Tales from the Irish Garden – Winter: Chapter Twenty – Betrothals and Surprises by Sally Cronin


Last time we left Queen Filigree, lying on the floor in a faint….Chapter Nineteen

Winter: Chapter Twenty – Betrothals and Surprises

Prince Ronan was summoned to the queen’s dressing room and rushed to his beloved’s side. ‘Darling heart, please wake up, my love please.’ He was beside himself as he looked down at his wife’s ashen face. The door slammed open, and Doctor Doesugood raced into the room as fast as his bunions allowed.

‘Clear the way, out of the way you buffoon… oh… sorry your highness.’ He gently pushed the prince to one side, kneeling gingerly on the floor by his queen’s side.

‘Please leave me alone to tend to my patient; I will call you immediately I have a diagnosis Prince Ronan.’

Bewildered and trembling the prince was led away by the ladies in waiting as the doctor produced a vial of essential oil from his waistcoat pocket. As the smell of sandalwood filled the queen’s nostrils, she gasped and opened her eyes.

‘Ah thank goodness your majesty,’ the doctor patted her hand. ‘For a minute there I thought you were a goner!’

He called to one of the hovering ladies-in-waiting to assist him up from the floor, whilst others gently lifted their queen on to a red satin-covered day bed. There he completed a thorough examination which involved tongue pulling, ear tweaking, eye rolling and a good thump on the chest. After asking some impertinent questions about bodily functions and other activities, he prescribed an hour’s nap followed by a chamomile and honey infusion.

He patted his patient’s hand and whispered in her ear, eliciting a gasp from the royal lips, and tears to roll down her cheeks. The prince was summoned who knelt beside the day bed, whilst the doctor explained his prognosis. Sobbing, Prince Ronan gently kissed his wife’s ashen cheek and prepared to sit with her whilst she slept.

After the prescribed tea and nap, Queen Filigree rose from the couch and told Prince Ronan that she must attend the party that night to allay the fears of the courtiers. Before he left to don his own finery for the evening, they enjoyed a tender embrace that brought comfort to them both.

There was another reason that the queen’s presence was required at the gathering tonight, as her daughters were eager to introduce their two suitors to the court. Persephone and Narcissus both hoped that these two handsome princes from neighbouring kingdoms, might be on the verge of requesting their hands in marriage. With stomachs fluttering in excitement they sashayed across the red carpet behind their stiff-backed mother, bowing and smiling at the courtiers that lined the way. They sat in blue velvet chairs either side of the queen and her consort, watching with anticipation as two handsome Irish princes walked down the centre of the chamber, kneeling in front of the royal party.

Prince Frederick rose first and approached the dais holding a golden casket which he opened and placed at the feet of Queen Filigree.

‘Your majesty, with these precious pearls from the East of the lands, I humbly request the hand of your daughter, Princess Persephone in marriage.’ He paused and smiled at his intended fiancée. ‘I am to be given my own lands and substantial income on my marriage and I am first in line to the throne of Wexdonia.’

The queen glanced at her husband and her very eager daughter who was muttering ‘please, please, please’ to herself with her fingers crossed in the lap of her lilac coloured ball gown.

Queen Filigree smiled at Prince Freddie as he was usually known, and gestured for him to rise and stand behind Persephone on the dais. He placed his hand on his beloved’s shoulder and she smiled fit to burst.

It was now the turn of Prince Nathan to plead his case, and he gestured to a footman at the door of the chamber, who nodded in turn to another out of sight. The whole court turned to the entrance, wondering what an earth would appear that was suitable as a gift to the queen in return for the hand of her daughter.

With a clip-clop of hooves, the tiniest horse you can imagine was led through the doors towards the prince who gathered the silver reins in his hand. He turned to the queen and approached with the little steed high stepping by his side.

‘Your majesty I wish to present you with one of our miniature horses that are bred for their ability to dance.’ Enthralled the queen forgot her recent collapse and walked forward to take the reins from the young man. He gestured to the court musicians who began to play a light and frothy waltz, and the little horse bowed to the queen on one exquisite little foreleg, gliding around her as she stood still in amazement.

Queen Filigree began to mirror the creature’s fluid movements and it was clearly a magical moment. For a few minutes the queen and her new companion circled the dance floor until the music stopped. Reluctantly she handed over the reins to one of her grooms to take the little horse to the royal stables, where she ordered it to be housed in the finest of stalls.

She announced to the gathering that she accepted Prince Nathan’s request for the hand of Princess Narcissus, and to the cheers of the assembled guests he joined his betrothed with the rest of the royal family.

Despite still feeling a little queasy, Queen Filigree felt a sense of great happiness at not only forming two very critical alliances here in their new home, but also securing two kind and adoring husbands for her much loved daughters. She clapped her hands to announce that the guests should retire to the dining chamber to enjoy the stupendous meal that had been prepared by Chef Marcelle, knowing that all would require fortification before dancing the night away.

All through the evening Prince Ronan remained as his wife’s side, and they only took to the floor once to gracefully circle the ballroom. The courtiers were relieved to see that the colour had returned to their queen’s cheeks, and Doctor Doesugood remained close at hand in case of a relapse.

Not wanting to spoil her daughter’s celebrations, Queen Filigree and her husband retired to their chambers earlier than usual, but not before whispering in the Storyteller’s ear. He nodded gravely and watched as the couple slipped away before resuming the Viennese Waltz with his daughter Dorothy. Having been parted from her for so long, when she was transformed into a fox by the evil goblin, he treasured every moment that they now spent together. He was truly blessed, and he smiled as he thought about the lovingly hand-carved rocking horses that he was now creating for his three red-headed grandchildren.

The night was a huge success, and weary and rather the worse for wear after consuming several barrels of Amber Nectar, the court slipped away, one by one to their comfy feather beds.

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Irish Garden.2018

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Apr 14, 2021 James rated it five stars. on Goodreads

I’m guaranteed to experience laughter and tender emotions when I read a book written by Sally Cronin. In her latest, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries, she shares a dozen or so short stories and a few poems that focus on the absurdities of life and all the moments that live to teach us something new. I try to convince myself to only read one each night, but an hour later, the book is finished. Perhaps her next collection will include a theme of patience!

Undoubtedly, my favorite is the first story in the lot. All the rest had something amazing to live up to: Sometime in the future (hopefully VERY distant), an automated device is hooked up to EVERYTHING the narrator does. When she wants to order a few grocery items that might have a little too much sugar and fat in them, everything falls apart. Seriously… how many times have we all had this scenario happen in the most briefest of moments — the one where someone says, “Buy the diet item” or “You don’t really need to eat that, do you?” Take it up or down a million notches in this story. No matter what angle our protagonist tries, the computer has her beat.

Life is definitely like a bowl of cherries. It is sweet and sour, you’ve got to go through a hole bunch to find the best one, and if you consume too many pits, I hear there’s an arsenic concern to consider. Luckily, if you devour this particular bowl of cherries, you’ll have some witty stories to share at a dinner party or a fun little tidbit to announce on your next conference call. Cronin completely had my in hysterics over what happened in the first story, and at other times, I smiled and laughed… teared up a bit at the generosity of some and the thoughtfulness of others.

This is everything you want in a short collection of tales about the reality of life. Well worth the purchase and download. Highly recommended. And it reminds me why I’ve grown to love this author’s work. We all need a little bit of her wisdom and humor.

Read the reviews and buy the collection: Amazon UK – And : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

Smorgasbord Health Column – Family Health A-Z – Allergies and Intolerances – Part One – The difference between them by Sally Cronin


Although the focus has been on Covid this last year… there are still other health issues that have not gone away. Many are improved with simple treatments and dietary changes and in this series I am going to look at some of the more common issues.

I know that many of you who follow the blog will have seen the following post before but for those new to Smorgasbord, I hope you find useful.

 Allergies and Intolerances – Part One – The difference between them

In this post I am going to take a look at the terms Allergy and Intolerance and explain the differences between the two. Many people will say that they have an allergy to certain foods for example but in fact they have an intolerance.

There are many symptoms and common ailments that are linked to food allergies and finding out what might be causing these is step one in resolving the problem naturally.

Anxiety, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, ME. Hayfever, Celiac disease, diabetes, headaches and eczema are just some of the diseases that could be linked to certain foods. Certainly long term intolerance or allergy to foods can contribute to more serious conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Cancer.

The first reaction that most people have is to totally discard the food responsible and never touch it again. Some people develop such a totally restricted diet that they do themselves harm by denying their bodies the nutrients that are essential to their health and well-being.

Some practitioners will also advise their clients to stop consuming certain foods and it is important that a client always ask when they can begin introducing these restricted foods again. If a reaction is very severe then yes of course it would be absolutely essential not to touch that food. Peanuts are a prime example. Nut allergies however are just that an allergy, which is very different from an intolerance and the two should not be confused.

What is an allergy? And what is the difference between an allergy and an intolerance

An allergic reaction is immediate. It is a fast response. An intolerance is by contrast a slow reaction. The speed with which an individual will react to certain stimulants is governed by two antibodies called IgE and IgG.

An allergy is an immediate reaction to a toxic substance either in food or in the environment that causes established and well-documented side effects. Our body is protected by anti-bodies one of which is called IgE. The role of this antibody is to forcibly reject toxins and in doing so the body undergoes some severe reactions in its effort to clean and heal its systems. Because IgE antibodies are intelligent, each fresh attack is worse than the last because it learns to produce a more effective and violent response. This is why what begins as a mild sneezing and coughing reaction may develop over repeated exposure to a more dangerous and life threatening reaction. Some of the intense reactions likely to be experienced are:

  • Intense itching on specific parts of all over the skin.
  • Hives (swollen red nodules just under the skin)
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue and throat.
  • Severe headache,
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Sneezing and coughing
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhoea

In severe cases this can lead to Anaphylactic shock which takes all of the above and leads to drop in blood pressure, extreme breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness and shock – all of which can be fatal.

What is an Intolerance?

An intolerance on the other hand is a build-up over time of the poisons in culprit foods, which cause the above symptoms in a mild or moderate form. In some cases it might only be intermittent and because it involves a build-up over a period of time it is very difficult to determine which food is the one causing the problem.

