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30 YEARS OF EASTENDERS: EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT IT

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It’s impossible to have failed to notice that EastEnders is about to turn thirty. It’s unbelievable! I remember being a kid and watching the trailers for a new BBC series that was about to hit our screens in which a host of characters introduced themselves and their families. At the time I was too young to understand what was happening, but looking back it’s very obvious that hopes were high that this soap was going to be something huge – and it was! Thirty years on, EastEnders is still going strong but it’s so surreal to think that there are people under thirty who will never have known a time when EastEnders wasn’t on the box.

When the Cockney soap, which is set in the fictitious London borough of Walford, was first screened, it was only shown twice a week: on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7:30. As the show gained in popularity, I began to look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays which became known as EastEnders days, and felt quite bored on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – which became known as Wogan days – because there wasn’t anything worth watching. Unless Terry Wogan had some interesting guests on!

In the early days, EastEnders centred primarily around three families: the Beales, the Fowlers, and the Watts. It was only when the character of Dot Cotton was introduced several months later, did the Cotton family become another well-known family in the Square – although many would say that it was for all the wrong reasons!

Over the years, EastEnders went through periods where it was gripping, unmissable stuff to times where I’d rather have a nap than tune in to what was happing in Walford. In fact from early 2011, I pretty much stopped watching the soap – something I never thought would happen. It was a combination of ridiculous storylines, dull characters, and awful actors that just made me want to switch off. And I know that I wasn’t the only one who felt that EastEnders had lost the plot. But I have to say that in recent months, the show’s gotten to be very interesting again, and it takes me back to the days when EastEnders was nothing less than brilliant. But whether I tuned in regularly or not, one thing was for sure – that missing the Christmas Day episode of EastEnders was not an option! It has been a family tradition for so long, and it doesn’t matter what we’d be doing but everything stopped as soon as we heard the familiar opening bars of the EastEnders theme tune. My Aunt and Uncle have been having huge Christmas bashes at their house for years but as soon as it was time for EastEnders, everyone would huddle in their front room; it was an episode not to be missed.

The dominant storyline right now in EastEnders is the murder of Lucy Beale whose killer is going to be unmasked during the week of live episodes – and we cannot wait. It’s absolutely exciting stuff and I’m so glad that EastEnders is back on form. So to celebrate this momentous occasion there’s going to be a host of EastEnders-inspired blog posts honouring this legendary soap and having us skipping down memory lane. In this post, we’ll look at thirty factors that make EastEnders what it is…

1. THE QUEEN VIC

The Queen Victoria public house is the hub of Walford and was named after er, Queen Victoria. It’s where the locals meet and have a night out. And if any of the residents are having a wedding, funeral wake or christening, you can be sure that they’ll hold their event at The Vic. And let’s not forget it’s also been the venue for many a showdown, bust-up and shocking revelation!

When EastEnders first began, The Queen Vic was home to the Watts family. Since then it’s been owned by the Mitchells, the Butchers, and run by Kat and Alfie. Nowadays it’s very much the domain of the Carters.

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2. THE LAUNDERETTE

It appears that no one in Walford actually owns a washing machine, so they’re always popping into the laundrette with bags of laundry, keeping Dot busy with service washes. It’s also quite bizarrely something of a meeting point and quite a few argy-bargies have taken place there. A bit like the Vic but without the drinks!

Dot has always worked in the laundrette and she used to work there with Pauline Fowler. However the often-mention Mr.Papadopolous, the laundrette’s owner whose name cannot be pronounced by Dot, rarely appears on screen.

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3. THE CAFE

It was first owned by Sue and Ali Osman, a couple who made Den and Angie look like Terry and June. It was later taken over by Kathy Beale who thought that Walford needed something a little upmarket and transformed the day-time café into a late-night bistro. But I don’t think the locals were fooled – it was still the café! Today it’s owned by Walford’s answer to Alan Sugar, Ian Beale. It’s the place where everyone meets, especially when they have private matters to discuss, because let’s face it, there’s not much chance of anyone overhearing your conversation in the café!

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4. THE FRUIT AND VEG STALL

It may just be a humble fruit and veg stall but it’s been a part of EastEnders from the very beginning and you just can’t imagine Walford without it. The fruit and veg stall has been in the Beale family for years. Viewers first saw it run by Pete Beale with help from his then wife Kathy and son Ian. After his death, the stall was run by Pete’s nephew Mark Fowler for years, and it’s currently Pete’s grandson Peter who now works the stall. Although most of us tend to visit the supermarkets for our five a day, the Walford locals won’t think of going anywhere else for fresh fruit and veggies.

Who’d have thought the stall could be a nice little earner?

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5. THE MARKET

I remember when Angie Watts used to head ‘up west’ on many of her numerous shopping expeditions despite having a market on her doorstep. These days, the market seems to be the only place the locals will shop. They buy just about everything there including outfits for a night out. And many of the Square’s residents have been market traders at one time or another including Sanjay and Gita Kapoor, Bianca Jackson, Stacey Branning, Zoe Slater, Kat Moon and Ronnie Mitchell’s long-lost daughter Dannielle.

And who could forget slimy market inspector Richard ‘Tricky Dicky’ Cole? A corrupt lothario, Richard was more concerned with trying to get into the pants of the female population of Walford than the stall holders selling them! And when he wasn’t on the look-out for new conquests, he wasn’t averse to taking a few backhanders from stall-holders. Of the monetary variety of course but there were a few times he got himself a well-deserved slap!

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6. THE CAR LOT

Even though it’s now owned by Max Branning and was previously run by David Wicks and Roy Evans, whenever I think of the car lot, I still think of Frank Butche as he’s the one who opened the car lot in the square. It may just seem like an ordinary car lot but if the walls of the portacabin could talk, it would have more than a few stories to tell: romantic trysts, dodgy deals, vicious attacks… it all took place here. And that’s before we even get to Frank torching the place as part of an insurance scam in which a homeless man was killed.

