being paid in pies!



Yes, my writing career has reached the giddy heights of being… paid in pies. For some writing. A poem, in fact. A pie poem I posted on this blog after tasting some rather heavenly pies at Greenbelt this summer, here.

The pieminister people found it (someone had entered it into their most prestigious poetry competition) included it in their Winter newsletter and rewarded me by sending a box of their fine pies (worth about fifty quid!).

Poetry isn’t really my thing (which you’ll be nodding your head in agreement with if you’ve read the poem in question!) but now I’ve been paid for a poem, even paid in pies, I am going to consider myself a professional poet (as surely when one is paid for their craft they can be considered a professional?!). Or, if not professional… it’s still technically correct to say I am a prize-winning poet. Oh yes.

Have jested with hubbie that although he may be the primary breadwinner of our family… I am now the pie-winner.
(It’s such rib-tickling humour that keeps our marriage alive, I’m sure.)

So, I’m a poet. A pie poet. A pie-ate.
Anyway, the aforementioned pies are now napping in my freezer, waiting to be re-awakened on some future occasion (xmas day breakie perhaps?).
Yum scrum.

Delivery of box of pies piccies here.

Christmas no longer illegal


An article I’ve just written for the Generous website

Spend less and be more Generous

In 1647, the English Parliament passed a law that made Christmas illegal. Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas festivities, considering feasting and revelry on a ‘holy day’ immoral. Anybody caught celebrating Christmas was arrested. The ban was only lifted when the Puritans lost power in 1660.

The reason for mentioning this rather random historical fact is that I tend to feel rather like Cromwell’s long lost distant descendant at this time of year. Not because I aim to be, please understand. More because the ideas I choose to promote sometimes paint me as a bit of a Scrooge.

In actual fact, I’m totally in favour of ‘feasting and revelry’ and am a huge fan of the season in general. In addition to the standard merriment, food and partying, it’s a fantastic opportunity to show hospitality towards those neighbours or work colleagues that we tend to ignore. Also for using the occasion to strengthen family ties.

But when it comes to presents under the tree, ‘giving generously’ doesn’t mean we ought to re-mortgage our homes. If anything, it might be more generous to give a less expensive gift, but give it a bit more thought.

For example, a voucher that says, ‘I’ll babysit for you once a month this coming year’. Or what about buying books, DVDs, CDs, games etc. second-hand off eBay or Amazon… or from a local charity shop? And any money that we then save – by getting less expensive presents – could be directed towards those who really need it. Those who won’t be enjoying all of the festivities that we will; who wouldn’t notice if their country made Christmas illegal again. (As Bob Geldof would have us sing: ‘Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?’)

So, what about spending half as much as we usually would on family members this year, and, with the money saved, buy a goat (or similar) for those in need… and tell the family on Christmas Day? Or did you know that for £60 you can twin your toilet with one built in Burundi, for those who aren’t used to such luxuries (

If you’re feeling very ambitious and have time on our hands, then to make a present is a generous yet cheap idea: knit a scarf, bake a cake, paint a picture, compose a song, write a poem. Go on, I will if you will! It’s not illegal, we won’t get arrested, and, if we do something generous with the money we save by not splashing out, we’ll be making a difference to those in need, which can’t be bad.

Wetherspoons Book Group!

img_3714My local Wetherspoons asked me to be their ‘guest local author’ at their very first Book Group! They offered free tea and coffee to all who attended and even handed round choccie biccies… yum yum!
It all went OK. We went round saying what book we were reading at the moment and what we thought of it. I just about managed to answer questions about Dear Bob (1st novel)… it was 6 years ago it was published, so had a quick skim through it before I left the house to refresh my memory! One man had written a novel and wanted advice about how to go about getting it published; it was nice to feel useful!
An old school friend of mine saw my message about the event on facebook and decided to come… we hadn’t seen each other in 19 years, so that was fab.
Dear Bob was distributed to all present, the plan being that they read it before next month’s group, then come back and discuss it. I said they were welcome to say anything negative about it they wanted, as long as they bought me a large glass of white wine first, so I could drown my sorrows. Hope no one thought I was joking!

It was well-advertised in the local press
And a good follow-up piece here
and here

Bye-bye Greenbelt

img_3414It seems but a lifetime away, but before the memory fades altogether, being extinguished by thoughts of xmas and suchlike, just wanted to put in a couple of links:

here is what the GB website came up with this year. Interesting, as they’d asked for a biog, I’d sent them one… then they chose to ignore it and use one they’d had from 2005! Thus, it mentions that I work on the mags I used to work on, that are now extinct.
They had one back in 2005, when I was doing more literary stuff there, rather than eco (I’ve done ‘something’ there every year since then I think, for my sins).

