Monday, 29 October 2012


I go away for a few days, and what happens? Things pounce on me.

Tony and I spent a few days at Burrswood in Kent. It's a calming and lovely place, and on Saturday morning, already feeling soothed and renewed, we went to the British Wildlife Centre in East Grinstead.

Wrapped up against the cold we walked through, nodded good morning to the foxes, a harvest mouse, and a pine marten who was looking out at us fron a nest in what looked like an American mailbox. (Lying in bed on a cold morning watching the world go by. How can I get the pine marten's job?)

Then we walked through our favourite area, the copse, where red squirrels play and muntjac deer graze under the trees. Juniper was there, and another squirrel even darker than he was. By the stream the otters came to see us, the red and fallow deer kept their distance, and, as it grew colder, we walked back through the copse. There we met someone who looked very like Sepia. On reflection she might have been Crackle or Scatter, but Sepia came to mind.

She ran along a wooden rail to where we were standing. Sepia and I looked at each other. I stood still. She thought about me. Then with a spring she was on my shoulder, running across the back of my coat, and climbing down my shoulder bag. Then she jumped down, tasted the bag, and turned her attention to Tony. She put a paw on his shoe, bit the hem of his trousers, had another look at my bag just to check if I happened to have a few hazelnuts with me, then ran off to meet somebody else.

That alone would have made my year. And then the next thing that pounced on me was the news that Daughter's boyfriend had just proposed, and she (of course) had accepted. Those two are absolutely right together, and we are all delighted. (As are Daughter and Mr D.) So she has a ring on her finger and I - all too briefly - had a squirrel on my shoulder. It's almost too much happiness for one day. I'm all of a whatnot, and Apple is offering me a restorative cordial.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

the goalie

After a sad day yesterday, Nels reminded me that I had already told myself about difficult partings, by way of Mistmantle. Thank you to all of you who have helped me over the hump.

So, by way of light relief, here's something LYS told me about today.

When LYS was capain of a football team at his college at university, there was one guy on the team who was big enough to blot out sunlight and stop a moving train by looking at it. For a such a massive bloke he was very agile and of course LYS put him in goal, where he was fast enough to stop the ball assuming it hadn't already hit him in the chest and exploded.

One night after a game, they'd all gone out together to eat, and Goalie ordered a pizza. Bt he was really hungry, so he ordered a burger to eat while he waited for his pizza.

But he was really, really hungry. So he ordered some chips (fries) to eat while he was waiting for his burger. And, yes, he did finish it all.

Dear readers, this a true story, not a lifestyle plan. Don't try it.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


Our great friends J and C moved away today, called to somewhere new. They have been great supportive friends, and as families we all got on well, and they're such fun! They will leave a big ragged gap in our lives.

This morning Tony and I went along there with the hoover, some dusters and a very silly cobweb brush to help them get turned around. Then, when the van was loaded, the carpets all hoovered and the cupboards cleaned and checked, it was nearly time to go. Only the last few things - washing up bowl, kitchen bin, and so on - still had to be put in the car.

At this point, loading mugs into the washing up bowl, I said, 'what am I doing this for? Why am I helping you go when I want you to stay?' But sometimes it has to be, doesn't it, and it isn't up to us. When the meters were read and the water turned off, it was time to lock up, say a prayer with them, and watch them go.

It's harder for them. We've lost J and C, but they have to start all over again in a new community, which is never easy. At least their children are grown up. Any organisations - companies, charities, churches - that require their staff to move frequently should think long and hard about what it means.

Go well and safely. The help and nurture, the welcome, and the sheer fun and happiness you have brought us is immeasurable. I hope they really appreciate you where you're going. If not, tell me and I shall fall upon them with my cobweb brush.

They're not going too far - near enough for us to arrange a get-together next month. But they have taken a shaft of sunlight with them. And what will we do now for a New Year Party?

