The One with the Pups, the Piccalilli, and the Platinotypes.




My dearest Tommie

It is getting hotter again and I wish it wouldn’t. It is only about 85 degrees but the air is so much moister this monsoon that it feels worse than when it is dry. The wind is still fairly high though so that prevents its being oppressive.

I have just been giving the pups their breakfast. They have bread and milk and blow themselves out with great gusto. George is perfectly disgraceful. Last night when the Boy brought their bread and milk in for their supper, he announced in a loud voice: ‘Here comes the Tummy Tightener!’ And to think we once thought him so modest.

I don’t believe I’ve told you the pups’ names. Moses, Ginger and Nipper. We called the biggest Moses because he is the leader of all the mischief. He is a most impertinent small person, very fat and square with a snub nose and a wrinkly forehead, and perfectly impossible. Ginger is a sort of gingerbread colour (very ugly) hence his name. His great talent is for digging holes in my flower boxes and he gets many a smack. He is a great coward and retires to a corner at once if he hears a footstep and has a guilty conscience. Nipper was rather a screwed up little animal when she was small but has grown apace lately. She is most like her mother with a long nose and short legs, but all their legs are rather short.

Moses is the favourite, especially with George. He will have him on his lap at mealtimes and then of course he tries to poke his nose in everything. Yesterday he rapturously laid it on a piece of piccalilli and retired hastily, sneezing. I hope it may be a lesson to him.

I don’t know what we should do without our animals. They are a great source of amusement. The cat plays with the puppies a lot now. She is so good and never hurts them a bit, not even when they try and shake her tail. She only astonishes them by leaping over their heads.

I have some plants given me this morning. One of the mill coolies put them in the verandah. They are some lovely bits of tradescantia, the red variegated sort and some round leafed plants, sort of pink and greeny colours. They are always very interested in George’s and my gardening operations. I am gradually repotting all the plants. They don’t understand about drainage properly here. I am saving up all my old pennies to send to Nuwara Eliya for some flower seeds. George gives me all the five cent pieces he gets. They are such clumsy things to carry about, three times bigger and thicker than a penny and you have to get a great heap of 20 before you get a rupee.

Oh, thanks awfully for the photo. It is good. Although George makes remarks about chubby cheeks, but it is mostly jealousy. I am afraid it will fade dreadful quick out here as only platinotypes keep, so bear that in mind when you have yours taken. As I hope you will. Poor Jack is getting paler and paler, the one that Freddy took. I shall soon have to confine him to the oblivion of an album.

I am so sorry you and mother have rheumatism so badly. I think you must have been doing foolish things. Does Mother sit at the back door without a ‘little shawl’ to keep the draught off? What is a rheumatic ring? I have never heard of them.

I do hope it was fine for the river picnic and that you had a good time. I wish I could have been there too. It isn’t fair.

George had a letter from his mother last mail and she talked about taking a house at Billingshurst. It sounds like a benighted hole to go to. George does not think much of it as he says the soil is all clay and he thinks it will be very damp and raw in the autumn and winter. It is no good saying anything about it as she is evidently entirely ruled by Ethel. I only hope she won’t regret it.

Tell Joyce it is a very long time since she wrote me a letter. I think she must have forgotten all about Auntie Mab. I hope they have had a good time at Worthing.


Love and kisses to everybody

From Mab

The One where Mabel is racist and George shoots a crow.


Madampe, Ceylon, Tuesday August 7th 1900

Dearest Tommie

I thought of you and Dor yesterday going off to Fairbrook and today I suppose you will go gaily go off to Canterbury. I only hope it is fine. It is 10 o’clock now so you are still in the Land of Nod, but presently you will be in the throes of dressing and I suppose you will start fairly early. What are you going to wear?

I hope you will write and tell me about Cricketing and what everybody wore, especially Fanny, and if you had anybody nice to talk to. I always enjoy the drive almost more than anything. Was Kate very nervous coming out of the ground? It is always a time of wrath with her. She told me in one of her letters that the tennis ground was so bad she did not think she could ask anyone to play on it, so I suppose that means no parties. Poor Dor. She will be disappointed, I did think they might have that ground properly turfed and looked after. It would not cost much. At any rate I should certainly think they would when Dor goes home. It might need to be well dug out and then turfed. It is not a bit of good trying to play tennis on an old hayfield.

