Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Do you believe in fairies?

Do you believe in fairies? Valentine's Rene Cloke Postcard number 3930.
Posted to an address in Sloane Court, London in 1941.

Message reads ... Dear Virginia I hope you were very good in the car. Don't forget to tell Nanny that your blue pram cover is in the bottom drawer in the day nursery lots of love Nanny. 

What do you think about when you read those words sent to a little girl in 1941?  I imagine a large town house with a staff of uniformed nannies residing over a nursery located on a floor somewhere far away from the rest of the family. I’m thinking of the days when children of wealthy families were kept 'out of sight and out of mind' other than at set times when they would be brought down to see the mistress of the house. Or is it possible the card was sent by the child's grandmother in the hope it would be seen by her other grandmother?  Have I been watching too much Downton Abbey perhaps?

Secrets. Valentine's Rene Cloke Postcard number 4619 - undated and unused.

The Pixy School. Valentine's 'fine art' postcard Number 3715.
Sent to Miss Dashwood of Ealing, London in September 1949.

Elfins of the Brook. Valentine's 'fine art' postcard number 3931.

This was sent to the same little girl as the first card this time the message simply reads - See you at tea time xxx

The Dream Fairy. Valentine's Rene Cloke postcard number 4621.

Sent to 'Shirley' with love on her birthday.

Fairy Artists. Valentine's Rene Cloke postcard no 4729 posted on the 21st December 1951.

The Basket Maker. Valentine's Rene Cloke Fairy Series. Posted in 1954.

Sent to a Miss Harris with heaps of love and kisses from Uncle Glynn & Auntie Anne xx 

The Little House Beneath the Trees. Valentine's Rene Cloke Fairy Series number 5110.

Sent to 'Sarah darling' unfortunately the card has suffered some water damage, and the message is illegible.

A Song of Summer. Valentine's Rene Cloke postcard no 1330  - undated and unused. 

The Fairies go Marketing. Valentines Rene Cloke Postcard No 3332B

Posted on the 1st December 1950 and sent to Darling Angela.  Message reads...I thought you would love to see these little fairies going to market. Can you dance as light as a fairy? Love and lots of hugs and kisses from Mummy and Paul xxxx

Can you dance as light as a fairy?  I certainly can’t I have two left feet and absolutely no coordination.  

I hope you enjoyed these vintage postcards from my collection if you would like to see others please visit these previous posts.  DearMaudie, Doesn’t the tempus seem to fugit?   Easter Greetings.  Cats and dogs ... and Peter rabbit.  Is this the ideal home for Snow White?

Thursday, 18 February 2016

An Interview with Sarah Hill

Today I'm delighted to welcome Sarah Hill to my blog. Sarah is a children's author and a small animal Vet. She gained her Veterinary Medicine degree at Bristol University in 1999 and worked in practice for 10 years. At that point she had her second daughter and soon after, she decided to take a career break. She was writing her children's series, 'Whimsy Wood', at home in Wiltshire (with her husband, their baby son, two daughters, two dogs, two cats and "a partridge in a pear tree"!) for a good 2 years, before her work was taken on by Abela Publishing, based in Sandhurst, UK.

There are 35 books in the Whimsy Wood children's series for 5-8 yr olds. These are divided into 5 sets of 7 books. Each book is written specifically for a month in the calendar, so the flora and fauna within the wood, change as you read through the series. Finally, there is a proverb hidden within every story for the reader to find, giving it real meaning. Please note that 10% of book sales is donated to The Wildlife Trusts, UK.

Book 1, 'Posie Pixie And The Copper Kettle', was published in July 2013. Book 2, 'Posie Pixie And The Lost Matchbox', was published in November 2013. Book 3, 'Posie Pixie And The Torn Tunic', was published in February 2014. Book 4, 'Posie Pixie And The Fireworks Party', was published in May 2014. Book 5, 'Posie Pixie And The Christmas Tree', was published in October 2014. Book 6, 'Posie Pixie And The Snowstorm', was published in February 2015. Book 7, 'Posie Pixie And The Pancakes', was published in June 2015.

