I’m the one with the wrinkles

Mingling with Stars

As I told you last week, on Tuesday I went to the ActionAid fashion show, ‘Beauty Redefined’. It was held in The Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, so getting there was quite an adventure (that place is in desperate need of some signage).

We arrived for a drinks reception. The venue was an old warehouse, so not glamorous, but there was a general air of excitement (in spite of the pigeons flying between the beams above our heads). Perhaps everyone was just happy that they had finally made it to the right place. Or perhaps it was the number of photographers and cameramen who were recording the event for the national press (it was covered by BBC News – did you see it?). Or perhaps it was the presence of several famous people.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not very good at recognising famous people. I don’t watch much telly and I don’t read magazines. So although I could guess, by the high heels and sparkly dresses and amount of media attention, who was famous, I had no idea who they actually were. I took a few photos, so you might recognise people (though the only person who I did recognise was Hugh Dennis, and he was never near enough for a photograph). Someone told me the new Dr Who actor was there, so I went to ask if I could have her photo. She was a bit perturbed that I didn’t actually know who she was, but was incredibly gracious and friendly, and I took a selfie. Nice lady, should you ever meet her.

When later, I looked at the selfie, I was surprised by how many wrinkles I have. I never see them normally, when I look in the mirror, I sort of see the face I’m expecting to see, which I guess is an echo of the young me. But I’m not young, I’m 52, and I have lived a lot and laughed a lot, and my face has wrinkles. It is not a model’s face, it has not been airbrushed, but it’s mine. The wrinkles don’t matter. This is relevant when you consider that every model in the fashion show was the victim of an acid attack. They would probably have loved to have a few wrinkles on their faces, a few less scars.

 Then we went in to watch the fashion show. To be honest, it wasn’t much of a fashion show, as there were very few changes of outfits, and because they were traditional Bangladeshi dress, they all looked much the same to me anyhow. But, all the models, due to the acid thrown at them, had scarred faces; the flesh burnt off by cruel chemicals. Melted flesh is not pretty. Some models seem to have trouble seeing, some appeared nervous. This was not a celebration of beauty. Except, it was. The fashion show was to increase awareness of these horrible attacks, which are usually inflicted by men on women. The show was to help the models spread their message, that they are not ashamed of their disfigurements, they have done nothing wrong, their beauty is internal, only the wrapper has been spoiled.

ActionAid are working with victims of acid attacks, giving them confidence to continue with their lives rather than hiding inside. They are lobbying for restrictions in the sale of acids, they are telling people that this is not okay. They are empowering women (in a country where women have very few rights). The show was to celebrate the success already achieved in Bangladesh: that acid attack victims are being supported and given confidence; and due to restrictions in the sale of acids, attacks are decreasing.

  I personally, found the evening difficult. The women we saw reminded me of the Bengali women I met in Delhi – the ones who showed me their homes, who held my hand so I didn’t fall into the open sewer, who sat and laughed with me, who hugged me when I left. Women who were the same as me, but with different lives. To see those poor faces, to know someone had deliberately hurt them, was horrible beyond words. There was an audio playing, telling of different types of abuse that women suffer: over land disputes, when resisting abduction, when a husband wants a new wife, when they don’t want to be married as a child. I couldn’t listen to it. I would have cried.

But as I watched those women, as they paraded, and danced, and smiled, I did admire them. We all have faces or bodies or brains that aren’t ‘perfect’. Things happen to us, sometimes horrible things. Those models were refusing to be defined by their appearance. Perhaps there is a lesson there for all of us. So whatever your wrinkles or scars or general imperfections, remember you are special.

But here’s the main point: Before I went to this event, I was concerned it would be patronising. It is too easy for benevolence to become an ego trip, a reminder of our power, our ‘superiority’. I didn’t want to see celebrities “being kind” to the “sweet little women with the scarred faces”. These women are strong, capable, intelligent people, living their lives in an incredibly tough place. Life would be brutal enough without a disfigurement that means they are treated as pariahs. They are refusing to be defeated, they are standing tall, forcing the world to accept that they matter. We should stand with them. Perhaps this event was enabling us to do that.

