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Celebrating children's books and more! Children's book illustration, vintage and out-of-print childrens books, insights into the life of a bookseller and other bits and bobs.
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1. 2016 and Beyond

So how was your Christmas?   Ours was quieter than last yearbut very enjoyable. We spent Christmas day with our two grandsons and Terry’s parents. We laughed a lot, played games, ate too much and had a great time

The following two photos are a little blurry, which might be a good thing considering we are all wearing silly hats!

Terry with his mum and dad

Me with our grandsons Tris (on the left as you look at the photo) and Kip 

During the rest of the holidays we walked, read and caught up on films missed earlier in the year. The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin was the perfect holiday read. Wouldn’t you work in a bookshop in Paris if you had the chance? I certainly would. Days spent surrounded by books while snow falls on the Champs-Élysées – what’s not to like?  

A little more serious reading is in order for the New Year starting with two books received as gifts this Christmas. East West Street weaves together historical, legal and familial narratives to reveal the origins of international law, beginning and ending with the last day of the Nuremberg trial. I’m excited to read this recent winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction. I think I’m in for a treat.  

I’m also excited to read the complete edition of the Wipers Times, the famed trench newspaper of the First World War. It contains a unique record of life on the wartime frontline, together with an extraordinary mix of black humour, fake entertainment programmes and pastiche articles.

My favourite film of the year, watched just a few days before Christmas is:  Sully. 
On Jan. 15, 2009, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) tries to make an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River after US Airways Flight 1549 strikes a flock of geese. Miraculously, all of the 155 passengers and crew survive the harrowing ordeal, and Sullenberger becomes a national hero in the eyes of the public and the media. 

Before saying goodbye to 2016, I thought it would be fun to look back at the most popular posts on my blog last year. I also want to take a moment to thank you.  It is your visits, comments and shares that keep this blog alive. I am so very grateful to you all. Thank you!  

Now for the top five: 

Coming in at Number One is the wonderful Finnigan The Circus Cat: A Guest Post by Mary T. Wagner.

Mary shared her post with us in August and in October Finnigan was awarded a first-place finish at the Royal Palm Literary Awards in Florida. Congratulations Mary I can’t think of a more worthy winner.

Mary T Wagner at the Royal Palm Literary Awards

In Second Place is a book which occupies a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf. When found it was in a very dilapidated state but an excellent book restorer sprinkled a little magic book dust, and saved it from the clutches of the evil book pulping machine! This is just one of the beautiful images from Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales - see others here

In Third Place is our visit to the Titanic Museum in Belfast. The museum kindly shared the post on their social media streams, which certainly increased the number of visitors to my blog. 

In Fourth Place: British Eccentricity on Show at: The Chelsea Flower Show.

Diarmuid Gavin creator of the above flower show garden has indicated he will be taking a break from Chelsea in 2017.  Such a shame as I really love his designs as do a lot of people. 

In July, we visited Krakow and Auschwitz, and that post comes fifth and last on the list.  

It’s almost time to wish you a very Happy New Year. I hope 2017 brings you all your heart desires. 

Next week I will be sharing five of my favourite blogs from around the web. I would love to hear about the ones you enjoy so thinking caps on please.  

22 Comments on 2016 and Beyond, last added: 12/30/2016
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2. More Vintage Christmas Greetings Sent With Love

With Christmas just around the corner I thought I would share a few more vintage Christmas cards with you. I have a particular liking for anything by Rene Cloke (left) or brightly-coloured examples like those that follow.

 Most of the cards I buy cost less than a pound (USD 1.25), but if you want to splash out you should look for hand-painted ones by famous artists, such as Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane.  

This hearty greeting comes to wish you everything that's good, and though I cannot shake your hand today, yet may we meet in kindest thought and wishes for each other. 

A Merry Christmas may you see both joy and fortune call,
a Happy Year, and may it be the happiest one of all.

I send my love and wish that you a jolly time may see,
with girls and boys and games and toys and all in harmony.

I hope these toys will bring you pleasure in many a different way,
and be a glad beginning to a Happy Christmas Day.

Wishing you a bright and cherry Christmas!

'Tis Christmas once again, and greetings I am sending,
May you and yours this Christmastide, a joyous time be spending.

It's Christmas! I'm so excited - and to send you a card I'm delighted, so I'll put on my coat and I'll put on my hat, and I'll run to the pillar box jolly and fat, and post the card, which tells you true what a Happy Christmas I'm wishing for you. 

I will be taking a short break now, but I would like to thank everyone who takes the time to visit and comment on my blog. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year. 

Christmas wishes and love from Barbara, Terry and all the family xxx 

* Previous vintage card posts here, here, here and here.

25 Comments on More Vintage Christmas Greetings Sent With Love, last added: 12/29/2016
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3. A Not to Be Missed Guest Post by the One & Only Willie Wine

Happy Christmas!

Firstly l have to say Thankyou..Grazie..Tack..Gracias..Obrigado..Merci..Danke..To Barbara, for asking me to do a guest post on her lovely Blog!  When Barbara asked me a while ago, l thought ‘goodness’.I've done one other, three years ago in fact!  l’m very much a verbal person, not a writing one, nor a reading one, problem is patience...or lack of it! :(. So, l tend to write as l speak! My grammar's none to good either...! Still...we'll see how l get on!  I'm unable to sit down with a 'good' book! Unless! It's got loads of  pictures..! And, very little writing! :). Like the Ladybird books or the Mr Men books...! :).  Time upon a once.....

And..In growing up, my Father used to say to me.."Trouble with you boy is..you've never grown up". I used to get upset in hearing this,but as l grew older, l took it more as  complement...

So! What to write about...I have a trilogy in my life....’Love Food, Love Cats, Love Pink’. And of course ‘MY’ music....Goes with out saying. Two things..run/rule my life..my music, my emotions! Back in the 60's when everyone was going 'silly' over the Beatles,l took to Motown...And, never looked back!  Soul Music is my Bible! So l was gonna begin by telling you how l started out in life, l was  found, in a box, left on a doorstep...But, as the door opened 'outwards'... l was actually found....'In the road'.....!!! :). HeHe! No! No! But in the end...I thought l might just ramble on about Christmas.....After all, it started way back in October. And, will soon be upon us......

”Silent Night..Holy Night....All is calm..all is bright”.

“No! Not now Willie.....Later”...!!! :).

My memory takes me back to the age of five...We lived in a two  up, two down house..with an outside toilet..HeHe! And yes, it was at the bottom of the garden! God! All that 'news paper' work! :). And at that time there were quite a few Italians living here, in our town, and, we were friends with one Italian family in particular.  In fact, the lady/Mum of that family is still with us today, aged 98, and, l still pop round to see her and have coffee. Lovely lady! All we seem to talk about is The Mafia...... Italian politics.... and Berlusconi.....so all the same thing really!  Capiche!!! :).   

So, then it was traditional that we all went to midnight Mass, on Christmas Eve, as good Catholics. Then after Mass we would go home, and Dad would dress up as Father Christmas, and, give out the prezzies....I used to think back then, how silly Father Christmas was..With ALL the windows and doors...Why does he come down the chimney??? I used to get a Christmas stocking to...Every year...Colouring book,a toy, and an orange! As l got older, l used to think, ‘when am l gonna get a stocking, with a leg in it’. :). But, that’s another story! :). 

So, then l moved on, school..(hated it)..then college...at sixteen l stepped  into the BIG wide world....for the next 10 yrs l was in the entertainment business so Christmas was then spent somewhere on stage...’Do’in ma thang’....'Gett'in on down'  So, the festive season, was quite lengthy.  I worked for the Americans back then, and they sure knew how to party! And pay well...Oh! Yes! :). 

"The road to success is always under construction". 

In 1973...I got married...Pause! Paws! Pause! HeHe!  =(^..^)=  "And, the lord said unto Moses...Come Forth, Come Forth...and he came  Fifth, and lost his beer money". :0).  And! Even back then, at school, we had Sex Education...Oh! Yes! Well! When l say Sex Education...We were just told to remember two things....."Some do..some don't" and "Hello Sailor"....???   

In 1976 my daughter was born...Christmas was great. I just went back to my childhood, and, played with her presents. Well! All except the dolls!  “Com’on Willie..You never stopped playing with Girls World”. “Well, just that one then”. :).  And, just like any family, it’s great watching kids grow up, and enjoying themselves, especially at Christmas.  Our home was always full of kids..l love kids..l used to be one! :).  From 1980, it was just the two of us, we spent Christmas with various families and friends, and, of course new year! Especially New Years Eve...ALL that fancy dress, we used to do very well in prizes...Me! dressed as a fairy...Wings and a Wand and all...I was the bestest fairy...EVER! :).  HeHe! I love dressing up...They can't touch you for it...!!!  

"Every street's a catwalk"...

"Willie..do you remember when those bikers chased you across the Market Place..when you were dressed as a fairy". "Yes! Yes! Let's forget about that".  But those New Years, used to come and go..very quickly!  Eat! Drink! And be Mary..!!!

Family was and is very important....Though, l do remember an argument about my English Grandma...half the family wanted her buried, and half the family wanted her cremated...Goodness! In the end.....We let her live!  She was a 'BIG' crossword puzzler...so when she did die, we buried her... 6 Down, 2 Across...!!! HeHe! Bless!  So, remember....Always go to other peoples funerals..otherwise, they won't go to yours...!!! :0).  

So my daughter is settled now, no children, but they have two Staffy's, and two cats. I really look forward to going up there, to the Midlands..! l go on the coach...Wells Fargo...! New places to pose in, and new people to be rude to! Great Fun! :). Love my visits to Cheshire Oaks, and Ikea in Nottingham, l really look forward to....I~LOVE~TO~SHOP. And, the only person l enjoy shopping with is my daughter!  (If she can keep up).....Otherwise, l always shop alone! Strange! How shops 'always' remember me on my second visit!  Oh! and, l get to sleep with Zeeva...She is lovely...In the wee hours  of the morn’in I usually wake up and there she is under the duvet, licking my ankles...(no sense of direction)...! :).  Oh! Sorry! Forgot to say...Zeeva is one of my daughters Staffy’s. Did'nt want you to think l was some 'silly' Sicilian...! :). And, pussy~cat Az...Loves to settle on my chest, inches from my face...And dribble! HeHe!   I~Love~Pussy~Cats!   =(^..^)=

"Dogs have owners..Cats have staff". 

