Tuesday 29 April 2008

BookRabbit gets ready to hop

I've been having a look round BookRabbit, which I mentioned on a previous post, and it's looking very impressive, I must say.

It's almost ready to go live, according to Kieron Smith (whose blog, Koob, provides a fascinating insight into the countdown to the launch and reveals the passion for books which lies behind BookRabbit). The idea is that it'll act as a kind of cross between Amazon and Facebook for the book reading/buying/collecting/blogging community, with multi-layered opportunities for networking based on interests, enthusiasm, buying habits or even simply by uploading photographs of your bookshelves and seeing who else's 'matches' yours.

Since I've studiously avoided having anything to do with Facebook, Myspace, Bebo and all the rest (which is the natural habitat of my teenage daughter but an alien and scary world for the likes of moi), the networking aspect of BookRabbit was slightly mystifying in many respects and I was left with the impression that it would - for me - be too time-consuming to get involved in very deeply and also rather 'exposing', in that it's all done on a transparent real-name basis, so there's no hiding behind genteel pseudonyms etc. But obviously there will be plenty of bibliophiles who'll leap at the chance to link up with readers with similar interests so I can imagine it taking off with a whoosh.

It is for online book purchases, however, that I can easily see myself getting the BookRabbit habit. And I can envisage it replacing Amazon as my primary destination. One of BookRabbit's essential aims is to nurture readers' involvement with their local independent booksellers as an alternative (or in addition) to buying online, so for every book you discover and select on BookRabbit, you will be able to check whether your local bookstore has it in stock.

I raised a number of queries with Kieron, and here are his replies:

Juliet: Forgive me for being dense, but I couldn't work out at all how the bookshelf thing worked. I assume one is supposed to upload pics of one's actual current reads, etc. How do the spines get 'indexed'? How does one update them? I would imagine that hurling oneself into it wholeheartedly could all become very time-consuming (simply blogging takes up way too much time, as it is!).

Kieron: You're not being dense at all - the site is still lacking explanatory text and we're adding help videos for those who prefer it. The bookcase tagging is a manual process currently - literally you click on the four corners of a book and search for the title below and the save the tag - we did want to go live with something more 'automatic'. As you say this is time consuming and probably appeals to a slightly different audience; that said, having your first match with someone else is quite fun.

You can of course be a consumer of bookcases rather than a contributor - and take a nosey at other people's - it is interesting to see the context of a title on people's shelves for example.

The bookshelf element is just a part of the broader set of tools that hopefully will work to open up the backlist somewhat.

Me: There doesn't seem to be an option to go 'private' in terms of having a user name which isn't one's own full real name (or at least I couldn't see such an option on the profile page). This is unusual online, and could seem, for a beginner especially, a little
intrusive or intimidating, I fear. Even in the blogosphere a great many people prefer to keep their real identity under wraps, and this is entirely understandable and not necessarily sinister. I'd like to see various 'levels' of identity, privacy and interaction available. Maybe there are, and I just didn't find them. Again, it may be because I'm not very familiar with networking sites that I found this all so impenetrable and a wee bit scary.

Kieron: We went with the 'Facebook' approach for this for the social networking side of the site, so yes real name this was for several reasons, but the principle one is to help with creating a site where people are responsible - sometimes where people can hide behind user names they can be more likely to post abuse etc, unfortunately. You only have to register at all if you want to take part in the community itself, just using the bookshop or looking at content can be done completely anonymously.

Me: I proceeded through the ordering process, partly to find out where the link to my local bookshops kicked in, but it never did. Is this something I missed, or is
it not available yet?

Kieron: This is a sort of halfway house at present - on every book title there is a tab which says 'selling' this shows a Google map of your local bookshops and contact details. What we want to do in the next couple of months is introduce proper ratings, online stock editing etc and hope to be working with the Leading Edge independent
booksellers on this.

Me: As a method of browsing and buying books, I am definitely attracted by the fact that it has a more intimate feel than Amazon. But in practice it is going to be a long time, I suspect, before you will persuade the entire blogosphere to link to BookRabbit rather than to Amazon every time they mention a book, and currently, virtually all my online book purchases are made as a result of a blog review or recommendation, so it's click, click buy. I know I'm not alone in this. There's also the Amazon
associates incentive which, on very popular, high-traffic blogs, can be a genuine earner.

