6 in 60

Six challenges for a Sixtieth year – Not so much a bucket list as a way to make sure I try more, learn more or experience more and different activities as the year goes through, than I managed last year.

OK … so last year (and truth be known the preceding couple of years) were not conducive to doing many new things. I really believe learning new things is life-enhancing in so many ways!

The paddle-boarding was supposed to be one of the 6 in 60 new things to try, but I got too excited about it and jumped the gun trying it out last Autumn and falling for it so much that it formed my major birthday present and some accessories became a few of the other presents too.

I was tempted to still add that one in..but I won’t, I’ll stick to the plan and as I go I’ll be adding the experiences into my blogs.

Now most of these are quite simple or everyday activities. I mean, many of you will have been doing them for years and think them quite ordinary. All it requires to be on my list, however, is for me not to have done the activity, learnt the technique etc, before – ever.DSCF7499

The process has started … to learn to use a camera properly, is one. I am an inveterate ‘point and click’ camera person, relying on my own sense of proportion and trying to get interesting compositions, but understanding next to nothing about light, speeds, exposure, etc.

As it happens my lovely boys and my OH teamed up to get me a rather nice new digital camera at Christmas – one that will allow more than merely a point and click approach. (Daft/nice thing about it is the feel – really solid / serious with nice texture and satisfying sounds) So, though it does have an AUTO mode, I have even more motivation to learn to use a camera properly.

As a reader of the blog you will know that I like to take wildlife photographs – not running cheetahs or exotic birds – more the everyday small wildlife that can go unnoticed, like the slug invasion or the lovely lichens Expect more of that sort but I hope the course will also stretch my subjects of choice as I learn to take quality photographs in many situations.

This week I completed module one theory.. and have the task of taking photographs using only the manual mode.  Some results will be forthcoming … and thereby I hope to learn.

On Friday I start the next part of my 6 in 60 … you’ll never guess what it is! I’ll give you a clue – I think of it is archetypical activity for a new 60 year-old …

So what do you think I start trying out on Friday?

Have you a ‘bucket list’ or similar made?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you!

Easy Wild 60s Cake decor

Ok…. so let’s fess-up… it was my 60th birthday earlier this month! Sixty seems more of a millstone milestone than fifty did. However, I saw it in in much the same way *** dancing.


CLICK on any picture to get a better look at them!

And I made a cake (ok, not a surprise) but as I did so I thought that the design would suit a 60s party (as in fancy-dress based on the 1960s) as much as for a sixty-year-old. Actually, it really doesn’t matter what age – just as long as big blowsy flowers are suitable to decorate a large number-shaped cake, and these really do not have to be psychedelic colours at all… they could all be pink, or yellow, or blue, or — well you get the idea …..

And I like to share making cake decorations without using lots of fancy equipment – as many people only get to decorate a few cakes and do not want to fork-out for such stuff on a once in a blue moon basis. So here we go…

The easiest way to make a number cake is to buy or borrow a number-shapes cake tin. However, I opted to make mine easier to cover by omitting the ‘holes’ in the centres – so did not use a shaped tin.

I baked a 12 inch square chocolate and vanilla marbled sponge cake. Same recipe as Victoria sandwich (times-ed up) but longer cooking time and slightly lower temperature. The 12 inch cake took 12 eggs. For the chocolate part I melted 400g plain chocolate in the MW and beat it into half of the mixture. TIP: I always weigh-up the eggs, out of their shells, for a Victoria Sandwich… and then use exactly the same weight in caster-sugar, butter (or soft baking margarine) and self-raising flour – thereafter following the traditional recipe.60 cake plan

I also baked an 8″ round very rich fruit cake. as I knew I’d have some people that liked that … or that part of the cake would keep longer if it didn’t get eaten straight-away.60 cake rnd

I used the round cake tin to mark out the curves for the zero and for the tail on the stick of the 6. The parts were glued together onto the cake-board with apricot jam. My plan above actually shows far more waste than I had .. but none of it goes to actual waste — every-bit eagerly eaten up as a pre-taster!! Brush all over with apricot jam and cover with ready-made roll-out icing (but not ready-rolled) – you’ll need a kilo for each number. Roll out on cornflour – not icing sugar – and ‘pick-up’ supporting the icing with a rolling pin to drape and then, gently with a well-cornfloured hand, smooth the icing over the corners and curves first. Trim to fit.

