Sunday, 19 May 2019

Coroners and Crime Scenes -- In 1940 by Jan Edwards

On reading out a section of work in progress at my writing group I was asked whether a coroner really would attend a scene of crime in 1940.  And I had to admit that I didn't know. Online  research had let me down somewhat on this one as the only references I could find were in a modern context.
Pottering back from an appointment pondering this question I realised that I was strolling past the Coroner’s Offices on Hartshill Road (as you do). So with a little time to spare I wandered in and asked. The Coroner’s clerks were really helpful and gave the following info.
In a modern context a coroner will rarely if ever attend a scene of crime, at least when the body is still on site. This is because SOCO teams now gather all of the necessary evidence. (One said he had never known it happen in the 20 years he had worked there.)
I was then told that in 1940, however, a coroner may well have gone to the scene of a homicide because SOCO teams, and indeed forensics to a great extent, were not so much in their infancy as positively embryonic, so that both coroners and/or pathologists would have had to be more hands-on in collecting evidence. Added to that is the small fact of it being war time when there were also far fewer police officers to do the leg work.
A little more research is required on the duties of coroners V pathologists in that era, but those few minutes unscheduled chatting were well worth the effort!
You can read more about Jan and her Bunch Courtney books on her blog HERE
In Her Defence is available through most leading booksellers in print and digital formats. AMAZON (PAPER)   US  / UK/  /  AU INDIE BOUND / BOOK DEPOSITORY  / WORDERY /  Waterstones  /  Foyles Barnes & Noble  / Digital sources: Kindle  US / UK / AU/   Apple/  Nook  / Kobo  
Winter Downs  Amazon (paper and kindle)  US  / UK/  /  AU 
Indie Bound /Book Depository /Wordery Digital sources:

Thursday, 16 May 2019

The Importance of Food, by Elizabeth Kay

…And not just to keep body and soul together! In 1952, C.S.Lewis delivered a talk at the Library Association titled “On Three Ways of Writing for Children,” which was eventually adapted into an essay and published in Lewis’s Of Other worlds: Essays and Stories. What he says is this:
In my own first story I had described at length what I thought a rather fine high tea given by a hospitable faun to the little girl who was my heroine. A man, who has children of his own, said, ‘Ah, I see how you got to that. If you want to please grown-up readers you give them sex, so you thought to yourself, “That won’t do for children, what shall I give them instead? I know! The little blighters like plenty of good eating.” 
How right he was. When my children were small and it was snowing I used to follow Mr Tumnus’s menu to the letter, and it became a very popular event. But only when it was snowing!

            …A nice brown egg, lightly boiled, for each of them, and then sardines on toast, and then buttered toast, and then toast with honey, and then a sugar-topped cake…

            Of course, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was first published in 1950, when rationing after the Second World War was still in place and a sugar-topped cake was a rare luxury rather than a precursor to diabetes. An overweight child was a rare phenomenon. But Lewis could make even soil sound utterly delicious. The meal produced for the talking trees at the end of Prince Caspian is a tour de force.

…They began with a rich brown loam that looked exactly like chocolate; so like chocolate, in fact, that Edmund tried a piece of it, but he didn’t find it at all nice. When the rich loam had taken the edge off their hunger the trees turned to an earth of the kind you see in Somerset, which is almost pink. They said it was lighter and sweeter. At the cheese stage they had a chalky soil, and then went on to delicate confections of the finest gravels powdered with choice silver sand…

Note the remark about Edmund trying some, to discourage his readers from heading into the garden for a snack.
Adults do occasionally get served fiction with food at its core – Chocolat, by Joanna Harris, The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams. However, for children it’s an absolute must. And then you can use magic… I had great fun with that in Back to the Divide.

