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Cherry Pie Island aka Eel Pie Island

“The Grand Reopening of the Dandelion Cafe” by Jenny Oliver

The Cherry Pie Island as used in this book, is a fictional version of the rather well known Eel Pie Island in the River Thames at Twickenham.

Eel Pie Island was earlier called Twickenham Ait and, before that, The Parish Ait. An ait or eyot is a small island. It is especially used to refer to river islands found on the River Thames and its tributaries.

Eel Pie Island is to be found on the ordnance Survey map of 1876 but was known by Dickens when he wrote Nicholas Nickleby in 1838-9. In the 15th century it was known as Gose Eyte and the Parish Ayte in the 17th century. This refers to the fact that it was either a nesting island for geese or was being used for geese being fattened for the  table perhaps. It was a popular island for picnics in the 19th century and was famous for eel pies! Yes, real eels… caught in the Thames and cooked in sauce and then placed in a pie. The traditional recipe was developed by Mrs Beeton and a version is given here.

Based on the original Mrs Beeton’s 1861 Recipe for an Eel Pie.

Ingredients: 450g eels 2 tbsp parsley, chopped 1 shallot, finely chopped freshly-grated nutmeg, to taste salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste juice of 1/2 lemon 100g fish forcemeat 150ml béchamel sauce 200g puff pastry

Begin by preparing the eels. To skin and gut, hold it down by the head on a solid work surface with a towel (an eel is very slippery). With a sharp knife, make an incision around the neck, just below the head. The thick filmy skin will separate. Grip the skin with a pair of pliers, and pull it down the length of the eel to the tail and cut it off. Make a slit down the length of the stomach and pull out the innards. Rinse the eel well under cold running water.

Cut the eels into pieces 5cm long then line the base of your pie dish with the forcemeat. Arrange the eels on top then scatter over the parsley and shallot. Season with the nutmeg, salt and black pepper then sprinkle over the lemon juice.
Cover with the puff pastry then transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180°C and bake for 1 hour. Heat the béchamel sauce in a pan, make a hole in the top of the pie then pour in the sauce and serve.

Read more at Celtnet: http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/miscellaneous/fetch-recipe.php?rid=misc-mrs-beeton-eel-pie
Copyright © celtnet

Now eels are still eaten and in my Doyle’s Fish CookBook recipes for them start with a little verse:

Strange the formation of the eely race

That know no sex, yet love the close embrace

Their folded lengths they round each other twine

Twist amorous knots and slimy bodies join.

Apparently this verse comes from another fish cookbook by Theo Roughley.

Doyle gives us  4 recipes for eel but none are a pie.

An eel is any fish belonging to the order Anguilliformes and is a predator.and includes conger and morays as well as the rather less fearsome variety that swims in the Thames – and although they are far from common now they were very common in the Victorian era hence the pies. mating eel

Coming back to the island it was not until 1957 that a bridge was completed. Today, the island has about 50 houses with 120 inhabitants, a couple of boatyards and some small businesses and artists’ studios. It has nature reserves at either end. So as you can see – from both this description and the photos  – that it makes a perfect Cherry Pie Island. It also has a famous recording studio named after it by Pete Townsend and is known for its bands and music too.

eelpie 1 eel pie veiw

The first picture shows the island in the large bend in the Thames and the small amount of habitation and the 2 areas of nature reserve on either end. The bridge to Twickenham can also be seen.

The second photo shows some of the habitations on the island – many of which are owned by artists – note that the whole island is actually private land.

 

 

 

See also the descriptions of the island in: https://littlelondonobservationist.wordpress.com/2010/06/22/exploring-eel-pie-island

So having identified the island we can now move onto the book.

It was a short but cosy read. Opening cafes is a genre that is as popular as opening books shops.  Is this because hidden in so many women is the secret desire to run a cafe and in avid  book readers to run a book shop? I know I wouldn’t mind either… and in fact only last night a friend said I should run a community book shop as I had so many ideas for how to do so..

