Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Fantasy author meeting party

Have you heard of that game where you have to say who you would like to invite to a dinner party if you could choose anyone you liked.  Sometimes there are themes to the game, for example only dead people, only actors, or sometimes there are no rules at all and you can choose whoever you like.

I love playing this game and I could give you a list of people as long as your arm that I would love to meet and get to speak to.  Famous gardeners, politicians and authors are often on my lists, along with the odd fantasy character, I mean who wouldn't love to have dinner with Pluto or Goofy.  Or is that just me....

Anyway, moving along.  I know that many of you are bloggers, or read lots of blogs, and like me you have probably been approached from time to time to write posts on your blogs.  Most of the time I don't do anything about these offers, but I was recently contacted to write about my fantasy author conference.  The idea caught my imagination, although I have turned it into the dinner party game as you will see.  If you want to read more about the people who approached me, Eventbrite, or anything else, see the bit at the bottom of this post.  This is all my own work though and not a sales pitch!

Back to the game though.  In this version I have to choose authors.  I haven't restricted myself to those dead or alive, although I think they are all dead apart from one.  I have though kept to female authors as I needed something to help me narrow things down.  I will explain my choices.

Louisa May Alcott.  Need I say more than that?  I could just sit down with her and that would be a fantasy come true.  I think you know that I am a great fan of her work.  Being named after Amy in Little Women and having visited her home add that little extra spice to this choice too.  I would ask her how she came to write Little Women, what inspired the choices of the characters names, am I like her sister May - who Amy was based on - at all.  So many questions, I doubt that poor Louisa would get a chance to answer, I would be too busy talking.

The next group of authors were really all formative in my love of reading.

Firstly Enid Blyton.  A surprise choice perhaps, and possibly not the most popular author today, but I loved her works.  I read them all.  The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, all of the Faraway Tree books.  Without these I don't know what I would have read as a child.  I devoured them all and they are what started me reading.  So I would love to ask Enid some questions.  Who were the children in her books based on, how did she manage to write so many of them.  What does she think of children's literature today.  I would have a lot to ask her.  I would also thank her for inspiring a love of books and reading.

Then another childhood favourite.  Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I love all of the Little House books, I still have them on my shelf now along with some other books by and about her which are in my to be read pile.  I would love to know what she left out of the books.  After all it cannot have been possible to include everything.  What was the Long Hard Winter really like.  Did she miss the Little House in the Big Woods.  Did she ever return there.  What would Ma have made of her writing success.  Just imagine the stories that she must have had to share that never made it on to the page.

When I started at Secondary School - I think they call it High School these days?  I was 11 years old - the first book that I remember reading in English Literature was called The Village School by Miss Read.  For quite a few years I didn't know she had written any other books.  Now though I know that she wrote many, and I believe that I have nearly all of them.  There are a couple of illusive ones though, perhaps if she came to dinner Miss Read - real name Dora Saint - would bring me copies of the missing ones!  I can hope after all. 

Now as I read The Village School I can still hear in my mind the things that my teacher said about the book.  I thought that many of her ideas - the teachers - were ridiculous then and I still do now.  To meet Dora Saint would be a real treat though especially as I grew up in a village, going to a school that was very similar to the ones that she wrote about.  I am sure that we could compare a lot of notes.  I could also ask Miss Read about my teachers thoughts on her work and what she really meant by what she had to say in her work!

Moving on them to more adult choices.  I could say Agatha Christie, but I expect that she would be invited to a lot of fantasy dinner parties and might not be very chatty having been dragged back far to many times.  If I was allowed to invite an actor I would ask the famous Miss Marple actress Joan Hickson instead!  Far more interesting to me.

Must stick to authors though.  So my next choice is Rosamunde Pilcher.  The only remaining living author amongst my choices.  She is 92 apparently and still going strong.  I remember that my first Pilcher book was The Shell Seekers, I have my original copy, bought in about 1988 or 89 I think.  This was a new type of book for me at that time, far more grown up than I was used to, not something that someone had given me or suggested to me that I read.  I chose this - and bought it - for myself.  I love the way that Pilcher describes her characters, the places that the stories are set in and all that surrounds them. 

