The Shopping Habit

 

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One definition of ‘addiction’ is ‘the condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something’ and this definition brings one of life’s pleasures to mind: shopping.

I don’t think I’m actually addicted to shopping, but I do believe I could easily become addicted, given the chance. Living in the country, miles from any shops, is a help or a hindrance depending on your point of view. I think it’s a help, but if someone wants to throw some spare cash my way, I’m willing to test the theory.

What is decidedly not helpful to a shopping addict is the advent of internet shopping. A while back, when I was driving north with He Who Prefers Not To Be Named, I noticed an enormous, huge, ginormous Amazon warehouse had been built within ten miles of our home, ‘Just for us,’ we agreed. We are both seriously addicted to buying books on Amazon. It is just too easy. However, I have curbed my need for the services of the said warehouse: most of my Amazon purchases now are eBooks.

Research shows that many people buy things they don’t need, some buy things they don’t even want and most of these folks are a bit concerned about their shopping habits, some admitting they are ‘addicted’ to shopping.

In the developed world, merchandisers play to this addiction. Millions of Pounds, Dollars, Euros and Yen are spent every year on advertising. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work.

Advertisers play on our emotions, telling us we deserve more and better than we have, assuring us that our life will be enhanced if we buy their products. It rarely turns out to be that way. In the words of an exceptionally wise man: Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses. (Luke 12:15) and another wise man: A mere lover of silver will not be satisfied with silver. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

No wonder many shopping addicts are concerned about their shopping habit. They may well have come to the same conclusion – that it is just not bringing them satisfaction. But how to cure the addiction? Often professional help is needed. Identifying the underlying problem is necessary. Having a supportive friend or relative is helpful.

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Several things inspired me to write my novel, ‘Making It Home’.

Being just a teeny bit addicted to shopping was one. The thing is, I can live fine without it until I’m there, in the shopping mall or on the High Street, then I feel as though I’ve failed some test or other if I go home empty-handed. And I know I sometimes fall into the category of buying things I like but I don’t actually need. I mean, do I really need yet another ‘wee top’?

What is it about shopping that gets me?

My addiction is under control now, though it was never a serious problem. In my case, it wasn’t need or loneliness, but it was dissatisfaction with my looks and my figure. I had lost my sense of identity while raising our children and hadn’t found it again yet. I was constantly looking for that perfect dress, the one that would make me look tall and slim, those perfect jeans that would not only be comfortable but would make me look young and vital, that special wee top that would make me feel young and pretty again.

In analysing that, I got caught up in the idea of writing a story about someone who – unlike me, I hasten to add – just couldn’t stop buying things even when the money had well and truly run out. I thought it would be interesting to explore what her underlying problems could be and help her find some help to deal with them.

The discovery of a deceased relative’s secret addiction to shopping was another inspiration, albeit a sad one. Who knew Auntie J was filling her home with purchases she had no use for, filling cupboards and rooms with unopened carrier bags, receipts dating years back still inside them with the items she’d bought: the overwhelming sadness of her loneliness clearly unabated by hundreds of shopping trips? Who knew? Childless and widowed years before, she lived far from extended family and had few friends, mostly by choice, being a very private person. Reluctant to visit or be visited, her secret was only discovered when her home had to be cleared for sale after her funeral.

I used my overwhelming sadness to tell a little of Auntie J’s story in my novel, Making it Home, allowing a fictional character to carry her secret and share her loneliness. I like to think she might have enjoyed the alternative ending.

Making It Home

41C9fKLVtzL._UY250_ Kate had a home, but her heart wasn’t in it – or in her marriage. So she left them both.
Phyllis had a home – and her heart was in it – but she wanted something more. So she shopped.
Naomi had no home and her heart was in cold storage, frozen by grief and fear. So she shopped.
They found one another in a department store in Edinburgh.
The trouble with ‘retail therapy’ is, you can overdose.
As friendship grows between these three women, they help one another face up to their problems, realising along the way, every heart needs a home and it takes more than a house to make one.

Christine Campbell Amazon Author Page

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What about you? How do you feel about shopping: love it or hate it? Do you know what compels you to shop, or is it something you have to force yourself to do when you need a particular item? Please share your shopping thoughts and stories, good or bad, in the comments. I’d love to read them.

~~~

Finding Style at any Age

Once again, I have a guest to introduce to you, and I’m certain you are going to enjoy meeting her. I met Andrea Pflaumer online when I booked in to watch her seminar, Vital, Vivacious, and Visible after 50. I enjoyed the seminar very much and felt drawn to Andrea’s gentle yet authoritative personality as well as to the guests she interviewed.

As an author, I often write about ordinary women who find their strengths and become more courageous as they age, so the title of the program intrigued me, and I wondered if could I use this information to help keep my characters authentic.

In the event, not only did I find it helpful on that level, but I also found it encouraging and reinforcing on a personal level.

So, without further ado, I shall let Andrea tell you about herself and what she does.

~~~

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Sixteen years ago, at the age of 52, I started a new career as a journalist, writing shopping and human interest articles for local and national magazines and newspapers. Because fashion and style had been long-time passions of mine I began writing a non-fiction book based on principles of individual coloring and personal style typing. On the face of it, wearing the most flattering clothing always seemed like such a superficial thing, but the deeper I went into studying the background material for my book, the more profound and personally affirming it all became. And based on the comments I’ve received from my readers, it has for them as well.

