Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Volume One – George – Courting danger by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

George – Courting Danger

George Horsefield slowly pushed open the door of the garden shed and poked his head through the narrow opening. He slowly scanned the immediate vicinity to make sure that the dog who lived in the house behind him was not lying in wait. It was a motley small mongrel with sharp teeth and there had been a couple of occasions when those teeth had connected with his legs in a very unpleasant manner.

All seemed safe and George eased himself out onto the garden path that led to the wooden gate, but not before a quick glance behind him for a last look at his beloved. He and Mildred had been having a torrid affair throughout the summer months with secret assignations in her shed or his own. However recent events made them both aware, that for the time being, their trysts would have to come to an end.

Both structures had been cleared out, cleaned and prepared for the coming cold months. Lawnmowers had been taken apart and oiled after the final grass cutting of the year, and had been stored in one of the corners. The floors had been swept and mousetraps laid to protect the bags of seed stored on the top shelves. Old grain sacks had been pinned across the window to prevent the intrusion of any winter sunshine and the doors would be locked to prevent gale force winds from blowing them open; curtailing their delightful activities.

Mildred was sleeping peacefully, partially covered by the old plaid blanket that had kept them warm and protected their modesty should anyone enter the shed unexpectedly. George smiled to himself contentedly and could not help adding a little swagger to his walk down the path. No bad for an old codger he thought to himself as he poked his head out and checked the pavement for anyone who might know him.

The coast was clear, but he knew that any minute now, the mothers would be arriving to pick up their children from the primary school on the corner, and the area would become very busy. Hugging the hedge he moved carefully, lifting one uncooperative leg after another; muttering under his breath at the stiffness in his slightly bent knees. His earlier smugness at his athletic prowess began to fade as he struggled to cover the distance between Mildred’s house and his home. He had two garden lengths to go when disaster struck.

Ahead of him he saw the aforementioned dog sniffing her way along the pavement, lost in the scents that assailed her delicate nostrils. George knew from his previous encounters, that the monster would recognise his smell within the next few minutes; coming after him without mercy. He looked to the right and noticed that his next door neighbour’s gate was slightly ajar; with a gentle nudge he slipped rather ungracefully through the gap. He didn’t want to risk the dog following him so he pushed the barrier shut with his backside. Hearing a welcome click, he manoeuvred carefully behind the shelter of the hedge, waiting breathlessly for the animal to pass.

Outside on the pavement the dog had definitely got wind of her foe. She knew that George was up to no good in the shed and it was her job to protect the house, garden and family; including Mildred. She sniffed the air and her eyes were drawn to the closed gate. Barking madly the frenzied demon pushed and snarled at the obstacle. All it did was draw the attention of her master who was walking along behind her carrying the afternoon paper. She felt her collar being grasped firmly and was then frog-marched along the pavement and into her own garden. All she could do was whine in disappointment as she stuck her nose through the bars of the closed iron gate.

Meanwhile George was weak-kneed with relief and had to take a few minutes to recover. The pavement was beginning to fill up with mums on their way to pick up their children and rather than risk being seen, he decided to take a short cut through a large gap in the hedge that he had discovered recently. As he began to ease through the foliage he realised that it was only just in time; it was clear his absence had been noticed. He might have been a bit of a Jack the lad with Mildred, but he felt he had just cause. The mother of his children, boys he loved dearly, was a fire-breathing dragon of the worst kind and through the evergreen barrier he could hear her shouting.

‘George, come out wherever you are,’ she paused for a moment obviously scanning his usual hiding places. ‘Come along you dirty old devil, I have got better things to do than chase you about the place.’

The subject of her ire stayed stock still; poised in the middle of the hedge waiting until he heard the slam of the kitchen door. It was now safe to make his laborious way across the uneven lawn. Carefully he tip-toed into the gloomy garden shed and feigning sleep, he settled down waiting to be discovered.

A few minutes later he heard childish laughter and running feet heading for the house. He knew that after a tea of beans on toast and rice-pudding with strawberry jam he would be joined here in the shed by the three lads. Sticky fingers would nudge him awake and he would be given delightful cuddles and regaled with the adventures of the day.

He was dozing happily, dreaming of Mildred and their next encounter when he felt himself lifted up into the air and gently deposited into a large plastic box.. Beneath him he could smell fresh garden compost and he wiggled his toes as he settled himself down. A lid was placed over the container and through the holes above him he could hear the one of the children whispering to him.

‘Goodnight George, sleep tight and see you in the spring.’

Then the dragon spoke. ‘Thank goodness for that, at least we will know where the old boy is for the next few months. I swear I never knew that a tortoise could be so much trouble.’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Sandra Cox 5.0 out of 5 stars Names Reviewed in the United States on December 19, 2020
This book is filled with fascinating short stories, each one based around the named character of the book. Each story is different and might revolve around a child, an adult–young to old–or even a ghost. What they all have in common is the emotion they bring to the story. The scenery is detailed and pulls you into the location. And the characters are relatable. I enjoyed these stories and think you will too. So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up, relax and sink into these stories.

Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.

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

I hope you will join me next weekend for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Tales from the Spanish Garden – Special story – Mollie (The Duchess) Coleman – by Sally Cronin


This is the prequel to Tales from the Irish garden and shares the stories of statues we inherited when we bought the house, and for the magic kingdom beneath the Magnolia Tree. The book is also available in Spanish translated by
Olga Nunez Miret

There are a handful of other stories in this collection but they are Halloween, Christmas and New Year related and I shared those recently as the introduction to the Tales from the Irish Garden.

This week….

I am going to end the series at this point, with an additional story that I added to the book, as a tribute to my mother and her gardens throughout her life. She died peacefully 9 years ago this week on July 28th 2012 at age 94. And as a wonderful surprise yesterday Sandra Cox shared her review for the tales.

Mollie (The Duchess) Coleman – Tales from the Garden

My daughter thought that I might like to introduce some of my many gardens to you as a break from her own and my other daughter’s beautiful surroundings. I am afraid that I have to go back nearly 90 years to describe my first real garden but luckily I do have one or two photographs to share with you. It is a tough ask to cram 94 years into 1000 words which is what my daughter expects, so I do hope you bear with me!

I never knew my father. For a few months after I was born in the October of 1917, he and my mother Georgina lived in Kent where he was undergoing re-training. He had been badly wounded whilst rescuing his officer and had been awarded the Military Medal. He had been told that he would not be returning to the front and that his role would now only be administrative. They decided to start a family and my Irish father named me Mollie Eileen Walsh.

He was 31 years old when he was killed on November 2nd 1918, just nine days before peace was declared. As people rejoiced in the streets of Britain my mother waited for news. It was to be three weeks after the war before she was finally informed that he was not coming home. She did not know where he was buried and sadly she and I had to move on with our lives without him.

My mother’s family were from Alverstoke in Hampshire and also Bramdean in the rural part of the county. She decided we should move closer to her home and so we arrived in the lovely village of Wickham, famous for its square and horse fairs. We lived in a small cottage off the square but I don’t really remember much of those early years.

When I was seven my mother remarried the village butcher, Norman Welch and he built us a new home on Hoad’s Hill which led into the village from Fareham and Portsmouth. As well as the modern house we had a wonderfully large garden with a small orchard of fruit trees. The following 15 years were a wonderful mixture of village hall dances and bright summer days. Here I am in our orchard at the back of the house which was called Sinclair.

Then another war shattered our hopes of peace and life in the village changed overnight.

However, in late 1939, a friend of mine in the Royal Navy introduced me to a tall and handsome electrical artificer named Eric Coleman and within a very short time we knew that we wanted to get married. We made plans to have the wedding on Saturday September 14th 1940, but on the Monday, Eric was given orders to join a convoy leaving for Canada on Thursday 12th and was confined to barracks.

To cut a very long story short…. our vicar got on the telephone to Eric’s commanding officer and persuaded him to allow him leave to marry me on the 11th, returning in time for the ship the next day. The whole village pulled together to get my dress finished and the grocery shop, that shut on Wednesday afternoons, opened to get a cake and sandwiches together for our guests. The vicar’s wife arrived in her car to drive me to the church where I found my handsome husband-to-be.

We had to return to Sinclair for the impromptu reception and the German bombers decided that they would add their contribution by dropping bombs on Portsmouth. Since they would often jettison any left on the countryside on their return flight we did some ducking and diving ourselves.

Here is our wedding party after the all clear including my giant red cat who looked more like a fox. Ironically because of the bombing the night before, Eric’s transport ship left early and he missed it. As I moped around in the garden after just one night of honeymoon, and not expecting to see him for at least a year, he walked in the front door with a week’s leave!

