How to escape when life becomes just a bit too hearty by Griselda Heppel

You know what they say about the best laid plans… 

The Fall of a Sparrow
by Griselda Heppel

The Fall of a Sparrow should be out by now. On 28th April, in fact, as promised in last month’s blog post. Now, owing to some last-minute printing hitches, it’s set for 28th May

Mildly annoying, but what is a month after all, in the Greater Scheme of Things? Especially as, since the action all takes place in the first half of the summer term, to have the book appearing literally on the day the story ends is a nice touch. Cleverly planned, even. Not. 

What the new date does mean though is that the gorgeous summery cover image will match the time of year even more than before. The fritillaries I got so excited about last month may have finished flowering; but lime trees everywhere are coming into full leaf, just like the one engraved in such magnificent detail by Hilary Paynter for the book’s jacket. Indeed the tree takes up most of the illustration; appropriate, as it plays a crucial part in the story. 

Lime tree in Ampner Park. (Photo by Jim Champion)

Aged 10, I attended a school in rolling English countryside, where a single, huge lime tree towered above a small nearby woodland. 

Now, there’s something very special about the way a lime tree grows – if it’s allowed to, and not tidied up – in that it shoots out countless stems from the base of the trunk, and also further up as the trunk divides into branches. These stems, sprouting lots of large, bright green leaves, form a thick screen, so that if you climb up the main branches into the heart of the tree, you can snuggle down there for as long as you like, completely hidden from below. 

A few friends and I did this occasionally – not too often, we didn’t want to start off any search parties – and it gave some blessed moments of escape when school life became just a bit too hearty. 
Sometimes you just need to escape
up a tree.(Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva
from Pexels.)

So when in The Fall of a Sparrow, 11 year-old Eleanor, friendless and homesick, is drawn into playing with the strange, jerky-limbed little boy who follows her around, the lime tree rose up in my imagination as the perfect place for them to get to know each other. Warm, dry, shielded from the rain and searching eyes, what could be a better hideout than this, 15 feet or so above the ground? Perfectly safe, too, as long as you know how to climb it. 

 Unfortunately, Eleanor doesn’t.


Peter Leyland said…
Well you've sold iThe Fall of a Sparrow to me now Griselda! My grandson is 9 on the 28th May and he is a great reader. I will have to look out for it.

PS I love the parachute seeds of the lime tree
Griselda Heppel said…
THANK you Peter, that gives me a warm glow! And yes, the parachute seeds are lovely, aren't they?

I didn't realise, until I'd finished the book, that the lime (or linden) tree is sacred in much European folklore. This makes me even happier that it features powerfully in the story!
I once lived in a cottage called 'Linden Lea'... unfortunately there was no sign of a lime tree, but I am sure one must have been growing in the garden in the past.

This post brings back my tree climbing days, when a friend and I (aged about 7) would climb a huge tree near a footpath and spy on the dog walkers passing beneath... if we didn't like the look of them we'd throw down bits of twig etc. They never saw us!!!

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