Valbonne, south of France – Travel Log 25

I had heard so much of Valbonne from a friend who had visited it earlier this year. He was catching up with friends who own the Auberge Provencale. I thought, as I was staying with my mum and sister not too far away at Golfe Juan-Vallauris, that I too should go and take a look at the place and see what all the fuss was about.

A food and craft market is held there every Friday, so my sister and I set off on that particular day to have a browse and kill a few hours.

Ironically at the time I hadn’t realised the Auberge Provencale was the place my friend was referring to and as I snapped away with my camera the restaurant came into frame [it’s the building furthest in shot behind the orange building:

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We didn’t visit as we only stopped for a coffee in the square, but in the spirit of friendship I’m adding their website herewith: http://www.auberge-provencale-valbonne.fr/ Trip Advisor gives it a four star rating and it does look nice so perhaps on another visit we might make a point of going there for a meal.

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Valbonne is a small town that is located about 14km from Antibes and about the same distance from Cannes. As with most of the towns in this part of France they are all quite old dating back to the times of ancient Greece and Rome. Valbonne was occupied by both civilisations.

The market and local shops are quite diverse and some good quality products are on sale. Whilst my sister checked out and purchased a variety of olives, cheeses and other delicacies I had a look at clothing. However not finding anything for me, I did end up purchasing a beautiful pashmina scarf for my wife [she did love it].

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After walking around for a couple of hours it was time to head back to Golfe Juan. We took the same route back as coming along the D3, D35, and D135 skirting the town of Mougins before heading back through Vallauris. The route is extremely picturesque through some beautiful high-forested areas and as you approach the south the glistening Mediterranean comes into view from behind the tree line beckoning you to it.

RLB – Tomewriter

 

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Malta – the Island of the Knights of St. John: Travel Log 24

http://www.visitmalta.com/ To me, personally, Malta is a land where my family originated from; where as children our parents used to take me and my two sisters on holiday to visit our paternal grandmother and other relatives. It is the land of my ancestors who have resided here for the last five hundred years. I recently returned to Malta after a thirty-two year absence to mostly see the island again – refresh my memory of various parts of the island and conduct some research for my next novel “Out of the Darkness”. But it was also important for me to meet up with family members whom I hadn’t seen for many years, and to meet new relatives either through marriage and/or birth. It was a wonderful experience. From knowing Malta prior to the 1980s to where it is today, one can say the island has come of age. Gone has the innocence associated with a sleepy touristic destination where beaches lay tranquil with only a few tourists who know their whereabouts? The Malta of 1982 as I remember it was a place where everything moved at a slower pace and never crowded. Where going to the beach at Mellieha meant a lazy drive along the coast road from Sliema. Today Malta is vibrant, a bustling country where the population now boasts some four hundred thousand people. Where the skyline has changed to include numerous residential apartments, commercial developments, and hotels, and cars seem to choke the roadways.

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My recent visit was with my mother and elder sister. We stayed at the Cavalieri Art Hotel in St. Julians. This 4 star hotel is not so centrally located and there is a bit of a walk to the main road. The hotel does not have car park facilities and is further disadvantaged by a marine development being constructed across the street. We were fortunate to have rooms overlooking the bay and were therefore not inconvenienced by noise emanating from the construction site. The hotel facilities were adequate. The pool was beautiful and mum and I took full advantage of it on a daily basis, apart from the day when the pool was overrun by numerous rowdy kids celebrating a children’s party. Actually, this was one of the main annoyances of our stay. The hotel seemed to place more of an emphasis on private functions and events rather than concern themselves to the needs of their hotel guests. During our week-long stay there were two weddings and two birthday parties which closed down parts of the hotel to guests. Although the hotel does have a wing which provides convention facilities which would be adequate to hold such functions in ample comfort and style, management saw one wedding shut down the bar facility to guests for that particular evening; and for the other wedding, the entire swimming pool area was set as off-limits from early afternoon until the following morning.

