I based it loosely on the Great British Bake Off show. Years ago, the programme’s hosts were Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, who were notorious for their dreadful baking puns and sly innuendo.
To give you a flavour of the book, here are some of the ones I came up with for my book. Don’t groan too much…
Sue, fluffy pink jumper clashing with her bright orange hair, stepped forward, beaming at us. “Welcome, contestants, to this year’s Best Baker UK! Why was the ninja so good at baking pastries?
“Because he had a black belt in martial tarts, of course.”
Kimberly and Sue cosied up to Rob as he chopped up a large handful of pistachios, tiny flecks of green flying off the chopping board. “Ooh,” Kimberly said. “I do love a chunky nut or two, don’t you, Sue?”
Sue, straight-faced, shook her head. “Nuts ground to a paste are my preference.”
Kimberly and Sue rocked up at my bench. Sue picked up a sausage, letting it dangle from her fingers. “Ooh, I love a sausage early in the morning!”
Sue’s joke might be the most obvious one in the entire world, but I played along. “Absolutely, Sue. The bigger the better too, eh?”
“No, no, no,” Kimberly chimed in. No-one but me could see the tightness in Sue’s jaw as she waited for the reply. “The size of the sausage isn’t important. It’s what you do with it that counts.”
She tipped her head in Rob’s direction. To the left, a camera zoomed in on him.
Bread, bread, bread
As I kneaded the dough, punching into it, Kimberly glided up. “Woo, Lissie!” she exclaimed, helping herself to the sultanas piled up in a bowl. “Are you imagining a certain someone when you hit that bread?”
She added an exaggerated wink, directing her head to Rob’s bench.
Deciding that I might as well give Graham what he wanted, I thumped the dough harder for effect. “Not at all, Kimberly. Though it feels therapeutic. Do you want to try?”
“Oh, yes!” she said, digging her knuckles into the dough I handed over. “It’s the yeast I can do.”
“Amazon keeps sending me Rich Tea biscuits even though I don’t like them,” Kimberly said, picking up the tin of condensed milk on my bench.
Spending so much time with them in person meant you could anticipate the jokes.
“But everything’s okay now,” I replied, retrieving a tin opener from the utensil drawer under my bench. “As you’ve updated your cookies preference, right?”
She high-fived me; the move caught on camera. “Ha! Lissie, you should replace Sue. You’re much better at this than she is.”
Sorry about that! If you’d like to buy the book, you can do so by clicking on the button below.
Some years back, I went the book launch of Stonemouth, written by the late (and extremely great) Iain Banks, where he admitted he made up the town where the novel is situated because he despised doing research.
That little titbit lodged in my subconscious, as I did the same a few years later when I wrote Artists Town and the Highland Books.
If you create a fictional town or village, there’s no need to worry about confusing the site of the town hall with the derelict church or placing two streets close together for narrative purposes (and risking a chorus of criticism in the reviews from the town/village’s real inhabitants).
Nor need you fret about people from those places presuming you’ve used them somewhere in the novel and portrayed them in an unfavourable light. The author Brooke Magnanti at another book event I attended stated that she made up the setting for her crime thriller, The Turning Tide, so as not to offend her Lochaber neighbours.
Artists Town, a coming-of-age tale set in a small Scottish town, was inspired by Kirkcudbright, the small Scottish town where I spent my formative years.
Let me let you into the secret of Kirkcudbright’s pronunciation. Those of us born in this tiny town nestled far from the madding crowds in the south-west of Scotland grew up chortling whenever the rare occasion of it meriting a mention on the national news arose and presenters mispronounced it Cur-cud-bright, when it’s—clearly—Cur-coo-bree.
Other Scottish place name minefields include Milngavie, pronounced Mull-guy, Strathaven, pronounced Stray-ven and Bearsden, pronounced Brendan.
(Kidding, Bearsden is pronounced exactly as it is written.)
