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October 2016 - where did the month go?

It was an uneventful month for writing but we had a lovely trip to see our family before the winter set in. We chose Shropshire, a county we knew well from out early days together. Richard’s parents had a tiny 2-roomed cottage near Clungunford. Tucked away up a narrow footpath, it had no electricity. Water was collected from a standpipe at the bottom of the track and we had an Elsan toilet. It was a great base for exploring the county and it was good to make a return trip.

Exchanging our blue/sea/sky view for green and all the shades of autumn gave us a completely different view of the world. We stayed in a beautiful cottage, The Owl’s House, out in the countryside, a couple of miles from the tiny town of Much Wenlock.

With three double bedrooms and a lovely lounge/dining/kitchen it stood in an acre of woodland in a quiet location. We recommend it without reservation, especially for an autumn break when prices are very reasonable and the county is relatively quiet. We were blessed with good weather and, among other outings, we walked along Wenlock Edge and beside the River Teme at Ludlow. Autumn colours were magnificent and we were delighted to find small teasel, spindle in fruit, and Blackstonia - all plants which we hadn't seen for a long time.

Family, all except grandson Josef, were able to meet us. He was busy with orchestra rehearsals so I wasn’t able to congratulate him in person on his unconditional offer of places at both Birmingham and Leicester Universities.

Ashlyn and Olive stayed with us for four nights, Cerys for two and Matthew for one. We had dinner with Caryl and Joe in their camper van prior to their participation in Hell Runner - a gruelling half marathon in Delamere Forest near Chester.

We really liked Much Wenlock with its black and white buildings and relatively narrow streets. In the Priory grounds we found a plaque to Mary Webb, (1881-1927), poet and author of novels including ‘Gone to Earth’ and ‘Precious Bane’.

She won the Prix Femina Vie Hereuse for ‘Precious Bane’ and it has twice been dramatised for television, firstly in 1957 and again in 1989. I suspect that a re-make will appear at some future date, but Janet McTeer’s Prue Sarn and John Bowe’s Kester Woodseaves will be a hard act to follow.

We had an extra night on a Shropshire farm where the owner, having only just met us, banked up the log fire, supplied a tea tray, left us in her living room and went out for the evening. 

Arriving home at the end of the month we faced Daylight Saving Time. It’s a hundred years since this practice started and I’ve been trying to get used to it all my life. I find that the sudden change disorientates me. I never manage to sleep for an extra hour and dusk curtails gardening activities before I’m ready to come indoors. Still, once I adjust, I can enjoy long evenings curled up by the fire with a good book and Leo, our Bengal cat.

As I write, he appears perfectly content to be sandwiched between my knee and my lap tray.

Readers of my three children’s books will have the opportunity to engage with Merryn MacQueen and her friends throughout the winter - particularly on Colonsay where I have sold 150 copies; and on Barra where today's parcel to the Community Shop, Buth Bharraigh brings their orders up to ninety.

Anyone wanting a bargain at a special pre-Christmas price (£19.98 - that’s three for the price of two, p&p included) can email me at mavisgulliver@googlemail.com

It’s an offer on the Insights page of this month’s Scottish Islands Explorer magazine, so I’m opening it to everyone for a limited period. Originally intended for 9-12 year olds The Hagstone Chronicles is finding favour as a 'family read' with slightly younger children, and, to my surprise and delight it's also being enjoyed by adults who - as one reader put it - are young at heart.

Last night I re-read the last chapter and Afterword of The Snake Wand and I found myself missing the characters and wanting to engage with them again. Perhaps there will be a fourth book after all.