A Trio of Cubs, A Telephone Box And The Love Of Reading

For bloggers with cameras, photo opportunities turn up in surprising places, with thoughts of friends never far away.

On Sunday, I took a bracing walk around the grounds of the majestic country home of Forde Abbey in Dorset.  Dating back originally to the mid 1100s as a monastery, it has been privately owned since the 1600s.

In November, the public can wander around the beautiful gardens free of charge ~

Forde Abbey Nov 2015 (7) Edited

I thought of Hugh when I took the photo below thinking how much he would like this door, as every Thursday he takes part in Norm’s Thursday Door Challenge.  I love doors and windows and probably drive hubby mad when I keep stopping to take photos ~

Forde Abbey Nov 2015 (3) Door Edited

There is a bird hide on one side of the lake, made of beech, now in its natural autumnal glory ~

Forde Abbey Nov 2015 (15) Edited

I was in for a surprise when I went inside and found this rustic bench. Perfect for Jude and her Bench Photo Challenge I immediately thought. November’s theme is a bench with a message/plaque or autumn.  Hopefully I can get away with the ‘message’  even though is isn’t actually on the bench ~

Forde Abbey Nov 2015 (10) Edited

A different kind of ‘beech house’ warning ~

Forde Abbey Nov 2015 (11)

During a recent trip to Exmoor Zoo, a delightful family owned and award-winning zoo dedicated to extensive conservation, this gorgeous trio of cubs had me mesmerised.  I hoped to get a photo of them looking the same way, just in time for the prompt for the Weekly Photo Challenge as it turned out ~

The cubs had something far more interesting than me to keep them amused ~

Exmoor Zoo Oct 2015 (86) Edited

But after a quick shift around, I became more hopeful ~

Exmoor Zoo Oct 2015 (95) Edited

And then at last, they granted me this pose ~

Exmoor Zoo Oct 2015 (94) 2 Edited

This is the third successful litter of Nicco and Fu, all with three cubs, all boys until now; one of these beauties is a girl.

Thank goodness for my mobile phone camera the day we drove through a quiet village and came across this telephone box.  Once a familiar sight on every street corner in the Britain I grew up in, the few left now stand empty and abandoned.  But not this one.

‘Stop the car!’, I yelled politely asked hubby.

Telephone Box Library (1) Edited

Because you see, this telephone box is filled with books, donated by villagers to encourage reading in the name of one of their own who tragically lost his life too young ~

Telephone Box Library (2) Edited

What a beautiful gesture.

And speaking of books, lovely Julie of An Unexpected Life Chosen nominated me to answer a few questions for a Reading Habit blog hop. Thank you so much Julie for thinking of me…and for your wonderful patience (it’s only July since she asked… *hangs head in shame*…).

I find it impossible to know who to nominate, and I know there are many of you who read avidly.  So I nominate any and all, looking forward to reading your answers should you join in.

The questions are in bold, my answers in italics:


You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next?  I would ask Eldest Son for his recommendation; he is always saying ‘Mom, you would really like this book…’ And he’s right.

You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or commit? Quit. No question about it.  If I lose interest I can’t keep reading, no matter how hard I try. Reading should be a pleasure, not a slog.

The end of the year is coming and you’re so close yet so far away on your GoodReads challenge. Do you quit or commit?  I’ve never done a GoodReads challenge, but if I was so close yet so far on anything, I would keep going as best I could.

The covers of a series you love DO. NOT. MATCH. How do you cope?  I never judge a book by its cover, literally.  I admire the good ones, yes, but it’s the story inside that counts for me. 

Everyone and their mother loves a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings? I don’t give much thought to what’s popular or not, sticking to what I like, which includes a lot of True Crime, which I know isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  I’ve read every one of Ann Rule’s  books (she sadly died in July this year) thanks to my dear friend in California introducing me to her years ago.

You’re reading a book and you’re about to start crying in public. How do you deal?  I’m weird, I don’t read in public as I can’t concentrate.  Even when travelling, I prefer to zone out, watch the world go by. But I always carry a pack of tissues with me, for lots of reasons…

A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you re-read the book? Skip the sequel? Try to find a summary on GoodReads? Cry in frustration?   I would read the sequel and hope it would jog my memory…

You don’t want ANYONE borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people “nope” when they ask? I’ve lent paperbacks happily, not worrying about getting them back. We can all be forgetful at times.   But a special book?  That’s a bit like asking to borrow your granny’s vintage porcelain tea service. Awkward…

You’ve picked up and put- down five different books in the past month. How do you get over the reading slump?  I only read one book at a time, but my cure to getting over any slump is to keep writing.