Like Brooke Magnanti, I didn’t want to offend the locals, so I changed the name Kirkcudbright in the book to Kirkinwall. But because Kirkcudbright is one of the few places in the UK with a castle in the midst of it, any locals reading it will recognise the location straight away.
Mackies Fish and Chips plays a key role in Artists Town, and I based the establishment loosely on a sadly no-longer there chippie, Polar Bites, which had an excellent (and well deserved) reputation for its take on the UK’s favourite dish.
The Highland books, a series of romantic comedies/feel-good escapist novels, are set in the imaginary village of Lochalshie, which is a loose mix of Arrochar in Argyll and Bute, and Lochcarron in Wester Ross.
The Lochside Welcome, the local pub/hotel, is an important setting in the books and it resembles the Village Inn in Arrochar, appearance-wise, anyway. As far as I’m aware, it’s never played hosted the wedding of a reality TV star—also made-up—but given that she’s a member of a family who’ve been on MTV for many years and a ‘self-made’ billionaire whose fortune comes from a make-up and skincare company, there is no prize for guessing who she’s modelled on.
When you set your novels in bigger towns and cities, it´s okay to go with the real version, and I´ve used Glasgow, London, Norwich and even Great Yarmouth in my books, but small town settings will always be my preferred choice because it´s much easier to create a sense of community, which is why books and TV series set in smaller places appeal to so many people.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk on the internet regarding AI and its usage in the creative professions, including fears that robots will take over the fun stuff, concerns that students will use it to cheat by creating essays, worries about plagiarism, the ethics of attribution, and more.
I signed up for the ChatGPT research release because a writers’ forum I belong to mentioned its uses as a research tool, with the caveats that it’s not fool-proof, and its knowledge cut-off is September 2021.
Can ChatGPT replace human writers, I asked, and this was the reply:
As an AI language model, I am capable of generating text on a wide variety of topics, and I can produce content that is grammatically correct and coherent. However, while I can create text that mimics human writing to a certain extent, I cannot completely replace human writers.
Human writers bring their unique perspectives, experiences, and creativity to their writing, and they are capable of producing content that is emotionally resonant, thought-provoking, and insightful in ways that AI language models like myself cannot replicate. Human writers also have the ability to adapt their writing to different audiences and contexts, to inject humor, irony, and other forms of figurative language, and to use language in ways that are not strictly logical or predictable.
The first person pronoun use is already an attempt to ‘humanise’ and make the tool less threatening, which feels inappropriate. I fed that back to the system and received a polite reply, thanking me for bringing the matter to its attention, apologising for any confusion, and that it was more appropriate to use third person pronouns (the inanimate ‘it’) when referring to “AI language models like myself”.
The second paragraph of the answer used the first person pronouns throughout. Maybe I should have made that clearer—don’t use first person pronouns when interacting with me—but it felt a bit… rude, proving the humanising point.
Awe-inspiring poetry (or not)
In the interests of research*, I also tried a tool for generating poetry. It isn’t particularly sophisticated as the example generated when I asked for a haiku for my husband telling him I love him shows.
The greetings card industry might welcome it; the various poetry blogs I follow have nothing to fear (yet).
The observant among you may have noticed that WordPress now offers AI-generated paragraphs and art. The picture at the top of this blog is one example, as is the one below because I couldn’t resist asking for an image of a cat reading.
The image below that is what happened when I asked for a Vector image of a handsome red-headed man wearing a kilt. I leave it up to you to decide whether the picture it produced fulfils that brief…
For some weeks now I’ve been using Quillbot, a paraphrasing tool, to copy edit my fiction. I used it to rewrite the first paragraph at the top of this blog, and you can see that I rejected some of the suggestions:
While I have the system set to British English, it still generates Americanisms, such as suggesting I use ‘line’ rather than queue or describing someone as a basketball fan, when I said the character was a Hoops fan meaning Celtic FC, and the trunk of a car, rather than the boot.