Take the trimmings and work colours into them and some gum-tragacanth. (this is a specialist ingredient, I’m afraid, but my one pot has lasted me YEARS and I decorate quite a lot of cakes. Also, I’d always go with the real thing rather than the chemical substitute – the price difference isn’t huge)

Apart from this you will need a heart shaped cutter (well worth having for all sorts of decoration). I also used a small 5 petal shape cutter (from a selection tin bought at Lakeland) and a press-cutter with similar number of petals. Now I have experimented with other ’round the house items’ and you can use a circle (cut with an apple-corer or a icing writing nozzle)  for the centre of the flowers, decorated by dotting-it with a fork.

Cut five hearts. DSCF7470 Stick them together by dampening with water.DSCF7471  Cut a centre from a contrasting colour, dampen and press down firmly on the petals. DSCF7473 Support on your hand and wash off all cornflour by ‘painting’ with water.DSCF7478





Drape into pre-prepared ‘cups’ of aluminium foil (formed over egg boxes). Leave to dry and firm-up in a warm dry place.DSCF7476

When these are dry prepare to decorate by mixing up one-egg-whites worth of royal icing. Arrange the flowers along the cake, leaving the place where the  hole would be blank. Lift each one, squeeze a blob of icing and rearrange the flower on it. DSCF7486DSCF7485 Decorate by making small leaves as done for the Christmas cake (or if you did get that spring shapes collection from Lakeland – use the small oak leaf shape) Drape the leaves between the flowers, fixed with a little icing.

Candles (if you have them) can go in the empty centres – as could a name if required. (six tall slim candles went in the centre of the 6)

Finally hearts were cut and stuck with water all round the numbers like a ribbon to finish off the cake. Hope you like the 60s effect. DSCF7488



Why do birthdays with a zero on the end feel momentous?

Which was your best (or worst) number to reach and why?


Do share, – you know I love to hear from you

IMG_0294 crop


NEHH Winner + Blast from the past – bellydance post

NEHH_Design_Light* * * * * Congratulations * * * * *

…… to Eleanor Beavan as the winner of the signed ‘blog-launch’ copy of the new paperback of Nothing Ever Happens Here! 

Thank you all for your comments and support.



Blast From The Past

                          Belly dance post – What on earth should I wear?

… it has been a while … and posts do get well and truly buried … so when I was reminded of an very much earlier post this weekend (while talking to someone about joining our belly dance class and what she could wear) – I decided to reprise this post. I have been belly-dancing for about fourteen years now – still LOVING it – never bored with it (unlike exercise classes) yet it offers superb CORE MUSCLE exercise and muscle and joint flexibility with little impact stress.

Think of it like going to a fancy dress party, on a weekly basis, permission to dress up outlandishly in bright swishing colours and fabrics with rings, anklets, bracelets, and bells, and jingly coins – such fun, and that’s before the dancing. Oh, and if you think that this is normal for me, I need to explain that my usual wardrobe consists of, black (black and black) burgundy, cream and a little summer turquoise, jewellery: one wedding ring, one watch.

I know some dance groups are more focused on a ‘look’ than ours, but the eclectic look we have suits us well All sorts of colours and a lots of ‘bling’ and everything from purpose made kit to the opportunistic find at a charity shop or a bric-a-brac stall at the village fair. And it’s ‘Oooo that’s lovely, where did you find it? Or. ‘You been hitting ebay again?’ Or ‘How did you make that?’ when new items turn up in our friends attire.

just a few of my coin beltstwo sarongs and a coin beltFor me, note – not for everyone, but for me the real essential is a coin belt, and for me, again, the jingle-jangly the better. I have amassed a fair number over the years, and my lovely daughter-in-law brought me a stunning range of new coin belts as a gift the last time they came over. Look for a belt that has plenty of overlapping coins on mesh-fabric or tassels that can move easily. Without the coin belt I am never sure of my shimmy, with it I know exactly how it is going!

