Love Is In The Air!

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Love Is In The Air!

Celebrated on 14th February each year, the cynics among us could be forgiven for viewing upcoming Valentine’s Day in its current incarnation as a colossal commercial venture seized upon by big businesses to drive huge sales.

Flowers – red roses are by far the most popular, with estimates of around 110 million sold 2-3 days leading up to February 14th.

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Chocolates – more than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold.

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Jewellery – estimates suggest us Brits alone will spend 58 million on jewellery.

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Cards – then of course there are Valentines Cards where an estimated one billion will be sent worldwide making Valentine’s Day the second largest seasonal card sending celebration after Christmas.

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However, the writer and romantic in me prefer to believe there is more to it than that. So, straight from the heart, and in the true spirit of love and romance, here are a few declarations of love taken from several famous love letters.

Zelda Fitzgerald to F Scott Fitzgerald

Darling – I love these velvet nights. I’ve never been able to decide … whether I love you most in the eternal classic half-lights where it blends with day or in the full religious fan-fare of mid-night or perhaps in the lux of noon.

Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf

I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way.

Katherine Mansfield to John Middleton Murry

My darling,

Do not imagine, because you find these lines in your private book that I have been trespassing. You know I have not – and where else shall I leave a love letter? For I long to write you a love letter tonight. You are all about me – I seem to breathe you – hear you – feel you in me and of me … 

John Keats to Fanny Brawne

My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you — I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again — my Life seems to stop there — I see no further.

Johnny Cash to June Carter Cash

We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each other’s minds. We know what the other one wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.

But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met.

Another Love – My book review

 

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Book Review – Another Love by Amanda Prowse

Published by Head of Zeus 

Take an intelligent, hardworking woman with a successful career surrounded by a doting husband, beautiful young daughter and all the material trappings anyone could reasonably wish for and you have all the ingredients for a perfect life – right? Wrong – especially when there is another love involved. And when that other love is so great, so alluring, so addictive and so destructive it overrides all rational thought and even the welfare of your own child, it is immediately apparent how caustic and far reaching such a love can be.

Romilly, quiet, studious and less pretty than her beautiful twin sisters – at least in her eyes – meets David, fellow student at university. David, gorgeous and popular is well out of Romily’s league “for she knew beyond a shadow of doubt that boys like David Wells didn’t fall in love with bookish, ginger-haired, spectacle-wearing girls like her.” Only, much to Romily’s surprise, he does. On their first date Romily decides she needs a little Dutch courage – just to help calm her nerves. And she isn’t fussy, anything will do, “she needed something to give her confidence, anything that might loosen her tongue and enable her to shine a little in front of this beautiful boy.” Their friendship blossoms into love, eventually leading to marriage and the birth of their beautiful daughter, Celeste. But, despite a successful career as a scientist, her loving husband, her beautiful daughter and her wonderful house, Romily continues to reach for the bottle – to manage a visit from her opinionated mother in law, to manage work – to manage life in general. Only, as with most addictions, one glass of wine leads to one bottle, leads to several bottles, leads to many bottles.

Narrated through the voices of Romily and her daughter, Celeste, Amanda Prowse does a brilliant job of demonstrating the destructive and far reaching effects alcohol addiction has, not only on the life of the addict themselves but on friends and family too. However, although Prowse doesn’t sugar-coat the consequences of this devastating illness she nonetheless manages to tell it with great empathy. Another Love is definitely one I’d recommended.

The Straw Bear Festival

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As we already approach the third week of the new year, the bad news is we’re still in deepest mid-winter in the UK and it’s cold enough to freeze the proverbial ‘you know what’s’ off a brass monkey. However,the shortest day of winter, December 21st, has already passed us by, so from here on in, nights are getting shorter and days longer and more importantly for me, thanks to the small Cambridgeshire town I live in, mid January also offers a welcome injection of colour and merriment in the form of the annual Straw Bear Festival. This weekend has seen the sleepy little town of Whittlesey come alive with visitors and townsfolk alike partaking in some good spirited drinking, street dancing and general good cheer as it celebrates its 38th Straw Bear Festival. Undoubtedly one of my favourite times of the year, it is this annual festival that provided the inspiration behind my own interpretation of such an event in my debut novel, 183 Times A Year, which takes place in the fictitious town of Great Tosson. And, just for your enjoyment, I include an extract below as well as a few photo’s I took this weekend. 

“My self-indulgent melancholy is temporarily hindered as I push my way through swarms of people gathered along every street. Our small and usually quiet town is bustling and bursting at the seams. An infestation of locals and visitors alike follow the bear made of straw – enthusiastically entertained by an entourage of storytellers and street acts. Musicians provide a melodic din across an eclectic sound of instruments. Bagpipes, Harmonicas, Maudolin’s and Hurdy Gurdy’s intertwine with the heartbeat of base and side drums to well known songs such as the The Curly Headed Ploughboy and the Old Drove Road.

