What do you do with old photographs?

Little Manchester Snow

The year we got snowed in for three days

Time after time, when people are asked what they would save from a house fire, they say their family photos. Which, when you consider how rarely we look at them, seems odd. And yet in another way this makes perfect sense.

Those photos are more than pictures. They are memories. Mostly happy ones too. The bad times are rarely, if ever captured on film.

They remind us of who we were, what we looked like and what we did. And they make us smile.

Little Manchester Family pic

Family portrait. Just look at the hair!

They also link the generations. The grandchildren can see what parents and grandparents looked like when they were young and get a glimpse of what life was like back there in the dark ages.

I’ve spent the afternoon clearing out a box of old photographs. They are now sorted into categories and ready to be put into albums. An old fashioned way of storing them, but what else do you do?

Some I’ve scanned and will save on my hard drive, others might be put into frames, but there is not enough space on the shelves for most and those in my pictures folder won’t get looked at very often.

So there they will be, volumes and volumes, from when I was a baby onwards. There are pictures of the holidays we had, houses we lived in and animals we owned, or in the case of the cats, deigned to share our home.

It’s a visual record of my life and of my children’s child and young adulthood.

Little Manchester pumpkin

Getting ready for Halloween

And one or two which are actually quite good photographs in their own right.

 

 

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#Friday Favourites: The Riddle-Master’s Game by Patricia A McKillip

The Riddle-Master's GameMy choice this week is by an author who is new to me. To my shame I’d never heard of Patricia A. McKillip, nor of her trilogy “The Riddle-Master’s Game.”

The first of the three books “The Riddle Master of Hed” was published in 1976 and the other two novels “Heir of Sea and Fire” and “Harpist in the Wind”, followed in 1977 and 1979. I, however, read all three in the same volume and what a treat that was.

The writing is beautiful; both vivid and poetic, it creates a totally believable world, where magic exists in parallel to mundane daily life, cattle are milked, pigs herded and shape changed, by those who have the power.

With a rich layer of myth and legend, which harks back to Celtic origins the novels explore the truth of things, the importance of knowing who you are and following your destiny. Hence the part that riddles play in the plot, because riddle can conceal and reveal meaning and decoding them is a gift which brings with it unknown dangers.

To question, is to upset the balance of things, but Morgon, Prince of Hed, is a riddle master and cannot help but seek to find the truth, even though it leads him where he does not want to go.

The Princess Raederle is also in conflict with what she knows and what she fears. The two are destined to be together. There is a prophecy that they will marry, but how and when is far from clear.

The first book follows Morgon’s story, the second Raederle’s and they come together in the last volume, where they face far more fundamental questions about the nature and very existence of the High One on whom the survival of the world appears to rely.

I love this mix of seriousness with domestic scenes and the mysterious beauty of the white vesta and the depiction of the court of the wolf king where wild animals come to shelter from the winter.

What also appeals are the strong women characters, Raederle herself and Morgon’s

The Pleasure of Small Things

 

Acer in pot

I’m in the middle of a big project. My new novel “Shadows on the Grass” is going through its final edit and I’m writing a spin off story about some of the characters, who make a brief appearance in the book.

The story is only in first draft and though I’m enjoying writing it, there is also the sensation that nothing is finished, which is quite frustrating. It’s as if, in spite of all the hours I’ve spent on my computer, nothing has been achieved.

Frustration leads of a feeling of pointlessness and my way of dealing with this is to concentrate on the small things in life that give me pleasure.

White geraniumThe white geranium, on the bathroom, windowsill, that has blossomed unexpectedly, the show of periwinkleperiwinkle

 

that shines against the dark green of its leaves, a hot cup of tea, kicking through fallen leaves, the burst of colour from an acer, a glass of wine and so much more.

Writing down five good things that have happened during the day helps too. My “Good Things Book” is another of my pleasures.Feel good book A Laura Ashley Notebook, I love the texture of the paper, the print and feel of the colour.

Even writing about my small pleasures makes me smile. “Shadows on the Grass” is on its way, but while I’m waiting, I’ll keep noting down all the good stuff.

Friday Favourites: Fables and Fabrications by Jan Edwards

Fables and Fabrications

I love spooky stories, the shiver that slides up my back at any hint of the supernatural, the feeling of unease that lingers long after the film is over, or the book has been closed. Given the popularity of the genre, I know I am not alone, but it sometimes hard to find a good anthology of ghost/weird tales, which is why “Fables and Fabrications” by Jan Edwards, is one my favourite collections.

Jan is a subtle writer. No sudden shock horror in her books, just a gradual built up of tension that leads, inevitably, to an ending that might surprise, but which always feels right. Her stories often have an undertone of myth or legend that add depth to the narrative. Norse, in the case of “Grey Magic for Cat Lovers,” Classical, for “Mayday Come Askew,” and Celtic in “Winter Eve.”

