Saturday, 28 December 2013
Here are a few highlights from 2013!
How Jeremy Irons saved us
Pink wellies and cigarettes
The ghosts of Stationers' Hall
I thought you might also like to know that my novel, A Sister for Margot, is currently on SALE at 99p / 99 cents until the 31 December. Perfect for anyone who received a kindle or ipad for Christmas! The book is a historical romance with a twist and has been climbing up the UK bestseller charts on Amazon this week. Click here for information on the book.
Thank you once again and I look forward to hearing more comments from you in 2014!
Emma Clark Lam.
Tuesday, 17 December 2013
Middle Child came back from school a while ago and told me he had some important news. He had won a starring role in his school nativity play! That's great, I said. Joseph? One of the three kings? "Third alien," he said. Right. How many aliens are there? "Five," he said. Well, that's just brilliant! Of course he will always be my little star, even if his big break only amounted to three lines (one of which was said in unison with the other four aliens).
|The third alien makes his debut|
© Oleksandr Melnyk | Dreamstime.com
It was a fabulous school production nonetheless! Watching all those little people singing their hearts out never fails to make my eyes water. My favourite bit was when MC's best friend Laura (fourth alien) whipped up her costume in a frenzy of excitement and flashed her Peppa Pig pants at the audience.
Friday, 6 December 2013
|Judi Dench played Philomena in the film|
© Featureflash | Dreamstime.com
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
|Gingerbread houses are expected to be BIG this year|
Thursday, 21 November 2013
|THE PANEL: Kay Burley (Sky News), Carla Buzasi (Huffington Post), |
Anne McElvoy (Evening Standard), Lisa Markwell (Independent on Sunday),
Sarah Sands (Evening Standard)
Credit: Nigel Howard / London Evening Standard
"I feel personally that I have got a responsibility in the way we portray women," Carla Buzasi, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post UK, told us in her opening salvo. She believes women bloggers are "worried about putting themselves out there" and has deliberately put female role models on her front page to set an example.
Thursday, 14 November 2013
|Books could keep you out of prison|
Thursday, 31 October 2013
|Intimations of mortality on turning 40|
Thursday, 24 October 2013
|The children at Eluwai primary school in Monduli|
Credit: Josi Hollis
I was told this story the other day while I was having coffee with a couple of teachers from Tanzania, called Fred and Hermann. They were staying with my neighbour, Janine FitzGerald, who is a trustee of Serian UK, a charity that promotes education for sustainable ways of living in Tanzania. Via funding from the British Council, Fred and Hermann have been visiting the UK to learn about British teaching methods at schools in Ellesmere Port, near Liverpool.
Thursday, 17 October 2013
I am convinced that walking in the fresh air actually facilitates the gentle flow of thought and conversation. I am not just thinking of the horse trainer I met earlier in the week who told me she snapped her vertebrae breaking in a new colt, or even the many Labrador owners keen to impart advice, but also my children. Since Pickle the puppy arrived, our weekend walks as a family have become an unexpected way of learning more about our kids' secret lives.
Thursday, 10 October 2013
|Discussing the magic of ebooks: |
Lucy Cavendish, Emma Clark Lam and Clive Limpkin
In amidst the feverish talk of marketing and earning commission, my fellow panelist Clive Limpkin reminded us that ebooks provide an opportunity for people to write, just for the sake of writing. Because very little expense is involved in producing an ebook, it can be a vehicle for an autobiography, a specialist text, or that novel you have always wanted to write (but couldn't get published through the traditional channels).
Thursday, 3 October 2013
|Dame Stella: MI5's first female head|
Credit: James Gifford-Mead
Now that my days in full-time education are long gone, I realise I miss that heady atmosphere of learning new things and discovering a world in books... which is why I adore The Henley Literary Festival. Once a year, thanks to this jamboree of writers, historians and bloggers, I get my literary fix. The festival takes place right on my doorstep for a week at the end of September and I have been attending ever since former journalist, Sue Ryan, set it up seven years ago. It has gone from strength to strength, selling over 14,000 tickets this year.
Thursday, 26 September 2013
Next week I am participating in a session at the Henley Literary Festival on ebooks and self-publishing - the prospect of which has sparked some navel-gazing. Coincidentally, I also happened upon a feature by Jonathan Franzen in The Guardian which takes a swipe at Amazon and self-publishing, in the midst of a complex argument about the perils of modernity. Here is an extract:
"Amazon wants a world in which books are either self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion. The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of course people with the money to pay someone to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world."
Only available as an ebook on Amazon
Thursday, 19 September 2013
Middle child has been doing some deep thinking about God recently. He is at a point in his life where he needs God, like a security blanket. The world is becoming a scary place. People die and don't come back. Whereas Quiet One takes a more flippant approach ("You die, so what?"), he is looking for an insurance policy. At bedtime, he asked if I could send him a message - when I died - to reassure him that heaven did exist. I promised, if I had the good fortune to end up in heaven, I would do my best to get in touch.
|'Is there a heaven, Mummy?'|
"They are also doing what children do once the discover the past tense and the future tense - so they have to have, 'Where did we come from' and that results in a theology."
