Thursday, 30 September 2010

GIVEAWAY TIME!

Well after all the loveliness yesterday I come spreading more Joy!  The wonderful people at CSN Stores are offering one of my readers £15 to spend on any of thier UK Websites.  CSN stores sell everything you need for each room of your house! From wardrobes to lighting to my personal favorite BAKEWARE!

 I have my eye on one of these babies:


KitchenCraft Natural Elements Cast Iron Scale with Body and Acacia Wood Stand in Ivory - NETSCAIVR

But YOU can spend your £15 on whatever you like.  To enter, just comment on this post and tell me what you would spend your voucher on! (Don't worry, you can change your mind later!).  Entry closes next Friday (8th October) and a winner will be picked at random! Anyone can enter, so tell your friends!

Good Luck! x

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Good things come to those that blog

BLOG
"BLOG" by NVasion

Blogging is lovely.

This blog here started in a very poorly place.  I was down in the dumps and down on myself. I needed to start writing to let off steam and this blog let that happen.

Thanks to blogging I have had a much needed outlet over the last few months to moan and gripe. Apart from a rather odd situation along the way (those this applies to know what I'm talking about, and they are the only ones that need to (so don't ask about it!)) it has been a very enriching experience.  From writing Bitter Lemon I have had the boost I was desperate for! I have something else to think about and something to get excited about!

I have been writing on and off for five months now and in that time I have progressed in my writing to a stage where I'm applying for writing roles on other websites.  I have also had the confidence to set up a blog in a rather competitive corner of the Internet: food.

"Competitive" is completely the wrong word.  Apart from The Situation I mentioned above, everyone I have encountered through the Internet have been an absolute joy.  They have given me heaps of advice, time and the occasional (well worded!) criticism, all of which has helped me to improve what I'm doing.

The Internet is, ironically, the place where things can actually happen! I have written two blogs in the past week about two women I admire.  Both these women have not only read my blogs but have taken the time to send me thank you messages (they were THANKING ME!).  To anyone who dismisses Twitter and blogging I will use these experiences as proof that through social networking you can reach the people that have brought a little wonder to your lives and thank them for it (and if they are truly wonderful they may even thank you back).

When I started I didn't know where blogging would take me. I am nowhere near where I want to be but just being HERE is lovely and to anyone thinking of starting their own, I'd say GET BLOGGING!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Victoria Coren: I Salute You.

I love telly.  I’m not ashamed to say it.  There is something quite comforting about that glowing box in the corner. It has been there always and long may it be the hand that guides me through those “what to do, what to do” moments (as well as those “I really should be blogging/cleaning/cooking/moving moments).  But like any relationship it also has the capacity to make me rage.  There is such utter guff on at the moment, fronted by the same vacuous personas.  Presenters seem to have been punched out in some glamour factory with big hair, big boob, big teeth cookie cutters.  Anything interesting, quirky or clever seems to have been cast aside.  There are two offenders high on my list.  I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say I’m sick to the back teeth of these two:


Look at them, no don’t.  It’s too horrible.  These two have been the bane of my television viewing since they heaved their monstrous “I’m just like your best friend” nonsense onto my screen.  They embody all that depresses me about broadcasting at the moment.  First there is Fearne, with her unbearable desperation to be cool. I almost feel sorry for her, she has the ability to be mince in everything. Did you see those interviews she did for ITV2?  Yikes. why were they allowed to be aired? . And then there is Holly, who reminds me of those big breasted titbits of the 1970s who soul purpose was to turn playing cards over for Bruce Forsyth.  I have yet to see evidence of anything going on behind those big, sad and bewildered looking eyes. 

But enough about them, this isn’t a post about people I don’t like on television.  It’s a post about someone who I adore on television and who should be on it a lot more: Victoria Coren.


Vicky Coren03

Her face on my screen is always the most welcome sight.  She makes me throw my arms up into to air and run through the nearest field singing gloriously from the bottom of my heart:

"FINALLY ! Thank you, thank you, thank you!" 

Television (at last!) has a young woman fronting witty, clever and entertaining programmes who also has the gall to be stupendously sexy.  I’m going to refrain from using that hideous and patronising clich√© “thinking man’s crumpet” because frankly she deserves more.  She deserves a much higher accolade than that, and I may by poking my head above the parapet here, but here goes.

There aren’t many people alive today who I rate in the same league as Stephen Fry.  Those I do, tend to share a significant amount of DNA with me.  I am by no means the only person who feels this way.  As a bookseller I spend a considerable amount of each day discussing his genius with people.  One topic that often comes up is “who do you think will be the next Stephen Fry?” Because everyone knows, when something good comes along we all have to agree on who will replace them if something awful happens, just so we can get the paperwork together in time.

