“IF YOU CAN’T FEED A HUNDRED PEOPLE, THEN JUST FEED ONE”
I recently edited an exciting tale of a ‘one man marvel’ who was a cross between James Bond, Captain Scarlet, and Batman. It certainly moved apace, with plenty of car and bikes chases, shoot-outs and mayhem. Perfect Boy’s/Men’s Own stuff. Only one thing about the story bugged me. Our hero rarely ate.
He downed a few jars that I recall, but seemed on a starvation diet. I do, of course, appreciate that when one is pursuing dangerous criminals, intent on murder, or blowing up the Houses of Parliament, et al, indulging in coq au vin and chocolate mousse has to take a back seat, but as chapters passed like indulgent buses, the poor hero was, surely, losing weight?! I was mentally urging the author to serve him a quick pizza, hot dog or burger at the very least., but as there was a war on by then, the poor devil had to make do with stolen eggs and stale bread…Hey ho.
As individuals, and being unique, we all have our fancies, likes and dislikes, and there’s nothing I like more than to eat a good meal, and digest it curled up by the wood-burner with a good book. But it goes much deeper than that and I’m no detective on a case…As a wife and mother, I took to cooking early on in my marriage, and my husband and I liked entertaining so much, he caught the culinary bug and – at one time in our years together – we ran a modest, twelve-bedroomed hotel in Bournemouth. Hard work but great fun and it launched me on a writing path: Running Your Own Small Hotel and Jobs in Baking and Confectionery. Both published by Kogan Page Ltd, London.
Involved in research for the book, I came across some exciting revelations, such as Chilean-American writer, Isabel Allende’s love for and allusions to food in her books. One: Aphrodite, covered the aphrodisiac combinations of food and love, and actual recipes from the book are still used by readers today. “A cornucopia of spices…” and potent writing of rich, dark chocolate, oozing, seductively and sexily through the pages, with titillating aromas almost escaping from the words. Sadly, my personal flights of food fancy were rejected and I was commissioned to write an account of “The day to day running of a small hotel, with modest menu suggestions.” Disappointing, but the book went to a second printing and did very well, so I couldn’t complain.
Later, leading a more prosaic, while interesting and rewarding life, I read and wrote as much as I could in between cooking for four men, noting that Oscar Wilde once said: “After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations!”
Apparently, Alexander Dumas was also a cook and gourmet, and while his three musketeers were marinating in his imagination, he wrote Dictionnaire de Cuisine, but concocted over-fanciful tales about the Romans driving ducks over the Alps for their dinner.
Tragic, American-born poet Sylvia Plath loved to cook and it seems that some of her recipes “ghost the web;” one for “Tomato soup cake” sounds rather strange!
In A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway, his pockets at the time, empty, wrote of his hunger while his stomach rumbled and the teasing aromas of baking bread and rolls drifted, torturously, from the open doorways of the Boulangeries.
As for the infamous Tom Jones, written by Henry Fielding in 1749 – marked as one of the “best ever 100 books” – although I admit to not having read it, I did see the film. And if ever food was linked to love and sex hilariously, it was in this epic. It is incredible to note that from a London population of only 700,000, 10,000 copies of the book were sold. One critic helped sales along beautifully, by calling it “A motley history of barstardism, fornication and adultery.” I never looked at food the same way again…
While I continued to scribble away and cook such basic temptations as Shepherd’s Pie, Toad in the Hole, Goulash and innumerable stir fries and roasts like most other mums, I still took time out to read – often in the kitchen. Joanne Harris’ book Chocolate captured me hook, line and sinker. I loved it, and although I haven’t written a “foodie” novel, yet, I did manage to get a few, culinary-based, stories published in an anthology: Food Glorious Food (QG Publishing) which, hopefully, sent a few taste buds salivating… and there are more due in a collection of fascinating, mixed stories by writer Jean Wilson and yours truly called Angels & Demons, also to be published shortly by QG Publishing.
Luckily, since publishing my memoir My Gentle War, I’ve been able to send modest donations to Mary’s Meals, a wonderful charity in Scotland who feed over One Million children per day and only keep a paltry seven pence in the pound for administration costs…
Phrontistery – “a thinking place, from ‘phroneein’ to think.”
Now and then, you hear of writers’ “drying up” or “burning out,” but, for one reason or another, the older I get, the more ideas arrive…Take this morning – at the early hour of 5.15, damn… there was a wide awake queue of “subjects” (animated like an excitable group of Star Trek conference devotees) suggesting a variety of, mostly, serious topics. Keen to write something in a lighter vein, with maybe a humorous slant, I patiently listened to my babbling muses, but had to refuse their, more serious, offerings. So, what to write? Sometimes, too many ideas are worse than none! They can overwhelm and leave you confused.
