Courtyard Garden : Quince-essential

Jan Edwards

DSCN1204A few weeks ago we called in a professional to 20181104_123530prune the vastly overgrown holly and prunus that were running amok at the front of the house. (Picture taken early this year – the lawn beneath the tree died in the summer heat and has not yet recovered)

20181104_121438The corner was an impenetrable thicket that was also home to a vast variegated ivy and though good cover for birds was causing damage. (It had already pulled down a brick pillar! illo)

20181104_121433 (1)There is also a wasp nest at the base of the prunus  which is why I am holding back from full scale works. Waiting for those Jaspers to vanish for the winter!

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City of Secrets (Adventures of Letty Parker) by Misha Herwin @MishaHerwin #BookReview @penkhullpress

A lovely review from Kerry. Thank you.

Chat About Books

City Of Secrets cover

I know I don’t often read and review children’s books, but I was intrigued by City of Secrets and it has been a breath of fresh air to read something a bit different for a change. I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed it! It is aimed at 9-12 year olds and I’m ever so slightly older than that, but I think this will be enjoyed by many children and adults alike. If you have children around this age then I am sure they will love it. Or why not enjoy it together. I think it would be great read aloud. It is beautifully descriptive with an array of interesting characters and an intriguing storyline. I’m sure you’d find it as captivating as I have.

Letty Parker is a feisty little character! She lives alone, selling pies on the streets of Bristol for a living. Bristol is portrayed as…

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#Friday Favourites: War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell

War of the WolfUhtred of Bebbenburg has won back his ancestral home but, threatened from all sides by enemies both old and new, he doesn’t have time to enjoy the victory.

“War of the Wolf” tells is the latest in the latest book in the Uhtred saga. By now Uhtred in his sixties but he is still a warrior, a leader of men with a fearsome reputation and a fiercely pagan faith. At a time when being a Christian was equated with being a loyal subject of the king, Uhtred’s refusal to convert makes him an object of suspicion. His own view of Christianity is highly sceptical. He sees the priests and bishops as corrupt, refusing to acknowledge the power of any other god and determined to bring everyone to their way of thinking whatever the cost.

Uhtred himself is far more tolerant. The men who fight for him worship a dozen gods and goddesses, the Christian god among them ‘but if a man believes the nonsense that there is only one god, the there’s no point in arguing, because it would be like discussing a rainbow with a blind man.’ His own belief, though he is careful when threatened to touch the symbol of Thor’s hammer he wears as an amulet, is that destiny is all. Man can try to cheat his fate but in the end he has no choice but to succumb.

This does not mean that he cannot fight and the novel is full of action. The sounds and smells of battle are vividly described. Although successful leader Uhtred never denies his fear at the onset of battle, or his sorrow at losing his men. His care for his people and especially his view of women is what makes him a rounded character. Uhtred may not be faithful to his wife, but he likes and respects women. Any man who commits violence against a woman, in a time when it was accepted as a norm, is punished.

Women, in general, played a minor part in Anglo-Saxon society, unless they were queens but Bernard Cornwell’s female characters are well drawn and convincing and one of the reasons why I enjoy his books.

Also fascinating is the depiction of an England on the cusp of being a united country − a place where the old religions and customs are giving way to the new.

I studied this period of history for A level and have always thought that the description of the period between the departure of the Romans and the Battle of Hastings as ‘The Dark Ages’ was highly inaccurate and the story of Uhtred confirms my opinion. Bernard Cornwell’s books show how just how complex and fascinating the ‘Dark Ages’ really were. They are also a great read for any lover of historical fiction.

Claire Baldry

When Claire Met Amber

This is me, Claire Baldry, as drawn by twenty-four year old Amber Gee. Amber has created all the illustrations for my latest poetry book ‘Simply Modern Life’.

Claire meets Amber Pic1


This is Amber, at the age of three. Amber is a very private person, and this was the only photo she was prepared to give me.


So what can I tell you about Amber?

Diagnosed with Specific Learning Difficulties, Amber describes herself as ‘easily distracted with poor organisational skills’. I would only partially agree with that description. It is very much to Amber’s credit that two years ago she achieved an upper second degree in English literature. I admire her passionate belief in world justice, and her mature, wry sense of humour. Amber is also an extremely talented artist. Below is one of the many brilliant drawings which she created especially for my book.


Mob for Misha

And this is how we met……

I had already four published booklets of poetry. They were accompanied by beautiful photographs taken by a friend of mine. However, when I looked at the selection of poems I wanted to include in my latest booklet, I decided that photographs wouldn’t really fit. The poems were about the quirkiness of life today, and they needed something with a bit more humour. I went onto facebook, and asked for recommendations or offers from anyone who could create some cartoon style line drawings for me. The response was overwhelming. I had no idea who I would choose. Then the phone rang. It was an unexpected call from Will who works at a great family run bistro just up the road from us. It’s called Wickham Bistro, and well worth a visit if you happen to be in the Bexhill area.

Will said “I hear you are looking for an illustrator. You might want to talk to my girlfriend. Her name is Amber.”

I asked Will if Amber could email me a couple of samples of her work. When the pictures arrived, they were part of an exhibition about Dispraxia to which Amber had contributed. She had created a series of little gremlins which kept getting in the way. I loved the pictures and felt very optimistic. I was also pre-disposed towards working with someone younger and hopefully not too set in her ways. I sent Amber my poem ‘Beware of the Trolls’ and within days the drawing below arrived in my inbox.

Trolls for Misha (1)



I was totally captivated.


There followed a series of meetings, usually at Wickham Bistro. I gave Amber my poems and she slowly delivered her incredible drawings. I had no idea what she would produce, but each one seemed to lift my poems off the page and give them extra layers of meaning. She paid attention to detail, even asking for photos of my grandchildren so she could put their faces in a frame on the wall. I took her to one of my poetry performances, and she sketched some of the audience. People who know me well will spot other personal touches within the illustrations. We never fell out, though the journey was occasionally bumpy. By this time Amber was working full-time, and I had deadlines to meet.

When the booklet finally arrived, everyone admired the illustrations. They are an integral part of the publication.

For now, I am the writer, and Amber is the illustrator, but I think one day the emphasis might change. People might see one of Amber’s drawings and recognise her style. I imagine them saying “That must be by Amber Gee. Didn’t she start her career as an artist illustrating a work by an unknown poet?”

Courtyard Garden : Autumn Figs #gardening #courtyardgarden #figs #fruittrees

Jan Edwards

20181015_135702Today, once the rain had stopped, I decided that now autumn is truly here, and most of the leaves have dropped from my fig tree,  it was time to remove the unripened figs.

Despite common myth figs are surprisingly easy to grow in this country. All they need is a sheltered spot, preferably against a south facing wall of fence, and they can produce a surprisingly large crop.

This year we had something like 40 ripe figs from this one small tree. I have grown mine in a  pot as figs tend to fruit more when their roots are restricted. Feed it well come the spring and with luck we shall get another good crop next season. Books will tell you to wrap fleece around them during hard winters, but I have had this tree for 12 years, through 2 house moves in the North Midlands, and never had to do…

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