There once was a dog who did run, Through a sludgy, wet puddle for fun, But she soon ceased to laugh, When her dad shouted: "Bath!" Now her fun was all over and done!
1. Ground-work is Essential!
When you’re planting a garden, preparation is vital! When we first moved into our current home, the soil condition was dire. The garden consisted of a patchy lawn, flanked by two strips of dried out, weed-filled earth. I wanted a pretty garden full of flowers. But it wasn’t going to happen overnight. First I needed to roll up my sleeves and get to work. The temptation to skip this back-breaking process would have only cost me more time and money in the long run.
In the same way, writing any kind of story from start to finish takes a lot of ground-work. Inspiration is all well and good – but it’s only hard work that can take a great idea and turn it into a polished story. Different stories require different groundwork: but whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, most stories require the same ingredients – solid character formation, a decent, story arc, rising action, stakes, research. The more ground-work you do, the easier your story will be to write.
2. A little thing called ‘Patience!’
If there’s one thing I’ve discovered about gardening, it’s this: results do not appear instantly. I absolutely love going to the garden centre and picking up new plants. But often when I get home and place those new plants in the flower bed, the result can be…well slightly underwhelming.
Plants need time to grow, to spread, to fill the space around them. Flowers can seem slow to appear. On many an early June morning, you will find me taking my daily walk up the garden path to see what’s going on with the flowers. Is there any sign of growth? A new shoot on that shrub? An emerging bud on that geranium? Planting a garden requires patience. Progress can seem slow. But one thing’s for sure. It will surely come. If you’ve spent time digging, weeding, watering and mulching, then one fine day – pop! Blooms will appear. Everybody’s writing journey is unique. But most people would agree that learning the craft of writing requires commitment, dedication, and heaps of patience.
My gardening efforts have been massively enriched by listening and learning from others. My amazing mum, has passed on heaps of knowledge from her own gardening experiences over the years. More than that, she’s been right alongside me on many occasions, helping me dig up weeds and move things around, giving me confidence and spurring me on. She’s taught me the difference between annuals, evergreens and perennials, shown me how to place things in groups of three, leant me books and shared with me clumps of labour-saving perrenials fresh from her own garden – geraniums and iris and sedums – some of which have come to be the mainstay of my garden.
Gardeners and writers have this in common: we thrive and flourish best in community. (Oh, and we like hot beverages). We love to pass on our passion, our know-how and to share what we have with others. If you’re a writer, make sure you have some writer friends to turn to for inspiration and encouragement. And wherever you can, share! Be prepared to pass on what you know. It goes a long way.
4. Trial and Error
Whilst groundwork is essential, there is still room for a little trial and error. If, when I had first set out to plant a garden, I had merely stared out the window at the cracked, stony earth, too afraid to begin, I wouldn’t have anything remotely close to a garden today. If I had spent years reading a million gardening books, but never actually picked up a spade or fork, I would have been full of theory, but have absolutely nothing to show for it.
My garden is not yet perfect. It’s a work in progress. There are still gaps in one of the flower beds. There are areas where I feel the colours slightly clash, or where a certain plant is not working. But wow! It’s come such a long way. I now have a place that’s pleasant to sit in, where flowers bloom in their season, and where bees and butterflies flit about. I started as a total novice. And I still am, compared to many people. But I would never have gained experience and increased my knowledge had I not made a start. After a few summers of gardening, suddenly you have something to work with. You can move plants around. You can take things out altogether. You can cut things back. You can spot what’s lacking. But you can only do that once you’ve actually begun. So, do your groundwork, but don’t use that as an excuse to procrastinate. Go on – make a start, write something!
5. A Season for Everything
In gardening, there is a rhythm. Gardens don’t always have heaps of blooms and colour. Seasons come and seasons go. Things die back. Branches get stripped bare.
With writing, there are times when all seems to be flourishing and going well. We’ve got tons of ideas and we’re writing heaps, and we’re maybe seeing things come to fruition.
But there are also times when all seems barren and bare, where it seems that however much we labour, our efforts have produced absolutely zero fruit. Rejections. Knock-backs, the nearly-but-not-quites – stories we were once enthusiastic about now hidden away in a drawer, dry and forgotten. Plot holes and hopeless first drafts. Writing can be a hard and lonely journey. But, there is always the promise of spring. Don’t give up, don’t lose heart. You may be going through a winter. If so, be good to yourself. You may need to rest. You may need to wait until the weather improves. Make yourself a hearty bowl of soup and hibernate a while with a good book. Go out for a walks. Watch films that inspire you. Take time to stop and look at the world around you. Spend time with family and friends. And whatever you do, don’t compare your garden to anyone else’s. Your garden, and your writing journey is unique. Remember that in life, and in any creative pursuit worth pursuing, there are seasons, and every season can be both beautiful and have purpose.
