I created the character of Sally Jackson in the fictionalised accounts of various episodes in my life. Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent
Fresh Out of the Pan - novel
Two husbands under her belt, Sally enters the Cooks' Academy at the age of 34, determined to make a career for herself in catering. Coping with the demands of her two children, plus the punishing schedule set by the charismatic - but deadly - Dr Fisher would be more than enough for most people, but her problems don't stop there! Hounded by Social Security, persecuted by a landlord with a penchant for tearing down houses with the people still in them, tormented by her growing obsession with the sexually rampant Dr Fisher, Sal muddles through with no very clear plan of action - apart from her deep-seated belief that the kitchen is her spiritual home. The adventures of Sally and her fellow students and the very real hard work they do in the kitchen, are told at a fast, racy pace - the way Sally lives her life. Whatever you think of Sally's morals, you can't help admiring her guts, her determination to stay the pace . . . . and her cracking love life!
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Sweet Chef - novel
After a year at the Cook’s Academy, Sally is handed a certificate of competence and slung out onto the job market. At 35, she wonders who will employ someone so overqualified and under-experienced, so jumps at the chance of a job in the Zoo, where she quickly finds that the chefs are more dangerous than the animals! Sweating in the intense heat of one of the hottest summers on record, Sal develops muscles as she rolls pastry for pies that would gladden the heart of Desperate Dan. Inevitably, the kids Cleo and Alex manage to escape their grandmother's clutches and turn up at the zoo, posing Sal a problem, not least in the romance department, Cleo now an extremely beautiful fifteen year old, knocking her mother into the shade, and throwing the monkeys into fits of jealousy when their keeper gets the hots for her. Add the Entertainers - re-enacting a bizarre 17th Century hanging every night, and you have a mix that is hotter than dynamite!
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Four Geminis and a Jacuzzi - novel
Tired of looking down holes in the road for a 'real' man, Sally can't believe her luck when she finds one on a building site. Rough, bearded and covered in cement dust, he is just what she is looking for. Applying for the post of catering manager at the sports and leisure club he is building, she does not know she has met the site owner on his ‘dress down’ day, and that forever after she will only see him wearing Italian suits and white shoes, and driving a Merc. Jimmy Pinchbeck is nuts on blondes, and when he finds out Sally can cook and looks like the blonde one in Abba, it is all his dreams rolled into one. They embark on a roller-coaster ride of an affair, doomed to failure at the outset, as neither realises the other is their diametrical opposite. Sally, with her strong work ethic, is up against the biggest rogue it will ever be her misfortune to meet. George Melly, who was a friend of the author, loved this book. He wrote this tribute: “Jimmy Pinchbeck . . . . the most Faustian character I ever met, every time I go to Lancashire I expect to bump into him strolling down the street, a cigar clamped between his teeth, and a blonde on each arm. An unforgettable creation.”
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Mrs Jackson Rides Out - novel
After her chaotic career in catering, the irrepressible Sally Jackson hangs up her apron and sets out to discover how normal people spend their time. But normal people take cover when they see her coming, and she meets only sexual deviants, ufo enthusiasts and the certifiably insane. Falling over witches on a daily basis, she decides to join them. After a naked initiation into the Sisterhood of Wicca, run by an unemployed Father of Nine, she surprises him by taking the whole thing seriously, embarking on a magical career which she expects him to share. There are many by-roads on the path to Wicca, and this wouldn't be a book about Sally without her usual sexual peccadilloes - Gustav Prendergast the Performance Poet, Gareth Jones the sexbomb sports instructor, Horst the Hairy Hun - to mention a few. The Star Turn is undoubtedly the Father of Nine, whose fund of stories rivals the Arabian Nights. An uproarious romp, a tantalising mixture of witchcraft, sex and humour in the cold Northern hills - just the thing for a wet weekend in Wigan. George Melly wrote to the author: "Read and totally enjoyed your tales of North Lancs:- they remind me of Damon Runyon - very funny and sometimes sad too. "
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At Least She Never Drank Much - autobiography/1
All Geraldine ever asked for was an interesting life, and By God, she got it! Hanging round gypsy encampments at the age of seven, waiting to be stolen, did not do the trick, and at eighteen she set out for London with all her belongings in two carrier bags. Narrowly escaping a knifing at the hands of a woman whose sailor boyfriend she stole, she went home with him to Essex, where after a shotgun wedding they moved in with a whippet-breeding Welshman. Although the possessor of a faithful and loving heart, things did not go well in the romance department, and Geraldine found herself alone with her two children when they were five and three, setting herself to bring them up as best she could. Life was not easy for a single mother in the ′60s, there was stigma to cope with as well as poverty. But she fell in love again, with John Kirkham, a rent collector by day, and drummer in a jazz band at night - the man who proposed to her through a letterbox. His brief appearance on the scene gained her entrée to the village wife-swapping set, which was some kind of consolation when he abandoned ship after only six weeks.