As you can tell, it’s ALL rather nice really, with cats and dogs, all over the bed....and a pussy on yer chest....!!!   Rather like the old days!  “Willie”....."Sorry". :0). 

Finally.......Did l hear someone say..’Thank God for that’.... I hope you ALL have a great time this Christmas with family and friends... And, enjoy the high~lite of Christmas...The Christmas Cracker Jokes...You know the ones....

“Who hides in a bakery at Christmas”?
“A mince spy”.

"What is Santa’s favourite Pizza”?
“Deep~pan crisp and even”.

“What do Elves learn at school”?
“The Elf~abet”.

"What's the most popular Christmas wine"?
"I don't like Brussels sprouts".

"What do vampires sing on New Years Eve"?
"Auld Fang Syne". 

(To think l used to get paid for writing such rubbish).  :). 

So...Finally....And, as l'm very much a 'sayings' person....
"May you all have love to share...wealth to spare...and, friends that care".

“It’s nice to be important...But it’s important to be nice”.
"Add  life to your days, not days to your life".         

Did you know....
"It takes 43 muscles to frown...and only 17 to smile". So don't just sit  there......SMILE! :).                     
"We don't stop laughing because we grow old....We grow old because we stop laughing". 

Tanti Cari e affettuosi di Buon Natale,

e Felice Ann Nuovo.......

Willie...x    =(^..^)= 

Oh!  There is 'one' book I've read this year....three times in fact....
Not to be missed! Loved it! :). 

(Give it a Google).  =(^..^)=

Pee~Po Christmas.....!  :). 

Many of you ‘know’ Willie from the comments he leaves on this and many other blogs.  If you’ve not had the pleasure of meeting him or would like to know more, please click here 

25 Comments on A Not to Be Missed Guest Post by the One & Only Willie Wine, last added: 12/29/2016
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4. The Ladies Journal and Portfolio of Fashions December 1931

I’ve been looking forward to sharing this with you.  I love old magazines, but this one is extra special because it still contains the free gifts, as mentioned on the front cover, which is quite remarkable when you realise how old it is. My real reason for buying it was the Weldon’s Portfolio of Fashions (one of the free gifts) but there is much else to enjoy including a serial entitled Cat’s paw and an article about spending Christmas with the then King and Queen.

This from the Weldon's Portfolio of Fashion:  Paris Calling:  The world over, financial and economical questions are difficult to solve and that makes life hard for everybody, but in such trying times it is the duty of the women to provide the pleasant note which gives relaxation to minds and hearts.  

Having mentioned times being rather hard it goes on to describe the fashions that every self-respecting woman simply must have.

In case you can't read the descriptions they are (left to right). The interesting points of this fondant green (a shame the images are in black and white!) satin dress are, epaulette sleeves, crossover bodice and moulded-to-the figure effect.    Have black or raisin brown for this lovely frock of faille, with a low v-shaped neck, and pointed hip yoke.    Frills contribute largely to the chic of this white Japshan silk frock. Note how they catch up the bodice, which has a crossover line and is draped at the waist.     Printed taffeta or Grand Prix Ninon are good materials for interpreting the charming new lines of this frock with a low decolletage, flounces and bustle effect.  

The party season calls for - pretty frocks and fancy dress. 

The pictures are in colour this time, but the descriptions are no less flowery.  The upward lift of the flared frills to the bow at the back shows how charming the bustle can be.  Satin in the soft yellow tone of old ivory is suggested for this gown with new, softly draped bodice and moulded hips. Gay enough for any festive occasion is a frock like this. Make in chiffon or Georgette.   

It's not all party frocks - here are four smart outfits for the younger married woman, combining youthfulness with sophisticated chic. 

Here an introduction to the newest in jumpers ... following the vogue for all things that give a trim military silhouette ... and the latest frocks for wearing till the evening. 

I feel sure my mother would have read magazines like this. This is a photograph of her in the garden of her family home in 1933. She was a stylish young woman, but as she got older, she adopted darker colours and sensible shoes.  I’m glad my memories go back a long way (to the 1950s), or I might never have known about her love of fashion. 

If you are still wondering about the second free gift, this is how it is described in the magazine: Economy or no economy - one thing is certain - every smart woman must have a woolly pochette this winter. With the free pattern, you can make the flat little pochette with its trimly professional air for almost next to nothing. 

Or, by sending to our Service Department, you can secure a lovely mount and chain in oxidized gilt, which we are offering to our readers at the bargain price of 2s, post free, and with it make a very attractive handbag.  

A few more pages from the Portfolio of Fashions; 

If you are interested in vintage magazines you might enjoy these previous posts;  The Best of British Homemaking 1966 and Lilliput Magazines

Thank you for visiting, you are very welcome to leave a comment, and if you enjoy my blog, please follow with Bloglovin, thank you.

25 Comments on The Ladies Journal and Portfolio of Fashions December 1931, last added: 12/29/2016
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5. Just Tagging Along ...

I promised to join in with this tag months ago but it somehow kept getting put on the back burner. Thanks for including me Tracy sorry it took so long!

My Answers To Tracy’s Questions

Given that they say your old mobile/cell phone could make you serious money, which old object(s) do you have stashed away in a draw collecting dust?

Sadly or perhaps gladly depending on your point of view, I'm a hoarder.  Hence picking one thing to share is pretty much impossible. I've kept everything from old sugar cube wrappers (yes, honestly) to my grandmother's hat pins. 

I've also kept most of the cards I've ever received including this one from the girls I worked with in 1966. It must have taken ages to make because all the little doors and windows open and behind each one is a message or a drawing. It’s a very large card at almost two feet tall, but that hasn't stopped me taking it with me through eight house moves. The messages still make me laugh, especially this one ‘Wishing you all the very best you horrible old moo’ and ‘Good-luck mate you’ll need it’ 

'Mork and Mindy', 'Fantasy Island', just two of the tv programmes from my childhood that I'd love to see repeated. Which of your childhood programmes would you love to see again?

I grew up watching Muffin the Mule, Bill and Ben and The Woodentops and would enjoy seeing all of them again.  I also have fond memories of programmes watched with my son in the 1970s, things like Grange Hill, Mr. Benn and Jackanory.  If you've not seen Mr. Benn, it’s the one where a man wearing a black suit and bowler hat visits a fancy dress shop. Once he’s chosen a costume he leaves the shop through a magic door and enters a world appropriate to the costume he’s wearing. I always thought it was such a clever idea as it provided endless possibilities for adventure.

If I were to say 'iconic film' to you which scene/saying from what film would first come to mind?

"You're gonna need a bigger boat." Brody/Roy Scheider in Jaws (1975). 

'Aunty Taitty', 'Mrs T'. Apart from your given name, which other name(s) are you/have you been known by?

Bobby, Bobbie, Bob.  I was about a year-old when someone commented on me being ‘a lovely little boy’! As a joke mum and dad started calling me Bobby, and the name stuck. These days I'm more often called Bob. Come to think of it I did look like a boy. Perhaps that is why mum always put me in pretty dresses and encouraged my hair to curl!

I'm taking you for a meal, as well as a main course do you opt for a starter OR a pudding? (I'm too mean to pay for both) And what would it be?

I have a sweet tooth so it would have to be a pudding. Eton Mess, Bread and Butter pudding or Banoffee Pie would do nicely, thank you. 

You may not like them (I know I don't) BUT if you had to go to a fancy dress party what would be your costume of choice and why?

I’ve never been to a fancy dress party, although Terry and I did dress up for a supposed ‘thirties night’ only to arrive and find everyone else in evening dress.  My sister and brother in law thought it was hilarious. Terry hired a 1930s style suit, and I scoured vintage markets and antique shops for shoes and a dress. I was also lucky enough to find an original necklace made from jet beads which I still have (something else gathering dust in a draw!)   I even went to the trouble of putting ‘finger waves’ in my hair, a style favoured by my mum when she was a young woman.  It ended up being a really fun evening, if a little embarrassing!

My sister and brother in law (left) Terry and I seeing the funny side (right) 

Superstitious? Care to share any of your superstitions with us?

Very!  I never walk under ladders, would not dream of putting my shoes on the table and always throw spilt salt over my shoulder – which just makes a mess, but it has to be done because you never know where the devil might be hiding!

Which person (or animal for that matter) would you most like to be able to impersonate?

I don’t want to impersonate anyone. I want to enjoy being me and then (hopefully) come back and do it all again as someone else! 

Presuming you didn't have an imaginary friend as a child which book character would you have liked as an imaginary friend?

I had lots of imaginary playmates, but I didn't give any of them names, or if I did I've forgotten.  My childhood was spent in the fields and woods around the farm where we lived. I was usually on my own, or with Peggy our dog hence imaginary friends were a big part of my life.

As you have worked so hard, a quick fire round. Tea or coffee? Sweet or savoury? Clean shaven or with a beard?

Clean shaven
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I would like to invite the following blogging friends to join in the tag. This is entirely optional and I completely understand if you don’t have the time or the inclination. 

Marilyn Chapman
Sandra at Sandra's blog
Darlene at Darlene Foster's Blog
Colleen at Appreciate Beauty
All at The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow

Anyone else who fancies having a bit of fun, please feel free to play along. You can leave your answers as a comment at the end of this post.

These are my questions to you. 

1.  What is your earliest memory?
2.  Where is your favourite place in the world and why?
3.  Do you have a favourite piece of clothing or footwear? What is it?
4.  If you write a blog what inspired you to start it?  If you don’t – why not?
5.  Favourite snack potato crisps, peanuts, sunflower seeds or something else? 
6.  Have you ever acted or sung on stage?  I was a daffodil in a school play once – hardly acting but        just thought I would mention it!  Any other talents you care to mention?
7.  Have you or anyone in your family traced your ancestry? If so is there anyone famous or infamous      in your line?
8.  Have you ever experience déjà vu?
9.  Do you sing in the shower or in the car or both?
10.Have you enjoyed participating in this tag? Be kind, I'm only asking!

Before I go, I should just mention the rules.
Thank the blogger for the award given.
Answer the ten questions set by me.
Nominate other blogging friends for the award.
Write ten questions for those bloggers to answer.
Display the award on your blog or in a post

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this and to those who play along.  If you don’t have a blog but would like to join in,  please leave your answers in the comment section below. 