Have a good week,
Take care,
Anne x

xxx

 Anne E. Thompson is the author of several novels and one non-fiction book, How to Have a Brain Tumour. Her books are available from bookshops and Amazon. You can follow her blog at: anneethompson.com

 

 

Have you read JOANNA yet? Strong women in a gritty novel, seeing the world through the eyes of a psychopath. Available from bookshops and Amazon.


xxx

Flowers, Drains and Chickens

 I was invited to an event at Knights Garden Centre. I wasn’t quite sure what it entailed – something to do with autumn and I needed a ticket. As my life has been rather solitary lately (writing books is not a social activity) I was very glad to go out. It started at 7pm, and I was late. This wasn’t my fault, since my operation I often have weird lights in my eyes, like the aura before a migraine except I never get the migraine, but it means I can’t drive. So I had to wait for Husband to come home and drive me.

Anyway, I hurried to the right place, and found a group of people in the coffee shop, with a man at the front arranging flowers. He was rather clever, because he somehow managed to create a couple of fantastic autumn arrangements without really looking at what he was doing. He was very entertaining, and told us about arranging flowers at Prince Andrew’s wedding, and other major events. He then sort of threw some pears and grapes and pomegranates onto a table, and suddenly, there was a whole beautiful table setting.

We were given fancy snacks, and then the flower man (I can’t remember his name) called out ticket numbers and the chosen people were allowed to take home an arrangement. I won. Wow, I rarely win anything. I carried the huge arrangement out to where Husband was waiting, and told him that the evening had been a workshop, and this was my arrangement. He didn’t believe me – he has seen my attempts at arranging flowers before. My sister inherited all my mother’s clever flower arranging genes (the only time I ever arranged the flowers at church, my mother got there early and rearranged them before anyone saw).

*

As I write this, I have all the taps in the house turned on, and water gushing down pipes, in an attempt to clear them. Mr. Blocked-Drain-Clearer is here.

Whist trying to find out why the drains are blocked, I tried looking online. I discovered that coffee grounds can block drains. Did you know that? I didn’t. There is one person who disagrees, who wrote that coffee grounds act like sandpaper and actually clean out the drain. But that was offset by about three hundred people who said you shouldn’t tip coffee grounds down the sink, as they mix with fats and block drains, as effectively as concrete. This is annoying, as it’s very easy to sluice the grounds down the sink, and rather a bother to go and tip them on my roses (apparently roses like coffee – who knew?) Ugh, sometimes life is a hassle. But perhaps I will now grow beautiful roses to use in my flower arrangements.

Another problem (though not stressful) is my chickens. Now, in case you don’t know, chickens put themselves to bed when it gets dark. So every morning, I open the door to their coop and out they run (I don’t like animals in cages). They spend the day happily digging up Husband’s plants and scratching the dirt under the trees looking for grubs. Then, when it starts to get dark, they go back to their coop, fly up onto their perch, and I shut the door so Mr. Fox can’t eat them during the night. The problem is that sometimes I want to go out before it’s properly dark, and I won’t be home until late. (I am always pleased when the clocks go back, because the chickens go to bed earlier!)

I thought I’d solved this, by training them to come when I whistle. I started giving them treats (grapes) and whistling, and gradually, when I whistled, they learned to come running to wherever I was. So do all the cats and the dog, but I can ignore them, and shut the chickens into their coop. Unfortunately, the silly birds now associate me with treats. So sometimes, after they have already put themselves to bed, I go up to shut the cage door, they hear me coming, and rush out of the cage hoping for a treat. I have tried explaining that actually, the treats are only when I whistle, and only given when they are actually IN their cage. But they won’t listen. Chickens are silly birds.