George and I have been very busy this morning nailing creepers up the house. They have grown nicely up the lattice work and now we want to have them to the upper verandah. They have to be nailed up the smooth part and then they will twine in and out of the balustrade. The house is already beginning to look better, not so bare. All the woodwork is white so that it will look much prettier covered with creepers.

We are busy collecting specimens to put in the bottle with the scorpion. Is is such a big one that we want to fill it. We have only got a small green lizard, the same sort as the one that went up my leg only this is smaller, a tiny sort of scorpion that we often find about the house. We have found several in our bedroom. One stung George on the foot. It was very slight, like a big prick, and did not swell up or anything. That is the reason why we stained our floor and only have strips of matting as when we had it covered all over, they used to hide between the seams where there is always plenty of dust, a native’s idea of sweeping being decidedly primitive.

I am so glad the fete went off all right and it was a success. What a pity the prizes could not be given away, it is such a feature, especially as you had two to take. I am glad you won the mixed, it is jolly. I am wondering what you will have for a prize. It is generally a pretty good one and are you going to have a racquet for the championship or not? I did not know that Mr Still who you spoke about was Willie Still. Fancy his coming all that long way. Isn’t he very nice. I always like the look of him so much.

George moaned when he heard about Mrs Gillespy making plans behind Ethel’s back: ‘The old mater has got more sense than I gave her credit for.’ He has wanted her to go to Margate very much, at any rate just to give it a trial.

You make me laugh with your tropical weather at 76 degrees. Lawks, if it went down to that, we should want the blanket at least. It was 78 degrees one night and was quite chilly. I suppose we shall have it hotter again soon till the N.E. monsoon comes in October. Certainly I think this must be the nicest part of the year.

George has just shot a crow under this window and the gun going off made me leap with fright. They have to shoot some every now and then as they steal the copra so tremendously and the dead ones are hung up to frighten them.

Lots of love to you all




Mabel is Back with her Thoughts on Disreputable Cats, Killing Lizards, and George’s Digestion.

For those of you who previously read Mabel’s letter on my blog, I apologise for her absence but I am delighted to say she is back. We moved house almost a year ago, and now I have found her letters and will carry on transcribing them.

For those of you who have never heard of Mabel (or Mab as she is known to her family), she was my great-grandmother. From 1899 to 1902 she lived in Sri Lanka (or Ceylon as it was called then by the Empire). Mabel went to Colombo to marry my great-grandfather, George Gillespy, who ran a cocoa-nut mill. Mab wrote regularly to her mother and sister (Tommie) back in Croydon to tell them about her adventures and through her letters we see an opinionated, formidable woman, with UKIP tendencies, a warmongering heart, and a husband who soon found his place.

Mabel and George’s wedding, Colombo, Ceylon, 1899

Madampe, 23rd July, 1900

Dearest Tommie

Hurrah! I am glad you are Champion. I had rather you won that than anything, and so jolly for you and Maude to be in the final, as if you had not won, she is the next best person. I am sorry you let Muriel N. beat you. I expect you got too much worked up over it and lost your nerve. Now if you win the mixed, I shall be happy. How I long to be in the battle! Playing ordinary games is very tame after a club, especially when you don’t feel very energetic to begin with, but I know it is good for me and also for George as it is the only real exercise he gets. He is working very hard just now as he is making a lot of improvements and alterations in the mill but he is so much more happy and cheerful and is altogether better. He is taking the Kepler’s regularly and I think it is doing him some good.