Why did you decide to write the Whimsy Wood Series?

Well in truth, I didn't! I went to Bristol University here in England to study Veterinary Medicine and I qualified as a Vet from there in 1999. I then worked in practice for 10 years and at that point our second daughter was born. My husband was travelling overseas quite a lot with work then and so I decided to take a career break to stay at home and raise our very young girls. Within 6 months of being at home, 'Posie Pixie', the main character in my first 7 'Whimsy Wood' books, appeared in my head and she wouldn't go away. She's terribly persistent! So I really had no other choice but to start writing about her adventures in 'Whimsy Wood'.

After 3 years of writing, editing, submitting to publishers, writing, re-editing and submitting some more, I finally received my author's contract with Abela Publishing in January 2013. 'Posie Pixie And The Copper Kettle', book 1 in my 'Whimsy Wood' series, was published in July 2013. Book 7, 'Posie Pixie And The Pancakes', was published in June 2015.

Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?

I don't consider my books to be either, as each of my 'Whimsy Wood'  books is written for a specific month in the calendar, so the flora and fauna changes as you read through the series. If anything, they're driven by the time of year that I'm writing the book for.

Posie Pixie and the Copper Kettle. Image abela Publishing

What makes Whimsy Wood Series unique compared to other book series for kids?

My 'Whimsy Wood' books are unique because they bridge the literary gap between picture books and chapter books. They are read to and read by children of all ages and this is evident by the children's comments on the back of all the 'Whimsy Wood' books.

There is a proverb tucked away within every story for the reader to find and at the back of each book, is a 'Whimsy Wood' map for the child to complete using their imagination and what they've learnt from the story.

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

I tend to do a bit of both. I always use a mind map prior to writing the next book in my series. The title always goes in the middle - I may not have the actual title name until I've completed the book, but that's where it goes when I'm mind-mapping! I have the month that the book is written for coming off that central title. Then there's trees, plants, flowers, animals that would all be out and about during that month in a UK wood.

How did you develop the names for your characters?

I like alliteration, so the 'Whimsy Wood' characters' names tend to reflect this. Eg Posie Pixie, Raspberry Rabbit, Wibble Woodlouse. 

Posie was always called this and I had no doubt over hers or Raspberry's names. Wibble I was initially unsure of so I asked my oldest daughter Olivia. I gave her a choice of 'Wibble' or 'Willow' 
for Posie's Woodlouse best friend and Olivia immediately decided on 'Wibble'. So that was that!

Mr Bilberry the blackbird, Whimsy Wood’s postman. Image Sarah Hill

How did you decide on the setting for your books?

Again, I didn't purposeful choose my books to be set in a woodland, or indeed 'Whimsy Wood'. My imagination had decided, right from the start, that this was going to be where 'Posie Pixie' (the main character for my 1st 7 books) would come to live. She didn't initially live here, as you will learn in book 1, 'Posie Pixie And The Copper Kettle'! I'm guessing though that my imagination and subconscious have been heavily influenced by my own childhood books. These being the 'Faraway Tree' books by Enid Blyton and 'Jill Barklem's 'Brambly Hedge' series. We are also keen dog-walkers as a family and are often outside, exploring woodlands and the beautiful Wiltshire countryside where we live. I'm sure these have all been factors in my imagination creating the enchanting 'Whimsy Wood'.

Do you have a writing mentor? If so, tell about them.

I have a writing coach called Suzanne Lieurance who sends me (and many other writers) positive, supportive and constructive daily emails called 'The Morning Nudge'. Writing can be quite a solitary existence, so I find these daily emails really helpful. I am also a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). This is a fabulous group of like-minded literary folk and their annual UK conference in Winchester is always brilliant.

Front cover Fearne Fairy and the Dandelion Clocks. Image Sarah Hill

What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I have 3 young children aged 7 and a half, 6 and 2 and a half years old, so I tend to write when the girls are in school and Monty our son is in nursery (2 days a week currently). I also write when the children are all in bed asleep 3 nights of the week, as my husband is also out working during these evenings.
I have to be very strict with myself during the times that I set aside to write. Like all creative activities, you can't force writing. Sometimes it flows and sometimes it just doesn't. On the days that it's not flowing, I'll still sit down and try to write something. It doesn't matter if initially it's not brilliant. At least I've got something down on paper and I can them go back over it, edit and rewrite it and the time that I've had to write hasn't been wasted.

