Friday, 30 May 2014

Bother and Trouble - Guest Post and Giveaway

Please give a very warm welcome to Susan P Moss. Susan is the author of a series of retro-style adventure stories for 9 to 12 year olds. Her latest book, Trouble in Teutonia, was launched at Brooklands Museum on April 17th. Susan lives in Germany with her husband and teenage son.

There’s nothing more delicious than rediscovering a favourite book from my childhood. Tearing open the packing of my new-old copy of Caroline and Her Friends – reunited after decades, or the joy in seeing that both Mary Plain and Pookie had been republished, and I could order them to read to my son. Finding that my mum hadn’t given away my Little Grey Rabbit collection to the school, as she’d thought. Opening a hardback of The Wind in the Willows, spotting my dad’s unmistakable writing on the flyleaf and hearing his voice reading about Ratty and Mole messing about in boats. Opening a book from childhood opens a door into a lost world. 

As L.P.Hartley wrote in The Go-Between, ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.’

That lost world is the world of the book, be it Biggles or Tom’s Midnight Garden – and more. It’s the world in which you read it back in those childhood days, under the covers by torchlight, or stretched out on a summer lawn gulping orange squash. A world with all its sights, smells, hopes and fears.

I’ve paid homage to L.P.Hartley in the strap line for my two retro-style children’s adventure stories, The Bother in Burmeon and Trouble in Teutonia: ‘The past is a dangerous country.’ I chose this line as some children don’t seem to be having adventures in the real world any more – it’s becoming “out of bounds” or only allowed if dressed head to toe in protective clothing!

The inspiration for "Bother and Trouble" came while I was writing a biography of my RAF officer dad for friends and family. I'd spent ages poring over log books, black and white snapshots in exotic locations and reminiscences from old chums when my young son asked what his granddad was like. A delightful "what if" question flitted into my mind, and with it one of those lost worlds, full of danger, dirty deeds and derring-do. My publisher described it as ‘a long-forgotten beauty – not fantasy, not ancient history, but something you and I had forgotten was magic: a Britain where country roads were bright and welcoming, where cars, motorbikes and aeroplanes – not to mention their pilots – still had an aura of adventure about them.’

The Author at Brooklands Museum 
 Picture from A.G.Lyttle

What if a 21st century boy, who was used to Pause Buttons and Play Agains from his adventures in a virtual world, could go back in time to the days where his granddad had adventures for real? Back to 1962 and South East Asia in The Bother in Burmeon and 1957, the Cold War and a country not unlike Germany in Trouble in Teutonia?

Well, to find out, you can start by looking at the websites for the books and and the YouTube trailer for a taste of the characters and adventures.

And I’d like to set a competition to win a copy of Trouble in Teutonia. All you have to do is dream up a title for another story in the series, in a similar vein and post it in the comments here. I can’t guarantee that I’ll write it, but you never know. The prize will go to the one that most tickles my fancy, in whatever way!

I’m very happy to answer questions about my books or my life as a writer, either here or via

And, before I whizz off, many thanks to Barbara for having me as a guest at March House Books. The tea was brewed to perfection and the cake was scrumptious!

Toodle Pip!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A visit to Sherborne Castle Country Fair

This really is a spectacular event in a truly lovely spot. The fair celebrates all things rural, with dog shows, rare breads, vintage vehicles, and lots of demonstrations from highly skilled crafts people. As if that was not enough we were also able to enjoy dragon boat racing on the lake, a circus and all kinds of displays in the main ring. Other favourites included the varied stalls and a silent auction.

Sherborne Castle home page

I loved watching the Terrier racing.  Half the time the dogs were chasing each other rather than the lure (a piece of cloth), but the spectators loved it.

I adored everything on the Dogs & Roses stall. Tracy, the stallholder was incredibly friendly and happy for me to photographer her designs. She has a soft spot for dogs, so much so they have become the inspiration for her interior design business, and most recently her fundraising for a variety of dog charities.
Read more here

Aquilegia, Lupins and Foxgloves

These ladies were cooking up a storm!