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6. Postcards from France

Today I have the pleasure of sharing five postcards from my collection. They were all sent to the same address in France, one a year commencing 1950 and ending in 1954. I found the cards at a vintage fair in Blandford, Dorset in 2015. The images caught my attention and when the stall holder told me a story of unmarried girls, fancy hats and kissing between strangers, I found myself reaching for my purse. 

Returning home I quickly got down to some research (thank you Google). In essence, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel and The Great Martyr Saint Catherine is a Christian Saint and virgin. 

Vive La Sainte Catherine

Saint Catherine’s Day, is celebrated each year on the 25th November.  Catherine is the patron saint of libraries and librarians, as well as teachers, archivists, and all those associated with wisdom and teaching. Her qualities are reputed to be beauty, fearlessness, virginity, and intelligence.

All very straightforward until I turned to the Free Dictionary which suggests Catherine is a figure from folklore rather than history. It goes on to say her feast day is no longer observed in the Roman Catholic Church calendar. According to Wikipedia the Church, persuaded by the overwhelming opinion of historians that Catherine had probably never existed, removed her from the calendar of saints in 1969. However, in 2002, while the majority of historians had not changed their minds, the Church had, and she was reinstated.

Wikipedia goes on to say ... Saint Catherine of Alexandria was a popular figure in Catholic Iconography. She was of noble origins, and dedicated herself as a Christian after having a vision. She was imprisoned by the Roman Emperor Maximus and ordered to be put to death on a spiked wheel. The wheel reportedly shattered the moment Catherine touched it, which may explain why her name is associated with a firework that revolves as it burns.

But what of the stallholders tale of unmarried girls, fancy hats and a great deal of kissing between strangers. Still searching for answers I stumbled across a blog by the name of A Woman's Paris where it all began to make sense.  Saint Catherine’s Day is essentially a day when unmarried women over 25 years of age pray for a husband. The Catherinettes (as they are called), wear green and yellow hats made by friends or colleagues. The green represents wisdom and the yellow hope. The choice of colours is not accidental as it is said green and yellow do not “marry” well.

All I know for sure is the cards are very pretty, and I'm happy to have them in my collection.

But something else occurs to me - why no card in 1955 or in subsequent years? Maybe our Catherinette moved home, or perhaps she found her happy ever after... What do you think? 

If you enjoy my blog, please follow with Bloglovin, thank you.

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7. Books from my Bookshelf - Tale of a One-Way Street and other Stories

In this collection of eight original stories, Joan Aiken takes us on a journey to a land where all the magical things that only seem to happen in dreams really happen. 

The stories are: Tale of a one-way street, The lions, Bridget's hat, The goodbye song, The queen of the moon, Clean sheets, The alarm cock (not clock!) and The tractor, the duck and the drum. The illustrations are all by Jan Pienkowski. 

Image above from THE ALARM COCK 

Once there was a shop with a sign over the door that said, VINE, WOLF, AND PARROTT, HELPERS. If you opened the door and went in, you saw the Vine right away, for it grew out of the floor and up the walls of the little shop, so the whole room was lined with leaves, and clusters of flowers hung from the ceiling.... A sign over the counter said, No fee unless satisfied.  Payment in kind Accepted. We help you with all your problems!


They saw a great forest of pipes, each pipe mended in a different way. They saw streams and fountains of letters and numbers sparkling in the purple rays of the sun, making hundreds and thousands of different words, giving the answers to any number of sums...

 Image from THE LIONS

At each corner of the little park, facing inwards so that they could see on another comfortably, crouched four stone lions. One had moss growing on his tail. One had a swallow's nest of straw built between his ears. One had a broken paw, where a boy had thrown a brick. And somebody had written I LOVE FRANK on the fourth lion ...

 Image from BRIDGET'S HAT

"Now," he said. "Pay careful attention. The diamond that fastens your right-hand boot is a very old and precious one; it is called the Eye of the Desert, and has the power to take you wherever you want to go, if you step out with your right foot first, and wish at the same time. Is that clear?

A second image from BRIDGET'S HAT


But one night, out of the depths of her worry, she dreamed a song, and the next day, when she woke up, she remembered the words of it, and the tune.  These were the words:

Road, river, mountain, sea,
Bring my boys safe to me
Earth, air sun, moon,
Bring my sons back soon
Luck, chance, wish, will
Keep them safe from all ill.

Black and white image from BRIDGET'S HAT


Tansy walked along the side of the field till she came to a little stream. She built a dam out of sticks and mud. Then she built an island out of stones, and put smaller stones and earth on top. Over the earth she laid green moss, and then she picked moon daisies and stuck them into the moss. They looked as if they were growing...


So Euan wrote to his Aunt Bertha:  Dere Ant Birthday I shd bee verry great full if u cd send mee a track tor I can ride on wat goes chug chug chug & a drum I can play on wat goes rub a dub dub & a duk to swim in my barf wat goes quak quak quak.

 Image from CLEAN SHEETS

So Gus had to go to bed, but he took the leaf with him. And lying in bed, holding the leaf scrunched up in his hand, he remembered floating down the Colorado river in a canoe past great golden cliffs. He remembered scoring the winning goal in an ice-hockey match. He remembered getting into the pilot's seat of a small aeroplane he had been given. Then he went to sleep ...

I’m so happy I stumbled across this beautifully illustrated book in a local charity shop.  I love the intense colours and the silhouettes by Jan Pienkowski, plus the stories are fun and imaginative.  This from the introduction:

What very strange creatures you are apt to meet if you dare to go the wrong way up a one-way street. What splendid things you can remember, even if they didn't happen (like the zebra you got for your birthday or all the doughnuts in the world which you ate without being sick), if you hold the leaf of a memory tree in the palm of your hand. What a peculiar muddle your presents can get into when your birthday cake is baked with a wishing spoon, and what magical rewards come your way if you save the king of grasshoppers from drowning in your porridge.  

Tale of a one-way street
Joan Aiken with pictures by Jan Pienkowski. 
Published by Jonathan Cape Ltd. 1978


I’m going to leave you with a funny story as told by our daughter in law Karen.  She is talking about her youngest daughter (our granddaughter) Lilly.  

... Lilly decided to help me with the washing ... after loading the washing machine I said ok now shut the door like you are really cross, meaning slam it shut … as she slammed the door she yelled "I am sick of this".   

Tada!!  Thank you Lilly ... please take a bow!

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8. Well would you look at that!

It took a while but finally the page views on my blog have surpassed the one million mark. I wondered if the counter would return to zero once it reached a million, but it is still clicking up …phew! I know some blogs get a million page views or more a day, but I didn’t expect to get any so it means the world to me. I also know page views are not the same as unique views, but I don’t care! Thank you lovely blog readers you are the best! 

My wish is a long time in coming to you ...

But the longer I waited the bigger it grew - and ...


THANK YOU!  Just like this little elephant I will never forget.  

* Colour printed birthday card part of my collection.  Published by Satchwell Smiths, London, c1950s.  One sheet of paper folded to create a card that ‘grows’. I’ve added quite a few vintage Christmas cards to my collection this year and will be sharing some of them in a future post.

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9. Light up the sky...

The excitement of Guy Fawkes Night is fast approaching, and once again I have mixed feelings. As a child, I loved bonfires and fireworks, but now I worry about the distress caused to wildlife and pets and the possible consequences for the environment. Naturally, none of that bothered me when I was little because I was busy having fun.

Brock's Fireworks

Back then there was ample space to build fires and plenty of things to burn.  Tree branches, old fertiliser sacks and worn-out tyres made for good fires, although the black acrid smoke had a way of leaving eyes stinging, and adult tempers frayed! Each year my brother, sister and I would begin with a small pile of rubbish and watch as the mound grew ever larger. Looking back I’m sure everyone in the village had a hand in it, although at the time I was convinced magic was afoot!  Living on a farm, we built our fires in open fields making them readily available to anyone with rubbish to burn.

Standard Fireworks
For me, the real excitement began with the arrival of the fireworks.  We usually had a large selection box with at least a few extra rockets and several packets of sparklers. When the night finally arrived, we made sure Peggy our dog and Kosset the cat were inside. Then it was time to don wellies, hats, coats, scarves and gloves all the while feeling the excitement building. Much pushing and shoving ensued as we put left feet into right boots and gloves on backwards, eventually, we would sort ourselves out and make a dash for the back door. In my memory, it was always really cold on bonfire night just as it was hot and dry in the summer. Can that be or is it my memory playing tricks?

Standard Fireworks

Once we were all warmly dressed it was time for the lighting of the bonfire, often helped by a can or two of petrol! Finally, the biscuit tins where the fireworks were kept would be opened, and dad would ‘light the blue touch paper and retire’.  Now the waiting … would it be a Rocket, a Roman candle, a Falling Rain or a Jumping Jack? Do you remember Jumping Jacks? They always had us running for cover, no wonder they are now banned.  

Standard Fireworks

The Catherine Wheels were sometimes a bit of a disappointment, either they whizzed off the nails and spluttered out in the damp grass, or they refused to turn at all.  Many were the times my dad or my brother approached a lit Catherine Wheel and tried to give it a push or even attempted to loosen the nail holding it to the fence. It’s a miracle they didn’t end up with burnt fingers or worse.


 All too soon the fireworks were over, and it was time to hunt the potatoes languishing in the embers of the fire. We did this by prodding at the fire with sticks while at the same time trying to ‘hook’ the potatoes sideways away from the heat. By now, they would be burnt black on the outside, but soft and flavoursome inside. At the end of the evening Dad would be left on 'fire duty' while the rest of us went inside for warm drinks. Then it was off to bed and the comfort of hot-water bottles to thaw out frozen toes.   

Pains Fireworks

When our son Steven was born, we once again built fires, watched Rockets and Falling Rain, held sparklers and ate baked potatoes. Only now the fires were smaller as befitting a housing estate and there was no petrol involved!  Spent sparklers were plunged into water to make sure they were properly out and potatoes were pre-baked in the oven and wrapped in foil.  A few years later, we were blessed with grandsons, and the rituals began again.  The boys are grown up now, and our two small granddaughters live in Australia.  Organised bonfires seem to be the order of the day. Some of our neighbours might have a few fireworks in their gardens, but I doubt any of them will light a bonfire.

Standard Fireworks

This coming bonfire night Terry and I will be at home reminiscing about times gone past. Whatever you do, enjoy it, stay safe and don’t burn your fingers on those hot potatoes!