Here is such a sweet kingfisher sitting on a branch of a tree quite close with its eye fixed on me. I think it must have a nest somewhere in the canal bank as it is always about. I think it is very like the English ones. Its head is brown, sort of chocolate colour, and its wings and beak are the very brightest blue. The squirrels are so funny. One is using the most awful language now because the cat is sitting just underneath the tree in which I think the squirrel has got a nest. It is tearing up and down the branches chatting at the top of its throat and waggling its tail about in the most agitated way, while the cat slumbers peacefully without taking the slightest notice. He has settled down into a steady old cat and is quite comfortable and fat now. He sleeps in our bedroom on a chair, never moves all night. I don’t like him being out at night as I am afraid of him being caught by some animal, and he will fight with disreputable cats.

The pups are sweet now. They can walk pretty well, only every now and then their legs give way utterly and they rub their little noses on the ground. They are awfully funny on the matting as it is slippery and their legs go out in all directions. They can all growl no. It is killing to hear them and they paw at one another in the most absurd way but they have not got much control over their actions yet. They were three weeks old on Saturday. One has got a hiccough at the moment and it is shaking its little body to pieces. We have got rid of a good many fleas with much Keating’s (flea powder) and brushing but they still have a good number. George and I kill as many as we can but as he sagely remarks: ‘You need a monkey for this sort of job!’

The other afternoon I was sitting peacefully upstairs on the verandah when I happened to look over the parapet and I saw a huge lizard advancing across the compound. For one awful second I thought it was a crocodile and then I saw it was a kabaragoya which is harmless and eats frogs and things although it often goes for chickens and would have enjoyed the puppies. I tore downstairs and shouted for the Boy and then went into the office where I found Mr VanDort and he somehow frightened it out of the fence. It climbed a tree and lay there sprawled sticking its tongue out like an anteater. We have seen it about for a long time now and do not like the idea of it being near when the pups get big enough to run about. We thought it best to get rid of it. George’s gun wouldn’t go off; the cartridges were damp. So Mr VanDort got the watchman’s and shot it through the head. A brahman skinned it and we are going to send the skin to be tanned as Mr VanDort says it makes the most lovely leather, better than crocodile as it is not as thick. The thing was really rather alarming as its body was almost as long as the stuffed crocodile at Hurst.

Fancy Edith McMinn being engaged, she seems such a kid, but I suppose she is nineteen. Please give her my love and best congratulations. She certainly has gone in for the ‘long of it’. I should think he is a very nice fellow. I just spoke to him slightly at their party and I liked him very much.

We have had an invitation from Mrs Stanley Bois to a fancy dress dance on August 9th. It is nice of them to ask us up to town. Of course we have refused as we have decided not to go away for Race Week and anyhow it would be a great expense as it is sure to be a swell affair and we should have to have proper costumes. It would have been very jolly as they only know the very best people in Colombo. We are rather sad at missing all the festivities but it can’t be helped and it would’ve been wretched for George who would’ve felt all the time that he ought to be at the mill. It would have cost a huge amount too as Colombo is crowded and everything is expensive and there would have been so many other things  besides the hotel bill. No one ever walks in Colombo so rickshaws and hackneys would have mounted up. Personally I don’t mind very much. It isn’t as if I have any friends I wanted to see.

Of course I will send you a bangle as soon as I can get one. Unfortunately the letter in which you mentioned it came just after we got back from Colombo or I could have got it then. When you try silver things you have to make sure they weigh it with rupees. However much it weighs, you add a little bit for workmanship so that if a thing weighed 3 rupees, you could pay 3.75 and feel you were not being done much. 25 cents to the rupee is the usual price for the workmanship unless it is very elaborate. Of course they do passengers and people who don’t know the tricks tremendously. It was Mrs Masefield who told George.

I do hope your rheumatism soon got better. You ought not to have it in the summer. I shall think of you and Davina having a good time at cricketing. I hope it won’t be too hot so that Kate can enjoy it. G.C.C Cricket Week seems to be going off all right. It was jolly you having a holiday for it. We roared over your and Mrs Wild’s fright over the burglar. I must say I don’t think much of Chrissie Brooks’s choice. Who could stand little Diplock for a husband?

Many thanks for the Chambers and all the papers. By the way, tell Bob the next time he sends a cutting from the paper to look at the back and not try to pollute my innocent mind with scurrilous literature. What is Jane up to? Will she go to jail? I am anxious to know the end of her exploits. Poor Edward. I should think he feels rather low. I saw Winnie Morris’s wedding in the paper, also Kate Norton’s. Gertrude’s dresses all sound very pretty, don’t they? I suppose her man is well off or she would not have had him.

