Thursday, May 30, 2013

When someone is trying to crack on, do they deserve a kick in the teeth?

 I used to be a journalist (boo, hiss). Am so glad I no longer am. The amount of seriously flawed and biased reporting I see these days disgusts me. I saw an appalling example last night on the BBC. It really struck home to me, since it was about Market Rasen, my old "home town", and featured someone I am proud and privileged to call a friend. 

Before I moved out to France, I had a little "grottage" (formerly a grotty cottage) in the Lincolnshire Wolds, in the much sought-after tiny village of Stainton-le-Vale. I started working as a freelance copywriter for Sarah Lamballe Copywriting, and Sarah became a very great friend.

Market Rasen in those days was like many other small market towns - slowly dying the death. A Tesco on the edge of town was bleeding the lifeblood out of the High Street, footfall was dwindling away to nothing, shops were being boarded up. A familiar picture in many parts of rural Britain.

Then Queen of Shops Mary Portas launched the Portas Pilot project, a chance for towns to bid for a valuable cash injection to encourage High Street regeneration. Little Market Rasen, population 3,230, was one of the smaller towns to try its luck, and was one of the first 12 winners to be announced, beating off competition from 370 towns.

My friend Sarah Lamballe was one of driving forces behind Mr BIG, the Market Rasen Business Improvement Group, whose mission statement is "Crack on." Having lived and worked in Lincolnshire myself for more than 10 years, I know it's not always easy to drive change - the local population, known affectionately as "yellow bellies" are sometimes a little resistant to new initiative.

Improvements were quickly under way. Money was spent on a much needed town tidy. More was invested in regenerating the market, with its lovely character-filled cobbled town square and covered market area. Pop-up markets were held, hugely successful, drawing in people from the surrounding areas and visibly breathing life back into the town. The extraordinary pop-up market prompted Mary Portas herself to tweet: "Truly fabulous, guys."

And when Mary returned to visit the town, she announced her delight at what had been achieved.

So I was really excited to sit down and watch Look North last night to see my friend Sarah being interviewed about the success of the project. Instead I saw her trying hard to set the record straight with facts when being hit with data alleging more shops had actually closed since the Pilot project began.

I've known Sarah for more than 12 years. A person of higher integrity would be harder to find, nor anyone more hard-working, and that can also be said of the many volunteers who have put their all behind this project.

The data presented was flawed and out of date. Some shops have relocated, not closed down. Sarah explained as much to the interviewer before filming began. But it was glossed over - in an attempt to create a "better" story? What a sickener for all those involved.

I've been following the Mr BIG blog with envy, reading of all the wonderful things which are now happening in Rasen. I'm in discussion to use the new BIG corner shop as a retail outlet for Sell the Pig - that's how much I believe in the success of the project. It's not just about opening more shops, it's about putting the heart back into a community, which is certainly what is happening in Market Rasen.

I must be older than I thought. When I trained in journalism at the Harris Institute, Preston, back in the 70s, we were actually expected to get facts for our stories and present evidence for our claims, balanced by full right of reply for both sides. This was just gross misrepresentation of the worst possible kind.

As Sarah told me afterwards: "It's crushing, just so sad for the volunteers who put so much in."

So come on, Look North, here's a challenge. Make public your data, in which you say more shops have closed since the project began, and allow Mr BIG to present their data to show why yours is inaccurate. Surely that's fair?




Wednesday, May 29, 2013

FREE prize draw coming soon - honestly, it really is!

I know I keep promising you another FREE prize draw to win a signed copy of Sell the Pig. And it really is coming soon.

It's just that I have the chance to link it into an exciting event which should bring in more readers from around the world, and I'm not in charge of the date for that.  So please bear with me, I will launch the prize draw as soon as I can.

As usual, there will be one very simple question, the answer to which you can easily find here amongst the posts on this blog, or on the Sell the Pig - Tottie Limejuice page on Facebook.

And because you've all been very patient in waiting for this month's prize draw, and there can only be one winner, I have a special offer for those of you who don't win.  For one day only, after announcing the name of the winner, I will drop the paperback price, so you can all take advantage of lower price to get your copy.

I can't tell you exactly by how much it will drop - those of you who have read Sell the Pig already or who follow me on Facebook or Twitter will know I'm dyscalculic, can't do numbers, and certainly not percentages. But I will drop it by whatever I can.