The number one answer at the moment is David Mitchell.  I’m being controversial here, but I just do not agree with this. In fact I shudder to write it.  I can’t deny that Mitchell is clearly intelligent; he has had a similar education to Fry, has trodden the same boards, and is forging an almost identical career.  But I find him just such a pompous arse.  He doesn’t have the same approachableness, as Fry. He doesn’t have that genuine humble bafflement that Fry often displays when complimented too highly.  Mitchell’s face is too capable of smugness and he is too ready to put people down.

200px-Coren_victoria_large_headshot
I believe the true holder of ‘Britain’s Next Top National Treasure’ is Victoria Coren.  I cannot think of anyone else whose voice, and the words it forms, sends me to sillying heights of pleasure. Her obvious intellect, like Fry’s, doesn’t detract from the fact she is probably good company down the pub.  And it profoundly please me that these qualities ooze from a woman.  I don’t want to bang on about the Sisterhood here, and make the mistake of celebrating her womanliness more than her talent, but in a world drowning in Fearnes, Hollys, and ANYONE OF THOSE BASTARDS ON T4, Coren is a blessing in female form. 

Coren isn’t just a presenter though and has been writing since her youth.  I judge writers on their ability to make me think differently about issues, she has passed my test with flying colours.  Her writing about the female form and its uses in the tremendous (and much under stocked) book ‘Once More with
 Feeling’ made me look at women in porn entirely differently (there are too many things to say about that last phrase). The book charts Coren and Charlie Skelton’s quest to produce the best pornographic film ever.  If the book hadn’t had her name attached I would have completely dismissed it.  The feminist in me would have scoffed and shuddered at the subject matter; I would have tutted and rolled my eyes.  Alot.  Now, I’m not saying that Coren has turned me into a hairy handed porn enthusiast, but her thoughtful, engaging and challenging descriptions of the scene and those who inhabit it made me reassess porn as just a seedy pit of abuse and infection.  Of course A LOT of it is, and if you engage in it in anyway I urge you to watch films that are fully decorated with all the right certificates. But some of it isn’t.  Some of it is fun, silly and at times (ahem) touching.   

To me, Coren is doing for words what Nigella did to food.  She is making them stupendously sexy.  I am dying for another series of Balderdash and Piffle.  This series sought the origins of everyday words and phrases and for anyone interested in language was a delight.   The way the words trickled out of Coren’s mouth, the way she flirted with the camera was tremendously girly and alluring.  The best porn Coren ever made was in this programme: word-porn.

Now, thanks to Only Connect (a hidden gem on BBC Four), she is bringing a weekly dose of clever-porn into my sitting room.  This show is brilliant. I rarely manage to get anything right, but that’s the point.  It’s a breath of fresh air to have a quiz on television that expects a certain level of knowledge that isnt based on soaps or X-Factor winners. If you haven’t seen it yet, try one of their “fiendishly diffcult” connecting walls here. Of course, Coren makes the show.  If it was fronted by anyone else it could possibly be the most pretentious show on TV but her personality gives it just the right amount of comedy to make it watchable without singling out the viewer as the stupid one - “[contestants are] SO clever they’ll make Stephen Fry look like Welsh Helen from Big Brother 2”.

And to top it all off, she is a professional poker player! This is as close to being James Bond that a girl can get.  And it is THE COOLEST things about her!   I swell with pride each time I watch her playing.  Her name above that St George flag makes me punch the air, and I almost have to stop myself exclaiming that wincing phrase “GO GIRLFRIEEEEND!”  She would make a brilliant comic book character: ‘Vicky C – Poker Girl!’

Victoria Coren | Best Online Casino Gambling

And now for another wincing phrase - “Girl Crush”. Coren is definitely at the top of this list for me.  Everytime she is on a panel show, whether it’s Have I Got News For You or Question Time she easily overshadows everyone else.  Most of the time she is surrounded by men. You can see it in their eyes as inch by inch they fall in love with her.  But there is one panel show that series on series seems to be lacking something.  The fact she hasn’t yet appeared on it seems completely ludicrous to me.  WHY IN THE NAME OF STEPHEN FRY HAS SHE NOT BEEN ON QI YET?!!!  Surely she is THE perfect person for that show.  Just imagine it for a moment.

Fry, Coren and Facts.

Drink it in….

Surely she is due an appearance!

For me, Coren is the best thing on TV right now and tightly gripping holder of "The Next Stephen Fry" title.  I hope the future holds a lot more commissions with her name on. If that name isn’t “household” this time next year I will burn my TV License (which will be annoying as I pay on-line).  In short, Victoria Coren is the only girl on television that I want to see turning over cards.

