Posted in Writing

IT’S HERE…CHILDREN IN READ…an opportunity to bid for a book and support BBC’s Children in Need…

Today, Sunday 13th September, sees the start of the annual Children in Read Auction. It is held in conjunction with BBC’s Children in Need which began in 1980, and has raised over a £1 billion for disadvantaged children and young people in the UK.



All proceeds from the auction will be forwarded to BBC’s Children in Need

Last year I missed out on the opportunity to submit books for this auction.  This year, I’ve offered two contemporary romance novels which can be found on Lot #222

There’s also an option of a written dedication for the successful bidder.

Here’s my contribution –






Full details of these and all the many other great books on offer at this very worthwhile charity auction can be found by clicking on the link below.


The auction is open until 13th November, 2020 The Children in Need Appeal Show night which will be aired on BBC Television


So check out the books, find a favourite author or a title that interests you and place a bid for this very worthwhile cause!

A special mention too for Paddy Heron who has been responsible for putting this auction together.





Posted in Writing

Tuesday Talk. This week I’m with author Elly Redding chatting about favourite authors and chill out moments…

I’m pleased to be hosting author Elly Redding on this week’s Tuesday Talk.  I’ve posed a few questions and am showcasing her novel In Too Deep

HI Elly many thanks for joining me. First of all can you tell us a bit about yourself

I was born just a stone’s throw away from Hampton Court Palace, to a resounding chorus of fireworks. Nothing quite like entering this world with a bang, although it might have had something to do with the fact it was Guy Fawkes Night too!  We moved away when I was four, only returning for a couple of years so I could train as a nurse, but I’m a great fan of London and I’ve used it as one of the two settings in both my books.  My other choice of location for ‘In Too Deep’ was Devon, where I love nothing better than to watch the waves – although preferably at a safe distance, as I’ve never quite mastered the art of swimming. In fact, I almost managed to drown in the shallow end of a pool last year, which I’m told is quite a feat, even for me.

How did you become an author?

I’ve always lived with a dream or two bubbling away in my head, whether it was making up plays with school friends, or reinventing my life while walking the dog. It was only after I’d had my first baby that I started jotting them down, while breastfeeding my daughter, who was a very slow feeder. My first attempt was a children’s book, but then I seized on the idea of a screenplay for adults, and was thrilled to get an agent for this, but – sadly – the script was never taken up.  It was a few years later, while I watched the children play tennis, that I started my first second chance romance novel, and I’ve not looked back since.

How do you spend your chill out moments?

As my family will tell you, ‘chilling’ is not one of my fortes. However, apart from seeing friends and family (I’m getting to be a whizz at Zoom), I find gardening wonderfully relaxing. Whether it’s digging up weeds, or arranging my new plants, it gives me a chance to switch off and wallow in nature.  Although nature has recently decided it’s time to bite back, in this instance in the guise of two young foxes who, when they’re not looking cute, seem to have a penchant for digging up my plants and helping themselves to my runner beans.  So, possibly, not quite so cute after all!

Who are your favourite authors?

This is always a difficult question as I’ve enjoyed so many books over the years, and keep adding new authors to that list in my mind. When I was a teenager, I would devour anything by Dorothy Eden, Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart. I was brought up on the classics, too, and loved Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen and Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone With The Wind’.  In more recent times, I’ve enjoyed the brilliant characters in Rachel Joyce’s books, as well as psychological thrillers and detective stories too; thank you, Michael Robotham, Lindsey Davis and Sandra Brown for sharing your worlds with me.

Is there any other genre you would be interested in writing?

That’s an interesting question, as I do seem to be going on a little journey of my own, as far as genres are concerned. ‘In Too Deep’ differs from my first novel, ‘True Colours’, in that there’s a touch of mystery and darkness too, as Isy takes on the role of detective to discover the secret of Jack’s long-lost past. I also touch on a few social issues, and I’m hoping to continue writing about these and how we are all affected by our experiences in the book I’m currently writing.  All will be second chance romances at their heart, as I love these, but I would be interested in taking on a cosy crime story, perhaps, in the future.  With oodles of romance, of course, but may be with the odd dead body too?

And a fun question. Which historical character would you like to go back in time and meet and why?

