Tuesday, 29 March 2016


Let's pause for a moment to remember Lahore. On Easter Day, a branch of the Taliban sent a suicide bomber to a playground because it was known to be a popular place for Christian families to gather on the afternoon of Easter Sunday. It wasn't just frequented by Christians - Muslims were there too - but the time and place were chosen to target Christians. At least seventy people were killed and about two hundred injured, some of them very seriously. As you'd expect from an explosion in a playground, there was a high proportion of children among the dead and injured.

As soon as the news got out, queues (lines) began to form outside the hospitals, queues of people volunteering to give blood. They weren't interested in who followed which faith, just in doing what they could to help and save lives. Yes, the giving of their own blood for whoever needed it. Muslim blood in Christian veins, Christian blood in Muslim veins.

This is not what the haters intended.

Friday, 25 March 2016


I've just realised that it's a week since I've been here. No, I haven't been away, it's just been a bit busy what with Holy Week, and trying to get work all tidied up and finished so I can have a few free days over Easter.

This morning, a beautiful spring morning, we had the usual silent Good Friday procession through the town. At the park, we sang and prayed. Somewhere along the way, this little story came to mind. Apologies if I've told it before. At first glance it's nothing to do with the Good Friday story, but in another way, it is.

Just after Christmas I told you about the devastating floods in the corner of West Yorkshire where we used to live. There was flooding in 2012, when we still lived there, and that was terrible, but it looked like a minor inconvenience compared to the December 2015 floods. The community spirit, as I told you, was phenomenal, and not just the local community. Busloads came from as far away as Leicester, many of them refugees. They cleaned and grafted. A Muslim group cooked for everyone. There was an appeal for desperately needed furniture for those whose chairs, tables, fridges and cookers had to be skipped.

One elderly couple lost everything. Their little bungalow was near the river, and they didn't stand a chance. A team of volunteers arrived to see what they needed.

"I was hoping you'd come," said the lady of the house. "The only place that didn't get flooded was the attic, and there was nothing up there but the highchair. We used it for when the grandchildren came to visit, but they've all grown out of it now, we don't use it any longer. Can you take it with you and give it to a family who need it?"

Friday, 18 March 2016

Wake up

This is the time of year when sleepy things wake up. No, not me, they don't let me hibernate however much I want to. But in the garden the celandines, cowslips and primulas have started bobbing up and there has been a sighting of an dwarf iris. Birds are dotting about birdily and winding up Dodger. You'd be surprised how fast a stone dog can run when there's a bluetit up a tree doing semaphore at it. Hopefully this year, there'll be a hedgehog.

When we lived in Yorkshire we were near to a river and occasionally had to escort toads across the road as they boinged back to their spawning grounds. We rescued a hedgehog, too, which had just come out of hibernation and decided that the sensible thing to do would be to toddle across the main road at twilight. We put him in the garden, but by the time we got back from buying him cat food he'd vanished. Probably caught a whiff of badger and was off like a rocket, or even like a hedgehog pursued by a badger.

And Much just loves it. He grumbles on about not being able to get a moment's peace, but he enjoys the company immensely. His snail will enjoy it too, when it' woken up.

So this weekend, go and see what's waking up.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Yellow eyed penguins

I've never seen a yellow eyed penguin, and if I did it would probably try to kill me. The Sunshines have just come back from New Zealand and told me all about these penguins, so I thought I'd pass it on.

Yellow-eyed penguins are presumably an endangered species, largely because they hate each other, so it's not easy for two YEPs to get near enough to each other to make eggs. I exaggerate - they have been known to toddle along the beach together in groups of four to six, but this represents a massed gathering. They are territorial, so the sight of another YEP on your territory is enough to make you put the nest on the market and move out. Nesting within sight of another YEP is not good.

This wasn't so much of a problem when there were a lot of trees about, so long as they were trees big enough for a YEP to hide behind, but now that the trees have been felled there's no hiding place for an anti-social penguin who would rather be in its own little hermitage. Still, they are penguins and as such must be loved. Perhaps the hope for the future lies in a race of short-sighted yellow eyed penguins who make friends before they realise they're getting on very well with another YEP, and nobody's killed anybody yet.

Moles are even worse, by the way, those things are so territorial and aggressive it's a wonder there are any baby moles at all. But not on Mistmantle, of course. Mistmantle is different.

Friday, 11 March 2016


Another bonkers directive from the Department of Education, those who spend their working lives finding more pointless things to mess up lives of children and teachers. The Powers That Be have decided that children are using exclamation marks far too much in their writing, probably because of text speak.

If this is so, and it may well be, all the PTB need to do is to advise teachers - get your children to go easy on the exclamation marks. This could lead to some interesting classroom discussions about what exclamation marks are, how they work, and why it's not a good idea to overuse them.

