Saturday, 28 June 2014


If you watch Dr Who, or even if you just know a little bit about Dr Who, you will understand this.

I just read something that appealed to me enormously. It's about books.

A book looks very plain and simple. You could walk past one and not notice it. A book can take you anywhere in time and space.

A book is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

A book is a Tardis! I've written Tardisses! Or is it Tardii? This is so exciting!

If you don't know about Dr Who, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? In the meantime,if you're Who-less, let me just tell you that Rafa Nadal played a storming match at Wimbledon today, Much can't see over the lavender, Dodger is chasing pigeons, Tony's going to paint the front door red, and The Archers is beginning to look like the Wars of the Roses. maybe they've all been in a Tardis too.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

First World

Last Monday, a few of us were getting together. One lady e-mailed to say that she wouldn't make it. She was having a new kitchen fitted and the company had delivered the wrong units, so she had to sort that out. 'It's annoying', she said, 'but after all, it's what they call a First World Problem'. Have you heard that expression before?

Walking all day carrying a sick child to hospital and then having to join the queue, that's a problem. Making the decision whether to stay in the community you know and love and where your work is, or getting out before the rebels or the government get to you, that's a problem. Children not going to school because they haven't got shoes, going hungry all day and still doing hard manual work, watching your family become dangerously ill because the sanitation is rubbish, living in a war zone, knowing that your survival depends on this year's crops and whether the rain comes, those are problems.

That doesn't mean there are no real problems in the first world. Far from it. If everything here was hunkydory Tony wouldn't have spent this morning helping the food bank, and there'd be no children having to go into care, and no crime, nobody ill and nobody afraid of having their home repossessed.

By defining it as a 'first world problem' my friend put her missing kitchen and cancelled evening out into proportion. I've got a few first world problems just now - how to fit a lot of appointments and commitments into a short time is a first world problem. So is choosing how to decorate the dining room, putting up blinds in the attic, arranging things for the ARCHIE'S WAR launch and wondering what to get Somebody for a present but I can't discuss that in case Somebody's reading. Not problems at all, really. Just inconveniences. Nuisances. Something that might become a bit of a story one day. Or even a blog.

Saturday, 21 June 2014


There is nowhere better to be on Midsummer Night than here on the shore by Mistmantle Tower. The sky's still light, just turning violet with traces of red to tell us it'll be fine again tomorrow. The sea is as gentle as a cradle and some of the animals have built fires to cook fish or roast acorns. Fingal's taken the boat out. Moles don't care for swimming, but they do love a trip in a boat. Sepia, Crackle, Scatter and all that lot are putting lamps on bark boats and floating them across the sea. There's Catkin, going to join them. Tide and Swanfeather are having a wonderful time splashing about. So was Ffion but she's exhausted now, and last I saw her she was falling asleep on Needle's shoulder.

A few hedgehog fiddle players are out, so animals are up and dancing. There's Urchin and Juniper coming to join in - last I saw them they were playing squirrelly games to do with running up trees and jumping up and down on branches. Tipp and Todd made a sort of summer shelter for Crispin and Cedar - not that they need it, but they appreciated it so they're sitting there watching Almondflower playing dares with the waves. Hello, Whittle! Urchin was asking where you were.

Hello, Hope! Thank you, but I couldn't eat another berry. Tell you what, though - there's a little hedgehog there, her name's Popple, and I think she'd love to dance. She might, if you asked her. Good evening, Mistress Tay! Do have a fish. All right then,don't. Fingal will eat it if he gets back without capsizing. Oops, there's a mole in the water. Not to worry, there are half a dozen otters all swimming to the rescue.

Crispin's got that thoughtful look on his face, as he does when he gazes out at the mists. There aren't many animals who know what lies beyond them. I'll nudge Catkin to get him up to dance.

Look at them all, the young creatures of Mistmantle! I wonder what's going to become of them, and what adventures they'll have?

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Bara Brith and Painkillers

Bara Brith is a Welsh tea bread. Ideally it's a bit squidgy with lots of raisins. I'm very happy to say you can get it in Northumberland.

This morning was a first airing for ARCHIE'S WAR because I was reading an excerpt from it for Tynedale Talking Newspaper for the Blind. There was a World War One theme for this edition, and I read a piece from early in the book when the staff at Ashlings Hall in Yorkshire learn that war has been declared. Tony wrote and read something about the bombing of the North-East coast of England.

By the time we'd finished I realised that my migraine tablets needed a bit of help, so I nipped into town to buy some top-up painkillers. Last time I tried Nurofen they worked rather well, so I pottled into Boots to buy some of those. The lass at the counter explained to me that these should be taken with food, either just before or just after a meal.

Well, I thought, I really could do with taking these now, in fact I could do with taking them half an hour ago. By the time I get home and sort out something to eat...

Help was at hand. So was the cafe opposite the park, the one where Tony and LYS and I went on Saturday. I could pop in there for a coffee and something to eat. The free biscuits are very tiny, not enough for two militant painkillers to land on, but not to worry. They do Bara Brith, and it must be the best outside Wales. You never know, I might find myself outside the Cedar Tree with a headache again one day.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Dog Ate My Homework

What is your excuse for not writing your blog, Mrs McAllister?

Um, well, I had shopping to do...

Not good enough

And we took my Mum and Dad out for the day...

The you should have written about it

And I've been doing up the attic...


And then LOS came to stay, and then it all got exciting because he was on his way here and Lady Sunshine had locked her keys in the house and couldn't get in and Tony was going to drive to Yorkshire with LOS's keys so LOS wouldn't have to but then LYS and The Lassie who is now Mrs LYS said she could stay in their house, so...

And this prevented you from writing the blog?