History is full of inspiring characters who have tried to make the world a better place, and those who definitely haven’t. In a time where there seems to be so much unkindness and division bubbling away within society, I’d like to meet a woman who rose above it, and did not discriminate when it came to helping others: Edith Cavell.  None of us know, precisely, how we would have reacted, had we found ourselves in her situation, a nurse in German occupied Belgium, but I’m in awe of everything she did.  Edith Cavell not only helped others, knowing the penalty for doing so was death, but she made no distinction in whom she helped, coming to the aid of those on both sides of the First World War. I’d love to talk to her about her beliefs, her outlook and her compassion. She may not have changed the world, but she did alter the world for those she helped, and that’s a very moving tribute to a very brave woman.



One Little Lie.  A Guilty Secret.  And The Man She Mustn’t Love…

It’s been six years since Isy Forrester left home. In that time, she’s strived to forge a new life for herself in London, away from Jack Mancini, her father’s adopted son, and his devastating betrayal of everything she thought they had.

Only now her father’s in hospital, and the house that’s been in her family for generations is at risk. Forced to return to Devon, she finds Jack as infuriating and stubborn as ever, and just as irresistible.  Soon she realises the bright lights of London can’t hold a candle to him.

But Jack has a past, one which he refuses to share with her. And until he can trust her with these deepest secrets, how can she risk her heart?  How can she even begin to help him, when he won’t tell her what happened all those years ago – before her father brought him home to Hambledon Hall?

Set in the rolling countryside of Devon, ‘In Too Deep’ is the emotional story of a woman’s determination to win the trust of the man she’s adored since they were thrown together as children, by forcing him to confront the darkness of his long-lost past.




Elly Redding is an award-winning romance writer. Having originally written screenplays, her latest novel, ‘In Too Deep’ has recently been awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion, together with a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award and voted Cover of the Month.  Her first novel, ‘True Colours’, won the Festival of Romance’s New Talent Award, and third prize in the Independent Author Book Award “Words for the Wounded” too.

Born in London, she now divides her time, with her husband, between Bedfordshire and Devon, where she loves art, dancing and watching the waves.

Elly is a member of the Society of Authors and Alliance of Independent Authors, and would love to hear from you.




Twitter: @ellyredding

FB: Elly Redding Author

Instagram: Elly Redding

Posted in Writing


 Bird in the Hand


1970, the height of the sexual revolution and independence for young people. Set in Cornwall, Charmian is worried her future is mapped for her and repressive. She craves freedom and excitement. That’s not quite what she gets.

Bird in the Hand is a story of making decisions for others which reaps heartache. Charmian has two birds and a third on the way. What’s a girl to do? Consequences can be tough. We cannot mould our children to fit our own expectations. Sometimes it’s better to be the familiar stranger. Charmian and her family have much with which to come to terms but it’s ultimately uplifting.

Live, laugh, cry with, and love these characters. Lose yourself in a feelgood holiday read.

Book buying link: 


About Ros Rendle

Ros writes both historical sagas and contemporary romance; perfect for lying by a warm summer pool or curling up with on a cosy sofa
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Historical Novelists’ Society and the Society of Authors.

After living in France for ten years Ros and her husband moved back to the UK. While there, she gained much information which has been of use in her books. They are thoroughly and accurately researched.

Ros enjoys ballroom and Latin dancing, and dog walking across the fields. Having been caught out a couple of times, she and her husband don’t normally do both at the same time. She is a committee member of for the Deepings Literary Festival. Two daughters, with their husbands, and four granddaughters live close by, with whom she shares many marvellously fun times.



Ros’s social media links:

Posted in Writing

Today Tuesday Talk is hosting author Malika Ghandi who chats about writing and showcases her paranormal novel Where the Secret Lies

This morning I’m welcoming author Malika Ghandi onto the blog to chat. She also has a special promotion coming up for her novel Where the Secret Lies between 11th and 15th August, 2020.  You can read about this in more detail after the interview.


Hi Malika, welcome to Tuesday Talk. Can you first tell us a little about yourself.

Hello and thank you for having me. I am a wife and a mother of two boys. I am a writer and an artist.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing for fifteen years on my blog and my novels.

