Book Launch Day

On Saturday 11th March  I held the official Book Launch for my new children’s story book “The Thirsty Flowers” although the book has been available since just before Christmas. This launch event was in two parts.

First I held an on-line launch on my Facebook Author’s Page, with a week of promoting the launch beforehand to encourage people to support the event. I also held a Free Giveaway competition. This sadly didn’t attract quite as many entrants as I had hoped – maybe because the book was  for children and not many children are on my email list! This is the first time I have done a ‘virtual event’ and hopefully I will do it better next time. Perhaps two weeks of publicity would have been better and probably I also need to find a way to reach more people. My main reason for doing it though was simply to feel that the arrival of the book had been celebrated in some way and in that I guess it served its purpose.

Outside the children's shopI also held a book signing session in my local High Street. A local children’s clothing shop kindly stocks my book along with my children’s poetry book “Barking At Nothing” so I arranged to hold my signing session there. The shop is on the corner of a small arcade, with the door just inside the arcade and we had agreed that if it was a nice day I would set-up my stall in the arcade just outside the shop but I could be inside the shop if it was cold. It was a nice day so I set-up in the arcade as planned.

After a while it was obvious that I was not really all that visible so I moved to a position at the entrance to the arcade and this proved to be much better, though it was not quite so sheltered and I did begin to feel cold towards the end of my time there.

With a young customerOne thing that I did notice during the two hours I sat there was how few people were walking up and down our High Street on what you would think would be a busy Saturday morning. High Streets are generally reported to be in decline and it seems ours is no exception despite the many interesting buildings.

However, like so many now, our High Street is full of places to eat, hairdressers and gift shops with not a lot else and these types of shops do not cater to everyday needs (how many times a week do you need a hair cut?). The Post Office, Newsagents, main Supermarket and the Chippy are all on a different street. Consequently the footfall was low and I gather it has been a problem since the last bank closed its doors.

There were times when none of the passers-by seemed at all interested in what I was doing there and I regretted not taking a book to read, but despite the low footfall I did manage to sell several copies of my book and was also given a few donations for the charity I support. Overall it was an enjoyable morning and at least I feel as if the book has now been launched in style.

Cockney Alphabet

Last month I wrote a post about Cockney Rhyming Slang (you can read it here ). You wouldn’t Adam and Eve (believe) how many more expressions I remembered once I had published it, but I’m not going to add any more to that now.

Also at risk of being forgotten these days is the Cockney Alphabet. Now, as I said before, I am not a Cockney. I was introduced to the slang and to the alphabet by my Dad, but he was not a Cockney either. I’m guessing that he picked these up from his fellow merchant seamen during WWII, some of whom probably were Cockneys.

I can’t remember all the alphabet, maybe my Dad didn’t know it all, but again it can be found with a google search and as with the slang there are many alternatives for the same thing. I have listed here those I do remember but had to look up suggestions for some of memory gaps and some that I do remember are not quite the same as those I have found on the internet but here goes:

A for ‘orses (speaks for itself!)
B for mutton (beef or mutton)
C for fishes (again obvious)

Then I had to look up: D for Kate (defecate)
and E for brick (heave a brick) or Eve for Adam

F for vescence (effervescence)

Again I looked up: G for Police (chief of police apparently!)
and H for bless you (Aitsshfa! A sneeze) of H for retirement (age for retirement)

I for lutin’ (highfalutin) or I for an eye
J for organge (Jaffa orange or even Jaffa Cakes)
K for restaurant (cafe  or restaurant)
L for leather
M for size (emphasise)
N for lope (envelope)
O for ture (overture or ‘O for the wings of a dove,’ ‘Over the rainbow’ etc.)
P for a penny (you know – spend a penny!)
Q for busses (queue – obvious again!)
R for mo (‘arf a mo’ – half a moment, ie wait a moment)

Had to look up: S for you (as for you)

T for two (tea for two)
U for mism (euphemism)
V for La France (vive La France or even viva Espana)
W for quits (‘Double you for quits’ or ‘double your money’  amongst others!)
X for size (exercise) or X for breakfast (eggs for breakfast)
Y for husband/mistress (wife or husband/mistress)

and finally I had to look up: Z for wind (zephyr wind!)