Wedding day Wednesday September 11th 1940

I travelled all over England to be with Eric any time he had shore leave throughout the next two years. In 1942 we had our first daughter Sonia and we moved to Scotland to Dunoon to join Eric who was based there repairing submarines. Our second daughter Diana was born there in 1943. Eric then returned to sea and did not return from the Far East and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) until late in 1946.

Sonia and Diana at Sinclair 1944

We had settled back into the house on Hoad’s Hill but sadly my mother who had ill health died in 1945 aged only 52. My step-father moved into a cottage in Fareham and as a family we enjoyed being in our own home and garden for the first time since the beginning of the war. Our third daughter Sally was born in 1953 and Eric was posted to Sri Lanka in 1955.

As it was for a two year posting we all went with him. Now that was a garden… or should I say jungle!

We had snakes and monkeys outside the front door and often inside. It was not unusual to find small monkeys helping themselves to my lipstick and pearl earrings on my dresser having let themselves in the window. And we were not just treated to exotic wildlife in our garden. The navy is very good at providing a wonderful social life but travelling back at night could be interesting with leopards and elephants on the move on the narrow road through the jungle.

However, we had an incredible time and arrived back to our home in Wickham in time for our son Jeremy to be born in 1957.

We moved to Old Portsmouth in 1958 to a modern house with a very strange garden… the house was built on the site of an old public house that existed before the Battle of Trafalgar. It had been bombed during the war and three new houses were built as a terrace on the site. However the small garden was built over the old wine cellar of the pub which now served as our garage. Without trees and a lawn I had to make use of old wooden wine caskets that I picked up locally and turned into planters. Every summer I would fill them with pink geraniums and each winter with pansies.

In 1959 we were posted to Malta and then in 1963 to 1965 we lived in South Africa. This was followed by two years in Lancashire before returning in 1967 to Portsmouth for good. When Eric retired we moved across the high street into a lovely flat but my garden became even smaller.

However, we did have a flat roof and I placed all my planters up the wrought iron stairs and around the roof top. Here I am completing the small crossword in The Daily Telegraph with my coffee which is something I enjoyed doing each morning.

We had many wonderful years in the flat, and rather than travel overseas, we made short trips to Scotland, Wales, Jersey and other beautiful parts of Britain. One of the many things that had attracted me to Eric in the first place was that he was a wonderful dancer.

We loved nothing better than going away to stay in hotels that had dinner dances on the Saturday nights and we were still dancing all through our 70s.

We would also visit public gardens and would sit in the shade on benches and enjoy their beauty.

Sadly after 56 years together Eric passed away and a year later at age 80 I moved across the road again to my little house with its small front and back gardens. Here I was to live for the next 14 years and my greatest pleasure was keeping my small piece of heaven stocked with geraniums and pansies. My living room window was large and offered me a wonderful view of all the visitors to the garden including foxes, hedgehogs and blackbirds in search of raisins.

There are some gardens that hold very special memories for me. Diana had done some research and early in the 90s had managed to establish where my father was buried. He was in a small military cemetery in a village called Poix-du-Nord along with about twenty of his fallen comrades. I visited with Diana and her husband and then again with Sally who was living in Brussels, only 65 kilometres from his final resting place. It was very emotional to finally see my father’s name carved in granite and I hope that he would have been proud to know that he left behind a family of many bright and happy grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Diana and her husband lived around the corner from me and I would often take advantage of her larger garden. I would sit quietly for hours watching her dog chasing squirrels and the many different species of birds popping into visit.

The years passed and before I knew it I was 94 years old… What a journey and how lucky I had been to have seen so much of the world and enjoyed so many gardens in the company of someone who loved me so much. And if you are wondering? I would be hard pushed to tell you what my favourite flower is but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that if it is pink, it is beautiful.

Oh and if you are wondering too about The Duchess nickname, it is probably because I was rather partial to buying and wearing beautiful jackets, and I was rarely seen without my pearls! I rather insisted on being dressed and ready for the day by 9.00 each morning even if there was nothing on the calendar… I firmly believe that you should be prepared to meet people looking your best. I suspect some might have thought I was a bit grand….

Anyway it was no longer possible for me to remain in my house but I will always remember that last view through the window and the sight of my little fairy princess in the alcove. It is engraved on my heart.

From where I sit now I can watch my daughter’s little black Staffie chasing squirrels and also seeing off the postman and anyone else who dares intrude on this sanctuary. If you catch sight of me perhaps you could do me a great favour and pop a large, cut-glass tumbler of whisky and water, no ice thank you, on the table beside me. I am finding it rather difficult to get hold of these days.

All the best… and don’t forget that whisky and water will you!

Mollie Eileen Coleman October 5th 1917 to July 28th 2012 The Duchess

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Garden 2015

About Tales from the Garden

Tales from the Garden reveals the secrets that are hidden beneath hedges and trees. You will discover what really happens at night as you sleep unaware in your bed. Stone statues and those hidden worlds within the earth are about to share their stories. The guardians who have kept the sanctuary safe for over fifty years will allow you to peek behind the scenes of this magical place. They will take you on a journey through time and expand your horizons as they transport you to the land of fairies, butterflies and lost souls who have found a home here. Fairy Stories for children of all ages from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden forever.

One of the recent reviews for the collection.

Jul 27, 2021 Sandra Cox rated it five stars

More charming shorts from author Sally Cronin.

These stories take place in a mysterious garden where fairies rule and stone statues come to life. Two of several delightful stories are about a pregnant doe in danger and a boy running away from abusive parents who saves a goose from certain demise. Both the doe, and the boy and his goose, find sanctuary in the enchanted garden. These are among the magical stories the author shares with us. The captivating tales will appeal to young and old alike. So, grab your iced tea and find a comfortable seat in your own magical garden and settle in to read these wonderful stories.
 

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

 

I hope you have enjoyed the Tales from the Spanish Garden. Thanks Sally.

 

 

Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? Volume One – What’s in a Name?- Francis – Forging New Bonds by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

Francis – Forging new bonds

Francis Baxter checked into the hotel in the middle of Chamonix on the Friday night and tired from his long journey headed off to bed and slept for ten hours straight.

He woke to find the sun streaming in through the windows of his suite and a craving for several cups of strong coffee. He showered and sat in the extremely fluffy bath robe supplied by the exclusive hotel and waited for room service to send up his breakfast. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He didn’t want to think about Chrissie back home in Houston or Dane and Shannon finishing off their semester before heading home for the Easter holidays. He hadn’t informed anyone, not even his business partner of twenty years, where he was going; he had not switched on his mobile since landing in Geneva yesterday.

Unfortunately denial did not stop the rush of thoughts and emotions that had been triggered two days ago when Chrissie has asked for a divorce. Their discussion that had developed into a full-blown argument replayed in his head over and over. Her accusation that he was more interested in his work and making money than their marriage, and that she no longer loved him had established itself front and centre in his mind; he had not seen that coming.

He knew that he was ambitious and he and Richard, his partner, worked long hours keeping their accountancy business afloat in these uncertain times. Yes, they played golf at the weekends but it was their way of unwinding after a long week. He admitted to himself that there were too many dinners in the city with major clients but they required constant attention.

The fact was that without the business they would not have the big house, fancy cars and vacations. He had thought that Chrissie was content with the trappings that came with his job; he was furious with himself for missing all the signs and taking so much for granted.

There was a discreet knock on the door and Francis walked over to admit the uniformed waiter who wheeled in a laden trolley. Having slipped the young guy a generous tip, Francis settled down at the table and contemplated his breakfast. Suddenly he had little appetite so sipped his strong black coffee and flicked through one of the local guides that were spread out in front of him.

The truth was that he knew this area quite well as he had lived here as a child with his French mother and American father who was an artist. They had moved to the United States when he was twelve years old which is why, when faced with this bombshell he had chosen to run as far as he could; to somewhere he still considered his home. A picture captured his attention as he automatically turned the pages in the glossy brochure. It was of a place that he remembered from his childhood when he and his parents would take long treks at the weekend up the sides of the surrounding mountains. His father would carry the rucksack containing their lunch which always consisted of a fresh baked baguette from the local cafe along with fresh tomatoes and a tub of rich homemade mayonnaise. They would find a perch above the valley and the three of them would break the bread into chunks, add a dollop of mayo, a couple of slices of the bright red tomato and it tasted heavenly.

This reminded him that he was actually hungry right now. He decided to tuck into the now cooling omelette and croissant; he was going to need some fuel for the walk he now planned to take.

