Sunday, 19 January 2014

Sunday Summary

This week, I have mostly been…

Erm… good question. What have I done this week to make me feel proud?*

* lyrics cribbed liberally from Heather Small

Ah. That’s it.

Reading (still!)

I finally finished Jamaica Inn – talk about a plot twist! A shame that young Mary succumbed to the love of a slightly underhand man at the end when she could have taken on the family farm and made a new life for herself… but never mind. I’m sure DdM knew what she was doing!

I then picked up How They Met (and other stories) by David Levithan and managed to read that in two days (less dense text, less violent subject matter) – it’s an anthology of Levithan’s short stories written from his high school years onwards, all anecdotal episodes on relationships, unlikely and likely pairings, all written with his trademark taut observations and smart literary style. There was only one story among them that didn’t work as well for me – Without Saying – too many shifts in viewpoint that I lost track. But all in all a worthwhile read as a precedent for Levithan’s later independent work.

I'm now reading The Pursuit of Love {Nancy Mitford}. It's a gorgeous Penguin edition again.

{my copy is substantially less battered}


Still metaphorically and literally burnt from my last foodie experience* it was with some hesitancy that I embarked on my latest cooking endeavour… but I’m mighty glad I did. (And besides, the scar is barely there. Move on, QB, move on.)

I have a slow-cooker, a small one suitable for one-or-two-dish meals, and it’s remained moderately underused over the years with the exception of a couple of forays into slow-cooked rice pudding

and beef stew. With dumplings.

My best friend, however, is a convert, an evangelist, for the slow-cooker – so I thought I’d be brave and give it more of a workout. Nats (aforementioned BF) invited me to join a couple of Facebook groups on which users share SC recipes and advice – and I latched onto the simplest recipe there, gammon slow-cooked in Coke.

And it was DELICIOUS.

I did make the fatal error of using Diet Coke – full-fat Coke contains the requisite sugars to caramelise the meat (mmm… caramelise, one of my favourite words…) but I learned that lesson. After eight sturdy hours in the SC the gammon was tender, tasty and lasted for at least three days of meals. (Gammon, egg and chips was a must…)

Literally (and I do mean literally!) all you do is place a joint of gammon in the slow-cooker, pour a can of Coke (or Dr Pepper!) over it, leave the gammon on for eight hours et voila. Consider me converted.

I’ve currently got a slightly more complicated but equally exciting recipe on the go – sausage casserole with mango chutney. It’ll be gone 8pm before I get to try it but that’s half the fun of owning a SC: the anticip… ation.


After the pressure-cooker experience of NaNoWriMo, which I undertook in 2012 and decided against doing in 2013 owing to other commitments, I wasn’t sure how I’d get my latest novel up and running again.

And then I glanced over this article, bookmarked by Susannah Conway over on her blog – which advised that to develop (or in my case redevelop) a regular writing habit, you should attempt to write 500 words a day. Simplez.

With my life the way it is at the moment (get up at 6am, leave for the train to work at 6.30am, get back at 6pm, eat, swim or sing, collapse…) I needed to better construct my time in order to fit in the ‘more writing time’ that I promised myself on NYE.

And I think I’ve found a formula that works: half an hour a day at the speed at which I write, along to the Sarah’s Key soundtrack, renders me over 800 words a day.

Of course most of these words are doggone nonsense but hey. I’m writing again.



I’ve also taken a slightly different approach to my swimming this year, and my motto at the moment is little and often. I do have a target in mind when I get in the pool – ideally over 40 lengths (which equals about 40-45 minutes’ pool time at the rate I swim with a quick break every ten lengths). I’ve already got myself back up to 50 lengths.

I’ve also joined the Swimmers’ Support Group on Facebook (more commonly known as Did You Swim Today?). I was initially cautious about joining, thinking my 40-length triumphs would stack up pretty poorly against the open swimmers and the competitors. But actually, the group is great, supportive, non-competitive. Occasionally there’s a difference of opinion but everyone on there just loves to swim. I feel at home.

And besides, my 50 lengths will soon be 60 again… and then 64 for the mile…

Rewatching | Rebecca (because one du Maurier fix a week is not enough)

Mrs Danvers, you're freaking me out.

And now for the gubbins from the realms of the interweb...

Gillian Flynn rewrites the ending of GONE GIRL for the film -- here and here

And speaking of Gillians who write... Actor Gillian Anderson writes sci-fi series (now, ordinarily I frown upon 'celebrities' writing books but for GA I will make an exception as she's fabulous) -- here and here

This story of the late Japanese soldier who lived in a jungle following WW2 reminds me so much of Michael Morpurgo's excellent Kensuke's Kingdom

Two links from newly discovered emporium of great thought-fodder, Brain Pickings (thanks, Jo, for the tipoff!):

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