Updated: Apr 27

Never mind stockpiling toilet paper, paracetamol and tinned tomatoes - something of a staple in my kitchen.

It seems the new trend is for Tsundoku, the Japanese word for gathering books and letting them pile up on your bedside table without reading them.

Professor Andrew Gerstle, a teacher of pre-modern texts at the University of London explained to the BBC that the word appears in Japanese writing from 1879.

Apparently doku comes from a verb that can be used for "reading," while tsun is "to pile up."

On my dressing table I have an ever-increasing aspirational pile of reading material which I bought long before the current Coronavirus pandemic. It seems that however many unread books I may have, I can't enter a bookshop without buying yet more.

Illustration by Quentin Blake for Matilda by Raold Dahl

Not for me the digital book, whether that be on Kindle, iPad or phone. I need to feel the weight, smell the aroma and physically turn the pages of a novel

At the moment mine vary from crime novel Big Sky by Kate Atkinson, which sees the return of private detective Jackson Brodie, to Tin Fish Gourmet by Canadian foodie Barbara-jo McIntosh which tells you how to turn tinned fish into an exotic meal. I kid you not.

My problem is that I have a limited attention span which sees me downing the book in favour of a tantalising movie on Netflix.

However, you choose to while away the lockdown hours perhaps now is the time to hunker down and work your way through that pile of books, do a bit of home cooking with the meagre supplies left on the shelves. Tinned fish perhaps?

Speaking of cooking my kitchen has never been cleaner. Husband Phil and myself argued over who should have the “joy” of that normally awful job of cleaning the oven. Our bathroom is sparkling and the vacuum is virtually on its last legs due to overwork.

Not normally one of the world’s natural organisers Covid-19 has seen me transformed. No longer is my side of the bed a hazardous obstacle course; spices dating back to the 1990s have been chucked from the kitchen cupboards and my wardrobe has been decluttered with overflowing bags ready for the charity shop. Ancient lipsticks have been binned and I have even cleaned my make-up brushes

Now the weather has warmed up significantly for the time being,I would love to do some planting and am more than a little dismayed that garden centres are disposing of their stock because of Coronavirus. Wouldn’t it make more sense for plants to be left outside their premises so people can help themselves with a donation to charity?

Whenever this is over, and over it will be, I’m hoping to maintain some of the tidying habits I have developed over recent weeks. Watch this space…..

It was my fourth or should that be the fifth time of trying that I finally got to grips with this breadmaking malarkey.

Having eventually bought a #panasonic #breadmaker after years of dithering I eagerly ripped open the box, got my specialist #allinsons bread flour from the cupboard and set to eager to produce the #bestbreadontheblock.

Always keen to crack on, I never bother with instruction manuals; how difficult can it be? A bit of flour and yeast, a smidge of sugar and salt and a dash of water.

I timed it to be ready for 9am; what better than homemade bread for breakfast? Just as well I had that @warburtons loaf in the freezer then.

Keen to graduate to brioche, pizza and sourdough bread, I waited with anticipation for my first attempt to emerge. The world of baking was my oyster.

However, my homemade offering was as flat as a pancake. Cue laughter from daughter who has always scoffed at my breadmaking efforts.

"Don't throw that bread to the ducks mum, if you hit one it will kill it. It's like a brick....."

I have never forgotten this comment which was made more than 20 years ago. It rather put me off breadmaking but I was determined not to be defeated.

So to find my foray into the world of hi-tech breadmaking such a failure, I did what any sensible person would do from the start when using a new piece of kit - I resorted to the manual.

"Don't throw that bread to the ducks mum, if you hit one it will kill it. It's like a brick....."

The reason for my disastrous debut was easy and simply rectified; I had forgotten to fit the kneading paddle.

A pattern began to emerge. My second attempt saw me forgetting to add the yeast; third attempt the sugar and fourth I used the wrong programme. Memory seemed to be the issue.

My next go worked. I produced a perfectly seeded specimen. The reason being that I followed the instruction manual to a T. A lesson to be learnt there, I think. Use your loaf!

Still on the subjects of food and forgetfulness don’t you just love a pancake. Shrove Tuesday can’t come round quick enough in our house. However this year my passion for pancakes – and an eagerness to get that frying pan - got the better of me.

I bought the ingredients, told my friends not to forget this special day in the culinary calendar and planned the evening meal around the beautiful batter. There was only one problem – I had got the wrong date and was a week too early

Why a good newsletter is crucial to help your business thrive:

1. Front page ​The front page is your shop window and must be attention-grabbing. With competition rife, it needs to stand out from the crowd with bold photos, snappy headlines and modern, up-to-date design. Your front page picture MUST be a human face – volunteer, staff members, patients or family members. It can be someone who has done something special - gone that extra mile. Human interest is always key.

You have seconds to hook your reader into that story so a punchy front page headline which tells the tale in a few simple words is imperative.

2. Create interesting headlines ​Most of your readers are going to skim read your newsletter and only browse the headlines. Most people are busy so why not spend a little extra time crafting better headlines. Why not try out four or five different headlines and see which one seems the most intriguing? Does your headline explain the story? Could it be shorter and punchier? Could it be more interesting? You’ve got seconds to hook your reader in, so don’t waste a word.

3. Include photos ​Everyone loves a good photo. Faces with expression, a story within the photo, something a little different. You’re more likely to get someone to read your copy if it’s accompanied by a good photo. If you can, put some time into finding new photos and ask readers to send in theirs. This is a way of engaging readers and makes them feel part of the hospice community. Seeing their photos published gives people a real thrill.

4. Reduce copy and make more space ​If the copy is too long and there’s no room for a photo – cut the copy. If the font size and line height has to be reduced to fit the story – cut the copy, First, by editing copy down, you’ll be chopping out the dross and filler, making your story a better read. Secondly, with less densely packed text you’ll make your page more attractive to your readers and give your images more room to breathe.

5. Don’t forget a donation form ​If you’re a charity that relies on individual donations, then don’t forget to include a donation form in the newsletter. You can have links to website donation forms and telephone numbers but some people still like to fill out a form in good old-fashioned print.


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