Now, that I’m at an age when the entire issue of appearance is fraught with a lot of societal judgement and personal angst, I started asking my friends and my readers how they felt about their personal appearance as they reached their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. It came as no surprise that many of them expressed dismay. They described the experience of shopping as extremely frustrating because they had a hard time finding hip, affordable, and flattering clothing targeted to older women. They described becoming “invisible” to fashion designers and marketers, not to mention to the opposite sex. Not only did this invisibility apply to their appearance, they told me, but it reflected a larger dread: That they longer had a meaningful place in the world. It’s a common thread and a very troubling one.
So I set out to see if I could change their – and my own – thinking on this. I searched for women who were traversing the aging minefield in a more gracious way. And, I discovered many spectacular women who are doing so, not just in gracious ways, but in bold and dynamic ways. This was the start of a series of video interviews I conducted for a program I call Vital, Vivacious, and Visible after 50. My guests included women who have had successful careers but decided to go in new directions after 50, 60, 70 and even 80. Some were forced into those changes due to divorce or widowhood. Some simply decided to follow their curiosity or to unpack old passions that had been locked away for decades. And some made changes in their lives, literally, to save their lives.
Along with these inspiring women I also interviewed three wonderful men who offered practical fashion advice for older women: one is one of the most famous red carpet stylists in New York, another is the most sought-after “makeover” expert in the US, and lastly, I interviewed my own color and style mentor, John Kitchener, Director of Personal Style Counselors.
I came away from the experience energized and hopeful, not just for myself, but for my entire generation of women. I learned that by gaining certain habits and skills we can look forward to our later years with energy and enthusiasm. I also came away realizing that the knowledge and coping tools we have gleaned over a lifetime can enable us to become very visible, both in our own lives and also as role models for younger generations of women. These skills and tools have enabled us to move through change – and sometimes profound loss – and have made us stronger and more resilient. They have also allowed us to connect with deeper, more grounded parts of ourselves.
So from a completely new and unexpected direction, developing Vital, Vivacious and Visible after 50 helped reinforce my primary goal when I wrote my first two books: to help women and girls maintain individuality, authenticity, and courage throughout all the stages of life.

~~~

SRY_3D_front-500px1-200x358 Andrea Pflaumer is a speaker and educator, and the author of Shopping for the Real You, the only book based on the Personal Style Counselors (PSC) system, providing a detailed guide to wardrobe, color, and personal style.

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Her new e-book, She’s Got Good Jeans, applies that same critical eye to a popular subject: where to find (and how to style) the best jeans for one’s body shape, style and budget.

Her series Vital, Vivacious, and Visible after 50 will be available on both video and as audio podcasts in early May.

You can follow her blog at http://shoppingfortherealyou.com

her Pinterest pages at https://wwhttpsw.pinterest.com/andreapflaumer/

and her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/shoppingfortherealyou/

~~~

Christine Campbell, author and blogger, has six published novels:

Family Matters, Making it Home, Flying Free, Here at the Gate, Searching for Summer, and Traces of Red; all Contemporary Women’s Fiction, often with ‘mature’ female protagonists.

You can find out more about Christine and her books at: http://author.to/ChristineCampbell

~~~

A Day in the Life….

…of a Writer.

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My name is Christine Campbell, and I am a writer.

There, I’ve said it.

I said it and believed it for the first time after I published my debut novel in 2008.

There can be few things more validating for a new writer than to hold years of hard work in your hands. Feel the paper smooth on your fingers. The weight of your very own book, the smell of it, the sound of pages as you run your thumb over their edge, letting them flip one against the other. The sight of the words you penned months before, tumbling over one another to fill hundreds of pages, painting the pictures from your imagination in words and letters, to tell your story.

It’s intoxicating.

But how did it come to that point?

What does a writer’s day look like?

For me, the day probably looked a lot like anyone else’s.

I had a husband, a family, responsibilities.

Writing was what I did in secret, what I did in snatches, in corners, in cafés. Not because I was ashamed of what I did. Not because my husband didn’t encourage and support me. Only because I didn’t believe I was a Writer with a capital W.

Then ‘Family Matters’ was published and I held in my hands the evidence that I was.

I am a Writer.

My days look different now.

Brazen, I sit at my computer while the dishes sit by the sink. My fingers fly across the keys making that special music of storytellers, while the washing churns in the machine. Dinners are simple affairs the days I’m writing well, more elaborate when I have thinking to be done. As I chop the carrots, I set out plot points in my head. As I brown the meat, my head fills with neatly turned phrases and enticing story twists.

If you pass me in the supermarket and I don’t seem to see you, I probably don’t. I’m somewhere else, in the world my characters inhabit, doing something else altogether. If I didn’t rouse myself occasionally to check my shopping list, goodness knows what I’d remember to pop in my trolley for tonight’s dinner. Whatever my protagonist fancies, I suppose.

Hours can pass and I think it’s a moment since I sat down to write.

A day in the life of a writer doesn’t look so very different from a distance. On closer inspection, it belongs to a different world, a different time capsule.

My family are grown now, and my long-suffering husband smiles at my passion and shares the washing-up. The washing gets done, the beds get made, no-one is neglected. But time is set aside to write, to edit, to think, to plan, to research.

It’s what I do.

I am a Writer.

~~~

Getting the Most from your Writers’ Retreat

You’ve gathered a few writing buddies together and you’ve booked a cottage in the country, you’re all set to try your hand at creating a Writers’ Retreat. So, how are you going to get the maximum benefit from it while putting the minimum time into planning it? Because, let’s face it, we’re writers.

We want to write.

Not spend hours and hours organising ourselves to write.

Do have a meeting or a virtual meeting before you go, to decide the main things in advance.

My friends and I have tried different approaches and each time we have gone away for a week, we have structured it a little differently so perhaps the most helpful thing for me to do would be to tell you some of the things that work well, not necessarily the things we have done.

One of the things to remember is, although you are going to your retreat to write, you will also need to eat, so planning a rough menu beforehand is worth considering. Shopping for that menu can be done in advance if you have room in the car for the shopping. Failing that, perhaps locate the nearest supermarket to you cottage and, after you unload the car, you can go back out for a shopping trip.