I still remember the episode where a few of the Square’s residents went to Spain and David Wicks picked up Sam Mitchell in a bar not realising who she was. She then told him about the car lot her father-in-law used to own.

“But it’s not like the car showrooms you have,” Sam said, “it’s just a tatty little  car lot.”

“Yeah, I think  know what you mean,” David smirked.

Indeed you did, David. Indeed you did!

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7. THE ARCHES

The Arches – a garage – was what brought the Mitchell brothers, Grant and Phil, to Walford, and it was always considered Mitchell territory. Well at least until recently when Max Branning conned Ben Mitchell into signing it over to him. Like many of the establishments on the Square, The Arches have witnessed it’s fair share of drama including Ricky Butcher and Natalie Price conducting their affair behind Bianca’s back; Ben Mitchell undergoing a personality transplant and attacking his friend Jordan, and that fight between Phil and Grant after Grant discovered what Phil had been getting up to with Sharon for months. mechanics who have worked there included, Phil, Grant, Ricky, Gary, Minty, Jase and Ben.

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8. ALBERT SQUARE

I don’t know why but for a long time, I thought that ‘Albert Square’ referred to the little bit of enclosed greenery where the residents often sit and mope. But it isn’t – that is actually the Square’s gardens. Albert Square refers to the row of terraced houses where most of the residents live and it is named after Prince Albert. The Beale family live at number 45, which used to be home to the Fowler’s when the show first started. The Masoods live at number 41; Phil and Sharon are at number 55; Patrick Trueman resides at numbers 19-20 with Kim and Denise, while Ronnie and Roxy live at number 27. And of course The Queen Victoria is the focal point of the Square.

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9. THE GARDENS

The gardens are central to the Square and it houses Arthur Fowler’s bench which was placed there in his memory. There is hardly an episode that goes by when someone isn’t sat on that bench – known by viewers as the Bench Of Tears –  crying, brooding, sulking, moaning or threatening another resident. Though as they all have houses on the Square it’s not quite understood why they can’t do all the above from the comfort of their own home and not publicly out in the Square!

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10. THE MORE-THAN-EXTRA EXTRAS

The Queen Vic’s resident barmaid Tracy has been in EastEnders for years. The pub is always changing hands but it doesn’t matter who the new owners are – Tracy stays! Then there’s Winston who runs one of the stalls in the market who’s been in EastEnders since 1986 – who my family absolutely loved and cheered when he made an appearance.

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But get this Tracy and Winston aren’t members of the main cast but humble extras. They’re often seen whenever there is an important event in EastEnders and every now and again, they may get the odd bit of short dialogue. Tracy did have a (speaking) part in a storyline that was fairly major (for her) when she was attacked by Sam Mitchell as Sam dug up the body of Den Watts on Dennis and Sharon Rickman’s wedding day. That’s the closest she’s ever got to having a role in a major storyline and there are often calls from the public to give both Tracy and Winston more prominent roles – and I agree.

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And we can’t forget Big Ron played by actor Ron Tarr. Big Ron appeared in EastEnders since 1985 but was never given a main role. I remember that in the 1990s, a TV mag even had a campaign for Big Ron to get a bigger slice of the action but it never happened as Ron Tarr passed away in 1997 after battling cancer.

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11. THE FOWLER HOUSE

Just like The Queen Vic, 45 Albert Square stands the test of time – and is probably the only house where people tend to enter via the back door rather than the front! Now owned by Ian Beale, at the start of the show it was still very much the residence of Ian’s grandmother Lou Beale who lived there with her daughter Pauline and her family. Back then the house seemed very small, cramped, and extremely dated, but nonetheless it had a certain charm to it. Of course when Ian bought the house, he set about making changes, turning it into the more roomy, modern pad that it is today.

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12. THAT THEME TUNE

Composed by Simon May and Leslie Osbourne, the Eastenders theme tune is easily one of the most recognizable theme tunes around. Producers had requested May to come up with something melodic which would “bring people in from the kitchen or garden” – and that’s exactly what they got. The theme tune is so iconic that people know the show is starting when they hear it without having to look up. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t whistle or hum that tune every now and again.

In 1986 the theme was turned into a song called Anyone Can Fall In Love sung by Anita Dobson who played Angie Watts,which reached number 4 in the charts.

The EastEnders theme tune has undergone a few tweaks and changes over the years although it has generally been kept as close to the original as possible. During the mid-nineties, the theme tune underwent a major revamp which didn’t go down too well with viewers, so it went back to the original tune.

13. ‘DOOF DOOF’ SCENES

Every EastEnders fan is familiar with the ‘doof doof’ scene. It’s that famous drum beat that can be heard at the end of the last scene which signals that the episode has finished and that that famous theme tune is about to begin. This type of scene is now synonymous with EastEnders.

It wasn’t until the late nineties that I realised that this type of scene actually had a name. It was Tamzin Outhwaite, who played Melanie Owen, who said in an interview that cast members naturally wanted to be in the ‘doof doof’ scene, especially if it featured a cliff-hanger. The scene got its name from the sound of the drum beats that sounded like ‘doof doof.’

I was impressed that the scene actually had a name!

14. THE OPENING CREDITS

The opening title sequence of Eastenders is as well-known as its theme tune. It’s been revamped a few times but it’s essentially a map of the East End of London. It starts by zooming in on the River Thames before panning out to give an ariel view of London. Easily one of the most iconic opening sequences.

15. CHRISTMAS EPISODES

There were always two things we had to do on Christmas day without fail. The first was go to mass, and the second was to watch the Christmas day episode or episodes of EastEnders. This was something we always looked forward to, and it didn’t matter whose house we were celebrating Christmas in, as soon as we heard that familiar theme tune we dropped whatever it was we were doing and gathered in front of the telly. Not only was it a family tradition, but we also knew that the Christmas day episode was one that was guaranteed to have us on the edge of our seat. Yes, the public often complained that the episodes were often depressing and full of misery and often featured someone dying, but most of us found them to be full of drama and either featured a whopper of a cliff-hanger or resolved one.

