Monthly Archives: May 2013

In Praise of Jammie Dodgers

The other day, one of the ladies in my office said that her father had told her that he had invented the nozzle that filled the Jammie Dodger with jam.  She said that she didn’t know whether it was true or not, but that’s what he had told her.  That statement started a whole conversation about these little biscuits – two of us (anoraks) immediately started doing internet searches to see what we could find.

Jammie Dodgers are made by Burtons and have been around for fifty years, although they were re-launched earlier this year with new flavours – Banana and Toffee & Jam and Custard, as well as the original.  They also started to make chocolate dodgers.  It all seems to me to miss the point of Jammie Dodgers to me.  They are meant to be filled with jam, in my opinion.  Tell me now, as a child, who didn’t remove the top half of the original so they could just lick off the raspberry jam from the bottom?  The biscuit is shortcake, so they really are good enough to eat separately.  It was a favourite pastime of mine as a kid.

Anyway, I found, doing my research for this blog, that Jammie Dodgers have something of a cult following – apart from having their own website, they feature heavily on a number of other websites, including one relating to Doctor Who.  I’m a Doctor Who fan, but I didn’t realise that the 11th Doctor Who (Matt Smith) fooled the Daleks into thinking a Jammie Dodger was the self-destruct button for the Tardis.

There are numerous other Jammie Dodger references on websites relating to the Matt Smith Doctor Who, including one where the Doctor apparently ate a whole tin of them without the lid being removed.  And the different sites with recipes for Jammie Dodgers are almost too many to count.  You could try out a different recipe every day for a month, probably.

But I still couldn’t find the name of the inventor of the filling nozzle.



©Susan Shirley 2013


“I could give up chocolate but I’m not a quitter.”

I was looking for birthday cards this week and the title above was all that was written on one of them.  It got me thinking.  About chocolate, not quitting.

As a small child, the only chocolate I knew about was Cadbury’s.  My Dad was a Whole Nut fan, while Mum loved Fruit and Nut.  They both contained nuts, so I was happy – I loved the contrast of flavours as hard nut mixed with the smoothness of the chocolate.  If we children were very good, we might be given a couple of cubes, but bars of chocolate stayed in the house for a week, at least, rather than being consumed in one go. (I am sure that there is a law against that somewhere!)   We did have Nestle︠ Milky Bar (“The Milky Bars are on me”) too, but it was called “Nestles” in those days.  It couldn’t appear too foreign.

As I grew older, I became aware of Galaxy… Oh, of course, I tried it, and I quite liked it, as it melted on my tongue, filling my mouth with a chocolaty smoothness I had never before encountered, but I kept going back to Cadbury’s.  Only milk chocolate, mind you, but not that bitter tasting dark stuff that people dared to give my Mum as a present – Black Magic and such like.  And those nasty liqueur chocolates!  Why give those as presents?  I didn’t like them!

And then I heard someone mention Belgian chocolate.

“What’s that then?” I asked.

“It’s gorgeous.  Haven’t you ever had it?”

“Er, no.”

Suddenly I felt deprived. There was a whole world of chocolate out there about which I knew nothing.

I think that is when the search began.  Before the Internet, the only way to get information was to go to the library or physically seek out purveyors of chocolate.  But where to start?  I’m good at talking to people so that was where my search began – it’s easy to get people to talk about chocolate.

I learned about those fresh, ripe strawberries dipped in chocolate, preferably accompanied by very chilled champagne.  Mmmm.  The smoothness of the chocolate and the bubbles of the champagne mingled to cause a fizzy smoothness on my tongue.  I discovered Thorntons and its long history of chocolate making.  It took quite a while to work my way through all of its range.  Now, years later, I don’t remember the names of some of those fine chocolatiers, but I do remember the ecstasy of trying different makes and types: cherries dipped in chocolate, with only the stalk naked, chocolate covered almonds… I was even given a recipe for Chocolate Chicken (now that, you have to try!!!).  I learned that the seed of the cacao tree has to be fermented in order for its flavour to develop and then dried and roasted in order for it to develop into the brown magic that I love.

As time went by, my palate evolved and I developed a taste for dark chocolate… I discovered the joys of Green and Blacks Organic Chocolate (the range of flavours is indecent).  Later came Hotel Chocolat and its divine range of soft, smooth truffles; sweet, soft caramels, nutty pralines, and yes, even liqueur chocolates.  And of course, Thorntons.  Who knew that they’ve been in business for over a hundred years?  I did try Belgian chocolate too, reputed to be the best chocolate in the world, but, aside from the pralines, I’ll be honest, I can take it or leave it.  It seems sweeter than good old fashioned English chocolate to me, more cloying clinging to my teeth like cat climbing curtains.  But I’m prepared to keep trying.  Oh no, I am definitely not a quitter.