Deciding to follow her long-term love of food and cooking, she studied hotel and catering management alongside chefs working in the industry, coming out as one of the top students. It is still difficult to be a female chef today, and in 1976 extremely rare, and for a woman to achieve the position of Head Chef, practically unheard of, but Geraldine proved it could be done. From her first post as Sweet Chef in a zoo, she worked her way up to be head of a team of 30 chefs in an international college. She has plenty of stories to tell of life in the kitchen, and outside it, and the intriguing characters she knew and worked with.
After a third marriage, to a deranged American marathon runner, she moved into enemy territory, leaving Yorkshire for Lancashire, to install and run the catering in a Sports and Leisure club then being built. Though not aware of it, she was coming up to a time of big changes. Moving to Lancashire was the catalyst, and when she walked out of the job after three months, she walked into a whole new world of witches, weirdos, and wannabe poets.
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The Retro Cookbook - 500+ recipes from the 60s/70s
This collection of recipes has been gathering dust on my shelves for long enough. I started it in the 1960s when I was a young wife and mother, feeding a family on scarcely nothing. Some recipes were cut from women’s magazines, others copied from books or from friends. They’re too good to waste - Time may have moved on, but now we’re moving backward into an Age of Austerity, they have renewed their appeal. I’ve used photocopies where possible, but where Time has wrought too much havoc, I have retyped them.
History: In those days I lived in a back to back, one up one down house. The back door opened straight into the street and my cooker had four burners and an oven. There was no grill, microwaves were science fiction, and I did not own a fridge. I came back from the shops with a bagful of raw ingredients so I had to know how to cook them. Women's magazines stepped into the breach, full of helpful tips and know-how but their advice about 'asking your butcher how to cook the various cuts of meat' was met with derisory laughter from hardbitten older housewives scornful of a 'newbie'.
The Man Who'll See the Poet - autobiography/2
This book takes up the story where the first volume of Geraldine's autobiography left off. Her erratic journey through life continues as she walks out of her job and into an enchanted world of witches, weirdos and wannabe poets. Two offbeat characters she meets at an Earth Mysteries Group kick off the changes that Fate has in store for her, and a charismatic stranger she meets on a train takes her on a magical mystery tour through Cumbria’s Lakeland, opening up her latent spirituality and leaving her hearing the Voice of God in her head. Like the Cat that Walks by Himself, Geraldine threads her own path through witches’ sabbats, predatory preachers, performance poets and passionate romances, coming out at the end of it with The Man Who’ll See the Poet - the only man who ever saw her as she was, instead of what he wanted her to be. There is magic and mayhem in this charming book, which has Ms Murfin-Shaw's uniquely individualistic touch.
A Bit on the Blind Side - autobiography/3
Downing tools in the allotment where they have toiled for the last six years, Geraldine and her husband Wolfram cycle to Germany to visit his mother. Before they leave, Geraldine's guide the Aztec Priest appears among the bean rows and tells her this will be a Vision Quest – and so it turns out to be, not least due to their involvement in Channel 4’s ‘Real Holiday Show’. In spite of the dangers they encounter on this trip they develop an appetite for foreign parts and embark on many subsequent cycling adventures, all of which turn out more or less disastrously. Travel with them as they ride through France, Italy and their beloved Black Forest – Geraldine shouting instructions from behind as the hapless blind Wolf does his best to avoid hitting anything. Read about the deadly in-laws and other larger-than-life characters they meet abroad, the comradeship of their Asian neighbours on the allotments, involvements with talking crystal skulls and encounters with the paranormal. With his Sun and her Moon in the same degree of the Zodiac this truly was a marriage made in Heaven – until Fate intervened.
The Country House Chef's Book
Geraldine trained in Catering and Hotel Management at Leeds Polytechnic where she was one of the top students in her year. She spent the summer of 1976 working as Sweet Chef at Flamingoland Zoo. She has run the kitchens in a Home for Wayward Girls; the staff restaurant in Bradford’s poshest department store; been single-handed banqueting chef doing 120 covers a night; set up and run her own restaurant in Ponden Mill Stanbury; been Head Chef at Brownsea Castle Dorset; Head Chef & Catering Manager at Harlaxton Hall Lincolnshire and Chef/Manager at Springers Health Club Nelson. The book is compiled from her professional recipe file and although the recipes are intended for large-scale catering, Geraldine has also given quantities for the domestic table. Geraldine says: When I began to compile this book I thought the recipes would be dated and unattractive to modern palates - but I was pleasantly surprised at the scope and variety of the dishes, including many classics. I would be proud to put many of them on the table today.
The Curious Cook's Book - cookery
A modern kitchen manual for the man or woman who wants to feed herself, himself, the family, or each other sensibly and well. It contains advice on equipment, stores and cooking methods and has a comprehensive selection of recipes fully explained by a woman who has been housewife, mother and professional chef. A good starter cookbook for novices, it will also intrigue and delight the experienced cook.
