Sunday, 30 December 2012

How was it for you? (Part 2)


After the End of the World according to the Mayan Calendar, the next event on our Gregorian calendar was...Christmas.  Did you survive it?  Despite my culinary skills being questionable, we are all still alive.

Not wishing to take a chance on Christmas Dinner going down the plughole, I had Aunt Bessie in to do the cooking.  For those who aren’t familiar with her, she also cooks for Asda, Tesco and Waitrose.  And she didn’t let me down.  Honey glazed parsnips, cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire pud and even gravy sachets were stuffed into my freezer to await The Big Day.  Suffice to say that I burnt her Yorkshires, turned her gravy to coloured water and forgot to put the wretched parsnips in the oven.  But dinner was edible.  The family put their knives and forks together and awaited dessert.  ‘Da-dah!’ I trilled and set before them a....treacle sponge.  My daughter frowned.  ‘Where’s the Christmas pudding?’ I tapped the plastic bowl (yes, a microwave jobbie) and looked from husband to daughter to son.  ‘Everybody moaned last year, so I thought we’d have a change.’  There was a slurping noise as the plastic bowl deposited a mound of syrupy stodge onto my reindeer plate.  The mess wasn’t too bad smothered in custard.  Aunty Bessie’s of course.

Boxing Day was a bit of a different matter.  This time family were visiting.  Mother and Father Bryant.  And sister and brother-in-law.  Including ourselves, it was a full house.  ‘What on earth have you cooked?’ asked my sister peering at the Red Thai Curry simmering on the stove.  ‘Don’t worry,’ I assured, ‘it’s a Loyd Grosman sauce and very nice.’  My sister was unimpressed.  ‘I thought we were having cold meats, jacket potato and salad.  Haven’t you any leftover turkey?’  Er, no.  On account of it being as tough as old boots yesterday and the dog dutifully finishing it off.  My sister stared at the vegetables in the pot.  ‘Are they organic?’  I should have said yes, but I’m rubbish at lying.  She rolled her eyes and served herself a spoonful.  I think sparrows eat bigger helpings.

The piece de resistance was my chocolate and coffee cake.  It looked impressive.  The icing was hiding a multitude of sins...a misreading of bicarb of soda (I could have sworn the recipe said two tablespoons), burnt sponge and charred coffee granules.  Everybody helped themselves to a generous slice.  For a moment jaws rotated.  Have you ever had a synchronised moment where everybody stops chewing at the same time?  The cake duly went in the bin.  My mother, always to be relied upon in an emergency, produced an M&S cheesecake from the depths of her handbag.  She has all sorts in her handbag.  Need a tissue?  A painkiller?  A teabag?  Something to eat?  I jest not.  As Loyd Grosman had failed to impress with his Red Thai Curry, I removed a vast cheeseboard from the fridge and told everybody to tuck in.  My sister informed me she didn’t do dairy.  ‘Oh.  Have some cheesecake instead.’ I pushed the plate towards her.  Ah.  She couldn’t because...she didn’t do dairy.  I couldn’t even get her drunk to drown her foodie sorrows because her husband had nominated her to be the driver.

So that’s it for another twelve months.  Next year I might check out the cost of caterers.  Which reminds me, how does Good King Wenceslas like his pizzas?  Deep pan, crisp and even...

Sunday, 23 December 2012

How was it for you?


The much hailed date for ‘the end of the world’ came...and went.  We’re still here.  Thank goodness, because I spent a bloomin’ fortune on Christmas presents.

I never thought the world was going to end.  My understanding was more along the lines of ‘new beginnings’.  Well let’s hope so.  Our Mother Earth could certainly use nicer human beings living upon her.  How wonderful would it be if there was no more war, terrorism or people going barmy with hand guns?

To celebrate the 21st December, my sister – who is incredibly spiritual – arranged an event with lots of other people who were (no surprises) also very spiritual.  I love to dip into this sort of thing, but on my own.  Group events always tend to smack of religion which I shy away from.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love God.  He’s fab.  Really.  But I like talking to Him on my own.  I don’t need somebody telling me how to worship, when to worship, or in what way to worship.  But my sister insisted I attend and support her.  So I did.

My sis sang a number of celebratory songs.  Now at this point I’d like to say my sibling should put herself forward for X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talent.  For talent she has.  In shed loads.  So it was something of a rude shock when she introduced a lady following on who was going to give the audience a ‘sound bath’.  Anticipating another round of tuneful singing, I sat back ready to enjoy.  As unearthly wailing hit the microphone, poured out of the sound speakers and filled the small village hall, I realised what Simon Cowell puts himself through.  Except Simon gets an X button to press.  And I’ll bet Simon’s never listened to a contestant playing the gong.  As the gong went bong I had a terrible urge to giggle.

