Sunday, December 28, 2008

Diseased Trees and Acne on Amazon

I looked at Amazon on line to see how my books are progressing and realised that there is potential in adding tags to the books, so I added in 'cot death' and 'miscarriage' to my memoir, The Fruit of the Tree, and such things as ‘genealogy’, ‘adoption’ and ‘family tree’ to Tainted Tree. I should have done this earlier, because I know that people sometimes go to both those books looking for ideas about trees – in one case, fruit growing and the other, diseases in trees. These things pop up in the on site adverts, too. I had a quick look at Irene’s The Moon’s Complexion, too, and saw that in the Amazon adverts below, there are remedies for acne.

We had the first of the neighbour Christmas drinks gatherings and I was chuffed to be told by two of them that they had enjoyed reading Tainted Tree. My neighbour’s mother had bought an additional copy to give as a Christmas present to a friend too. Also on the books front, some time in the New Year, I am to take part in a workshop on Writing your Life Story. I will bring in my experience of writing ‘Fruit’ to that. And I’ve now been invited to participate in a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the twinning of Guildford and Freiburg in Germany, later in the year. I am still thinking out the logistics of that. I’m not a great lover of travel, particularly where I don’t know the language. It must be as a result of Irene’s invitation there last year – which is how they got to hear about Goldenford.

We spent Christmas Day with my brother in law, who catered marvellously, and keeps his kitchen immaculate. I am envious of his orderliness, which far outshines anything I do in my kitchen. This is obviously to do with nature, not nurture.

We have another drinks get together on New Year’s Eve, followed by dinner at M’s sister with the rest of the siblings and spouses (or is it spice?) At any rate, it’s bound to be a good evening. And the Son&H with his family are due here on New Year’s Day. I hope he can spare the time to solve some of my computer problems. I have completely mucked up a CD trying to back up my files with Nero. Just as well my cooking's better than my computer trouble shooting. I’ve made a nut terrine, which always goes down well, in case I decide to cook a roast. This will cater for the veggies and everything else will be vegetarian. My own nbeighbour party is in early January, when the family have gone. So far, nine acceptances, so I'll be needing to do a full day's cooking and preparation for that.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Technology strikes

We have been at the mercy of our electric and electronic contraptions this week. One night, as we prepared to bed we saw that the electric clock wasn't working. It was late, and we thought there was something wrong with it. I was quite disappointed that it had gone wrong after all the years we'd had it. Only the next morning did we discover that the heating wasn't working and neither was the freezer in the utility room. Since then M has been isolating circuits and wires and we still haven't found the cause.

As if electrical problems weren't enough, the computer went wrong. Several times this week, I had the Blue Screen of Death, as my son describes it. It isn't the first time; it's happened a few times in the last couple of months. Thinking it was something I'd installed, I called in a computer engineer, who trouble shoots for other friends. He had it on the bench for a weekend, but nothing showed up. All went quiet for a bit; then the problem returned this week. When the engineer came last week, I gave him the new laptop to set up, which he did while dealing with error messages on my computer. I couldn't use the laptop, because every time I pressed the '@', I got quote marks. After the engineer visited, two things happened, the computer went caput again, after I had spent two hours typing in an article - and the laptop reverted to factory settings.

It transpired that M had said yes to something he shouldn't have, and we had to call out the engineer again. When he arrived, we were assembling a hat and coat stand, using the whole hall to do it. Meanwhile the other computer had been returned to the place I bought it, and they'd had it on the bench for 24 hours. They rang up shortly afterwards and said there was nothing wrong with it, but by the time I'd had a cup of tea and got my coat on, to go and collect it, they called again to tell me it had failed and they'd found It's there was a fault on the main board. It's a bit of a relief really. Intermittent faults leave you feeling very vulnerable.

In order to accommodate the hat stand in the porch, we have had to move out the house plant that has been growing there for the last fifteen years. Just as well, really, as the ivy at the base of the plant had embedded itself in the wallpaper, and as we moved it out, the plant left a trail of muddy brown water on the carpet. We are now exposing it to the weather to see what happens. M thinks the hallstand is old fashioned, but when have we ever been modern?

Cards have been coming in and going out; likewise, invitations to drinks over the holiday period. We did a book sale last week, and as a piece de resistance, Irene has installed on her blog the Goldenford elves. Go, look and admire.

And happy holidays to all my friends.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hibernating and Socialising

I have no affection for Winter. This last two or three weeks I've felt as if the cold is seeping into my bones. The heating has been on for hours on end. And I hate the dark closing in and squeezing the daylight hours into a smaller and smaller space. Today it was raining. Just pouring down. I didn't like that either. Roll on the end of the year so I can look forward to the lengthening of the days.

Even so, I have reluctantly been out a few times, and though I didn't want to go, it was fine when I got there. Lunch last week at the Holiday Inn in Guildford with a friend. Neither of us wanted to be anywhere cold and draughty so that was a good choice, though very expensive for what it was. And I didn't like the way they made off with the credit card as soon as we'd ordered. Two Goldenford meetings in the last couple of weeks - one to discuss our future arrangements, including selling our books at the Farnham Christmas Market on Tuesday, 16th December at the Maltings. Look out for us if you're there. We're selling signed copies of our books. At the other meeting we discussed the possibility of taking on another author.

M & I also went to Surrey University's Annual Lecture, held at Guildford Cathedral with Professor Lord Winston as the guest speaker, and prior to that a reception for the guests with lots of champagne. It did alas cause me to watch the lecture with double vision.

The Reading Circle also had its Christmas meeting with refreshments contributed by all of us. We discussed The Road Home, which most of us enjoyed very much. I was very much in sympathy with Lev, the East European hero who comes to London and faces grim conditions and low paid work, just to support his mother and daughter back home. But he does make friendships with those he meets on the way. There was something of a fairy tale element to this story, in spite of the hardships. It was a worthy winner of the Orange Prize.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Boom, Books and Blunders

As always, I am surrounded by paperwork and in the last couple of weeks, I’ve made quite a few errors, rushing to deal with it. First there was M’s insurance, which I did on line, for the first time. I was very displeased with the last lot, and when the new documents came in, I trashed all the previous documents. A few days later, there came a letter, requesting evidence of the no claims discount. Without it, the insurance would be cancelled. I got very hot under the collar, I can tell you, but I rang up the new people, and they were excellent. Fortunately, I still had the phone number of the earlier bunch, because they are still insuring me – but not for much longer, because I really didn’t like their lack of personal service – so I was able to provide a telephone number, and the new company dealt with it. I didn’t confess to M – it’s always better to let him think I’m infallible.