Over the past few years, I have been working on several children’s Picture Books.
Here’s a little bit about a few of them!
wild goose chase!
Slumber-Down Valley is a quiet peaceful place…until one night, a big, noisy stranger comes roaring into town!
The villagers all agree. This pesky goose has got to GO!
Then one dark night, when a robbery takes place, all the evidence seems to point in one direction.
But is Wild Goose really all he seems? Find out, in this stonking, honking tale!
hurry up, hugo!
Hugo is the slowest post-tortoise that ever plodded up your path. The trouble is, everyone around him seems to be in a hurry!
Hugo needs to find a way to get up to speed – and fast! Perhaps his old friend Hare will be able to help him?
But after a series of disasters, Hugo discovers that there is always a place in this world for things that take their own sweet time.
Deep in the Ferny-Green Forest, a clever, young squirrel named Squidge, manages to bag herself a tasty treasure!
After a near miss with a pilfering thief, she buries her acorn stash beneath the ground.
But when a snow-storm blows in, she cannot remember where she buried it!
Can Grandpa’s old diary help her?
Join Squidge, in this heart-warming tale about love, loss and ultimately new hope.
We all thought the rain, Was a bit of a pain, Drumming on rooftop, And down window-pane. "This weather!" We grumbled, "Is always the same, It's nothing but rain, rain rain, Rain, rain, rain... Rain." "Go away rain!" We began to complain, "Get on your bike, Adios! Take a hike! Cos we've had it to here, With your damp, soggy drear, Just give us a break, Go away, disappear!" Then one July day, The rain went away, Just packed up its bags, Whilst the sun came to play. And the temperature soared, To heights never known, And the ponds and the rivers, Were as dry as a bone, And the sun grew so hot in the sky overhead, That the grass wasn't green, It was scorched brown instead. And we struggled to sleep, And we tossed and we turned, And the fields set on fire, And the forests they burned, And we suddenly realised, We now understood, Why when God made the rain, He declared "It is good!"
“Let’s go and see the Needles!” they said!
“It’ll be fun!” they said.
My three daughters, two of their friends and my husband, all unanimously agreed that this was the one place they most wanted to visit during our recent trip to the Isle of Wight.
Hazy memories of our previous trip to Alum Bay, some twenty years earlier, began to surface… I recalled a nail-biting ride on an ancient chairlift, equipped with minimal safety features, over a steep cliff-side…legs dangling, shoes being lost forever…
“Well…okay!” I gulped, not wanting to appear the party-pooper.
So, the next morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, we jumped in the car and headed for Alum Bay.
Round about half-way there, it dawned on us that as a party of seven, and an odd number at that, one of us would have to ride the chairlift alone.
Emily, our youngest, had already decided she was going to ride with her daddy. And who could blame her?
Grace and Lydia, each had brought a friend with them.
And so that just left…
I steeled myself, placing all my hope on the fact that my life was squarely in God’s hands and that if in His sovereign wisdom I was supposed to die plunging over a chasm…well that was His business, and not mine.
On, to the chair-lift I jumped, before I had time to bottle out.
Up, up, up cranked the chair. Boom, boom, boom went my heart. As we sailed over trees, I fixed my eyes on Grace and her boyfriend who were riding in the chair in front of me, and told myself over and over again: “it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay!
And, of course, although it was awfully high, it wasn’t quite as scary as I had remembered, provided you didn’t spend the duration of the journey trying to figure out just how the chair-lifts were attached.
In fact, I even managed to snap a little photo!
The descent into Alum Bay soon took my mind off things. The views were truly magnificent!
Jumping off that chair lift, and onto the shingly beach, I felt exhilarated, not only to stand on terra firma once again, but also to witness the vast sweep of the Bay, curving round towards the iconic ‘Needles’ – a crop of three chalk rocks that jut up dramatically out of the English Channel.
It was an unimaginably beautiful day – the bright blue sky dotted with wispy cotton-wool clouds, rays of sunlight glinting on the sea. And most importantly, I was surrounded by so many dear faces – all sharing this rare and wonderful moment with me.
NEEDLES BOAT TOUR
We took a fascinating boat tour out to the Needles, which afforded us a much closer look at them.
the missing needle!
The Needles got their name, due to an original fourth rock, known as ‘Lot’s Wife’ which had a very pointed needle-like shape. Even though this rock collapsed into the heart of the sea, during a storm in 1764, the name stuck.
The Lighthouse, three-feet thick at its base, and rising some 80 feet above high water, was built to withstand wild waves of up to 20 feet high, sweeping in from the West. Up until 1944, when the lighthouse became fully automated, it was manned 24-7 by a Lighthouse Keeper and three assistants. This crop of rocks have always been perilous to sailors, and still to this day, the foghorn sounds every 15 seconds in periods of low visibility.
