My Commitment

I do not ‘eff and blind’ in public, it is not my way but the events of November 13 in Paris have ripped the heart out of me, and not just those events but all the others that go unreported, unmourned and unnoticed.  I have been searching all day for a reason why I should continue to fight to live, a way to express my feelings but I am not that good with words so I am going to borrow those of Iain Banks

“Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying”

I don’t know what the answer is, I am bereft of words to describe how I feel but I do know one thing.  We, the normal, everyday folks who go about our business paying well meant, heartfelt lip service to our principles must do more.  We must be seen. We must be heard.

This is my commitment:-

I stand for inclusion, for compassion, for fairness, for the right of every human being to live their lives in freedom and the absence of fear.  I will no longer be passive,  I will use every fibre of my being to help achieve these things.

I stand against hatred, bigotry and hypocrisy in all their forms.  I will no longer be silent in the face of them.  I will challenge them whenever and wherever I find them.

If your cause ends in murder or children crying, I stand in your way.

If your cause ends in freedom and absence of fear for all,  I stand with you.

How To Finish

How To Finish

I write for a living. I also build websites and I market them but I do that to house the content I write. People like the way I do that part of the job so they often hire me to do it for them as well, but fundamentally I am a writer. It’s what I do. It’s also the hardest part of my job as every day I have to finish pieces of work and send them out into the world. Every day I look at my job sheet and think ‘How do I finish that?’

Most of us sit down to write with a topic in mind or on the job sheet, but that is the easy part. The big question is what to write about that topic, sitting there like a ripe plum waiting to be picked.
We set about creating the perfect writing environment but I would argue that it doesn’t exist. We use all kinds of tricks to persuade ourselves that we are ‘getting in the zone’, ‘opening the path for the muse’, call it what you will. In reality what we are doing is focusing, gradually shutting out the distractions that prevent us from putting that first precious word onto paper. We tell ourselves that if the environment isn’t right we have no chance of starting, let alone finishing, anything worthwhile.

Some say Writing is a Craft, others say it is an Art, joining that age old debate about what is Art and what is Craft. For me it is simple. Craft is the skill of doing something, the mechanics. Art is the inspiration that makes the things we craft unique and beautiful. The dividing line is fine, so fine as to be almost invisible in my world. There are very few real Craftsmen who are not Artists and vice versa.

So having accepted writing is both an Art and a Craft, we are still left with the problem of where to start. Eventually the moment comes when it can no longer be avoided. The words must spill forth – but what should they be. Do they come from the Art side – inspiration, or the Craft of putting words on paper. The education system I grew up with says that if you want to consider yourself a writer inspiration must always strike but I don’t believe that is true. Many a time the ideas do not come when I sit down, faced by a blank sheet of paper so I have become adept at capturing ideas in my trusty Moleskine notebook that accompanies me everywhere. Sheet of paper in front of me, I open the notebook and almost always nothing written in there inspires me, and almost never coincides with the items on the job sheet! The moment for that idea has passed and not yet returned – sometimes I don’t even have a clue what I was thinking about to inspire that thought.

This is where the craftsman takes over. Neil Gaiman is absolutely right when he says that you must ‘just do it’. I’m a great believer in the free writing technique. My pencil hits the page and I write down whatever is in my head, usually nothing of any value – in fact many a time the page starts with ‘I have no idea what I am going to write about because my brain has gone away today’. But I keep going and fairly quickly the Artist joins the Craftsman and words with purpose start to flow, though my English teachers would have a hissy fit at the lack of grammar and general construction of the piece, not being believers in drafting and editing. Before I know it pages are filling and I don’t stop until the time for writing is over or I run out of words, though that almost never happens.

Having started it becomes easy, the first scribblings may not fit with the job sheet but they always fit somewhere, even though the train of thought rarely ends up where I thought it would. Most important is that the barriers are broken, tackling the items on the list is easy now and soon, I have finished.

Finishing is a learned skill, it doesn’t come naturally to us. It is a skill we learn by starting because if you don’t start you cannot finish. If you don’t ‘just do it’, you won’t finish, and that is what we are aiming for with so many things in life – to finish, to complete something, to achieve our dreams.

Just do it, start.

The Most Precious Gift You Can Give

When going through my feed reader the other day I came across an interesting post that piqued my interest on a personal as well as a business level. It was about why the UK Craft Industry is enjoying continued growth. They look at it from the point of view of Direct Selling, using new technology and Social Media amongst other things. It got me thinking about it from the other end, the customer – a point of view I am well qualified to take!