However really, I have no cause to complain about anything. Tomorrow I am going to a fashion show. All the models have been victims of acid attacks. They feel it is time to stop hiding their disfigurements, they want to show they are not ashamed of what they look like. I expect it will be a moving evening, and will help me to sort my own priorities a bit better. I’ll let you know next week what it was like, and who I meet – there are a few celebrities attending.

You can watch the show online :

https://www.actionaid.org.uk/get-involved/survivors-runway-fashion-show-facebook-live-acid-attacks-violence-against-women-and-girls?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=digital_survivorsrunway

Hope you have a problem-free week.

Take care,
Anne x

xxx

Families are the same, whatever the century. Counting Stars follows a family a hundred years from now.
Counting Stars by Anne E. Thompson – a thriller for the intelligent reader.
UK link below:

xxx

A Few Egg Facts…

How Long Can I Keep Eggs For?
(And do they need to be kept in a fridge?)


When hens lay eggs, they do not come with the neat red ‘use-by’ date stamped on them, so it can be difficult to know how long to keep them before they should be thrown away. I have done a little research.

There are four types of eggs – fresh ones, stale ones, bad ones, poisonous ones. You can eat the first two, and will be ill and possibly die if you eat the fourth choice. You would never eat the third choice – bad eggs – because they stink, so we can ignore those. We’ll start with the poisonous ones.

Poisons, or ‘pathogens’ in eggs are different bacteria. The worst of these seems to be salmonella, a rod shaped bacilli which causes salmonellosis (which can put you in hospital). Salmonella lives in the gut of animals, and seems to affect a lot of chickens (possibly because they have been farmed so badly). Salmonella affects other animals too, it is only chickens who get bad press. You should be careful around pets, especially reptiles, as they are well known carriers of salmonella (beware the cute turtles in the fish tank).

Salmonella is the reason your mother tells you to be sure to cook chicken thoroughly. A hen with salmonella can pass that into her eggs, mainly by her poop falling onto the shell. If you cook those eggs right through (no more runny yolks for breakfast) then, if the egg has been stored correctly, you will kill any traces of salmonella that might be present. However, I like runny yolks, and mayonnaise, and mousses made with raw egg – so there is another way.

Eggs in the UK and the US are treated differently. If you buy eggs in the US, they should be found in a chilled cabinet of less than 40ºF, and put straight into the fridge when you get home. If you buy eggs in the UK, they will just be on a shelf, not kept cool at all. Why?

This is because eggs are treated differently in the US. After they have been laid (within 30 days) they will be washed, with water at 110ºF and a detergent. This is to remove any bacteria from the shell, because the shell is porous – bacteria can get into the egg through the shell. (A hen with salmonella can infect the inside of the egg, but only if the bacteria is in her ovaries. Most eggs are infected via the shell.) However, washing eggs is not altogether good, as it also washes off the egg cuticle or ‘bloom’.

Ah, you might ask, what is that? Well, you can’t see it, but the outside of an egg has a protective coat, which keeps moisture in and bacteria (some bacteria) out. When an egg is washed, this cuticle can be damaged, which means more bacteria can get into the egg, so after washing, they should always be kept in a fridge (because bacteria doesn’t grow when it’s cold). This does not solve all the problems, as after an American shopper has bought the eggs, they need to take them home. If the journey home is warm, condensation can form on the cold eggs, which makes a nice moist surface for bacteria to start growing, and because the cuticle has been washed off, it can sneak into the eggs. So, if you’re American, and buy eggs, you should probably cook them properly.

In the UK, farmers treat the birds rather than the eggs. So hens are vaccinated against salmonella. This means they will not infect the eggs, and nor will their poop if it falls on the shell, so they’re not washed before they are sent to the supermarket. Which means the cuticle is intact, which means they don’t need to be kept cool. Eggs from vaccinated birds are stamped with a red lion mark.

