Monthly Archives: June 2011

Beware the wooden fork

Lemon cheesecakePhil: So there we are in the Yumm Cafe at the Custard Factory, Birmingham about to talk book and other things, and I make a decision. Left with the responsibility of collecting the eating irons, I decided that one of the wooden forks would be a good idea. I like this kind of earthy natural stuff and for a moment and on the face of it, this was the more eco-friendly option (we’ll return to this in a moment) and I like to be a bit green when I can – public transport, reusing, recycling, that sort of thing.

What a mistake !

I dug into my lemon cheesecake and the first thought in my head was “This fork is rough.” A second later “Wow this is really lemony” replaced it, but too late. My first impressions were formed not by the fruit of the bakers art, but by the texture of the fork-stampers efforts. The fork didn’t affect the taste but as I manfully worked my way through the delicious confectionary, I looked in slight envy at Candice’s proper metal utensil.

You’re probably thinking I’m some kind of idiot for not ditching the dead tree flesh as soon as I found it less than satisfactory, but then it would have been a waste. That fork has been made out of wood from a tree that took at least ten years to grow. It would have been cut down, sawn up, the thin wooden planks stamped out in the manner of a cookie cutter (technically it’s called die-cutting but if you are reading a blog where we rattle on about cake, you’re probably more familiar with the biscuit/cookie cutter) soaked or steamed then stamped again to get the business end to a bowl shape. Next it’s packed with thousands of identical fork brothers and sisters, shipped in a container half way around the world, loaded into a lorry, then a van and finally dropped off at the cafe. Someone then releases it from the plastic bag that has hitherto been it’s home and put it into a stainless steel pot.

Finally I come along, take one bite of my cake with it and go “Oh, this fork is rough. I will discard it for the metal version I should have chosen in the first place.”. The fork will sit on the side of my plate, be taken into the kitchen and thrown in the bin, because it’s made of wood and can’t be cleaned.

Which all seems a bit unfair. Years of growing, all that effort. The very least I can do is let it have its day in the sun and finish my cheesecake. At least as it heads off in a dustcart, it can think “I did my duty and lived as full a life as a fork can expect.”

But it still gets thrown away. I mean, on the face of it the wooden utensil is the “green” option but when you think about it, it’s not really.

What’s this got to do with writing a book ? Not much but at least you know how to avoid cheesecake disappointment and because of this, I’m sure your time reading this hasn’t been wasted.

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Finding £150,000

Kate was really excited, Gareth was getting the general gist of her idea. Now the money….

 However, I’ve got all these ideas but I need some funding. I’ve worked out I need around £20,000 to get this off the ground.”  She left that comment hanging to see if Gareth could work out what she meant.

Phil: This was the text from the book earlier tMillionaire shortbread on wheels. Yes really. It looks a bit like a car doesn't it ?his year. It prompted this comment from Steve –

“£20,000 seems too little money to start a business with staff, office space and that gets paid at least 6 months in arrears. It seems to me that £80,000 is still probably not enough money. ”

He’s right. £20k is the sort of figure that is way too low for kicking of a business like the one we have in mind for Kate. It’s a bit like watching the James Bond film “Thunderball” today and laughing because the price set for a couple of nuclear missiles by SPECTRE is only £100 million. That’s well under a billion quid to save the world. Try that nowadays and the governments are likely to laugh at you too which isn’t good for the supervillan ego. Mind you, there are plenty of bits of the UK the current government would let you turn into a smoking crater for less…

Anyway, neither of us can work out where the £20k figure comes from. It probably just went in as a number with the intention of looking at it again later. Then we got distracted and never thought about it. To be fair, there are plenty of other things to do !

This is why we needed test readers. They look at the book with fresh eyes and then tell us the truth. Sometimes the comments are big (see the last post) sometimes they are details. At least the later are easy to fix. With a bit of tweaking, we now have:

However, I’ve got all these ideas but I need some funding. I’ve worked out I need around £150,000 to get this off the ground.”  She left that comment hanging to see if Gareth could work out what she meant.

£150,000 ?! I hear you cry. Where did you get that figure from ? Is it Candice’s annual handbag budget ? Or the amount it will cost you to get that old VeeDub through its next MOT ?

Well, there is a method in my madness. Steve might think £80k will do it but I know Steve and reckon Kate has much more expensive tastes. Her firm is based in Solihull which while it doesn’t need London rents for office space, will swallow more than a pokey room over a chippie in West Bromwich. There will be nice desks and other furniture to buy too. After all, you can’t impress clients if everyone is sitting behind things that have been rescued from a skip, and Kate doesn’t do rescuing things from skips. Not even skips in posh areas.

My thought process ran along the lines that Gareth was going to find the funds, if he didn’t the story stops there. The problem is that while he is wealthy, he isn’t (here comes the cake reference…) as rich as a big piece of millionaires shortbread so he couldn’t just dig around the back of the sofa for enough loose change. The only way he could stump up would be to make an economy. But what can you do to save £150k ? Simple, don’t buy a car. If you don’t buy the correct car, the money magically appears.

Maybe it was this thought or just the lunchtime Dutch courage but a trip to the loo suddenly like a good idea. That little voice in his head was saying he needed to keep her on her toes. Standing over the urinal he did his serious thinking – for a moment he thought of the Aston Martin brochure on his desk picked up a few days ago. He had promised himself something better than the Jag for a while, but maybe that could wait. Was the idea of spending more time with Kate, too good an opportunity to miss ? Obviously Olivia wouldn’t be getting a new car either but then the state she managed to get them into with he collection of old string, farming implements and mud, well it wasn’t any hardship. She didn’t care about those sort of things anyway.

Simple really. Gareth keeps the Jag and we get to carry on with the story. All of which brings me back to Bond. You see, in the books, he didn’t have an Aston Martin either !

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