This is where the planning meeting is useful. You can decide things like:

Will you share the cooking, perhaps on a daily rota? Or will everyone fend for themselves?

Will you share the shopping or will one of you volunteer to bring the supplies to the cottage and everyone chip in with their share of the cost?

Your meals need not be elaborate affairs. As long as there are plenty of basic things like bread and cheese, salad and fruit, wine and coffee, everyone is usually happy to see to themselves for breakfast and lunch, with one or two being responsible for producing a simple evening meal.

Simplicity is the key.

No-one wants to spend the best part of the day in the kitchen — unless cooking is their passion, of course. In which case, enjoy!

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Something else you might want to discuss beforehand is whether you want to use the retreat as a quiet place, conducive to writing, where you can each get on quietly with your WIP uninterrupted, or would you like to also have some structured writing time.

Starting the day with a little light physical exercise, like a short walk or such, followed by a timed writing exercise or two can be useful to wake up the body and the writing muscles. Similarly, it is important to incorporate short breaks in the day to stretch out the muscles, get some fresh air and refresh yourselves.

After eating the evening meal, it can be pleasant to spend time relaxing together for a while, perhaps watching a film, playing music, or just sitting chatting over a glass of wine.

This might also be a time you would enjoy reading out some of your day’s writing to one another and getting some feedback.

Set goals.

At the planning stage, it is good to discuss together what each member of the party hopes to achieve. Whether some of you want to set yourselves a daily word count, or a weekly one, whether the aim is to edit a certain number of pages, poems or chapters, the best way to achieve the maximum benefit from your retreat is to set clear goals and encourage one another to work towards them.

Respect one another’s space.

Respect the silence.

Respect each other’s writing.

At the end of your week or weekend together, celebrate!

Discuss what worked and what didn’t, what helped and what hindered, and plan your next retreat.

~~~

What about turning your annual vacation into a personal writer’s retreat?

If your friend or your spouse likes fishing, skiing, white water rafting and you don’t, why not book a log cabin where he or she can do their thing and you can write, sharing a meal together in the evening, a glass of wine by the fire or in the evening sun, sharing the stories of the day.

My husband and I do this from time to time, where he pursues his interests during the day while I enjoy some quiet writing time and we share the evenings together. It works.

~~~

I would love to hear your suggestions.

What have you tried?

Have you enjoyed the luxury of a Writers’ Retreat?

~~~

Home Free on Friday

FREE on AMAZON KINDLE

FRIDAY, 10th & SATURDAY, 11th JANUARY

Making It Home

THE book cover

In the run-up to the release of my third novel, Flying Free, I am offering you the chance to sample my writing without it costing you a penny. You can download it for free from Amazon Kindle wherever you are.

If you prefer reading an actual book, Making It Home, is also available in paperback, but I’m afraid that’ll cost you the price of a cup of coffee and a cream cake.

Let me tell you a little about Making It Home:

Kate had a home, but her heart wasn’t in it … or in her marriage.

So she left them both.

Phillis had a home, and her heart was in it … but she wanted something more.

So she shopped.

Naomi had no home, and her heart was in cold storage … she didn’t know what she wanted.

 So she shopped.

They found one another in a department store.

The problem with ‘retail therapy’: you can overdose.

As friendship grows between these three women, they help one another face up to their problems, realising along the way, that every heart needs a home and it takes more than a house to make one.

A contemporary novel about women who want more.

~~~

Link to download for FREE: http://bookshow.me/B00BR9YS0G

~~~

Reviews of Making It Home

By CJ Heck on June 8, 2013

Format: Paperback Amazon Verified Purchase

This wonderful book is one of my newest all-time favorites. Christine Campbell
has written a masterpiece, a book worthy of everyone’s bookshelf. I wouldn’t
be at all surprised to see it made into a movie — the characters are incredibly
real and the emotions evoked are profound. There were several times when I held
back tears and, by the final page, I no longer fought them and let them flow.Move over Nicholas Sparks, you have new competition in Christine Campbell.
This woman writes from a heart of gold to the hearts and souls of us all.
If only I could give it ten stars ..
Respectfully submitted,
CJ Heck, Author
Format: Kindle Edition Amazon Verified Purchase

In this book we meet Kate, who has a fairly normal life, but it is slowly unwinding like an old clock and she is beginning to realize that it is time for a decision about what kind of life she truly wants. Phyllis, an older woman who befriends Kate, helps open Kate’s eyes to how much she has been sleep-walking through her life. They both recognize that Naomi needs their help but they can’t quite work out how to offer that help or what all it will entail.So far it could be any politically correct book on the “women’s literature” market – but this book rises above that. The characters deepen and when men come into the story they start out almost as caricatures and then find their own realism as the women in the book begin to see them as real people with real thoughts and ideas. The people in this book stay with the reader and seem to grow even after the book concludes. It is a gentle read that sinks into your mind and soul and gently helps you change your assumptions about others.I am really impressed with this author and with this novel. I recommend it to anyone who isn’t looking for a cookie-cutter story-line. “Making it Home” doesn’t come at you with a message or a sermon; it simply shares the lives of the people in it and lets you decide for yourself. This book gives me the same peaceful experience I found reading D.E. Stevenson’s work – but updated for modern times.
~~~

Amazon.co.uk links.

paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Home-Christine-Campbell/dp/1849237743/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364061887&sr=1-1

ebook: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-It-Home-ebook/dp/B00BR9YS0G/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364061887&sr=1-1

Amazon.com links:

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Making-Home-Christine-Campbell/dp/1849237743/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389111343&sr=1-1&keywords=making+it+home+by+Christine+Campbell

Kindle edition:  http://www.amazon.com/Making-It-Home-Christine-Campbell-ebook/dp/B00BR9YS0G/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1389111766&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=making+it+home+by+Christine+Campbell

~~~

REMEMBER!
The Kindle edition of Making It Home is
FREE
on FRIDAY 10th & SATURDAY 11th, JANUARY
~~~

Making it Home

Making It Home

THE book cover

Kate had a home, but her heart wasn’t in it…or in her marriage.

