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Inky and Instrumental

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When is a pen not just a pen? When it is capable of producing pure magic.

First thing first; years ago, teachers decided that my handwriting was terrible. I spent hours practising, and hated every minute of it. It felt almost unnatural to iron out the kinks and curves of my cursive handwriting. For years, I harboured a resentment. I like my handwriting, it helps to manifest everything that goes on inside my head.

For my twelfth birthday, Pops asked me what I wanted. I asked for a fountain pen. He looked at me as though this was really odd.

I got one though, a simple blue-barrelled one that he got from Smiths. I used it til it died an undignified death. I bought an assortment of Parker ones, mostly the Vector range and struggled to find a zing. This went on for some time.

Before long, I abandoned all hope of finding a pen of my own.

This is important, and if you’ve ever read or watched Harry Potter, you’ll know that a wand chooses the wizard, not the other way around.

And boy, did that happen.

I was in London one day, and walked passed The Pen Shop. I had time to kill, so I went in. There happened to be Parkers there, and I saw a shiny one. A shiny one, that happened to be in the Sonnet range. I asked to have a look, and was handed one.

Wham.

There might as well have been sparks. This was my pen, this was what I wanted to write with. Feeling all very overwhelmed, a bit shocked and surprised, I said thank you, walked off and was in something of daze. At that moment in time, I didn’t understand what had just happened. Off I sloped, and did some cyber-window shopping.

I wanted that pen.

By that time, I’d written Fragments, well two-thirds and in biro. I decided to find that pen. That book needed something special to finish it off; the book was a special, the final flourish had to be too.

Oh, I paced, I worried and I turned it over and over. My siblings couldn’t work out why I wanted that pen, biro did the job as far as they were concerned. Why on earth would I want a fountain pen, pay that much for it, and what was the big deal?

I got the pen. I had my Excalibur. This was my pen.

I had magic at my finger tips; the outlet that would get ideas from my brain, through the CNS and onto paper. I didn’t look back. I found a couple more; a bit like having  your favourite jumper in three different colours. I have three sonnets. I remember being in Venice and window shopping the Matte Black one. It didn’t feel right, it felt too heavy. I’ve even tried, out of sheer curiosity, to woman-handle a Mont Blanc. Too heavy. no zing; I didn’t even think about the price tag. I don’t think I am meant to have one of those.

Then came the IM. A slightly posher Parker pen, I guess. A random shot in the dark, but this also came with a zing. It’s a different zing to the Sonnet, but it’s a zing nonetheless. The two types of pen, sit on opposite sides of the pen case with a biro in the middle. A biro, to be used only in the case of an emergency.

All pens are to be inked up at all times.

I take no chances. I take those pens everywhere, alongside a notebook.

Then there is the ink. I don’t get on with cartridges. On my desk, is a wooden box beneath a stapler. It contains seven, small plastic bottles of ink. Imperial purple, grape, billbery, magenta, forest green and teal are used more often than not. I have Oxblood, but it doesn’t feel right; I really don’t like using that ink. There’s not black ink, blue does languish behind the box. This also means that I end up with inky fingers that are all too difficult to explain.

Everything of would-be note that passes across my desk is handwritten. The first draft of books always is, in a note book, on file paper. There is far more soul in this analogue, organic process compared to typing away.

Using a fountain pen certainly retains the kinks and curves of my handwriting.

As for reading it.

“Punam, your writing makes my eyes go funny.”

Postcards from Peace: release day! #PeaceSeries

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Here we have it!

Postcard from Peace:

A Peace Series collection

is officially live on Kindle!!

 

 

Click on the image above and download your copy. Don’t forget to join in with the facebook event as well.

Postcards from Peace: Pre-order!!! #peaceseries

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In Retreating to Peace, Devan Coultrie moved kit and caboodle to Montana. Before long, he was joined by Aditi Rao. Their history laid the foundations for a rosy future together.

Devan now calls Peace home and his life has become eventful.

