National Poetry Day

The tiniest sunflower

peeks its head out.

Its petals unfurl

to face the sun.

Yellow as butter.

Perfect like a picture.

The sun warms its face

and if flowers could have feelings,

then this one is happy.

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Autumn in the garden 🍁

The wind whispering
Through chilly trees
Sounds like sand on shore
After a wave hits.
One dry yellow leaf
Swiftly falls from its
mother tree’s branch
And an apple clumps
Softly on the lawn.
A toad hides under
A fallen leaf,
Alert for danger.

The labrador jumps,
Trying to catch him:
But misses by miles, Settles instead for
Chomping a spider.
Her web-smeared black
Nose sniffing loudly,
Hoping for more snacks.
She smells wood fire
On the breeze. Shivering,
Heads back inside to
Her humans’ sofa.

6 October 2022 is National Poetry Day.

Why don’t you write a poem? It’s easy to do and doesn’t have to rhyme. Write about what you like, or how you are feeling. 🙂

For more info, go to:

https://nationalpoetryday.co.uk

The National Literacy Trust helps children and families to develop a love of reading and writing. They have great resources and a local site for people from Swindon, called Swindon Stories.

https://literacytrust.org.uk/communities/swindon/

Farewell dear Queen

Grief sits heavily on my chest today. I know that she was old and had lived a full life. I didn’t even know her. But. The death of Queen Elizabeth II feels personal to many of us in the UK, and no doubt around the world.

The Queen was the best of Great Britain. The best of all of us. She united us in a way that I doubt anyone will be able to do again.

Her faith was her rock and she pointed us to God during her Christmas speeches. For those of us who are Christians, we take comfort in the fact that she is now in Heaven with her husband, and we will actually get to meet her one day!

As someone who grieves every day for my baby son, this feeling is familiar. It feels like heaviness, like fatigue, like nothing will be the same again. And of course, it won’t. After the death of our monarch, we feel the loss of her wisdom, her ability to unite us and of hope for the future. In this increasingly divided world, the Queen was able to rise above any political divides. I worry about our country, now more than ever.

For those of us who are already grieving a loved one, this time of mourning reminds us of who we have personally lost too. It hurts a little more today.

I think about my son Samuel, who should be 3 now. Who should be starting preschool next year. He wasn’t royal or famous, but he is loved. I wish that everyone could have known him and mourn him too. But Samuel is just as loved, valued and celebrated by God as her Majesty is. Jesus doesn’t care if people were poor or rich, disabled or healthy, old or young. God loves us all the same.

There will be many poor, unknown people who died yesterday. They won’t be on the news or get a funeral procession, but their lives also had value.

I pray that everyone who mourns would know peace and comfort today.

Let’s look after each other. It’s later than we think.

My 70th Jubilee drawing of QEII

September

September’s first sunset

Is candyfloss fluffy 

Pink on watercolour 

Azure. The drought-cracked ground

Thirsts desperately for rain.

Yellow, salmon, crimson

Roses scent the cool air.

Perfectly formed, like

Fragile, living sculptures

Too good for this world.

Sparrows fly overhead,

Heading for lofty nests.

Juicy soft blackberries

Are waiting to be picked

And cooked in jams and pies,

Just like when we were kids. 

The nights are creeping in,

I can breathe again.

Autumn has arrived.

March morning

The Sparrows call call call
Loudly to each other
From the rooftops, seven
On a Sunday morning.


The magpies soar soar soar
Their black and white feathers
Flashing in the spring sun
As they look for breakfast.


The blackbird sing sing sings
His beautiful song from
The apple tree’s bent branch
Whose buds are still tiny.


Fluffy clouds fly fly fly
Past high above my head,
In a rush, places to
Go, people to rain on.

Timmy the mouse has an island adventure


Timmy was a mouse. He lived with his Mummy, Daddy and big sister Dorothy at Number 12, The Hedge. Although he was little, he was brave. When he wasn’t at school, he loved to go on adventures. He had been camping with his dad, climbed right to the top of tall trees, and gone swimming in the lake. It was the school holidays, so Timmy had the whole week to explore.

He had been reading about some children that made a raft, so wanted to have a go doing that himself. He had seen several branches that had been cut down at the local lake, so he found some rope in the garage to tie the branches together. He put the rope in his favourite red backpack. Whenever he went, Tommy carried his red backpack. In it, he always packed a bottle of water, a large slice of cheese, a notepad and pencil. Timmy liked to write about his adventures in his notebook, and you never knew when you might need a snack.