Love and Light


©Susan Shirley 2013

Pen and Paper vs Technology

I am a technophile.  I have a notebook and two netbooks, a tablet and a couple of Smartphones.  I use apps to make my life easier, so I can record notes and memos.  I save my files to a cloud based solution, as well as a portable hard drive, so I don’t need to worry about losing my memory stick or my computer.  I have ‘phone reminders for virtually everything.  And yet, I still always carry and pen and notebook with me.  Why?

Well, for one thing, a pen and paper doesn’t freeze or crash (yes, the pen can run out of ink, but I usually have more than one.  And a pencil.)  It’s lighter to carry and I can buy notebooks in a variety of different sizes, depending on the size of the handbag I’m using.  I don’t have to worry about logging back in if I’ve closed the cover on it.  The battery doesn’t run out.

And yet, it is far quicker for me to type on a computer than it is to write longhand (especially as I touch type, and am quite fast).  Editing is easier on a computer – those paper pages can get very messy with the repeated crossings out.  And, actually, reading back what’s been written is easier on a computer – my handwriting isn’t neat at the best of times, and when I’m on a train, it’s very hard to make it look beautiful.  Anyway, I’m not trying to write in copper-plate when I just want to get ideas down on paper.

I will confess, though, I’ve never got the hang of voice notes.  I don’t like the idea of being out in public and saying “Jennifer” out loud to get someone’s telephone number, and I like the idea of recording my thoughts out loud even less.  I’m not quite sure why.

So pen and paper or technology?  It’s like the difference between wearing a skirt or trousers.  Wearing red lipstick or pink.  Eating chicken or fish.  All perfectly reasonable choices, at different times.  So, for me, there is no contest.  None at all.  They both have their place with me.

©Susan Shirley 2013


Chasing the Heron

After last week’s fiasco with the heron (more correctly, my failure to photograph the bird when it was close to me) I decided to take my camera into work and see if I could get my own photograph of him.  Friday was such a beautiful day, it was ideal for a stroll around the park.

We walked around to where I’d seen the heron previously.  He was there, but soon flew into the lake to pick up a fish.  Which he did successfully.  I’ve never seen a heron eat a fish before.  Clearly his mother didn’t teach him to chew his food.  Anyway, I waited for about ten minutes and got a few snaps of him, but really struggled with sun on the viewfinder.  When I got back to the office, I found I’d taken some interesting good photographs…  Not what I’d hoped for but interesting nonetheless, and if I hadn’t been so fixated on the heron, I’d probably be blogging about them.


©Susan Shirley 2013

To Photograph or Not to Photograph

I was walking around St James’ Park the other day with a friend.  We do this walk sometimes, to get some exercise, and it gives us a chance to catch up with what’s going on in the other’s life, although this was actually the first time we’d been able to meet up for a couple of months.

As we were walking, my friend said to me,

“Is that a heron?”

I turned and looked, and it was.  I even said to him,

“I really should take a photograph.”

But I didn’t.  Why not?  My photographer friends will kill me when they read this.

As non-fiction writers, conventional magazines (and some e-zines) often ask us to provide photographs to go with our articles; and, of course, it is much less expensive to take your own photographs than to (a) pay someone else, or (b) buy them from somewhere.   (It’s also cheaper to get them developed yourself, rather than have to take copies of photographs people have lent you, as I know to my cost.  You can’t always be sure that you will get them back from magazines so it’s best to have copies you can return to whoever was kind enough to lend the photographs to you.)  It’s also quicker to take your own photographs than have to ask someone else to send you theirs.

So why didn’t I take the photograph?  I didn’t have my camera with me, but I do have a reasonable camera on my Smartphone, so I could have used that.  I wasn’t specifically thinking of writing an article or a blog about the park when I saw the heron, it’s true, but the fact that he is featuring in this blog proves a point:  if you see something of interest, take a photograph.

My writing course features a whole module about taking photographs and which type of camera to use.  And since studying that, I really have tried to improve.

One of my work colleagues has even made me a crib card with the centre cut-out (to resemble the viewfinder on a camera) giving me prompts as to what to consider when taking a photograph: foreground interest, leading lines, rule of three, diagonal lines.  I can’t remember the others.  I’ve even downloaded a book on my e-reader to help me improve my photography.  (I’ve actually downloaded about a year’s worth of books, and keep downloading more, so it’s no great surprise that I haven’t read that one yet.)  So am actually keen to try to develop this skill.

I regret not taking the photograph of the heron.  I suppose am just not confident with a camera yet.  I will keep on trying and someday soon, you’ll see photographs included in my blogs.  And I’m going back to the park to see if I can see that heron again…

Love and Light xx

Post Script

Another colleague took this photograph for me, but it’s not as close as when I saw him…Image

©Susan Shirley 2013