There once was a sweet, little Kitty, Who would sit around looking so pretty, But this act was a lie, He was really a Spy, No, you should not believe cats one bitty!
The Baking Blunder!
The following limerick may or may not be based on real events!
There once was an unlucky baker, Who forgot to put flour in her cake-ah! "What a mess!" came her cries, When that cake did not rise, "Oh this cake is a big old mistake-a!"
A Month Without Rain…
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!"
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.
The Poppy by the Gate
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
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!
Enjoying The (Writing) Journey!
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!
Happy New Year!
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.
Melrose & Croc, Together at Christmas, by Emma Chichester-Clark
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!
Reflections on ‘The Snowman’, by Raymond Briggs
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!
Penhaligon’s Scented Christmas Treasury
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.
Little Grey Rabbit’s Christmas, by Alison Uttley
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!
Autumn Snaps, 2021
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!
All Kinds of Antics
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
The Pup With The Yellow Collar
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….
Pebble on the Beach
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.
A Spider’s Skill!
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