Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Grand Final!

This isn't a normal blog entry, just an opportunity for me to share with you what I am going to be doing next week. This is the official press release for the Grand Final of this year's sausage competition, and I'm delighted to say I've been invited along to be one of the panel of judges for the day:

Which of these bangers will I like best...? You can expect a full write up next week, that is for sure, in the meantime, but take a look at the list below. Which would you like best? And which do you think I will like best?

Also look out for next week's edition of Chat magazine as there will be a rare interview in it with my wife, Claire. Find out what it's really like to be married to the Sausage Man!

Normal service shall be resumed shortly...!



THE SAUSAGE ‘OSCARS’ COME TO BIRMINGHAM!
- BRITISH SAUSAGE WEEK COMES TO TOWN TO DISCOVER THE REGION’S FINEST SIZZLERS-


What:             British Sausage Week 2013 (cook off to award West Midlands regional winner)
When: Wednesday 6th November 2013 @ 2.30pm
Where:           Old Joint Stock, 4 Temple Row, Birmingham B2 5NY
Who:               Organised by Love Pork featuring Simon Rimmer, TV Chef and Restaurateur

Following a high standard of entries in this year’s British Sausage Week competition to ‘Discover Britain’s Greatest Sausages’ we have whittled the sausages down to a sizzling shortlist.

On Wednesday November 6th, the British Sausage Week team will be coming to Birmingham to conduct the regional final. This will take place as a ‘cook off’ between our eight regional finalists, to find the overall regional winner, with presentations taking place after the event of the coveted golden ‘banger’ award.

Our celebrity ambassador Simon Rimmer, the TV Chef and Restaurateur will be the chief judge but why not come along and help us taste some of Britain’s finest to help discover the best sausage in your area! All of the butchers as well as Simon will be available to interview at the event.

RSVP: Lesley Sandford from the BSW PR team at Good Relations
T: 020 7861 3020


British Sausage Week West Midlands Finalists

Butcher
Sausage & Description
Location
Rossiter Butchers
Traditional Pork Sausage - This sausage is blended with the subtle ingredients with the finest organic pork, giving it a truly succulent traditional flavor

Bourville, Birmingham
Holloway Family Butchers LTD
Traditional Pork Sausage - A tasty traditional pork sausage supplied in either a thin or thick sausage.  Ideal for breakfast or for sausage and mash.  Highly recommended by my customers as the best sausage in town.  No fancy trimmings just what it says on the tin - an old fashioned traditional pork sausage!

Hartshill, Stoke on Trent
Craig Finch
Pork Sausage with Cheese and Tomato - This pork sausage is a very recent recipe and is a big hit with my regular customers

Bridgnorth, Shropshire
Bosworths Butchers
Pork and Black Pudding Sausage - Our pork and black pudding sausage are made with finest English shoulder of pork mixed with our BPEX regional award winning black pudding to give a lovely rich taste not easily forgotten!

Cheylesmore, Coventry
Highams Butchers
Chili & Lime Pork Sausage - The original version was done using a little drop of bacon smoking liquid since then we have sourced a smoked seasoning

Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
Malvern Butchery
Pork Sausage - We use top quality local pork  and the best seasonings

Malvern, Worcester
H Clewlow Butchers
The Dabber Sizzler - This is a traditional pork sausage made in the town of Nantwich from pork born and reared in the town. Lightly seasoned with little garden herbs it has all the qualities of the market town.

Nantwich, Cheshire
Ludlow Food Centre LTD
Gloucester Old Spot Traditional Pork Sausage - The GOS is in its centenary this year and is the world's oldest pedigree breed of spotted pig.  The meat has a wonderful flavour and is marbled with fat. We grow the feed for our own herd of GOS pigs that we have grown to be the largest in country and we transport them to a slaughter house just 6 miles away so they don’t get stressed. By keeping complete control we can guarantee consistency

Ludlow, Shropshire
Frank Parker Butchers
Parker’s Porky’s - It is made with Free Range Pork with a seasoning that goes back many years. Light in salt but with a delightful flavor

Nuneaton, Warwickshire
The Master Butcher
Tomato and Basil Pork Sausage - We are always trying to develop new Flavours this one has proved popular with our customers every time I have made them.

Evesham, Worcestershire

Friday, 25 October 2013

Nando's is coming to town!

It's very important during all this sausage related excitement that I don't allow myself to become a "one trick pony". Therefore in my quest to write an exciting new book based on the world of culinary delights (primarily the so-called "unhealthy ones"), I feel it is vital I cover a wide range of food related topics.

In our country we have a thriving range of burger chains, pizza chains, kebab shops, chicken joints and countless more. Yet all we ever hear are constant warnings and advice telling us to avoid these things, that Britain is getting too fat, and that we should all be grazing on salad and vegetables. Every time I open a newspaper it is the same old advice, re-packaged over and over again. Recommendations to only eat processed meat such as sausages, salami etc, once a week and then you are only allowed one slice. Any more than that and you're almost certainly to die a grisly death by the end of the month.

A search of books on the subject generally reveals similar results - there seem to be hundreds of books out there telling us how to eat more healthily and lose weight.

Yet obviously none of this advice is working or is being ignored as the nation's waistlines are still increasing. I think the Government and all the rest of the do-gooders are totally missing a trick by endlessly lecturing us about what we should and shouldn't be eating. It gives all of these foodstuffs an element of naughtiness, a kind of "forbidden fruit" you could say. What they seem to not realise is that people don't generally like being told what to do, and will generally do the complete opposite, so the more they tell us to eat healthily, the fatter we get. No wonder we are all sneaking down to the fridge at quarter past midnight every night when everyone has gone to bed to scoff down an enormous clandestine slice of gala pie. Or maybe that's just me.

I think it is time for a new approach, and when my book comes out it will be a refreshing change for all those millions of people out there who actually enjoy their food and don't want to be made to feel guilty every time they gaze longingly as the sausage rolls and pork pies on the deli counter in the supermarket. It seems there is not a single book out there extolling the virtues of all these fine foods, but you are quite safe reading this with me! Go on - ignore the food miseries! Allow yourself that pork pie - why not? You've earned it! Life it to be enjoyed. You won't get any lectures here. Stick with me, it's safe and comfortable here and you can have whatever you want. I won't judge you. In fact I might even join you for a bacon bap if you're offering - in fact I am even willing to sign your bap if you ask nicely x

Now if the Government followed my advice and told us all to eat these foods, I think there would be a collective weight loss! Make salad the villain instead - then people who want to be naughty can eat that instead! Forgive me if I don't join you, I've got an aversion to chlorophyll.