Kieron: Yes you're right - we're introducing our own scheme in the next week - which will rival Amazon's in terms of commission, we also hope to work with bloggers to create custom categories for their particular interests which they can link to
directly. I'm under no illusions that Amazon are very entrenched in this space
and it will take some time!
You can see Kieron talking about BookRabbit and its aims in this short but inspiring video:

Monday 28 April 2008

a cappella horses

My heartfelt thanks to Barb for this one.

Go here.

Click on a horse to make it sing. Click again to stop it. Compose, conduct, join in . . .

It will waste hours of your valuable time. Another great idea for serial procrastinators.

Miss Austen had plenty to regret

I was just hurrying back from my evening's trudge along the sea-wall (Boy and Dog had stopped off to visit Grannie and Grandpa), so as not to miss the beginning of Miss Austen Regrets, when I was waylaid, yards from my house, by A Reader of Musings - who recognised me despite my windswept and dishevelled state (maybe the muddy wellies were a giveaway). Anyway, very nice to meet you and I felt very bad about dashing off after the briefest of chats, but since you are A Reader of Musings, you will understand that I don't give up my Sunday Slump lightly!

Miss Austen Regrets turned out, despite its mixed reception in the papers, to be perfectly watchable. As an attempt to 'get inside' the ever-elusive Jane, it was a considerable improvement on the saccharine and anachronism-ridden Becoming Jane. Olivia Williams was as beautiful to watch as always. It was, on the whole, well cast, well acted, well filmed and well produced. The ambiance of the costumes and sets tended towards those of the 1995 Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds Persuasion - and thus recommended itself to me enormously, since this is by far my favourite Austen adaptation to date. The general mood was, as in Persuasion, essentially melancholic.

I can see very clearly why it did not go down well with Jane fans in the US, in particular. It was shown over there a while ago, and I've read a number of the reviews (including those listed here). The protests against it are largely on the grounds that it was not frothy and optimistic, not laden with sparkling wit and gorgeous men in wet shirts, and that it was, basically, too gloomy, too preoccupied with loss and regret and too concerned to point out the ignominies of spinsterhood and poverty in Austen's time.

To the fans who feel 'betrayed' by this film, I would say this: Miss Austen Regrets was seeking to discover and explore the real Jane Austen. Not the fictional Jane Austen who resides in the imagination as a glorious amalgam of her best beloved heroines - Lizzy Bennett and Emma Woodhouse. If you want to know why Miss Austen might have had Regrets, read more English social history (I don't mean frilly Jane-fan-history, I mean real grown-up history books) to get a proper handle on What Life Was Really Like In Those Days.

Also read Fay Weldon's excellent Letters to Alice: On First Reading Jane Austen - a (fictitious) series of letter from an aunt to her teenage niece (who doesn't see the 'point' or 'relevance' of reading Austen), which illuminates - by filling in some vital social/historical background and by teaching the youthful reader how to empathise with the writer as well as with her fictional heroines - exactly how much more of a genius Austen then appears than she might seem on a more superficial reading.

And superficial reading, it seems to me, is the wobbly, sprigged muslin pillar upon which an awful lot of gushy Janeism rests. The kind which views Austen's 'world' as a kind of touchstone of Shabby Chic. Cath Kidston meets Barbara Cartland.

To find out why and what Miss Austen Regrets, read the novels and then read between the lines of the novels - and in Mansfield Park and Persuasion in particular those lines are wide open for reading between. Read the correspondence and it's all there - you don't need to delve very far to spot it unless you refuse to lift the rose-tinted gauze veil before you set off on your journey.

Then, grow up a bit. If you haven't already reached 40 or experienced full-on mid-lifeism, then try to imagine it - in the context of the early 19th century. You are unmarried, you are poor, you are an artist who, though acclaimed, has never been properly remunerated because you are a woman. You are clever, you are witty and flirtatious, you are popular and yet, because you are unmarried (this being long before feminism, so please try to cast off your 20th/21st-century feminist spectacles for a moment and see things from an early 19th-century point of view), you have wealth, no power, little social standing, no sexual love, no children . . . no hope, but for an old age in which you are beholden to others, and a burden on your family. Moreover, you are ill, and don't have a cupboard full of Nurofen for the pain, a national health service to treat you, or even access to proper diagnosis, let alone cure. Is it so very surprising that the tenor of your latter years should, indeed, be Regret?

