Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Slaves to two gardens (2)

...on our return to England I found my azaleas and rhododendrons (in pots here because of the chalky natural soil)  out in colourful splendour, and perhaps best of all a wistaria also in flower along the wall of the garage. This plant was taken some years ago as a cutting from an enormous wistaria that adorned the back wall of my late parents' house. There are new owners there now and they may well have chopped the wistaria down - it demanded considerable maintenance. But happily it lives on.

Slaves to two gardens

We left our garden in France neatly mowed (well, neatly-ish), weeded, and strimmed, the second fallen tree chopped up for firewood, and a huge mound of garden stuff burnt on a bonfire. Many of the azaleas and rhododendrons were in flower, as were red hot pokers, the flowering crab, irises and lilac.

We even had one wild orchid, which we carefully avoided when mowing.

But then we had to leave it, knowing that when we get back nature will have made great inroads into our efforts. But on our return to England I had a pleasant surprise...

Domestic harmony?

For those readers who are interested in wildlife, here's an update on the residents of our water-meter pit in France, at the top of our long garden under a concrete slab. I first discovered the fire salamanders some time ago, but since then they have multiplied. It seems that the first called to the second, of the opposite gender, and between them they produced a third. They coexist without apparent discord (or at least without eating each other), with two toads. Here two of the salamanders and the two toads were photographed piled on top of the water meter, and on top of each other.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

An Iron Yoke is launched

I didn't count heads - too busy!- but I believe 50 or 60 people came to help celebrate the launch of An Iron Yoke. We had a great evening, pink fizzy and other good things were consumed, and I sold all the copies I had, as well as a few of my older books.I felt immensely blessed by the support and loyalty of such good friends.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016


I'm very pleased to announce the arrival of my novel no. 5, An Iron Yoke. Here's the cover:

It's in a similar genre to my others - realistic British Christian fiction. But this one departs a bit from what I have done before, as it has a murder in it. I say no more.  It's already out there, available on Amazon, and garnering reviews. 
I like to think my work is realistic, contemporary, with recognisable and believable characters and riveting plots. What it doesn't have is on-page sex, violence or swearing. I leave these things to the imagination of my readers. Less is more.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Mothering Sunday

One of my favourite photos of my mum, taken at her 95th birthday party a few weeks before she died: wonderfully typical, almost spilling her tea and cake, but with a beaming smile.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The saga of the owls: the final chapter...possibly

The roof is done on our house in France, and all that remained was to cap the chimney - open for four years because of the resident owl, who this year raised two offspring in a bedroom fireplace. All this, as well as our efforts to provide the owl with an alternative nesting-place, has been reported in previous posts on this blog. We counted it a success that the two young ones grew and thrived and eventually left their unusual home and flew away to find their own hunting-ranges. There remained the problem of the adult owl. The open chimney meant that rain water came in, and we wanted to avoid another year of hosting nestlings, when there are so many other places to live and breed undisturbed in our ramshackle outbuildings. So we asked our builders to find some time to come and close the chimney off, and we provided ourselves with long rods to persuade the owl (gently) to depart.
One young man arrived with new chimney-pots and buckets of cement, and up two ladders he went, scaling our steeply-pitched roof and leaning precariously across our very high chimney, many feet from the ground. He flashed our torch down into the darkness, and reported that the owl was in residence. But the rods proved useless - the owl retreated down the other side of the chimney (the side where our own fire is) and was lost to view.
What to do? The last thing I wanted was to incarcerate the owl. But I also had no wish to lose this precious opportunity (our builder's a busy chap.) So we formulated a plan, took a deep breath, and told the young man to go ahead - having established that there was a big enough space at the top of the chimney's inner dividing wall for the owl to escape.
It was a fine, sunny, unseasonably warm November afternoon. The young man had the job done in a couple of hours while the light lasted. Where was the owl meanwhile? Had he flown away while we weren't looking? Or was he lurking inside the now-dark chimney, wondering what the heck was going on?
As it started to get dark that evening, about six o'clock, I took the cover off the bedroom fireplace and opened the window. Then I planted myself on a rather uncomfortable tree-stump a short distance up the garden, and as the light faded fixed my eyes on the dimming rectangle of the open bedroom window. Would the owl take his chance?
We have a colony of bats in one of our our outbuildings, and one by one they started to circle round. Our experience over the summer led me to expect that the owl would soon be hunting. I waited. I heard some tiny scratching sounds, but I wasn't absolutely sure where they were coming from. By this time it was almost dark. I could barely see the window, and the house was a grey smudge against the sky.
I didn't see him emerge, but suddenly, there he was - flying over my head, silhouetted against the darkening sky, unmistakable on those great silent wings, up over the garden and away towards the maize fields : homeless, but free.
Even though we have evicted him from the house, I hope he comes back -
perhaps to roost somewhere in our outbuildings, or even to raise young in the nest box under the eaves of the old bread-oven. But that's probably a story, if at all, for another year.