THE COLOURED ROCKS
Alum Bay is also famous for its colourful rock face, caused by geological folding, which over time, pushed the horizontal layers of rock strata to a vertical position,
ALUM BAY SANDS
Because of these colourful rocks, Alum Bay is unique in having 21 possible shades of sand. Ever since Victorian Times, it has been a tradition to collect and layer these colourful sands in pretty glass jars to take home as a souvenir. Apparently, Queen Victoria herself had a glass jar filled with Alum Bay sand in her home at Osborne House!
Many a child, including our Emily, has fond memories of the Alum Bay Sand Shop, in which you can experience choosing a glass (or plastic bottle) and carefully tipping in varying layers of pink, yellow, beige, brown and white sand!
Alum Bay is more than worth a visit if you’re ever on the Isle of Wight! And, I’ll let you into a little secret…you don’t even have to take the chair lift! There are steps, albeit a fair few of them, if you’d rather!) But, however you decide to get down to the Bay, I promise you, you won’t regret it!
What a wonderful, unforgettable day was had by all!
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide, Is a wild call and a clear call that cannot be denied, And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the seagulls crying! From the Poem, 'Sea Fever', by John Masefield
Our kids are fortunate enough to have a grandfather who lives on an Island. Going to visit him is always an exciting adventure that begins…with a trip on a car ferry!
THE ISLE OF WIGHT
The Isle of Wight is a diamond shaped Island, situated just four miles off the South Coast of England. It’s famous for its beautiful scenery and beaches, for boating events such as Cowes Week and for Osborne House, the historic holiday home to Queen Victoria.
There are several ways to get to the Isle of Wight. We use the Wightlink Ferry Service, from Portsmouth to Fishbourne, a 40-minute crossing. But there are other ferry routes from the mainland, namely Southampton to Cowes and Lymington to Yarmouth.
Cottage & garden
Grandad lives in a stone cottage, with the loveliest of gardens, not far from the villages of Nettlestone and Seaview.
The Isle of Wight, boasts a temperate maritime climate, with warm summers and cool to cold winters. The weather is rarely extreme and so things seem to grow like Billy-o! In fact, Henry Higgins might well have been correct when he taught Eliza Doolittle to say:
In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen!From the 1965 Musical Film, ‘My Fair Lady’
Grandad’s garden in full bloom is quite a sight, with pots full of Geraniums, not to mention his Begonias, which I’m convinced could win prizes. As you can see, it’s also been a very good year for the Roses!
Seagrove Bay & seaview
Grandad’s cottage is a short walk, down a winding stony lane, from Seagrove Bay, a very special beach.
Seagrove Bay has somehow managed to move with the times, whilst retaining all of its old-fashioned charm. With a mix of Victorian houses and modern holiday cottages, the seafront has a very smart facade. A short walk around the next curve, and you reach Priory Bay – another lovely beach, with rocks to clamber over. When the tide goes out, it leaves the most gorgeous crop of sea-weedy rock-pools, which look like something out of an Enid Blyton Novel.
A short walk away from Seagrove Bay, is the lovely village of Seaview. It has a handful of charming shops, and eateries, including a pharmacy, a Deli, and an ice cream shop, plus a great pub, serving delicious home-cooked food, such as Fish and Chips and Prawn Linguine; the perfect spot to sit and sip a long, cold drink, whilst watching the boats bobbing about on the Solent.
I’m sure you’ll agree, Grandad lives in a very special place! The more years that pass by, the more our family have come to appreciate having a seaside home to escape to, especially in light of the recent pandemic, which has made travelling abroad more difficult.
I really hope that you’ve enjoyed this little tour around our home from home! I hope you can hear the surf and the Seagulls squawking and imagine the breeze tugging at your hair!
How very blessed we are to be able to enjoy this place!
Keep an eye out for future posts, featuring trips to Yarmouth, and Alum Bay.
As part of the Jubilee Celebrations this weekend, we spent a glorious day at Hever Castle!
kent, the garden of england
Hever Castle is situated in the English County of Kent, near Edenbridge, around 30 miles South-East of London. Kent itself, is a beautifully verdant County, often nick-named ‘The Garden of England.’ When driving through the pleasant leafy lanes and pretty villages, it’s not hard to see why. Kent is home to acres and acres of ancient woodland and is choc-full of beautiful gardens, both public and private. It’s generously peppered with historic places of interest to visit, such as Chartwell (home of Wiston Churchill), Sissinghurst and Canterbury Cathedral originally founded in the year 597!
Hever Castle may not be quite as old as Canterbury Cathedral, but its history does span back some 700 years! Originally built in 1270, Hever was a typical medieval defensive castle with gatehouse and walled bailey (a courtyard enclosed by a curtain wall). During the 15th and 16th Centuries, it became the home to the Boleyn’s, one of the most powerful families in the country.