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Oooh, what an autumn for hats! I been down that garden, there's all sorts, some of them semperviryusses got lovely red and orangey leaves just now. There's something growing through the fence, don't know what it is, but it's yellow, and leaves so big you could use them for an umbrella. That witch hazel, it's only a young one, but that's looking very nice.

I chatted to old Much, and he said, just wait till the cotoneastererer turns red, it'll be a rare sight. And there's berries all over 'er 'olly tree, but I don't take them for me hat, the birds need them in winter.

I see there's a thing running round that garden, it's not a proper squirrel, not like on Mistmantle, it's a grey thing with a tail. Got no manners, whatever it is. Never stops to share the time of day. If it digs up 'er tulip bulbs it'd better look out, she likes her tulips.

Squirrels don't do hibernating, and on Mistmantle not even the hedgehogs go to sleep in winter. There's too much going on, who wants to miss out? Not hedgehogs. But round 'ere you can't get no sense out of a hedgehog this time of year, all they want is to go to bed and sleep all winter. She of the Stories reckons it's not such a bad idea.

Thursday, 18 October 2012


It's been a long day. I did Toddler Group this morning, had a couple of hours at home to deal with e-mails from editors, and went out to Leeds for a lesson from Jane, my voice coach. (She's brilliant, by the way.) I did the shopping in Leeds (divided the journey there and back between reading and writing, trudged home, and dealt with yet more e-mails, and after this I'm going for a lovely hot bath.

I know, before you say it. I know that we're supposed to take showers, not baths. I try not to waste water. I put cooking water on the garden, and when it's dry in summer (some chance this year) I don't send all my bathwater swirling dsown the plughole, I take bucketsful out to water on the plants. They don't seem to mind if it takes soapy.

But a bath is not just to do with getting clean. A bath is to do with soaking, sinking back in kind hot water. Bathwater loves you! It knows when you've had a hard day. It wraps around you, warms you all the way through, and floats all your aches and tension away. It almost sings to you. Even while it's still pouring from the tap it's reminding you to have a fluffy towel ready, and some special soap/talc/body lotion/bath bombs/oil/plastic yellow ducks, whatever it is that blesses your bathtime.

When I'm in the bath, storylines sort themselves out and get unknotted. I can see what's gone wrong with a story, and where, and what to do about it. New ideas pop up like bath fizzers. I can't afford a weekend at a luxury health spa, but who cares, when I can be pampered and inspired by half an hour in a hot bath?

LYS shares my enthusasim for baths. I may have to queue.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Here Come the Girls

Lady Sunshine and The Lassie stayed over last night. Lady Sunshine is doing a counselling course on a Tuesday, and has less driving to do if she stays over with us on a Monday night. (LOS misses her, but it means that he can eat fish on Monday nights. Lady Sunshine can't stand even the smell of it. She must be more of a squirrel than an otter.)

The Lassie has just come back from a holiday in New York with her sister, and loved it, especially Central Park. I have fond memories of it myself, from when Tony and I were in New York for the launch of Mistmantle in the USA. The sweet girl brought us back some American chocolate, so we all sat around and ate Hershey's Kisses, which none of us had ever had before. They are delicious. It was an evening when the men were outnumbered 3-2, which doesn't often happen.

As often does happen when we all get together, we started discussing favourite animals. Following her visit to Central Park Zoo, The Lassie adores red pandas. The Sunshines recently went to Yorkshire Wildlife Park, and Lady Sunshine wants a ring-tailed lemur.

For me, it's still the red squirrel. You can't own one, you can just watch them in the wild and admire them.

And you? Faourite animal, anybody?

Sunday, 14 October 2012


When my Dad was born, Britain was still staggering to its feet after the First World War. This weekend, we had his big family birthday do. You know what it's like when you don't know what to buy for someone? Usually I'm like that about Dad, but this year inspiration struck, and we all chipped in to get him a telescope.