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Another annoyance was the lack of Wi-Fi frequency reception. Although the hotel claimed availability of free Wi-Fi in their reception area, I for one was unable to obtain any signal and for an entire week I was unable to access my emails, etc. [I was not too happy]. A word about their house-keeping: Although the rooms were cleaned daily and the beds made by late morning there seemed to be a lack of understanding by the cleaners to replace the towels. Each day one found the towels had been taken away but new ones not left; and it became a pain in the neck to have to phone down to reception on a regular basis to request towels for the room. My final word on this hotel: it was nice, but I wouldn’t want to recommend it unless management change its policy regarding private functions, improves their Wi-Fi capabilities, and ensures staff members are trained to a level one would expect from a prestigious hotel.

Moving on… I was determined to visit Valletta’s St. John’s Cathedral where two of my ancestors are buried. I took a bus from St. Julians bus interchange at a cost of €1.50 for an Adult Daily Pass which I thought excellent value for money. It wasn’t a long trip even though it was during “peak” time and I had soon reached my destination. My ancestors were brothers in blood and in vocation: Knights Emmanuel and Giuseppe Borg lived in the late Eighteenth Century. They were chaplains of justice and are buried in tomb number 267 at the entrance to the Sacristy. I stopped and offered them a small prayer.

Tomb 267 Emmanuele + Guiseppe Borg

[Image courtesy of St John’s Website http://stjohnscocathedral.com/ ]

It is not permitted to take photos inside as needlesstosay the authorities would like you to buy their guide books, but I would encourage you to click on the above link as the Cathedral’s floor, walls and ceilings are quite spectacular – better still visit it in person, and whatever religion you are you will feel compelled to pray to your God so captivating is the scenery about you.

On the subject of Knights I would add at this point that my father’s elder brother, Edwin was honoured for his numerous years of service to Malta and invested by HRH Queen Elizabeth a Knight of St. John a few years before his death. Edwin H W Borg died on 19th October 1991 aged 72. His shield and I expect as genealogy allows now passes on to his son, my cousin Adrian, is shown below:

Uncle Edwin's [now Adrian's] Shield

It’s a beautiful thing and makes me very proud of my relative. In days of old I expect I would have been entitled to bear a similar shield although it would need to have a slight variance to it. Uncle Edwin once recounted the story [or should I say rumour] of how our family came to being in Malta. It was due to “shields” which led two brothers who residing in eastern Spain during the early 16th century to fight a duel which was to see the demise of one brother and the exile of the other. It was this tale which inspired my novel The Sword and the Rose and I shall always be grateful to Uncle Edwin for igniting my imagination and allowing me to write the novel so many years later. Valletta I didn’t think changed that much. Apart from the entrance to the City which I felt pointless and perhaps an insult to the original architect of the city Gerolamo Cassar:

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The structure looked as though it was still being built and as you enter the city a meaningless bronze of a three-legged horse greets you.

However these distractions are soon forgotten as you wander about the City’s streets and taken in the glorious old buildings, narrow streets filled with shops of every variety, sit for a coffee at the famous Café Cordina which my mother loves so much she includes it in her novel “A Tangled Web” [currently available as an e-book on Amazon and due to be released in paperback early next year. You can access the link to this on her blog: http://vivianeeborg25.wordpress.com/ ].

cafe

Actually Mum’s book was released two days before we arrived in Malta and I had arranged with the main newspaper the Times of Malta to run an ad [see bottom right hand corner of page]. I then bought the paper and gave it to Mum she was well pleased. The story is set in Malta which was quite apt for the ad and us being there: http://archive.timesofmalta.com/archive/issue

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Best of all, in my opinion anyway, is the Upper Barracca Gardens where the views across the Grand Harbour take your breath away and the gardens themselves offer respite from the day’s heat amidst its shaded foliage, fountains, and café.