Standard Fireworks

In childhood the daylight always fails too soon—except when there are going to be fireworks; and then the sun dawdles intolerably on the threshold like a tedious guest.~Jan Struther 

Do you have plans for November 5th, or memories of past Bonfire Nights? If you don’t celebrate Guy Fawkes Night are there any other occasions when you enjoy fireworks?  Maybe you don’t like fireworks? I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. 

All images courtesy of the fireworkmuseum.co.uk

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Photograph Twitter (@metoffice) Don't forget to check for sleeping hedgehogs before lighting your bonfire this Bonfire Night. 

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10. Trick or Treating in Australia

It's been a while since I shared any photographs of my granddaughters but fear not I have lots!! First a little trick or treating; 

Whoops! A little costume readjustment might be in order Zoe.

Ah, there you are my pretty!

Where there is one witch, there must be two... 
and here is Lilly right on cue...

Mix them up, add some more.
Hocus-pocus, now there are four (behind you!) 

Beware!! Enter at your own risk...

Hah! Zoe is more than a match for you … 

Phew I'm glad to be out of there, but wait for me these treats are getting heavy. 

I know there are some scary creatures in Oz, but Vampire Dogs are too much for me, run!

Enough of scary things … Obliviate!  (With thanks to Harry Potter!)  Now for a few pics of my granddaughters returned to their charming selves.

Just look at those sunnies

Miss Lilly ... Superstar

Miss Zoe... trying out a new hair style

and enjoying a giggle 

Lilly ballet rehearsal

Show time

The show must go on  

Thank you for visiting, I hope you enjoyed Halloween and happy November! 

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11. Happy Halloween to One and All!

Round about the cauldron go;  
In the poison’d entrails throw.  
Toad, that under cold stone   
Days and nights hast thirty one  
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,  
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.  

     Double, double toil and trouble;  
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble. 

Fillet of a fenny snake,  
In the cauldron boil and bake;  
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,  
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,  
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,  
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,  
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.  

     Double, double toil and trouble;  
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble. 

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,           
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf       
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark, 
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,  
Liver of blaspheming Jew,       
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse,           
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips,         
Finger of birth-strangled babe             
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,     
Make the gruel thick and slab:           
Add thereto a tiger’s *chaudron,         
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

     Double, double toil and trouble;  
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble. 

According to this online Macbeth Glosary *chaudron are entrails.  Who knew?

Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I
William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616
This poem is in the public domain

By Pumpkins fat and witches lean...
By coal black cats with eyes of green,
By all the magic ever seen...
I wish you luck this Halloween..

Happy Halloween to family, friends, and all readers of my blog. Stay safe this Halloween. Me? I will be hiding under the bed covers. 

I must say a very big thank you to Yvonne for this fantastic Halloween card (right).  If you have not had the pleasure of meeting Yvonne, you will find her over at Melancholy and Menace or at her Etsy shop here

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12. The Inspiration Behind The Milly’s Magic Quilt Stories

A Guest Post by Author and Artist Natasha Murray

I really enjoyed creating and illustrating these books and hope that children 5+ will enjoy Milly and Patch’s adventures.

Milly’s quilt is made up from fabric that once belonged to some colourful characters with stories to tell. Some of the patches are from her baby blanket. One night, Patch her pet rabbit appears on her bed and Milly discovers that if she holds her hand on one of the squares they are both transported to a magical land.

As a child, I enjoyed the TV cartoon series ‘Mr Ben’ and loved seeing where the changing room at the fancy dress shop would take him. This was really what inspired me to write these books. 

There have always been rabbits in my life and one named Napoleon, I loved dearly. She was a blue grey colour and we thought she was a boy until she had babies. Napoleon got sick once and I crept out in the dark and sat in a sleeping bag on a step near to her hutch with her in my arms and stayed there all night. I am glad to say that she recovered. If I had been allowed, then I would have had Napoleon live in my bedroom with me.

It’s always fun to look at drawings and work that you did when you were a child and some of my stories were strange and I wonder what was going through my head at the time. The idea for ‘Humbert the Lonely Giant’ came from a story I remembered writing when I was at secondary school. I have always loved reading and thought the library was an exciting place to be. I enjoyed fairy tales and especially loved Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair and The Faraway Tree in the Enchanted Wood.

I grew up in North London and lived near to a playing field surrounded by trees. My friends and I would make camps, hideout and live out magical adventures there. Make believe was always an important part of our lives. We also loved riding our bikes around the block at breakneck speed.

I now live by the sea and spend a lot of time writing, designing, daydreaming and thinking up new and exciting tales for all ages.

To view all Natasha's books please click here

Thank you very much Natasha it was fun to read about your childhood and the inspiration behind your stories. Barbara

 Natasha's mention of secondary school reminded me of a very long, convoluted tale I wrote when I was at school. In my story, the action took place in a series of ‘lost' tunnels and ghostly lighthouses, based almost entirely on books written by Enid Blyton.  After I married and left home, my mum had the very good sense to consign it to the dustbin. Had she not I might well be in trouble for plagiarism!

Did you write stories when you were a child?  Have you continued to write or is it just something you did at school?

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13. And the Winners are...

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter my Moment in Time Giveaway. Thanks for the shares and follows they were all much appreciated. The magic one million page views looks just a little closer thanks to all of you.

Now to the draw; those of you who selected a favourite book from the ones on offer were entered into a draw for that particular book.  And the winners are...

Susan P Moss



Sandra Cox

Much to my surprises the Broons Annual wasn't chosen by anyone but this is a giveaway so someone has to have it!   :-) 

Those of you who already have a prize were removed from the final draw and the remaining names put together and a winner drawn … and that winner is …


Sorry Willie it looks as though you ended up with booby prize but you never know you might love it.

Congratulations to the winners and commiserations to everyone else.  I will be contacting each winner shortly. Thanks for playing along.

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14. Books are Always in Fashion at Killerton House

killerton House, Devon
Killerton House
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may remember a previous visit to Killerton House here. That first visit was rather fleeting, but this time we enjoyed a more leisurely look around. Killerton is an 18th-century house and estate in Broadclyst, Devon, owned by the National Trust since 1944.

School children dressed in Victorian clothing on the lawn at Killerton

The house feels very much like a family home, and we were delighted to discover that removing books from library shelves is actively encouraged! We were kindly invited to sit a while, read and enjoy the ambience. I have to say we were more than a little surprised because in most National Trust properties, touching anything is strictly forbidden. It was a privilege to handle the books but some; especially those in the children’s section are suffering at the hands of less than careful visitors.  

Killerton House, Devon, Library
A corner of the library
Enid Blyton The Caravan Family The library at Killerton house
Enid Blyton, Noddy and Beatrix Potter
Trudi and Hansel in the library at Killerton House
Trudi and Hansel A story of the Austrian Tyrol

Books and family photographs at Killerton House
More books and family photographs

The Doyle Diary - the last great Conan Doyle Mystery
The Doyle Diary - the last great Conan Doyle Mystery 

Library at Killerton Vintage Children's books
A small selection from the many children's books in the library 

After spending a considerable amount of time drooling over and photographing books, we moved on to the 'fashion to dye' for exhibition.

Specially selected pieces from Killerton's collection brings to life how colour can reveal much about the wearer and also looks into the origins, status and function of colour in fashion. These are some of my personal favourites;
Afternoon dress from the early 1860s - Chine Silk with woven satin stripe

fashion to dye for Killerton House
1840s Evening dress - Silk brocade with woven satin stripe and floral sprigs 

1920s evening dress - Silk Crepe de Chine, beaded with crystals and diamante

Two highlights from a large display of hats, shoes and accessories

The exhibition includes over 100 pieces of work by Diploma Art and Design Foundation students, from Exeter College. Students were asked to design an outfit inspired by the colours at Killerton. Their brief included using paper patterns rather than fabric. The patterns were strengthened by using iron on Vilene. As many of you know I have a fondness for paper patterns (see a previous post here) so I found this part of the exhibition fascinating. 

Fashion to Dye for is on until Sunday 30th October. If you get a chance to visit you won’t be disappointed.   You will find full details of the exhibition here and this is a link to Killerton House

We ended our visit with a stroll through the gardens.  I took lots of photographs but in the interest of keeping this post as brief as possible, I will share just one. I was trying out the macro lens on my camera. I didn't see the greenfly (on the bud stem) until I got home, same with the tiny insect on the flower. I saw the larger one but had no idea the tiny one was there. I guess the lens works!

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15. Yard Culture: A Lost Way of Life. A Guest Post by Bish Denham + Giveaway

Thanks for letting me come and play in your yard, Barbara! Today I’m going to share a little something about yard culture, which plays a part in my novel, The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands.

Yard culture has nothing to do with flora or fauna. It’s about people. In the Virgin Islands, and probably throughout the Caribbean, yard culture was a way of life. Until its rapid decline in the mid-1960s, it was a way for the village to take care of the children.

After school or on week-ends children congregated in the yards of different homes. Groups of friends who hung out at school usually hung out together after school.

The yards were large, an acre or two, or more. Often times there was more than one home on the property housing extended family members: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. There might be kitchen garden or fruit trees on the property. For most there was no electricity and no running water. The homes were small and made of wood. By today’s standard they would be considered shacks.

Two typical wooden homes.

Overseeing the yard and the children was a matron, who would be the mother, aunt, or grandmother of one or more of the children. She kept an eye on the kids as they ran around and played in the yard. It was a kind of baby-sitting or after school day-care. A snack might even be provided, a johnny cake or a paté (a pastry fill with beef, salt fish, or pork, then deep fried) fruit, or a simple sandwich. It was also a place for kids to play if they lived in a home without a large yard. Everybody knew everybody and the kids knew which yard they “belonged” to. If they weren’t in school or at home they were expected to at a particular yard. It was difficult for children to get into trouble, but if they did, it was certain word of their misbehaviour would mysteriously reach their parents before they got home.

Each yard had its own culture, its own feel, smell, and energy dependent upon the children who played there and the matron who oversaw them.

This lignum vitae tree, over 100 years old, is in the corner of what used to be a large yard in Cruz Bay, a yard where I spent many hours playing with my sister and a number of other children.

In my book, The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, Sam and her best friend Nick, often pass through or explore a yard very like it. In this brief excerpt Sam gives a description of Miss LuAnne’s yard.