I have no idea what use you will find for this information but you must agree it is rather fun and it would be a shame for it to just become a distant, long-forgotten memory.

Sail or Sale

I have probably mentioned before that we have a sailing yacht. It is a Barbican 33 designed by the late Maurice Griffiths, a naval architect and long-term editor of Yachting Monthly magazine. Her name is Red Dawn IV, the previous owner having also owned Red Dawn’s I, II and III. It is considered unlucky to change the name so we kept it. She has been pictured on this blog before but here she is again:

Barbican 33 yacht

We have both been sailing for many years. I learned to sail in dinghies as a teenager and my husband spent some of his childhood holidays on board his uncle’s yacht. After we were married we lived on the Essex coast where we first owned a Tideway sailing dinghy and then, when the children came along, progressed to family sailing cruisers. There were a few years that we didn’t have a boat, when we had moved inland due to my husband’s job and while the children were growing up and into other things, but eventually the bug bit again.

We have owned several yachts since returning to boating and have owned Red Dawn IV for about 12 years now I think. We have always kept our boats on the East Coast, despite now living a fair distance away in the north-west midlands. We love the sailing there, it is less crowded (and cheaper) than the south coast and it is handy for crossing to Europe where we have enjoyed the French and Belgian coast and cruising the Dutch inland waterways.

Many people carry on sailing until they reach a ripe old age, but by then their sailing activities slow down and they struggle to keep up with the boat’s maintenance. Indeed, go to any marina and you will find a quite ‘graveyard’ corner where boats go to die, their owners no longer fit enough to sail and the boats in unsellable condition. The longer they lie there the more unlikely it is that they will be sold as they deteriorate even more. Anxious to avoid that fate for Red Dawn IV, a couple of years ago my husband decided it was time to sell the yacht while we were still fit and active, after all we are not getting any younger. Besides we had other interests we could move on to and we could satisfy our wanderlust with a motor home. We put the boat on the market.

The boat is in excellent condition and is maintained and equipped to a high specification, but it didn’t sell. In with plan B. This was to sail the boat through the French Canals to the Mediterranean, where we would leave it somewhere near where our daughter lives in Spain. We took the boat off the market, checked out some marinas and fully prepared the boat for this trip. However, due to various circumstances, not least the fact that we couldn’t find a marina that we felt offered what we were looking for bearing in mind how infrequently we would be able to visit, that plan went by the board.

We had given up our home marina berth and its annual fee in preparation for the trip so now we decided to put the boat on the market once more. To avoid the costly expense of having it put back in the water and pay a monthly, rather than annual fee, we left the boat high and dry on the hard. This time we really would sell it! With the boat out of the water we did not sail at all last year but enjoyed several trips away in our motor home instead, including a longer trip for about six weeks in the autumn taking in France and Spain and able to visit further afield than is possible when you are confined to waterways.

Again the boat didn’t sell and we are now on Plan C. We have taken the boat off the market once more and have decided to keep her a bit longer. We are returning to the idea of taking her into the French canals, but not through to the Med. Having spoken to friends who juggle their time between boat and motor home, often leap-frogging the two around together on the continent, it seems like a tempting solution. We now plan to return the boat to the water and cross over to France in the spring. We are no longer interested in heroic sea voyages  so we will cruise around the French and Belgian canals and perhaps into Holland, overwintering wherever we chose and then returning to do the same the following year. We will follow the boat around with the motor home and also use the motor home to visit other locations and to cross into Spain for visits there. At least that’s the plan.

Rhyming Slang

St Mary-le-Bow church

St Mary-le-Bow Church

I read recently that Cockney Rhyming Slang is in danger of dying out because young people today have no interest in it. Now I’m not a Cockney, you have to be born within hearing distance of Bow Bells (the church bells of St. Mary-le-Bow) in the Cheapside district of London’s East End for that. The bells can be heard for a maximum radius of about six miles. I’m not even a Londoner, having been born in the north-west midlands, not far from where I now live, although I have moved around in the intervening years. However I have always been a rhymester, rhyme fascinates me and so rhyming slang fascinates me.