My next problem was in providing a birthday present for GD3, now seven. She wanted dressing up clothes and I found a really nice site and ordered a Renaissance Princess outfit to be sent directly to the birthday girl. Last Saturday, however, the parcel turned up at my house. I was furious and telephoned the company (who weren’t there) to grumble at their mistake. Then I rushed to the post office, just missing the parcel collection and arranged for a guaranteed delivery for Tuesday. Big mistake. No-one was there when it arrived and as a signature was needed, it wasn’t left there. The Son&Heir had to cross town to pick the parcel up. If it had sent it by ordinary post, it would have been left for them in the place that their regular postman uses. Then I found the email I’d printed out from the company, in which they asked me to check the details and contact them straight away if anything was wrong. I hadn’t read it. I could avoided all that hassle with a single phone call. But at least GD3 liked the dress.

In the mean time, I have been looking for a CD player for GD2, which, it transpires, is called a Boombox. I was going into Guildford to find one of these, but I think I solved my problem with one I saw at Sainsbury’s. It’s pink, and that should appeal to GD2. I’ve also bought a laptop for M, but so far, neither of us have worked out how to use it. My brain is obviously like candy floss at the moment, because I can’t even remember the other mistakes I’ve recently made.

Since the library event, I’ve sold some more books. I had an order through the post for The Fruit of the Tree; then our monthly order from Gardners came through, and it was clear that Horsley Library had kept their promise and ordered four copies each of Darshan, Luther’s Ambassadors, Thorn in the Flesh and Tainted Tree. The Surrey Library catalogue is showing them as ‘on order’, but they do have one copy of TT in stock. Gratifying to see last week that it was both on loan and reserved by someone else. There was a further order from Goldenford's website, where all the others are also available, so it’s good to see that there’s quite a bit of interest in it. Long may it continue. There were sales of A Bottle of Plonk last week too, so a full house for me this week.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

M.O.T, V.A.T., Celebrity

Where has all the time gone?

Well first there was much to-ing and fro-ing as my car went in for service and MOT, to be swapped with M’s van, only to have to return again because of an oil leak. So while at home and carless, I concentrated on the last couple of pages of the VAT return, which is now almost completed and just awaiting a couple of stray invoices and some totalling up. My brother-in-law came for dinner last week, too, and invited us for Christmas, as the children will be elsewhere. He will do all the cooking. He’s a marvel – how could two brothers be so dissimilar?

I was supposed to be meeting friends for a pub lunch on Wednesday, but one of them had a horrible bug – there’s lots going around at the moment – so it was postponed. So I have also during a few boring days, been catching up with washing and ironing.

The highlight of the week was the Goldenford talk at Horsley Library, which was a fantastic occasion – one of the best we’ve done, in my opinion.

The Friends of Horsley Library made us so welcome and there was wine and savoury snacks for ourselves and the guests despite it being a totally free event.

It was an unpleasant chilly night, but that didn’t stop a number of people coming out and the room was absolutely full up, with every chair taken. One member of the audience was a teacher from my daughter’s school, Tormead, in Guildford. She remembered that I had come to the school to see their archives, as part of my research for Tainted Tree, for she was at that time the archivist. She was pleased to hear that I had included in the acknowledgements my thanks to the school for their help.

The three of us - Jay Margrave, Irene and I – talked about our books and how our personal lives had influenced our writing. Once we had finished, there was a stampede to the table where the books were on display and a member of the library staff dealt with all the selling and taking of money on our behalf – while we signed copies and generally felt like celebrities. I can’t speak highly enough of their efforts. They had managed to raise the profile of the library and even stop it being closed a few years ago by holding such events and generally raising its profile. At their next evening, they are hosting Simon Brett, the well known TV playwright and crime writer, so it was a privilege to be put in the same category as him.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Getting my just desserts

Like Bridget Jones, I have been v. bad. During the past few days, I've put on about 4lbs (2 kilos). And it's all down to indulgence.

On Sunday last, M and I were out with friends. We went to a local pub and I had an enormous roast dinner. I shouldn't have been able to eat anything else, but when I saw there was chocolate mousse on the menu, I couldn't resist. Unlike chocolate icecream, this is truly chocolatey. Back to our friends for a cup of tea, but my friend, in the role of temptress, had got in a chocolate cake for tea. She did it because she knows I like chocolate, so I couldn't have refused it, though I would have quite happily resisted a fruit cake or similar. It was a mistake ever to confess to her my weakness.

That night I had great difficulty in getting off to sleep. A few years ago I developed an increased sensitivity to caffeine, which manifested itself in a condition - sinus tachycardia - which sounds worse than it is, but causes a fast and loud heartbeat and shakiness. I have sorted this to a great extent by generally having decaffeinated tea and no coffee. Certain types of nuts also contribute to the condition. At any rate, on this day, I had two cups of ordinary tea, which, combined with the chocolate, caused me to be wide awake at two in the morning.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I have been at the Guildford Institute restaurant with Irene, selling our Goldenford books. Naturally we had lunch there, and - I can hardly bear to confess it - I had a dessert on both Monday and Wednesday, to follow my vegetarian lunch. On Monday, it was their most delicious effort - a pecan based meringue with cream. (Pecans don't affect me.) On Wednesday, I should really not have had their Black Forest gateau, because half way through I realised it was too much for me. I had only had it because it was there. A very bad reason.

Now I'm home with my car in for service, so I will have a frugal lunch and hope for the best.

In the meantime, apart from our selling activities, it was a useful few days for networking. On Monday, I talked to someone who had heard a Goldenford talk some time back and wanted me to contribute to a workshop on Writing your Life Story, partly because she knew of my autobiographical book, The Fruit of the Tree. On Tuesday, I chatted with the tutor at the Creative Writing Workshop which takes place at the Institute about giving a presentation in one of the other areas where she runs classes. Yesterday, Irene and I called into both the Institute library to remind them to get in our most recent books, and the Guildford Library to suggest giving a talk at some time, as we are doing in East Horsley Library next week. We also suggested a similar talk to the Guildford Institute book club.

Now all I've got to do to make a good impression is to lose the weight I've put on this week.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Don't beg, borrow or steal it - Buy A Copy

A busy few days, including Sainsbury’s, invoices, the dentist, the hairdresser; meeting up with a friend on Wednesday and tea with friends whose daughter with 9 month old baby was staying, on Thursday, prior to a productive Goldenford meeting in the evening.

