The Beach Hut

The Beach Hut

Sunday, 13 October 2013

October’s homework assignment involved writing a short piece about time.

I thought we could start with a list of times and what each time means to us and what it's commonly associated with (i.e. 5pm - tea time, but for you it might be time to make a phone call to someone special or time to go shopping).  Then looking at the list, select one that catches your imagination and write up to about 500 words.

I wrote two short pieces for this, which totalled around 500 words and you can see them here.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Writing Group Homework

I have been attending a writing group for four years now and I thought some of my readers might be interested in the writing exercises we do.  This is September’s homework assignment:

Integrate dialogue with some kind of action – give the characters something to do whilst they talk. To get you in the mood, think of cafĂ© or restaurant scenes, or driving in a car – immediately I think of films and how rarely dialogue exchanges are static – the characters are also eating or getting dressed or watching TV or preparing food , etc, etc.  Make a list of activities a character or characters might be doing as they talk, about 10-12 activities. Pick one and write a dialogue exchange, remembering to integrate your character’s dialogue with the action.

If you’d like to see my own effort you can find it here.

Sunday, 1 September 2013


I've posted about Syria before here, and remembering the wonderful time we had in Damascus, Ugarit and Latakia, the visits to souks, castles and coffee houses and, of course, the wonderful people we met, I wanted to show you just two of the sights from that time in 2005/6.

The pelicans were on the beach at Tartus in northern Syria and we saw the fishermen relaxing in the shade on a small island off the coast of Tartus after we'd enjoyed a short boat ride in the scorching hot sun - we too welcomed the shade offered by the cafe.


Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Tribute to Dad

My last post was prompted by  my  83-year-old Dad being in Intensive Care, unable to speak or swallow. He passed away later that day.  Just a week earlier my brother and I thought we'd witnessed an improvement in his condition, he'd actually spoken a few words.  I'd even sent a 'sentence of news' to radio 4's iPM programme, which was broadcast on Saturday 17 September. This is my sentence of news:  After four days of being without speech due to viral encephalitis my father clearly said, "I want to have ...." How quickly things changed.

As a tribute to my Dad I decided to post this item that I wrote as recent exercise at my writing group:

Biking to Beachy Head

The winding road to Beachy head and the Sussex Downs seemed steeper every day to Roy as he pedalled his bicycle up the long narrow stretch of tarmac.  He'd used this road many hundreds of times in his long life but never had it been as exhausting as it felt now.  he even thought he might have to give up before reaching the top on this occasion.  It was the snigger on the lips of a dog walker, who's dog ran beside the bike yapping at Roy's heels, that made him determined to keep going.

After a long slow grinding ride up to the top, after he'd sat for a while to enjoy his flask of coffee and slice of crushed cake from his saddlebag, Roy got back on his bike for the return ride down the winding road.  The wind rushed through his thinning hair and it filled his cotton shirt which billowed out behind him. Down, down, down he went, past the dog and its owner still trudging upwards, speeding down to the seafront, on to the pier and home almost without pedalling at all.  This was his reward for the hard-going uphill.  

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Intensive Care

My father is in hospital at the moment, Intensive Care actually.  He has always been an avid cyclist, right up until he started to get sick about five weeks ago he was cycling up to 20 miles a day – for pleasure!  He is 83 and probably physically fitter than many men and women 40 years younger, at least prior to this current episode.

Dad worked as a baker until he was 50 and then worked in the kitchens of the local hospital until he retired at 65.  Did I say ‘retired’?  A few years later he started working part time at his local Asda, where he had what he often described as ‘the easiest job in the world’; he worked in the instore bakery where he piped the cream into the Victoria sandwich cakes – and he was always very generous with that cream. 

It was while he was working at Asda that he got talking to a colleague about going to France for the day – yes, here he was, at least 70 by then, and several times each summer he would have a day of cycling in France, coming home with fish soup and red wine in his saddlebags.  He admitted it was, "a bit of a struggle" to pedal up the hills when loaded with tins of soup and bottles of wine.  Anyway, his colleague, I’ll call him Simon, who was about 30 years old, clearly thought, ‘If the old man can do it so can I’, and he said he would like to join Dad on his next trip.  So early one morning off they went, 13 miles to the nearest port, 4 hours ferry journey across the channel and cycling all day in France with occasional stops for coffee and sustenance.   They had a great day, well Dad certainly did!

