful of the stuff in the hairdresser’s. My friends had been weened on tea, had drunk it from bottles and beakers and sippy cups since they were tiny. They loved it. It reminded them of snuggling with their mothers at story time. It reminded them of feeling unwell and dozing on the sofa.

It was a part of them.

It was a part of us. Keep calm and have a cup of tea. It was – and is – the solver of all ills, and fixer of all failings.

I shouldn’t have been trying to get away from it at any given opportunity.

Should I?

But I did. And so, feeling decidedly unpatriotic and strangely alone, I carried on through life drinking coffee and cola and trying my best not to come into contact with tea.

Something changed, though.

Something big.

My husband bought me a present.

Now, at this stage I had sailed through four years of dating followed by three years of marriage without the dread ‘T’ word causing too many issues.

“I don’t really like tea,” I had said when he had offered to make me a cup the first time I had visited his house. “I’d rather have a Coke.”

He didn’t have Coke, so I settled on lemonade. And that was it. All those years later, I was still drinking lemonade in preference to tea, and Coke in preference to lemonade. I bypassed his family asking if I wanted a cuppa by offering to do the making, and thereby not sounding strange in front of them.

It was all working out rather well, and my odd little phobia was neatly tucked away in the drawer in my mind labelled Nothing To See Here.

But that present… I couldn’t get away from it then. He bought me tea at The Ritz. At. The. Ritz.

What a gift! How exciting! I was so impressed and stunned, in fact, that forgot about the tea part. At. The. Ritz. That’s all that mattered to me. I would have to find a suitable outfit – smart but not something that looked as though I was trying too hard. Nothing flouncy or flowery. A hat? Would I need a hat? Did I own a hat? So many questions, so little time to organise anything…

It was on the train to London that I started to wonder. Tea. It didn’t mean the afternoon meal. It couldn’t. The Ritz would call that ‘dinner’ and besides, this was booked for eleven o’clock in the morning.

Oh no! Tea meant tea! What was I going to do?

I started to panic. I probably even sweated a little. My husband, himself excited and pleased at the gift he had bought me, did not notice. Thank goodness. But my stomach was in knots and my throat was tight and all I could think about was how to not drink tea at The Ritz.

I didn’t think there was any way around it.

How could I ask for coffee? How could I ask for Coke? To not drink tea at The Ritz might even, as far as I knew, have been a capital offence. If I declined their kind offer, I might have been dragged off to the Tower, left there to rot until I apologised and had a nice cuppa with the Queen to prove how sorry I was.

And how could I possibly do that?

I don’t remember now whether there was even an option for choosing anything other than tea… I suppose there must have been, for form’s sake, but I wouldn’t imagine the waiter who served us had ever taken an order for anything else. His face was expectant, and he had appeared with such a silent suavity that he took me by surprise and I panicked.

The menu – a menu just for tea (and, yes, possibly other things, but nothing overly important) – was expansive. There were seventeen different types to choose from, ranging from the caffeine free Moroccan Mint, a fresh and light cup that soothes the senses, through Chun Mee, a carefully scented green tea, to the Ritz Royal English, a specially made blend only available at The Ritz, it takes the best of Kenyan, Assam and Ceylon.

But I didn’t know all of that.

As I said, I panicked.

And knowing nothing about tea, and having to choose something, I went for the only name that seemed familiar: Earl Grey.

Of course I’d heard of it. I’d never tasted it (I’d never wanted to), but it seemed the safest option. It was the most recognisable. It was harmless. Sort of. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to drink it, or pour it, and I would have to stop breathing since the room was full of the mingling aromas of lemon and mint and orange and rose petals. And, underneath all the clever, interesting, rather lovely smelling ingredients, there was tea.

Hang on a minute.

Tea.

I was surrounded by the stuff.

It was being sipped and slurped all around me.

It was being enjoyed and savoured everywhere I looked.

I could smell it. I could almost taste it, the air was so full of tea. And I didn’t mind. Actually, it was rather pleasant. Actually, I quite liked it.

How strange.

So when my lovely little teapot – made of bone china, so delicate and thin that I was worried I would break it just by touching it – arrived, full of Earl Grey, I felt ready. I would taste it. I would try it. I would see how I coped.