Getting back on topic, I don't want to become typecast as "The Sausage Man". You would think from some of the newspaper and magazine articles recently that it was all I ever ate. Maybe I will end up having to accept it and embrace it in the same way that Leonard Nimoy will always be "Spock", however, I feel I owe it you, my legion of food loving fans to embrace the whole portfolio of foods and outlets available, therefore we shall be exploring all manner of other foods and where to buy them in the weeks and months that lie ahead.

So come with me if you will, in to Bicester town centre, where great things are afoot. If you a local you may well be aware that I run a facebook page called "Bicester Town Centre Chat". Now whilst this may appear that I am providing a nice community area for people to discuss local happenings, it is in fact merely a front for my own evil ends. In addition to the standard crazed "world domination" plans, "Dr Evil" style, it also gives me a great opportunity to steer the conversation around to all things fast food at every opportunity and convince my rapidly growing empire of followers that Bicester will never be truly happy until the entire town centre is wall to wall eating establishments. Our little group, which is becoming a big group, is so huge that it is now attracting attention from national chains who are beating down the doors to come here. Whilst rumours of Greggs and others abound, we have for certain arriving next month an American style diner and a Nando's. In order to drum up interest in Nando's I decided to run a little competition on the group where I offered a paperback copy of my book "Austerity Dad" worth £9.99 for the person who could come up with the most amusing reason why they were looking forward to Nando's coming to town.

Coming to Bicester on 27th November!

NB: When I say my book is "worth" £9.99, that is in fact how much it costs. Not being so egotistical that I believe that the entire world thinks my books are the funniest things ever invented since sliced bread (which in itself is not that funny), I did offer a cash equivalent prize to the winner of "1p" for people with no sense of humour.

I was also going to run a second competition for a free date with me at the aforemtioned "Deans Diner" but when one of the group members suggested I could offer a second prize of "two dates with me" I decided better of it.

So what is Nando's like? I did go to one once in Oxford years ago, my own personal perception was that it was a bit of a posh KFC, I guess we shall find out when it opens. So it's time to filter through some of the entries and see what people have to say: All the entries were great but I don't have time to analyse them all so I have picked five favourites as our final nominees:


Hayley Collier: I am looking forward to NANDOS coming to bicester because.........
I have never been to one plus I have the urge to go dressed as a chicken lol xx


That will definitely be worth seeing, Hayley!

Wendi WooI'm looking forward to Nando's coming to Bicester because it will be one less shop unit for Costa Coffee to inhabit!

Excellent entry, Wendi clears knows my feelings on Costa, now that is how to do well in a competition, get to know the judges. NB: I don't mean getting to know the judges like that, no such offers were forthcoming (see below).

Emma Lou CowellI'm looking forwards to Nando's coming to Bicester because I've never eaten in one before and when I'm driving past the one in Oxford and I like the look of the cock in their window.

A cock in a window, what more could a girl ask for?

Laura WyllieI'm looking forward to nandos coming to Bicester so that Jason can do a smoking hot interview in newspaper, without holding his sausages

I may have to borrow Hayley's chicken outfit for the interview, Laura!

Sarah HewittI am looking forward to Nandos coming to Bicester because it opens just in time for my birthday :0) love love love their piri piri seasoned chips and their chicken is 100 xs better than KFC!!!

I love KFC so if their chicken is 100x better I am not sure if my body will be able to withstand the pleasure!

Just before I announce the winner I would like to point out that none of the competitors offered me any sort of cash bribe or to sleep with me in order to win. Clearly I am not abusing my position of power strongly enough and will have to try harder next time.

And the winner is...Hayley Collier! I shall see you outside Nando's on 27th November dressed in your chicken costume, to present you with your prize!

I also went into town and interviewed a few prominent local residents outside Nando's to see what they had to say which provided some interesting responses.

Local crime-fighting superhero, Captain Chubbchaser had the following to say: "I'm really looking forward to Nando's coming to town, this is going to have a real beneficial effect on the town's wasistlines. There's far too many skinny people around here, especially the girls. Look at that one over there, practically skin and bone. She can't be more than 12 stone,. Women of Bicester - come down here and fill up and who knows, I might return the favour".

Eccentric throwback to Roman Times, Bloaticus, said "I can't wait to get into Nando's and I am going to buy everything on the menu. Then I am going to sit in the middle of a long table and throw all of my chicken bones over my shoulder and anyone who does not like it I'll send to the Colosseum".

Reclusive millionaire "Lord Bicester", on a rare outing to purchase some venison from Sainsbury's said "No I shall not be going into such a frightful place. All of my poultry is hand reared on the thighs of a virgin you know. Well that would be if I could find any in Bicester. I'm having to settle for importing Yang Sizhong chickens these days. I don't know what the world is coming to. In fact I am going straight home to write a letter to the Daily Telegraph about it".

So that about rounds up my preview of Nando's which is opening on the 27th November. I hope to see you there for a live report! And if anyone from Nando's is reading, you could do a lot worse than hire me to be your special celebrity guest to open the new outlet! Who better than a well known local celebrity writer who has published two books as well as being featured in countless newspapers, magazines and on radio shows over the past few months for my culinary exploits! Don't just take my word for it, just type "Jason Ayres Sausage Taster" into Google and you can learn all about me! I shall draw you plenty of publicity - please feel free to PM me on facebook and we can discuss my fee.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Until next time, food lovers
Jason


Monday, 21 October 2013

Call My Sausage

To fill in the long gap for all you sausage fans out there eagerly awaiting the launch of British Sausage Week on November 1st, I thought we might while away the long hours of waiting with a little fun quiz. This is a kind of sausage version of “Call My Bluff” or if you prefer, a “True or False” of sausage facts.

In my tireless capacity as Official VIP Taster for Love Pork I feel it is only my duty to entertain you with endless articles on the subject, hence here I present to you 10 facts about sausages! However – only four of them are true! The other six I have made up! Using your skill and judgement, can you identify which are true and which are false? To help you I have given my opinion on each "FACT" below.

No googling please, let’s make this a fair playing field.

So, without further ado, here we go:

1) The world record for the longest sausage ever made is held by J J Tranfield who made it on behalf of Asda in Sheffield in October 2000. It measured a whopping 36.75 miles in length.

THE SAUSAGE MAN’S VERDICT: Personally I find this quite hard to believe. After all how can you make a 36 mile sausage in Sheffield? Bend it around all the streets? Surely it would break. I guess you could head off down the M1 with it trailing behind a slow moving truck but you’d be past Nottingham before you finished. And I can’t imagine it would get all that way without someone stopping off for a sneaky free bite, which let’s face it, someone is bound to do bearing in mind the outrageous prices charged at Tibshelf Services. 