 …“Have you two finished your dinner?”
            “Certainly not,” said Betony, pushing her plate away and picking up the pudding menu. “Oh yes,” she enthused. “Got to have a slice of sparkle-meringue. Why don’t you have the glitter-bomb, Felix, then we can fizz together.”
            This sounded like fun. When the puddings arrived, they looked delicious – frothy and creamy with a crust of caramelised sugar on the top. Betony grinned. “You first,” she said.
            Felix took a spoonful, and tasted it. The flavour was a bit like vanilla, but as he removed the spoon from his mouth a shower of silver speckles exploded around him, and he yelped with surprise.
            Betony had hysterics. Then she started on the sparkle-meringue, and a glittery starburst of pink enveloped her head. “It’s lickit cooking,” she said. “Magical recipes. I haven’t had one of these since I was little.”
            They shovelled the puddings into their mouths as fast as possible, giggling as the silver and the pink collided, producing flecks of other colours which shot off at angles and then disappeared like sparks burning out…

I think that encouraging children to try something new is really important in these days of burgers, chips and fizzy drinks. Reading about children enjoying strange and unusual foods is surely a way of promoting a bit of experimentation? I still haven’t tried witchcetty grubs, which I read about as a child, but I would do given half a chance!
            Non-fiction is a different matter entirely, of course. The biggest sellers are cookbooks and diet books. When I was a kid my mother had only one cookery book – The Radiation Cookbook! This came free with her gas stove, and was the only one she ever used.
When I write about food in adult books, it’s to make another point, either about the setting if it’s abroad, or the characters – or preferably, both. These are two extracts from Beware of Men with Moustaches.

…They found a self-service restaurant for lunch, where they could point to what they wanted. What they got wasn’t always what they expected, but the cost of everything was so low that they just stopped worrying about it, and ordered anything that took their fancy.
The cakes were divine. There was a strong similarity between shoe design and cake decoration; it was easy to believe that people switched from one profession to another, taking their themes with them as they went. The barnacle and seaweed motif was equally at home in either leather or marzipan.

...The restaurant, like many of the shops, proved to be underground.
“Does it double as a nuclear bunker, then?” queried Sybil.
Maxim laughed. “Who would want to window-shop above ground in the winter, when it is snowing so heavily you can’t see your own private parts?”
They went down some steps. The moment the proprietor saw Maxim, he beckoned to a waitress and issued orders as rapid as gunfire. The girl showed them into a little side-room, and they seated themselves round a table. The menu even had an English translation, although they were all in hysterics by the bottom of the first page. It was debatable whether this was the menu alone, or the effect of the cocktails.
“Fish in water?” mused Steve. “Doesn’t sound frightfully appetising.”
“Crap,” said Sybil.
“Carp,” corrected Steve.
“Tea for sad people?” queried Julie.
“Presumably someone’s translated the cup that cheers into Karetsefian, and then back into English again,” said Ferris. He turned to the next page. “Ah. The poultry list.” After a moment he added, “Good grief.”
“Duck,” Julie read aloud. “Goose. Pigeon. Snip. Snip?”
“Snipe, I’d imagine.”
“Quail casserole, roast partridge, bruised peasant… braised pheasant, presumably…”
“I think the first one was probably right,” said Sybil.

Food is awfully useful in books, because it plays on all the senses. Its appearance, its texture, its smell, its taste – even what it sounds like. Crunchy? Squishy? Slurpy? If your narrative has got stuck somewhere, send your characters out to eat!