My favourite story in the collection, however, references Eastern Mythology. “Pet Therapy” is truly chilling. It deals with death and sprits who steal souls and is one of those stories that, even having read it a number of times, I still wish, for the sake of the main character, had ended differently.

But then, if it had, it would not have been included in this collection.

If you want a good read for October, “Fables and Fabrications” is on special offer on Amazon. To get it while you can, click here

October 9th…

Tim Diggles

More photographs from walking Oskar round the big wet edgeland. The ‘pond’ is filling up as autumn moves on making some of the walk very wet. I took these photographs on a second-hand Canon PowerShot SX150 which I got for people to use on the Photo Collective’s Photowalks (one is coming up on the 18th October). It only takes jpeg and was making sure it worked ok, it was only £35 and a good little camera for walking around. I forgot to change the speed for the shot of Oskar at maximum zoom, but the effect is ‘interesting’ and very much how I see him as I saunter round and he goes chasing around and rolling in mud (and nastier stuff!).

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Don’t look back: A Story for Halloween

As we are now into the season of ghosts, ghouls and other supernatural matters, I am posting the occasionally spooky story.

Enjoy.

Traveller in Time

spooky_church____by_koekiemonster[1]

She was late. She should have been home an hour ago. He’d be checking his phone; getting angry, worried. Would he worry? She wasn’t sure.

If only she could let him know, she was almost there. But she couldn’t stop. Not here, not in this patch of woodland.

The headlights bored through the darkness, picking out the slender spire of Chetwynd Church above the trees. One more corner and she’d be on the main road and she could use her mobile.

Don’t look back. Keep your eyes on the road. Gripping the wheel she stared rigidly in front of her. Oncoming lights dazzled. Instinctively she glanced at her mirror.

And saw a face that wasn’t hers. Dark haunted eyes. A woman in a white dress.

It’s only a story. It isn’t true. A trick of the light. Foot on the brake, junction coming up, she risked another look.

Nothing. She’d…

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#Friday Favourites: The Lost Words

Lost Words

This is one of the most beautiful and magical books I have seen. Working from the premise that children, in our increasingly urbanised, society are losing the words for birds and plants, Robert Macfarlane has conjured up a book of spells to find and restore the lost words.

Although he says that he is not a poet, the language is lyrical and compelling. My favourite being the song of the Willow which is both mesmerising and sinister. The writer asks,

“Willow, when the wind blows so your branches billow

O will you whisper while we listen so we learn what

Words your long leaves loosen?”

The Willow however, replies

“You will never know a word of willow for we are willow

And you are not.”

Nature may be beautiful but it has and will keep its secrets.

Illustrated on the next page, the darkness of the trees, the uneasy sky, all add depth to the perception of willows as trees linked with sadness and death.

Powerful as the words are, they are only part of the whole. Integral to the book are the illustrations, by Jackie Morris. Spaces where there should be pictures underline the theme of lost, letters are scattered through the pages to be followed by a glorious illustration of what has been found and restored.

The paintings alone are wondrous and together with the text create a book to keep and hand down through the generations.

My own copy has already acquired its own history. Visiting Bristol yesterday, I mentioned the book to my daughter. We then went to collect my granddaughter from school and Maddy came out clutching a copy of “The Lost Words” which she had brought for “show and tell.” Her mum hadn’t realised it was the book I had been talking about, which my son had sent her as a present for the whole family, but which had been annexed by Maddy, who is, of course the target audience.

Coming home, there was a large parcel from Amazon waiting for me in the hall. I knew I hadn’t sent off for anything recently and anonymous post is often a present from my bibliophile son. And yes, inside was my own copy of “The Lost Words.”

As well as the book, there will be an exhibition of the original paintings, so catch this if you can, at Compton Verney.

“The Lost Words Exhibition opens Saturday 21 October 2017

This enchanting exhibition combines the creative talents of writer Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris to celebrate the relationship between language and the living world, and nature’s power to spark imagination.

Featuring a series of immersive floor to ceiling graphics, family interpretation areas and recordings of Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris reading the poems, The Lost Words experience continues beyond the gallery as visitors are invited to explore the words and themes of the exhibition via an interactive discovery trail through the grounds.

“I want The Lost Words to delight the mind and the eye and send children to sleep dreaming of wild things.” Jackie Morris

The Lost Words is curated by Compton Verney, with Hamish Hamilton and Penguin Books.”

And a final reason to buy the book, if you need one, is that part of the royalties will go to Action for Conservation a charity dedicated to inspire young people to action for the natural world and the next generation of conservations.

www.actionforconservation.org.

So, to sum up, a beautiful book, a great exhibition, and helping to save and protect our environment.

Enjoy.

With many thanks to David Miller.