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16. WHODUNITS

Anyone would think that Ms. Marple resided in Albert Square with the number of murders, attempted murders and other crimes that take place. The very first episode of EastEnders opened up with the murder of Reg Cox and these whodunits have been keeping us enthralled for years. There was the shooting of Phil Mitchell (the first time) the murders of Dennis Rickman, Eddie Royal, Archie Mitchell and we’re currently gripped by the mystery of who was responsible for the death of Lucy Beale which is going to be revealed very soon.As with the murder of Archie Mitchell, many of the cast members only found out at the same time that the public did in a live episode – and that’s exactly what’s going to happen when the Lucy’s killer is going to be unmasked.

And let’s not forget there are whodunits of a different variety, which have nothing to do with crime,  where pregnancies are involved where viewers are trying to work out who the baby’s father is as in the case of Michelle Fowler’s, Laura Beale’s and Heather Trott’s pregnancies. There was also one occasion when viewers had to work out who a positive pregnancy test belonged to with suspicion falling on the Fox-Wicks women.

It eventually turned out to be Dawn Swann’s.

17. THE NEIGHBOURING STREETS

Although most of the residents live on Albert Square, many of the small businesses are based in neighbouring streets such as Turpin Road, Bridge Street, and George Street. These places are often mentioned by the characters.

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18. JULIA’S THEME

Julia’s Theme is named after the show’s creator, Julia Smith. It is used in place of the regular theme and emphasizes a particularly emotional event such as a character leaving or dying. Each episode normally ends with the ‘doof doof’ drum beats, but with Julia’s Theme, the ‘doof doofs’ are replaced with a slow melody played on piano.  Julia’s Theme has been revamped a number of times, so there are different versions of this tune. Sometimes the beginning of Julia’s Theme is used as the intro to EastEnders‘ main theme tune.

I remember Julia’s Theme being played when Lofty proposed to pregnant Michelle Fowler, after Debbie Bates had been killed in a road accident; as Cindy Beale fled to Italy with her sons and was forced to leave her daughter behind; while Sharon watched Phil and Kathy embrace on their way home from France, and when Jim Branning proposed to Dot.

19. THE TRAILERS

Right now we’re all a bit spooked after watching the trailer promoting the unveiling of Lucy Beale’s killer. But spooked or not it’s a fantastic trailer, and you can’t expect anything less from the show who release great trailers whenever a major, new character is about to descend on the Square, a new storyline is about to hit, or when an old face returns. I especially liked the ‘Everyone’s talking about it’ slogan which accompanied some of the trailers.

Trailers were used when Kat and Alfie returned to the Square, just before Archie Mitchell’s killer was revealed, for Den Watts’s shock return, the Zoe, Dennis, Sharon love triangle which exploded on Christmas Day, the murder of Den Watts, Sharon’s return, and the arrival of the carter family.

20. SUNDAY OMNIBUS

When I was growing up, we all looked forward to the omnibus edition of EastEnders where Tuesday’s and Thursday’s episodes were repeated for those who had missed them. Well I say we all looked forward to them, but I’d say it was probably us kids who looked forward to the omnibus (nicknamed the ‘lonely bus’ by my brother) because we would watch it whether we’d seen the episodes during the week or not! I’ve lost count of the times Mum or Dad would walk into the living room see us all glued to the TV and exclaim, “But you’ve already watched this!” That’s right and now we’re watching it again! The EastEnders omnibus was the perfect lazy Sunday afternoon.

In more recent years, there has been a change in the scheduling of the omnibus but it has now emerged that the BBC are going to scrap the Sunday omnibus from April of this year, as the thirty day catch up on iPlayer means that broadcasting the omnibus is no longer necessary. I agree but it’s sad to lose this classic Sunday afternoon tradition.

21. THE FAMILIES

EastEnders is just about people being miserable; growling at each other; screaming their heads of in the market, or starting fights in The Vic. No EastEnders is all about family and the importance of familial relationships –  or perhaps I should say faah-mily! During the last three decades there have been many prominent families who have made their mark in Albert Square: The Watts; the Fowlers; the Beales; the Mitchells; the Jacksons; the Butchers; the Slaters;  the Wicks; the Brannings; the Moons; the Masoods, and now the Carters.

In each of these households there’s usually a fairly loud-mouthed matriarch who comes across as bossy, domineering, interfering and in danger of suffocating their children. But at the end of the day, to these women, family is everything. Who can forget Pauline Fowler bleating on about the importance of family? Or Peggy’s famous, ‘You’re a Mitchell’ line. I even heard Cora Cross tell Tania that she’s ‘a Cross’ but sorry – it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as the Mitchell line!

Of course there were some families who couldn’t quite cut the mustard and were sent packing. When you think of the great families who graced the Square with their presence, who thinks of the Kapoors, the Ferreiras, the Di Marcos or the Flaherty family?

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22. THE PETS

It’s not just the characters who have endeared themselves to the public, but we’ve also grown quite attached to the four-legged, furry creatures that have appeared in the Square. Wellard, Roly, Freida, Ghengis, Terrance, Bella and Betty – we loved them all. And during the eighties, we were asking everyone if they’d ‘seen my Willy?’

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23. FAMOUS FACES

A few famous faces have popped up in Walford either as a cameo or a guest role. There was Robbie Williams using the phone in The Vic; Goldie played a gangster; Susan George appeared as Terry Raymond’s love interest; Bobby Davro played Shirley’s on-off boyfriend, and Madhur Jaffrey appeared as the Ferreira matriarch. Mike Reid, Shane Richie, Phil Daniel, and Samantha Womack are long-established actors or comedians  who had or have long-term roles in the soap. And of course after Barbra Windsor started her role as Peggy Mitchell, no one ever saw her as the girl from the Carry On movies again!

