The Ghost of Christmas Past.

With the clock ticking towards Christmas Day, I took the time to grab a few hours away from the hard work that I had been doing in the basement kitchen at 13 Piccadilly Terrace in the year 1815.

For having already prepared a delicious breakfast of Plover’s Eggs, freshly made bread and red currant jelly for Lord Byron’s household and leaving the making of yet another batch of mince pies for an hour or so I decided to make a quick visit to Nicole’s House.

Although I wanted to leave a special gift for Nicole, I had also wanted to spend a moment or two by the Christmas tree inspired by this wonderful lady and who had made similar gold bows by hand to decorate her last Christmas tree before her untimely death six months later.

It was only after I had bounded up the stairs and into the warm and festive loft, did I realise that I was not the only visitor to Nicole’s house this Christmas Eve.

For perched upon one of the beautifully gifts piled up under the tree was none other than Murphy!

Determined not to intrude upon his thoughts as he gazed upon the portrait of Nicole from underneath the tree, I crept quietly away and left my gift in another corner of the room.

However as my presence had not gone unnoticed – I went over to see him but there was no sign of the usual playful glint in his large copper-coloured eyes.

“I keep thinking how lonely Christmas must be for Nicole’s family without her.” Murphy finally whispered; “And all that her children have now are those memories of wonderful Christmases past.” He added sadly.

“I am sure that her loved ones miss her very much at Christmas.” I replied. “And not just at this time of year, but Murphy you must remember that every time we think of a loved one who is no longer with us; we are keeping the spirit of that person very much alive and they remain with us even when we are not thinking of them.”

“For with every gift that we carefully select and wrap, with every shiny bauble that we hang on the tree and even when we have stuffed ourselves so full of food that we fall asleep; we are carrying our loved ones forward in our lives and in our hearts.”

“And Murphy, I believe that the true magic of this time of year are the gifts that we cannot find under the Christmas tree such as the gifts of love and kindness.”

However as Murphy was about to potter off on his next adventure, I reminded him that these special gifts can also be shared with others and that he might want to say sorry for being unkind to Minnie B who he had ‘cuffed’ earlier that day?

Paw Prints in the Flour!

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds…

Clement Clarke Moore

Although the children may have been ‘nestled all snug in their beds’ waiting for the  visit from St Nicholas on Christmas Eve – there was plenty ‘a stirring’ within the basement kitchen of the poet Lord Byron at 13 Piccadilly Terrace in the year 1815.

For having prepared a variety of dishes in which to tempt the palette of the house guests on Christmas Day morning including Plover’s Eggs nestled on freshly gathered moss from my garden, a silver tray of delicious home-made bread rolls, a large bowl of red currant jelly and a display of the traditional mince pie…

And believing that I was the only creature stirring, I became worried when I caught a glimpse of the tablecloth fluttering and thinking that it was probably the resident mouse making his presence felt – I decided to take a peek…

…only to discover that this was no naughty mouse but that Murphy had somehow found his way into the kitchen!

Besides warming himself by the fire, it would appear that he was now tucking into the remains of Lord B’s Christmas Eve supper with a large chunk or three of Roast Beef!

With the promise of this deliciously looking joint as a festive treat for the servants who had worked really hard all year and who would be looking forward to their Christmas Day lunch – I knew that had to send this feline quickly on his way before there was nothing left!

However, after spotting the suspicious looking wisps of white on his whiskers, I noticed the tell-tale floury paw prints all over my clean floor…

It would appear that while enjoying a potter about the kitchen and he must have decided to have a little fun with the flour I had been using to make another batch of mince pies.

Now, although I have nothing against messiness as I have been known to make rather a lot of it during my own creative projects – I believe that we should always try to clear up afterwards!

And after a quick chat about this with the feline – he quickly disappeared in search of the household besom to do a spot of sweeping up.

And as I returned to my pastry making – I said a quick prayer for some Christmas ‘peace and goodwill’ and that Murphy’s search for the besom would not include a chance meeting with Lord B’s dog Boatswain who was also known to be stirring this night!

Not that I really mind doing the occasional bit of sweeping up!