Francis opened his suit carrier which he had hurriedly thrown random clothes into and realised that he was not equipped for hiking. He pulled on some jeans and a sweat shirt and headed downstairs and out into the main street. The shops didn’t open until later in the morning, but he spent his time well, window shopping and popping into a bakery for another coffee and some supplies for his hike. He returned to one of the sports outfitters that he had scoped out earlier and bought some jeans, boots, parka and a rucksack. He also picked up a detailed guide to the trails, not trusting his memory completely, and a water bottle. He returned to the hotel and quickly changed into his new clothes. At the last minute he added his mobile phone to the essentials in his rucksack for safety reasons and headed down the corridor to the elevator.

Two hours later, after realising how out of shape he was, Francis breathlessly reached his destination. The roar of the torrent of water that rushed down the mountainside from the spring melt filled the air and the scent of pine was strong in his nostrils. Memories flooded back of a different time when every spare moment that he had was filled with activities like this. His parents always seemed to be there beside him hiking, skiing and sledding down moonlit slopes close to the town. He remembered drinking hot chocolate around the fire at a local inn and being included even when there were adult guests around the big kitchen table for fondue. What he could not remember was the last time that he, Chrissie and the kids had spent any time together or even enjoyed a family meal.

He viewed the narrow footbridge across the gorge that he needed to cross to reach the small building clinging to the rock face on the other side of the raging river. It had carried thousands across safely over the hundreds of years that it had existed but a little hesitantly he walked over watching the flood waters racing beneath him.

Francis knew what to expect as he opened the door into the little chapel but was still unprepared for the wave of emotion that swept through him. Sunlight fought to gain entry into the tiny space through small windows fashioned into the thick outer wall. The faint rays illuminated the walls of stone and the shrine at its heart. Francis walked slowly inside and stood for a moment with his head bowed. Around him in the cracks in the walls, hundreds of small slips of paper caught the light. They were the prayers and supplications of people across time that had needed guidance and restoration of faith. Townspeople had walked up from the valley and travellers through the passes had stopped for a brief respite and comfort. Their combined presence had created a vortex of emotion and the hair on the back of Francis’s neck stood on end.

He had never been a religious man but he knew that this place was a spiritual oasis where all could regain their strength and sense of purpose. He remained for a few minutes longer and then gently closing the door behind him he walked back across the bridge. Gradually the feelings that had been triggered so forcefully subsided and in their place came clarity.

He walked down the trail until he reached a point overlooking the town. He sat on a warm rock and opened his rucksack. He broke the baguette into four pieces and liberally spread fresh mayonnaise on each piece before adding a thick slice of tomato with a little salt. He ate his simple meal as he contemplated his next move.

Satisfied now in body and soul he picked up his mobile and switched it back on. Ignoring all the texts and messages waiting for him; he made two calls. The first to Chrissie that lasted a long time and ended with his satisfied smile; the second that was equally lengthy to his business partner. He packed up the remains of his lunch and headed back down into the town where he spent the next few hours visiting chalet rental offices

For the first time in years, Francis felt that he was where he belonged and a huge weight was lifted from his shoulders. Chrissie would be arriving tomorrow and then next week Dane and Shannon would join them. It was time to repair those bonds that had been broken and to forge new ones that were stronger and would last a lifetime.

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Aug 16, 2018 Colleen Chesebro rated it five stars it was amazing

I love short story collections. There is something about the brevity of words that appeals to my senses, especially when there is a theme that we all can relate to. Think about it. We all have a name, but many of us have no idea why our parents chose that name or the possible stories behind that name.

Sally Cronin tackles this naming issue. In “What’s in a Name,” each chapter is titled by the name of its main character, leading the reader on a journey of discovery. Every name has a tale to tell, and under the brilliant creativity of this author, each name takes on a personality of its own.

My favorite story was that of “Diana,” a kind woman who choose a husband that proved to be a scoundrel in every sense of the word. With a little help from her family, Diana reaches into her heart and finds the courage to stand up to her husband’s abuse. The pacing of this story is marvelous and carries the reader to a satisfying end.

This compilation of stories covers a wide range of genres. There is something here for everyone. I read these stories a few at a time, savoring the emotions the stories evoked within me. This was my first read by this author, and I look forward to more of her writing. I was thrilled to find that the second volume of “What’s in a Name ~ Tales of Life & Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.

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

I hope you will join me next Sunday for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Tales from the Spanish Garden – Chapter Eleven – The Last Summer Ball and the Winter Fairy – Part Two by Sally Cronin


This is the prequel to Tales from the Irish garden and shares the stories of statues we inherited when we bought the house, and for the magic kingdom beneath the Magnolia Tree. The book is also available in Spanish translated by
Olga Nunez Miret

The Last Summer Ball and the Winter Fairy Part Two ( you can read
Part One Here

The Fairy Queen, Filigree, called her counsellors together to put into action the Disaster Prevention Plan they had hoped never to activate.

Before making her final decisions about the operation, the queen called upon the toothless gnome who was the fairy soothsayer. Spread out on the table in front of her, placed on the magic blue silk cloth, was the gnome’s crystal ball.

Her majesty was getting impatient and snapped at the quivering figure standing before her. ‘Well, what are you waiting for? she glared at the poor creature. ‘Are we definitely going to be in for an early freeze?

The gnome had rarely been called upon during his five hundred years in his capacity of soothsayer, and was not sure if his magic divining powers were still working. He waved his hands over the crystal ball and muttered the magic words loudly for maximum dramatic effect.

‘Bumble, grumble, fumble, crumble’.

Queen Filigree and her courtiers leaned in and gasped in horror. The crystal ball had clouded into ice crystals before their very eyes. None were more surprised than the gnome who hid a delighted and relieved toothless grin behind his gnarly hands.

‘Right,’ said the queen having composed herself. She pointed at one of her closest advisors.
‘Ampletum, I want you to go immediately and take a message to the Queen Bee,’ She closed her eyes for a moment as she gathered her thoughts.

‘Tell her majesty that this devastating cold front is coming in within hours and her hives are in danger. Suggest that she have a final sweep of the last of the summer roses with her swarm and then retreat down into our honey cellars. This will provide us with much needed stores for the winter and a safe place for them to stay warm’.

Ampletum hurried off to do his queen’s bidding; trembling nervously at the important task he had been assigned.

The queen looked around her chamber and her eyes fell upon one of the cheekiest of her fairy advisors. Pinchit was a bit of a rogue but he knew everything that was happening in the garden at any given time and this task would require his specialist knowledge.

She beckoned him over and whispered in his tufted ear. ‘Find me Fluffy,’ she looked at his wily little face. ‘I know you know where that rascal is and I need you to go to whatever rock or log he is hiding under and bring him to me immediately.’

Pinchit bowed his head and scurried off to climb up the staircase through the magnolia roots to the magic garden. He headed off around the corner of the villa to the uncultivated wasteland by the back fence. It was a safe bet that he would find the sun loving Fluffy basking himself on the hot sand.

Pinchit spent a few minutes explaining the dire situation they were all facing. Fluffy, first and foremost was concerned about himself. Dragons do not like the cold which is why they have their own internal combustion system. He thanked Pinchit for the warning and was about to turn away to find some safe place in the foundations of the villa when the fairy tapped him on his nose.

‘The Queen is demanding that you come with me Fluffy as she has a special job for you.’ Pinchit hooked one of his fingers through the dragon’s nostril and muttered menacingly. ‘She said not to take no for an answer.’

Ten minutes later Fluffy settled down on his haunches and glared at the Fairy Queen. In her long reign these two had been at loggerheads as her royalness was unimpressed by the dragon’s habit of starting little fires in the garden when he sneezed. This happened a lot in the spring when the pollen count was high, and despite the fairies giving him a very potent anti-histamine, he refused to take prescribed medication of any kind.

Queen Filigree came down off her high horse, commonly called her throne, and sat in front of Fluffy. She held out her hands and smiled at the bemused dragon. ‘I would like you to do me a great favour,’ she paused and prayed she would choose the right words for this vital request.’

Meanwhile just an hour away to the north tiny snowflakes began to fall on the parched earth. It settled quickly as the inhabitants looked out of their homes in amazement. Animals and insects alike were caught unawares and already the fatal cold claimed its first victims.

Out in the magic garden the Queen Bee had rallied her swarm and accepted the invitation issued by the Fairy Queen. Bees visited every last summer rose in the garden and made their way, heavily laden through the roots of the magnolia tree into the honey caverns beneath. Here special honey fairies directed the thousands of insects into the roof of the specially constructed cellars, where they began to build an intricate honeycomb.