These I usually wear over swishing long skirts or similar, with other layers of gauzy, sparkly or shiny materials tied around the hips. An interesting way to get a good look is to tie two sarongs (we all have those around don’t we?) one over the other in opposite directions, knotted on the hip (emphasising the hips is good!). Thus, movement on one sarong flashes the colour of the other and gives plenty of room for leg movement. Over this tie a gauzy layer, or just top with a coin-belt in contrasting colour.

Handkerchief style skirts, double layers with lots of points and in pretty fabrics can work well over black leggings, again topped with a contrasting belt.silk skirt

My favourite, a two-tier silk skirt bought in a French street market, with contrasting coin belt, often with gauzy layer over too.

I tend to wear simple black tee-shirts with ¾ sleeves and add bracelets and anklets for any further decoration. Others have finds of sparkly shrugs, tops, and tee-shirts, ear-rings, necklaces and hair-clips.

So, there you have my guide to what to you can wear… easy to put together stuff or specialist. If you are attending your first belly dance evening your teacher will probably have coin belts or even swishy scarves you can borrow, or other members of the group – their bags stuffed with their extras – may offer to lend you the basics for the evening. Beware, collecting interesting belly dance clothes and bits and pieces can get addictive!

Are you a belly dancer?

If so – what are your essentials?

If not – are you tempted to find a class and have a go?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you

NEHH Paperback – out now – Win your copy here

Yes! It’s arrived, lovely glossy covered, real live heft of a paperback version of Nothing Ever Happens Here! And to celebrate I’m sending a signed copy to a randomly selected winner from anyone who comments on today’s blog! So, even if you do not usually, click on the title of the blog on your email so you are ready to write a comment to enter.


Oh please do click on the photo to see the books in all their glory – the upload limit seems to fuzzy the pictures on the blog itself

The paperback is up on Amazon … with the usual crazy waiting time … this seems to be the case when it first goes on … but it is still exciting to see the Ann Foweraker stable of book-offerings grow.  And, of course it is on AnnMadeBooks too

A book is a book, right? So why does it feel more exciting to launch the paperback even though the ecopy has been out for a while now?

Have you already read NEHH … but still wouldn’t mind winning a paperback copy?

Do comment, you know I love to hear from you and maybe you’ll be the one …

NOW … let the comments commence!

NEHH draw rules:

I’m afraid this draw for a paperback is limited to readers in the UK. (please make sure you use a contactable email in the required box when sending your comment – this is not shown on the blog).

However, if you are one of my overseas readers I’m running a draw especially for you - but for an ebook copy – just add your country after your comment to enter this.

That’s it, enter before midnight Sunday 6th April – I’ll make the draw next Monday :)   Happy launch day :)


p.s. Can’t see a comment box?? – zip up to the top – just above the title to where it says how many comments – click – and the box will appear at the end of the blog

pps – Sorry, the comments are not coming up straight away (still) but only when I go in and individually approve them *sigh* .. however, I won’t miss any :)

The Trader of Saigon … and perfect timing

I may not have come across this book if it wasn’t for the fact that Lucy is a friend of my second son… and so he had Liked her Facebook post when her debut novel was published by Quercus – so I Liked her FB page too. Now, this is something else that authors do… they support other authors especially new and local authors. Not that you’d think this by some comments from a few traditionally published authors who seem to think that readers won’t read their book if they read a book by someone new to the scene, as is Lucy, or heaven forefend, someone Indie Published. Truth is, readers will read .. and the traditionally published old guard are the only ones the traditional publishers spend real money on advertising (and those new ones they have forked out some crazy advance for, in a bidding war) so all the rest need support and help to spread the word. The best way, perhaps the only way, is by word of mouth (or review/blog). I prefer to pick up and read a book that someone I know has told me they enjoyed – and I know I am not alone in this.