We'll never know Jane. It's difficult to get anywhere close, given that Cassandra (as highlighted in this film) destroyed so much of the correspondence. But I do believe that Miss Austen Regrets was an honest and attractive attempt - and a more creditable one than most - to flesh out what we do know into a believable 'character'.

But . . . in the end, it is fiction. And one question which did keep popping into my head as I watched was 'what is this for?' Ultimately, it was just a bit of telly, and should be treated as such.

It will of course be watched by GCSE students of English Literature and gobbled down as biographical fact, but I really don't think it should be. Even more than the myriad adaptations of the books themselves, it should be treated as ephemera. Entertaining, enjoyable, watchable ephemera, certainly. But if you want to 'find Jane' - or as much of Jane as there is left to be found, and in a timeless way, unfiltered by the mores of our own age - then you'll find her in her novels and her surviving letters if you read them afresh.

It is, believe it or not, still possible to read Pride and Prejudice without visualising Colin Firth. Granted, it's difficult, but I promise you that with a bit of effort, and by staring hard at those black words on those white pages, it can be done.

And . . . it's worth it.


Sunday 27 April 2008

Sunday slump

It's Sunday, so that means telly night, and for today's Sunday Slump, I'm looking forward to watching Miss Austen Regrets (BBC1 8 pm).

This has already been screened in the US and there are some reviews and lots more about it here. I am hoping that it will be better than the frankly dreadful Becoming Jane (which I moaned and whined about here last year), but an acerbic review by Christina Patterson in the Independent and some very mixed reviews on the comprehensive and discerning Jane Austen Today blog leave me wondering what I shall make of it.

But, there's a huge mound of ironing to be done following a concerted attack on the laundry mountain this weekend. So, whether Miss Austen Regrets is execrable or thoroughly glorious, at least there won't be a creased-school-shirt crisis in the morning.
An appropriate moment at which to mention once again this witty range of Jane products.

Saturday 26 April 2008


* = 'The Beach This Evening' (an acronym I've pinched wholesale from Sam) (who also does excellent TBTMs - I never get out early enough for those!) (you'll appreciate that a camera and a black Labrador are essential accessories - along with wellies - here on the Muddy Island . . .)

Humph - The Bad Penny Blues

Friday 25 April 2008

Humphrey Richard Adeane Lyttelton (23 May 1921 - 25 April 2008

"As we journey through life, discarding baggage along the way, we should keep an iron grip, to the very end, on the capacity for silliness. It preserves the soul from dessication."
National Treasure.

Post a poem to win a poem

Regular readers will know that I'm a big, big fan of the Green Chair Press (upon which I have oft times mused: eg see here and here). In fact, landing on Susan's blog and website was, for me, one of the first big rewards of entering the blogosphere last summer, and I am now the proud owner of a number of Susan's beauteous creations - irresistible to the typophile, the letterpress enthusiast and the ampersand lover alike.

To celebrate National Poetry Month in the US, Susan is giving away one of her one-off Pattern Forms broadsides (see pic above). It’s a cut paper collage with a letterpress printed original haiku beneath it.

life forms patterns
haphazard & beautiful -
catch them as they fly by

For a chance to win, all you need to do to is post your favorite poem in a comment to this post on the Green Chair Press Blog by 29 April. The winner will be selected at random from the submitted poems and announced on 1 May.

Why not have a go?

Thursday 24 April 2008

The highlights of my day . . .

Have been wrestling with different coloured highlighter pens and a 600pp set of proofs (a textbook on Employment Law - oh joy of joys) for the best part of today. And now I am typing like fury into the night to capture the results of my fluorescent daubing.

It's all far too arcane and complicated to explain here, but I can tell you that it's so enthralling that I'm not even going to stop in order to write a proper blog post. No, I just can't wait to get back to it asap, and I thank my lucky stars that I worked hard and passed lots of exams at school and university because if I hadn't, well, I don't know where I'd be, but it certainly wouldn't be perched up here in the dizzy heights of the publishing world, colouring things in.

Oh how I must be envied by my peers - the ones with boring jobs with boring add-ons like . . . paid holidays and company cars and pensions. And who can blame them? They're probably reduced to putting their feet up and watching telly right now. Poor things.

