Monday, 29 April 2013


Ooh, it's good to be home. I've had a lovely few days, but I'm so happy to be back.

On Thursday morning I was doing playgroup as usual and by six o'clock I was at the Society of Authors in London for an evening about educational publishing. For a lot of children the books written for schools are the only ones they ever see, so they need to be better than good. I was there with my friend Helen who works with children having a hard time, and knows a lot obout children in need of books. Then we went back to my hotel and sat in the lobby with a drink and something to eat and talked for two hours. And we thought of two teenagers with school uniforms and inky fingers, remembered our lovely English teacher Miss Appleby, and thought she'd be proud of us.

The next day I took a train to Cardiff where I met up with Claire at the station, and in very little time we were with Daughter and Daughter's Chap. Daughter's Chap was allowed to join us that evening, but the next day we were gliding in and out of wedding boutiques where Daughter tried things on and we said 'Ooh!' a lot. All that saying 'ooh' gets quite tiring. The company was wonderful, the weekend was fun and the hotel a delight, but by the time I came home last night I was zombified with exhaustion.

Poor Chap. He didn't stand a chance. Three women who'd been wedding shopping. We talked loudly about whether Daughter should go for the dragon dress with the fireworks, the one on wheels, or the teddy bear outfit. And what does the Mother of the Bride wear these days?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


Two days with Mum and Dad, one day home, then off to London tomorrow, then Cardiff, that's what this week looks like. I seem to live on trains. One of these days the guard on the East Coast Line will say 'oh no, not you again'. Tony might be persuaded to do a blog post while I'm away, or he might get Much to do it.

Anyway, Mum and I had a conversation yesterday about bridesmaids, in particular, little bridesmaids and flower girls. We talk about weddings a lot these days. She remembered one occasion when the flower girl burst into tears and ran for Mummy. I remembered one when the flower girl and the little page boy were all the way down the aisle with the rose petals while the bride was still standing in the doorway sorting her veil out. However, nobody minded, and they thought it was such fun they were quite happy to do it again, this time with the bride in full sail behind them.

Did you see Prince William and Kate's wedding? Two teeny tiny flower girls walked down the aisle with Pippa Middleton, the chief bridesmaid, holding on to their hands. Heaven help Kate if she'd needed help with anything, her chief bridesmaid was surgically glued to the little moppets. As soon as the party got to the chancel those two littlies mysteriously disappeared, only to appear again on the way out. Presumably somebody whisked them away and read them a Beatrix Potter in the meantime.

I was once at a wedding which went on for an extremely long time and the very small attendant and other little guests were rolling on the floor demolishing their posies or running up the aisle shrieking with laughter, so a couple of us organised an impromptu creche in the church porch. I found a Mr Men book and was sitting on the stairs reading it to a lot of very frilly little girls when the bridal march struck up. Now, I thought, Sally (not the bride's real name) will want her bridesmaid back. I closed the book, took the child by the hand and said - 'now we have to meet Auntie Sally and you'll have your photograph taken with her', and led her to the door. As the very beautiful bride glided past us, little bridesmaid pushed the book back into my hand.

'Read it', she ordered.

Saturday, 20 April 2013


Finally, a sunny spring day and Tony's day off, so we ran away to Fountains Abbey. It shouldn't be hard to find on a search engine, it's a World Heritage site. At one end is a towering and beautiful ruined abbey, destroyed by Henry VIIIs cronies, and a deer park, and at the other is an elegant Georgian estate with water gardens and follies. Do you have follies in the US? A folly is a small decorative building with no very practical use, built by somebody wealthy enough to do things like that. Sometimes they were built as a way of giving employment in lean times. They may have been pointless in their day, but they make great places to play now.

And they were played in today, because we weren't the only people to escape to Fountains and the place was full of families. The estate is so vast that even when it seems overrun with kids and dogs it's not crowded at all. The pussy willow was out, and the dog violets and primulas, oh, and the frogs. Dogs and frogs. And toads.

The first toad we saw was so perfectly camouflaged that I nearly stepped on the poor thing. And the lake was very well supplied with frogs, and small children watching them, sometimes picking one up to have a look and putting it back again, all of them handling them sensibly and responsibly. No frogs were hurt in the making of this blog. One little girl told me which one was the mummy, and the daddy, and the baby. Very kind of her to explain it to me.

As for music - which was in the last blog post - on the way home it's often Iona, Lindisfarne or Dire Straits. 'Going Home' from Local Hero is one of my favourite pieces ever. But Tony had the radio on a classical station and I don't know what it was playing because all that lovely fresh spring air knocked me out and I slept most of the way back.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The right music

Does anyone like just one kind of music? I'd be surprised.

For a week I have been working frantically on one of those 'I can't tell you about it yet' things. (It's got a river in it, a mean cat and a man with a secret, but more than that I can't say.) I've never got to bed before half past one in the morning, and last night I may as well have stayed up because my brain (or hamster, or whatever I've got in there) was wide awake and running round on its little wheel.