After twenty-five minutes of weird noise, there was an interval.  My mother, doddery on a walking stick, needed the Ladies.  ‘I’ll come with you,’ I said.  ‘Don’t wait for me,’ she said, ‘I’m so slow at walking.  You go ahead.’  So I did.  Inside the Ladies Rest Room were a row of uniform cubicles.  I chose one, went in and – not being a hoverer – layered the seat in loo paper.  As I sat down, I had an epiphany.  A very alarming one.  The sound bath had affected the toilet’s dimensions.  Either that or my backside had tripled in size.  If Mr V had been there I might well have asked, ‘Does my bum look big in this toilet seat?’

I leapt off the loo and roared out of the cubicle.  I’d ask my mother instead.  And actually, where was my mother?  She’d yet to make an appearance.  I found her wandering around a corridor looking bemused.  ‘Where have you been?’ I cried.  ‘In the Gents,’ she said.  ‘I see,’ I replied.  I didn’t.  ‘So have you used the loo?’ I asked.  ‘No.  A man re-directed me.  But I ended up in a cupboard full of carpet remnants.  Not a toilet in sight.’  I was starting to think the sound bath had sent us both doollally.  ‘The Ladies is this way,’ I took her arm, ‘and can I ask you something Mum?  Be honest.  Is my backside big?’  My mother looked at my denim clad bottom.  ‘No bigger than when we got here.  Why?’  I pushed open the door to the cubicle and pointed.  Behold.  Turned out I’d layered up a toddler training seat somebody had left behind.

So there we have it.  A new Golden Age has arrived and everybody has survived.  Which reminds me.  Did you hear about the enlightened dyslexic cow?  It kept chanting ooooM...

Sunday, 16 December 2012

What’s handsome, hot and makes you swoon? Jason Baca. And that’s no joke...

I recently met a gorgeous male glamour model (he drapes himself around women for romantic book covers) and just knew my readers would like to meet him too.  So let me introduce Jason Baca.  Take a peek at his website –  http://jasonaaronbaca.deviantart.com   – especially if you’re a writer of hot romance and need a sizzling cover for your next bestseller!

I defy you to stare at this vision and not have your jaw overcome by gravity.  Muscles...abs...pecs...whatever they’re called...by the bucketful and in all their bulging glory, plus chiselled cheekbones, and fab good looks.

At times like this you have to seize the...er...moment.  Would he agree to an interview?  ‘Absolutely,’ Jason said, ‘and I promise not to behave.’  Whereupon my brain emptied and I couldn’t think of a single thing to ask other than, ‘Do you have a calendar I can pin on my study wall?’

So I decided to turn to Facebook friends and fellow authors for help.  You asked the following questions – and likewise it would seem some of you can’t promise to behave either!  So, are you sitting comfortably?  Here we go:

Maddie: Where did you start modelling and how old were you?
Jason: I started my actual modelling career in 1997 on location in Bodega Bay, CA.  I'd been a body double for one of the main actors in the movie I Know What You Did Last Summer.  One of the photographers took me to one side and asked if he could take photographs of me. That turned out to be my first shoot!  He told me I was a natural, which was a wonderful ego boost.
As for my age...
well I’ll let you guess (winks).
Emma: Why did you become a model and what job would you do if you weren’t a model?
Jason: Great question Emma! Originally I wanted to be a baseball player. I played in the college level for 3 years.  Had I not found modelling, there is no telling WHAT I would have made of my life. I will say that the period between college baseball and modelling was actually a very dark and testing time. I felt in my heart that I needed to find what I was destined to do.

Liz: How long do you see yourself doing this for?
Jason: I haven't decided yet. The real key in determining this will be when my stock no longer gets used.  Then I will know that it needs to be put to rest. But before that happens, I'd like to be the one in control of my future.  If I see myself not 100% devoted to this, then that's the time to sit and reflect on what I should or shouldn't do.


Suzie: Do you think readers ever confuse you for the heroes you portray?
Jason: I've often wondered that Suzie – they see me on the cover so that is the only connection they have to that character's vision.

