One staff officer jumped right over another staff officer’s head…

On 21 May we had a launch party for Surviving the Death Railway; A POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home in the beautiful home where I spent the second half of my childhood. Here it is in the early morning of our wedding day in 1977. Dipford 1977 The party went splendidly and I was moved by the wonderful mixture of people – from relatives of the families in the book, to local people who remembered Barry and Phyllis (the book is about Barry, a Far East POW and Phyllis his wife, who waited out the war with no direct communication for three and a half years) and many of Barry and Phyllis’s (and my) relatives. There were men swapping stories about their father and their uncle and holding back their tears.

We returned across the country to our home. I began to relax, thinking I now had nearly a month to finish the private version of the book (done, and the proof copy arrived this morning to be checked),DSCN9555 and to rescue the garden from the chaos of neglect DSCN9552(ongoing) and rediscover my studyDSCN9515

under the piles books and papers (also done),DSCN9526before the second launch for local friends and other relatives on 18 June. This would then give me time to sort out marketing and publicity stuff before the release of the book on 30 June… I had even started looking in on your lovely, neglected blogs again. However, three days ago a cheerful email arrived telling me that the book had now been released (Pen and Sword publish by month and Amazon always release on the last day of that month – but I didn’t know that). This morning a lovely person from P & S’s digital marketing arm rang for more  information and this evening I managed to update my website. Next Saturday I have 60 plus people coming for sandwiches, sangria and a book. I am juggling garden rescue, food planning and creating, proof-reading (again!!) and I feel as though I am being leapfrogged at every turn.

In between all this I have joined the local branch of Toastmasters to try and overcome my fear of public speaking (I did my ice-breaker last Tuesday to the friendliest bunch of people you could dream up). And I have been arranging talks in museums on Far East POWs.

This is all in the way of saying sorry that I am not visiting your blogs. I will return when the staff officers stop playing leapfrog.

Running out of time, my birthday present to my husband was the promise of a few days in Venice in September – sort of cheating as I get to go too… I can’t wait.


A sticky undertaking

[M-R look away now]

I had this great idea for my Border Line book launch, it would be an afternoon affair with tea, coffee and cakes… so simple. The only problem is that I really cannot bake cakes and I have more than sixty hungry people coming on November 8th and I do want them to feel good (and, of course, buy books). I have ordered some mini cakes from our village café (lovely but expensive), and my daughter will help. Still, I am a tad concerned. I have in the past made passable fruit cakes, and they keep, so I thought I’d start with these.

I found five suitable tins, did some maths, but stupidly did not really take in the quantities I was juggling with, and started mixing currants, raisins, sultanas, glacé cherries and candied peel prior to soaking them in brandy.DSCN6648Of course, I didn’t have containers built for this scale of catering, but after a sticky 20 minutes, managed to mix the fruit fairly evenly for overnight brandy-soaking.DSCN6653 Next afternoon my task started with preparing the tins – I’m a dab hand at this, but it takes time.DSCN6671 I’m finally about to get started when the Broadband engineer arrives. We don’t normally keep the phone and the router in the kitchen, but our main telephone socket is there and and our internet provider is insisting we use this socket until the problem (now three months old and this is the fourth engineer to visit) is sorted. I clear the table. After an hour the engineer has (Halluljah!) taken router and phone to husband’s desk.

I assemble all the other ingredients and start measuring – we’re talking twenty eggs here and 2 1/2 kilos butter never mind the flour, sugar, spices etc. [The glass of wine is merely a kitchen aid]. So I run to a neighbour to borrow some mixing bowls and decide I’d better cream the butter and sugar in two lots. DSCN6679 My maths is suspect as I have more fruit than I will ever be able to put into the two lots of mixture. DSCN6676By the time I have grated five oranges, five lemons, added all the final ingredients, filled the tins and put them in the oven, it is 8 pm and we are HUNGRY.DSCN6680 The cakes are supposed to take a minimum of four hours. I take some out at 3 hours and the others at midnight, I have a horrible fear that I have overcooked them (death to fruitcakes).DSCN6681In the morning they at least look the part. I shall feed them with brandy and perhaps display them temptingly, but out of reach, on the day. DSCN6683I now have about a kilo of brandy-soaked fruit unused and a small bowlful of uncooked fruitcake mix.

Although I enjoyed the mud-pie side of hand mixing the dried fruit, I think, on the whole, I’d better stick to writing.