Hever was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the tragically ill-fated second wife of King Henry VIII. Anne Boleyn, Queen for 1000 days, was the mother of Elizabeth I, and played a huge role in England’s departure from Catholicism and the establishment of the Church of England at the start of the Reformation.
As the centuries passed, the Castle gradually fell into decline. In 1903, it was bought by William Waldorf Aster, a wealthy American man with a passion for History.
He poured much money and time into restoring the castle and its extensive grounds, commissioning a Tudor Village, and creating the huge lake that was dug out by hand!
Today, the castle is still privately owned, but it has become a much-loved place for the public to visit, attracting visitors from all over the world, all year round.
There is always something interesting going on at Hever, including jousting, open air theatre showings, fireworks displays, concerts and all sorts of other events. In fact, you can even get married at Hever – Can you imagine?
Without further ado, I really hope you enjoy some of the photos of the Castle and gardens from our visit. Apparently, we didn’t manage to see everything – which is always the perfect excuse to go back!
As you can see, some of the Queen’s Corgi’s were missing in the Castle Grounds as part of the Jubilee Celebrations!
When my husband announced last month, that we were going to the Cotswolds, images of Lilliput Lane style cottages, trickling rivers and stone bridges instantly sprang to mind.
Turned out I was right about those things. But as the trip loomed, and we began planning our route, I soon realised that my knowledge of the area was extremely limited.
I had no idea that the Cotswolds was such a vast area, spanning almost 800 square miles, and five different English Counties – namely: Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire!
Lechlade on Thames
I had no idea either that the River Thames flowed as far away from London as Gloucestershire – and that the village we would be staying in, Lechlade-on-Thames, was situated on the highest navigational point along the River.
Lechlade is a lovely little town with a friendly feel. It’s full of charming shops, inviting looking pubs and restaurants, and its fair share of stone cottages!
It’s also a wonderful place for walkers – St John’s Lock is situated nearby, and we spent a lovely morning ambling along the canal path.
The County of Gloucestershire has so much to offer. We so enjoyed driving past fields of green, with plenty of wide-open space – a welcome change from the congested London suburb we live in. The Spring flowers were out in full force, and many of the Cotswold villages looked even more beautiful with an abundance of daffodils and tulips.
Gloucestershire also boasts plenty of towns and cities to explore, including Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud and Cirencester – a handsome and historic Market Town, dating back to the Roman era. Cirencester is a wonderful place to browse, with interesting, high-end shops, selling anything from household furnishings to artisan cakes and pastries.
Our trip to the Cotswolds would not have been complete without a visit to at least one of the quintessential villages that make this area so famous.
Bibury is arguably the most photographed village in the Cotswolds.
As soon as we got out of the car, it wasn’t difficult to see why. From the old water mill, recently transformed into a working trout farm, to the lovely hotel and fast flowing river, Bibury is an utterly idyllic place!
It’s famous for Arlington Row, a row of weaver’s cottages dating back to the 14th Century. and recorded in the Doomsday Book.
It’s hard to fully describe or photograph the curving sweep of stone cottages, situated alongside the gurgling River Coln. Pictures really do not do this place justice. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, and so rich in history – it’s hard not to imagine the generations of people who may have lived and worked in these cottages.
We left the Cotswolds feeling revitalised and rested and as though our senses had been soothed by all the beautiful scenery. We also had the strong feeling that we had only just scratched the surface of all the wonderful places to explore! Not a bad place to end a trip I suppose…
It gives you the perfect excuse to return some day.
Very early, Sunday morn, Grief rising up like a gathering storm, Day-break, Hearts ache, As the weight of it all begins to dawn. Thorns, nails, Mournful wails, Laid in a tomb that wasn't His own, Laden with spices, We make our way, Not even knowing who'll roll back the stone. Earth quake! Guards shake, Heavenly beings in dazzling white, Our hearts pound with fear, Afraid to draw near, We fall to the ground at this awesome sight. Don't fear! He isn't here. Why search for the living amongst the dead? Hurry, go! Let everyone know, That Jesus is risen, just as He said.
To love a Labrador, And all the crazy joy she brings, There's really nothing to it: You must simply learn to love these things: Early starts, Morning barks Dripping hair Rainy parks, Six o'clock On the dot, Rain or shine, Ready or not! Muddy paws, Mopping Floors, Early morning tug-of-wars. Boggy paths, Soggy baths, Crazy capers, Belly laughs. Sloppy kisses, Slimy ball, Dodging, Chasing, Bad recall. Chasing squirrels, Magpies too - Any moving thing will do! Being followed EVERYWHERE, Stolen bits of underwear, Chewed up slippers Patchy lawn, Shredded flowers, Papers torn. Licky face, Tea-towel chase, Zoomy round-the-table-race! Piles of sticks By the door, (Did I mention mopping floor?) Belly rubs, And sofa cuddles, Getting dragged through, Muddy Puddles. Thumping tail, And big hellos, Throw a stick And off she goes!
