It’s an early start on the big day to sing carols round the village tree at 9.30 am as is the local tradition here. Only then can the festivities really begin.
What are your Christmas joys? I’d love to know.
Happy New Year
Our family favourite: no sugar, no suet, no flours…rich but light textured. No greasy after taste…
225g of whole sultanas
225g of sultanas minced
225g of large raisins minced
75g of whole seeded raisins
16 stoned juicy prunes minced
PLACE ALL IN A BOWL COVER AND SOAK OVERNIGHT WITH YOUR FAVOURITE TIPPLE ( I USE DARK RUM)
Add 100g of chopped walnuts and/or almonds
225ml of fruit juice, plus rind and juice of organic unwaxed orange
225g of ground almonds or ground hazelnuts or a bit of both
2 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon of mixed spice and a little ground nutmeg
Wednesday 16 July 2013
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The latest brouhaha concerning J K Rowling’s revelation of her pseudonym: Robert Galbraith has set the publishing dovecote in a flutter. What’s all the fuss about an author changing her name to mark a new chapter in her writing? It’s been done many times before. Becoming Leah Fleming has been one of my best publishing decisions although I was nervous at the time.
I was asked to use my married name by my first publishers and wrote seven books as Helene Wiggin but it never sat easily, good old English name as it is. It was never mine and who ever found W on a bookshelf; usually round the corner on the floor? Then there‘s Helene often mispronounced or romanticised. Actually it’s only a version of my mother’s name with an e on the end to distinguish our Ration Cards. That’s me dated.
So when Harper Collins asked me to choose another pen name for their new imprint Avon, I was more than happy to oblige. Time to go back to my Scots roots: Fleming. It has a literary provenance (My father was Alexander and my uncle, Ian - but not the inventors of penicillin or James Bond) Plus it sits mid shelf and easy to spot next to Katie Fforde and Katy Flynn.
As for Leah she was a gift from one of the directors in honour of a favourite aunt. It’s a name both old fashioned and yet popular today and easy on the tongue. I love it but I was fascinated how publishers like to pass off published authors as debutantes. I found it hard to be “a virgin” knowing I had seven kids in tow. But at last I have screen to hide behind, a professional existence as well as my private identity.
So long live Leah Fleming. After all it’s not just the name that matters in the end. Surely it’s the quality of writing and stories that must shine through?
BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE GIRL UNDER THE OLIVE TREE (PART 2)
Here’s a big thank you to some of the friends in Crete who helped me find material, guided me with useful information, pointed me in the direction of good books and sites sharing their own knowledge with me so freely.
To Reg and Daphne Fairfoot who related anecdotes about the Battle of Crete gleaned from war veterans who attend the annual memorial service in the Commonwealth War Graves in Souda Bay. Chania. (Introducing us to the magnificent fish restaurant at Souda)
To Nikos Stavroulakis Director of Etz Hayyim Synagogue Chania and his assistant Alex. Phoundulakis who welcomed us into their community and shared its history (We’ve enjoyed some memorable suppers under the stars with them at Ela, Chania.)
To Susana Kokotsaki for her translation into English and her family for their wonderful Cretan evenings at Cretan Corner Taverna, Aptera and her sister in law, Olympia for allowing me to use her prize winning poem.
To Trisha and Mike Scott of Kaina, for all their encouragement, (who introduced us to the panoramic views of The Eagle’s Nest Taverna. Samonas)
To Brenda Thompson for her friendship and hospitality remembering those girly lunches at Portes taverna, Chania.
And not least, Manolis, Sofia and Marialena Tsompanakis whose “little suppers” are legendary and Christoula from The Aptera Taverna who always gives a cheery welcome.
As you can see many of my researches were done to the accompaniment of plates of meze and village wine contemplating the next scene as I gaze over the Bay.
Miss Part 1 of this blog.... click here
Tuesday 7 May 2013
It’s that time of year when the village hall opens its doors each Sunday afternoon until the end of September to host afternoon tea. This great institution began here twenty years ago and despite rain, hail and thunder has become a weekly ritual amongst locals and visitors alike.
We can rustle up our own batch of bakers and servers for a few of those weeks but then other charities and local societies to fill in the gaps with their own staff to boost their funds, hire the hall and give a crumb of comfort to the Institute committee coffers.