This collection of short stories sees his family visit, his romance with Aditi develop further and his dreams in Peace blossom.
Devan Coultrie’s life in Peace is a picture postcard with more to it than meets the eye.

Three and Six: the place to pause

As I approach the Spring Equinox, I’m taking the tine to take stock. Taking the time to pause, absorb the magic that hangs in the air and process how cycles are completing. Processing how things have changed a great deal in the last two years.

This week, is certainly significant and for a number of reasons.

As you read this, I’m either sat at my desk, fiddling with a pen and notebooks. braving the bracing wind and pacing the plot or snuggled up beneath a blanket with a book, Buffy or something similar. (As I type, I’m watching the box set of Endeavour…..so that’s more likely, to be honest.)

I’m having a break, a pit stop; a gentle rest, after what has felt  like a never-ending Spring term. I am also very, very close to the end of my training hours for the Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling. It’s a matter of touching distance and a handful of hours.

Cycles are definitely ending, new ones are waiting in the wind. There is a great deal of anticipation in the air, as something of a tipping point arises with the potential for forward movement.

Today, Tuesday 19th March, is two years since Fragments was published, since it went live on Kindle. As my first foray into fiction, this is a book that is very, very important. This week, also sees the release of book six and the journey between three and six , it completely blows my mind as to how it has unfolded.

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There is big difference between Fragments and the two gardening books, least of all because of being fiction and non-fiction. The two gardening books, are like sunlight on a page; they both bulge and burst with it. Fragments has a certain big, black grey cloud presence to it.

Yet, some grey clouds do have a silver lining. There is a silver lining to Fragments, it’s a thread that runs all the way through to be knotted at the ending. The ending of the book itself, and also where I am now with book six due for imminent release.  It was never my intention to write a heavy, hard going book. So I wrestled with working towards endings that felt appropriate for the narratives explored.

I had a vague plan for how Fragments would go, I used a grief model to have a skeleton and wove the plan around it. The model was important to me; I wanted to have something to pin the book to in relation to Counselling, my understanding and development at the time too. In hindsight, I know that fragments is filled with sadness, darkness and is brimming with emotion. On the other hand, there is light at the end. It’s a glimmer, faint, but it brews, blooms and becomes far greater than one ever imagined

Each of the six stories is important. The Anands, are a family of mixed heritage. Daniel and Caleb are a gay, married couple. Maya and Aldo, Michael and Sophie are two sets of parents who are grieving children at different ages.  Matthew’s bond with grandparent is broken, Albie copes with the loss of his wife and Chris is without man’s best friend.

These are real, everyday people that are all around us.

Fragments was book-ended by bereavements. One, occurred six months before I started to write, the second three months towards the end. At the time, that was a surreal episode of life imitating art, and I couldn’t write at that point. Physically picking up my pen at that point, was painful beyond measure. Writing Fragments was a fevered and frenzied experience. Each and every chapter was like a vivid day dream as it played out in my head and I used my pens to keep up. The whole writing process was a lot like directing and watching a movie; I might as well have had a camera in my hand.

There are two bits, I can imagine really very clearly on screen. Michael breaking up the nursery and Maya in the Ladies toilet. Even down to the camera angles, edit and panning.

In writing it all down, I got there eventually. I had to; Fragments was not going to be left an unfinished, twelve cylinder symphony. This was a book, that had to happen, had to be out in the universe. Not just for me, but anyone who might want to read it.

There is abject, absolute heartbreak in Fragments. If you read it carefully, you can probably read, see and feel the moment my heart goes crack from top to bottom.

The crack starts to heal with Retreating to Peace. By Kangana, the crack is gone and I’ve acknowledged where the bruises were. It has taken Postcards From Peace to buff the shine back and know the dents are no more.

All six books, move towards an unexpected silver lining. Books six, comes out on Friday. It’s no accident that this is around the Equinox, this is a phase change in writing of a sort. I will be writing, definitely. Just in a different frame of mind, I guess.

 

 

Tomatoes on my mind

 

It’s that time of the year again. I’m thinking about what tomatoes to grow. At the moment, I have a handful of chillies, growing very slowly and pretty much left to their own devices. They are relatively happy, so it’s logical to think of the next phase of sowing.