The very name of “Trump” (can one word/person be a cliche?) and connections left me cold; “Literary Advice” sounded like preaching – how many more tips can one suggest without boring the pants off people? Eventually, I decided to visit “The Phrontistery.” Again. For newcomers to my – lately – rare posts, The Phrontistery is a haven for words which I enjoy visiting now and then.
A Facebook friend by the name of Aurora mentioned the word CODDICOMPLE :”To travel purposefully toward an.- as yet – unknown destination,” so was quite apt for the occasion, and led me to visit the above virtual learned ‘establishment.’ (Thanks Aurora!) If you enjoy words, it’s always fun.
Quite a few intrigued…AMORETTO: “A cherub or spirit of love” (thought it came in a bottle?!), ABBOZZO: “A preliminary sketch,” Really! ABRA: “A narrow mountain pass.”” (Not to be confused with ”A Bra”: (A feminine undergarment.). The decidedly odd ACERSECOMIC: “One whose hair has never been cut!” AFTERWIL: “Locking the barn after the cows have been let out…”.(always thought it was a horse) .And, my favourite for now: ALLEMAIN: “An enormous pudding, out of which acrobats leap!” So graphic and sounds such fun! Surely, a perfect prop for the amazing Cirque du Soleil.
As expected from such a comprehensive list of words, many are archaic: more at home in a Dickensian story: Words like BANTLING: “Brat, whelp, bastard child,” BASTINADE: “To beat with stick or baton, ESPECIALLY ON THE FEET?!” Then there’s DEBLUBBERED: “Disfigured from weeping.” BICACIOUS: “Fond of drinking,” (timeless!), and last, for now, BLETHERSKATE: “Garrulous talker of nonsense.” The latter group is perfect for including in a Victorian who-dunnit! Ummm, I have an idea…
© Joy Lennick 2017
If you find yourself in this category, it is unlikely, while not impossible, of course, you’ll be rich, or even partly-wealthy for starters, or – more pertinent – a household name…All that chopping and changing – a poem here, a serious article there, a travelogue and then a short story and some silly limericks… will only confuse a possible “readership,” if that’s the word. Keeping a diary, penning a funny piece and writing factual stuff in between, doesn’t help one iota. I can claim to be one, so I’m doomed to mediocrity, although I’ve written five books (which can, again, be termed “eclectic.”) Two are factual, one is a biography, another a memoir; a fifth is my only novel, and the sixth an “adaptation.” Entirely my own fault and choice, of course. Deep down, I know the real reason…I’m a “literary butterfly” more like a moth…and am fearful of fame; a typical extrovert/introvert, with an emphasis on the introvert All those photographers and all that money?! I imagine looking for the exit sign.…What a silly woman!
The secret to being a truly successful writer is – usually – sticking to one genre/ writing a series (or being a wealthy genius). Of course, there are some brilliant writers “out there” who are educated and talented people. Hard graft and tenacity are part of the equation, and in today’s literary climate, being technically minded is also of huge benefit, which leaves many more mature writers out on a limb. Including me! If a door states PULL, I hesitate…so that will give you a clue as to my technical abilities. A wing and a prayer come to mind, and I’m not religious…Hey ho.
However, did you feel a “But” coming on? Now and then, I step outside my “introverted self” and toot my own trumpet – something I have, grudgingly, learned to do these past few years…When asked to adapt an autobiography by a friend, Graham Knight, I read the manuscript – typed by his grandfather with a head device as he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and had lost his right arm due to wounds sustained in the First World War – I readily agreed. What a man, and what a story! Aptly published on the 11th of November, “From the Prairie to Passchendaele” is the life story of a poor boy, born at the end of the 1800s, in Kent, UK, in a family of twelve children, he borrowed the money to emigrate to Canada, dreaming of becoming a cowboy…Ending up as a hard-working farmer, tending bullocks and horses and countless acres of prairie-land, at seventeen, he soon became a man! Sadly, World War I intervened and put paid to his farming life. Part of the tenacious 10th Canadian Military Unit, he bravely fought in many battles and was awarded the Military Medal at the eventual cost of his right arm. He retrained as an accountant – by then married with four sons – returned to Kent and prospered, despite painful interludes. Fred’s simply but powerfully told story, highlights the sheer guts and courage it took to make your way in the world in those hard days. No wonder Graham Knight is so proud of him!