What would I ask her?  Did any of the romances really happen, was there anywhere or anything that she wrote about that she hadn't been to.  If you read her work, she always seems to describe things in a way that you could only do if you had been there and lived the moment.  To talk more about that with her would be wonderful.  Who knows, perhaps she reads this blog and will invite me to tea!  Yes please Rosamunde, I would be delighted to accept!

My final choice might seem as though it should live in the childhood section, but for me it comes in adulthood.  As a child I only had one Beatrix Potter book, The Story of Miss Moppet, I think it came from a jumble sale and probably returned there a few years after I acquired it.  Most of my childhood books came from the school library or a jumble sale.

So Beatrix Potter is my final choice, but not to meet because I have fond memories of reading her works when I was a child, instead because I am intrigued by her own story, her work, the setting up of the National Trust, her membership and Presidency of the Herdwick Sheepbreeders Association and many of the other things she did beside writing children's books.  I am not sure she would have approved of that great long sentence about her though!

I really only came to her work as an adult after visiting the Lake District many times.  The Lake District became her home, I have visited her house, Hill Top a wonderful place do visit, and found out more about her and that is what attracts me to her and makes me want to know more.  We have things in common, a love of illustrations, a love of the Lake District, The National Trust, yarn - well me, the sheep were her thing - and much else besides.

I will call it a day there, I could list many more authors and say much more about these choices.  sadly though I don't think I could cook dinner for more than these few.  I would love to have them all to my home for dinner.  I would sit at the top of the table and let them all talk and then we would work round the table one by one so they could all tell us more!  We would eat a delicious meal, end it with cups of peppermint tea - I don't like coffee - and perhaps a wonderful cake or two!

I hope you enjoyed reading about my fantasy choices.  I wonder who yours would be?  Tell me your top two female authors and why you love them so much.  I would really like to know!

Just a note about this post.  I was invited to write, for no fee, about this subject by Eventbrite, to find out more about their conferences click here.  All thoughts and opinions are as ever my own.  You can trust that I only ever write what I want to write about and what I really think!  Thank you Eventbrite for the prompt, it was an interesting one!


Sunday, 4 December 2016

Christmas at Basildon Park

I know that you all love to see the photos of Basildon Park decorated for Christmas each year, so of course I want to share them with you!

So far I only have some photos that I took on my phone - which came out better than I though they would - but I hope to take my "big camera" one day and get some more pictures to share.  As I am not writing any advent posts this year I thought that I would share some of the pictures today and then spread the rest out over the remaining two Sundays of Advent.  It seemed like a nice gentle thing to do on Advent Sundays.

No commentary, just enjoy the pretty pictures.

I hope you are enjoying a peaceful Advent.


p.s. just to clarify and in case you are new here to my blog, I am a volunteer Tour Guide at Basildon Park, they know that I exist (because I work there!), but I post about it because I want to, and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Five On Friday

Hello!  It is so good to be here with Five things to share with you on a Friday!!  Yay!!!!!  Can you tell that I am pleased to be here.  Oh yes, I am!!!

Just in case you aren't sure, or were not aware, I have changed the way that Five On Friday works a little bit.  Read my post here for more information.  There is also a link up post, you can find that by clicking here and there will be a link at the bottom of this post too.  This post is just my entry for Five On Friday, in the same way as you write and link yours.

So, off we go with my post.


No Christmas decorations up yet, but I did get the autumn/Halloween things down and put away.  This little bowl of decorations is on the shelf in my office.  I bought these as my new things for this year.  I always get a couple of new decorations and this year I apparently chose four, and then bought another two - the little birds.


My desk keeps slipping into a parallel universe of mess.  Every time I tidy it up - daily - less than half an hour it is covered in stuff again.  I keep find myself on the phone shovelling things on or off of the desk or floor (is that a floordesk?) while balancing the phone and trying to keep my laptop on the desk looking for whatever I need to talk about.

