So… why Treacle?

Treacle  ˈtriːk(ə)l

noun: treacle; plural noun: treacles

  1. a. British: a thick, sticky dark syrup made from partly refined sugar; molasses.

         b. syrup of a golden-yellow colour; golden syrup.

  1.  cloying sentimentality or flattery.

“enough of this treacle—let’s get back to business”

Origin: Middle English (originally denoting an antidote against venom): from Old French triacle, via Latin from Greek thēriakē ‘antidote against venom’, feminine of thēriakos (adjective), from thērion ‘wild beast’. Current senses date from the late 17th century.

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According to various online sources, the word treacle goes back to a borrowing from Old French triacle, a word referring to the sugar-syrup base into which apothecaries would decant whatever nasty-tasting cures they wished their patient to take. The word derives ultimately from a Greek word thēriakē, meaning an antidote against venom, which suggests that its early applications were topical (i.e. slather it on the outside, rather than apply it to the inside).

This dark, viscous product of sugar refining thus gained its name due to its association with apothecaries and their products. All the syrupy by-products of sugar refinement were known as treacle, but later the British firm Lyle perfected the refining process to produce that other, more popular, sugar syrup known as golden syrup. You can still buy treacle – these days it’s often called black treacle (or, in the US, molasses), to distinguish it from its golden cousin.

While sugar can be produced from beets as well as sugar cane, only the latter produces a pleasant tasting treacle.

The 17th century seems to mark the time when treacle made the jump from a medicine to a foodstuff. https://britishfoodhistory.wordpress.com/tag/treacle/ suggests ‘bread tart’ and ‘sweetmeat cake’ as early recipes using treacle, and the earliest recipes for ‘treacle tart’ in the 1870s precede Lyle’s development of golden syrup, even though most modern recipes call for golden syrup rather than black treacle. Gingerbread, which has been around at least since the 1400s, switched to using treacle as an ingredient during the 18th century. But the popularity of ‘Mary Poppins’ suggests that the association of sugar syrup with medicines remains as strong as ever.

I’m rather drawn to the idea that a substance famed for being sickly sweet (as in the famous treacle tart of my story – the favourite dessert of Harry Potter – and the treacle wells mentioned by the dormouse in Alice in Wonderland) ultimately derives its name from medicines which were so bitter that they required a sweet coating. That seems a good metaphor for this story collection.

In Treacle and Other Twisted Tales I take some well-known tales and retell them with a twist, a difference, or a wee flicker of darkness. There are new stories, too, some drawn from imagination and others from experience. There are no entirely happy endings – I don’t really believe in them – but some at least come to satisfactory conclusions. If there’s a moral in the story, it’s that beneath sweetness there is always a small, sharp tang of bitterness, and sometimes the sugar coating is very thin indeed. Life isn’t fair, and nothing ever turns out exactly the way we want it to. These aren’t fairy stories, you know.

As for the second meaning – sentimentality or flattery – isn’t that the business of we fiction writers? I employ my words as the appetising coating to encourage some unpalatable suggestions to go down. Did I sweeten the mixture enough?

And am I genuinely channelling my East End ancestors, or merely mocking Eastenders the soap, when I say to you, “Don’t worry, treacle* – if you don’t like this story, maybe the next one’ll suit you better”?

*Treacle (tart) = sweetheart

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POETRY & PROSE VOTING PAGE!!

My Valentine poem ‘Sunkissed’ is number 4 here. Pop over and vote for your favourite.

POETRY & PROSE VOTING PAGE!!.

Here is my interview with Yvonne Marjot

My blog interview with Fiona McVie. Thanks, Fiona.

authorsinterviews

Y Marjot author pic Aug 2014

Name Yvonne Marjot
Age 52
Where are you from? I was born in England but grew up in New Zealand. Now I live on the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
Yvonne Marjot was born in England, grew up in New Zealand, and now lives on an island off the West Coast of Scotland. She has a Masters in Botany from Victoria University of Wellington, and a keen interest in the interface between the natural and human worlds. She has always made up stories and poems, and once won a case of port in a poetry competition (New Zealand Listener, May 1996). In 2012 she won the Britwriters Award for poetry, and her first volume of poetry, The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet, was published in 2014 by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

She has worked in schools, libraries and…

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Indian Summer

It really has been the most gorgeous week on the beautiful Isle of Mull.

Indian summer

The leaves are falling, crisp underfoot,
and the hills shimmer in the heat.
I crave ice in my glass, breeze, shade;
my sandals are cool on my feet,
boots shoved back in the porch.
The sun’s a pendant in flaming brass,
hung on a cloth of dusty blue.
I’m melting. How long can this last?

…yeez’ll never guess… what do Crooked Cat Publishing, the Middle East, and Tobermory on the Isle of Mull have in common?…

…yeez’ll never guess… what do Crooked Cat Publishing, the Middle East, and Tobermory on the Isle of Mull have in common?….

A Musical Comedy of Errors (flash fiction prompt ‘the wrong end of the stick’)

It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t even realise the stick had two ends. They should have spelled it out better. Spelled it out. Pfft. Lol.

Let me explain. It all started at the audition for ‘Cats’. At least, the audition went pretty well. I got the part. All I had to do was make like a cat – you know, all that preening and pawing and making eyes at the Rum Tum Tugger. Well, that was no problem: Doug Airtson is dead easy on the eye. I could look at him all day long, in his skin-tight tights and his tabby-stripe stage makeup. That boy has definitely been working out.

Luckily I didn’t really need to be able to sing. It’s all kind-of tuneless yowling. I mean, I know Lord Whatsisname wrote some nice tunes for it, but us chorus types just have to hum along, you know. They didn’t really ask me to sing at the audition. That was a bit of a surprise, but after I’d got down on all fours in my skimpy leotard and arched my back and wiggled my perty kitty bottom, that seemed to be all they wanted to see. Nailed it, straight up.