We have a picnic under the lignum vitae tree, sitting on the smooth, swept dirt. The air is alive with different smells: Miss LuAnne’s cooking, damp chicken feathers, rotting leaves, the perfume of oleander flowers, the ocean, the mangrove swamp. It’s a mysterious soupy mix particular to this yard and nowhere else. I love the smell of Miss LuAnne’s yard; it’s comfortable, familiar, and safe. It’s the smell of home, of friendship.

Book Blurb
Pirates. Explorers. And spooky ghost hunters.

It’s 1962. Sam and her best friend, Nick, have the whole island of St. John, in the U. S. Virgin Islands, as their playground. They’ve got 240 year-old sugar plantation ruins to explore, beaches to swim, and trails to hike.

But when a man disappears like a vapor right in front of them, they must confront a scary new reality. They’re being haunted. By whom? And why? He’s even creeping into Nick’s dreams.

They need help, but the one who might be able to give it is Trumps, a reclusive hunchback who doesn’t like people, especially kids. Are Sam and Nick brave enough to face him? And if they do, will he listen to them? 

As carefree summer games turn into eerie hauntings, Sam and Nick learn more about themselves and life than they could ever have imagined.

Available now at:

About the Author
Bish Denham, whose mother’s side of the family has been in the Caribbeanfor over one hundred years, was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. She still has lots of family living there whom she visits regularly.

She says, “Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbusnamed the islands, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. The ruins of hundreds of sugar plantations, built with the sweat and blood of slave labor, litter the islands. Then there were the pirates who plied the waters. It is within this atmosphere of wonder and mystery, that I grew up. Life for me was magical, and through my writing I hope to pass on some of that magic.”

The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, is her third book and second novel. You can find Anansi and Company: Retold Jamaican Tales and A Lizard’s Tail, at Amazon.com.

To learn more about Bish
you can visit her blog, at Random Thoughts
She can also be found on Facebook
on Twitter @BishDenham 
and Goodreads

To be in with a chance of winning an autographed copy of the bowl and the stone (ship within U.S.A only) click here, and don’t forget you still have time to enter my moment in time giveaway here.

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16. A Moment in Time ~ Giveaway

My birthday which was in August came and went in a blur of gifts, cards and flowers. One such gift was from my dear friend Nicole an author and illustrator with several beautiful children’s books to her name. Her newest book Zullen we spelen, Bout? (Shall we play, Bolt?) was published at the beginning of September. Nicole kindly sent me a signed copy together with several other beautifully wrapped gifts.  

An illustration from Nicole's new book 
Zullen we spelen, Bout?  Children's Book by Nicole de Cock
I love receiving parcels, especially when they are as exciting as this one - thank you so much Nicole.  
Zullen we spelen Bout? Nicole de Cock

Zullen we spelen, Bout? and other books by Nicole are available from Amazon here

Since my birthday, I’ve wanted to ‘share the love’ with a giveaway something I last did in December 2014. Where did those two years go? I’m at that time of life when time goes quickly but does it really speed up? According to ‘proportional theory’, our sense of 'present' time begins to feel relatively short in comparison to our lifespan, so a year may feel quicker in old age compared to childhood. The emotional quality of an event also influences our perception. Source 

It just goes to prove time really does fly. With that in mind, I should probably get on with the giveaway and what better way to start than with a signed copy of Time and the universe from beginning to end by David Forsythe. 

David's fascinating tale of theories, some now confirmed using telescopes, satellites and space exploration puts into context and explains (in plain English) such factors as Gravity, Relativity, Entropy and the forces of Quantum Mechanics.

Not your kind of thing?  How about Roald Dahl's Guide to Railway Safety with illustrations by Quentin Blake. 

Roald Dahl's Guide to Railway Safety Children's books
This little book published in 1991 tells you all you need to know about staying safe near railway lines. One of the most important things to remember is if you drop something on the line, do not jump down and get it. My daughter in law and I needed a sharp reminder of that last year when I dropped my granddaughter's suitcase between the platform and a stationary train.  Karen and I were all for trying to retrieve if (foolishly), but luckily we had the sense to wait for assistance. Not easy when your little granddaughter is sobbing her heart out. Sorry Zoe, I hope I'm forgiven now.

Maybe you would prefer The Hole Story a reproduction of a book first published in America in 1904 with illustrations by Peter Newell. 

The Hole Story Vintage child's book
The passage of more than a century has done nothing to lessen its appeal, and the hole remains in the pages just as it always has. "Tom Potts was fooling with a gun (such follies should not be), when - bang! the pesky thing went off most unexpectedly!

Or The Broons - Scotland's happy family that makes every family happy!
The Broons - Scotland's happy family - annual book
An annual size book of cartoons published by D. C. Thomson in 1987.

Last, but by no means least, Frog goes to dinner by Mercer Mayer. 

Frog goes to dinner by Mercer Mayer. Wordless Picture Book
When the boy goes to a fancy restaurant with his family, frog can't resist the temptation to stow away in his pocket. Once there how can he stay hidden when an orchestra and various classy diners offer such opportunities for grand adventures? Mercer Mayer's comic drawings tell the whole story without the need for words.

I hope there is something for everyone in this random selection. Please remember these are not new books. They may have small marks, blemishes, etc., but they are all in good readable condition.  

The giveaway is open to worldwide readers of my blog. To enter please follow my blog and then share this post on any of your social media streams (or send an email to your friends and family if you don’t use social media).  Once you’ve done that please leave a comment to let me know which book you would like. There is only one copy of each book. Names will be put into a hat and winners drawn at random. The giveaway closes on Wednesday 19th October 2016. 

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Please share this post if you can, those little numbers at the side of my blog are very slowly creeping towards the one million mark. One million page views – is that even possible? Do you think the number reverts back to one after it reaches a million? If it does I will be wishing I could turn back the clock!

How did it get so late so soon?

I’m so grateful to everyone who takes the time to visit my blog, thank you. 

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17. Never judge a suitcase ...

We've all heard the expression never judge a book by its cover but what about never judge a suitcase until you see what's inside?

I'm sure you've seen lost luggage auctions on TV (like storage wars only with suitcases). It's where you bid on a case with no clue to the contents. Occasionally someone finds a laptop or jewellery, but more often than not it's a pile of dirty laundry. Personally, I've never wanted to go through someone else's lost luggage and sincerely hope nobody ever goes through mine. That, however, didn't stop me buying this case with very little knowledge of the contents.

Battered suitcase from The Giant Shepton Flea full of vintage books

It wasn't at a lost luggage auction but at a flea market or The Giant Shepton Flea Market to be more precise. I had an inkling of what might be inside because I saw someone open the case and take out this little book; 

Honk and Tonk by Joy K Seddon Flip book Vintage children's books

She took a quick flick through the pages before throwing it back in the case and walking away. I have a soft spot for flip books from the 1940s and 1950s and was quick to take her place. As I started rummaging through the case the stall holder said, "You can have that for a fiver (US$6.26) if you want it." I assumed he was referring to the book but when I queried it, he said, "No for the lot love, case and all." I mumbled "Yes OK," and he bagged the entire thing before I got as much as a second glance at what I was buying.

A case full of vintage flip books & other children's books from the 1940s and 50s

Although small, the suitcase is heavy, so the only sensible thing was to take it to the car. Once there, I couldn’t resist taking a peek inside. Imagine my delight at finding not one but eight flip books along with several story books by Racey Helps and Enid Blyton, a sweet story about Humpty Dumpty, one called Merry-go-round, a Vistascreen 3D viewer with slides and other bits and pieces. Time was getting on and anxious not to miss out on any treasures waiting to be found I decided to leave further investigations until I got home. In hindsight, I should have quizzed the seller about the origins of the suitcase. Did he buy it from an auction, a house clearance, did he know the previous owner, or was it his?

Flip books, Honk and Tonk, Jimmy at the Zoo etc., vintage children's books

The case has seen better days, but the contents are joyous. I'm sure everything belonged to the same little boy. His name is in most of the books and in some instances so is his address. His name and address are also on a label inside the case but this time written in a different hand, possibly by an adult. I have an image of a little lad of around eight years old stashing his favourite books and bits and pieces inside his case, but I wonder why someone added his address. Maybe the family were moving home, or perhaps the little boy was going to stay with family or friends.  

Vistascreen 3D printer, Racey Helps Books found in case at Shepton Flea

After a few days, the case and its contents began to trouble me. Obviously, I’m thrilled to have it in my care, but I’m also sad for the little boy and his lost treasures. Where is he now? Is he alive or dead? Why did he part with his case? I will probably never know, but I have learnt a little more about him. Looking through the books I discovered not one but two addresses, one in Parkstone, Poole, Dorset, and one in Alton, Hampshire. Using the age of the books as a guide, I concluded he and I must be of a similar age. 

I have a subscription to FindMyPast so it was fairly simple to find a record of his birth, which turned out to be 1949. He was born in Surrey, England, and spent part of his childhood in Alton, Hampshire, places I know well. He later moved to Poole, Dorset and married there in 1973. I can find no trace of him after 2003, but that may be my very amateurish attempts at searching. He is a year younger than me so if he is alive he is 67 now. I still don’t know why he parted with the case, but I feel an affinity with him and his childhood because mine was probably fairly similar. Between the ages of five and twenty one, I lived just 15 minutes or 6.3 miles from Alton, Hampshire. Without knowing it, he and I were near neighbours. We may even have seen or spoken to one another. 

Noddy, Humpty Dumpty, Enid Blyton old books

Thinking about it now I have to assume the stall holder acquired the case from an auction or house clearance. I have no evidence of that, just a hunch, plus the seller didn't look as if he was in his sixties. I suppose the case could have belonged to his father? It's sad to think of someone's cherished possessions given so little regard or value, but I'm thrilled to have them and will do my best to be a good custodian of the memories contained in a battered case.

My post next week will include a giveaway for followers of this blog. Be sure to call back and don’t forget to follow.

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18. The Ship's Cat & Titanic Belfast

If you noticed my absence last week, it was because Terry and I were in Northern Ireland. We have wanted to visit The Titanic Maritime Museum in Belfast for ages, and last week we finally got the chance. The museum is located on Queen’s Island, an area of land reclaimed from the water in the mid-19th century and a short walk from the centre of Belfast.

It's impossible to be unimpressed by this gigantic structure. This is no ordinary building, clad as it is with thousands of individual silver shards. Around its base are pools of water, which appear to be as deep and black as the Atlantic Ocean must have looked at 2.20am on April 15, 1912. 
I’m sure the depth of the water is an illusion as there are neither warning signs nor guard rails. 

