Unthology 5 – a book of shorts

Short stories hardly seem to get a look in. I’m such a fan though and love to read them before bed, in a half hour tea slot or even while waiting for a bus (or 2). And, besides, they’re really difficult to craft. I had a go once with a brilliant writing teacher but ended up throwing all my toys out of the pram when I realised just how tricky they are.

unthology 5

The good news – for short story lovers – is that they are having a little resurgence. And, if you’re a fan of the form, you’d love Unthology 5. The most recent collection to be published by Unthank Books, this immersive and inspiring anthology from new and established writers has been edited (once again) by Ashley Stokes and Robin Jones.

Dealing with outcasts, thoughts you shouldn’t dare to think and some pretty strange secrets, these stories are quite brilliant. Probably my favourites were A Little More Prayer by Angela Readman and 79 Green Gables by John D Rutter but, until I was sent a review copy, I had never even heard of this Unthology series … so my plan is to now read all the previous collections.

If you too were completely unaware of the Unthology series, you might want to LIKE my Life of Yablon Facebook page before the end of the month. 5 of you will be chosen (at random) to win the copies I have sitting on my desk.

Meanwhile, do let me know if you’ve ever managed to pen a short?

 

 

 

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The Pig in the Wall, Hampshire

the wall + 5 little piggies

the wall + 5 little piggies

Some of my true besties live outside of the big smoke. Trading space, greenery and less pollution, they really do live the Good Life with chocolate box dogs, AGAs and no danger of not being able to park outside their front doors. One such bumpkin was my first ever friend at boarding school. Her bed was next to mine in our first dorm and then she followed me to Manchester and, some years later, I was given the real badge of honour as godmum to her middle Small.

my god-Small spinning on her swing

my god-Small spinning on her swing

A repeat invite has been sent by carrier pigeon asking my gang to visit their new-ish home in Hampshire. In my defence, Saturday ballet and football etc always seem to ruin the best laid weekend plans. But her tactics were devious on this occasion… cc-ing Him… who she knew would jump at the chance to (temporarily) escape London.

The Pig in the Wall

Of course there was no doubt that she could more than feed us piggies but when I was coincidentally invited to review The Pig in the Wall in Southampton, I decided we would make it a sharing Friday treat.

The Pig in the Wall

This little sister restaurant and 12-bedroom hotel to The (bigger) Pig in Brockenhurst, is a Georgian townhouse is quite literally inserted into the city’s medieval walls. Designed by Judy Hutson, wife of Robin Hutson of Hotel Du Vin and Lime Wood fame, I’d say this perfectly informal and intimate eatery is less shabby than chic. Plus it’s super efficient (always a bonus with kids) and we all loved eating in a country-style kitchen-y living room. We grazed (or pigged-out) on sausage rolls, cheese boards, pumpkin soup, bruschetta and, of course, a few of those real porky ones.

The Pig in the Wall

… with homemade chutney

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There were games for the kids to get stuck into and, after sharing a selection of delicious desserts, we snuck off to check out the bedrooms. The snug, located at the top of the house, would be my first choice. It’s SO snug bedded into the eaves and would make a properly romantic getaway.

The Pig in the Wall

And then the rest of the weekend was mostly spent zip-wiring, tractoring, walking in wellies and wishing we escaped London more often.

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The Pig in the Wall doesn’t serve dinner but they do offer a complimentary Land Rover 20 mins transfer to The Pig.

 

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Where’s the middle in age?

Excuse me, I’m having a moment. A ‘where am I going? ‘what’s next?’ ‘how old is middle-aged?’ type of moment. Yesterday I blew out the candles, Lady Y’s perfectly chocolate birthday cake has already been polished off and I’m that inevitable year older (than 42). So here I am left having some sort of moment.

On a morbid mission, I found myself turning to Google, questioning: life expectancy for women in the UK and the search engine (which practically sang happy birthday to me yesterday…) today spat out some awful age younger than my very sprightly parents. Wikipedia was no better, informing me that ‘middle aged is the period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age.’ Now, no one can honestly persuade me that I’m still in young adulthood. Surely that time passes when your tiny toddlers don’t sleep and, to be honest, anyone who partied their way through ‘young adulthood’ will know that that morning after feeling properly signifies when this period of your life is well and truly over.

As I dug further, I found that various attempts have been made to define middle age for all those having a moment. Is this because we are all desperate to fight its onslaught? Or would all those 60 year olds KILL to be middle aged again?

One particular source advised that we should divide our predicted life span into thirds. But I’m not sure that this is the answer. From what I can remember, the first third was spent wanting to grow up. The second I spent clearly oblivious that I had indeed grown up. And the third… oh dear… is absolutely why I am now having this moment…

This article first appeared in my Mum About Town column in The Lady Magazine.

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Bobo Social on Charlotte Street

Bobo Social, Charlotte Street

It seems we just can’t get enough of these new-age high-end burgers. The latest opened up on the advertising foodie trail (aka Charlotte Street) a couple of months ago and after Grace (Dent) and Fay (Maschler) had both given it such an over-sized thumbs up, I sniffed along (with some burger buddies) to try my bite…

Bobo Social, Charlotte Street

Boho Social is the first solo project from Mike Benson and Jacinta Maddison. Benson comes from a Sticky Fingers and Supperclub background while Maddison is post advertising/marketing career.   They’re friends but not ‘together’ – I was nosey enough to enquire.

Mike Benson, founder, Bobo Social

Mike Benson, founder, Bobo Social

And ‘tis true the burgers are really good, but (big warning here – I’m now officially OLD at 43), so I did find the restaurant a smidgen noisy and most definitely ‘young’. So I wouldn’t necessarily rush back there on a Saturday night (unless of course I didn’t  want to talk to my fellow diners).

Jacinta Maddison - the other founder… talking to the chefs at Bobo Social

Jacinta Maddison – the other founder… talking to the chefs at Bobo Social

Here is my interview with duo behind the joint:

How long has Bobo Social been cooking?  Mike and I have been discussing various ideas for about 2 years and settled on the concept of Bobo Social about 18 months ago when we decided Charlotte Street would be the perfect location for us.

Isn’t a burger always going to be viewed as fast food?  Part of the reason we set up Bobo Social was to expel this old way of thinking about the burger. So many incredible restaurants feature a burger somewhere on their menu now, and what we are doing here is to really go all out on making the burger part of an enjoyable and relaxing 3 course meal!

Boho Social burgers

What has surprised you about running your new business?  The amount of hard work you are able to put into something that you are passionate about and how little sleep you can survive on!

Where do you (both) love to eat?  I really love Dim Sum and Sushi, so I love places like Ping Pong and Tsunami. Mike loves a good steak, so Gaucho and Hawksmoor are winners there!

one of my burger buddies

one of my burger buddies

Describe the London restaurant scene. Vibrant, forward-thinking, rule-breaking and constantly changing.

Why are your burgers better than others? Our indoor charcoal oven really adds a huge amount to why our burgers taste the way they do, plus our rare-breed beef and fresh, local ingredients are key.

Are you more shabby or more chic?  I think it’s a real mixture, which is why it works. We don’t want any pretentious here but we also love the finer things in life, so it’s getting the balance of that.

How do you unwind after a hot kitchen? A nice glass of red usually helps!

What can we expect next from you (as a team)?  We hope to open a few more Bobo Social’s in the next few years, so keep your eyes peeled!

Bobo Social

So there you have it… oh and if anyone else (like me) wasn’t sure, bobo means bourgeois bohemian – making these burgers specifically designed for the free-spirited posh… who also like it loud.

Bobo Social 95 Charlotte Street, London, W1

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