As for a favourite place to write, well I seem to write best in our office above the garage at home. But I'll often get ideas and thoughts when I'm not sat down writing, so I always have a notepad with me to write these down in.

What’s next?

Book 8, 'Fearne Fairy And The Dandelion Clocks' is next and is due out this March! This book is the beginning of the second set of 7 books in my 'Whimsy Wood' series and sees the introduction of a new main character, 'Fearne Fairy'. Now she's not your typical pink and sparkly fairy. Goodness no! She has flaws just like the rest of us and as for what she's really like? Well, you'll just have to find out!

Whimsy Wood Books. Image abela publishing

Anything else you'd like to add?

My first 5 'Whimsy Wood' children's books have all been awarded the '5-Star Seal' from 'Readers' Favourite' over in America. 'Posie Pixie And The Snowstorm' and 'Posie Pixie And The Pancakes' (books 6 and 7 respectively) have both been awarded the 'Story Monster Approved Award' and were recently tied winners in 'The Royal Dragonfly Book Awards' again in America.

Thanks very much Sarah.

Connect with Sarah at Whimsy Wood or Twitter

Have you read any of the Whimsy Wood books or would you like to?

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Books from my Bookshelf - Potter Pinner Meadow by Mollie Kaye

Potter Pinner Meadow is a recent addition to my bookshelf found at the Oxfam Bookshop in Shaftsbury, Dorset. I was lucky enough to buy this and a second book by the same author for just a few pounds. I've uncovered a few hidden gems from this charity shop so if you are ever in the area, it might be worth calling in.

  Gold Hill, Shaftsbury

Dating back to the Saxon era and boasting amazing views of the Blackmore Vale Shaftsbury itself is well worth a visit. Gold Hill is a steep cobbled street in the town famous for its picturesque appearance. You may well recognise it as the setting for a film version of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, and advertisements for Morrisons and Hovis bread.

Filmed more than 40 years ago the Hovis advert is now one of the most famous scenes in British TV history.  Image: Mail Online

Anyway, I digress;

Potter Pinner Meadow by Mollie Kaye with decorations by Margaret Tempest Published in 1937 by Collins, London.

Mollie Kaye also known as M. M. Kaye is best known for her immensely popular novel The Far Pavilions. I’ve added some factual information about her and the illustrator Margaret Tempest at the end of this post.

Potter Pinner Meadow was a very select neighbourhood and only the VERY BEST people had their houses there. Aloysius Pricklewig J.P. lived in a roomy hollow under a bank. Mr. Pricklewig was a hedgehog. His bristles were always coming through his coats, so he continually had to darn them or to order new ones.

Mr. Pricklewig was by no means the only inhabitant of that very select neighbourhood.  The Whiskertips, a family of aristocratic field mice owned a smart apartment on the sunny side of the hawthorn hedge.  Mrs. Beatrice Brownwing, the speckled thrush occupied a cosy nest, while Timothy Tidmarsh the Dormouse lived in a small but cosy house among the roots of the big Elm tree. 

The fly in the ointment came in the guise of Farmer Wraggs and his dog Tatters. Farmer Wraggs had a sour face, a mouth that turned down at the corners and a fringe of sandy whiskers. He also had a habit of poking around among the tree roots and slashing at the hedges with his stout hickory stick while Tatters growled and barked.   

Whenever Farmer Wraggs came stumping up the meadow everyone locked their doors and pulled down the blinds. Even Mr. Pricklewig put out a Not - At - Home sign and closed the shutters when farmer Wraggs was about. However, there was one person who didn't mind at all because he was nearly always fast asleep in his bed. 

While Timothy Tidmarsh slept the rest of the inhabitants of Potter Pinner Meadow attended an Indignation Meeting to complain about the state of affairs. Wonderful plans were discussed, and long speeches were made beginning with “Tatters Must Go” but all Timothy ever said was “SSSNOORE”. 

