A Mugs Game

Francesca considers personalised mugs, especially those of the literary kind.

Most people have cups and mugs that they bought because they have some significance: a family holiday, ‘the best sister’, a football souvenir or one declaring ‘Grumpy Old Man’.

We have all of the above at home. Even more special are the Penguin Classics mugs I bought several years ago, one for each of the family. Most of them have more than one reference to the particular member.

Country LifeI picked a yellow one for me, a colour I’ve always liked, with the book title, ‘Country Life’. I love living in the country, even though I prefer the seaside. I only have to walk a minute to get to the woods, and beyond that, the meadow, even though the village is only classed ‘semi’ rural. I was brought up by the seaside and a river, with a view of the South Downs, so had the best of both worlds.

Man & SupermanMy husband’s mug is red and white, the colour of his favourite team, Sunderland. He hails from near there. Red’s also his favourite colour. The title, ‘Man and Superman’ wasn’t meant to be flattery or irony, but since ‘Andrew’ means strong and manly, it seemed kind of appropriate.

PersuasionCarmela’s cup was a no brainer. Not only is it orange, her favourite colour back then and the colour or her room (yes, really!), it also has the title ‘Persuasion’. Since she’s a huge Jane Austen fan, it couldn’t have been better.

The Big SleepPeter’s cup is green, his favourite colour, with the ‘The Big Sleep’ written on it. I doubt that needs explanation!

A Room of One's OwnGiovanna’s cup was purchased just after she’d acquired ‘A Room of One’s Own’. And guess what? The room was lilac, just like the mug. Neat, eh?

The Invisible ManJack’s cup, also his favourite colour green, announces, ‘The Invisible Man’. At the age of around twelve, he’d often say something like, “I’m just out with my friends. Back for lunch.” Three hours after said meal he’d turn up.

And now? I still like yellow and the country and Andrew still supports Sunderland. Carmela no longer favours orange (though the room remains that colour in her absence, though toned down). She’s still a fan of Regency novels. Peter’s step-son, Ben, told me recently that his cup title is still appropriate! Giovanna’s old room remains lilac though her bedroom in her own house is duck egg blue. She’s recently regained a room of her own  as her son Luca has moved to a room of his own, due to the friend she was putting up temporarily finding a place of her own (do you see a theme developing here?).

As for Jack, his absence from his sister’s wedding recently elicited the quip regarding the cup, “Well, it’s still appropriate then!” To be fair, he had already booked a holiday to Italy with friends and Carmela’s wedding was planned at short notice in the hope her terminally ill uncle would be able to make it. (Sadly he didn’t.)

As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Do you have any mugs (or other crockery) with special significance or memories?

Group photo

 

@FCapaldiBurgess               Nonna Blog: Diary of a Reluctant Grandmother

 

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Come Dine With Us

Elaine and Francesca consider their dream guest list for the ultimate dinner party.

Elaine: When Francesca and I were discussing which four guests we would each invite to a dinner party, the names were endless.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe first thought that entered my head was that I’d be quite happy to sit opposite David Beckham all night. Then there’s the very talented graffiti artist, Banksy, but he would never come because of his anonymity. So I made a list. Once I had done that, I realized many of them were women fighting for what they want in a male dominated environment. Emily Pankhurst, Margaret Thatcher and Tina Turner to name just a few, but that probably says more about me than anything else.

My first guest will not surprise anybody that has read this blog before or knows anything about me, John Lennon. I grew up with the Beatles and it has to be said he was my favourite. I believe his talent for writing was ahead of its time and it shocked me when his life was cut short.

The second guest would by Dame Judy Dench, although it was tough deciding between her
and Helen Mirren. Both of these ladies have grown older gracefully; they have embraced their age and beauty, which must be tough when their careers are in a pressurized environment to have plastic surgery. I have great admiration for them both.

I recently saw Lionel Ritchie in concert and for that reason he will be my third guest. He IMG_1998surprised me by being very entertaining and it wasn’t just about his songs, he made the audience laugh.

My fourth will be the comedy actress, Victoria Wood. This lady has been making me laugh for years, and I can tell you that is not an easy task.

Please note there isn’t a writer amongst my guests. That’s not intentional, it was just a very tough choice and as a writer myself, I know they would rather be writing than sitting having dinner with fellow guests. 

 @RobertsElaine11

Francesca: Oh dear, only four people?

Okay. I started off writing this thinking who on earth would I invite? Then, as I got warmed up the list got longer and longer and…

The kids would want  an invite to this dinner party (though won't thank me for this 10-year-old photo!).

The kids would want an invite to this dinner party (though won’t thank me for this 10-year-old photo!).

How about some eye candy, I thought, Aiden Turner, Ioan Gruffudd and Elijah Wood? I’m sure they’d all be interesting too. (I’ve actually met one of them, but that’s a story for another time.) Or I wouldn’t mind some clever/comedic banter with Jo Brand, Victoria Coren, Paul Merton, Ian Hislop and Dara O Briain.

Or Dara could bring Brian Cox and it could be an evening of intellectual discussion. Along with them I could have Lucy Worsley, Neil Oliver and Michael Wood, my favourite TV historians. I could add David Attenborough and Ray Mears for the natural touch. But with some of those in attendance I’d have to invite my children or they’d never forgive me. 

Table for five, madam?

Table for five, madam?

I wouldn’t mind a frank one-to-one with Richard III. What happened to those princes, Dick? Perhaps invite Henry VII (who I suspect was the culprit anyway), and the aforementioned historians, get a good discussion going. Or a punch up! Mother Teresa might be useful to dispense calm and words of wisdom.

