Monday, 29 December 2014

Best so far

Christmas is a season, not a day, so Christmas is continuing. Best moments so far in The House of Stories

The Crib Service on Christmas Eve

Midnight Eucharist with all the beautiful music, carols, happiness, and lights shining in darkness

Tony got it spot-on right. A book I wanted, Sunshine on Leith on DVD (yes!!) and chocolate

Poorly Daughter getting better (though obviously we'd rather she hadn't been ill in the first place)

Six of us round the table and helpless laughter over the party popper game

The Patrick Stewart Christmas Carol


The old story that gets brighter and more beautiful every year

And best moments in your house?

Thursday, 25 December 2014


It comes at the same time every year, and we always end up rushing about to get ready for it. Christmas always arrives on 25 December whether or not we're ready for it, just as babies arrive when they feel like it, and the fact that mother is a long way from home with nowhere to stay is neither here nor there.

Not just babies. Bad backs come when they're most inconvenient, but I still managed to do all that really needed doing. Viruses turn up uninvited and poor Daughter was floored by one yesterday, but she was well this morning. The important things are still there.

Christ comes. Often surprisingly, often unrecognised. Ready or not, he comes.

Happy Christmas. xxx

Friday, 19 December 2014


My back is definitely crocked. I toddle around a bit, do what I need to do, then sit down with a story to write or a book to read. (At this time of year, I'm reading Terry Pratchett's Hogfather again. Can recommend.) Much tells me that now I know what it's like to have a back made of blooming stone. Hamilton Bear has soft squishy stuffing to hold him up, and says it's much more sensible than a tower of bones going all the way from your head to your bottom. He may be right.

I can do most of what I normally do, but very slowly and with care. The first few steps after getting out of a chair are extremely unpredictable, so on Wednesday, when I was really struggling to get about, I bought a stick. I love it.

In a small, friendly town like this people notice if you have a stick. They are very patient with you at market stalls. They wait in their cars while you hirple across the road. (Hirple, BTW, is a Scots word for 'hobble' or 'limp'.) And they sort of melt away as I approach. Whether this is to give the poor limping lady room or to get out of the way of an eccentric biddy who might whack you with her stick, I don't know. But I suggest it's an indication that most people are really kind and considerate at heart.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

At last

Seven years, seven months, and a little bit more ago, small god-daughter was born. I determined then that I would take her to see The Nutcracker in London when she was old enough to last through it and young enough to find it magical.

I had hopes of taking her last year, but the tickets vanished like snow off a wall. This year I got in early, and booked months ago. The tickets were for Saturday, 13 December.

We couldn't have known that my back would start ouching towards the end of the week. We couldn't have known that Little Moppet would have all the energy knocked out of her by a virus. The whole thing was beginning to look precarious.

However, on Friday morning I could walk. I had difficulty getting up out of a chair, but once up, I was OK. Off I went to London to a very nice hotel and an evening of sitting by a window on the world, watching London go by while I drank coffee served by people who called me 'Madam'. On Saturday morning I got a call from Little Moppet's father. She was right as a trivet and ready to go.

We did it. We met up at Waterloo and went to the theatre in a real London cab driven by a real London cabbie. There was time before the theatre to go to Trafalgar Square and admire the Christmas tree sent by the people of Norway. We looked at the lovely sculpture of the newborn Jesus outside St Martin-in-the-Fields, watched street entertainers, and even nipped into the National Gallery. Then we were in our seats at the theatre, and the magic began.

We gasped at the snow effects and laughed at the naughty boys. We clung together as the Mouse King attacked the Nutcracker Prince, loved the whirling snowflakes, gasped at the Spanish and Russian dancers, and gazed spellbound at the beautiful pas de deux. When we finally left the theatre, we were full of sparkle. We will remember it always.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

More round the tree

Samantha suggests a musical instrument for Sepia, various baking things for Crackle, and foreign healing herbs for Cedar. I will ask Daughter about a suitable flute or piccolo for a squirrel.

