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New York, New York. So Good They Named It Fear City!

New York, New York. So Good They Named It Fear City!

When my parents divorced in the early 70s, in the days before travel was popular and flying to places became easy, regular and cheap, my father moved permanently to New York.   My only impression, as a six year old child, of America came, of course, from what I saw on the TV. The likes of The Brady Bunch, Happy Days, Charlie’s Angels, Columbo, The Bionic Woman to name but a few.  My favourite shows helped me create a spotlight on the USA.  It was fantastic, modern, and bright and WOW.  The American Dream became My Dream.  People said ‘cool’ and it sounded right, or held up their two fingers in the name of Peace, and it looked right – they wore huge sun glasses and they seemed to fit; and, after all, if Dad left us to go there, it MUST be an amazing place.  The images in my mind were of sunny days in hot, busy streets, crowded with successful, happy school kids, fit business people, roller skaters, colourful clothes, yellow taxis and shiny, new tall buildings – everyone, but everyone with a smile on their face.  “One day I would like to be there” I thought. Of course.

 

My brother had a different opinion – he was slightly older and grew up with Mad Magazine, which seemed to show off New York as a vision of violence and backstreet mistrust, amongst ironic viewpoints of underlying corrupt politics.  Both comic and brother were most probably way ahead of their time, and I refused to agree with either; not that I understood, but because I didn’t want to shatter my dreams.

 

Quite probably, my sibling’s opinion was more accurate.  Because, in reality, in the middle of that decade, things in that city weren’t quite as hot as I imagined.  On arrival in New York, tourists were handed leaflets entitled ‘Welcome To Fear City.  A Survival Guide for Visitors’, a shrouded skull emblazoned on the front.  Inside, the pamphlet warned people to ‘stay off the streets after 6pm’, ‘avoid public transportation’, ‘safeguard your handbag’ and ‘conceal your property’.

 

‘Remain in Manhattan.  Police and fire protection in other areas of the city is grossly inadequate and will become more inadequate.  In the South Bronx, which is known to police officers a ‘Fort Apache’ arson has become an uncontrollable problem.’

 

In 1975, New York Mayor Abe Beame was responsible for a city that was more than five billion dollars in debt and practically broke.  As well as fiscally, the city was in a steep moral decline – crime was rampant, rents were nominal, infrastructures were crumbling and urban decay was all around.

 

In order to begin the desperate and necessary change that summer, Mayor Beame laid off 20% (more than 10,000) uniformed police officers and firefighters, and up to 45,000 workers by that autumn.   The unions, of course, were outraged and reacted as such.  At a time when their presence was most crucial, they fought back, and were supported by many other related departments.

 

The leaflet opened with a paragraph explaining that ‘crime and violence in New York City is shockingly high, and is getting worse every day.  During April 1975, it was reported that robberies were up 21%; aggravated assault was up 15%; larceny was up 22% and burglary was up 19%.  It did however encourage visitors that ‘some New Yorkers do manage to survive and even keep their property intact.’  ‘Fear City’ was designed to provoke a reaction – what it said wasn’t entirely true – the streets were not deserted after 6pm and probably quite safe, as were many other neighbourhoods outside Manhattan.  And a reaction it did provoke.

 

The City’s legal team attempted, unsuccessfully, to block distribution of the leaflet and their reaction was to send representatives to Europe’s main cities to abay the fear that it may have caused.  By this time, after much discussion, some unions began to reassess the situation and withdraw their support for ‘Fear City’ – eventually its distribution just stopped.  Instead, other unions supported the city and instead of bring it down, decided to support it financially and got behind the debt.  By winter, a solution had been found and city was saved.

 

So, no-one can judge a book by its cover.

 

When I finally did visit New York for the first time at fourteen years old (some ten years later), I saw the city of my dreams, with eyes of a child; like Alice in Wonderland.  It was exactly how I had imagined – busy, clean streets – vibrant colours – huge, crowded buildings – sunny weather and happy people.  I loved it.  It didn’t make any difference to me that the Fear City campaign happened, even if I had known anything about it.