My this year’s talk has also been recorded, which is a 1st. Either they just got carried away and decided to record all talks this year… or it was my fair trade banana jokes that forced them to make my talk available to be inflicted on the masses. Hmmmm..
It’s available for buying here, should anyone be interested.

They weren’t really ‘fair trade banana’ jokes, as such things don’t exist, as far as I am aware. They were just ‘regular’ banana jokes, that I shamelessly used, and asked people to assume the bananas in question were, indeed, fairly traded… so that my jokes would bear some relevance on my talk.

There was also some toilet humour (that linked in with the concept of ‘sponsoring a toilet’ in a developing country)…have a strong suspicion that next year I’ll be asked, nay, begged, to be on main stage, delivering my FT banana/loo jokes to vast crowds of laughing (or groaning) greenbelters.
Oh yes.

Greenbelt Ministry

Greenbelt Ministry
I was ministered to at Greenbelt.
In an unexpected way
I had to queue to get it
Ye highlight of my day

My fellow queuers clearly
Had received such love before
It was painted on their faces;
Eager, smiling… wanting more

I knew I’d made the perfect choice
Joined this queue – this one alone
My happy fate approacheth
Secret fantasies finally known.

Heidi was my pie of choice
Goats cheese and potato sweet
(Pretentious and middle class)
Though Moo and Blue looked fab to eat

And how I loved the taste
Of the pretentious middle-class
It hugged my soul so very tight
My expectations were surpassed.

Lo, the pie was not alone
Yet adorned with a dollop of mash
Not as grim as at school meals
Miles advanced of that trash

To make it even more divine
Gravy was poured on top
Though they had named it ‘groovy’
How very quaint is this shop?

There were no lies abounding
Groovy was at the core
‘Tis why I gave up six pounds fifty
And considered coming back for more

Heidi was now my one true love
(Hubby could have cause for concern
But then he’s never had a Heidi
Not as far as I’ve known)

The pies that they were out of
Were blessed with a little note
‘Gone to pie heaven’
A very groovy quote

It seems they’re Made in Banksy-land
Rather than Hong Kong
Formerly known as Bristol
Where queues are just as long

At the Belt that’s made of Green
A queue is so the norm
If Brits are fairly into queues
It’s for what Greenbelter’s are born

We queue to get in on day one
For talks and music too
We stand and wait, then waiteth some more
We even queue to poo

So if they tried to sell their pies
In lands far far from here
Would people queue up orderly?
Would anarchy appear?

A tiny prick of tears is formed
When one is forced to think
Of worried pies, of Heidi’s cries
With anarchy on the brink

When my body’s all queued out
And numbered are my days
Pie Heaven’s where I’m destined
My ticket is One Way

pieminister (the pie shop’s name)
Will dominate the place
Pies will be free; queues will be gone
Pie smiles on every face

They’ll be no tears nor pain nor fear
Due to pies for all the hours
Clouds made from mash will float on by
And rain down groovy showers

The Lord of the Pies will sort me out
Heidi greet me at the Pie-ly Gate
I will scoff and not grow weary
Munch pies, and not be faint


Please note, this poem is not sponsored by pieminister, and I live at least an hour away from Bristol.
Feel free to view my GB piccies here

Facebook — the root of all evil?

Much has been said about the dangers of Facebook. We’ll stop meeting people in person. We’ll loose our people skills. We’ll get cancer due to decrease in activity (an article in the Mail I read online just now when I googled ‘Facebook’!). Facebook will send us all to an early grave, so they say.

But I think it’s cool. I struggle to see that the time I spend on it is time I would otherwise have been meeting people in ‘real life’. I meet a lot of people in real life, a lot of time time… work, family, friends, church, various committees and suchlike… people people everywhere! And from what I can see from many of my friends on Facebook, they lead similar lives; teachers, vicars, youthworkers, publishers, students… none of these are staying in 24/7 to stare at the screen, immersing themselves with the oh-so-dangerous virtual world that is… Facebook.

Ah, now, I ought to ‘fess up’, now we’ve got onto the actual topic of ‘Facebook friends’. When I first signed up (or signed my life away, depending on your view) I laughed in the face of those who had 200 or even 300 and something friends (not that they could see or hear me laughing, such is the beauty of the system). That would never happen to me. MY Facebook account was to be for real friends; people I actually knew. Not just random anyones. Oh no.