2) Sausages became known as bangers during the First World War. Officers on Zeppelin airships who had taken sausage sandwiches up to high altitude to keep them going during long trips discovered that they exploded at high altitude. Due to the risk of this puncturing the ships, sausages were subsequently banned and crewmembers were allowed only sauerkraut for the duration of the hostilities.

VERDICT: Seems a little far-fetched to me, but then I have heard other people say that they were called bangers because during the second world war they had a lot of water in them due to meat shortages which sounds equally unlikely, so who knows what is to be believed?


3) The world record for the number of sausages eaten in one minute is “8”, set by New Zealander Stefan Paladin in 2001. The sausages were 10cm long and 2cm wide.

VERDICT: Well all I can say to that is anyone who was ever on a darts, pool or Aunt Sally team with me at any point in the last twenty years will know that Stefan would be quaking in his boots if he ever came face to face with me in the stampede for the after match food.

Me, preparing for an assault on the world record!

4) The McDonalds that we all know could have been very different, had it not been for a strike at the local sausage making plant in San Bernardino, California, where Richard and his brother Ronald set up the first McDonalds outlet in 1940. They had planned this to be the first in an empire of Hot Dog bars stretching across the world, but on the day of launch were unable to obtain any sausages due to a 3 week long strike halting production over protests at the introduction of a “new-fangled” sausage making machine putting workers out of jobs. In their desperation they decided to make hamburgers instead and the American dream was born.

VERDICT: Sounds reasonable enough, even though it’s hard to take any business decision taken by Ronald seriously bearing in mind his insistence on wearing that clown costume to scare kids away for decades, but then maybe Richard was the brains behind the operation.


5) Although it has generally been believed that sausages date from around 5,000 years ago, some recent cave paintings found suggest that they may have been around much longer. These paintings found in Lascaux in France depict ancient man millions of years ago slaying dinosaurs and making sausages out of them.

VERDICT: Hmmm…very suspect, largely due to the classic mistake of imagining man to have been around at the same time as the dinosaurs. I think maybe whoever came up with this one had been watching too many episodes of “The Flintstones”. If it is true the most likely explanation is that it was in fact Wooly Mammoth sausages they were making and the artist just couldn't draw them very well so they've been mistaken for dinosaurs.


6) In Scotland, sausages can in fact be Square! Yes, apparently in Scotland there is a type of sausage known as “Lorne Sausage” which is square and apparently named after a Scottish comedian of the early 20th century. Not only that, it is 3 inches square which makes even our chip shop jumbos looks like chipolatas. They don’t do things by half up there!

VERDICT: Why would anyone want a square sausage? It sounds ridiculous to me. But we are talking about the country that gave us the Deep Fried Mars bar so credit where it is due, innovation is always to be admired, especially of the highly calorific content.


7) Legendary rocker Alice Cooper once shocked an audience back in the late 1960’s by biting the head off a sausage, live on stage! This infamous incident led directly to his “hellraiser image” which persists to this day.

VERDICT: Quite what is so shocking about eating a sausage on stage is beyond me, but then it was nearly half a century ago and we are much more relaxed about things these days. Maybe he didn’t use a knife and fork or something.


8) It is a little known fact that when the World Cup was stolen in London in 1966, Pickles the dog who famously found the cup had more than a little help by the fact that it had a string of sausages wrapped around it. As anyone who ever read the Dandy or the Beano as a kid will know, dogs love to run off with a long trail of sausages in their mouth. The story goes that the villains who nicked the cup also nicked the local butcher’s van to spirit it away in, however, when the police gave chase, they threw it out of the back of the van into some bushes. At some point whilst it was in there it got a trail of sausages wrapped around it, and that is what attracted Pickles to drag it out of the bush. This wasn’t mentioned during his subsequent knighthood and life peerage as it was felt it might detract from his achievement if turned out he wasn’t that bothered about saving the world after all but just trying to snaffle some sausages.

VERDICT: This actually sounds quite plausible to me. After all, would a dog really be that interested in a gleaming gold trophy? Most of the ones I have seen seem more interested in sniffing other dog’s bottoms and wouldn’t recognise a solid gold extremely valuable trophy unless it was covered in some sort of meat and I am not sure if Pedigree Chum had been invented back then, and even if it had, who would smear it on the World Cup? No, I think the sausage theory is highly likely.


9) In 2009, a UK Supermarket launched the “Berry Banger” during the height of summer to cash in on the height of the English summer season of Wimbledon, Henley and Royal Ascot. This “Strawberry and Cream” flavoured sausage did not find favour with critics and has long since disappeared.

VERDICT: Whilst I was judging the entries for the 2013 British Sausage awards I did come across some interesting flavour combinations, which I will keep to myself for now until awards week, but certainly nothing anywhere near as ludicrous as a “Strawberry and Cream” flavoured sausage. Can you really imagine the Wimbledon Set tucking into them on centre court? If it is true it must be one of the craziest ideas ever!


10) The most expensive sausage in the world is called “The Chelsea” and is made exclusively for and imported by a Russian Billionaire who I cannot name for legal reasons. The ingredients include Beluga Caviar, Wagyu Steak, Matsutake Mushrooms and Iberico Ham. The whole thing is wrapped in Gold Leaf and each one costs a cool £12,000. It may sound a lot, but when you consider he could get a whole pack for less than Frank Lampard’s weekly wage, I guess it's not even loose change for him.

VERDICT: £12,000 for a sausage sounds a lot, even with those ingredients, but then that’s the retail cost so they’ve bound to have marked it up a fair bit, then you’ve got import taxes and such like to consider. Plausible.


So there you have it – 10 sausage facts to mull over – 4 are true and 6 are false. But which are which? It’s up to you to decide…

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Sleep Aponea


I have thought long and hard for a long time about whether to go public about this, and have decided the time has come to do so.

In the end my hand was forced, as I'm simply not well enough to work nights at the pub at present and after covering it up for several weeks it was clear after last Sunday/ Monday that I could not continue as I am any longer.

Effectively I was so exhausted after working on Sunday night that I had to spend the vast majority of Monday in bed and I have just had the worst week with this condition that I have ever had. And I have not been able to hide it as effectively as before as not only was Claire on a week holiday from work, but Lynda spent the whole week here too as they were working on a cake for a wedding that we attended today, so they witnessed me in a bad way first hand, all week.

If you've been following me closely, you will see that I made mention in my book Fortysomething Father that I have a condition called Sleep Aponea which I mentioned fairly light-heartedly at the time - but that is just the way in which I write. You don't tend to get a lot of moaning and groaning with my writing as generally no-one really wants to hear all that, so I always try and make light of any situation.

At the end of this article I'll give you a link to the Wikipedia entry on the subject which is quite detailed, but I will quote a few lines from it which are relevant to me, and add some comments where relevant.