I have always loved making things and there are few crafts I haven’t tried, though I haven’t adopted all of them. Most of the crafts I indulge in on a regular basis are thread and fabric related, and I am borderline obsessive about them. The Dearly Beloved was known to take my temperature and check for signs of impending illness if I wasn’t doing something with thread and fabric for more than 15 minutes outside working hours.

WeavingMy principle obsessions crafts are Lacemaking, Knitting, Sewing, Quilting, Embroidery of all sorts, Crochet, Watercolour painting, assorted paper crafts and I’ve lately taken up weaving again which is proving very satisfying. I have an entire room dedicated to storing my Craft Supplies and books. The general idea was that I would also use it to do my crafts, particularly the sewing and paper crafts – but it’s too full! In fact my Lace Pillows take up a large part of the storage in another room – I think they are breeding! Then there are my ‘current projects’ which occupy space in the Living Room – my loom, my lace pillow, my knitting basket with several projects in it… need I go on?

I’m obviously not alone in my crafting as it seems to be one of the few growing sectors in our economy. Looking at the amount of money changing hands at the recent Festival of Quilts, no one would believe that we are in the depths of one of the deepest Recessions ever created by a stupid, inept government and a corrupt Banking sector – but that’s another topic.


The driving forces for me are a combination of the challenge of trying new things and the satisfaction of creating something useful and hopefully beautiful. Doing the work, if you can call it work, stills my mind in the chaos of daily life, it is about the only thing that does. The friends I go to craft groups with are very dear to me and are a source of much fun and laughter – in fact we have something of a reputation for being noisy and cleaning up in the Raffles.

Crafting of all sorts has seen a massive growth over the last few years, probably predating the current recession. As ever there are a number of factors that have contributed to the growth of interest in crafts. Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s to produce things cheaply – the cost of materials has sky-rocketed over the last 15 years. There is no such thing as a cheap hobby where crafting is concerned. I suspect it is a mix of more available time, a need to create, the companionship of craft groups in an increasingly lonely world, and availability of materials not to mention better marketing.


What do we do with it all? We use a lot of it, if socks are needed, I knit them. As a family we have always made as many of the gifts we give people as we possibly can, often planning things months ahead. A classic example are some Bookmarks I recently made for my Sisters-In-Law, which were almost as long in the planning as the making. The thread was bought over 100 years ago by their Great Grandmother and ended up with us. We carefully chose which we would use and what the patterns would be. Finally I embarked on the task of making them with the fragile threads that grew in strength as they were woven together to make the lace as well as bridging the years between generations.

A costly gift – no, but to me the handmade things I give and receive are beyond price. Why? Because they take time, a lot of time and time is the ONLY finite thing in life. Your time can run out at any moment with no warning, so when you you give a gift that you have made, you are giving the most precious thing you have – your time. When you receive that handmade gift, you are receiving the most precious thing the giver has to give – their time.

Crafts may well be a growing sector of the economy but more important, they are an expression of just how much your crazy friend who is always covered in bits of thread, paper, paint and glue cares about you.


Introducing flaminglacer on food

Whilst there is no doubt that my life is not how I want it to be since everything changed last year, I am very fortunate in my work. I love what I do – well most of it!

At heart I am a wordsmith and I get to share those words. I am a collector of knowledge and I get to share that knowledge. I love to create things and I get to create all kinds of things, learning new skills on the way and sharing the journey. Mostly I do this by helping people with their businesses, watching them grow. I do it by building websites for people, developing and creating something useful. I do it by writing about the things I have learned or that I love to do. In a nutshell, I create.

The downside is that I am often working and writing in areas that are not close to my heart, though they are to my clients and whilst I get a huge amount of satisfaction from that, it doesn’t fulfill me. I have loads (too many!) websites of my own, but even those are not all close to my heart as many are purely commercial. Some of them are, but they are the ones that tend to get neglected as it always feels slightly self-indulgent to work on them. However I have learned some hard lessons over the last few months and one of them is that life is too short not to do the things you love to do so, a few weeks ago, I made a decision to focus more on the things I like to do.

The first fruit of this is a complete rework of one of my much neglected sites and now it’s time to share that with the wider world. If you follow me on facebook or Twitter you will have already seen it, if not please come over and visit flaminglacer on food, you will be most welcome.

Gnocchi BakeI love to cook,I like to think I am reasonably good at it. Sharing food with family and friends is one of the things I enjoy most. We have so many good things available to us that it is a crying shame not to make the most of them, and this is what I aim to do. I like to eat healthily but to me that means moderation in all things so I use things that some would say are not so healthy, just not too much of them. Flaminglacer on food is about the food I like to eat, and it will be about food you like to eat as well. You can upload your recipes and share them with everyone, especially me, I’m always keen to find new things.

