Saturday, 30 October 2010


'Er brung them kids to see me yesterday. They were up and down them steps like a cat at a mouse party, and I suppose I don't mind meeting 'em, but the thing is, they don't show proper respect to an old gnome and 'is snail. The little lad just wanted to run about and point at the trees and stuff, and the little girl still thinks there are fairies at the bottom of the garden. There's a broken down fence and a great big river at the bottom of ours, I says, but she ain't listening.

They've gone 'ome now and she's cleared up the fall-out area and settled down to answer 'er letters and stuff. She might even tidy up the heap in the study. Good thing the clocks go back tonight.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


Sorry, all you people of the House of Stories, but all things have been coming at me at once. To put it briefly, one of our windows was badly cracked in the early hours of Saturday morning, then Tony, who was away at a conference, fell while trying to get a photograph and gashed his hand really very severely, needing treatment. Our friends the godfamily have been camping nearby and we had all sorts of great ideas about what we'd do and where we'd go, then a quick trip to the supermarket with my friend finished with Very Small Goddaughter being violently sick in the back of the car.

Friend (as above) suddenly had crippling headaches yesterday and was whizzed into A and E. Lovely older son and Lady Sunshine went to look after the children until their dad came back from the hospital. Today, Tony and I gathered them all up until their mum was given massive quantities of medication and discharged.

Oh, and I didn't mention that above husband went with Lovely Older Son on a four hour round trip on Sunday because Tony still couldn't drive, so they could bring back Tony, his passengers, and the car.

This, too, is a story. It's a story about how people help each other through crises. We have kept eldest goddaughter as a memento. Or a hostage.

Tomorrow, perhaps we'll be back to normal. Then again...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

story time

When I do school visits, talks, interviews and so on, one of the most frequently asked questions is 'where do you get your ideas from?' As I say on the website, they come from all over the place. You just have to recognise a story when it waves at you. The next thing is to say, 'what if?'

Shall we try a BRAND NEW FEATURE on the blog?

It's a Story Spin. Now and again, I'll give you an idea, and you can decide if you want to make a story from it. If you like, give it a special notebook and illustrations, but it's best to whizz down your ideas and put a draft on scrap paper first. Pop a few words in the comment box if you want to tell us how it's going on.

So, for the first Story Spin -

A girl goes to the piano to do her music practise, but as she plays, she finds she is playing a tune she has never heard before. It's very beautiful, and it's as if the piano knows it and needs to play it.

Over to you now. By the way, I started with a girl, but it can be a boy if you prefer.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

e-mails, trees, and a nonagenarian

Firstly, a word to all of you who e-mail me and are waiting for replies - Our e-mail is playing silly whatnots just now. If you're waiting for a reply, it is trying to reach you. Leave a comment on the blog if you're waiting for a reply and wondering where it's got to. A mole with a screwdriver would be good.

Well! Yesterday was my dad's 91st birthday, so Tony and I made the long trip to Rothbury in Northumberland where we met Mum, Dad, my sister and her husband, for a pub lunch. Then we took ourselves off to Cragside.

If you feed 'Cragside, Northumberland' into a search engine you should find a bizarre house on a hill with gardens, grounds, woods and water all round it. Woods and water were what we had in mind, and it was a perfect dry, crisp autumn day, with the trees in full autumn glory. An iron bridge over the burn has been opened, and Dad was keen to do the walk over the iron bridge and to the power house. (Cragside was built by an inventor and engineer who used water power from the estate to work electricity and hydraulic lifts in the house.)

We did it. It sounds very simple, but with aged parents, my dodgy back and the weather forecast, it might not have happened. As it was, everything about it - the leaves and cones on the forest floor, moss, trees, water, riverbanks, was so beautiful. The air tasted of autumn. Amazingly, my back didn't give a bit of bother, and I was able to help Mum over the steep bits.

We stopped at my sister's cottage for birthday cake. She had bought two large candles, a 9 and 1, so depending on what went which way round and which way up he could be 61, 19, or 16 if he felt like it. Finally a drive home through some of the loveliest views in the world.


Monday, 11 October 2010


Firstly - if anyone is waiting for an e-mail reply from me, the e-mail here is being a bit sulky just now. It just folded its arms and pretended not to see me. I'll reply as soon as I can.