So, to Lucy Cruickshanks’ novel The Trader of Saigon.  untitled1

The book description:  From Hanoi to Saigon, a tale of one woman’s search for a better life – and a thriller that strikes to the merciless heart of post-civil war Vietnam. In the chaos and corruption of 1980s’ Vietnam, three seemingly unconnected lives are brought together by greed, fear and hope.As a US Army deserter, Alexander is a man without country; trapped in a life he no longer controls and embroiled in the dark business of trading women. His latest victim is Hanh, a rural girl who moved to Hanoi to escape inevitable poverty and who sees Alexander’s arrival as the answer to her prayers. Neither of them has ever met Phuc – a Vietnamese businessman who backed the wrong side in the war and is now unable to pay his financial and political debts to the Party. But his struggles are about to change both their lives.

Review: Very unlike my own locally-based novels, Lucy takes us to a world apart, Vietnam shortly after the disastrous civil war, a world where The Party keeps an eye on everyone and any white man is likely to be a Russian. Lucy skilfully weaves together the stories of three people, not all likable, but certainly interesting. The atmosphere of watchfulness, poverty, corruption, graft and menace is melded well into the heat, dirt and desperation of life in Vietnam at this time, and this is testament to Lucy’s writing skill and knowledge.

I found that I read this novel very quickly and when I finished I had to go and check on how many pages it had been (I was reading on kindle and so did not have the heft of a physical book to guide me) and it was a full length novel! Why do I comment on this – well, a full-length novel that passed so quickly tells me that it read swiftly and carried me along with its fast pace, even though I had been unaware of it at the time.

Lucy also uses some very effective imagery, like the ‘smiling lizard skeleton’ that I found myself thinking about at times when I was not even reading the novel. All in all a great debut novel and well worth reading.


I wrote most of this blog in the middle of the week and when I went to grab the link today I saw that Lucy’s novel for Kindle is reduced from over £4, that I recall it was, to just £1.63. HOW LUCKY IS THAT?  Apparently this is  for a *limited period  (*so it says on Lucy’s FB, but, no, I don’t know how long – but might be quite short)  Here’s a link to The Trader of Saigon.

AND A BIG THANK YOU to all of you who commented on my cover dilemma. Your comments really helped and the cover we have chosen combines the handwritten (on a postcard) feel with a font that does not look ‘flippant’ and instead engenders a sense of urgency. So here is my COVER REVEAL  (it looks a bit blurry here but if you click on it it comes up clear) Hope you all like it as much as I do!


How do you find new authors to read?

When you find a new author you like do you read through all their back list straight off, or eke them out between other books?

Do share, you know I love to hear from you (and apologies if your comments aren’t coming up straight away – wordpress playing up … but I’m looking into it – thanks for your comments and your patience!)

Change Your Energy provider .. it’s so easy RANT

pylon by Yummifruitbat

Pylon courtesy Yummifruitbat wikimedia commons

Oh No It’s NOT!

There – that should be enough of a rant… but I am still reeling after trying to change my energy provider.

It makes me laugh … the government ministers who tell us that to get the best deal we need to swap. The money-saving gurus who say ‘paying too much? – just swap’

To start with it takes six to ten weeks to make the change! What? Really?  By the time your chosen plan is in place it is probably not the best option out there for you anymore.

So do not make the mistake of cancelling your previous plan (this with two weeks notice) before the new energy provider is poised to take you over… otherwise in the interim you’ll get put on your old supplier’s highest rate going .. until the change.

OK, so ours was more complicated. To start with we were changing from a business rate to a domestic rate… and then we do have two meters. However this did not stop British Gas poaching us a few years back (All the husband  did was to ask for details to be sent to our address… next thing we know we started getting bills from British gas and our previous supplier had not even sent a letter asking why we were changing)

But now, when I want to change and have taken hours sorting out the best options for the two different meters online – and after an exhaustive (and exhausting)  two hour phone call (free number thankfully) in which I have to give all readings for both meters for a minimum six month period and they work out some complicated set of figures to give a direct debit amount … and a two week wait, they sent an email saying the contract was cancelled as they could not take over a business meter.

