Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Caw, Krrk, WOLF!

What a great day yesterday! With The Lion Classic Aesop's Fables under my arm, in my suitcase and in my head, I spent the morning at Keighley Library. I was working with children from Harden and Eastwood Primary Schools, and the afternoon was spent in Burley-in-Wharfedale Library with another two classes, this time from Burley Woodhead and Burley Oaks.

As I walked into Keighley Library, the first thing I saw was five or six children in blue school sweaters, all lying on their tummies on the floor, reading books. From then on, I knew we were in for a good day.

All the children - and their teachers - were great audiences, attentive, full of good ideas, and happy to join in with the cawing crow, the croaking frogs, and the boy crying WOLF! We made up fables, we pinged with ideas, and the children talked to me about their favourite books. Everyone was well-behaved, pleasant, polite, and a credit to their schools and families, and it was good to see how much they loved books.

So congratulations to all of you, and the teachers, and a round of applause to Christinea, who accompanied me, made sure I was never far from a coffee, and helped me lug the very heavy case up and down steps at various stations. Christinea's job is working throughout a vast area of Yorkshire enthusing children and teachers about reading, and if yesterday is anything to go by she's doing it brilliantly.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Reasons for no blog all week

Arrived in London late Monday afternoon

Comfortable room and very good fairtrade coffee at MIC Euston

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park (garish fairground and not a gingerbread house in site, but some nice craft stalls)

Beautiful, contemplative nativity screened in a log cabin in Covent Garden (look at Martha Fiennes, Covent Garden, Nativity)

Getting lost in Piccadilly

The real point of the trip, which was to attend the opening of THE ILLUSTRATORS exhibition at Chris Beetles Gallery, including the stunning artwork by Amanda Hall from our Aesop's Fables - yippee!

walking three times round the gallery looking at delightful illustrations by Jane Pinkney and Emma Chichester Clark, and some vintage EH Shepherd

Fun meeting over coffee at the Science Museum with Chris, who was the first ever editor to take one of my stories from the slush pile at a magazine. My first ever story in print, and he went on to publish many more. Just got in touch with him again recently by accident, and he still makes me laugh

Christmas shopping, also at the science museum, and I'm not telling you anything about that in case certain people read the blog

Tea and cake at Apostrophe cafe with wonderful Alison Sage, who masterminded my Treetops books

Meeting with my brilliant agent, encouraging as ever

More secret shopping

Train home Wednesday night, home at midnight

Message on phone from vicar, to say he couldn't do playgroup the following morning, so

As above

catch up with home, correspondence, washing,


after school club, then finally,



hello! Here's the blog! How are you?

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Today, I...

turned out a bedroom

sorted out a problem with a story, I'm not sure how I did it, but I think it works

took a sideways look at another story which might get itself in order if it thinks I'm not watching it

played the piano very badly

and started on the Advent Calendars. Real, old-fashioned Advent Calendars, with beauty, wonder, sparkle and no chocolates. A week tomorrow is Advent Sunday.

And tomorrow is Stir-up Sunday, the last Sunday of the church's year. It's the day when we are called to stir up our hearts, our minds and our Christmas puddings. We're a practical lot in the Church of England. (Well, most of us are...)

I don't like to start preparing for Christmas too early, but I like even less to be flying about like a pinball in the last week, so some presents are bought while others are being seriously thought about. This leads me to my next question - a certain young lady I know has asked Father Christmas for 'a wooden doll, one that you can dress and undress'. I've seen little doll's house wooden dolls, but I think she means a proper doll sized one. I've searched the net. Even the doll museum shops have nothing of the kind. There's a great guy in Derbyshire called Rob Roy who does wooden toys, but not even he seems to sell quite what is called for.

And, yes, at four years old she does know what she means by wood. She plays a lot with wooden toys, and loves them. I admire her taste, but I think Father Christmas might be stumped by this one - unless anyone knows of a Christmas elf somewhere making wooden dolls that you can dress and undress? Any website addresses would be much appreciated.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Golden Child

The Golden Child will be two at the end of this month, and I am sewing doll's clothes. When Golden Child gets dressed in the morning, the doll has to get dressed too, and a girl can soon run out of clothes at that rate. Sewing is one of those things that I like to do in spite of not being much good at it, and the sewing machine and I don't necessarily get on, but the Golden Child isn't that fussy. It also gives me the chance to go into a delightful little shop that sells all things needlework and buy ribbons, braid, buttons - if you're a bloke reading this it will make no sense at all. Sorry about that. For the dressmakers, all this dolly's garments are hand-hemmed.