It didn’t look too bad when my husband poured it into my cup. It smelt good, and I gathered up some of the teeny tiny sandwiches (beef and horseradish sauce, salmon and cucumber) in a pile in front of me.

And, steeling myself, ready to run should I need to, I took a very little drink from my teacup.

Then I took a slightly larger one.

And another. And on and on and I had, unbelievably, finished the whole thing.

Not only that; I had enjoyed it.

I must have done, since I hadn’t yet touched my sandwiches.

I must have done, since I poured myself another cup.

I must have done, since I haven’t looked back.

I am now a tea drinker.

I am drinking a cup of tea (Earl Grey with just the smallest splash of milk) as I type this.

I tend to believe that my sudden about face was related to the occasion – romantic, special, possibly even once in a lifetime – and my surroundings – opulent, stunning, absolutely beautiful and so very British – and that strange thing that people do in relating smells and tastes to times and things.

When I drink tea, I am reminded of that day. I see again the chandeliers and the marble. I can hear the delicate tinkle twinkle of teaspoons on thin china. I can smell the heady mixture of tea and fruit and salmon sandwiches. And cake. Let’s not forget the cake…

Let’s never forget the cake.

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Type of Work

£

Magazine Writing & research per 1000 400
Magazine Editor per day 250
Magazine Sub-editing per 1000 120
Magazine Fact checking per day 200
Newspaper (regional) Writing & research per 1000 220
Newspaper (regional) Sub-editing per 1000 95
Newspaper (regional) Fact checking per day 200
Newspaper (national) Writing & research per 1000 700
Newspaper (national) Sub-editing per 1000 450
Newspaper (national) Fact checking per day 200
Online/digital media Writing & research per 1000 180
Online/digital media Sub-editing per 1000 95
Online/digital media Fact checking per day 200

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WHAT I CAN DO

Blog Writing

A blog is an essential tool in ensuring your website is seen. I can create regular blog posts that will move you up the rankings and give you a better placement within your industry.

Ghost Writing

Have you ever wanted to write a novel, memoir or short story but don’t have the time? Do you have the ideas, but the words don’t flow? I can help. Contact me for a confidential chat.

Articles

I am happy to carry out research, conduct interviews, and write/edit articles of any length. Contact me for more information about my rates and services.

Web Content

From your home page to your about me details and everything in between, you want a website that has snappy, interesting, high quality content. Let me create it for you.

Sales Letters

If you have a product that you want others to know about, you need a sales letter that is going to get attention – and keep it. I can write that letter for you.

Emails

Are you thinking of starting an email campaign but don’t know what to include? Or perhaps you want to send a special email to that special someone, but you can’t think of the right words. Contact me and we can discuss exactly what I can do to help.

Product Descriptions

Selling products online can be an excellent way of making a business, but if your products sound boring and your descriptions are dull, no one will want them. I’ve written thousands of products descriptions, and I can make your products shine.

Copy Editing & Proofreading

Have you written something that needs that extra level of checking? With my years of experience I can proofread or copy edit your work so that it’s the best it can be.

Social Media Management & Digital Marketing

Getting your digital marketing and social media strategy right is essential. I can provide and implement a social media marketing plan that works for you. Contact me to find out more.

About MeAbout Me

I'm a content writer

Excellent work by Lisamarie, on time, great quality and constant communication. Would not hesitate to recommend and in fact use again as soon as opportunity arises.

Andreas K
Andreas K

Lisamarie was great to work with - she did a fantastic job that completely met the brief and was delivered before the deadline.

Helena W
Helena W

Quick and brilliant, nailed the brief! Will work with her all the time 🙂

Roshni S
Roshni S

Fantastic work A++++

Rob C
Rob C

It was a pleasure to work with Lisamarie, she adjusted to our workflow and process with ease and completed work quickly and effectively.

Geoff J
Geoff J

Lisamarie is a very good writer and is very easy to work with. She reacted well to my guidance and provided me with content I'm very happy to use. I look forward to working with her again soon.

Ola F
Ola F

Great work from Lisamarie, articles are exactly what we wanted

Matthew E
Matthew E

Brilliant work from Lisamarie. I would definitely retain her again and recommend her to others.