 

Later, in the 90s, I got into Friends.  It became a firm favourite and I still watch it on Sky when I can.  It helped secure my image of New York, when even floozy Phoebe can survive on the streets, and not-so-bright Rachel can do fantastically well in her career.  For them, it’s a city, a world, where hopes and dreams can, and did come true.

 

Today, I think, New York continues that trend and certainly seems more affluent – with some areas overhauled, renovated and improved vastly.  Crime continues to drop as do murder rates and tourism us at a high.  Shop until you drop, see the shows, eat until you can eat no more, stay up and party for 24-hours, be a culture vulture.  This is truly a city where anything is possible… and more.

 

I always understood why my father never wanted to return to the UK.  To me, over the almost forty years he lived in New York (his last house was Glen Cove in Long Island), he was happy and enthralled by its way, it’s energy and its people.  I don’t remember him ever mentioning Fear City.  The gifts he brought home for us kids – skateboards, Jets T-shirts, ‘I Heart New York’ stickers, spoke of another utopia and it never left my mind.

 

But thinking back, I remember him describing Coney Island.  I use this place and his description in my novel, and it could be a true image of how it was then, during that awful time.  Perhaps he did tell me about Fear City, but I was just too young to understand.

 

New York and I have something in common – we’re survivors.  New York survived its ungracious Fear City scandal and uncompromising arguments (and probably much more over the years).  At the same time as I survived my parents’ divorce, their passionate battles, and labours of love.  Thank goodness we both came through with all our hopes and dreams intact.  All I can do now is hope that I’m growing old as gracefully and charmingly as that amazing city.

15 Historical UK Remorseless Killers

15 Historical UK Remorseless Killers

 

I always find it hard to believe that people can actually, remorselessly kill each other.  At times I can see why someone could do it, but this is mostly in fiction.  If you’re an avid crime reader, when you’re deep into a great novel, you can understand a character’s motives.  It’s a skill of the writer to draw you in and help you visualise a character and truly feel what he/she is going through.  Sympathy is harder though in real life, when a story is spread across a newspaper cover and screaming to the world what has happened.  When you see on TV the news of a murderer being whisked away in a police van, with the hungry press flashing at the blackened windows; it’s almost impossible to be sympathetic.   Here are fifteen British real-life killers that I have no sympathy for.

 

Beverley Allitt was a paediatric nurse who suffered from a psychological illness.  Over a two month period in 1991 in the children’s ward at the Grantham and Kesteven Hospital, a series of mysterious, illness, injuries and deaths took place. Two years later, Allitt was convicted at Nottingham Crown Court of murdering four children, attempted murder of a further three, and grievous bodily harm to six children.  A large air bubble was found in one dead child, and she had administered insulin to at least a further two, but the remaining causes of death are still unestablished.  She was given thirteen life sentences.

 

John Childs was known as the most prolific hit man in the UK.  He was convicted for a series of contract killings, though none of the bodies have been found. He confessed to the murders in June 1979 after being arrested for a series of bank robberies and was sent into solitary confinement.  And in 1980, Childs claimed he burned the bodies of his six victims at his east London flat. He was issued with a whole life tariff in 1983.

 

John Christie (known to his family as Reg) was and English serial killer active during the 1940s and 50s.  He was a landlord who killed at least eight people, including his wife, and sexually interfered with their corpses. Three of his victims were found in alcove in his kitchen at 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill; two further were discovered in the garden, and his is wife’s body was found under the floorboards in the lounge.  He was hanged in 1949.

 

Mary Ann Cotton poisoned her stepson and likely three of her four husbands, in order to claim from their insurance policies.  It is believed that she could have murdered more than 20 victims, using arsenic which causes terrible gastric pain and rapid decline of health, leading to death.  She tried hard to scale the social ladder but was eventually caught when her child’s post mortem revealed arsenic as the cause of death.  Her trial began in March 1873 and she was hanged at Durham County Gaol in March 1873.  However she died by strangulation caused by the rope being rigged too short (possibly deliberately), and not from her neck breaking.