There are so many new books coming out that you are dying to read! How many do you actually buy?  Lately, I’ve bought a few (Kindle) recommended and written by blogging friends, but I’m slow to get to them while focusing on writing my memoir. 

After you’ve bought a new book you want to get to, how long does it sit on your shelf until you actually read it? I love the idea of knowing it’s there, ready and waiting, that I can pick it up anytime I want to.  I like to savour the wait, something special to look forward to later…


I would like to wish my dear American friends a very Happy Thanksgiving.  It’s a celebration I embraced with my family when I lived in California, and I miss it.  But this weekend is my ‘Thanksgiving Baby’ middle son’s birthday, so I’ll be taking some time out to prepare for a family celebration.  I’ll be hanging around blogland for the next couple of days to catch up with you all, and then will be back next week.

Happy, safe travels to all, near and far, and see you soon!

Love Sherri xxx

Posted in Bench Photos, Blog Hops, Books & Reading, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 56 Comments

Sunday Lunch Invitation – Sherri Matthews and Michelle Clements James.


A guest post in which I share the story of ‘Crazy Grandma’ and the turkey that never was; a summer story just in time for Thanksgiving…thank you so much Sally Cronin for the invitation!

Originally posted on Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life:

sunday lunch logo

Today it is all girls together for the Sunday Lunch although my husband is hovering in the background keen to enjoy the food that our guests have brought with them.. Their own guests sound both interesting and wonderfully colourful and I am going to enjoy getting to know them a little better. Without further ado; time to meet Sherri Matthews and her mother-in-law Olivia and Michelle Clements James and her maternal grandmother Anna Davis Rabe.

Since it is Thanksgiving in the United States this coming week I have cooked a turkey which has been roasting away since very early this morning. Sherri’s mother-in-law Olivia has provided the stuffing which is infusing the bird with delicious flavour and there are roasted squash, potatoes, green beans and carrots with thick gravy to accompany it.

A little bit about Sherri first.


By the time we get into our 50s and 60s most of…

View original 2,172 more words

Posted in Family Life, Family Traditions, Guest Blogs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 25 Comments

Salisbury Cathedral And A Holiday For Fred: 99 Word Flash Fiction

This week, comfort and refuge is the theme for Charli’s flash fiction prompt:

‘November 11, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a place of comfort that is a refuge. Have fun with it, like a pillow fight between best friends at a slumber party or newlyweds in search of the perfect mattress. Or you can go dark and write about unusual comforts, like a bad habit or a padded cell. Play with the idea of comfort and refuge.’

Walking by Salisbury Cathedral a couple of weeks ago one late afternoon, it was good to take some time out of a busy day to stop and rest and snap a few photos ~


Set in eight acres of lawn, this medieval cathedral dating back to 1220, is one of Britain’s finest examples of English Gothic Architecture, boasting the tallest church spire and largest cloister in all of the UK.

Salisbury Cathedral Edited 4

As well as containg the world’s oldest working clock dating back to AD 1386, it also houses the best surviving of the four original copies of the Magna Carter.  I’ve visited this glorious cathedral many times over the years, most often to walk around its grounds, and I’m always astounded by its beauty.

Salisbury Cathedral Edited 2

Salisbury Cathedral Edited

Thinking of the theme of rest, maybe it’s time to wrap up the adventures of Fred and Ethel.   I think Ethel is ready for a rest after Fred’s antics. She wasn’t able to trap him last time in the cage she built in the garage; he escaped, howling into the night. Not one to give up, however, Ethel has ideas for a little getaway, but something tells me that her idea of a holiday is very different to Fred’s…

Entance to Edinburgh Castle, Scotland (c) Sherri Matthews

Entrance to Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
(c) Sherri Matthews

A Holiday For Fred

Furious, Ethel stormed into the house. She grabbed a beer from the fridge and swigged it down in one.

Hours later, Fred stumbled into the kitchen.

“You git, where the ‘ell ‘ave you been now?” Fumed Ethel, slamming her empty bottle down on the table next to the other three.

“I don’t know luv, honest, I don’t remember…”

“Well sit your arse down,” Ethel glared, “‘cos I’m gonna tell you about a little holiday we’re going on…but first, for gawd’s sake, put some bleedin’ clothes on!”

“Great, can’t wait,” beamed Fred as he bounded up the stairs.