Brad B
Brad B

REVIEWS

I started writing in my late teens but it was only with the birth of my daughter that I decided to write more seriously, with the aim of publication. Since that decision in 2010, I have had over 40 short stories published in anthologies and magazines.

Find out more about my publications on my Amazon Author Page.

I am the features and online editor for insideKENT and insideSUSSEX magazines.

I am also a freelance writer who has ghost-written hundreds of blog posts, articles, reviews, fiction, and more.

I live with my husband, daughter, and a cat called Cheryl in the Kent countryside next door to a field full of horses.

http://www.facebook.com/lisamarielambwriter

http://www.twitter.com/lisamarie20010

MY STORY

my blogmy blog

my diary
The Weird and Wonderful World of Writing Superstitions

Just as with many professions – musicians, sports players, even medical professionals and plenty more – writers have a variety of weird and wonderful writing superstitions that are as unique to each writer as their own writing style.

Writers, however, seem to have more than anyone else.

Whether that is because good luck and excellent timing can – by some – be seen to be the way to gain success in the fiction industry, or whether it is because the muse does not always deign to make an appearance when we want (or rather need) her to, who can say? The point is, writers have superstitions that offer them peace of mind. And a peaceful mind is often the first step in creating something beautiful.

 

The Weirdest Superstitions…

Edith Sitwell was a British poet, and she certainly enjoyed having a clear mind. However, the only way for her to clear that mind was to lie in an open coffin before beginning work.

Truman Capote would never, ever start or finish a piece of writing on a Friday. And neither would he write sitting down; he always had to lie down to get anything done.

John Steinbeck wrote all of his first drafts in pencil. Perhaps not so strange. But he did always make sure he had 12 sharpened pencils on his desk at all times.

Alexandre Dumas used colour in his superstitious ideas. Fiction had to be written on blue paper, articles on pink paper, and poetry on yellow paper.

Friedrich Schiller had to have the smell of rotten apples around him if he was to get anything worthwhile down on paper. Therefore, to ensure he could always write, he kept rotten apples in his desk drawer. Every now and then he would open the drawer and inhale the scent, boosting his creativity (so he said).

Isabel Allende writes about magical realism. She always starts a new novel on 8th January.

 

More Common Superstitions

Of course, there are some more common superstitions that many writers believe in – or rather, don’t want to not believe in, just in case. This includes the idea of not having 13 pages in a chapter, or not only including 13 chapters in a book. This might be why some books don’t end when it feels that they should! Other writers don’t like to end a book (or chapter) on an even page. More don’t like odd pages.

Some writers only ever think of the title of a book once it is complete (J.K. Rowling does this), but for others, there must be a title before any work can be done (this is how I work, as it happens).

Using a specific notebook, pen, typewriter or computer are also common superstitions. Or wearing a certain piece of clothing that brings luck (or at least words).

Whether or not these superstitions actually work is the matter of some debate. Those who cling to them will insist that they do, whilst others who don’t understand will say that they don’t.

But either way, what harm does it do? The writer enjoys their work, safe in the knowledge that they have carried out all the checks and balances that need to be done for inspiration to strike and the words to flow. And the sceptics… well, they can simply enjoy the finished product, can’t they?

New Release: Cold Calling

It’s been a while since I had a new short story collection out. Short stories, however, are my favourite thing to write. There is something fun, fast, and a little bit frantic about trying to get a million ideas (or perhaps just one big idea) into a condensed form. I try to keep my short stories in the 3,000 to 6,000 word realm, but sometimes the story takes over a little bit and ends up much longer.

Of course, the opposite is true too. Sometimes a story is over and done with in 1,000 words. Sometimes fewer. It all depends. I don’t really like to work to word counts when it comes to fiction – although when blogging and writing features and articles, it’s an essential skill to have. Maybe that’s why I enjoy writing fiction so much; I get a chance to really let my imagination take flight, and I’m not restricted. It’s a good way of unwinding in the evenings after spending a whole day writing much more formal, much more corporate, much more SEO-based pieces.