 

Ken Erskine was known as the ‘Stockwell Strangler’ and murdered seven elderly people in 1986, breaking into their homes in London and strangling them; most often they were sexually assaulted too. Erskine was arrested in July 1986 at a social security office. He was identified in a line-up by 74-year-old Fred Prentice, who claimed Erskine tried to strangle him in his bed a month before.  He was jailed for 40 years in 1988, and since been found to be suffering from mental disorder and sent to Broadmoor and unlikely to be released before 2028.

 

John Haigh was known elaborately as the Acid Bath Vampire, because he claimed to have drunk the blood of his six victims, and actually claimed to have killed nine.  After befriending them, he battered or shot them and then used concentrated sulphuric acid to destroy their corpses, before forging papers in order to sell the victims’ possessions.  Although he tried to plead insanity, Haigh was led to the gallows and hanged in August 1949.

 

Colin Ireland was a British serial killer known as the Gay Slayer after he terrorised London’s gay community, torturing and killing five homosexuals.  He had already committed various crimes by the age of 16 and served time in borstals. He had been married twice and said that he only pretended to be gay to befriend his victims, which he lured into a sexual restraining game, before killing them.   He was jailed for life in 1993 and died in 2012, aged 57.

 

The Moors Murderers, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, were two of Britain’s most demonised figures. Between 1963 and 1965, their attacks on five small children, whom they disposed of on Saddleworth Moor, scandalised the nation and continue to cause outrage.  They confessed in 1966 to killing three children and then another two in 1987.  Hindley died from pneumonia and heart disease in 2002, aged 60. Brady died in 2017 aged 79, after he was declared criminally insane in 1985 and confined to a high-security hospital. He had made it clear that he never wished to be released.

 

Dennis Nilsen disposed of body parts in local sewers, in 1983.  He confessed calmly to the murders when a drains engineer followed up complaints of a bad odour, which turned out to be putrid human flesh.  Police were called in and found that Dennis Nilsen had killed 16 young men by inviting them to his flat in Muswell Hill, before strangling them. When they questioned the killer, he showed the police more body parts, including two severed heads he had yet to dispose of. He was convicted of six murders and jailed for life in 1983.

 

Jack the Ripper was never identified or caught, he killed at least five women around London’s East End area of Whitechapel in 1888.  His victims were typically prostitutes whose throats he cut before mutilating them and removing internal organs.  His name originated from a letter from someone claiming to be the murderer, which was believed to have been a hoax in an attempt to increase newspaper sales.  In criminal case files, the killer was called ‘The Whitechapel Murderer and ‘Leather Apron’.

 

Dr Harold Shipman was a GP and a prolific serial killer.  He was jailed for life in January 2000 for murdering fifteen of his patients.  It was concluded in a later report that he had actually killed 250 people over 23 years, mostly elderly women, and had also forged a will.  After being sentenced to life imprisonment, with the recommendation that he never be released, he hanged himself in his cell, on 13 January 2004, one day prior to his 58th birthday.

 

Peter Sutcliffe was known as the infamous Yorkshire Ripper and inspired fear all over the country in the 1970s.  He was the subject of one of the largest police manhunts as he victimised prostitutes, saying they had swindled him out of money. But he later claimed he was driven to these 13 murders by messages from God.  He was sentenced to no less than 30 years behind bars in 1981.

 

Rosemary and Fred West abducted, raped, tortured, mutilated and murdered a variety of young women between 1967 and 1987.  They buried their victims’ dismembered bodies in the cellar or under their patio in Cromwell Street, Gloucester, which became known as ‘the House of Horrors’.  Rosemary was found to have murdered her 8-year-old stepdaughter, Charmaine, in 1971, whilst Fred was found guilty of at least 12 murders.

 

Source: Wikipedia

Ten Great British Characters

Ten Great British Characters

James Bond – English MI6 spy, most recently played by Daniel Craig.