Posted in Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , | 71 Comments

Sanctuary in Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei

There is a tiny village in Normandy called Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei that is so charming, it is known officially as a ‘Most Beautiful Village of France’.  It was a privilige to spend my birthday afternoon there in September with my family ~

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (77) Edited

The River Sarthe flows through this village with pretty cottages nestled cosily on both sides of the riverbank ~

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (25) Edited

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (5) Edited

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (78) Edited

A short walk from the car park at the top of the village across the stone bridge brings you to the town square in minutes ~

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (14) Edited

We hoped to find a place to eat, but were a little late for lunch at this quaint café ~

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (81) Edited

This delightful café set within a walled garden looked ideal, but was also about to close ~

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (12) Edited

I would have been happy here with a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Or both ~

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (80) Edited

We found a restaurant on the other side of the square and then strolled through the village, captivated by its picturesque charm ~

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (13) Edited

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (8)

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (15) Edited St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (18) Edited

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We found a path that took us out of the main part of the village towards the 11th century church ~

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (19) Edited

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (31) Edited

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (28) Edited

And there, as we walked away from the church, the path opened up to a green expanse and a magnificent 15th century chapel ~

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (66) EditedThis beautiful and unique chapel stands on the original, 7th Century site of the village of Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei, so named after Saint-Céneri, an Italian priest who, the story tells, having been guided by an angel, travelled north-west with a companion.

The long pilgrimage brought the two men across Northern Italy and eventually to the banks of the River Sarthe in the late 600s.  Exhausted and thirsty, they struggled to find clear water to drink. Saint-Céneri made the sign of the cross and suddenly, a clear water source flowed up out of the ground.  This source never dried up, and today, across the river, the Fountain of Petit Saint Celerin still stands ~

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (70) Edited

Miraculous healings of eye diseases are attributed to the water source.  Another miracle occurred when Saint-Céneri  prayed and asked God to part the waters of the river, enabling him and his companion to safely cross, before the river closed back up.

Weary from his travels, the priest stayed in the so-named Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei, living as a hermit and visited by disciples, word having spread far and wide of these and other miracles.

Artists are more likely to visit the chapel these days, each giving their own rendering ~

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Today, with the horrors of the tragic attacks upon the citizens of Paris very much on my mind along with so many the world over, I hope and pray that those suffering find some small measure of comfort and peace as they grieve for the needless, tragic loss of so many beloved victims.

I remember the cool tranquility offered by this little chapel on a balmy, September afternoon ~

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (48) Edited

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (47) Edited

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (56) Edited

Feeling helpless, lost, reeling from the terrible cost of violence and terror and the despair of the innocent, we can do little else but pray as we stand with our neighbours in solidarity, holding them ever-close in our hearts ~

St-Ceneri-le-Gerei (65) Edited

And we can hope that even in the face of such devastation, those suffering today in fear and pain, uncomprehending in all that has happened, will find healing and strength within the light and safety of their own, private sanctuary.

Posted in Current Affairs, Grief, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 85 Comments

In Which The Story Changes

I found the words one day as I walked.

Coastal path Devon Coastline, England (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Coastal path Devon Coastline, England
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

These words:  ‘Stranger In A White Dress.’  The title of my memoir.

Which Way? (c) Sherri Matthews

Which Way?
(c) Sherri Matthews

But as I climbed high above the sea,  I found something more:

Soar Cove, Devon Coastline (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Soar Cove, Devon Coastline
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

I found strength.

The top (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

The top
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

And I realised that whether I look up or down, I never stop asking ‘why’.

Steep Drop (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Steep Drop
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Does this change anything?  The tide ebbs, the sun sets and the moon wanes anyway.
I know I’ve changed, but some things stay the same.

Aqua Marine - Clean (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Aqua Marine – Clean
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

I hear a girl, giggling then yelling: ‘No, let me do it on my own!’ as she pulls away from her  father.  He tries to show her that the water is safe, if she will only take his hand
and walk with him into the gently lapping sea.

Gentle September Tide, Soar Cove, Devon (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Gentle September Tide, Soar Cove, Devon
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

But she doesn’t trust him, not for this.  She will get her feet wet only when she’s ready
and not before.    She will do it her way and though he tries to convince her, she resists.

Afternoon View overlooking Soar Cove (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Afternoon View overlooking Soar Cove
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

She observes, unnoticed, from the shadows lurking at home how her father paces, checks his watch and reaches into his jacket pocket for a cigarette and taps it three times on his silver cigarette case – tap; tap; tap – then lights it.

“I’m going to the pub now, be back soon!” he calls out, as a curl of grey smoke drifts up into his squinting eyes.  She wants to chase after him and say please don’t go, stay home with us, but she knows that she can do nothing to change his mind.

He shuts the front door behind him and as she turns around to glimpse her mother’s tight, pinched face, the girl knows that later, as she lies awake in bed watching her pale, yellow curtains flap gently in the breeze, she will hear her mother cry.

