Welcome to the Seventh Day of Christmas and today I am taking the opportunity to thank another of the contributors this year who has brought some wonderful book recommendations via her Literary Column. Jessica Norrie is going to be focusing on her next book in 2019 but has left us with plenty to enjoy in her Column Directory.
My other guest is fantasy/paranormal YA author Marjorie Mallon and I am looking forward to sharing her special Christmas gift memories.
My Christmas memories
I love Christmas as you have probably gathered over the last few days with my memories and adventures. There was a time in my life when Christmas was not really a time of celebration and it culminated in the November of 1977 when at age 24 my first marriage of four years finally fell apart. It is a long time in the past now but I do remember that particular Christmas as being the hardest I had ever faced.
Divorce in those days was still very frowned upon and appearances could be very important. Especially as I was the one walking away. At a distance over 40 years later it is easier to put things into perspective, but at the time the hurt was very real, and there was little sympathy for those who gave up on their vows however valid the reasons.
I gave up everything I owned except for two small suit cases. It broke my heart to leave behind my beloved collie, but I knew that he would be well taken care of by my husband’s family. I had no roof over my head or any prospects, and it is one of those times in your life when you have to make a decision to save yourself and take the consequences. I had about £50 that I had taken out of our joint savings account and that had to last me until I found a job. I stayed with a friend of my mother’s in her small house and paid £5 per week for full board. I earned some cash in hand by helping a local dress shop owner get a cafe started in the back of the store, while I looked around for something more permanent.
In those days there was no Internet and few recruitment agencies. I had been a senior receptionist in a hotel, and thankfully done management training with a restaurant chain as well as run my own kitchen in a large public house that I co-managed. I needed a roof over my head and fast before my money ran out, and in those days the top magazine for all domestic and hotel jobs was The Lady. I applied to one or two live in housekeeper jobs but heard nothing back, but then I spotted an advert for a housekeeper/caterer for a public school in Sussex. They were looking for a manager who was older and more experienced than I was, and when I was asked for an interview there was quite a bit of scepticism about the likelihood of me being hired from family and friends.
I returned from Sussex on the train with £15 left in my purse and facing Christmas four days away. That was the lowest point in my life and I struggled against the general belief that I should return to my husband whatever the circumstances and accept the situation. On Christmas Eve just before my resolve was about to be broken, I received a telegram from the the delightful headmaster and his wife at the school. I was sure that it was going to be a rejection and it took me a while to open the envelope.
Me and the school mascot!
They wanted me to start in the first week of January before the children returned to school after the holidays. I would have my own self contained flat in one of the school cottages and £25 per week. I think that you can imagine how I felt on receiving this very special Christmas Gift. That is why I love Christmas. It was a defining moment in my life and the road I then followed, eventually led to me to meet my husband David three years later, and funnily enough when I had moved to another job that had been advertised in The Lady….lucky magazine that and still going strong.
One of the songs that I remember from that Christmas was the 1974 single by Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) I Believe in Father Christmas…( I was tempted to play I Will Survive!) Some felt the song was anti-Christmas but in fact it was anti-commercialism of the festival….
Time to meet my special guest Jessica Norrie who has been broadening our knowledge of books over the last year. I for one have added some amazing books to my TBR based on her recommendations. I was delighted to meet her in person at the 2017 Bloggers Bash.
Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught, full time, part time, adults, children, co-authored a text book and ran teacher training. In 2008 she was inspired with the idea for “The Infinity Pool” and it appeared as a fully fledged novel in 2015. Meanwhile she sings soprano and plays the piano, walks in the forest and enjoys living in and using London. She looks forward to writing more in the future.
As a thank you to Jessica for her wonderful contributions to the blog I have found what I hope will be an acceptable gift, more for us to be honest!.
Jessica is a soprano and sings with an amazing choir called the Hackney Singers and they held their Christmas Carol Service last Friday which I am sure was amazing. Jessica had written about music and the choir on her blog
Here is the choir’s performance of Hallelujah from their 2009 Christmas concert uploaded by Lynne Troughton
Again my thanks to Jessica for her amazing contribution during the year and looking forward to showcasing her next book in 2019.
You can read the reviews and buy Jessica Norrie’s book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26
I enjoyed reading this book during my summer holidays. It gets you thinking about the way we interact with local communities and the environment during our few weeks away in the sun. The book is a nice mix of crime, romance, philosophy, and social constructs.
Day 7 (31st December): New Years Eve (known as Hogmanay in Scotland). One of the earliest Popes Sylvester I is celebrated on this day. He is still remembered across central and eastern Europe and you will often find New Year’s Eve referred to as ‘Silvester’ New Year’s Eve in the UK was celebrated from medieval times but with sport particularly archery which was mandatory for all men between the ages of 17-60 – the territorial army of its day with men trained to fight.
Over the years many interesting traditions have developed for celebrating the turn of the old year to the new and of course the making of resolutions….
It is rumoured that all the gifts of Christmas originally were code references to various Catholic beliefs that had to be kept secret during the various persecutions that occurred over the centuries from around 1530. There is little evidence this is the case but the Seven Swans Swimming were said to represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The first time the carol was sung in Britain was in the 18th Century and was a game where if you forgot a verse you paid the price in the form of sweets or a kiss…I think I played that game once.
I can beat the Seven Swans – feeding time at Bray Harbour in Southern Ireland…
This custom of sending Christmas cards began in the Victorian Era in the UK in 1843 and was the brain child of Sir Henry cole who was a civil servant in the government of the day. The Public Post Office was only recently established and Sir Henry was interested in finding a way that the general public might use the service.