An hour of toil in the garden, Is always time well-spent Tugging out those stubborn old weeds, Which year upon year won't relent. An hour spent tending the garden, Is never wasted time, Lungs full of wonderful sweet, Spring air, Hands caked in dirt and grime. It's hard to feel glum in the garden, With birds chirping high in the trees, Potting up Pansies, so cheery and bright, Hair tugged about by the breeze. Cutting the deadwood, turning the earth, Allowing the sun to shine through, Seems to clear my cluttered mind, And lifts my spirits too. Thank you dear Lord for my garden, Humble and small though it be, It's a place where so often I've felt You are near, And Your joy surrounding me. Once You knelt down in a garden, And in terrible anguish You cried, "Thy will, not Mine, be done O Lord!" Abandoned. Betrayed. Denied. One Sunday morn, in a garden, You rose up again from the grave, Bringing salvation and mercy and grace, To the ones You came to save!
Lately, I’ve been getting myself in a bit of tiswas…
It’s all to do with time. Or rather the lack of it.
Finding time to write in a very hectic season of life can feel utterly impossible.
Today I almost gave up.
What was meant to be a ‘day off’ swiftly snowballed into a whole heap of chores. I find this happens to me a LOT.
So I said to God – “I can’t do this anymore – this writing thing. I just don’t have the time. Maybe you’ve asked the wrong gal’. Maybe I’ll give it another crack when I retire. But right now, Lord, I just have to let this go. I give up!”
A voice inside me said: “Do you think that life will be any less busy when you retire?”
I sighed. “Lord, will there ever be time?”
I made a cup of tea and sat for a moment and stilled and quieted my soul before God. I sang. I prayed. I surrendered.
I looked out of the patio doors – out into the garden. I could see one of the beds needed weeding and dead-heading. Uugh… Another job I never seem to have the time for.
I glanced at the clock. 2:50pm. I had ten minutes before I needed to leave for the school run…Just ten minutes.
Then I had a crazy idea!
‘Why don’t you set a timer on your phone and see how much gardening you can do in ten minutes…?”
Okay. Sounds a bit bonkers. But I’ll give it a go!
I threw on my coat, grabbed a garden fork and got to work.
And this was the result! Who would have thought that just ten minutes worth of gardening would produce a whole pot-full of weeds, old dead stems and garden waste?
As I tugged out those tufts of Chickweed, and snapped off the dead-wood, I remembered the advice my nine year old had recently given me: “Mum, just try to write 50 words per day. And keep going. That’s all you need to do.”
What a wise little owl! Was God trying to show me something here?
It’s true – I might not have great chunks of time to spare during this season of life. I might NEVER have great chunks of time.
But I could find 10 minutes. Surely?
Just 10 minutes a day.
What a revolutionary thought! You know, 10 minutes a day might just be doable.
And progress, however small, is still progress. In fact, maybe the whole point of progress is consistency – not speed.
I applied the ten minute test to my writing this afternoon. I grabbed my notebook and pen. I set my timer, and guess what? I didn’t just write 50 words. I wrote 140! Perhaps I can do the same tomorrow. And the day after that. And little by little, who knows – perhaps 2022 really will be the year I finish that book?
And I might have a garden to be proud of too.
As an Early Years Practitioner, there are a few classic Picture Books that never fail to enthrall and delight the children I look after.
These stories are often about very ordinary things, (a little girl and her mummy having tea at the dinner table) coupled with an added twist, such as a tiger knocking on the door and inviting himself in…
One such story is Michael Rosen and Helen Obxenbury’s ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ – the story of a simple family stroll, on a beautiful day.
The twist is, that as the children are walking along, they pretend that they are off to find a Bear! They’re going on a Bear Hunt. They’re going to catch a BIG one!
As their walk continues, they meet LOTS of different obstacles along the way, such as:
- A deep, cold river
- Thick, oozy mud
- and a swirling, whirling snowstorm
Because everybody knows, that every good story must contain OBSTACLES!
And anyone that has read the story will remember the repeated refrain:
We can't go over it. We can't go under it. Oh no! We've got to go through it!
It struck me this morning, as I was reading the story for the gazillionth time, that a writer’s journey is very much like this…
As we attempt to write our stories, to dream up vivid characters, to create a solid story arc, to nail the perfect ending, to hook our reader from the very beginning – we come against MANY obstacles along the way.
It can be so hard to keep going when we feel stuck in the thick oozy mud, lost in a whirling snowstorm and totally unable to cross the deep cold river (or face editing that manuscript!)