However, I get my eggs from the chickens in my garden. I asked my vet if I should have them vaccinated against salmonellosis, and he asked if they appeared ill. I told him no, they are happy, if somewhat stupid, and seem perfectly healthy. He told me that a bird infected with salmonellosis would appear sick, so my birds are fine. I therefore eat runny yolks, and have never been ill. If I ever have more than 350 birds, or sell the eggs commercially, then there is a legal requirement to have them tested. But if I have more than 350 birds, my husband will leave and I’ll be homeless, so eggs will be a minor concern.

Should you wash eggs? I guess it depends how you do it. Cold water can make the egg absorb more bacteria, hot water can crack them. Detergent destroys the cuticle. If you plan to hatch, rather than eat, eggs, then you are not supposed to wash them. However, if the weather is wet, my hens bring lots of mud into the laying box, and I do tend to wash that off (and they still hatch). Some farmers replace the lost cuticle with other things – like oil, to try and make the eggs last longer. The trouble is, the egg absorbs some of this. (The shell is porous, remember?) Oil can stop egg whites whisking into peaks, so you can’t make meringues with them. You must also be eating traces of whatever they have coated the shell with, which is a bit worrying.

Duck eggs have more porous shells than chicken eggs. I always cook duck eggs thoroughly.

To return to the first question, how long can you keep eggs for? One guide is the US legal requirement: they must be processed within 30 days of laying, and then are considered safe to eat 5 weeks beyond the date they were packed. Which adds up to about 2 months. Storing eggs in a fridge, once they are at home, will help them last longer, as it slows the growth of any bacteria. A fresh egg has a nice clear white, and older eggs will have a yellowy white. As eggs age, they lose some of their moisture and elasticity, so become less good for baking, but they are still fine to eat. The older the egg, the more time bacteria will have to grow (and don’t forget, salmonellosis is only one kind). The older the egg, the better it should be cooked.

I guess that eggs which come from intensively farmed birds are more likely to have been pooped on, and therefore more likely to be covered in bacteria. Which is another reason for only ever buying free range chicken eggs. Please don’t support farmers who have unhappy birds.

Thank you for reading.

You can follow my blog at: anneethompson.com

Anne E. Thompson is the author of several novels, available from bookshops and Amazon. Why not read her latest novel today?

xxx

Marathons and Kites

Let me tell you about last Sunday. We had to take Son 2 back to uni, ready to start his Masters course, so there had been some discussion as to when that would be. I was keen to go on Saturday, because I don’t like missing church on Sundays and we seem to have missed a lot lately. Son and Husband were keen to go on Sunday. We went on Sunday.

However, they did compromise, and tell me they were willing to leave early in the morning, early enough for me to attend a church in Nottingham. Which was kind of them, as it meant we all had to get up ready to leave for 7am. We looked online for the postcode of Cornerstone Church in Nottingham, as it’s near to where Son lives, and we know a few people who’ve been there who are relatively normal, so we figured it would be a good one for me to attend. Their website claimed they are an ‘inclusive’ church – not quite sure what that means, but thought I’d find out.

7am arrived, off we set. Traffic on the motorways was good, and we looked as if we’d make it on time. Until we reached Nottingham. Then we ran into traffic, and I began to watch the time ticking past. You know that feeling, when the clock keeps moving, and you realise you’re going to not be early, then you’re going to be late, but still okay to arrive late. Then you start to decide just how late you can be before actually it’s a bit rude to disturb the service. I am used to churches – I have been around them my whole life, so I didn’t mind arriving late and asking to use the loo before going in whilst being assessed by strangers interested to know who I was and why I was there. But there is a limit. Eventually, I began to realise I wasn’t going to make it. Shame.

The problem, which perhaps Son could’ve known about beforehand (not saying anything, but…) was that Sunday was the day of the Nottingham Marathon. Son’s house, and the church, seem to be situated on a small island surrounded by roads that the marathon runs around. We tried several different routes, but it was pretty impossible to reach our destination by car (and I was too late to walk). So we abandoned the car and walked to the Beefeater for an early lunch.