Paula: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had in your career so far?
Jason: Putting aside anyone else’s ‘path’ which includes their expectations of me. I have a vision for myself. I don't say to people, ‘How would you like me to live my life?’  Many a time there have been those wanting me to do this or that.  ‘Be normal,’ they say.  Well I'm anything BUT normal. I can't stand that word...it’s like the F word to me!

Mary: I like a hero who washes dishes. Do you wash dishes? In particular, do you get around the sides of the pots and pans and rinse them too? (Mary is clearly in a lather!)
Jason: Yes Mary.  I make sure that I do give my dishes a good, deep soak. If you don't let them sit in the warm soapy water and just jump right in and start working on them, you will not leave that dish sparkling. I have just the right technique that gives my dishes a scrub they won't forget.

Marie: (looking lustful) Do you oil your muscles?
Jason: Well actually, yes I do. I use a Vitamin E oil.  I massage it gently into my muscles to give my skin a healthy, supple look.

Natalie: Have you ever been propositioned and, if so, how far would you go for your art?!
Jason: Propositioned?  Hmm. Well I did do a shoot twice for Playgirl magazine.  But I knew what was coming before I flew down.  During one particular shoot a photographer asked if I could ‘do more’ and they’d pay me extra!  But I declined.  I'm a good boy!

Emily: What do you have for breakfast? (Asking question with very wide eyes)
Jason: Emily!  You can't tell I've been eating my Wheaties?

Lorna: (More wide eyes) Do you have big...feet?
Jason: Lorna, I have huge...feet and am very confident about them!

Caroline: Dare I ask, do you enjoy your job?
Jason: I absolutely love my job!  I enjoy every aspect – from preparing for the shoot to seeing the final book cover.

Elaine: Does your mother approve of your work?!
Jason: She doesn't approve or disapprove.  She's just not into it.  When the first cover came out she was like, ‘Wow!’  But now?  She'd rather talk about her own stuff! 

Hilary: Would you like to meet me? I may be 70 and on crutches but I still have a fabulous twinkle in my eye...
Jason:  Absolutely Hilary! I'd LOVE to!  Hopefully I'll be attending the Rom Con this coming season.  If you happen to be there, come right up.  Don't hesitate!
 
Thank you for dropping by Jason.  And for those ladies clamouring for a touch, form an orderly line – behind me...

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Round Robin Rage...


Never has my writing been so frenzied.  And I’m not talking about the latest novel either.  It’s the Christmas cards.  And writing the annual Round Robin letter that accompanies them.  My daughter hasn’t even started her cards yet.  She’s still on the Christmas shopping bit, as I know to my cost.  Literally.  Earlier this week she asked, ‘Can you take me to Bluewater this evening?  I need to buy stuff.’
          Now shopping is fun only when you are (a) spending money on you and (b) actually have spare cash to spend.  There is nothing more boring than trailing a teenager going into shops that are as interesting as...gosh...a football match (sorry Mr V).
          Having saved up a small fortune, Eleanor promptly blew the lot on her beau.  ‘What do you think of this?’ she asked holding up a polo shirt.  Now I’m not being funny, but in Primark I swear to God you can pick up the same polo shirt for a fiver.  The one she was holding up was indeed a fiver...plus fifty.  And all because it had a little motif hovering over the wearer’s left nipple that signified it was...let me drop my voice an octave to signify respect...designer.  The thing that really gets me about designer stuff like this, is that it’s still made in China, it’s still rubbish quality and it still looks ordinary.
          My daughter reverently picked up the garment and went off to the cash till.  Whereupon a man with umpteen piercings, fake tan and a hair-do that defied gravity grabbed it and stuffed it into a bag any old how.
          ‘Excuse me,’ I quavered, ‘but that piece of material cost fifty five pounds. Therefore I’d like it folded neatly.’  I tipped the bag upside down and deposited the polo shirt onto the counter.  Eleanor looked horrified.  Yes, embarrassing parent alert.  But frankly if shop assistants want to work in over-the-top shops, they should give an over-the-top service.  Never mind folding said garment neatly, what about a bit of bowing and scraping too?
          We eventually left the shop...Eleanor with a bright red face, and the shop assistant having the vapours.  ‘Are we done?’ I asked.  ‘Not yet,’ my daughter replied, ‘I need to find something to go with the polo shirt.’  Groan.
          An hour later a second purchase had been made.  And then, just when I hoped we were finally finished, I was dragged into Clintons.  Time to buy a romantic Christmas card.  ‘What about this one?’ Eleanor thrust a pair of billing turtle doves at my face.  ‘Lovely,’ I replied.  ‘No, it’s rubbish,’ Eleanor put it back in its slot.  ‘Ah.  This one is nice.  No it’s not.  Oh look, this one’s better.  Um, not sure about the words.  Oooh, now we’re talking.  Oh, perhaps not.’  And so it went on.  Until literally every Christmas card with the headline boyfriend had been examined and exclaimed over.  If I’d known she was going to take forever, I’d have brought my own Christmas cards along and parked up in a corner to carry on writing them out.
          Thankfully everything is now signed, sealed and almost delivered.  It’s just that wretched Round Robin letter that remains.  Which reminds me.  What do sheep write in their Christmas cards?  Merry Christmas to ewe...