Such a beautiful creature

Dragon boat racing on the lake

Plant stalls with the perfect backdrop

I loved this mix of vintage things

Eliza James Flowers 

View of the castle and lawns with ‘willow deer’ in the foreground

The Silent Auction 

This looked like so much fun!

Mother and her camera shy baby

I almost got Terry one of these signs, but I wasn't sure he would appreciate it!

No day out is complete without buying at least one book! This is Steve Burnside the author of Fergus and Friends, signing books for our two little granddaughters.

Furgus the tractor books waiting to be packed and sent to Australia together with two dolls also bought at the fair. Each Rebecca Stidson rag doll is personalised with a hand-painted name. Rebecca has lots of ready painted names and was able to supply one for Zoe, but the one for Lilly is coming in the post.  I chose the doll and just have to wait a few days for the name to arrive.

Zoe in her ballet outfit (now you can see why I chose that particular doll)

Lilly is only two but she already enjoys a nice cup of tea!

Friday, 23 May 2014

The Wonderful, Whimsical World of Rowland Emett and a Gold Medal for Peter Rabbit at Chelsea

Walking past a second-hand shop in Sherborne (Dorset) I spied this large ceramic mug in the window...

The design is very reminiscent of and possibly based on drawings by Rowland Emett.  Rowland Emett is very much in the news at the moment as the ‘Marvellous Machines’ exhibition has just opened at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The exhibition runs until the 21st September 2014.

  “With this exhibition we aim to introduce Rowland Emett and his amazing machines to a new generation,” says Tim Griffiths, founder of the Rowland Emett Society. “He was a very familiar figure during the post-war decades but has been largely forgotten—until now. We will have twelve of the fifteen machines known to have survived in the UK on display alongside many of his distinctive original drawings.”

The mug is now residing on my desk, and I am keen to know more about it. It was produced by the Purbeck Ceramics Company of Swanage. I assume it’s a transfer print probably made in the 1960s or 70s. If anyone knows anything at all about the mug or the history of Purbeck Ceramics, I would love to hear from you.

If you are interested in Rowland Emett, you might enjoy the previous posts about  here, here and here and if you would like to see him at work there is a wonderful piece of film here

This is another purchase from the same shop. I'm going to have a lot of fun with these!

In other news; Peter Rabbit wins Gold Medal at Chelsea!

I was excited to read about the Peter Rabbit Herb Garden at Chelsea winning the coveted Great Pavilion Award.  The World of Beatrix Potter joined forces with garden designer, Richard Lucas, and plant nursery Hooksgreen Herbs to create the garden. I wasn't able to go this year but kept up to date with everything on the TV and in the newspapers. It was amazing to see Mr. McGregor's garden coming to life. This reminds me of a visit from our ‘very own’ Peter Rabbit. You can read about it here 

Friday, 16 May 2014

Tom Toby written by Isobel St. Vincent with illustrations by Helen Haywood

Old Tom Toby was a dustman. His fur was ginger and his whiskers always looked as though they needed combing. His baggy grey trousers and russet leather waistcoat were tattered and spotty. And he wasn't very good-tempered. He was grouchy and grumpy to everyone – even to faithful old Tantams.

Tantams was a wooden horse bought from a vintage fair for sixpence. His black mane was very worn and one of his legs had been twice mended, but his eyes were still bright with kindness, and he had a very good heart.

“Dustman! Dustman!” yelled Tom Toby, stumping along with his paws in his pockets white Tantams pulled the cart. “Whoa! You!” miaowed Tom Toby harshly. That’s just like old Toby, Tantams thought to himself. I would have stopped, anyhow. Don’t we always stop at No. 16? It was true. Every Tuesday, when he started out on his rounds, Tom Toby always stopped first at No. 16. Now, as always, he cocked his check cap a little on one side, gave a hasty comb to his whiskers and looked expectantly towards the side door.