As we walked, we passed lots of runners. I always find the marathon, any marathon, very moving. All those people giving time and effort for something so positive is wonderful, I think. There are the runners, raising money for charity after months of training, and their supporters, giving up a morning to cheer them on. It’s all excellent – if somewhat inconvenient for people wanting to drive on the roads. We even saw a man running whilst pushing another man in a wheelchair – that really made me blink back the tears!

I do wonder, though, who planned the date. I feel next year it would be good if they discussed dates with Nottingham University, and perhaps either the marathon, or the beginning of Fresher’s week could be on a different day. Just saying.

We had a nice lunch though. I like Beefeaters, and in the North, everyone is friendly, so you always get good service. The one in Nottingham is near a sort of marina. Only sort of, as most of the boats are on a car park, and the water is beyond sight. They do call it Beefeater Boathouse though.

Boats always remind me of my dad, because he owned a boat. His brother, Uncle John, used to live near a river, and if he saw a capsized boat, he’d buy it and then mend it. Dad bought one from him, and spent all his free time making it nice. I believe the lovely wooden cabinets in the galley were once church pews (perk of the job when you’re the minister perhaps).

My dad was good at making things, though they did tend to be big. And sometimes not pretty. We still have the solid wooden train station for the Playmobile trainset, which is way too big to fit into any cupboard. And we all remember his kites. I remember a holiday, in Cromer, when Mum and Dad had taken the children to fly kites, and me and my sister were sitting in Granny’s caravan. My sister looked out of the window, looking for Dad’s kite.

“I don’t think I can see their kite,” she said, “what does it look like? Oh wait. Oh no. Oh dear, I think I can….”

There were lots of kites flying in the field next to the caravan, and there, twice as high as all the others, was a big black bin bag kite. It was huge, and ugly, but it flew really well. I miss my dad.

Anyway, hope you have a good week and manage to get to where you want to go.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

 

Thank you for reading. You can follow my blog at anneethompson.com

Looking for a Story at the V and A

I wanted to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, and as Husband had a day off, he suggested we go. Next time I’ll go on my own.

I have a few wisps of stories in my head at the moment, and one is set in the past. As my knowledge of anything historical is pretty much limited to slushy films and novels, this might prove something of a problem. I want to write about people living in another age, but have no idea what they wore, ate with, sat on, etc. So I thought the V and A might be a good place to start. I could look at a few artefacts and decide whether it was even plausible to set a story in a past century.

The V&A is walking distance from Victoria Station, so we had a nice walk, past interesting statues, very posh mansions and pretty mews. I love walking through London. Then it began to rain. If you plan to visit a London museum, do not go on a rainy day. It is full of people with umbrellas who are more interested in being dry than looking at the exhibits.

 

 

Husband needed to make a phone call, so I dumped him in a coffee shop and went up to the second floor. There was some lovely 1700s furniture. I was quite taken by a little table with spindly legs and inlaid wood. It had side panels, and one was a drawer, and I could see someone might hide something in there. The table would be in the corner of a room, partly hidden by swathes of curtains (did they have curtains in 1760?) and a young woman would hide something in the drawer and lock it.

There was also a cabinet, called a commode, patterned with scenes of a Chinese garden. Perhaps the girl would hide the key, dropping it into one of the Chinese urns before rustling away. (Did they wear clothes that rustle?)

There were tables, set for dessert, showing food that was served in those days. People had just begun to buy cutlery, so guests didn’t have to bring their own; and food was served in courses. Desserts were fashionable, (the word is derived from the French ‘desservir’ meaning ‘unserve’ because the main food had been cleared away.)

I could see my young girl, glimpsing the complicated stand designed to hold sugared fruits, as she passed the dining room. (Did they have dining rooms?) The people would be drinking wine, having moved on from the traditional ale and now importing wine from abroad. She would be fascinated by the slender decanters, stored in the sideboard and produced only when there were guests of note. But who would be eating? Did men and women eat together? And were meals usually in the evening, or at midday?

