Monday, 27 October 2014

Harrogate History Festival 2014

Unlike the Crime Writers Festival, I couldn't stay for the whole weekend this time. I left home disgustingly early, braved the M60 and M62 at morning rush hour, and made it to the Old Swan in time to get a front row seat to see the awesome Bernard Cornwell!

He is amazingly funny, and was interviewed by Radio 4s Mark Lawson, who was very, very good at asking open questions, and like Val McDermid at the Crime Writers Festival, really made the audience feel part of the conversation.
Bernard Cornwell and Mark Lawson
The signing queue for Bernard Cornwell was, perhaps unsurprisingly, immense, but I made it through, he was awfully nice, and I even got back into the ballroom for the Elizabeth Chadwick talk. Sadly, I was much nearer to the back, but she was being interviewed by Vanora Bennett, whose books I have read in the past. I have seen Elizabeth Chadwick before and she is fascinating to listen to. Although she's an author of fiction, she really, and I do mean, really, does her research! Another fabulous event, with a long signing queue after!

The only other event on the Friday I had tickets for, wasn't until 8.30pm, so I took myself off to the bar, where I met Rob Low (who writes some fantastic books about Vikings and Robert the Bruce). He was very kind and spoke with me about his newest project, which sounds interesting and very, very readable.

I met a few Facebook friends, whilst I was there, who I haven't met before, include a couple who were staying at the hotel on a railways tour! Bit of a coincidence, but it was lovely to meet them, and we had a lovely chat in the bar.

I was also lucky enough (whilst sat in the bar, author-spotting, let's be honest) to see some other authors that I really like! They were very friendly, kind enough to chat for a bit and clearly enjoying being there.

Eventually, just before 8.30, I joined the rather long queue to see Manda Scott interview Sandi Toksvig in a Desert Island Books talk. It was fantastic, I really wish I had written down all of the books that Sandi chose though, as I can only remember about half of them now, which is rather a shame, because apart from the Janet and John book, she made them all sound like must-read books! She was absolutely the funniest person I have ever been in an audience for, and when she was talking about the books that she had written, they all sound utterly brilliant... I managed to only buy 3 of her books whilst I was there, and believe that this was an achievement!

At the end of the evening, I chatted with the festival staff, some of whom I recognised from the Crime Writers Festival, and at least one of whom was there when I arrived just after 8am in the morning and was still there when I finally left at around 11pm! Those ladies worked so very hard all day, and there were still friendly and smiling after 15 hours!

My sat-nav had some kind of epic fit on the way home though - deciding, in it's infinite wisdom that rather than take me to the M62 (from where I could have turned it off and got home without assistance), it would take me across the pennines on the darkest, narrowest, hairiest roads imaginable, until I arrived at a roundabout opposite a large, lit-up saying with the name Dave Fishwick on it... (of 'Bank of Dave' fame), when I realised that I was in Burnley, a place I have never been before! I'm sure it's lovely when it's open, but at almost midnight, it's a bit dull.

I've digressed. Rotten roads aside, I made it home in around 2 hours (ish, plus a services stop) and I genuinely had the best time! I cannot wait to go again next year, this time for the full weekend! If you are able to get tickets and go next year, I would definitely recommend it!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014


We're almost there. Almost. The boxes are no longer stacked three high and three deep in the living room. In fact, there are none left in the living room, only 3 still in the hall, with 2 in the bedroom and 12 in the office.

I know, I know, 12 sounds like a lot, but it isn't, not really. And besides which, most of the 12 is either ornaments or books, neither of which have anywhere to go just now because we have run out of bookshelf space at the moment.

I know, it sounds silly, but you see, we didn't just put our belongings in storage to move house, we put a lot of our things, especially books and ornaments, into storage in order to 'stage' our house while we tried to sell it. (This involved de-cluttering and neutralising our house, I will do a separate blog post about that though.) Alas, this fabulous concept was successful in so far as it got us a sale... sadly, we continued to buy things, mainly books, but some new ornaments (especially candle holders) too. It wasn't until we'd got most of the way through unpacking that we fully realised the downfall of this.

Luckily, we have managed to buy a few new bookcases. So far, one each in my office and beloved's man-cave, one in the dining room and one more to be collected on Saturday. I have been informed (by beloved) that there will be no more bookcases and he will be instigated a "one-in-one-out" policy going forwards, before we end up on one of those 'hoarders' programmes on telly.

I didn't like to tell him that I have at least 3 books (due to be released tomorrow) on pre-order, and as I am going to the HWA festival at Harrogate this weekend (only for one day, sadly, but next year...) that I intend to get these books signed and they will be "keepers" thereafter. Also, if the Crime Writers festival earlier in the year is to be a yardstick, even just for one day, the chances are, I will come home with more books than I take with me!