MadeleinesOne of the driving forces behind the site was the need for me to learn about cooking for one, I’m still learning! It is a completely different mindset and the solo cook is not helped by the way food is marketed by the big supermarkets. Just because you are cooking for one you should not have to eat the same thing for days, bulk cook for the freezer, or pay a fortune. There are very few recipes that are based on one portion and most recipes don’t scale down well so I aim to try and redress that balance. All the ‘Cooking for One’ Recipes will scale up easily for more but they are geared to creating tasty food for one.

SpinachBroccoliSoupI aim to publish at least one new recipe a week, and as time goes on there will be items about food and cooking in general. There is an associated facebook page which will have lots of bits and pieces on it too, so please hit the ‘like’ button and join the conversation there. In time there will be a newsletter and maybe even a Recipe Book. Please do come and visit and leave a comment or two, suggestion for recipes or things you would like to see.

In the meantime I am about to take myself off to the kitchen to make a Pudding for tonight – and it counts as work!

The Pleasures Of Slow

My world seems to move faster every day, I know they say that time passes more quickly as you get older but the days are flying past me. Because we live in a constantly connected world with fast moving newsfeeds flashing before our eyes, the sensation of time flying increases on a daily basis. I cannot even begin to contemplate how the advent of wearable technology such as Google Glass is going to impact on us.

I suspect the feeling of ‘so much to do, so little time to do it’ is going to oppress us more as we become more tied into the constant stream of updates. Everything seems to be geared to speeding up every part of our lives, so much so that I wonder are we all losing the ability to take our time, to live in the moment, to be slow and to savour moments of time.

It was a conversation about Coffee that set me off on this train of thought. Lots of my friends have recently been buying Nespresso type coffee machines, where you pop in a pod and out pops a cup of coffee. I have resolutely turned my face against them. I believed the reason was that I don’t much like the coffee they produce – to me the the taste of the coffee is always tainted by the pod material, leaving me with a horrid aftertaste. I had always thought this was the main reason but then it dawned on me that it wasn’t.

I make my coffee using a domestic sized Gaggia so making my daily cup of coffee has become a ritual. The coffee is always just how I like it and much of the reason is the ritual that precedes the first sip. It takes time, filling up the machine with water, the first hot water going into the (giant) cup to warm it. Next comes the preparation of the milk, increase the heat setting for steam, pouring the milk into the special jug I always use for steaming it. The hiss and spit of the steam as it bubbles through the milk, the gentle tap of the jug on the worktop to assist the foam in coming to the top. Turning down the heat, fill the coffee basket with coffee, carefully stored in the freezer to keep it at its best. The clunk as the coffee basket is locked into position, emptying the water from the warmed mug, pushing the button for the hot water. A few seconds later the delicious smell of coffee bursts around you as it drips through into the cup, then pouring in the steamed milk and finally the much anticipated coffee is ready.

CoffeeI rarely take my coffee to my desk, it is far to precious. I enjoy every mouthful because it has take time to prepare and in taking that time I have slowed right down. I have slowed down to the point where I can really appreciate my drink. As I sit, sipping my perfect coffee, my mind is settled – it has had time to step off the Merry-Go-Round. I smell the coffee, I taste the coffee, I enjoy every moment, I don’t think about anything else. My mind flies free, unravelling the knots that have developed through the morning. When my cup is finally empty, I am restored and recharged. All the things chasing round in my head have magically ordered themselves. Clear thinking is easy and I achieve far more.

There are those who think I am crazy for performing this time consuming ritual, so be it. This isn’t about your choice of coffee machine, it’s about taking time, about slowing down, about not doing everything at the fastest pace possible, about giving our hard pressed minds a space to recover in our fast paced days. It is about taking a moment to do something slowly, appreciating exactly what you are doing for itself, a skill we are rapidly losing.

Our lives have become so full that even our leisure time is a race to see things, do things, complete the bucket list, to grab every experience possible as fast as possible. Time is the only finite thing in our lives yet we race to spend it at an ever increasing rate. Allow some of it to pass slowly, focus on the present, allow anticipation to build rather than rushing headlong into everything, you will enjoy it far more and the quality of your life will improve with so many benefits. All those rushed experiences would mean so much more if you gave yourself time to appreciate them. Small slow rituals give us something to focus on, a process that almost becomes a moving meditation giving us back the ability to live in the moment we are experiencing.

Feed your spirit with time, savour every moment and enjoy the pleasures of slow.

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