In the small hours of the morning when all sensible people were asleep and I was back at the computer I listened to one of my favourite Scottish bands, Runrig. (Can also recommend Capercaillie, and if you don't like The Proclaimers, what's wrong with you?) Sometimes if I need a lift it's Sibelius, either the second or the fifth symphony will do.

This evening, having finished the thing with the river, etc, done a playgroup, and caught up with the rest of the stuff that needed doing, I lay down, closed my eyes, and listened to the nuns of Stanbrook Abbey singing Gregorian chant. For me, that feeds my soul.

Let's start a new conversation. What's your music for work, inspiration, energy, peace, or making you laugh?

Monday, 15 April 2013


Here I was, thinking about what to blog about, and the news came in about Boston. Please, praying people, pray for the injured and bereaved. Give thanks and pray for the medics and emergency services on the spot.

If you go to London now, you can expect to have your bag checked before they let you in to the major museums and galleries, just in case you're carrying explosives or anything else dangerous. You can't take a bottle of water on an aeroplane, or carry your nail scissors in your hand luggage. Vigilance is vital. It seems incredible that anybody would want to bomb a major summer flower show, but you can't get into the Chelsea Show without going through security. There used to be a postbox on Kings Cross Station. There isn't now. Can you work out why?

I was greatly relieved that our most recent big events - Prince William and Kate's wedding, the Queen's Jubilee, the Olympics - went off without any outrages. London is now preparing for the funeral of the former Prime Minister Mararet Thatcher, so again the police are on the alert for any signs of terrorism. But...

But... we need a sense of proportion. Most of us, day by day, go about our lives in safety. Stations are full of people going to work and back, making shopping trips, taking holidays and visiting friends, and all in safety. Most people, most of the time, are good. At times like this, we need to know two things about terrorist attacks. One is that they are very, very rare. The other is that they are horrible enough to make us all stop and think, and try to understand how it is that any person can choose to wreak such indiscriminate violence. Then somehow we might be able to do something about preventing it.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Once upon a time, behind a pile of books...

Once upon a time, there was a Hairy Bloke and his Lovely Lady. (Yes, that's us, just over 30 years ago - scary, isn't it?) They had just got married, and lived in their little flat in Bristol, with a little back garden and a cherry tree which gave blossom in the springtime and lots of cherries in the summertime. However, most of the year round, the Hairy Bloke never saw very much of that nice little garden, because he was a Student. He had lectures at the university, and more lectures up the road at the theological college where he was training to be a minister. Every morning, he'd kiss his Lovely Lady goodbye as she went off to work, and would pedal up the hill to the college or down to the university to start his day of study. Every teatime, he'd pedal back home again, and light the fire ready for the Lovely Lady coming in from work, and he would settle down in the sitting room at a table behind a great pile of books. The Lovely Lady would come in, and he'd come out from behind the pile of books so they could have tea together, and then he'd disappear behind them again for the rest of the evening. She knew he was all right in there, because every now and then she'd pass in a cup of coffee, and a few minutes later the empty cup would emerge. And so they lived happily together, the Hairy Bloke, the Lovely Lady, and the pile of books, until the Hairy Bloke finished being a student and went off to be a Minister.

The Hairy Bloke is still Very Hairy, but some of the hairs are grey. He is still a Minister, and the pile of books has grown to fill his study. The Lovely Lady has a study of her own, and lots of books, and even more books that she has written herself. She has some wonderful stories to tell, and is very busy writing them down. Sometimes she is sat scribbling away at the old dining table, at which she has written so many tales and stories. Sometimes she is upstairs at the top of the house in her own little study, tapping away on her laptop, getting her stories ready to send off to Editors and Publishers to make them into lovely Books. The Hairy Bloke knows she is all right, because he says "Do you want a cup of tea?" and the voice drifts back from storyland "Yes, please." Sometimes that means going all the way to the top of the house with a nice steaming mug, sometimes it means taking it into the sitting room. The cup disappears steaming into the heap of books and notes, and a while later, an empty cup emerges.

The Lovely Lady is very busy writing her stories, just as the Hairy Bloke is very busy writing his studies and sermons. At the end of a very busy day, they sit down together and talk about what they've been writing, and what they've been doing. Just now, the Lovely Lady is so busy - there are a lot of stories telling themselves to her, and just begging to be put down on paper and sent to Editors and Publishers to be made into lovely Books. It's very hard work for her, but it's very exciting. The Hairy Bloke loves reading the stories, and he knows that lots of other people will enjoy them, too.

That's why he likes making cups of tea for his Lovely Lady, to help her write her stories. Today, she is so busy that she wouldn't have time to write a blog, so the Hairy Bloke has told you his own story. It wouldn't be such a good story without the Lovely Lady and the stories she tells. Now, we can all look forward to them, and enjoy the lovely Books, and read happily ever after.