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The City was also viewed from the water when the previous day my mum, sister and I took a pleasure harbour cruise out of Sliema. I arranged it through the hotel and although it appeared well-organized it turned out to be another small annoyance. Supreme Cruises arranged to collect us from our hotel [and promised to bring us back] and delivered us to the waiting boat for our cruise at 10.30am. On arrival we were told the boat had broken down and we were obliged to await the return of their other vessel:

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When the small Luzzu arrived everyone tried to rush on board so eager were we to get away – it finally set sail at 11.45am [Better late than never]. Our captain/guide however could have done with some training in how to conduct a proper narrative of the sights shown. There seemed to be a preference to views on the right and a constant repetition of the same phrases to the point that it was becoming quite grating on one’s nerves. Our narrator also gave us the impression the trip was some sort of political propaganda when he insisted on taking us to every one of the numerous dry docks dotted around the Grand Harbour to tell us how wonderfully the Government had been in ensuring they remained in operation. Not all was wasted and whilst ignoring most of his banter I was able to enjoy the views on offer. Here are but a few:

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When we returned to Sliema an hour or so later we were told the shuttle bus would be ready to return us to our hotel at 5pm. Disgusted and not wanting to hang around doing nothing for hours in the oppressive heat just to accommodate the tour operator we took the local bus back to Spinola Bay, St. Julians and were then obliged to walk to the hotel from the main road. Not that my sister or I minded the walk, but for our 90-year-old mother the trek in 30+*C heat was no easy task. We made our way directly to the bar for some refreshing drinks and a couple of pizzas.

We returned to Sliema on a different day as both my mother and sister were determined to do some shopping. For a small town, Sliema is well stocked with retail outlets including some British favourites such as BHS and Marks & Spencer. Of the latter we were told there are four stores on the island – there was a large branch at Valletta. The Plaza Shopping Centre is located in Bisazza Street off the Sliema Marina and boasts some 40 retail outlets including Miss Selfridge, Toni & Guy Hairdressing, Mothercare, to name but a few. http://www.plaza-shopping.com/ The Point is Malta’s newest and largest shopping mall. It is located on the Tigne Point peninsula where it stretches over three levels of fully air-conditioned shopping heaven. Here’s the link for you to enjoy: http://www.thepointmalta.com/

I left the two women to lose themselves in M&S whilst I went off to do some souvenir shopping and have a coffee with some unusual companions…

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The rest of our stay consisted of meeting up with family and on this note I just would like to say “Thanks” to all of them for their generosity and companionship; in particular to my cousin Wilfred who made a special effort to leave his place of employ in Abu Dhabi to be in Malta at the same time as me and offer his time to drive me to various places, including Malta’s largest cemetery. I know this is not the sort of destination many tourists would want to visit, but for me it has been a long-time desire to pay my respects to my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins who were so very dear to me. The site is massive yet somehow quite peaceful and some of the structures most impressive such as the war memorial, chapel, and various bronze statues:

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On a lighter note we also visited the picturesque fishing village of Marsaxlokk with its colourful boats, lively market and numerous waterside restaurants; one of which we sat at to enjoy a sumptuous meal in the company of cousins.

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On the day prior to our departure, I visited my cousin Clare, a talented artist who has her studio/gallery at Tigne Point in Sliema. I had seen most of her works when she displays them on Facebook; however I was determined to see them in the “flesh”. I wasn’t disappointed – they truly are magnificent works: http://www.cultureinside.com/25/section.aspx/ViewGallery/878/

Afterwards she invited me to her apartment in the company of her husband Joe, and her brother Wilfred. We sat on their terrace enjoying coffee, each other’s company and the wonderful views of Sliema:

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Very early the following day we left Malta and returned to the Cote d’Azur where my holiday was to continue with mum and sister for a further two weeks…

RLB – Tomewriter

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Golfe Juan – Arrived

Well I’m arrived… Have been a couple of days and the weather is as expected – beautiful. The new apartment mum and sister, Lesley have moved into is a dream with gorgeous views of hills in the back of the flat and the sea from the front. I could quite easily stay here indefinitely. Well that’s not going to happen, but shall certainly enjoy my days whilst here. Tomorrow however we are setting off to Marseille for we have an early flight on Thursday – destination Malta. I will blog again from there.