The fairy kingdom would now have sufficient supplies for the long winter ahead and the bees could reside in safety away from the devastating cold.

As these preparations continued the Fairy Queen knew that she had to do something to raise the spirits of those beneath the magnolia and also amongst her stone guardians in the magic garden. Wrapping herself in a cloak of gold silk that kept the chill from her delicate bones, she visited each member of her loyal entourage.

The Stoned Dwarf band huddled beneath the old oak tree in the fading sunlight and looked at her sadly. They had been rehearsing for the last three months to perform at tonight’s final ball of the summer and now this would not take place. She gently touched them on their pointed heads and requested that they strike up a song to keep the rest of the garden in high spirits as they went about their urgent tasks. Before long the cheerful sound of music reached every corner of the magic kingdom.

The queen also flew down to the sandy wasteland at the back of the garden and perched for a few minutes on a small mound of rocks. Beneath her, with chest expanded to its fullest extent, Fluffy blew hot breath northwards. With the help of a snuff box of fairy dust, the dragon was able to extend his normal range by fifty miles. He was tiring but he had managed to keep the freezing cold front at bay for that very important extra few hours.

His reward was to spend the winter months in a specially prepared fire-proof chamber in the royal palace. The queen happily reflected that the extra heating would be very welcome once they got into the deepest and darkest nights of winter!

Finally the preparations were complete. The Fairy Queen had visited all her statues within the garden and with the final trail of insects and one very tired but satisfied dragon, she retreated to the warmth and safety beneath the magnolia tree.

As a special surprise and a thank you to all her subjects and the special guests, her Majesty had opened up the giant ballroom and had the firefly chandeliers dusted off. Instead of the Dwarf Stoned band, in the corner of the ornate chamber, an old fashioned gramophone was wound up and the air was filled with the sounds of a Viennese Waltz. The delighted fairies and their guests took to the floor as the fireflies created an aerial display that took their breath away.

With Fluffy safely tucked up for the winter and without his magic dragon breath, the cold front advanced rapidly. The Winter Fairy flew into the magic garden delighted with his childish prank. He stood in the deep snow and looked around him excitedly. Instead of frozen fairies, insects and out of place statues there was….nothing. Just one obnoxious fairy, alone and barely visible in a blanket of white.

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Garden 2015

About Tales from the Garden

Tales from the Garden reveals the secrets that are hidden beneath hedges and trees. You will discover what really happens at night as you sleep unaware in your bed. Stone statues and those hidden worlds within the earth are about to share their stories. The guardians who have kept the sanctuary safe for over fifty years will allow you to peek behind the scenes of this magical place. They will take you on a journey through time and expand your horizons as they transport you to the land of fairies, butterflies and lost souls who have found a home here. Fairy Stories for children of all ages from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden forever.

One of the reviews for the collection.

Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? Volume One – Fionnuala – The Swan by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

Fionnuala – The Swan by Sally Cronin

Fionnuala Garvin was pinned to the wall of the toilet block. Her small hands were pressed back onto the cold red brick as her shoulders were firmly clamped beneath the stubby fingers attached to grubby hurtful hands. The pain from this mauling was excrutiating, as her white blonde hair was trapped beneath the vicious fingers and her scalp felt like it was on fire. With her fragile swan-like neck, slight frame and skinny legs she did not look twelve years old and right now she wished she was back in primary school where life had been so much kinder.

Her lower lip trembled,and she tried not to cry as the onslaught continued, unseen by the teacher on monitor duty in the playground. This was Ciaran Walsh’s favourite spot for tormenting the younger children, and extorting their lunch from them, and today he was in an even worse mood than usual. Not the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer, at fifteen he was failing a number of subjects. Just this morning he had been sentenced to a week of detention for failing to hand in an essay for his history class. He was looking to take out his rage on someone.

Fionnuala or Nola as she was known to her friends was terrified. Normally there would have been two rounds of cheese sandwiches and an apple in the satchel now lying at her feet, but today she had forgotten to pick the brown paper bag up from the counter in the kitchen at home. Without these essential bargaining chips, she was going to be in for a hiding.

Ciaran’s breath smelled rank and his stained teeth offered plenty of evidence of what he had eaten for breakfast and lack of an acquaintance with a toothbrush. He brought his cavernous mouth close to Nola’s terrified face and spat out his demands.

‘Fionnuala Garvin. You are mine and I own you. Give me your lunch now or I will pinch your arms until they are black and blue’. He sneered viciously and pressed further into her body.

Just then large hands descended on Nola’s attacker’s upper arms, and he was virtually lifted into the air, and shoved back out into the playground. Ciaran steadied himself and poised for a counter attack but stopped abruptly in his tracks. He looked up into the eyes of a tall and well-built senior from sixth year and knew that he would be hard pressed to better him in a straight fight. The older boy stood protectively in front of Nola and with a quick check to make sure his young charge was not hurt in any way, he turned back to Ciaran who was still mulling over his options.

‘Ciaran Walsh I know how to find you and it won’t be just me next time, you need to get your sorry act together. Get back to class and I will be watching your every move from now on; just feck off.’

The disgruntled bully turned and nonchalantly headed off back into school and tried to ignore the smirks on the faces of the bystanders who had witnessed the altercation. Unfortunately as he reached the steps leading up to the main entrance, he tripped and almost fell; gales of laughter followed him as he hurried through the wide blue doors.

Meanwhile Nola’s rescuer put a consoling arm around her shoulders and steered her towards her classmates. They had remained huddled together awaiting the outcome of this daily assault on any of their members foolish enough to get separated from the pack.

‘Listen to me,’ the tall lad addressed the white-faced group. ‘My name is Patrick Flanagan and you must come and tell me if this happens again. He smiled at his new devotees. ‘My friends and I will do our best to keep that one out of trouble in the future.’ He left unaware of the admiring glances and excited whispers behind him.

Ten years later Nola checked herself in the mirror before heading downstairs; she never grew tired of seeing herself in her Garda uniform. Following her training she had been posted to this town in the heart of a farming community and after a year in the job she could honestly say that there was little she did not enjoy. She went downstairs following the aroma of scrambled eggs on toast with a rasher of bacon that her husband Patrick had laid on the table. He turned from the cooker with his own plate and they sat across from each other eating leisurely and enjoying this rare breakfast together. He was a doctor at a hospital in the nearby city and their shift patterns did not always allow for regular meals; when they did manage to get time it was precious.

He kissed her goodbye and watched her through the kitchen window as she backed her car out of the drive. He had some time before his shift started, and as he cleared the breakfast crockery away he reflected on what a lucky man he was. Who could have thought that the little blonde waif that he had rescued that day in the playground, would end up becoming his wife.

He was very proud of her and knew that she had passed every examination and physical test with flying colours. That did not however stop him from worrying about her safety, especially as he saw the results of violence associated with crime on a far too regular basis.

The object of his thoughts was not unaware of her husband’s concerns, and that drove Nola to even more excellence when it came to training and attention to detail. She had two hours before her shift began and she was headed to a physical training session with her partner on the force. He might be a great friend to both she and Patrick, but once they hit that mat they would fight hard for the win.

Dressed in her sweat pants and t-shirt, Nola faced off against her partner. They circled each other waiting for the slightest move that would indicate an attack. Although taller and broader than Nola, her opponent was light on his feet and his muscled body moved agilely across the mat.

Seeing what he perceived as an opening; he reached out and managed to place a hand on Nola’s shoulder. The next thing he knew he was on his back with one arm held upright; his hand bent forward in a tight grip.

Nola leant forward close to the face of her partner who was grinning up at her with his killer smile; the one that had the girls falling at his own feet.

‘Ciaran Walsh, you are mine and I own you. Buy me lunch or I will pinch your arms until they are black and blue.’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Aug 16, 2018 Colleen Chesebro rated it five stars it was amazing

I love short story collections. There is something about the brevity of words that appeals to my senses, especially when there is a theme that we all can relate to. Think about it. We all have a name, but many of us have no idea why our parents chose that name or the possible stories behind that name.

Sally Cronin tackles this naming issue. In “What’s in a Name,” each chapter is titled by the name of its main character, leading the reader on a journey of discovery. Every name has a tale to tell, and under the brilliant creativity of this author, each name takes on a personality of its own.

My favorite story was that of “Diana,” a kind woman who choose a husband that proved to be a scoundrel in every sense of the word. With a little help from her family, Diana reaches into her heart and finds the courage to stand up to her husband’s abuse. The pacing of this story is marvelous and carries the reader to a satisfying end.

