Tuesday, 28 February 2012

That quiet charming woman

Believe it or not, somebody once referred to me as 'that quiet charming woman', but mind you, he'd only met me once. Today, I don't know about charming, but I was brilliant at the quiet bit.

The cold went to my voice. By yesterday midday I had decided that I'd be all right to do my long-planned visit to Baines Endowed School in Thornton Cleveleys today. At nine o'clock this morning I was a bit hoarse, but the first classes were easy. By the afternoon, I was asking the teachers to read from TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL, HAMMY THE WONDER HAMSTER, and URCHIN OF THE RIDING STARS. Due to the amazing technology they have in schools now, I was able to answer children's questions by typing on a keyboard connected to a screen.

Technology is all very well, but a school depends on the commitment of its staff and pupils, and that was pinging everywhere. I met lovely keen, responsive children who liked books, liked writing, listened to each other as well as to me and their teachers. Walking round the school, there were signs everywhere of enthusiasm, and that's a great thing. I walked past maps of the Roman Empire, brilliant Celtic artwork, stained glass windows, banners, and penguins, and that was just on the way to the staff room. Clearly this a school where they pick up a topic and make the most of it. A good place to be. I would shout about it, but all I can do is whisper.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Bless me

Bless me. I just sneezed. I should be in York today for the Member's Day of the inspiring and astonishing Riding Lights Theatre Company. Today they will tell all the Members about the wonderful things they've done this year and what they're doing next year. They will showcase and commission the new touring company and leading actors like Nigel Forde and Paul Burbridge will take part in the cabaret. It'll go better without me coughing all the way through it. So instead of doing the British thing - 'keep going until you collapse with pleurisy', I'm doing it the American way - 'stay home and keep your disgusting germs to yourself'.

I get to spend more time with the Sunshines this way, too, as they're here for the weekend. The garden looks sunshine-y, too, with everything popping up. Much is happy.

What I really need is for my voice to hold out. Next week is Schools Book Week and I have two full days of visits. Anyone know how to ward off laryngitis?

Thursday, 23 February 2012


We've 'ad a good bit of rain lately and Stephen come 'ere yesterday to do a bit of cutting back. That improves the view no end, does that. Them little crocusses are on the way up, and me snail's partial to a bit of crocus. 'Er won't bother, 'er just thinks the birds eat 'em. Them little dwarf irises are coming up lovely.

When 'er goes away on 'oliday you never know what sort of a plant might come back with 'er. Fortunately er's been down south, and 'er reckons plants don't like being moved north, so she don't buy 'em down there. Just as well, I don't know where we'd put anything new. 'Er always turns up and says ' we'll find a home for it somewhere'. Usually means another blooming pot in the garden. But that improves the view an' all, so I won't grumble.

I do apologise, I haven't kept you up to date with The Archers lately. Brian and his stepdaughter Debbie want to build a great big dairy unit. Most of the village is against it including several of Brian's in-laws, so we are in for civil war. Tom is doing his bossy best to revitalise the family business, Neil is being hen-pecked by Susan's sister, and all the women in the village fancy Harry. Is that clear?

I could kill for a coffee.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Home Again

Saturday and Sunday, we were staying near Abingdon, an Oxfordshire market town. The very comfortable Bed and Breakfast we stayed in was supplied almost entirely with locally produced food, and the bread was all homemade. Why did the chicken cross the road? To lay eggs for Tony's breakfast.

After an exciting day with godchildren we drove over to Cardiff to see Daughter and hear the choir she sings in. They're entering a competition and I was there as a movement coach, but I was so blown away by the music it was hard to concentrate on what their feet were doing. And finally, today, we came home via a break at Tewkesbury for a visit to the abbey and the best coffee and walnut cake in the world.(Don't tell my mum I said that.)

Hamilton came with us, and had a wonderful time. He was admired by the lady at Abingdon, and sat watching TV and reading while we were out. He couldn't wait to see Daughter again, supervised rehearsal, and played with all the complimentary teas and coffees while we were having breakfast.