I might have offended the friend on Thursday. I’m not sure, because she changed the subject pretty quickly. She had told me how much she had enjoyed Tainted Tree, and I couldn’t appreciate her enthusiasm because on the telephone, recently, she told me she was loaning it to her son, and today she told me she was loaning it to her sister in law, together with my other books, A Bottle of Plonk and The Fruit of the Tree. All this adds up to quite a lot of enjoyment. She also said she hoped she would get them back. I suggested she tell her relations to buy their own books and she said, ‘Oh, I couldn’t.’

Later I gave her a little hint – ‘If any of your friends want to buy the book for Christmas, I can easily get them to you – delivery to your door, if you like.’ Then she said that her s-i-l would be receiving Tainted Tree at around Christmas. ‘That wasn’t what I meant,’ I said. As she well understood.

What I can’t understand is how normally intelligent people cannot understand that a book will die if it’s not bought. When you loan to your friends, it probably hastens the demise of said book. And yet many of the people who have been most enthusiastic about Tainted Tree, to the extent of ringing me up specially to tell me, have gone on to boast that they have loaned it to all their friends. People in my village enjoyed The Fruit of the Tree so much, that one copy circulated around virtually the whole village. I exempt my friends overseas from anger – I know how prohibitive the postage costs are, though with the lowered pound, it’s not quite so bad. But if only my local friends would realise, if groceries could be eaten, then magically appear again, to be passed on to a friend, then grocery shops would soon close. It’s the same with books, folks.

Writers like JK Rowling can weather this. We can’t. If we don’t get the sales, we can’t afford to publish more books; we can’t afford to advertise; we can’t afford to pay for selling opportunities. If we can’t get those people who’ve enjoyed the books to support us, who on earth can we rely on?

However, we have some selling opportunities ahead. Irene and I will be at the Guildford Institute at lunch time next week, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with all our publications; later in November - 27th at 7.30 p.m., we will be at Horsley Library to give a presentation. Good news, the Friends of Horsley Library have got the Surrey Library service to take copies. So there's a thought. If all those people who enjoyed our books told their friends to get copies from the library instead of loaning their own copy, maybe we would actually benefit from Public Lending Right.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Family dos and birthday treats

It has been a fairly social few weeks; my brother in law came for dinner; my younger sister-in-law and other half came for dinner the following week. I made a beefy meat pie (with my own pastry), as bro in law doesn't like to see to much greenery in the meal. I made a mistake with the hors d'oevre, though - avocado pate - very green indeed.

Then this weekend, the S&H and famille arrived to join us and the neighbours for a bonfire party. Unlike last year's magnificent effort, though, it was a bit of a damp squib. So wet and miserable. The bonfire took for ever to light and needed aerating from underneath with a garden leaf blower. And we needed so much shelter to watch the fireworks. Our neighbours - each with teenage children and a huge number of friends, put a lot into it. I just did my usual tray of chocolate brownies and a tray of baked potatoes. They all went.

On Sunday, the S&H and OH and children took us out for a meal to celebrate my birthday, earlier in the week. We went to our usual Chinese restaurant. Whereas in the last year we had to join a long queue at the buffet, this time, it was not very full. I'm glad we went there. We have to keep supporting businesses that are going through a hard time.

The family also bought me some books - Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales, Dawn French's autobiography and the little ones gave me Teach your Granny to Text which I believe contains the uplifting comments of around 5,000 children. I expect the latter to be rather cuter than the Angela Carter one which I imagine will be rather gleefully black.

My son was roped in to help remove stuff from our loft, as we're going to have it lagged, or rather, the lagging that's there, is to be augmented. So he and M removed about three mattresses and an iron bed frame, and lowered it down and later took them to the local dump. S&H also found a box of school books, and was still sitting on the floor of the porch, peering into the box and muttering, about an hour later. I suggested he file the stuff in his bedroom and work through it slowly. Too traumatic to throw out everything at once - I know; I'm the same.

Today, I've been dealing with invoices and a quotation. They're all ready to go in the post now, which is just as well, as I'm in and out tomorrow - meeting a friend and having my hair trimmed.
I also sent off some stories to a competition last week. Trying weakly to keep the flag flying, but really, I'm not feeling at all creative at the moment. Perhaps my writing days are over.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Our rosy apples are green

I missed a day of peeling apples today - but it was my birthday. Other than that, it's developed into a bit of an obsession. But there are good reasons.

Using apples stops me spending a (probably modest) sum each week on desserts for M, who is a firm believer in ending every meal with something sweet. So in this time of financial crisis, (and everyone's affected some way or another) that can't be bad. Apart from the apples we are eating at the moment, there are about 15 or 20 packs in store in the freezer for future occasions.

Because the apples don't have to travel anywhere, we are helping to reduce the amount of food transported by road.

Because the apple tree is never sprayed, the apples are truly organic and pure (once the mud has been washed off and any insect life removed.

The best reason though is the look of them and the feel of them. They are wonderfully rosy, unlike the Bramley apples in the shops, which are always picked early and are always green. When I start to peel them, they are pure white, and as the knife cuts into them, they are crisp. There is an awareness of their superiority and a certain aesthetic pleasure in dealing with them.

This is an apple crumble recipe which I have used for goodness know how many years, and which is still very popular with my family. I used to stew the apples in a saucepan, but now, of course, I use the microwave, which means that no water need be added. I used to make the crumble mix by hand, but now I use a food processor. So you can choose either way.

2lbs cooking apples approx (1 kilo)
a little sugar, if required

6oz flour
3oz caster sugar
3oz hard margarine (I use Tomar)

Peel and slice apples.
Stew apples, with sugar if required, in a little water until tender, or cook in a 2 pint pyrex dish, covered with clingwrap or paper, in the microwave on full power for 3 - 4 minutes or until tender.

Place or leave in the pyrex dish.

Make crumble as follows: Rub the fat and flour together until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. (Use the tips of your fingers and keep your nails short for this job). Alternatively,
mix in the food processor on full power for a few minutes.

Stir in sugar. Using a spoon, shake the mixture on to the top of the cooked apples. Do not press down. The crumble mix needs to be aerated. You can try adding nuts for a different effect and/or cutting the sugar by half, for a healthier option.

Place in a moderate to hot oven, about 180 - 190 C or 350 - 375 F for about 25 - 30 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with ice-cream, cream, yoghurt or whatever you fancy.