Oh, so many interesting people, so little time! Ok, final decision on the four. Victoria Coren, Lucy Worsley, Dara O Briain and Ray Mears. Absolutely. Probably. Maybe. Then again, with the kitchen table added to the one in the dining room, I could actually fit ten to twelve people in…

 @FCapaldiBurgess

 So tell us, who would you invite and why?

Elaine Plans & Searches

Last week our post on new beginnings got me thinking about my new novel and how I’m moving away from what I know.

My first two novels didn’t need extensive researching, I wrote about things I knew about.Victorian My last one required research because a publisher asked my to change the location to a country I knew nothing about. My current work in progress is on a whole new level for me.

I have always done chapter breakdowns for my novels but this time I have done it for three stand-alone projects. It is planned down to the minutest detail to ensure I don’t forget some of the threads to the story.

Last Saturday I dragged my husband to an archive centre in London, despite the trains and underground making it as difficult as possible with the Easter engineering works. Thankfully, the DLR helped to bridge the gap. While we were on the train, a couple of young lads were discussing football at length and how they were going to get to the game that day. I won’t tell you who they were going to support but it was a London team, so that should narrow it down a little, if you’re interested. They were so busy talking, they nearly missed their stop but Super Gran (that’s me) came to the rescue and told them they were at their stop. I was rewarded with thanks, some grateful smiles, and a wave when they got off the train. It made my day. I did wonder afterwards whether they would refer to me as “some old girl” when they discussed it later.

Anyway, I digress, back to the archive centre. I did something that day that I’ve alwaysNewspaper Print shied away from. I admitted to the assistant that I was researching the Victorian era because I was writing a novel. She was very helpful and knowledgeable. She gave me a quick reminder on how to view microfiche. It needs to be said that the more tired I became, the worse my navigating got. I came home with newspaper print outs, old maps, a couple of books and a husband with a very bad headache.

To be serious for a moment, my research has given me a totally different view on the authors that write historical sagas. We spent nearly four hours in there and that was just the tip of the iceberg.

The old maps have shown me roads and properties that don’t exist now, so that has Old Mapsadded a new dimension to my writing. When I got home, the maps were laid out all over the floor and I highlighted different roads on them. I had lists of traders at the time, which adds authenticity to my writing. I spent ages trying to make decisions over which roads to use. Google Earth helped me to look at the properties as they are now, which in turn helped to give an idea of when they were built.

I started off not wanting to do the research and the level of planning that I am subjecting myself to. All I wanted to do was write, but I am shocked to say I have enjoyed it. My writing is easier because of it. The words flow more easily. It’s all part of learning my trade. I am serving my apprenticeship and, hopefully, I’ve just passed the research and planning module.

@RobertsElaine11

New Beginnings

Elaine and Francesca look forward to Easter and the chance for New Beginnings.

Elaine: The first short story I had published, almost two years ago to the day, was called New Beginnings and it certainly was for me.

I attended a writing class for six months, mainly because I wanted to write a novel, but was also encouraged to write short stories as well. I didn’t have a clue where to start or if I could write a story that was only two thousand words long. I wrote a couple but never sent them off. good-news-300x225To be honest, I couldn’t believe anyone would want to buy a story I had written, but I was wrong. The day the e-mail came from the magazine, saying they wanted to buy my story, is a day that will stick in my memory forever. I was alone in the house when it arrived. I read the three-line e-mail several times before it sunk in. Someone did want to buy my story. I ran up and down my front room, cheering and waving my hands in the air. Anyone passing my front room window would have thought I was a lunatic. My heart was pounding. Taking a deep breath, I dialed my husband’s work number but he was in a meeting. I tried ringing my son but he didn’t answer his phone. I rung my daughter and she was unlucky enough to be the person that answered. It has to be said that she didn’t understand a word I was saying.

My story was a about an elderly lady who had lost her husband five years earlier.IMG_1018 The garden had become neglected and it was something they had cared for together, but the time had come for her to get her life back on track. What is surprising is I originally wanted to write a story around visiting a garden centre, but actually that was how it ended.

That story was truly a new beginning for me as my published short stories are now in double figures. My love will always be my novels and I have completed three now, two of which will probably never see the light of day, but the third, a modern romance, has potential. I’m now writing my fourth, which is a historical saga. This is a totally new adventure for me or possibly another new beginning.

 @RobertsElaine11

Francesca: Like Elaine, I’ve had a story published called New Beginnings, though they changed the title to A New A New Beg story WNews smBeginning. It was the second story I had published and, in itself, could be said to be part of a new beginning for me, as a published writer.

The story was about a woman who ended up doing the same things for her local community and with her family every Easter, things they always expected her to do, but never anything she really wanted to do. It’s about how she breaks out of the rut and asserts herself. The tale was based on my own experience, though exaggerated for literary effect.

Spring is my favourite season and I particularly love April and May, with its blossom and bright, bourgeoning leaves, the fluffy chicks, downy ducklings and cute little lambs. There is the promise of lighter evenings and the weather’s gradually getting warmer, but not as hot and muggy as in the summer.

IMG_5874

‘A host of golden daffodils’. Taken today, just down the road from where I live.

This week I’ve seen at least four bumble bees, their fat, furry bodies buzzing round the nascent flowers. Earlier today I even saw a butterfly, a clouded yellow, on my way for a walk in the nearby meadow. Soon that will be exploding with the colour of its myriad wild flowers.

Lighter days, brighter colours, warmer weather: what’s not to like? I always feel better this time of the year, after the long, dragging winter. It seems to kick start my body and I get more done. Kind of like, well, a new beginning!

@FCapaldiBurgess