let’s move to France!

A blatant plug for my friend Lorraine today – she is a smallholder from Cornwall who has retired* to France with her husband. She has a smallholding book that has lots of good advice teamed with fantastic pictures, but also a very recent release about moving to France. This seems like an ideal book to buy now to plan out either a real-life or fantasy move!

Fed up with the rat race? Dreaming of a simpler life? A better life? A GOOD LIFE?
Since the 1990’s hundreds of thousands of people left it all behind and moved to France.

Are you dreaming about moving to France to live a simpler, rural life; perhaps on a smallholding or simply in the countryside? Then THIS is the book for YOU.

This practical and up-to-date book will lead you through the many questions you may have including:

* How Brexit will affect you
* Owning animals or setting up a smallholding in France
* Finding & securing the right property
* Starting a rural business

Benefit from Lorraine Turnbull’s own experience and read the case studies from real people who have moved to live the Good Life in various areas of France. It’s a big step to a brave new world and this timely book aims to help you in your journey to your Good Life in France. Lorraine is an award-winning smallholder and former cider maker who relocated to rural France in 2017.

Buy the book here!

* I use the word advisedly

disambiguation: mince pies

Proper British Mince Pies ™

You need:

  • Mincemeat
  • Plain Flour
  • Butter
  • Lard or vegetable shortening
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Wine
  • 12 muffin muffin-tin

Step 1

Procure mincemeat. THIS DOES NOT HAVE ACTUAL MEAT IN IT.

It usually comes in jars and if you can’t find it locally, you can make your own. Mary Berry, who is a veritable saint among food creators, has a good recipe.

NOTE: In Ye Olden Tymes, mincemeat DID actually have meat in it. In Tudor England, this was often mutton or perhaps beef. There’s a traditional recipe from 1591 here.


Step 2

Make (or buy) pastry

You can use shortcrust or puff pastry. We use shortcrust because it’s easy to make, especially since I prefer things to be gluten-free:

  • 8oz plain flour
  • 2 oz butter
  • 2 oz lard (or vegetable shortening)
  • pinch of salt
  • splash of cold water

Put the flour in to a bowl and chuck in the lard and butter, cut in to lumps. Take the knife and keep cutting the fat, so that it gets covered in the flour. Then rub it in gently with your fingertips, lifting it up out of the bowl and letting it fall back in, to get air in it. When you have a bowl full of crumbs, add a table spoon full of cold water and use the knife to mix again, to start it sticking together. Eventually, you’ll need to use your fingers again. Don’t make it too wet, but if you do, you can add a bit more flour.

Stick it in the fridge for half an hour and have a glass of wine whilst you grease the muffin tin and wait for the oven to heat up to 220c/gas mark 7.


Step 3

Compile your pies

  1. Roll the pastry out on a floured surface. Use a pint glass to cut circles and put them in your muffin tin, pressing them down.
  2. Put a tea-spoon or two of mincemeat in each of the 12 little pies.
  3. Use a smaller glass to cut a smaller lid for your pies. Or a cookie-cutter in a star or similar. Or you can make lattice strips for the tops. Or stack a little a pile of almonds on the top of each one. Or a couple of slices of apple.
  4. Arrange your lids on top of your mincemeat. Glaze with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
  5. Cook for about 15/20 minutes.

DO NOT EAT IMMEDIATELY AS THE MINCEMEAT WILL BE THERMONUCLEAR IN TEMPERATURE AND BURN YOUR TONGUE.

We sometimes eat these with no topping, sometimes with cream and sometimes with custard. Custard is a whole different can of British Worms that I will address on another day.


Fashion Museum, Bath

Firstly apologies for the lateness of this post. However, I’ve been collecting blog material! We’ve been on holiday near Bath and we went to the Fashion Museum earlier in the week. I was primarily focused on looking at clothing from the 1770s and 1780s for Edie and for Jones.

The trouble with collections of historical clothing is that you only get the really expensive things or the things their owners didn’t like much that survive. And you don’t get a great deal of working people’s clothing, because they literally wore it until it had holes and then it got cut down and repurposed. Clothing was so much more expensive and energy-intensive than it is today. Everything was woven and sewn by hand.

These gowns and petticoats from the 1770s and 1780s are much more Edie’s sort of thing than Jones’, although I do imagine Jones stuffed in to the one with the blue quilted petticoats when she was visiting her aunt in England. And perhaps the one with the yellow gown and stomacher for more formal occasions. I can definitely see Edie in the pale pink effort with all the embroidery on the front when she first meets Jones at the ball. (High waists a la Jane Austen only came in around about 1794 as far as I can make out).

Once the pair of them are travelling, they revert to much simpler clothes. I imagine Jones wearing something like this… it’s based on a working man’s coat from about 1780, made of wool.

I am still in debate with myself over whether Jones would wear local clothing once she gets home to the mountains. I think she might need to stay in western garb because I am not confident enough to write about regional clothing without getting it wrong and that seems disrespectful.

Edie doesn’t feel right going for breeches, however comfortable they might be. So she compromises by wearing ‘stays’ or ‘bodies’ (which is what she calls them) that lower class women, who had no help getting dressed, wore. They lace up the front rather than the back, so you can do them yourself. This is really interesting little video of a working woman getting dressed.