This compilation of stories covers a wide range of genres. There is something here for everyone. I read these stories a few at a time, savoring the emotions the stories evoked within me. This was my first read by this author, and I look forward to more of her writing. I was thrilled to find that the second volume of “What’s in a Name ~ Tales of Life & Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.

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

I hope you will join me next Sunday for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Tales from the Spanish Garden – Chapter Ten – The Last Summer Ball and the Winter Fairy – Part One by Sally Cronin


This is the prequel to Tales from the Irish garden and shares the stories of statues we inherited when we bought the house, and for the magic kingdom beneath the Magnolia Tree. The book is also available in Spanish translated by
Olga Nunez Miret

Chapter Ten – The Last Summer Ball and the Winter Fairy – Part One

It was a lovely end of summer afternoon and all within the magic garden was quiet. It was siesta time and most of the inhabitants, both in the fairy kingdom beneath the magnolia tree, and the stone guardians were napping. They needed their rest, as tonight was the last ball of the season, and for days everyone had been racing around in preparation.

There had been an early start to this summer with very high temperatures in early May. The heat had continued to suck the moisture out of the air for the last few months. For the humans this meant extra work watering the foliage which brought colour and wildlife to the magic garden. But now the temperatures had settled down to provide warm but gentle days, which were welcomed by all who shared this special place.

The head of the guardians was worn out. The fairy queen was being particularly demanding about the preparations for the dance tonight and he now dozed in the late afternoon warmth.

‘Psst, psst,’ came a persistent buzz in the large guardian’s ear. He decided to ignore what was surely an uneducated insect who clearly did not who he was pssting.

‘Psst, master, psst,’ clearly a very, very ignorant insect.

The lion opened one eye and glanced to his right. He groaned inwardly and resigned himself to some wasted time of nonsense.

Eager to impart some nugget of news to the head guardian, Fizzy the rabbit looked up adoringly at the lion.

‘He’s been seen, he’s coming, we have to do something, he is on his way, we have to panic.’

The lion looked down at Fizzy and shook his head slowly from side to side. Of all the creatures under his care this was the one who caused the most problems. Since a young rabbit, he had been a sugar addict; craving what was commonly called the Amber Nectar.

If you wanted to find Fizzy you just had to head towards the nearest Amber joint and he would have his whiskers deep in the blooms.

It was clear that Fizzy had made a stop off at the nearest amber bar and was going to be hyper for the next hour. The lion knew he would get no peace until he had listened to the whole story and just hoped he had enough time to finish his nap before the ball.

‘Slow down Fizzy and tell me what the problem is,’ the guardian said patiently to the rabbit who was bouncing up and down on his tail.

‘The Winter Fairy is on his way and is bringing a very, very cold front with him,’ the rabbit drew breath. ‘He will reach us tonight during the ball and everyone in the garden will be frozen in place and visible to the humans forever.’

‘Okay Fizzy just who saw him and where?’ The lion was slightly more concerned now this was potentially catastrophic.

‘My Irish cousins were playing near their burrow a few days ago and heard him cursing and ranting in the trees above their heads.’ Fizzy held out one of his paws to the lion and touched his leg.

‘They sent a pigeon to bring me the message and it says he is bored stupid with hanging around for October and wants to get on with his job now.’

This was not good news. The lion knew that he had to warn the Fairy Queen and the other inhabitants of the garden. The most immediate decision concerned tonight’s festivities. At night all the statues came to life for a few precious hours. If they and the fairies were unexpectedly frozen in place and visible to humans, the magic garden would cease to exist.

He had to think and he couldn’t do that with the excited rabbit bouncing up in down in fear.

He gently sent Fizzy on his way and called in his butterflies who acted as his messengers within the garden. Their first priority was to find the Fairy Queen and call the counsellors together for a cabinet meeting.

The last the lion had heard, his queen was indulging in some retail therapy in preparation of tonight’s ball. A tad disrespectfully for this venerable guardian, he did wonder what she needed with another pair of shoes and a new hat.

To be fair, the Fairy Queen was thinking just that herself when the delicate butterfly alighted on the back of her chair with a vital message from her head guardian. With a wistful last look at the jewelled shoes and matching hat, she turned and headed back to the palace beneath the magnolia tree accompanied by the messenger.

The queen called together her ministers and they all listened as the guardian spoke remotely through his intermediary. Clearly this was a dangerous situation. Not just because they would have to cancel the ball, but because the preparations for the winter were not complete. Without the usual stores of honey stored in nutshells in the cellars of the palace, there would not be enough food for the fairy population during the longer than usual dark months.

Just then another butterfly flew into the chamber and delivered even more devastating news. Reports had arrived in from the French Fairy Federation or the FFF’s; that the Winter Fairy had put a spurt on and was only a few hours away.

Part two next Saturday – can the fairy kingdom ward off the evil winter fairy?

 ©Sally Cronin Tales from the Garden 2015

About Tales from the Garden

Tales from the Garden reveals the secrets that are hidden beneath hedges and trees. You will discover what really happens at night as you sleep unaware in your bed. Stone statues and those hidden worlds within the earth are about to share their stories. The guardians who have kept the sanctuary safe for over fifty years will allow you to peek behind the scenes of this magical place. They will take you on a journey through time and expand your horizons as they transport you to the land of fairies, butterflies and lost souls who have found a home here. Fairy Stories for children of all ages from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden forever.

One of the reviews for the collection.

Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? Volume One – Eric – Just Making Do by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

Eric – Just Getting By

Eric stood in front of the mirror and for a moment deliberately avoided putting his glasses on. All he could see was a blur and therefore could just about pass muster. Behind him he could feel the presence of his wife Billie and knew what she was going to say.

‘Eric, love you have let yourself go,’ there would be disappointment in her voice.

He slipped his spectacles on and his image immediately appeared all too clearly. He did a quick head to toe scrutiny. Muddy red hair streaked with grey, too long about the ears and hanging over the neck of his dressing gown. Three days’ worth of beard as he only shaved once a week when going to the supermarket for the shopping. His tatty t-shirt that he wore over his ancient pyjama bottoms sported faded lettering that read Grateful Dead; his slippers had a hole where his big toe poked through.

Yes, Billie would have definitely gone to town on him.

He debated whether to pull the bedroom curtains or not and decided to leave them for two very good reasons. Firstly, letting daylight in would illuminate the state of the room which was a shambles, and secondly, it might signal to Mrs Green across the road that he was alive and would welcome her advances.

He left the drapes undisturbed and shuffled out onto the landing and down the stairs to the chilly hall. Damn, he had left the kitchen window open again. He wasn’t bothered by burglars since there was little of value to be taken except for his photograph album, and that was safely locked away behind the big seascape on the dining room wall. The safe also held a few precious mementos such as the leather box that contained Billie’s few bits of good jewellery; her bling as she called it. Her engagement and wedding rings, some earrings she had inherited from her mother and a watch that he had splashed out on for their 25th wedding anniversary.

He wandered into the kitchen and put the kettle on and measured out some oats into a bowl with some water. He stuck that in the microwave and closed the offending window that had let the cold night air into the house. Three pings announced that his porridge was ready and he threw a teabag into a mug of boiling water. There was a few inches of milk in the bottle in the fridge and he poured some over the oats and into the mug. That left enough for a coffee later, but having forgotten to put the item on his list three days ago; it looked like he would have to venture forth after all to the shop on the corner.

He carefully carried the bowl and mug into the dining room and stopped dead. There, sat on one of the dining-room chairs was a cat. A ginger and black cat to be exact and it was looking at him expectantly. Eric nearly dropped the bowl and tea on the floor and just managed to reach the table and lay them down before slopping hot liquid all over his hands.

His visitor remained impassive and kept eye contact, which rather disconcerted Eric who was not used to animals, especially cats. Billie had been allergic to them and since they had travelled a great deal, particularly when he had retired from the police force, there had never been an opportunity to bring one into their home.

The cat was virtually the first visitor to the house in the year since his wife had died. One or two of the neighbours had popped in with shepherd’s pie or offers to come to Sunday lunch, but after several polite rejections of both food and invitations they had given up on him.

Except of course for Widow Twanky across the road who was looking for husband number four. Perhaps his having been a copper had a bearing on the lack of neighbourly communication. There was no doubt that they liked having one on the street as a deterrent to some of the criminal fraternity, but socialising was quite another thing. You never know what guilty secret might slip out after a couple of glasses of wine.