The explanation given for the development of this form of slang is supposed to be that the East End market traders could hold a conversation with each other in this coded language and casual customers or bystanders would not know what they were talking about. So in the interests of keeping this tradition alive I share with you here a list of some of the rhyming slang terms I am familiar with. I assure you there are many others as a Google search will demonstrate.

North and south – mouth
Todd Sloan – alone
Apples and pears – stairs
Daisy Roots – boots
Butcher’s Hook – look
Porky Pies – lies
Skin and blister – sister
Barnet Fair – hair
Trouble and strife – wife
Loaf of bread – head
Whistle and flute – suit (of clothes)
Titfer-tat (ie tit for tat) – hat
Lionel Blairs – flares (flared trousers. Lionel Blair was a dancer/entertainer)
Plates of meat – feet
Half inch – pinch (as in steal)
Johnny Horner – corner
….and last but not least…
Jimmy Riddle – piddle (ie a comfort break!)

Typically these phrases would often get shortened, so you might say ‘Let me have a butchers’ for ‘let me have a look’, or ‘Nice titfer’ if you admire someone’s hat. ‘You’re telling porkies’ means you are telling lies, ‘on my tod’, means on my own and the ubiquitous ‘use your loaf’ means use your head, think about it, apply brain.

As I have said, there are many more such phrases to be found on the Internet in addition to those above, and even some alternatives to those I have given. Let’s keep the tradition alive!

 

A Little Bird Said…

Today I’m killing two birds with one stone! This evening is my first Writer’s Group meeting since the Christmas break and the topic is ‘Holiday’ – a singularly uninspiring subject with shades of primary school days when the first English lesson after the summer break was to write a ‘composition’ on ‘What I did In My Holidays’!

Last week I decided it was time to apply my mind to the problem but I was still uninspired. Then yesterday I came to the conclusion that I had better get come up with something so I began a story which had a very loose connection to holidays. The story is a sort of criminal mystery about a missing person which the main characters have to take a holiday from work to try to solve. I have written about one and a half pages so far, but it seems to be turning into a novella rather than a short story. When I woke up this morning, realising I was obviously not going to finish it in time for this evening, I decided to abandon it.

Now what was I to do? I glumly thought again about the uninspiring primary school English ‘composition’ problem and considering the shortage of time decided that maybe a poem was the answer – I can usually knock out a silly verse for children fairly quickly and let’s face it, ‘What I Did In My Holidays’ doesn’t have to be the truth does it? So here it is, the first draft of my poem for tonight’s Writer’s Group meeting, well okay maybe second draft as I have polished it slightly:

A Little Bird Said…

…you’ve been away.
What did you do on your holiday?

What did I do?
…now let me see…

I hitched a ride on a bumble-bee,
he carried me over land and sea,
bobbing and bouncing so frighteningly
I thought I was going to fall off, you see
I had no saddle and his back was slippery.

He took me to a strange country
where the Queen of the Fairies invited me
into her palace to take some tea
while my companion, Mr Bumble-Bee
unloaded his bags, to make honey
from the nectar collected before, he’ll agree,
he kindly offered a ride to me.

The table was laid so prettily,
with dainty plates made of shells from the sea
and tortoiseshell teacups trimmed with filigree
of cobwebs, as it appeared to me,
hung with small bells tinkling merrily.
The Queen sat down so gracefully
and I did the same, less delicately.

A fairy-maid came to pour out the tea,
which tasted as sweet as sweet can be
and fairy cakes she offered me,
drizzled with honey fresh from the comb
so delicious I gave an involuntary moan.
Mr Bumble-Bee then brought me safely home.

A pack of lies, my teacher said,
I want the truth now. My face turned red;

I fell off my bike! I bumped my head
and spent the rest of the week in bed.

© Elizabeth Leaper (2017)

 

Waes Hael

Wassail Bowl

Picture courtesy of Google Images

‘Waes Hael’ is an Anglo-Saxon phrase meaning ‘good health’. In modern English this has come down to us as ‘Wassail’. Since ancient times groups of people have gone out ‘Wassailing’ on either New Years Eve or Twelfth Night.