If you have any crumble mix left over, store in the fridge in a screw top jar for another time. But don't leave it too long -a week/fortnight should be OK.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Running a small business, then and now

I have been trying to catch up with office work, which had fallen behind. We got our books back from the accountant a few weeks ago, and so there was a fair amount of book-keeping, as the VAT quarter looms. Having nearly caught up with that, M & I sat down and worked our way through several invoices today. They're now in the computer and I'll print them out tomorrow and send them out. We still have some more to do. If I get the work behind me, I may be more inclined to get back to the current novel.

Because of the financial crisis, I have been thinking again about when we started this business. I mentioned recently how M had run a business and how the amount we owed grew like Topsy. Then we repaid everything when he became employed. But he got itchy; he liked being his own boss, and eventually, he said he wanted to go out on his own again.

It was the start of the 1980s. I said that with two children, I didn't want him taking risks and getting us into the same position that we had been in before. He said he wouldn't. He wouldn't take on any employees; it would be just him, so there would not be the huge amount of outgoings that we had had before.

By this time, I had learned that cash flow is all important in business. If you have a vast company, no doubt, you have to have an overdraft. But if you are running a one man band, the ideal thing to do is to manage with your own money. I still remembered how the bank had contacted us and asked us to reduce our overdraft one day without warning.

The way to build up a business is to start by taking on very small jobs. You put the profit to one side and save it up. This is the way we did it. M did a number of modest jobs; he had a few contacts from his previous employment and they called him in. Before the current regulations that require certificates, etc, he could do plumbing, heating and electrical work. In the eighties, which was also a period of recession, people were more inclined to repair things than to have big new installations. For approximately two to three years, M didn't do any major jobs. That meant we did not have to fund the purchase of equipment - always costly. So no overdraft, and no large outlay. Then, he wanted to take on a large job, and by that time, we had the money. It was not a limited company, so we funded the job with the money that we had put by, and I was always the person who decided if we could afford to fund a job. Then, when the payment was eventually made, we were able to take this money out of the business again, together with profit, and so the business grew to a level that it was providing us with a good income and enough money to do what we wanted for our children and ourselves.

M also provided a maintenance contract to our business customers. They paid in advance and he called in whenever they had a problem. This was his idea, and it worked well for us. By calling in regularly, he also got to do extra jobs.

I didn't want to be tied to the house, being a secretary/bookkeeper and answerer of the telephone, but I saw that it would be good for us financially if I did. And so I made the best of it, and eventually used the flexibility of a job in my own home to squeeze in my writing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Winter in October

Two blogs for the price of one. Well, I couldn't sign off without showing the dramatic weather we had overnight. Snow - in the south of England - in October. Unheard of since the 1880s apparently.

This morning, I took photos before the snow disappeared - just to prove it was true. But I needn't have worried. Because of the frost last night, the snow froze and only disappeared where the sun hit it. I hope the apples are OK. M & I went out an picked up bags of them and put them in the shed, but that's not very good, long term. In the last good year, the bags got chewed open by rodents. But I will probably pass on some of the bags to my friends before that happens.

A storm in the media tea-cup?

Like everyone else, I am ready to give my own view on the performance by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross on a taped phone-call to Andrew Sachs. I do not generally read the Daily Mail, and I heard about it on the radio itself and then looked it up on-line.

I decided that, though I have never done this before, I would protest on line to the BBC, as did many others. I have already heard that this whole saga is regarded as a generational thing - the middle aged (from middle England - yes, we all know about 'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells') are shocked, and the youth, Radio 1 listeners are supporting their two 'edgy heroes.' I have also heard over and over again that comedy has to 'push the boundaries' and people who listen to this type of programme 'know what they're getting.'

Firstly, I don't support the idea that bad taste has to be pursued, in order to produce better comedy. I've already described some of the radio programmes I like, and I still watch repeats of 'Frazier', a wonderful example of comedy that contains both sophistication and farce, but also subtle examples of characterisation. I turned on to Radio 2 yesterday afternoon, (in the capacity of a researcher) and heard two performers laughing at each other's jokes, which weren't funny, and was reminded of an end of term entertainment at school, when the performers get carried away with their own humour. Fine for school kids, but to pay for this. Unbelievable.

The much vaunted telephone conversation included the F-word, which was not particularly shocking as we hear it so much nowadays. It shouldn't have been used though in relation to Mr Sachs's granddaughter, which to me was slander. So for me, the problem was not the bad taste, it was the fact that the bad taste was personal. The two performers telephoned Andrew Sachs, left this crude message on his Voicemail and the conversation was recorded. Mr Sachs did not give his permission for this to be used, but it was broadcast, just the same.

I have never heard Russell Brand before, and I wouldn't choose to again. I have, however, watched Jonathan Ross on TV occasionally. I see celebrities go on his programme and because they are promoting a book or a show, they put up with his smutty innuendo. When I've seen these programmes I speculate on whether I could face being on the programme, if I were trying to sell my book, and the answer is, I would hate and dread it. And one of the reasons why I made my feelings known, was because sometimes people think they have become so big and important that they can get away with murder. Not literally, but they can get away with being uncaring of people and of what they might feel. Not only is this dangerous but it also creates the idea for young people - the ones that have supported them - that it is OK to do this. We have young people going around with cameras, taking photos of people being beaten up for entertainment, for example, and these 'shock jocks' or edgy comedians are where many of them get the idea that humiliating others is OK.

Please, can we stop finding bullying and humiliating people funny. That to me, is what this story is all about, and that's what makes it important.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Goldenford is out and about

A quiet weekend, after a busy week. Last Saturday, we launched Jay Margrave's novel, Luther's Ambassadors, a worthy sequel to The Gawain Quest. Jay specialises in historical fiction - or mystoricals - to coin a phrase. This, the second the Priedeux trilogy, deals with Anne Boleyn's schemes to gain power and bring Catholism to England - and this means plotting to marry the King of England. Priedeux, Jay's fictional hero is a kind of Blackadder, though not a comic figure. Like Blackadder, though, he turns up all over the place and at different times in history. You can read about it at the Goldenford site. At any rate, it was a good launch, with the Mayor, no less, one of the guests.

We have already had an order to supply copies to Hever Castle.

Later in the week, Guildford Writers hosted an event for the Guildford Festival and our guest was author, Adrienne Dines, whom I'd met as a result of her being one of the judges at the Winchester Writers' Conference when Tainted Tree won second prize. Adrienne is highly entertaining and gave a wonderful talk, having many of us in stitches with her unscripted performance.

Then we, the Golden Girls, gave two presentations, one at Leatherhead at the theatre and the second at the museum. Both our talks went down extremely well, and we also sold copies of our books, which of course is the purpose of the exercise, though it's also a case of getting our 'brand' better known. Our next talk is in November, when we'll be at East Horsley library.