Yes, because in the morning we went in to town and had coffee at that little place with the window seats and the free biscuits...

I can see that must have been very important

Yes, well it was, because it was family time. And Claire texted to say she had an unexpected day off and what about meeting in York, so we did, so that's where I've been all day, and I did lots of work on the train, so that's all right.

Not good enough. Write out one hundred times -

The launch party for ARCHIE'S WAR will be at Cogito Books, Hexham, on 3 July, 6.00 pm - 7.30 pm and you are all very welcome

The launch party for ARCHIE'S WAR will be at..............

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

He Aint Heavy

I saw this story in the newspaper this morning and have to share it with you.

Hunter Gandee is a fourteen year old American boy with a little brother, Braden, who is seven. Braden has cerebral palsy and needs artificial aids to walk. Lately, though, he got a lift.

Hunter has just completed a forty mile - yes, that's forty mile - walk through Michigan with 22 kg Braden on his back. He did it to raise awareness of cerebral palsy. Awareness, not money. People who wanted to give money were directing to the University of Michigan's Cerebral Palsy Research Consortium. Hunter did some weight training for the 'Cerebral Palsy Swagger', but he had to cope with heat, rain, exhaustion and pain on the way. Afterwards, tired and sore, having pushed through his levels of pain and endurance, he said of his kid brother,

"I can't even describe to you how special he is to me. I can't put it into words... he's awesome. He's always there for me. I really just wanted to give back to him in some way."

Sunday, 8 June 2014

At last

At last, I have pinged the send button and the book I have been struggling with has whizzed off to the publisher. I feel I can breathe out now. And.. relax. It's like taking tight shoes off.

Freedom! I have moved things around in the attic. I've removed dust from floors. This doesn't sound much fun, but when you've been dying to get on with these things and you can't because you're chained to a book, it really is fun to flit about sorting stuff, sweeping floors, putting things in boxes. Tony has just built a bookshelf. I can put books on shelves. What a happy little bunny I am.

When the sun has been out I've pitter-pattered round the garden popping in bedding plants and heaving out anything that wasn't serving its purpose. Anything allowed space in my garden has to look good, smell good, or be edible.


Sorry, Much, I didn't mean you. Or your new friends Dodger and Oliver, or the stone tortoise which has also been here longer than we have and doesn't yet have a name. Anyway, you do look good. All of you.

- I knew that. Surprised you can even see me, with all them bloomin' cornflowers.

- Stop grumbling, Much. Do you want to know what's been happening in The Archers or don't you?

- Oh, go on then.

It's now about a month since Tom didn't marry Kirsty, and both of them have left Ambridge with Kirsty vowing she'd never come back. If I'd been stuck in such a ridiculous plot line I'd be on the first train out, too. Lilian's wet son James and Lynda's drippy stepdaughter Leonie are having a baby, which I suspect will be born with fins, so the two grandmothers to be are having a who-can-do-the-best-handmade-present competition. I suspect it needs a set of waterproofs, but Lynda made it a blanket out of her her own homespun llama wool from, yes, her very own llamas. Lilian was last seen knitting a - well, not even she knows what it is but if she drops any more stitches she's be arrested for littering. (By the new copper, who fancies Fallon.)

Friday, 6 June 2014

Thirty years

The following may shock you, but before we go on, I want to tell you -

My uncles killed people.

Next month, I have a new book out. It's ARCHIE'S WAR, about a boy and a dog at the beginning of the First World War. Archie has to grow up quickly. Children do, in warm time. The dog in this book is already up there along my special favourites. I'd love a dog like Star. he laughs at you from the cover.

That's set in 1914, when young men left their villages, their work, their families, their sweethearts, the cricket and footie and the pub, to be massacred in the mud and bloodbaths of the front line. When that war had finally slaughtered itself out, the victors got together to sort out the mess it had left behind.

They made a hopeless job of it. It took barely a generation before Europe was at war again and the ripples spread throughout the world.

Thirty years. Thirty years is just about, but not exactly, the life of my LYS. More or less the life of Christ. Thirty years after the swords were first drawn, and seventy years ago today, the next generation of young men piled on to the beaches of Normandy. Young chaps from all over the free world, from professional soldiers to labourers to lawyers, volunteers and call-ups, hurling themselves into appalling danger to make an end of the horror of fascism. Thank God, it worked. It worked at a terrible cost on both sides. These were men who never wanted to kill each other, and the survivors had to live with it afterwards. Men like my uncles. Two weeks after the death of their father, they were on the Normandy beaches.

Those who lived to be old are gathering today on the beaches. Let's honour them. And let's think -

What have we learned?

How can we stop war before it starts?

What can we do to ensure another thirty years of peace?

Sunday, 1 June 2014


I would like to show you St Margaret's Parish Church. I warn you, unless you are very tiny you will have to duck.

There are two ways in, but both are narrow. One is which will take you to Tee Bylo's blog and an overview of all her 1/12 scale miniature worlds. There you can visit a Small House, or go to Lord Byron's home. (But that might not be a good idea - he was said to be mad, bad and dangerous to know.) If you want to avoid disreputable Romantic poets, you can go direct to St Margaret's at www.miniature

There you will see little St Margaret's church. Be aware that it changes with the seasons. It may have the Lent Cross, or the Easter decorations. In Advent, it's filled with candles. There is the usual clutter of old flower stands and lost umbrellas in the vestry, and you can usually find a hymn book. The flower ladies are excellent and the noticeboards indicate a thriving community.

Tee's miniatures are so exquisite, so perfect in every detail, so lovingly made, that I could cry when I see them. iwish I had neat paws, like Needle, so I could fashion such things, but the next best thing is gazing at Tee Bylo's work. Do have a look and be astonished.