Flamboyant costumes of the Morris, Molly, Rapper and Long Sword dancers inject a welcome relief of colour into the drab and dreary backdrop. Technicolor tatter-coats dazzle the eye, as do some of the more eccentric waistcoats, rosettes and neckerchiefs. Others sport flashing, neon armbands and some wear straw hats while others show off black bowlers or top hats. Women predominately fashion layered, ankle length skirts that rustle with every twist and turn whilst men prefer knee-length breeches. White handkerchiefs are waved ceremoniously and whoops and cries of varying voice are thrown up and caught on the wind. There is rhythmic clash of metal from the Long Swords complimenting the hollow collision of clay pipe wielding Morris dancers.

I look across a flock of faces and pick out Dad’s. I continue to push my way through the throng of good spirits, hoping some of it may actually rub off. Enticing smells of mulled wine and roasting hog hangs heavy amongst the atmosphere of pagan abandonment. Joyous escape from fuel bills, job losses and pay cuts. A brief but hedonistic trip into carnival and Mardi Gras.”

Copyright © Eva Jordan 2015

If you’d like to know more about this wonderful festival or the history behind it, click here.

Number 11 – My book review

 

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Book Review – Number 11 by Jonathan Coe 

Publisher – Penguin 

Number 11 is the eleventh novel written by Jonathon Coe, and although this is my first Coe read, research suggests it has all the hallmarks of his previous novels in that most of his work has an underlying preoccupation with political issues, often expressed comically in the form of satire. Number 11 is a bang up to date, state of the nation satire.

Starting with best friends Rachel and Alison, Coe takes us on a social and political journey beginning around the turn of the century. For the most part Rachel remains the main protagonist throughout, however, Number 11 is not really plot driven or character driven but rather a number of loosely connected short stories or episodes, where Rachel, predominately, has some link as does the Number 11, whether it’s a bus route, a house number, a table number at a function and also, not surprisingly, number 11 Downing Street.

The characters and their unfolding stories are used, in the main, as vehicles for Coe’s brilliant social commentary. His targets are obvious one’s but deservedly so including; corrupt business owners, bankers and politicians, social media – including cyber bullying and trolling – and reality TV. Coe also looks at the effect of austerity on the poor – be that housing shortages, a lack of decent job opportunities and the rise of food banks – compared to the unaffected super-rich with their many properties – often standing vacant – with garages alone valued at just under half a million pounds, used for storing cars never driven.

‘I feel,’ Rachel said, ‘that there’s my world, and there’s their world, and the two co-exist, and are very close to each other, but you can’t really pass from one to the other.’

Number 11 is a brilliantly social commentary about the current state of our nation. Coe is a great satirist and I often found my mouth lifting into a wry smile, however, I also found myself feeling somewhat deflated with his depressingly accurate observations about the absurdity of modern life. Therefore, it is not a particularly cheery read – and nor should it be. It also descends into a tale of horror towards the end, which although interesting, somehow felt disjointed with the rest of the book. I don’t think this book is for everyone, however Coe’s prose throughout is brilliant and I for one would recommend it.

 

 

A brief history of our favourite Christmas traditions

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Well, here we are, December is already upon us, and for those who celebrate it but have failed to notice, Christmas is well and truly on its way. Traditionally popular for gift buying, December is the month Christmas shopping begins in earnest. It is also a time for other traditions; the trimming of trees, the hanging of lights, the writing of Christmas cards, letters to Santa, turkey and mince pies, absurdly silly knitwear and mistletoe and woe in soapland.

Therefore, as a writer and lover of history, I thought it would be interesting to explore some of our Christmas traditions and where they originate.

Medieval times brought us the Holly and the Ivy. The tradition of decorating the home with evergreens is an ancient one stretching back to pagan times. Evergreens were valued for their ability to retain life in the middle of winter and holly, traditionally thought to be masculine and ivy, feminine, were believed to bring stability to the home.

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Elizabethan times brought us sugar and spice and all things nice. ‘Eat, drink and be merry’ epitomised Christmas in Elizabethan England. Spectacle was of great importance and those households that could afford it, would indulge in a Christmas feast concluding in a banqueting course of sweet and colourful delicacies. Beautifully decorated sweetmeats were accompanied by hot drinks including ‘lambswool’ – made from hot ale, cider or sherry, apples and spices, which, when hot, would explode to create a ‘wooly’ top.

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Victorian times brought us the Christmas tree and the Christmas cracker. The image of a glittering tree, it’s branches illuminated by twinkling lights and decorations, is one of the most powerful and recognisable images of a ‘traditional’ Christmas. The introduction of such is said to be credited to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband – both great advocates of Christmas – however, he simply popularised an already existing custom originally introduced to England much earlier.

