What Vegetarians Don’t Want

An Ever Expanding List

  • Being served fish. (‘You do eat fish, don’t you?’ No!)
  • Being served chicken. (‘Look, it’s white meat. What’s wrong with that?’ Quite a lot, actually.)
  • Pubs that have one vegetarian option on their menu for months, even years, on end.
  • Being served meals consisting of vegetables only – no protein.
  • People who peer at your plate for several minutes then ask, “Is that all right for youuuuuu?”
  • Carnivores who eat all the vegetarian options at buffets. (“That looks niceeeeee.”)
  • Carnivores who try to persuade you to eat meat. (‘Don’t you sometimes just fancy a bacon butty?’ No!)
  • Partners of vegetarians who, usually on holiday, lean across to the waiter, saying, “She’s vegetarianne.”
  • Carnivores who tell abbatoir stories at dinner, and farmers/ small-holders who love telling you that they have slaughtered their pigs/ free-range chickens and now have them in their freezer.
  • Restaurants (usually abroad) where the vegetarian option is always ‘off’.
  • Cafeteria servers who, having just told you that the vegetarian option is ‘off’, hold up a plate and wait for you to order something non-vegetarian.
  • Diner-owners who make jokes about vegetarians on their menus and on their servery. (A famous one at Jackson Hole (town aptly named) in Wisconsin went something like this. “Of course we serve vegetarians. They’re inside all our burgers.”)

And what about you? Calling all you vegetarians out there, what are pet hates? Do let us know.

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Review of ‘Starting Over’ by Sue Moorcroft

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Starting-Over-Sue-Moorcroft/dp/1906931224

Published by Choc Lit and also available on Amazon, in paperback and Kindle versions.

Tess Riddell, accomplished illustrator, has been dumped by rat, Olly Gray, a few days before her wedding. Afterwards she ‘starts over’ by moving to the cosily-named Honeybun Cottage in the village of Middledip, where she knows nobody. On her way there, she manages to drive into the back of the breadkdown truck of another rat, the local garage-owner, Miles Rattenbury, commonly known as ‘Ratty’. The story that follows revolves around the relationship of Tess and Ratty, with ex, Olly, appearing occasionally to mess things up.

‘Starting Over’ was a very competently written novel by an expert in the women’s fiction field. Sue describes compulsively, often devoting a whole page to a room which only figures in the novel once; this technique is very effective because it sets the scene and encapsulates a character and situation. She did this for Carola by delineating all her hand-hooked rugs, embroideries… and many other things… in her living room. She gets inside her characters in the same way, bringing the reader into the scene so that she (This is definitely a book for ‘shes’) feels she is there. Get the detail in this, for instance: “He ate an apple, she watched the square whiteness of his teeth crunching through the rosy peel and into the flesh.” And this: “Other passengers’ rocking faces were reflected in the glass when they entered the tunnel, colours of hair, of skin. Shoppers, teenagers with personal stereos, a loud scruff in his twenties leering and making women uncomfortable.”

The sex scenes were phenomenal, detailed, lingering, containing unusual details, and absolutely no cliches. So why did I skim through them? I think it was because – to use a cliche now – they got too up close and personal. I felt I was learning things about the characters that I sensed were private. This, of course, raises a big question, of how close the reader ought to get to characters. Most of us would, instinctively, say absolutely as close as possible, nothing barred, but the sex scenes in ‘Starting Over’ did cause me to question this viewpoint. Sue also went into a lot of medical detail about mc’s miscarriage and menstrural problems – again, I felt, too much information.

I have to confess I much preferred ‘Love and Freedom’ by Sue, which I read a few months ago. A large part of the charm of ‘Love and Freedom’ was its sense of place, being firmly set amongst the seaside resorts along the south coast of England, Rottingdean in particular and also Brighton, which Sue clearly knows well, because her accounts were very accurate, but the location in England of the village of Middledip in’Starting Over’ was unclear. Although towards the end of the book we get the impression that it was somewhere near the Fens, the author doesn’t put down firm roots. Moreover, I didn’t warm to the male lead, Ratty, who was, I feel, the sort of man most women would avoid, convinced he is God’s gift and what Bridget Jones would call ‘committment phobic’.

As a writer, I assimilated a great deal from this book, particularly about descriptions of settings and characters. I hope I can apply all I have learned.

So Tired? Me too!

Last week, as well as teaching for 22 hours, marking and preparing lessons, dealing with students and managers (the latter by far the most troublesome), doing housework and family,  I subbed three ‘old’ stories, plus one new one which I’d just finished editing, which is, as we speak, lying, rigid with anxiety, in a pile with its fellow entrants for the Choc Lit Short Story Competition 2013.   As you see, Dear Reader, I am keeping my end up in ChapterSeventyNine‘s Five Outstanding group and in Write 1 Sub 1.

I’m now feverishly (Oh, I do love those adverbs!) trying to write another story, for the Writers and Artists Yearbook 2013 Short Story Competition, on the theme ‘Freedom’.  For several weeks I toyed with the idea of writing about laundry in the 1920s.  Remembering a story my grandmother used to tell me about a woman who ‘took in washing’ and was ‘pleased as punch to come’, I was going to work something along those lines, but it didn’t work alongside the theme ‘freedom’ and I’m now writing about Daniel in the Lions’ Den.  I can certainly make that fit into ‘freedom’ and, when it doesn’t win, I’m lobbing it off to the Christian market, something I’ve had my eye on for some time – so no swear words.

Now, Dear Reader, a confession.  I thought the Writers and Artists Deadline was this Friday, 8 February and, unlike my darling daughter the journalist, I go stum as I approach a deadline, probably because I’m so bloody tired before I start writing.  I keep reading about all these writers who write in cafes, trains and buses, first thing in the morning and late at night, but I can’t.  Am I a wuss?