Thursday, 31 December 2015


I've been away from the blog having a happy time with family and friends, and I hope you have too. And a gift that somebody gave me this Christmas is the gift of flight. It was planted into my imagination when I was thinking of something else. Good gifts often start that way.

So come with me and let's fly over Mistmantle. It's night there. A few hedgehogs and moles are awake, sipping hot drinks and telling stories. Urchin is on night duty at the top of the tower stairs. (He didn't have to be on guard tonight, but he swapped to cover for another squirrel who has a new born baby and should be at home with his family.) Almondflower wriggles and talks to herself in her sleep. Mistress Tay snores. Even Fingal is asleep. Juniper wakes, goes to the window, smiles up at the moon, and listens to the shushing of the waves as we fly far overhead, too far for him to see.

But we can't hover over Mistmantle all night. The enchantments will not let us stay, and we must fly to the world we know. We will fly now over one of the most delightful places I know. It doesn't look delightful, though, not at first. It looks wet, muddy and sludgy, and piles of wet furniture, carpets and rubbish are piled up on the streets. Walls have caved in. There are whole streets with no lights on, this New Year's Eve.

Put Mytholmroyd Floods 2015 into a search engine. See for yourselves.

This is Mytholmroyd, the delightful, friendly, quirky, creative Yorkshire village that was such a big and happy part of our lives for nine years - it still is, we just don't live there any more. We've had flooding there before in 2012 in midsummer, but what happened on Boxing Day this year was far, far worse. In a very short time, the water came up to the tops of the shop doors. It poured in wherever it could. Walls caved in. Roads were closed. The children will have to be dispersed to other schools because the school won't be open for six months. Water rose up into the churches and their halls, the sheltered housing complex, whole streets of houses, and every shop and pub in the village. Gas and electricity supplies are off in a lot of places, including our old street. It is heartbreaking.

Royd, being Royd, is fighting back. Already they are cleaning, sorting stuff out, and most of all, helping each other. It is a wonderful community. God bless Mytholmroyd.

Let's hear it. Shout it. Share it. Let the stars hear it. God Bless Mytholmroyd!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

From us all

From Crispin and Cedar, Padra, Arran, Fingal, Lugg and all his family, Hope, Fir, Larch, Flame, Needle, Mistress Apple, Corr, and all their friends on Mistmantle -

From Much

From Hamilton Bear

and from all of us connected to The House of Stories,

may your Christmas be blessed, joyous, peaceful, and fill your heart with good things to share throughout the year.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Santa Claus is doing what?

Santa Claus is coming to town, says the song. If this Santa tries to come to my town, he'll be banned.

'You'd better watch out,
You'd better not cry,
You'd better not pout ... Santa Claus is coming to town'

EXCUSE ME! What is so bad about daring to cry, even to pout? What if a child is ill, or bitterly disappointed about something, or if he stubbed his toe on the skirting board? What if his whole world seems to be disintegrating around him? Are you telling me that he shouldn't cry because Santa Claus wouldn't approve? That doesn't sound like Santa Claus to me. It sounds like a villain out of a Victorian novel, Mr Gradgrind or Mr Murdstone out of Dickens, or that horrible man in charge of the orphanage in Jane Eyre. What sort of a jolly kindly Santa is this? You cry if you want to, pet. Of course you're crying if you think Mr Murdstone is flying around over your head in a sledge.

'He's making a list
He's checking it twice - '

This creep is trying to find out if you've been naughty or nice. Sounds like spying to me. Frankly, most of us have been both naughty AND nice this year, if that's all the same to you, you sanctimonious bully! Who is this weirdo, checking up on children and judging them as to what's naughty and what's nice? Heaven help him if he comes anywhere near here. The mothers in this town would be down on him like the Furies.

'He knows when you are sleeping
He knows when you're awake'


'He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.'

Er - yes. Be good for goodness sake. Be good because good is good. And take no notice of this Santa Claus who is coming to town. He is a nosy, pompous child-hating creep and I am waiting for him with a pile of snowballs. Any more bad Christmas songs out there?

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Silent Stars

There's a line in that lovely carol 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' - 'the silent stars go by'. This week a Christmas card arrived with 'Sh!' on the front. The message inside said that I was a 'Silent Star'. Nobody ever called me that before, and I liked it very much.

It's not just me. I'm one of the thousands of people who donate regularly to Greenbelt Festival, a wonderful gathering of faith, music, arts, creativity, social action and fun. Supporters are called Greenbelt Angels, and this card was sent out to all the Greenbelt Angels to thank them for their support and tell them that what they do is unobserved but much appreciated. But I've been meeting silent stars most of my life.