So she left them both.

Phillis had a home…and her heart was in it…but she wanted something more.

So she shopped.

Naomi had no home and her heart was in cold storage, frozen by grief and fear.

So she shopped.

They found one another in a department store.

Shopping.

The problem with ‘retail therapy’: you can overdose.

As friendship grows between these three women, they help one another face up to their problems, realising along the way, that every heart needs a home and it takes more than a house to make one.

A contemporary novel about women who want more.

 Amazon links.

paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Home-Christine-Campbell/dp/1849237743/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364061887&sr=1-1

ebook: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-It-Home-ebook/dp/B00BR9YS0G/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364061887&sr=1-1

Curry and Beer Night

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A rather tasty short story for you today, but with a bit of an aftertaste.

It was inspired by a couple of different things. One of my daughters and her husband instituted  ‘Curry and Beer Night’ every Friday in their house and I always liked the idea. The other part of the inspiration came from learning of someone whose wife left him, leaving him, not only alone, but with thousands of pounds worth of debt. But, there, I don’t want to give too much away…

***

Curry and Beer Night

by

Christine Campbell

 

Turmeric-bright splatterings still decorate the kitchen wall, serving Dave as a reminder that he’s no saint. When his mother-in-law tearfully tells him how wonderful he is, the way he cares for Sharon, his eyes wander to the stain and he silently disowns the praise. 

He came in that night, having worked late yet again. The house was cold and empty. No light burned to cheer him, no voice called out in welcome. There was a note this time. That was something. A ‘Post-it’ stuck to a packaged meal. ‘Out with girls. Don’t wait up.”

Dave closed his eyes, letting the weariness and disappointment pass over him. Microwave curry again: the taste of loneliness. It had been when he was a student, and it was now. He had hoped that marriage would change the flavour. When he vowed to be with Sharon for better or worse, he hadn’t bargained on Chicken Madras being part of the ‘worse’.

Curry ‘n’ Beer night: the weekly treat. Before he married, he’d go to the pub with his mates after work every Friday, celebrating the week’s end with a few beers followed by a visit to their favourite Indian restaurant.

He’d had the offer tonight.

“You comin’ down the pub, Dave?” Gary had asked.

“Working late,” he’d replied, with a shake of the head.

“Sucker! Honeymoon over, is it? Not rushin’ home t’ Sharon, then?” Gary had never married, liked to pretend by choice, and sneered at the idea of domestic bliss. He’d been making the same ‘honeymoon over’ crack for seven years now. That and his, “Need the money, d’ye? Patter o’ tiny feet, maybe?” accompanied by an insensitive, ‘knowing’ wink. “Friday! Curry ‘n’ Beer night! Bring the wife! We’re not prejudiced!”

That’s how he’d met Sharon. Gary had managed to persuade a group of girls from the office to join them: promises of good food, good beer and good company. The plan had failed to provide a wife for Gary, or even a girlfriend, but it had worked for Dave. He and Sharon had gravitated to a quiet corner of the bar and spent the evening flirting outrageously with one another. She became a regular Curry ‘n’ Beer night member and, when they got married, had instituted the cosier version: the two of them curled up together on the sofa with a good film, a few cans and a home-made beef curry.

The tradition now persisted in almost unrecognisable form; the sentiment had not survived the miscarriage at all. Dave wasn’t sure their marriage had either. They still lived under the same roof, if that constituted a marriage. Shared joy had turned to private grief and neither of them seemed able to help the other.

He’d wanted children, felt he had a lot to give, could see himself the kind of dad who’d bath the baby, change the baby: a ‘hands on’ dad, a caring dad. Dave sighed, pushing the pain back to the shadows, wondered if he’d ever have a chance at pushing a buggy.

Instead, he pushed his hands through his hair and braced himself to ‘cook’ his meal.

Curry ‘n’ Beer night: cardboard illustrations promising undelivered succulence and drinking alone: the ghost of what might have been.

Slipping the outer sleeve off, reading the instructions, piercing the film lid, all accomplished with a sigh; slamming the door of the microwave, punching the buttons, more of a growl. He should’ve gone with Gary and the boys. Could’ve had a decent curry, a proper curry, instead of the muck he’d thrown in the oven.

The mechanical hum reverberated through his chest, whirred in his head, building on disappointment till it became frustration; frustration, till it became anger. She could’ve told him this morning. She could’ve let him know he’d be on his own again.

Snatching up the cardboard sleeve, he twisted it roughly in his hands and stuffed it in the bucket.

And that was when the explosion started to build inside him.

Price tags.

No attempt made to hide them.

New jeans, a new top.

He dug further.

Boots. Leather boots. Expensive. Paid for by credit card.

He upturned the bucket onto the table, rooting through wet teabags and empty tins, mouldy cheese and milk cartons, snatching at scraps of paper. Tossing them aside till he found what he sought.

Receipts.

Hairdresser. Jeweller.

What else had she bought this time?

How much overtime did he hold, crumpled in his hand?

He swept the rubbish from the kitchen table with his arm, the angry movement sending the mess across the floor.

He kicked a chair after it as he lurched through to the living room. The unit drawer was where they kept the paperwork needed to run a household; to control its budget. The furious force he used to open it brought it all the way out, sending its contents fluttering around him. Credit card statements, store card statements: she hadn’t even tried to keep them from his scrutiny. Hundreds, thousands of pounds set out in columns of threes and fours, marching to the tally at the bottom of each page.