There are tonnes and tonnes of tomato varieties out there, and I’ve certainly collected a few varieties to have them in my seedbox. These have all been road tested in different forms over the years, so choosing the annual crop is actually quite challenging.

I’ve gravitated away from the dwarf, bushy varieties that produce cherry type tomatoes. This was, in the first instance, about sowing something different. Cherry tomatoes are certainly a good starting point; they are easy growing, abundant and offer a tasty harvest. As a salad tomato, they do serve a purpose and are quite effective plate fillers. I grew a variety called Minibel for a long time, and I suspect I will try another cherry tomato in the future at some point.

Seeds have been located, and wait to be sorted in my seed box. There are standard seeds such as Gardener’s delight and money maker; varieties that have been part of the GYO armada for many, many years. There are also heritage varieties; tomatoes that for one reason another, we don’t find in supermarkets, that are older in origin. I find these varieties really interesting, particularly when it comes to the Beefsteak types. In my experience, these are slow-growing and the crop is quite small. The plant puts so much power into a handful of whopper fruits, you need quite plants to have a substantial harvest.

Heritage tomatoes also open your world up to different shapes, sizes and colours of tomato. My favourite non-red tomato, has to be yellow stuffer. This, when combined with sweet yellow peppers, makes a fantastic chutney. You won’t find yellow tomatoes very often in the supermarket or fruit and veg markets, so growing your own is rather magical. I need to get some more yellow stuffer seeds, I rather fancy making that chutney again! We shall see if yellow brandy wine, yellow pear and cream sausage are in anyway comparable.

There are two varieties that I know I will definitely have on my list. These would be Marmande and Roma. I have found that Marmande is a brilliant cropper; it is wonderfully abundant. Roma is  a plum tomato, really very resilient and also a good cropper. In sorting out seeds, I did stumble across tomatillo seeds as well. I’ve been meaning to  sow these, as an experiment to see if they would actually work. I’m rather intrigued as to how this small piece of Mexico might take off in the middle of England.

You might ask, how many different plants does any one allotment need. All of the tomatoes that are grown will get used. Be it in chutney, salads or used in the base of Indian dishes.  Growing different varieties, having lots of plants does make for an interesting experiment, and any extras do got to good home.

At some point this week, I will take the plunge and sow tomato seeds. As with all the seedlings, I will be keeping an eye on them in case we have a cold snap. In comparison to the chillies, tomatoes do tend to be more resilient and less susceptible to keeling over-she says, crossing her fingers- but do need monitoring anyway. They do grow quickly and will need potting up as they develop. It will be late May before anything is planted outside to they will need to be hardened off in time.

I do tend to grow tomatoes outdoors, with no cover. I did try to cultivate them in a polytunnel, but found that they became leafy and didn’t crop that well. With being outdoors, plants are exposed to pollinators and the winds. There is a lower level of maintenance too. You do get cordon/indeterminate tomato varieties, those that need shoots removing. I have defoliate plants when there has been a lot of foliage to help ventilation. Having too much foliage can also be a product of what you feed and water the plans with as well. So make sure to see what is in the make up of any fertiliser if you are using it.

Postcards from Peace: One week to go! #peaceseries

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Available on Kindle 22nd March 2019

Picking up where Retreating To Peace left off, Postcards from Peace sees Devan Coultrie settle further into town.

We get to see his family, a few more of  his friends about town and also the perils and pitfalls of his relationship with Aditi Rao.

Devan Coultrie is settling into Peace.  Life as he knows it, is  becoming really quite interesting.

*****

Devan Coultrie is unwell.

Banshees.

Devan was being chased by a horde of wild-haired, completely psychotic, marauding banshees. They wanted him.

Every inch of him.

Resistance was futile, he was fair game. The Banshees were out to get him.

Waking with a jolt, Devan cursed loudly as both his elbows hit the curved sides of a very cold bath. He looked down toward his feet to see his ever-present Oxblood Dr. Marten’s thump against metal.