 The sun always sets, but our horizons burn with change

Soar Cove Sunset (c) Sheri Matthews 2015

Soar Cove Sunset
(c) Sheri Matthews 2015

I watched and I waited in that cool hour between day and night ~

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

In the place where I found my story.

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

And I remember how I climbed to the top that day, and I didn’t quit.

We made it, right to the very top. Hubby and I. (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

We made it, right to the very top. Hubby and I.
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Although I felt like it more than once.


The post I planned for yesterday didn’t happen.  This post wrote itself this morning in the aftermath of receiving a letter from my dad telling me he is back in prison. I’m reeling a bit I admit: hurt; disappointed; angry.  But I’ll get over it, I always do.  I thought though that this time he would make it, I really did.  Such is life with an alcoholic father.  I began my blog almost three years ago sharing about my dad, and I continue to do so not for sympathy, but because it’s part of the story.  Part of life.  It’s raining today at the summerhouse, thank you, dear friends, for sharing the view with me rain or shine.   Maybe tomorrow the view will be a little brighter.

“Ninety-nine percent of those who fail are not actually defeated, they simply quit.’
Paul J Meyer.

Posted in My Dad's Alcoholic Prison, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 86 Comments

Good Tools Clueless Werewolf

A bad workman blames his tools, so they say.  But then again, if you haven’t got the right tool for the job…

When I moved back to England twelve years ago, my remaining worldly possessions crammed into an international shipping container, I realised I was woefully short of a decent tool set.  All that ‘stuff’ got left behind with the ex.

I never thought I would be so keen to buy my first Phillips electric screwdriver, cool black storage case and everything. It came in very handy; who knew that putting together flat-pack furniture could be so therapeutic?  Although I’m sure It would have been a different story if I had struggled with a manual screwdriver.

Having the right tool for the job, so to speak, makes for the best possible productivity,  providing it’s used correctly: a hammer is great for banging nails into a wall, but not so good if you smash your thumb with it in the process.

I’m left-handed, so trying to use a potato peeler had its limitations when it was my turn for that chore growing up.   After a while, I forced myself to use it with my right hand so that by holding it at different angle, it did the job.

At first it felt awkward, but I trained myself so well that now, to this day, I would find it impossible to use a peeler with my left hand, even though I am a total leftie; hands, feet, everything.

At school,  it was a challenge to keep from smudging my writing, and I often came home with the entire side of my left hand and wrist covered in splotches of ink.

But, leftie or not, there are some great writing tools to help us along our way, including NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which takes place throughout November.  In addition to providing some great links to bloggers who have tips and unique takes on the theme, Charli gives us this for October 28th’s flash fiction prompt:

‘In 99 words (no more, no less) include a tool in a story. How can it enhance the character, tension or meaning? It can also be a story about a tool or a character’s obsession for tools. Go where the prompt leads.’

At a heavy-duty revising juncture of her ‘Rock Creek’ WIP, Charli has invented her own writing toolkit to work with alongside her fellow writers: NaNoReViSo.

So inspired by this, I took up the challenge with her so that I too am using the month of November (and up until the middle of December) to revise, rewrite, cut, paste, chop, hammer, rip, shred, burn (whatever it takes) the first draft of my memoir into something publishable, I hope.

Three hours a day.  One hundred twenty thousand plus word count to deconstruct.  Unless I deconstruct first.

And I’ve already discovered what you who’ve gone before me already know so well, that while the first draft may be a wild animal, running free across the pages, never caring where it might roam, trying to tame the beast and rein it in through revision is another thing altogether.

Speaking of untamable beasts, I wonder what Fred is up to?  Will Ethel be able to tell her clueless, hairy husband the truth about his little problem, or does she have other ideas?  Let’s find out in the next 99 word flash fiction installment:

Panther - The Exmoor Beast at Exmoor Zoo. Hand raised, this beauty now lives at the zoo. He looks like Eddie's very large uncle...except he would make mincemeat out of his smaller nephew... (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

The Exmoor Beast at Exmoor Zoo. Hand raised, this magnificent panther now lives at the zoo. He looks like Eddie’s very large uncle…except he would make mincemeat out of his smaller nephew…     (c) Sherri Matthews 2015


To Trap A Werewolf

Full moon rising, but Ethel had a plan.

“Rabbit pie tonight Luv?” Fred yawned, scratching at his chest

“No, it ain’t…come with me …”

Fred gawped at the large cage in the garage.

“What that’s for then?”

“That beast thingy, wot everyone’s muttering on about, I built it, to catch ‘im, get the reward like.”

Moonlight beamed.