Taking a run-down cafe /shop and filling it with antiques/upcycled/recycled/vintage  items is very popular too. My brother-in-law’s favourite cafe runs on donated vintage (not necessarily matching) cups and saucers.  And lots of cafes look like they’ve rummaged through a second-hand store for their tables and chairs. So very of the moment in how the cafe was fitted out even though it was done as a cost cutting exercise in the book.

Naming the poor boy ‘River’ was a shame – River Phoenix comes to mind and is so trendy of the pop star/film star variety – where children have names which seem cute when they are little  but are an embarrassment when they grow up.

Looking up the book I find that this is just the first of a series and it does have that feel – that there are plenty more stories of the inhabitants yet to come – which I might just read in due course.

So overall, it was an enjoyable if light reading experience and I give it 3 stars.

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Hunting Down the Moon

A Review of Huntress Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

A Netgalley book

I found this quite a sinister book.

I also thought it an interesting device to write the story over one week.

I do know about the BAU from many years of watching Criminal Minds on TV and the 2 types of female serial killers: the Black Widow and the Angel of Death, but there are more types it seems.

This female serial killer does have one signature though – when she kills with a razor – which is her preferred method – she first slashes the right of the neck and then the left. Forensic pathology can determine this. Assuming that they manage to put together all her kills and identify them as hers. – so they should look for the method of killing rather than the black sleeveless  turtle neck.angel of death

Checking out female serial killers on the Internet, I found that they tended to kill for 3 major reasons: money, revenge and / or insanity. That said Buzzle.com listed 8 reasons why females kill in order of occurrence.

  1. Angel of Death;
  2. Black Widow;
  3. Sexual Predator;
  4. Avenger;
  5. Partner in Crime;
  6. Profit motive or Crime;
  7. Insane possibility;
  8. Unknown – as unexpected or random.

I give this book 4 stars and have started reading the next book in the series.

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Who’ll Take New York? Me please…

I feel quite bad about my reading at the moment as I have not read many of my Netgalley requests but have been reading other books.

The one I have just finished is I’ll take New York by Miranda Dickinson and I have started on the second book about the Azuri Fae which is a follow-on to one I have read in a compilation of 10 Fae stories -. So basically I have read around 12 or more books without touching the Netgalley offers and as a result several have been archived. This doesn’t mean that they are gone as such, but just that I haven’t made a publication date and they can’t now be downloaded from Netgalley.

So I must make myself a new promise and read some of the above books – I have 12 waiting for me! Even so, I recently reached the 80% feedback to book ratio and am a Trusted Reviewer as publishers have published my reviews alongside their books.

So back to the story of Dickinson’s book and why I read it.

We were staying at our daughter’s and decided to go to Harrogate Spa for a couple of hours. Now Harrogate Spa is in the Turkish style (http://www.turkishbathsharrogate.co.uk/) and thus us somewhat different from ‘normal’ spas. It is a Victorian 1897 recreation of a Turkish bath-house and only seven remain which date back to the 19th Century. None of them is as historically complete or as in full working order as is Harrogate’s Turkish Baths.

“The Baths’ Moorish design with great vaults and arches soar to a high arabesque ceiling ornately decorated with colourful stencilled design. The walls are of expertly rendered vibrant glazed brickwork, while underfoot the picture is completed with elaborately assembled mosaic and marble terrazzo floors, all adding to its historic fantasy qualities. For the interior fittings, Victorian dark wood blends with Islamic designs in a beautiful embodiment of Orientalist fusion.”

spa1 spa2

Looking at the photos you can see that the showers for instance are far from private – yes, you shower in your bathing costume after the treatments and you use changing rooms with curtains rather than doors.