Grumpy Husband joined me, and began to say (loudly) that, “the museum is actually just full of very expensive tat. It should be renamed ‘The Museum of Tat’. And how does someone get their stuff accepted by the museum? Everyone has stuff they don’t want to throw away, but they don’t really like – weird gifts and things collected on holidays. Clearly if you are Royal, you can simply shove it all in a museum and pretend it’s interesting.”

I suggested Husband sit in a chair and play a game on his phone, then I walked on.

There was some furniture designed by Thomas Chippendale (1718 – 1779). Perhaps my story house could have a couple of chairs, designed by Chippendale and chosen from his furniture catalogue. The grumpy husband of the house could moan, not liking that James Rannie, a Scottish man, backed Chippendale financially. In 1707, there was the Act of Union, which made Britain a single nation, joining England, Scotland and Wales under a single parliament and monarch. Grumpy Husband (in the story) could be cross about this, feeling it was a mistake, and therefore resentful when his wife suggested they buy furniture associated with a Scot.

Perhaps later generations of my story could live in 1870. Fruit from abroad was imported, and my character, an awkward young man, could agonise over how to eat it politely. When faced with an array of fruits, he always chose a banana, which he did not particularly like, simply because it was easy to peel with a knife and fork, and could be chopped into pieces and eaten delicately.

I could have the militant lady of the house, presiding over her tea-table. Millie the servant had laid a large tray of cups and saucers and silver pots, ready for the mistress. She removed the embroidered tea-cosy, and poured for her guests, offering milk or lemon. But did they serve tea with milk and lemon in those days? And who would be invited to tea? And did the maid stay, or leave when tea was served?

I clearly need to do lots more research before I write my story. Perhaps I will write it first as a serial on my blog, then I can write it as I learn snippets of information, like I did when writing Counting Stars (which I later rewrote as a complete book.) I will find some books and look online. I sort of have an outline for my story – am just not sure if I can learn enough facts to flesh it into something realistic.

We had a quick look at the displays of clothes before we left. But there were too many people avoiding the rain for me to stand before a glass case and imagine how it would feel to actually wear those corsets and layers of cotton.

 

I rather like the V&A. Husband is sort of right – it is an eclectic mix of stuff, but it’s interesting. There is also a wonderful reading room, and a hall full of statues, and even a paddling pool for sunny days. I will definitely return. Perhaps after I have done some research so I know more of what I’m looking for, and I can use the exhibits to imagine how my characters would have lived; I can see textures and sizes and think about the comfort of things. I will go on my own….

Thank you for reading.

If you want to read the finished version of Counting Stars, my novel set in the future, the UK link is below (though you can buy it from whichever Amazon is local to you.)

xxx

 

This Week

Hello, how was your week?

Mine has been a nice mix of work and other stuff.

It started with the Men’s Annual Croquet Cup, which is held every year in our garden. Husband is very keen on croquet, and I absolutely refuse to ever play, because it’s a horrid nasty game involving hand-eye co-ordination (which I don’t posses) and an evil temperament (which I do posses, but try to keep under control). When, in the past, I did play, it was always my ball that Husband sent spinning off into the bushes. So now he has to organise a church event, and get lots of blokes round to play. I think it went okay, I just had to provide drinks and snacks and keep out the way. The prize is a big ugly rubber-glove mould, which Husband found in a shop in NY. No-one wants to win it, so it is a game of skill, as they all try to be good enough to reach the last post, but then fluff those final shots so someone else has to take home the ugly prize.

I’ve also spent lots of time cooking fruit. Harvest is an extravagant season, and I feel uncomfortable leaving plums and apples to rot on the trees, but they do all ripen at the same time. So it takes hours of picking, and sorting, and preparing fruit, ready for the freezer. My fingers are now stained brown, and I don’t want to see another plum.