Monday, 13 May 2019

'A Yorkshire childhood?' - Alex Marchant

Last weekend I was asked to join a fellow author in an event at a local library. I’m a member of a group called Promoting Yorkshire Authors (PYA,, which is exactly what its name suggests: an organization of authors working together to promote their books. The ‘Yorkshire’ part covers both authors born in the English county of Yorkshire and those who currently live there. The event in question was to be two children’s authors talking about and reading from their books. And the theme was ‘A Yorkshire Childhood’.
It has to be said I was a little uncertain whether this was really an event for me. I come under the latter category of membership of the PYA – I wasn’t born in what the locals call ‘God’s Own County’, although I recently realized I have now lived here something more than half my lifetime. (I was once told I could qualify for my Yorkshire passport after about fifteen years, but I’m still waiting…) But that ‘half a lifetime’ has been the latter half – not a moment of my childhood was spent here, unless one counts the single day on which I visited the city of York for a university interview at the age of seventeen. So I felt a bit of a fraud. Am I in any way qualified to speak about ‘a Yorkshire childhood’?
My fellow author undoubtedly is. Maggie Cobbett, author of Workhouse Orphan
Maggie Cobbett reading from Workhouse Orphan
among other books, may be the daughter of a Kentish-born father, but her mother was born, and she herself grew up, in what was once known as the West Riding (and still is in true Yorkshire circles, although now known officially as West Yorkshire). Workhouse Orphan draws upon that heritage in various ways, from basing its central character on a distant family member from the early 1900s to its setting in a fictionalized coal-mining (or ‘pit’) village in the West Riding. In addition, much of the dialogue is in local dialect, which Maggie is of course able to render brilliantly on the page. 
Interestingly, though, the title character of the book, David, isn’t himself from Yorkshire at all. He is as much an ‘off-cumden’ (an outsider, ‘not from round here’) as I am myself. Until the age of twelve, he lived in London – could in fact have been neighbour to my own forebears, all of whom at the turn of the twentieth century lived in England’s capital city. And most of whom, like David’s father until his early death, were dock labourers or similar – very much from the lower classes, living in some of the worst slums in the world at that time.
But as in many of the best children’s books (and perhaps adult books too), the drama stems from someone being uprooted from all that is familiar to them and shipping up somewhere very different, alien even, and seeing that place (and the people who inhabit it) from the point of view of an outsider. And having to deal with life in that strange place and the events that unfold there. In David’s case, this means adapting to life two hundred miles away from his brothers and sister still in the London workhouse, toiling long hours in the dark depths of a coal mine and living among the family of strangers to whom he was sent by the workhouse authorities so they no longer had to pay for his keep. 
Related image

In some ways, David has in fact left his childhood behind – such as it was. There is of course some debate over what constituted ‘childhood’ in the past – was it really a concept at all before the Victorian period? And even then, for youngsters such as David – forced into a life of hard labour and looking after his younger siblings – in what way was it so very different from the toils of adulthood?
My own books provide a sharp contrast. Set four hundred years before Maggie’s, in
the medieval world of the Wars of the Roses, they show a very different childhood, albeit one that’s also gradually eroded by events out of my characters’ control. And it occurred to me while writing my talk that it’s perhaps not so much the era (early twentieth century vs. late fifteenth) or the area (Yorkshire vs. London) that dictates a young person’s experience as their class and access to wealth and power. The young characters in my books are from what would today be called the middle and upper classes – Matthew, the lead character, being a merchant’s son, most of the others being the offspring of noblemen. And in my first book, The Order of the White Boar, we see them leading a relatively carefree existence in
The Yorkshire Dales, through which The Order roam
the Yorkshire Dales, just a few miles from the West Riding. They go to school, studying very similar things to children today (albeit in a castle), make friends, play together and roam about the surrounding countryside in much the same way as I did when I was a kid – albeit my horse and those of my friends were make-believe, and the ‘countryside’ was a suburban park in Surrey. 

My own childhood games in that parkland often involved forming gangs or secret clubs with my friends – like the Famous Five or ‘Secret Seven’ of Enid Blyton, or Malcom Saville’s ‘Lone Pine Club’ – or perhaps today, Harry Potter’s ‘Dumbledore’s Army’ – with secret dens, oaths of loyalty, codes, messages written in invisible ink, and covert signals (once upon a time I could passably hoot like an owl). And these childhood pleasures of course found their way into The Order of the White Boar. Its very title is that of the ‘gang’ (in this case, a secret order of chivalry) that the child characters form.
When I spoke about all this at Harrogate Library, I saw our audience nodding and smiling with recognition. And as Maggie and I answered questions after our individual talks, and discussed our books together, the more it became clear that, despite the differences dictated by class, many aspects of childhood are very similarly experienced across space and time. In our books, two boys of the same age, although with very different backgrounds, are plucked from their families and relocated in the depths of Yorkshire, and each feels the same insecurities and vulnerability, each makes firm friends among welcoming people, each faces bullies against whom he must stand firm or go under, and each takes what simple pleasures he can, wherever he finds them – among those friends, in those games. And my conclusion? That there are sufficient common experiences in childhood – whether in Yorkshire, in Surrey or in the working-class slums of London – in the nineteenth, twentieth or fifteenth century – for me to be able to speak about at least one version of ‘a Yorkshire childhood’. But for all that, I still don’t expect to receive my Yorkshire passport any time soon…
Maggie and Alex at Harrogate Library
 Alex is author of two books telling the story of the real King Richard III for children aged 10+, the first set largely in Yorkshire, and editor of Grant Me the Carving of My Name, an anthology of short fiction inspired by the king, sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK). A further anthology, Right Trusty and Well Beloved..., is planned for later this year and submissions are welcomed from published and unpublished authors. Details can be found at Deadline 19 May 2019.