As the Poppies Blow…

Today is Armistice Day and with the weather here in York somber and dark, the ambiance feels somehow appropriate as I wind my way through my garden and to the old corbel stone that is nestled among the shrubs and ferns and where my ‘Poppy Garden’ now waits.

I would be alone if it were not for our three resident chickens, affectionately known as the ‘Girls’ who are keeping a respectful distance and as I pause while holding a silver cross decorated with a Flanders Poppy and with the eleventh hour approaching, I think of the poem written by John McCrae:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

It is then that I hear the familiar rustle of leaves and before I can add my tribute to the others in the garden…​

I can see that Murphy has slipped quietly into view with his own poppy tribute cradled between his paws.

As I watch him carefully place his poppy in the garden – I wonder who is occupying his thoughts today for having recently discovered the identity of an another ancestor who perished in WWI – I’m thinking about a Private William Lamb who never lived to see his 21st birthday.

Although my research about William still continues and with the promise of exciting tales as yet undiscovered, I have been sharing the ‘fruits’ of my sleuthing on the family history blog and a newly commissioned ‘Roll of Honour’ will soon have pride of place within the cosy interior of St M’s Parish Church in the Mouse Town.

However, much to my surprise, I hear yet another rustle of the leaves and there before us is Minnie B!

For on this most solemn day of remembrance, she too had made her way through the garden all on her own with a carefully nestled Poppy between her paws.

However, it is Murphy who senses her uncertainty about what to do next and he quickly makes his way to her and gently shows her what to do…

With Minnie B’s tribute now sitting proudly along with the others in the Poppy Garden, I watch them as they pause before the rows of silver crosses.

But with the now sky growing darker and with the promise of a heavy rain – it’s soon time for us to leave.

And as the felines set off for home in search of a warm fire, I take a moment to enjoy a last look at our Poppy Garden.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Vampyres, Werewolves and Zombies Oh My!

‘Vampyres, Werewolves and Zombies Oh My!’

Matilda ‘Tilly’ Simms hadn’t really enjoyed the celebrations of the festival of Día de los Muertos yesterday as she had been very troubled by the strange behaviour of Murphy – the small furry cat who prowls his way through the sleepy hamlet of All Hallows and who charms all who cross his path – including the grumpy owner of ‘Dogwood & Myrtle General Stores’ old Bella Pendle!

“Oh my!” sighed Tilly as she thought about Murphy stalking the All Hallows graveyard at dusk with some very odd white foam on his face!

And why was he suddenly leaving his grey fur all over the place, Tilly wondered and then she remembered the time when she was enjoying an quiet walk alone and spotted him hiding behind that strange mask of silver!

“Oh my!” sighed Tilly.

As Tilly is something of a creative soul, her imagination was now flying all over the place like the leaves tumbling from the old oak trees surrounding the All Hallows Hamlet and she began to wonder if the cat she had seen was not really Murphy at all but a shape-shifter in disguise or the beastly familiar of an evil witch OR that Murphy was now slowly transforming into a werewolf!

“Oh my!” sighed Tilly and after sighing some more, she knew help was needed and quickly as she was very  fond of Murphy even though he had made her quite cross one day when he had chased away those spiders she had been saving for a very special spell.

And having remembered a faded poster pinned to an old tree to hire a Monsignor ‘something or other’ who could chase away all kinds of strange creature – Tilly now went in search of this tree and as it was near the Dolce Vita Patisserie; she knew that her visit across the All Hallows Hamlet would be worth the long journey if there were any of those delicious Cream Pumpkin Pies on offer!

Later that evening and having found the old tree and with a shopping basket full of pie and and a map in her hand; Tilly decided to pay this Monsignor a visit and who she now knew to be the elusive vampyre hunter Monsignor Suárez!

Now, even though she had been warned by a sharp-tongued old crone that the Monsignor lived in the furthest corner of the All Hallows Hamlet and that he did not welcome unexpected visitors – Tilly was still determined and despite her fears, off she went in search of a tiny stone cottage with a rickety wooden porch known to be surrounded by bare trees and mystery.

And with the light fading fast, Tilly finally arrived at the home of the Monsignor and this grim and forbidding place haunted by some hidden terror was everything that Tilly feared it would be and having spotted the tell-tale sign that someone or something had also been there – Tilly wanted to run away as fast as she could.