By custom wassailing can be divided into two distinct groups. One custom was to go from door to door bringing good wishes to the household and the other custom was to go wassailing in the fields and, especially in the cider producing counties of the West Country, into orchards to bless the trees to ensure a good crop for the coming year.

The wassail itself was originally a drink made from mulled ale, wine or cider blended with spices, honey and perhaps an egg or two. It could contain roasted apples and this gave it the alternative name ‘Lambs Wool’ because the pulp of the apples looked a bit like fleece floating on the drink. Many recipes for wassail, both traditional and more modern, can be found on the internet. The drink was served in a large bowl or goblet made from wood, or sometimes pewter or silver, passed from one person to the next. (Jesus College at Oxford University has a wassail bowl which is covered with silver and can hold 10 gallons!)

At each stop the ‘Wassailers’ would sing special wassail songs or carols and it is from this tradition that we now have carol singers doing the rounds singing Christmas Carols in the days leading up to Christmas. Each area of the country had its own particular wassail carols, several of which have come down to us today. In some areas the tradition only ceased as recently as the 1960’s and this is perhaps why at least two of these songs have become well-known and I learnt them both as a child.

One of these is known as The Gloucestershire Wassail. Here is the first verse:

Wassail, wassail all over the town.
Our bread it is white and our ale it is brown.
Our bowl it is made of the good maple tree;
with the wassailing bowl we drink unto thee.

There are several different versions to this song but the version I am most familiar with continues with verses wishing good health to various livestock owned by the householder, such as ‘So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek,’ and ‘Here’s health to the ox and to his right eye,’: – you get the gist.

More familiar, and perhaps more suitable for New Years Eve is simply known as The Wassail Song, or ‘Here we come a-wassailing’. For those who are interested the words and music for both of these Wassail Carols are free to download from ChristmasCarolMusic.org. Here you will also find lists of recordings of these songs – including versions from bands such as Blur and Steeleye Span.

Here now is the full version of The Wassail Song as I learnt it, again there are others:

Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wandering so fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you
and to you your wassail too.
May God bless you and send you a Happy New Year,
may God send you a Happy New Year.

We are not daily beggars who beg from door to door,
but we are neighbours’ children whom you have seen before.
Love and joy come to you
and to you your wassail too.
May God bless you and send you a Happy New Year,
may God send you a Happy New Year.

God bless the master of this house, likewise his mistress too,
and all the little children that around the table go.
Love and joy come to you
and to you your wassail too.
May God bless you and send you a Happy New Year,
may God send you a Happy New Year.

Waes Hael to one and all!

Seasons Greetings

Home made holly wreathFor the first time in ages I have made my own Christmas wreath this year. I always used to make them myself but in recent years there just hasn’t seemed to be enough time. However, they really are unnecessarily expensive to buy when my garden is full of holly, ivy, and fir trees as well as many other evergreens, so it seems rather silly to spend the money. It really didn’t take me very long to do despite bleeding all over it from holly scratches, so I thought I would share the result with you. I have also made a few other ‘natural’ decorations and hope to find time to post pictures on my ‘Words on Weaving’ blog in the next day or two.

I am taking a short break as usual over Christmas but before I go I would like to wish all my readers a very happy Christmas and hope you enjoy your winter celebrations in whatever form they take. I will, of course, be back to welcome in the New Year – see you then!

Sciatica

New Road BikeThere are many pleasurable things about riding a bike and many benefits too. I have just discovered a new one – Sciatica!

I have been suffering with Sciatica for the best part of three months. Now I’m not one to complain about aches and pains, I usually suffer in silence and if anyone asks I say I’m fine.

I was never molly-coddled growing up; all the childhood minor ailments, knocks and bruises were greeted with “You’re full of aches and pains nobody ever died of.” Only if I was really ill or injured was there any sympathy. Minor problems were treated at home, we only had the doctor if it was something more serious. My mother hardly ever took to her bed, if she did we knew she really was unwell. I don’t easily take to my bed either. As a mother you haven’t time to be ill. Who would get the children up, washed, dressed, breakfasted and off to school if you don’t? Who would do the shopping, washing, ironing, housework, cooking if you don’t?  Sitting at the doctor’s surgery waiting to be seen is such a waste of time that could be spent more profitably doing something else. All this means I have little sympathy for those who wallow in self-pity and take to their beds at the first sign of a sniffle declaring dramatically that they have The Flue or dash to the doctors with every big toe ache. If you have a real problem I’ll be there for you but don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.