By the time they arrived back at Dad’s house that evening, Simon had all but stopped talking, it was taking all his energy to keep pedalling.  As Dad got off his bike and said, “goodbye, see you tomorrow”, Simon said, “I think I’ll walk the rest of the way home”.  And so Simon walked, on somewhat wobbly legs, the remaining half mile to his own house.  When Dad got to work the next day he learned that Simon had phone in sick.  One up to the old man!

I’m hoping that physical fitness will help him in his recovery now.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

No Hiding Place

Apple Charlotte is the dessert of the devil.  Or so I thought when I was growing up.  Layers of apple and breadcrumbs and served with custard.  My sister and I hated it.  Most of mum’s puddings were delicious; sticky toffee pudding, blancmange, angel delight, trifle, jam roly poly and, of course, spotted dog.  But Apple Charlotte we despised.  My parents were of the generation who had lived through the strict rationing of WW2 and as a result we had to eat everything on our plates.  We would pick at it and spread it around the plate trying to make it appear as if we’d eaten more than we had, but it never worked.    No matter how hard we tried there was no disguising the fact that we hadn’t eaten our apple charlotte.

We started to look around for hiding places.  Mum would probably notice if we tried to bury it in the plant pot.  We would be unable to get it out to the garden without being seen and challenged.  We could sneak it up to our bedroom but we’d still have to find a way to get it out of the house.

The solution lay in the table itself.  Made in the 1960’s when everything had to have multiple uses, the drop-leaf dining table had an ironing board underneath that was never used, Mum always used the ironing board that was concealed within the door of one of the kitchen cupboards.  Every time we had the dreaded apple charlotte for pudding Penny and I would pull out the end of the ironing board and put the last teaspoon or so onto the recess intended for the iron and push it back into place.  We were safe, we would never be discovered.  And we never were!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013


With Easter just round the corner I thought I'd post another short blog about some of the delights my Dad used to make.  

Dad didn’t just bake he was an expert cake decorator as well and every evening he would be out in the kitchen decorating wedding cakes.  The sweet smell of the Royal Icing filled the kitchen as he modelled two-inch-high swans and created tiers of semi-circular loops to hang around the edge of the cake.  Mixed with the distinctive almond smell of the marzipan that he used to make tiny rose petals as well as the base for the icing, the smell was like heaven and I often crept out into the kitchen on a Sunday evening to watch.  I’d watch until Sing Something Simple came on the radio which would be my cue to leave for something more exciting on the television. 

We loved biscuits in our house and our favourites were chocolate digestives.  Ours were made by Dad who would cover our plain digestives in a thick layer of melted chocolate which he then left to cool and set on greaseproof paper.  I remember picking out the biscuits which had the most drips of chocolate over the edge.  At Easter it was chocolate eggs and Easter Bunnies, or rather Easter Rabbits – there was no baby talk in our house.  One Easter my sister and I had a big Easter Egg each, decorated with delicate, brightly coloured, handmade crystal flowers.  Was I happy?  Well, no actually.  I mean, there weren’t even any chocolate buttons inside.  It was completely hollow; such a disappointment.  What an ungrateful child I was!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Cream Cakes

When I was growing up my best friend was Joy.  Joy’s father, worked for a wholesale butcher and dinner at her house always meant great big portions of meat.  I remember listening to her parents discussing what meat they would need over Christmas; a turkey, a leg of pork and beef brisket.  “Will that do, or should we have some ham as well?” her mum asked.  In my house meat was strictly rationed, we had a turkey at Christmas and that lasted for a week. 

My own Dad was a baker and when I was little he started work very early every morning in the bakery of a local department store, making bread and cakes for the restaurant.  What this meant for us kids was that we invariably had cream cakes for tea; the day’s leftovers.  I was the envy of many of my friends and I often invited Joy home to tea.  Joy loved a cream cake.  I, on the other hand, hated cream.  The sight of thick, white, whipped cream on a lip would quite make me heave.   My favourite was always an iced bun, commonly called a Sticky Willy, but we didn’t do common in my house.  Even Spotted Dick was called Spotted Dog at home.   I first saw the name Spotted Dick on the school canteen menu.  "Is that the same as Spotted Dog?" I asked my friends.