Sunday, 7 December 2008

December update

Well, my new monthly column has been launced in the January issue of Writers' Forum magazine - as a follow-on from Barbados or Bust, it's called Book Deal or Bust, and it will follow my novel-writing and editing progress, plus (most importantly) my attempts to interest a publisher. It carries a pic of me enjoying the spoils of last year's writing too - overlooking the big blue beautiful Caribbean Sea in Barbados! I also have an article in the January issue of Writers' News about enhancing fiction through the imaginative use of sounds. It's good to see my work in the 'trade mags' and hopefully being of help to other, especially new, writers.
December's edition of EYE includes my piece about the history and making of Advent calendars, and Child Care magazine carries two of my articles about working with the under-fives. The new monthly books and resources column launches in January's Child Care, with books that will help young children explore and understand the changes that occur as they grow up - everything from potty training to puberty!
Following the Children's Laureate Michael Rosen's recent pronouncements about poetry being gradually 'frozen out' of school life by increasing assessments and tests and other curriculum demands, I have been thinking a lot about the role of poetry and rhyme in young children's lives, and an article of mine on that very subject has just appeared in Nursery World (4 Dec) with a longer one coming out in EYE magazine in a couple of months. Both suggest ways of making poems fun and including them in daily nursery life. Let's get children enjoying poems from as early an age as possible! I still love writing poetry and have just had a poem shortlisted in a Writing Magazine competition. Not a winner this time, but I still loved writing it, and writing is really all about doing what we enjoy most, isn't it?
And, as Christmas approaches, I have been working on a little comedy piece to entertain the members of my writers group and the creative writing evening class that I teach - a spoof news report called Christmas Pudding Crisis. I am reproducing it here for your seasonal entertainment!


Hello, and welcome to the six o’clock news.

Today in Parliament… In a shock announcement, David Cameron, leader of the Opposition, today appointed ex-cabinet minister Edwina Currie to his shadow cabinet. Since leaving Westminster, Mrs Currie has forged a successful and lucrative career as a raunchy novelist, ex-Prime Minister’s mistress and Bargain Hunt contestant, but says she has missed the cut and thrust of political life. Following her anticipated first speech as shadow minister for food all eggs have been removed from supermarket shelves as a precautionary measure.

The farming community has today been rocked by news of the suspected return of mad cow disease. (We are reliably informed that this has nothing to do with the return of the aforementioned Mrs Currie). Amid fears for public health and safety, all beef products, including suet, are to be withdrawn from sale with immediate effect.

In world news, the effects of climate change are once again becoming evident. An unusually hot summer followed by torrential rain and flooding across the southern hemisphere have ruined the fruit harvests, with an extreme shortage of oranges and lemons expected to result. While every attempt is being made to salvage enough fruit to maintain the nation’s traditional Christmas supply of tangerines, and of course sufficient lemons to satisfy Her Majesty and her fellow gin and tonic drinkers, there will be no surplus available for the production of dried or candied peel products this year.

The rains have also caused havoc in the world’s vineyards, with the very aggressive botrytis bunch rot disease already wiping out the entire grape harvest of Europe and South Africa, and at this very moment heading across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans towards the Californian and Antipodean vines. There will be no wine or brandy-making this season, but the public are advised not to panic (Stay calm, Your Majesty) as cellars around the world are believed to hold sufficient supplies to last for at least ten years. The devastation has, however, meant that there will be no grapes available for drying, so raisins, sultanas or currants will not be hitting the shops this Christmas. Please do not attempt to use old half-empty bags from the back of kitchen store cupboards, as shelf –life is short, and all dried fruit more than 6 months old is likely to be infested by the deadly currant mite, naked to the human eye but (following an extensive recent consumer survey of 156 housewives) thought to be responsible for at least a hundred cases of botulism in Tunbridge Wells alone.

Quaker Oats have announced today that the confused flour beetle (an unlikely name but absolutely true), which led to the withdrawal of its porridge oats from all retail outlets last October, has again been discovered lurking in its factory, still as confused as ever and looking for the exit doors. Unfortunately it took a wrong turn and fell into a 200 ton sack of flour awaiting distribution to national bakery and retail outlets. The sack has now been condemned as inedible subject to a full health and safety inspection. The Health and Safety inspection team are currently holidaying (sorry, that should read ‘are on a vital fact-finding mission’) in Barbados at public expense and will not be back in the UK until February. All flour products have therefore been sealed inside the factory until further notice.

And in entertainment news, the Spice Girls reunion of reunions tour has again been cancelled, so there will be no Spice this Christmas. The Rolling Stones have re-released their biggest hit Brown Sugar and it has been snatched from the shelves so quickly there is absolutely none left. And in a Guinness Book of World Records attempt by the cast of the pantomime at the Beck Theatre in Hayes, Hansel and Gretel have been following a trail of breadcrumbs all the way to John o Groats, which took an awful lot of breadcrumbs, I can tell you. (Oh no it didn’t. Oh yes it did). And, of course, with no more flour available, there is no possibility of making any more.

And as the credit crunch hits Britain with a vengeance, the Royal Mint have announced today that all coins are to be recalled as they are now worthless anyway, and that from today only bank notes will be legal tender. They are easier to carry in wheelbarrows if inflation takes hold and easier to burn if you can’t afford to heat your homes now that gas and electric prices have been increased by 350%

And lastly, an important announcement from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food…
As there is no longer a supply of eggs, suet, peel, dried fruit, flour, mixed spice, brown sugar, breadcrumbs and 5pence pieces, cooks will find it difficult to make this year’s Christmas pudding, the only ingredient still readily available being the brandy used to pour over the top. Ah, but what about the almonds, you ask? To be honest there’s enough nuttiness in this story already, so we certainly don’t need any more.
There are however two recommended courses of action to help cooks overcome the present difficulties…
Consumers are advised either to try the new Quorn alternatives now available for every ingredient (I hear the Linda McCartney suetless suet is particularly bland but healthy, but I wouldn’t risk it if I was you) or to buy the brandy anyway (as big a bottle as you can find, just in case the grape harvest never returns), drink it very slowly… and just get pissed.