We journey on, through the ups and downs. We finish our stories. We do our best to query agents, to enter competitions, to send our stories out there.. only to be faced with knock-backs, closed doors and rejection letters. It can feel like an endless journey fraught with obstacle after obstacle, set-back after set-back.
But something within us keeps us going… The sense of adventure keeps calling us onward. The beauty of the journey – the high-point of connecting with one reader – helps us get back up again. The thought that the journey is leading us ‘to catch a big one’ – keeps us pressing on…
The thought that we are doing all we can to use our gift for the glory of God, makes it all worthwhile.
And we know instinctively that there are absolutely no shortcuts. There are no easy routes through. We know, along with all other writers, that:
We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!
So, at the start of 2022, let’s keep pressing forward. Let’s seize the day. Let’s pull our coats ever tighter around us and brace the wind, the rain, the snow! Let’s say together: “We’re not scared!” and enjoy this beautiful day, this beautiful opportunity that we’ve been given! Let’s enjoy the journey! You never know, we might even discover a bear at the end of it!
Ring out the old, and ring in the new, Another year passes, but one thing is true, A thousand small blessings have slipped through my hands, Moments uncountable, vast as the sands. Ordinary days that have come, And then gone, A sunrise, a sunset, A whisper, A song. Times spent with family, Long summer days, Here for a moment, Then gone in a haze. I wish I could hold all these moments forever, Time marches onward, But love ceases never. So I'm thankful, so thankful, For all that has been, For the highs and the lows, And the bits in between, This journey of life With its ups and its downs, The trials and the triumphs, The joys and the frowns, This life I've been given, I long to embrace, To cherish each moment, Each dear, precious face, Yet to live in surrender, Not grasping too tight, To live for eternity To walk in the light, Knowing this life is a gift from above, That it all comes from you, Oh great Father of love.
I’m an unabashed collector of books of all kinds – particularly Picture Books. I am drawn to Picture Books like a Magpie is to shiny things. I love the marriage of words and pictures. I love sharing stories with children. I love the humour and playfulness that Picture books often contain, and as a writer, I particularly admire the skill of the illustrator, at adding so much of the magic.
A small percentage of Picture Books are both written and illustrated by the same person. I would absolutely LOVE to be in this category, but sadly, my drawing skills are woefully deplete.
Emma Chichester Clark is one such talent – and there is a particular book that comes out again and again at Christmas in our house – first being enjoyed by my own children, and now by the children I look after.
It’s the story of two strangers, Melrose and Croc, who come to the big city. Both are lonely and looking for a friend.
Like all good stories, things go from bad to worse for both of them – especially Croc!
Until lovely music draws them both to the ice-skaing rink…
…where they are destined to bump into each other!
And the two lonely strangers become best of friends.
This sweet book will always be a favourite of mine. And it could partly explain my deep affection for Labradors…
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post.
12 more sleeps till the big day!
Boxing Day, 1982. I had just turned eight years old. And something magical was about to happen.
‘The Snowman,’ a British animated film and symphonic poem directed by Dianne Jackson and based on Raymond Brigg’s delightful 1978 picture book, was first broadcasted to the British Public, on Channel Four.
It instantly won the hearts of viewers everywhere. With it’s hauntingly beautiful music, composed by Howard Blake, fantastic animation, and slightly poignant ending – the whole 26 minutes was just enthralling to me as a wide-eyed child.
It has since become something of an annual Christmas event! The Snowman is now televised every year, on Channel Four, normally on Christmas Eve.
Growing up, I became an avid fan, and vividly remember watching the version which featured David Bowie, (a huge fan of Raymond Briggs) with my little brother, John. Bowie, played the grown-up version of the boy featured in the animation, and as viewers, we found out that it was all true, and not just a dream, because grown up Bowie still had the scarf that was given to him by Father Christmas at the snowman’s party!
Collecting all things Snowman, soon became a craze.
I don’t remember the year that I was given these lovely Royal Doulton figurines…or whether I received them all at one time. But I do remember being absolutely thrilled with them, especially with the Snowman Musical Box, which plays a magical rendition of “We’re Walking In the Air’ as the Snowman pirouettes round and around. Quite delightful!
.These figures have been loved and admired and cherished for many years! And amazingly are all still in incredible condition.
Just look at this beautiful plate too!
Aaah, I’m feeling very nostalgic just looking at these.
I hope you’ll agree, they are beautiful keepsakes – and I know that my own children will cherish them some day too.
What are some of your childhood Christmas Memories? I’d love to hear from you!
Most of you will know by now, that we have recently welcomed a new addition to our family!
Meet Amber, our Fox Red Labrador!
Now…there was much debate this year about whether we should bother putting up a Christmas Tree. I wasn’t sure how a 17 week old pup would respond to a twinkling tree full of inviting looking baubles.