The whole area is on the wet side and the floors are mosaics and after using the plunge pool – yes I managed after each ‘hot’ room – my feet got very sensitive and I realised I needed flip flops or something as the tiles were rough and my nerves were jangling on the soles of my feet. The plunge pool is long enough to swim a short length if you wish or you could duck yourself if you preferred. The temperature varies slightly as the water comes externally but always very very cold. I think I prefer ice caves though which I have used before.

Now of course the spa is wet and thus whilst relaxing around in the various rooms you need a physical book so my daughter gave me this one to read. It was appropriate as we are going to New York later this year.

So what did I learn about NY from the book?

The book had 3 main characters:

  1. The British heroine who has fallen in love with New York and runs a bookshop there, but fallen out of love with her long term boyfriend;
  2. The native New Yorker who is being divorced wife and has returned to his roots and set up his psychology/therapy practice anew.
  3. New York the town. The one that I’m really reading about to get information for my forthcoming tip and to start to get me in the mood…

So what were the tourist places visited in the book?

  1. Central Park Pond;
  2. Grand Central station and Junior’s Cheesecake establishment;
  3. Specialist shops – eg stationery, crafts, cheese;
  4. SoHo;
  5. Coney Island;
  6. Empire State Building;
  7. Times

Unfortunately, having finished reading the book, I then read the author’s blog, only to find out that she didn’t visit New York and took all her places and descriptions from the Internet! Shame…

Anyway, did I enjoy the book? Yes. Will I read more by the author? Only in similar circumstances, or if I am sick. The book was somewhat contrived in places and over long as a result.  As chicklit goes it is a good example but I tend want more edge to my reading. 3*

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Enter the PI and the Dancing Shoes

Here Robert Downs talks about how he writes his books on Casey Holden.

Graceful immortality by Robert Downs is reviewed here in: “Grace and Dancing: Murder and TV “on my Dec 21st 2014 blog post.

  1. Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?

I’m a big fan of hard-boiled mysteries, and I like to think of myself as the consummate underdog. I’ve never been the smartest kid, or the fastest, or the most athletic, even in my own neighborhood, but when it comes to persistence or perseverance, “giving up” is a phrase that’s never been in my vocabulary.

What I wanted was a character who wouldn’t give up, and who was more or less my alter-ego. Needless to say, I probably wrote him a little too well, because he pisses nearly everyone off, except me. And that’s because while Casey Holden may have his flaws, he has an inner-strength that’s pretty impressive.

Writing starts with character, and since I like to think of myself as unique, I tried to create a unique character. Near as I can tell, I’ve succeeded, because I haven’t read anything quite like him. That may mean he and I end up taking a few punches, but we’ve prepared ourselves well in advance for the possible consequences.

  1. How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a note book where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?

I’m going to turn to a favorite writer cliché, but it applies here and often elsewhere as well: Every story is different. Most of the time a story, or an idea, will germinate in my mind over a period of time (which often differs for each story). The seed grows, then it becomes an itch, and then I’m forced to write about it, as I try to make sense of it. I started the Casey Holden, Private Investigator series around 2004, and the first novel in the series was published in 2011. So, hopefully, that gives you some idea. But I like to think I’m a bit smarter about the writing process now, and I wrote plenty of other manuscripts during that period of time. One will come out later this year, and a few more I’m either shopping around now, or will be in the next year or so.

I use scraps of notebook paper, blank pieces of paper, my phone, and voice recorders. I never know when an idea will hit me, and I need to be ready to go at any time.

  1. How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?

I take John Grisham’s approach to research: I do as little as possible. I want to do enough to create a believable story, but I also hate breaking up the writing process to do research. But I also love to learn random tidbits of information, so I’m always reading and observing. I’m filled with all kinds of useless information, and I like to sprinkle these random bits around whenever the story warrants it.

I did very little research. I knew I needed an awesome car, but I had no idea which one I was going to use. I believe I was standing in a Barnes & Noble looking through some book on automobiles, and I saw the Dodge Viper SRT-10, and I said, “That’s Casey’s car.” There wasn’t a shred of doubt in my mind. But as far as research on detectives and PIs, all I can say is I read a lot, and I watch plenty of TV.