Would I use Quillbot to replace a human copy-editor/proofreader? No. But I rewrite sentences myself now, guessing that Quillbot will reorder them, and the thesaurus element is a God-send.
AI for fiction research
As mentioned, the idea of using ChatGPT to carry out research related to my fiction appealed, so the first question I asked was, “how can you tell if someone has shot themselves or been murdered?” relating to a detective novel I’m currently writing.
The 300-word reply contained enough detail for my scene, where the amateur detective’s suspicions that his nephew did not take his own life are proved correct, to sound ‘authentic’, though an actual police officer/forensics expert might not agree.
It’s a vastly-sped-up version of using search engines and trawling through the results.
Writers worry about where all this is heading, myself included. There are so many potential pitfalls, ones I’m aware of, others I don’t have the imagination or intellect to come up with. ChatGPT says it can be used to generate drafts, as the final paragraph of the answer the AI tool gave me when I asked if it could replace human writers:
That being said, I can certainly be a helpful tool for writers and content creators, and I can be used to generate ideas, provide inspiration, or even generate drafts that can be refined and polished by human writers. Ultimately, I believe that the most effective approach to writing involves a collaboration between humans and AI, where the strengths of both are leveraged to create the best possible content.
There are writers out there who can produce genre fiction incredibly quickly–there’s the odd writer who can write a first draft of a novel in a few weeks–whereas ChatGPT could do it in minutes.
Does that mean that people writing popular crime, romance, thriller fiction with its clear, recognisable tropes could be out of a job, or will they still make as much money refining or editing the AI draft?
Will they still enjoy the endeavour as much? Will people want to read these books? There are already books on Amazon marked as co-created with AI.
Change is a’comin’
Whether we like it or not, the changes are here already and the only thing threatening them is potential power outtages in the future where people decide their electricity rations are best used for heating/cooking/lighting (electricity rationing will and has to happen if we are to stand any chance of passing the world on to future generations) rather than powering up AI systems.
When I set out to write this, part of me was tempted to use ChatGPT and/or WordPress’s AI paragraphs generator to come up with almost all of the blog, as the topic’s so vast and complex. I knew I would ramble, I wouldn’t come to any definite conclusions, offer stunning insights or do anything other than state the bleedin’ obvious.
The blog has taken me almost four hours to write, and a lot of mulling over in between.
But the creative drive’s a powerful one. There are so many of us who will always want to write (even vapid, self-indulgent and not particularly interesting blogs like this one), draw, paint, make music, act, sculpt, screen-write and much more, and hopefully, all fingers and toes crossed, human creative endeavours will always find an audience.
*also known as procrastination, a skill in which I excel.
My latest novel, Baked with Love, is now available for pre-order. The book features a fictionalised version of a well-known and loved baking show, so there are a lot of descriptions of cakes in it.
In general, there are a lot of descriptions of all kinds of foods in all my books, reflecting my other passions in life, cooking and eating. If I were any good at food styling and photography and filming, I’d run a food blog for sure. I toyed with the idea at one point and came up with the snappy (not) title, Emma Cooks the Books! along with fancy-schmancy graphics too, see above.
Anyway, as that did not happen (food blogs and vlogs look like a tonne of work – and many of them take place in immaculate kitchens, using state-of-the-art equipment that seems as if it’s being used for the first time), I’ve rounded up a collection of foodie pics and quotes from my books…
Well… the end of Happy Valley! What did you think?
The series writer Sally Wainwright receives a lot of well-deserved praise for her depiction of strong female characters, her ability to create conflict and ramp up tension and her characterisation and dialogue (“I might have singed one of your crochet blankets”).
I would be grateful for teeny-tiny percentage of her writing talent.
Oh, and did you know that George Costigan (Happy Valley’s Nev Gallagher) and Siobhan Finneran (Clare Cartwright) have acted together before? In a certain 80s comedy-drama also set in the north.
Click the button below if you want to see the NSFW clip.
