Saturday, 28 November 2015

Much Advent

It aint Advent yet, it starts tomorrow. 'Er is most particular about not putting up the Christmas tree until about a week before Christmas, and then I have a shuffle round so me snail and I can see it. However, the Christmas tree in town 'ad its lights switched on yesterday, and all them trees in the park got shiny white lights in their branches. Wouldn't be surprised if they've all been knocked 'orizontal by the storm since then, but we live in 'ope. 'Er was on the team dishing up 'ot chocolate in church afterwards, and they didn't 'arf need it.

This afternoon 'er went to a fund-raising do in town. It was to get some money together to buy tents for refugees in Calais, and if you get the chance to raise a bit of money for summat like that - well, get on with it, then! Mind, 'er's too much of a wuss to walk home in weather like what we 'ad today, so 'er phoned 'im to give 'er a lift 'ome. Then 'er sat down to make the Advent Wreath, like 'er do every year on the day before Advent Sunday. We'll be seeing 'er out 'ere, then, I aid to me snail, she'll be out round the garden cutting a bit of rosemary, bit of ivy, a lot of 'olly out the 'edge.

Not a bit of it. 'Er darts out the front door, snips a teensy bit of 'olly off the nearest bush, and disappears inside like a ferret up a pipe. 'Er weren't staying out a second longer than 'er 'ad to. Next time I looked in the window, there's the Advent Wreath all ready with its red ribbons and candles and bits of 'olly sticking out like the first line of defence. Looks nice, though. 'Ave a good Advent time.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


There is an otter up a tree.

Yes, I know otters don't climb trees, but sometimes they don't have to. Every now and then there's a new craze amongst the young - sometimes it's building decorated dens, sometimes it's stone-skimming competitions, sometimes it's making seesaws and jumping on them to see how far you can catapult your best friend into the treetops. This autumn it's the carrying game, when squirrels give the non-climbing animals lifts up and down trees. Moles aren't interested. They don't like being far from the earth. Hedgehogs can be a bit like that, too, but some of them have such a spirit of adventure that they'll go for anything. Hope loves getting carried up a tree, even though he can't see much when he gets there. And otters, you know what they're like. Never miss an adventure.

Swanfeather was desperate to get as high up in the trees as she possibly could, so Urchin hoisted her over his shoulder and whizzed up with her, into that favourite tree of his on Watchtop Hill. She loved it. But then when she'd been there for a while, and Urchin was about to take her back down again, she clung on to a branch with four paws and a tail, squealed with glee and absolutely refused to move an inch. Swanfeather can be like that. Urchin had duties of his own to attend to, so when teasing and gentle persuasion failed he just told her to shout for a lift when she wanted one, shinned down the tree, and left her up there. She's quite safe, some of us are keeping an eye on her. Padra and Arran know where she is.

She hasn't shouted for help. I don't know if she's still enjoying it, or just pretending to. She might decide to try to get down by herself, which isn't a good idea for an otter, but it's all right. her friends have piled an enormous heap of leaves and moss underneath so she's got something soft to land on.

There she goes! And there's the big eyes and the whiskery face popping up out of the leaves. Oh dear, she'll want to do it again now.

Sunday, 22 November 2015


It was only this morning that I realised it was Thanksgiving, and that was because there was something about it on the radio. All you House of Story-ites on the other side of the water, I hope you're having a a very happy day.

Thanksgiving is an excellent sort of giving, and it's good therapy too. So what am I thankful for today?

A crisp, dry morning, Tony, toast and tea, my church and so much about it, my Junior Church Group, the wee girl who kept cuddling me, coffee, the fun we all had in the kitchen washing up, a lift home, rye bread and avocado, fudge, fruit, all the lovely people I met when I was stewarding this afternoon, a home to go to, streaks of pink across the sky, lights in the trees in the park, roast potatoes, a good book, a puzzle, sorting out advent calendars, and writing to you. There's more, but that's enough to be going on with. Now I'm looking forward to a warm bath and a soft bed. I don't know what time it is over there, but it's 11.00 pm here.

What are you thankful for today?

Oh, and The Archers, of course.