The first rehearsals were a bit boring. I learned my cues straight away. No-one can accuse me of not being quick on the uptake. But when you’ve seen one bloke in tights you’ve seen ‘em all, and the Rum Tum Tugger might be a bit of a sex symbol in the script, but I can tell you for free in real life he’s a minger. Always got his hands where he shouldn’t, and frankly he could do with a wash. It’s amazing what an actor thinks he can get away with just because he has pecs to die for and can hit top C.

I got a promotion, toot sweet. Special assistant to Mr Mistoffeles. I didn’t have to do much, either. It was, like, totally not my fault that pretty little tortie kitty tripped coming off stage and broke her ankle in the lighting pit. I only meant to shake her up, after that mean comment in the dressing room about no amount of cold cream being enough to hide the signs of a common alley cat. I’ve always had faith in fate – if you act nasty, stuff will happen to you. Though fate sometimes needs a helping hand.

So, there I was in the wings, looking like butter wouldn’t melt and the director shouts ‘You! Get over here.” I look all around, like I think they mean someone else, though there’s no-one else there. Get in! Now who’s saying I can’t act? “Hold this. It’s Mr Mistoffeles’ dancing stick. You need to give it to him just before the end of the second chorus. Red end up. That’s very important, girl. Are you listening? Red end up, green end down.”

Am I listening? I was born listening! Anyway, it goes like a dream, the director says it’s perfect, he explains how on the night when Mr Mistoffeles bangs his staff on the ground a firework will shoot out the top – because he’s magic and all that. I don’t really listen – it’s all yadda yadda, and I’m too busy getting all dreamy over Mr M – he has the most gorgeous eyes underneath his cat-mask thingy. Dreamy. So I’ve got the part. I get tickets for my Mum, since it’s a big promotion, I’m not just any old yowly kit cat any longer, I’m a Cat. I’m Mr Mistoffeles assistant cat.

Opening night, and the director’s making his last minute checks. I’m in the wings holding the stick and he’s all like ‘red end up, green end down. Have you got it Kitty?’ Yes, I say, my eyes fixed on Mr M. They say he hasn’t got a girlfriend. If I play my cards right that situation might not last too much longer. The second chorus starts and I tiptoe out on my cute little kittycat feet. He holds his hand out without looking and takes the stick from me. The chorus ends and the saxophone wails out, drums are beating, cats are yowling, everybody in the audience is spell bound by the magic Mr M and he bangs his stick on the stage and all hell breaks loose. A firework shoots out the bottom of his staff, bounces off the stage and falls into the orchestra pit. Next minute there’s sparks flying up, the saxophone has gone squeaky and the audience are all screaming.

I mean to say, what a fuss. It was fine. The audience stopped having hysterics and were allowed to go out and have drinkies a bit early while it was all sorted out. The saxophonist had a wee lie down, and he was only burnt a little bit. The FX guys sorted out the stick and Mr M came back on and did it all perfectly. They wouldn’t let me be his assistant anymore, though, on account of having given him the stick green side up.

It’s not fair. One teeny weeny mistake and I’m out of a job. I should have stuck with the Rum Tum Tugger and his roaming hands. It’s all that director’s fault. He never even asked me if I was colour blind.

Saxophone

Today’s September 2014 poem-a-day. I’ve been listening to a new jazz recording a friend has given me.

The elegiac quality of saxophone
eases its way into my mind,
quietly asserting its charm,
sliding deftly into its place
in my aural memory,
as if it had never been away.

The Calgary Chessman book launch – all welcome

Ever fancied a visit to the Isle of Mull? This Saturday, 6th September would be a great time to go. Not only is the weather still warm, with the prospect of sunshine, but the local book (and fishing gear) shop, Tackle and Books, will be hosting the launch of my novel, The Calgary Chessman. 11am to 1pm. I’ll be reading excerpts, signing books and enjoying a glass of wine or two with friends and visitors alike. It’s going to be great!

Of course, if you can’t be there you can still soak up the atmosphere of Mull by buying the print or e-book version of the book. It’s available from Amazon, Smashwords and direct from the publisher, crookedcatbooks.com. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Calgary-Chessman-Yvonne-Marjot-ebook/dp/B00MLBQ6SG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1409769634&sr=1-1&keywords=the+calgary+chessman

TCC first copy at Green Rooms Aug 2014

A Small Twitterverse

This week’s prompt from @fieryverse on Twitter.

#fieryverse prompt ’Say it Slow’

Say goodbye
slow…
…ly
I don’t
want
you
to
go.

Poetry Map Poem 25: Calgary Bay, Isle of Mull

the StAnza Blog

Metaphorical Distance

Out at farthest focus, drifting, peaceful:
Green ladled with mauve like a healing bruise.
Light lies heavy on the horizon; chooses
To lean its languid body westward. The pull
Of the rolling planet quickens, and the full
Swelling, murmurous mass of the tide looses
The bonds of gravity, dropping the deep, pellucid,
Purpleness of light gracefully into the ocean’s well.

Dipping my toe into the water, gasping
At the cold, desiring to go deeper and far,
I stare outward along the long divide
Of the horizon: the waves on the sand rasping
At the edge of the land, my feet, my heart:
Like this sea-coloured bruise I am trying to hide.

Yvonne Marjot

To view our Map of Scotland in Poems as it grows, see http://stanzapoetry.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/the-map-revealed/ . For more information on this project, and on how to submit a poem, see http://stanzapoetry.wordpress.com/2014/07/04/mapping-scotland-in-poetry/.

All poems on our poetry map…

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