I’ve also had a few tomatoes, but my tomato plants haven’t done very well this year, because the cats like to sleep on them. (No idea why.)

I didn’t have my Chinese lesson this week, because we can’t find our teacher. Perhaps she’s done a runner to escape our terrible accents.

On Thursday I was invited to speak at the Cameo Club (an afternoon group run by one of the local churches for the over-sixties.) I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It was held in their church, and I had assumed everyone would sit round in a circle (which is usually what I find when I speak to small groups or book-groups). But I arrived to find them in rows, facing a lectern and microphone. A bit scary.

I also wasn’t quite sure what to talk about (I have three talks really, one about books, one about the slums of India, and one about me having a brain tumour and becoming an author.) I chose the me/brain/author one, as I thought it shows that God can use us, however much our body has gone to pot, which might be appropriate for an older audience.

I never manage to actually say what I’ve planned to say when I do these talks. I pray beforehand, asking God for a ‘message’ to say. Then I plan a talk, and write a few notes (which I usually can’t find when I arrive). Today, I did manage to arrive, on time, with notes, but then at the end, I glanced at them and I hadn’t said anything I had planned to say. I think this shows I’m not very good at listening to God. The day I manage to actually give the talk I feel he wants me to say, I will know I have got better at listening. However, I do think, because I try to listen, he might use me anyway. Perhaps (hopefully) someone there heard something helpful. I did have some nice chats afterwards, anyway.

I did have bit of a ‘spooky’ God experience this week (which shows he listens to me, even if I am a bad listener – because on the way to Lunch Club I had been thinking that sometimes, it’s hard to believe in God when life is just ticking away nicely) Anyway, when I arrived in the kitchen, the oven had been set to ‘automatic’, which means it won’t heat up. (Not sure if this was due to a power-cut earlier in the day, due to said oven being cleaned during summer break, or if some annoying individual had fiddled with it.) No one could remember how to ‘unset’ the automatic setting. I fiddled with various buttons for about 10 minutes. Then DP- who can usually mend anything tried. Then I tried again. Then we gave up, and decided dinner would have to fit into the other two cookers. We always have a prayer time, so when the team had arrived, we left the kitchen, and prayed – during which I mentioned unhelpful cooker (not expecting anything to change). We went straight from prayer back to kitchen, I pressed the same buttons on the oven I’d already pressed and – tada – oven came on! I have no idea if it had warmed up and dried out, so now worked, or if it has an intermittent fault which corrected itself, or if we witnessed a miracle. The cooker worked. And given the timing, the me saying I was feeling a bit like I never ‘saw’ God anymore, for me it is a miracle anyway.

The rest of my week, has been spent rewriting Clara. I left it for a few months after writing the first draft, and now am rereading it, and deciding what I need to change. When I’ve done that I will send it off to my editor (who usually makes me rewrite even more). So far, it’s going well. I think it’s the best book I’ve written so far – certainly it’s the most powerful. But it’s hard to judge your own work, so we’ll see. You can tell me next year, when it’s finally published.

So, a nice ordinary week for me. Hope your week went well too.

Take care,
Anne x

PS. I found another sunflower growing in the sweetcorn field.   

Thank you for reading. Why not sign up to follow my blog?

anneethompson.com

xxx

 

Handmade and Homegrown Festival at Hever Castle

So, I survived the festival at Hever Castle. Three whole days of selling (not my favourite activity). I’ve never done a big festival before, so was unsure of what to expect. Mostly it was good.

I did of course have help. Mum came, and did a brilliant job enticing people to buy. She had her new phone with her, and took lots of photos. Son 2 had shown her how to use it (it’s a smart phone – too smart for me.) Unfortunately he didn’t also teach her what to do should it fall out of her pocket and into the next cubicle when using public loos! Luckily the nice person next to her slid it back under the partition, and she didn’t get accused of trying to take dodgy photos.