He had an artist friend, John Horsley and together they designed and sold the first Christmas Card for one shilling which was a lot of money in those days. There were three parts to the card and depicted a charitable scene but the central panel showed a well off family enjoying a sumptuous Christmas meal. From those first 1000 printed cards the custom grew to become a billion dollar industry around the world.
My next guest is author and blogger M.J. Mallon (Marjorie) whose debut book is The Curse of Time, a Fantasy/Paranormal YA novel. She also writes middle grade fiction and micro poetry – haiku and Tanka. She loves to read and has written over 100 reviews: . Marjorie has an amazing life story of travel and adventures, having been born in Hong Kong and brought up in Singapore…you can find out more on her Blog
Marjorie has also had one of her stories included in the Ghostly Writes Anthology 2018 with her story Ghostly Goodbye.
Marjorie shares her best Christmas gift ever
It’s coming up to a very special day. I married age twenty-three and nearly twenty-three Christmases ago we were so looking forward to sharing Christmas at our neighbours.
On Christmas morning my husband began to build the cot. He started yelling that the darn thing wasn’t fitting and with all the excitement my waters broke.
Surely this couldn’t be happening – my due date was 9th January?
Guess who was the best Christmas present ever?
And here is Natasha… all grown up and working in South Korea until recently.
I know from Marjorie’s bio that she enjoy’s Tai Chi and I have arranged for her to virtually join
Jojo Hua performing Chen style Tai chi on Whatipu beach , Auckland , New Zealand. A little bit of a change in weather to the UK and Irish gales and cold at the moment.
One of the reviews for The Curse of Time.
This is a totally different genre for me, but this year I have been reading books by so many exciting new authors that I wanted to give this book a try, as it had been recommended to me. This book would be great for teenagers, or young adults and it follows the magical story of teenager Amelina as she steps into a world of crystals, magic and wonderment. There are some likeable and not so likeable characters and both are really well written.
The book weaves a story of the main character learning new skills and you see her personal growth throughout the story. Nothing is what is seems and you want to find out how Amelia will use her enchanted gifts and learn who she can trust. A book packed full of intrigue, believable characters and poetic verse. I would look out for more books by this author.
Marjorie has also had one of her stories included in the Ghostly Writes Anthology 2018 with her story Ghostly Goodbye.
If you have not yet listened to the amazing Pentonix then here is there version of Deck the Halls…from their Youtube channel..PTXofficial
The carol dates back to the 16th century and actually started a Welsh song usually sung on New Year’s Eve… “Nos Galan” was published in English with lyrics by Thomas Oliphant.
The popular “Deck the Halls” song is a Christmas carol that dates back to the sixteenth century. It wasn’t always associated with Christmas, however; the melody comes from a Welsh winter song called “Nos Galan,” which is actually about New Year’s Eve.
The first time “Deck the Halls” was published with English lyrics was in 1862, in Welsh Melodies, Vol. 2, featuring Welsh lyrics by John Jones and English lyrics written by Thomas Oliphant.
Time for another succulent recipe from one of Carol Taylor’s festive menus.. this time for a more traditional roast turkey dinner where the stuffing is as important as the bird…..You can find the complete Christmas Day Menu Here
Bacon, Chestnut and Cranberry Christmas Stuffing.
• 450g sausage meat
• 2 rashers unsmoked back bacon, cut into strips
• 100g dried cranberries
• 50ml ruby port
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 50g butter
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 140g fresh white or brown breadcrumbs
• 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
• ½ tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
• 140g peeled, cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
• 1 medium egg, beaten
- Soak the cranberries in the port for an hour.
- Fry the onion and bacon gently in the butter, until the onion is tender and the bacon is cooked.
- Add the garlic and fry for another minute or so.
Cool slightly, and then mix with all the remaining ingredients, including the cranberries and port, adding enough egg to bind I find it easiest to use my hands so get those hands in and mix thoroughly.
- Next, I do a little tester; in fact, I generally do that with all my stuffing as it is the only way to tell if the seasoning is correct. Fry a knob of stuffing in a little butter, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- This stuffing can be baked in a dish or rolled into balls that will be crisp on the outside and moist inside.
- Bake in a greased dish at 190C/gas 5/fan 170C for about 40 minutes, until browned and, in the case of sausage meat stuffing, cooked right through.
- Alternatively, roll into balls that are about 4cm in diameter. Roast the stuffing balls in hot fat (they can be tucked around the turkey or done in a roasting tin of their own) for 30-40 minutes, until crisp and nicely browned on the outside.
I do enjoy a good sherry before a meal and of course living in Spain there was a plentiful selection of excellent varieties. We did travel through the country in the 17 years that we lived in Madrid, and a visit to Jerez is intoxicating…..and you can also find some of the most beautiful Andulsian horses combined with Flamenco.. I have seen this live as part of the Andulsian version of Carmen.
There are three main types of sherry – dry, medium and sweet. You would probably enjoy a chilled dry sherry before a heavier fatty meal, a medium with a lighter fish meal perhaps and the sweet goes well with dessert.
The supermarkets are producing some great dry sherry and you might try an Oloroso or Fino and chill in the fridge first… For a medium – Amontillado Sherry and a richer Cream Sherry both available from Jerez and in supermarkets.
For more information on top of the range sherries and their origins: https://www.liquorista.com/best-sherry/
Thank you for joining us today and I hope you have enjoyed the stories, music, food and gifts. Tomorrow my guests are Donata Zawadzka who illustrated Tales from the Irish Garden, and author and poet Robbie Cheadle.. I hope you will join us.. Thanks Sally