You might experience one or all of the above symptoms with differing severity and put it down to hay fever, or eating something that did not agree with you. You take an anti-histamine or a diarrhoea pill and the symptoms go away. A few weeks later you might suffer the same thing again but it is happening in isolation you do not connect to a common cause.

There is a different anti-body that seems to be involved in this type of delayed reaction and it is called IgG.

This antibody is more concerned with toxins that you have produced yourself rather than those that you have just ingested into your body. Its job is to rid the blood stream of toxins that have found their way into your system from the intestines. Because food in our digestive systems can take 24 hours to digest, the time taken for bacteria to get into the blood stream means a reaction might not take place for two to three days. Therefore difficult to pinpoint the problem food.

Apart from peanuts are there any other foods that might cause a severe reaction?

Everyone is individual and no one person reacts in the same way to any allergens but the most likely culprits for severe allergic reactions apart from nuts are peanuts (not a true nut) milk, eggs, soy, wheat and shellfish. All foods that most of us consider safe and extremely healthy. But if your chemical systems react to the chemicals in a food negatively, then these so called healthy foods can cause a severe reaction. Twenty percent of anaphylactic reactions appear to have no reason at all.

This type of allergy is likely to show up pretty quickly in childhood. There are some instances where a person’s chemical makeup has been changed through either drugs or treatments such as chemotherapy and they then begin to react to foods that they have eaten safely for years.

How do you treat an allergy of this severity?

In the first place avoidance of the food is essential. For example nut allergies are extremely difficult as many prepared products or meals eaten out may have some form of nut in them, which is not evident in the packaging or the menu description.

I have had a garden salad and found walnuts mixed in with it. Restaurants put other nuts on salads as a garnish. Despite new laws on labelling and food safety regulations, many menu items do not mention that it contains nuts and if you are not very careful you could inadvertently eat a piece without knowing.

Even more difficult is the use of crushed nuts in desserts – they are not even visible. It is much better than it used to be with food establishments and manufacturers legally obliged to label products and menu items carefully, however, if you are buying street food or even eating in a friend’s house you have to make sure to ask if it contains nuts or even nut oil.

What should you do immediately if someone goes into anaphylactic shock.

If someone is suffering from anaphylactic shock and you are on hand, you need to work very quickly. Usually the first signs may be reddened and swollen eyelids and wheezing. The person will look flushed and their ears will begin to swell.

Check to see if they are carrying adrenaline (Epi pen). It will usually be in the form of an injection kit. Most severe allergy sufferers, particularly those who have suffered anaphylaxis before will be carrying an injection on them and will also be wearing an ID bracelet. If they are unable to give themselves an injection, then you must do so. Straight into the muscle at the side of the thigh. That is the only place that a non-medical person should inject, as anywhere else could be dangerous. Adrenaline or epinephrine as it is also known, counters the intense reaction to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. It constricts the blood vessels, relaxes the muscles in the lungs to improve breathing, reverses the swelling and stimulates the heartbeat.

If they are not carrying adrenaline you must get them medical attention urgently. Try and keep them calm. If the emergency service say that they cannot get to you within minutes then put the person in a car and get them to the nearest medical emergency room as fast as possible. As soon as you get there one person rush in and tell them you have an anaphylactic shock patient coming in so that they can come out to the car with you.

Knowing how to react is vital, as I found out when I suffered two cases of anaphylactic shock. Once as a reaction to penicillin and once when I was attacked by fire ants in Texas. I was in full anaphylactic shock in minutes and luckily a neighbour drove us straight to the emergency room which was one block away. We arrived in bathing costumes and the driver dashed in and called for assistance. They were fast but it was still touch and go for about 20 minutes.

If you think that someone is going into this severe allergic reaction then act first and think later. Don’t wait to see if it develops, if breathing is beginning to be compromised then get help immediately.

Apart from food are there any other common causes fro this extreme reaction?

Quite a few people are allergic to latex which of course is found in rubber gloves and condoms. It mainly affects people who are in constant contact with latex products during medical procedures, like nurses and doctors. Patients who are in hospital for extended stays or have a lot of hands on medical treatment can develop an allergy.

There is a link to latex and food. It would seem that a person who reacts to latex might also react strongly to consuming bananas, avocados, kiwi, figs, peanuts, potatoes and tomatoes.

Other non-food allergens are bees, wasps and any other stinging insect such as the fire ants.

Are there less severe allergic reaction and what causes them?

Most of us at one time or another has suffered from a streaming nose, itchy eyes and some wheezing. It is an immediate reaction to contact with the allergen.

The top triggers are:

Inhalents (breathed in.)

Tree and plant pollens -Animal mites – House Dust mites – Mould spores -Tobacco smoke (contains over 4000 chemicals including banned pesticides and arsenic) -Car exhaust -Chemical products such as paint, dry cleaning solutions, perfumes and cosmetics)

Ingestants (taken by mouth)

Foods (dairy, eggs, peanuts, wheat, Soya, chocolate, tomatoes, corn, fish and shellfish) – Medications (antibiotics – tetanus) -Pesticides in food – Heavy metals in tap water

Contactants (by touch)

Plants (poison ivy, oak) – Jewellery (nickel, copper) – Latex – Beauty products (hair dye, cosmetics)

Should people take anti-histamines and diarrhea pills to deal with the less severe symptoms?

To be honest as a nutritional therapist, I understand that the body is simply trying to rid itself of toxins but I am as guilty as anyone of reaching for the packet of pills to relieve the symptoms of colds, hay fever and stomach upsets.

Being realistic, once you have those types of symptoms, particularly streaming nose and eyes and a stomach upset, it is virtually impossible to get on with your daily life. Working, caring for young children even walking the dog have to be done, so of course you need help to get through that.

But, there is a cause for your allergic reactions. We have already established that a full-blown allergy is likely to be a fast reaction and you will be able to identify the problem food or product immediately.

Far more challenging is finding the culprit for intermittent but consistently mild to moderate reactions, that happen days or weeks apart. Or there may be only one symptom such as sneezing or wind, bloating or a rash.

What sort of symptoms might be present with sort of intolerance?

Apart from skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis, which tends to be chronic and long term, there could be hives that come and go in a week. Wind problems, bloating, indigestion, fluttering stomach, stomach upsets or constipation.

Next week I will be looking at a specific food allergy/intolerance to Milk and other dairy products.. and also one of the reasons that someone might be suffering from a food intolerance and it is to do with the gut.

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2021

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2021

 

Thanks for visiting and I am always delighted to receive your feedback.. stay safe Sally.

Tales from the Irish Garden – Winter: Chapter Nineteen – Winterising the Palace by Sally Cronin


Winter: Chapter Nineteen – Winterising the Palace

As the stores beneath the palace began to accumulate under the watchful eye of Chef Marcelle, other preparations needed to be made to ensure the palace remained dry and warm in the coming rainy season.

The Queen was not looking forward to her first winter in her new home. She was a fairy who had lived for hundreds of years in almost year-round sunshine, where she could sit in a branch of her magnolia tree, soaking up the rays.

Of course she appreciated that, to maintain her beauty, she needed to take care not to get burnt, but with the fountain of youth to hand she was secure in the knowledge that her face was unlikely to ever wrinkle. She did not like rain in the slightest, and during their first year they had experienced the vagaries of the Irish weather system; which seemed to be the reverse of her native home, with 300 days of rain and 60 days of sunshine.

However, do not imagine for one minute that Queen Filigree was not grateful for the safety of her new abode or the wonderful people she had met. She couldn’t imagine not having the dear Storyteller in her life, and she would have never have met her dashingly handsome new husband, Prince Ronan. Still, the coming months filled her with dread, and she summoned Doctor Doesugood to consult on a preventative diet to assist in maintaining her joie de vivre.

He prescribed a diet of a quail’s eggs, served on an oat and almond bread toast and a baby spinach leaf for breakfast, wild salmon fishcakes with marjoram and dill sauce for lunch – courtesy of the Storyteller’s recent poaching expedition. And for dinner Cremini mushrooms cooked in butter and strawberry yoghurt, especially fortified with sunshine from Michael’s dairy farm.

The doctor had an apothecary’s shop providing herbs and spices, and he gave the queen a large box of assorted teas to drink during the day, including ginger with raspberry, and frankincense with chamomile. He had also handmade a very special gift for his queen, which when revealed startled her majesty into admiring gasps. It was a firefly feeder with 20 vertical rows of tiny cells that were filled daily with amber nectar. In the evening the fireflies that the queen had brought with her from Spain, would now gather on the feeder and after one sip of their favourite beverage they would create a bright light for her to bask in the glow of. The doctor assured the queen that just twenty minutes each evening would maintain her healthy glow and she was thrilled.

He did however warn his patron that after the allotted time the fireflies would be rather tipsy, and would fall off into the padded tray conveniently placed. He told her not to worry as they would sleep it off and be ready for action the following night, since the amber nectar was addictive.

With her own health and that of her family now taken care of, it was time to make sure that the palace was water tight. To this end she requested the presence of Jacobi the old pigeon keeper who slept in the roof with his charges. The royal pigeons with their feathery legs were one of her joys, and she could often be found in the rafters, stroking their soft feathers and cooing in harmony with them.

Along with Jacobi, she also asked for the master web maker to be brought up from the dark recesses of the palace basement, along with the spit master. These three creatures were bred from special ancient stock, and whilst the pigeons had flown ahead of the main party when leaving Spain, the precious spider and the spitter frog were carefully placed in moss lined baskets and transported on the backs of the swans.

The web maker was reverently placed on the table in a wicker basket of the finest quality as befitted his standing in the court. The queen carefully lifted the lid and reached inside and scooped the creature into the palm of her hand. Two very large eyes opened and two spiny arms reached out to tenderly caress her wrist.

The giant spider sat happily as the queen explained her requirements. Occasionally there would be a nod of the giant head and a quick tickle with its forelegs on her delicate skin that made her giggle.

‘So we have that clear then Sir Arachnid?’ The queen paused to await acknowledgement.

‘You will encourage your team to spin 100 large webs which will be stacked ready for use between the oak leaves provided, and have them ready in the next five days.’ Two taps on her wrist, and a little wiggle of the spider’s back end confirmed the instructions. She placed her most revered servant back in his basket, and he was whisked away by a footman to his lair where his 200 troops awaited eagerly for the challenge.