What? It was changing to domestic metering that meant the previous suppliers were no longer competitive in the first place. This meant I had to go back to my original supplier and ask that they change the record on the data bank to say it was no longer a business meter. Once this was done  (took a week) I contacted my chosen new supplier.  Now could they give us the plans we wanted? …. well, only after we go through EVERYTHING AGAIN! as they had deleted everything when the contract was cancelled….. except – get this – when it came to my direct debit details … well they had kept those!

OK, so we go through everything, including the figures and the sums. The guy on the phone reads through everything he has put into the new contract. This will be sent by email for me to agree. I wait .. two weeks … the contract arrives. It is WRONG in just about every way possible. They have listed one meter twice.. and applied two different plans to it (impossible) and then set ridiculously low direct debits. I mean, I’d love it if my electricity bills really were £1.97  and £7.45  a MONTH (for the respective meters) but I know, and any fool would know, that is ridiculously low.

Back to the phones…. and yes, they want to cancel this contract and start again. I baulk! I do not have unlimited time ( or patience) eventually they say they can ‘save’ the contract and insert the correct details as I have them written down (I’d jotted down the salient points when it was read back to me… meter numbers against direct debit amounts etc)

Now I am still here, still waiting ( it seems that I have to wait the cooling off period before they send me a copy of the new contract.. as it isn’t a new contract but an amended one) I pointed out that I cannot agree or disagree with a contract that I have not seen written and, as the last one was such a disaster I am certainly not going to.

By Friday I ought to have sight of the contract… by mid April we might be with the new supplier (this from a process started in January) and hereby ends the rant :)

Anyone else out there been changing energy suppliers?

Any tips for unwary swappers?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you!

What’s in a font? Please let me know!

Time has been flying past and the preparations for Nothing Ever Happens Here to be released as  a paperback has been my major project.  Now, at last, we come to the final design for the cover. The original photograph used is still going to be the same. It was taken in the area that the book is set and says (to me) ‘a holiday on the coast … but with dark foreshadowing’.  So the changes are mainly to do with the lettering. My own name will be as it is on the Paperback version of  The Angel Bug…. so we are left with the words ‘Nothing Ever Happens Here’.

Here is the problem. Fonts speak. Just the mere shape, density, texture of a font can create a different feel, a different sense in the mind of the reader.

Here are the current three front runners to occupy the space on the front of the paperback. Please help me choose. (You can click on each picture to enlarge in a separate window)

To help you choose, if you haven’t read the novel already, here is the blurb ….

Crime, romance, smuggling and Cornwall all come together in this light thriller set in the early 1990s

Living in London suddenly becomes too uncomfortable for the attractive Jo Smart and her sixteen year-old son, Alex, after he is beaten up, so when they are offered the chance to take an immediate holiday in a peaceful Cornish town they jump at it. But not all is as peaceful as it seems as they become involved in a murder inquiry, drug raid and abduction.
DI Rick Whittington has also escaped from London and the reminders of the death of his wife and child, and through his investigations finds himself meeting Jo and being drawn into the events surrounding her.







So which font fits best, 1, 2, or 3?

Which ‘says’ the right thing to you?

How and why did you make your choice … which may just be a gut feeling?

Do help me out here, you know I love to hear from you … I need to hear from you … Thank YOU!

Hearing Voices and The Goldfinch

One thing that all good writers do is … READ. Yep, we read .. lots.  Often it is because we were avid readers that we are also writers.

