9 Feb 2016


Hoping to find some interesting folklore character(s) associated with Shrove Tuesday I was a bit disappointed when all that I could come up with was mention of ...
  • The Toddington Witch. Imprisoned, so legend has it, within a mound beside the parish church. It is said if you put your ear to the mound on Shrove Tuesday you can hear her cauldron boiling as she prepares her pancakes.

The day immediately preceding Ash Wednesday ...
  • In Britain known as Shrove Tuesday or perhaps  more commonly 'Pancake Day' thanks to the tradition of eating, err, panckes.
  • In German, Fastnacht and in Dutch, Vastenavond meaning 'Eve of the Fast' in reference to the fast about to begin. 
  •  Mardi gras (French), martedì grasso (Italian), and terça-feira gorda (Portuguese) all meaning 'Fat Tuesday' and denoting the feasting of fatty foods before the austerity of Lent
  • The Spanish martes de carnaval, 'Carnival Tuesday', reflecting the rigorous Lenten abstinence from meat through the forty days of Lent ...
Derived from the Anglo Saxon lencten denoting the Spring season, 'Lent' is believed to have its roots in either an ancient spring festival or a pagan agricultural rite marking the transition between winter and summer. 

In Pre-Christian times the Slavs believed that the change of seasons was a struggle between Jarilo (the god of vegetation, fertility and springtime) and the evil spirits of cold and darkness. That by eating the hot, round pancakes, the first of which were put on a window ledge for the spirit of the ancestors, they were granted the power of the sun's warmth and light.

In parts of post-reformation Britain however, on Shrove Monday meat and eggs were eaten, gifts of flour, eggs, or money collected to provide Shrove Tuesday fare. The villagers reciting a 'shroving or 'Lensharding' verse' which, according to several sites, went like this ...

Please I've come a-shroving
For a piece of pancake
Or a little ruckle cheese
Of your own making.
If you don't give me some,
If you don't give me none,
I'll knock down your door
With a great marrow bone
And away I'll run ...

with those who refused to contribute likely to suffer the loud knocking of clubs on their doors.

The Irish meanwhile, according to one insight into the typical Shrove Tuesday circa nineteenth/twentieth century, had it as a time when
family and friends got together, gathering around the fireside. The honour of the tossing of the first pancake going to the eldest, unmarried daughter of the hosts household. Her luck during the year dependent on her success for if she is lucky in the tossing of the pancake she is destined to have her pick of the men BUT if by mischance the pancake is not successfully tossed or, worse still, falls amongst the fires ashes, she is doomed not to marry that year.

Thinner than an American pancake, Mr T uses the Be-Ro recipe below from a book that belonged to my nana. 
  • 4oz Be-Ro plain flour
  • Quarter of a teaspoon of salt
  • 1 egg
  • Half a pint of milk (or a mix of milk and water)
  • 2oz lard or fat.
  1. Mix flour and salt in a basin, make a hollow in the centre and drop in egg
  2. Stir with a wooden spoon and add liquid gradually, until all the flour is worked in
  3. Beat well and add remaining liquid
  4. For each pancake, melt a small piece of lard/fat in the frying pan. When it begins to smoke, stir the batter and place two tablespoonful into the pan
  5. When golden brown underneath, turn and cook other side
  6. Turn out on sugared paper, sprinkle with sugar and roll up
  7. Place on a hot dish and serve immediately with sugar or syrup, lemon or orange 
OR as Mr T does ...
  • Follow instructions as numbers 1 to 5
  • Add required filling (we both like golden syrup, Mr T sometimes preferring sugar and Jif lemon
  • Place on a hot dish and serve immediately.

8 Feb 2016


Whilst I endeavour to keep Media Monday fairly family friendly some of the articles linked to do contain links to articles with a more adult theme. TT

Having worked hard capturing both mice and commuter’s hearts for the past five years, Huddersfield railways station's cat Felix has received a purr-motion and a posh uniform to be envied by many a moggy.

Having disappeared from his home 14 months ago Clive a  two-year-old Norwegian Forest cat has been found safe and well and a whole lot chubbier having made his home in a nearby factory that makes ... pet food.

Two thieves on drugs raided a lorry on an industrial estate - but were soon caught with their haul of £14,000 of nappy cream.

It could have been worse, it could have been all wafer and no chocolate ...

A chocolate loving student from London is demanding a lifetime supply of KitKats – after buying a multipack that contained eight of the chocolate bars, and realising that none of them had wafer inside.

A prosthetic leg, a life-sized Spiderman doll, "enough musical instruments to form a band, a full-size house carpet AND a judge's wig - just some of the 300,000 items left on the capital's trains and buses last year.

And finally, the funniest news clip I've seen in a while, this Japanese article  had me laughing until I cried ...

A zookeeper donned a zebra costume to stand in for an escaped animal during an emergency drill at a Tokyo zoo.

4 Feb 2016



INNER FRONT COVER BLURB: Hetty Feather has begun a new chapter in her life story. Escaping from Tanglefield’s Travelling Circus with her dearest friend Diamond, Hetty is determined to find them positions as glamorous music hall artistes. 

