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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

TRIUMPHS and TRAGEDIES - Say goodbye to 2013...

Today I'm thinking of Ben-Brooks Dutton whose blog Life as a Widower has reached out to many thousands of bereaved people this year.
Let's hope he and his son find peace and happiness in 2014
Here is an excerpt from  a post I wrote in January 2013

'We lose ourselves in talking about happiness but we don't allow ourselves to talk about loss...'

So says  Ben-Brooks Dutton whose wife Desreen was knocked down and killed two months ago. Ben's new blog 'Life as a Widower' is  featured in Today's 'Times 2' supplement giving an insight to the  the lives of young people who have turned to blogging   to deal with their grief.

A lot has been written about blogging in the last few months : Why do we do it? Why has it become so popular? Is it a form of journalism or just a waste of time? The answer to me is simple - if it's right for you, do it.

When I was in my twenties, I saw an old friend   standing on his own on the far side of the town square.  I deliberately crossed over to speak to him, for he and his wife had just suffered a terrible loss: their full-term baby had been born dead.  After I had offered my condolences he said: 'You're the first person who has had the courage to speak to me today - everyone else has looked the other way.'

I have never forgotten that conversation.  The truth is that in Britain we've never learnt how to openly discuss our grief. The Times  quotes  yet another heartbreaking story:  Alice Olins  started a blog after her son, Bear Hamilton Pullen, died in her womb. 'My body did the cruellest thing possible - it pulled the plug on my baby's life...' she says.

When the young Princes William and Harry were taken to matins on the morning after their mother died, the pain on their faces was palpable.  They should have been allowed to stay at home and sob, but the 'stiff upper lip' attitude of our royal family denied their expression of their grief.

My own blog, named after the island where I was born ( but sadly no longer live) reflects my  crazy sense of humour, but I've charted some personal tragedies, too.

 So my message today is - keep on blogging - you never know who you might  reach.

Saturday, 28 December 2013


The Times Newspaper, December 28, 2013

The Best Story of the Year award must go to McDonald's who set up a lifestyle website for their employees - and warned them of the challenge of fast food!

The McResource website apparently warned employees that 'although not impossible, it is more of a challenge to eat healthily when going to a fast food place.'  The web page was even illustrated with what looked amazingly like a double cheeseburger with fries, labelled as an 'unhealthy choice.'

'While convenient and economical for a busy lifestyle, fast foods are typically high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt and may put people at risk of becoming overweight,' it went on. 'In general, people with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease must be very careful about choosing fast food.'

 According to today's Times newspaper, the website has now been dismantled after a 'McFlurry of complaints. ' A combination of factors has led us to re-evaluate, and we've directed the vendor to take down the website,' McDonald's said in a statement.

Unfortunately the same  lifestyle feature writers had seemingly no idea how much  the company's employees were actually paid (around £5.45 an hour,) judging by their advice for tipping at Christmas.  Housekeepers, they reckoned, should receive 'the equivalent of one day's pay,' whilst pool cleaners 'the cost of one cleaning.'   And as for the au pair, well  I think you're  getting the picture.

Meanwhile, I hear that McDonald's staff have been demonstrating outside their restaurants recently in the hope of  doubling their pay. Perhaps the powers-that-be will find more appropriate ways of spending their money in future?


Monday, 16 December 2013

Forty-year- old Christmas cake recipe's a real tonic!

Today I discovered a forty-year-old hand written recipe book with a wonderful Christmas cake recipe you can still make in time for the Big Day!

Labelled 'A handy book for the housewife,' it includes a cosmetics section with names like honey anti-wrinkle lotion, rosemary rinse, cucumber toner and mint and parsley tonic.

 For the mint and parsley tonic take a quarter cup of chopped parsley, one tablespoon  of dried  mint and pour over  a cup of boiling water. Cover and leave for an hour. Strain then use after cleansing face.

The Christmas cake is really simple to make and can be eaten almost straight away.
Half pound butter
Half pound soft brown sugar
6oz plain flour
2oz self-raising flour
Three quarter pound currants
Half pound sultanas
One tablespoon black treacle
One tbs lemon juice
One tbs orange juice
3oz mixed peel
4oz cherries
2oz ground almonds and 2oz chopped almonds
One teaspoon  of mixed spice and one of nutmeg
Rind of one orange and one lemon
Four eggs
Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add juices and treacle. Mix in fruit, spice and nuts. Fold in flour. Put into 8 inch tin lined with greaseproof paper. Bind outside with newspaper or brown paper. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 mins then 275 degrees for two hours until firm.




Monday, 9 December 2013

Sex or romance? A hundred years of fiction...

 Never let sex get in the way of a good romance. That was the view of Ida Pollock, the world's oldest writer of romantic fiction,  who died  this week aged 105.  Using several pen names, including Pamela Kent, Rose Burghley and June Beaufort, Mrs Pollock wrote 125 novels which she described as 'full of hope and romance rather than sex...'

The men are normally rich, but never vulgar with their money,' she told The Times earlier this year. 'An older man is essential to provide the reassurance the heroine needs.  There's always turbulence before he sweeps in to save the day.'

Mrs Pollock's daughter, Rosemary, added: 'My mother is interested in exploring relations between a man and a woman on many levels. She would never reduce it to basic primitive sex.'

Ida admitted that many of her  heroes were based on her late husband, Colonel Hugh Pollock who, interestingly,  was once Sir Winston Churchill's  editor.

The author's strong beliefs echo those of the late Dame Barbara Cartland who wrote more than 700 books in her lifetime. Famous for her 'hearts and flowers' approach to romance, Barbara  never changed the format of her books, or her belief that this type of escapism was what women really wanted.

Here is an excerpt from A Nightingale in the Sycamore by June Beaufort, published 1957.

He moved to meet her as she moved to meet him and caught her in his arms, kissing her wildly, like a man who was starving. Her hair, eyes, cheeks, lips - he smothered them with so many kisses that before long he paused to draw breath himself. She was completely breathless but clung to him as if never willingly would she let him go again.

I wonder what E L James would make of that?


Sunday, 1 December 2013


 Christmas 1938

Have you ever noticed there's a story everywhere you look?

I found this wonderful  Christmas card, posted from an ocean liner in 1938, in a Yorkshire antique shop one sunny day last June. The verse inside reads:

Twish you every dear delight
That Christmastide can bring
All through the year, Good health, Good cheer
Good luck in everything

Christmas 1938

H.M.S Orion

America and West Indies Station

Included are a photo of the liner on a recent voyage and a 'calling card' in a small envelope beautifully inscribed with the initial of the sender, known only as John.


I wonder what Scrooge would make of this?