Perhaps Crackle would like the cutters to make a gingerbread house. I'm afraid she was a bit sniffy about the idea of almond paste, as she always makes her own from almonds gathered on the south side of the island. I don't know how we're going to get the foreign herbs to Cedar but I'm sure we could get her a bay tree, and I'll see about some cuttings of rosemary and fennel from my garden.

Filbert would like slippers. He enjoys a quiet evening by the fire with Apple. Juniper says he doesn't want anything, but Needle and Myrtle are making him some warm tunics for the winter. Needle knows that he's never been completely well since his journey to Whitewings.

And Princess Almondflower thought very hard and finally looked out of the window and said she would like a sledge. And snow, please. And suddenly every animal on the island, from the king and queen to the smallest of Corr's many relations, want to go sledging. Crackle has locked the tea trays in a cupboard and sleeps with the key under her pillow.

I would like a new back, one which doesn't start hurting just when I have exciting plans for the next few days. Or perhaps Cedar could make me up some kind of potion, or I could find out what sort of liniment they use on elephants. That should sort it.

Now, about The Archers. They should re-name it The Aliens, as it bears less and less resemblance to itself and I suspect Ambridge is being colonised by Planet Furglesplott. David and Ruth are talking about selling the farm to Mr Moneybags, who will almost certainly knock it down and build a theme park, a prison, or a centre for testing industrial explosives. Tony Archer is still in hospital following an argument with a bull. Alice is on bad terms with Linda, Tom is on bad terms with Rob (but isn't everyone?) and Jennifer suspects Mrs Tregorran of doing in Mr Tregorran. Wee George now has a pet turkey. See what I mean? Furglesplott.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Mistmantle Tree

They don't have Christmas on Mistmantle, but they do know how to celebrate the Heart in winter. I've been Christmas shopping lately, which means that I may as well take a sleeping bag to the bookshop and move in. It got me thinking about what the animals on Mistmantle would like for Christmas.

Needle might like some green velvet and gold thread to make herself a really gorgeous cloak. Feathers might be nice around the hood. Perhaps I could have a word with a swan. She suggested that Urchin might like a complete set of the symbols for the Threadings Code to decorate his rooms at the Spring Gate, but he'd be quite happy with a bowl of walnuts and a basket or two of apple logs for the fire.

Speaking of Apple, she'd love a new mixing bowl. She left the cordial to ferment in her old one and it ate a hole right through.

Crispin and Padra are building a slide for the small animals. Last I heard, it started on Watchtop Hill and stopped somewhere just short of the tower.

And for Hope, who has wonderful new glasses, I'd like a telescope so he can see the stars.

If anybody else has any ideas for presents under the Mistmantle Tree, please tell us.

Monday, 1 December 2014


It's no good, I can still 'ear 'er. 'Er took up the piano when 'er was well old enough to know better, and 'er is rubbish at it. Sorry, but there's no other way to put it. There's the conservatory and the sitting room between me and that blooming piano and I can still 'ear it.

The thing is, 'er knows 'er's rubbish at her piano but 'er works on the basis that if she keeps whacking out Silent Night, sooner or later, it'll be programmed into 'er. It's called muscle memory. 'Er muscles have got amnesia. You could surprise a cat and get a better noise than that. Call it Silent blooming Night? How did 'er come to 'ave a daughter like Daughter? Daughter could play them carols upside down and blindfold.

Apart from that, it's pretty good 'ere. Them little birdies still flit about the garden. There's still berries and suchlike out there for 'em, and if they want a chat there's me, Dodger and Oliver. One of 'em's done something on Dodger's 'ead, but 'e 'asn't noticed so I ain't told 'im. (Oliver and Dodger are the boy and 'is dog beside the apple tree, they were 'ere before us.) I 'aven't seen the 'edge'og for a while, so I reckon 'e's asleep. Dodger says 'e can 'ear 'im snoring, but Dodger would say that.

First day of December and all that. 'Er leaves it late to put 'er decorations up, just about a week or ten days before Christmas. Which set me thinking, I wouldn't mind a bit of decoration out 'ere. There's battery lights and stuff. And I wouldn't mind a bit of greenery meself. An ivy scarf would do me very nice. Perhaps one of you could tell 'er?