Looking up at this immense building, it is easy to imagine the iceberg that sent Titanic to her watery grave. I don’t know if the designers intended to give that impression, but it was certainly the feeling I got as I stood there. 

The inside of the building is every bit as impressive as the outside.

The exhibition begins with an explanation of Belfast’s roots as an industrial centre.  Life-size silhouettes are projected on to the walls to give an impression of daily life.


From here you are taken on a journey through the construction of the ship, her launch, a virtual tour of the decks and a peek inside a first, second and third class cabin.  

One of the saddest parts of the exhibition is a gallery where the lighting is low and survivors’ voices (drawn from the BBC's archive) recall the horror of the sinking.  As you listen, you are directed along a series of boards detailing some of the distress messages sent to and from Titanic.

Finally, screens beneath your feet take you on an underwater journey to the decaying remains in the Atlantic depths.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and are not surprised to learn Titanic Belfast has just been named Europe’s leading visitor attraction.

If you would like to find out more about the Titanic story there are numerous websites offering information. I found History.com and the BBC history websites especially interesting. The Titanic Belfast website is also well worth a look.

Or, if you are looking for an interesting read, I recommend Titanic and other ships written by Charles Herbert Lightoller (1874-1952). Published by Ivor Nicholson and Watson, London in 1935.   Lightoller was the second mate (second officer) on board the Titanic and the only senior officer to survive the disaster. He was also the last man to be taken aboard the rescue ship RMS Carpathia. Just six of the thirty six chapters deal directly with his time on board the Titanic, but I found the rest of his life equally interesting. Titanic and other ships is available on ABE books at time of writing should you wish to look for a copy. 

One final thing - a friend and reader of this blog asked me to keep a look out for the ship's cat. It pains me to say this but there was no sign of a cat. But then I googled Titanic - ship's cat, and found this;  

It’s quite possible that there were multiple cats aboard the ship. Many large ships used them to monitor the rodent and pest problem that plagued the lower decks. The Titanic’s mascot and well-known ship's cat, Jenny, was one such cat.

One stoker, Jim Mulholland, volunteered to look after Jenny when she transferred from Titanic’s sister ship Olympia. It was rumoured that the cat had a litter of kittens a week before the ship left from Southampton. But what happened to Jenny on the morning of April 15, 1912?

Reports vary. Some say she, and her kittens died along with most of the passengers. However, others report Jim Mulholland observed Jenny unloading her kittens from the Titanic one by one before it left port in Southampton. He took this as a bad omen, picked up his things, and also left the vessel. He credited the cat with saving his life. (Source

What really happened to Jenny is a mystery. But perhaps this feline photographed in Belfast’s Botanic gardens is one of her descendants?  

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Kids may not believe it, but children’s authors were once children ourselves. Most of us started reading as soon as we could, discovering a love for books that would carry us well into adulthood. I was an avid reader from a young age, often turning to books the way today’s kids turn to their smartphones or iPads. 

While I can’t remember very many of my earlier books, here are some books that made a lasting impact on me.

The Rescuers (Little Golden Book)

I think everyone my age grew up on Little Golden Books. I know I read quite a few of them but one I distinctly remember was The Rescuers, which turns out to be Disney’s watered-down version of a true classic, The Rescuers by Margery Sharp. Disney took that classic and turned it into a movie, complete with merchandising and several tie-in books.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

If you grew up in the 70s or early 80s, you probably read this one. It’s still considered the ultimate coming-of-age story for girls. As an adult, all I remember from this book was that her father cut his finger on the lawnmower and that she was obsessed with getting her period.

The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger

I remember reading more than one of Paula Danziger’s books, but I related to this one as someone who never felt thin enough.

Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key

Two kids have special powers. What kid wouldn’t be fascinated with that? This book was already a movie by the time I read the book, but I didn’t see the movie until later.

Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

I read several of Lois Duncan’s books, but this is the one I remember best. A group of kids take their English teacher to the woods to teach him a lesson. Things go horribly wrong.

I’m Christy by Maud Johnson

I read a crazy number of books in middle school, but this is one that stuck with me. I’m Christy was the first in a series. I only read the second one to figure out what happened (SPOILER ALERT) after her boyfriend died at the end of the first one. If that ending hadn’t been tacked on, I wouldn’t have remembered it. (Also, I remember it because a boy in band class was always teasing me, asking why I was reading a book called “Jim Christy.”)

There are so many others, but these are the books that I remember most vividly. I think that means the authors did something right! I’d love to see what your commenters say were their favorite books as kids.

Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive. 

Piper Morgan
By Stephanie Faris

When Piper Morgan has to move to a new town, she is sad to leave behind her friends, but excited for a new adventure. She is determined to have fun, be brave and find new friends.

In Piper Morgan Joins the Circus, Piper learns her mom’s new job will be with the Big Top Circus. She can’t wait to learn all about life under the big top, see all the cool animals, and meet the Little Explorers, the other kids who travel with the show. She’s even more excited to learn that she gets to be a part of the Little Explorers and help them end each show with a routine to get the audience on their feet and dancing along!

In Piper Morgan in Charge, Piper’s mom takes a job in the local elementary school principal’s office. Piper is excited for a new school and new friends—and is thrilled when she is made an “office helper.” But there is one girl who seems determined to prove she is a better helper—and she just so happens to be the principal’s daughter. Can Piper figure out how to handle being the new girl in town once more?

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Thanks so much Stephanie. I love the cute photo of you! Many of your favourite books are new to me. I’ve read The rescuers by Margery Sharp and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume but none of the others. 

Like Stephanie, I would be interested to know which books you treasure from your childhood.  Have you read any / all of the ones featured here?

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20. THE FINNIGAN EFFECT: A Guest Post by Mary T. Wagner

Writing has been an essential part of my life for as long as I’ve been an adult. I’ve written for newspapers, magazines, and courts of law. Who knew that now—as both a grownup and a grandmother—writing about a kitten would let me channel my “inner child” with such total abandon?!

I can’t claim to have been one of those writers who “just knew” from the time they could read that they wanted to write and to create their own stories. 

To the contrary, I buried myself in books as a child and was quite content to immerse myself in the stories that others created—first all books I could find about horses; then mysteries featuring the teenaged American sleuth Nancy Drew; and finally “regency romances” which usually featured a very difficult hero and a plucky damsel who won his heart by the last chapter. Quite often carriages and castles were involved. I grew up with a great vocabulary…and very little to show in the way of my own imagination!

However, after drifting through my first year in college as an “undeclared liberal arts major,” I took a stab at newspaper journalism, relying on the occasional praise of others that I wrote well in my earlier school assignments to crack open the door. After sitting through my first reporting class, I was hooked. “That’s it, I’m home,” I thought, and I eagerly rolled up my sleeves to practice writing snappy leads and funneling facts into an “inverted pyramid style” of news writing.

I wrote for two major daily newspapers in succession, keeping my prose short and clear, aiming to explain things at a fourth-grade reading level. After I married and started a family, I switched to freelance magazine writing, indulging in more complicated sentences and words with three or four syllables. At the age of forty, I switched careers completely and went to law school, where my early newspaper training served me well in simplifying legal issues. And when I began my career as a prosecuting attorney for the state, I quickly found that putting my legal arguments on paper could be an advantage.

At every step of the way, writing had been a tool to wield, to explain, to persuade, to illustrate. And then friends talked me into starting to write a blog, “Running with Stilettos,” where I finally began to write just for me…and to write for fun!!

And then Finnigan showed up.

Every book starts with a small idea, but Finnigan the Circus Cat started with an even smaller kitten. My youngest son and his wife called from school shortly before they came home for the Christmas holiday. They’d just adopted a kitten from a shelter. Given that my ex-husband was deathly allergic to cats, could they park the wee little Finnigan at my house for a few weeks?

I jumped at the chance! My household already held two adult cats and a large dog, but there’s nothing cuter than a kitten as the saying goes, and that window of “tiny and cute” only lasts so long. 

 Finnigan was the tiniest kitten I’d ever seen away from his mother’s side. So tiny, in fact, that I quickly realized that the standard kitten chow the kids had brought home was too large for him to eat with his tiny teeth and I raced to the nearest pet store for special food that was almost as finely granulated as sugar. 

For the next few weeks, my kitchen resembled a circus act…literally. I had fenced off the kitchen to keep the dog in there so that he didn’t bother—or step on—Finnigan. And so when it was time to give the bigger animals their nightly treats, I stood in the kitchen like a ringmaster and pointed to the far side of the gate. The cats soared over the divider like lions jumping hurdles, while Finnigan perched on my shoulder like a pirate’s parrot. Dog treats and cat treats dispensed, Finnigan and I could retreat to the living room sofa for some quality time.

Inevitably, the new semester began and the kids went back to school, taking Finnigan with. But in another year, he was back at my house for a half year while my son and his wife studied in Ireland. By this time he had grown into a sleek young feline, with a narrow face, legs that seemed a little too long for his body, and a long tail that draped like a rope behind him. There was something about his coloring—smudges beneath his nose like a mustache; grey and black stripes that resembled a leotard—and his natural swagger that reminded me again and again of a circus performer strutting around a ring.

The “circus” theme was naturally never far from my thoughts, since one of my daughters is in fact a contemporary circus aerialist, and somehow the thought of a foundling kitten in a circus setting just stayed in my imagination. Eventually, in the swirl of selling my house, moving to another, and hitting my marks in court, I began to write “Finnigan the Circus Cat.” Writing the story was just the start of the project, however, as it developed that I also drew the pictures inside the book that start every chapter. Call it a confluence of poor timing, looming deadlines, and pure cussedness, but yes, I rolled up my sleeves and summoned the vestiges of the sketching I did as a child, and drew the pictures too!!!

What I DID NOT expect, however, after getting this first book into print, was just how much the fictional Finnigan would stay in my head as a constant source of happy thoughts! 

I confess to doing “double duty” as my print deadline for the first book loomed. I brought my drawing pad and pencils and photographs of the real Finnigan with me to a law conference as time was running out, and sketched pictures of kittens and mice to my heart’s content as I trained my ear toward lectures on grim subjects such as “lethality assessments” and “drug treatment courts.” I dutifully listened to presentations about evidence and witnesses…while Googling pictures of mice in cute poses. Who says you can’t multitask?