Do you use the premium or business versions of WordPress, and what are the benefits and drawbacks?
Many of you who are reading this are also bloggers. I use WordPress’s bog-standard free version because it meets the majority of my needs, however I pay an annual price for the domain name.
WordPress for business is expensive—£240 per year (about $292)—for a lot of features I won’t use or need, though signing up for some of the premium services would also mean that the adverts and WordPress branding would be removed, giving the site a more professional appearance. I can also upload videos directly if I want to.
If I want to sell books straight from this site, which I do, the only option via WordPress is the business because you can install the required plug-in.
For the time being, I can link folks to my Payhip store, but best practise dictates that if you’re attempting to sell something online, you should make the transaction as simple as possible, i.e. one click.
Amazon will always account for most of my sales. Will this site generate £240 in book sales per year? Doubtful…
Can lifelong baker Lissie turn down a last-minute invitation to appear on the popular TV show Best Baker UK, even though her ex-boyfriend is one of the contestants?
Not a chance…
Her current boyfriend isn’t thrilled, and Lissie’s decision to put herself under the intense pressure of a reality TV show while spending so much time with the man who broke her heart six years ago appears to be a recipe for disaster…
But could Lissie uncover the truth about what happened all those years ago, prove herself to her grandmother, keep her boyfriend happy, and win Best Baker UK, forever changing her life?
A spellbinding, warm-hearted read for romance and Great British Bake Off junkies, Baked with Love is a thoughtful, unforgettable story with characters you will love about second chances, forgiveness, and the search for true love.
How to spend creative hours productively – part one
To format your book’s paperback edition, use a pre-made template. It takes approximately an hour.
How to spend creative hours productively – part two
Use no templates. Insist on formatting word documents yourself because you know the measurements and you want to do fancy-smancy things. Get yourself in a pickle trying to work out page breaks, section breaks, odd page headers, even page headers, numbering, and so on.
Waste five hours + one hour uploading the document to KDP Print – time you will never get back – only for the system to reject it repeatedly because the margins aren’t correct, despite the fact that YOU HAVE USED THE MARGINS SPECIFIED BY KDP IN THE FIRST PLACE.
How to spend creative hours productively – part three
Skip part two.
Anyhoo, the paperback edition of my latest chick lit novel, Baked with Love, is now in the system and will be available in mid-March.
Adventures at the BBC
On Tuesday, I took part in a pilot show recording for BBC radio. Because the show is about books and reading, a small panel of us, led by Scottish author and broadcaster Damian Barr, discussed Kazuo Ishiguru’s sci-fi novel, Klara and the Sun.
I was the only one who found the book a chore to read. For me, there wasn’t enough description, making it hard to imagine the world he’d created, the dialogue felt awfully stilted and the characters weren’t particularly sympathetic, but everyone experiences books differently, which is why book groups are so fascinating to be a part of.
The others were drawn in by the simple prose and lack of description, and two mentioned binge-reading the book, whereas I read it as part of my ‘to-do’ list for the day.
A few words were bandied about that I had to look up afterwards, having no idea what they meant, and I’m afraid I’ll come across as the panel dunce when (or if) the show is eventually broadcast.
But, as a long-standing admirer of Aunty Beeb (an affectionate British term for the BBC) and almost everything she does, it was a privilege to be involved,
What I’m baking/eating
For years, I followed a low-carb diet. Bread was the thing I missed the most. These days, I eat low-carb-ish, but a small amount of bread is a daily staple because…
Like almost all foodstuffs, it is far superior made from scratch. Kneading, on the other hand, is tedious, especially for those of us with butterfly attention spans. But after seeing someone tuck into ‘no-knead’ bread on YouTube, I decided to make two loaves this week.
You’ll need to plan ahead of time because the bread takes fourteen hours plus to make (dough rising time)—but it’s so easy and so tasty*.
Best served with lashings of butter and a thick layer of Marmite.
