Sunday, 27 February 2011


Six o'clock, the sun going down in a cloudy sky. Grape hyacinth and crocuses coming up in the garden. Peaceful river pattering along. Gnome thoughtful.

Stories, stories, stories. Everywhere I'm hearing about how important stories are. The shortest journey between a human being and the truth is a story. I can't remember who said that, but it's true.

I've been thinking about traditional stories. There are dozens of versions of Cinderella. From Durham comes the famous Lambton Worm, but there are similar stories about overcoming a monster from all over the world. It's dangerous to forget our stories. We can't learn anything from them if we don't know them.

I'm thinking a lot about storytelling. I'm wondering what are the really important stories that need to be told. The Little Red Hen? Stone Soup? The North Wind and the Sun?

What are your best stories?

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Island in the West

I haven't written a blog for a few days because Tony and I escaped to North Wales for two days. Lovely Older Son and Lady Sunshine had told us about a particular beach that they like, so there we went.

As a Northumbrian - and Alnmouth beach is one of my favourite places in all the world - I set a high standard for beaches. This one was the most breathtaking, open place, a 'thin' place with very little between heaven and earth. The light over the grey-green water changed continually, and sparkled for the moments when the sun came out. Mist and cloud moved over the mountains, and the waves curled into foam. The tide was turning and left perfectly hinged mussel shells, cockles and layered oyster shells. The rocks were dark grey and green, shining, with veins of marble and red stone. There were mermaid's purses and pink feathery seaweeds, rock pools, and brave little ferns and alpines growing out of the rocks.

Anglesey is an extraordinary place. There are forests where red squirrels hide, and wild ponies on the hills. It's full of pre-Christian burial places and tiny churches and Christian sites from the days when it was an island of saints.

Fresh air, wind and long walks gazing across the seascape make you hungry. We stopped at the small town of Beaumaris and found the Red Boat Ice Cream Parlour, which also does sandwiches and such like. As this is half term week it was very busy, but there was still room for two hungry pilgrims in need of ciabatta and ice cream (not at the same time.)

We will be back. we haven't yet explored all the beaches, seen the squirrels and ponies, or sampled all the flavours at the ice cream parlour.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Just look!

A covering of snow today, and looking across the alley I can see white hills, white mist, white hills, with a sprinkling of snow on rooftops and on the tops of conifers. Somewhere in those invisible hills, Tony is doing a wedding in a village chapel.

Yesterday in the supermarket, I stopped to look at the display of bouquets. They looked so happy! Spring colours at last, and in every bouquet there seemed to be a spear of purple-blue iris among the pinks, whites and yellows.

Two instincts met in the middle of me and bumped. One said 'take them home!' and the other was 'extravagance!'. And it wouldn't have made sense to buy flowers, as I'll be away for two days this week, and the blokes at home won't notice them much.

Then I remembered that I don't have to own things. They flowers just as beautiful if they don't belong to me. I don't have to find something to put them in, watch them die, put them in the compost and wash out the vase. I can just stand still, Mrs Cannybody in Sainsbury's, and look.

I'm not saying I'll never buy flowers. I think flowers are one of the nicest gifts you can give someone. But I was reminded that the important thing isn't to own, but just to recognise loveliness when it's under our noses, whether it's flowers or the small boy who thinks I drive a digger.

Thursday, 17 February 2011


I had a great morning at our Toddler Group today. For one thing, very small people kept running up to me and hugging me. They are usually much too busy riding tricycles backwards and dressing up the cuddly lion in a frock, and all the other things that toddlers do, so I was pleasantly surprised to be hugged. It's just occurred to me that their dads may have been watching the rugby and they were actually attempting flying tackles, but I prefer to think I was hugged.

First thing in the morning, when I arrived, I noticed a huge yellow digger in the car park, which was a bit of a surprise. When the mums and children arrived, they told me that the children had been asking where it came from. The mums said they didn't know, but one bright little soul settled it.

'It must be Margi's,' he said.

Of course.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Last night, Tony and I joined the long queue outside our local cinema to see The King's Speech.

My mother can remember when George VI was king, and how, whenever he made a speech, there was a sense of willing him to get through it. You'd be with him through every word, suffering for him if he stammered and glad of every word he got right. That voice carried them through the war years. The film finishes before that bleak Christmas when that shy, brave man gave them that quote about 'The man at the gate of the year'. It inspired, and still inspires.

And so does the film. It inspires, challenges, and touches you. Performances are perfectly pitched. There is something 'beyond acting' about the two central performances. Duty is an old-fashioned word, but it's a key concept here, as are courage, love, trust... and hope. And it's funny, in places.

If you haven't seen it yet, you know what to do now.

Saturday, 12 February 2011


Great news just came in this morning. Hyperion are going to do a reprint of URCHIN AND THE RAGE TIDE! So, all those of you who have been hunting about for a copy, it will be available, probably in about two months - I'll let you know if I find out any more.

THANK YOU, all of you who wrote, e-mailed, got your friends to write and e-mail, and generally made your voices heard at Hyperion when you asked for a reprint. It worked. They listened, and thank you, Hyperion, for listening.

And if you can make a difference to that, what else can you make a difference to?