The spitter frog master arrived in the throne room under his own steam. He enjoyed the run of the palace along with his team of expert fly catchers. This was especially important in the summer months when the bluebottles, fat and bloated from feeding on dead things, would push their way into any cracks and crevices in the magnolia tree’s defences. They would scoff anything they could find including the delicious honeycomb which was created in the rooftop hives. Two spitter frogs guarded the entrance to the apiaries and it was a much requested duty, as bluebottles make a stupendous treat for a frog.

‘Good morning Sir Spitface and I hope you are well today.’ The frog hopped up and down and gave an enthusiastic croak.

‘I need your team’s assistance on a special project,’ she gestured that she wanted him to hop onto the table in front of her.

She indicated a large piece of parchment in front of her, and explained that she had asked the drones from the hives to conduct a survey of the roof of the palace; identifying areas where rain might find its way in.

‘As you can see there many places, where the roof is aligned to branches of the tree and water might seep through. I have asked Sir Arachnid to provide a hundred web patches, and Jacobi to collect the fragrant parcels dropped by the royal pigeons, to provide the filler of the smaller cracks. I need you and your frog support team to use your saliva to seal them in place.’

The frog hopped around the parchment for several minutes, studying the various problem areas, and then gave a croak of assent. ‘Excellent,’ the queen gently tickled the amphibian’s knobbly head.

Over the next few days, the worker bees, fairy handymen and the frogs gathered around spots where the roof met the magnolia branches, placing the web patches, filling in small cracks and sealing all in place with frog spit. Jacobi and the Queen Bee inspected the repairs and announced their satisfaction to her majesty, who commented that the proof was in the pudding!

Sure enough, two days later there was a deluge as a front swept up from the south. Apart from one little spot that needed a little more spit, not one single drop made its way into the palace, and this of course provided a perfect excuse for a bit of a party. However, as her ladies in waiting slipped the pale pink silk dress over her head and patted it into place, Queen Filigree began to feel quite unwell. She wondered if she had overdone the ginger and raspberry tea earlier, but the next minute her ladies gasped as she slipped to the floor.

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Irish Garden.

Tune in next week to find out what ails the fairy queen…..

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Apr 14, 2021 James rated it five stars. on Goodreads

I’m guaranteed to experience laughter and tender emotions when I read a book written by Sally Cronin. In her latest, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries, she shares a dozen or so short stories and a few poems that focus on the absurdities of life and all the moments that live to teach us something new. I try to convince myself to only read one each night, but an hour later, the book is finished. Perhaps her next collection will include a theme of patience!

Undoubtedly, my favorite is the first story in the lot. All the rest had something amazing to live up to: Sometime in the future (hopefully VERY distant), an automated device is hooked up to EVERYTHING the narrator does. When she wants to order a few grocery items that might have a little too much sugar and fat in them, everything falls apart. Seriously… how many times have we all had this scenario happen in the most briefest of moments — the one where someone says, “Buy the diet item” or “You don’t really need to eat that, do you?” Take it up or down a million notches in this story. No matter what angle our protagonist tries, the computer has her beat.

Life is definitely like a bowl of cherries. It is sweet and sour, you’ve got to go through a hole bunch to find the best one, and if you consume too many pits, I hear there’s an arsenic concern to consider. Luckily, if you devour this particular bowl of cherries, you’ll have some witty stories to share at a dinner party or a fun little tidbit to announce on your next conference call. Cronin completely had my in hysterics over what happened in the first story, and at other times, I smiled and laughed… teared up a bit at the generosity of some and the thoughtfulness of others.

This is everything you want in a short collection of tales about the reality of life. Well worth the purchase and download. Highly recommended. And it reminds me why I’ve grown to love this author’s work. We all need a little bit of her wisdom and humor.

Read the reviews and buy the collection: Amazon UK – And : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

Tales from the Irish Garden- Autumn – Chapter Eighteen – All Hallow’s Eve Part Two – Freakish Village prepares for the Zombies by Sally Cronin


Last Sunday I introduced you to the alternative folk who lived at the edges of the Storyteller’s magic garden..Chapter 17 All Hallows

Autumn – Chapter Eighteen – All Hallow’s Eve – Part Two – Freakish Village prepares for the Zombies

Down in the village of Freakish, the villagers had been preparing for this night for the last week or so. Mothers slaved over costumes for their children, often biting their lips to prevent a slip of the tongue when pricking their tender fingertips with a needle. Every year one of the residents of the community on the hill would act as consultant, and this year Zenia and Zoran had both volunteered.

With pegs on noses, the mothers had gathered for a meeting to discuss the best way to make the costumes, and as an outcome, all the rags and old unwanted garments were gathered together and picked over by the consultants and placed into piles. They explained that some of the clothes would need to have cuts placed in strategic places, such as over the knees and thigh parts of the trousers for the boys. They also suggested taking already tatty shirts and ripping the sleeves and collars off and perhaps a couple of buttons. For the girls, they suggested that the mothers sew together oddly assorted coloured rags into shift dresses with ragged hems.

With the main costume out of the way, the committee moved onto the decoration phase. Mrs Dumphries, who made the dyes from the local plants, said she would take care of the reds, greens and dark browns required. Mrs Stipple who was married to the local butcher promised to get thin strips of cow hide to dye and hang from arms and legs. The thing that made them all scratch their heads was how to find a way to copy the dollops of flesh that hung so decoratively from Zenia and Zoran’s faces. Miss Fortescue, who acted as backstage makeup artist for the local dramatic society, said that she would take care of that little problem on the night.

Well pleased with the progress of the Freakish village preparations, Zenia and Zoran assured their friends that the night was going to be one of the most successful in decades.

As the sun set and the moon rose high in the sky, the villagers dressed their children in their costumes; with some taking the extra precaution of placing garlic amulets around their necks. They knew that those who were different from them, meant no harm, but just in case one of them got a bit carried away, four strong men were provided with sprays of frankincense and marjoram, which whilst not fatal, was known to give 99% of all zombies and ghouls the heebie-jeebies.

If past Halloween nights were anything to go by, these precautions were unnecessary, and as the villagers laid out tables of pumpkin fritters, apple pie, goat’s cheesecake and fresh cream, they chatted and laughed excitedly. Around them the children of the village, hideous and foul smelling, raced around trying to pick bits of artificial skin from each other’s bodies. The odd squeal indicated where an unfortunate child had some of his own ripped off over enthusiastically.

The church bell began to toll and a figure was seen to flit in and out between the gravestones. The game was on, and suddenly screams and howls of terror filled the village square. Dressed in robes of white, with a flaming torch in one hand and a dismembered head in the other, a man raced towards the knot of families as they stood frozen outside the community hall.

With a fearful screech, the creature skidded to a halt in front of the terrified villagers and threw the head at their feet. In the light of the torch a diabolical face could be seen glowing gruesomely with green and red slime. With a cackle a disembodied voice lashed into them.
‘Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha….’

Mrs Dumphries, with her hands on her hips advanced towards the rotund prankster, noting in passing that the bodiless head was made of papier-mâché.

‘Father, you nearly frightened us all to death, whatever were you thinking, we weren’t ready yet!’ She wagged her finger in his face, and with a collective sigh of relief, everyone surrounded the priest and patted him on the back.

It was now time for the real fun to begin, and everyone piled back inside the large hall and sat cross-legged in a circle. Miss Fortescue and the committee blew out all the candles and joined their friends on the floor. You could have heard a pin drop, and even the children sat quietly in petrified silence. After what seemed like an hour, but was only really a few minutes, they all heard the creak of the main door as it was pushed open by an unseen hand. A window at the back of the centre banged shut, and a sudden rush of soot was heard as it settled with a thump into the grate. There was a sharp intake of breath as a cold slimy hand brushed against a man’s cheek, and Mrs Dumphries shrieked as she felt the gentlest of bites against her neck.

The children were of course completely delighted by the whole shebang, and the ghouls and pranksters paid particular attention to making their parents scream and cry out for mercy. Small packets of sweets were left in the laps of the youngsters along with little practical jokes for use during the rest of the year. If you have ever wondered where itching powder and whoopee cushions came from, now you know!

An hour later and every one of the villagers had been scared half to death, and Bethany decided that they would indeed be much more grateful for their lives in the year to come. She relit the candles, and with a massive sigh of relief, and nervous laughter, the villagers got to their feet, with one or two stalwart men required to get the fat little priest upright.

Cecil the black cat sat on the mantle above the fire yawning with boredom, having seen it all before many times. Bethany and her friends went from person to person shaking hands and hugging some of those they had known for decades; patting eager children on the head, complimenting them on their magnificent costumes.

It was time to hit the party food and whilst Zenia and Zoran did not usually partake, they gladly passed amongst the guests, topping up glasses with the amber nectar. The Storyteller had been hiding in the community centre kitchens for the main festivities to finish. To be honest he had a bit of a dicky heart, and was not sure he could take all the frivolity. However, he had brought a surprise for the gathered villagers and their visitors, and huge cheer went up as he appeared followed by his band of musicians.

He asked Bethany if she would join him for the first dance and with grace and much admiration they executed a Viennese Waltz perfectly. The Storyteller gestured to everyone to take to the floor and soon there was a heaving mass of men, women and children prancing and reeling, rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ and twerking in time to the beat.

As the church clock struck midnight, the visitors shambled away to the hills where they would remain out of sight for another year. Bethany was cornered by one or two of the ladies, and with Cecil waiting impatiently by her broom; she dispensed some pre-prepared potions that she knew were always in demand. Miss Fortescue in particular was very keen to find a fragrance that she could wear behind her plump little ears to attract Jack Hammer the local blacksmith.

©Sally Cronin – Tales from the Irish Garden 2018

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Apr 14, 2021 James rated it five stars. on Goodreads

I’m guaranteed to experience laughter and tender emotions when I read a book written by Sally Cronin. In her latest, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries, she shares a dozen or so short stories and a few poems that focus on the absurdities of life and all the moments that live to teach us something new. I try to convince myself to only read one each night, but an hour later, the book is finished. Perhaps her next collection will include a theme of patience!