Anyway, I have managed to wrench myself away from this delightful task on a few occasions during the day - principally to intervene in various noisy altercations between SDs #2 and#3, who have been enjoying the extra holiday provided by their striking teachers; but also to surf at lightning speed through the blogosphere, screeching round corners and bumping into things all over the place (part joy-ride, part guilt-trip).

Here are two that are well worth a read:

A characteristically perceptive piece by Danuta Kean (which has attracted some equally illuminating comments from writers and publishers) about the perils for unwary authors of entering into a relationship with a small publisher - written in the light of (though not specifically about) the disaster that was The Friday Project. Some insightful thoughts about the nature of blogging, too ('just a form of vanity publishing'), and the limited potential of the whole 'blog to book' ('blook') concept.

And Susan Hill on copyright and the Internet, 'are we the owners of our own work?' (vis-à-vis the J K Rowling court case in New York)

Wednesday 23 April 2008

Tuesday 22 April 2008

Ms Doughty Weighs In

This is me.

And so is this.

- according to the author of a novel which is excellent on the inside (sweet yet crunchy) but which has misguidedly been covered from head to toe in a most unappetising outer coating that utterly belies its (shall we say 'bittersweet'?) content.

I was a little taken aback to discover my new alter-ego this morning, but, what the heck - if a bit of stomping around in brogues and a tweedy hat is going to help this Worthy Cause in the slightest way, then I guess I'm happy to play my part for as long as it takes. You can read the full story (and lots of other stories) here.

It is perfectly true that I have hated this book's cover with a vengeance since I first set eyes on it. As I remarked in my original review, if I hadn’t been inspired to acquire a copy through reading the excellent advance publicity, I’d never have picked it up in a bookshop!

The book deserves so much better.

It certainly deserves to be read, and I fear that it won't reach a fraction of its potential readership whilst sporting this misguided cover.

So, I'm all for Bill's sticker idea - the bigger the better.

But ultimately the book needs a radical re-design - one which beckons seductively, attracting the eye of the book-browser, and which captures both the freshness of first love and the age-old tragedies of jealousy and betrayal. Or, failing that, simply a cover that's Nice instead of one which Isn't Very Nice At All.

A challenge, certainly, but one to which the publisher jolly well needs to rise, or Bill's scary friend The Killer will have something to say about it. And so will I (once I get to grips with loading my big gun).

Well, there we are. My venerable jowls are all a-quiver with righteous zeal and my brown lisle stockings are in a bit of a twist, but . . . onwards and upwards, fight the good fight, stick those yellow stickers and then pop the kettle on for tea.

(Oh, and if you'd like to weigh in yourself, then Bill would love to hear from you. You get points for leaving incisive comments on his blog. And points, as eny fule kno, mean prizes!)

Monday 21 April 2008

You have another chance . . .

. . . to watch Stephen Fry on Gutenberg.
Friday, BBC2, 9 o'clock.

I insist that you do so.

Sea glass transformed

Oooh, the joys of the blogosphere!

In that exhilaratingly serendipitous way that these things happen, a chance visit to a poetry blog many months ago (no idea even what I was doing there) has gradually unfurled undreamed-of layers of bloggish consequences.

One result of which is that two pieces of my Mersea sea-glass are now reincarnated as silver-wrapped pendants in deepest Devon.

You can see them (and read about how they were transformed) here .

Isn't that wonderful?

It's all made me feel quite light-headed!

Saturday 19 April 2008

My Saturday

A long walk by the sea this morning. Higher than expected tide. Usual route to beach impassable.
Cold and Januaryesque, so hot chocolate en route entirely excusable - indeed, jolly well-deserved, say I. Jumped nimbly over a breakwater, landed on steep pile of oyster shells and pulled a muscle I wasn't aware existed. (Clearly good material in there re the oyster who pulled a mussel, but I'm famously hopeless at telling jokes.)

Limped home. Excellent start to training for RfL!

Good haul of sea glass, though.
Home alone for the afternoon, have been reclining on a sofa with a constant supply of tea and catching up on some reading. Counted seven books recently read and not yet the subject of a Muddy Island Book Review. Seem to be suffering from reviewer's block. Am hoping this will soon pass.