Thursday, 11 April 2013


At last, a bit of proper Yorkshire rain. It's been snow, hail, and so blooming cold it's a wonder me snail's still intact. Now it's just raining, which is what it's supposed to do here in t'Pennines. Good old rain. Tony turned me round yesterday, so I can see some white flowery stuff and a few daffs, blimey I thought them daffs was off on holiday. And I wouldn't blame 'em.

Now that 'er's back from Omsk, Tomsk, and all points East. 'er's prowling round the garden looking for stuff to tinker about with. No, says she a couple of month ago, I'm not spending money on the garden this year, not as we're moving out in the summer. And now it's, 'we could do with a few bedding pansies for 'ere and there, they don't cost much'. I've 'eard that before. It'll be 'alf a dozen pansies, some of that fluffy purply stuff, bit of mimmyluss, something else that 'er can't remember the name of but 'er says it's pretty, and a tree.

Any excuse and the two of 'em will be off to that 'arlow, beg yer pardon, Harlow Carr place near 'arrogate, or as yer might say, Harrogate. Sunny day, couple of hours wandering round the gardens, tea in Betty's, then she gets 'old of one of them great big trolleys and blimey, it's like watching a tank going into action. Everyone, get out the way. She'll 'ave that trolley loaded up with bits of jungle till 'er can't see over the top, honest, it's all trying to climb out the car window on the way home Then er'll get it all out and walk around the garden, and yer know what she's thinking. 'Where am I going to put this lot?'

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


I had a history teacher who used to say 'Omsk, Tomsk, and all points East', when he meant 'all over the place'. This week I have been to Omsk, Tomsk, and all points East.

Before I start on my travels, read the last set of comments to find about about the best April Fool I have heard about for years. Oh, dear, what devious people are turning up at the House of Stories these days.

After Easter the clergy are always exhausted and ready to succumb to the first virus that floats past them on the breeze (or the blinding Force Nine hailstorm). Tony, however, had already shaken off a cold, and on Wednesday we were on our way for a few days away in beautiful Kent. Hamilton came with us, he likes Kent. What should have been a four and a half hour drive turned out to be seven because of road works, but we got there eventually.

The next morning we discovered that what had just been a bit of a cold had gone to Tony's inner ears and he had vertigo. We booked an extra day to give him time to recover. No problem. It was snowing again and bitterly cold, so it was no problem to stay indoors at one of the loveliest places we know. Tony just needed a couple of quiet days, I was happy to read/write/sew/chat, and Hamilton got on very well with the girl who came to clean the room. On Saturday morning Tony was feeling considerably better and the sun came out to salute him.

It was also on Saturday morning that we heard my Dad had taken a funny turn. There was no way Tony could do a long drive, so I took the train north. By Monday Father was firing on all cylinders, I was able to come home, Tony had already left Kent, and I arrived back back to family and fish and chips. Not the week we had planned, but all ended well. The Sunshines came over (which made Hamilton's day), we all shared silly stories and laughed helplessly, and last night I slept in my own bed. Today we took a trip to Saltaire to do some birthday shopping for a young lady who might just read this so I'm not telling you what we bought.

Hamilton stayed home. He is reading 'A Hatful of Stars' by Terry Pratchett and I want it back.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Sunshiney Easter

Yesterday the sun came out for Easter. It was still only about five degrees above freezing, but it was sunny. I knew that the Sunshines were joining us for lunch but I was very happily surprised when they turned up at our church first. There I was, with both my boys and their amazing ladies, and knowing that Daughter and Daughter's Chap were living Easter to the full in South Wales. Sometimes I just want to sing the Magnificat.

(Magnificat - the kitty is stuck to my fridge door)

Anyway, I was surprised and a bit disappointed that we didn't sing 'Thine be the Glory' at church this morning, so we sang it at home when it was time to say grace. Then I added something on the lines of 'and thank you God for lunch' to which Lady Sunshine added 'Amen, nom'. This is probably the perfect response to grace before meals and should be added to all prayer books immediately. We tried out the new cooking pot (the Remoska) and it worked and nothing blew up, although I did stick a very impressive firework candle in the cheesecake. It looked spectacular, nothing caught fire, and it didn't do the cheesecake (or us) any harm.

It was a bit cold for going out anywhere so at some point in the afternoon Lady Sunshine got out the Scrabble set and challenged LOS. This was very brave of Lady Sunshine, as she can't spell. She is a wise and clever lady and understands so much about the human brain that I really wish I had one, but spelling is one of those things that you either have or you don't. She doesn't.

By the time they were halfway through, LOS was so thoroughly outplaying his wife that I knew I had to come in on her side. So, of course, LYS had to come in on his brother's side. Before we knew where we were - and boy, we put up a fight - the lads had got all their letters on the board at once, (50 extra points) with 'toreador'and we were utterly vanquished. (It's a silly game anyway.)

We were quite disconsolate. So we ate a few mini eggs and now we're perfectly consolate, thank you.