Alex's books can be found on Amazon at:

Saturday, 11 May 2019

The Truth about Launching a Book -- Misha Herwin

Yesterday I launched the second book in the series “The Adventures of Letty Parker.” It’s a MG book, aimed at the 8-12 market, though as one reviewer, Kerry Parsons from www.chataboutbooks said “it will be enjoyed by children and adults alike. I think it would sound great read aloud and enjoyed by the whole family.”
There were more reviews, loads of comments on FB and Twitter and I felt much supported by friends, fellow writers and book-bloggers.
All in all a very positive experience, but one which left me totally exhausted. Switching off the computer, pouring a glass of wine I wondered why I was so tired. What I’d been doing was enjoyable. I love interacting with people on social media and it was great to be able to thanking friends for their comments and likes. After all, I hadn’t done any hard physical work. I’d sat at my desk most of day, fuelled by cups of coffee and glasses of water –I’d made sure I wasn’t dehydrated, so I should have been fine.
Talking to other writers, I found I wasn’t alone in my reaction to launching a new book and I came to the conclusion that, however enjoyable the experience is one level, it is akin to being on stage and performing for hours on end.
There is also the lead up, week, or weeks, where blogposts are being set up, requests for reviews sent out and tweets twittered to keep the forthcoming book out there in people’s mind.
And beneath it all is the sneaking fear that none of this will work. That no one will notice, let alone like your new book. That it will sink into obscurity and the months, possibly even years, of writing, editing, re-writing and re-editing will come to nothing.
It’s the fear of rejection that is so draining. The fear of stepping out there on that stage and being booed off, or simply ignored. Of having made the mistake of daring to think you’re a writer, when you so obviously aren’t.
And then suddenly, it’s all over. “Bridge of Lies” is out there. No point in worrying, time to enjoy the short moments of freedom before getting on with book 3.

Friday, 10 May 2019

To Teach or Not to Teach | Karen Kao

This week marks the start of my third term of teaching creative writing at the International Writers’ Collective, a creative writing community here in Amsterdam. It seemed like a good occasion to revisit a blog post I wrote in December 2017, wondering out loud in truly Hamlet-like fashion, whether I should be teaching at all. My existential doubts stemmed from a question Francine Prose asks straight up in Reading Like a Writer:
Can the love of language be taught? Can a gift for storytelling be taught? … The answer is no.
What then was I expected to teach?

Image source: Pixabay

the first time

When I was in college, I worked as a tutor. One semester, I taught math to local high school students. Another semester, I’d help premed students learn to write an essay.  The latter was a deeply painful experience because it turns out that, in order to write you need to be able to think.

When all you’re trying to do is pass your freshman humanities class, then writing is a matter of getting from A to B. Hopefully, you’ve also taken your reader along for the ride. But if you start at J or end at 13, it’s unlikely you’ve mapped out a road anyone can follow.

I had a similar experience as a lawyer trying to teach young associates how to construct a legal argument. That’s an art in and of itself but it builds on some pretty basic communication skills. For example, if you want to get your point across, it helps to use words that everyone can understand. A pleading or a contract or a memo riddled with complex sentence structures, antiquated phrases or Latin, for God’s sake: these are the signs of a weak writer. Someone who either doesn’t know what he wants to say or is afraid to say it.

in a circle

For a long time I thought, maybe some people just can’t write. Their thought processes are so entangled, they couldn’t reason their way out of a paper bag.