With a bellow of pain and rage, he threw them from him and stumbled back to the kitchen.

The plate she had set out for his meal he hurled at the wall, fragments of pottery flying where they would.

Tearing open the door of the microwave oven, he grabbed the hot, plastic dish from its depths and hurled the hated curry after the plate.

And, as it hit the wall, like a bright, fragrant, messy explosion, the volcano inside him spluttered the last of its vitriol.

Exhausted, he pressed his head against the cool tiles of the kitchen wall and wept.

As lumps of rubbery chicken slithered down the wall in a sluggish stream of sauce, he took a pack of beers from the fridge and settled himself on the sofa for the evening, the television blaring, unheeded, as he drank himself to sleep.

When Sharon came home, her first wave of revulsion was caused by the stink of his sweat and his belly’s exhalations. “Pig!” she muttered, opening the window. She had unzipped her new leather boots and slipped tired feet out of them in the hall, so, when she stepped back, her feet found the sticky, wet patch of beer-soaked carpet beside the couch. “Slob!” she sneered.

She turned off the blank television, her nose wrinkling in disgust at the stickiness of the remote control and the puddle of beer in which it sat. She picked up the upturned glass and headed for the dishwasher.

Turning on the kitchen light, shock threw her back from the aftermath of his eruption. Her bright, modern kitchen smelled like a curry-house, and looked like the alley behind it. All that was missing were the marauding cats.

Not intending to waken him, she had hoped to slip upstairs and have the luxury of the empty bed, but her involuntary exclamation and the light from the kitchen roused him.

“What on earth?” she saw the price tags and receipts among the rubbish and swung round to register the paperwork strewn over the living room floor. “Oh!”

Dave struggled against the grogginess of beer and sleep, covering his eyes against the light.

Sharon gathered her dismay into a tight defensive ball and threw it aside with a defiant toss of her head, deciding that the mess was his and he could clean it up in the morning. She headed for the door.

Looking at his watch, noting it was well past midnight, he demanded to know where she’d been.

“Out!”

“With?”

“Friends!” As she walked back through the living room, she slipped her arms out of the soft leather jacket that had been delivered this morning.

He grabbed it from her as she went by the couch.

“Where did you…? This is new!” He smelled it. “It’s leather!”

“So?”

He flung it to the floor. “How much did that sting me?”

“Nothing yet. I got it from the catalogue.”

“Good, ‘cos it’s going back!”

Set to argue the point with him, she stood, legs apart, hands on hips, rebellion blazing in her brown eyes.

“Look at you!” he spat. “All that make-up! You look like a tart!” His eyes swept over her: long, brown hair flowing freely round her shoulders; tight jeans; low-cut, tight-fitting top. “Tart!” he repeated with a sneer.

“I’m fed up with you telling me what I can wear and what I can’t wear! Where I can go and where I can’t go!”

“So, who’ve you been with, eh?” And he rose from the couch, grabbing her arm, twisting it behind her.

“Stop it!” she said, frightened now. “You’re hurting me!”

“I’ll break that sweet little neck of yours,” he said, the menace in his voice carried to her face on his foul breath. “It’s not enough that you bankrupt me with all this rubbish,” he said, pulling at her clothes. “You want to cheat on me too, do you, slut?”

“No, Dave, honestly. I haven’t! I’ve been with the girls. Ask them. Please, Dave. You’re hurting me.”

Suddenly, he released her and sat down on the sofa again, his head bent, hands covering his face. “Look what you’ve brought me to!” He shook his head. “I’ve never hurt you before. Have I?” He looked up, his eyes filled with remorse. “Have I ever hit you?”

She backed away, lifting her jacket from the floor, shaking her head. “I’m no good for you, Dave,” she told him. “You should let me go.”

“Go?” He was on his feet again, anger reigniting. “Where? Where d’you want to go? To your boyfriend?”

She shook her head. “No, Dave. You’re wrong! There’s no-one else!”

“No? Why all this then?” His gesture took in the make-up, the clothes. “Not for me. You know I don’t like all this trash.” Disgust retched in his voice. “Cheap! It makes you look cheap.” He laughed. “That’s funny, that is! Don’t you think that’s funny? It makes you look cheap. You’ve run up debts of, what? Ten thousand? Twelve thousand grand? And you look cheap. Don’t you think that’s funny?”

Sharon was edging towards the door.

“You’ve ruined me. You’ve driven me to the edge of reason, and now you think you can walk out on me?” He stepped between her and the door. “You’re right. I should let you go,” he said. “But I’m not going to. I married you. In front of a church-load of people, I married you, and you belong to me.” He leant into her space. “You are not going to humiliate me in front of all those people,” he hissed. “You are going to stay here and learn to be a decent wife. A proper wife.”

Tears were flowing unhindered down Sharon’s face.

“No more gallivanting.” He took the jacket from her hands. “No more shopping.” He snatched up her handbag. “No more new clothes.” He threw the jacket across the room. “Children! We’re going to have children, and you’re going to cook and clean and care for us like a proper wife. Right?”

With a last gasp of bravado, Sharon straightened her back, tossed back her head and looked him in the eye. “No! I’m not some clockwork doll you can dress up how you like, then wind me up and make me dance to your tune. I am not your slave. Neither are you going to turn me into your mother. You will not imprison me in this house.” And she pushed him with all the strength she could muster and caught him off-balance.

As he moved to the side to steady himself against the doorpost, she ducked under his arm, grabbed the keys from the hall table and bolted out the front door. Her unshod feet slipping on the grass, she ran across the garden, unlocking the car as she went. Wrenching open the door, she jumped inside, started the engine and had reversed half-way down the drive by the time he reached the car.

His fist banging on the window made her jump.

Her wet foot slipped on the accelerator.

The car coughed and lurched but she caught the pedals before the engine stalled.