Harry Potter – thank you J K Rowling.

Sherlock Holmes – modernised by Benedict Cucumberpatch, sorry, Cumberbatch.

Macbeth – Scottish king by Shakespeare.

Winnie the Pooh – honey-loving bear (was never American despite his accent).

Ebenezer Scrooge – haunted by his past.

Jeeves – saddled with a juvenile dandy footman, for his sins.

Miss Marple – beautifully created by wonderful Agatha Christie

Robin Hood – philanthropist immortalised by Kevin Costner and also never American (Robin Hood, not Kevin Costner obvs).

Mr Bean – English social ineptitude epitomised in a small minded man.  Thank you Rowan Atkinson.

Why Is The UK So Called?

Why Is The UK So Called?

There are a number of names ascribed to the lands that comprise the countries of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, together with their outlying isles.  So the answer to this question is: it depends.

Geographically, the lands are known as the British Isles.

Politically, they are known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland. The southern part of Ireland is a republic, and so whilst the land mass is part of the British Isles, the Republic is not part of the United Kingdom.  Northern Ireland is, however, politically a part of the UK, a transition which gave rise to the ‘troubles’ in the twentieth century.

The land also has been known as Albion (from the latin albus which means white, after the white cliffs of Dover), and Britannia.  The Great of Great Britain goes back to the time when Brittany in northern France was under British rule, and was known as Britannia minor (as opposed to Britannia major).

The principality of Wales was joined to England in 1536 forming the Kingdom of England and Wales. In 1707 Scotland and England were united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1801 the Irish and British Parliaments were combined to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Very few British people seem to know the reasons for, and the difference in meaning between these various terms, so for the record, here they are:

The British Isles: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales.

Kingdom of Great Britain: The political union of Scotland, England and Wales from 1707.

United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland: The political union of Great Britain (above) and Ireland from 1801.

United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland: 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties separated from the UK in 1922, forming the Irish Free State (or the Republic of Ireland).

At the height of its influence, Great Britain was in possession of an Empire, which was composed of about one-fifth of the entire world’s population and covered about a quarter of the world’s total land mass. The British Empire held Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Western Samoa, India, Burma, Papa New Guinea, Malaya, Sarawak, Brunei, Oman, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Mauritius, the Maldives, South Africa, Swaziland, Nigeria, Gold Coast, and Sierra Leone, among other countries during its reign. It has also held a portion of the present-day United States and China. Technically, Great Britain is still in possession of an ‘Empire’, though it’s territories now number fourteen:

  • Anguilla
  • Bermuda
  • British Antarctic Territory
  • British Indian Ocean Territory
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Falkland Islands
  • Gibralter
  • Montserrat
  • St Helena & Dependencies
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Pitcairn Islands
  • South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands
  • Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus.

The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man have their own constitutional relationship with the UK, but are still under the sovereignty of the Britsh Crown.

The irony, which most Brits will get, is in the weather.

Source: NewWorld Encyclopedia;Reference.com; B.Crystal; A.Russ

 

 

 

Ten Things About Me You Don’t Already Know

Ten Things About Me You Don’t Already Know

 

 

I took a year out of work in 1994 to backpack around the world.

It’s a long time ago now, and I didn’t actually circumference the globe, but I travelled through Africa, Asia and Australasia.  I had the time of my life and met so many interesting people.  In Africa, I met a witch-doctor who told me he could vomit bees.  He invited me into the jungle so he could show me, but I was too scared and declined the offer!  I still have some of the ‘magic’ carpets I bought in India, and the didgeridoo I bought in Australia.

 

I regret never having worked abroad.

There isn’t much I regret about my life, but I wish I taken the opportunity to work in another country.  It’s an experience that I hear from others that always makes me envious.  I did work for a dressage rider near Eindhoven in Holland for about a month in the 1980s – but the time wasn’t right – I was a teenager, alone and homesickness prevailed, sending my running back home.

 

I have only been married for twelve years.