The pair quickly become the Little Stars of Mrs Ruby’s show at the Cavalcade, alongside many colourful acts – including an old friend from Hetty’s past, Flirty Bertie. But the music hall is both thrilling and dangerous, and Hetty must fight to protect her darling Diamond, who longs for a normal childhood. Meanwhile, Hetty struggles to understand her feelings for Bertie – and for Jem, whom she has never forgotten.

Hetty dreams of a glittering future for herself and Diamond. The bright lights of the London theatre world beckon – will Hetty become a true star?

FIRST SENTENCE {Chapter 1}: I woke with a start, my head hurting, aching all over.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 243}: Then she insisted on holding a 'birthing' scene on the cutting out table.

Miss Gibson looked slightly alarmed by this suggestion, but Diamond had no idea of the mechanics of real childbirth (I was actually a little hazy myself). She laid the box on the table and then shut her eyes, crossed her fingers and said fervently 'Oh, I wish I had a child! I wish wish wish I had my very own daughter!'

Then she went 'Ping!' and lifted her finger. 'Hark!' she said theatrically. 'I think my wish is granted!'

SOURCE: A GoodReads win.

MY THOUGHTS: Though once a big fan of this author Niece #2 (now 17) feels she has long since outgrown these books. I, however, having read several of Jacqueline Wilson's books with her in the past was keen to catch up with Hetty Feather in this, the fifth and reputedly last book in the series.

Having only read the first book in the series I'm not what you could call au-fait with Hetty's story but had no problem catching up with events. Indeed I think I could have been a total newcomer to the Hetty Feather books and still read this without any difficulty as it really does work perfectly well as a standalone novel. The characters, though most of them new to me, quickly feeling familiar.

An author I've come to have very mixed feelings about. Not the best of writers in my opinion, I do however think Ms Wilson tells a good story, the relationships between characters always well observed.

Generally considered as being suitable for those aged nine to eleven (and upwards). Already an accomplished reader at nine myself I don't wish to generalise but I think less well read children (and certainly 'reluctant' readers) may perhaps struggle with this book which at four pages short of 500 is rather long and I feel could well prove daunting.

Set in the time of Queen Victoria. Whilst there was a sense of time and place, the fashions of the time being beautifully described even if some of the dialogue used was hardly of the period. As an adult I had however hoped for more of a feel of the Victorian era . And yet I suppose, written for children, there is a narrow line between not 'dumbing' things down whilst making sure the music hall setting was appropriate.

Not a bad read and certainly one I'm convinced will appeal to Hetty aficionados/fans of the author. As for it being the last book in the series? Personally I'd be surprised if this were the case as disappointingly I felt there were certain aspects of the story left unresolved.

2 Feb 2016


Ex Machina [DVD] [2015]EX MACHINA ... 

Oh my goodness, one of the most thought provoking, intense, claustrophobic, eerie (and yes, I'm talking goose-bump/hairs rising on the back of the neck eerie) films I have seen in a long time as I found myself totally immersed in events and becoming increasingly obsessed by just who if anyone (Ava aside) was of Artificial Intelligence in a film that, in a nutshell, explores what it is that makes us human. TT

The Turing Test for artificial intelligence provides the plot for this intrigue that takes us into the realms of what it is that makes us human.  Turing believed that machine intelligence would eventually reach a kind of critical mass from whence it would begin to learn of it's own intelligence and the test would be for an inquisitor posing questions to a human and machine subject to discern which responses were machine and which were human.  If the inquisitor fails to distinguish which is which then the artificial intelligence has gone beyond this moment of critical mass. NJT

You can see Kelly's thoughts on this and a multitude of other films on her One Sentence Movie Review # 15 post.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel [DVD] [2015]

Alas not a patch on the first film. I'm afraid this second outing failed to engage me on just about every level, my main gripe being all of the totally charmless sub-plots. Well, those and the fact that I could have done less with hotel owner Sonny's (Dev Patel) inane witterings  and more of Muriel and Evelyn (Maggie Smith and Judy Dench). Oh and less of the totally wooden acting of Richard Gere. TT

Erm... no really, why did you bother? There are some films that should just be left alone as one off and this is further evidence of this. None of the charm and humour of the first film at all and such a mish-mash of story lines that appeared incidental rather than any form of whole narrative. Sticking Richard Gere in there didn't help either, Why? NJT

Song for Marion (2012) PosterSONG FOR MARION ...

One of my favourite films for quite a long while. I laughed, I cried throughout a film all about love, loss redemption and reconciliation (oh and of course 'OAPZ' singing, well, songs you perhaps wouldn't have expected of them) culminating in a touching finale featuring Terence Stamp as the wonderfully curmudgeonly Arthur whose relationship with his wife, the Marion of the title as played by Vanessa Redgrave, and son, James (Christopher Eccleston) is a show stealer. TT

Delightfully curmudgeonly Terence Stamp is pre-occupied with caring for terminally ill love of his life Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) and becomes all the more tense when they face the news that no further treatments are likely.  Strained relationship with his son (Christopher Eccleston) is not being helped by the situation and Marion's insistence on wringing the very last drops of the marrow of life in community singing are just another annoyance for him.