Cold Calling

My latest collection, Cold Calling, consists of 19 chilling short stories that all have one thing in common; greed. Sometimes good, usually bad, greed is the essence of this collection and, some would say, of life.

The book is available on Amazon.co.uk (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cold-Calling-Lisamarie-Lamb-x/dp/0244311811/) and Amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/Cold-Calling-Lisamarie-Lamb-x/dp/0244311811/).

Let me know what you think!

What Do You Like To Drink? Iced Tea, Anyone?

Perfect for garden parties, long summer evenings and other staple events in the summer social calendar, Newby’s teas and tisanes preserve the fruits’ natural sugars and make a luxurious iced brew which can be drunk without added sweetener, making them the perfect iced-tea recipe.

From Newby’s popular Classic Tea Bag Collection comes a healthy, delicious and refreshing alternative for the discerning customer who wishes to avoid artificially-sugared summer drinks: Iced Summer Berries and Iced Green Lemon.

Summer Berries combines a rich berry taste with notes of hibiscus and vanilla. Green Lemon is light yellow-green, with a delicate citrus taste and a tangy finish.

Each luxury tea and tisane is presented in a Newby sachet, sealed the Newby way, a proprietary system which preserves the freshness and aroma of the tea, keeping it safe from adulterates.

Gwen Hustwit, General Manager Creative & Marketing at Newby Teas said:

“All you need to do to make our summer iced teas is brew, cool and add ice. Use one teabag per person, add boiling water, then brew for 3-5 minutes. Alternatively, for green tea, you can use our specially-developed recipe.”

“At Newby Teas, we are dedicated to reintroducing quality and uncompromising flavour to every one of our products. Our teas are fresh and full of flavour and character, and our tisanes retain the fruits’ natural sugars, offering the perfect sweet indulgence, which can be served sugar free without calories, making it the perfect summer refreshment.

“From weekend garden parties to warm summer nights, this year’s Newby iced teas are the ultimate luxury treat.”

Newby Teas Classic Tea Bag Collection was relaunched earlier this year with a series of unique designs created to celebrate craftsmanship. Newby Teas, is substantially owned by the N Sethia Foundation, which supports, among other good causes, the Chitra Sethia Centre for Robotics and Minimal Access Surgery at UCH, the Chitra Sethia Autism Centre in Cambridge.

Green Lemon and Summer Berries cost £5.50 per 25 bag packet and are available online at (www.newbyteas.co.uk)

Newby’s ‘Green Mojitea’ iced-tea recipe

Serves 4-6

4-6 Newby Green Lemon Tea Bags

3 Tablespoons of Sugar

600ml Sparkling Water

3 Unwaxed Lemons

 

In a large heat proof jug, brew 4-6 Newby Green Lemon tea bags using 400ml of water just below boiling (80°C). Steep for 3-5 minutes then remove tea bags. Stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar (adjust to taste) and allow the tea to cool before adding the juice of 2 lemons and 600ml of sparkling water. Serve with ice, and fresh lemon (fresh mint optional).

 

Newby’s ‘Strawberry MarTEAni’ recipe

Serves 4-6

6 x Newby Strawberry & Mango Black Tea

Juice of 2 unwaxed lemons

2-3 tablespoons of sugar (optional)

Fresh mint

Fresh strawberries

Fresh mango (optional)

In a large pitcher, brew the sachets in 400ml of boiling water and infuse for 4-5 minutes. Remove tea bags and stir in sugar (adjust to taste). Add 600 ml of cold water and the juice of 2 fresh lemons. Top up with plenty of ice, a handful of fresh mint and some fresh strawberries. Lovely served in martini glasses for a special occasion.

Are You Sabotaging Yourself?

There are many theories in this world that support the idea that what you think determines the outcome of your life. The mind is a marvellous, untapped resource that is potentially infinite in its influence over what you do and how things turn out. The Law of Attraction is just one of these theories, and it is a fascinating read.

Even if you don’t believe in how it works exactly, there is no doubt that having a positive outlook affects how you perceive things, and how you are perceived. So it is important to think positively whenever possible.

If things have been going badly with regards to your work or writing – or any other creative pursuit – then could it possibly be your thoughts and feeling about it all that is causing the problems? Could it be that you are sabotaging yourself? Let’s take a look at how you might be, without even realising that you are.