I am fifty now and I didn’t meet my husband until my late thirties.  I did have a long term relationship before, but marriage didn’t suit us. My husband has been married more than thirty years – but to three different women!

 

I have a passion for animals.

If I am watching a film or something on TV where an animal is hurt, I will be much more traumatised than if a person is pained.  I first knew about this when I watched The Incredible Journey aged five.  I sobbed and gulped all the way through, and don’t get me started on Lassie! I have two horses and two dogs.  I love donkeys and would like to rescue a pair in the next couple of years, once we’ve got some land sorted out!  Trouble is, the animals distract me terribly from my writing – they seem to come before most things, including my husband! Only metaphorically speaking of course!  So when I write, I have to be really dedicated and strict with my time-management.

 

I have played polo.

I went to school with a girl whose father was a polo player and teacher.  They organised for a group of us to take lessons.  I loved it and went on to play at the Pony Club Polo Championships, where I scored the winning goal for our team!  My polo pony was a rangy Palomino from Argentina called Rocky and the win was more down to his skill than my own.

 

I have been star-struck

I met my teenage pop idol, Paul Young, in 2007 on a motorbike rally.  We were introduced and I found myself speechless after shaking his hand.  I was so embarrassed, I turned a nasty shade of pink.  He was so nice about it though and put his arm around me for our photo.  Afterwards, I could have kicked myself and thought of all the things I could have said that would have led to a fantastic conversation and a lifelong friendship.  Dammit!

 

I own a classic car

It’s a Clipper Blue MGTC and was made for export to America in 1946.  I often take her on the road, mostly during the summer and attend rallies and organised drives.  She belonged to my father, who lived in New York, and when he died we shipped her back to the UK.  I wrote a light-hearted poem about her imaginary journey through life, which you can find on my blog. http://www.justinejohn.co.uk/2016/02/an-ode-to-my-fathers-mg-tc/

 

I hate shopping

All shopping.  Clothes. Food. Holidays.  Online or high street.  The only shopping I like is for my dogs or horses.  I love the smell of a saddlery shop and the endless new colours of rugs and numnahs.  And I’ll browse doggie-treat shelves for extended minutes if I can!  But anything for myself – nah!  I end up with clothes with holes in, and stuff that is so out of fashion I should get a starring role in the next Back To the Future film.  When I find a shop I do like, however, I will overspend massively – and I allow myself to do this because I am compensating for all the times I could have shopped but didn’t.

 

I love a good old fashioned pub

I really enjoy going to eat, but when the feeling takes hold, I will usually choose a good pub over a posh restaurant.  Especially if it’s after a long, refreshing walk in the countryside with friends and dogs, and we all pile through the door to the unmistakable aroma of a Sunday roast.  Lolling on a soft couch in front of the fire with a good friend and bottle of red wine is winter’s treat, or sitting in a summer pub garden, watching the sun go down with a chilled carafe of rose.  Bring it on!

 

I developed vertigo in my late thirties.

After doing bungy jumping, bridge swinging, abseiling and ski-parachuting in my twenties, you’d think that vertigo was a far from my reality as a snowball surviving a fire.  Sadly I only found out during my honeymoon when we a crossing a very flimsy, seriously wobbly and extremely long jungle canopy bridge in Borneo.  It swept over me like a wave.  My vision blurred, I began to sweat buckets and had the undeniable need to make myself as small as possible.  I got down on my knees and curled myself into a ball before I fainted.  My husband had to coax me up, and only with his help (he had to walk backwards, bless him, while we absolutely maintained eye contact) and two rangers, one in front and one behind, could I continue the journey.  I will never do that again!