She may just be little now, but playing with dolls fired my young imagination, and she may be a story teller in the making. My dolls didn't just change their clothes and have tea parties. They rode horses, fought off witches, rescued each other, and got so dirty they could only be cleaned with scouring powder.

The hole in the garden remains more or less as it was. I may have to consult an expert about how it got there and whether the house will fall into it. Up to now nobody has fallen in or out, which is a good thing.

And as you must be dying to know - Tony Archer is miserable and has fallen out with Jenny, Brian has fallen out with Adam, and nobody likes Clive Horrobin.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


There's a bloomin' great 'ole in the garden. 'Er went down there this morning and found it, 'alfway down the slope and next to a buddlieairer or whatever they call it. Sometimes they call it the butterfly bush and I call it the thing with purple spiky bits. Smells nice.

Now, what we want to know is, 'oo put the 'ole there? 'Oles don't dig themselves. Now, Stephen were 'ere yesterday and 'e might have dug it for planting summat, but it's too near the budlly thing to plant anything sizeable, and by gum, it's a sizeable 'ole. Mr Tony and 'er were out all day, so they don't know 'ow it got there, and I... well I might have just nodded off for a minute or two, I'm not as young as I were. Woke up, and there's this 'ole. Great big 'ole, a chap could fall down there. Deep, too, and dry underneath. 'Ave we got a badger?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

it's a bit diggidult

it's a bit diggidult to type today bedause I just daught the tip og my legt index ginger on a hot iron. It doesn't hurt very mudh but it makes typing awkward and slow so I dan't do mudh with the blog or I'll be here until next Dhristmas. It was a dery silly thing to do, I should know by now to keep gingertips away grom irons that have just been turned ogg.

I have proved myselg to be thoroughly indompetent. As a punishment, I will not be allowed to iron anything gor a week. We will wear donsipduously dreased and drumpled dlothing and the grills and glounces will go all gloppy.

Friday, 11 November 2011

11 11 11

I was at home when the clock struck eleven this morning, but I stood up as the Radio clanged out the chimes of Big Ben into my achey head. It made me think of those young men in the trenches, with the constant sound of gunfire following them into their sleep.

Somebody who was outside later told me that the whole village stopped. Traffic slowed, cars pulled in to the side of the road. People in the street stood still. Even the birds stopped singing. On Sunday, there will be wreath-laying at the foot of the War Memorial where a lone soldier stands holding a rifle. He looks so young, about eighteen. He s heart-breaking.

Thank you, all those future past generations. For the sake of the future generations, lets all work to find ways of sorting out aggression without sending our children to war.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


When I was still having a lot of back pain, I signed up for a day at one of my favourite places, St Bede's Pastoral Centre in York. Somebody was coming to run a 'training' day (for want of a better word) about living with chronic pain.

By the time came - which was yesterday - I'd been mostly pain-free for nearly a month, but by then I was committed, and besides, a friend was going too, and she'd never been to St Bede's before. I felt a bit apologetic, really, because everybody else was in a far worse state than I was.

Not that you'd know it. A few people walked with sticks and one very pretty and delightful woman was in a wheelchair, but mostly you wouldn't know what battles they were all fighting. It was only as the day went on, and as we sat having lunch together, that we got insights into each other's lives. And there they all were, these men and women coping with mental or physical pain, just keeping going. Going to work, working from home, picking up grandchildren from school, doing work in their churches and communities.

Respect. Admire. Think. And please don't judge. Everyone has their own battles to fight.

Friday, 4 November 2011


I've been quiet lately because Tony and I have had a few days staying with my sister, brother-in-law, and the cats in Northumberland. This year has been a truly golden autumn and walking or driving under arches of trees is magical. Coming home in the evenings, the misty light turned the Cheviot Hills blue and grey and and blended them in and out of the sky.

I was reminded of a favourite poem, 'Northumberland', by Wilfred Wilson Gibson, who lived in Hexham.

Heatherland and bent-land
Black land and white,
God bring me to Northumberland,
the land of my delight.

Land of singing waters
And winds from off the sea,
God bring me to Northumberland,
The land where I would be.

Heatherland and bent-land,
And valleys rich with corn,
God bring me to Northumberland,
The land where I was born.