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Sunday, 21 December 2014

a bear is not just for christmas

Last year I wrote THREE posts in December and this year can barely (no pun intended) get ONE out but I have strapped myself to the chair and intend to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas.

 Because the girls are away this year I've been a bit lax on the christmas front. I think Beezle is a bit miffed he's not getting a stocking this year. Not even a small one. He thinks I'm not making an effort and has reminded me that he and William Blake think that the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

Above is the image I've sent out this year in the form of a christmas card - drawn by Chloe. Yes - I've gone digital - just as the world has probably gone back to pen and paper or even parchment.

There is a bear - Abel Dancer - in my book The Boy with the Tiger's Heart - and doing some research and visiting zoos etc. I've become fascinated with them.  My bear - was brought up by humans and the girl in the story was brought up by animals and part of their journey was getting used to being in the world in their natural form. Bears were used a lot for entertainment, (and sadly still are) - being gentle.compliant creatures.Abel Dancer was trained to be a dancing bear and to wrestle - his reward being a bottle of coca cola.
 I found this photograph in a book on the circus and probably am not allowed to re-produce it - but hey what are the chances of whoever took this reading my blog? By the way - The Boy with the Tiger's Heart has its own page on Facebook. check it out and like it if you can - I don't know why it's important to get lots of likes - perhaps there's a prize.
Beezle dreaming of the road of excess

Pocket says he's been hanging around the palace of wisdom for ages and its not as good as it's cracked up to be
 This year santa's going to be short of a reindeer. I passed my neighbour the other day carrying a plastic bag with a huge set of antlers in. I gather the head of the deer was still attached and it's true - he was carrying an axe. He'd found the deer dead in the woods and had thoughtfully covered the head up which I gather was not very pleasant to look at.  He'll make a coat rack from it no doubt. I've never seen him wear a hat.

When the girls were younger I used to harness Harry up on christmas eve and put some sleigh bells on the cart and go out. This year it'll be a ride on Trude who will not be wearing false antlers or red ribbons. 
 so - the last post of 2015 - and thank you dear readers for following the blog over the year. I hope next year will be full of excitement and huge book sales and film rights and .... and .........

Happy christmas.
The Truro Bear

by Mary Oliver

There's a bear in the Truro woods.
People have seen it - three or four,
or two or one. I think
of the thickness of the serious woods
around the dark bowls of the Truro ponds;
I think of the blueberry fields, the blackberry tangles,
the cranberry bogs. And the sky
with its new moon, its familiar star- trails,
burns down like a brand new heaven,
whilst everywhere I look on the scratchy hillsides
shadows seem to grow shoulders. Surely
a beast might be clever, be lucky, move quietly
through the woods for years, learning to stay away
from roads and houses. Common sense matters;
it can't be true, it must be somebody's
runaway dog.But the seed
has been planted, and when has happiness ever
required much evidence to begin
its leaf-green breathing?

Sunday, 16 November 2014

the grapes of wrath

We must have planted the vine at the back of the house twenty odd years ago and although it's produced fabulous leaves to stuff things in -  {dolmades - hah! as if I'd have the time or the talent)
this is the first time it's produced grapes, and I have to say - only this small bunch - that they were delicious. I can feel a Chateau Pixie coming up.

 I don't quite know why I'm posting up so many pictures of the ducks -perhaps its because they're the only animals actually doing anything. The others are all lolling around telling me that really, they'd been up ALL night guarding the house and protecting me from unwanted intruders.
Mr Walters deciding what he really wants is a proper swim but has got stuck in the bucket

now they've decided to come in and have a snoop around the house. Pixie lolling under a table and not bothering to raise a head

Now doing proper duck things like searching for worms and admiring the planting scheme.

Went to a wonderful book festival in Wimbourne the other day - they had a 'Nature Day" with a fantastic line up of writers. I never thought that dragonflies could be so interesting.

One of the writers - Jim Crumley - talked about the introduction of sea eagles into Scotland. This was particularly interesting to me as I've featured a couple of them in the book I'm working on at the moment. He said that although introduced to the East coast of Scotland they were migrating to the West Coast. Perhaps, he thought, because Norway, where they have come from, doesn't have an East Coast.

Jim has written many books and apart from his book on eagles has written about the last wolf in Scotland, killed by a huntsman in 1743. The result, as we know, has been a drastic change in the eco system, throwing the balance of nature to the wind. A barren, treeless landscape has arisen due to the huge amount of deer destroying the landscape.

There is talk of re-introducing the wolf which has had fantastic results in other countries, restoring that balance to include the return of other animals, the course of rivers, the re-growth of plants and trees.