Undoubtedly, my favorite is the first story in the lot. All the rest had something amazing to live up to: Sometime in the future (hopefully VERY distant), an automated device is hooked up to EVERYTHING the narrator does. When she wants to order a few grocery items that might have a little too much sugar and fat in them, everything falls apart. Seriously… how many times have we all had this scenario happen in the most briefest of moments — the one where someone says, “Buy the diet item” or “You don’t really need to eat that, do you?” Take it up or down a million notches in this story. No matter what angle our protagonist tries, the computer has her beat.

Life is definitely like a bowl of cherries. It is sweet and sour, you’ve got to go through a hole bunch to find the best one, and if you consume too many pits, I hear there’s an arsenic concern to consider. Luckily, if you devour this particular bowl of cherries, you’ll have some witty stories to share at a dinner party or a fun little tidbit to announce on your next conference call. Cronin completely had my in hysterics over what happened in the first story, and at other times, I smiled and laughed… teared up a bit at the generosity of some and the thoughtfulness of others.

This is everything you want in a short collection of tales about the reality of life. Well worth the purchase and download. Highly recommended. And it reminds me why I’ve grown to love this author’s work. We all need a little bit of her wisdom and humor.

Read the reviews and buy the collection: Amazon UK – And : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

Tales from the Irish Garden – Chapter Seventeen -Autumn: All Hallows Eve – Part One by Sally Cronin


Autumn: All Hallow’s Eve Part One.

You have now met some of the more prominent residents in the magic garden, and forest, but it is now time to meet those who are members of a community of rare and often maligned creatures. Those that write horror stories, delight in scaring young children, (and adults too if truth be known) with blood, decay and things that go bang in the night. Even those who practice the art of healing, are not excused from the propaganda of those who are ignorant and cruel.

The Storyteller had been their protector for centuries, providing them with lands, unwanted by farmers or other locals, where they could live in peace. There was one condition to this arrangement, and that was they must work in harmony with their nearest neighbours in the village of Freakish. Over the last couple of hundred years, an understanding had been reached between the villagers and those who preferred to walk in the shade. I would like you to meet a special friend of the Storyteller who has a tale to tell about Halloween.

Bethany looked around her cosy cottage and smiled with satisfaction. The lanterns around the walls glowed eerily; candlelight flickering through fangs and gaping wounds in the flesh of the pumpkins. The table was laid with fresh baked treats; the result of many hours toiling over her wood stove. A large pot now bubbled away on top of the said appliance. A wonderful aroma of rosemary and thyme filled the air with an enticing promise of tender meat and dumplings.

Of course you could not have a Halloween party without lots of sweet pastries and candies, and these too added atmospheric colour to the festive table. Blood red velvet cupcakes competed with the dark chocolate of the Devil cake, and green whipped cream glistened in a skull shaped bowl.

Her friends would be arriving shortly; making their way carefully along the path in the forest in the dark, and then through the narrow opening in her protective hedge. A woman living alone in a remote cottage needed to be careful of intruders, human and creature. The poisonous oleander was perfect for that purpose; both beautiful and deadly.

Those who were welcome and came to her for remedies, and for the mushrooms that she grew so abundantly in her garden, were given the knowledge of safe passage. Those who were uninvited or strangers, were warned by a sign along the path; ‘Minefield’. That usually did the trick!

Bethany turned her attention to her outfit. She loved her little black dress that came out for parties. For her age she had very good legs, even though she said so herself, and whilst her hips were a little wider than they used to be, she still looked spell-binding. She laughed to herself; her cat Cecil stirred and stood up from his preferred position in front of the wood stove. She walked across, stroking his arched back as he wound around her aforementioned legs as if agreeing with her assessment.

‘I hope you’ve rested up Cecil, it will be a very busy night,’ she gently massaged the cat under his chin. ‘Lots to do yet before the guests arrive so we had better get a move on.’

The cat moved over to the red velvet sofa and leapt nimbly up onto the soft cushions. With his paws tucked beneath him, and a gleam in his eyes, he watched as his mistress continued her preparations.

The first to arrive, as the sun set below the mountain behind the cottage, was Viktor looking stunning in a black velvet tuxedo with a cape that swung from his shoulders. He walked in without knocking as was his want, and did a twirl just inside the door.

“What do you think you ravishing creature,’ he flashed his pearly white fangs. ‘Do I look terrifying or just incredibly handsome?’

Bethany cocked her head to one side and felt a slight stirring of interest. No, best not go there as it would only end in tears; hers. Besides it was probably the result of drinking too much ginger and honey-mead whilst she was putting on her makeup. She thought she had overdone the potent root a little and it tended to make you feel a little saucy.

She went over and gave Viktor a hug. ‘You look stunning as always my friend,’ extinguishing the look of yearning in his eyes as she emphasized the status of their relationship.

He smiled ruefully. ‘The others are right behind me all dressed up in their most appropriate Halloween finery,’ he laughed as his fangs flashed in the lamplight. ‘We will certainly give the villagers their money’s worth this year.

Just then the door was pushed open and her other friends arrived in a group. Zenia and Zoran in their decaying Zombie outfits emerged into the room first; emanating an aroma that competed with the smell of the stew rather unfavourably.

Bethany wrinkled her nose and reached behind her for her homemade deodoriser made from geranium and peppermint. The two lovers entwined their bony fingers protruding from the end of their tattered costumes, and oblivious to the mist of floral scents that encased them, went over to admire the food laden table.

Behind them came her best friend. Geraldine was not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination but she was the life and soul of the party. Bubbly and a teller of tall tales, she was not in the slightest bit ghoulish as her makeup and costume would suggest. Bethany gave her a huge hug and stroked her friend’s green and red highlighted long hair.

‘Ger… You look stunning tonight,’ she stepped back to admire the entire ensemble. ‘That purple and blood stained dress suits you so well.’

Arm in arm the two women headed for their other friends who were already sipping mead and chatting away by the table. As the evening wore on, the food, and probably too much elderberry wine, was enjoyed. Laughter filled the small cottage as their plans for this Halloween night were discussed and enhanced.

As the clock struck nine times, Bethany clinked her empty glass and called for order. With some delay her friends ceased their inebriated conversations and stood waiting for her pronouncement.

‘It is time good friends, to wend our way through the oleander and the forest to the village and pay our respects. You know the terms of our agreement with these good people. We live safely here amongst them, but we must, this one night within the twelve months, frighten the life out of them, so that they appreciate the lives that they have for the rest of the year.’

Costumes were straightened and her friends assumed their most fitting expressions for the occasion. Glasses were put down on the table and one by one they filed past Bethany who was now holding the front door open to the cold night air. Apart from Zenia who gave a little hiccup as she passed by, the group was silent.

However as Viktor sidled past he flashed his fangs at Bethany and whispered close to her delicately pointed ear. ‘You needn’t think that clove of garlic on a chain around your neck is going to stop me.’

Bethany smacked him on his shoulder and he laughed as he exited the cottage.

Exasperated, but not totally immune to his charms, his proposed conquest moved to the cupboard by the door and extracted her broom. Checking that her hat was on straight, she draped a long cloak over her mini-dress and turned to the red sofa.

‘Come along Cecil, you lazy moggy, hop on; we have places to be and fun to be had’.

©Sally Cronin image Tales from the Irish Garden.

To find out just how the friends will frighten the life out of the villagers.. tune in next Saturday.

©Sally Cronin image 2018 –

I hope you have enjoyed and will join me next Saturday for part two of this chapter..

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Apr 14, 2021 James rated it five stars. on Goodreads

I’m guaranteed to experience laughter and tender emotions when I read a book written by Sally Cronin. In her latest, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries, she shares a dozen or so short stories and a few poems that focus on the absurdities of life and all the moments that live to teach us something new. I try to convince myself to only read one each night, but an hour later, the book is finished. Perhaps her next collection will include a theme of patience!

Undoubtedly, my favorite is the first story in the lot. All the rest had something amazing to live up to: Sometime in the future (hopefully VERY distant), an automated device is hooked up to EVERYTHING the narrator does. When she wants to order a few grocery items that might have a little too much sugar and fat in them, everything falls apart. Seriously… how many times have we all had this scenario happen in the most briefest of moments — the one where someone says, “Buy the diet item” or “You don’t really need to eat that, do you?” Take it up or down a million notches in this story. No matter what angle our protagonist tries, the computer has her beat.

Life is definitely like a bowl of cherries. It is sweet and sour, you’ve got to go through a hole bunch to find the best one, and if you consume too many pits, I hear there’s an arsenic concern to consider. Luckily, if you devour this particular bowl of cherries, you’ll have some witty stories to share at a dinner party or a fun little tidbit to announce on your next conference call. Cronin completely had my in hysterics over what happened in the first story, and at other times, I smiled and laughed… teared up a bit at the generosity of some and the thoughtfulness of others.

This is everything you want in a short collection of tales about the reality of life. Well worth the purchase and download. Highly recommended. And it reminds me why I’ve grown to love this author’s work. We all need a little bit of her wisdom and humor.

Read the reviews and buy the collection: Amazon UK – And : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden- Chapter Chapter Sixteen – Autumn – The Kindness of Mice by Sally Cronin


Chapter Sixteen – Autumn: The Kindness of Mice

After the piglet race, the leaves in the forest and the magic garden began to turn brown and cold winds whipped across the treetops with a whistling that alerted all who lived in this special place. Stores were being collected and added to special chambers in the bowels of the royal palace. Seeds, dried summer fruits, flagons of amber nectar and small hessian bags of the finest flour, milled along the river to the south of the forest. The Storyteller had recommended this particular mill because of fine qualities of Herbert who ran it with his son Calum.

One night as he joined the queen and her husband for a light supper, he related the story of how mice, which are usually the much preyed upon pests in most mills, were actually protected and revered in this particular grain crushing establishment.

It is common for mice to be caught up in the hand threshing at harvest time, and be swept into the back of horse drawn carts that transported the grain to the mill. Usually several cats, and rat-catching dogs, would patrol the building and its surroundings; grabbing any unsuspecting rodent silly enough to hitch a ride.

However, Herbert was a very kind and gentle man, and did not want to cause unnecessary suffering to these little creatures. Before any crushing of the grain was begun, he removed small stones, leaves and other unwanted materials through giant sifters. There were usually four or five of the little rodents left running around looking for an escape from the high sided prison. They were scooped up by a leather gloved hand and placed gently into a wooden box with holes drilled into the sides. At the end of each day, the miller’s son Calum would harness their horse Ned to the cart, and head off to the next county. There he would open the lids, tipping the mice out into a wild meadow that would never be mown, and was covered by luscious wild grains and flowers.