Pressing her foot down hard, she swung the car down the driveway and round into the road.

Into the neighbours’ car, parked behind her.

With no seatbelt on, the bump threw her forward, hitting her head on the windscreen.

Dave grabbed at the passenger door.

She threw the gear stick into first and stamped on the accelerator.

Just as the car leapt forward, she remembered the hired skip parked beside their driveway, ready for the rubble of next-door’s renovations. But she had lost all control now, could do nothing about it.

Her car charged into the hulking, rusted, metal wall.

 

“Oh, my, she looks so pretty!” Evelyn exclaimed. “You do so well, looking after her,” she added, her eyes misting with tears. “Always keep her so nice.” She straightened the lacy collar of Sharon’s blouse. “I wish we didn’t live so far away.”

“Come on now, Evelyn. Don’t get all maudlin again. We were having such a nice time.”

“Yes, yes. I know. It’s just so hard seeing my wee girl like this. Does she still not remember anything?”

Dave shook his head. “Nothing from before the accident.”

“Nothing at all?”

“They don’t think so,” he shrugged. “Though it’s difficult to be sure since she doesn’t speak: can’t tell us.”

“Oh, I wish there was something I could do.”

“I know, Evelyn, I know. That’s why I asked you to bring the photograph albums. See if anything from her childhood jogs her memory.”

“What about her appetite? Is she eating yet?”

“Not much. A little at a time. I’m making curry tonight. Friday: Curry ‘n’ Beer night. She used to like a curry. Thought it might help her remember. You know, familiar foods, familiar things. I’ve got a film out too. I’ll cosy up on the couch with her, like we used to,” he shrugged. “Who knows? Something might…”

His mother-in-law nodded. “No progress with the walking?”

Dave stroked the handle of the wheelchair and sighed as he shook his head.

“I don’t know how you cope,” Evelyn told him. “She’s like a doll. You have to choose her clothes, wash her face, dress her.” she shook her head. “Everything. She can’t go out or come in without you.  My poor girl. Totally dependent. Like I said, I just don’t know how you cope.” She patted his arm and smiled at him, gratitude and admiration in her eyes. “Thank you.” Tears gathered in her voice. “You’re a saint, I tell you. A saint!”

Dave glanced into the kitchen where he knew without seeing it, that there was a bright, yellow, Turmeric stain on the wall.

***

turmeric heart

And now, as a special reward for you for reading my story, while you’re chewing it over, I’ll give you a recipe for Chicken Madras. It’s not my recipe: you can breathe a sigh of relief. I have many talents, but my children will line up to be first to tell you I’m not a great cook. My lovely, loyal husband would disagree with them, but, there, he still loves me after forty-six years of marriage, bless him!

This Chicken Madras Recipe is based on a Gordon Ramsey recipe which has been adapted slightly for a spicier palette and the ingredient quantities as listed are enough to make 4 portions.

chickenmadras

Chicken Madras Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts, one per person!
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2cm block of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped – Depends how much garlic you like. Personally I don’t like it to be over-powering
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 400g ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 300ml water
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Coriander leaves, to garnish

The following spices can be varied to your own personal taste, but if this is your first time with this recipe, then I’d suggest the following:

  • 2–4 red chillies, finely chopped – You can de-seed if you prefer, but this will make it not as spicy
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1–3 tsp (or more!) hot chilli powder, to taste – Adding more or less will vary the hotness
  • 6–8 curry leaves
  • Juice of half a lemon or lime (you can use vinegar here instead, but not both)

Preparing the Chicken Madras Curry

Cut the chicken into strips or cubes and put aside. Heat the oil and add the onions and cook until they start to soften which will be about 5 or 6 mins. Once the onions have started to brown add the chillies, the garlic and the ginger and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Then add the turmeric, cumin, coriander, curry leaves and chilli powder and leave to cook for a further minute or so.

In that time, season the chicken you set aside earlier with the salt and pepper and add to the pan and cook stirring the pan until the chicken begins to go golden brown all over.

At this stage you’ll want to add the water and the chopped tomatoes and then bring to boil. Once the pan is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pan stirring ever so often. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes and add more water as needed if it begins to stick or the sauce becomes too dry – remember to stir well if you do need to add water. At the end of the 30 mins, stir in the garam masala and leave uncovered for another 10 mins, again taking care not to let it dry out.

When the cooking’s finished and you’re ready to serve the chicken madras, garnish it with some coriander leaves (not the stalk!) and I usually have it with rice or a Garlic and Coriander Naan bread, although it’s equally as good with chips(!), a jacket potato or even and this is controversial…in a large Yorkshire Pudding!

Read more: Is this the BEST Chicken Madras Recipe Ever? http://www.currytastic.com/best-chicken-madras-recipe-ever/#ixzz2VC5tSa88

For more fabulous curry recipes visit http://currydemon.com/

A Story a Day for a Week in May

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Two of the bloggers I follow, Marian Allen and Jo Robinson, are writing a short story every day during the month of May. They have actually signed up to do it…officially! I have been very impressed with Marian because she has done it, a story a day every day so far this month. Jo has just joined in. Inspired by their commitment, I think I’ll give it a try, unofficially, at least for this coming week. ‘A Story a Day for a Week in May’ may not have the same cachet, but it does have a certain ring about it, wouldn’t you say?

I’ve taken as my writing prompt an exercise suggested some time ago by one of my cohorts in PenPals, the writing club I belong to. She suggested we take one of the characters we are writing about in our novels or other work, and send them to buy a pint of milk. An everyday task: a way to get to know the character.

So, here is my first effort:

For Monday, May 20th

***

Milk, Don’t You Know!