M has managed to cook his own apple dessert, and if he can do it, anyone can. This is probably the most simple thing to do with a large cooking apple.

Wash the skin. (You may have noticed that on the photo of the apples I'd collected, some of them were grubby from lying on the grass.)

Core the apple and fill the inside with sultanas or raisins. Place on a flat pyrex dish. Pour a spoonful of honey on the top of the apple and allow to dribble down. Bake on full power in a microwave oven for approximately 3 - 5 minutes (depending on size.) Allow to stand for a few minutes to ensure it is cooked through. Beware also that it may be very, very hot. Serve on its own or with icecream. You could also vary the filling in the centre; try almonds or other nuts.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Memories of hard times

They are talking at the moment of the difficulties of running a small business. I remember, only too well, the difficulties M & I faced at the start of our life together, when I not only married him, but took on a small business as well. Although I was on the perifery of that business, it invaded our home, as we lived on the premises while building our new home and affected my life in other ways.

I had always been a saver but I had no current account, as I'd lived at home before that, and didn't pay bills. When I married, I gave up all my capital to contribute to the purchase of our piece of land, so I had no money of my own, and though I worked as a temp for a few months, I ploughed my money back into our household.

M gave me a 'housekeeping allowance' to start with, but very soon the recession of that time hit us. He was summoned to the bank and told to reduce the overdraft. As a result, he said he would have to reduce the housekeeping allowance by 20%. I economised on food and on clothing - I still had plenty of the latter left over from my single life. Although we ate more meat then than we do now, I bought cheaper cuts. Convenience food barely existed and I rarely was tempted to use something where the covers on the packs were more interesting than the contents. We didn't go out much except on family visits and as I was very soon pregnant, things carried on this way for a long time. Things got worse for us, though, not because of anything I did, but because M took on large contracts that kept his employees occupied. In the building trade, the large contractors at the top held on to their payments for two, three or four months, while we had to pay the men weekly. Somehow we managed to survive from week to week. M would regularly telephone these large companies to plead for partial payment and each week required negotiation with the bank - were they going to let us draw the wages (paid in cash in those days) that week? They obviously did because we muddled on for something like five years. There wasn't very often a shortage of work - only cash - and because of that, the bridging loan taken out to provide the money to build our house on our piece of land - somehow got incorporated into the business's funds, leaving us with more problems later.

We got out of it in the end, because a company that frequently used us decided to take us over with all the staff, including M. Somehow, when M became employed, we managed to slowly rid ourselves of the overdraft and bank loans of the previous years. A lesson for bank managers and building societies now - no-one foreclosed. We never went bankrupt. We repaid every penny. Sometimes, small businesses need only time and some re-organisation to get back into a solvent situation.

Years later, when I became an avid radio listener, I heard the managing director of Dicky Dirts - a company that made shirts and who became very big in the UK. He had gone bankrupt and he said: Profit is not important. It is cash flow that matters. That was the most important lesson I ever learned about running a business, and it equipped me to ensure that M's next venture into running a business did not go the way of the first one.

Talking of small businesses, why is penalizing small publishers? I've tried to look up my book and other books today and I keep getting told there's no match. All I can find are their recommended buys - the Booker winner, etc. Friends, if you want to buy Tainted Tree, then come to the Goldenford website - efficiency guaranteed.

However, good to see that Elizabeth Grace has posted a review on about A Bottle of Plonk (known in the US as Have Wine Will Travel.) Thank you so much, Beth. I didn't notice until now.

I thoroughly enjoyed traveling along with the wine as it made its way into and out of the homes and lives of Luben's interesting cast of characters. From the moment that Julie Stanton headed out the door, bottle in hand, until all was said and done, that simple bottle of plonk journeyed seamlessly from place to place while its temporary owners got on with the business of living.

A fun and easy read, yet the story never fails to entertain. I'd highly recommend curling up with this one on a lazy afternoon.

A Postscript - for anyone in the Guildford area, as part of the Book Festival, The Goldenford Girls will be giving a talk at Guildford Museum at 7.30 p.m. on Friday, 24th October - tomorrow - at 7.30 about setting up a publishing company, with readings from our books. Do come.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Me days and Anger Management

Today was not a 'Me' day. There were a lot of boring jobs that had to be done - checking the laundry basket for washing; ironing the previous wash, now dry; filing a dish of apples in the freezer; cooking the next batch. Bookkeeping. I also went to the bank to pay in cash and took a dress, a sweatshirt and a hat into the charity shop. The dress, when I tried it on, looked incredibly garish; the hat, which once fitted me, now sits on the top of my my head like a pimple. Has my head grown? Goodness knows. At any rate, they've gone now. But they didn't make much impression on my wardrobe. I must be more ruthless in the future.

Fortunately, during some of my jobs, I had Radio 4 to keep me company and two programmes I particularly like - Ed Reardon - the grouchy and unsuccessful writer - wonderfully politically incorrect, he's a joy to hear (this week on an anger management course) - and The Write Stuff - four talented writers in a quiz show that's clever, entertaining and witty.

While in the bank paying in the proceeds of the Goldenford launch was an Ed Reardon clone. As the bank clerk dealt with several wide ranging problems of one customer, the next in the queue shouted at the two of them, 'There are other customers around, you know. There's a queue of ten people here. '

The clerk responded, that she was dealing with a customer, and when she'd finished, she would give her attention to the next one. The man then turned his attention to the customer, who replied with much control, 'I am carrying out transactions, which is what we are all here for. Some of us have one transaction, others more than one.'

However, it's easy to get irritated if you're in a rush. When I was in Sainsbury's not long ago, with a couple of items in a basket, hoping to rush in and rush out, a couple in front of me had a trolley with a number of things. If I were an assertive sort of person, I would say something, I thought. (I'm not normally.) Then it just popped out. 'You do realise this is a basket only counter,' I said. The woman responded that they had two lots of shopping which amounted to one basket each (and they did later pay separately). I raised my eyebrows sceptically. (I was in a foul mood.) There was a brief pause, Then she commented to her male companion. 'I wouldn't have said anything, would you? What an a***hole.' I ignored the comment. This is how a situation can escalate, I thought, and I kept shtum. It wasn't nice, though. I decided that my normal non-assertive behaviour might be a better option in future.

But back to the subject of writing, I almost went to a Guildford Book Festival function. I tried ringing to see if there were places available, when I returned from the bank, but there was no answer. I decided it wasn't meant to be, and I didn't go. But tomorrow night is the Guildford Writers event at the Guildford Institute, at 7.30 p.m. Do come if you're local. Adrienne Dines will be giving a talk.