The wolf has been the victim of black propaganda - in folk tales particularly -as a slayer of babies, devourers of the dead. But in reality no one has been killed by a wolf.

Pixie obviously has her own reasons for wanting them re-introduced - after all - as a wolf hound - her ancestors used to hunt them - but we'd all benefit from their re-introduction.

Sign anything that would bring them back.
Pocket - too small to hunt a wolf is stalking a poor mouse who has hidden under the cupboard.

Beezle, feeling a little hemmed in by Pocket and wondering when that walk is going to happen. But as he and Rainer Maria Rilke would say - "The only journey is the one within."

Some Questions You Might ask

by Mary Oliver

Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak o an owl?
Who has it. and who doesn’t?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black near carries leaves into darkness.
One question leads o another.
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eyes of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it, and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it, and not the camel?
Come to think of it, what about the maple tree?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting along in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?

Saturday, 25 October 2014

empty nest

oh errant blogger that I am. A good month must have passed since I wrote my last "very interesting blog" {quote from some website re these blogs.} Ha!
The reason could well be Empty Nest Syndrome.
photo of an empty nest by courtesy of my friend Keggie
 Yes the girls have gone - one in India right now one somewhere in Malaysia - one not to be seen for a year and a half the other till next summer. I hope she comes back with the swallows. Good job these chaps can keep an eye on me


The philosopher Beezle - dwelling on a Rilke quote

Pixie - more ears out than eyes - for the sound of that scrap hitting the dog bowl

oh and Pocket who is clearly NOT keeping an eye out for me.

Still there are advantages - a tidier house, food when wanted and only a small pile of washing.

 Did a book signing for The boy with the tiger's Heart last week - a daunting project sitting in the middle of a large bookshop at a table so small it looks as if it were only made to hold a dry martini. You sit there hoping you can become a bookshelf. Fortunately various friends kindly came and brought me provisions - coffee(thank you Kate) sweets (thank you Matt) an energy bar (thank you Jimmy) and comfort and laughs (thank you everyone else.}
An old man stood for a while by the table and I asked him if he'd like to buy the book.
"No!" he said firmly.
After a while he asked what it was about and I told him it was about the wild and Health and Safety which I told him I abhorred.
"Me too!" he replied. We struck up a lengthy discussion on the vicissitudes of health and safety. then he picked up the book and said
"Can you make it out to Bill?"

A poem by Erin Hanson  by courtesy of my friend Dave

There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask "What if I fall?"
Oh but my darling,
what if you fly?

Sunday, 21 September 2014

thistles and Thisbe

The swallows and the house martins have gone - so I guess that's official - Summer is over. As Beezle and Bob Dylan would say "The times - they are a 'changin"
Trude looking out for the house martins

About a day after they had gone I noticed a lone house martin flying over the hedge - how awful to think he or she might have been left behind. What on earth will it do? Having to negotiate that trip to Africa all on its own. Hope it knows how to avoid flying over Malta. It reminded me of a cartoon I'd seen years ago of a swallow and a sparrow sitting on a fence chatting. The swallow's speech bubble had a map of Africa and the ocean with its route marked in dotted lines. The sparrow had a map of next door's garden.

And my swallows are getting ready to fly the nest too. The visas have arrived, the back packs packed, the first aid kits bought and I'm staring at a packet of malaria tablets as I write this post.

 One of the good things in the change of season is that the rutting season for ducks seems to be over so that I can walk out in the garden without having the back of my legs pecked at. And thinking of things rutting - the stalkers from Belgium have arrived for the deer cull. This means we have to avoid the woods at dawn and dusk to stay clear of the stray bullets. I might invest in a bullet proof vest and throw caution to the wind. Or go out with my antler hat on just to confuse everyone.

But the sweet furry things haven't started hibernating yet and are still ending up on the landing or inside Pocket's stomach.

 The leaves are still hanging on but the fruit is dropping from the mulberry trees. (ref Thisbe) The thistles have changed colour too. There are thousands of seeds on this Onopordum and with any luck in two years I'll have a forest of them.  Trude finds thistles frightening. Perhaps they don't have them in Holland which is where she comes from. You can tell she comes from Holland because she likes to walk on the right hand side of the road.
Meanwhile I love this poem by Ted Hughes

Thistles by Ted Hughes

Against the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing hands of men
Thistles spike the summer air
And crackle open under a blue-black pressure.

Every one a revengeful burst
Of resurrection, a grasphed fistful
Of splintered weapons and Icelandic frost thrust up

From the underground stain of a decayed Viking.
They are like pale hair and the gutturals of dialects.
Every one manages a plume of blood.

Then they grow grey like men.
Mown down, it is a feud. Their sons appear
Stiff with weapons, fighting back over the same ground.