Making It A Competition

If you are constantly looking around you at what other people are doing, you’ll never be able to fully focus on what you are doing – and that can spell disaster for your current creative project. That is one of the best ways of sabotaging yourself. Comparing yourself to others can sometimes work in terms of allowing you to set yourself a goal, but doing it all the time is distracting, and can push you off course from that goal very easily.

It is always better to be looking ahead, towards your next goal, and ignore what other people are doing. Creativity is not a race. It’s not a competition. It is a personal journey. That may sound a bit ‘new age-y’ but think about it; it’s completely true.

 

Getting Angry

Allowing yourself to get angry about things is another excellent way of halting the creative process and sabotaging yourself. If something has irritated you – it could be anything, from a Facebook post by a fellow writer, artist, poet etc, to hearing about someone’s success in the same genre that you work in – the important question to ask is ‘why?’. Why are you angry about this? And what is that anger doing to harm your creative process (hint: it’s another way of sabotaging yourself)?

Is your anger about being envious? Is it that you have a particularly deep competitive streak? Does the news make you feel less secure about your place in the creative world?

Whatever it is, remember that your own thoughts are taking you on a journey, and if you want that journey to be a fulfilling and successful one, then you need to dispense with all the superfluous feelings of anger and just get on with working your way towards happiness. Another artist’s success will not diminish your own. There is no need to be envious as your time will come as long as you work towards it and acknowledge that fact.

 

Complaining All The Time

Complaining to yourself is a waste of time. Complaining to other people… well, that all depends on the complaint. A valid complaint should often be aired – in a well-thought out and calm kind of way. That is how things can done, that is how problems get solved. A general gripe about the state of things, about a tweet that you didn’t appreciate, about someone else’s success or writing ability… that’s usually less productive. Plus this kind of pointless complaining has a knock-on effect. Firstly, it takes up a lot of time when, you guessed it, you could be writing or painting or doing whatever it is that makes you feel complete.

Secondly, empty complaining puts you in a negative frame of mind. One small niggle and suddenly everything is less rosy. Unsure about that? Think of it the other way around – when you see something that makes you happy, or you get some good news, doesn’t your day iimmediately seem better? Brighter? Altogether happier? It’s true, and the same goes for negative things. Your day (if you let it) will go downhill. Don’t let it. Keep positive, and things will improve. That’s just how it works.

Short Story: Arrivals

She had been there for hours, holding that ragged cardboard sign torn from the top of a box, a jagged edge where it used to belong. Just standing there, waiting, leaning hard against the metal barrier outside the arrivals gate as though without it she might fall and if that happened she might not get up again.

I watched her. It broke up the monotony of my new job, serving coffee to harried, hurried people who simply did not want to be where they were, had better things to do than come and collect a loved one from the airport, or the ones who were stuck because of delays and were depressed because the only thing they wanted was to take their loved ones home. Whatever their story, it all came down to the same thing; misery. And I learned during that first day they liked to take that misery out on me.

So I watched the old lady instead, smiling and nodding and agreeing with the sad, mad people around me ordering lattes and cappuccinos and thinking that made them sophisticated, but not really paying them any attention.

She barely moved, and I was sure I could see her ankles swelling, actually feel them in her ever-tightening sandals, and I wished to God she would take a break and have a sit down, order a coffee, have a muffin. But she didn’t. She just stood there, swaying ever so slightly. I wondered, every now and then, whether she might not have nodded off, whether she might not have died and no one had noticed. But every time I began to worry another plane landed and another load of dishevelled, tired, glad to be home passengers streamed out of the big open doorway and into the arrivals hall. The old lady’s head would snap up, she’d hold her sign a little higher, she’d stand a little taller and wait for someone to recognise her. No one did. Not one person all day acknowledged her presence. Except me, I guess. But I wasn’t the one she was waiting for, was I?

When my interminable shift was finally over I bought a coffee from myself. It wasn’t for me, I couldn’t even bear the thought of the stuff after serving it up all day. It was for her. But before I could make my way over to her, my boss stopped me. “Where are you going with that?” he asked, nodding in the direction of the cardboard cup in my hands.