Now, there's a very happy man. Seeing him unwrapping it yesterday I just wish I'd thought of it years ago. Never mind - apparently it's never too late to start star-gazing and the prospect of seeing the stars so clearly delights him.

The stars have inspired dreams and imagination for thousands of years. They are part of our mythology, and the more we learn about them the more we understand the world we live in. They show us how vast the universe is, and how tiny we are. And the stars that shone on my Grandma and her baby are still shining on him now, and on me, and on you.

So tonight, or the next clear night, just go outside and look.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


An odd sort of day, with too many different elements. Have you ever tried using up all the leftovers in the fridge by mixing them together? And then you wonder why it tastes like - well, not like anything you've ever had? A bit like that.

Our much loved vicar is about to leave for a new parish and we are bereft. He is an exceptional priest - a great friend and pastor, and the sort of person you want to have at a party. His wife is a star, too, and we'll miss her. So the day began with his last Toddler Group, when we presented him with a banner the children made and LYS smuggled in a special, beautiful cake. It seems impossible that we'll go on without him, but we will.

Then I had to go by train to Manchester, and stood for ten minutes behind somebody who was booking tickets, but was extremely miffed, as we say in the UK, beause she couldn't get what she wanted. Engineering works on the line! What do you mean, I can go by a different route? I don't want to go that way! Replacement bus? But I don't want to... you get the picture.

A taxi took me much further across Manchester than I'd expected, to the Christian Resources Exhibition. Two hours later I was laden down with fliers for everything from Fairtrade Easter Eggs to made-to-order coffins. (They weren't doing much business at the coffin stand.)

But I was bothered. It's a long time since I went to CRE, and this one was smaller, and very different. Where were the people doing all the fantastic under-fives resources, puppets, and crafts? Where were the artists? Where were the music publishers? The makers of nativity figures, and wines and perfumes from The Holy Land? I wonder if they do eveything on-line now?

After that lot I wan't paying another taxi fare, so I found my way to the bus station, which - oh joy! took me through a branch of John Lewis. Friends in the US, you can have no idea what those words 'John Lewis' mean to a Brit who hasn't been able to go to one for about a year. A cup of tea, a scone, and a base for a Christmas wreath later, I was on my way to the bus.

The bus took me via parts of Manchester I would never have seen otherwise, and I'm glad I did. The combination of poverty and community left me with a lot to think about.

And finally a train home. Hot chocolate. Toast. Tired. Maybe, tomorrow, this fridge mix day will make sense.

Monday, 8 October 2012


Last night I couldn't find my little pot of moisturiser. I don't like going to bed without whacking it on first because as a face like this needs all the help it can get, so I hunted around, and eventually lay flat on the floor and looked under the bed.

It's one of those beds with drawers underneath, so there's not much room under there. I couldn't get my arm under, but I could see there was something in there, so I fished about with a wire coathanger. After a thorough scavenge I'd found

one pair of reading glasses
a packet of emery boards
a small teddy bear.

The teddy ber is called Little, because he is. He wears a tiny crocheted jacket and hat, and I bought him many years ago in Pickering so that Hamilton would have a a small bear friend. We soon found that Little, though he got on very well with Hamilton, would not be content to sit beside him all day. He was an adventurous bear. We kept finding him on the tops of bookshelves, on the mantelpiece, on the sideboard, and (frequently) down the back of the settee. He sometimes wears a mountaineering rope, or an Ewok costume.

So it wasn't surprising to find him under the bed. LYS did wonder why he wanted the emery boards. Perhaps he wanted to build bridges, or use them as snow shoes in case he had to cross a smooth surface. I don't have a clue about the glasses, LYS wondereed if he'd been using them as a sledge. Maybe he just thought they were exciting.

The moisturiser turned up in my handbag. Haven't a clue how it got there.

Saturday, 6 October 2012


Readers, I am ready for next week.

I need to e-mail some alterations of a book to the editor.
I must continue to write the new book.
I have to check some proofs.