And the launch of Jay Margrave's book, Luther's Ambassadors, was a great success. Lots nibbles and wine, people to chat to and good book sales, including some Tainted Trees.

And just a reminder - The Golden Girls will be giving a presentation about our books at 7 – 8.15pm in The Green Room, 3rd floor, Leatherhead Theatre, Church Street, Leatherhead, as part of the Mole Valley Arts Festival (Arts Alive.) Admission is free, so I hope anyone local will join us.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Apples in Abundance

It seems incredible that after the summer we've had, autumn should be so beautiful, and, despite giving away pounds of apples, we are stillsurrounded by them. As you can see, I have them laid out on my garden table, some are lying on the ground and others are still in the tree.

This is not the day to be worrying about the state of the world. I'll just take delight in a beautiful day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Goldenford goes out and about and Tainted Tree gets a good review

Have I been missed? Alas, my computer has been out of commission. I have been forced to resort to book-keeping, since there was nothing else I could usefully do.

Just before the computer crashed for the final time, before the engineer took it away for a good cleanup, I got a lovely email from Julie Goucher, who had bought a copy of Tainted Tree, and whose website and blogs detail her interest in genealogy. She says that she’s posted a review of TT on Amazon and on her Live Journal & Blog, as well as at Book Crossing.

I’ve set out part of her review below and her final comments.

"I came across this book purely by chance and am so glad that I did. I was looking on Google to see what books were set in Guildford and noticed that this one was and available from a local publisher. It appealed to my
genealogical mind, so I ordered it and it arrived on Monday just in time for a business trip. I devoured the book during my 6 hours travelling yesterday.

Addie inherits a lovely house in
Guildford from someone she does not know, but she understands that the deceased has links to her mother, who died in childbirth with Addie, in America. The people that Addie's mother
was living with write to advise the would be grandparents of the death of their daughter to find that they do not want to accept responsibility for the child, and after a period of time, Addie is adopted by the couple. Addie
has a happy and loved childhood, but finds that she has questions of her heritage and wants to "know" her deceased Mother, and she has no idea who her father is.....Inheriting the house is a catalyst for discovering the

The link is that Addie's mother was god daughter to James, and it is his house that she has inherited. Addie sets out on a journey of discovery, and as with most genealogical type searches Addie soon finds that she has more
questions than answers, and that she has to live with the decisions that her ancestors made.

The author has done obvious research into genealogical searches and mentions the huge references of birth, marriage and death records at St Catherine's House. Of course they are no longer available in the search room but that has occurred since the book was published earlier in the year, and the reference to it in the book reminded me of days lifting those heavy books and battling for space with other researchers. Also the use of the surname of Daborn a very
Surrey name!

The genealogical search is just like a jigsaw, gathering the facts and placing what you know into the mix to build the picture, and that was done as we read of Addie's search.

Quite simply I loved this book, not just for the subject matter, but the way the story unfolds and evolves. I was there, within the pages."

Feel free to use the review if you wish.

Need I say more, I loved it!’,

What a lovely review. Thank you so much Julie. She is right of course, that you can no longer visit St Catherine’s House for Marriage, Birth and Death records, but TT is set in 1991, when you could do so.

Having had a quiet week, except for visits from the computer engineer, next week is going to be hectic. On Saturday afternoon, we are holding the launch party for Jay Margrave’s historical novel, Luther’s Ambassadors, which has already attracted the attention of Hever Castle, who have a particular interest in the heroine, Anne Boleyn, and who have placed a substantial order.

On Tuesday, 21st October, we (Guildford Writers) have a Guildford Festival event at the Guildford Institute, when Adrienne Dines will be giving a talk. Read all about it at the festival programme on line.

On Wednesday, we the Goldenford girls will be giving a presentation at Arts Alive - the Mole Valley Arts Festival at the Green Room in Leatherhead, and on Friday, 24th October, 7.30 p.m., we will be at Guildford Museum for the Guildford Book Festival – see above programme. It should all be great fun, so do come along to all or any of the above if you are in the area.

Normal service will be resumed the following week.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Saving apples for a rainy day

This is last week's post, but having had problems with the computer, I thought it had disappeared.

I've been offline for several days, but hopefully, all is resolved now, and the blog is still applicable.

What can you do about the current crisis, if you are not directly affected? My own feeling is that you have to carry on as normal. My philosophy for all times, is never invest what you cannot afford (this applies to putting money on the horses, too), always have some Rainy Day money for when times get bad, and spread the risk. Alas, many people may have been caught out by putting their Rainy Day money in what were regarded as safe places, and which may not be safe after all - a very frightening prospect. However, the spreading of risk applies here. The Government in the UK are guaranteeing £50,000 in private savings accounts, so if you have more than that, then choose a second account. If you are considering equity investments, put them into unit trusts/investment trusts, etc, where someone else is spreading the risk for you. Even then choose different companies, not the same ones over and over again. Not everything will crash at the same time. Think in terms of a pyramid, with the safest forms at the bottom, forming a large base, bonds, etc. and the most risky, the point at the top – shares recommended by someone who knows someone, emerging markets/ Russia/China, etc.

However, should you be thinking in terms of investment at all. An American TV presenter has said, ‘Sell. Sell. Sell.’ The problem with this is that you will lose your money if the shares are at a low point, and you will regret it, if they bounce back. An unit trust manager in the UK says he is buying now. Cautious people may consider buying on a monthly basis – a little at a time – the dips now may be valuable in three years’ time.

But don’t panic. If you have the money, carry on shopping. I bought a new jacket/cardigan from Per Una at M & S, when I was in Guildford last week. Someone’s got to keep the money moving.

And now to something I really know about – apples. I am peeling, cooking and freezing now, so that when the tree is bare, I will still have something stored away. You could call them rainy day apples – and as long as the freezer doesn’t fail, I’ll have several potential desserts to fall back on.

This is my recipe for apple cake – for those who have a surplus.

I’ve lost the recipe, so this is from memory:

6 oz s/r flour

2 oz cornflour

6 oz margarine

6 oz caster sugar

3 eggs

1 oz butter (melted)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced

Baking dish 9” x 12”

Sieve flour with cornflour. Beat together margarine and sugar, and add flour mix, 1 tbspoon at a time together with one egg and beat in. Fold in the remainder with a metal spoon, and add lemon juice to taste. Cover base and sides of baking dish with parchment or grease-proof paper. Place mixture in the pan, cover with slices of apple about ½ inch thick and paint with melted butter. Cook for about 40 mins in moderate oven – 175 C - and remove when cake mixture is golden brown. Allow to set on wire stand and ease out of the dish carefully when cool.