One fine spring evening Timothy woke from his afternoon nap put on his second best coat, and set off to buy his supper. When he arrived at the shop it was full of customers all complaining about Mr. Waggs. Not wishing to get involved Timothy decided to enjoy a little snooze. “That Dormouse has no public spirit said Mrs. Beatrice Brownwing. I was telling him only yesterday how dreadfully I have been disturbed by that farmer person and would you believe it all he said was I don’t see much of him myself!”

When Timothy woke up he was rather bored by all the talk of farmers and dogs, so taking up his basket he started off for home.  He was hardly more than half-way up the meadow when he heard sounds of barking. He stood still and listened.  The barking seemed to come from the direction of the big elm tree. Continuing with caution he was faced with a dreadful scene! For where there had been a cosy home for a dormouse, there was nothing but a broken mess of bits and pieces. Of Timothy's beautiful furniture and his comfortable four-poster bed there was not a trace.  

Timothy put his pocket hankie over his nose and wept most bitterly. The sounds of his woe were so loud that everyone in Potter Pinner Meadow came hurrying to see whatever was wrong. At first, they all said "I told you so" and "serve you right," but afterwards they were sorry.  That night Timothy slept on Mr. Pricklewig's sofa and the next morning all the inhabitants of Potter Pinner Meadow, including Timothy attended another Indignation Meeting.

This time it was decided that Timothy should make his way to Black Bramble Wood and consult Old Madam Mole. It was already afternoon by the time Timothy came in sight of the wood the sky was cloudy and dark, and a cold wind was rustling through the grass. Black Bramble Wood looked damp and dark and dangerous. Timothy shivered in his shoes and wished he was snug in his comfortable bed, but when he remembered he no longer had a comfortable bed it made him so angry he got quite brave.

Old Madam Mole rocked backwards and forwards in her rocking chair and began to think.  “Fetch me the little green bottle from the cupboard” she said.  “The next time you see Farmer Wraggs, empty the contents over him.  Be careful not to miss and remember the effect only lasts for one day.” 

Back at Potter Pinner Meadow, Timothy and his friends were busy building him a new home when a young rabbit came dashing down the meadow crying “He’s coming!” quick as a flash Mrs. Brownwing circled high above Farmer Wraggs and sprinkled the magic potion over him.  At once, he began to shrink and grow smaller and smaller until eventually he turned into a frog!  Tatters began barking at his former master. “Down, Tatters, down!” cried Farmer Wraggs but “croak, croak, croak” meant nothing to Tatters who kept on barking. The poor farmer became so frightened he jumped high into the air and landed in a bed of nettles.

As soon as Tatters went away the animals began to lecture Farmer Wraggs on his disgraceful behaviour. He was made to spend the day mending Timothy Tidmarsh’s broken china. He was also forced to darn Mr. Pricklewig’s coats and iron his waistcoats.  It didn’t take long for Farmer Wraggs to promise to mend his ways, and that was exactly what he did.  


M.M. Kaye, (born Aug. 21, 1908, Simla, India—died Jan. 29, 2004, Lavenham, Suffolk, Eng.), British writer and illustrator who captured life in India and Afghanistan during the Raj in her immensely popular novel The Far Pavilions (1978). The daughter of a British civil servant working in India, Kaye spent her early childhood there. She was sent to boarding school in England at age 10. After graduating from art school in England, she found work as an illustrator and soon began to write. She married a British army officer in 1945. Before achieving worldwide success with The Far Pavilions she wrote a number of children’s books (as Mollie Kaye), several detective and historical novels and three volumes of autobiography. [Encyclopaedia Britannica.]