I’m loath to admit that I have Sciatica, as far as I am concerned it is a just nuisance. Anyway only old people get Sciatica don’t they? and, just as I refuse to be ill, I refuse to be old – I’m not going to be old until I’m really old, whenever that may be. I will not give in to it. I will not limp. I walk as tall and briskly as usual as I go about my business doing my best to ignore the constant ache. Sometimes it is worse than others: sometimes I’m just aware of it in the background, but at other times it is a more persistent and painful ache across the small of my back, down my left hip, buttock and thigh, with pins-and-needles in my lower leg and foot. Then I can’t get comfortable sitting, standing, walking around, even lying in bed. Though it is often okay first thing in the morning it soon kicks in again and it is finally wearing me down. I don’t do pain-killers, they only mask the pain not cure it and I want to know if it is there or not. I want it to go away, permanently.

Two things give some relief. One is having a shower, ironic since it was getting into the shower that I had the first twinge of pain in my sciatic nerve. I allow the warm water to play over the effected areas for a couple of minutes and find that I then get a few hours relief before it kicks in again.

The other thing that helps (you knew I would get round to it eventually) is riding my bike! Whilst I am cycling along there is no pain, no ache, no nothing – all is well, and what’s more the effect lasts for several hours after I get off the bike. But eventually the nagging ache kicks in once more.

Sitting in front of the computer doesn’t help. Maybe I should turn it off now and go for a bike ride. Oh dear, no chance of that; it’s my writer’s group meeting tonight and I have yet to do any writing for it, so it looks like being another day in front of the computer.

Tandem Touring

Okay, so this is not quite as the title suggests. We have just returned from almost six weeks of touring through France and Spain but I have to admit that we weren’t actually touring on the tandem – we were in our motorhome with the tandem on the back so that we could go off for rides on it at various locations along the way.

Motorhome and tandem

Motorhome with tandem, Valencia, Spain

One of the drawbacks with a motorhome is that you have no alternative transport and if you want to go anywhere you either have to drag the lumbering thing with you, use public transport or take a bike. (Some people actually tow a small car but one of the reasons we swapped our caravan for a motorhome was in order to avoid towing.) So we decided it might be fun to take the tandem.

The first tandem excursion was a couple of days after we had arrived in France on the overnight ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe. We had stopped at an Aires in the village of Montville just north of Rouen. The plan was that we would cycle into Rouen and visit the cathedral. Hubby reckoned this would be a round trip of about 12 or maybe 13 miles. In the event it was more like 25 or 26 miles, was extremely hilly, alternately cold then hot then cold and took considerably longer to get to Rouen than we had envisaged, giving us only about an hour in the town before our return trip. I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with the cathedral but have since learned that there are two in Rouen and I think we went to ‘the wrong one’. Maybe next time!

We then spent a few days with some friends who run a B&B near Alencon before moving on south so it was about four days before we got on the bike again. This time we were at an Aires called La Petite Gare at Uzerche, an old railway station. The track has been removed to create a public amenity and cycle path. It was a lovely gentle and flat ride! It was hot and we were in shorts and t-shirts. This was to be our last ride for a while as we wended our way via a visit of several days with my cousin near Toulouse and a few other overnight stops plus two days at Carcassonne – lovely medieval city, could have done with longer here – until we arrived at our daughter’s some 45 mins drive inland from Tarragona in Catalunia, Spain.

We stayed here for about a week and as we had no intention of driving the motorhome up and down their lumpy, bumpy, rocky, narrow track on a regular basis the tandem was our transport of choice. On it we made trips into the local village and to the nearest town, Mora D’Ebre. I have to say it was colder here than I had expected and we were glad we had packed some warm cycling gear. On one ride we nearly ran over a large snake that was thrashing about in the middle of the road. I wondered if it had been knocked by a tractor that went down the road ahead of us. When we returned down the road a short while later it had gone so can’t have been badly hurt.