IMG_20140902_215300IMG_20140902_215333    RLB – Tomewriter

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A Tangled Web… Release Date: Friday 29th August 2014

Although originally scheduled for release as an e-book on 3rd September 2014, Sweet Cravings Publishing have brought this date forward and the book will now be available from tomorrow.

This is good news.

The buy links for the book are on Mum’s Blog: http://vivianeeborg25.wordpress.com

Meanwhile I’m setting off to Europe at the weekend for a fabulous five weeks – hopefully lots of sunshine as the past week in Sydney has been solid rainfall.

Mum and me [and my elder sister, Lesley] will be in Malta at the end of next week.

Hard to believe that I’m typing this up in my lunch break overlooking Lavender Bay in Sydney and in a three days time I’ll be sitting on the terrace of my Mum’s apartment overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

I shall blog again from there.

RLB – Tomewriter

 

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Invasion

 INVASION

Copyright © Robert L J Borg 2009

To my amazement the wall of a shop across the street suddenly bulged as though it were a huge balloon ready to burst. As glass shattered and bricks crumpled spewing out a military tank from its interior; I watched from the safety of my bedroom, as it screeched and rumbled into the street, sideswiped an unsuspecting parked car before it disappeared in clouds of dust down the road heading in the direction of the town centre.

I felt bewildered; wondering how on earth it had ever managed to be in the shop in the first place. But at the tender age of five years, how was I supposed to have known that it had already demolished the rear of the establishment as it passed through the building in an exercise of impressing upon the native population that the invasion force was a power to be taken seriously.

Only days before I watched in awe at a perfect blue sky speckled with what seemed to be thousands of white birds which appeared to be gently floating down onto the beaches not far from our home. High above them a distant drone of aircraft engines exposed them to be paratroopers descending upon the town.

A week or so before all this took place leaflets had fallen from the sky, littering the entire area. It had been a warning, though my parents always made sure that I and my siblings were well protected from the events that were about to unfold, that were to change our way of life, forever.

During that time, most nights were spent in makeshift shelters in basements for protection against aerial bombardment when warning sirens let out their mournful tones letting the population know of incoming jets. At other times, we would huddle in our homes, with purple paper pinned to the windows to prevent any light to be seen from the streets. In the mornings we would be relieved to find that our homes had been spared, or sad to see that our neighbours had not been so fortunate.

This was November 1956. A time in world history known as the “Suez Crisis”, where the ruling Egyptian government had decided to nationalize the Suez Canal; a stretch of water that extends 163 kilometres joining the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Red Sea in the south. Its construction was completed in 1869 by the French-owned Suez Canal Company, although British investment ensured a stake in its ownership. When western nations withdrew financial support to the building of the Aswan High Dam project, the Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, took revenge by nationalizing the Suez Canal. In an attempt to secure their interests, French and British troops were dispatched into the Canal Zone, whilst their allies, the Israelis, occupied the Sinai Peninsula. However, no sooner had the invasion begun, that international opposition quickly forced the Anglo-French troops out of Egypt, and the Israelis withdrew from Sinai in early 1957.

For my family, and perhaps thousands of other Egyptian-born Europeans, this political madness thought up by callous and greedy politicians caused the end of our lives in a land we had known as home for two generations on my father’s side of the family and three generations from my mother’s. We were now stateless subjects, hated by the native population, with no alternative but to give up all we loved to become political refugees and forced to flee.

Perhaps my last memory of those terrifying times was the night of our departure. As we were being ferried to an Italian hospital ship, the SS Ascania, that lay anchored off-shore, I leant against my mother’s leg, holding her tightly. Through teary eyes I watched the brightness of the moon making the phosphorous on the water sparkle as though it were made of silver, whilst the sky near the shore glowed in a reddish haze from fires which were raging out of control at a petroleum refinery. On the pier, slowly getting smaller as we motored away from it, I cried whilst watching as my father, who was to remain for a few days longer, waved us farewell.

RLB – Tomewriter

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The Day Job Comes to an End

After 14 months at PepsiCo ANZ – Snack Foods Division my contract has finally come to an end.