“Gawd, I left the toolbox inside, get it for me will yer?”

Fred poked his fangs, ripped his clothes off and bolted.

“Oi, get back ‘ere or I’ll ‘ave yer guts fer garters!” screeched Ethel, with only a distant howl in reply.


 Wishing everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo and other projects the very best.
As Charli will be the first to tell us: ‘We’ve got this!’

Posted in Flash Fiction, Writing Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 71 Comments

Happy Halloween!

The stew’s bubbling away ~

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Goodies ready and waiting for trick-or-treater’s ~

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

The Jack -O-Lantern’s carved and lit ~

Halloween 2015 (5) Edited

This bench used to sit in my garden in California. Aspie D carved the pumpkin (‘the one’ from the Pumpkin Farm) with her usual creativity. This year we have a Plague Doctor (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

~ and conveniently placed on a bench to qualify for Jude’s October
Bench Series before the stroke of midnight.

Wishing you all a Safe & Happy Halloween!

Posted in Bench Photos, Halloween | Tagged , , , , | 62 Comments

Guest Post by Author Geoff Le Pard

Today I’m delighed to welcome to the Summerhouse the indomnitable Geoff Le Pard ~

unnamedI had the pleasure of meeting Geoff at the Blogger’s Bash in June and he is as warm, friendly and genuine – and yes, funny – as I knew he would be.

A fellow Brit living in London, Geoff is a published author and prolific blogger who tries to fool us with his biting, self-deprecating wit, hoping we won’t notice that he has a heart as big as a lion’s. But it hasn’t worked. He’s a big softie is what I’m trying to say.

As his photo might suggest,  sadly, he won’t be singing or dancing for us today, but he will be sharing how he got writing in the first place, along with great advice for any newbies like me beating down the brambles along the path to publication. So with enough from me, it’s over to him: please welcome my lovely pal Geoff:

My Father and Other Liars

Blog Book Tour

How did this all begin and what has it taught me?

I’d like to say I’ve been writing since X grade at school but the truth is sadder than that. I remember an English teacher, Mr Doubleday, giving us a project that involved writing the first chapter of a novel. I had this marvellous idea; I love cricket so I wanted to set a murder mystery alongside a cricket tour of the Caribbean islands. Maybe the first chapter was a bit cricket heavy and mystery light but Doubleday wasn’t impressed and said so. Instead he praised some bit of fluff by a contemporary, Richard Trillo. I’ve not seen Richard since school and doubt he follows this blog. Ditto Doubleday. I wish them no ill will but they should know they put back my writing career 40 years. Am I bothered…?

Lesson one: do not diss a novice writer. Praise and more praise and yet more praise. Criticism, technique and all that malarkey can come later. Just get people writing until they have enough confidence to withstand the truth.

I had no intention to try my hand at any sort of creative writing. Indeed I considered myself without a creative bone in my body. My father, revered and reviled equally down the years, was the family laureate, turning out poems to order and writing with flair and fortitude. How, or more reasonably why would I try and do something that would be pale by comparison? An example. Dad and I went walking every year for about 15 years, with other friends. On one walk – Offa’s Dyke maybe – our companion threw out a challenge, a first line of a limerick for us to complete. Within what felt like seconds Dad was reeling off limerick after limerick. My one humble offering was ignored. I just listened to a master and laughed.

Lesson two: do not be intimidated by others who have been there, done that. It’s a trite but true statement that we all have to start somewhere and you are nether too old, nor too young, too stupid nor too uneducated to write. If you can write you can tell a story. That’s all it takes, a modicum of language to communicate.

My family, when the children were at school, enjoyed a week at a summer school, held every year over three separate weeks at Marlborough College, a rather grand private school set in awesomely picturesque grounds in the Wiltshire countryside. The courses were pithed at all ages and they had a splendid time while I toiled at the legal coalface. Inevitably the children reached an age where holidays in Greece with friends seemed more attractive. Still my wife wanted to go and suggested I might like to join her. We could do a class together – we learnt to jive and jitterbug, as it happens – but there would be a slot for me to fill while she went off printing or whatever. I chose to write a ten minute radio play in a week. The course was run by an extraordinary woman, who’d been published, written for radio and all sorts. Her ego knew no bounds as all the examples she chose to illustrate her points on character, narrative arc and so one came for her own oeuvre. I enjoyed it immensely and we performed each other’s attempts with vigour if not skill.

Lesson three: take a course, any course, if you need a push. You’ll find the most important thing as you struggle with the notion of you as a writer: there are loads like you out there – novices, all uncertain, fumbling in the dark. No one starts brilliant. They just start.