You might think that this is rather laborious, and that a couple of feisty farm cats, would have made short shrift of the forty or so mice that the miller caught every day. However, there was a special reason for his thoughtfulness.

When he was a small boy, his parents had been very poor. His father had broken his leg badly during harvesting one year and could no longer work. His mother would toil in the fields instead, but if they didn’t save enough or grow enough in their small garden, it would be a very lean winter. One Christmas night the little boy was huddled in his cot, shivering with hunger and the cold. In the flickering candlelight he saw movement on the old stool by his bed. At first he thought he was dreaming, but rubbing his eyes in amazement, he saw three mice scurrying back and forth up the legs and down. When he looked closer he saw that they were leaving little morsels of bread and bits of apple.

As you can imagine he wolfed down the food, and through the night it kept coming. In the morning he told his mother of this strange event and she felt his forehead fearing that he had caught a fever. She went down stairs to boil some water to give him, and was astounded to see that the kitchen table was laden with all sorts of crumbs and bits and bobs of fruit, including some late blackberries. By the fire were hundreds of small pieces of coal and with a shaking hand she placed some on the fire with a few sticks collected from the forest. She went out to the shed where their one hen was kept safe at night to find an egg still warm to the touch.

She found a little drop of brandy in the bottom of a long discarded bottle, and took out the packet of lard and a small pack of flour she had managed to buy for their Christmas dinner. Putting all the offerings and the scraps she had found into a large bowl, she mixed it together with the egg. She used a little lard to grease an iron pot and poured the mixture in, tying muslin over the top to seal it. She put a large pot of well-water on to boil and placed the bowl over the top to steam.

That Christmas lunch was the best ever, and the pudding was delicious. The family sat back with full stomachs for the first time in weeks and all of them gave thanks to the little rodents that had showed such kindness to them. It was clearly a change-of-luck gift, as the day after Christmas, a knock on the door startled them as they sat eating the leftovers in front of the fire.

Herbert’s father limped across the stone floor; partially opening the door so as not to let the cold wind into the house. He found a tall man, finely and warmly dressed, on the doorstep carrying a large hamper and who, smiling at the bemused man, asked if Betty was home.
On hearing her name she ran to the door and flung herself into the stranger’s arms. ‘Oh my goodness, can it really be you, Ciaran… I thought you had been lost at sea?’

The tale took two hours in the telling, but to cut things short, since I know you are keen to know more about the mice. It turns out that Ciaran was Herbert’s uncle, who had been shipwrecked many years earlier and given up for dead. In fact he had been washed up on a beautiful desert island, and in the course of his explorations, had discovered a chest of treasure. He had been rescued this summer and had returned to Ireland a wealthy man.

You see what I mean about the change-of-luck gift from the mice. Ciaran bought and renovated the local mill and Herbert’s father worked alongside him. Once he left school he joined them, and when they passed away he was left with this excellent business. As his father had done before him, he swore never to harm a mouse, and over the years thousands had been rescued from the grain instead of being put through the hopper onto the grinding stone.

Eventually, fewer and fewer mice found their way to the mill. The areas that Calum deposited them in were left wild and undisturbed, with plenty of food all year round and plenty of safe places to nest and bring baby mice up safely. Offers were made to buy the land by the farmers in the area, but they were always told that the land was not for sale at any cost.

If you are wondering where the rest of the treasure went that was found on that far of desert island, wonder no more. It bought many acres of meadow where not just mice, but animals, birds and insects thrived whilst enriching the surrounding countryside with their pollen gathering and droppings.

©Sally Cronin image 2018 –

I hope you have enjoyed and will join me tomorrow for more adventures in the magic garden.

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Apr 14, 2021 James rated it five stars. on Goodreads

I’m guaranteed to experience laughter and tender emotions when I read a book written by Sally Cronin. In her latest, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries, she shares a dozen or so short stories and a few poems that focus on the absurdities of life and all the moments that live to teach us something new. I try to convince myself to only read one each night, but an hour later, the book is finished. Perhaps her next collection will include a theme of patience!

Undoubtedly, my favorite is the first story in the lot. All the rest had something amazing to live up to: Sometime in the future (hopefully VERY distant), an automated device is hooked up to EVERYTHING the narrator does. When she wants to order a few grocery items that might have a little too much sugar and fat in them, everything falls apart. Seriously… how many times have we all had this scenario happen in the most briefest of moments — the one where someone says, “Buy the diet item” or “You don’t really need to eat that, do you?” Take it up or down a million notches in this story. No matter what angle our protagonist tries, the computer has her beat.

Life is definitely like a bowl of cherries. It is sweet and sour, you’ve got to go through a hole bunch to find the best one, and if you consume too many pits, I hear there’s an arsenic concern to consider. Luckily, if you devour this particular bowl of cherries, you’ll have some witty stories to share at a dinner party or a fun little tidbit to announce on your next conference call. Cronin completely had my in hysterics over what happened in the first story, and at other times, I smiled and laughed… teared up a bit at the generosity of some and the thoughtfulness of others.

This is everything you want in a short collection of tales about the reality of life. Well worth the purchase and download. Highly recommended. And it reminds me why I’ve grown to love this author’s work. We all need a little bit of her wisdom and humor.

Read the reviews and buy the collection: Amazon UK – And : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden- Summer: Chapter Chapter Fifteen – Summer – The Piglet Races by Sally Cronin


Yesterday a rescue was mounted to release the badger colony from their burrows after the curse placed on them by the wicked witch..now it is time to have some fun.. at the piglet races

Chapter Fifteen Summer: The Piglet races

Image Tales from the Irish Garden

It was now August, and the long summer days in the palace and the surrounding garden were filled with laughter and parties. The Storyteller introduced the court to another interesting activity that delighted them. Whilst the humans in the Emerald Island were devoted to the sport of horse-racing… the little people known internationally as Leprechauns but locally as Lerpersians, had a love of miniature piglet racing.

As you will have gathered by now, the Storyteller was able to move between both worlds, and could assume the appropriate stature at will. He had returned from the town’s final horse race of the summer, and had managed to acquire, at the farm market that flourished next to the racecourse, six of the most fastidiously bred piglets, born of champion dam and sire racers.

They were also very pretty, and over the next week the fairies came over to the cottage to admire these little darlings. Specially made saddles were being prepared that would hold two fairies strapped into wicker chairs, enabling each to hold one of the reins. This was not a sport for the faint hearted, and the queen ordered helmets to be made from seed pods, with a silk strap to keep them attached. There were also seat belts to keep the riders in their wicker seats, and strong protective gloves woven from goat’s hair.

The helmets were dyed a different colour so that the spectators could keep track of their favourites, and the piglets had large numbers painted on their rumps using beetroot vegetable colouring. Each little steed was put through a rigorous medical by Doctor Doesugood, and the Storyteller supervised the mowing of the track on the lawn next to the magnolia tree. It had an intricate fence of wattle, with a separate paddock where the runners and their jockeys could warm up before the race.

As with any race day, the action was not restricted to the track. Residents of the magic garden, Summer from the cottage next door and Michael from the farm were all invited to set up stalls selling food and drink. To make sure that everyone had plenty to spend, Queen Filigree went into her treasure vault and distributed ten golden linseeds to all the servants and kitchen staff, with twenty of these precious seeds going to her chief courtiers including Chef Marcelle.

The Storyteller also wanted to ensure that all the residents of the magic garden and the forest had sufficient to bet on the races and to buy food and drink, so he provided each person ten poppy seeds, with instructions that they were not to be ground up and smoked as this would lead to far too much unbridled behaviour.

The sun was shining brightly on the day of the races, and gaily coloured stalls lined the perimeter of the track. There was also a VIP pavilion for the royal family, the Storyteller, his daughter, Dorothy, and her family. Inside tables were laden with pies, sandwiches and cakes made by Chef Marcelle and his team. The Storyteller contributed two bottles of fine red wine and two of champagne, as well as amber nectar and strawberry juice for those who did not normally imbibe. Which, he chuckled to himself, was not many!

The food to buy on the stalls was just as varied, and the amber nectar tent seemed to be doing a roaring breakfast trade. Clearly, things might get a little mischievous later in the proceedings, and members of the royal guard were drafted in as stewards to ensure that scuffles and shenanigans were nipped in the bud as quickly as possible. Oddly, those that had disgraced themselves in previous years were nowhere to be found. Apparently their charabanc broke down on the far reach of the forest with no chance of them reaching the event before its final race!

For the week prior to the race meet, the Dapperman and his crew of seamstresses had been busy making brightly coloured summer dresses for the ladies, and light linen suits for the men. Whilst the colours of the dresses were much admired, there was quite a bit of discussion about the length of the skirts and the appropriateness of low necklines. In the end, her majesty intervened and indicated with a piece of string the acceptable allowance for both. Whilst disappointed with the edict, the ladies of the court resorted to other embellishments to stand out from the crowd.

Fascinators are wisps of silk and multi-coloured feathers that perch upon the head. To meet the demand for this first major event in their new kingdom, the Dapperman employed the services of the nimble Orb Weaver spiders who worked in his tailoring emporium.

They were experts in weaving threads into various forms, including lace, and were much revered for their skills. Since time was short, it was decided that all the ladies of the court would have the same round base made from silk and cuckoo spit produced by the froghopper tribe. This frothy white substance could be found liberally splashed on most plants in the magic garden, and the Dapperman had it collected by one of his assistants, fresh each morning.

Once the round base had hardened, feathers that had been collected from the grasslands around the forest over the years and stored in the famed accessory vault at the tailoring rooms, were added higgledy-piggledy all around the brim. The colours were vivid and the fairies were immediately fascinated with each creation. Just in case you were wondering where the name for these head adornments came from!

Of course, Queen Filigree was to have a very special fascinator made to enhance the beautiful turquoise gown the Dapperman had already designed for her. The prized iridescent peacock feathers, imported from the island of Ceylon, crowned her majesty’s head in opulent splendour. There would be no doubt at all at this well attended event, who was the fairest of them all.

