Thursday 24 November 2011

Ethical marketing?

    If you are like me, and everyone else in the world with an internet connection, then you must get daily emails asking you to buy things that you don’t want? It’s called marketing.
    I have to admit, in these days of everything online, I am prone to use the internet as a marketing tool too. Social networking very often isn’t social anymore, when your so-called friends are constantly trying to sell you their wares. It is unethical and, in some cases smacks of desperation. We all know that, but still we cannot resist from time to time,
    But here is another method that I utilise; that of junk mail reply.
    I remember reading an article a few years ago, advising people how to deal with junk mail through your letter box. It advised us to pick up all the mail, stick it in the pre-paid envelope that arrives with it, and post it back from whence it came. Because a pre-paid envelope is only paid for when it is used! So by sending the mail back, the culprit who sent it to you, ends up paying twice for postage. Simply genius!
    I have now adopted the same approach to junk emails, becuase I too have a product to sell; that of a series of children’s books, along with my profile and brand as an author. 
    My mission is simple: the more people see my name, the more I will be remembered! And eventually, some of it might stick. I want people to say: ‘Who is this guy, Andy Frazier? He crops up all over the place!’
    So, starting this month, I pick up all the emails from my junk bin and open them; being sure to virus-check them first. If there is a reply address, I add it to my marketing mailing list and if not, I visit the website of whatever product they are trying to sell me, and get an address from that. Then, each week, I mail out my latest book flier to the whole list with the words emblazoned in the subject line:

Do you think it will catch on? Or will my name be confined to the realms of the junk bin for all eternity? Even if I become famous for being a junk-mail outlaw, at least someone will have heard of me, surely!

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Tomorrow is another day.

    Up early again, to get some more writing done, this time before 5am. The mornings are my best time, when my mind is still fresh, before the trials and rigours of an ordinary life tread all over it like pair of jack-boots.
    But are all mornings writing mornings, or do I just try to cultivate them that way? I am up, I made the effort, so stick some words into the document in the name of completion and subsequent stardom.
    This morning was too early, 3am in fact, so I read for a while before getting up. Then it’s a quick look at twitter, facebook, last night’s emails. These days I get more email at night than during the day. I blame the Americans for that.
    OK, settle in, read what I wrote yesterday, refresh the story. As I try to pick up where I left off, I spot typos, re-editing required. Another half-hour gone.
    My switching on the kettle has woken the better half, and she pads dreamily into the kitchen, via the bathroom, rubbing her sleepy eyes and reaching for a tea-bag. I try to ignore her, I need my peace, that’s why I got up so early. She takes her cup back to bed, thankfully without conversation.
    The kettle smells of chloride, so I de-scale it using Coco-cola. It’s nearly 6am. Then I yawn and rub my own eyes.
   OK, to write, come on brain, let's get imaginative. This is a children’s story, about a piglet. It has to be fun; funny even. I remember once reading a biography of the comedian, Eric Morcombe, and him saying that people used to sidle up to talk to him, and expect him to be funny. And he wasn’t, only when he had a script to work from.
   You see, writing isn’t scripted, well mine isn’t anyway. I think up a story, with a rough idea of how many words it will be, create some characters, wind them up and let them loose. Invariably, they start running, building, climbing and laughing, all of their own accord. I just fuel them, every morning, fresh from a night filled with un-contaminated dreams, and off they head, blindly towards the end of the book. The end. Polite applause.
    Except, do they always tread the right path? Or, just possibly, some mornings, maybe the brain isn’t really there at the races. On those days, maybe the plot should just stay in bed instead of bumbling on through the undergrowth?
    Yesterday, a new character turned up purely by chance, totally unexpectedly popping up from behind a hedge, I quite liked that, quite liked him in fact. Then, the cat woke up, the dogs barked, daytime things started to happen and I went to work. Writing stint over, 2600 words done and dusted before breakfast.
    Now, this morning, I am not sure who this character is anymore. He wasn’t in the script, because there isn’t one. And, today, he doesn’t want to dance.
So, for once, I shall send him back to bed, and write a blog instead. Time to go and sort out the kettle, have a bath and let him rest.
After all, in the words of Scarlett O’Hara, tomorrow is another day.

Thursday 10 November 2011


    A visit to the bar, the first in a while, brings me back home, via the French side-roads, safely before midnight.  The fire is still blazing and the dogs have been happy in my absence, although they are tumultuous about my unusual late my return.  I had my dinner before I left, a good few hours ago. It was a tasty stuffed red pepper, as I recall. Stuffed with what, I can’t remember, but at the time it was not only substantial, but delicious. Albeit, far too much for one person.
    Wendy is away this week, doing stuff that Wendy does. She is so brilliant at her job that, nowadays, it seamlessly fits into our routine, allowing her, and us, the freedom of a foreign country rural lifestyle. Although I used to be in the same trade, it berates me now that sometimes, often in fact, I forget what it is she actually does do. All I know is that she does it very well, and I bless her for that.
   This year has been the longest, hottest, statistically memorable summer on record. And it hasn’t really ended yet, as we near mid November.
    I love summer but, when it comes to November, I somehow look forward to frost and soup. Frost culls things, on behalf of nature, and a good one saves us gardeners a lot of hardship, as long as we are prepared and ready for it.
    Soup, on the other hand, has even more purpose. Soup has a function for all but the most sheltered of the human race. Soup has a deep history, soup has warmth, soup…..has soul.  Without soup, the world would be a poorer place.
    But what is in a soup? Does it matter? Is it important, and is soup contained by its contents?  No!
Left-overs, that’s what it is. My Granny, and maybe your Granny, made most of her meals out of left-overs. Way back then, it was an art to use every part of everything edible. To throw away things was a social crime. Ladies of substantial merit were vigilant in how they made sure that nothing, but nothing, was wasted. And thus, soup as we know it.
    It’s boiling now, I can smell it, even before I can hear it.
    Pepper, courgettes, carrot, bacon, black radish, onion and potato. These things are all in my pot, and part, but not all, of what soup should be. For there is no recipe, just ingredients. Chuck it in, that is what the pot is calling out for. Soup makes its own flavour, so it does.
    I probably wont eat/drink much soup tonight…but something in my make-up made me want vegetable soup before I went to bed.
Be careful what you wish for, eh? It could be snowing tomorrow.