He was in the bath.

How the hell did he end up in the bath? Devan tightly closed his eyes to rack his brains. The last few days were incredibly blurry around the edges.

*****

 

In Retreating to Peace, Devan Coultrie moved kit and caboodle to Montana. Before long, he was joined by Aditi Rao. Their history laid the foundations for a rosy future together. Devan now calls Peace home and his life has become eventful.

This collection of short stories sees his family visit, his romance with Aditi develop further and his dreams in Peace blossom.

Devan Coultrie’s life in Peace is a picture postcard with more to it than meets the eye.

Pre-order your copy today!!!!

UK: https://amzn.to/2Gijv4s

US: https://www.amazon.com/Postcards-Peace-Collect…/…/B07NJQCJ5B

 

Don”t forget where it all started. Retreating to Peace: A Peace Series Novella saw Devan Coultrie head off to Peace, Montana. You might want to read that too!

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UK: http://amzn.to/2F2ozFE

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0773NCCLW

Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B0773NCCLW

Devan Coultrie was at a loss. His world had been shaken, his heart fractured and emptied by death. In search of a way to heal and shake of the damage, Devan sticks a pin a map with the intention of going wherever it lands. Leaving the shores of the United Kingdom, he ends up Stateside, deep in the heart of Montana. With all of his worldly possessions, Devan drives into Peace and onto a plot to land to start life over.

Like him, the farm and its acreage is downbeat, derelict and defeated. When Aditi Rao arrives in Peace, Devan’s plans for himself and his home are disrupted. He has history with Aditi and she’d quite like to write another chapter. Can he show Aditi that his retreat to Peace is more than just a plot of land and on a different continent? Can he find a way to share his home, his heart and a new beginning?

Read…never mind the romance

It’s February, so the world and his wife is obsessed with hearts and flowers. With the feast of St.Valentines slap bang in the middle of the month, it’s impossible to move for commercialism.

Most years, I have an Anti-valentines plan. Something, that I can do solo, enjoy and not feel compelled to feel bad for not having a significant other. One year, there was pizza, Pinot Grigio and I think the Brit awards were on….even watched Down with Love.

Last year, I saw a live relay of Twelfth night; by far the best Valentine’s night I have ever had! This year, it is most likely to be book, blankey and junk food. Though a certain streaming service does have an Eric Bana show on that I do rather like the look of; I will watch anything with that man in. (Yet to watch love the beast, and Romulus, My father; both on the list.)

So, books. I will probably be curled up with one about the Medici’s-research, of a sort. Funnily enough, there’s romance, sex and intrigue in that too.

You know, it’s okay not to have a date on Valentine’s day. No one say’s you have to, and enjoying your own company is severely underrated. Plus, the day before and the day after-what I call the heartbreak days-are the one’s where folk’s need understanding the most.

I’ve been thinking, therefore. As cynical as I might be, I’ve written stuff with hearts and flowers in.  Despite its over arching themes of grief, loss and bereavement, Fragments is actually quite hopeful. There is romance in there; Lydia and Matthew, with Albie and Lilly are probably the most standout examples. Retreating to Peace, is a contemporary romance, with Devan Coultrie eventually being loved. Kangana, is a romance with characters of Indian ascent, but not your average Bollywood drama. It deliberately has a rainbow cover, and Arjun’s story is a thread that is really important.

In a few weeks, Retreating to Peace will be joined by it’s follow up. That you will have to keep an eye out for. There will be pre-order stuff, very soon.

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Blooms in the gloom

It might be the bleak winter, but think of all the roses bushes currently having a good kip. There so many rose bushes on the plot, I have lost count. Each one is fairly well established now and produces a bounty of beautiful roses over the summer. This year, I was surprised see one or two still going in early November. Things have been all very confusing, given the heat wave and bizarre weather.

I used to have three different blooms on the plot. I have the rose bushes, would sink gladioli and then also sow Sunflowers. It’s been a while since the latter two were done, but who knows; next year might see a revival. Having massive great big sunflowers on the plot is a sight to behold. Are probably the one bloom that doesn’t feel like a cut flower and very rarely makes it home to a vase.