“It’s okay,” I said, “I paid for it.”

“That’s not what I asked,” he said, tapping the top of my cup with his forefinger. He waited for my answer, what I thought was a smirk appearing on his face that made me want to throw the bloody coffee all over him. I didn’t. I counted to ten (quickly, since he was waiting) and told him, “I was taking it to that woman. She’s been there all day, not eaten or drunk anything. I thought she might want it.”

The boss nodded, the smirk definitely there now. “I thought so. I knew you were a little bleeding heart the moment I saw you.” He laughed, once, loudly and strangely and slapped me on the shoulder so that a drop of coffee flew from the opening in the lid and landed on the floor between us.

I had no response to what he’d said. I had no idea whether he meant it good or bad. I guessed bad so I stared at the drop of coffee and thought about wiping it away but didn’t. The boss turned around, went back to the counter to finish cashing up; “She won’t take it, you know. We’ve all tried.”

“How do you mean?” I asked knowing full well that no one else from the coffee shop had been anywhere near her that day.

With a clattering of coins and a frustrated grimace, an air of someone who’d said the said words many times before, he told me. “It’s not just today. It’s not just you. Every day she turns up, holds that sign, waits for Christ knows who. Every single day. And she won’t take anything off you, even when it’s free. Sad, but there you go.” He shrugged, went back to his counting.

I didn’t think he really though it was sad. I got the feeling that he thought it was a bit funny – ha ha, not strange, although perhaps that too. And I thought I would give her the coffee anyway, partly for my own peace of mind, but partly to prove him wrong. Only when I looked back to where she was she was gone.

The next morning I arrived in a dismal mood. I’d spent the evening distracted, worrying about the old lady and getting nowhere with it and now I had to stand behind the counter all day worrying about her at work too. I hoped she wasn’t there. You have no idea how much I hoped that the boss had been winding me up. But she was and he wasn’t and it pained me to see her.

That was the day that I properly looked at her sign, faded and dog-eared and obviously very old. RICHARD – WELCOME HOME! – THE ANSWER’S YES! it said. Oh God, my heart just shattered for her, right there, and I almost wept into some stranger’s latte. And I raged at this Richard who had never come home, my anger so fierce that it scared me and I had to take a break, go outside to cool down. How dare he? How dare he not return to her? Someone that loyal, that much in love… I couldn’t stand it.

I had to do something. Something to help her.

But I couldn’t. In the end I helped myself and quit so I wouldn’t have to see her again. And just like that it was over. For me. But I have no doubt that she’s still waiting.

For Coffee Lovers On The Go…

It’s a well-known fact that writers enjoy a boost of caffeine every now and then – and coffee fits the bill perfectly.

If you thought standard black Americano was the closest you would ever get to your beloved espresso when on the move, then think again. Let us introduce to you the Minipresso Portable Espresso Maker from The Fowndry.

Providing freshly pressed, frothy topped espresso shots at your fingertips, from the office, to the countryside, to mountain ranges. You won’t want to leave the house without this must have gadget!

Full of cutting edge technology to create barista style shots, the Minpresso brews full-bodied coffee at 116 psi – the same pressure as traditional espresso machines.  All you have to do is pop off the top and bottom caps, add your ground coffee or capsule for the Minipresso Nespresso, add hot water, and pump into the espresso cup included. Once finished, the semi-automatic piston can be locked up and all the pieces cleverly fit back together to give you a single, light and versatile coffee maker that can be taken anywhere.

With the Minipresso’s stylish, compact design, the espresso maker easily fits in bags and pockets, so great coffee doesn’t come at a cost of lugging heavy equipment. Furthermore, due to the hand-pump feature, no electricity is required, meaning no worrying about charging or batteries whether you’re out in the wilderness or camping out at festivals.

So, for your favorite, freshly brewed, steaming hot espresso on the go, with next to no fuss, no cables, no batteries or barista, Minipresso has your back.

The Minipresso Portable Espresso Maker is available online for £47.99 from The Fowndry.

Why Do We Say That? Language And Its Origins

The origin of phrases can be absolutely fascinating. We use them on a daily basis, but not many of us ever stop to wonder why – why the words we say are part of our language, and what they really mean. Here are a few great examples of that – and their origins.