But then I think of the poetry writing workshops I took with Charles Wright or the Paris Writers Workshop led by Sam Chang. These were both first come, first serve classes. No gatekeepers, no committee review, no peer recommendations. Of course, there was some degree of self-selection. The people in the room wanted to write and some of them probably thought they already could.

Charles would make us sit in a circle and critique each other’s poems. At some point, he would make a gentle comment in that lovely Tennessee drawl of his. Something like, that plane’s in the air, you can take away the stairs now. And then all of us would see what he saw from the very start: that this poem gets going in the seventh line and not the first.

Sam also put us in a circle. Her talks were about craft techniques like narrator, tone and voice, pacing and arc. From a dozen manuscript pages, she could see the novel in its entirety, possibly with greater clarity than even the author. I submitted to her the ending of what would become The Dancing Girl and the Turtle. She was able to reverse-engineer the entire story and list for me the plot points I would need to address in order to make that ending deliver.

to teach well

Francine Prose says: in order to teach writing, you need to teach reading.
What writers know is that, ultimately, we learn to write by practice, hard work, by repeated trial and error, success and failure, and from the books we admire.
So a good teacher is someone who points the way. Who can talk about all the various craft techniques but, more importantly, can illustrate each one with examples from the literary canon.

Why the literary canon, you might ask. First, because not everything is worth reading. And second, you only live once. Jason Guriel of Canadian magazine, The Walrus, puts it this way in The Case Against Reading Everything:
Learning the craft of writing isn’t about hopping texts like hyperlinks. It’s about devotion and obsession. It’s about lingering too long in some beloved book’s language, about steeping yourself in someone else’s style until your consciousness changes colour. It’s Tolkien phases and Plath crushes. It’s going embarrassingly, unfashionably all in. (And, eventually, all out.)

from good to great

Vladimir Nabokov once gave a quiz to his students at Cornell. He asked them to define those qualities necessary to be a good reader. He even made it easy by offering multiple choice. These were the qualities Nabokov listed (paraphrased):
  1. Belong to a book club;
  2. Identify with the hero or heroine;
  3. Concentrate on the social-economic angle;
  4. Prefer a story with action and dialogue to one with none;
  5. Go see the movie version;
  6. Be a budding author;
  7. Have an imagination;
  8. Possess a good memory;
  9. Own a dictionary.
  10. Have some artistic sense.
Sadly, his students failed the test.
[They] leaned heavily on emotional identification, action, and the social-economic or historical angle. Of course, as you have guessed, the good reader is one who has imagination, memory, a dictionary, and some artistic sense.
I’m guessing that Nabokov was the kind of teacher who inspired his students. In other words, a great one. It doesn’t matter whether you teach creative writing or auto mechanics. The point is to light the flame.

Get a student so excited by what you teach that she’ll go home and get her arms greasy up to the elbows. Take that engine apart and examine every part until she knows what each one does. Then put it all back together and listen to the engine hum. Not humming, yet? Try again.

Note: To Teach or Not to Teach was first published by Karen Kao on her blog Shanghai Noir.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

The possible perils of fact by Julia Jones

The stepmother in Pebble is not a bad person. Her name is Lottie Livesey.  She’s sensitive and caring (if occasionally a little too determined to do what she believes to be right) and there is never any doubt that she loves her stepsons (Luke and Liam) just as much as she loves her daughters (Anna and Vicky). She’s also far too principled and clear-thinking to allow her deteriorating relationship with their father to lessen her concern for his boys.

So, how to get her off the stage and allow them the freedom to get into jeopardy? The solution seemed delightfully simple…put her on it. 