I didn’t really see playwriting as being for me. I tried a smidgen of poetry which was, frankly embarrassing. But I tried. A week or so later we went, the whole family, to Devon. We hired this massive place in Torbay with a hot tub and heaven knows how many rooms and the kids brought a load of friends. In the evenings they took over the lounge to play Risk or watch DVDs or sat in the hot tube and did teenagerly things (i.e. those that involve your parents being a long way away but within screaming distance). The Textiliste wanted to practice her printing so what was I to do? Read? Sure but I had this urge, this mad idea…

Lesson four: writing is all about a mad idea, given life. For heaven’s sakes we are adults. Making things up is for loons and little ones. Telling stories requires two things. Skill and, erm, skill. Doesn’t it? Don’t you have to be born a genius at this art? Not at all. You just have to believe. And boy is that the hardest thing.

The idea? One of the discussions at Marlborough centred on where to get story ideas from. Our facilitator suggested taking a phrase, any phrase and imagining what might be behind it. We were given the task of using the phrase to sketch out a synopsis for a play, do three or four and then ask the rest of the class which we should write. I had this idea for a buddy story, with the title ‘Right to Roam’. A comedy. The class trashed it in favour of ‘The Light at the End of the Tunnel’ which turned into a Victorian melodrama/ghost story. But I liked ‘Right to Roam’. I thought it had legs. I thought it might even be a novel. But a novel is huge. How on earth do you write a novel?

Lesson five: Anyone can run a marathon if they can run; anyone can write a novel if they can write. One is a series of individual steps leading to 26 miles, 385 yards; the other a series of sentences that add up to about 80,000 words. I’ve not run a marathon but I could. It would hurt, it would be exhausting but I could. All I have to do is want to do it. Same with a novel. But unlike my bucket list marathon, I really really wanted to write that novel. So I typed a first sentence.

Lesson six: that was the hardest part, really. But it wasn’t that hard. Really. It was shit, but so what. You must write that first sentence and then move on. Don’t not sit and agonise over its quality.

The novel grew and grew. It turned dark, then darker. The comedy went. A dead woman appeared and became the centre of the story. I plotted none of this.

Lesson seven: whether you plot or you use the seat of the pants there is no right way to develop a story. All that matters, like the marathon, is that you continue to an end. It may not even be the end but just get there. Procrastination is a desire to perfect, an understandable feebleness of mind. You can, you will, change damn near everything in the editing but unless you get the four corners of your story on the page you can’t move on to the polishing.

I wrote 135,000 words in four months. A few good friends read my masterpiece and tried to be nice. I owe them so much for reading my verbal stodge.

Lesson eight: people will be amazed at you writing a book length set of words and mistake it for a novel. They will want to read it; they will insist and you will be proud of your achievement so you will let them. Please understand if they find it hard to be garrulous with the praise. The achievement is finishing your first marathon, not the time you take; same with your novel. You have a start. After that it’s all… hard bloody work. But that’s another story and I for one am grateful I took the plunge.

My Father and Other Liars is the second book by Geoff Le Pard.

Published in August it is available as an ebook and paperback here:


My Father & Other Liars

His first book, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle can be found here:


Dead Flies & Sherry Trifle
Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls.


Thank you for your wonderfully honest and encouraging guest post Geoff.  And you never know who might be reading – Richard Trillo and Mr Doubleday perhaps?  They do say life is stranger than fiction…

Posted in Guest Blogs | Tagged , , , , | 88 Comments

Story From A Cemetery And A 99 Word Flash Fiction

This week, Charli’s flash fiction prompt has us looking at gravestones, literally:

‘October 21, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a final resting place. You can take any perspective that appeals to you from the historic to the horrific. Just don’t scare me too greatly. You can also choose to write about those buried before they came to their final rest. An extra challenge is to discover a story or character from a local cemetery. I double-dog dare you to join me with your own cemetery day!’

This prompt expands upon an important part of Charli’s research for her ‘Rock Creek‘ historical fiction work-in-progress gleaned from her visit last year to Fairbury Cemetery near Rock Creek Station in Nebraska.

I share Charli’s fascination with cemeteries, always wanting to know more about the stories lying behind the engravings.  And since I’m up for a double-dog dare, I take up the challenge with glee and a spooky little mystery for you.