His friends from the force had tried to encourage him out of his self-imposed exile too, with telephone calls asking him to join them at their old watering hole, The Bugle. He just couldn’t face their sympathy or the awkward silences in the middle of a busy night in the pub. Eric was also terrified that he would embarrass himself by blubbering into his beer at the first kind word.

Since the cat was making no move to vacate the chair he usually sat on; he moved to the other side of the table and placed his now cooling porridge in front of him. The creature was still giving him the once over and then offered its opinion in the form of an elongated meow that sounded rather unflattering. Eric raised his hand to his shaggy head and tried to smooth his hair into place. He felt very disconcerted by the direct gaze of his uninvited guest and thought perhaps an offer of some of his porridge might divert its attention.

There was a saucer on the table under a dead house plant that looked reasonably clean and he carefully poured a little of the lukewarm porridge with its milky topping onto the china. He laid it down in front of the cat and watched to see if this would be acceptable. With impeccable manners it delicately placed two front paws on the table and gently lapped at the offering; still keeping both eyes firmly on its host. Eric shrugged and proceeded to eat his breakfast and drink his tea, also keeping eye contact with his feline intruder.

Several days passed and Eric got into the habit of leaving the kitchen window open each night. Every morning he would poke his head around the door to the dining room and sure enough his new companion would be waiting on the chair expectantly.

In the first two or three days the cat would leave its designated chair and disappear into the kitchen after consuming its own bowl of porridge. Eric could hear the faint sound of paws on the marble surface; followed by the sound of a slight scramble as it left through the open window. He was surprised to feel a sense of loss.

It was not long before the visitor, who Eric had named Doris, was dropping off the chair and crossing to the sofa where she would settle herself in to sleep away the morning. She might pop out of the window from time to time but always returned to the warm patch she had fashioned for herself. Eric had established by careful scrutiny that Doris was indeed a girl and that he had not insulted some tetchy tomcat; within a few days she would lift her head when he called her name.

Eric found himself shaving every morning as he needed to go out more often to buy fresh milk and also tins of cat food. He began to open the curtains in his bedroom and the washing machine began to hum in the background more often. Doris would sit in a patch of sunlight in any of the rooms that he happened to be in, and gradually over the next month, both man and house came back to life. A visit to the barbers and a rifle through the sale items in the supermarket had resulted in some new clothes,slippers and also a couple of pairs of pyjamas.

They lived together but remained aloof. It was to be six weeks before Doris approached him as he sat leafing through his photograph album on the other end of the sofa where she normally lay. He tentatively put out his hand and stroked the top of her head and then down her sleek back which she obligingly arched. She nudged closer and he placed his arm around her. He was amazed by the loudness of the delighted purr that vibrated in her chest.

He looked back down at the album open to the photographs of his and Billie’s wedding day forty five years ago. It was the sixties and his long red hair hung down to his shoulders; his lovely Billie who had only been twenty at the time had sparkled in her cream dress and fake fur cape. She used to call him her Viking warrior, and would tell him as they lay in each other’s arms at night, how safe he made her feel.

Tears filled his eyes and they dropped onto the plastic film that protected the photos. Some splashed onto the hand that was holding his warm companion close to him and he felt her rough tongue lick the moisture away. He smiled down at her and then gently wiped the tears from the album. Billie’s last words to him had been to beg him to find happiness again one day and not to live alone. He took his arm from around Doris; closed the album firmly and placed it on the table beside the sofa.

‘How do you fancy a bit of tuna for supper Doris?’ He rubbed a tender spot beneath her chin.

‘Then I have to pop out for a couple of hours to meet some old work mates down the pub.’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Aug 16, 2018 Colleen Chesebro rated it five stars it was amazing

I love short story collections. There is something about the brevity of words that appeals to my senses, especially when there is a theme that we all can relate to. Think about it. We all have a name, but many of us have no idea why our parents chose that name or the possible stories behind that name.

Sally Cronin tackles this naming issue. In “What’s in a Name,” each chapter is titled by the name of its main character, leading the reader on a journey of discovery. Every name has a tale to tell, and under the brilliant creativity of this author, each name takes on a personality of its own.

My favorite story was that of “Diana,” a kind woman who choose a husband that proved to be a scoundrel in every sense of the word. With a little help from her family, Diana reaches into her heart and finds the courage to stand up to her husband’s abuse. The pacing of this story is marvelous and carries the reader to a satisfying end.

This compilation of stories covers a wide range of genres. There is something here for everyone. I read these stories a few at a time, savoring the emotions the stories evoked within me. This was my first read by this author, and I look forward to more of her writing. I was thrilled to find that the second volume of “What’s in a Name ~ Tales of Life & Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.

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

I hope you will join me next Sunday for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Tales from the Spanish Garden – Chapter Nine – The Boy, his Dog and a Fairy Princess by Sally Cronin


This is the prequel to Tales from the Irish garden and shares the stories of statues we inherited when we bought the house, and for the magic kingdom beneath the Magnolia Tree. The book is also available in Spanish translated by
Olga Nunez Miret

Chapter Nine – The Boy, his Dog and a Fairy Princess

The toddler waddled across the damp grass, falling down from time to time with a resounding thump onto his backside. He giggled and struggled onto all fours until he could stand again. His blonde curly hair shone in the mid-morning sun and his old nurse looked on with pride as her young charge explored his domain.

There had been great joy at the boy’s birth. The owners of the house had waited many years and suffered terrible losses but finally, one bright winter’s day, the strong and healthy cry of a newborn was heard throughout the magic garden. The fairies beneath the magnolia tree held a celebration that night, and as the statues that guarded the garden came to life, music could be heard tinkling through the snow covered branches.

Eighteen months later the boy was beloved by all he came into contact with. His parents would have been astonished to find out that even the magical inhabitants of the garden adored him too. In fact, as he had slept in his carriage in the shade of the magnolia tree, he had been sprinkled with fairy dust to protect him.

Now as the young master played in the grass he was unaware that a young fairy had ventured out into the daylight. Normally the folk who lived beneath the magnolia only came out at night after the humans had gone to bed, but lured by the happy giggling of the infant, an inquisitive fairy had sneaked out of the palace gates.

As she perched on one of the branches her glittery purple wings drew the eye of the child. He focused on the shimmering vision in the tree and pointed with his little fingers at the young fairy. The two of them stared at each other for a brief moment until the spell was broken by the nurse sweeping the child up into her arms. But that brief moment was profound. A bond was formed that would grow stronger and stronger as the years passed.

With no other children in the family it was decided on the young master’s fifth birthday that he should be given a companion in the form of a robust puppy. As he played with the furry ball of love, he glanced upwards to the tree to see if his secret friend was watching. She was not there and even though he was still only a child, he felt sadness that the fairy was not present to share this special day.

Many years passed and the young boy and his dog grew to adulthood. They spent every free minute of the day together when the boy was not in school. They roamed the mountainside around the house and the dog slept at the end of the bed each night. As they played in the garden they were often observed. Cloaked with invisibility, the now teenage fairy princess kept a watchful and loving eye from her perch in the tree.

When the boy was eighteen years old; disaster struck. War was declared and he was conscripted into the local militia to protect the town and farms in the district. His terrified parents watched him march away through the gate in his polished black boots with his heavy knapsack. His old dog now weary with arthritis whined as he lay at their feet.

Days and nights passed and the humans lay in bed listening to the sound of canon fire in the distance. After many months of fighting the enemy forces retreated and the militia followed them to the borders. It had been several desperate weeks since they had word from their son and they feared the worst. They could also see that the old dog was losing his will to live as he pined away.

It seemed that the magic garden and all the inhabitants were holding their collective breath. Then one sunny morning, as the old and short-sighted dog wandered out to his position on the steps where he would lie all day watching the gate; a miracle occurred.

There before him was a pair of dusty black boots and excitedly the dog sniffed around the leather. He smelt his master and with his worn out heart beating like a bass drum, he followed the scent down the steps and around the back of the house.

Curled up in a ball beneath the magnolia tree was the body of a man with long dirty blonde hair and clothes that were torn and matted with filth. But the dog showed no hesitation as he licked the dirt from his beloved master’s face. The man stirred and reached out a hand to stroke the grey-tipped ears and tears streaked his mud covered face.

All night the man had been watched over by another creature whose own tears had fallen upon his body as he slept. The fairy princess had sat by his head as he tossed and turned in his troubled dreams, gently stroking his hair and whispering loving words to him. As he had calmed, she had gently snipped a lock of his long blonde hair and plaited it into a bracelet. She may never be able to love him in human ways but she would always wear this to keep him close.