 

Leaving Corporate Life To Be A Writer

Leaving Corporate Life To Be A Writer

The transition from corporate life was a lengthy process and happened over many years. When I was starting out in my corporate career, at the tender age of eighteen – to write a novel was always a dream, and a goal which I knew I would always work towards achieving ‘at some point in my life’.  But in the 1980s, it was hard to leave school and do creative things.  I actually wanted to work with horses, but my parents and my school career-councillor persuaded me to become a secretary (it was secure).  And I wasn’t appalled at the idea.  I went on to study PA skills and business – but I hated college.  I dropped out before the end of the first year and ran off to be a stable-girl.  I loved this for a while, but the winters were harsh, the pay was paltry and the bright lights of the city called.  I eventually gave in and got a job as a receptionist, for a central London company.  The nice warm office, the fashion and the social life surged over me like a big wave and dragged me under its spell.  Within the next year, I had rented a flat with a girlfriend in leafy Hampstead, and that practically changed my life overnight.

I had many jobs and many flats over twenty-two years, but the most fun was running my own events company – it enabled me to travel, stay in some very nice hotels, meet some wonderful people and experience running a great team – we achieved some high ranking business results together and the company won several awards.  It remains so ironic that I’d snubbed this whole process at college.

Over all these years, I never gave up writing or the idea that one day I could write full time; but it was always just that – an idea.  I kept journals, attended classes, wrote short stories and poems; all of them scribbled on notepaper and stuffed in dark boxes kept in dusty attics or cupboards over the decades.   In 2007, things got tough for small business owners and I sadly had to make half of my team redundant.  Companies were just not spending money on events, and we lost important clients overnight.  I eventually reduced the team completely and gave up my office in South London to the back bedroom of my small house.  I turned over a profit that year and paid back some debts.  I continued to work all the hours, but it was never the same.  Eventually, I began to question whether what I was achieving was enough return for me.  Eventually, I decided that it wasn’t and I sold the company to a bigger agency.   I made back all the money I’d invested over the years, but it was disappointing that it didn’t come to more than that.

By this time, we had left London and had found a house in Surrey.  I continued to work part-time, from home, on a consultancy contract for another events company, that I was enjoying, and simultaneously, I was playing more often with my writing.  Somehow, I banged out the first chapter of my novel, but I didn’t know where it went after that.  I put it aside and left it alone, in the knowledge that it would come.

In 2010, my father passed away suddenly.  During the process of his illness and death, I found myself in a set of circumstances that challenged me greatly.  Organising a funeral in a foreign country is challenging, but because I wasn’t expecting it, I felt as though I was in a dream and the things that happened around me were almost fictional.  I came out of that process with a story.

But it took another three years to be brave enough to put it on paper.  Finally, in 2013, a health issue took over, and a major operation loomed.  I was advised that I would not be able to work for a minimum of eight weeks – probably more like sixteen.  I had begun to hate work and resent some of my work projects (life was too short), and I felt almost shackled; only a sense of duty, not ‘earning’ a living stopped me from giving up.  But now I was being forced to stop for a while – so stop I did.  In my tracks.  Here it was – my chance.  So the day I was home from the hospital, I began Chapter 2.  And I never looked back.

The Bronte Sisters Are My Kind of Entrepreneurs

The Bronte Sisters Are My Kind of Entrepreneurs

As of today, I will be featuring guest posts on this blog, and the first is by Tony Robinson OBE, (a Micro Business Champion and professional speaker, author and broadcaster), who here has succinctly captured the original art of writing in today’s tricky business world.

 

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Unity of purpose

Did you watch the recent and totally awesome ‘To Walk Invisible’ – BBC’s two-hours drama on the Bronte family? If you did then I’ll wager you were impressed with the three sisters’ unity and assertiveness just as much as their cumulative genius. For example, Charlotte’s riposte to her publisher’s disbelief that she could have written ‘Jane Eyre’; “What makes you doubt it, Mr. Smith? My accent? My gender? My size?”.

What delighted me the most was that readers and listeners that have bought my ‘Freedom from Bosses Forever’ or attended my conference talks on the same subject, will now understand why I suggest the Bronte sisters are role models. They are role models as great writers AND for all those that want to earn a living from their own business. Give me their kind of entrepreneurship any day of the week, especially over the ‘get rich by hearing my story’ and ‘see how much money I’ve hustled for my idea’ brigade.

