Sunday 31 January 2010

Bird Cake

Because I topped up all the outdoor feeding stations for the Great Garden Birdwatch this weekend, I have been enlivening the morning by making new supplies of birdcake. I find this vastly cheaper than buying the squares ready made from the pet shop!

Take one scoop (that's it in the yellow) of feeder-seed-mix, one scoop of soft-bill ground mix (basically oats and sultanas) and one scoop of the bread-and-toast crumbs that get saved in a bowl instead of being thrown away because the birds like them.

Got that?

Now blitz a small xmas-pud containerful of peanuts in the ancient electric coffee grinder that no one uses any more. Ignore the strange smell. It's not used often enough to worry about it.

Melt a 500g block of dripping in a large saucepan. TAKE IT OFF THE HEAT. Pour everything in and stir with the spoon marked "bird fat only". If the mixture is still runny, add more of everything.

Now spoon into the square cases that you saved from when you did use to buy the cakes from the pet shop. Or you can use empty cheese tubs instead.

Put out in the porch to cool down. Days like today that will take 20 mins max, I'd have thought.

The you can slide them into those square wire mesh containers for all to enjoy!

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Last Wishes - Georgian style!

Hooray! The Spring Season of lectures (Spring? So what was that sleet doing outside?) from Bury St Edmunds Record Office has started!

Today's was on the Wills left by various members of Georgian society in and around BStE. On a serious note, it is possible to learn a great deal about the historical mind-set from Wills. On a not-so-serious note, some of the Last Wishes are priceless (and a goldmine for historical novelists).

Wills in the 1760-1820 period were not nearly so dry and stuffy as they tend to be today. Dr Pat Murrell read out some lovely snippets, including one chap who wrote in his will that he was "making this will sitting in the inglenook next to the chimney with my leg raised upon a footstall". There was also the Rector who noted - also in the legal document - that even though he had made his Last Will some years previously, this was a new Last Will since every year he had less and less to leave.

And then there was the woman who left "all my land, buildings, plate, linen and effects to my daughter - BUT NOT IF SHE MARRIES THE SHOEMAKER!"

But how about this one? Pat saved it until last and it's an absolute floorer if ever I heard one. Just imagine the faces of the assembled family as they gathered to hear William Ruffell of Shimpling's last wishes in 1803. (It's a bit long. Bear with it.)

"As this life must soon end, and my frame will decay,
And my soul to some far-distant clime wing its way.
Ere that time arrives, now I free am from cares,
I thus wish to settle my worldly affairs.
A course right and proper men of sense will agree.
I am now strong and hearty, my age forty-three;
I make this my last will, as I think 'tis quite time.
It conveys all I wish, though 'tis written in rhyme.
To employ an attorney I ne'er was inclin'd.
They are pests to society, sharks of mankind.
To avoid that base tribe my own will I now draw.
May I ever escape coming under their paw.

To Ezra Dalton, my nephew, I give all my land,
With the old Gothic cottage that thereon doth stand;
'Tis near Shimpling Great Road, in which I now dwell,
It looks like a chapel or hermit's old cell,
With my furniture, plate, and linen likewise.
And securities, money, with what may arise.
'Tis my wish and desire that he should enjoy these,
And pray let him take even my skin, if he please.
To my loving, kind sister I give and bequeath.
For her tender regard, when this world I shall leave,
If she choose to accept it, my rump-bone may take.
And tip it with silver, a whistle to make.
My brother-in-law is a strange-tempered dog;
He's as fierce as a tiger, in manners a hog;
A petty tyrant at home, his frowns how they dread;
Two ideas at once never entered his head.
So proud and so covetous, moreover so mean,
I dislike to look at him, the fellow is so lean.
He ne'er behaved well, and, though very unwilling.
Yet I feel that I must cut him off with a shilling.

My executors, too, should be men of good fame;
I appoint Edmund Ruffell, of Cockfield, by name;
In his old easy chair, with short pipe and snuff,
What matter his whims, he is honest enough;
With Samuel Seely, of Alpheton Lion,
I like his strong beer, and his word can rely on.
When Death's iron hand gives the last fatal blow.
And my shattered old frame in the dust must lie low,
Without funeral pomp let my remains be conveyed
To Brent Eleigh churchyard, near my father be laid.
This, written with my own hand, there can be no appeal,
I now therefore at once set my hand and my seal.
As being my last will; I to this fully agree.
This eighteenth day of March, eighteen hundred and three."

Friday 22 January 2010

January RNA panel

Back from lovely couple of days in London full of meetings galore and rather nice food. That is - the lovely couple of days were full of meetings and I am full of rather nice food.

Highlight was the January RNA meeting, for which Chairman Katie Fforde had assembled a very fine panel. From left to right: Sue Moorcroft (author), Georgina Hawtrey-Woore (editor at Random House), Lizzy Kremer (agent with David Higham Associates)

Lots of useful questions and answers - the most encouraging being that Romantic Fiction always does well in a recession and that good writers are still being bought, still being published and still selling!

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Another lovely review!

Another lovely review - this time from the completely charming Liz Fenwick who said she couldn't put Fortunate Wager down.

Thanks, Liz!

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Wonderful review for Fortunate Wager!

Thank you to Cybil from Rakehell for this wonderful review of Fortunate Wager. I loved writing this book, so I'm delighted that she enjoyed reading it and took from it all that I was trying to convey.

And if anyone is thinking of buying a copy - it's a staggering £11.69 from Amazon right now!!!

(Also, they still have Fair Deception at £14.94 - it can't last long!)

Friday 1 January 2010

My one resolution

I'm only making one resolution this year on the grounds that it'll be less easy to break it if I don't have half a dozen others in hand.

It isn't to eat sensibly, because I promise myself that after every meal. It isn't to exercise more, because I vow to do that every time I'm out of breath racing to beat the free-parking limit. It isn't to drink less because I remember that after every RNA meet-up.

It's a resolution that's really quite difficult.

Put Writing First

I believe women are conditioned to look after others first and themselves later. I certainly am. I have this huge sense of responsibility that has me saying "yes, of course" when I really mean "no, I don't have time".

But this year I'm totally going to try. I have short stories waiting to be written, I have the third Newmarket Regency floundering at the Midsummer Fair, I have an exciting new project that needs me to concentrate on it right now.

I don't think I can write before I clear my emails in the morning - tried that before and it was a disaster - but I'll whizz through the posts, answer quickly and succinctly, and then I'll write.

So, one resolution that I honestly want to make work. What's your one?