Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tales to Take You to Christmas by Sarah Tipper - Short Story and {Giveaway} #ChristmasinJuly


The Pastry Plaster Plan For Patiently Pleasing Previously Perturbed People

And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over… The song playing on the TV reminded her that she had not done much this year. It had been, as she’d said to her friend Tina in the pub last night, crap with a crap topping and a side order of crap. She’d lost her Nan in February and struggled to feel cheerful since. Last night Tina had gently agreed that she hadn’t been quite herself lately. She decided she needed to tackle this and she had an idea how. Her Nan might be gone but her wisdom was still with her.

Nan had told her you should eat twelve mince pies over the Christmas period to guarantee twelve happy months in the coming year. Usually Nan would say this just after baking a big batch of mince pies and dusting them with icing sugar. They were magic when they were still warm from her Nan’s oven. The white snowy dusting on top of the lightly brown pies and the sweet spiced smell were instant Christmas.

She thought of the warm safe corner of her Nan’s kitchen. She’d sat on a tall chair and watched her Nan cook and as she got older she helped with more and more bits of each recipe until she could do every step.

She had thought her Nan’s version of the dozen mince pie ingestion advice to be definitive although as an adult she’d heard that other people’s Nans said you needed to eat a mince pie in twelve different houses. A friend from Spain had told her that at New Year they ate twelve grapes for luck. So twelve was important she concluded. She decided that she would eat twelve pies in twelve locations. Eating multiple pies in the same location still counted as one pie ingestion. There, that was the rules.

Ah, but was it? Next she considered whether mini mince pies counted? She decided they did. How about mince tarts, or those Ecclefechan ones that were currently popular? Is a tart equivalent to a pie? She decided it was. How about a slice from a pie or tart that was family sized? Again she decided this was allowable. The basic rule was that there should be pastry and mincemeat, the ratio of each wasn’t critical. Each pie eaten was a little tribute to the memory of her Nan and a little resolution to be happy.

She added mincemeat to her shopping list for the next day then flicked through the TV channels. Today was Sunday. She was making a new start on Monday. It was the day for it. Good. She’d decided and now she could have the rest of the day off. She came across a repeat of “Delia Smith’s Christmas” and settled down to watch. When this ended, “Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen” began. Nigella cooed her Christmas recipes. Delia tended to bark the important bits of hers. The two women were very different.

She felt more of an affinity with Nigella because she too had a feminised boy’s name. It was tricky being called Roberta. You could be Berta and unmistakably female but perceived as decades older than you actually were, or be Bobby and cause confusion and occasionally feel you ought to apologise for not being the possessor of a penis. Her Nan always called her Annie, using her middle name Ann. When she’d learnt to write she’d been pleased by how close Nan was to Ann. When she was naughty her Nan called her sweet Fanny Ann. Roberta decided she was more Nigella than Delia but she kept a store of Delia in reserve for when she needed it.

Monday was first pie day. She got her bun tins out as soon as she got home from work. She used her Nan’s big old Mason and Cash bowl and crimped pastry cutters, large for the base of the pies and medium for the lids. At nine o’clock she chose a good example of the fifteen candidates for the inaugural chomping. It was lovely. She’d remembered everything her Nan had taught her about pastry.

Pie day two was the very next day. It was customary in the office where Roberta worked to bring in treats if it was your birthday. Her colleague Sandra arrived that morning with a box of icing topped mince pies. Sandra had a very sweet tooth. She was a few years older than Roberta. She was bringing up three children on her own and always had wet wipes in her bag.

Roberta thanked Sandra for the pie and wished her a very happy birthday. It occurred to Roberta that she’d done the two easy pie eating locations. Most of her time was spent at home and at work. She felt like giving up. She wondered if she’d end up going weird, breaking into neighbours houses just to eat a pie in their house, leaving only crumbs and footprints. When she was caught people would opine that grief did weird things to people, and that she was never the same after she lost her Nan.

At lunchtime Roberta went to the supermarket.

“Would you like to try our freshly baked mince pies?” A uniformed figure proffered a silver tray of bite sized pie pieces.

Roberta took one with thanks. Three down, nine to go. She could do this.

Pie four was eaten at Tina’s house. She took some of her homemade examples round.

“These are good, I can’t do pastry”. Tina said.

Roberta wondered if she should tell Tina about her pie plan. She didn’t usually keep anything from her but would it sound silly?

“I’ve got a scheme to cheer myself up”.

“That sounds good. Can I help and does it involve Lambrini?”

“You can if you like but it doesn’t involve Lambrini”.

“Shame”.

“I’m going to eat a mince pie in twelve different places, to guarantee twelve happy months for the coming year”.

“In the spirit of friendship I could help by eating some pies. It sounds like a good therapy. Have you given it a name? Mince your way to happiness perhaps?”

“I don’t think I’ll call it that. I’m not sure it needs a name”.

“The mince menu for mending broken hearts?”

“That’s better”.

“The pastry plaster plan for patiently pleasing previously perturbed people”.

“Bit of a mouthful”.