  1. What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote?

Other books. Those are my main resource, along with TV, Microsoft Word, the Internet, a good dictionary, a thesaurus, and my own imagination, of course. For the longest time, I never would have said I had an active imagination, but I guess it was there all along, and all it needed was the right spark.

  1. How helpful do you find authority figures such as the police when you say you want to write about them? Is there a good way to approach them in your experience?

I haven’t spoken to the police directly. I know nothing beats that firsthand knowledge, but there’s plenty I can find out on the Internet, and I have heard them speak at writer’s groups and whatnot. Again, I listen, file that knowledge away, and regurgitate it when the story warrants it.

  1. How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?

My stack of rejection letters is a mountain that keeps getting higher and higher. Did I mention I’m persistent? I’ve never actually calculated the exact figure, because it would depress me, but if I’m not pushing four figures yet, I’m probably not trying hard enough. It won’t be long before I’ve crossed that barrier if I haven’t already. I’ve been rejected for over a decade, and I plan to be rejected quite a bit more. Rejection doesn’t bother me. It feeds my underdog story. What I hate, though, is hearing nothing. I know how to deal with success, and I know how to deal with failure, but I haven’t yet figured out how to deal with hearing crickets.

  1. Did you need to self-publish on e-books before a publisher took you up?

No, I decided long ago that I didn’t want to go the self-publishing route, and despite that hard and fast rule, I nearly gave in and self-published. But I’m glad I didn’t…for me. I add the last part, because it was a personal decision on my part. I know plenty of people have had success going the self-publishing route, but I wanted validation, and I wanted a publisher’s support and backing, because I knew I didn’t know everything the first go round, and there’s plenty of stuff I’m still figuring out. But writing is a process, and so is the marketing of a novel, and I’m always learning something new.

  1. Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?

It really depends on the author, and the author’s situation. I don’t think you can say, “Yes, thou shalt go the self-publishing route; and you there, you shalt try your hand at traditional publishing.” The self-publishing approach has worked for some to build an audience, and the traditional approach has worked for others. But there are plenty of self-published writers that readers have never heard of, and there are plenty of traditional writers who have been cut loose by their publishers. There are no hard and fast rules. That can be scary, but it can also be freeing.

Whatever an author decides to do, he or she needs to go into it with realistic expectations in the marketing arena, and realize that it may be years or decades, if ever, before a writer is truly discovered by the reading public. If a writer does it for himself, and then the reader, and doesn’t expect to get rich anytime soon, then I don’t think he has anything to worry about. But if he thinks the wine, women, and song will flow freely, along with the royalty checks, odds are he’s going to be disappointed.

  1. Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened?

Not exactly. There’s a term: starving artist. If most artists are starving, my dad said, “I’d be dead.” And he’s probably not too far from the truth. But lucky for me, I have a day job that I thoroughly enjoy, and so I write on nights and weekends, and the occasional morning when the opportunity and the muse present itself.

I’ve discovered days that begin with writing are better than days that don’t, but I also figured out pretty quickly that 4:30 or so comes pretty early in the morning, and I can’t do that all the time, and still keep my sanity.

If the sufficient income scenario ever does happen, that’d be awesome, but I won’t hold my breath.

  1. What was the funniest or strangest thing to happen when you were writing or on a book tour?

I don’t have any really good stories. I wish I did. I guess I save those for my writing. But I will say that if I can surprise myself during the writing process, which I have done on more than one occasion, I’d like to believe I can surprise the reader as well.

Website: http://www.RobertDowns.net

Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/RobertDownsBooks
I find it very interesting that all the authors so far interviewed say two things:

1. It was very difficult to get published and it took many rejections before they were but  they never gave up; and

2. It is very difficult indeed to make a living as writer. good job i don’t need to be paid to write my blog – i have sufficient income from job and pension!

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Moth: still not turning! War seems inevitable.

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