Speaking of coffee, I've just had my last one before Easter.Giving up coffee for Lent (if I manage it) isn't going to change the world, but it will remind me about Lent and mean that I am in control of coffee, not the other way round.

And what will I take up for Lent? Springing out of bed at first light, greeting the day with joy and laughter, taking the first breaths of early morning air while the village sleeps. Or maybe just rolling out of bed and on to the floor only half an hour after the alarm rings. It would be an improvement.

Friday, 17 February 2012


At present I'm working on two muddy stories. The chances of a third one coming about are pretty good, too. I'm not obsessed with mud or anything, it's just that my ideas just now seem to lead me in that direction.

It's not a good idea to keep repeating yourself in a story (unless you do it deliberately, for effect), so this means brainstorming for appropriate words. (By the way, 'soil' here is 'dirt' in the USA.) It's not just about finding words for mud, but also for what it does, what it feels like, sounds like, how you move in it. Plodge, splodge, gunge, swamp, bog, gloop, clarts (that's a Northumbrian one, as is claggy), squidge, ooze, plop. Thick, squishy. Like chocolate cake before it goes in the oven. But some mud isn't brown, it's grey-green and grim.

I need a bath now. And, talking of baths, the memory stick has recalled everything except its experiences in the washing machine.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Love and memories

The expression 'I've forgotten where I put my memory stick' is heard a lot in this house, as is 'I can't see what I've done with my glasses'. Memory sticks are such odd little things, and so easily left in a handbag, under a pile of papers, or in a pocket. Fortunately whatever I have on mine is already on the laptop and usually ends up in hard copy and on Tony's computer as well, so losing the memory stick is a nuisance, not a catastrophe. Perhaps I could find one that bleeps when I come near it. Or one that smells of chocolate, I should be able to locate that at fifty paces.

If nobody sent you a Valentine today it's because your worth hasn't yet been fully appreciated. But I send my love and appreciation to you for kindly coming to my site and reading my blog. I feel quite loved today, not only because a certain clerical gentleman gave me a card and chocolates, but because one of our local libraries held a 'Love Your Author' event this evening. They rounded up a few local authors, some keen readers, and a lot of professionals involved in schools and libraries, and we had time to mingle, meet readers, network, talk about what we do, answer questions, drink pink fizzy things, and eat cake. It was a great idea, and said a lot about how valuable our public libraries are. Hopefully it will be the first of many. Libraries and authors, it' a mutual love thing. Get along to your library.

Oh, the memory stick turned up.

Washing machine. Pocket.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

camel, giraffe, pink dress

Fuzzy felts are wonderful things. I loved them when I was a kid. They seemed to disappear for a while, but now somebody is making them again. I don't find them quite a good as the originals, but they're still a great plaything and very popular at our after school club.

(Recipe for this week's after school club - keep children cooped up for a week because the weather is so bad they can't go out at playtimes. Feed them sweets. Tell them it's half term holiday, open the doors, and let them pile into after school club.) Fortunately we have loads of space, so they can have fly about the room if that's what they need to do.

But one pensive boy sat down, began to play with the fuzzy felts, and then firmly sat me down beside him so he could tell me a story. It started with Mayr letting all her friends have a turn at cuddling the baby, and ended up with whatever he took out of the box next. So somebody went to Africa on a giraffe, and then somebody else found a pink dress and went all over the world on a camel trying to find who it belonged to.

What he was doing was using a good old story-telling technique. Take a character, an object, and a scene, and make a story out of them. If anybody needs inspiration, choose one each from the following lists -

A great-grandmother, a bin man, a gardener, a prisoner

A button, a fish, a camera, a coat

A beach, a dress shop, a castle, a station

Have fun!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


Pardon me if I've told you this story before, but I was thinking today about Daniel the Spaniel, who died long ago but still wags his tail on the website. Towards the end of his life we were living in the house on the Home page - it went with the job Tony was in at the time. The two front bedrooms were ours and LOS's, and there were another two at the back for Daughter and LYS. The bathroom was at the back of the house, too.