"Sleep apnea (or sleep apnoea in British English; /æpˈnə/) is a type of sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from at least ten seconds to minutes, and may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour".

"Regardless of type, an individual with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening.[3] Sleep apnea is recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes or is suspected because of its effects on the body (sequelae). Symptoms may be present for years (or even decades) without identification, during which time the sufferer may become conditioned to the daytime sleepiness and fatigue associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance".

I have had girlfriends panic the first time they slept with me as they thought I was dying or dead due to the length of time I stopped breathing. But it goes back further than that - my parents were concerned about it at a very young age and I went into hospital at the age of 5 for an operation - which basically didn't work. It wasn't really a problem until I reached adulthood when the daytime sleepiness began. When I worked at Tesco Head Office in Cheshunt, I used to get exhausted by the long day and drive to the extent I was frequently close to falling asleep at the wheel on the way home. I used to take the A41 home rather than the M40 as it meant I could stop in a layby and either have a quick kip or get out of the car and walk around it several times in the fresh air gulping down lungfulls of fresh air. And this was 20 years ago when I was young and fit.

Other times at work I would go and sleep in the toilet with my head on the cistern. I've written humorous anecdotes on this - there's a whole section in Austerity Dad about hiding in the toilets. But there was a medical reason behind it all.

By the time I had got to working at the Probation Office in Bicester I was no longer capable of getting through a full day at work, but luckily I was only a 2 minute bike ride from home, so I would head off at 1pm, be in bed by 1:05pm and get back up at 1:55pm and cycle back to work.

After I left and became a full time Dad I coped by sleeping when the kids did. If Ollie had an afternoon nap at 1pm, I had one too.

My doctor diagnosed all this years ago, but I've always lived with it until now. I could have done something about it a lot sooner but that's my stubborn nature of resisting anything medical I'm afraid so I suppose I've only myself to blame.

But in recent weeks it has all got a lot worse to the extent that people have been noticing and my behaviour even in a waking state has become noticeable.

"Second, the part of the brain that deals with attention causes difficulty in paying attention, working effectively and processing information when in a waking state.[4] Thirdly, the part of the brain that uses memory and learning is also affected.[4] Due to the disruption in daytime cognitive state, behavioral effects are also present. This includes moodiness, belligerence, as well as a decrease in attentiveness and drive".

It has reached the state where in order to work of an evening I have to spend almost all of the afternoon before I go in bed, and then a large proportion of the following day.

There's definitely an element of moodiness but one thing I must stressed is that I am not "depressed" or have any sort of mental illness (my general eccentricity and somewhat strange sense of humour at times is not a mental illness), my problems are purely physical. I would never lay claim to have a mental illness or any sort of condition because one of my best friends has suffered at the hands of bipolar disorder for many years and I know what a living hell it can be.

In fact, that very friend got married today and the thing on my mind all week was "how am I going to get through the day?" I don't want to be having to think that way when I should have been looking forward to celebrating her wedding day. In the end I decided to go for the day, and not the evening, so I was there from about 1:45pm to 7pm, which was quite a lengthy stint but I got through it and I was among understanding friends who until recently were unaware of how things were.

By 7pm I had no alternative but to come home and go to bed as I would have keeled over otherwise. Throughout the afternoon waves of fatigue washed over me frequently but I managed to keep going and keep the spirits up and enjoy the fun around our table which had a nice group of friends on it. But I have now told my closest friends the situation and they are being very supportive.

I got back up at 10pm and started writing this. In the old days I would have been partying now - a little tipsy and having a great time with everyone. It is hard to imagine that person now - that is what this has done to me, so I am instead sitting here in my pyjamas writing about it. But the wedding has kind of brought things to a head - it has made me determined not to want to live like this any more. Especially now that my writing and various other things are taking off for me - there are all sorts of opportunities for me right now and I don't want to miss the boat on any of them because I am having one of my many naps when the call from Hollywood comes. OK that's a bit of an exaggeration but you know what I mean.

I also took the brave and bold step of approaching Aidan and Cathy from the White Hart and admitting I'm just not well enough to work there at present. I didn't want to just quit or make up some lame excuse so I decided to just come clean. They were very understanding and are happy for me to take a leave of absence - I don't know how long for, but Helen has offered to cover for me in the meantime when/ if required. I do know that I have made up my mind to do something about it and have had a referral to spend a whole night wired up to various machines in a special sleep clinic to get a full and proper diagnosis. And a lot of treatments have been developed in the last few years. I don't have to live like this.

Regardless of work related issues - the one thing I am really not happy to miss out on is any time with the children and I don't want them remembering their Dad as someone who spent half his life in bed.

I must also mention my beautiful wife Claire who has been such a tower of strength to me and if I hadn't had her support it would have been easy to just say "f**k it" and give up.

I should also wish Jo & Alex the best for their future and I am glad I was able to be there in body and spirit for at least 50% of the day!

I may not see some of you for a while now, but I will keep writing and when I do go for my my overnight stay in the hospital I will record it all here because anything written in a blog such as this may be helpful to others searching for help with a similar problem.

This is the link to the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_apnea

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.


Jason

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Pyjama-drama

I haven't worn Pyjamas for many a year. I am not entirely sure why, or when, I decided to stop wearing them, but in my mind I have had for many years the perception that pyjamas are either for kids or old people, and not for people in the middle like me.

Either I am becoming an old person, which to be fair, we are all edging towards grimly and inevitably, or my earlier perceptions were wrong and wearing pyjamas is actually OK. Whichever it is, during these colder and darker autumn evenings, suddenly the idea of wearing proper pyjamas rather than just a normal t-shirt and boxers has started to appeal again.

I rather urgently needed to get some new trousers for the rapidly growing Jamie. So, with Lynda and Claire taking over the kitchen for the day to work on a wedding cake for which the deadline is just four days away, I decided to take myself off to Oxford for the morning on the bus to obtain the required trousers and investigate the world of modern pyjamas.

Back in the day, as far as I was aware there were only two types of pyjama. The soft button/ collar free type favoured by children, or the rather more formal collar and button (what I consider to be boring) cotton type as sold in M&S and such places.




Old Man Pyjamas as modelled by Eric.

The picture above sums it up nicely. Ernie's outfit is a bit more with it though. It got me thinking to what some of my "characters" that I developed in my book Austerity Dad might wear in bed. I imagine Lord Bicester would like to lounge about the place in something like this when he's at home "entertaining" a young lady.

The sort of thing Lord Bicester would wear to seduce the ladies!