My daughter Grace convinced me to at least give it a try – with a promise that if the whole affair was a complete disaster, that she would help me pack the tree away again!
Well, I am delighted to announce that almost 2 weeks later, the tree is still standing – and still intact! Granted, there has been a little bit of bauble bopping going on here and there. But on the whole, this Labrador has been extremely well behaved!
I’m also delighted to share with you these delightful decorations that just arrived in the post today, courtesy of the wonderful Etsy based ‘Brown Bear Interiors!’
Needless to say, I am over the moon with them! For me, Christmas is all about the little things. And these ‘little things’ just about made my day!
How about you, dearest reader friends? Do you have any photos or stories about pets at Christmas time? I’d love to hear from you!
I’ll let you into a little secret – today is my birthday! Hooray!
Birthday’s and Christmases throughout childhood, for me, always, ALWAYS meant books! Whether it was a brand new bundle of Notebooks for scribbling down my stories, or the next instalment of the Anne of Green Gables series, it was always such a pleasure to open a gift that kept on giving!
One such book was given to me, by my mum – oooh, many moons ago now. I can’t have been much older than 16, so this book has been on my shelf for over 30 years now! And it still brings joy every time I take it out of it’s hardback case and have a look through.
The ‘Penhaligon’s Scented Treasury of Verse and Prose’ is a wonderful collection of all things Christmas, containing extracts from ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Little Women’, plus all sorts of illustrated Carols and Poems – to name but a few! It even features a traditional Mrs Beeton recipe for Christmas Pudding!
Penhaligon’s is a British Perfume House, founded in the late 1860’s by William Henry Penhaligon, a Cornish Barber who moved to London and became the Court Barber and Perfumer to Queen Victoria.
It’s no surprise therefore, that one of the unique things about this stunning hard-back book, is that it is delicately perfumed ‘with spicy notes of cloves and cinnamon and small fir cones, it is reminiscent of hot toddies and log fires and guaranteed to add a festive air.’
The scent still lingers to this very day. But what I love best about it, is the beautiful Victorian style illustrations. Here is a sneak peek inside.
This lovely book will remain on my shelf for always – and I’m sure will be loved and treasured for generations to come!
I hope you enjoyed looking at it as much as I did.
I would love to share with you a few highlights from one of my all-time favourite Christmas Books. Alison Uttley, was an English Children’s author, who was born and brought up on a farm in Derbyshire at the end of the 19th Century. ‘The yearly tasks of sowing, harvesting and preserving were an important part of her childhood. Feast days and holidays were highlights and Christmas was especially important to the young Alison. Her mother spent many hours baking and preparing food for the festivities.’
This delightful book features the most exquisite illustrations by Margaret Tempest, who worked with Alison Uttley for almost 40 years.
It was first published in 1939 (way before my time), but I’m sure you will agree it still deserves a place on any child’s bookshelf! This book conjurs up a great deal of nostalgia and captures the simple childhood delights of Christmases gone by.
It opens with the words:
It had been snowing for hours. Hare stood in the garden of the little house at the end of the woods, watching the snowflakes tumbling down like white feathers from the gray sky.”
“However did you get inside a snowball?” asked Hare. “I didn’t get inside. It got around me,” replied Fuzzypeg.
“It’s a Christmas Tree,” replied Mole. “It’s for all the birds and beasts of the woods and fields.”
What a treasure of a book!
I’d really love to hear about any Vintage Christmas books that you recall from childhood!
When I was a kid, my dad used to tell us these ridiculous ‘book’ jokes.
They involved a made-up book title, followed by an appropriate author!
Here are the ones I can remember… plus a few more that I’ve either made up, or discovered along the way.
Your challenge (should you choose to accept it): Think up some more of your own and then add them in the comments section below!
- ‘Piles In The Road’, by G. G. Dunnit
- ‘Overboard’, by Eileen Dover
- ‘Haunted House’ by Hugo First
- ‘Someone’s At The Door’ by Isabella Ringing
- ’20/20 Vision’ by Seymour Clearly
- ‘Race To The Outhouse’, by Will. E. Makit (with illustrations by Bettie Won’t)
- ‘Stray Bullet’ by Rick O’Shea
- ‘How To Fit A Carpet In Ten Easy Steps’ by Walter Wall
- ‘Stony Broke’ by Len D’Fiver
- ‘Baggy Trousers’ by Lucy Lastic
- ‘Tying The Knot’ by R. U. Shaw
- ‘Cowboy Builders’, by Bodgitt & Leggitt
- ‘Blind Date’, by Ron Day-Voo
- Dangerous Reptiles, by Al. E. Gator
- ‘Hole in the Roof!’ by Lee King
- ‘Late For School’ by Misty Bus
- ‘If Looks Could Kill’ by I. C. Stare
- ‘Chicanes’ by Ben D. Road
- ‘The Bull-Fighter’ by Matt Adore
- ‘Shocked To The Core!’ By Will I. D. Clare
I know….they’re absolutely dreadful. But they’re really fun to think up. How many can you come up with?