We'll see how I get on anyway. I am gutted that I can only go on Friday this year, I desperately wanted to see both Ben Kane and Giles Kristian (Sat and Sun), also Robert Low (Sun) who was so utterly lovely the first time I met him. However, I am just grateful that I am going at all, as I managed to do my back in (again) this week, and I wasn't sure that I'd be able to go at all. Luckily, my lovely Dr let me have a new prescription for painkillers (as I'd used up the last lot) and I have purchased a tens machine (I used to have a disposable one, which finally gave out on me and the pads are non-replaceable). I have also been really good about keeping moving, not sitting still and letting it seize up again. It's very tiring keeping walking round the house when you are struggling to stand upright, but as sitting down was causing immense pain, I managed, and I'm very glad I did as this is the quickest that my back has ever recovered (only one day off work ill - was 4 weeks the first time it happened).

Anyway, I'm off to round up the books I want to take to Harrogate on Friday, and to do the excersizes off the physiotherapist so that my back doesn't go again!!!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Pinata Cake

If you accidentally stumbled onto my last blog post, you may have noticed one or two comments about a cake.

Well, it's Tyglet's birthday next week and she wants a pinata/anti-gravity cake, so I practiced the pinata part of the cake a week early (I have since discovered that pinata cakes can be purchased, so that will be what she gets!).

Firstly, learning from my mistakes, I haven't finished unpacking all of my kitchen stuff, so I only had a single silicon baking dish - which was a square dish that was too wide and shallow really. If I ever make one again, I'd make it in a smaller, deeper cake dish.

As it was, I made a vanilla sponge and a chocolate sponge. I cut the chocolate sponge into two layers and then used a scone shaper to cut a circle out of the middle of the vanilla sponge.

I put a layer of the chocolate sponge on the bottom (with jam and butter cream) then the vanilla sponge, filled the hole with sweeties (m&ms and jelly tots), then jam and butter cream, then the other layer of chocolate sponge and then I covered the whole thing with caramel flavoured butter cream.

It wasn't the neatest thing that I have ever baked, but it tasted ok. The sugar came off some of the jelly tots, so I probably wouldn't use them again, and some of the m&ms were a bit soggy, so I'd probably use smarties in future. In fairness, I had intended too, but the coop had run out of smarties, so we bought m&ms instead... I know, complete shocker! I will let them off though, because they are usually pretty good, and it's not their fault that everyone else wanted smarties on the same day as I did... 

Anyway, here is the result. I wasn't massively happy with it, but everyone else was, and the cake (which smelled like it was overdone but was luckily caught in time) was really nice, moist and tasty on it's own.

Sadly, although the oven managed a bang-up job of the cake, the element in the oven went on Sunday whilst I was mid-way through making our first roast dinner in our new home! Not only did it make the oven decide to 'not get warm' anymore, but when it went, it took the rest of the electrics down with it! Having aimed originally for a one o'clock dinner, it was almost 4pm by the time we were able to eat, and none of it was actually roasted! Luckily, the hob still works, I'd done the lamb in the slow-cooker anyway, and we have a microwave with  a built in oven/grill!!

Not my finest hour, but we got food on the table eventually. We looked online for new built in electric ovens (very expensive) but will try replacing the element first. We've been told it's easy enough to do and pretty inexpensive! Wish us luck!

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Following Blog Post is Especially for the British Medieval History Group on Facebook...

... and carries directly on from a thread in the group.

Firstly, it was Donna Franklin Dennis who made the original chart of how many mentions each historical author was getting in the thread, then someone (I think it was Donna again) suggested that someone else should count all of the likes that each comment had... and I had some time to kill whilst waiting for a cake to bake this evening, so....

Secondly, I have counted every author named in a comment, so if one comment listed several, they're all listed, and they all get the same number of likes for that mentions (say a comment had 4 authors and 16 likes (one did) then all 4 authors got 16 likes for that mention). If a comment mentioned an author but said something along the lines of "ooh, I don't like him/her much", I didn't count it! If someone named a book, I googled it & with one single exception (The Mistletoe and the Roman), listed the author instead. (I couldn't find The Mistletoe and the Roman, but it was mentioned once and had one like, consider this a special mention).
**Edit: Thanks to Jel Cel, we think that the book meant was The Mistletoe and the Sword by Anya Seton, whose totals have been updated accordingly...** 

Finally, the thread is still live, comments are constantly being edited, liked and (I think) deleted) as my tally didn't match Donna's original. In my defence, it is getting rather late and I am trying to bake a practice pinata cake at the same time, so I may have just miscounted, but I'm not about to do a recount, it's taken 4 sides of A4 notepaper as it is... and I was writing pretty small.

Oh, and Nota Bene: I haven't heard of every author mentioned, spelling errors may be the original commentors, or they may be mine... apologies if anyone is offended, let me know and I will edit the spelling.

Ok - my list then; this is in order of the 'total number of recommendations', counting both number of comments which mention the author in a positive light, and the number of 'likes' (probably trademarked by Faceache by now) each comment mentioning said author had...