But despite her terror and determined to do all that she could to help Murphy – Tilly decided she would push that old wooden door open.

“Oh my!” sighed Tilly…

TO BE CONTINUED…

‘Vampyres, Werewolves and Zombies Oh My!’ A Crooked Hen Production

Orange is the New Black for Halloween!

When witches go riding.
And black cats are seen.
The moon laughs and whispers
‘Tis near Halloween

I have loved this quote for as long as I can remember and with a passion for anything  and everything  to do with Halloween, I always wanted a black cat and was beyond thrilled when Minnie B came to live with us – even though she can get into the occasional spot of mischief which is usually when she wants to grab my attention or else she’s pestering for a few of the cat ‘treats’ I keep hidden away.

But, I remain smitten with her and now that she has been created in 12th scale by the talented Pearl from Literature in Miniature  – She is the inspiration for this All Hallows Eve tale.

At first Minnie B had  been very excited to have received her special invitation to the party at Nicole’s House for this All Hallows Eve but as the day arrived and even with the promise of lots of delicious cake; she was not her usual happy self.

As I was carrying boxes of paint and glue from my shed at the bottom of my garden, I spotted her sad little face as she perched upon the old corbel stone alongside her cherished invitation and even though I still had so much work to do for another All Hallows Eve project; I had to stop and see if there was anything that I could do to cheer her up.

“What’s happened Minnie B?” I asked as I put down my boxes of paint and glue “You look so unhappy! Have you forgotten that today is the day of the Halloween party at Nicole’s House? And why the sad face? You have been getting so excited about going to this party for weeks now!”

“Well, I was  excited until I saw that  book you have been reading; you know, the one about how all  black cats become unlucky when they grow old and they can get the nasty eye too” she said.

“A book about an old black cat with a nasty eye?” I asked feeling puzzled. “I read a lot of books Minnie B but I really can’t remember ever reading this one! Are you sure that you haven’t got this book mixed up with another one or has Murphy been trying to scare you again?”

“Oh no he hasn’t!” She quipped. “I have seen this book on your desk and it even has a picture of an unlucky old black cat with the bad eye on the front of it!”

And then, I remembered! She must have seen the book that I have been reading about old-fashioned superstitions and which tells us about the customs of black cats and  the symbolism of the evil eye throughout our history.

“Oh Minnie B!” I chuckled “My book isn’t about black cats with a nasty eye who become unlucky when they grow old; my book is a collection of very old stories about why we do certain things such as not walking underneath a ladder or getting upset when we break a mirror and saying ‘Bless You’ when someone sneezes and this book also tells us why we believe a black cat is a lucky cat.”

“So, I’m not going to become an unlucky cat with a nasty eye then?” she asked as she slowly stretched out her front paws and her fluffy tail began to sway once more and when I saw the return of that confident glint in her copper-coloured eyes, I replied “Minnie B, I think that you are already one of the luckiest cats in the world as everyone loves you, including Murphy and have you forgotten that Nicole asked you to be the special guest at her party?”

“Hmmm, I haven’t forgotten” she sighed “but I don’t really want to go to Nicole’s party looking as I always do as everyone else will be wearing their special costumes and I’d love to be able to dress up too.”

“Well, how about wearing a hat?” I asked “You’d look fabulous and I know just the person to ask if we could borrow their hat for this party?”

And so with the clock ticking and daylight fading fast, I raced off to my shed in search of this amazing hat created by Kat the Hat Lady and which I knew would be just the thing for Minnie B.

And, joy of joys, how truly magnificent she looked in this straw confection of orange ribbon decorated with diamante and topped off with a glorious and huge golden dragonfly.

I was so thrilled to see her potter off happily to the party knowing that she would have the most wonderful time, even though I was a little jealous at the thought of her tucking into all of that mouth-watering cake and yummy candy I knew Nicole would have lovingly made for all of her guests.

Although I didn’t see Minnie B after the party had finished, I had heard that she was a great hit with everyone there; even if she had eaten too much of Nicole’s Toffee Apple Candy Cake and had left with a gift bag stuffed with even more candy and chocolate!

However, I have heard a whisper that she has promised to share this bag of treats with a certain someone….

TO BE CONTINUED…