But here’s the thing – I currently have… (just got to log in and check…) a grand total of 305 friends. That said, I can proclaim quite confidently that I know each and every one of them. Old school or church friends, current work and church friends, old work friends, my kids friends’ parents… you get the picture. The only exception to this is a small handful of teenage/student girls who read my books and then applied to be my friend… well, I don’t have many fans, so there’s no way I’m going to reject these discerning lasses!

Granted, some people may well spend their whole lives on Facebook, barely coming up for air, talking to random people, playing silly games, etc. But can’t the same be said for almost anything: computer games, reading, TV… there are many obsessions that aren’t exactly beneficial or healthy – we all know that. On the whole, the people (all 305 of them) that I see using Facebook are just happy to be keeping in touch with those they wouldn’t otherwise be in touch with. Likewise, they enjoy making comments on their work mates holiday snaps, or mate down the roads photos of their newborn baby. It’s personal. It’s accessible. It’s free!

For me, the best bit has been connecting with members of my wider family. We’re not really in touch via phone/email, on the whole. But now I’ve found some of my cousins on Facebook and some of my husband’s… there’s no stopping us! We’re suddenly more in touch than ever, which feels great. This morning, not only did I learn that my cousin’s daughter had got into Cardiff University (based on her A’Level results) I could view her celebratory photos AND I was able to congratulate her, instantly! If it weren’t for Facebook, I would never have known. A minor example, I guess, but it works for me.

The ability to put photos on my page, and let others see our holiday snaps, or day trips, or birthdays, etc, really is the highlight for me. Friends now say “Oh, I see you had a great time in…(wherever)” and I know that they’ve shared that part of my life with me. It would have been highly unlikely that I’d have brought photos into work and showed certain colleagues, but those on Facebook are now that much closer to ‘me’ and I like that. I can see that some wouldn’t, but then that’s why all those privacy bits are in place.

Yes, I’ve graduated from only going on Facebook when I had an email alerting me to a message or similar, to logging on most days, just to see what’s ‘going down’. So shoot me (seeing as I’m destined to die young due to my daily Facebook useage anyway). I’ve also recently sussed out how to organise my ‘friends’ and ‘hide’ certain people, so that on my ‘news feed’ I only read about those people I… errrr… am actually interested in. Which sounds mean, but it’s the only way I can see, at a glance, what’s going on in the lives of those I’m closest to.
And no one, but no one, is close to 305 people.

Any further, and preferably more ground-breaking, Facebook thoughts gratefully received.

Generous wrinkles?

This has just been published here on Generous website.
They have also interviewed me here

Generous wrinkles?

Do adverts on the telly stop us being ‘generous’? When we suffer yet another commercial break that inconveniently interrupts what we were attempting to enjoy, does it matter? Do we kid ourselves when we say that we just ignore them; that they don’t have any influence over us… that they don’t alter our efforts to shop less, to buy local/fair trade/organic/eco-friendly, etc?

Take the recent hype over the cream that claims to get rid of your wrinkles, by No.7. When the ‘news’ broke recently, that scientists had done a study and found that for once, a beauty product’s claims were accurate, the result was predictable. In the Boots’ outlet at Liverpool Street, London, over 400 bottles were sold within 90 minutes of the store opening.

But those of us who are hard-core Generous Shoppers aren’t so gullible.
No, we’re not.
Are we?
Errrr… yes, just a bit.

When last in Boots (and I’m rarely in there) I passed a huge display of said product. I paused. I have wrinkles. As they say in the States: do the math! Now, please bear in mind I am not one to splash out on beauty products of any sort and don’t even wear make up. The essentials I do buy tend to be of the generous sort. But I paused, picked up a bottle of said product, held it for a few seconds, thought about my skin and the fantasy of turning back time… then realised it was twenty quid and swiftly returned it to its display.

Proof, then, that adverts have power, even over those of us who consider ourselves immune. What if it had cost two quid – would I have bought it? Please don’t ask me that as I’m trying to put the whole sorry episode behind me. But beware – we’re only human, and while we know that wasting money is not helpful to us, or to people and planet at large, sometimes we’re more susceptible to clever advertising than we realise.
And sometimes we just have to learn to re-name our wrinkles ‘laughter lines’, and move on.

My new energetic best friend

box… is the Wii Fit
I bought myself earlier this year! Here is a quick review:

Good: It’s great for exercising when the weather means I can’t (or refuse to) jog or cycle. Lots of variety of exercise. Love the way the other characters are so encouraging of my efforts to workout, like the 2 who throw hoops to me when I’m doing hula-hooping… they are so kind to stand there and do that, with no benefit to themselves, and smiling all the while. Likewise, those who jog past me tend to look my way, and give me a great big encouraging smile. How nice! This just doesn’t happen in real life (that said, dog-walkers tend to say hi). My trainer is also most friendly and encouraging – almost feel like I know her! A friend of mine commented that the island you can jog around makes her think of heaven. I know what she means.