Some of you may remember my post about Stourhead (two years ago this month!) in which I posted some photographs of St Peter’s church and the cemetery ~

St Peter's Church, Stourhead, Wiltshire, England (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

St Peter’s Church, Stourhead, Wiltshire, England, which dates back to medieval times and belonged to the Hoare family.  (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

It’s a place I’ve visited many times, usually to walk around the beautiful lake and gardens, but on that day, I spent time wandering through the cemetery ~

St Peter's Church & Cemetery, Stourhead (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

St Peter’s Church & Cemetery, Stourhead
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

I remember it as a day heavy with autumnal drizzle, which only added to the slightly eerie but peaceful setting ~

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Not much information found on these ancient gravestones ~

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

No easy read here ~

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

I wandered one way, Hubby another, as I snapped away ~

A cemetery with a view ~

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Intrigued by this cluster of stone crosses tucked away at the back of the cemetery, I climbed up a small incline to get a better view, but it wasn’t until later when I uploaded my photos to my laptop,  that I noticed something odd about this shot ~

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Can you see the ‘globe’ a couple of inches to the left of the cross at the front? At first, I thought it was a raindrop on my camera lens, but when I asked the question in my post, several readers thought it was too perfectly round, and begged the question, why wasn’t it on any of my other photos taken at exactly the same time?

Besides, by the time I took this photo, the rain had stopped.

My friend Pat and I struck up a conversation about it and wondered if it might be an orb.  She suggested that I send the photo to our mutual friend Bev who writes about all things supernatural at her blog Ghost Talk.  You can read what she said in her fascinating post about my ghostly orb, amongst others, here.

So what do you think?  Raindrop or orb?  To this day, I’ve never found any such mark on any photograph of mine, rain or shine.  And so the mystery continues.


Thanks so much to all who tell me of your enjoyment of the adventures of Ethel and Fred, the Clueless Werewolf.   I can’t let them go, not yet.  Here’s the latest installment of my 99 word flash fiction using Charli’s prompt:


Ethel threw the nightdress in the fire and glared at Fred.

“If them coppers find out you stole that old bag’s clothes you’ll get it!”

“Sod her, ‘er old man almost shot me!

“It’s your fault for pawing at Mave,” Ethel hissed, pushing the newspaper across the table. “It don’t look good.”

Fred scanned the headlines. Local woman missing, broken gravestones over at St John’s, a ‘ghostly white figure’ seen by a group of ‘harmless kids’.

“But we only went there to look at the moon, for a lark was all…”

Ethel sighed. “Oh Fred, what ‘ave you done now?”

Posted in Flash Fiction, Halloween, HIstory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 99 Comments

Serendipity And The Bunny That Nobody Wanted

Most of you, I’m sure, have heard the joke about the horse walking into a bar and the bar tender asks: “So why the long face?”

But I bet you haven’t heard this one:

Three people walk into a store to buy quail bedding and leave with a pet rabbit.

Not a joke though, because it’s exactly what happened to us in July when a certain little bunny leapt out of his pen and straight into our hearts.

Here he is: Little Nate Bunnykins ~

Nate Bunnykins July 2015 (c) Sherri Matthews

Nate Bunnykins July 2015
(c) Sherri Matthews

Strange, despite the vast array of pets we’ve owned over the years, we’ve never had rabbits.

So why that day and why this particular bunny? Nobody could have been more surprised than I.  We always stop to ooh and ahh at the cute bunnies; and the degus; and the hamsters and rats; and all the pets up for adoption.  But it stops there. Until we saw Bunnykins.

Or rather, until he saw us.

He was alone, separated from the group of other bunnies in the pen next to him.  Not knowing much at all about pet bunnies, but guessing he was young (he was, ten weeks young), we wondered out loud why he wasn’t with the others.

And while we wondered, that little bunny hopped over to us, stood up on his hind legs and wiggled his sweet nose, all the while pleading with his soulful, brown eyes, “Please take me home, I promise to be a good little bunny!”

What choice do you have when a bunny does that?

Not knowing much anything about pet bunny ownership, we had a lot of questions to ask and discovered he was alone because he was the last of his litter. Nobody wanted him as he ‘wasn’t as pretty as his siblings’ who were fluffy and spotty and all that cutesy stuff.

We couldn’t believe it.  To us, he is the most beautiful bunny in the world.

But because he was about to go up for adoption, we got all his vaccinations, health checks, microchipping and yes, even his neutering done for free, which was an added bonus we hadn’t expected. (We still would have taken him as we had already fallen in love, and yes, when I say ‘we’, that includes Hubby…).

Now six months old, Bunnykins is as adored as ever.  He is naughty (already chewed through a wire or two), grumpy at times (he did just get neutered so who can blame him?), and impossible to catch when we let him loose in the living room.

But I get payback stroking his warm, silky fur as he snuggles up next to me of an evening, and my heart melts.