Aside from spotting all of the local venues used as the backdrop for this film, it was an engaging story of two families; the one that we are born into and the extended family of community that provides the super-structure, the support that makes the first family viable and it's tragedy survivable.  Some good humour amidst the sadness and some good singing too, Mr. Stamp has a surprisingly good voice  (see below) - never pegged him as a singer. NJT

Beginners (2010) PosterBEGINNERS ...

Yes, an enjoyable enough tale of a son and father dealing with terminal illness and death with some very wry moments.  Twixt father and son and the others in their life there is just about enough in here to make sure the revelation other than being about to die, does not dominate the narrative, but then it does just feel a bit laboured... not sure there really was enough here for a feature film, maybe an hour TV show instead. Nice to see Christopher Plummer though. NJT

A film I can safely say I'd file under 'Well, that was neither nowt nor sommat'. Self indulgent twaddle. The only redeeming thing about the film was Arthur (the cutest Jack Russel terrier) and even then his presence marred my enjoyment as I spent much of the film worrying something awful was about to befall him. TT

Blackhat (2015) PosterBLACKHAT ...

Rather deluded tale of t'internet hackers, nasty hacker damaging government properties and an even nastier hacker got out of jail in order to trace and find the nasty hacker.  And, that's it really... unless you idolise violent egotism and then you may find a hero. NJT

Not my type of film ... but then I thought that about Ex Machina and look how much I enjoyed that.

Alas, not wrong, this wasn't my cup of tea. Not that I gave it much of a chance to be honest. Put off (not to mention left feeling momentarily dizzy) by the pulsating subtitles that accompanied the speech of the Chinese characters, I wasn't impressed by the various snippets I did watch. TT

1 Feb 2016


My apologies that some visitors to Pen and Paper have been experiencing difficulties accessing articles. Sadly, totally out of my control, the links are correct at the time I post.

Whilst I endeavour to keep Media Monday fairly family friendly some of this weeks articles are a bit more risqué than usual and as always some of the articles linked to do contain links to articles with a more adult theme. TT

Bunny tiler holding out for a hero in rooftop rabbit drama.

Benefits cheat said he was disabled but  was working as a STRIPPING NINJA .... with a GRAN.

Not that I condone violence in any shape or form but these next two headlines did make me smile ...

 'Drive-by yoghurt attack' on crochet teacher's haberdashery leaves her shaken.

Former London Zoo meerkat expert fined for glassing monkey-handler in row over llama-keeper.

Talk about  an understatement ...

'Well this is awkward': Labour councillor realises he has buried someone else's cat.

And in the headlines from the Netherlands ...

Police kick in opera singer’s door after mistaking his rehearsal for ‘screams of agony’.

The Netherlands has recognised the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a religion

29 Jan 2016



BACK COVER BLURB: Saffron is studying for a promising career in medicine until a horrific accident changes her life for ever. Needing to escape London, she moves to a small coastal town to live with her mother. Saffron hates the small town existence and feels trapped until she meets Joe, another outsider. Despite initial misgivings, they grow closer to each other as they realise they have a lot in common. Like Saffron, Joe has a complicated past ...one that's creeping up on his present. Can Joe escape his demons for long enough to live a normal life - and can Saffron reveal the truth about what really happened on that fateful night? Love is the one thing they need most, but will they - can they - risk it?

FIRST SENTENCE {Prologue}: The couple stagger to the front door.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 122}: Rage bore down upon him, pressing into him, drenching him with its blood-red stain. It tightened around his throat, choking him. It twisted in his belly and guts and punched at his chest and in his head till he might explode. It was a sensation he knew well, too well perhaps.

SOURCE: Honoured to have reviewed Laura's first book, Public Battles, Private Wars, I was delighted when she approached me to review this, an Advanced Reading Copy of her second novel which, hot off the press, was published yesterday.

MY THOUGHTS: A bit of a slow burner to begin with but, oh my goodness so, so well worth sticking with.

Quite different from the author's first book, Public Battles, Private Wars, but once again we are treat to some of the most wonderful female characters in mother, Rain, her daughter, Saffron, and Saffron's friend Ceri.

Told from the point of view of mother and daughter and carpenter Joe. Whilst I can find myself struggling with novels told from multiple points of views I had no such difficulties here. Seamlessly narrated with each character given their own very distinct voice. Like the roses on the cover, just as the story slowly unfurled so they bloomed, their secrets revealed (Joe's perhaps a tad too slowly), their inner feelings laid bare.

Labelled by some as a romance. Yes, there are certain romantic attachments formed but thankfully no so-called 'insta-love' connections. Like the plot itself, carefully considered, Redemption Song is more about the relationships in general. Baptist minister Rain's and non-believer Saffron's in particular lending a wonderfully compelling air to the story.

Ultimately a story of healing, of finding forgiveness, both self forgiveness and otherwise. Though only her second novel author Laura Wilkinson is already a firm favourite of mine.

Read for the 2016 Reading Challenge: 'A book published this year' category.