So, off I went in to Oxford to peruse the pyjama offerings. I decided to go first thing this morning, figuring that with it being Tuesday and early, it would be nice and quiet in Oxford and that is exactly how it turned out which is good because I cannot stand shopping in crowds. I hopped off the bus and headed straight for the Covered Market where I picked up my copy of The Times at the student discount price - they still believe me when I say I am a student. I had a quick browse around a couple of the Butchers in the market, paying particular attention to the sausages because I take my new role as "The Sausage Man" very seriously, you know.

I then found a lovely little French Cafe where I had a nice big filter coffee and large Pain Au Chocolat for the very reasonable price of £3.30 in total, considering this was Oxford City centre and read the paper for a while. Then the Pyjama quest began.

I went to M&S first as a good point to do my research. It seems that the traditional types of pyjamas are still very much in evidence, however, there has been a growth in less formal types - rather than the Eric Morecambe collared variety, there are lots which are basically T-shirt + shorts, or long sleeves plus trousers, in whichever combination you prefer. M&S being what it is though, as usual I felt the range was rather dull and also expensive.

I went to Primark at the other end of the scale - didn't fancy their stuff much either. Whilst they are very handy for some things, they are not for others. I picked up another pair of jeans there as my latest pair has malfunctioned rather badly - the zip managed to stick in the down position whilst I was working in the pub on Sunday night, the latest of many such trouser mis-haps to befall me there. Fortunately I managed to cover up this latest malfunction. I also had to get a new belt as my current one has finally given up the unequal battle against my girth. But the pyjamas there looked cheap and nasty.

Also on display in Primark were several of these absolutely ridiculous "Onesie" things that seem to have become the flavour of the month (for about five minutes probably). For the uninitiated these are basically like the sleep suits that babies have, but for adults. Quite why anyone would think there was a market for grown adults dressing like babies is beyond me, but it seems there is. Anyway, Primark has a novelty range of these things, and quite frankly I would be amazed if any grown would every consider wearing such a thing, but I suppose someone must somewhere! If you know anyone that does please write and tell me!

If you or anyone you know wears these, please write in!

One thing I noticed on looking at these was that they do not have an opening in, well for want of a better word, the crotch area. Hardly convenient is it. Every time you go for a slash during the night you've got to unzip and pull the whole thing down. It's hard enough bleary eyed at 3am finding your way to the toilet and getting your bits pointing roughly in the right direction without all that aggravation. Reminds me of that time when Sarah got me to wear an inflatable Santa Suit in order to DJ at the Boxing Day karaoke at the White Hart. Every time I needed the toilet during the evening (which was a lot). I had to take Drew with me to unzip me and help me out, which wasn't ideal for me, and even less so for him I would imagine.

The lack of a "slit" also renders other potential bedtime activity problematical. That's assuming there would be any, as I cannot imagine why any woman would particularly want to leap on her husband with him wearing such a thing, though I am sure my good friend Dogger would probably be able to tell you otherwise. A quick straw poll of one (one of the mum's in the school playground) confirms my hypothesis though. Not exactly sexy - or convenient come to that.

So Primark was no good, so I headed off to my old favourite, Next, always a good standby for quality and value and lo and behold I found the perfect pair. They ticked all the boxes, the colour was right, the size was right (XL), the bottoms were right, I wanted long trousers, not shorts, and the sleeves were right too - short sleeves. I hate long sleeves and always have. I hate the feelings of my arms being covered indoors. Back in my office days I only ever wore short sleeved shirts at work.

They were £18 - reasonably priced and exactly half way in price between the M&S ones (£26) and Primark ones (£10). So off I went to the till all ready to make a purchase and then I ran into a problem.

The till refused to scan the barcode. So the assistant tried to enter it manually, but it wasn't having it. A classic case of "computer says no". The manager was called over and after much messing about she concluded that the item had been discontinued and they could no longer sell it. To me, this is absolutely ludicrous. I had the £18 in my hand, they had the pyjamas in their hand, I said, "look, here is the cash, don't worry about the receipt, it is what I want, just take it". But no - it was not allowed. She then got a catalogue out and started trying to get me to pick something else, but I wanted those ones. She said there might be some more similar and went off to look.

My dream pyjamas - which I was destined never to dream in.

Eventually (after about 10 minutes) she re-appeared, with a very similar pair but with shorts, not long trousers. And another pair with slightly different colours, but this pair was £26. I politely declined at this point and left - there is no way I am going to pay an extra 8 quid just because the shop is refusing to sell me the thing I want which is right in front of me.

We hear all the time the endless arguments about High Street vs Internet. Usual arguments are over price or customer service. We are led to believe that it is OK to spend a few quid more in the High Street because we get the "service", well I certainly didn't on this occasion. An absolutely ridiculous state of affairs where Next lost an £18 sale due to their complete inflexibility. I always used to sing their praises in the past, but will think twice before shopping there again, and in fact all this experience has done has made me more likely to do my shopping online next time and avoid all the hassle.

Thankfully the story had a happy ending as in the end I managed to get some reasonable pyjamas from BHS at a reasonable price, so it wasn't a wasted journey. I would still have preferred to have had the Next ones though.

I rounded off my trip with a spot of lunch at KFC where I was lucky enough to get one of the two downstairs tables. I had that old favourite, the Chicken Fillet Burger, though I swear they have got a lot smaller since I first started eating there back in the 80s. Some might say it is more a case that I have got larger. Like with many things in life, I suspect the truth to be somewhere in the middle.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason


Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Web Of Fear

In 1979 I was attending our annual Primary School fete. You know the sort of thing. Lots of games with half egg shells upside down in sand, which you paid your money and lifted up to see whether or not there was a sweet underneath. A bottle stall where you bought a raffle ticket and if it ended with a "5" or a "0" you won the corresponding item off the stall. Which you hoped might be a big bottle of coke, or if Dad was with you, he hoped it might be the star prize of a bottle of scotch. But instead it would normally end up being a tin of Smedley's Peas that had been sat in some Granny's cupboard since 1966.

Sorry Dad, it's not the Scotch.
Shall we take these home for Mum?

On this particular occasion, I happened to be browsing the various stalls full of old tat when I happened to noticed on the bookstall a Doctor Who book. Now I was already a Doctor Who fan, watching it avidly at a time when Tom Baker was at the height of his powers. I was aware that he had previously been played by that man who was now entertaining us with his antics as Worzel Gummidge, but my knowledge of the show prior to that was virtually non-existent, having only been born in 1970 during Jon Pertwee's second story.

I had already got a couple of Doctor Who books but this one puzzled me. The man on the front didn't look like the Doctor, not any Doctor I had ever seen. But I was very excited by the cover, a huge monster killing a soldier with some sort of death ray! It was 5p or something in the sale so I bought it. My sister, born 1964, explained to me that this was the second Doctor, who she remembered watching. From that point onwards I began to find out more about the history of the show, starting that year when the Doctor Who comic was first published with details about the past stories.