When he got to the lake, Timmy collected as many big branches together as he could, and wrapped the rope around them, just like the book showed him to do. After that, he felt very tired, so he sat down in the sun and drank some water and ate half of the cheese. Timmy wished that he had brought more cheese. The young mouse wanted to take the raft to the island at the centre of the lake. He had never been there before, and was desperate to explore it. Maybe it had pirates? Or treasure? Or maybe even a dragon!

Timmy pulled the raft carefully into the water. It floated! He jumped on board and used a long branch as a paddle. Thankfully the wind was on his side and before long he landed on the island in the centre of the lake. Timmy jumped off the raft, pulled it up the beach and grabbed his backpack.
The island was bigger than it looked. It was overgrown, with trees, bushes and flowers everywhere. He could hear some sparrows singing nearby. It was beautiful.

Timmy decided to head to the interior of the island. If there was any treasure or dragon, it was probably there. He put his red backpack on and set off down an almost invisible path through the foliage.

It was hard going, and soon he was thirsty. He stopped to have a drink from his water bottle, emptying it after a few gulps.

“Oh no! I can’t enjoy an adventure if I am thirsty,” he said to himself.

Timmy decided that he would need to find a clean water source as soon as possible. A clean water source is one that isn’t polluted and isn’t salty. Timmy knew from reading survival books with his Daddy, that you will die quickly if you drink too much salt water. It also makes you even more thirsty.
The young mouse was sure that there would be a small stream or at least a puddle on the island. He had gone too far to walk all the way back to the shore where he had landed. After what felt like a long time, he sat down underneath a huge oak tree near a clearing. He was tired and extremely thirsty. He wrote about what had happened so far that day in his notebook. He reminded himself to pack more water and cheese next time.

He was starting to feel worried, when he noticed a movement in the grass ahead. It was a pretty young frog. She wore a pink hat. She was jumping towards him.

“Hello there, mouse. Are you ok? You look lost,” she said kindly.

“Hello. I am not really lost… well it is my first time on this island, and I am looking for water. Do you know anywhere nearby where I can get a drink?” he asked.

“Oh, you poor thing. You do look worn out. I know where a stream is. I could show you that… or would you prefer a hot chocolate? My cabin isn’t far from here, and I would be happy to share with you.”

“Oh, thank you so much! That would be amazing. I love hot chocolate. Are you sure that it would be ok?” Timmy asked.

“Of course. Follow me.”

She turned and jumped back through the clearing. Timmy followed her, feeling relieved.

They went along a winding path through the trees, to find the frog’s cabin. It was wooden, with small windows and a tall chimney. It looked ancient and had a well out the front. A well is a deep hole in the ground where you can get water from, if you have a bucket attached to a rope.

“Your garden is pretty,” said Timmy.

“Thank you. I love tending my flowers and herbs. The venus flycatchers are my favourite. I keep the grass very short with special scissors, as you can see. Appearances are important, don’t you think?”

She licked her lips.

“Welcome to my home,” the friendly frog said as they walked through the door.

Timmy’s eyes adjusted to the gloomy interior. It was cosy, with a large fireplace in the middle of the room. A black cauldron sat over a roaring fire. Timmy suspected that the frog was making soup for her lunch.

“It’s small, but we love it. Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t ask your name?”

“It’s Timmy, pleased to meet you. What is your name?”

“I am Gretchen. Please, have a seat and I will make you some hot chocolate.”

“Thank you.”

Timmy sat down on a wooden rocking chair in front of the fire. He noticed a shadow in the corner of the room. Two shiny eyes were watching him. It was a crow.

“Oh, don’t mind Cain, he’s my pet. He doesn’t say much but is very loyal. Cain, say hello to Timmy.”

“Caw,” squawked the crow.

He couldn’t actually talk, because he was a crow.

“Um, hello,” replied Timmy nervously.

Gretchen asked him about his family as they drank hot chocolates together. The drink was warm and delicious. Soon, Timmy started to feel sleepy and couldn’t stop himself yawning.

“I am sorry, I suppose that it’s been a tiring morning,” apologised Timmy after another large yawn.

“Please do not worry. I am glad that you are comfortable. Feel free to close your eyes and have a little rest,” she replied kindly.

Timmy soon dropped off into a deep sleep.

He awoke with a fuzzy head and feeling confused. Then he remembered about the friendly frog. He stretched and yawned, thinking that he should probably get on with his adventure. Maybe Gretchen would give him some cheese for lunch?