It had been a rubbish day at work. Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong and, by the time Sandra walked home she was as thoroughly depressed as she’d been in a long time. When she opened the door to find Hugh curled up on the sofa with a book, his Basset-Hound-Puppy tail wagging to greet her, she felt herself falling apart. She flopped into the chair, her head back, tears gathering behind closed eyes.

“Bad? Dare…dare I ask? Bad day, was it?” Hugh did dare, carefully letting his book drop to the floor beside the empty mugs that had gathered there during his day.

She didn’t open her eyes, knowing, that once opened, there would be nothing to hold back the tears.

“Exhausted, you look exhausted,” Hugh consoled. “Cup of tea? Can I? Would you like…?”

“Please,” she nodded and, while Hugh fussed in the kitchen, she gave a long shuddering sigh and mentally drew all her scattered fragments into a tidy pile, ready to be put back together by the promised restorative cuppa. “Oh, yes, please,” she sighed.

“Ah, yes,” he said from the doorway. “Bit of a problem, there, with the aforementioned beverage, don’t you know.”

The fragments started to slip away.

“Milk. Didn’t happen to bring milk, did you, I don’t suppose?”

Tears trickled from the sides of her tightly shut eyes.

“Mmm. Take that as a ‘no’, then should I? Mmm.” Hugh raked his hands through his hair. “Next problem, no money. Don’t suppose you…?”

Silently, barely moving her position, she reached into her bag. Once found, she unzipped her purse and held it upside down letting the coins fall where they would.

“Yes, well.” Hugh bent to pick up the few pennies. “Not enough, not enough really, is it? Sixteen P? Pint of milk? Sixteen P?” He looked around for what he could sell. “Cushions? Do we really need cushions on that chair?” he asked.

And that was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back! “Those cushions were embroidered for me by my sister. They were part of my wedding trousseau.” Sandra was on her feet. “An old fashioned concept, I’ll grant you, as is the silly, outdated notion that it should be the man who goes out to work his butt off for his little woman,” she fumed, eyes wide open now, no effort to stop the tears of anger and self-pity. “If you don’t get out there, find some way to buy a pint of milk and make me that cup of tea,” grabbing up the cushion, “without, without, selling off the last of my treasured possessions, so help me, Hugh, I’ll…”

He held his hands aloft. “Point taken! Yes. Milk. Tea. On to it.” He snatched his jacket from the sofa where it had been thrown earlier. “Going. Milk. Yes.” And he rushed out of the door, embarrassed, she knew, by her tears, cowed by her anger.

She sat down again, her knees drawn up to her chin, her head in her hands, crying in earnest now. “Oh, God,” she prayed. “What am I going to do? He can’t even buy a pint of milk!”

It wasn’t that Hugh meant to be vague. In fact, mostly, he was unaware of his mental peregrinations. Looking back, even when chastised at school for his inattention, it always came as a surprise to him that his mind had strayed so far from the point of focus. He knew others were frustrated by this quality in him, but he couldn’t quite work out what to do about it. Survival instincts threw up soft, billowy clouds of insouciance to shield him from the harsh glare of censure.

He scrabbled up the money by dint of searching through the pockets of the coats that hung in the hall, and sifting through the ‘bits and pieces saucer’ on the kitchen worktop: nothing larger than the sticky ten pence piece he rescued from his jacket pocket, but together, enough for a pint of milk.

‘Milk,’ he mused as he ran down the stairs.

‘Milk,’ he muttered, slowing to let the traffic pass. ‘Funny thing, milk. Become a necessity, what? How does that happen? What did people do before there was milk?’ ‘S’pose always been milk, really,’ he replied, wandering along the street. ‘It’s tea that’s newer on the scene, don’t you know.’

‘Tea,’ he thought, looking in the book shop window. ‘Funny thing, tea. Become a necessity, sort of. Like coffee. Suddenly, everybody needs coffee to start the day,’ he observed as he fingered the row of second-hand books laid out on a stand in front of the window. Finding an Ian Rankin he hadn’t read, he checked the price pencilled inside the front cover. ‘Hmm, not quite enough,” he realised, counting the coins in his pocket. Then remembered that he had come out with a purpose.

‘Coffee,’ he reminded himself as he strolled into the All Hours Minimarket at the corner of the street. ‘Needs sugar, actually, coffee, can’t take it without sugar.’ He shuddered at the very idea.

‘Sugar,’ he mumbled, as he browsed the shelves. ‘Sugar. Ah, yes, there it is.’

‘Just about got enough for a small bag, ‘ he said, counting out the coins. He smiled as he handed the pile of copper over, winning a responsive smile from the assistant despite the inconvenience the counting of the small change would give.

‘Mmm,’ he hummed, entering the stair. ‘Can almost smell the coffee. Hope Sandra remembered the milk!’

 

‘Give us an A! Give us a d! Give us another d! Give us…Give us…Give us!’

And what have we got?

Addiction!

One definition of ‘addiction’ is ‘a compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance.’ In other words, your body and your mind crave that substance.

Sometimes a substance is generally, or even medically, recognised to be habit-forming, creating dependence on it. Other substances may not be intrinsically addictive, but turn out to be so for some people.

Chocolate seems to fall into that category.

chocolate

Modern marketing and advertising encourage this addiction, and, mostly, it’s not too damaging: an ounce or two extra on the hips or the waistline seems a small price to pay for the sheer, unadulterated pleasure of allowing a square of chocolate to melt slowly, succulently, deliciously in your mouth.

The chocolate addiction only becomes a real problem when you have a tendency to hypoglycaemia or diabetes, when you’re on a weight-loss diet or when you haven’t got any and the shops are shut.

A second definition of ‘addiction’ is ‘the condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something’ and this definition brings another of life’s pleasures to mind: shopping.

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FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I don’t think I’m actually addicted to shopping, but I do believe I could easily become addicted, given the chance. Living in the country, miles from any shops, is a help or a hindrance, depending on your point of view. I think it’s a help, but, if someone wants to throw a few bob my way, I’m willing to test the theory.