Like many of us, the motivating force for their enterprise was independence rather than wealth. They had to earn a living. Their experiences as governesses and teachers had shown there was little security or happiness in those jobs, yet these were virtually the only jobs open to them. The three sisters wanted no more bosses and, as they were carers, they needed to work from home.

Doing what you know

Charlotte, Emily and Anne tried to open their own small private school and although their marketing material and pricing were good their location and credibility wasn’t. As their brother and father’s health deteriorated the urgency to make ends meet through their own enterprise increased. They agreed on a joint venture to become published authors – all for one and one for all.

Because of Emily and Anne’s early deaths, soon after their brother’s, Charlotte was the only one of the three sisters to fully taste monetary success and not for long, their father outlived them all. Yet these brilliant sisters lived long enough to see their aim, of being published authors, achieved.

What an achievement it was! Today they would have been called disruptors. Book publishers just didn’t accept manuscripts from Yorkshire women. They not only broke the mould for novels, they made a sizeable crack in the glass ceiling too.

How did they achieve their success and why are they enterprise role models?

Every authentic entrepreneur I’ve met, who start and successfully run their own business, has the Bronte sisters’ high level of self-awareness and hard work. They were bang up to date with the ‘technology’, limited though it was, of the publishing industry and what readers would buy. They were brilliant at creating and promoting their personal brand to gain entry to the market – Acton (Anne), Currer (Charlotte) and Ellis (Emily) Bell would be assumed to be three brothers, by prospective publishers, not three sisters.

They played to their strengths and passions which gave them the necessary persistence to keep going in the face of terrible, debilitating domestic circumstances and rejection of their art. Like Dickens, they were afraid of debt and the debtors’ prison, so happily did not borrow. They wanted to create something out of nothing that they could be proud of. That is true entrepreneurship.

Above all, they knew what they were doing, and what they could be remarkable doing, to capture a slice of the market for novels. They’d written hundreds of poems and little books throughout their short lifetimes. They read widely both to learn their craft and understand readers’ demand. They knew Emily’s writing was remarkable, genius even, so they needed to lead with her difference. They test traded and proved that poetry could enhance their credibility but would not earn them a living.

It had to be a novel writing joint enterprise and Emily would need to write a novel too. They swapped ideas on the novels they could write and what readers would like. They researched publishers and drew up a hit list. They expected rejection of their handwritten manuscripts – a tiresome, time-consuming business – and moved immediately to the next on the list. When eventually, of the three novels from the three Bells, two were accepted they took some pragmatic decisions without diluting their original aims.

Charlotte could have stopped the whole venture as her novel, ‘The Professor’ was the one rejected. Instead, she was encouraged by the criticism and set about writing a new novel – “Jane Eyre”. They were principled and, in the face of being ripped off, stood up for their rights immediately as demonstrated by Anne and Charlotte’s 17-hour overnight journey to confront their publisher in London.

So, here we have three great writers and three great entrepreneurs. Hard work; self-awareness; (my 4Ps) passion; persistence; promotion and partnership are all displayed in the brilliant Bronte sisters’ enterprise.

FIVE ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS FOOD & DRINK

FIVE ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS FOOD & DRINK

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Did you ever wonder what Christmas is all about?  Not that we unaware of the birth of Jesus on 25th but, things like turkey, and what’s that got to do with Santa Claus etc.  Well, Christmas is actually much older than its name implies.  Before there was no room at the inn and the days of Angel Gabriel, there was a traditional midwinter celebration that dates back to times when we were dependent on the weather and influenced by changes in the climate to grow food.  And don’t forget Winter Solstice – 22nd December – when the sun it at its furthest point from the earth.  But the biggest influences on what we know today stems from the Romans and the ancient north Europeans.

