Monday, 24 October 2016


We have visitors coming this week, lots of them, so I have had to sort out the attic.

The attic is one of the reasons we bought this house. It's a vast roof space which the previous owners made into a very pleasant room with sloping beams you can bump your head on and cupboards all the way round under the eaves. Windows look out for miles across the hills. There was already a corner with a desk and bookshelves, just waiting for me. There's room for two single beds, one at each end, and I have a couple of rugs and a comfy chair in there, and - well, lots of stuff looking for a home. There are Christmas decoration, a lot of knitting and craft stuff in a chest and a basket, and, because this is The House of Stories, a lot of cuddly toys live here. They sit on top of the chest and have a great time up there. They include Captain Lugg, Mother Huggen, an otter and innumerable squirrels. (Oh, and a baby bath that we got for when grandchild comes to stay. That was before he was born. We've now found that he doesn't like the baby bath, he likes to go in the big bath with his mum.)

There are also a few toys from my children's past and the dolls' house that Father Christmas made for me, with help from my dad, when I was tiny. And that was the problem yesterday, because I couldn't resist giving it a bit of a sort out when I was doing the attic. Finally I remembered that I was supposed to be cooking a meal, not playing with my dolls' house. I left a lot of clutter on the sitting room floor for the dolls to sort out. But Smallest Goddaughter is coming this week, and I'm sure she'll get on to it.

By the way, I am very particular about who gets to play with my dolls' house. It's MY dolls' house, and there are times when I still want to play with it.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

History Chat

One of the exciting things about living where I do is that I'm just ten minutes walk from another author, an aged lady with a lifetime of her own stories behind her as well as the ones she's written. We had coffee this morning and talked about the various things we have written/are writing/may write one day. Both of us love writing history. It's a bit of a shock to realise that my childhood is history now, but it means that I can sit back in an armchair, look up at teenagers and say, 'When I was a girl we had no mobile phones, television was a small black and white set and only on for a few hours a day, we walked everywhere and played in the streets, and a sherbet dip was tuppence in old money'.

Prue told me about a book she'd set in 1824, in which somebody was in prison for murder. She did her research and found that 1824 was the year when they changed the procedure for keeping prisoners at Newcastle until the assizes (trials). in fact, they changed it twice, and as records were incomplete she couldn't find out where her murderer would have been held, and had to take a calculated guess at it.

I told her about Hold My Hand And Run, which I set in 1628 in a city based on Durham. I researched to find out who the bishop was at the time. That was the year when Durham had three bishops in quick succession. I worked out that Kazy ran away just between Bish Two and Bish Three.

You might wonder why Prue had to choose 1824 and I had to choose 1628? Because we had to. Because, taking all the elements of a historical novel into account, there is only one time when it could have happened. It's a natural rule of historical fiction, just like getting the details of food, clothing and housing right. On the subject of research, my dear friend Eleanora, who died not so very long ago, was an expert on historical costume, the only person I ever knew who could talk with authority about pattens. If you want to know what pattens are, do some research. That's what writers of historical fiction do, again and again.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

We're Back!

I haven't been neglecting you, honestly! But at some point about two months ago the Blogger Gate Guardians locked me out of my own House of Stories and I couldn't get back in. But this weekend, Lovely Older Son and Lady Sunshine came to stay, and LOS had a few firm words with the computer. He knows how to speak computer, and the door of The House of Stories flew open when he used the magic key. I am delighted. There has been so much to tell you over the last two months. Unfortunately I've forgotten half of it.

However, all is well. Tony now has two new knees and is worth a king's ransom in scrap value. The Hobbits are thriving, and little Frodo is now on solid food, though I don't know why they call it solid when it's mush. A small amount gets into the mouth. The rest is spread over his ear, his nose, his chair and his mum, who tells me that some of it flew through the air and she hasn't found it yet. The Sunshines and the Cahooties are well, and the Cahooties are now Owners of Guinea Pigs. Much is sulking because I haven't cleared his border yet, and Dodger is chasing windfall apples round the garden.

About the apples. As you know, apple trees are very special to me. Our own apple tree (as far as an apple tree can belong to anyone) has been simply weighed down with fruit this year, I must have harvested twice my body weight already. We went out this afternoon with large shopping bags and a sense of purpose. I climbed the tree, Lady Sunshine climbed the stepladder, and LOS played hook-the-apples with a shepherd's crook. (That has its own story, which I may tell you one day.) As we picked apples off the grass, Lady Sunshine said that we could do with a recipe for apple and mint cordial.

'Sh!' I said, but it was too late. Already a rotund and beaming squirrel was wobbling across the garden.

"You want cordial, m'dear? You just give 'em 'ere, I'll do that for you, bring you half a dozen bottles, no trouble at all. Don't you worry if the slugs have been at 'em, I'll cut those bits off. I'll have some of that mint, and the thyme, and any other 'erbs that look like they're dying off. Don't matter about maggots, I reckon they take one look at the cooking pot and run for cover. Got any vinegar?"