Husband and tandem

My husband and tandem,
Peniscola, Spain

Then we discovered that we had six broken spokes in the back wheel! Why the wheel didn’t collapse we will never know. We tried to get some replacement spokes from our daughter’s favourite bike shop but they didn’t have the correct size. It was a few days before we managed to get any and by then we had moved on to a campsite near Peniscola, north of Valencia. We bought ten spokes so we had four spare. A few days later we broke another and this was to be the pattern for the next several days. We bought another six spokes in Oliva, just south of Valencia, when we only had one spare one left. The next day another broke. My husband had not been convinced when we bought it that the tandem had its original wheels and when the chap from the bike shop in Oliva looked at the wheel he said the spokes were not of good enough quality. Now we had replaced all the ‘inside’ spokes in the back wheel with stronger ones and checked their tension. Fortunately we had no further trouble.

Snow over the Mountains

Over the Mountains

The bike next came out in San Sebastian after a horrendous drive over the mountains from Pamplona in the snow! (After two days of almost continuous heavy rain) This is not what we went to Spain for. Once the snow and rain had stopped we had a gloriously sunny day, though cold, and rode the tandem through the town and along the sea front. What a lovely place – though riding a tandem through town with all the roadside furniture and pedestrians drifting around over the cycle track does not make for easy riding. Maybe we would have been better with solo bikes! Every time the pilot slowed down without warning it jolted through my body as I tried to peddle against sudden resistance, being unable to see ahead too well to anticipate!

Your truly, San Sebastian. Where did I leave the tandem?

Your truly, San Sebastian. Where did I leave the tandem?

Our last tandem ride of the trip was around the old city at La Rochelle, France, again a very interesting place. There had been a marathon earlier in the day and although the event had finished when we got the bike out the place was still heaving and again a tandem was not really the ideal bike for the stop/go conditions. After that it was back to our friends near Alencon before returning to the UK, it was pretty cold and frosty so the bike stayed on the back of the motorhome.

It was great fun to have the tandem with us but in retrospect taking the solo mountain bikes might have been a better idea – easier to get around towns and less likely to break spokes out in the rough countryside.

Now the tandem needs a thorough overhaul – especially the back wheel! Will we use it again over the winter? I don’t know but if we do I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.

 

Public Spirit!

Tree on grass triangleAs I have mentioned before, our house is on a corner plot. On the corner itself is a triangle of grass, separated from our plot by a footpath which runs diagonally across the corner. On the triangle of grass there grows a tree. Actually it could well be a tall shrub as it has multiple trunks and the foliage starts low down, plus it isn’t all that tall by tree standards! I don’t know what species it is.

Because the corner is north facing the tree/shrub grows at an angle leaning out towards the road in order to grab what afternoon sunlight it can. This means that the branches, which at this time of year are laden with bright red berries, dangle over the road, not only obstructing the view round the corner for traffic trying to turn out of our road but also very nearly touching cars, cyclist and other road users as they turn in.

The triangle of grass with the tree belongs to the council and they mow the grass several times a year but they never touch the tree, so each year I go out and do my public-spirited bit by pruning the tree. Over the last few weeks I have been looking at the tree and, noticing that it had once more stretched out over the road, I had been thinking it was time to do something again.

So, yesterday afternoon (in the morning we had been out for a ride on our tandem – this is irrelevant but I add it so you know that the tandem hasn’t been abandoned in the shed!) I took my wheel-barrow and tree pruning tools and lopped off the offending branches. I try to prune only just enough to alleviate the problem. I took the picture at the top of this post after pruning, showing the that the turning is now clear. I’m sorry I forgot to take a ‘before’ picture to show the difference.

Tree branch and berriesThis second picture is a close up of a berry laden branch from a tree of the same species which grows in our garden. Our tree is growing up beside the remains of a stump of another tree that had already been chopped down when we moved here. I believe this one to be self-set, possibly from a berry dropped by a bird from the tree on the grass triangle just over the hedge. There are several such trees in the neighbourhood at varying stages of growth so I think it probably self-sets very readily. If any one can tell me what it is I would be very grateful.

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