I can certainly say it hasn’t been plain sailing, but thanks to the help of colleagues the targets which had been set were reached.

It was just one more adventure in the many I have had since starting my working career many years ago.

What lies before me is anyone’s guess.

One thing is certain – my writing career is progressing from strength to strength.

I am looking forward to the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Sydney at the beginning of August, followed by a five-week European holiday in September.

Hopefully another Day Job will come my way in the meantime, if not, perhaps after September.

Whatever lies ahead it will be yet another chapter in my working career.

RLB – Tomewriter

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My Mum

Phew!!! It’s been a busy weekend…

What with cleaning the house from top to bottom in preparation of the wife’s return home next week. Yes that’s right she’s been overseas on holiday – Ireland and England [The Lake District, Milton Keynes, London, Devon]. I don’t begrudge her as it’s the first time she has been overseas in years and she deserves a holiday. But I’ll be glad to have her home again – it has been lonely around here!!

I have also been setting my mum up onto the social media platform. She is now on Twitter, Facebook, and has a blog of her very own [although I'll also keep her as partner on this one as well].

For those of you who don’t know, Mum – Viviane Elisabeth Borg – has scored a contract for her novel “A Tangled Web” with Secret Cravings Publishing of TN. U.S.A. As part of the contract conditions she needs to be able to self-promote her novel when it is published. It is scheduled for e-release in September this year [2014] and a print version by March 2015. I am hoping the publishers will consider bringing this date forward to the 15th January 2015 to coincide with Mum’s 90th birthday – wouldn’t that be grand??

Please follow mum’s blog it’s at: http://vivianeeborg25.wordpress.com

Her Facebook account is at: http://www.facebook.com/vivianeeborg25  and you can find her on Twitter @ VivianeEBorg1

Needlesstosay it will be me who maintains these sites on her behalf, as I am sure you will appreciate that due to her failing eye-sight any dealings in these areas will prove to be extremely difficult for her.

I love my mum [and family] very much and there is nothing that is too much for me to do for them.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Mesmerising Pools

Sandra's Eyes 

As I gaze into her rich pale blue coloured eyes I find myself drawn into them.   A brown blemish in one eye adds intrigue and depth  into this fantasy. Slowly, but surely, brown shoreline which is edged with a variety of succulent vegetation. Ferns with deeply green foliage act as a back cloth     to a range of pink, purple and red orchids,

Orchids each more beautiful than its neighbour.

Water falling             from a high cliff         into the pools creates a fine               mist of spray                    bathing the surrounding air        with welcoming            coolness.

 Waterfall

 

 

The whole area    is an explosion of              glorious sounds, richly               painted colours           and vibrant aromas.

Butterfly Multi-coloured              butterflies fill   my view as          

bright humming-birds feed off nectar

Humming Bird

 

enriched  plants   and kingfishers          dive into the

Kingfisherpools to               retrieve some               unsuspecting fish.

 

 Sandra's Eyes  Her eyes blink snapping me back to reality.

She is smiling.

Could she know what I was thinking?

RLB – Tomewriter

 

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On the subject of cooking…

If you didn’t know, my wife, Sandra, is away on holiday for a month in the UK and Ireland.

So I’m home alone and although I wouldn’t say I’m bored, as there’s still plenty to do, it always seems that when she’s away – even if it’s for a few days – the place feels empty and out of sorts. I can’t explain it really, as many people would relish the idea of being away from their partners for a break. Don’t get me wrong, I have a holiday in September coming up which I am looking forward to as I shall be visiting my mum and elder sister in France, cousins and friends in Malta, and my younger sister and friends in London.

Fortunately I have a day job to go to Monday to Friday, and thanks to a busy work-load the company I have been contracting at for the past year has extended my contract until the end of June. May the work continue to pile up!

It is always in the evenings and weekends that are the trying times and looking for things to do. There is always “writing”, but even this pleasure can be “too much” and you need a break from it.