The book I bought 34 years ago that
I have waited all this time to see on TV.

As for The Web Of Fear - what an amazing story as I read the book and it unfolded in my mind. Yeti fighting soldiers in the Underground! From the historical perspective it was a significant story as it was the first one in which the long running Brigadier appeared and in which the seeds of UNIT were formed. It also featured "The Great Intelligence" which has been resurrected in a kind of prequel episode with Matt Smith last year, set in the past linking into this past story.

As stories began to be released on video I eagerly looked forward to the day I would be able to see The Web Of Fear, but then to my horror, some time much later I discovered the awful truth that well over 100 old episode of Doctor Who had been wiped by the BBC and I would never get to see this story that had so delighted me as a nine year old.

About 10 years ago, the BBC released a soundtrack of the story, which they had only because a dedicated fan at home had recorded it on audio off the TV. It was amazing to listen to and every bit met my expectations from my youth. I then got to see episode 1 (out of 6), the only surviving episode, and was resigned to the fact I might never see the rest of the story - until now.

It is just before midnight and I am hugely excited like a five year old on Christmas Day waiting for an announcement that breaks tonight at midnight on a stash of lost episodes that have been returned to the BBC and will be on sale to download tomorrow. Rumours circulating on the internet suggest that "The Web Of Fear" has been found. I cannot begin to explain how much this would mean to me, but it has been a lifelong dream of mine to see this story and fandom, of anything, cannot get better than this.

I will find out in 10 minutes time!

I imagine this news will be everywhere tomorrow - should you read it, think of me. I have waited a long time.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Dear Walkers

It has been some time since I wrote one of my letters to crisp manufacturers and feel that a new one is long overdue. So without further delay, I have today crafted this masterpiece to my friends at Walkers, a copy of which I trust you will enjoy.

Consumer Services Department
FREEPOST LE4 918
Leicester
LE4 5ZY

Tuesday 8th October 2013

Subject: Meaty Multipacks

Dear Walkers,

It has been some time since I have had an opportunity to write to you regarding my exciting adventures in the world of crisps. Unfortunately I had to resign my position with the CTBBOFOC (Campaign to bring back old flavours of crisps) due to a clash of interests with an exciting new role I have taken on in the food industry. More of that later. However, I am assured by my erstwhile colleague, Gerald Mincen, that he will be able to handle things in my absence.

You will recall, or possibly not recall as it was a long time ago, from previous correspondence that I was most upset when the Beef 'n' Onion Walkers disappeared a few years ago to be replaced by Steak 'n' Onion. This was a bad time for beef flavoured crisps in general, coming hot on the heels of the loss of Beef flavoured Wotsits and Beef flavoured Squares, both mainstays of my diet back in the late 20th century. However, in the end I grew to appreciate this slightly tangy alternative.

Gone, but not forgotten.

But it seems now that Steak 'n' Onion has also disappeared quietly from our shelves. I wish you would have made an announcement about this as then I could have stocked up before it was too late. That aside though, my real "beef" is with the so called "Meaty Multipacks" that you sell.

As you may be aware if you have read my book "Fortysomething Father", available at 77p on Kindle from all good branches of Amazon and incidentally containing many of my previous letters to you, KP and Golden Wonder, basically, I love meat. And I love crisps. So the Meaty Multipack has been the perfect fit for me and I have been happily buying these for years.

But with Steak 'n' Onion seemingly having gone (Gerald is very upset again, by the way), you have seen fit to replace the flavour in the Meaty Multipacks with other flavours such as "Prawn Cocktail". This is absolutely outrageous and goodness knows what the tabloids are going to make of this when they get hold of it. I feel that with all the hoo-haa earlier this year over horse meat being passed off as beef, attempting to pass prawns off as meat is not the wisest of marketing strategies. Still I suppose it could have been worse. You could have introduced a "Horse" flavour. But the real problem is I don't like Prawn Cocktail flavour, it is not meaty enough for me.

This is most inconvenient, however, a very close friend of mine has just announced that she is to become a vegetarian but is still going to eat fish. I will therefore see if I can do a deal with her, as presumably she will no longer be able to eat Smoky Bacon or Roast Chicken flavour so will probably be keen on Prawn Cocktail. If I can persuade her to come to the supermarket with me, which is a big if, as she doesn't like them very much, we can split the bag at the checkout, she can give me one third of the money and I can give her the Prawn Cocktail bags. It is a lot of faffing about though, and doubtless will lead to more tutting in the queue behind us, but there is no other way I can see as I refuse to pay the outrageous prices shops charge for single bags.

I mentioned earlier my "new role", well I am officially Britain's VIP Sausage taster for the 2013 British Sausage awards. And I can assure you, I am not making that up, if you type "Jason Ayres Sausage Taster" in to Google you will find many links to press reports on the subject! My role is to champion all things "Sausage" and in that capacity, I today ask that you consider perhaps promoting the great British Banger with a new "Sausage" flavour crisp, to help soften the blow of the loss of Steak 'n' Onion. I can assure you that Sausage flavour crisps do work, and taste delicious. When I was growing up, Golden Wonder, Sausage and Tomato flavour was one of my favourites. I hope you don't mind me mentioning a rival brand, but having worked for 15 years in the Market Research industry before becoming a sausage taster, I know how important such feedback is.

I will even offer my services to help you promote the new flavour - you could have some blurb on the pack along the lines of "Endorsed by Jason Ayres - VIP Sausage Taster 2013, and world renowned food writer". You could even have an ad with me and Gary tucking in to some Bangers 'n' Mash. Or chips preferably, as I'm not that keen on mash.

These are exciting times in the worlds of sausages and crisps. Imagine the excitement to bring the two together!

Your faithfully

Jason Ayres
Writer of humorous parenting books, Austerity Dad and Fortysomething Father
Official Taster at the British 2013 Sausage Awards
DJ, Entertainer & the legendary Bicester Blogger

PS: I was going to email this letter to you, what with the price of stamps these days I wanted to save the money, email it, and put it towards a Smoky Bacon six pack instead. However on the website you have a 750 character limit, which is insufficient for everything I wanted to say, so it is on the way via post - I am pleased to see you have a Freepost address so it seems I shall get my Smoky Bacon crisps after all!

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Discovering The CaddyFins

On Friday evening I did something I have not done for a very long time and went out specifically to see a band. In my pre-parenthood years this was something I did a lot - memories of The Offspring at Wembley spring to mind and many moons before that one of Bruce Springsteen's 3 hour epics at Bramall Lane in Sheffield. Amongst many others.

