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‘Come cuddle close in daddy’s coat Beside the fire so bright, And hear about the fairy folk That wander in the night.’ Robert Bird.

Earlier this week I was at the park with the girls and had let them off their leads for a while so they could go exploring.  While they were pottering happily about I stood in a sunny patch of late afternoon sun, looking at the water, not thinking much about anything, until I gradually became aware that someone was standing in front of me, laughing and waving their hands in front of my face.  “Sorry,”  I said, “I didn’t see you there.  I was away with the fairies . . . ”

This is an expression I have long used when (rudely) brought back to reality from some internal mental wandering.  I am not sure when I first heard the phrase or even when I started saying it myself, and I am also sure I never thought much about where the saying came from either—until I recently came across a book which gave me a whole new insight into the mythology, and superstition, of fairies.

fairy1Fairies have never really been on my radar.  I have always loved fantasy books and films but even as a young girl (when young girls are supposed to like these things) I don’t remember being particularly fond of fairies. At least not the type that were around when I was growing up. Those fairies were all delicate gossamer wings and flowers in their hair and danced about mushrooms at the bottom of your garden.  Not really my thing.  (I prefer my fantasy Middle Earth style—with warrior elves and dragons and goblins.  I am a LOTR tragic and make no apologies for it . . . )

But then I read ‘The Good People‘  by Hannah Kent.  This book, based on a true story from 19th century Ireland, tells of three women, a disabled child and a village steeped in folklore and superstition. The fairies (‘the good people’) of this story were as unlike J.M. Barrie’s ‘Tinkerbell’ as anyone could imagine.  They were respected, revered—and feared.  The local villagers believed, beyond doubt, about a nether world populated by all manner of other-worldly creatures, and fairy abduction—the snatching of a healthy infant from its cradle and leaving a ‘changeling’ in its place—was a thing to be feared and protected against at all costs.  Those poor stolen babies were remembered by their kin as being ‘away with the fairies’ . . .

It’s fascinating stuff, and the book is a step back to a time and place few of us can now imagine.  So, if you are looking for a good read—a serious, haunting, bleak, compelling read—this might be well worth your time.

But be warned—you may never think of ‘faerie folk’ the same way again.  I shall certainly think twice about describing myself as sometimes being ‘away with the fairies’.

I now find myself a little more anxious now about what I might meet on the other side . . .

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.’ Brad Paisley.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I like this idea—that every day we are all writing another page of our very own book (although we are three days into this new year already and my own book is looking pretty empty so far.  I might have to get off my bum and do something about that . . . )

What kind of book will you write for yourself this year?

A drama?  A comedy?  A romance?  An adventure?  All of the above?   . . .

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Posted by on January 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.’ (Groucho Marx)

I have always loved books.  As a child I don’t remember spending a lot of time playing with dolls or toys (or other kids for that matter) but I do remember always being able to put my hands on a book.  Mum and Dad weren’t great readers themselves but once they realized they had bred a brood of readers they always made sure there were books available to us.  Books were standard fare for birthdays and Christmas and ‘just because’ presents.

I loved the feel of books and the smell of books, as well as the words they carried. So much so that I didn’t just borrow books, read them and pass them on—oh no—I bought my own, treasured copies of them.  Hundreds of them.  Over the years I stacked them on shelves, on tables, behind doors and under beds.  I built towers of them leaning up against walls (my dogs soon learned to give these leaning towers a wide berth!).  When I was younger and constantly travelling my suitcases were most likely to be carrying more books than were necessary and less clothes than I actually needed.  When I moved house crates and crates of books went with me.  I admit it—I was personally responsible for the doom of thousands and thousands of trees.  And then a couple of years ago I decided enough was enough—I was drowning in books.

I am not quite sure what brought it on (possibly one of those mad ideas we get occasionally about downsizing or simplifying our lives) but I psyched myself up, clenched my teeth and set to culling, and, after a week or so of feverish packing in boxes, I eventually gave away the vast bulk of my beloved books to the local Rotary sale.

As the poor man who had come to collect them staggered out of the door with the last load I remember feeling very relieved and really proud of myself—for about an hour.  Then I went into what can only be called ‘withdrawal’.  I was in a cold sweat for days wondering whether I should have given away this book or that book and constantly asking myself ‘What on earth was I thinking?’  I even had to take an alternative route to work so I wouldn’t see the sign for the book sale and break down and go in and buy more books—probably even buy back some of the books I had just given away!

But I held fast.  It took a while but gradually I started to enjoy the extra space I had in the house.  I had room to rearrange my other things, move furniture around—and, an unforeseen perk—there was suddenly much less dusting to do!

But it wasn’t all that easy.  I swear my palms would actually itch as I put my head down and forced myself to walk past bookshops because I knew I just couldn’t go in and browse—I would have to buy something.  Just one small book couldn’t hurt—oh, this one looks really good—heard this one is great.  Nope.  Just couldn’t risk it.

And I managed to keep that up for a long, long time. And then one day my friend showed me her ‘Kindle’.

Being a rabid book lover, I do get it when people say reading from an e-reader is ‘just not the same’.  They don’t have that special unique physicality of a book; the dog-eared pages and scribbles in the margins, the booky smell, the creaky spines and loose raggedy pages of a much loved favorite read, but (and here is me finally stepping into the 21st century) honestly—what’s not to like about a small, lightweight device that will fit in my handbag; that I can shop for directly online (while sitting at home in a favourite chair with a nice glass of red beside me) and have my choice of books (or samples of them) downloaded directly to me within minutes of buying.

AND—this was the clincher for me—my kindle (yes, of course I bought one!) can hold up to 3,000 books!  If they were real books I would have to move to a larger house.  Oh oh—I can feel my palms starting to itch again . . .

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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