Now, the Pearlies. In the nineteenth century the costermongers, who were street traders, were a hard bitten lot who looked after their own. They'd have a whip round (money collection) to support any of their community who were too ill to work, widows and orphans, etc. Henry -um - Yorke, I think his name was, who had grown up in an orphanage and then went to work as a street cleaner in the London markets, made friends with the costermongers and took their work a step further. He raised money for various charities benefiting the poor, especially orphans, and adopted the costermonger tradition of decorating his clothes with pearl buttons.

To this day, every London borough has a Pearly King and Queen, who wear the most amazing pearl button suits, some decorated with symbols and designs, some 'smother' suits covered with buttons, and raise money for charity. We had the great joy of meeting the Pearly King of Walthamstow and the Pearly Queen of Tower Hamlets last week when they were at St Martin's for their Harvest Festival. The Pearly Princes and Princesses were there in their best, too. Great to see you around, Pearlies.

The chiropractor says I mustn't sit at a keyboard for more than half an hour absolutely top max. I'll have to type faster.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

st martin's

The church of St Martin's in the Fields isn't in the fields at all, it's slap-bang in the centre of London on Trafalgar Square. It's been famous for a long time for the work they do there for the homeless and other people generally down on their luck, and every year there's a radio appeal from the vicar of St Martin's which never fails to raise thousands of pounds. They do a lot of simple, sensible stuff, like making grants to families who urgently need to replace something - maybe a cooker - but have completely run out the money to do so.

It's wonderful, what they do. It's a disgrace to our welfare system that they have to do so much of it.

They have lots going on there. We went there for lunch in the Crypt cafe on Sunday, and it was packed. Clearly a popular place to be. There were at least five services there that day, including one in Cantonese and another foreign language one, I can't remember what that was. Also in the crypt was an art exhibition, and a chance to look at the latest possible exhibits for the fourth plinth. (For US readers - there are three plinths in Trafalgar Square with statues on, and a fourth which used to be empty. Now and again they put something new on it.)

And there's a little shop where I bought some very beautiful advent calenders. And the Pearlies arrived - I'll tell you about them soon.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


We've got a nice chap doing the garden just now. Knows what 'e's doing, which is a sight more than 'er ladyship does. He does his job, and lets me do mine. 'E clears away the ivy and I tell 'im when he's missed a bit. This weekend was entertaining, the blooming river came through the fence. Flattened a few weeds, an' all.

Those two weren't 'ere, they were off to London so he could get his sirtifikerat or summit and a big black dress thing, scare the daylights out of them ducks, that will. 'Im and 'er been talking about the Nashunal Gallery, apparently it's full of paintings. What d'you want paintings for? You've got a river, an' a garden, and me and me snail to look at. You got weeds and dickie birds an'all. Anyway, they seem to have had a great time with them paintings. They said you have to choose which bit yer want to look at, and take yer time. I ask you, 'ow long does it take to look at a painting of a few old geezers or some bloomin' water lilies?

The other thing 'er likes about the Nashunal Gallery is the cakes. 'Er reckons it's one of the best cake places in London, and blimey, 'er should know. 'Er says 'er can't walk far just now. Funny 'er ran out of steam just outside the Nashunal, innit?

Monday, 4 October 2010


Because I like to protect my family's privacy I don't usually name them on the blog, but I can't go on about Tony at length and still keep calling him The Husband. At present he is an acknowledged cleverclogs and I want to show him off.

This weekend we went to London where he was to be awarded his Master of Theology cum laude. He worked long and hard for this, wowed the examiners, and was also awarded the Vice-Chancellor's award, which was only announced on the day. He now has a new set of robes, a rather fetching hood, and a very proud missus.

I still can't walk very far, so we spent much of the time in and around Trafalgar Square and Strand, and further posts will hopefully tell you about the National Gallery, St Martin-in-the-Fields, (which isn't in the fields, but it was once) and Pearlies. Now we are both back to work, I haven't finished unpacking, there is a joiner replacing the ceiling in the shower, and the engineer has just repaired the boiler so we can have heating without losing the hot water. And Cleverclogs M Th is at a staff meeting, so I'm making builder's tea for the joiner. Back to earth.