Pie five was eaten in the cinema with Tina. Tina had pointed out that they hadn’t been to the cinema for ages. They went to see “The Wrestler”. It was an epic tale of highs and lows. “I’d let him nibble my pie” Tina giggled, pointing at a topless Mickey Rourke. Pie six was eaten on the bus, again with Tina. These were the last of Roberta’s homemade mince pies.

Pie seven was a fancy one. It had a star shaped lid, so five little triangles of mincemeat were showing. It also had a big dollop of cream on the side. It was in the café in the middle of Roberta’s local shopping centre. Roberta had gone out that morning with a Christmas shopping list. Queues and the non-existence of items she’d circled in catalogues had meant that she was still there at lunch time. Her stomach growled. She never usually ate in the café, but decided she would sit down with her list and think of substitutes for her missing items.

She was digging in her bag for a pen when she heard a “Hello”. It was Pam, who lived next door to her Nan, except her Nan didn’t live there now, Roberta corrected herself. “Hello Bobbie. How are you keeping?”

She hadn’t seen Pam since her Nan’s funeral. Suddenly that dark day came into sharp focus.

“I’m okay, still missing Nan”.

“I’m not surprised. She doted on you. It’s only natural you’re going to miss her. I miss her. She was such a smashing neighbour. If I had a problem she’d drop what she was doing and be in like a shot. We never had a cross word in the thirty years we were neighbours, and that’s rare, especially these days. Rarer than rocking horse poo if you’ll pardon my French”.

“How are you?”

“Can’t complain, still got my back, and my legs have slowed down but they do, don’t they?”

Roberta agreed that they did.

“Do you want to sit down?” Roberta asked.

“No thanks Love, I’m off home before it becomes chaos round here. I just spotted you and wanted to wish you a merry Christmas. Give my best to your Mum too”.

“Will do, merry Christmas to you too”.

Pam made a slow exit due to her legs. Roberta resumed her pen search. She sucked some cola through a straw. She smiled at a memory of helping her Nan water Pam’s garden when Pam was on holiday.

The next two days were bereft of pies but full of writing Christmas cards. Roberta added Pam to her Christmas card list. There was one week until Christmas day and five pies needed to be scheduled over the festive period. She left the office at lunchtime to buy pies and gift wrap. She quickly chose shiny gold wrap and blue wrap decorated with penguins in knitwear then she spent three minutes staring at Mr Kipling’s Viennese Winter Whirls. Did these share enough ingredients in common with a mince pie to be counted? They were placed by the mince pies and had mincemeat in the middle but maybe they were a kind of biscuit? She overheard a couple discussing the merits of the mince puffs so eventually selected these instead. She had to walk through a little park to get back to the office. She spotted an empty wooden bench that in the past she’d only ever rushed past or used to put her foot upon to tie a shoelace. It was a warm day. She sat on the bench and munched a mince puff. She congratulated herself on being two thirds of the way through her pie journey.

It might seem daft, she thought, but she did actually feel a bit more cheerful. She still thought about her Nan a lot but now she seemed to be remembering pleasant bits, not the sad weeks leading up to her death. She’d had a Christmas card from Pam that morning and the realisation that Christmas was almost here had filled her with a tingle of anticipation.

She thought about where to eat the final tetralogy of pies. An easy one would be at Mum’s on Christmas day. There were always mince pies in the office on the last day of work before they broke up for Christmas but that was no good because she’d already had one in the office. She and Tina were going to the pub tomorrow but that wasn’t a usual mince pie eating location. Where do I spend a lot of time? Where would I like to spend time? Which potential pie eating occasions will I attend? Maybe spontaneity was the thing Roberta thought. She would grab her fruity chances wherever she found them.

“Mince pie chaser?” Tina asked.

They’d just sat down at their usual table in the pub. Tina produced a plastic box from her handbag. It had the cutest little pies Roberta had ever seen.

“Real butter gourmet mince pies, dusted with fair trade sugar, popped into their little silver cases by unicorns. Only the best for my best friend”. Tina said, placing one next to Roberta’s vodka and coke.

Pie ten was eaten four hours later, while looking into the window of a toyshop, on their walk to the taxi queue. Roberta remembered the Christmas when her Nan had knitted clothes for her Sindy doll.

The penultimate pie was an impulse pie. It was eaten in the company of Sandra from work, after Roberta had helped her do all her gift wrapping. Sandra had been bemoaning the amount of tasks she had to do to be ready for Christmas. Roberta had offered to pop round for a few hours and help when the kids were in bed. A very grateful Sandra had accepted with thanks. It was a lovely point at which Sandra and Roberta moved from being colleagues to friends.

Pie twelve, the final pie, the peak of the dozen pie challenge was, as planned, at Mum’s on Christmas Day.

“Your Nan used to say you should eat twelve pies over Christmas for twelve happy months to come”.

“Yeah, I remember. I might even do thirteen to make really sure next year is good”.

Roberta would greet the New Year full of optimism and mincemeat.

About the book
These twenty four short stories are ideal for advent reading. They are short enough for your commute into work in December and ideal for encouraging a festive mood to descend upon busy shoulders.