Cake in the community provides a meeting point for older natives to return to their roots, a welcome stop off for walkers in need of a tea and a pee station and those of us working in the garden to down tools and put back the calories we’ve just spent.
If the weather is kind we can take tables out onto the village green to admire the dramatic scenery or huddle inside on wet days and console ourselves with chocolate cream sponge, lemon meringue pie, clarty fruit cake, freshly baked scones with jam and cream, wonderful!
Another attraction inside are the wool tapestries depicting the history of the village from Doomday or the old photos of past times. If you‘re lucky someone will be tinkling the ivories for the Palm Court effect. You never know who you’ll meet there, from famous soap stars to folk singers and always there’s a chance to catch up with a bit of “calleting” (gossiping).
Whatever your favourite nibble, someone will have baked it so come and join us if you can or start up something yourself. There’s talk of a winter rival in another village where they plan Concerts and Cake in the autumn, a chance to hear young musicians for free and then partake in a slice of goodness: Time to get baking then?
Saturday 18 January 2013
HERE’S SOME OF THE TRUE FACTS ABOUT THE LOCATIONS IN THE STORY.
The best way to arrive in NW Crete is at sunrise on the overnight ferry. Before the battle began ship loads of weary British soldiers retreating from the mainland ,arrived in Suda Bay.
During the battle for Crete. Nurse Johanna Stavridi hid her wounded patients in these caves until they were overrun. Galatas beach was a hospital camp caught up in the firing line. It looks peaceful now.
Chania Harbour was bombed into ruins. Here is where you can sit with your ouzo and meze and watch the world go by in peace.
The Commonwealth War Cemetery plays an important part in the story. Here I am at the grave of one of the heroes of the war: John Pendlebury, curator of the British School of Archaeology based at the Villa Ariadne, Knossos.
In the little synagogue of Etz Hayyim you will find the memorial to the lost Jewish community
Hidden among the hills near Kares is the strange War Museum full of the detritus of war. It hold s a collection of rusting guns, helmets many shaped into sculptures.
Everywhere are the beautiful olive groves and the White Mountains home of the Cretan resistance and British evaders.
Then and now there’s always wonderful hospitality and an abundance of fruit and flowers to be enjoyed
Enjoyed this? Get free updates and short stories by signing up to Leah's Newsletter
Tuesday 8 January 2013
New Year’s a good time of year for making changes. Many years ago in a bookshop in Ohio, a book fell out of the shelf onto me. Never one to miss such happenstance I picked it up with interest. It changed my writing life.
Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” is the first of her series of writing workshops full of exercises and challenges but the one that changed my writing life was her use of a daily morning journal to use as you please in a free and easy sort of way.
It is not a new idea. Think of all the famous authors who have kept journals. Most of us have been using diaries and note pads and journals for ages too but there is a discipline akin to meditation in these morning pages that really works. Dreams can be recorded, moans and grumps, confessions, ideas for stories, a to do list for the day. There are no rules as to how you work it, just the promise to do about 3 pages every day and not to re read or edit them for months if ever.
Somehow it gets rid of the fluff bunnies in your mind, takes them out of the way before you focus on the creative task in hand. Artists, musicians, actors, whatever creative talent is yours can benefit from such a discipline.
I have other notebooks for researching facts, outlines and ideas and I always date these just in case…It was the proof of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca notebooks, dated and written in Cairo that convinced a jury that she had not plagiarised some other author’s work.
Making lists of wishes and dreams for the future is another private journal to own. Invest in something special to write up your poems, thoughts and ideas. If all else fails when you’re feeling jaded and a bit stuck writing your pages will help stir up the juices again.
Of course, don’t forget the humble pocket diary and purse note pad. You never know what gems you’ll overhear on the bus, train or in the doctor’s waiting room. If you don’t write them down there and then, they flit away forgotten. Here’s one I heard at my writer’s group when: Angela said,
“Finishing a novel is like squeezing the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube!” I’m just about opening the cap on my new novel...Good luck with your writing in 2013
Happy New Year!
Enjoyed this? Get free updates and short stories by signing up to Leah's Newsletter