Could try harder: Yes there’s a lot of variety, but now I’ve done it a lot (once or twice a week, usually) I do feel like I’m fast running out of surprises. It’s a shame that there aren’t more exercises to unlock, or will those be on version 2, that will cost me another £70, or perhaps even more?! And although my trainer says nice things, they are the SAME things, over and over. Once she’s said it once, that’s enough – it really is. And on that note, it would be useful if instead of her talking though my exercises, I could do something more interesting. So, when I’m doing a 10 min hula-hoop, for example, wouldn’t it be fab if I could use the remote to go online and view facebook, or email, or websites and stuff?! It would make the time fly by faster! There is an option where you can watch TV when you jog, but still… they could be a bit more creative with this. Perhaps the technology just isn’t there (bear in mind I know nothing re technology – almost total luddite!).
Also, I have recently started on ‘interval training’ (whilst jogging, cycling and swimming). But Wii fit is no good for this as there’s nothing that really gets your heart going, despite having several ‘aerobic’ options. What I do is do the less energetic bits using Wii fit, and then do skipping for my ‘flat-out’ intervals, as it were. Which means I have to use a timer and it’s a bit of a pain. Would be great if Wii fit had considered interval training, but can’t have everything!

Burns Night

Went to a tartan-tastic Burns Night – our first one ever!
My mission was to tackle the ‘Reply from the Lassies’ speech, and here is my attempt.
Writing and delivering it turned out to be far less stressful than determining what to wear (ended up buying a strip of tartan material and making a sash-like thing, which makes me sound like an accomplished seamstress, which is a lie as I used the iron-on hemming stuff that I use for the kids’ school trousers’ hems.)

Reply from the lassies

As I start my speech this evening
I fear that my reply
May cause some consternation
I hope though, no outcry

A man deserves to be rebuked
(A lass is ne’er to blame)
He emailed me with his request
Colin is his name

‘I would be honoured’, so it read
‘If you’d do the ‘Reply”
‘On behalf of Lassies’, so he said
So casual, by the by.

Thus, I swiftly emailed back
To say that would be fine
It’s a shame that I had no idea
Of the stress that would be mine

I’d thought this speech was something quick
that I could find online
And print off, just before I came
And read out, at this time.

Yet only a few days ago
To Google’s aid I turned
He said I had to write my own!
None was supplied by Mr Burns

The ‘reply’ required a lot of thought
It was to be new each time
It wasn’t something he churned out
Not one of his five hundred and fifty-nine

Yikes, I cried – this isn’t right
This is an awful affair
Have they any idea how long it took
Just To work out what to wear?

And glancing back at that webpage
T’was with horror that I saw
That grace and charm and wit were required
Don’t you know me but at all?

When times are dark, and things are hard
T’is hubby whom is my light
Help I yelled – I cannot cope
Ha! He said – now shut up and write.

But so I bravely battled on
Back to Google I turned
My ever present buddy in life
So much from him I have learned.

Reveal, he did, ‘Replies’ of lassies
From Burns nights of the past
Please picture the horror on my face
On reading: 15 minutes it should last.

Don’t panic tho, I quickly thought
That this I’d just dismiss
Fifteen minutes of me, I fear
Is no one’s idea of bliss

And furthermore it was revealed
‘Men’ I must show as fools
Whilst also referring to Rob himself
Tell me – who makes up these rules?

And what to say to show men up
To make them sound less wise?
A man can be a useful thing
No woman will deny…s

They work so hard from dawn to dusk
And still put dinner on the table
And sort the kids and clean the house
Oh… whoops – that’s us lassies that are so able.

But men are… they can help round the house.
When from the TV they’re dragged
And they… can be good company
They’re handy… if you need a good nag.

OK, ok, it’s said in jest
I think men quite alright
Despite conning me into doing this
Or laughing at my plight

And as for Burns that famous Scot
A real one, not just in part
T’was two hundred n fifty years ago he was born (tomorrow)
And a bit later, he did depart

The bit in the middle, it seems to consist
Of flirting and being a tart
But he sought out some time to write lots a stuff down
Which now is considered pure art.

Well, my poem is done; it turned out to be fun
My panic was clearly in vain
But just so I’m clear, if you have one next year,
Please don’t make me do it again

So thanks to you Rich, your speech was quite fab
You were so very frank
On behalf of all the lassies here
I’d like to extend our thanks

Piccies of the evening can be viewed here, if you’re interested!