Friday, 5 September 2014

tiger biscuits and feathers

It's been a week since the launch of The Boy with the Tiger's Heart so I thought it was about time I reported back. We had a great party, sold the books, drank some wine and ate - the highlight of the evening - some Tiger biscuits.

 Below are some of them - we made about a hundred I think - and are still chewing our way through them though admittedly they are a little stale by now.  So,  Dear Readers, I hope you have all gone out and bought a copy of the book to boost sales which will mean my publishers will want to publish another story which I do have, waiting in the wings, about a mysterious black horse, a girl and a strange cat.
 And at last - a picture of the ducklings - now , as you can see, teenagers with brand new feathers and you can see the two of them that have their Rococo wigs on.
 Like their baby feathers, some of the leaves are beginning to fall. Here are the remnants of one of my client's garden - still looking good but with a definite air of autumn in the seed pods and dried flower heads.
 A season when the late flowering anemones are out and the odd rose, trying to fit in an extra bloom or two before the frost hits them. (Why do the anemones in my garden insist on coming up pink when what I really want is Anemone Honorine Jobert - a beautiful simple white one. Perhaps because I'm so busy putting it in to other people's gardens I forget I don't actually have any myself.}

 Soon, like the swallows, my girls will be off on their travels. One of them, I hope, will return with the swallows in the summer - the other will be gone for a year. She has been working to raise some money and painting. Here is a beautiful picture she has done of whales and one of a feather.
 You can see her work on

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Tigers and Dog Houses

 Roaaaaaaar! It's here! The Boy with the Tiger's Heart will be available on Thursday 28th August from a book shop near you or a click on the mouse. Eeeeeek.
 I'm still mad about the cover - by such a talented designer Levente Szabo who I've never met but am completely in love with. The cover he has done for the next book- The Dog, Ray is stunning too - and when the time is right I'll post that pic up too. Beezle is most pleased as you'll see(when the time is right) that there is not a dissimilar likeness.
 Pixie is identifying with the Bear in the story and Pocket (quarter Bengal) ---- well you can imagine who he thinks he is.

We are holding out for an Indian summer but have had to light the wood burner now as it's cold in the
house though I still can't bring myself to put in some double glazing. We have mostly metal windows with thin, greenhouse glass, which makes everything condensate. Double glazing seems such un unromantic thing to spend your pennies on. In fact I can't believe I'm even writing about double glazing.
 I expect it's because I've no pics of the funny ducklings to put up in spite of the fact they are looking very funny. I tried to repair the duck house that the badger/fox/pine marten had pushed into but the whole thing collapsed, even though I'd tried to tie it up with baling string. Everyone I asked who was any good with a hammer and nails rolled their eyes when I showed it to them, so in the end I bought a dog house. It's actually really good now someone has put a proper door on it and punched  few holes in it. Actually it's very smart but why would you want to keep a dog in a kennel? It seems cruel. When the girl in the shop asked me if I had a new dog I had to supress a scowl and barked "NO! It's for ducks."

My publisher - Hot Key Books have asked me to write a blog for them about The Boy with the Tiger's Heart. Which I've done for their website but here it is for this one.
Hot Key have asked me to write a blog about The Boy with the Tiger’s Heart. When I write my own blog I rely heavily on pictures of fluffy chicks and the antics of the many furred and feathered creatures I live with.

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I write about my constant battle with dust and fluff, the minutiae of everyday living in a small house within a vast landscape. On the computer screen, the writing of The Boy with the Tiger’s Heart felt a bit like that. You write a sentence and its whole future opens up like the very landscape that lies beyond the window.

The story originally followed a different path – a path I wasn’t sure led anywhere. It had the girl in it and the Bear but the boy with the tiger’s heart hadn’t been there to start with.  I was trying out other avenues in between distracting myself by going onto Google for a ‘bit of research’ and finding I’d bought half a dozen duck eggs off  E Bay  and some thermal socks.
Then one day I had  a  Mary Shelley moment. I was imagining a creature like Frankenstein but made up of animal parts and suddenly the boy with the tiger’s heart was born.
The book was always going to be about the wild – the loss of freedom and the craziness of Health and Safety. The world we live in now has Father Christmas’s in hi viz jackets, children being banned from wearing frilly socks to school in case they trip over them and the death of spontaneity.

The initial inspiration for the story came from reading the news about a man in America who kept a huge collection of exotic and endangered animals. One day he set them all free and took his own life. The result was that the police killed every single animal.  There are more tigers kept in captivity, especially in the States than there are in the wild. In researching tigers I have learnt a lot about conservation issues and the sickening demise of these beautiful creatures due to poaching and the destruction of their habitat. What better force to have in writing a book!
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