Lottie is a folk-singer whose career is beginning to take wings. In The Lion of Sole Bay I dispatched her to a recording studio in Italy to make her breakthrough album. I thought she’d earned a holiday after her grim time as an invisible, illegal, worker in the early volumes, living  in a shipping container somewhere half-finished in the Ipswich docklands. Three of the four children were happy to go with her, leaving only Luke demanding quality time on his own with his father, Bill -- who was promptly crushed by a falling boat.  And the poor man had only just been released from prison…(I'm sorry, Bill – being a parent in a children’s adventure story is almost as bad as being the love interest in a Bond movie. It's not a shrewd life choice. )

All the Strong Winds series adults enjoyed an easy ride in Black Waters when it was the heroine (Xanthe) who was sent into exile – across the county border from Suffolk into Essex. Hic sunt dracones, as the early c16th cartographers might have phrased it. It’s an economical solution and one which I might be tempted to use in the future, if I ever pluck up the courage to trust my imagination again.

Meanwhile, back in the early months of 2018 and the first chapters of Pebble, when I was attempting to give Liam a little bit of unsupervised space (he didn’t want it but he wasn’t being consulted), I offered Lottie her big break. She could be the headline act at a new music festival and – in order to ensure all was as ethically pure and environmentally friendly as possible -- she could also take responsibility for aspects of the festival organisation.

Poor Lottie.  I’m not sure it wouldn’t have been more humane to have sent her back into the clutches of the people-trafficking Tiger (except he had meanwhile fallen victim to his own low standards of hygiene and died of a hospital-acquired infection.) All I can say is that I had absolutely no idea – then – what organising a music festival actually involved…
A ranching holiday in Alberta

I can’t now remember exactly when my daughter Georgeanna first began dreaming of Dixie Fields, the actual first time Country Music Festival coming SOON to an Essex field near me. She's always loved that easy listening style -- singing along to Dolly Parton in the car, cheering herself up with Dixie Chicks CDs,  sprawled in the sofa watching 'Nashville' on TV. She's visited Tennessee -- driven hundreds of miles to gaze at the Grand Ol' Opry House, the Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

Did she share her own festival plans before or after I signed Lottie up for the Suffolk folk festival, Luminal? Dixie Fields puts Georgeanna's knowledge and passion and organising ability together with an actual  
empty field (formerly used for camping during Essex's iconic V-Fest) and the business acumen of her brother Frank. I can only hope that I was taking my creative cue from actual family chatter: far too many of Pebble's fictional incidents appeared to prefigure ‘real life’ happenings (those poisonings, for instance…)
the field

I was thrilled by the Dixie Fields concept (I still am) but when I sent Lottie up the coast to attend site meetings in Sizewell (and remove her from the action in Bawdsey), I had no idea that she’d need to be producing an Event Management Plan detailing her  missing person procedures and protocols for mass evacuation.  They could have been handy in Pebble. Lottie dreams of using her festival to welcome strangers to the Suffolk shores: Georgeanna has lead singers booked to fly in from USA. Lottie plans to sing from a lighthouse at sunrise before it's washed away by the sea: Georgeanna wants to sell enough tickets to establish her festival as a permanent summer event. She also wants to have fun.

I’m breathless with pride at my children's enterprise and achievement I'm also enjoying this (to me) unfamiliar style of music. Almost all the Country Music performers write their own songs. It's a bit like blogging, you find your material in the events of your everyday life.

Lauren Alaina
Dixie Fields headliner
I’m correspondingly appalled at the slog and the bureaucratic costs. My exhausted Lottie may have her children and step-children to care for (which she can't quite manage) but so does the Dixie Fields team and they all have full-time jobs.  When I staggered into Chelmsford City Council offices on their behalf, carrying the Dixie Fields Event Management Plan it was 180+ pages, weighing approx.2 kg. Last night Georgeanna and I were compiling a spreadsheet of trade stands and suppliers -- I was typing, she was assembling the information and checking all the relevant documents were in place. We needed columns for Risk Assessments, Food Hygiene Certificates, Public Liability Insurance  -- minimum cover £10,000,000. That was to be provided by a little local salon who were hoping to set up a stall on the festival day and plait people's hair.