Note: 2017 is the 100th Anniversary of The Battle of Passchendaele in which Fred fought.
From the Prairie to Passchendaele is available now from amazon.com
Being human, all writers have strengths and weaknesses and enjoy/dislike different aspects of their craft. Plots and sub plots are, of course, vital, as is the balance between action, dialogue, description, etc., but, for me, one of my favourite tasks – or I should say joys – is endowing a character with a personality and physical image through description.
Jean Wilson, a writing colleague, who has now retired to Torquay in the UK, was a favoured member of a small group I take as group leader for the University of the Third Age, in Torrevieja, Spain. Here is her take on a certain man who helped people a short, brilliant, story, she wrote.
‘Harold was a person one endeavoured to avoid if at all possible. He was an intense, blustery man of somewhat large stature, which of itself failed to hide his poorly controlled thinking ability, rather like a failed computer made in a third world country, which hadn’t yet got its act together. He was certainly low in gigabytes, and wanting in RAM. One couldn’t be certain that the keys struck would register as expected and a whole load of input seemed to have no relation to its later output. Harold’s idea of taking a short-cut was to fall down the stairs; and his confidence in himself took no account of the extent of his limitations. Any unfortunate encounter with him left many people feeling immense hopelessness in the integrity of the workings of Nature. Here was a man who told everyone he was a born again Xtian. It didn’t occur to him that he hadn’t been one in the first place, but he liked the reaction it had and tapped one of those pleasure seeking nerves which made him feel good for the day, enjoying the illusion of people’s undivided attention.’
And now, as light relief from the really terrible happenings on this precious, be-devilled planet of ours, is a poem.
Most long-term Facebook, Twitter and Skype users, now and then get odd messages…And when I started receiving several requests from ‘Generals’ to Skype them, it struck me as amusing and didn’t quite ring true. This led to the writing of a poem, which I hope will make you giggle or grin…
TO SKYPE OR NOT TO SKYPE, THAT IS THE QUESTION
The first message was explicit:
(I imagined him cock-sure and slick),
I giggled but quickly recovered,
got rid of him quick with a click.
I’m spoken for and happily married,
and let’s face it “over the hill…”
but it took me back decades of years,
provided an egotistical thrill.
‘Twas as if I’d sent out a photo,
doctored and faintly erotic:
where my boobs were “in place,”
and an unwrinkled face
suggested a jolly good frolic.
Dear reader I’m totally innocent,
except for writing on line;
don’t wear fancy drawers
although the thought was sublime.
These days my pleasures are simple:
coffee on patio, pastry snack,
hot chocolate at night,
a book and “to write,”
not gymnastics in bed on my back.
What triggered this poem you may wonder,
I’ll tell you the truth – it’s a fact,
in twenty-four hours
I was suddenly showered
by four Generals, a sir and a hack.
Of course most of “the others”
intentions were pure, white as snow,
but it’s safe to be wary
and quite necessary
for how is a woman to know?!
Your posts are alway fascinating, and sometimes wonderfully silly. No.1 fan.
Identity is a funny thing, something we often take for granted. How do you define the you that you see in the mirror? Who is that person looking back at you and is it the same person who was there yesterday? What do you mean you have no reflection? Do your friends know you’re a vampire?
When you think back you might realise just how much you’ve changed over the years, even if you’re still relatively young. The fact that you (hopefully) no longer howl when hungry, or throw a temper tantrum at the supermarket ‘cos they’ve sold the last of your favourite ice cream or potato chips shows that you are evolving. Of course not in a Darwinian sense: you are unlikely to develop gills just because you swim a lot, or wings because you are tired of taking the bus. It doesn’t quite work like that, unfortunately.
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I seem to be running low on cash and have begun wondering where exactly I slipped up in my cunning plan to relocate and start afresh in a new country. Who would have thought that employment, contacts or a sensible career strategy would have been so necessary to make it work? Surely just turning up and waiting for opportunities to come knocking is a reasonable alternative? After all, it’s always worked out so well in the past…
Perhaps it’s partly to do with the fact that the term ‘career strategy’ fills me with a sense of nausea, not unlike the words ‘merchant banker,’ or ‘leveraging your personal brand to facilitate an ongoing financial remuneration paradigm.’
Maybe I can drum up a few quid with a bit of genre fiction, and solve my ongoing lack of a financial remuneration paradigm. Maybe.
Looking around at what’s popular recently, I’ve narrowed my options…
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