What I’m watching
We’ve recently discovered Detectorists on BBC iPlayer and binge watched the three series. The programme follows the fortunes of a small group of metal detectorists and was written and directed by Mackenzie Crook (left in the picture above). It’s sooooo lovely – great characters, acting, the setting, the wildlife. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for such a treat. I don’t know if it’s available outwith the UK, but if you are reading this and you’re in another country, I hope you can find it!
*As energy prices are through the roof at the moment, bread-making at home is a real luxury because you need the oven at a high temperature and the loaf takes an hour to bake.
Picture (or rather, hear) the following scene. You choose an audio book, press play, and an American voice narrates the story.
No harm in that—there are plenty of American accents that send the heart a flutter (Stephen J Dubner could talk about the science of watching paint dry and I’d listen, transfixed) but what if you’ve specifically purchased a book set in the UK, featuring UK born-and-bred characters, and the story is read with a voice from across the Atlantic, rather than a home-grown accent?
I’m asking because I received an email from Draft2Digital this week. The company acts as an aggregator, distributing e-books to all the e-retailers, including Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and library services.
Draft2Digital has been collaborating with Apple Books on their digital narration technology, in which the programme generates audio books from e-books already published on the platform, which is currently free.
That’s a biggie. If I wanted to create my own audio book, it would cost at least £1,500. And audio books are the fastest growing book market. But here’s the catch. Apple currently only offers English with an American accent.
I’ve listened to it; it’s not bad, and it lacks that robotic quality of Word dictation, for example. And you could argue that in the western world, we’re all used to hearing American accents, so it wouldn’t be so strange.
However, the characters in my books frequently speak in dialect. Is digital narration up to the task? Ideally, I’d like the late Victoria Wood to narrate my stories because she would throw herself into the story with gusto and use different voices for the various characters but that’s not going to happen…
Anyway, I’ll give it some thought.
Quote of the week
As it was Burns Night on Wednesday, the quote of the week is by Robert Burns. While I didn’t attend a specific event, I did host Book Group friends for an afternoon of eating, drinking wine (the non-driving, non-Dry January some of us…) and discussing books and the environment, which seemed like a fitting tribute.
What I’m eating
Saturday Kitchen on the BBC is regular viewing in the Baird-Birnie household. When a celebrity appears on the show, usually to promote something, they are also asked what their food heaven and food hell are. Viewers of the live show vote on what the show’s professional chefs prepare for them at the end.
Whenever I watch this, I wonder why no-one says macaroni cheese for their food heaven. Isn’t that what everyone would want for their last meal on earth…?
For the Book Group, I made a big batch of it, and unleashed the secret ingredient. Was it a fancy cheese, you ask? Did you make the sauce with cream? No, I picked up this tip from Nadiya Hussain. Crumbled up cheesy wotsits. (In the US, these are known as cheese puffs).
Game-changer. I promise…
What I’m watching
Tonight’s the night—Happy Valley series 3. There are only two episodes left, and according to the press, the producers filmed five different endings in an attempt to keep the ending secret, and even the cast is unsure which ending will be used.
Waiting a week for episodes feels peculiar in this day and age, and last Sunday, Labour MP Jess Phillips tweeted: Moves a bill in parliament that a week is too long to wait for Happy Valley, and it received over 6,000 likes.
What would be your food heaven if you appeared on Saturday Kitchen, and what would you hope voters didn’t choose for you? And how would you feel if a book set in the UK with British characters was narrated in an American accent?
This week in creativity, I’ve been wrestling with characters shaking/nodding their heads. Human communication relies heavily on head nods and shakes. We all do it, and we do it constantly.
While characters may bolt, dash, dart or flee rather than simply running away, there is no other way to say nod or shake his/her head. At a pinch, you could say, ‘made a shaking notion with his head’ and…
No, you couldn’t. It sounds ridiculous.
What’s a writer to do? So far, 34 head shakes and 38 nods have popped up in the 64,000 words I’ve written so far. That’s five head bobs too many*, though on the plus side, at least my characters are more positive than negative.