George and I have given up Ethel as she is so appallingly selfish. Even if he wanted to, it is no good George writing anything to his mother as she only writes back making out Ethel a paragon of virtue and it only makes us crosser. I do honestly think it is a great pity she is not with Walter next winter as very likely he won’t take much care of himself and only get nasty colds.

How nice of Lottie to send you that blouse. It will be useful. I don’t get on very fast with my dressmaking. I have not finished the silk one yet. Having no machine is a drawback, isn’t it?

We are having delightful weather, cool and breezy. This morning it was only 78 degrees. it is barely 80 now at 2 o’clock. It is cloudy too and that is a blessing. We can start playing tennis quite early. We have such lots of people going past these last few days both in boats and on the road. They are Roman Catholics going to some sort of festival at a big church about 15 miles up the canal. They make a pilgrimage to it once a year and it is a great holiday for them.

Well I must shut up as it is nearly 3 o’clock.

Lots of love and kisses to everybody.

From yours ever,




Cold Feet, Warm Slippers.


Over the last few weeks I have been gorging on the five series of Cold Feet, a programme that I used to love watching, with its believable characters, quirky playfulness, and real emotion. The revisits made me laugh and cry, once again. I remembered how good it was. How original. And that not only was it northern, but the women had an equal footing with the men.

I’ve let myself indulge in this escapism (quite a lot of dedicated hours) as I have just finished my latest novel and because I wanted to be prepared for the new series of Cold Feet, which came back to our screens last night after an absence of thirteen years.

I was really nervous and excited. Would it be a disappointment? A let-down? Would it be more than nostalgia?

Well, it was actually really good. The characters stayed true to themselves. Older, somewhat jaded, but instantly knowable. When we last saw them they had young children, like me. Now they have older teenagers, like me. They’ve grown up, like me. A little wiser? That remains to be seen. 


In a couple of weeks I am going to a 30 year university reunion. (Which is a bit weird as my third novel, Bright Stars, published last year, is about a university reunion.) I can’t believe it’s really been three decades since I left my home in Devon to be a student at Lancaster. Although I still have good friends who’ve grown up with me, there will be people I haven’t seen in thirty years. I’m nervous and excited. (And very much hoping the reunion isn’t as disastrous as my fictional one.)

And I’m wondering which one will have a new head of hair. Or a much younger spouse…

sophie lecture 028
Me studying back in 1987 at Lancaster University

Who’s Crying Now?

Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.

We all cry. At some time or other. Some of us more than others.

Me at 16, saying goodbye to school friends after the end of exam ball. (I won’t call it a prom. It was a disco in the school hall.)

Tears are everywhere this week. Yes, at the Olympics. The sound of the Star Spangled Banner is enough to make most Americans well up. But tears do not just come from pride and patriotism. They come from all sorts of feelings that sport can evoke.

We’ve seen a few tears over the years at the Olympics. Who remembers Derek Redmond ripping his hamstring in Barcelona in 1992? Redmond fell to the ground in agony but somehow got to his feet and began to painfully hop his way towards the finish line, determined to see it through. And as if that wasn’t moving enough, someone emerged from the crowd to help him along. His dad. And the nation cried too.

This week in Rio there were tears of disappointment for Djokovic as he lost an early match. Andy Murray is having a better run but he has shed some tears too over the years. On losing the Wimbledon final in 2012 it broke my heart to see him cry. But this year it was just as emotional seeing his tears of joy and relief as he took the title for the second time.

Crying is a part of what it is to be human. It can be a sign of sadness, anxiety, depression, grief, fear, tiredness, pain, hurt, anger, frustration, a broken heart. Crying is a natural stress reliever. It can make you feel better. It can make people realise you need help. It’s how babies communicate, children too. And then we learn to hide it, repress it, be ashamed of it even.

DS2 rarely cries. This was as close as he got as a toddler. He wanted the camera.