The excited barking of the dog alerted the family and servants and they rushed out to the garden to find the reason for the uproar… As the delighted family embraced and then carried the young man into the house, the princess returned to the palace in the roots of the magnolia, where she found her stone-faced mother waiting for her in the throne room.

A few weeks later, when the returned soldier was fully recovered and peace had been declared, his parents decided to hold a ball for all their neighbours to celebrate. This was the first fiesta for many years and everyone dusted off their finery and the musicians from the town tuned up neglected instruments. The garden was festooned with garlands and tables were covered with a magnificent array of foods.

The handsome young host, now fully recovered greeted the guests but still glanced from time to time at the magnolia tree, wondering if perhaps he might catch a glimpse of his beautiful fairy. He began to move away to talk to his guests but a flash of turquoise caught his eye. As he turned his head a shimmering image appeared before him out of thin air and he caught his breath.

There, sat in a bower made of roses, was the most enchanting woman he had ever seen. She smiled and held out her hand to him. Around her delicate wrist he noticed a woven bracelet of blonde hair and gold that glistened in the sunlight. The instant they touched an electric charge raced from his fingertips to his heart and he knew who this beautiful stranger was.

‘How long can you stay?’ he asked in a desperate whisper.

‘Forever, my love,’ she smiled gently. ‘My mother has gifted me one hundred years to share with you. But only if that is what you desire?’

They lived happily ever after and as a reward for his long and loyal service the old dog became a guardian of the magic garden. And at night when his beloved master and his wife strolled hand in hand across the lawns, their friend would walk beside them, young and playful again.

 ©Sally Cronin Tales from the Garden 2015

About Tales from the Garden

Tales from the Garden reveals the secrets that are hidden beneath hedges and trees. You will discover what really happens at night as you sleep unaware in your bed. Stone statues and those hidden worlds within the earth are about to share their stories. The guardians who have kept the sanctuary safe for over fifty years will allow you to peek behind the scenes of this magical place. They will take you on a journey through time and expand your horizons as they transport you to the land of fairies, butterflies and lost souls who have found a home here. Fairy Stories for children of all ages from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden forever.

One of the reviews for the collection.

Robbie Cheadle 5.0 out of 5 stars An enthralling book Reviewed in the United States on May 1, 2021

Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? Volume One – Elaine – A Shining Light by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

Elaine – A Shining Light

Elaine lay under the warmth of the duvet and her hand crept across the mattress to touch her husband’s hand. Not enough to wake him but just a gentle touch to remind her of his presence. Jack’s even breathing and gentle snore was comforting and Elaine smiled to herself, savouring the delicious secret that she was desperate to reveal.

She had been saving up the news until today as a gift for Jack’s birthday. They had been married for two years and she knew that his greatest wish was for them to have a baby. His large family had already provided his parents with six grandchildren, and whilst he might not talk about his desire for a family; he wanted to hold their child in his arms almost as much as she did. She had remembered the look on his face when she had thought that she might be pregnant but it had turned out to be a false alarm. This is why she had waited until she was absolutely sure; today would be the perfect time to reveal the secret.

Jack stirred beside her she turned her face in anticipation of his usual morning kiss on her brow and lips.

‘Good morning my darling,’ he gently stroked some stray hairs out of her eyes. ‘How are you today?

Elaine smiled at him lovingly and touched the tip of his beautiful nose. ‘Happy birthday my darling,’ and she leant over to kiss his mouth.

Over breakfast they discussed the final details of the birthday party that afternoon. Jack’s family lived too far away to attend, but he had asked one of their neighbours from down the street to join them. Jessica was always in and out and would pop in for coffee most mornings when Jack was at work. Sometimes she would also bring her children in at the weekend and they had a wonderful time playing scrabble and cards.

Elaine had butterflies in her stomach as the urge to blurt out her special secret became too much to bear. It had to be the right moment, when Jack was cutting his birthday cake that Jessica had kindly made for him. She was a much better baker that she was and it looked amazing. Jack had been in the navy when they met, and on top of the white and blue cake, a figure in a sailor’s uniform posed with an anchor. Elaine bet the inside of the cake would be delicious and would taste all the better when she announced her news.

After a quick sandwich for lunch and whilst Jack tidied the living room ready for the party, Elaine popped upstairs quietly to their bedroom and sat at the dressing table. She smiled to herself as she viewed her reflection in the mirror. There was no doubt about it; her skin had a definite glow. Artfully she brushed her blonde hair into a smooth bob and applied her makeup carefully. Not too much, but just enough to enhance her youthful beauty. Laid out on the bed were three outfits and Elaine was having problems deciding which to wear. Jack would always laugh about her preparations for an evening out. He knew she would try on all the options a couple of times before making her final choice.

This kept her busy for the next half hour and eventually she headed downstairs in her favourite cream dress with pearls at her neck and in the lobes of her ears. Jack took her hands and stepped back for a better look.

‘You look stunningly beautiful sweetheart,’ he gently straightened the string of pearls around her neck; they had been his wedding present to her.

Elaine almost gave the secret away at that point but held the temptation in check. Her plan was perfect and she must wait a little longer until it was time for him to blow out his birthday candles.

Jack left her sat in the lounge, surrounded by plates of neatly cut sandwiches and a pile of festive napkins. In the corner on a cabinet sat the cake surrounded by the birthday cards that had arrived over the last two or three days.

Just then the doorbell rang and it startled Elaine as the sound intruded into her secret daydreams. She pushed herself out of the chair and headed for the hall. Jack was coming down the stairs and held out his hand to her.

‘Don’t worry love I’ll get it,’ and he opened the door to find their three guests on the doorstep.

In they came, bearing brightly coloured bags of gifts and contributions to the birthday tea.

There was much hugging and chatter as overcoats were dispensed with and they all headed into the living room. Jack and Jessica took the food she had brought into the kitchen and put the kettle on. Sophie and Ben, who were in their early teens, entertained Elaine with tales of their antics at school during the week.

The food disappeared rapidly and two pots of tea later it was time to cut the cake. This was Elaine’s moment and she stood up to join Jack at the cabinet as he prepared to slice into the blue and white icing.

‘Darling, I have a very special birthday present for you,’ she held out the envelope that clearly contained rather bulky contents. Jack smiled at her eager face and proceeded to open the envelope carefully. He drew out the birthday card that had a huge heart on the front and carefully opened it to reveal the surprise. In his hand were a pair of knitted baby booties decorated with white satin ribbon.

Tears formed in the corners of his eyes as he pulled Elaine to him. ‘Thank you darling for the best birthday present I have ever received.’ Over her shoulder he smiled at their guests and they nodded and smiled in return.

Jessica’s children helped clear away the plates and carried them into the kitchen whilst their mother sat on the sofa holding Elaine’s hand. ‘That is wonderful news and I am so happy for the both of you.’ she smiled gently at the woman at her side. ‘We can talk about it on Monday when I pop in for coffee and we’ll get the baby knitting patterns out to look at.’

An hour later and Jessica kissed Elaine on the forehead and gently stroked her cheek. She headed off to the hall and gathered up the coats and handed them out to Sophie and Ben.

When she reached the front door, she turned once more and gave Jack a warm hug and whispered in his ear. ‘It was a wonderful birthday tea Dad and I will come in as usual on Monday when you go out to do the shopping.’

Jack went back into the lounge and stood for a moment looking at his wife, sitting calmly watching the flames flickering in the fireplace. The outfit that Elaine had finally chosen was her wedding dress, and she looked as radiant today as she had forty years ago. He sat beside her and gently moved some stray silver hairs from her forehead and took her face in his hands. He looked into her sparkling blue eyes that no longer recognised her daughter or grandchildren.

The most precious birthday present he had received today, was that his beautiful Elaine still knew him, and that even in the darkness, her light continued to shine brightly.

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Aug 16, 2018 Colleen Chesebro rated it five stars it was amazing

I love short story collections. There is something about the brevity of words that appeals to my senses, especially when there is a theme that we all can relate to. Think about it. We all have a name, but many of us have no idea why our parents chose that name or the possible stories behind that name.

Sally Cronin tackles this naming issue. In “What’s in a Name,” each chapter is titled by the name of its main character, leading the reader on a journey of discovery. Every name has a tale to tell, and under the brilliant creativity of this author, each name takes on a personality of its own.

My favorite story was that of “Diana,” a kind woman who choose a husband that proved to be a scoundrel in every sense of the word. With a little help from her family, Diana reaches into her heart and finds the courage to stand up to her husband’s abuse. The pacing of this story is marvelous and carries the reader to a satisfying end.