What made you choose paranormal? Is it something you have always been interested in?

I am intrigued with the afterlife. What happens after we die? Where do our souls go? I believe the subject paranormal is fascinating and when there is a mystery associated with a soul, the story gets better.

When not writing, what do you like to read?

I read many genres, rom coms, historical romance or mystery, and fantasy. I haven’t come across a paranormal romance yet (that is somewhat like Where the Secret Lies) but I am looking for one.

What is the most difficult part of writing a book?

The middle and the ending. Although, when I write, I let my characters decide what they want to do and what direction they want to take. It is never simple. 😊

Have you any advice for would be writers?

Writing may be hard but keep at it. It is all about trial and error. Never give up.

And lastly a ‘fun’ question. You are having a dinner party and inviting four famous people. Who would they be, and what would your reason be for inviting them?

I would invite The Wright Brothers who invented the Aeroplane because I want to know what kept them going after so many setbacks.

Second, I would like to have C.S. Lewis – the author of The Narnia books and find out what character he liked best, and how he came up with such a wonderful fantasy world.

I would invite Will Smith and Oprah and talk to them about their Law of Attraction journey to their successes.


A mansion (Haveli). A sealed door. A spirit. And a secret.

Nineteen-year-old Arianna and her family travel from London to India for a lavish wedding. Excitement turns to bewilderment and then curiosity when strange things start happening within the Haveli walls. A sealed door opens, and Arianna is given Anjali’s diary, which recounts a romantic adventure that began during the bloody turmoil of partition in 1948.

So begins a paranormal experience that leaves Arianna stunned and demanding answers. Who is Anjali? Why did the door unseal for her? Is there something the spirit wants to show her? What could it possibly be?

Where the Secret Lies will be FREE to download on Amazon on Tuesday 11th Aug – 15th August 2020.


Buy Links:

Amazon Link – Where the Secret Lies :



About the author:

Malika Gandhi lives with her husband and two sons in the East Midlands, UK. She is a homemaker

and in between caring for her family, she writes her books and works on her art. She

loves to experiment with different mediums, such as oils, acrylic and watercolour.

Malika was born in India but moved to London when she was two where her father was already


She grew up in London, studied in Southampton and moved to Leicester after her marriage.

Malika is very much in love with movies, art galleries, and libraries. She is also in curious about the universe.


Malika’s Social Media Links:

Link to Malika’s FB group:

Link to Malika’s FB page:

Twitter: @MalikaGandhi



Posted in Writing




Pride meets prejudice -can love blossom?


Beautiful young widow Lady Eliza Wyndham is determined never to remarry after a disastrous first marriage. The undeniable attraction that fizzes between her and Major Nathaniel Overton terrifies her. She rejects his advances.
With his pride badly dented, Nat vows to forget Eliza until he finds her in danger from an old adversary of his army days. His protective instincts are stirred and he steps back into her life, but will Eliza be prepared to accept his help?

Set in 1800 this is the first book in a series, The Reluctant Brides, linked by character. Perfect for readers of Mary Balogh, Stephanie Laurens, Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and Julia Quinn.



Josie lives in the English midlands, surrounded by towns full of history such as Evesham, Stratford-Upon- Avon, Warwick and Worcester. Which is perhaps why her favourite reads are historical. Out of all the periods to choose from the Regency Era stirs her imagination the most. The true Regency lasted from 1811 until 1820 but dates as wide as 1789 to 1837 have been included in the extended Regency period. For Josie the true flavour of this period emerges after the iniquitous powder tax of 1795, unsurprisingly, scuppered the fashion for hair powder almost overnight.

Josie has always dabbled in stories but it took the combined efforts of her sister and eldest niece to set her on the path to writing novels. Her Regency romances, with a dash of adventure and intrigue, are the result.

There is more information on her website at https:/


Social media links:

Twitter @BonhamJosie

Facebook Author Page  @josiebonhamauthor



Posted in Writing

Tuesday Talk welcomes author Trevor Belshaw who talks about how be became a writer and showcases his new book Unspoken…

Today Tuesday Talk is hosting writer Trevor Belshaw.  I put a few questions to him about his writing journey and there’s a chance to read all about his latest book Unspoken

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always wanted to write, ever since I was a kid. I used to write silly, plays that I would perform with my brothers in front of my long-suffering parents, after tea on a Sunday. I wrote a few stories back then, mainly about Spaceship munching aliens, or kid’s who get stuck in various places, like haunted castles and have to trick the ghosts into letting them out.