Wednesday 16 April 2008

A Handbook of Plant-Form by Ernest E. Clark

Auntie Clarice, Auntie Blanche and Auntie Elizabeth were my father’s three voluminous maiden aunts, who lived in the family home in Fenton – the ‘forgotten’ sixth town of Stoke-on-Trent, and the one Arnold Bennett famously left out of his novels. They kept house for their parents and subsequently for their unmarried brother, who ran the family tailoring business (of which more another day).

Auntie Elizabeth died before I was born, but Aunties Clarice and Blanche were still going strong in the early 1960s. They visited infrequently (they didn’t drive and only rarely made the journey down to Berkshire), but as the only little girl in the family at the time, I was doted on by them and showered with presents of books and toys. I wish I’d had a chance to know them better, but both died before I reached my teens, and I was always too scared of their large flowery dresses, thick brown stockings and strange hats to speak to them, apart from whispering the mandatory pleases and thank yous. They were spoken of as being ‘very artistic’, and there is certainly much evidence of their creative endeavours in the form of paintings and collages, embroidery and, most notably, wood-carving.

When the last-surviving brother (apart from my grandfather, who was the youngest in the family) passed away, the family house was cleared and the accumulated ‘effects’ of two generations of Holmeses painstakingly sorted out by my father and his brother over many months. A number of things eventually came my way: pretty items from the vast collection of locally manufactured Staffordshire ceramics; jewellery; and, perhaps best of all, a copy of A Handbook of Plant-Form by Ernest E. Clark.

Subtitled ‘For Students of Design, Art Schools, Teachers & Amateurs’, it comprised 'nearly 800 illustrations, Drawn and Described, and with an Introductory Chapter on Design and A Glossary of Botanical Terms by Ernest E. Clark, Art Master, Derby Technical College, National Silver Medallist in Ornament and Design'. It was published by Batsford in 1904 and the title page bears the quotation:

“In every object there is inexhaustible meaning; the eye sees in it what the eye brings means of seeing.”

I have Googled till my Googling-finger aches, but I all I have been able to find out about Ernest Ellis Clark (1869-1932) are a few references to this publication and some scanty biographical details.

He was born in Derby and studied at Derby School of Art, which he first attended as an evening industrial student in 1892, and where he was considered one of the most outstanding students.

He became a painter at the Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company, where he stayed until 1902. He left the china works to become a full-time crafts instructor at the School of Art in Green Lane, Derby. Between 1899 and 1904 he won seven medals in the National Competition for schools of art. He was a member of Derby Sketching Club, and seems to have specialised in painting Derby townscapes and people. From 1914-1918 he served as a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery and he died in Derby in 1932 aged 63.

I've unearthed one fuzzy reproduction of a Derby street scene, but have not managed to find any other images of his paintings.

So it looks as though pretty much all that remains of Mr Clark’s life’s work is this wonderful book. My copy was presented to Auntie Clarice as a school prize ‘for Flower Painting’, and clearly inspired many of her wood-carving designs (which I should have photographed when I was staying with my parents - I'll do so next time).

In his Preface, Clark sets out his very sensible teaching philosophy:

‘Objection may be taken to [‘this little work’] on the debatable ground of the wisdom of placing in the hands of Art students ready-made diagrams for reference and use in decorative studies. But this objection may be met by a consideration of the difficulties experienced by many young students in obtaining, at any given moment, the right plant, or the information concerning such plant, which is essential in order to make an original drawing. At the same time, it cannot be too frequently urged upon students that the only right way for them is to make their own studies direct from nature. Indeed, one object of this book would be defeated if it were made to take the place of a student’s own personal studies . . . I have refrained from supplementing the plant drawing with examples of their decorative application to given spaces, believing that, had I done so, a check might possibly have been put upon the student’s originality . . . .’

But oh what a treasure-house this is. Its Arts & Crafts approach appealed to me from the moment I first opened it and it has proved a fantastic resource over the years. I’ve referred to it for help with everything from Biology A-level to needlepoint designs for cushion covers and ideas for botanical drawings.

Some of the plates have been beautifully watercoloured by my aunt – which is a ‘defacement’ I find delightful (the very best kind of scribbling to discover in a book!).

I’ve scanned just a few pages for now, but will post some more soon if people are interested. And I need hardly add that if anyone knows anything more about Ernest Clark or his work, I’d be absolutely delighted to hear from you.

(Don't forget to click on the images to enlarge them.)