Freeze what you don't need, but don't keep too much out at any one time. The apple on the top goes mouldy very quickly.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Capitalism in Crisis

The current situation has created an interesting conflict for politicians and others who have strong left/right feelings. When George W. first suggested the bailout, I thought - my goodness, a Republican is nationalising the banks. Then my daughter in law, who is decisively left of centre, said that the banks should be left to sort themselves out. ‘That’s a very ‘free market’ philosophy for a socialist,’ I said to her. Things are very definitely topsy turvy.

As someone else, or many others have already said, it’s quite natural to feel angry with the banks who have behaved totally irresponsibly in lending to people who couldn’t pay for the loans, and then parcelling up their debt and selling it on to other people. But the blame too, can be parcelled up and allocated to many groups of people. In my view, in the UK, the Conservatives would have done the same as Labour. The Conservatives (Tories), like the Republicans, are opposed to too much regulation/interference, as they would have it. Lack of interference of supervision of what the banks were doing is one of the causes of the current problems.

But the Left have also been complicit in creating these problems. The Labour party here did not bring in more regulation - partly, perhaps, because they didn’t want to be seen as the party who discouraged big business and drove it away from London. There’s another reason, and I read somewhere that this applies to Bill Clinton too. That the parties on the left have wanted to encourage people of low incomes to have their own homes - to somehow struggle on to the bottom rung of the housing ladder.

My view is that you don’t do anyone any favours by encouraging them to get into debt. Governments all over the Western world seem to be guilty of this; banks and building societies, likewise. Hence all those envelopes inviting me to get more credit, so that I can take a holiday, buy a yacht or a new car, without having to wait and be patient. I really hope that credit will be tightened up a bit, so that at least people are encouraged to save up and be prepared to wait for some of the things they want, but don’t necessarily need.

In the UK, many mutual building societies demutualised. I was one amongst many others who, without understanding, voted for this, in order to get a slice of shares or cash. I regret that, but I have to accept some responsibility, together with all those other people that voted for a ‘free lunch’. I didn’t realise that losing the mutual status and getting quoted on the Stock Market would cause the new banks to take on unrealistic risk. The clever bods at the top were naively assuming that the value of property would rise and rise and rise, and the 125% of value they were loaning to their customers would become a lower percentage in time. They were wrong. Every bubble bursts eventually. I really hope that these arrogant money makers will not be rewarded to the same extent in future. One always hears the cry - if we didn’t give them their million pound(?) bonuses, they would leave us and go elsewhere. Let’s hope the whole of the Western world reduces its rewards to these people to a more appropriate level.

It is tempting to punish the Governments/Banks and all the money makers by insisting that they should not be bailed out. Let them reap what they have sown. In some ways, this is right. If they are always bailed out, they, in effect, can take on any risk. They have no responsibility. If they are not bailed out, though, either by other banks, or by governments, there will be problems for all. Businesses will not be able to get credit. People will not be able to buy new houses. Large and small companies will collapse. People will be unemployed. People will buy fewer items. Shops will close. It will be a downward spiral that affects most people. Bailing out the banks is probably the least worst option - a necessary evil.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Succumbing to chocolate and other temptations

A relaxing weekend with the family - the Son&Heir and the entourage. We haven't seen them the whole of the summer because either we or they had arrangements. Fortunately the grandchildren are old enough not to forget us. We had all sorts of indulgences at/with lunch and the evening meal. By popular demand, I had made a double size apple crumble, but I also bought some very chocolatety icecream - Carte d'Or Chocolate Inspiration. I saw it advertised on the TV and thought, GD3 would like that - and so would I. She did - and so did I. In the mean time, the family had brought some Belgian chocolates; they didn't last the day, and a lemon drizzle cake acquired at a coffee morning in aid of Macmillan nurses. I had brought out of the freezer my New Year honey cake and some chocolate brownies. I tried them all. This explains why, even though we went straight out after lunch for a walk in the woods and to the 'Pooh-sticks Bridge', that afternoon, by this morning, I had put back the same 2lbs I'd managed to gain and then lose during last week.

On Sunday, we took the family out for a Chinese meal. GD3 had asked, the previous day, if we might be able to go there. They love getting up and down to get things from the buffet. We had a table with a central revolving glass, and GD1 delighted in putting her drink just out of reach, so that she had to turn it, to the increasing irritation of the S&H. Poetic justice, I suppose, when you consider all the torments he put me through. It's about three months since our last visit to the Chinese, and they were very much more empty than usual. Credit crunch biting, perhaps.

And another building society has bitten the dust today. All very worrying because each collapse heralds a downturn in everyone's fortunes. I'll give that some more thought to that in a few days' time.

Last week, I also turned my attention to a new PDF file for Tainted Tree. There were errors, particularly in the layout of the original version and I spent some time trying to correct them. No doubt, I have still missed an error that the rest of the world will spot in 30 seconds. I've sent off the new PDF to Antony Rowe with an order for more books. We have an event at the Guildford Book Festival and at Arts Alive in Leatherhead at the end of October, so hopefully there will be more sales. I'm nearly out of copies now. I also got organised enough to send off some short story entries to a competition. And I'm still peeling apples!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Reading, Writing, Walking and Speculating

I thought maybe I was overstating the case with my gut feelings about hedge funds. Then I read this by a Fund Manager who says, (regarding a company in his portfolio):

(This Company’s) problems were compounded by the loathsome short selling activities of some equity holders whose fleeting interest in the company are completely incompatible with its long term development. Our trust has never, and will never, while I’m running it, engage in stock lending activities.

I thought this was strong stuff by another financial body. It was also interesting to realise that in some cases, the short sellers have to borrow their stock from large institutions, and when they do, these institutions are complicit in a transaction which may have the effect of damaging the shares they themselves own.

But to move on, I have finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Despite my initial prejudice, I became hooked - I would even go so far as to say, haunted by it. I think it is a brilliant and ingenious novel.

My prejudice was because I thought it would be a science fiction book, and instead, I found it was a book about relationships. It was necessary to suspend disbelief, but to do that is not so difficult, because there is so much truth in the emotional lives of the characters. himself.