I didn’t really get going with it until around 2008-9 when the financial crisis struck and my one-man band, computer repair business took a major hit. I was left with a lot of time on my hands so I thought there’s never be a better time to see if I could actually turn out something readable. When the business folded, I took a part time delivery job which meant I had most afternoons and all weekends free. For once, I took advantage of the situation and to my own surprise as much as anyone else’s, I became a fully-fledged writer.

How did you go about taking those first steps?

I had a go at writing a YA novel, got three chapters in then printed it off and read it back a few days later. When I compared it to an actual published book, I could see straight away that what I had produced wasn’t going to make it to the top of the book charts. The story was good, the plot was fine, but the actual prose wasn’t much better than I had written as a child. A lot of he said, she said, he did this, she did that. There were different tenses in the same paragraph, the punctuation was awful and even though the missus smiled at me and said, keep at it, (she was always honest and would never have said it was great when it wasn’t,) I knew I needed help.

So, I joined an online writing community called, Writelink where wannabe writers could post up their latest output and get genuinely helpful and friendly, feedback. Nothing was ever torn to pieces in front of you. I met some wonderful people on that site and many are friends to this day. Their advice was invaluable and within a few months I was turning out articles and short stories that were as good as most things on the site. I met my soon to be editor, Maureen Vincent-Northam on Writelink and she still edits everything I turn out, including my new novel, Unspoken. In fact, it was Maureen that came up with the title. My Tracy’s Hot Mail novels were spawned on Writelink. I used to post a new chapter email chapter on there every other week.

Before long, with a growing confidence, I began to send out articles, poetry and short stories to magazines and anthologies. I was lucky enough to have many of them accepted. So, taking the bull firmly by the horns, I began my first novel, a children’s book which developed into an eight-title series, called Magic Molly.

Has there been any one author who has influenced your work?

I’d like to say, Roald Dahl or Enid Blyton as I’ve been favourably and somewhat, flatteringly, compared to both. If I do have an author mentor, it’s probably Leslie Thomas, author of The Virgin Soldiers amongst many other titles. Leslie could make me laugh out loud and have me sobbing into my sleeve on the same page, sometimes in the same paragraph. He was a literary genius who’s understanding of humour and pathos goes pretty much unmatched … Apart from a certain Tom Sharpe who had me doubled over with laughter every time I picked up one of his books. I could read them a dozen times and still find them funny.

Amongst children’s writers I loved Arthur Ransome, (Swallows and Amazons) And Richmal Crompton. (Just William.) Both wrote about eras before my time, but the stories were timeless so it didn’t matter.

If you weren’t a writer is there any other occupation that would interest you?

At school, I wanted to be an archaeologist or a private detective. Back then neither were a possibility for a young lad from the slums, despite a lot of Private Investigators in novels being from the wrong side of the tracks. I needed a job when I left school, university wasn’t done back then for kids like me and archaeology was a rich kid’s unpaid pursuit.

What are you reading at the moment?

Having just written a Family Saga and about to continue the series, I’m reading a couple of books in the same genre to get a proper feel for it. Pam Howes. The Liverpool Girls is on my Kindle at the side of my bed. I’m also determined to re-read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It became an instant favourite with me on first reading.

Have you another writing project in the pipeline?

I’m four chapters into the sequel to Unspoken. Unspoken 2. Martha, which continues the story of the fractious, Mollison family. I hope to produce a third which will be titled, The Pearl, a reference to another of the main protagonist’s children, Marjorie. The name means, pearl.

What advice would you give to would be authors?

Keep at it, don’t expect your first attempts at writing to be a blazing success, even if your friends and family tell you you’re the next Jane Austen. They are just being kind and don’t want to hurt your feelings. Get your work assessed by other writers, join a local writer’s group and read your work to them. Enter competitions for short stories. Don’t try to run before you can walk. Remember, only a tiny percentage of submitted books are taken up by traditional publishers. Don’t be scared, or ashamed of Self Publishing your work. You will need to work hard to get it noticed but if you do, you’ll earn much more than by going with a small publishing company who will pay you half of what you can make on your own, and you’ll have to do all the publicity work anyway as they won’t have the budgets to help you.