Monday 7 November 2011

Who the heck is Auntie Florette?

    Computers. They drive you mad all day, with their temperamental-ness, randomly losing things and having go-slow days. I threaten mine with violence on a regular basis; it teases me so much I am convinced it has a mind of its own. If it were a human, I would have given it the sack without statutory sick-pay. But then, as if out of cussedness, all of a sudden, it breaks down and dies. And now I miss it and want to apologise for all the bad things I said to it. Well, to be precise, I miss all the files, emails, writings and things that I won’t know that I have lost until I need to look for them. But most of all I shall miss our 1000 photos from last months trip to New Zealand, all of which have been lost in the pile of techno-mush that was, until yesterday, my computer’s hard drive. Oh well, all the more reason to go back to NZ and take some more?!
    As you may guess, we are now back in the Northern hemisphere and once more ensconced in our French farmhouse, waiting for winter to arrive and the rain to start. It’s official. The continued drought that we have endured since February this year is the longest and driest in living memory. Drier than an evening at my Auntie Florette’s, as one local put it, or at least I think that’s what he said. (I had never met his Auntie Florette, so I couldn’t comment.) But all this extreme weather does get you worried doesn’t it? We constantly hear of earthquakes carving up places where they never were before, or freak floods washing away entire townships. I have never been an ecomentalist who buys the whole global-warming ideology and, despite all the media hype, I think it quite conceited of the human race to believe the current problems are all of our own doing. But, I have to admit, climate change appears to be happening wherever we look and things are indeed warming up. Will it soon become too hot for us to live in France anymore? Ooo, possibly a major problem to face up to? Maybe, it will be for some of the knotted-hanky sandals-and-socks ex-pat brigade, but it’s fine by me. Who knows, perhaps in a few years time they will have sun in Scotland and they can all move there? Or possibly Greenland? Meanwhile, I will exchange the sheep for a few camels and bask on my sun-lounger for as long as the fridge manages to maintain ice for my gin and tonic.
    Joking aside though, the ground here is so hard it needs a chain-gang to break it up. While we were away, our two dogs managed to escape through the hedge and (again) terrorise our neighbour’s chickens. I did feel sorry for our house-sitters when they told us of how they were confronted by our ornately tattooed gypsy neighbour at the door, along with his entire family, who came round in a lynch-mob to report the escapade. The dogs were confined to leads after that. On our return home, my first job has been 4 days fencing and, armed with wooden posts and a sledgehammer, that has been no mean feat. I now have a stooped back and biceps the size of barrage-balloons after managing to drive 50 steaks no more that 6 inches into the ground. It will be spring before I can complete that job.
    The long winter evenings inevitably bring us round to the nights in front of the TV once again. We now have somewhere near 700 channels to watch. Or not watch, as the case may be. How is possible to put so much rubbish on our screens? Every evening, I scroll through the listings, avoiding Strictly-come-x-factor and Ross Kemp on Alien-Nutters, in a vain hope of finding something remotely intelligent to watch, only to eventually give up and read a book. Or write one.
    I am actually reading an excellent one at present called 1000 YEARS OF ANNOYING THE FRENCH!, which is a highly amusing account of Britain’s differences with France over the ages but, obviously, told from a British perspective. It covers, with great satirical detail, many of the wars in which our two nations have completed, including the BEEF wars of the late 90’s, a subject close to my heart. The lack of edible beef in this region has been well voiced before in this column, but I do believe that when it comes to importing Les Rosbif from UK shores, the French are still hiding behind the stooshie that was once mad-cow disease! The irony that they have the nerve to brand Britain with ‘mad’ cows when our small farm is surrounded by these towering deranged hot-footed Blonde d’Aquitaine bovine creatures is not lost on me. C’est la vie. We will just have to carry on eating the lambs from the field (or in future, curried camel?) until it is resolved.
I couldn’t come back from the Rugby World cup without bringing at least one rugby story with me:
    The All Blacks were playing England, and after the half-time whistle blew they found themselves ahead 50-0, Ritchie McCaw getting eight tries. The rest of the team decided to head for the pub instead of playing the second half, leaving Ritchie to go out on his own.
"No worries," Ritchie told them, "I'll join you later and tell you what happened." After the game Ritchie headed for the pub where he told his teammates the final score: 95-3.
"What!!!!" said a furious Graham Henry, "How did you let them get three points??!" Ritchie replied apologetically, "I was sent off with 20 minutes to go!"
 As each day shrinks with the cold, that dreaded word ‘Christmas’ looms on the near horizon. Yes, that time of year when old Scrooge hides his head in disgust, as the world fritters away its borrowed money on pointless gifts. Except, no! This year, this old entrepreneur has decided that everyone should buy books for children as Christmas presents. Because, you see, children seem to be losing the ability or inclination to read. It appears that X-Factor and X-Box have now taken up positions well in front of the good old written-word for 8-14 year olds, and parents are doing diddly-squat to combat this decline.
Once again, Andy Frazier has a solution. About 7 of them to be precise, all reasonably priced on my website ( or Amazon! So go on, keep a poor underpaid author in cheap grog this year, and invest wisely in the wellbeing of a child near you. They are, after all, the future of our species!