Visit Victoria's Website here

Picture credits: Zykesmith, Steve Edwards
 bluemanunder

Victoria on Amazon.com

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Love it when I talk about food?


 You know you do!

So why not try my new foodie blog Hank's Marvin.

Go on, it's tasty.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Why I'm having a particularly lovely day



131/365
Cat by Cat


As you can all see this blog of mine is called Bitter Lemon and started from a rather frustrated place. But today I have had a simply lovely day, and as someone who suffers from pitiful downs and panicking panics I thought it was worth celebrating.

Now we all know the Internet loves a good list, so here is why I'm having the whimsiest day of loveliness:

* I had a substantial lie-in that went on for just the right amount of time. I got up today at 10.30, which is the perfect time: you have languished in the land of nod and fed on sleep until you are just full, but not too full to feel bloated and head heavy.

* The lie-in followed a horrible dream where Martin had left me. The relief I felt when I woke up to hear him pottering about was glorious.

* Having already tidied the kitchen and living room last night, I was greeted by the best sight to morning eyes - neatness in the two most inviting rooms.

* I had perfect, 4 and a half minute boiled eggs for breakfast.

* I wrote three letters which I went on to post on the same day they were written. They now won't rattle about in my bag for a week getting tatty and bruised.  They slipped into the post box in pristine condition. I also posted back my lovefilm DVD (Frost/Nixon) in record time.

* I decided to cook my hard-working fiance a meal that any 1950s housewife would be proud of. So out came Gizzi Erskine's book and her recipe for "Proper Beef Stew".

* I walked to the shops in the sunshine,with Stephen Fry in my ears. I went round possibly the bleakest Asda in the country and left with cheeks devoid of tears. Not bursting into tears wasn't the only first on this shopping trip, I also managed to buy EVERYTHING that I needed to make my beef stew.

* I only had to wait about 5 minutes for the bus home. This is always a delight, I wasn't even bothered that, having only a £2 coin on me, I over paid for my journey by 55p. I like to think the bus driver fished this out for himself and bought himself something nice.

* I switched on my computer in the afternoon sunshine, poured myself some very lovely coffee and got cracking on my Green and Blacks Cherry Chocolate bar. My broadband kicked in in super fast time and I was whizzing around the Internet before I knew it.

* I browsed my two new favorite shopping sites The Literary Gift Company and Folksy where I made a start on Christmas and treated myself to a Border Terrier badge:


Designed by Forever Foxed
This badge will have to do until I can get the real thing.

* I spoke to Stef, who looks like this:

Stef photographed by Ian Malone
and is one of the best people I know.

* I downloaded 'A Larum' which is a simply brilliant folk album by Johnny Flynn, and thanks to the power of the facebook status update have added more music to my Itunes wishlist.

* With 'A Larum' playing in the background I lustily prepared stew for my lover like any good folk wench would.

* Martin came home early.

These are all wonderful things. But surely the best thing is still to come: the stew should be ready in time for Only Connect. It's almost like I timed it that way.

Top photo by Cat_mcpie (wonderful photos, especially of London)
Stef photo by Ian Malone (www.malonesworld.com)
Border Terrier badge by Forever Foxed

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Freelance Writing Dream?

TYPE!


A few months ago my working hours were cut and as a result my free time went up. Hurray! I spent the first few months revelling in all this extra time I had to wallow in novels and daytime television.  But as anyone with even the slightest twinkle of ambition knows, every spare moment you spend doing anything other than strutting towards your dream looms over you with damning disapproval.  Every extra hour spent trawling through your Sky+ delights is an hour spent in guilt.  You really should be doing something. Those scarves won’t knit themselves and that paint wont leap spontaneously onto canvas.  In my case, those articles I need to complete to become a freelance writer wont type themselves up whilst I sit and watch The Great British Bake Off.

I have always wanted to write, for as long as I can remember.  But life and slovenliness has got in the way for many years, and its only now that my job has become part-time that I have felt guilt-ridden enough to do anything about it.  And it is now, when I’m just starting out, that I’m beginning to wonder whether this dream is really mine.

I know quite a few people who are freelance writers full-time.  Some thrive, they relish in falling out of their beds into their office (the coffee table) banging out a few articles surrounded by all the comforts of home.  They drink endless cups of tea, listen to BBC Radio 4 or 6 and are Zen and lovely   This is the image I had pinned my dreams to:  Sitting primly at my laptop, tappity-tappity-tapping away, sending off my articles to the wittiest, most right-on and most read websites out there. Once I had spilt my wisdom on fashion, popular culture and what’s so hot right now, I would spruce myself up and skip into town to take in an art show or two before whiling away my evenings cooking and reading. 