Friday, 11 February 2011

So there I was... our after school club, doing the storytelling session. We were telling the story of The Man who was paralysed, and his friends couldn't get into the house where Jesus was teaching so they made a hole in the roof and lowered him through.

I'd made the cardboard box house with a flat roof and steps up the side. All the children took turns to put a little wooden figure in the house to make it crowded. The paralysed man's two little wooden friends tried to get in, couldn't, and carried him up to the roof on his bed. So far, so good. The audience was most impressed as I took out the little cutting blade and made a hole in the roof. The children watched in awed silence. Nobody fidgeted. The two friends attached ropes (string) to the bed, lowered him down, and dropped him.

Oops. Halfway down, the poor chap tumbled off his blanket and fell on the floor. Oh, well, we all agreed that he'd come for healing anyway, so he was in the right place. He got up, rolled up his bed, thanked Jesus, and walked away. Or possibly ran, before anybody else could drop him through a hole in a roof.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


In spite of the rain stopping, the river is in a hurry, much to the distress of the ducks who don't know whether to go down forwards or sideways. They are swivelling about and bumping into the reed banks, which I've never seen before.

It's one of those days. I have to sort out lots of paperwork stuff, then I need to look at things I want to write, but don't know how to. One task is boring, the other is difficult and perplexing. So I am flottering about.

I have sorted out needlework stuff. I have put the beads in a new box, and even had a little tidy up. I hung up a new bird feeder. Before starting the blog, I spent a minute or two cleaning out the bits of fluff and dust that get between the computer keys. (A visiting card comes in useful for this.) It's not pottering, it's fluttering from one thing to another. Flottering.

Somewhere in this house, there are pencils to be sharpened.

Monday, 7 February 2011


Those of you who live in the New World may find it strange that She of the Stories tells you so much about the river, the weather, and the garden. Perhaps you think it's that English thing, you know, always going on about the weather. Hm.

Well, you know, the weather is something you notice if you are blessed with a garden and a river at the bottom of it. And those ducks. Odd little chaps, aren't they? You jolly well notice the weather if you're an animal, too. Animals feel the weather in their fur and their paws, long before the rest of you, and if you live up a tree you need to know if that tree's going to sway about all night.

It's most important to notice the natural world. It's the real thing, you know. Alive, and strong, and the stuff we're made of. Good stuff. She was delighted yesterday because she's got one small iris growing in a pot by the front door. It really is such a bright little thing, and so delicately coloured. So that's why I'm doing this note for her today. She's out taking a good look at the iris while it's still there, because it won't last long and it's stormy outside.

Hm. Kettle on, young Juniper. Padra will be up in a minute, and he won't refuse a hot cordial.

Friday, 4 February 2011

blown away

Wind and rain buffeting along the valley like a lot of rowdy drunks. The river is twice its normal size and the ducks are not pleased. There are seagulls over the river today and we're nowhere near the sea. The weather at the coast has to be appalling to make them fly this far inland.

On days like this on Mistmantle, the moles grumble, head for their tunnels, and stay there. Hedgehogs valiantly get on with things, but seek shelter at the first possible moment. Squirrels don't much mind, and the otters, bless them, love it.

I had to do a bit of shopping this morning, and was just about home when the wind decided I really shouldn't go home, I should go next door instead, and almost lifted me off my feet. If Tony hadn't come out to meet me I would have been airborne by now, sailing over York like Mary Poppins.

So here are some of the other things that have 'blown me away' lately -

- the beauty of the Candlemas story, Mary and Joseph bringing their baby to the temple, and old Simeon and Anna who recognised the light of the world when they saw him -

- the Golden Child whizzing about in the baby walker

- and all the lovely e-mails and letters I've been getting from readers lately. I don't want to sound soppy, but they really do touch my heart. Thank you. Sometimes, they make me cry, but the right sort of crying. If you're waiting for a reply, it will be done very shortly, I'm working my way through!

So - what's blown you away today? Anybody?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Damp, and cool, the river quiet with two sedate ducks sailing down it. Hungry little coaltits are hopping in and out of the holly hedge. (Must buy bird food.)

I was reminded yesterday that last week was the celebration of Burns Night. We were away on the Welsh borders so it passed us by, but it's big in Scotland and is filtering south of the Border.

Burns Night is a Scottish festival celebrating the life of Robert Burns, Scotsman, poet, tax inspector and ladies' man. He wrote in Scots dialect, and wrote some popular love poetry as well as that famous line about 'the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglee'. And lots more.

So at a Burns Supper, the main course is always haggis with mashed neeps and tatties - oh, sorry.

Neeps = turnip or swede
Tatties = potatoes

Haggis - no, not a small furry animal pursued through the Highland hills. It is - are you ready for this? - minced sheep offal, oatmeal, pepper and herbs, boiled in a sheep's intestine. It tastes surprisingly good if you don't know what it is. The haggis is brought in to the accompaniment of bagpipes (truly, I'm not making this up) and 'addressed', ie, a chosen person recites Burns's poem in honour of the haggis, the 'chieftain of the pudding race' before cutting into it, ideally with a dagger.

So now you know. By the way, I'm vegetarian and you can get vegetarian haggis. I've never tried it.