So I had been hearing lots of good reports about this new local band "The CaddyFins" so I thought it was high time I went to see what all the fuss was about, and hence I found myself in the Ex-Serviceman's Club in Bicester last Friday to enjoy and review the gig.



The Ex-Serviceman's Club is a long standing and well known local venue and I have in fact performed there myself on a number of occasions so knew what to expect. It has improved considerably I feel of late, including an impressive new frontage which faces on to the Bicester's brand new town centre development, opposite the new Sports Direct store.

It hasn't always been the busiest of places in the past so I was impressed to see a considerably crowded room full of a mixture of all age ranges looking forward to the gig. Before the CaddyFins came on though, there was an extremely impressive support act, namely one Mr Mark "Sparky" Harding.

Mark is a man out of his time - he has a love of all things 1940's and enjoys dressing up and taking part in events celebrating happenings of that era. Had he been born a century ago it is easy to imagine him rubbing shoulders with other members of the "brat pack" and indeed it is from them that he derives his musical influence.

He gave us an hour of classic songs from Sinatra, Dean Martin, and other 50s and 60s stars such as Billy Fury, Del Shannon and of course, Elvis. He also threw in a few modern "Buble" versions for good measure. Despite a few initial teething problems with microphone feedback, soon resolved, he was on top form and the audience were loving it. This was no pensioners tea party - for all the oldies singing along there were plenty of youngsters enthusiastically getting into these great songs. Top notch stuff and the perfect support act to get the evening off with a swing.

The Brat Pack - reborn in Bicester

There was a very nice moment mid-set where Mark invited his daughter Kayleigh, 20, on to stage with him to perform a duet of Michael Buble's version of "The Way You Look Tonight". Kayleigh has a truly beautiful singing voice and the two harmonised perfectly together. The "old man" must have been very proud. Those wanting more of Kayleigh would not have to wait long - she is a member of The CaddyFins.

Mark "Sparky" Harding will be performing next at The Jolly Post Boys, Oxford on 25th October and The Royal Oak at Tingewick on 1st November.

After a short break it was time for the main event of the evening as The CaddyFins took to the stage. If you knew nothing about them before the night, you would have been left in no doubt as to their musical influences. The backdrop behind the band was of one of those great old American 50s style cadillacs such as you would have seen in films such as Grease, and several of the band members took to the stage in Showaddywaddy style outfits - of which I understand the lead singer, Andy George has a considerable collection! The band warmed up with a cover of "Wipeout" to iron out any last minute technical issues, and then the main man himself took to the stage kicking straight in to a cover of Cliff Richard's "Move It".

The Showaddywaddy influence was also noticeable in the number of band members, eight in total, though not all were performing during every song. The CaddyFins comprise:

Andy George - Vocals and occasional Guitar Becky Sutherland - Backing Vocals and Tamborine Connie Taylor - Backing Vocals Kayleigh Harding - Keyboard and Backing Vocals Tom Marrs - Drums Jacob Moyse - Lead Guitar Tony Pearson - Rhythm Guitar Chris Carroll - Bass Guitar, Percussion and Backing Vocals


From left to right, Chris, Andy, Becky and Connie

Although performing hits from the same era as the support act, this was less easy listening and more pure rock 'n' roll. Over the next hour and a half we heard classics from Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, and the Beach Boys. And there was even time to slip a modern song in, a cover of "Same Jeans" by The View. When Andy took a break (a much deserved one with the amount of energy he was expending in his performance under the heat of the lights and the heavy costume), the girls took centre stage for an impressive performance of "Stupid Cupid".

Chris & Andy, with keyboard player, Kayleigh on backing vocals.

The Ex-Serviceman's club has never been so lively, with young and old alike dancing in front of the stage and in the aisles. The set built to a final medley of Showaddywaddy classics and finishing off with a rousing rendition of Twist and Shout to a standing ovation.

I understand that the venue were so pleased that they have already been invited back for another gig at Christmas and that various other gigs are lined up across Oxfordshire in the near future - check out their facebook page for details.

All in all, a fantastic night and it's really fantastic to see these old songs given a new lease of life and being enjoyed by young and old alike.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Lady



Mum came over today for lunch, as she does every few weeks on a Thursday. We pick up Jamie from nursery and head off to our old favourite Nash's. The faces may have changed there, but the food is refreshingly the same, and you still cannot buy a bacon bap anywhere else in Bicester that comes close in terms of quality or quantity!

In fact today, I had the legendary monster, which is a sausage and bacon combo - there's a picture of me tucking into one on my facebook page, but in case you missed it, here's a copy for your enjoyment.

With a particularly apt T-shirt logo to go with the image!

I have been bombarded of late with sausage related queries, so many in fact that I feel I may need to write a "Dear Sausage Man" style entry very soon. Those of you familiar with my past letters - both of which featured in my previous books will know the sort of thing to expect. But today, I must move on with the exciting news of what happened when we got into Sainsbury's

What can this be? I can almost hear regular readers asking. "Were Cheese Balls half price?" "Was there an amazing mark down on honey roast ham on the deli to 40p per 100gm?" No - it was none of those things.

I just happened to be browsing down the magazine aisle (nothing dirty, they don't sell them in Sainsbury's) when my eyes alighted on that rather upmarket publication known as "The Lady". Now this is a very old and respected publication, for the rather upmarket set, in fact the cover alone this week tells you all you need to know. It has got a picture of Lady Edith standing in front of Downton Abbey, the kind of image to inspire ladies of ambition and breeding everywhere.

I'm in here!

Anyway, I remembered that some weeks ago after I launched Austerity Dad I had sent out emails to many publications across the land and The Lady was one of the few that replied. In case you were wondering why I did this, well I am a completely independent and unknown(ish) author launching books from scratch with no publishing company, no advertising budget, no marketing budget, attempting to break in to a huge market with a totally unproven book (or two books) which without anyone knowing of their existence would have sunk without trace, regardless of their merit.

So I've emailed, tweeted, written these blogs, done everything I can to get noticed just to give my books a fighting chance to at least get in to the public eye and it's taken a lot of time and hard work, but it is paying off. Like I say The Lady was one publication that showed interest, they asked for a review copy, and I sent one. Then caught up in the whirlwind of all the other publicity from Radio and press over the book and more recently as "The Sausage Man" that I sort of forgot all about it.

Until today, I just happened to notice The Lady on the shelf and joked to mum I would have a look to see if they had reviewed my book. And lo and behold, there it was, in black and white on Page 47 and not only had they praised it, they had given it 4 out of 5 stars.

Now I am not for one minute suggesting that reviews on Amazon are in any way inferior and I am very grateful to everyone who has reviewed my books on there - even the negative ones, but to have an actual written review in an actual real magazine, especially one so respected as The Lady feels quite, well, amazing. I am actually starting to think I can introduce myself to people as "A writer" without it feeling strange.