Roses are fairly robust, but do suffer in the heat. This year, I had far fewer blooms compared to previous years as we had so little rain. Roses need to absorb a great deal in order to manifest all of that foliage they come with. Planting dormant roses in the autumn and winter months allows them to bed down before kicking off in the summer. They do take time to establish, at least a couple of years. They build their crescendo slowly. When they do blossom, dead heading and having cut flowers ensures their longevity. I miss the scent that wafts from the kitchen sill when there is a fresh bouquet in the house.

When the roses are in full flow, I have easily collected a bouquet a week and then ran out of vases. In that case, they were distributed to loving homes. Some of roses are posh, they have names. The others are lost label roses and I have no idea what they are called. All of them, are beautiful and enjoyed. I do wonder sometimes, how much a bouquet might be priced at, even if the enjoyment of them is really quite priceless. The only thing to be mindful of, would the thorns. That and trying not to cut your fingers off when deadheading. As pretty as they are, roses can be vicious if not played with nicely.

The Glads are the other glamorous flower on the plot; some of which are bigger than me when fully grown. Depending on what is growing alongside, they often look like fireworks going off in random directions.  Glads are relatively easy to grow. I choose not to lift them; mainly as I can’t remember where I have put them, and really don’t like digging.

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This was rather special this year. A handful of allotment grown roses actually made into a very important bridal bouquet. The big red one in the middle is actually from Dad’s garden with all the fluffy bits from the shop. If I ever get that far, I’d like to think that I might have grown my own bouquet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing your own greenery

 

Thinking of this title, my immediate thoughts were about Cabbage and sprouts. I’ve yet to grown sprouts, and Mama F is rather intrigued to do so. The one time we had them at home, the stalks got attacked by cabbage fly and it wasn’t pleasant. Cabbage on the other hand, has been an interesting learning experience. I didn’t much success with growing from seed, so using plug plants has been far more useful. You’d think that you could plug cabbages in, and that would be it.

Not quite. Leaving them uncovered and exposed invites all sorts to munch away. You’re cabbage patch is soon decimated, you declare war on slugs and it all ends badly. Mama F builds cages covered with netting to held reduce the impact of flies and bugs. It’s a bit like an assault course trying to get in and harvest things, but the crop remains in one piece for the most part. There is certainly a lot of green, leafy things which end up on saag or pakoras. In my experience, the greener, more bitter a cabbage or green might be, the less likely it is to be attacked by anything. Not had much success growing red cabbages. Mum has possible had a couple grow, but there does seem to be more challenge with these.

There is always Spinach and Kale in some form on the plot. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve trundled along to pinch Mum’s crop for Spanakopita. You need armfuls for dinner, but it is something very straight forward to grow. I’ve always  broadcast sown the seeds and never bothered with plug plants. Plug plants would certainly help with spacing and reduce the need for thinning out. Every year, Mum sends me on a hunt to find the biggest leafed mustard green that I can find. We always end up with more perpetual spinach that we need, but it does get sown and grown. Kale is probably the more hardy of the two, and can be found to be growing along quietly in the middle of bleak winters.  And if it’s Rainbow or Vulcan chard, it’s rather pretty.

When it comes to greenery, this also covers herbs. There is masses of mint on the plot and Fenugreek is ever present. The latter is also a green manure, but wonderfully edible. It’s fire-y and bitter, but can be used in a similar way to spinach. Dried, it’s a burst of flavour when added to dishes that need a kick. FenMint should be contained; as I have found, it is unruly and get’s every where. It is however versatile, with a little going a long way.  Just think of all those mojitos….

An unlikely candidate for greenery, would be bolted radishes. Mama F starts of trying to grow Mooli. Only the weather plays havoc with fickle radishes and they bolt. When they bolt, they produce crisp, pepper flavoured pods. These you can snack on, or add to sauteed onions and garlic to make a curry.