At Guildford Writers, last night, I read out the penultimate section of my holiday writing, which brings me up to nearly 45,000 words. I am going to have to work out what happens next very soon. I went to the hairdresser today, and she asked if I was writing anything else. She's not the first persons to ask when my next book's coming out and I’m beginning to realise how it feels to have a two-book deal. (If only.) She also told me she enjoyed A Bottle of Plonk very much, even though she read it after Tainted Tree. (It’s a much less substantial book.) And three other people told me how much they liked TT, including the mother of my neighbour, who telephoned from Norfolk a few days ago especially for that purpose. I’ve put her comments on my website.

When the sun shone at the weekend, I was so overwhelmed that, on Sunday, I insisted that M & I go to Wisley (RHS) Gardens, where we wandered around for hours, looking at late summer plants and following the Sculpture Trail. We also had a walk on Saturday, through our woods. After all this walking, I felt sure I would have lost weight, but I ended up putting on 2lbs.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Long and the Short of It

For anyone with any sort of equity investment - unit trusts, shares, pension funds, it will be a great relief to see the dramatic rise of the stock market today, partly as a result of rescue strategies of failing banks and partly because of the stop on ‘short’ trading. As many professionals have pointed out in the media, short trading has not caused the media crunch or the failing banks, but to laymen like me, they have - like an animal spotting a wounded prey - gone in for the kill. The injured beasts, the failing banks, may have brought it on themselves by their foolish behaviour, but the short sellers are not entirely innocent of helping them along a bit.

I picked up two expressions from my radio in the car yesterday. Trash and Cash; Pump and Dump. This apparently was the act of spreading rumours about specific shares. In the first case - a rumour could be spread that a company was doing badly; as the price dropped, so the short sellers would ‘sell’ a large batch of shares. In practice this would be borrowed from large institutions; this is a normal way of dealing in the financial world. As the price dropped significantly, the seller would buy back the shares; without every having owned them, he/she would make a considerable profit. The other way round would be for a trader to spread a good news rumour; I assume he would have already purchased these shares; as the price rose, so he would ‘dump’ them, having ‘pumped’ up their price, via rumour. This may not be the norm, and in fact, it probably isn’t, since short and long trading is normal, and financial markets, on the whole, work well with small ups and downs allowing them to tick over. And these practices would not have brought down a bank. It was a probably a justified lack of confidence that affected the currently suffering financial organisations. Pension funds and unit trust managers, were apparently taking their money out, to safeguard their own customers/pensioners.

Halifax BoS will now be merging with LloydsTSB, who are apparently, old fashioned bankers, who haven’t been getting involved with all the fancy means of parcelling up debt in things called derivatives. Well thank goodness for some old fashioned banking.

If confidence is returned to the market place, then things will quieten down, and most of us can sleep easier in our beds. Because the financial organisations need our confidence. Probably none of them could go down to the vaults and take out the large sums of money that would be needed in the case of a run on the bank. You only need to watch - for the 100th time - It’s a Wonderful Life - to realise that. But the credit crunch hasn’t gone away. Nothing changes the fact that many people borrowed money that they should not have done and financial organisations irresponsibly allowed them to do that. We are still going to have to learn caution in the next couple of years.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A layperson's guide to high finance

Today a prestigious financial institution - Lehman Brothers has gone down. The reason - too many risks taken in the mortgage market.

The attitude to risk may be something to do with youth and age. Perhaps there is too much emphasis on being young these days - at least in the media and the job market. Alas, when the over-fifties are turfed out, something - call it experience - is lost. It’s unjust and in some cases, very damaging.

People of a certain age have experience of previous disasters. We’ve all heard of the Wall Street Crash (haven’t we?), though I wasn’t around at the time in the 1920s. To a lesser extent, the Stock Market crashed in the late 1980s and during the period after Nine Eleven and before the War on Iraq. As far as property is concerned, those people who put all their faith in the unending rise of the property market may not remember, as I do, the property crashes in the Seventies and in the Nineties.

There are other parallels. Some years ago, Lloyds of London suffered a crisis when the Names (people, often laymen, who gave unlimited guarantees to Lloyds in exchange for a very good income when their money was not needed) were called upon to back up their guarantees with cash. It was a disaster and many of those Names lost homes and fortunes. The reason for the call upon their money was because Underwriters in Lloyds had taken on unreasonable risks in the course of insurance. I was told that some experienced underwriters would not have touched those risks, but inexperienced underwriters just wanted to get business, so took on things they shouldn’t have touched.

Does this seem familiar? Just change this to people in the mortgage lending business and you’ll get the picture. Same old, same old. They wanted the business and so they took risks. These risks were parcelled up and sold on - just as they were in the insurance business. Sooner or later, the slices of debt went full circle and losses were made, as they were in the insurance business - and the reason these risks were taken on, in both cases - greed. And, of course, inexperience - because the risk takers presumably have no memory of the crashes of their similarly inclined predecessors.

Another example is the Dot-Com bubble. People ploughed money into a risky area - the dot.coms which became seriously overpriced and eventually came crashing down to achieve what was probably not far off their true value. People who took more than a punt on them lost dramatically. Among them were big companies like GEC who, bored with their ex-MD’s cautious stance, threw their funds into this area of the market, and, as a result, eventually crashed down, transforming themselves into a minnow.

Bubbles, in case you didn’t know, are commodities or similar, whose value become over time inflated beyond their true value. They continue to be bought because of a kind of hysteria - if you haven’t bought, you will fall behind. (In the UK, this particularly applies to property.) At the time, it seems the prices will never fall, but once the end comes, it seems they will never rise again. Neither assumption, of course, is true. This is what caused people who couldn’t afford property to buy at inflated prices and subsequently default for that reason. Their debts were in the parcels handed around from one financial organisation to another. These debts are those now coming home to roost.

If it seems unfair that individuals will suffer, ask yourself if those individuals have been too greedy. Is it the Want It Now attitude that has caused such people to take on risk? An earlier generation would tell you that they - I include myself - were more cautious in their purchases. We personally did buy our plot of land and built a house on it, but very, very slowly, only as we could afford it - and it took as three years (as told in my book The Fruit of the Tree.) In addition, we were restrained with all our other purchases. We didn’t buy anything on credit, and, in fact, I didn’t own a credit card until I reached the stage when I knew I’d be able to pay it off. We (M & I) were married about fifteen years before we could regard ourselves as comfortable enough not to worry about buying clothes, furniture, etc.

It is frightening that such a large institution as Lehman Brothers has come tumbling down. None of us know what repercussions will arise from it - how this will transform itself into higher prices, lower pensions, lost jobs, as the domino effect takes over. But maybe this is the time to learn from the oldies - home cooking, frugal purchasing. For once, let your grandmother teach you how to suck eggs.