Many of them were old north-eastern women who had struggled heroically through hard times with love and humour. There were the ones who had given their lives looking after relatives, or the Wallsend lady who took refugees under her wing. There was the complete stranger who helped us when Daughter was four years old and was suddenly taken ill. There are the sponsors of children, the knitters of blankets, the hospital visitors and givers of presents to unknown children. You've met silent stars all your life, but you might not know it. Silent.

Be a silent star.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

It did! And Hope

It really did! It snowed!

It wasn't forecast. I was in our beautiful church, helping at a stall in the Christmas Fair. There were stalls in the Market Place, too, choirs singing, and people selling hot chestnuts. About midday I saw that people were coming in with white on their hats and shoulders, so I nipped to the door. Yes, soft flakes were landing on stalls and hats, on baby buggies and the Christmas tree.

There were moans and grumbles. It would keep people away from the market. They'd have to leave early. Cars would need de-icing. Steps must be gritted. The journey home would be a problem.

At 1.30 I escaped from the grumblebums and went for a quick bite of something for lunch, and one of my young friends came with me. She had been wishing for snow, she said as she looked up in excitement. We sat in the lovely old cafe, drinking hot chocolate (her) and cappucino (me) as the snow fell steadily outside the window. I didn't just have snow, I had snow in the company of somebody who knew how wonderful it was and loved it even more than I did. And if it's snowing here, I'm sure it's doing the same on Mistmantle.


I could smell it before anybody else knew it was coming, you can always sniff snow on the air if you know what it sniffles like. I told everyone, Master Urchin, Miss Sepia, Fingal, everyone. I went up to the tower and told the king and queen once I'd worked my way up to the Throne Room. I told Mum and Dad, and I told a tree because I thought it was Mistress Tay and then I told Mistress Tay and she said she detests snow and I had to ask Captain Lugg what that meant, and he said it means Mistress Tay's an idiot, but then he said not to repeat that because it could get back to her. She's very clever so I don't think she can really be an idiot, but if she is I suppose it mustn't get back to her because she doesn't know she's an idiot, and anyway idiot isn't a very nice thing to call someone.

I asked Captain Padra if somebody could be very clever and an idiot at the same time. He laughed. "Definitely', he said.

Friday, 11 December 2015


Where have I been?

I've been in a magical city.

Many years ago, Tony and I went to Salzburg in December. We've always wanted to go back with our family, and finally, we did. For two nights previously I lay awake thinking of things that could go wrong, and deciding that they probably wouldn't. And they didn't. We all met at the airport as planned, and off we went, Cahooties, Sunshines, Hobbits and us, to the small city that holds to the rocks and dresses itself in thousands of little lights on dark winter evenings. At the storybook hotel, the staff wore traditional costume and the rooms were so cosy with the windows overlooking the city that it was almost a shame to go out. But we did go out, discovering the markets and the ice rink and sipping hot spiced drinks.

There's the Christmas museum and the beautiful display of cribs in the museum in the square, there's the cathedral and the little churches. Intricate, hand made Christmas decoration were on stall after stall. Lady Sunshine had made a point of watching The Sound of Music before we left, so we went to the Mirabell Gardens where Julie Andrews and the children do-re-mi'd their way up and down the steps. We visited the Hellbrun Palace and were there as the sun went down and the lights in the trees grew into life against the sky.

Austria isn't an easy place to be vegetarian, but when Tony and the kids discovered that bacon, ham and sausages are almost compulsory they were in seventh heaven. I compensated by eating my body weight in rye bread and butter, cheese, and apfel strudel. The night after we got back, I dreamed of drinking hot chocolate in the Mozartplatz. Since then, life has been very busy with all sorts of pre-Christmas things, but I still have a Salzburg star in my heart.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Not the red nose

There are a few Christmas songs that I find irritating, especially if I've been hearing them since the middle of November. Today I'll just rant about one of them, 'Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer'.

If I ever saw him I would NOT say that his nose 'glows'. It would be very impolite. I would ignore it, befriend him get to know him, bless him. And as for the other reindeer, what a mean horrible lot! They laughed, called him names, and wouldn't let him play. So, having befriended Rudolf, any right-thinking person would have a word with those other reindeer. That's bullying. We would have a discussion about that. Maybe do a bit of role play. And if they still didn't mend their ways I'd put them all on naughty steps and ignore them and see how they liked it.

It all changes when Santa asks him to be lead reindeer on Christmas Eve. They all want to be his friends then. But nobody asks Rudolf why he has a red nose. Does he have a cold? Then he should be wrapped up in the warm with a hot drink, not flying all the way round the world on a winter night and pulling several tons of parcels. Santa, the RSPCA know where you live and they're coming to get you.

And to all the mean two-faced reindeer out there, Rudolf is going down in history. You're just going down. There are laws against anti-social behaviour.