Bleurgh

Definitely spoke too soon. Big Dreamer has Covid (like a bad cold, he says), and I am tireder than ever while he’s out of action, and also have a sore knee. That is all.

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Too soon

Photograph of Exeter rooftops in the evening. All rights reserved (www.hannahcatherinefoley.co.uk)

I spoke too soon. Our brief foray into normality has been brought back down to earth with a bump… the school Christmas play is off! And you can guess why… rising numbers of Covid. There was me bemoaning Christmas songs in November. I’m wishing I hadn’t spoken.

In other news, the new job means I’m in bed by 8pm most nights. Everyone is lovely but so much to learn. Zzzzz

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Time flies

Fireworks 2021 by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk)

It only seems five minutes ago that I was handing out burgers at the school fireworks display, cursing anyone who asked for onions, which are never easily served at speed and in the dark! So, I had to pinch myself when I heard Wren singing a Christmas song as she pedalled across the park, piles of golden leaves scattering in her wake. Rehearsals for the school Christmas play are well under way and it’s only mid-November. The poor teachers!

All Wren will say is that she is in the ‘Neighbour Group’ and the rest, she tells me very seriously, is a surprise for the big day. But given the lyrics carrying across the frosty air in the park, I’m almost certain it will involve a rendition of Rocking Around The Christmas Tree! 🙂

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Oak trees

Bench by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk)

This is a favourite bench under an oak tree where I have sat to eat my lunch, on many of my rounds as a District Nurse. It seems a little silly to talk of saying farewell to hedgerows and trees but I often think a community is made up of these non-human elements as much as it is by conversations at the Post Office. I said goodbye to this tree during my last week and wondered how many other District Nurses have sat here over the years, with their flask and their sandwiches.

There is a rather beautiful walled garden for me to sit in and eat my lunch outside my new office, and a whole new bunch of leafy, local characters to get to know!

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Half term adventures

Half term was full of adventures…

Author, Hannah Foley, visits Through The Wardrobe Books. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk)

On Friday, I visited the dinkiest, but most perfect bookshop in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, called Through The Wardrobe, to sign copies of The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle. I dropped off some extra goodies as well, which are available when you buy a signed copy of the book from their website.

The cat trail, York. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk)

On Saturday, we did the cat trail in York, in honour of Avery Buckle and Halloween. In medieval times, people put up statues of cats on the buildings in the city to frighten away rats which spread disease. Some of the statues are still there and others have been replaced with new ones. It was fun spotting them amongst the twisting, turning streets of York.

Author, Hannah Foley, visits Blue House Bookshop. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk)

And what better place to end our trail, than the Blue House Bookshop, a rather beautiful, specialist children’s bookshop on Gillygate? There I signed some more copies of Avery Buckle.

Author, Hannah Foley, visits Imagined Things bookshop. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk)

Then on Sunday, I headed over to the fabulous indie bookshop, Imagined Things, for an Avery Buckle-themed author event. We had Avery-themed biscuits, activities, crafts, and prizes for fancy dress. The witches’ door even graced us with its presence for a selfie station! Thank you so much to all those who came! It was a very special afternoon. And huge thanks to all the hardworking booksellers out there, sharing books with new readers up and down the country.

This week it is back to earth with a bump. I start my new job as an MS Nurse Specialist tomorrow!

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The Faery Capital

My last film in my series exploring locations that inspired The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle. This week it’s all about the faery capital of Inchmahome! In other news, today was my last day as a District Nurse. More on that next week…

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School visit

One of the things I’d been looking forward to as a new author was meeting young readers at school visits and library events. Sadly, the pandemic threw a spanner in the works, and my carefully prepared, action-packed workshops have been gathering dust. So, today was a very special day, blowing off the dust (in a covid-secure way of course), and heading out on my first in-person school visit!

Donning my cat hat!

The children were absolutely brilliant, full of imaginative ideas, and great at asking questions. Copies of The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle were supplied by local indie bookshop, Owl and Pyramid, so each child had a book to take home and read over half-term. It was an absolute treat to be there, and the beginnings of some really wonderful stories were hatched!

Below is the view from the school gate and out to sea… 🙂

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The Railway Tunnel

North Devon cliffs in Autumn by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk)

At the weekend, we travelled up to North Devon to finally celebrate my mum’s 70th, eighteen months late. We’d re-booked the holiday cottage three times. It was a wonderful, glowing time of family, good food, long walks, and pottering around on the beach. The weather was stunning – mellow and mild – the trees gilded with Autumn finery. We stood on the coast path above Lynmouth and could see for miles.

Girl on a horse swing by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk)

Back at home, the weather has turned wet and squally. It feels as though I’m standing still, pedalling against the wind on my bike in the early mornings. Wren has been sleeping on a little mattress at the bottom of our bed the past week or so, waking often with bad dreams. It seems to be a phase all my kids have hit at this age – perhaps a whole new set of imaginative neurones coming on line! Anyway, the best solution seems to be a bit of time sleeping in Mummy and Daddy’s room, close by for middle of the night cuddles. She amused us the other night however, instead of a cry from a nightmare, she sat bolt upright and said, “Mr B (her teacher), igh is a trigraph!” Sleep-talking grammar!

Here is my latest film in my series exploring the Scottish locations that inspired The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle. The subtitles part way through were necessitated by my having my thumb over the mic!

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Knuckle’s Cottage

This summer, the fabulous book reviewer, Louisa at Roaring Reads, suggested creating a holiday itinerary based on the places in your favourite books. Inspired, I’ve created three films, taking you to some of the Scottish locations in my book, The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle. For those of you who don’t know, Avery Buckle is the perfect Halloween read, so this Autumn, grab a copy and join me in exploring hill-top hospitals and hidden railway tunnels! The first is posted above.

In other news, I saw a real live stoat at the weekend! I was driving up a narrow country lane and I thought it was a squirrel, a very thin squirrel. It dived across the road and I saw the black tip of its tail as it disappeared into the hedgerow. It was marvellous – I was as thrilled as can be! Stoats are amazing, and a good sign of a healthy food chain bursting with biodiversity.

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In Conversation

I’ll be honest, I took September hard. It started with being away in Scotland when the swifts left. This year more than any other, I was desperate for the light to linger, and the darkness and damp to stay away. So, I turned to one of my favourite Autumn reads, Wind in the Willows, and flicked through my battered copy to one of the ‘lyrical’ sections editors cut in abridged versions, but which are the bits I love the best. Ratty struggles with the turn to Autumn too, and Grahame writes a touching depiction of the way the seasons can affect some people’s mental health. His best friend Moley, deals with it just perfectly…

“Mole turned his talk to the harvest that was being gathered in… the large moon rising over bare acres dotted with sheaves… of reddening apples… the browning nuts, of jams and preserves… til… he reached midwinter, it’s hearty joys and… snug home life… and by degrees the Rat began to sit up and join in…”

And slowly, by degrees, I began to sit up and join in too.

One of the big festivals of Autumn is Halloween, so to mark the season, today, the wonderful Elizabeth Ezra and I released an In Conversation film of us discussing our books. Elizabeth’s book, Ruby McCraken – Tragic Without Magic, won the Kelpies Prize two years before mine. Both our stories are about witches and magic so are perfect reads for the season. We chat about the inspiration behind our books, migration, girl power and the influence of Scotland on our writing. Above is a still from the film of me laughing my head off! Below is the film for you to watch. Make yourself a cup of hot chocolate and find yourself a cosy armchair to snuggle up in and have a listen!

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