Wednesday, 28 June 2017


I've always been a fidget. A wriggler, a hair-twister. I can't sit in a meeting without a notebook in front of me. It's supposed to be for making notes, but by twenty minutes in I'm drawing flowers and little houses. I can't sit in front of the television without something to knit, sew, cut out, or puzzle at. Other people sit quietly in the garden with a drink. I have to pull out the weeds and pinch the dead heads off the pansies.

I also fidget write. I have to have some little piece of work going on, if only to play with. At present I'm in the rare position of doing one book at a time, which rarely happens. And my one book is at the stage where I have to leave it to get cold before I can go back, re-read and revise. I'm twitching for some fidget writing.

Maybe a picture book text. What hasn't been done? What would I like to do? A penguin story? A polar bear? An elephant?

A re-telling of a fairy tale? Or a legend?

Something that's never been done before? So what would that be?

Whatever I might come up with, I will never, ever, write anything so incomparably perfect and lovely as Paddington Bear. Thank you, Michael Bond, who died today at the age of 91, for giving us Paddington. The world of children's books just now looks for excitement, danger, adventure, thrills, pace. Perhaps we're all missing something. We're missing the fact that generations of readers have warmed to the stories of a gentle and sensible bear who doesn't storm about, do anything stupidly dangerous, or even fidget. He gets on with things, speaks politely, and raises his hat, and the world is better for him.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

To explain

It's been quiet at The House of Stories lately, so I thought nobody was calling any more. But a few visiting cards have dropped through the door, so perhaps I should catch up and explain what's been going on. Writery things are going on, but nothing that's at the discussable stage yet.

My sister is home! A senior nurse at the hospital said she'd never seen a recovery like it! She is still using a frame to walk and taking a lot of painkillers, but she will get there. The cat was standoffish for a few hours then said, 'oh, go on then,' and curled up on her mummy's very comfortable bed.

Over the month or so when I was in and out of care homes and hospitals, the garden thought I'd moved out. But I'm giving it all the t and c I can now, and the roses are so happy I can see them dancing about and giggling when they think I'm not looking. I've just thinned out the cornflowers because Much couldn't see a thing, and now he's chatting away to a wild rabbit who comes in now and again and eats the dandelions. We'll have gooseberries soon. The blackcurrants haven't done a thing, but fortunately next door's are growing through the fence.

And for all of you Over The Pond who are dying to know about what's really happening over here, let me explain about (1) The General Election and (2) The Archers.

The Prime Minister said she wasn't going to call a General Election, and called a General Election. Everyone said that Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, was unelectable, largely because he was an old-fashioned leftie who cares about people, grows things on an allotment, and makes jam. It turns out that people, especially young people, like old-fashioned lefties who care about them. And jam. Anyway, Jeremy Corbyn did brilliantly well, won a lot of seats, and lost, except, in another sense, he kind of won. The PM lost a lot of seats and won, but no longer has enough seats to ride roughshod over the rest of the country and is frantically swapping marbles in the playground with any party who will prop her up. She has not yet approached the Monster Raving Newport Pagnell Liberation Front, but give her time.

Proportionately, Labour won and the Liberal Democrats did really well, but we don't do proportionate. So that's all clear and simple, then. And countries all over Europe are weeping with laughter and holding each other up.

And the thing you really want to know about - Justin Elliot wants to buy some land from Tony Archer to build houses. No, Susan, not a multi-storey mega pig rearing unit, houses. Freddie Pargeter bunked off an exam to go to a music festival with Johnnie and came home with a dodgy looking tattoo and a big smile. His mum Elizabeth is livid, and will probably shove him into an ancestral cannon and fire him into the middle of next week. Toby and Pip have split up. James and Leonie, who between them are wetter than a swimming pool in the monsoon season, had a very public hissy spat and stalked off in opposite directions, so Lillian and Linda are having a mud-slinging match. All's well in dear old rural England, my merry morris dancers.