And lastly, the fun question. Name three things you would like to take with you if you were planning to spend a year on a desert island.

My collection of Maria Callas CDs, so I would need electrical power to plug in the Hifi that I’d have to take with me. Failing that, my mobile phone and a wireless, Bluetooth speaker. I’d also take my book-stuffed, Kindle and a solar charger for both kindle, speaker, and phone.

Thank you for hosting me Jo.

Thank you coming along to chat Trevor…

Unspoken Cover 3D

A dramatic family saga, Unspoken is a tale of secrets, love, betrayal and revenge.

Unspoken means something that cannot be uttered aloud. Unspoken is the dark secret a woman must keep, for life.

Alice is fast approaching her one hundredth birthday and she is dying. Graphic dreams of ghostly figures pulling her into a tunnel of blinding light become more vivid and more terrifying. Alice has only a short time left and is desperate to unburden herself of a dark secret, one she has lived with for eighty years.

Jessica, a journalist, is her great granddaughter and a mirror image of the young Alice. They share dreadful luck in the types of men that come into their lives.

Alice shares her terrible secret with Jessica through a set of handwritten notebooks detailing her young life during the late 1930s. Following the death of her invalid mother and her father’s decline, she is forced, at 18, to run the farm. On her birthday, she meets Frank, a man with a drink problem and a violent temper.
When Frank’s abusive behaviour steps up a level. Alice seeks solace in the company of her smooth, ‘gangster lawyer’ Godfrey, and when Frank finds Alice in another man’s arms, he vows to get his revenge.

Unspoken. A tale that spans two eras and binds two women born eighty years apart.

Unspoken is available in Kindle format at both Amazon UK and Amazon Com

The UK version is linked below.  The paperback version will follow soon…

Amazon UK


About the Author

me white shirtT A Belshaw is from Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Trevor writes for both children and adults. He is the author of Tracy’s Hot Mail, Tracy’s Celebrity Hot Mail and the noir, suspense novella, Out of Control. His new novel, the family saga, Unspoken, was released in July, 2020

His short stories have been published in various anthologies including 100 Stories for Haiti, 50 Stories for Pakistan, Another Haircut, Shambelurkling and Other Stories, Deck the Halls, 100 Stories for Queensland and The Cafe Lit anthology 2011, 2012 and 2013. He also has two pieces in Shambelurklers Return. 2014

Trevor is also the author of 15 children’s books written under the name of Trevor Forest. The latest. Magic Molly: The Curse of Cranberry Cottage, was released in August 2016

His children’s poem, Clicking Gran, was long listed for the Plough prize (children’s section) in 2009 and his short poem, My Mistake, was rated Highly Commended and published in an anthology of the best entries in the Farringdon Poetry Competition.

Trevor’s articles have been published in magazines as diverse as Ireland’s Own, The Best of British and First Edition.

Trevor is currently working on the sequel to Unspoken and the third book in the Tracy series; Tracy’s Euro Hot Mail.

Social Media Links:

@tabelshaw. Twitter   Facebook  Website   Instagram





Posted in Writing


There are only a few hours to go now until Shadows on the Water is published in e-book format on Amazon.  The paperback version will follow in August.  The e-book is currently on pre-order (links below) at a special price of 99p/$1.24 until tomorrow.





 Earlier this week Rebecca, my formatter, sent me the final file to check through before loading it onto Amazon. As I looked through it the thought struck me what an amazing journey this book has made since I had that very first germ of an idea for a romance set in the fictitious Cornish estuary town of Kingswater.  And how different it looks from the typed manuscript.

Dartmouth, Devon and Fowey, Cornwall (slideshows below)  have been the inspiration for my fictitious estuary town of Kingswater.  It will be a place I’m planning to take up residence for the next two chapters of this Cornish trilogy. At the moment I’m still at the planning stage for book two but I’m hoping it will be ready for publication some time in the New Year.