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The story of the Christmas cracker is down to one man’s ingenuity; Tom Smith, a confectioner’s apprentice working in London in the early 19th century. After a trip to Paris in 1840, he admired the French sugared almond bon-bons wrapped in coloured tissue paper, and introduced them to London. Some years later, after watching logs crackle on a fire, he imagined a bon-bon with a bang. Adding a strip of paper – infused with chemicals which, when rubbed, created enough friction to produce a noise – inside a coloured paper wrapper containing mottoes and poems, the Christmas cracker was invented.

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The Christmas Promise – my book review

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Originally posted in The Fens – A FREE lifestyle magazine with the heart and soul of the Fens (for further information follow the link here), this is my review of The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft, published by Avon.

‘Hats off to Ava Bliss.’ The Christmas Promise promises, and delivers, a lovely Christmassy read with a little more to boot. Curl up with your favourite hot drink, or better still – a glass of wine, and settle down to the ups and downs of Ava Blissham in this modern, romantic festive tale.

Ava Blissham, milliner by trade, is struggling to make ends meet with her fledgling, bespoke hat making business. Christmas is fast approaching and as an only child, with both parents now retired and living abroad, Ava isn’t particularly looking forward to the festive season. Luckily Ava has a couple of good friends and a night out with them sees her being introduced to a possible love interest. However, the path to true love never runs smoothly, especially when there is a vengeful ex-boyfriend on the scene. Throw a spotlight on the pros and cons of the ‘instant sharing’ world of today’s internet based society, add some cyber bullying and revenge porn, not to mention the dazzling world of celebrities, including Ruby, the savvy wife of a famous footballer, plus an interesting insight into the cut and thrust world of viral marketing campaigns, and The Christmas Promise makes for a very modern day romance.

Set between London and the fictional Cambridgeshire town of Middledip, the narrative flows at a steady pace as does the storyline. As well as the two main protagonists, Ava and Sam, the author also introduces some other lovely, well-rounded characters, and Wendy was, without a doubt, one of my favourites – her strength of character and eternal optimism, despite the dark cloud hanging over her, at times reminded me of my own lovely mum.

Clearly well researched, The Christmas Promise also provides a fascinating insight into the craft of hat making. Add to that a liberal sprinkling of festive good cheer, despite Ava’s obvious dislike for Christmas (she has her reasons), readers will not be disappointed with a tale about romantic love, of family love, of friendships, old and new, and most of all, hope. A modern day cautionary tale gift wrapped in a traditional love story.

PS – if you’re lucky enough to have a current copy of The Fens (thanks to Sue and her lovely publisher) you can win a FREE signed copy of The Christmas Promise. Just turn to page 44 and follow the instructions. Good luck!

Mothers & teenage Daughters: the amusing facts and figures.

Mothers & teenage Daughters: the amusing facts and figures.

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay Free Images 

Originally posted in the (current) November 2016 issue of The Fens – A FREE lifestyle magazine with the heart and soul of the Fens (for more information see here) – here are some amusing facts about mothers and teenage daughters.

As both a mother and stepmother of teenage daughters, I had plenty of inspiration to draw from at home when writing my debut novel, 183 Times A Year – a humorous observation of contemporary family life. However, like most writers, I also carried out a great deal of research. These are just some of the interesting and amusing facts I discovered about mothers and their teenage daughters.

About teen girls and power

It is suggested that the mother-daughter relationship is so powerful it affects everything from a woman’s health to her self-esteem. Dr Christiane Northrup, author of the book Mother-Daughter Wisdom (Hay House), says, “The mother-daughter relationship is the most powerful bond in the world, for better or for worse. It sets the stage for all other relationships.”

Their need to separate

While most 5 year-old girls love their mothers with an unshakeable conviction, it’s often a different story by the time they reach their teens. The once-adored mother who rarely put a foot wrong is suddenly always doing or saying embarrassing things. Teenage daughters often feel torn between wanting to remain close to their mothers and wanting to separate.

The facts and figures

According to a survey posted in The Telegraph in May 2013 studying the relationship between teenage daughters and their mothers, the Facebook/Tweeting, selfie-taking, music and mobile phone obsessed teenage girl will, during a year:

  • Cry over boys 123 times
  • Slam 164 doors
  • Have 257 fights with brothers and sisters
  • Fall out with their friends 127 times despite spending 274 hours on the phone to them.
  • Guess what they do 183 times a year!

Hang on in there!

It is estimated that by the time a woman reaches the age of 23, she finally starts to acknowledge and appreciate everything her mother did for her. Most daughters are grateful for their mother’s guidance throughout the tough times, even though they failed to realise it at the time.