In a conversation later we joked about the fact that The Queen probably reads The Lady and one of my friends joked about her getting in to cheese balls! A most amusing image came into my head of an order being sent by royal demand into the Lidl branch of Balmoral for a 300gm pack of Crusti Croc cheese balls, to be served on a silver platter with a smattering of quails eggs (Phil likes them apparently) and Swan Sausages! Where will my influence reach to next?

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason xx

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Difficult Third Album

The Difficult Third Album is a phrase that was heavily used, overused some might say, in the music magazines that I used to read back in the 1980's, such as NME, Sounds and Record Mirror. I am not sure how many of these still exist, if indeed any, they are the sorts of publications that one grows out of.

Anyway, this oft cited cliché was levelled at album reviews on the generally accepted wisdom that a band would burst onto the scene with their first somewhat raw but exciting new first album, follow it up with a more polished second album which would probably be a big success and establish them. Then it would be a case of - what next? More of the same, or try and re-invent themselves? This was normally the point where a band would either hit it big and be around for decades to come or crash and burn.

The best example I can think of for a brilliant third album would be Parklife by Blur where they went from just another indie band of the early 1990's to being absolutely huge! Whereas I found the third album of their great rivals Oasis a huge disappointment - not that it particularly stopped them in their tracks, though I never bought another Oasis album after that.

The iconic cover from Parklife, for me, the defining album of the 90s

I think this third album principle can probably be applied in other areas too. When it comes to writing, here I am with two moderately successful books under my belt and wondering what direction to take next.

This applies to my blog just as well as my books. As you will know, much of the material that is expanded on in my books so far was influenced by material I initially wrote here. Hence the theme of my first book being on parenting as that is what I was writing about predominantly at the time. So what comes next? I have written two what I consider to be "humour" books with the loose theme of parenting as I felt they needed to be categorized somewhere. Though obviously if you have read them you will know that I deviate off to talk about all manner of other things. Perhaps this is something I should try and get across to my target audience (i.e. everyone) as I did wonder if putting it under the banner of Parenting would instantly alienate anyone who doesn't have or like kids.

The second one was less about kids and more about life in general, with a budgetary theme, though much of that was tongue-in-cheek. I am not seriously suggesting for a moment that anyone hacks their feet to pieces with a cheese grater to save money on pedicures - as far as I know no-one has tried it yet and attempted to sue me, so I'll put a disclaimer in now I think - "Don't try this at home!"

For some time I have had in my mind an idea for a rollercoaster science fiction time travel novel, I have the whole synopsis written out and could write it at any time. The only thing is, I don't really feel motivated to do it. It's not that I cannot do it, the whole thing is practically written in my head already, it's just that I don't really enjoy writing fiction. I much prefer to write about the real world, my experiences with it, and observations upon it, as I am doing right now, and for two 300+ page books, no matter how ridiculous some of the strange things I come up with at times are, it all goes down in print, and if it entertains and makes some (if not all of you) laugh, then I am doing what I feel I've been born to do.

Of course if a publisher came in tomorrow and said "We are really excited about your sci-fi novel, here's 15k advance & we'll pay you x% of every sale", then I might miraculously and suddenly recover my mojo for such things!

So the difficult third book probably won't be the sci-fi book. And in fact, I don't think it is going to be difficult in the end at all anyway, as long as I go with the flow. By that I mean I shall allow my writing to be guided by the direction it wants to go. Two books on parenting have been good - a third will be going to the well once too often, I feel, but I shall continue to write in the same style. And there's a quite obvious direction for this blog and my next book to take already forming, and that of course is the whole sausage thing and food in general, come to that.

If you look back through my earlier books you will see they are full of amusing anecdotes about crisps, bacon, ham and all manner of other food - buffets at weddings, all you can eat restaurants, I have covered it all in great detail. It seems judging on the much feedback I have had from this blog over the years, on facebook and in book reviews and all the rest of it that my food related musings capture the imagination more than most. And of course my new found sausage fame has come directly from a piece of my writing - had I not entered the competition, none of this would have happened.

So it seems destiny is calling to me in the shape of a large sausage and I would be foolish to ignore this golden opportunity so I am of course seizing it with both hands and seeing where it leads. Things are happening thick and fast - I already have two dates in the diary for next month - one for the Sausage Awards launch in London and another for a sausage bake off competition in Birmingham. All of these will be covered by me in detail. I've also secured a feature in a major national magazine and I will let you all know when that comes out, probably in a couple of weeks.

I do wonder where all of this will lead. My ultimate goal as you all know is to establish myself as a "proper" writer, whatever one of those is - but all of this can only help. I do wonder though if I will be forever known as "The Sausage Man" (which may well end up being the title of my next book). I can imagine the conversation in years ahead being interviewed on a chat show.

HOST: "So you're the sausage man".
ME: "Yes, but I do other stuff too. I have written two books about..."
HOST: "Never mind that, we want to know about the sausages".
ME: "Can I just mention my parenting books?"
HOST: "What do you think, audience?"

AUDIENCE - CHANTING LOUDLY "SAUSAGES, SAUSAGES, SAUSAGES!!!"

OK, that is all a bit ridiculous, but I did say further up I tend to write down any strange imagined conversations that come into my mind, so there is another one.

Of course the other thing I have been writing about a lot is writing itself and my experiences with publishing and sales, which I shall continue to do so as I think it is helpful to others who may be starting to write or thinking of publishing. It is quite a daunting prospect to the uninitiated and I am always willing to help, advise, and review other authors. At this moment in time I am in fact helping to proof read a book for another writer friend of mine. Some might say perhaps I should have proof read my own first book a little better - in fact someone did just that in a less than glowing review on Amazon, but then we must all learn from our mistakes.

I really think authors should support each other more online. Many do in fact and I have made some good friends among other writers but there is still a lot of backbiting going on out there. Many of the bad reviews you see on Amazon are by other writers in the same genre deliberately trashing other books with 1* reviews in order to lower the ratings. I think this is very sad. Books should be complimentary not competitive. It's not like you buy just one, as if you were buying a car. Say you write books in the vampire category. Surely it is better to read some other vampire books and if you like them, give them positive reviews. Maybe more people will buy their book, but then if it brings more people into the vampire category, then maybe they will buy yours too! Well that is the way I look at it anyway.

Don't worry if you enjoy all my parenting blogs, they are not going to disappear, but I think the overall focus is definitely going to shift towards the food writing as I sense that's where the future lies, but there will as ever be plenty to talk about on whatever life throws at me! It looks like favourite for Book 3 though is going to be "The Sausage Man".

Fame at last!

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.