But no, they sent out a directive advising that 'only sentences beginning 'How' or 'What' should have an exclamation mark'. Yes, they really did say that! Honestly! Or rather, 'How yes, they really did say that! What honestly!'

What I want to know is whether this is supposed to apply to direct speech. As in the following,

"No," I shouted. "Don't touch it. It's a bomb. It could go off at any moment. Get down."


Tuesday, 8 March 2016


This will be a short post because of what happened on Sunday. Nothing alarming. I may have to leave the typos in.

When you attend a very old church with stone pillars and flagstones, you have to remember that they were there long before you and they don't get out of the way quickly. So on Sunday morning, when I was helping to set up Mothering Sunday stuff and I caught my foot on a pillar, there was no way but down. That's the law of gravity for you. There wasn't much room between the pillar and the nearest item of furniture, so I couldn't fall sideways, I went down like a tree.

It was the knee that hurt most at first, but the right hand that ended up being checked out in hospital. Nothing broken, just a bit knocked about so I am wearing a support bandage and typing little and slowly. This is frustrating when you make your living the way I do. The bandage is conspicuous, so people express concern - but they haven't seen my right knee, which makes the Aurora Borealis look like a squashed grape. Carrying things and getting tops off bottles is difficult, which is a problem when you live on coffee and tonic water.

However, it is getting better, and I'm about to send a card to A and E at our local hospital who saw me promptly on Sunday afternoon. One more gold star for the NHS.

Saturday, 5 March 2016


Welcome, visitors to The House of Stories on the brand new apple tree website! A certain Sam has been prodding me for ages to get it updated, and here it is.

The new website may mean that we have new visitors to the House of Stories, so welcome, find somewhere to sit, and I'll introduce you. The House of Stories is based in Northumberland, where I live, and sometimes tells you about what I'm doing, either with writing or with the muddle that gathers around me. Occasionally some of the animals of Mistmantle turn up here and tell you about what's happening on their beautiful island.
And sometimes Much writes it. I met Much at a house I lived in previously in West Yorkshire. He's a plain, unpainted garden gnome on a snail, very weather-worn, short in stature but not short of opinions. We named him Much after one of Robin Hood's men, and also as in the expression, 'You can always tell a Yorkshireman, but you can't tell him much'. He now lives with us in our garden, along with Oliver and his dog Dodger, who were here when we moved in.

My husband Tony sometimes blogs if I'm away. You may also meet the family, Daughter, Lovely Older Son (LOS) and Lovely Younger Son (LYS). Daughter is married to Daughter's Chap, and they're The Hobbits. LOS is married to Lady Sunshine, so they're the Sunshines, and LYS is married to The Lassie, and they are The Cahooties. Hamilton Bear sometimes gets a mention too.

Now and again I update you about The Archers. It is the world's longest running soap and is set in a fictional village somewhere round about Oxfordshire/Heart of England country. Not to know what's happening in the Archers can be a serious social disadvantage. I know that Pat and Tony Archer don't listen. How can they not know what their son-in-law is really like? The rest of the nation does and is baying for his blood. So you see, it's really important to know what's going on in Ambridge. For those of you across the pond - how do you live without it?

But this blogger is a writer, and shouldn't she be telling us about writey stuff? OK. For those of you who like to write, here's an idea.

Write a story of no more than one hundred words, which must include the following words - Much Apple Hobbit Archer

Have fun!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Much in March

Evening all, and 'Appy St David's Day. For those of you who don't know, St David's Day means Wales, leeks, daffodils, and a lot of folk singing 'Land of My Fathers'. It also means thank goodness we've got January and February out of the way, it should get a bit warmer now. Don't 'old yer breath waiting, though.

Mind, it were a bit warmer today, so 'erself potters out into the garden like the first 'edge'og of spring. Went around with the secateurs, pruned this, pruned that, would have pruned me if I weren't made of stone, there's no knowing what 'er might have done if them secateurs hadn't dropped to bits in 'er 'and. 'Er pulled up a few weeds, which is always improving to a gnome's eye view of the garden. Now, 'er's got a couple of new roses, just little ones what cover the ground, and today was the day 'er planted 'em.

Just as well there weren't nobody there to 'ear 'er chatting away to 'em. 'I've dug you a nice big 'ole, it's all comfy and ready for you, in you go. Now we'll give you some nice backfilling to make you comfy. And these are all your new friends. 'Ello, little Iceberg. I'll put you in 'ere beside Angel of Lichfield and you can look after each other.' Give each other greenfly, more like. Blimey, it'll be conversations with compost next.

But 'er never sees what I see in the garden. Minute 'er went in and shut the door, them roses was falling over each laughing.