Ten Million Pounds?!! I begin to have the unsettling suspicion that the Public Health and Protection Services Manager (or whichever department is demanding such a level of indemnity) has an even more lurid imagination that I have. All I was suggesting in Pebble was approximately twenty miles of beach contamination with deadly radioactive isotopes, together with an attempted child-abduction plus an unstable Strontium-90 battery, stolen from a former USSR unmanned lighthouse beyond the  Arctic Circle then concealed in a Cold War bunker. All my skulduggery is properly managed by a morally ambivalent post-Glasnost billionaire and various highly trained SVR agents answering to sinister instruction from the Kremlin. Not a couple of girls offering an afternoon's hair-braiding while singers sing and strummers strum and the occasional audience member lets fly with a yee-haw and the wave of a stetson .

Clearly I need to give up fiction and face up to the possible perils of fact. Lottie Livesey can count herself well out if it.

I have to pinch myself to believe it's real
(Attested here by the Daily Telegraph 3.5.2019)
£77 is for a weekend's camping. Do come.
I'll be there, looking amazed

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Hedgehog Awareness Week 2019 • Lynne Garner

If you've read some of my previous posts you'll know I have a bit of a passion for hedgehogs. Well, some would say it was more of an obsession. Which, I tend to agree with as I run a hedgehog rescue from my back garden.

Our brand new logo

I do try not to be 'bang' on about them to much on here. However, as it's Hedgehog Awareness Week this week (5th May - 11th May) I felt it was a good week to ignore myself and write a piece about hedgehogs.

Meet Doug,
who I hand reared from a few days old last year.
Now did you know hedgehog numbers have plummeted? In 1995 there were an estimated 1.5 million, now it's believed we have fewer than a million!

Scary isn't it?

However, there is a little ray of sunshine trying to peek through that thick grey cloud. It was recently discovered that although we are still losing hedgehogs in the countryside our urban population are fairing a little better. The speed of the loss of established populations is slowing down, and in some areas may even be staying the same.

This means we have a real chance of helping them before it's too late. So, with this in mind here are my top tips for helping hedgehog numbers recover.

Firstly, make your garden a hedgehog haven by encouraging them into your garden by:

  • Installing a hedgehog home
  • Leaving out meaty cat/dog food or hedgehog food and water  
  • Making holes at ground level in your fence (13cm x 13cm)

Then try to protect them from injury by:

  • Making sure your pond has a shallow area or an escape ramp  
  • Checking long grass and under bushes before using a strimmer
  • Pegging netting 15cm up from the ground, so a hedgehog doesn’t get caught
  • Taking care with bonfires - make on the day or relocate before lighting  
  • Not using chemicals such as slug pellets and insecticides
  • Thinking like a hedgehog. What could I get caught in or hurt by? What ever your answer simply remove it.

Knowing when to help can be difficult. So if they are: 

  • Visibly hurt/injured
  • Caught or trapped
  • Screaming, running in circles or wobbling when they walk
  • Lying out in the open, especially if they are being buzzed by flies
  • Have bald patches
  • Small, especially if they are 'chirping'
  • Large fist sized or smaller after September (600g or less)

Then they need help. ASAP!

However, if you see a hedgehog out during the day carrying grass or leaves, looking busy then this is a female nest building. Simply keep an eye on her and enjoy watching nature in action.   

If you do find a hedgehog in need of help then:

  • Put on a pair of gloves and pick up. If you don't have gloves then use a towel to scoop up 
  • Place in high sided container with a towel to snuggle into
  • Provide food and water
  • Keep indoors for safe keeping
  • If small or cold and has no open wounds then provide direct heat with a covered hot water bottle
  • Then find help ASAP   

Finally if you'd like to keep up-to-date with my hoggy news then please do like the Herts Hogline Facebook page.

Blatant plug time

Love a short story? Then check out my various collections of short stories (available as ebooks and paperback):

Hedgehog of Moon Meadow Farm (ebook 99p/99¢ - 10 stories)

Fox of Moon Meadow Farm (ebook 99p/99¢ - 10 stories)

Ten Tales of Brer Rabbit (ebook 99p/99¢ - 10 stories)

Ten Tales of Coyote  (ebook 99p/99¢ - 10 stories)

Anansi The Trickster Spider (ebook £1.49/$1.49 - 16 stories)