A book, a film, a piece of music, the smell of the sea, the way the light slants on an Autumn day, all these can make you cry  – out of empathy or a memory stirred.

But did you know:

Cultural differences aside, women are more likely to cry as they have smaller tear ducts which overflow more easily than men’s. (Can anyone tell me if that’s true?)

When you cry, your heart rate increases and your breathing slows. And that lump in your throat is known as the ‘globus sensation’.

Crying stimulates the brain’s endorphins. It’s a natural painkiller which is helpful for a broken heart. (I added that last bit.)

Crying helps release emotions. It makes you feel better for a bit, more able to cope.

Shakespeare said: ‘To weep is to make less the depth of grief.’

I say: ‘Better out than in.’

DS1 cried a lot. Here is an example. He also wanted the camera.


Thank goodness for Wimbledon.


Ever since I was about six years old I have looked forward to this time of year. Sunshine, exams over, Wimbledon. But ‘summer’ 2016 is one I’d rather forget and we’re only at the beginning of July. The tennis is as good as ever – though the seeds have dropped like flies and there’s been a heck of a lot of rain. But the world appears to have gone barmy.

Today, July 4th, is traditionally the best day of Wimbledon fortnight and it will at least distract me from the goings on outside of SW19. July 4th is also Independence Day for the USA.  (Or ‘Treason Day’ as we Redcoats like to call it. Joke.) Much to celebrate? I can’t see an awful lot right now – a country divided by guns, Trump, hate. Much the same as the small island on which I live, (but without the guns) – a country divided by the English Channel and drifting off into the Atlantic, probably without Scotland for company. Billy No Mates, that’s us.

Meanwhile, 165 people have been killed in Baghdad. One. Hundred. And. Sixty. Five. And yet news coverage of this has been snatched by Farage, a man more despicable than the Child Catcher.

Why are so many men lobbing grenades into the midst of humanity and then legging it.

Who is left to clear up the mess?

As a Christian, my hope is in Jesus. (Now because I’m mentioning Jesus, don’t switch off. I’m not going to give the ‘Sunday School answer’, to coin the phrase of a good friend.) I know without a doubt that Jesus would not have carried a gun or a bomb or a grenade. I know without a doubt that he would weep over the death of an Iraqi as much as over an American citizen or a chap who went to Eton.

Why? Because Jesus treated everyone as equal. He told the story of The Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Son. He looked after the disabled. He trusted women in his circle, first appearing to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection, telling her to go out and spread the word. A woman, when they were second class citizens, their testimonies not even accepted in court. That was how he rolled.

He turned the tables.

We must not turn them back.

We need to look after each other. We need to be salt and light. We must trust in love, and banish hate. Easy? Well, no, because we humans like power. We like to dominate other people. Take what isn’t ours and hang onto it. We like to shut our eyes to the world’s problems because they are not our problems. Even when it’s going on in our own back garden, we still ignore it. Until it impacts us directly.

And you know what? I won’t be told to ‘get over it’ if I believe passionately in something.  I will keep highlighting the ridiculous gun culture of the richest most influential country in the war. It hangs heavy on my heart. I don’t know why this in particular but it’s something I have to speak out against. Sometimes it takes an outsider to see things clearly. Like when I’ve finished a manuscript, one I’ve been working on for two years, a world only I’ve been inhabiting, I have to ask my writing buddies to read it. They can see the mistakes that I have missed.

I will keep highlighting the fact that men with crazy hair have got form (you know who I’m talking about).

I will keep highlighting the ridiculous separatist way our country is heading.

I will keep highlighting the subjugation of  women  across the globe. (And as an aside, I am delighted to discover I have two suffragette sisters in my family tree so maybe my militant tendencies were there all along. It’s just I’m braver at speaking out now.)

I will keeping speaking out against our education system which is failing our children and young people.

I will keep on.

I will nag. I will cajole. I will argue. I will reason. I will joke. I will cry. I will get angry. I will get sad. I will do what I have to do, what my heart tells me.