Husband came too, and turned out to be an excellent salesperson – even if some of his methods were somewhat unethical. When someone is clearly having trouble controlling a very strong dog, is it okay to whistle, so the dog runs to your stall pulling the owner behind them? Not sure (but we did sell her a book). And if a coach-load of ladies from Holland arrive, to look at the quilting show, is it okay to sell one a book, even though she doesn’t actually speak much English? And I’m also not sure about the : “Would you like an apple? If you bring your Mum here to buy a book, you can have one,” technique, used on small children – but again, it made a sale.

I’m not quite sure what my mum’s selling technique was. But she would disappear with a book (perhaps to have lunch, or to use the loo) and after a while, someone would approach my stall, saying they had bought the book from an elderly lady, who had told them I would sign it for them…..Exactly how you manage to sell a book whilst in the loo is beyond me!

I was sent the instructions for when to arrive, the code for the back entrance to the castle (very exciting!) and a plan showing where my pitch was. It was a big area. We arrived fairly early, to find several people were there already. We were in a marquee, and because the day before had been wet (when they put it up) there were constant drips of water from the ceiling. People who do this event every year (which seemed to be most people) had come prepared with towels and mops and sheets of plastic to cover their stock. I had not. It was all a bit stressful, as a book that has been dripped on would be ruined. We set up the tables, and left all the books and bookmarks in plastic crates, hoping the drips would eventually stop. They did.

Most stall holders were very nice, and they all seemed to know each other. A few were a bit territorial (we had all been allocated a 3m square, and some used the whole width for their own stall, and then expected to walk through their neighbour’s space when they wanted to walk around, meaning their neighbour had to have a smaller stall.) I guess everyone had spent hours making their products, and were keen that it should be shown at its best. I overheard a few tense conversations about the positioning of stands.

The stall holder on one side was friendly. She was a photographer, selling cards and calendars and pictures. She was nice to chat to, and told me that most stall holders knew each other, as there was a circuit of similar festivals that they all attended. She gave me the name of the organiser, and suggested I should apply. I was the only person selling books, which was nice. There were several stalls selling jewellery and pottery, which might make it competitive – or might mean that people who want to buy those things know there is a good range at Hever Castle and so are more likely to attend the festival.

There were lots of visitors, and we had some good chats. Some assumed I was famous (though I did tell them I wasn’t.) One lady wanted to shake my hand, saying she had never met anyone famous before. Lots of people asked me to sign the book, and some wanted a photo of me standing next to them. A few people said they’d heard about my books in newspaper reviews, or from the radio (am not entirely sure if they were misremembering.)

The days were long though. Books by an unknown author don’t sell themselves, so we needed to tell people what they were about. I was glad to have help, so I could take breaks and go and sit in the car for a while, just to rest my brain. After a while, people began to merge into one…. I’m sure I sold books in the afternoon to the exact same people who bought them in the morning. Or perhaps women aged about sixty all fit into three main categories with only slight variations. (Another possibility of course, is that Husband paid a small group of people to keep changing their clothes, returning to buy books. But I don’t think that happened.)

In business terms, it was success. It cost £40 to have a stall, and I sold 67 books, so taking away the cost of the books, I still made a profit. (If I had charged for time, I would have made a huge loss, of course. But I think only very famous authors can possible cover the cost of their time.) Sixty-seven books is a lot of new readers, so I’m really hoping that some of them like the book enough to buy another one. I made some bookmarks, showing my other books, with a link to my website and Amazon. You never know…..

However, the absolutely best thing of all was being at Hever Castle. We arrived early each morning, when the grounds were empty. The grass was damp, the sun was not too hot, and the swans were wandering along the bank. All I needed was a swooshy skirt and a horse. It is a beautiful place. Anne Boleyn grew up there, and you can’t help but think that she’d have been so much happier if she’d just stayed there and married a farmer. That’s what I would’ve done.

If you’ve never visited, put it on your list, it’s lovely.
https://www.hevercastle.co.uk

Thank you for reading.
Take care,
Anne x

xxx