Back in “the real world,” there are any number of sobering subjects to ponder from the time I get out of bed. Bills, car maintenance, yard work. And let’s face it, on the job, the subject matter for a criminal prosecutor is rarely the stuff of laughter. 

But I find to my delight that as I drive around town (or—gasp--as I sit in court waiting for the next case to be called!), there’s a part of my brain that’s engaged with wondering what Finnigan and his friends are going to be doing next. Just how are they going to convince a pair of con men that a circus wagon is haunted? How exactly will Leroy, the larger of the two mice (and a gentle soul quite sensitive about his size,) impersonate a rat in the next book? Which of Aesop’s fables will I work into the conversation in the third book, and how will I stage a faceoff between a circus lion and one of the villainous neighborhood cats? 

I could go on and on…and in my head, I certainly do! But for me it’s not just academic. Because as I feel the “Finnigan Effect,” it’s always with the blissful memory of just how soft that real  kitten was, sleeping in my lap, when he was absolutely, totally brand new. 

Mary T. Wagner
Award-winning author of When the Shoe Fits(Essays of Love, Life and Second Chances), Heck on Heels, and more...


 Thank you so much Mary, Finnigan is a delight. 

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21. Back through the Prickle Hedge

As an ex-bookseller, one of the things I miss is helping to reconnect people with “long lost” books. I still get the occasional request for help, and always enjoy the buzz of pointing someone in the direction of a book that has eluded them for years. This request from a couple of years ago was a little different;

When I was little my Mother used to read me a poem called "Through the Prickle Hedge" I found out after much searching that it was written by a lady called, Marion St. John Webb and that you are listed as someone who stocks her books so my question is this "How can I find the words to this poem" as I have forgotten all but the first line.

The Littlest One Marion St John Adcock Webb
Luckily, I recognised the poem and had the very book in stock. It’s from The Littlest-One by Marion St. John Adcock (Webb). It took but a minute to photocopy the words and send them by return mail. I wrote a blog post about it (here) and quickly received more requests for copies of the words. I was happy to oblige and continued copying and sharing until…disaster struck…the book sold. 

In hindsight, I should have shared the entire poem on my blog while I had the chance, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Having found the book again, I can now do what I should have done then. I don’t sell books any more, but that doesn't mean I can’t share some of those in my collection. I hope you enjoy these words as much as I do. Some of the spelling might seem a little odd, but it is exactly as it appears in the book. 

Through the prickle hedge by Marion St. John Adcock (Webb)

While all the grown-up people sat an’ talked upon the lawn, we scrambled through the prickle hedge – and one of us got torn. 

And out into the lane we went, an’ passed the willow tree, Aunt Matilda’s child’en, Mr Peter Dog, an’ me.

Sue, Barbara and Tony Flitney with Peggy the dog
Me (the Littlest One), my sister Sue, brother Tony and Peggy our dog. 

We’d played about the garden all the kind of games we could, and so we went along the lane an’ down into the wood. But jus’ as we had got inside an’ one of us looked round – a little girl we didn't know had followed us, we found. 

Her hair was black an’ straggly, an’ her dress was old and worn, and she on’y had one stocking on, and that was very torn. 
And who she was, and where she came from, none of us could tell; and when we stopped and stared at her, she stopped and stared as well.

And one of Aunt Matilda's child'en shouted "Hullo, Kid" but she never answered anything, but stood and stared, she did. 
And Aunt Matilda's child'en said "perhaps she is a witch. Let's make a fire and burn her, like they used to, in this ditch!"

And they laughed and started picking sticks, an' threw them in a pile, and kept on singing, "Burn old Witch!" an' shouting all the while. I whispered, "Not a really fire? Of course it's on'y play?" But they shouted, "Yes, a really fire! Don't let her run away".

Sue and Barbara Flitney
My sister is the tall girl in the centre. I'm on her left-hand side (right of the photo as you look at it). Sadly, I can’t recall the names of our two playmates. 

Then she pulled a nugly face at us, and said "You'd better 'ad. My mother is a Gypsy, and she'd be most awful mad. And if I call, she'll her me - she lives inside this wood."  

Aunt Matilda's child'en whispered "let us run away. We mustn't talk to Gipsies they'll steal you if you stay." But the little girl was watchin', and she said "Oh no, you won't or else I'll call, now what you going to give me if I don't?"

And all of us were quiet again. Then some thing made a squeak so we gave her someone's brooch. An' then we heard the bushes creak and so she took a coat, a hat, an' Mr Peter's collar. "And now," she said, "You mustn't tell you promise - or I'll ollar." Then Aunt Matilda's child'en cried "It isn't fair a bit!" And snatched their things away an' said "Come on, let's run for it."

An' all of us began to run as quickly as we could. And as we ran she started shouting, shouting through the wood. And some of us fell over - scrambled up, and on again. And the wood was full of creaking's - but at last we found the lane. On'y some of us were crying', and we kept on looking round; But the Gypsies didn't follow, and we couldn't hear a sound.

Back through the prickle hedge
Me with my Grandad and Aunt Gladys. Could that be the Prickle Hedge?

Till nearly home - we heard the grown-ups talking on the lawn, so we scrambled through the prickle hedge - and two of us got torn. And out into the garden jus' as quickly as could be, Aunt Matilda's child'en, Mr. Peter Dog, an' me. 

Disclaimer!  The photographs in this post are from my own childhood. I have no connection to Marion St John Adcock (Webb). The photographs are simply for decoration. I’m happy to say my sister, brother and I were not involved in any of the incidents in the poem, although we often got ‘torn’ while climbing through hedges. Furthermore, burning of witches is not something we recommend!  Have a fun week...

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22. About Us by May Gibbs

About Us by May Gibbs Published in 1912
About Us, by May Gibbs, London: Ernest Nister and New York: E. P. Dutton, 1912.

I’ve been looking for a copy of this since I saw it in Collecting Children's Books in 2007. My nine-year search came to an end when I walked into a second-hand bookshop in *Salisbury. I had no intention of looking for books or anything else that day. I had a hair appointment, and was anxious to get it done and get home. For once my train arrived on time thus I had ten minutes to spare before my appointment. What were the chances? I could hardly believe my eyes when I walked through the door of the bookshop and there was the book of my dreams. I had to stop myself hugging it to my chest! The bookseller looked slightly surprised by my reaction, but honestly it felt like winning a gold medal. My heart dropped a bit when I opened the cover and found someone’s ‘little darling’ had been busy with the crayons. In hindsight, it was a good thing because it was priced to take account of the damage. Actually, it was ridiculously inexpensive, which meant I could still afford to give the hairdresser a tip. I do like a happy ending!

Collecting children's books About us May Gibbs
Collecting Children's Books published in 2007 with black-and-white image of About Us.

About Us began life as Mimie and Wog their adventures in Australia. Written by May Gibbs under the pseudonym Silvia Hood the story followed the exploits of a girl, a flying kangaroo and a little black dog. British publishers, however, rejected the Australian setting believing it lacked audience appeal. Unperturbed May Gibbs tried again this time changing the setting to Edwardian London. In this new setting, Mimie renamed Mamie, and her dog encountered the Chimney Pot People and a group of flying bat like creatures called Smuts. This was more to the liking of the publishers, and the book came out in 1912. 

The following quote and accompanying image are from the original unpublished version of Mimie and Wog held by The State Library of New South Wales.

Hoppy called out 'Open your eyes', and there they were in a wonderful strange country – very wild with lovely flowers and such a blue sky.
 This is the new and "improved" version now called About Us.

About Us Mimie and Wog May Gibbs

Image from About Us written by May Gibbs

About Us written by May Gibbs

As they walked along crowds of pigeons flew around them. 
About Us written by May Gibbs

"We won't hurt you," cooed the pigeons. "Come with us to Chimney Pot Land," and without waiting for Mamie to answer they lifted her up and flew away.

About Us written by May Gibbs

All around were the funniest little people Mamie had ever seen. She though of poor Wog all by himself, and began to cry. The Chimney Pot King asked, "What's the matter?" "Oh, never mind that," he said, "I'll send my Smuts to find him."

About Us written by May Gibbs

About Us written by May Gibbs

About Us by May Gibbs Published in 1912

About Us written by May Gibbs

About Us by May Gibbs Published in 1912

Books from my Bookshelf - About Us written by May Gibbs


I don’t know about you, but I found the story rather odd and wonder if I might have preferred the original version. The illustrations are dramatic and interesting, and I’m thrilled to add it to my collection and to share it with you but it left me wanting more. If you are ever in *Salisbury, Wiltshire (UK), you should pop into The History Bookshop on Fisherton Street, you never know what you might find.  

Although this was May Gibbs’ first published book, it remains largely unknown to Australian readers who are more familiar with her Gumnut babies.

The Gumnut babies. Image credit Australian Children’s Literature

May Gibbs (1877-1969), author, illustrator and cartoonist, captured the hearts and imaginations of generations of Australians with her lovable bush characters and fanciful landscapes. Her iconic children's literature and folklore is still as popular as ever, holding a special place in the Australian consciousness. Best known for The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, she also wrote and illustrated many other children's books, produced long-running cartoon strips and a variety of commercial work. A fiercely determined woman, she was Australia's first full-time, professionally trained children's book illustrator, developing an uniquely Australian fantasy vernacular which is relevant now as it was then. In 1955, May Gibbs was appointed Member of the British Empire (MBE) in acknowledgement of her important contribution to children’s literature. [Source - State Library, New South Wales]

What do you think of the story / images?

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23. There are two places that are home to me: A Guest Post by Dagny McKinley

There are two places that are home to me: my writing and nature. Writing has been with me since I can remember. My parents read stories to me growing up and from a young age I loved the imagination necessary to create. The first story I remember writing was How the Leprechauns Got Their Name. Today, creating stories fills me with peace inside. When I sit down to write I become absorbed in the worlds and images I’m trying to create and the rest of me disappears. I become the story.

My second home and the place I feel whole is in nature. When my family and I lived in Dogmersfield, Hants we went for family walks along the canal. I complained on every walk about how my feet hurt and how I wanted to go home but they kept making me go. When I was nine my sister and I were sent to camp in Canada on an island with no phones, no electricity and no hot water. We learned to bathe in the lake, how to make fires and pitch a tent, how to shoot a bow and arrow, how to canoe and more. Those months at camp taught me a love of nature and of being outdoors. I remember being woken up on the night of the full moon at camp. Our counselor walked us down a path to the end of the island where a large cauldron bubbled with hot chocolate. We were each given a cup to sip as we sang songs facing the full moon watching its reflection on the lake surrounding us. Later in life the wilderness became my home, a place of refuge, of growth and of healing for me. I spent three seasons as a volunteer backcountry ranger in Yosemite National Park where the world opened up to me. I learned to take care of myself and began photographing the places that meant so much to me.