M. M. Kaye dedication from Potter Pinner Meadow.

Margaret Mary Tempest, (May 15, 1892, Ipswich, Suffolk, Eng. – died 1982, Ipswich, Suffolk, Eng.),  British writer and illustrator attended Ipswich Art School and later moved to London to study at the Westminster School of art from which she graduated in the summer of 1914. She went on to the Royal Drawing School but was already planning the formation of a society of women illustrators with twenty other talented girls from the School of Art. Between 1919 and 1939 they put on annual exhibitions and ran a successful business, selling their work and producing commercial material including Christmas cards. She began illustrating Little Grey Rabbit books in 1929 and continued to do so into the 1960s, by which time 34 titles had appeared. [I’ve included images of all the Little Grey Rabbit books in three previous posts – here, here and here] Margaret also wrote and illustrated children's books of her own, with characters called Curley Cobbler and Pinkie Mouse. She illustrated books by M. M. Kaye, Rosalind Vallance, Elizabeth Laird, and many other authors. She also found time to design postcards for the Medici Galleries. Between the wars she lived in London during the week, and apart from her illustration work she taught drawing to the children of most of the aristocratic houses in London. In 1939 Margaret returned to the Ipswich area and  married her cousin, Sir Grimwood Mears, a former Chief of Justice in Allahabad, in 1951. Sir Grimwood died in 1963 at the age of 93. Margaret died in 1982 aged 90 and by then she had become afflicted with Parkinson's Disease and could no longer draw. [The Ipswich Society.]

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Around the world in forty two days.

The title of this post might be a slight exaggeration but Karen, Steven and the girls did travel from Australia to England via Dubai before visiting France then back for a whirlwind tour of England and a return trip to Australia all in the space of forty two days. I realise they didn't exactly go around the world, but they certainly crossed it a couple of times.

We have hundreds of photographs so choosing the ones to share is proving difficult, but I hope you enjoy this selection. If you would like to see more, please visit my previous post.

Paris - Karen, Zoe, Steven and Lilly

Lilly's pose was entirely spontaneous, but I wonder if the inspiration came from her favourite Disney film.

Queen Elsa starring in a Frozen Sing Along at Disneyland Paris. Notice anything familiar in the pose?  

 Zoe had difficulty remembering the name of the Eiffel Tower but pointing first at her eye and then her tummy (Eye Full!!) did the trick. 

These two photographs make me smile, I love the way Lilly is copying her daddy with a sad and happy face. 

Is it just me or does anyone else think Lilly looks a little like Audrey Hepburn?  
Lilly on the left Audrey Ruston (Hepburn) on the right

As Zoe gets taller, I get shorter!

From Paris, it was back to London.

Karen and I enjoy a glass of champagne as we walk around a Christmas market alongside the River Thames.

We stayed at a hotel close to the London Eye, but the girls were more impressed with the playground (London Eye in the background)
Steven and Lilly

Zoe having fun

Why are playgrounds made for big people when I'm only little?

London by night

Fortnum and Mason all decked out for Christmas

Back at home and Zoe is very excited to see 'Postman Pat’ pulling up outside. The girls are more used to seeing the postman arriving on a motorbike.

 An Australia Post Postie
(Flickr: Vanessa Pike-Russell via News)

On the move again…this time it’s off to a hotel in Basingstoke to join more of our family.

L to R;  My sister Sue with her husband Brian and daughter Jackie, me with our two grandsons Kip and Tris from our son's first marriage, Terry, Karen, Paula (my niece and Sue's daughter) holding Zoe, Steven, Jean and Fred (my husband's parents), Dave (Paula's husband) and Lilly in the front. 

Our two little granddaughters treated us all to a surprise performance - don't they look adorable in their tutus. 

Lilly on Christmas morning

Zoe with her half-brothers Kip and Tris, the boys returned to England from Australia a few years ago so this was an emotional reunion.

Zoe and Kip getting to know one another again.

Steven taking Nanny for a spin around the dance floor.

With the excitement of Christmas behind us it was time to return home. 
Now I understand why adult colouring books are so popular there is something very therapeutic about getting out the paints and crayons. I loved ‘colouring in’ with the girls and also enjoyed sticker books and magic painting, something I hadn't done since our grandsons were small.  

We were delighted to see this little chap while out walking.

We couldn't be with Zoe on her actual birthday, so we had an unbirthday birthday tea a few days before they returned to Australia. Happy fifth birthday Zoe. 

Love and happy smiles...

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