Other physical actions that are difficult to describe in any other way include:
Raised his/her eyebrows (quirked them?)
Shrugged (raised her shoulders up and down?)
Grinned (the corners of his mouth lifted upwards?)
For those of us overwhelmed by conversations and connections, Pinterest is a refreshing platform. You can spend hours (or minutes) looking at pretty things and not have to talk to another human. It is an introvert’s dream: a social platform where you don’t have to be social to be successful. This also means that it’s really easy to get started with Pinterest as compared to other platforms.
Kirsten Oliphant, Jane friedman blog on writing
Hooray! Permission granted to ditch Instagram and TikTok, where my feeble attempts to build a platform have failed miserably. Does anyone in the world put down their phone after scrolling through Instagram, and think, Well, I feel TONNES better now…?
So, after spending two years creating zillions of square and horizontally-shaped graphics, I’ve reverted to Pinterest-friendly rectangular ones, like the ones below.
This week’s Google searches related to writing
What weekday was May 28 in 2016
Waldorf doormen uniform
Photos of Waldorf reception (hard to come by, but I did chance upon the magnificent ‘swan’ bath towel pictured below)
Industrial estates in Anniesland, Glasgow
Pegasus in Greek mythology
Jobs in tech
What I’m reading/watching
Last year, the book group I belong to participated in a reading challenge set by the Booker Prize’s organisers. You can find out more about that here. We did not win (boo!); however, taking part led to other things…
BBC Scotland consulted us about a new radio programme about books and reading, and as a result I’m reluctantly excitedly taking part in the pilot show, in which a group of us discuss Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro.
According to the blurb: In Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?
Fingers crossed I don’t come across as too thick… If any of you have read the book, what did you think of it?
You might think for someone who has managed to write a first draft of at least twenty novels, writing the blurb (otherwise known as the book description) would be a piece of cake…
Not so. This week, I’ve been struggling with the blurb for a chick lit book that will be coming out in the spring. For inspiration, I copied and pasted book descriptions from three of Amazon’s best-selling chick lit books into a word cloud generator, which resulted in this image…
Right then, EB, I told myself, try to incorporate some of the words mentioned here into your book description.
A common mistake when writing a book description, especially your own, is to reveal what happens, so my first attempt was to try to focus on what people might feel when reading the book, or what they might be looking for when seeking out books (escapism, romance, etc).
The second approach is more traditional. Which one do you think would would make you want to read the book more?
This week in creativity part 2
As someone who scraped a ‘C’ in o’grade art many moons ago, I’ve never been particularly good at artsy stuff, but this week I also added A+ content to all of my Highland books’ product pages.
A+ content is the information under the book that says ‘from the publisher’ and Amazon allowed indie publishers to use this facility in the same way traditional publishers have always used it two years ago.
Here’s what I created for mine…
This week in creativity part 3
This week, I have also been doing some creative accounting, ensuring that I cling on to all my hard-earned dosh as tightly as I can…
The Stephen King quote above shows how books differ from films and the intimacy of reading. When you read, your imagination that fleshes out the world and the characters in your head, which is why no two people will read the same book in the same way.
What I’m reading this week
Still ploughing my way through A Place of Greater Safety and have now reached the part where journalist and politician Camille Desmoulins delivers his impassioned call to arms, which inspires the Storming of the Bastille a few days later.
What I’m watching
Happy Valley, which as discussed with one of my fellow bloggers last week, is SO GOOD.
Thanks for reading and let me know in the comments which of the book descriptions you think sounds the most enticing.
In 2018, I set myself the goal of becoming a full-time writer by the time 2022 rolled around (and out). Ach, it happened and didn’t happen… the money-side never materialised. I suck at selling books.