To be fair my desk is only small, I would measure it but my tape measure is buried.  As you will see below, a quarter of the desk is taken up by my laptop and another quarter by my fan.  Oh, and yes, I know that it is now technically winter  but I need the fan.  Hot flushes.  Nuff said.

I also need a bigger desk.  Or better organisation.  Or a way to stop that time slip dumping mess everywhere!

If mess makes you queasy, don't look at this picture.  This is how I found my desk on Tuesday morning.  It was clear on Sunday.


This is my knitting - with teeny tiny sock yarn!  I using tiny yarn and tiny needles.  Then I realised that my tension was so tight I would never be able to carry on knitting, let alone use what I was knitting.  It was stiff as a board.  I wasn't knitting a board.  I was trying to make a sock.

For now the socks are on hold until I can work out how to knit them without getting ladders on the sides.  So far DPN's have been my best bet, but my needle size was too small.  I have tried DPN's, magic loop and teeny tiny circulars.  My needle investment has been large, despite the tiny size of the needles and yarn.  My plan is to knit up this ball of yarn to make a very narrow (because I hope that will make it long enough to use) scarf of sorts and then I will start again with DPN's in a larger size and have another go at the sock.

You might think it is crazy to learn to knit by making socks, but they have lots of technique, there are some great tutorials - thank you Winwick Mum! - and you have to learn to knit something don't you and the thing that I want to knit more than anything is socks.  Plus I have to concentrate SO hard that it distracts me from everything else really well!!!


Somewhere at some point at the beginning of November I posted about my meal list for the month.  My chosen book for the month was Eat by Nigel Slater.  I cooked some new things and some old favourites and also gave up a few times and had pasta and a bought jar of sauce, fish and chips or some other less than healthy choices.  So overall the months meals were meh!.  Good when I cooked and not so good when I didn't.

Despite not cooking all of the things that I hoped to, I love this book and with one exception, I have never cooked anything from it that we didn't like.  The one thing we didn't like was just too spicy for our tastes, but I will make it again sometime with less spice!

My favourite and most decadent dish is the spaghetti bake (recipe here).  I recommend it!  We also tried the stewed red cabbage with blue cheese and apple for the first time (sorry can't find a recipe link). It was delicious.  I recommend it too!


I have had a spurt of finishing crochet things in the last 10 days or so.  I need to eek out some time for pattern writing and sharing new things with you.  The pile of things keeps falling on my hubby.  Not sure whether the pile is trying to tell me or him something.  It looks pretty though.  I want to get them patterns written though because I want to wear these things.  That alone should be motivation shouldn't it!

Oh, and the toilet roll inside is there because I was using it to ply yarn that I have been trying - very badly! - to spin.  I am a terrible spinner!!

Two things I can share with you are the scarf (above).  This is called the First Time Easy Scarf, you can find the pattern here.

The carrot was a gift for someone who really wanted a crochet carrot.  No pattern, I just made it up as I went along and no, I can't replicate it!  The nicest thing about this was the lovely carroty illustrated thank you note I received.  So kind, thank you, you know who you are!

That wraps things up for this weeks five bits of goodness.

To see more Five On Friday posts click the badge below, as I am of course linking with Five On Friday!  You can find out how to join in a grab a badge and everything else you need to do by clicking through to the link up post.

Thank you for stopping by today, I hope that you have a great weekend, whatever you are up to. 

Oh, and if you are taking part in the Christmas Card swap, today is the last day for sending your cards.  There will be a link up post to share your cards later in the month.  If you haven't heard from you swap partner, or been in touch with them, please leave a comment on their blog today, asking them to get in touch.  If you don't hear from them by the end of your day on Saturday please e-mail me with your name and address and I will send you a card from me instead and if you would like to mail me a card in return that would be lovely, but there is no pressure to do that.

If you get a message in your comments from your partner, please do get in touch with them!  They are waiting anxiously to hear from you.

One last thing, that I forgot before, I have decided to do an opening of my advent calendar each day on Instagram, so if you would like to do a daily window opening with me, do pop by my IG account each day between now and Christmas - you can of course find me as Love Made My Home!