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24. CROOKS AND GANGSTERS

As the East End is Kray’s territory, it goes without saying that there have to be a few major league villians. Phil and Grant Mitchell might have fancies themselves as a couple of tough nuts but compared to the likes of Jack Dalton, Johnny Allen, Andy Hunter, Steve Owen, George Palmer, not to mention Den Watts’s associates, they were pretty much small fry!

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25. TWO-HANDERS

I don’t think I’ve ever seen another soap opera do a two-hander: an episode which has only two characters. The very first one I remember was back in the eighties and it featured Den and Angie Watts. Den announced that he was leaving Angie for his mistress Jan and Angie played her trump card, telling Den that she only had six months to live. Another memorable two-hander was when Michelle Fowler finally told Sharon Watts the truth regarding Vicki Fowler’s paternity. Other two handers have included episodes featuring Den and Sharon, Phil and Grant, Dot and Ethel, Max and Stacey among others.

There have also been three-hander and four-hander episodes too. The episode featuring Phil, Grant and Sharon after Phil and Sharon had slept together for the first is particular memorable, as is the episode featuring Grant and Michelle, and David and Cindy in two different sub-plots where the two couples, er get it on!

The reason for these two/three/four hander episodes was that it sped up the filming process, and while the two actors were filming the two-hander, the rest of the cast could be filming another episode. These special episodes look like mini-plays and are a pleasure to watch as it relies usually on just one storyline and a limited number of actors, and it’s very clever of EastEnders to come up with that.

Incidentally, there has only ever been a single one-hander episode in the show’s entire history which featured Dot Cotton.

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26. GRITTY REALISM

EastEnders isn’t one for shying away from hard-hitting social issues. It’s tackled storylines involving cot death, homophobia, prostitution, rape, mental health issues, HIV, paedophilia, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, domestic abuse, alcoholism, racism… the list is endless.

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27. RATINGS WARS WITH CORRIE

There were other soap operas around when I was growing up, but when it came to ratings, it seems that it was firmly between Coronation Street and EastEnders. The Sunday papers would always show who’d hit the top spot in the TV pull-out section and it would alternate 9or so it seemed) between EastEnders or Corrie. The others didn’t even get a look-in!

28. COCKNEY ACCENT – WITHOUT THE RHYMING

You can’t have a soap set in the East End of London and not expect to hear a few Cockney accents. And being a real-life Eastender myself, I’ve always said that Cockney accents are the most endearing in the world – although I’ve never used rhyming slang, and it very rarely features on the show. I hardly ever hear real-life Cockneys use it so it just wouldn’t be realistic.

Of course in recent times, there have been complaints that the EastEnd just isn’t Cockney enough and there are too many different regional accents. But then anyone who’s ever lived in the East End will know that it’s not just Cockneys who live there. There are people from other parts of the country and of course other parts of the world. My complaint is that I don’t hear Cockney accents enough where I live and I’m sure that the show is reflecting the diversity of the area.

29. THE CHIPPY

You can’t have an East End district without a fish and chip shop so thank goodness for Beale’s Plaice – although when Ian first purchased the shop, no way was it to be called a chippy. Ian was aiming for the rather more upmarket sounding ‘fish restaurant’!

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30. THE AWARDS

To say that EastEnders is an award-winning soap is something of a understatement. So far it has won around 316 awards (roughly ten a year) and just like in the ratings wars, it often goes head-to-head with Corrie for the Best Soap category.

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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in TV Shows

 

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The Cookery Year: A Meal For All Seasons

When it comes to cookery books, most people can’t wait to get hold of Jamie Oliver’s or Nigella’s latest offering – and I’m no different. But there are no words to describe just how thrilled I was to have recently got my hands on a copy of The Cookery Year by Reader’s Digest. I’ve been hunting around for this iconic cook book for a long time, hoping to add it to my overwhelming collection of cookery books. For me, this little gem is the king of cook books – and an integral part of my childhood.

The Cookery Year as I remember it

The Cookery Year as I remember it

From the moment Reader’s Digest published The Cookery Year in the early seventies, it became the cook book no kitchen was complete without. It contained a month by month guide to seasonal produce plus recipes. My mother was the proud owner of a copy from the seventies, and being the strange child that I was, I used to spend hours poring over the pages. I must have been the only five year old who knew what a blini was! It was this book which got me interested in food and cooking at a young age all those years ago, and it introduced me to the delicious summer pudding; the delightful ouefs a la neige, and the flaming brilliant Crepes Suzettes!

My new copy of the cookery year

My copy of the cookery year

But what I liked most about The Cookery Year were the beautifully illustrated opening pages listing information about different types of fruit, vegetables, cuts of meat, fish and cheese, complete with instructions for preparation and cooking. I enjoyed looking the pictures and once I’d learnt to read, I was also able to find out when certain produce was available and preferable cooking methods though why a primary school-aged child needed to know such information, I’ll never know! Who’d have thought that The Cookery Year could be so educational? Furthermore whenever I played the Name Game, with friends, I was very rarely stuck when it came to the fruit and vegetable category – and I have The Cookery Year to thank for that!

August - my month as it appeared in the 1970s edition

August – my month as it appeared in the 1970s edition

Now my mother’s cook book – the same one I used to look through when I was a child – certainly looks as though it’s been through the wars. Battered and worn, with the cover and many of its pages missing, this book has been well and truly used! I remember Mum used to follow the recipes for some of the cakes that featured in this book and I did make something from The Cookery Year when I was about twelve – orange foam sauce which we served with spotted dick as we’d run out of the milk we needed to make the custard so this recipe saved the day!

Poultry

Poultry

Being reunited with this book is like being reunited with a missing piece of my childhood. I thoroughly enjoyed getting reacquainted with this cook book; flicking through the pages; feeling amazed at how much I’d remembered… I came across recipes and photos I instantly recognised. Grapefruit in brandy… scallops served in the shell… turbot with sweetcorn… salad elona… it was as though I was being transported back in time. I also came across dishes I hadn’t heard of in a long time which were extremely popular when I was growing up such as cock-a-leekie soup, melon and prawn basket, Steak Diane and peach melba. And oh my goodness, kidneys! A lot of kidneys were consumed in the seventies and eighties if these recipes are anything to go by. Maybe there are some changes in twenty-first century cooking for which we can be thankful!