Daughter needs a dress altering and it's complicated, so I'll take it to the dressmaker.
Some more autumn bulbs need planting in well-rotted compost.
I must scrape the moss off the lawn and poke holes in it for drainage.
I must do the toddler group and arrange a fun activity for after school club.
I must wrap a present for for my Dad's 93rd birthday.

So that's easy.

E-mail the complicated dressmaker to my Dad and proof Daughter.
Scrape the editor off the lawn and wrap up the toddler group.
Alter the bulbs and poke holes in the new book.
Wrap up the editor and plant after-school club in well rotted compost.

I must scrape Dad off the lawn, write a new dressmaker and poke holes in the after school club.
I must alter a check dress, wrap Daughter and e-mail moss to toddler.
I must present compost to editor, write well-rotted book, toddle to club and alter Daughter.

I must poke holes in dress, scrape moss off dressmaker, arrange 93rd fun birthday in well-rotted compost, write new drain, e-mail bulbs, toddler-proof the lawn, check complicated Daughter, present after school group maker to editor, then I can just sit in television, eat armchair, and watch toast.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Green Park

When I first went to London I was seven or eight years old and the thing I liked most was the parks. I was amazed at how much green there was in London. Over the years I moved on to all the usual tourist attractions, especially the historical ones (the Tower, Westminster Abbey, St Paul's, Greenwich) and more recently to the museums and galleries. And, of course the shops, especially the ones where I can't afford more than a cup of tea and half a yard of fabric out of the remnants box.

Yesterday was a lovely autumn day and I was in London to meet a publisher and look at illustrations. We were finished at four, so I had some town time before I had to go home. I said hello to the National Gallery, then stood in Trafalgar Square and asked myself what I really wanted.

The clock twirled backwards. I wanted to be outside, in a park.

I walked down through Whitehall, past the site where Charles I was executed, past the entrance to Downing Street, and down to Westminster where I said hello to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, or the Queen ELizabeth Tower as we're supposed to call it now. Then, as I heard Big Ben striking six and knew that Tony was hearing it on the radio at home, I crossed over into Green Park.

The trees are turning, leaves are beginning to fall. Pelicans were sleeping on the islands in the lake, swans sailed, geese waddled about, and a duckling paddled confidently along. The light was beautiful. I even met a Cavalier Spaniel and a dachsund, and chatted to their owner. It was the right call.

Apparently it's called Green Park because Catherine of Braganza, the queen of Charles II, discovered that her husband had sent flowers to his latest lady-love. She had all the flowers in Green Park cut down to hit back at him. Imaginative, but not good for the view.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Cornwall, Cake, and Ch...

Funny sort of evening. I don't often do any baking, but I had a packet of dried fruit that needed using up so I made an old-fashioned 'cut and come again' fruit cake. It's one where you just boil up the fruit with almost everything else, then beat the flour in and put in the oven, so it takes no doing and makes the house smell like Christmas. Oh, no! I've said that word and it's only the first of October!

Then I thought I'd just have a quick look through at the photographs LOS sent us. They're mostly of the Sunshines' summer holiday in Cornwall. I got through the first five hundred or so and decided the rest can wait until tomorrow.

They'd been to the Eden Project, the gorgeous Lost Gardens of Heligan, Mevagissey, the Seal Sanctuary, and any number of beaches. If you want to see these places google Cornwall, but give yourself time to wallow in it. Tony and I have only been there once, and that was over thirty years ago, but seeing these pictures brings back how beautiful it is, and how unlike anywhere else. Artists love Cornwall because the light is so good.

So I think I should recommend LOS to the Cornish Tourist Board as he's doing such a good job for them. I think the only reason we haven't been back is because it's so far away, on the South West edge of the country (on a map it's the sticky out bit, bottom left.) These islands are small, but there's so much I haven't seen.

But it will have to wait until after Chr....