In the couple of months I have spent researching and finding websites to write for it has become ever clearer that there are a few glitches to this ideal freelance world.  The internet is freakishly good at eating up time, a phenomenon I also experience whilst writing.  Add the two together and your day lasts about 45 minutes. If I remember to eat or drink I’m having a good day. The concept of leaving the house becomes ever more alien and before I know it, it’s time to get ready for work-work.  All this and I’m still not anywhere near being an actual freelance writer.

As the hours tick by, and the article ideas dry up a nagging doubt keeps creeping up on me:

“I’m not sure I can actually do this…..and I’m not sure I even really want to….”

I was spurred to write this blog after someone tweeted (I cannot remember who, else I would give them the credit due): “Being a freelance writer is like having homework to do every night”.  It summed up beautifully what had begun to dawn on me.  Being a freelancer is hard and demanding and isn’t necessarily a career that promises endless days of creativity followed by hours spent in whimsy.  For some, it IS just that and I take my hat off to them.  But these people are clearly crammed to the edges with ideas and don’t mind not leaving the house for days on end.  Now I’m not the life and soul of the party, the word “hermit” has been banded about.  But even I wince at the idea of being cooped up until I have completed a client’s work “just-so” and knowing that the relief of having completed something is short-lived.  The moment I press “send” I will immediately have to seek out new employment.  My world will shrink into my laptop screen.   Just writing this has taken about forty minutes.  FORTY minutes.  When I’m actually at work forty minutes stretches on for an unflinching eternity.  When writing on-line it zips by in flash.  All well and good when you are writing for yourself, but unimaginably daunting when you have to get articles written (emphasis on the plural here) in order to pay your bills.

Luckily most jobs I have looked at don’t ask for many words, less than I have written here in fact.  And once a writer has a book of clients and a working rhythm I can see how it could be a viable and enjoyable career.  But it's a career you have to slog towards and sacrifice for.  I shall continue to plod and blog along but it is almost comforting that this dream job I have chastised myself for not yet having, MAY not be the key to absolute working happiness.  Knowing this I can go back to enjoying writing and as a result I may be able to produce something worth selling.  Ironically it may be letting the dream go that might actually make it happen. 

Photo - TYPE! by Carlos Moreira

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The £10 Food Challenge continued

Missed me?

You have?!  Well miss me no longer, I'm back with another thrilling update about what me and Martin have been eating over the last two days! I am only including the highlights because otherwise Bitter Lemon will just turn into a blog of such tedium you will all go and log onto The Daily Mail or something.

You will be relieved to hear that I DID eventually treat myself to the much hyped kippers and scrambled eggs.


 It looks like dog vomit.  I will grant you that.  But it's so darn tasty!

Requirements:

* 3 eggs (yes 3. Eggs are ok again)
* TAD milk (c)
* 1 kipper

Smash up your eggs into a "scramble". I prefer the hob method, eggs deserve a hob. But if you are stuck for time just shove it in the microwave and blast the hell out of it (like you ALWAYS do). I tend to add my kippers towards the end as you don't want them to make the eggs too salty. Dish up on your most aesthetically pleasing plate, eat and sit back satisfied.

* * *

Pie. Pie is what this country is made on. Well pie and pasties (I was born in Cornwall, all the best people and pastry based goods come from there. Oh and ice creams...and holidays...and people with the name Renowden.... and Bridgewater). It was a pie that instigated a shift in The £10 Food Challenge. A moment so moving, so tantalising I cannot possibly do it's importance justice here. It was a moment so tender and marvelous that it almost made me want to pack the challenge in, move to the woods, live in a shack and just eat pie until I was shack-ridden.

It started with a request "Er...Hannah, do you have a recipe for shortcrust pastry?" and it ended in my plate looking like this around 8pm.

Martin made pie and SHARED it.  What a knight among men.

Martin's Pie

The Pastry (or Heavenly Pie Hat)

* 1lb Plain Flour (c)
* 8oz Butter (c)
* Pinch of salt (c)
* Cheese (you choose how much) (c)
* water to mix

Rub the butter into the flour until you have bread crumbs. Give it some cheese. Add water until you are able to form a dough. The best thing you can do for pastry dough is let it have a snooze in your fridge for a bit. It likes it.

The Innards

* Potatoes
* Carrots
* Sweetcorn
* Broad beans
* One pack of White Wine Mussels

yes...one pack of White Wine Mussels. This sounds RANK. But it tasted sooooo good! The white wine sauce gave the pie this lovely tasting filling and really worked with the veg. Give it about half an hour in a high oven then just eat it.

I promise I will be writing about other things than my diet soon. I already have an open love letter to Victoria Coren in the works. I've gone and said her name! Now I will have to sate your excitement with a picture!
Smashing.

There is This Game

There is This Game
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