Cuts of meat

Cuts of meat

The edition of The Cookery Year which I have found is from 2009 rather than from the 1970s and even though it’s done it’s best to adhere to the original format, there are differences. The hardback cover of the 1970s edition featured a variety of fruits, vegetables, and spices, artistically arranged and photographed, while the 2009 edition has charming illustrations of fruit vegetables and fish emblazoned across its paperback cover. Some of the photographs inside the book are different to what I remember and some have been omitted altogether. Furthermore some recipes have also been removed such as the delightful ‘bunnies on the lawn’ that I always hoped my mum would make for my next birthday party.

The yummy cake page I remember so well which is missing from the 2009 edition

The yummy cake page I remember so well which is missing from the 2009 edition

Just as clothes go out of fashion, so does food and there are some dishes here which probably haven’t stood the test of time. I can’t see anyone serving up tomato ice as a starter or the delightfully named kidney scramble when they fancy a light snack. But there are still a huge number of classics such as chicken pie, tarte tatin, boef bourguignonne, and Lancashire hot pot as well as the famous summer pudding which outnumber the dishes which now seems outdated, so The Cookery Year is still a worthwhile buy. And in any case, any recipes that seem a bit dated can be adapted to modern tastes and to what is now available, or simply stick a ‘retro’ label on it and it will immediately be en vogue again!

Apparently not so common! Well maybe in another time...

Apparently not so common! Well maybe in another time…

It’s also amazing to see just how far we’ve come from the seventies in terms of food. Offal seems to be off the menu in a lot of households and restaurants, thank goodness. Chilli chocolate, salted caramel, pulled pork and many of today’s current food trends didn’t appear to exist then. In the seventies edition of The Cookery Year, peppers, avocados and courgettes were considered ‘less common vegetables’. Fast forward forty years and everyone’s fridge is full of them! And despite there surprisingly being lots of foreign influences, it’s missing a lot of the Thai, Japanese and South American flavours which are so popular today.

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I really do think that every household could benefit from owning a copy of The Cookery Year. It really is a must-have book. Those who already have this cook book have said that they’ve never really needed another cookery book as this one has everything they need to develop their culinary skills. It’s perfect for beginners to cooking enthusiasts alike; serious homemakers to those setting up home for the first time; parents and children – I even saw a comment from a lady who said that her three year old daughter sits on the work top looking through the book while her mother cooks. Sounds very familiar! Another mother has said that she uses the opening chapters as a teaching aid about food for her children. There are also menu suggestions for special occasions like weddings, Christmas and dinner parties. To say this book is extremely useful is an understatement – it’s the cook’s bible!

I’m so glad that The Cookery Year is part of my life again. I honestly don’t know how I lived without it for so long. I love the format, the month by month guide, the menus, the advice, the recipes, the illustrations, the photographs – in short, EVERYTHING! However, I’m still going to keep my eye out for an original edition like my mum had. What can I say – I’m so old school!

So I’m going to leave you with the recipe  from The Cookery Year for the orange foam sauce I made many years ago with great success. It really is a delicious, versatile and – if a twelve year old can do it – easy to make sauce. It goes well with most pies, tarts, hot pudding and cakes and even Christmas pudding!

ORANGE FOAM SAUCE

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Ingredients:

1 oz unsalted butter
1 orange (grated rind and juice of)
1 all-purpose flour
2 oz superfine sugar
1 egg
lemon juice

Method:

  • Cream the butter and grated orange rind and gradually beat in the flour mixed with sugar.
  • Separate the egg and beat the yolk into the butter & flour mixture.
  • Add the orange juice (made up to 5floz with water)
  • Don’t worry if the mixture curdles at this stage, it will become smooth again as it cooks.
  • Cook the sauce in a small heavy based saucepan over a low heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens and the flour is cooked through.
  • Add a little extra water if necessary to keep the sauce to a pouring consistency.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.
  • Just before serving, beat the egg white until stiff and then fold it into the sauce and sharpen the sauce slightly with a little lemon juice.

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Video

Fresh Fields: Happy 30th Birthday

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This week marks 30 years since Fresh Fields first hit our screens and I’ve just spent a fantastic few weeks watching all four series of the 1980s classic. As with Dear John and Streets Apart, it was a very nostalgic trip down memory lane to eighties bliss! I was very young when Fresh Fields was first shown on our screens, so even though I remember the British sit-com which ran from 1984 to 1989, I couldn’t remember very much about the show other than the fact that it starred the late Anton Rodgers and Julia McKenzie. In fact I remember it’s sequel French Fields much better – probably because I was a little older when it was broadcast.

The stars of the show Anton Rodgers and Julia McKenzie

The stars of the show Anton Rodgers and Julia McKenzie

Written by John Chapman, the show centres around William and Hester Fields, played by Rodgers and McKenzie; a devoted, middle-aged, married couple who live something of an idyllic life in Barnes, South-West London. They’ve been married for twenty years and have two adult children who have left home. William works hard as an accountant in the city in order to provide a good life for the two of them, while Hester is a housewife and looks after the home – and William! They share their beautiful home with Hester’s mother Nancy (played by Fanny Rowe) who lives in the granny flat at the bottom of the garden.

As husband and wife William and Hester Fields

As husband and wife William and Hester Fields

Much of the humour in the show comes from Hester’s non-stop methods of improving her life with a multitude of hobbies and interests in order to keep things ‘fresh’ and interesting and to fill the void that comes with empty-nest syndrome. Pottery, cooking courses fencing, keep-fit, painting, DIY… you name it, Hester’s tried it, although not always culminating in great results! She also throws herself into ventures such as delivering meals to the elderly and cooking in a restaurant. The opening credits set the tonefor the show: Hester and William are shown in silhouette form, with Hester being super active and on the go, trying out different activities while William is content just to sit and read the paper.