In the basement of No. 16 lived the only cat who got more than a surly growl from grouchy Tom Toby. This was Mrs. Maisie, a plump, tabby, widow-cat: housekeeper to the old Dowager Cat at No. 16. Mrs. Maisie liked company. Tom Toby was very partial to milk pudding. And, as friendly Mrs. Maisie was glad to offer a saucer of pudding in exchange for a little chat, the two had struck up a kind of friendship. In an unguarded moment, Mrs. Maisie had even told Tom Toby her “secret.” Up in the attic, unknown to her mistress, Mrs. Maisie kept her three kittens, Jill, Jacqueline and Little Giles.

As a rule, the back door opened as soon as the rumble of the rickety dustcart ceased. This morning, even though Tom Toby coughed accusingly, and loyal Tantams obligingly shook his head to jingle his harness, it remained shut. “Strange!” muttered Tom Toby. For a moment longer he stared hard at the door. Then his offended green eyes swept over the rest of the house. Suddenly, he stiffened – with every bristle aquiver. Leaning out from the railings was a board which said in very large letters:

For a little while Tom Toby just stared and stared, hardly able to believe his eyes. Besides, his tummy felt funny - disappointed of its warm, creamy, milk pudding. "Just like a she-cat," he grumbled to himself at last, "to go off without telling an honest Tom as regards her h'intentions." Still, he might as well empty the dustbin, he supposed. 

With a clang he lifted the lid. "Gr-owl! Nothing much in that! Trust the old Dowager not to throw away anything worth having." Grumbling and growling to himself, Tom Toby pawed over kipper bones, tea leaves and cinders. Then suddenly, under some screwed-up  paper, he saw it. A curiously decorated leather bag!  Holding the bag between his paws, Tom Toby looked at it closely. It was a good bag, made of real leather. Now what could be in it?

With a little click, the clasp came undone. Breathing hard, greedy eyes gleaming, Tom Toby stretched his thin neck and peered into the bag. The next second: “Puff!” A great cloud of golden-yellow  dust rose high in the air, making him stagger back, coughing and sneezing.

Up and up went the dust, swirling like gold mist in the morning sunlight. For a moment, it hovered before the first-floor window. Then a playful little breeze took it and tossed it up like a gay chiffon scarf. But with screwed-up eyes, and great big sneezes nearly shaking him off his feet, Tom Toby was too busy trying to find his grubby hankie to notice. He didn't see the golden dust cloud hover before the open attic window. He didn't hear the series of three atishoos that echoed his own. The yellow dust had reached the three little noses of Jill, Jacqueline and Giles, who were hanging out over the window sill. Eyes screwed up tight, tiny paws waving, they sneezed and sneezed. Then: 

Bump! Wallop! Crash!

 Picking themselves up, the kittens explain their mother left with the removal van. Crying and wailing they begged Tom Toby to help them.

Thinking only of the possible reward he might get from a grateful Mrs. Maisie, the surly cat agreed, and packed them in to the back of the dust-cart. And though nobody noticed it, the cloud of golden dust swirled high in the air above them, and because of it, a series of strange adventures began... 

A magical tale beautifully illustrated by Helen Haywood.

Tom Toby by Isobel St. Vincent Published in 1949.  Hardback book with dust jacket. Please follow this link if you would like further details.  Tom Toby is now sold, thank you for your interest.

Helen R Haywood is a little known artist of the mid-twentieth century. Primarily, a writer and illustrator of children’s books she created a series of books based on the character Peter Tiggywig and friends. Other works included Master Mouse, Animal Playtime and Animal Worktime, which appeared in the Look with Mother series, and Aesop's Fables (Wiki). The Helen Haywood Christmas Book, The Discontented Pool, Dawdles Duckling, and Patsy Mouse.

Thanks for calling in...

Friday, 9 May 2014

Three is a Magic Number

I can’t believe it’s been three years since my first blog post. In a way, it feels like a lifetime ago and yet only yesterday. I've met some amazing bloggers and friends along the way and am truly indebted to everyone who takes the time to visit.