Daniel slept in his basket in our room, then, in the early hours, woke up and popped on to our bed knowing that I wouldn't bother to object. As soon as I was up he'd run to the door, and while I washed and dressed he organised the household.

First he'd push open the door to LOS's room, make a fuss of him, and then run a few paces away so that if LOS wanted to play with him, he'd have to get up. LOS and Daniel were great buddies, so it worked every time. Then he'd trot along the landing and into the other two bedrooms in turn. He didn't actually get Daughter and LYS out of bed, but it's hard to stay sleepy and horizontal when there's a spaniel jumping up at you. By the time I came out of the bathroom, he was reporting for duty at the door

'Right, missus. I've got them all sorted, now let's have our walk.'.

As you know, a dog has to be walked come snow, sleet, rain, ice, or beautiful mornings when you're glad to be out. We'd get home to find everybody having breakfast in the kitchen, when he'd either have a drink or find a warm place to lie down, depending on the weather.

No wonder he was exhausted. He'd already done his whole day's work.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Respect, ma'am

Whatever you think about the monarchy, you have to respect a woman who does the same job for sixty years and does it very well. Apparently the only day of the year when she doesn't have a despatch box to work through is Christmas Day. She still whizzes all over the world, charming the socks off world leaders and I believe she's capable of putting a Prime Minister in his/her place. This is a woman who was trained for the role from childhood, keeps informed, and knows her stuff. her family are a mixed bunch, but you can't do everything.

We had a family holiday in London when I was eight, and there was some big occasion - I can't remember what, but it involved the Queen, a horse-drawn carriage, lots of guardsmen and Horseguards Parade. Because my sister and I were smallish, we were pushed through to the front.

She appeared in the open carriage, and I remember she wore a yellow hat and coat. We waved. SHE SAW US. She smiled and waved back, and it was DEFINITELY AT US.

And just for a bit of pointless information -

she likes gin and Dubonnet

she loves dancing

she crossed a dachsund with a corgi to create a dorgi

her dream is for one of her horses to win the Derby

she's a good mimic

and she sent a congratulations card to my Mum and Dad on their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary.

Do I get an MBE now?

Saturday, 4 February 2012


I got into a conversation this week about children's first words. Daughter, LYS and LOS were respectively Dada, Dak-dak (tractor) and 'Dan'. (Daniel, the Spaniel.) He acquired 'dair' (there) at about the same time, and could differentiate between Dan and any other do' that crossed his radar.

Long ago as a student I learned that babies all over the world do the same babble sounds, which are mama, nana, baba, papa, dada, tata. Wherever you go you'll find that the words commonly used for mother, father and baby derive from these sounds. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.)

Until I was two and a half I only ever said 'haha' which meant my sister, and 'gowgow'. Gowgow was anything that wasn't my sister, and these two got me everything I wanted. The day she started school she shed a few tears at first, and I followed Mum around for the rest of the day telling her that Haha was crying.

'Haha' is actually quite difficult for a child to say. If I was capable of that I could have managed mama, dada, and all those words too, and I knew how to do sentences. I chose not to say more than I had to, and only spoke when I had no alternative. How times change.

But I can't remember a time when I didn't have a story in my head.

Thursday, 2 February 2012



The day Mary and Joseph brought their new baby boy to the Temple to be dedicated. Two old people, Simeon and Anna, recognised who he was and proclaimed him 'the light of the nations'.

The day our tiny wooden Austrian angel goes away in her drawer. She comes out every year on 29 September for St Michael and All Angels and goes away on Candlemas Night. She is a bit fragile, and has only one wing.

The day we know there is little more daylight than there was a month ago.

The day the Celts looked for the coming of spring.

Now I'm going to light some candles.