In the meantime there’s the first story to tell….


This slideshow requires JavaScript.



This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Posted in Writing



About Buried Treasure

 “I found Buried Treasure a compelling read. It was so many things: a love story, a hunt for clues to lost secrets, and a fascinating look at how our past experiences shape us, and how we can heal even after damage. The characters were wonderfully well drawn. ”

Jane thinks he sees her as shallow and ill-educated. Theo thinks she sees him as a snob, stuffy and out of touch.
Within the ancient precincts of the university the first encounter between the conference planner and the academic is accidental and unpromising. Just as well there’s no reason for them ever to meet again. But behind the armour they’ve each constructed from old scars, they’ve more in common than divides them. Both have an archaeological puzzle they are driven to solve. As their stories intertwine, their quest to uncover the past unearths more than expected.






Gilli Allan began to write in childhood – a hobby pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home, and real life supplanted the imaginary kind.  

After a few false starts she worked longest and most happily as an illustrator in advertising and only began writing again when she became a mother. 

Living in Gloucestershire with her husband Geoff, Gilli is still a keen artist. She draws and paints and has now moved into book illustration.

All of her recent books TORN, LIFE CLASS, FLY or FALL and BURIED TREASURE have gained ‘Chill with a Book’ awards.

Following in the family tradition, her son, historian Thomas Williams, is now also a writer.

Contact Gilli at



Find Gilli’s other books TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL at

Posted in Contemporary Romance, Cornwall, Writing




Yes it’s here at last. The cover reveal for my latest book which is now available for pre-order.  It’s been a long journey since I typed the first words of this story and there were times when I doubted this book would ever be published.  I guess every writer has these moments of uncertainty but mine came off the back of a life changing diagnosis earlier this year. Everything had to be put on hold in the run up to surgery, and that included writing.  And what about afterwards?  How would I be then? What if I required further treatment? How would that impact on my writing life? Not wanting to overthink the situation, I decided to put my writing on the back burner, get the procedure out of the way and then review the whole situation.

Luckily no further treatment was required so post op I spent a lot of time reading and reviewing. At the time I didn’t feel like doing any more than that. Healing takes time and I’d had major surgery so it was only sensible to take things slowly. The ms was on a file in my computer but opening up and starting the writing process again was something for manaña – tomorrow.  The only trouble was, tomorrow soon became today and days gradually turned into weeks.  Then one morning I woke up and decided it was time to bite the bullet.  I needed to find out whether my writing mojo had completely abandoned me. Would I look at what I’d written and tell myself I didn’t want to do this any longer; that I’d just stick to reading and reviewing?  Happily as soon as I read the first few chapters, I knew I couldn’t leave this story. I had to publish…but first there were changes to be made.

Now here we are in July with publication due on the 26th.  Not only that, Shadows on the Water will now be followed by two other books in a new Cornish coastal romance series. Because during my rewrites it became clear that two supporting characters had their own stories to tell. So just as the tag line on the cover says ‘Sometimes the end is really just the beginning’.




After the tragic death of her fiancé, Ava Warren is slowly rebuilding her life.  She has a supportive family, great friends and a job she loves, managing holiday letting company Estuary Escapes in her home town of Kingswater. Another relationship is the last thing she wants or needs. Until one evening she meets Alex Penhaligon.

 Alex’s father Sam owns Heron’s Gate Vineyard and Alex has recently returned from California, where he has been working for the past five years.  A case of mistaken identity gets them off to a bad start. But discovering his error, Alex is anxious to make amends and soon persuades Ava that he’s not quite as arrogant as she thinks he is. As their friendship begins to turn into something much deeper, Ava wonders whether she can at last put the past behind her and make a new future with Alex.

But someone is watching.  A man who not only thinks Ava should be his but also holds a long term grudge against Alex.  And he’s determined to get his own way irrespective of the lengths he has to go to or who gets hurt in the process.

Set on the south coast of Cornwall Shadows on the Water is a story of family ties, lost love and tangled loyalties.