I didn't expect to get many visitors so to see the StatCounter moving towards 500,000 views is nothing short of magical. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, without you, there would be nothing but a blank page!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

More newly catalogued vintage books

Lots of lovely vintage books have come in over the last few weeks. Many are now for sale on my website, and others will be added over the coming weeks. Please take a look and be sure to let me know if you need more information or pictures.

Six pretty little die-cut shape books tied with a ribbon!  The picture on the right is as I found them, but of course, I had to untie them (and tie them up again) to take the pictures.

All six books are from the Sleep-Time Tales series produced in England by Royle Publications for Mothercare. The stallholder I bought them from thought they were published in the 1960s or 70s, but I have no way of verifying it as they are all undated.  

The titles are Peter's Band, Red Feather, Susan's garden, Sleepyhead, Bobby the little clown and Tommy's farm. Each measures 4" wide by 8" tall and each has about 8 pages. Each beautifully illustrated by Rosa Vela. These six little books are now sold, thank you for your interest.

One of the pieces of fabric mentioned last week (here) came in handy for this post!

The following three illustrations are from Hullo Boys! An annual written by 'The Uncles' of the BBC published in 1925.

This unusual book is described as; A budget of good things written by The 'Uncles' on the Wireless. Lots of stories, including how Cole joined the Southern Army by Uncle Rob with illustrations by Peter Fraser, the giants pepper-box by Uncle Leslie with illustrations by Douglas Constable, the cave in the cliffs by Uncle Jeff illustrated by Savile Lumley and life in the tropics by Uncle Jim illustrated by Hume Henderson. Numerous colour plates and sepia drawings by various artists, including Jessie M King. Now sold, thank you for your interest.

Because of the Sand Witches there "I am the one and only Sand Witch," said the creature, introducing itself. It was Mil's fault. She was the one who brought up the silly joke about how you can't be hungry on the seashore because the Sand Witch is there. Or maybe it was the fault of her brother Hamish because he asked what a Sand Witch was...    Especially Jennings!  By Anthony Buckeridge, 1st edition in dust jacket published in 1965. Shock for the Secret Seven by Enid Blyton, reprint published in 1966. Now sold, thank you for your interest.

One of my favourite pastimes when I was young was cutting out and playing with paper-dolls. I've loved paper-dolls ever since and if this one is not snapped up quickly it’s going into my collection  :-)

Baby Doll Cut Out Book; Young World Productions Ltd, London 1968. Four pages of colourful outfits with a press out and stand up doll on the back cover. There are also several painting pages, all clean and unused. Baby Doll Cut Out Book now sold, thank you for your interest.

 Now for two Vintage Thomas the Tank Engine Books;

The Little Old Engine (on the left) is a 1st edition published by Edmund Ward in 1959, Henry the Green Engine is a reprint from 1961. Both are in good condition and both have the original dust jackets. Now sold, thank you for your interest.

Do you remember the BBC television programme called Meet the Penguins? No? Neither do I! According to Whirligig, a site dedicated to 1950’s British Television it aired in 1952, and each episode ended with this song;

"Don't you forget to wash behind your ears,
Don't you forget to wash behind your ears,
for if you forget to wash behind your ears,
you won't go to Snowland along 'a me"

This hardback book is a spin-off from the series, undated but probably c1956 produced by Publicity Products, London. The story is written by J. M. Smith Wright with illustrations by Sheila Findlay.

The Penguins live in the Antarctic in an igloo with a lovely big garden. Father Penguin enjoys rolling the snow-lawn and sweeping the paths. Mother Penguin is a very good cook and also enjoys making sandwiches of chopped shells and spiced seaweed. They have three chicks - Bessie, the eldest, a boy who loves fishing but tends to talk far too much, Boffles, the eldest daughter, and Bobo, the baby of the family. Meet the Penguins is now sold, thank you for your interest.

I hope you enjoyed this quick look at some of our recently listed books.

Thanks for your visit…

Update July 2016: March House books closed on my retirement in 2015, but I do still blog here at March of Time Books and always appreciate your visit. 
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