The little things… how you deal with menstruation, what pins you use in your hair, how often you change your stockings… those are all things that tend not to get referenced in contemporary texts because it was all such normal stuff that you didn’t need to. Everyone knew about it. There’s a good blog post about Georgian personal hygiene by the Word Wenches and I think I may have mentioned Madame Isis’ blog before.

Next week I am back to regular scheduling and I am interviewing Naomi Aoki!


PS: As we came out of the museum and went to find the old fashioned sweetshop, we fell over a coach and four. Netflix are filming the Bridgerton series of books by Julia Quinn.

all about content warnings

As you may have noticed, I’m trying to be a bit more of a community animal recently. That has included blogging more frequently, more interacting, generally spending a bit more time interacting with both readers and writers. I’m enjoying it- I thought it might be awful, I’m a real recluse, generally speaking- but because it’s mostly online, if I get too overwhelmed I can run away and put a paper bag on my head and take deep breaths for a while if necessary.

Anyway. One of the things I’ve forced myself to do is to set up a Bookfunnel Promo. This is where a load of authors get together on Bookfunnel, sling a free e-book/story in to the pot and then when the time comes, promo the heck out of the thing as a whole, so all the participants get the benefit of each other’s followers. It’s worked very well for me before, but there aren’t that many for LGBTQ books and I thought… well, in that case, I’ll do my own. It’ll be open for readers to download free stories in September, although that’s not the point of this post.

The point is that I have only relatively realized that it would be helpful for readers to have content warnings for potentially triggering things in the blurb for each book. And then I went looking for an article about common trigger warnings and couldn’t really find anything both comprehensive and comprehensible for authors new to the concept to send out for my promo participants, because my Google Chi seemed to have collapsed that day.

Eventually though, I found this article from the University of Michigan, which although it’s about content warnings in academic teaching, is very clear, sensible and easily applicable to fiction and sent it out to participants. I’ve copied their list of common content warnings to the bottom of this post.

Then Missy Welsh took the time to email me with this useful blog post by Jami Gold, Content Warnings: How and What to Include?  which is extremely on point and also links to a post by Suzanne at Love in Panels: Content Warnings, What and Why Are They? Suzanne points us to a crowd-sourced list of content warnings on a google-sheet. So it turns out that there is a load of stuff out there, it’s just I was rubbish at finding it. Thank you to all of them for writing such clear and accessible pieces.

I think it’s important to emphasize that it’s impossible to content warn for every reader’s triggers. It’s just not possible. Everything is a trigger for someone. However, that doesn’t mean that as writers we shouldn’t do our best to help readers navigate to stories that are right for them. Authors arguing that we don’t have that responsibility and setting up the ‘everything is a trigger for someone so why bother at all‘ defense as their straw man are being spurious.

As a writer, I don’t want to drive a reader in to the sort of fugue I sometimes end up in when I read about sexual violence or miscarriage. I don’t understand why authors wouldn’t want to help their readers avoid that. It’s just being a good human, isn’t it?

Having said that, some of my blurbs are not yet updated with appropriate CWs. But I’m getting there.

Next week: August’s reading roundup


Common content warnings

    • Sexual Assault
    • Abuse
    • Child abuse/pedophilia/incest
    • Animal cruelty or animal death
    • Self-harm and suicide
    • Eating disorders, body hatred, and fat phobia
    • Violence
    • Pornographic content
    • Kidnapping and abduction
    • Death or dying
    • Pregnancy/Childbirth
    • Miscarriages/Abortion
    • Blood
    • Mental illness and ableism
    • Racism and racial slurs
    • Sexism and misogyny
    • Classism
    • Hateful language directed at religious groups (e.g., Islamophobia, antisemitism)
    • Transphobia and trans misogyny
    • Homophobia and heterosexism

life chaos abounds

I missed last week’s post because life got in the way, I’m sorry. Littlest has been in plaster casts on her lower legs and feet for a fortnight after a botox injection in to her ankles. This is to help prevent her feet from curling under any more than they are and hopefully enable her to do standing transfers for a little longer, rather than needing hoisting all the time. The casts have meant the moving and handling we do on a daily basis has been much more difficult because you can’t get them wet. They are very hot pink though, which has caused some glee.

In addition we have had to update something called the ‘Advanced Care Plan’ which is basically setting out our wishes should she become very ill. It’s good to have in place, but flipping heck it’s grim to fill in. And Talking Child has had all sorts of traumatic appointments as well. We’ve collectively been sat on the sofa in a heap with our respective pants* on our heads. No writing was done and we all felt awful.

Since Friday, I’ve been clawing myself back up the slope and have written a handful of words – a few hundred – every day. Plus we managed to fit in a family trip to Longleat, where we fed giraffes, held snakes, watched giant otters sleeping and generally had a brilliant time. We have more trips planned over the summer holiday, starting with a weekend at the Children’s Hospice this coming Friday. I can’t wait.

Finally, I’m signed up to the SFF Book Bonanza giveaway this week – there are more than a hundred free SFF books and stories available for download for your reading pleasure should you so desire.

Next week: An excerpt from my work in progress, The Flowers of Time, which is cracking along slowing but steadily now, thank goodness.

*British pants, for maximum comedy value