The races were an opportunity for those currently unattached to meet the love of their lives, and spirits and hopes were running high. None more so than for the two princesses Narcissus and Persephone, who had been delighted to hear that invitations, sent out to neighbouring kingdoms, had been accepted, with several eligible young princes among the attendees. The young royals might have been only teenagers in fairy terms, but they were approaching 100 years old, which is a good age to settle down.

The queen and Prince Ronan led the court out into the garden, via a carpet of red rose petals that had fallen as nature intended, and not by badgering. As the royal party trod across the petals, the rising scent both entranced and inebriated. Everyone was in excellent spirits as they entered the VIP tent for a restorative glass of champagne, and a meet and greet of their invited guests. After a very pleasant half hour chatting with neighbouring royalty and, in the case of the princesses, eyeing up the potential suitors, the queen and prince led the way to the seats in the grandstand. Here, multi-coloured silk canopies protected the VIPs from the now scorching summer sun. There was much jockeying for position, and that was just in the seating arrangements in the royal enclosure, not those competing in the races.

Finally the crowd drifted towards the wattle fencing; children were hoisted on to their father’s shoulders, and betting slips were gripped tightly in expectant fingers.

There would be three heats with two piglets competing in each. One steed was ridden by fairies and the other by Lerpersians. The first entrants exited the paddock and paraded through the crowd, prancing and shaking their twirly tales in response to the cheers and slightly inebriated strategic suggestions. They took their places on the start line, with the odds in favour of the Lerpersians. These tricky devils were known for not only their piglet riding experience, but ability to extract them from a farmyard expertly in the dead of night, and be a hundred miles away by breakfast. However, Queen Filigree was confident that her chosen fairy riders would be a match for any nefarious little person. She had chosen them personally from her swan express pilots, knowing they had both the stamina and skill to ride these slightly rotund creatures.

A line of silk dotted with red handkerchiefs was raised to piglet chest height, and the two runners in the first race, pranced in place, eager to get away. With a flourish Chef Marcelle yanked the line upwards from his position to the side of the start line, and with a shout from the crowd they were off.

After the three heats it was clear that the Queen had been right to be so confident, and the line-up for the final was two fairy piglets and one Lerpersian. The Storyteller at this point, decided that a word in the ear of the Lerpersian trainer might be in order. In previous years, there had been some underhand shenanigans in the final, resulting in displacing opposing riders, and on one occasion spiking of the favourite rider’s amber nectar with crushed cherry seeds. Thankfully, it was not a large enough dose to be fatal, but certainly sufficient to result in the rider being carried off on a stretcher.

The royal party watched with interest as the Storyteller and the Lerpersian trainer had a quite heated discussion, before their friend returned with a satisfied smile on his face. They saw the trainer approach his rider and hold out his hand, and a very disgruntled Lerpersian handing over a packet of some kind, a large hairpin and a feather duster. The Storyteller explained that it was a last resort, as piglets get hysterical when you tickle them, tending to roll over on the spot.

By now the crowd was getting a bit boisterous. Most had been drinking all day in the hot sun and, as yet, the food had been mainly ignored. There was plenty of time for eating and dancing to the band once the winnings had been counted up. There were hundreds of linseeds and poppy seeds bet on the last race and most had put an all-or-nothing wager on their favourite piglet.

The line of flags went up and the three piglets shot down the track egged on by their riders and the cheering crowd. Around they went, swapping the lead position as they cut each other up on the turns and raced ahead on the straight. Everyone took to their feet in the stands as the piglets approached the finishing line; one second the Lerpersian was in the lead and the next second one of the mounts ridden by the fairies. The noise was indescribable and even Queen Filigree was leaping up and down in excitement. Princess Persephone and Narcissus even dropped their ladylike composure in an effort to catch the eye of the visiting princes, and were screaming for their two piglets as loud as any fishwife.

With a last minute burst, the Lerpersian egged his mount over the line first, and with a roar the crowd erupted either throwing hats in the air, or stomping on them, depending on their fiscal fortunes. No-one was more than surprised than the victor’s trainer, who had thought that winning fair and square was completely out of the question, and he made a note to follow the same tactic at the next meet.

Whilst disappointed not to have won the race with her jockeys, the queen graciously went down to the paddock and congratulated them on their efforts. She slipped the royal riders a small bag of linseeds, with instructions to go off and have a very good time. With the races over for the day, the track was cleared of piglet droppings, and the band set up at the start line. Food stalls did a roaring business, amber nectar and wine flowed freely and one by one couples took to the floor to dance the night away.

With more than a little satisfaction, the queen noticed her daughters on the arms of two very eligible princes and, fingers crossed, there would be an autumn wedding or two. Time those two girls were married! She was comforted that they would not be too far away, with days like this one to be looked forward to every year.

©Sally Cronin 2018 –

I hope you have enjoyed and will join me tomorrow for more adventures in the magic garden.

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Apr 14, 2021 James rated it five stars. on Goodreads

I’m guaranteed to experience laughter and tender emotions when I read a book written by Sally Cronin. In her latest, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries, she shares a dozen or so short stories and a few poems that focus on the absurdities of life and all the moments that live to teach us something new. I try to convince myself to only read one each night, but an hour later, the book is finished. Perhaps her next collection will include a theme of patience!

Undoubtedly, my favorite is the first story in the lot. All the rest had something amazing to live up to: Sometime in the future (hopefully VERY distant), an automated device is hooked up to EVERYTHING the narrator does. When she wants to order a few grocery items that might have a little too much sugar and fat in them, everything falls apart. Seriously… how many times have we all had this scenario happen in the most briefest of moments — the one where someone says, “Buy the diet item” or “You don’t really need to eat that, do you?” Take it up or down a million notches in this story. No matter what angle our protagonist tries, the computer has her beat.

Life is definitely like a bowl of cherries. It is sweet and sour, you’ve got to go through a hole bunch to find the best one, and if you consume too many pits, I hear there’s an arsenic concern to consider. Luckily, if you devour this particular bowl of cherries, you’ll have some witty stories to share at a dinner party or a fun little tidbit to announce on your next conference call. Cronin completely had my in hysterics over what happened in the first story, and at other times, I smiled and laughed… teared up a bit at the generosity of some and the thoughtfulness of others.

This is everything you want in a short collection of tales about the reality of life. Well worth the purchase and download. Highly recommended. And it reminds me why I’ve grown to love this author’s work. We all need a little bit of her wisdom and humor.  

Read the reviews and buy the collection: Amazon UK – And : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden- Summer: Chapter Fourteen – Summer – The Rescue Mission by Sally Cronin


Last Sunday a small badger came to the magic garden to seek help from the queen. An evil crone has threatened his family if he does not return with some of the royal jelly to cure her arthritis:

Chapter Fourteen – Summer: The Rescue Mission

Image Tales from the Irish Garden

Within a very short space of time, which is quite unusual for the fairy court, which moves at its own leisurely pace normally, everyone was gathered in the throne room. The captain of the palace guard, Sir Rodney Flabbergast, stood to attention by the side of his seated queen. Prince Ronan was pacing the floor impatiently, running his hand up and down the hilt of his golden sword, eager to get on with the impending tussle. The Queen Bee had been brought down from the rooftop hives on a silver cushion, and had been placed on the arm of the throne where she gently buzzed. The double doors opened and the two eagle guardians who had accompanied the queen from Spain, and dealt with the evil witch the year before, strutted across the floor, glaring at all those assembled in case of danger to their sovereign.

One other personage arrived, the court physician Doctor Doesugood, tailed by his two assistants, who requested permission to approach her majesty, where he proceeded to whisper for five long minutes in her ear. Queen Filigree nodded her head and smiled and then leant down closer to the Queen Bee to confer with her. With a louder than normal buzz, the bee bounced up and down once or twice in agreement.

The Storyteller was sat in a velvet chair in place of honour at the foot of the royal dais and Basil struggled to stay awake. Queen Filigree nodded for the old man to relate the story and to get everyone up to speed.

What followed must remain secret for the time being to maintain the element of surprise, especially as the witch was not above employing spies, in the form of rogue moths, to act as her eyes and ears within the palace walls.

Preparations continued throughout the day. The eagles took to the sky, and after patrolling the outskirts of the forest, they took up position high in the treetops either side of the beleaguered badger sett. Soldiers of the royal guard left the palace and the magic garden in groups of three and concealed themselves in the undergrowth awaiting the exchange at midnight.

In the palace the Queen Bee conferred with her top drones before filling three walnut halves with some of the precious jelly usually only reserved for herself and Queen Filigree. They were handed to Doctor Doesugood who carried them carefully down to the throne room to be placed in a special box to keep it fresh.

The Storyteller, on discussion with the others in the group, was detailed to carry Basil back into the forest at dusk, and to secrete himself into the bushes to keep an eye on the young badger as he waited in the dark for the witch to return. On the walk, he talked it through with the young broc, calming his nerves and reassuring him that the entire resources of the fairy kingdom were on his side, and that he needed to be brave for just a little longer.

‘She loved the rose didn’t she?’ Basil looked up in to his new friend’s eyes. ‘And you do forgive me for what I did to your garden, don’t you?’

‘Listen boy,’ the Storyteller’s voice was gruff with emotion. ‘You wanted to protect your family and I respect that, so enough said. But next time you feel the need to steal my flowers come and ask me first, okay?’

‘Okay, I promise,’ and the badger snuggled down for the last mile of the journey.

Four hours later, as all of the assembled guardians and soldiers watched from their hiding places, Basil sat himself down on a clump of late blooming onion weed, waiting nervously for the hag to appear.

As the midnight hour approached, the forest animals suddenly hushed, and through the silence, a loud rushing and chortling was heard. With a snapping of twigs and a sudden shout of pain, the whirling dervish descended into the clearing having hit a few branches on the way down.

‘Ouch, ouch, ouch, blasted knees.’ With a thump, the witch fell off her broom and turned to face the terrified badger. ‘Well you little munchkin, have you got the ransom to pay for the release of your snuffling family?’

Basil nodded his head vigorously and held out a large oak leaf bearing the three half walnut shells containing the precious royal honey.

The old crone hobbled over to Basil and snatched the prize out of his claws, cackling as she sat down on a nearby rock to check out the contents of the walnut shells. She sniffed, dipped her blackened long nails into it and touched them to her rancid tongue. She continued to chat to herself as she thoroughly inspected the ransom.

