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60 A series of unfortunate events

I keep losing whole weeks to ... stuff. Apparently writing 'To blog good content you have to live good content' on the front of all your notebooks offers no guarantee at all that you'll get the chance.

There was a batch of elderberry chutney, but if I tell you that I've bottled it and labelled it ketchup you'll understand why it hasn't featured here. Also not featured, the elderberry juice spatter on my favourite white shirt.

And I had a birthday - no cake, but the pizza had candles - and one of the dogs got so excited he headbutted a wall. A recently concussed hound has to be woken hourly through the night, just saying. Of course he's fine now, but we were exhausted. That was when the mister's mother decided to liven things up with an hallucinatory episode or three. I made the mercy dash north to discover she'd been muddling her medication.

A tripping pensioner, a dizzy whippet, a culinary mishap, and stain remover ... such is my life. Maybe the words of Lemony Snicket would be a better choice for future notebooks?

If I were a different kind of blogger I'd probably have squeezed posts about condiment making and canine first aid from the above, instead I have a story about stories, and a couple of links to share.

Finding humour in an at times absurd week I wove a tale that explains my absence. But other things happened too. One of our daughters moved far, far away. I finally kicked my chocolate habit. And I reconnected with an old friend who remembers a me I'd forgotten I used to be but would like to become again.

There's a line in Jeanette Winterson's Lighthousekeeping, my current read, that's rather apt ...
Tell me a story, Silver. What story? The story of what happens next. That depends. On what? On how I tell it.

Inspiring me right now ...

(You can read more about Ben in Ben Short - An Uncomplicated Life, an article that first appeared in The Countryman.)

And Sonia's post about how to support makers and artists even when you can't afford to buy their wares.


78 Can it be true, a giveaway

Image of Can It Be True cover art.

For your many thoughtful answers to my questions about paid for and sponsored blog content, thank you. It's a topic I'm tempted to return to in more detail, but for now I'll say just this ... there are limited sponsorship opportunities for those who prefer, as I do, to collaborate with indie illustrators, makers, and retailers who have an ethos that's a good match to my own.

One such is fellow blogger Valerie Greely of Acorn Moon, who has recently illustrated a brand new edition of Susan Hill's now classic Christmas prose poem, Can It Be True. I'm going to heap superlatives upon this book for the simple reason that it deserves every one of them. Val's illustrations are exquisite, and her chosen colour palette of muted reds and browns, inky blues and greys, white and gold is perfect for a compelling Christmas Eve story that may not be quite what you expect ...
It was Christmas Eve
And twelve of the clock,
When the message was heard
On the wind in the trees ...

It was heard by the owl
With blood on its beak, and the shrew
In the ditch...

Heard by the weasel,
The ferret, the stoat,
The terrified rabbit,
The whale in the sea
And the whaler above in his boat ...

The hounds
And the hare ...

And can it be true? ...
Susan Hill's poem - of which the above and below are only a series of extracts - is firmly rooted in the Northern hemisphere, where December is all about frost, and sometimes snow, and the long nights are for hunting. But at its heart is the setting aside of differences ...
And can it be true? ...

Come and see for yourselves.
So they left off their
Fighting and hunting and chasing
And dreaming of war
And they went ...
This is not a sponsored post, but Valerie has given me two copies of the book, one for me to keep, and one for me to give away, signed by both her and by Susan Hill (of The Woman in Black fame). Details of the giveaway are below, and the book is also available from Val's Acorn Moon online shop.

Detail of owl illustration from Can It Be True.

Of course Christmas stories that end in stables aren't everyone's cup of tea, so I do have a second book to give away, a wintry gift to you from me ... a retelling of The Snow Queen by Sarah Lowes, illustrated by Miss Clara. As you will discover if you follow the links* Miss Clara does things a little differently ...

To enter simply comment on this post before midnight GMT on October 24th - maybe tell me something Christmassy** - and do let me know if you have a preference for either book (both are hardbacks). I will post to anywhere in the world. Good luck.

* Posts about The Snow Queen on Miss Clara's blog, and The Enchanting World of Miss Clara. Both are in French but Google Translate worked for me, and besides, it's the images you need to see. Oh, and don't worry, the book is in English.

** I know, I know, it's still October, but humour me will ya! Octoberish and Christmassy, there, double the challenge.


48 Lately, plus

Black and white head shot of a Comtois mare.

Lately ...

A photo shoot with this sweet gal. She's a Comtois ... broad in the beam, blonde, and prone to bad hair days. A lot like me really.

Potting up succulent offshoots. My Haworthia had babies (family pic pending). And planning, weather permitting, to plant out tulip bulbs come the weekend. Black Parrot, Brown Sugar, Cairo, Bruine Wimple, Ronaldo and Belle Epoque, all from Sarah Raven*. I have high, high hopes.

Peeling vast quantities of ginger, for preserving and preserves. And if my relatives are reading this they now know far more than they should about this Christmas's foodie gifts. Ginger and lemon tea - infuse chopped fresh ginger in freshly boiled water for a good fifteen minutes, add lemon juice and honey to taste - has also featured large in my week as I try to kick a cold.

Parcels in the post. Mostly books. I'm trying to persuade myself to read more fiction because somehow I've lost the knack. Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the The Seraphim Room by Edith Olivier, because I thought it might be fun to stick to titles I haven't read by authors I have.

Also fun, imposing an alphabetical conceit on a catch-up post. Although finding a way to mention Wool Week and Shetland Wool Week using a p-word defeated me. I'm feeling entirely out of the loop (pun intended) when it comes to knitty stuff. While I'm forbidden knitting - and I may yet need surgery if I'm to knit again - perhaps understandably my attention is elsewhere. Although I'm still pinning knitty stuff, there's just too much yarny loveliness out there not to.

Plus ...

Paid content. Not here, just generally, as something to debate. Likewise, sponsored content. Your thoughts?

My thoughts (so far). Too many of the finest bloggers are going to the wall because blogging for free isn't sustainable long term. Much blog content has no monetary value whatsoever but some blog content is totally worth paying for. Downloadable magazine publishing is trending as a low(ish) cost means of monetising - think Tend* - but personally I'd rather pay for one glass of milk than buy the whole cow (scroll down if you follow the link). Sponsored posts can (it's certainly not a given) blur blogging with advertising which can undermine trust.

And meanwhile, my next blog post will include a little giveaway with - a first for me - a (rather special) prize most generously donated by a fellow blogger.

P.S. For those who asked, the photo frame in the last post came from Nkuku*.

P.P.S. I know, I mentioned the C word, sorry!

* There's no sponsorship involved anywhere in this post, although I have used affiliate links to Amazon which means I will receive a few pennies (literally) if you should buy a copy of either book. Or you could choose to shop in your local bookstore instead and I will be happy to remain penny free. All recommendations reflect my own preferences.

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