The other source of humour is Hester’s neighbour and best friend, Sonia (played by Ann Beach) who lets herself into the Fields’ home, especially at inconvenient times with her catchphrase ‘It’s only Sonia’ and is forever ‘borrowing’ things from the Fields with the intention of returning them but of course it never happens. Sonia grates on William to great comic effect but Hester is very fond of her and finds it hard to turn down any of her requests. Despite my initial reservations that Sonia was taking advantage of Hester’s generous nature, it gradually becomes evident that the two women do indeed share a strong bond.

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I also loved the sub-plot between Hester’s estranged parents Nancy and Guy (played by Fawlty Towers’ Ballard Berkeley) who divorced forty years earlier after Guy ran off with and eventually married another woman while Hester was a very young child. After all these years. Guy now plans to win Nancy back but Nancy is a very strong-willed, no-nonsense, straight-talking lady who claims that she has no interest in Guy but over the course of several episodes, viewers start to see her soften towards her errant ex-husband…

The late Fanny Rowe played Hester's mother Nancy

The late Fanny Rowe played Hester’s mother Nancy

Although the Field’s have two children, Tom and Emma, they never appear in the show, although Emma often phones her parents and can be heard to be rattling off a message at three hundred words per second! She eventually marries her live-in boyfriend Peter and the couple have a little boy named Guy after his great-grandfather. William and Hester’s son-in-law and baby grandson do make a few appearances – but without Emma.

Ballard Berkeley played Guy Penrose, Hester's father

Ballard Berkeley played Guy Penrose, Hester’s father

My memories of Fresh Fields when I was a child are very vague because growing up I only ever caught glimpses of the show. The only episode that rang any bells was the one where William had to rid the house of a spider as Hester was terrified of spiders. Comedies were a big deal in our household as my parents, especially my father, were huge fans of the genre but I don’t recall them talking about Fresh Fields as often as they talked about the other sit-coms of that time. But I’m glad that I got reacquainted with the show in adulthood because I think it’s a fantastic sit-com and now that I’m older, I can appreciate it more.

Daphne Oxenford who sadly passed away last year, played William's secretary Miss Denham

Daphne Oxenford who sadly passed away last year, played William’s secretary Miss Denham

There was so much I liked about the show that I don’t know where to begin. I loved the feel-good theme tune by Harry Stoneham. I also loved the chemistry between Rodgers and McKenzie. It was an amazing bit of casting as the two work very well together as a credible, married couple. I also adored their home in Barnes. By today’s standards it may appear dated but I could so see myself living in a place like that. And I thought it was sweet that Hester had such a close bond with her mother that she wanted her living with them. How many people could tolerate having their mother live with them? The supporting characters, which included Sonia’s husband John and William’s trusted secretary, Miss Denham played by Daphne Oxenford, were all a little eccentric in some way and they worked brilliantly together. Sonia proved to be extremely popular and in one episode, the studio audience even gave her a round of applause when she appeared.

Series 2TX 1984

But the show was also something of a shock to the system as it highlighted just how much times and society have changed in the last thirty years – which for me seems like only yesterday! I absolutely loved the Fields’ house but how many of us can afford a house like that today, complete with a granny flat for our dear old mum? How many of us even know who our neighbours are let alone socialise with them? A great fuss is made about the fact that William and Hester’s daughter is ‘living in sin’ with her boyfriend and gets pregnant before getting married but of course in the twenty first century, nobody would bat an eyelid. And Hester’s excitement when she gets a new cordless phone delivered had me in stitches! She and Sonia reminded me of a couple of kids who’d stumbled across a great source of magic. Goodness knows what they’d have made of the state-of-the-art mobile phones we can’t live without today. To be honest it’s a bigger surprise for me knowing that someone actually has a landline! Furthermore it’s refreshing to see a TV show with a happily married couple and no trace of infidelity – a rarity nowadays!

Ann Beach played sassy Sonia

Ann Beach played sassy Sonia

Strange as this may sound but Hester’s use of the word ‘housecoat’ took me back to my very early childhood when Mum had a black and white floral housecoat with bell sleeves and was very pretty. I don’t think anyone uses the word housecoat today as it would most definitely be a dressing gown or a robe. And incidentally the housecoat Hester wore was stunning – a beautiful blue number with angel sleeves I would love to get hold of for myself. Who said the eighties was the time that style forgot?

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I’ve read reviews in which the show has been labelled ‘middle-of-the-road’ and a ‘good schedule filler’. Well I don’t know any schedule fillers which lasted for four series, won an international Emmy award and where the lead actress won the TV Times award for best female comedy performance for five consecutive years. Not bad for a ‘middle-of-the-road’ sit-com! Most of the show’s fans found Fresh Fields to be humorous and entertaining however, I do understand that during the early eighties, there was the emergence of an alternative brand of humour with shows such as The Young Ones and Not The Nine O’ Clock News which I think the younger generation of the time would have been more geared towards.

William has to sort out his dinner as Hester is off to her fencing class

William has to sort out his dinner as Hester is off to her fencing class

But there’s no denying that Fresh Fields was great family entertainment. Some of the highlights for me were Hester having to change literally en route to her daughter’s wedding; Sonia hosting a wine-tasting event at the Fields’ home where Hester runs into her glamorous blonde rival; William helping Hester with the catering at an event and having to hide from his clients; Hester’s run-ins with the law while delivering meals-on-wheels, and the final episode where Hester celebrated her forty-fifth birthday. And the episode where Emma’s parents-in-law invite themselves to stay over at the Fields’ actually made me cry – with laughter! I’m just sorry there weren’t more series of Fresh Fields. I’m even more sorrier that thirty years later it’s not mentioned as often as some of its contemporaries here in the UK as it’s such a brilliant bit of comedy. But I know it’s still remembered quite fondly in Australia and the United States.

