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, such as 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’ – a delightful tale, about 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 a blinking cursor on an empty page…)

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.

Given by my parents, on one enchanted Christmas day!

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!

Doggie Decorations!

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!’

Aren’t they just the cutest?

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!

‘Little Women’ remains one of my all time favourite childhood stories!

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.

The quality of light in this picture, emanating from the tree, is just lovely!
Wonderful Christmas Treats!

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.

Front cover

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!

Friday Funnies

Book Jokes

Photo by Sam Lion on Pexels.com

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!

  1. ‘Piles In The Road’, by G. G. Dunnit
  2. ‘Overboard’, by Eileen Dover
  3. ‘Haunted House’ by Hugo First
  4. ‘Someone’s At The Door’ by Isabella Ringing
  5. ’20/20 Vision’ by Seymour Clearly
  6. ‘Race To The Outhouse’, by Will. E. Makit (with illustrations by Bettie Won’t)
  7. ‘Stray Bullet’ by Rick O’Shea
  8. ‘How To Fit A Carpet In Ten Easy Steps’ by Walter Wall
  9. ‘Stony Broke’ by Len D’Fiver
  10. ‘Baggy Trousers’ by Lucy Lastic
  11. ‘Tying The Knot’ by R. U. Shaw
  12. ‘Cowboy Builders’, by Bodgitt & Leggitt
  13. ‘Blind Date’, by Ron Day-Voo
  14. Dangerous Reptiles, by Al. E. Gator
  15. ‘Hole in the Roof!’ by Lee King
  16. ‘Late For School’ by Misty Bus
  17. ‘If Looks Could Kill’ by I. C. Stare
  18. ‘Chicanes’ by Ben D. Road
  19. ‘The Bull-Fighter’ by Matt Adore
  20. ‘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?

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.

The pale light of morning breaks through the trees…

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