Available at a special pre-order price of 99p/99c on and 





Posted in Baking, Biscuits, Cakes, Cookery, Mary Berry, Writing


 It’s been quite evident since lock down that a large section of the nation have been engaged in baking of some form or other.  Prior to my op I set up a regular grocery delivery as my immune system was off the Richter scale meaning the weekly supermarket shop wouldn’t be happening any time soon.  My experiences with online ordering have been mixed.  Items out of stock, substitutions; it’s been a bit of a ducking and diving game but all in all not too bad. And much better, of course, than the current queuing system keeping that 2 metre distancing – which I gather from some people is sometimes impossible.  Something that has become clear since I’ve been ordering on line is regular out of stock items appear to be things like flour, baking margarine and eggs and this week caster sugar, leading me to draw the conclusion that a big baking fest is going on.

I have to admit I’ve probably been having quite a few Mary Berry moments myself since lockdown with thankfully not a soggy bottom in sight! Last week I baked a coffee sponge and while I was in the process of beating the sugar and butter into submission, my mind wandered back to school days and our first attempts at cooking.  We came very late to the culinary art and weren’t allowed anywhere near a cooker until we were fifteen.  Today they start much earlier which I think is a good thing, and boys are included. Back in the day most of the males in our year would have run a mile before they got involved in anything as putting on an apron and using a rolling pin.  Almost as bad as having to partner us for dancing lessons in the gym if our PE lesson was rained off.

Our domestic science teacher had for the previous four years, guided us through the intricacies of sewing.  A smartly dressed Scottish woman she managed to transfer her total lack of humour from the sewing room to the kitchen with supreme ease. To  be truthful I think at times she found our youthful enthusiasm irritating. Although we were referred to collectively as ‘gels’ Miss Jean Brodie she was certainly not.  No amusing anecdotes or dry humour.  Instead she would lift her shoulders with a tired sigh and a roll of her eyes as if we were all beyond help.  There were also occasions when she managed to turn cookery into a ‘no gain without pain’ experience.  One of those was making meringue for the first time.  My mother used a whisk. We were given a plate and a palette knife. It took ages to whip up the egg white and caster sugar, leaving us with aching wrists and arms.  

In a time when Mrs Beaton’s word was law, we were taught how to cook a wide range of dishes – casseroles (which didn’t travel too well on the bus home ), pies, biscuits, quiches and cake to name but a few. Oh and one memorable and never to be repeated fish dish – soused herrings!  If we made cake or pastry everything had to be weighed first and then put into glass dishes which were placed in front of the mixing bowl to be used as and when the recipe directed.  At the end of each session she would give us instructions for the next week’s ‘creation’ and a list of ingredients to bring from home, although the cookery department had a large pantry and we could buy basics there. On one occasion in a total change from norm, I remember we made faggots. This involved the use of pig’s flead – an inner fatty membrane which resembles a net curtain and is cut and wrapped around each faggot.  An unforgettable experience for most of us and not in a good way.

Of course cooking has dramatically changed since my school days when traditional English dishes were considered the norm.  As a schoolgirl I watched Fanny Cradock on the box. She dressed as if she was going out to dinner. Full make up, fancy frock and jewellery which seemed totally at odds with what she was there to do.  Later I remember Graham Kerr The Galloping Gourmet arrived with natty cravats  and occasionally a bow tie. He always used to sample the finished dish he’d been cooking and the look of ecstasy on his face was another of his trade marks. And finally wine lover Keith Floyd, the man who  took us beyond British shores, treating us to new and exotic dishes from all parts of the world.

It goes without saying we love our modern TV Chefs too. Cooking is now for everyone. In fact some guys are excellent cooks. You only have to watch Master Chef or The Great British Bake Off to see the great food that’s produced. It’s a far cry from the days of Fanny Cradock with the faithful Johnnie hovering at her side. I sometimes wonder what she’d make of it all today and whether she’d approve of men taking over the kitchen. In all honesty, given her temperament, I think not!

Today we enjoy experimenting with new recipes. Supermarkets and stationers’ racks are full of cookery magazines. At home I have a large collection of cook books ranging from Mediterranean – Greek, Spanish and Italian – as well as Indian and Chinese. Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith also feature as well as my ‘bible’ The Good Housekeeping Cook Book.  Each week I do try to include at least one new recipe.  Yes, it’s not all about writing!

Many thanks to for the photos