Muntitled-design2any of our traditional Yuletide foods were also customary centuries ago.  The goose was already a popular winter food in the middle ages.  Turkey appeared in the mid-16th century when it was imported from America and once they become popular, we started breeding them in Norfolk and Suffolk in huge flocks.

untitled-design2Also popular at that time, were huge pies containing duck, blackbirds, pigeons, capons, snipe and woodcock.  The Abbot of Glastonbury decided to gain favour with King Henry VIII one winter and sent him a present of twelve manors in Somerset.  He hid the deeds in a pie and entrusted a steward called Jack Horner to safely transfer the pie to London.  ‘Little’ Jack Horner accidentally put his thumb in the pie, and, as legendary poetry describes – he pulled out a plum!

untitled-design2Cakes, nuts, marzipan, gingerbread and plum porridge were also savoured back then during winter and these ingredients, mixed with prunes, wine and spices were the forerunner to Christmas pudding.

untitled-design2Before they were associated with Christmas, mince pies date back to the Crusades, when England was first introduced to oriental spices, which were used to disguise the smell of some meats that were not quite as fresh as they could be.  When the Puritans banned Christmas celebrations, mince pies disappeared, but soon made a return a few years later when they contained orange and lemon peel and sugar.  Over the years, the meat content disappeared and eventually replaced with suet.

untitled-design2Mulled wine, or ‘wassail’, which comes from the Saxon greeting ‘be well’ or ‘waes hael’, was made from heated ale, roast apples, eggs, sugar and spices, and was carried from house to house in a wooden bowl.  It would then be warmed on the hearth and refilled when guests called.  In the 18th century, wassail was replaced with punch, containing spirits and wine, which is still popular today.

Fabulous Boxing Day Recipe

Fabulous Boxing Day Recipe

boxing-day-recipe

This is a great Boxing Day recipe for busy cooks at Christmas.  I’m making it myself for my family of ten on boxing day – it’s quick easy and delicious.  You can use up your turkey and reheat it at any time, or you can keep it hot in a low oven for a few hours.

Turkey Au Gratin with Almonds (serves 6)

Ingredients:
1 kg (2lb) boneless turkey, cooked25g (1oz) butter
125g (4oz) whole or split blanched almonds
1 onion (peeled/chopped)

For the Sauce:
50-75g (2-3oz) butter, plus a little extra
2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
750ml (1.5 pints) milk
1/2 small glass of sherry
175g (6oz) cheese, grated
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
a little grated parmesan cheese
chopped parsley
salt, black pepper

  •  Heat the oven to GasMark3/170°C/325°F.  Cut the turkey into pieces and arrange them in a large, fairly shallow, ovenproof dish.  Melt the 25g (1oz) butter in a frying pan and toss the almonds in it for a minute or two until golden.  Fry the onions until soft and ready, add them to the almonds and sprinkle them over the cold turkey.
  • To make the sauce, melt the butter in a fairly large saucepan, take it off the heat and stir in the flour with a wooden spoon.  Gradually stir in the milk and bring to the boil, stirring all the time until it is a thick and smooth white sauce.  Let it simmer, still stirring, for 2-3 minutes.  Then add the sherry, grated cheese, garlic, salt and black pepper and stir until the cheese has melted.
  • Pour the sauce over the turkey and almonds/onions.  Dot with butter and sprinkle with parmesan. Cook in the centre of the oven for 30-45 minutes until golden-brown.  Before serving. sprinkle the chopped parsley around the edges of the dish.  Serve with salad and/or rice.

 

I hope you enjoy it.

The Kiss in Sandy Lane

The Kiss in Sandy Lane

thekissinsandylane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember kissing you in Sandy Lane.

Eyes closed, shadows long,

Summer breeze, birdsong,

Heartbeats, sweet tongues.

Innocence and touches tame.

Kissing you in Sandy Lane.

 

I remember you kissing me in Sandy Lane

Soft arms, embracing sweetly

School books, teenage graffiti

First love, guiltless completely

Only us to entertain

Kissing me in Sandy Lane

 

I remember that kiss in Sandy Lane

Strangely new, summer hue

Smiling widely, lovely you

Tender feelings, that’s all I knew

I’ll never forget, always retain

That blissful kiss in Sandy Lane.