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Essential viewing for bibliophiles - Fry on Gutenberg

You won't often find me glued to the sofa, gazing intently at the telly on a Monday night, of all nights, but yesterday was different. I was there. I was firmly and willingly affixed. And what had caused this abrupt change in my habits was this:

Stephen Fry's hour-long exploration of the life and legacy of Johann Gutenberg. Beautifully, filmed and directed, this was an absolutely first-rate piece of television. Fry was at his most engaging (which is saying something - he was just adorably perfect for this programme) and clearly enthused and passionate about his subject - no mere frontman for another's script here.
Fry demonstrated how, through his invention of the printing press and moveable type and his subsequent creation of his famous Bible - 180 copies, 12 printed on vellum, and first displayed at the Frankfurt Trade Fair in 1454 - Gutenberg was the father of mass-production.

In the documentary, Fry travels round France and Germany on the trail of the ultimately rather tragic Gutenberg, learns how to make paper, and actually handles (albeit through cotton gloves) one of the original copies of the Bible (the thrill this gives him is palpable - we can almost feel the goosebumps he experiences). Back in the UK, he works with a team of craftsmen to found some type (he gets to make a letter 'e'), construct a replica of Gutenberg’s machine and then print a replica page of the Bible on authentic linen paper made by Fry (and including his own little 'e').

The lingering shots of the work in progress, the newly cast letter, the double wooden thread on the press, the hand-illuminated pages of one of the original Bibles were gorgeous and the editing was perfectly judged. It was a truly excellent piece of television - almost, as Fry described Gutenberg's Bible itself, 'more beautiful than it needed to be'.

So please, special please, if you didn't watch it, do try to catch it on the BBC iPlayer here. (It's available to view online for six more days, or you can download it for 30 days.)

Sunday 13 April 2008


Eeek! Where has the week gone? School resumes tomorrow, so maybe time will go back to flying along at its usual pace rather than in a series of unscheduled lurches.

It’s now over a week since my visit to Polesden Lacey – a Regency country house near Dorking, Surrey, with some delightful Edwardian interiors and lovely gardens.

Apart from an abundance of daffs, the garden was still pretty dormant – its herbaceous borders and rose gardens come into their own later in the year, of course.

I hadn’t visited for many a long year and only vaguely remembered some of the rooms, although I had not forgotten the sumptuous, glittering gold-and-red saloon – decorated in celebration of her legendary hostess status by the Hon Mrs Greville at the beginning of the twentieth century. A large portrait of the beauteous Mrs G dominates one wall. This was, I hardly need add, 6-year-old SH#3’s favouritest room in the house and we had to keep on going back so she could pirouette princess-like beneath the 4,000-crystal central chandelier. Less ostentatiously there’s a good collection of paintings from the 14th to the 19th centuries and an abundance of other lovely things to admire.

A very elderly gentleman played a small revolving selection of Chopin on the grand piano. The stables are given over to a caff which seemed up to the usual NT standards if the carrot and lentil soup was anything to go by.

I used to completely adore visiting old houses (‘stately homes’, as we used to call them) – indulging my senses and my imagination, absorbing the history, delighting in collections of art and porcelain, coveting libraries full of finely bound books. These days (with the notable exception of William Morris's Red House) the whole experience has recently brought on varying degrees of jaundice. I try to keep this under wraps, so as not to spoil anyone else’s pleasure. I even try quite hard to recover some of my old enthusiasm and get caught up in the romance of it all. But I just don’t seem to be able to do it. Not even by closing my eyes and taking great gulps of bees-wax-and-lily-scented NT air.

A growing distaste for the Gifte Shoppes culture is a part of the problem. A greater awareness of social history - and my own family history (definitely towards the peasant end of the spectrum) - does the rest, I think.

'Don't get me wrong', as we say here in Essex - I appreciate that the National Trust does some admirable work and yes I do believe in 'preserving' such places for the enjoyment of future generations, blah-di-blah-blah. But . . . oh, there's just something I can't quite muster in order to enjoy a perfectly nice, normal stroll round a nice, pretty house any more and think, 'well, that was nice', afterwards. Why do I find it all so disquieting all of a sudden? Maybe I just need to 'go large' with my NT shortbread and my NT cup of tea next time and that would do the trick.

Perhaps it's simply that my transformation into Grumpy Old Woman is teetering on the verge of completion.