The titles of the stories and brief descriptions are as follows:

Keep It All The Year - The love of George leads to a lifelong love of Christmas.

Lost In A Forest - Kathleen needs to come up with a name for her and Don’s new house.

The End Of The Life Of Brian – Rats and romance combine in this tale.

The Pastry Plaster Plan For Patiently Pleasing Previously Perturbed People - Mince pie munching helps Roberta to cheer up in time for Christmas.

Deck The Halls – Communal living works out for the best, despite Jemima’s fears.

I Got Your Mum Alan Titchmarsh – Unlimited text messages between husband and wife help with Christmas plans.

Shirley’s Cold Cutz – Mrs C spends a pleasant few hours gossiping at the hairdressers.

Fat - Her Christmas – Mary learns to listen to the positive people and become one of them.

YulaTron 3000 – This robot promises to be your festive metal pal that does the job so well.

Teenage Cleans Are Hard To Beat – Melinda’s Christmas is made when she meets Simon in a launderette.

Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White – Karen is surprised to find that Santa was in her year at school.

The Bell – Donna feels grateful for being in the here and now in nineteen-eighty-three.

Bring Me Sunshine – Nancy hopes her daughter Lisa’s news will be met with understanding by the rest of the family.

Follow That Star Tonight – Lothario Terry strums his guitar to great effect and Jan is smitten.

Secret Santa – Lily finds the perfect gift for Edna after a prickly conversation.

The Freegle Has Landed – Peter’s big garage bill means Melanie has to budget very wisely for Christmas shopping.

Redemption – Ella has got into a pickle and isn’t looking forward to Christmas at all.

You’ve Got to Have Christmas Dinner For Christmas Dinner – Six people, six opinions on the yummiest thing to eat on the twenty-fifth of December.

Late Night Thursday – Maureen watches regular customers as they shop before Christmas nineteen-eighty-eight.

The Harvest Mouse Party – Christine suspects that mice inhabit the hedgerow she walks past every day on her way to school.

Monologue – Liz reflects on life and love while preparing to write her Christmas cards.

I Bet You Have A Great Christmas 1995 – Charlene is happiest when playing guessing games.

Pullit-on-Three – Christmas cracker jokes are created in the charming town of Pullit-on-Three.

If I Had a Magic Wand in December… - Some thoughts on how the festive season should be.


About the author
Sarah Tipper was born in Oxford, England in the 1970s and was very nearly called Robert. She enjoyed school, especially any classes that involved writing and that did not involve wearing shorts. 

Sarah studied Psychology at the University of Reading. She missed her graduation ceremony because it clashed with seeing Black Sabbath. She went on to graduate with a masters degree in Health Psychology from Coventry University. Luckily this didn’t clash with anything and her Mum got a nice day out.

Sarah’s religion is heavy metal, she has written five books about a fictional metal band called Eviscerated Panda and three books that follow teenage metalhead Cleo Howard through the difficult days of growing up in the late nineteen-nineties. Sarah has also written a book of twenty-four short Christmas stories that can be used as a readable advent calendar.

During the day Sarah does cancer research, squirting things at other things in a science type way. She started writing her first novel because a friend kept telling her to write a book and because another friend had inspired her to write a ‘things to do before you’re forty list’ and write a book made it on to this list. Sarah can’t stop writing now.

The idea of the Eviscerated Panda series of books was conceived after twenty-four years of experience of going to gigs and drinking in rock pubs. It was hugely enjoyable to write and Sarah hopes to create heavymetalworld, much like Terry Pratchett created Discworld. The Cleo Howard diaries spun off out of the Eviscerated Panda series and gave Sarah the opportunity to regress to moody teenagerhood (and it’s much more fun in your forties).

Sarah’s Christmas book Tales to Take You to Christmas began as a small number of tales that grew into a whole book because Christmas is a very fun thing to write about. Sarah thinks of her twenty-four stories as little snow dusted windows into other peoples’ festivities.

Sarah’s favourite seasons are spring and fall. Her favourite cookie is the chocolate shortcake ring. Sarah’s favourite font is blood cyrillic, even though it’s really hard to read. Sarah finds writing about herself in the third person odd. It makes her worry she might get a big ego like that Kanye West fella.

Sarah’s Amazon.co.uk author page is http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarah-Tipper/e/B00A8Z5OVC

If you would rather buy from a smaller company, you can buy from here:

http://www.fast-print.net/bookshop

Sarah can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EvisceratedPanda/

You can follow Sarah on Twitter at https://twitter.com/evisceratedpand

GIVEAWAY
Enter to win a print copy of Tales to Take You to Christmas by leaving a comment below answering the question: What is your favorite thing about Christmas? Please be sure to leave your email address so I can contact the winner. This giveaway is open internationally thanks to a very generous author. Last day to enter...Sunday, July 31 at 11:59pm CDT. Good luck!

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Always in spirit...

1 comment:

  1. I love being with family over Christmas. There is something so magical about bring home the tree, decorating it with Christmas music playing in the background and then switching on the lights, infusing the room with sparkle.

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