And you know what else? I will pray because that’s what Christians do. But I will pray in the knowledge that prayer is not a replacement for doing stuff. It’s one part of having a faith. The other is doing to others what you would have done to you. It is loving your neighbour. It is not judging. But it is also speaking out when you see wrong. It is offering a better way.

Jesus never gave up. If I could only have a dot of his courage and compassion…

Peace out, everyone.

Meantime, back to SW19.


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Response To Nicky Morgan

Let Our Kids Be Kids

“That is why the campaign led by some of those who do not think we should set high expectations, who want to ‘keep their children home for a day’ next week, is so damaging.

Keeping children home – even for a day – is harmful to their education and I think it undermines how hard you as heads are working. I urge those running these campaigns to reconsider their actions.”

Taken from Nicky Morgan speech at the NAHT annual conference 2016, 30th April 2016

In response to Nicky Morgan’s attack on parents choosing to exercise their democratic right to protest on Tuesday above we’d like to say the following…

Parents supporting this cause, which has the well being and happiness of their children at its very core, are very angry that Nicky Morgan should suggest that they don’t want high standards for their children.

We all want the best but…

View original post 524 more words

Keeping Abreast


Many moons ago, I was a breast pump agent for the National Childbirth Trust, which is something not many people know about me and perhaps something not many people know about.

I was heavily pregnant with son number 2 and on maternity leave. As a member of the NCT I wanted to do something worthwhile that wouldn’t be too onerous as I already had a one year old to look after. So, I volunteered. For about a year, I was on hand to hire out the industrial-sized, hospital-type breast pumps. New parents would come to my house, often stressed because of a pre-term baby or illness or somehow struggling to breastfeed, and I would show them how to work the pump. I never used one myself but was told that it was brilliant.

At this time, I had a lot of friends who I met through the NCT and other post-natal groups. One of them had so much milk she became a donor for the SCBU at Kings College Hospital, after being screened. This milk was gratefully received as its immunity-boosting components can be life-saving for prem babies.

Yesterday the media was awash with stories about breast milk – if you’ll pardon the pun. A breastfeeding mother had an operation and was unable to breastfeed her son, so she went on Facebook to see if anyone would step in. She had a huge response and several women were able to help, coming to her bedside and feeding her baby. Some people found this difficult. I had to think about it myself for a while as I confess my natural response was to find it a bit weird.

Which I now see is daft.

Wet nurses, cross-nursing, milk-sharing has gone on forever all over the world. But in the  modern West, we see breastfeeding as a private thing, because breasts are associated with sex and we forget that the job of breasts is to feed babies. For me, breastfeeding was generally a good experience though there were times when I had to feed my babies in public loos. You wouldn’t choose to eat your fish and chips in a bog so goodness knows why it is acceptable for vulnerable babies.

I breastfed all three of our children on demand. I fed the oldest till he was 8 months when I had to return to work and was pregnant again. I fed number 2 and 3 until they were 14 months old. I’d like to point out that I am not a member of what some of the press call the ‘Breastapo’. I just feel that babies have a right to feed when and where they need to be fed. Who cares if you catch a glimpse of breast? Why does it put some people off their food when a baby is also just having food?

Back in the early 90s, I taught in a nursery unit attached to an infant school in Camberwell. There were many children there from Ghana and Nigeria and it was interesting watching the role play. In the ‘home corner’ they would hold the babies to their chests, as this was what they saw their mothers, aunts etc do. When I had my own children, I noticed them and their friends doing the same thing. Breastfeeding is not embarrassing for children. It’s just some adults that find it so.

WHO and UNICEF both say that milk donating and sharing is the second best alternative to breastfeeding in consultation with your health provider. Yes, there are issues over screening for infectious diseases such as HIV (which all pregnant women are screened for anyway). And I believe from reading about it that it’s better to match the age of the baby receiving the milk to the age of the supplier’s baby, as breast milk changes as the child grows. But these issues can be overcome. Fundamentally, I don’t have a problem with it. Any reservations I had yesterday were cultural.

And I must just add here that it goes without saying that breastfeeding doesn’t work out for everyone due to illness and for all manner of reasons. Giving a baby a bottle is fine and mothers should never be made to feel guilty. 