“Good morning sleepy head,” whispered Gretchen from behind him.

Timmy blinked and opened his eyes, looking around. Good morning?

“You slept all through the afternoon and night, my dear. You must have been extremely tired,” Gretchen said.

She jumped to stand in front of him.

“Gretchen? Is that you? You look different!” Timmy exclaimed.

“Yes, my small mouse friend. It is I, Gretchen. Is something wrong?”

“Well yes… I mean no… it’s just that I thought you were a young frog lady, but now I see that you are a little older that I remember, and… are you a toad?”

“Yes, I am a toad, my frog disguise is a little trick that I play sometimes. For some reason, others don’t always take kindly to an ugly old warty toad,” she replied.

“Oh,” replied Timmy, confused, “I am sorry to have taken up so much of your time, I will leave now. My parents will be worried about me. Please may I fill up my water bottle at your well before I go?”

“Oh, my dear, you will not be leaving,” she smiled.

“Pardon? Thank you for having me, but I really do need to go…” answered Timmy.

“I think that you misunderstand me,” Gretchen replied calmly, “you may want to leave, but you cannot.”

“I can and I will!” shouted Timmy, terrified.

He tried to jump up from the rocking chair, but he could not move. He tried again, pushing his arms down hard on the armrests to stand up. He could not physically get up from the chair.

“What have you done to me?”

“It is a simple potion that I use sometimes. You don’t feel any different, but you won’t be able to leave that chair, until I give you the antidote that is. By the way, did you enjoy the hot chocolate?”

“You put the potion in my hot chocolate, didn’t you? Why did you do that?” Timmy cried.

“Yes, clever mouse boy. And the reason that I did it is because I need you,” she grinned with her big, ugly toad mouth.

“Why?” Timmy’s voice shook with fear.

“I need your legs for my latest job. You see, my customer Silas Snake requires a magical potion for… well, not nice reasons, shall we say. One important ingredient is mouse legs, which you will provide me with.”

“No! Are you joking?” Timmy tried and failed again to stand up.

“I have no sense of humour when it comes to magic. Mr Snake pays very well and expects his potion urgently. It was lucky that I ran into you yesterday.”

“But… but I need my… l… legs,” spluttered poor Timmy.

“I only require two. Do not worry, I will offer you a painkiller potion while I perform the double amputation: I am not a monster,” she chuckled, then licked her bulging eyes with her huge pink tongue.

“Oh.”

Poor Timmy did not know what to do. He just wanted to go home to his Mummy and Daddy. He was trying to be brave, but it was difficult.

Cain stared at him with his deep black eyes. He clacked his beak angrily.

“Good morning sweetie,” said Gretchen brightly, looking up.

“Morning Mum, who is this?”

Timmy looked at her. A young toad stood in front of him, frowning.

“Oh, don’t worry about him. That’s Timmy Mouse, I need two of his legs for Mr Snakes’ potion. Did you have a good sleepover at your friend’s house?” replied Gretchen.

“Yes, I did, we had roast flies and marshmallows over a firepit in her garden,” the young toad replied.

“That’s lovely. Now, I just need to pop to the stream for some fish eyes, and then I will perform the amputation. I didn’t do it last night as I need the ingredients as fresh as possible. Would you make Timmy some toast please? We don’t want him to go hungry,” said Gretchen.

“Mum, not again! Can’t you get a real job?” sighed the girl toad.

“This is my real job! Don’t you start on me – I pay the bills and feed you with the income from my potions. Right, I am off to the stream. Don’t forget to feed the mouse. Oh, and could you give Cain some more corn please?” Gretchen left, carrying a basket and a sharp knife.

The young toad introduced herself as Tiana. She fed the crow, who then flew away.

“He’s probably gone to catch some worms, won’t be back for a while,” she told Timmy as she made him some toast with butter and honey. She also gave him a glass of water.

She sat down on the floor next to Timmy, watching him eat.

“I am sorry about Mum, she can be nasty sometimes. Did she lure you to our cabin with the promise of a snack?”

“Hot chocolate,” replied the mouse, between bites of toast. He was starving.

“Typical,” replied the young toad, “well, I don’t suppose that you want to lose two of your legs, do you?”

“Definitely not,” he replied, “is your Mum a witch?”

“Yes, she is. Her parents wanted her to be an accountant, but she thought this would be more profitable. She does seem to delight in tormenting other creatures,” Tiana sighed.