Geraldine brings the expertise of the professional chef to each dish she cooks - her methods are streamlined, and her style light but thorough - she never leaves you with a pan in your hand wondering what to do next. She will have you producing economical, varied and nutritious meals in no time, and at the same time she teaches you the skills you would learn in a professional kitchen. Work your way through this book and you will be able to branch out in any direction you wish. The world, you might say, is your oyster.
Devout Christians can ask for their own expurgated edition which does not contain the recipe for Devil Food Cake.
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Dream Diary of a White Witch - psychology
The author became an initiated Priestess of Wicca in 1984, and kept a dream diary until 1995. This is a record of the dreams which assisted her spiritual development. A happy hunting ground for psychologists, paranormal investigators and dream analysts. There is a second dream sequence running from 2007 to 2012 in which she lives a parallel life with her husband in Spirit, and also helps others with their dream development.
C.G. Jung, in his book “Dreams” says that dreams are a means of establishing harmony between the conscious and the unconscious life; and that working on dreams over a period of time brings an enrichment and a broadening of the mental horizon - "If we observe a series of dreams running perhaps into hundreds, a phenomenon emerges that is not observable in a single dream. It becomes clear that we are observing a developmental process in the personality itself. Instead of a series of meaningless incidents, a kind of plan emerges. The dreams are seen to be directed towards a common goal, they are not isolated happenings, but are SUCCESSIVE STEPS in an orderly process of development - I have called this unconscious process . . . . the INDIVIDUATION process”
Geraldine says: "People throughout history have recorded their dreams, and our fascination with them is as great as ever. My own impetus to begin a dream diary came when I crossed the bridge between two halves of my life: until then my experiences had been much the same as most people’s - growing up, marriage, children, a career. At 41, circumstances conspired to bring me to Pendle, where I was to undergo a transformation to psychic, mystic, white witch and astrologer. It was fortuitous that I began the Dream Diary at this time, as it enhanced and encouraged my spiritual development. In writing it, I was sending a message to my unconscious mind that said - “I am listening, tell me more,” and I was rewarded a hundredfold.
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The Collected Poems of Val Kirkham - poetry
Val Kirkham (aka Geraldine Murfin-Shaw) appeared as a performance poet in venues around Manchester in the '80s, moving audiences to tears and laughter in equal measure. Adrian Henri once gasped at one of her poems, and the editor of Lancashire Life called her "the predatory sexual voice cruising in the fast lane of poetry". A poetry reading in a jacuzzi with three other poets hit national headlines, and offers came flooding in from jacuzzi owners.
The most memorable, recalls Val, was in a bathroom showroom in Littleborough. Glenn, the owner, rang me up and asked us to perform in front of eighty of his friends and customers. He told me he had a mobile jacuzzi that would enable me to read poetry anywhere - he would hire reindeer and have me pulled through the streets in it at Christmas! I told him he was madder than I was.
Val’s work is wide-ranging and varied. She knows a great deal about the pain and pleasure of love, and writes about it with searing honesty. She has been on radio and tv. You will be thrilled, chilled, brought to laughter and tears by this woman's perception and insight.
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The Open Road - cycling, travel, photography - small home printed book
When I set off on my cycling holiday to the Black Forest in 2010, I had no idea that my husband was coming along too. He had never been far from me in the four years since his death, but on this holiday he was to appear in the most solid and tangible way. This is not at all a sad book, it is funny, exhilarating and entertaining. You will enjoy reading about the people I meet and the adventures I have, above all for anyone who has lost a partner, the knowledge that they live on, not just in our hearts, but in the most real way imaginable, will bring hope and happiness.
"As I was cycling through the fields, I began to hear music in my head. I recognised it as “Lady in Red”. I began trying to sing along with it, the words coming back to me bit by bit. Then I realised it must be Wolf. I had often heard him singing it. I looked up the lyrics after I got home - I hadn’t realised the significance - I’ve never seen you looking so lovely as you did tonight - I’ve never seen you shine so bright . . . .I have been blind . . . There’s nobody here . .It’s just you and me . .It’s where I wanna be - nobody here - just you and me - he kept on singing this song all the way through the fields."
Riding With Angels - cycling, travel, photography - small home-printed book
In 2011, to celebrate 70 years on this planet, I set off to ride the Rhine Cycle Path. On the way, I decided to actively ask the Angels for help when I needed it. The results were amazing. The Angels delivered on the nail, every time! Only sometimes I was too stupid to see it . . ."The idea was to cycle down the Rhine via the Rheinradweg - or Rhine cycle path - usually illustrated by beautiful pictures of wide, tarmacced paths on which I pictured myself riding in a leisurely, relaxed fashion. Knowing the German passion with order, I expected that there would be abundant signposts on these splendid routes, directing me to campsites, restaurants and guesthouses. In practice I never saw anything of the sort, the paths I travelled were badly surfaced, in some cases little more than field tracks, and not only was there no help in finding campsites, but the route itself often disappeared most unhelpfully, usually just as I was entering a city, leaving me stranded. In fact, the whole experience could be summed up as - Find your way down the Rhine if you can! "
Note: This is a short book, fully illustrated with colour photographs taken by the author.
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