Eddie is very good, but mostly runs away from him:

I'm not sure what this is? Never seen a rabbit before... Eddie & Bunny getting to know one another... (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

What is it Mummy…? 
Eddie & Bunnykins getting to know one another…
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Maisy loves to cuddle with him, sort of…

Maisy and Bunny...I just wants to be friends! (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Maisy (not sure about this) and Bunnykins (I just wants to be friends!) 
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Bunny brings us great joy, not to mention laughter. While in France in September and struggling with my limited French in trying to explain to the hosts of our Gite that we had a pet rabbit, I realised that I told them we had a pet bread instead. (Got my ‘le pain’ and ‘lapin’ mixed up. C’est la vie…).

All in all, you could say we are Happy Bunnies.


Charli’s flash fiction prompt this week asks us:

‘In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that reveals or explores a moment of serendipity. How did it come about? What did it lead to? You can express a character’s view of the moment or on serendipity in general. Use the element of surprise or show how it is unexpected or accidentally good.’

What of this word ‘serendipity’?  The Oxford dictionary defines it as:-

‘The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.’

Serendipity definitely played its part the day we met Bunnykins, for both human and animal.  It’s played its part many times throughout my life, not least of all through blogging.

I think of my lovely blogging friend Patsy Parker who surprised me early last year by painting a copy of one of my photographs and naming it ‘Sherri’s Ocean‘ (I had never had anything painted for me, much less named for me before, it was a beautiful gesture).

Recently, she surprised me again by sending this delightful drawing of Bunnykins from a photo she’d seen on my Facebook page.  I love it!

Nate Bunnykins drawn by Patsy Parker for me. Thank you so much dear Patsy!

Nate Bunnykins drawn by Patsy Parker for me. Thank you so much dear Patsy!

This post should have gone out yesterday, but the day’s frustrations and a late appointment put paid to that.  And I was thinking how there have been times in my life when I’ve felt like little Bunnykins, separate from the ‘pack’, not knowing where I really belong, waiting for, well, for something…

It seems that serendipity had one last say for this post, and I needed to wait because this morning, I happened to read a little blurb about C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien and how they used to meet regularly at a well-known pub in Oxford with their writer friends, encouraging and inspiring one another.

And of course, out of those meetings, those two incredible authors eventually gave us The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings.

Reading this reminded me of a visit we took to Oxford some years ago and of having lunch in that very same pub, The Eagle and Child:

The Eagle And Child Pub Oxford

Not a great photo, for some reason this is the only I could find. Better pics and info seen on the link above…

Life was relatively calm for me and my family that spring day in 2008,  as it had been for some years after a sustained time of turmoil.

Sitting in that pub, with its tiny, dark rooms, the wood paneling permeated with the smell of smouldering firewood, I let my imagination run wild at the thought of Tolkein and Lewis sitting in that very same place decades earlier, smoking their pipes, drinking ale, chatting about their latest endeavours.

I listened to their whispers in the shadows of stories yet to be written, and wondered when that time would come for me,  as I harboured long-held hopes of writing the book burning deep within my heart. But that day, it all seemed like a distant dream.

One day, I told myself, maybe one day…

But one day was a few years off, and when it arrived, it did so unexpectedly.  More troubles awaited, but the day I walked out my job for the last time having been laid off,  I had no way of knowing that actually, my boss had given me the best gift of all: my passport out of my rabbit pen, setting me free to chase my dream.

Wheels were already spinning, taking me to the place where I was meant to be.  Because of all that happened in the years to follow,  writing my book is no longer a dream, but a reality.

And I needed to be reminded of all this, as I asked myself how a post about a bunny, dreams and an old English pub made sense.   We cannot possibly know what life may yet spring upon us, but along the way, we can cherish and be grateful for those moments of sweet serendipty.


Finally, and on that note, here is my flash, in 99 words, no more, no less. A bit more fun with Ethel and Fred and another certain visitor. Hope you enjoy:

Lucky Moon

Lucky Moon? (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Lucky Moon?
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

His beady eyes watched as the back door slowly opened and a woman appeared, shotgun in hand.

She’d seen him.

“Keep still yer little sod…that’s right…” Ethel had him in her sights, about to pull the trigger, when startled by footsteps.

She zoomed round to face Fred.

“Ethel, please let me in, I’m cold and hungry!”

“What the…is that a nightie? Get in yer moron, we need words. But first…”

She swung back around but her prey had gone.

Safe in his burrow, he thanked his lucky moon that he hadn’t ended up a rabbit pie that night.


This post also is linked to Michelle’s Weekly Pet Share.  Click on the link for more photos of beautiful creatures great and small!


Posted in Flash Fiction, Pets, Weekly Pet Challenge, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 95 Comments