“I would run away, but I can’t. I want my Mummy and Daddy!”

Timmy couldn’t be brave anymore. Fat tears poured down his whiskery face.

“Oh, you poor thing. Let’s get you out of here. I know the recipe for the antidote. A couple of sips of that and you will be able to move again,” said Tiana.

“But won’t your Mum be cross? Won’t you be punished?” sniffed Timmy.

“She will be furious, but I will blame Cain. He is loyal but can be a troublemaker too. And he does enjoy the taste of mice…”

“Eeep!” squeaked Timmy in fright.

“Oh, don’t worry, I won’t let the stupid crow anywhere near you. You will be long gone by the time either of them returns,” she smiled.

“Thank you! Why are you helping me?”

“I am fed up with Mum and her silly potions. Besides, I like you. And I don’t want you to be hurt,” she replied.

“Thank you, thank you!”

“You’re welcome. Now, let me make this antidote quickly. Finish your breakfast.”

As she made the potion, she asked Timmy about where he lived and how to came to be on the island. He explained about his raft on the shore.

Timmy enjoyed the meal despite the circumstances. He hoped that Tiana wasn’t playing a mean trick on him… what if she gave him another sleeping potion and cut his legs off herself? No, he liked her, she seemed genuinely kind. He breathed slowly, in and out, trying to stay calm.

She finished the antidote and got Timmy to take two sips. After a few minutes, he was able to carefully stand up.

“At last!” shouted Timmy happily.

“Great, I am glad that it worked, I’ve only made that potion once before. Now, you should leave before Mum or Cain get back. I will show you a shortcut out the back of our cabin to get you to the beach.”

“Thank you for helping me, I will never forget your kindness,” grinned Timmy, giving Tiana a big hug.

“Oh, your fur tickles! No worries, come on, this way. Don’t forget your red backpack. Go as quickly as you can. Mum will probably be back any minute. I tell you what… she has an old camouflage potion around here…”

Tiana searched the dusty shelves for a small blue bottle of camouflage potion. She told him to take a sip.

Timmy did so, and felt a tingle.

“That’s better – I can see you as I know that you are there and am looking directly at you. But you will blend in nicely with the trees as you walk to your raft – even Cain with his good eyesight would struggle to spot you.”

She pointed out the path to take back to the beach.

“Goodbye,” she whispered, “good luck.”

“Goodbye Tiana. I hope that you won’t get into any trouble because of this. If you ever need my help for anything, I live at number 12 The Hedge,” smiled Timmy.

“Ok, nice to meet you,” she waved and went back into the cabin, shutting the door behind her.

Timmy strode quickly but quietly along the path. His heart beat furiously in his chest. He couldn’t wait to get safely to the raft and home again. Mummy, Daddy and Dorothy would be amazed to hear his story! They must be worried about him.

The adventurous little mouse finally found his way back to his raft and set off from the island.

When he got home, Mummy, Daddy and Dorothy all gave him a huge hug and then told him off for scaring them.

“Where were you all night?” asked Mummy, crying tears of joy as she held her son close.

“I had an awesome adventure on the island! You probably won’t believe me when I tell you what happened! There was a nasty witch toad, an angry crow and a kind toad, too…” Timmy spoke quickly.

“All right, let’s get you comfy on the sofa… would you like a hot chocolate?” asked Daddy.

“No thank you, not hot chocolate! Anything but that!” shouted Timmy.

The end

26 February is National Tell a Fairy Tale day. What is your favourite fairy tale?

The hero in this story was a mouse; maybe you would like to write a story about your favourite animal or pet?

My daughter Bethany helped me to write this story: we talked about who would have the adventure, what animals the witch and her daughter would be, and what would make it a good story.

Fairy tales often have:

A hero. A bad guy. A problem to solve, or a journey. Some magic, which might be used for good or bad. A happy ending.

You could ask your grown up to help you to tell or write a fairy tale together. 🙂✍🧙‍♂️

For more resources and stories to read with your children, go to www.literacytrust.org.uk

Just look up

The spaces between the clouds 
are secret stories waiting
To be found
By someone who cranes their neck
And stares for a little while,
Just watching
To discover a treasure
That most never know about.
So look up.

Patches of blue peeking through,
Like a child behind curtains
Playing hide
And seek, giggling quietly
As they crouch in the shadows
Patiently
Waiting for you to find them.
But first, you have to stop for
A while. Take a deep breath and
Just look up.