Thursday, 19 November 2015


Yes, it has been a long time, hasn't it? I was going to write something from The House of Stories on Friday, and then I didn't know what to say, apart from 'pray' and 'think' and 'Vive la France'.

Think. What about all the world getting together about this? What about working out what the terrorists want us to do and doing something different? What about long term thinking?

And now, here is a little bit of something to share with you. For those of you who write, it might give you ideas.

Picture a very ordinary looking house in an ordinary looking street. Go upstairs, and you will find another flight of stairs. Up you go. Open the door.

You are in a pleasant, comfortable attic. It's a loft conversion, so it has beams in the ceiling. The floor is polished wood and there are four louvred windows. There are papers on the floor and a small desk in a corner. A woman is sitting on the rug, writing. She loves this attic and is deeply, truly grateful to have it. She can hear the storm raging round the house and rain hurling against the windows, and knows that, on this November day, the light is beginning to fade.

She gets up and looks down from the window. Now that the trees are nearly bare, she can see all the way to the car lights at the other side of town as people drive home from work. There are lights in a few windows. One is an attic, like hers. She goes back to her story, writes until she's satisfied with what she's done, and goes downstairs.

Later, she comes back and again she looks down from her window. All the way up and down the hill, there are lights in attic windows.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


It's much too early to think about all the winter celebrations on the island. But winter doesn't organise itself, as Apple said to me this morning. It needs sorting, she said. And off she went to to add some cinnamon and nutmeg to the brew. (Don't try it, it won't taste any better.)

The tower kitchens smell good. Some of those winter puddings have to be made early and put away to store, so that there are warm, spicy wafts of fruit, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, spice, sugar, honey and wine. For a fish-eating animal like myself, it's pleasant. For a fruit and nut maniac - and most squirrels are fruit and nut maniacs - it's joy beyond description, I'm surprised they haven't all fainted with delight and dropped out of their trees. Actually, Almondflower has just dropped out of a tree, but I suspect she did it on purpose. Urchin caught her and she's fine.

The musicians are up to something, too. Sepia takes her choir away to her song cave to practise some new songs for winter parties. It's all very secretive and they're not supposed to sing a note in front of the rest of us. It's very hard not to sing a song once you've got it into your head, and they're all going round biting their lips and crossing their eyes in the effort to keep quiet. Then one of them will get the giggles, and of course they all catch it, and so does everybody else. Truly, I've seen royalty rolling about on the Throne Room floor and thumping cushions.

And what do otters do, ready for the feast? We take fish to the smokery and preserve it in the oaky fumes. And to do that, you have to catch it first, so excuse me. Otter business to see to.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Where's ya bin?

I've been in Kent for a week, in a beautiful house surrounded by woodland. A bit Mistmantle-ish really. I've met delightful, inspiring, engaging people, soaked up the atmosphere of a lovely chapel, walked in wet woods, learned things, read lots, made notes until I was bog-eyed, and got a bit wet because it's gone from misty to pouring to drizzle. But I am so happy to be home. While I was there I thought of lots of things I'd like to blog about, and now I've forgotten what they were.

A few things occur to me to pass on to you. One was my young American friend asking me why we wore poppies, and I explained about Remembrance, and how all the money raised by selling poppies is used to help war veterans. Another was popping into St Martin-in-the Fields, the church in Trafalgar Square. I've told you about it before - it's a church, a music venue, a meeting place, and a drop-in and support place for the homeless and the needy. They fund their work through the shop, the cafe, and the annual Christmas appeal which raises thousands. At any one time you can find homeless and troubled people, world class musicians, clergy, tourists, Londoners, rich and poor, all having their needs met. A glimpse of God's kingdom.

Then there was the disabled lady in a wheelchair, with an assistance dog at her side. She was clothed in waterproofs as she waited for the bus in the rain, and I wondered about how much support and effort had gone into getting her ready and out that morning. I suppose she could have stayed home and warm, but she wasn't going to let her disability tie her down. The bus driver helped with her chair, and the dog, of course, behaved impeccably. There was a man who picked up my newspaper for me when it fell off the top of my case and blew along the railway platform. And fund-raising is beginning for Children In Need, a huge annual appeal that raises money all over the UK.

Good stuff is happening.