What is decidedly not helpful is the advent of internet shopping. A while back, when I was driving North with He Who Prefers Not To Be Named (see post of 5th April 2013), I noticed an enormous, huge, ginormous Amazon warehouse had been built within ten miles of our home, ‘Just for us,’ we agreed. We are both seriously addicted to buying books on Amazon. It is just too easy. However, I have curbed my need for the services of the said warehouse: most of my Amazon purchases now are eBooks.

Research shows that many people buy things they don’t need, some buy things they don’t even want and most of these folks are a bit concerned about their shopping habits, some admitting they are ‘addicted’ to shopping.

In the ‘developed world’, merchandisers play to this addiction. Millions of Pounds, Dollars, Euros and Yen are spent every year on advertising. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work.

Advertisers play on our emotions, telling us we deserve more and better than we have, assuring us that our life will be enhanced if we buy their products. It rarely turns out to be that way. In the words of an exceptionally wise man: ‘Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.’ (Luke 12:15) and another wise man: ‘A mere lover of silver will not be satisfied with silver.’ (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

As an observer of life and people, as most writers are, I have concluded these wise words are true.

Several things inspired me to write my second novel, ‘Making It Home’. Observing shoppers was one. The discovery of a deceased relative’s secret addiction to shopping was another. Who knew she was filling her home with purchases she had no use for, filling cupboards and rooms with unopened carrier bags, receipts dating years back still inside them with the items she’d bought: the overwhelming sadness of her loneliness clearly unabated by hundreds of shopping trips? Who knew? Childless and widowed years before, she lived far from extended family and had few friends, mostly by choice, being a very private person. Reluctant to visit or be visited, her secret was only discovered when her home had to be cleared for sale after her funeral.

My overwhelming sadness I used to tell a little of her story in my novel, allowing a fictional character to carry her secret and share her loneliness. I like to think she might have enjoyed the alternative ending.

Making It Home

THE book cover

Kate had a home, but her heart wasn’t in it…or in her marriage.

So she left them both.

Phillis had a home…and her heart was in it…but she wanted something more.

So she shopped.

Naomi had no home and her heart was in cold storage, frozen by grief and fear.

So she shopped.

They found one another in a department store.

Shopping.

The problem with ‘retail therapy’: you can overdose.

As friendship grows between these three women, they help one another face up to their problems, realising along the way, that every heart needs a home and it takes more than a house to make one.

A contemporary novel about women who want more.

 Amazon links.

paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Home-Christine-Campbell/dp/1849237743/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364061887&sr=1-1

ebook: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-It-Home-ebook/dp/B00BR9YS0G/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364061887&sr=1-1

Crafting Memories

When I was a wee girl…as opposed to the wee wuman I am now…I loved playing ‘shops’, like most wee girls, I suppose. I particularly liked playing at ‘department store’, ‘shoe department’ being one favourite. We didn’t have a lot of toys back then. Let’s face it, we didn’t have a lot of anything in the late forties: the post WW2 era. Family & friends used to keep any old shoe boxes they came across and they would be my ‘toys’. I loved stacking them up and my imaginary customers always seemed to need the bottom box opened. I became very skilled at sliding that box out from under the stack, leaving the perilous pile standing undisturbed.

No such things as Kleenex back then, we used real cotton handkerchiefs: monogrammed for the more fortunate gentlemen, prettily embroidered or lace-edged for the lucky ladies. Beautiful boxed sets of ladies hankies became THE gift for every occasion. These boxes of handkerchiefs were my absolute favourite things in all the world! The best handkerchiefs were not to be used. That would be sacrilege! How could one possibly blow a snotty nose on fine lace or delicate embroidery? And the boxes! Oh! The boxes! Perfect, uniform, flat, square boxes: eminently stackable! I hoarded them, squirrel-like under my bed, to be pulled out and played with when graceful retreat from trouble was the expedient thing to manoeuvre: I was constantly in trouble, usually inadvertently.

Begged, borrowed but never stolen, my hoard grew. The shoe boxes became houses, wardrobes, beds and tables for my doll. The handkerchief boxes, the dream stock for the shop she browsed in. Most precious of all were the boxes that still contained their precious pearls: handkerchiefs deemed useless by dint of their frills and frippery. Aunts and cousins, neighbours and friends threw their unwanted gifts my way. Unwanted! Unwanted! Never by me. I tenderly took out the pins that pinioned the handkerchiefs in place in intricate pattern in the box, washed them in the bathroom sink, cajoled Mum into ironing them for me, then refolded them as I desired. They were handled and fondled, held and admired on a daily basis, and they tenderly mopped up many silent tears as I licked my emotional wounds.

When I married, the boxes didn’t make it to my new home. The handkerchiefs did. For many years, they rested in a drawer; shown to children and grandchildren very occasionally, still loved by me. I don’t recall what gave me the idea to mount a few of them in collage form. I had made a few collages of other craft materials and bits and pieces of lace and ribbon and hung them in my room.

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When I realised how much pleasure it gave me to see my handiwork each time I entered my room, something clicked. My childhood treasure could give me pleasure that way too. It had brought me comfort through painful years, perhaps it could bring me joy through the remaining ones. I didn’t use all the treasured store. I might yet, but, at the moment, I lack the wall space…and I doubt they’d seem appropriate among the decor in other rooms. They belong in mine. Once more, I washed the handkerchiefs, this time it was I who ironed them, and folded and refolded till I found displays that pleased me.

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I make no claim to being artistically gifted: these treasures may not be displayed to best advantage. But, what they represent is history: a glimpse of my history, my comfort. I share because I trust you to be kind…and we all need to know we can leave a little of ourselves behind. X

 

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