Finally satisfied, she picked up her broom and waved it in the general direction of the entrance to the sett. With crack and a thump, the earth that had blocked the burrow, fell inwards creating an open doorway, and within minutes a greying snout appeared followed by two inquisitive eyes.

Basil rushed over yelling excitedly. ‘Granddad, granddad, it’s okay I have paid off the witch.’

Slowly the elderly badger pushed himself out of the tunnel and stood between his grandson and the evil old woman.

The witch however was not paying any attention as she first rubbed each knee with the honey, cooing in bliss as the sweetness infused into her bony protuberances. She then downed the last shell’s contents and sat for a moment or two savouring the taste.

She wobbled over to her broom stick and tossed one leg over the handle in preparation for take-off. As she did so the Storyteller stepped out of his hiding place and walked towards her. She caught sight of him out of the corner of her eye, and was just about to turn and remonstrate with him, when she was startled by a whooshing sound that appeared to be coming from two separate directions. Looking up she was horrified to see two massive eagles descending from their perches in the treetops, recognising her adversaries from the year before. This was not going to end well!

Running as fast as her knees would allow, she raced across the clearing in a desperate effort to get off the ground. But something was wrong. It felt like her knees were locked in place and as she opened her mouth to shout expletives and curses at the two rapidly approaching giant birds of prey, she found that her tongue was stuck to the roof of her mouth.

The Storyteller put his arms around the two badgers and suggested that they turn away now. Without the witch’s ability to curse anyone, the palace guard broke from cover and surrounded the odorous creature as she stood quivering with rage. The old crone wriggled helplessly as two soldiers attached silk rope to the front and back end of the broom.

Basil and his grandfather kept their faces turned into the Storyteller’s tweed jacket but it didn’t prevent them hearing the most horrendous scream of terror. Being nosy by nature they turned their snouts heavenwards to see the witch being hauled up into the air by the eagles swinging between them as they headed off into the midnight sky.

After making sure that the whole of Basil’s family was safe and that the other entrances to their home were now open, the Storyteller walked back to his cottage to catch up on his sleep after such an exciting day. The next morning, it was with some trepidation that he approached the rose garden, and was relieved to find all was as it should be. As he clipped bushes back and inhaled the heady scent, he heard footsteps on the path. He turned to find the fairy queen and her husband walking towards him hand in hand.

‘Good morning Storyteller,’ Queen Filigree held out her hand to her friend. ‘We just wanted to let you know that the witch will not trouble us again.’

The three of them strolled out of the bower into the vegetable patch, whilst the queen explained that the eagles had deposited the witch into the hands of the guardians of an island off the west coast of Ireland. She was incarcerated in a beehive hut, and her broom had been thrown on the cooking fire. Without the ability to speak or walk for all eternity, her days of terrorising humans, and all other creatures, were over.

The old man had loved the adventure and missed his little furry friend, but he needn’t have worried, as occasionally, in the late evening when everyone else was asleep, there would be a tap at the door and Basil would pop in for a chat and a cuddle.

* * *

©Sally Cronin 2018

I hope you have enjoyed and will join me tomorrow for more adventures in the magic garden.

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Valentina‘s review Mar 16, 2021it was amazing

This is an entertaining book written in the format of short stories that portray ordinary people, very interesting people, observed in real-life situations overcoming all their challenges in a positive way. Author Sally Cronin with her empathetic voice makes people’s dreams and passion come alive. There are poems and pictures scattered throughout.

Not all the stories have a happy or bitter ending, they are organized into categories: Technology, Connections, Winning Streak, Animal Magic, and Falling in and out of love.
The stories are vignettes of people’s lives that make this book a great reading and leave the readers feeling good about the world and people.
I am a realist, I like to read about real people more than I like fictitious people in fantasy books, I guess because I learn from their circumstances. I recommend this book, it’s a great read.

Read the reviews and buy the collection: Amazon UK – And : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden- Summer: Chapter Thirteen – Trouble in the Rose Garden by Sally Cronin


Yesterday The Storyteller with a little help, releases his daughter and her family from an evil curse and there is much celebration in the magic garden.. this week more trouble on the domestic front…

Summer: Chapter Thirteen – Trouble in the Rose Garden

©image Tales from the Irish Garden

After a month of honeymooning at the Royal Palace in Meath, and enjoying the company of King Phillip and Queen Seren, the happy couple returned home to their own realm beneath the magnolia tree. To be honest for the first few days they were rarely seen as they kept to their chambers, fortified by exquisitely prepared meals by Chef Marcelle accompanied by copious amounts of the restorative mead, made from the fermented honey of the royal bees.

The two princesses were, of course, impatient to hear all about Prince Ronan’s family holiday home, and after much persistent chatter, and in an effort to remove them from their chambers, he promised to take them there the following summer.

The magic garden was overflowing with colour and glorious scents that were hypnotic. The Storyteller would wander through the long meadow grass to the secret nooks and crannies where herbs and spices grew untamed and vibrant. His favourite place however, was in his rose bower, where every bloom was lovingly tended on a daily basis. After his breakfast of oatmeal and prunes, he would make his way into his sanctuary with secateurs and a wooden trug to fill with the fragrant blossoms. He knew that Queen Filigree was enamoured of the colour and scent of the Papa Meilland Rose that he had cultivated from a bush his French cousin had sent him. The rose loved the warmer dryer climate, and would not normally thrive where rain and cold winds could lash the delicate flowers. However, in this magic place, all plants grew and flourished, especially when touched by the hands of this gentle gardener.

On this particular morning, as the sun shone on dew covered leafs and petals, the Storyteller eagerly anticipated an hour or so amongst the roses, inhaling their aroma and listening to the royal bees as they collected sweet pollen.

This morning the peace of the garden was shattered by a roar of anger, and the sound of the trug and implements hitting the stone path that wended its way through the bower. The Storyteller stared around him at the devastation. Beautiful, but wilting red flowers littered the earth around the rose bushes, which stood sadly and partially naked in the sunlight. In despair the old man raised his hands and bowed his head in sorrow. He took a deep breath and raised his head to see if he could find what or who had done this to his treasured roses.

‘I have to find the perfect one… it has to be the best or she won’t grant my wish… oh I can’t decide… what am I going to do?’

The Storyteller turned towards the voice and spotted a black and white flash partially hidden beneath the hedge that bordered the garden. He moved towards the intruder with retribution on his mind, pulling the leaves of the hedge apart to reveal the suspected culprit of this carnage.

There sat a young badger sheltering from the daylight surrounded by rose heads and a big, juicy wriggling worm that he had clearly dug up fresh from the vegetable patch.

‘What have you done you miserable broc,’ the Storyteller was beside himself. ‘You have ruined my rose garden, for what exactly? And it better be a good reason, or I will turn you into a statue for pigeons to poop on!’

The young badger pushed back into the foliage and stared up at the angry old man, who even he knew, had powers beyond belief.

‘Please, please, I am sorry,’ he held up his long clawed paws pleadingly. ‘My family are being kept captive by a witch that has taken over our part of the forest, and she said that unless I get a king’s ransom of royal honey for her arthritis, she will turn them into the only moles in Ireland.’

The Storyteller beckoned the nervous animal out from under the hedge, and with the waddling creature following behind him, he headed for his deckchair where he enjoyed secret naps in the afternoon. He noticed that the badger was holding a very large, red velvet rose between his paws and reached out to remove it from his claws.

‘No please, no… I think that this is the one that will persuade the fairy queen to let me have some of the royal honey, please let me keep it.

Begrudgingly, the old man sat back in his comfy deckchair and gave an exasperated sigh.

‘Okay, out with it, give me the full story, otherwise I can’t help you.

The youngster inhaled the scent from the rose in his grasp and then lifted his head and looked at the Storyteller with tears in his eyes.

He explained that two nights ago as he and his brothers and sisters were playing outside their sett in the moonlight, a great black object flew down from the tree tops and landed with a thump right in front of them. Their parents and the other adults had just returned from the forest after digging up roots and finding fresh grasses for their bedding. They had left the youngsters working off some of their energy, so that they would sleep through the long day to come, and were deep underground in their soundless world, oblivious to the danger to their offspring.

Before the terrified young badgers, crouched the ugliest crone imaginable, waving her gnarled and blackened broomstick around threateningly.

‘Now you little flea ridden bundles of joy,’ the old woman waved her broom at them to make sure she had their attention. ‘I am in desperate need of the royal honey made for the fairy queen for my dodgy knees and you are going to get it for me. Stop bleating and tell me you understand me!’

Cowering together for comfort, the four of them nodded in agreement. ‘You, the cocky looking one at the end, what’s your name?’

‘Basil your worship, and may I say that you are extremely beautiful and fragrant.’

‘Flattery will get you nowhere you little vermin… but you will do.’

With that she approached the four of them, and nudged Basil’s two sisters and brother tumbling into the entrance of their home. With a wave of her broom the earth caved in and he could hear muffled cries from behind the wall of earth.

‘And don’t think that I have not blocked all the secret entrances to this foul den of iniquity either.’ She cackled to herself until she began coughing and spluttering.

‘You need to go to the palace under the magnolia tree and tell that uppity Queen Filigree to give you three walnut shell halves of the best royal honey she has, otherwise your family will be trapped underground for all eternity.’

With that she mounted her broomstick and made her pre-flight checks. ‘I will be back tonight at midnight and if you haven’t got my honey, you will be very sorry.’

Off she flew into the dark night, narrowly missing a tree as her wonky knees failed to correct her trajectory.

The badger looked up at the storyteller pleadingly. ‘I know the queen would not let me have the honey for nothing, and I had heard that she would do anything for one of these luscious roses, so that is why I was trying to find the best.’

You would have to be a very hard man to ignore those brown eyes and beguiling features. And we all know that the Storyteller was a push over when it came to the creatures in and around the magic garden. With a sigh he rose from the bench and lifted the young badger into his arms.

‘Right, young man, we have work to do, but first I need to fix this mess you have made.
Close your eyes so the flash doesn’t blind you.’

Basil rested his head thankfully against the rough material of the old man’s jacket and closed his eyes. It was daylight and he should have been fast asleep in the safety of his sett with his family, and he gently began to snore.