Before I start writing a new book I go on a reading spree of books that give me background and information. These are usually non-fiction and, when about complicated subjects, they may be the  populist versions so I can ‘get a handle’  on the topic, and follow up with more in-depth studies if required. Sometimes the book isn’t exactly what I wanted or was expecting, but I always finish it because nuggets of information get stored away and can, and do, pop into a story somewhere or another, or even merely inform a character’s belief or thought processes.
Then, while I am writing, I am always looking things up for reference, to get things right. Oh, and this is where the internet is wonderful… such a range of information at our fingertips. When I wrote my first (released) novel the internet didn’t exist and any research had to be done via the library or by asking people I knew who happened to have the expertise or knowledge I needed.

Writers read for pleasure too, of course, but here is the problem. If I am writing at the same time as reading a novel I have to be very careful not to pick up the ‘voice’ of the author.

The Author’s Voice is one of the things that differentiates authors one from another, it is also, sometimes, why someone will like to read a particular author.

The publishing world talk about the author’s voice a lot … and so when you find your own you do not want to muddy it with echoes of another


Th Goldfinch by Fabritius (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

So, it was useful that I was taking a break from writing to do a final proof of Nothing Ever Happens Here, before it is released as a paperback, when I started reading Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ as I fear that Donna Tartt’s voice would have infiltrated my writing far too much.

No spoilers here.. I really dislike reviews that ‘tell the story’.  The author has told you all they want you to know before you read, on the back of the book or the online description (this because I read it on kindle) see below:

“Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.”

My review:  I found this a rich and intense read. There is so much description that progress is frequently very slow, but what rich, embroidered, gilt-edged, magnified, textured, illuminated description it is. I doubt any new authors would be permitted to let such a work reach the reader. Is it too much? Many of the other reviewers have found it so. I revelled in the descriptions, while acknowledging their draw-backs. (I am a closet describer – I’d love to ‘go off on one’ and use such language – but it does not suit my style or my voice and, I suspect, would not suit my readers.) It is also ‘referenced’ to many other written works in subtle, and some not so subtle, ways. (I like this as I am partial to doing similar with my characters’ names, though noticing it was not necessary it was a bit like ‘getting an in joke’.) Did I enjoy the book?. To be honest, not as a story, but as an experience, yes.  Perhaps the setting being in the US did not resonate with me? Perhaps the lifestyle of the main character, Theo, did not feel believable enough?  I note I was more in tune with him when he was learning how to help restore furniture than at any other time. At no time did I have hopes or fears for him (or any of the other characters) despite there being plenty of reasons to have hopes or fears. The ending, I felt was a bit too much tell not show, with a pulling together of the handkerchief corners of philosophy, experience, life and death all into a bundle and handed to us by Theo. As a bonus it has made me, like many others, look up the painting that is at the centre of the story and appreciate it.

Have you read The Goldfinch? What did you think?

I am thinking of doing occasional book-reviews as a regular feature? Would you like to see these here on my blog .. or not?

Do let me know … I’d  love to hear what you think.


What’s the oldest item of clothing you still have?

I realise that the older you are – the better chance you have of having an old item of clothing.. so this isn’t a competition.

It was sparked by (yet) another clear out – that wasn’t much of one. I tried to sort out some clothes to chuck (to recycling or Salvation army – depending on quality) and I did take some along to the sally-army clothing bank … even dropped an item into a local charity shop ( yep, that good, but totally too big for me now and somehow got missed on the BIG-size clear out last year) but it really wasn’t that much.

If I look at something and think ‘I’m sure I’ll wear that again – even if only for bathing the dog in’ back on the hanger it goes. Then there are the memory pieces. I just can’t seem to chuck these as each time they evoke so many memories that I keep them like a pressed flower, or a memento of a loved one. IMG old clothes

There’s the stripy sailor-style T-shirt (VERY stripey – and horizontal stripes too!) That I was given in America when I was there doing a Summer Camp. Teaching in one, that is, not ‘going to camp’ there. I have remarked in passing before that it was at this camp that I GAINED over two stone ( yep, over 28lbs). Now it is quite wide :) and the stripes don’t help, and you would think that I wouldn’t want to be reminded of that time… but I do. It was a huge adventure back in the early 1970s for a just 20 year-old. (somehow it just wouldn’t seem such an adventure now I think?)

