Jeff Gardiner – you are what you read

Anna Legat Author

I’m very excited to welcome to my blog Jeff Gardiner – an author, editor and a teacher – talking about the books that ignited his imagination, sharpened his pencil and set him on a journey into writing.

730I’ve always been an avid reader – reading with a torch under the bedcovers, making me tired the next day at school. The two biggest influences on me as a youngster were quite different: Enid Blyton and Superman comics.

The first books that really changed me were both series by Enid Blyton – The Magic Faraway Tree, The Adventures of the Wishing Chair. Wonderful feats of imagination that allowed the heroes to travel just about anywhere and have the most incredible adventures. Meanwhile my uncle passed on his DC comics about the Man of Steel and I particularly relished the comics about the Legion of Superheroes (of which Superman was an occasional…

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Caving in

P1060123We went to Ambleside and ended up in a cave – it was much closer and my little feet wouldn’t carry my heavy bottom any further. Rydel Cave isn’t any odd hole in the ground – it’s huge and vibrating with echo made by water plopping from the ceiling. One thing on my mind: would it cave in when I was there; that’s what caves do, they cave in; that’s why they’re called caves. So I was slightly apprehensive and very respectful of the old cave.

On our way to the cave we came upon a couple of very rude hissing swans. They were either hissing or telling us outright to “Pissss off!”. I couldn’t quite make out which.

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Washed up in Grasmere

We’re taking a break from unpacking our new house, so we packed our suitcases (for a change) and travelled to Grasmere. We should’ve taken a boat rather than a car – the bouts of rain and unbridled wind created perfect sailing conditions on the road. To add to the atmosphere, lorries and vans beyond Birmingham stopped using indicators when changing lanes, so it was like a bloody Mexican wave on the motorway. I’m still seasick!

Anyway, we are here.

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New home, but I’m still standing

House moved! From the outside – picture perfect. Just take a look at it. Okay, not all of it belongs to us, but we belong to all of it.

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The views are to die for, too. Daughter’s bedroom overlooks charming little paddocks housing two frisky ponies (believe me – they are frisky and shameless!), two sheep (both staring into space with a spark of deep thought in their sheepish eyes) and other creatures large and small.

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Our bedroom overlooks a tree in our small garden where blue tits, robins and one extremely fat pigeon compete for seeds. Law of the jungle out there, but the blue tits rule supreme, maybe because the obese pigeon finds it hard to take off so has to content with the crumbs that fall from the bird feeder above.

P1060100The house has plenty of character – I would even go as far as saying that it isn’t only character it has – it’s ATTITUDE. Yes, the house has a serious attitude problem. To start with, it has a small population of woodlice who climb in through the vines outside and into our bathroom, wherefrom they spread like wild fire until they are captured. Once captured they instantly fall on their back, belly up, and play dead (or perhaps they are really dead). They get hoovered. Probably there is a whole woodlice colony inside our hoover.

We’ve also experienced out first flood, courtesy of Daughter who left the weird tap in her bathroom dripping until it conquered the sink, water overcoming it, spilling to the floor and travelling to the landing. From there it was re-directed to the kitchen below and trickled down the wall merrily. Awaken by the watery humming, which gave my bladder an illusion of being full, I discovered the Great Flood and raised alarm. So that’s just for starters.

There is hope however. If I remember correctly, after the Great Flood came peace and prosperity for Man. Okay, I can’t remember that far back but I read it somewhere.

Metamorphosis

Haley and I

Yesterday, Daughter morphed into a Teenager. A day to remember! It was a very loud and rowdy affair, but then what would you expect from eight unruly teenage girls let loose on town? They trampolined in the close proximity of a bunch of pimply teenage boys, oozed hormones, flicked their long hair, posed and strutted, stuffed their faces with pepperoni pizzas and hallucinogenic sweets and finally collapsed in a heap in the early hours of the morning.

It wasn’t long ago when Daughter was just a small pink person with a milk bottle permanently attached to her lips, enthusing about a tiny snowman in a flowerpot.

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Little Daughter

It wasn’t long ago when she stood pensive in her school uniform, holding a princess lunch-box, ready (or maybe not) for her first day at school.

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Daughter goes to school

And now she is a teenager, full of attitude, and so very beautiful. And the story goes on…

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Butterfly Daughter

My Mexican stand-offs with Wildlife

I think all creatures large and small on my way to work have a death wish. I’ve run into dozens of suicidal badgers, pheasants and rabbits. One pheasant, I’m sure of it, just sits by the side of the road, behind a derelict old bridge, and waits for me. When he sees me approach he ventures right under my wheels, his head and tail down, his gait measured. He refuses to take off and fly away – just crosses the road without a zebra (crossing) in sight.

A couple of black birds have it for me, too. It looks like a game of Russian roulette to me as they glide inches in front of my windscreen, trying my patience.

I won’t mention the badger who really should consider a dieting regime. He couldn’t outrun a snail and yet he takes me on – me in my car, he on his four legs, waddling along.

Moving on to the rabbits – frankly, they’re just taking the piss and I won’t be held to account if one day one of them just slips and is sucked under my fender. They hop mindlessly without any regard for road safety. On their heads be it!

But the trophy goes to that hapless deer (with no antlers). He just strolls in front of the car and stands there, gazing me in the eye evenly, not a care in the world! Once the three of us stood there in the middle of the road, wondering who would make the first move: the deer, me and the guy driving a tractor on the other side of the road. The deer won.

What a treat!

A heart-melting review of The Quite Contrary Colin Pluck by a 10-year-old girl, complete with a portrait of the main character! How good is that?

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