Saturdays are normally put aside for domestics, and yesterday was no different. One falls into a set routine and it is always best to continue following the path just to maintain any semblance to normality. So after waking up early getting through three loads of washing, dusting, vacuuming, making the bed and getting myself ready to face the rest of the day [not to mention somewhere amongst that lot I had a bit of breakfast] I was then ready to do the weekly shopping.

With Sandra away I wrongly assumed I wouldn’t have such a high expense – but then again… I do have a tendency to impulse buy and yesterday didn’t prove me wrong. Apart from the usual frozen meals, bread rolls [for my weekly lunches], meats and veggies, without Sandra I was able to stop at the ice cream freezers! Have you tried the Magnum Kisses? They are to die for… especially the apple flavoured ones. So in they went into the trolley as well as a box of the red fruits & meringue.

On the subject of cooking… as much as I had every intention of cooking myself a proper meal last evening I got side-tracked and ended up with a frozen meal instead. The latter are usually saved for during the week when there isn’t too much time to be had by the time one gets back from work. But yesterday afternoon I started to watch the movie “Ben-Hur” which was interrupted by a phone call from my mum. By the time I finished the movie the thought of cooking a chicken curry was not on the agenda. I’ll have that pleasure this evening instead.

Some time ago, Sandra suggested we try out “Lite-n-Easy” meals in a bid to lose some weight. When we costed it up it did seem to us a lot of money to spend on meals. We decided instead to purchase the frozen meals from the supermarket for week days and prepare proper food at weekends. That is what we have been doing for the best part of this year, and although I’m not certain we have lost much weight, it definitely has helped us cut down on our portions. In the long run this surely is a plus.

For nutritional value I had no idea if this was of any benefit to us or not. Sandra is of the belief that if any food has the “Heart Tick” on the packaging then it must be good for you. She could have a point. The frozen foods we have been buying have varied from “Lean Cuisine”, “Healthy Choice”, “Weight Watchers”, and recently ALDI’s “International Cuisine” range.

As I was browsing the freezer in Coles yesterday a new product caught my eye. The box showed a variety of nutritional grains and vegetables making up a mouth-watering risotto. The product, Australian Made, labelled “Super Nature” didn’t have the heart tick and was a trifle more expensive than the other foods at $6.30, but I thought I would give it a try; and I did last night.

It was very tasty and quite filling. Today however I decided to take a look at its nutritional value. In fact I went one step further and compared it with all the meals in the freezer. The results were an eye-opener:

Per Serve Intl. Cuisine [Aldi] Lean Cuisine Healthy Choice Super Nature When in Rome Weight Watchers
Energy 1020kj 1245kj 1580kj 1800kj 600kj 365kj
Protein 15.4g 15.0g 14.3g 20.3g 5.74g 1.1g
Fat Total 3.2g 6.0g 6.7g 14.0g 4.48g 3.6g
Fat – Saturated 1.8g 2.4g 1.3g 5.6g 1.91g 2.0g
Cholesterol <3mg 15mg 25mg - - -
Carbohydrate 34.0g 42.3g 62.2g 49.0g 19.6g 11.4g
Sugar <1g 8.1g 21.0g 8.4g 4.23g 9.2g
Dietary Fibre 7.4g - 4.2g - - 2.9g
Sodium 683mg 705mg 672mg 1330mg 271mg 27mg
Heart Tick Yes Yes Yes No No No
Type of Food FROZEN MEALS FROZEN PIZZA FROZEN ECLAIRS

 

Last time I attended a dietician I was told to watch out for three things in particular:

  • Saturated Fat
  • Sugar
  • Sodium

Looking at the above chart from now on I think I’ll stick to Aldi’s frozen meals, Pizza and éclairs – Happy Days!!

RLB – Tomewriter

 

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“A Tangled Web” – Currently Unavailable

“A Tangled Web” is currently unavailable as from today’s date.

The book is being re-edited for submission to a third-party publisher who has agreed to take a “look at it”.

Fingers crossed they accept it. It would make my mum, as it’s her book, the happiest woman in the world… which would be nice!!

More updates to follow as I know them myself.

As the old saying goes: “Watch this space”.

RLB – Tomewriter

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