Being woken every morning, incredibly early, by a hyperactive puppy can be a bit of a shock to the system! But rising earlier than normal, even in these dark November mornings, definitely has it’s advantages…After the initial reluctance to get out of my cosy bed, pull on my clothes, coat and wellington boots and head out the front door, I find myself rewarded with a park that’s practically empty and bathed in soft, morning light.
All is peaceful and still, apart from the occasional squawking of the Crows and Magpies, who flit and flap about, foraging for seeds and berries. Industrious Squirrels scamper around me, burying their hoards before winter sets in. Darkness gives way to dawn. The stream gurgles. The fresh air invigorates. The senses slowly awaken, drinking in God’s handiwork and silently giving thanks for this fresh start, for this beautiful, breath-taking, brand new day.
Before the rush begins, there is a narrow window of time. Time to think. To breathe. To ponder. To pray.
Blink, and it is gone – never to be recovered.
So instead of complaining, I’m learning to embrace these early morning outings. In fact, they are becoming quite a gift!
Hi friends, it’s me again, Amber!
This is a picture of me pulling my ‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’ face. I’ve been practicing this face a lot lately. Why?
Because this face gets me out of whole heaps of trouble. Yep. I might be little, but I am BIG trouble! Trouble with a capital ‘T’!
Take the other day for instance. Mum was minding her own business, doing some gardening. I really wanted to help. So I decided to dead-head a few of her favourite flowers. I snapped off a whole head of Hydrangea, and shredded up her prize Sedums.
Next I tried to help with the washing….Mum put the washing in the machine – and I dragged it out again and just sat on it.
What a good and helpful little doggie I am!
And of course, when Emily plays with the sand, I have to play too! Only I like to get right inside the sand-pit. Oooh, that sandy stuff really tickles my snozzle and makes me sneeze! Mum just loves my paw-prints all over her clean floor!
And I just can’t help it – I really love to chew things. Toys, shoes – anything I can get my teeth on. What’s so wrong with that?
It’s a good job I’m such a cutie pie, don’t you think? But just to be on the safe side, I think I’d better keep practicing that face!
Stay tuned for more of my pawsome adventures. x
Here’s a little snippet from a Picture Book series I’m currently working on. Can you tell who inspired it?
Once, there were ten tumbling, bumbling, honey-coloured puppies, who needed a forever home. None of the puppies yet had names. Instead, they each wore a different coloured collar, so that people could tell which one of them was which.
At first they were small and snuggly and cosy and dozy. But every day, they grew!
They wobbled and wiggled.
They toppled and tumbled.
They nuzzled and nibbled.
Until soon, they were big enough to chase and race around the garden.
One day, a nice family came to adopt a puppy of their very own. All of the puppies were unique and special so it was very difficult to choose.
Some were big.
Some were small.
Some were sleepy.
One was sassy!
But the pup with yellow collar was funny, licky, snuggly and sweet….
Last summer, as I was walking around Seagrove Bay on the Isle of Wight, I happened upon the brightly painted pebble that you can see pictured above. It had been left on the beach – quite deliberately – to bring a smile to whoever was fortunate enough to find it. Wasn’t I the lucky one? And what a sweet, sweet idea! An idea worth sharing, I thought, hence the poem below. And when I return to Seagrove Bay, I shall paint a pebble and leave it for someone else to find!
I found this pebble on the beach, Quite by chance, the other day, Painted brightly, Just for fun, And hidden there along the way. I saw this pebble lying there, Whilst walking round the shingly bay, Coincidence? A random chance? A gift to make another's day. I'll keep this pebble from the beach, Because it always makes me smile, Reminding me That joy is free, And kindness always so worthwhile.
How doth the little spider be, A Master of Geometry? Oh tell me, tell me, if you know, Where did she learn to weave quite so? Please tell me little Spider friend, How many hours did you spend Creating such a sight to see, Such skillful lines of symmetry? Concentric frame, Installed at night, A work of art, By morning light! This poem (and lots more) has been kindly published by: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/a-spiders-skill
It's Autumn once more, What a sight to behold, Streets lined with crimson And laden with gold, Moon like a saucer, Days getting shorter, As summer lays down To make way for the cold. Warm woolen knits, Crackling fires, Wild geese take flight Over pink sunset skies, Off with a flap of migratory wings, The earth gives birth, Creation sings! Season of beauty, Nature's last fling, Before winter makes bare And the earth sleeps til' Spring, Emblazoned in scarlet, You take your last breath, Your most glorious hour, Was found at your death. To read lots more Autumn Poems, visit https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/autumn-glory