Trip To The Cotswolds

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.

St. Lawrence’s Church spire, standing tall over Lechlade-on-Thames
It was fun to meet Little Jen, the donkey, outside the church on Palm Sunday!

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.

cirencester

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.

BIBURY

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.

Arlington Row

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.

The Flying Squad

Plunging,
Squealing,
Tumbling, 
Wheeling,
Swifts are flying,
Death-Defying!
Speeding through the skies,
With skills that mesmerize.

Screeching,
Swooping,
Loop-the-Looping,
Pitching,
Chasing,
Roof-top-racing,
A dizzying display,
Get your tickets here today! 

Risen!

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!














Garden Song

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!

The ‘Ten Minute’ Test…

Photo by Krivec Ales on Pexels.com

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.

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!