Author Number of times mentioned Number of Likes Total recommendations
Sharon Kay Penman 24 122 146
Elizabeth Chadwick 20 80 100
Bernard Cornwell (aka Suzannah Kells) 18 73 91
Anya Seton 13 56 69
Edith Pargeter/Ellis Peters 12 48 60
Dorothy Dunnett 10 38 48
Ken Follett 9 37 46
CJ Sansom 12 30 42
Alison Weir 7 30 37
Jean Plaidy (aka Victoria Holt) 7 29 36
Edward Rutherfurd 6 26 32
Margaret George 3 16 19
Hilary Mantel 3 14 17
Ariane Franklin 4 12 16
SJ Parris 4 11 15
Nigel Tranter 4 11 15
Candace Robb 4 10 14
Anne O'Brien 3 11 14
Josephine Tey 3 10 13
Jeanne Kalgridis 2 10 12
James Forester (aka Ian Mortimer) 3 8 11
Umberto Eco 3 7 10
Susanna Gregory 3 7 10
Thomas Costain 2 8 10
Mary Renault 2 8 10
Kate Sedley 2 8 10
Nancy Bilyeau 2 7 9
Maurice Duron 2 7 9
Anne Easter Smith 2 7 9
Dan Jones 2 7 9
Nora Lofts 2 7 9
George RR Martin 2 7 9
Marion Zimmer Bradley 2 7 9
Emma  Donoghue 1 8 9
Sarah Dunant 1 8 9
Conn Iggulden 1 8 9
Karleen Koen 1 8 9
Mary Stewart 1 8 9
Rory Clements 2 6 8
Robert Graves 2 6 8
JRR Tolkein 2 6 8
Philippa  Gregory 3 4 7
Manda (or MC) Scott 2 5 7
Timothy Baker 1 6 7
Antonia Fraser 1 6 7
Erik Linklater 1 6 7
Michael Shaara 1 6 7
Guy Gavriel Kay 2 4 6
Deborah Harkness 2 4 6
Georgette Heyer 2 4 6
Helen Hollick 2 4 6
Michael Jecks 2 4 6
Elizabeth Goudge 1 5 6
Roberta Gellis 2 3 5
James Wilde 2 3 5
Paul Doherty 1 4 5
Daphne Du Maurier 1 4 5
Ben  Kane 1 4 5
Giles Kristian 1 4 5
Robert Low 1 4 5
Imogen Robertson 1 4 5
Gaynor Arnold 2 2 4
Lindsay Davis 2 2 4
Jeri Westerson 2 2 4
Steve Berry 1 3 4
Patricia Bracewell 1 3 4
Andree Aelian Brooks 1 3 4
Michelle Cameron 1 3 4
Mitchell James Caplan 1 3 4
HA Culley 1 3 4
Barbara Erskine 1 3 4
Elisabeth Kostova 1 3 4
Stephen Lawhead 1 3 4
Sharan Newman 1 3 4
Terry Pratchett 1 3 4
Cecil Roth 1 3 4
Vanitha Sankara 1 3 4
Garrett Mattingley 2 1 3
Geoffrey Chaucer 1 2 3
Alexander Cordell 1 2 3
Arthur Frazier 1 2 3
CW Gortner 1 2 3
Susan Higginbotham 1 2 3
Susan Howatch 1 2 3
Charles Palliser 1 2 3
Steven  Saylors 1 2 3
Maeve Binchy 1 1 2
Emma  Blair 1 1 2
Christan Cameron 1 1 2
Susanna Clark 1 1 2
Cathryn Collier 1 1 2
Catherine Cookson 1 1 2
Margaret Doody 1 1 2
Margaret Frazser 1 1 2
Elizabeth Freemantle 1 1 2
Diana Gabaldon 1 1 2
Nicola Griffith 1 1 2
Jan Guillou 1 1 2
Cecelia Holland 1 1 2
Charles Kingsley 1 1 2
Barbara Kyle 1 1 2
Paula Lofting 1 1 2
Patricia McIntosh 1 1 2
Judith  Merkle Riley 1 1 2
James Michener 1 1 2
Richard K Morgan 1 1 2
Kate Morton 1 1 2
Patrick O'Brian 1 1 2
Zoe Oldenbourg 1 1 2
Iain Pears 1 1 2
Anne Perry 1 1 2
Evan Rhodes 1 1 2
Linda Root 1 1 2
Rosemary Rowe 1 1 2
Mary B Sherwood 1 1 2
Alfred P Smythe 1 1 2
Mel  Starr 1 1 2
Karla Tipton 1 1 2
Leon Uris 1 1 2
Brian Wainwright 1 1 2
William Watson 1 1 2
Lauren Willig 1 1 2
Robyn Young 1 1 2
JE Neale 1 0 1

On a personal note, I'm gutted that some of my favourites are so low down in the list, so don't let lack of recommendations put you off trying, it just means that other people haven't discovered them yet, but I think it's fairly obvious who the most popular are!

Just now, I can smell the tell tale whiff of over-done chocolate cake, and as there is nothing on earth as rank as dry chocolate sponge cake, I'm off to rescue it!