Thursday, 12 September 2013
"William Lam... can now demolish his conservatory and outbuildings and build a single-story extension incorporating a kitchen and dining room."Scintillating stuff, although I was a bit miffed that Henley's newshounds had overlooked Mrs Lam's role in the project. Now, after two years of planning, design and various setbacks, this same man (and his wife) have finally finished their extension.
|Hot news in Henley!|
After the project was completed this summer, we wondered with some trepidation how people would receive it. So far, our friends have done a decent impression of liking it. The best reaction was from the man who came to do a quote for some bathroom shutters. He ambled through the old hallway and then into the new kitchen, where he stopped dead in his tracks. For a moment he was speechless. Then he said: "Wow! I wasn't expecting that. It is absolutely stunning!"
Here it is, under construction...
|Before: the old conservatory |
|Demolition and laying the foundations (February 2013)|
|Putting in the steel framework (March 2013)|
|Up go the walls (March 2013)|
|On goes the roof (April 2013)|
|The glass doors and glazing are installed (May 2013)|
|Finished - click on the picture for a close-up! (June 2013)|
The extension was designed by David Greenhill of Vivid Architects and built by First Construct. None of it would have been possible without Louise Morton of Quadrant Town Planning, who helped to win the appeal.
Thursday, 5 September 2013
So I finally have my third child. A lovely, little boy with a full head of hair, beautiful, almond-shaped eyes... oh, and a tail. Am I mad? Barking. Both my (real) children are at school, life is getting easier, weekend lie-ins are no longer just an aspiration... and what do I do? I take on an eight-week old puppy. A black Labrador with big, floppy feet and a bladder that can barely make it through the night. And, who needs an alarm clock when your new baby greets the dawn with a high-pitched howl? Hello sleep deprivation, my old friend, it has been too long.
|Look what the stork brought!|
All the rituals of preparing for the puppy's arrival were spookily familiar. Since June we have been writing to-do lists and going on spending sprees at the doggy equivalent of Mothercare: Pets at Home. Dutifully my husband built him a
Puppy toddlerhood is now upon us. We spend our days toilet training, shaking toys, removing foreign objects from Pickle's mouth and heading off canine stunts on the patio steps. Earlier this week we even took him to a 'post-natal' puppy class so that he could play with other dogs! However, for all the challenges, looking after a dog is parenting lite. When we need a break, we shut him in his crate and escape the house for a couple of hours - with no associated visits from social services.
Yesterday the kids went back to school and, thanks to Pickle, I didn't feel quite so bereft. His wiggly, waggy-tail welcome made the house feel less empty when I got home from the school run. And thankfully he can't yet utter those words I have heard all summer: "Mummy, what shall I do now? I'm bored!!" He just digs up the lawn instead.
-- Annabel at CountryWives
Friday, 16 August 2013
|Kerry's company Hulafrog offers flexible work|
This magazine, in a cover article by Lisa Belkin, called the phenomenon of their leaving work the “Opt-Out Revolution,” and other coverage followed: a Time magazine cover story on “The Case for Staying Home” and a “60 Minutes” segment devoted to a group of former mega-achievers who were, as the anchor Lesley Stahl put it, “giving up money, success and big futures” to be home with their children.
At the time, these women attracted criticism for turning their back on feminism. Now - shock, horror - some of these same mega-achievers are looking to get back into the job market. A few working mothers have pointed the finger and said, I told you so. To me this overlooks an obvious point: these women have been out for 10 years. Now their children have grown up and become less dependent. The time is ripe for a return to work. I doubt any of them would have ruled out a resumption of their careers when they decided 10 years ago to look after their children.
This chop-and-change approach goes against the prevailing trend of 'leaning in'. Sheryl Sandberg's much-publicised book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, argues that women are unconsciously compromising their career goals, even before they have children:
In addition to the exterior barriers erected by society, women are hindered by barriers that exist within ourselves. We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in... We lower our expectations of what we can achieve.It is a powerful message, exhorting women to try harder in their careers, but as Hulafrog's survey demonstrates, there are many more women who would prefer a middle way between "opting out" and "leaning in".
The founders of Hulafrog - Kerry, chief publisher, and CEO Sherry Lombardi - passionately believe there are not enough flexible opportunities for women. This is what motivated them to go to their parent subscribers and ask about the "age-old issue that haunts moms from pre-school pick-up lines to corporate boardrooms: work full-time or stay at home with the kids?" They were overwhelmed by the response.
Among other things, they discovered that a staggering 57% of stay-at-home moms would have continued to work if they had been offered the ability to work from home. "Think of what our workforce is missing," says Kerry. "All the educated, professional women who are sitting on the sidelines because they haven't been able to find the flexibility they need." (See my previous post on this untapped workforce.)