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But now that I’ve rediscovered it, I will most definitely watch it again. Boxed DVD set, here I come! And Happy thirtieth to you, Fresh Fields!

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Crimestoppers: Why Did It Stop?

I never thought I’d be writing a post about a subject that is less than pleasant but that’s exactly what I’m about to do; the grim topic of crime is central to this post. Crime reconstruction programs bring back childhood memories – of the scary variety!

My contribution to the fight against crime is playing armchair detective when Crimewatch broadcasts its monthly appeals. True, I haven’t helped to solve anything yet but you never know when I might just do so. Incidentally, I realised today that I’ve been watching crime reconstructions shows from a very young age. Either I’ve missed my calling to work in forensics or I was just a very weird kid! Crimewatch UK, Police 5, CrimestoppersI can’t really explain how or why… it’s just something that I happened to stumble across especially as the latter two aired pre-watershed.

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It was Crimestoppers which infiltrated my thoughts this afternoon (again, not sure why.) I don’t watch much television these days but I know that Crimestoppers is no longer shown – at least not in the UK. But I remember it very well from the 1980s and ’90s when televised appeals used to be broadcast in the HTV, Thames, Yorkshire and Tyne Tees regions.  Unlike Crimewatch which is an actual program and lasts for about an hour, Crimestoppers lasted around a minute and would be shown during commercial breaks. They would feature one single appeal (there is only so much you can do in a minute!) using either a reconstruction or CCTV footage in order to solve a case. An e-fit and written description of the perpetrator would be shown towards the end of the appeal, along with the Crimestoppers number and the assurance that callers were able to give information anonymously and could given earn a reward.

 

These television appeals were brought by Crimestoppers, an independent charity first established in New Mexico in 1975,  whose aim is to help the law track down criminals and solve crimes. Information given by anonymous callers would then be passed on to the police. Callers are also likely to receive a reward if their call results in an arrest. The UK branch of the charity first got under way in 1983 in Norfolk. Crimestoppers in the UK has had much success since 1988 when it first began televising appeals, with over 122,000 arrests and the recovery of £126,000,000 worth of stolen goods.

I always felt quite spooked after watching Crimestoppers. I was at an age where I thought Walt Disney ruled the world and everything in it. Crime reconstruction features hit home that the world is not always a nice and safe place. Quite a disturbing realisation for one so young. Furthermore, there were  elements of Crimestoppers which I found quite eerie: it would pop up between programs without any warning; the creepy intro with flashing mouth montage; frightening reconstructions complete with narration in a dead-pan voice, and chilling e-fits.

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It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who was spooked by Crimestoppers as others who remember the crime appeals said that they were freaked out by them too. It does make me wonder – whatever did we expose ourselves to? I feel quite sorry for my poor parents as I was already quite afraid of the dark – can you imagine what it must have been like getting me to sleep after I’d seen a Crimestoppers appeal! Someone said that now they’re an adult they do wonder why it scared them so much. Can’t say I agree with them. I’m well into adulthood and it still freaks me out! It was extremely hard-hitting and it’s even mentioned on Wikipedia, that the appeals frightened young children. However, the element of shock factor might have been beneficial in getting people to take notice of these appeals and prompt the public into phoning in if they had any relevant information.

It is ironic that as we live in an age where we don’t need statistics to tell us that the crime rate has soared, Crimestoppers no longer broadcast appeals. Because it is so truly chilling, I think it would act as the perfect crime deterrent: Criminals would give up their lives of crime to avoid ending up on the show and seeing unflattering e-fits of themselves, and kids of today would experience the same fear we did and never do anything bad in their lives!

I was trying to track down the intro so that you could see how scary it was but then I realised that I wouldn’t want something as eerie as that on Nostalgia Pie. Trust me – it’s the stuff nightmares are made of!

 

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Posted by on October 5, 2013 in TV Shows

 

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Down Memory Lane On A Milk Float!

Milk glorious milk

Milk glorious milk

Hubby and I were on our way to work a couple of days ago, when we spotted a milk float. At a risk of sounding like a couple of people who don’t get out much – and maybe we need to after this – but we got all excited! Neither of us could remember the last time we saw a milkman doing the rounds on his milk float, when as kids we used to see them every morning. Furthermore, Hubby said he didn’t think milkmen existed in the States any more (if you’re a milkman in America, please feel free to prove us wrong!)

Milk as I remember it

Milk as I remember it

When I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, it was as common to see a pint of milk on someone’s doorstep as it is to see someone yacking away into their mobile phone today. My mum always used to ask the milk man to deliver several pints a week, and I remember her leaving the empty bottles on our doorstep for him to collect as well as the occasional note she would roll up and pop into one of the bottles when she needed to amend the order. And of course milkmen used to deliver products other than milk including eggs, bread, cheese and other dairy items. They were pretty much a corner shop on wheels! And they were also a huge help to stay at home mums with very young children who perhaps couldn’t pop down to the shops as often as they needed to.

Milk as we know it today

Milk as we know it today

Today, even though milk men are still driving around in their milk floats, they are few and far between. Perhaps with supermarkets open twenty four hours a day and other local shops open even on a Sunday, most people don’t think it’s such a struggle to pick up a pint of milk themselves, which is quite ironic considering we live in an age where we like to have everything done for us.

Milkround

Milkround

However, most people realise that they could save themselves a few pennies by nipping down to the supermarket to pick up some milk. Furthermore, the introduction of long life milk; adequate packaging and good refrigeration means that it’s not necessary for the milkman to have to deliver milk to your door every morning. There’s also the possibility of milk being taken from doorsteps, especially today when certain people are likely to walk off with anything that’s not nailed down. On a more sinister note, the reason we stopped using the services of the local milkman was after our house was broken into. The neighbours were convinced it was the milk left on the doorstep for too long that gave away the fact that no one was at home at the time. So Mum cancelled all future orders and took herself off down the shops if ever we needed milk. A sad end to many happy years of seeing our cheery milkman! I suppose all of these factors have contributed in the dramatic decrease of milk delivery people.