Don’t Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water

Back in Victorian times, the practice for bathing was for the ‘man of the house’ to bathe first, then the wife, then the children in order of birth. Therefore, the baby would be last in the queue. By this time, so it is said, the water would be so dirty (people only tended to wash once a month) that it was entirely possible (apparently) to lose someone in it. Hence, when emptying the bathtub, the baby might be thrown out too!

 

Raining Cats & Dogs

When the majority of houses had thatched roofs, they were made by literally piling straw up – there was no wooden structure underneath. Now, due to straw being nice and warm, a lot of animals used to climb up and live in there, or at least sleep in there when it was chilly. But, when it rained the straw became slippery, and the larger animals (such as cats and dogs) would be washed right out. It would therefore be ‘raining cats and dogs’.

Bringing Home The Bacon/Chewing The Fat

If you were doing well in your profession, you might have been able to afford some bacon to go with your diet of (mainly) vegetables. If you could literally bring home the bacon, you would most likely hang it up to show it off hen guests came round. And because it was pretty expensive and a rarity to have it, it would be used sparingly. When friends came over for a chat, the fat would be cut off first, chopped into small pieces and handed out. You would ‘chew the fat’ with friends.

 

A Wake

Holding a wake for someone who has passed away has become something of a tradition, but it has a very practical origin. Whiskey and ale was served in pewter cups which contained lead, and this could have the effect of knocking someone out for two or more days. They might even be thought to be dead. But before arranging the burial, mourners would hold a wake – sitting around the ‘body’ with food and drink to keep watch in case the deceased woke up.

Dead Ringer/Saved By The Bell/Graveyard Shift

People were just not that great at knowing whether someone had actually died or were just pretty unwell. Premature burials were a definite thing. So rather than the trauma of worrying about burying someone alive, a bell would be attached to a piece of string, which would be attached in turn to the body. The bell would remain above ground, and, if the person in the coffin awoke, the bell would ring. They were known as ‘dead ringers’ who had been ‘saved by the bell’. And who would hear the bell ringing? It would be the person whose job it was to sit in the graveyard, on the graveyard shift, to listen out for it.

 

So there you have it; language is a fascinating thing. I wonder what phrases the people of the future will use that relate to us right now?

It’s Never Too Late To Start Writing

There is a feeling that steals over me sometimes that I’ve left it too late to be doing this. That I should have started writing earlier in life, a decade earlier, 15 years earlier… If I had, I wonder where I would be now?

And then I remember two things. The first is that I didn’t start writing earlier because I wasn’t ready to. If I had, my writing would not have been of the right standard, and I might have given up after a few rejections. Secondly, I’m not alone. Many writers had other careers first before moving on to new and exciting things.

That’s life.

So here are a few of them to illustrate my point. It’s quite an impressive list.

 

Frank McCourt

Author of the wonderful Angela’s Ashes, McCourt didn’t start writing until he was 65 years old. On top of that, he left school at 13 due to his family’s poverty; he had to start work.

 

EL James

No matter whether you love or hate the Fifty Shades series of books, no one can deny what a phenomenon they became, spawning movies and many copycat versions. EL James was 44 when she began to write these books which began simply as fan fiction.

 

Mario Puzo

Mario Puzo, the father of The Godfather was 33 when he began writing. Whilst that’s not ancient by any means, it is still a lot later than many famous authors – Stephen King was just 12, for example, and F. Scott Fitzgerald was 23.

 

Scott Palahniuk

The Fight Club author was another of the 33 year old club, picking up the pen to write down his incredible stories in his fourth decade of life.

 

Charles Bukowski

Although Bukowski wrote for most of his life, he didn’t get his big break until he was 49 when he submitted Post Office to a publisher. It was published two years later, and at 51 Bukowski’s life changed forever.

 

Donald Ray Pollock

Donald Ray Pollock had a variety of different jobs in his life, but writer came relatively late. He published a collection of short stories when he was 55, and when he was 58 his debut novel, award-winning The Devil Of All Time, came out.