The debate surrounding women, work and children will always be emotive, depending on which side of the fence you sit. However, in a modern age we should strive for an ideal that suits all types, including the option of flexible work hours or working from home. Employers need to sit up and take notice. More than 2,000 women have spoken. Have a look at Hulafrog's Infographic on the subject and see for yourself.
Hulafrog's press release on the survey
Lisa Belkin's NY Times feature on opting out
Judith Warner's NY Times feature on opting back in
Lisa Belkin's recent article in The Huffington Post
Comments on Facebook
-- Annabel at CountryWives
Friday, 2 August 2013
Elizabeth Taylor’s avowed aversion for adventure, coupled with a horror of publicity, goes some way to explaining why her talent as a writer remains underrated. Writing just after the second-world war, Taylor impressed many of her contemporaries, including Kingsley Amis, but fell into relative obscurity towards the end of her career.
|"Taylor's marvellous, dark novel"|
Despite these rather prissy sentiments, she was in the words of her contemporary, Rosamond Lehmann, “sophisticated, sensitive and brilliantly amusing, with a kind of stripped, piercing feminine wit.” Her nuanced prose could ridicule a character’s folly and then subvert the reader’s response with a poignant twist of sympathy.
Taylor’s early success, beginning with the publication of At Mrs Lippincote’s in 1945, coincided with the rise of her more famous namesake, making it difficult for her to attract due recognition. (The writer once received fan letter requesting a photograph of her in a bikini – with customary wit she remarked this was not possible since she did not own one.) The centenary of Taylor’s birth last year has helped to rehabilitate her work, including her twelve novels – one shortlisted for the 1971 Booker prize – and dozens of short stories, many of which appeared in The New Yorker magazine.
|John owned a|
|A private joke?|
This article was first published as a blog post for Jonkers Rare Books, a purveyor of fine books and first editions. Based in Henley-on-Thames, Jonkers specialises in collecting nineteenth and twentieth century literature, as well as children's and illustrated books.
Thursday, 25 July 2013
Three kids and a single mum
The summer holidays have begun. Sigh. I love having my children at home again, but it does take me a few days to transition into full-time earth mother with a dozen craft projects up her sleeve. We are only a few days in and I am already wondering how we will all survive the next six weeks together. Middle Child is careering around the house like a Cocker Spaniel in desperate need of a walk, while Quiet One hibernates in her bedroom.
|Middle Child needs daily exercise |
and regular spells in the garden
© Zaretskaya | Dreamstime.com
If you could harness Middle Child's boy-energy in some way, our town would become carbon-neutral within a matter of months. Instead, he channels his vigor into disrupting his sisters and generally being a pest. Recent acts of torment include hiding Quiet One's pencil case in the bin, chucking her flip-flops into the neighbouring garden and 'autographing' her collection of pop CDs. Non-Walking Toddler is not safe either: just as she is contentedly communing with the Tombliboos, he delights in switching the channel over to CBBC's Splatalot.
Upstairs, Quiet One spends her days reading, sketching and doing her homework. She has even been known to empty the dishwasher of a morning and make her own bed. While Middle Child demands more TV time, more biscuits, more crisps, or a later bedtime (dream on, little man!), she habitually toes the line. Even NW Toddler has become remarkably low-maintenance as she sits watching the antics of her older siblings with curiosity bordering on obsessional devotion.
Last weekend, I read a newspaper article about how girls should learn to be more disruptive and challenge authority. According to Dr Kevin Stannard of the Girl's Day School Trust, by encouraging girls to be obedient and conscientious, we could put them at a disadvantage in later life.
"Are we doing girls a long-term disservice by defining their performance in terms of their compliance to expectations of behaviour and work that reflect, reinforce and reproduce differences between the genders," he asks.
He acknowledges that girls outperform boys at school (a structured environment that encourages a balanced approach to debate and essay-writing) but says that they lose ground later on, during university interviews, for example, where they are required to be more combative and risk-taking.
I can see his point (I am a girl after all), but I couldn't help feeling rather provoked. In my mind, it isn't the girls that are at fault, or even the way we teach, but our culture and the personality traits we are told to celebrate. 'Male' qualities, such as competitiveness and risk-taking, are often lauded at the expense of more 'female' attributes, such as empathy, co-operation and compliance to the rules. Put quite simply, society would fail to function if there weren't a few female types around to oil the wheels. We may be attracted to charismatic leaders, challenging the status quo, but who actually does the work?
While I don't wish to repress Middle Child's zest for life, I have no qualms about teaching him to live by the rules. Over the last few days, he has cleaned the butter off his sister's pencil case, retrieved her flip-flops and missed a few of episodes of Splatalot. I have also signed him up for tennis camp and forest school. Until I can sell his energy back to the national grid, he will be burning it up with all the other reckless types. Meanwhile, I will be applying for my diploma in personality management.