Yesterday’s news item is good because it gets breastfeeding talked about. Hopefully one day boobs won’t be news. They’ll be seen as the givers of life that they are.


#milksharing #wetnursing #BlogoftheDay #Mumsnetbloggers


A Day of Waiting


These are frightening times. I am blessed to have been born in the UK in the 1960s but I fear for my own children, approaching adulthood now. Our government are stripping all I hold dear about this country. Our NHS, our education system, our welfare state – all the wonderful support that was introduced after the Second World War when Europe was stripped bare of everything, except hope for a better future and a deep desire for a lasting peace.

We are told lies. We are told that we have to have Austerity as we can’t spend what we don’t have. Sounds reasonable? What about the fact that our debt has increased while our most vulnerable people have faced some of the worst cuts ever? Where’s the money gone, boys? And after all this, to tell us this is a ‘Budget for the next generation’. What, the generation that will be saddled with debt and never able to afford their own home? My children? That one?

And as for the USA, well, I can’t even bring myself to talk about what the heck is going on in that country. Toddlers with guns, a Nazi with bad hair taking the limelight from an even bigger psychopath, homophobia, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, greed… And this from the country of opportunity and the land of the free. (Just so long as you are white, male, and rich.) But then, as history has shown us time and again, empires rise, empires fall…

It’s been a sad week. People have been killed, not just in Brussels, but all over the world. Senseless, pointless murder. Fundamentalists trying to take what isn’t theirs to take. On this Easter Saturday, a day of waiting and mourning, I know that tomorrow will bring something better. I know that love wins over hate. Light wins over darkness. Hope wins over despair.


That’s why I love Jesus. He was full of compassion, a rebel, a feminist, a friend of the poor, the disabled, the outcast and the disenfranchised. He lived in an occupied territory, he had no material possessions, and he not only preached about love, but he acted on this.

Love wins.

Top Nine Doggies!

SophieCol-Matt-Austin-55.jpgI love my Tibetan Terriers. They are known as untrainable but they will do pretty much anything for a piece of people food. The one on the left is Millie and the other one, Susan, is her daughter.

I have spent the weekend looking at dog and cat videos on Facebook as I’ve been a bit poorly. I should be cracking on with my novel. And I will. Once I’ve blogged about my top nine famous doggies.

1. Petra. She was Peter Purvis’s dog and appeared on over 1100 Blue Peter programmes. I remember when she died, how upset he was (and the nation’s children). They made a sculpture to put in the Blue Peter Garden. Anyone know where it is now?


2. Shep. If we have Petra, then we have to have Shep and her companion, John Noakes. One of the phrases of a 70s childhood, and one we can still say without shame, is ‘Get down, Shep!’.


3. Marley. The hero of John Grogan’s book, ‘Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s worst Dog’. Who hasn’t read this book or watched the film to the end and not cried? No one. ‘You are a great dog.’


4. Buster. This is the Buster who owned Roy Hattersley and wrote his diaries. A goose belonging to the Queen is involved. Brilliant.



5. Pudsey. Winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2012. So clever! Pudsey_2218034b

6. Hachiko. A true story of loyalty. This Akita used to wait everyday to greet his owner on the way home at Shibuya Station in Tokyo. One day the owner didn’t return as he’d suffered a fatal cerebral haemorrhage at work. Hachikco came back every day for the next nine years to wait for the same train in the hope his owner would appear.


7. Greyfriar’s Bobby. Another tale of loyalty and the bond between human and dog. A Skye Terrier from Edinburgh who spent 14 years guarding his owner’s grave in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard until he died himself in 1872. Have you touched his nose?


8. Appollo. The first search and rescue dog to arrive on site after the collapse of the World Trade Centre on 9/11. One of the fearless rescue dogs who worked so hard to try and find survivors at Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks. There are so many dogs who have worked as rescuers and many who’ve given their lives. Brave doggies.


9. Judy. World War 2 hero. There are many animals who serve in wartime. Judy was one of these remarkable dogs.


I could go on and on but I do need to get on with my novel now…Only my dogs need a walk…