Eleven years ago I worked for a dog sledding tour company. I fell in love with the sled dogs. I began to photograph them trying to capture their personalities, their unconditional love and their strength. Those photographs led to my first book Wild Hearts: Dog Sledding the Rockies. From that job I brought home an Alaskan Husky puppy, Alma Rose. She is my best friend and has accompanied me on more adventures than I can count. We hike together for several hours every day. She has taught me to appreciate the smallest moments in life. My adventures with her led me to write The Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog, a book series that celebrates the bond between a girl and her dog as they explore the natural world around them. Getting to know the wilderness as well as the town I live in was the inspiration for writing The Springs of Steamboat: healing waters, mysterious caves and sparkling soda. This book tells the history of the small town I live in. Writing the book gave me a much greater appreciation for the town I live in and the wonders it offers.

Today I have settled into the places that I call home. I wake up grateful for the life I live, for every sunrise and sunset and the wild animals I have had the privilege of encountering. When I come home, most days I write, looking for ways to express the inspirational world around me. 

Dear Dagny, thank you for sharing such a delightful post. I just know readers of this blog will enjoy it as much as I did. Barbara

Dagny McKinley has lived many places, but found a home in the expansive granite landscape of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. She is as comfortable in the city as she is in the wilderness, but prefers the challenges of big mountains and surviving outdoors. Dagny stays current on environmental issues, women’s issues and is an avid animal rights supporter. She believes all lives are interconnected and each person, landscape and insect has something to offer and teach. Writing has been a part of Dagny's life since she was a small child. She found healing through writing and nature and continues immerse herself in those passions today.

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24. Krakow the beautiful

Parts of our trip to Poland were indeed harrowing (see previous post here), but much of it was hugely enjoyable. Named one of the most beautiful cities in Europe by Conde Nast, Krakow is a delight. The picture-perfect Old Town has a mediaeval market square, a castle overlooking the river, quaint courtyards and cobbled thoroughfares. Oh yes, and just about everyone under the age of fifty speaks English, which was very helpful because neither of us speak Polish. Plus the food is wonderful, and the majority of menus are written in Polish and English. 

Preparations for World Youth Day and a visit from Pope Francis were in full swing when we arrived. A countdown clock in the city centre was counting down the days and hours until the event and Cracovians were gearing up for a large influx of visitors. By the time you read this World Youth Day will be over and no doubt the cleaning up will be well underway. 

Krakow Main Market Square Hejnalica Tower

Evening in Main Market Square, to the left is St. Mary's Church with its towers of different types and appearances and beside it St. Adalbert's Church. 

The loftier Hejnalica tower is 81 m tall, while its companion bell tower rises to 69 m. Every hour on the hour, a bugler sounds the “Hejnal” bugle-call from the west window just below the spire of the higher tower. Next the same bugle call is played towards the east, the south and the north but each time the melody ends abruptly.

Krakow Main Market Square Henjalica Tower

The Henjal, dates back to the Middle Ages when it was played to announce the opening and closing of the city gates. The bugler also played to alarm his fellow citizens whenever he saw a fire or an enemy approaching. The abrupt ending is said to commemorate a trumpeter from Krakow who was shot through the throat by a Tatar archer in 1241 when the Mongols besieged the city. 
The imposing interior of St. Mary's with its nave and two aisles; in the background is the pentaptych alter by Veit Stoss.

The market square and the streets around it are always busy;

Krakow Main Market Square

Krakow Main Market Square

We didn't take many photos of ourselves, but these two should make you smile. I’m not sure why this chap decided to dress me up in his hat and sword, but I got off lightly compared to Terry!

I’ve done lots of reading over the last few weeks, mostly thanks to recommendations from other book bloggers and my local Waterstones.  If you want to find out more about any of these, please follow the links.

In a dark dark wood a wonderful debut novel from author Ruth Ware: Review by Curious Ginger Cat

Bloom of youth by Rachel Anderson: This was a spur-of-the-moment charity shop buy which I love. It's funny and yet melancholic and very much of my era set as it is in the 1950s. Ruth and her older sister Mary struggle with the chaos of their parents' attempts to support five children by renting a rambling country house and running it as a holiday home for children. When their father dies, their increasingly desperate mother turns her efforts to the two hapless girls. Eager to marry them off, she plunges them into dancing classes and presentation at Buckingham Palace as phoney under-age debutantes. There are two more books in the series, both now added to my must-read list.

Black eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin a dazzling psychological thriller, shocking, intense and utterly original. Lit Lovers

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff:  A series of letters sent by Helene Hanff to the staff at Marks & Co, Booksellers in London and their replies to her. I loved it! Reviews at Goodreads

The shepherd's life by James Rebanks: My favourite book of the year so far recommended by my local Waterstones and reviewed by Mark Avery

The Chosen by Kristina Ohlsson: Review by All the books I can read


Thanks for your company. Just one more holiday snap before I go...

Wisla (Vistula) river.

This photograph only came about because I was fascinated by what appeared to be a tiny house dwarfed by a factory or office complex. The larger building is constructed in such a way that it straddles the smaller one. Even odder is the upside-down pig in the centre of the Wisla (Vistula) river. A local tour guide had no idea of its meaning, but an online search revealed the following;

"Mateusz Okonski, a Krakow-based artist, issued a challenge to his city's inhabitants - instead of following the local "tradition" and putting up another horrid monument, he offered a realistic sculpture presenting a dead boar at the stake. He located it in a place full of various meanings: in the vicinity of national sanctities - St. Stanislaus Church at Skalka and the church at Wawel, between two former abodes of the Jewish population - Kazimierz and Podgórze, in the area of the former municipal slaughter-house, which is currently a shopping gallery, on the water that purifies both literally and metaphorically and evokes the topic of passing and change and, finally, on the concrete pillar of the Wanda well, which was a water intake for the formerly existing power plant".

That last piece of information answered the question about the origin of the building, and this confirmed it;

Situated on the banks of the Vistula‚ just above the embankment wall‚ Cricoteka does not try to blend in with its neighbourhood nor gently catch the eye of passers-by. Indeed‚ it stands out like a strange theatrical prop that’s landed on the riverbank as part of a performance. One prerequisite of the original architectural competition was that an existing power station on the site should be adapted and integrated with the new structure. So the architects designed their new building to stretch over the old‚ like a table on two legs‚ with a hole cut through it for the latter’s chimney to poke through. This design was inspired by artist Tadeusz Kantor’s drawing of a bent man carrying a table on his back and his idea of an object or work of art integrated with a human body. via  Uncube Magazine Blog

So there you have it!

Next week I will be sharing a delightful guest post by Dagny McKinley. 

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25. The Krakow Ghetto Pharmacy and a visit to Aushcwitz

Hello, I’m back from my break and looking forward to catching up with you all. If you have a question or would like to leave a comment, please do, I love to hear from you.

Taking a blogging break gave me the opportunity to read some of the books I've accumulated over the last few years. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately I can never resist buying more so the size of my must-read pile remains virtually unchanged! One new book on the list is The Kracow Ghetto Pharmacy by Tadeusz Pankiewicz. I heard about it on a recent trip to Poland and was lucky enough to find a copy at The Oskar Schindler Factory Museum (Fabryka Schindlera). Tadeusz Pankiewicz was the only Pole living and working in the Kracow Ghetto from its inception to its liquidation. I’m sure it won’t be an easy read but when was anything worthwhile ever easy? Having seen the remnants of the ghetto walls and visited Auschwitz and Birkenau the Holocaust is uppermost in my mind.

This is the entrance to Auschwitz with the words “arbeit macht frei” which translated means “work will set you free."

According to the BBC historian Laurence Rees the sign was erected by order of Commandant Rudolf Höss. Made by prisoner-labourers the sign features an upside-down B, which has been interpreted as an act of defiance.

We thought we were ready for Auschwitz, but nothing prepared us for the overwhelming sense of sadness that prevails. The feeling of the place seeps into your bones and will not be left behind.

The complex is divided into three major camps: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, Auschwitz III-Monowitz and several sub-camps. During the Holocaust gas chambers using Zyklon-B claimed the lives of roughly one million people. Most of the victims were Jews, and the majority killed in this way died at Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

Auschwitz III provided slave labour for the I G Farben plant founded at Auschwitz in 1940. Farben produced synthetic rubber, along with high-performance fuels, various plastics, methanol, nitrogen and pharmaceuticals. The Zyklon B gas used in the gas chambers was produced by Degesch a subsidiary of I G Farben.

Auschwitz II - Birkenau

Entrance to the infamous Auschwitz - Birkenea death camp.

Several of the buildings have been converted from barracks into museum rooms. The rooms are used to house the "Material Evidence of Crime." This consists of piles of shoes, glasses, suitcases, kitchen utensils and the most chilling of all human hair. The Nazis not only murdered millions of men, women and children, they also "harvested" some of the remains. In the early nineteen-forties, a brisk trade emerged between the death camps, and German felt and textile manufacturers who used the hair in the production of thread, rope, cloth, carpets, mattress stuffing, and felt insulators for the boots of railroad workers. According to historians, it's quite possible some of the products are still in use in German homes today.
Auschwitz I

The collection of shoes is possibly one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. Most are in the same dark grey colour, but a few are made from red leather, a poignant reminder of the red coat worn by the little girl in the film Schindler’s list. The guide who accompanied us around the museum said it will soon be 'updated' with new interactive exhibits. I’m not so sure that is a good idea. At the moment it is a stark reminder of just what humans are capable of and maybe it needs to remain that way.

Shoes and clothing of prisoners found at Auschwitz-Birkenau 
Photo Credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum


If you are planning a visit to Auschwitz expect a tough day in more ways than one. Don’t assume you will find wheelchair access or level paths because you won’t. The site is not disabled friendly. It is also far larger than I ever imagined, and the only way to see it is to walk. We didn't find it too much of a problem, but if you have difficulty getting around do check before finalising any arrangements. 

I'm sorry this is a sad post, especially as it’s the first one for a while. I promise the next one will be more cheerful

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