So be patient a few more days and in the meantime, have a glance through the posts here on the blog for anything about Tottie Limejuice - whoops, was that a great big clue I just gave you?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

So who is Tottie Limejuice?

Everyone always wants to know where I got the name Tottie Limejuice, the pen-name under which I wrote Sell the Pig and which I also use for my Facebook and Twitter names.

Well she's an invention of my late Auntie Ethel, mother's older sister. She was the one who never married, whose role was helping her mother with the large brood. Auntie had a wonderful way of making up words and phrases, like a floper-dopperer, for someone who was a bit foppish, or kneely-knawling down, for when you kneel but also have to scrabble about a bit. Auntie was a dress-maker, seamstress and milliner so when she was pinning up hems, she had to do a lot of kneely-knawling.

Mother with her family. From left to right: younger sister Doris, younger brother John, brother in law Leslie, (the Judge, Doris's husband), mother, and older sister Ethel.

As Auntie got older she got very confused and would accuse glamorous and well-off younger sister of coming to her house and stealing her home-made knickers and swanning around "like Tottie Limejuice". I liked the name so much, I claimed it for my own.

At one of Doris's many luncheon parties at the "Big House": Left to right: Auntie Ethel, Uncle Leslie, Auntie Doris, Uncle John, Mother.

It was Auntie Ethel who encouraged me to buy my grottage in Lincolnshire when it was in such an awful state the surveyor I got to check it over for mortgage purposes described it as "unfit for human habitation!".  She was a frequent visitor, with mother, to my homes wherever I lived, including travelling by coach out to Germany where I lived for four years.

Like mother, she was always interested in gardening so whenever they visited, we always took a trip to a local garden centre or park.

               Mother with her older sister Ethel, the creator of "Tottie Limejuice"

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters

My mother, who was very much the star of Sell the Pig, had two surviving sisters, little Florrie having died in infancy.  Older sister Ethel never married and was always the home-maker, helping her mother look after her three brothers and two sisters, plus all their friends who were always visiting.

Mother used to tell me that at bedtime, her mother would line the whole tribe up and go along the line with a face flannel and would sometimes discover children who weren't her own, obediently lining up with the rest.

Auntie Ethel was forever making up words, and she was the creator of the character of Tottie Limejuice. I liked it so much I borrowed it and it rather stuck.

                                   Mother and older sister Ethel, the creator of "Tottie Limejuice"

Younger sister Doris was the dizzy blonde who made the not so dizzy marriage to a future judge and enjoyed the lifestyle that went with it, the big house, the endless social whirl of dinner parties and the holidays in Africa and the Far East.

                                            Mother and younger sister Doris

FREE prize draw - win a signed paperback copy of Sell the Pig

Watch out for another FREE prize draw coming very soon. As usual, an easy to answer question for the chance to go into the draw. You'll find the answer to the question on the Sell the Pig - Tottie Limejuice page on Facebook , often in the photo albums, or if you've read the book already, you'll know it. The prize is a personally signed copy of the paperback version of Sell the Pig. So keep an eye out for the qualifying question, coming SOON.

Sell the Pig is available from most Amazon outlets, including .com and . If you prefer not to buy from Amazon, you'll find it at The Book Depository with FREE worldwide delivery, and Barnes & Noble

Why not follow the Facebook Page, or follow me on Twitter so you'll be among the first to know when there are FREE prizes up for grabs?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Another freebie coming SOON

I'll be doing another FREE prize draw to win a signed paperback copy of Sell the Pig at the end of May/beginning of June. As usual there will be an easy-peasy question to enter the draw, and you'll be able to find the answer on the Facebook page, often amongst the photos. So if you want to start swotting up, the question will be about Mother's family and the answer is in her album. Not that I'm giving you a clue or anything.

If you've not yet discovered the Sell the Pig page on Facebook, do please stop by and say hello, and don't forgot to click Like on the page, so you won't miss out on any of the FREE prize draws coming up in the future.

You'll also find some snippets from the sequel to Sell the Pig, which is well under way and I hope will be available in Kindle format by the autumn.

Plus there's some photos of the first ever book signing for the paperback version. Like most things in France, it took place over a very convivial lunch at the Bar le St Thomas.

If you're not lucky enough to win the next prize draw and you'd like your own signed copy, you can get one direct from me and pay by PayPal or cheque - just contact me here for more details.

See you on the Facebook page?