 

Helen DeWitt

Helen DeWitt spent most of her life in academia until she almost had a breakdown and realised she just couldn’t face it anymore. With 100 different novels in fragments around her home, she took some time off just to write – with no interruptions. She would, she said, ‘write until the money ran out’. At the end of that time, she had her impressive novel, The Last Samurai written. She was 44 years old.

 

So there you have it. Many of the writers who are now household names didn’t start writing until they were 30, 40, 50, even 60. And even if they had been writing for longer, being published took the time. So I can relax and enjoy what I’m doing – just write and the rest will follow.

 

Missed out on a place in this weekend’s London Marathon? Book now to take part in the ‘London Marathon Walk’ instead!

The 26.2-mile London Marathon Walk, with challenge specialist Discover Adventure, is a special one-day event taking place on 23 September – and provides the perfect chance to tackle your very own marathon event.

Taking in famous landmarks and lesser-known corners of the historic capital, this entertaining walk will be Cockney-themed and there will be the chance to learn some fun rhyming slang along the way. The route includes the church of St-Mary-le-Bow, centre of London’s Cockney heritage, so pull on your ‘daisy roots’ for a fantastic ‘ball of chalk’ this September!

There will lots of fun-filled elements to provide added entertainment throughout the day, including lively music along the route and a draw with amazing prizes from Cotswold Outdoor.

The perfect opportunity to fundraise for a charity of your choice, or simply to enjoy a wonderful day in the capital city, this is an event not to be missed.

This one-day challenge, usually priced at £75 pp, has a special offer price of just £50 pp until 26 April to celebrate ‘Marathon Month’. The price includes a hot drink and breakfast bap at the start of the walk. There is also the choice of a ‘Half Marathon’ (13-mile) route.

For further information, contact Discover Adventure on 01722 718444, or visit www.discoveradventure.com

 

Why Fairy Stories Are Good For Children

We all like some things that aren’t good for us, especially when we’re children. Children love to do slightly naughty things, they love to eat all the chocolate, they love to stay up late… In fact, we all like to do things that aren’t particularly good for us when we’re adults too – we still like to do slightly naughty things, still like to eat all the chocolate, still like to stay up late (although we regret it in the morning)…

So if things we like tend to equal things that are bad for us, where do we stand with fairy stories? Children adore them; give them a prince, a princess, some talking animals, and a happily ever after and they’re over the moon. And adults have a soft spot for them; they are a reminder of our childhoods.

Which would mean that they are bad for us – that they are bad for our children.

The funny thing is… they’re not. Not in the least. In fact, that are good for children in a number of specific ways.

Imagination

There is nothing quite like the imagination of a child. Even the most imaginative of adults can’t come close to the weird and wonderful minds of prepubescent kids, and being able to make up stories and games is an essential life skill. It can go so far as to define the kind of career they have in the future. So listening to fairy stories, and going on later to read them, can play a big part in the lives of children and the adults they grow up to become.

Morals

Parents do their best. They give children a moral compass and information about right and wrong, but it is the fairy stories that cement it in the little ones’ minds. Fairy stories have a strong moral message – good versus evil, good wins out and so on – that it is easy for children to remember. That coupled with the knowledge they have already been given by mum and dad means that children are going out into the world with a good moral sense behind them.

Critical Thinking

It may sound surprising, but fairy tales can help children with their critical thinking. They can see the consequences of any actions or decisions that may be taken in these stories. They know that the choices they make can have serious implications, so it is best if they stop to think before acting (or reacting) in haste.

Emotional Health

We often hear in the news that younger and younger children are having mental health issues. We’re not saying that fairy stories can prevent this, but they can perhaps allow children to have a good idea of how to deal with internal conflict – something that can cause mental stress. Children identify with the main character in a fairy story, and those characters tend to win out in the end, even if they are going through hardship. They do it with the help of those around them, whom they have confided in. It’s a good lesson and one that children can easily apply to their own lives.

Just Because…

Children are children for such a small amount of time. They will have enough time to be sensible and grown up. They will have enough time for worries and life to take over. So when they are little, they need to have fun. It will give them a good base for the rest of their lives, and with strong foundation they are sure to grow up to be good people. So even if for no other reason than children love them and they are fun, they should be read fairy stories.