Milk float

Milk float

And seeing a milk float always reminds me of Open All Hours, a BBC comedy starring Ronnie Barker and David Jason of which my dad was a huge fan. Jason’s character Granville, is romantically involved with the local milk woman and he waits for her to go by in her milk float before dashing outside to talk to her. So milk floats remind me of the happy times we spent as a family watching Granville’s escapades.

Arkwright and Granville in Open All Hours

Arkwright and Granville in Open All Hours

The milkman and his float is a big part of my childhood memories. Hubby’s too. According to the Dairy UK website, there are five thousand milkmen and women today who deliver to around 2.5 million homes. When you consider what the population of the UK is, those figures are alarmingly low. It’s a pity that milkmen seem to be disappearing and I would hate to lose yet another iconic symbol of my childhood in the 80s. Furthermore, we live in an era where ther’s something of a green revolution so surely environmentally friendly reusable bottles are a great idea. Hopefully more people will start to use milk delivery services again – but I have a feeling it’s going to take more than nostalgia to float people’s milk floats!

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Posted by on August 6, 2013 in Old School Stuff, Products

 

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Fresh Cream Cakes Ads: Naughty But Nice!

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I often stumble across things from my childhood years which not only have I forgotten about but now that I’ve rediscovered them, I can’t believe I ever forgot them in the first place! I often get asked why I started this blog and here’s the reason why: I love unearthing things from my forgotten past and the excited buzz I get from it as I go, “ooh! I remember that!” And from some of the comments I’ve received, I know that I’m not the only one. Good old fashioned nostalgia – you just can’t beat it!

Larry Grayson advertises yummy cream cakes

Larry Grayson advertises yummy cream cakes

So I could hardly contain my excitement when I came across the television commercials for cream cakes from the 1980s (though they began in the 1970s but I won’t remember those) which had the ‘naughty but nice!’ slogan. I remember seeing these on television when I was very young – during a time when television ads were as entertaining as the actual television shows themselves! Watching them again, many, many years later, it seemed to me initially as though they were advertising cream cakes in general and not cream cakes by a particular brand. What they were actually doing was advertising dairy – and the ideology that it was OK to treat yourself to something wickedly calorific every now and again.

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Back in the 1970s and 1980s there was a television and press advertisement campaign of which cream cakes were the subject. This ad campaign was sponsored by The National Dairy Council in association with the now defunct Milk Marketing Board. I was also surprised to learn that the ‘naughty but nice!’ slogan was coined by a humble, little known, young copywriter named Salman Rushdie!

Les Dawson

Les Dawson

The television commercials featured a host of the day’s well known stars including Larry Grayson, Les Dawson and the ever popular Barbara Windsor. As much as I am in favour of healthy eating which is very much the consensus in the twenty first century, I think it’s so deliciously refreshing to come across a campaign telling the public that it’s all right to indulge yourself every once in a while. I remembered the advert featuring Barbara Windsor especially well which surprised me a great deal as I was only little back then – well even more little than I am now! It brought back a lot of memories – not to mention hunger pains so I will be off to track down some yummy – or naughty but nice I should say – cream cakes!

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Bloggers Rock Too!

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A comment that was made on morning television really annoyed me this week. A guest on a talk show – who I shall not name as I don’t want to give her any publicity on my blog – declared how she was a real writer and that that was what she was paid to do, while there are people out there who call themselves writers but really ‘they just have a blog’. I’m so incensed by this comment that I don’t know where to start!

Amy Adams plays writer Julie Powell in Julie and Julia

Amy Adams plays writer Julie Powell in Julie and Julia

Everyone writes blogs for different reasons and true there are some who start blogs and add a couple of posts before realising that they are just not dedicated enough to maintain their blog so simply abandon the idea. For the rest of us however, it’s the chance for us to write about something we’re passionate about; share our views, knowledge and ideas with the world, and exercise our writing muscle! Of course most bloggers would be lying if they said that they didn’t wish for their blog to lead to bigger things (paid writing jobs for a start!) and I for one must admit that the film Julie and Julia was more than a little inspirational for me ( incidentally the nostalgia theme runs deep throughout this fantastic film.) However if we’re not fortunate enough to go on to even greater things, we’ll be thrilled just writing for our blogs and keeping our readers happy.

The real Julie Powell, writer and blogger

The real Julie Powell, writer and blogger

Since childhood, it was obvious to my family that I would go on to achieve a career that involved writing as I was always writing stories and poems during my years at primary school before composing songs when I hit my teens. And when I wasn’t writing, I had my head stuck in a book, completely oblivious to what was going on around me. Sadly, after completing my MA degree, I saw just how thin on the ground writing jobs were. Actually that’s not totally true. writing jobs were abundant – if you were prepared to work for nothing at all! And in the early days, desperate to develop my portfolio, I did. I landed some great unpaid writing gigs from editors who claimed to really like my style of writing but unfortunately these obviously did not pay the bills. After being messed about by an editor, I reached the end of my tether and decided to pull the plug on the ‘working for free’ business and get a job where I would get paid for my efforts. So I now teach English which I absolutely love. And even though the pay isn’t great – the important thing is that there is a wage slip every month!

So true!

So true!

Have I given up on my dream of writing and having more than ‘just a blog’. Of course not but I’ve made a promise to myself not to work for absolutely nothing ever again. After all, a hairdresser, architect or accountant won’t work on an unpaid basis so why should I? And even though my blog is still in it’s infancy stage, I love writing for Nostalgia Pie. I’ve already had some great comments which is lovely to hear. I figured that if I have to write for free then I would do so on my own terms and most importantly for myself – not people who wish to gain from my efforts and not give anything back. Which is why, Ms. Snooty Writer, I ‘just have a blog.’ Though I’d like to think it’s a great one.

And to all my fellow bloggers out there, keep up the great work! I love reading your work.

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Posted by on May 26, 2013 in I Don't Believe It!

 

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