The Storyteller smiled down at the little chap and placed his hands over the furry ears. There was a large flash and a clap of thunder and the rose garden was restored to its former glory, except for one bush that was missing a large, velvety red rose that was still clasped between the paws of the sleeping badger.

Two hours later, the Storyteller, with the young badger still asleep in his arms, was ushered into the courtyard of the palace where the queen and Prince Ronan were enjoying a late breakfast of homemade scones, strawberry jam and fresh cream. The couple were delighted to see their friend and bade him join them at the table. At this point with the smell of strawberry jam permeating his sensitive nostrils, Basil woke with a sneeze and froze in awe of the esteemed company he found himself in.

Stroking the black and white fur gently, the Storyteller related his tale to the increasingly astonished audience.

‘Blast,’ spluttered the queen unregally.’ She looked across at her new husband. ‘I thought we had dealt with that old besom wielding crone once-and-for-all last year in Spain.’ She smiled warmly at Basil, reaching out to tease the beautiful red velvet rose from his clasp.

‘I believe that is for me young man,’ she smiled gently at him. The young badger, frozen in adoration, reluctantly gave up his prize assisted gently by the Storyteller. ‘Breathe young fellow, breathe, the old man whispered in his ear.

After smelling the fragrant rose and nodding in appreciation, Queen Filigree called for her lady-in-waiting, hovering outside the door to the courtyard, eager for snippets of gossip to relay to her nearest and dearest.

‘Stop listening at keyholes Lady Ellie otherwise I will send you back to that garden as a dog and slave to the humans.’ Lady Ellie sniffed defensively and curtsied as low as she could manage with her stiff back.

‘Your wish is my command your majesty, and I am eager to do your bidding.’

‘Please summon the captain of the palace guard, request the presence of the Queen Bee and alert the Eagle guardians that they will have a long night ahead of them.’ Bristling with importance, Lady Ellie scurried off on her errand as the queen turned to her husband.

‘My darling,’ she placed her hand on his muscular arm. ‘Are you up for a little mischief in a good cause?’

‘Always with you my dearest, always.’ He stood and headed for the door. ‘I will just go and get into something more appropriate for the adventure ahead.’ With that he winked at his queen, waving goodbye to the Storyteller and his furry companion.

To be continued next weekend…..

I hope you have enjoyed and will join me next weekend for more adventures in the magic garden.

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

MacTrish 5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, entertaining and delightful. Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 March 2021

I bought Sam, a Shaggy Dog Story by this author partly because it featured the same breed of dog that had been cherished pets of ours. That book held me spellbound. When I discovered the existence of this one, I bought it despite the fact that short stories are not my usual genre. It turned out to be a perfect escape from a pandemic.

This book is a little gem! Each tale is different. I was impressed by the range of moods – comic, poignant, vengeful, futuristic, romantic – each one gripping in its own way. It’s hard to pick favourites but it opens with a humorous story about AI and its thwarting of a dieter craving a treat. Another one concerning domestic abuse has a delicious twist. I had intended putting this book by the bed and dipping into it on those nights when sleep doesn’t come easily. Well, sleep suffered considerably. I read the entire book in one sitting!

If you’re looking for a multi-faceted treasury of well-written tales about the human condition, then this book is one for you. I raged, wept, laughed and gasped at some of these but there was never a sense of hopelessness or cynicism . Read it and be moved, thrilled, delighted and diverted.

Read the reviews and buy the collection: Amazon UK – And : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden- Summer: Chapter Twelve – The Storyteller to the Rescue by Sally Cronin


Last Sunday The Storyteller’s daughter has been cursed and trapped in the body of a fox she must hope for a miracle to be returned to her family.

Summer: Chapter Twelve – The Storyteller to the Rescue

Image ©Tales from the Irish Garden..

As the morning light filtered through the branches above her head, Dorothy watched her three cubs as they wrestled and tumbled around her. Eddie was still not home but she knew that he would fight to the end to return to her and their family. Human tears fell from her blue eyes as she contemplated a future for them without his love and support.

Meanwhile, across the forest and only a few feet from the fence that separated the woods from the magic garden, Eddie lay panting in the damp grass. He had been returning from the village, where he had managed to scavenge half a cooked chicken, and some slightly rancid ham from waste bins behind the Inn, when he had suddenly felt a stabbing pain in one of his back legs. As he collapsed into a heap, dropping his precious food, he felt a sense of doom about the future of his small family.

He was losing strength as he had struggled to release his foot from the snare cutting into his flesh. It was hopeless, as the more he fought against the wire, the tighter it became.
Suddenly he heard whistling nearby and snarled, ready to bite the hand of the hunter who had laid this cruel trap. He looked up and saw a pair of leggings above sturdy boots, and a gnarled hand reaching down towards him. He snarled in warning as the flesh neared his nose, but then heard a voice that he knew.

‘There, there lad, don’t fret now, let’s get you out of that wicked thing my boy.’ Eddie lay back down, worn out from the night’s struggles, and also shocked by hearing the Storyteller’s voice after four long years. He had no way to communicate who he was to Dorothy’s father, but he tried to think of a way to get through to him.

Gently the old man held the fox’s leg in his hand whilst he worked the wire until it loosened. He could see that there was damage to the foot that needed to be treated with some of his magic potions, and having released the animal, he picked him up in his arms and carried him to the cottage.

Within minutes of the wound being washed and coated with the wild herb dressing, Eddie was out of pain and eager to be on his way back to Dorothy and the babies. He knew she would be frantic by now and would not be able to leave the den as the pups were far too young. She would be very hungry, and only have enough milk for another day or so. He wanted to express his gratitude to her father in the only way that he could, by gently licking his hand. The Storyteller reciprocated by stroking the dark red fur of his patient’s head and for a brief moment Eddie felt a sense of peace.

The old man picked him up and walked out of the cottage and down the path to the wooden gate. He deposited Eddie next to the chicken and the ham, which miraculously had not been filched in his absence. He stood back and waited to make sure that the fox would be able to move easily, but was taken by surprise as the animal sat down and looked right up at him with strangely human eyes. The Storyteller was a man of magic, and not one to have flights of fancy, and when the fox stood and ran around him several times before picking up the food and moving along the path, he decided to follow him.

Through the forest they moved, sometimes on the path, and at times through the undergrowth. From time to time, Eddie would stop and look over his shoulder to make sure that the old man was keeping up with him. Eventually they emerged into the clearing in front of the den and he pushed aside the bushes concealing the entrance. He was relieved to see his beloved Dorothy gently nuzzling the babies as they drank their milk. She looked up and saw him, and she gave a delighted yip to welcome him home. He dropped the food in front of her but she was too relieved to see him to eat right then. He stood by her side and nuzzled her neck fur, gently licking her ears in devotion.

Eddie rose and indicated that he wanted her to follow him into the sunlight and bring the babies with her. The family emerged, and immediately the cubs, full of milk and ready to play, chased each other in and out of their parent’s legs and biting their feathered tails.

On the edge of the clearing the Storyteller paused and took in the delightful scene in front of him. He didn’t want to startle the vixen and her cubs, but Eddie trotted towards him before turning back again in invitation. The man moved slowly, bending down close to the ground to show that he meant no harm and found himself looking directly into a pair of eyes that he had never forgotten. He fell backwards onto his bottom, staring in shock at the two foxes in front of him. He and Eddie’s family had mourned the loss of their children four years before, thinking that some dreadful accident had befallen them or that they had been killed by some passing vagabonds. No trace of them had ever been found and eventually they had to accept that they were gone forever.

Dorothy had been so intent on her three pups that it took a moment before she looked more closely at the man sat in front of her. Tears formed in her blue eyes, revealing the human hidden beneath the russet fur. She left the cubs with Eddie, approaching hesitantly and stood by her father’s knee. He stretched out his arms and she leapt into them so that she could plaster his face and lick away his own tears.

‘Who did this to you child?’ He gently smoothed the rich red fur of the top of her head.

‘Who could be so wicked as to take you both from us?’ he paused as a thought struck him.

‘The only one who would seek pleasure from this would be the Goblin and I suspect Magnus who left around the same time you disappeared.’ Dorothy, still under the curse of silence, nodded her head slowly and the Storyteller put her back on the ground, stood up and dusted himself off.

‘If I carry the cubs, will you and Eddie come with me to the Goblin’s cave and I will make him reverse his curse that he placed on you?’ He walked over to where the now fed and sleepy cubs were lying next to their father, gently picking them up one my one; tucking the squirming fur bundles carefully into the front of his jumper. Keeping one hand beneath them to keep them safe, he and the two foxes headed off to the other end of the forest and the dank place which stank of rancid goblin.

You have already heard and witnessed the persuasiveness of the Storytellers abilities, and the following day a message was sent to Eddie’s parents to come to the cottage in the magic garden for Sunday lunch. You can imagine their shock on arriving to find their son, now a mature grown man, with his arms around the shoulders of the beautiful Dorothy, alongside three gloriously red-headed triplets, tucking into a chicken purée dinner.

As to the Goblin, he has never been seen again. Those that wander into that part of the forest are amused by the statue of stone that looks like an old ugly monkey squealing in terror. The place is no longer dark and dank, but is sunlit and is always covered in a carpet of foxgloves.

©Sally Cronin

I hope you have enjoyed and will join me tomorrow for more adventures in the magic garden.

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

MacTrish 5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, entertaining and delightful. Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 March 2021

I bought Sam, a Shaggy Dog Story by this author partly because it featured the same breed of dog that had been cherished pets of ours. That book held me spellbound. When I discovered the existence of this one, I bought it despite the fact that short stories are not my usual genre. It turned out to be a perfect escape from a pandemic.

This book is a little gem! Each tale is different. I was impressed by the range of moods – comic, poignant, vengeful, futuristic, romantic – each one gripping in its own way. It’s hard to pick favourites but it opens with a humorous story about AI and its thwarting of a dieter craving a treat. Another one concerning domestic abuse has a delicious twist. I had intended putting this book by the bed and dipping into it on those nights when sleep doesn’t come easily. Well, sleep suffered considerably. I read the entire book in one sitting!

If you’re looking for a multi-faceted treasury of well-written tales about the human condition, then this book is one for you. I raged, wept, laughed and gasped at some of these but there was never a sense of hopelessness or cynicism . Read it and be moved, thrilled, delighted and diverted.

Read the reviews and buy the collection: Amazon UK – And : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021