Is the universe trying to telling me something? Tempting to say, yes. The world has spoken:
Emma, thou should put down thy pen and never pick it up again…
Look, the late Hilary Mantel, Maggie O’Farrell and anyone else who appears on Booker Prize/Orange Prize etc or lists has nothing to fear, but I’ve had enough praise from strangers—via reviews/emails/comments on Wattpad—to believe I’m not dreadful and I’ve won the odd prize here and there that spurs me on.
I write all the time. Busy day ahead? I get up early to cram words in. On holiday? I bring my laptop (or even my cheap, crappy Kindle along with a £10 keyboard) and tap the stuff out in hotel rooms. Christmas, New Year, birthdays and holidays? Pah! The words are squeezed in.
So yes. Goal accomplished, though perhaps not in the way I envisaged. Turns out crafting stories that no-one pays you for isn’t all that bad*.
Recently, I dug out a book I drafted way, way back in 2016. It was easy to write at the time, but when I was done, I shoved it in the metaphorical drawer with a sigh of, Well, that needs a TON of fixing.
And there it sat, accumulating dust over the years. When I re-read it at the end of last year, the errors, and more importantly, the solutions to them, popped up straightaway. Normally, I loathe revising a book but this one has been a pleasure. I scrapped most of what I’d written, and instead used the novel’s skeleton, fleshing it out much more satisfactorily with fresh words, scenes, dialogue and everything else that brings it to life.
It’s so fulfilling.
Otherwise, I’ve spent the week grappling with book formatting for print, much of which has involved swearing at Word.
FFS, don’t start the numbers there. Don’t put them on blank pages! Keep this header, not that one! Look, I want each chapter to begin on the right-hand side. Just do it okay!
Weirdest Google search of the week
The writer’s search engine history is a weird and wonderful list that would raise the eyebrows of many a psychologist.
‘Names for parts’ is something I frequently Google. Settle down there at the back—I’m not alluding to anything filthy, just wondering what this bit of a vending machine/car/key/Calor Gas heater is called.
But recently, I was curious about how to get out of ankle tag. My main character had been tagged and needed to flee. Is such a thing possible?
Reddit (where else?) had the answers, and my favourite was—do your time and then it magically falls off. But, for dramatic purposes, I settled on the poster who suggested slipping a plastic bag over your foot, slathering it with lube, and wriggling out that way**.
Is it possible? Doubtful, but including it in the story allowed me to add an awkward conversation with the neighbours in which my main character knocked on the door and asked if they had any KY Jelly to spare instead of coffee…
What I’m eating/cooking
We booked a late lunch at La Barca, a tapas restaurant in Helensburgh for Hogmanay. Tapas is food for gluttons—why try one dish when you can have three or four? The place was also buzzing, which I hope indicates that it is recession-proof in these high cost-of-living times.
Returning to the quote of the week… My first date with my husband took place in a pub. He recalls nipping to the loos and returning to find me engrossed in a book. (Manners prevailed; I put it away again.)
The world is divided into those who always carry a book with them—which is easier these days because those books can be on tablets or phones—and those who don’t.
But seriously, opportunities to read books while out and about arise on a regular basis. On a train, on a bus, in a GP’s waiting room, at the hairdresser’s, in a long queue, lunchtime at the office, coffee shops… why risk not being able to take advantage of them?
Which brings me neatly to…
What I’m reading
The Ministry for the Future
Re-reading this mahoosive whooper of a book for our book group. (I chose it—592 pages, small print. How to win friends and influence people…)
If you spend a lot of time fretting about the environment, this book might be for you because of the optimistic solutions it offers.
A Place of Greater Safety
In honour of the late, great Ms Mantel, I decided to re-read A Place of Greater Safety after watching Marie Antoinette on the Beeb this January (watch it, I beg you—the costumes, the sets, the acting).
What are you reading at the moment? Let me know in the comments… and if you’ve got a weird Google search, post that too!
*I say this from a position of extreme privilege. I have a part-time job, a partner with a full-time job and no kids.
**Please note. I am NOT condoning criminal behaviour.