From the same sort of era is my other ‘oldest’ item of clothing. It is a heavy-weight cheesecloth wrap-around maxi-skirt given to me by a friend. I’d borrowed it one day… and when I went to give it back she told me that if I liked it I could keep it. Liked it? I loved it.. loved the weight and sway of it. Why I really do not know now … it’s heavy but quite ordinary.  I tried it on when I ‘found’ it pressed into the furthest corner of the wardrobe.  It drags on the ground! At first I thought I must have shrunk more than I thought …. then I remembered that even our sandals had platforms on them at that time!!

The really oldest item I have is probably Victorian. It is a little velvet jacket with a fine fabric lining that I want to call ‘lawn’ though I have no idea if it is. It has tiny buttons at the wrist, and would never do up round me when I wore it. This I wore when at college of FE (sixth-form college) along with a home-designed and made velveteen skirt, suede fringed boots and seersucker shirts. The latter have all gone .. but this poor little thing, the stitches strained where sleeves meet back (never had a narrow back, me) still remains to remind me of that heady time when I first tried out my sartorial wings.

Some of these memories do not surface unless I see these items.. so I keep them. Yes they are clothes… but really they are more … from them spill memories, evocations of an era absorbed, things heard, seen, known about, if not experienced… and from this well I can draw for my Novels … much as I am doing with the new one I’m writing, set now but with echoes and reverberations from the seventies.

So – do you hoard some of your old clothes?

What are your reasons?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you!

When is a shoe not just a shoe?

Sounds like a riddle – or the first part of a not very good joke. In this case it is the question that goes with this picture.


This is a child’s shoe found in the stonework and mud filling of a building thought to be at least sixteenth century.

At first this seemed just a curious thing to find … then I did a little research. Shoes, it turns out, were often placed in the fabric of a building. Most usually near a door way or an opening (window, hearth) but not always, sometimes just placed there by the builder as they built the property.

The big question is ‘Why?’

Well there are many theories and I’ll pass on some that I have come across. To start with the concealed shoe, and it is nearly always just one,  is always well worn and frequently that of a child. One theory is that a shoe takes on something of the identity of the person who wore it – as it moulds itself to the wearer. That this identity or ‘soul’ within the shoe was the used as a spirit to ward off evil in general and witches in particular.

The spirit within the shoe would therefore guard the house and keep evil and witches at bay. The concealed shoes were therefore either hidden in the walls of the building, so no-one could remove them, or boxed in near an opening (that a witch or evil might try to enter through).

When life and death, through accident or illness, was pretty random and struck seemingly at will, superstitions were rife. Here was a way to protect your home and therefore your family – and easy enough to do. Even for the builders who placed them there, perhaps it gave them a sense that the building they made was protected.

Where did this odd idea come from?

No-one knows how this tradition began but in the UK it may have links the 14th century Rector of Marston in Buckinghamshire, who was said to have cast the devil into a boot, thus trapping him, or it may go back much further than this and may be more grisly ….

There is a long and murky history of blood sacrifices, usually of animals, being made to protect a house from evil, documented from as far back as the Romans.  Even the mark in blood made on the door post by the Israelites, when Moses was trying to get them released from servitude, that meant the angel of death passed over their homes, links into this superstition. Maybe a shoe is a simple and less drastic substitute.

Museum of shoes

In Northampton Museum, once the centre of shoe-making in the UK,  they have a collection of shoes. They also keep a concealed shoe index listing all those found and reported to them. At the moment the index stands at approximately 1,900 entries from all over the U.K and also records concealed shoe finds in North America, Canada, and a number of countries in Europe including France, Spain and Poland.


As an author I can’t help but lock these nuggets of information away, wondering when they will resurface in the plot of a novel. Somehow I feel this one is going to with the superstition and history it has all wrapped up in it!

 So the answer to the riddle …..  When is a shoe not just a shoe ….

 …… when it is an insurance policy

 Was the idea of concealed shoes new to you?

Have you ever found something like this?

What tickles your creative bones and makes you start to think and wonder?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you.