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Tis the season to be jolly. Maybe...


Now that we have a big toe in December, I am ready to acknowledge Christmas is looming.  Up until now I’ve steadfastly refused to admire the fairy lights sparkling away in neighbours’ gardens or open Christmas cards that have come through our letterbox.  I don’t know whether folk are just trying to prove they’re super organised, or whether they just love Christmas so much they want to make it last twice as long.  But for me, nothing happens until 1st December.

Every year I look forward to Christmas.  And every year it fails to live up to my expectations.  This is usually because family members who rub each other up the wrong way are thrust together and have to suffer each other’s company for more hours than at any other time of the year.  I won’t name names, but last year a certain person moaned about everyone and everything.  Everybody waded through a very tense lunch, listened to the Queen’s Speech with an atmosphere you could cut with a knife, and finally sat around the tree exchanging gifts.  I say exchanging but in all honesty it was a case of policing movements so that presents weren’t used like hand grenades.  By four o’clock the culprit had overstepped the mark and another person (who shall also remain anonymous) finally lost the plot.  For five minutes our living room resounded with the noise of two people having the biggest wobbly in history.

At that point I busied myself collecting torn wrapping paper and told myself we were surely not alone.  That there must be other families all over the land riding tensions, dealing with outbursts, biting their tongues or drowning their sorrows with the Christmas pudding brandy.

Will this year be any different?   Well I hope so.  Because I have flatly refused to entertain anybody on Christmas Day other than immediate family.  In fact, such is my rebellion that I’m seriously thinking about foregoing the traditional turkey and pud and letting my son do the cooking.  He talks very animatedly about vegetarian stew and a chocolate salt tart.  I’m happy for the former but will pass on the latter.  The dog keeps looking at me and mouthing vegetarian stew?

But all that has yet to come.  First things first.  The Christmas tree.  My daughter has renounced my tried and tested method of dismantling the Christmas tree these past years.  This involves flinging a vast black sack over the tree – still dressed in baubles and fairy lights – and carting it off to the garage where it awaits the passing of eleven months before coming back into the house.  Da-dah!  Instant dressed Christmas tree.  ‘It’s no fun,’ Eleanor moaned, ‘part of the enjoyment of Christmas is unpacking each bauble and deciding which branch it should hang on.’  Personally I call that fannying about.  I can’t bear it.  I like instant results.  Patience is not my virtue.  I’m the same when out Christmas shopping.  All these shoppers s-t-r-o-l-l-i-n-g along just drive me nuts.  What’s wrong with power walking?  Anyway, I digress.

So to appease my daughter I agreed a new, bigger, better Christmas tree would be purchased.  Did she want to come with me to buy it?  Good heavens no.  Eleanor was far too busy watching I’m a Dimwit Get Me Out of Here.  So she could hardly blame me for shopping for a tree that...well...came with few short cuts.  ‘Where are the fairy lights?’ Eleanor asked rummaging through the shopping bags.  ‘It doesn’t need any,’ I said, ‘they’re built in.’  My daughter regarded me in horror.  She should be grateful I didn’t buy the upgrade – not just fairy lights but also spray-on snow and plastic pine cones.

 ‘What about tinsel?’ Eleanor asked. I shook my head and said, ‘Gold beads.’  She frowned and carried on picking up the new decorations.  Gold baubles.  Gold ribbon.  Gold angels.  Gold snowflakes.  Gold fairy to go on top of the tree.  Finally Eleanor passed judgement.  ‘Everything is gold.’  My goodness, you have to hand it to my daughter.  She knows her colours.  ‘Is that a problem,’ I asked.  ‘It’s boring,’ she replied.

So there we have it.  The first bit of Christmas tension.  Watch this space.  Come Christmas Day, instead of flying presents, there might be a flying Christmas tree complete with airborne angels.  Which reminds me.  What did one angel say to the other?  Halo there...