This compilation of stories covers a wide range of genres. There is something here for everyone. I read these stories a few at a time, savoring the emotions the stories evoked within me. This was my first read by this author, and I look forward to more of her writing. I was thrilled to find that the second volume of “What’s in a Name ~ Tales of Life & Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.  

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

I hope you will join me next Sunday for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Tales from the Spanish Garden – Chapter Eight -The Goose and the Lost Boy by Sally Cronin


This is the prequel to Tales from the Irish garden and shares the stories of statues we inherited when we bought the house, and for the magic kingdom beneath the Magnolia Tree. The book is also available in Spanish translated by
Olga Nunez Miret

Chapter Eight – The Goose and the Lost Boy by Sally Cronin

A short walk from the magic garden was a lake filled with fish and home to waterfowl of every description. The ducks had lived in peace for many years and had grown old and fat on the luscious green shoots that flourished close to the water’s edge.

Occasionally a goose or two would fly in and rest their weary wings during one of their long migrations between the northern lands and Africa. One bright afternoon a pair of young feathered lovers arrived and settled in for the night amongst the bushes. The female was weak and sick and her mate stood over her as she lay exhausted in the grass.

When the morning sun sent a blush of gold across the blue of the lake, a sorrowful song was heard by the inhabitants of this water world as they awoke from their slumber.

Instead of leaving and continuing his migration, the male goose prowled the lake, honking at any fowl that crossed his path. He was wild with grief and could not leave his mate behind. This carried on for several days until he too became weak with hunger. He lifted himself out of the water to die beside his beloved.

As he laid his weary head upon the ground he heard a goose cry from the other side of the lake. A call from one of his own kind. In desperate need of comfort, he rose unsteadily and slipped back into the mountain cold water. He headed towards the sound and searched from side to side to find the one who was calling him.

Instead of a goose he saw many of the large ducks who had previously annoyed him, clustered around a large animal. He had not come across any humans before, but if he had, he would have recognised the figure as an old woman, in a tatty grey coat, sitting on some rocks just out of the water. She was making honking noises and clucking with her tongue as her entourage of ducks clustered excitedly around her.

Intrigued the goose paddled closer until he could clamber out of the water and hide amongst the crowd of waterfowl. A hand reached out and he stepped back in fear. But hunger got the better of him. The smell of fresh popped corn enticed him closer and he began to eat ravenously and without caution.

The goose was not the only lost soul that was hiding out beside the water. A young teenage boy, who had run from a harsh father, was camped under trees at the far end of the lake. He had been scavenging from the waste bins of the houses in the neighbourhood and also by catching the occasional crawfish. He had seen the old woman coming to this same spot each day with her bag of corn. He had also noted that each time she left there was one less large plump duck amongst the dwindling group.

The boy had heard the heartbroken goose as he had paddled aimlessly through the water, and his own heart had gone out to the large bird. Now he watched from behind an old tree trunk as the old woman cackled and clucked as the corn disappeared into the goose’s beak. The young lad was horrified as he could see that this was not going to end well. At risk to his own safety he dashed from behind the tree and pushed the wrinkled crone sideways. She toppled over and slipped off her perch into the water screaming abuse at her assailant.

He scooped up the goose and turned away from the startled ducks that flapped off in panic. He dare not turn around in case the witch put a curse on him and his heavy companion. He skittered out into the narrow road and raced as fast as his legs could carry him. Up ahead he saw a large black gate with a small gap to the side of it. It was very narrow, but he was half-starved, and if he turned sideways he could just squeeze himself and his now struggling burden through.

The goose was indignant and getting into a right strop. He was totally unaware of the danger he had been in. Or the fact, that if he not been hauled unceremoniously from the feast he had been enjoying, he would now be in a witch’s kitchen with a roasting hot future ahead of him.

Heaving a massive sigh of relief the boy loosened his grip on the goose slightly and the bird turned its head towards a new sound. The lad lifted his face up to find himself staring into the eyes of an enormous lion. The great beast was bedecked with two butterflies, fluttering their wings in the heat of the midday sun.

‘I am a guardian of the secret garden and you have trespassed. What have you to say for yourself boy before I turn you to stone?’

The boy was petrified. He had come from a home where strength had been measured in how many slaps you could administer to a child before they ran away. He closed his eyes and felt sick with fright. He also felt guilty that he had indeed run away, and left his two younger brothers behind to face a similar fate.

The goose wriggled in his arms and the lad looked down at the long graceful neck of this spirited bird. He took a long breath and began hesitantly to tell their story. As the words flowed so did his passion and his determination not to desert another vulnerable creature.

He risked looking deep into the lion’s eyes and as he finished his tale, he imagined he saw a softening in the stern gaze, and even the butterflies appeared to stop fluttering their wings in anticipation.

After a moment the lion nodded his great maned head and told the boy to sit on a stone bench before him.

‘I know of the witch of whom you speak,’ he rumbled. ‘She was blown here across the seas from a place called Scotland many moons ago. I believe she had purchased a new broom and the test flight was not as uneventful as expected.’

The big cat paused as his recollections came back to him. ‘She could not speak the lingo of course and was like a fish out of water over here in Spain. She tried to steal food but the locals around here are handy with their hunting rifles and soon saw her off.’

A long rumbling laugh came from his huge belly. ‘She had a craving for something deep-fried that was a delicacy back in her native city and she decided that crispy fried fairies might make up for its lack in her diet.’ He paused for affect.

‘She came over the hedge one dark night in a stealth attack on the occupants under the magnolia tree when they come out to dance. However one of my eagles who was on patrol spotted the old besom… pardon the pun!’

‘He dived down and plucked the evil crone out of the night sky and flew her fifty miles away to the forest… Unfortunately looks like she has found her way back again.’

The boy and the now quietened goose listened enraptured by the story but were shaken out of their reverie as the lion cleared his throat loudly.

‘Hmmm… well this does not solve the problem… there are only two choices available to trespassers. Go back the way you came or be turned to stone.’ He looked down, not unkindly, at the now quaking pair.

‘Perhaps there might be a compromise but I will need to confer with the other guardians and the Fairy Queen first. I will send out my personal assistants to enquire of the others what your fate should be. They have your story and will relate it on their journey.’

He realised that the two must be hot and thirsty having sat for hours in the baking sun. ‘Off you go now to the fountain of life and drink. Then sit in the shade until I call for you.’ With that he dismissed the pair to a leafy part of the garden.

The boy cupped his hand and filled it with sweet water, offering it to the grateful goose first before drinking his fill. As they quenched their thirst they saw the two butterflies take flight on the journey that would decide their fate. The goose showed no inclination to run from the boy and settled down on his lap as they waited in the shade of the tree.

The butterflies had been given strict instructions about who they needed to contact in the secret garden, but first they stopped off at the eagles station to ensure that air cover would be available in case of a witch attack.

Having established a safe airspace the messengers continued to a private part of the garden where the resident therapist, Dr. Filibuster Buck (who moonlighted in the Stoned Band as the back-up singer) was in a session with Pearly Girl. Anyone who knew the sweet child understood that therapy was necessary due to her constant frustration levels with her stoned band. The seven dwarves, who comprised the garden’s orchestra, were an emotional bunch.

Wiffy never seemed to be happy, Sniffy was still using the sneezeweed and then there was Ditsy, who was as daft as a brush.

Anyway, the butterflies appeared at an opportune moment in the session, and both Doc Buck and Pearly Girl listened with interest and cast their vote.

After leaving Dr. Buck and his patient, the butterflies did a circuit of the garden collecting votes from the various residents, before ending up at the magic magnolia tree. They needed to collect the final votes from the fairy queen, her new toy boy husband and her hundreds of subjects who lived in the roots and undergrowth. It was dusk so they hovered in the leaves until the moon lit the branches and the first fireflies glowed above the pathways and homes beneath them. Before long a court page ushered them into the palace. A place where we humans cannot follow….

In their leafy part of the garden both boy and goose lay asleep in the soft grass… The bird had eaten the tender green shoots and drunk more water and now lay cuddled against the beating heart of the boy. It was the first time since he had lost his beloved mate that he felt safe and he was content.

The boy too had eaten some of the fruit that had hung from the branches above his head, and as he clasped the warm feathered chest against his own, he prayed that they would be allowed to stay together in this sanctuary.

As the moon rose in the sky he heard the flutter of wings above his head and he knew their fate had been decided. He gently cradled the sleepy goose and followed the colourful messengers back to the lion and stood before him quietly.

‘The decision has been made,’ the lion said gravely. ‘The inhabitants of this secret place do not wish to put you at harm from that old witch so have offered you a choice.’

The boy held his breath and the waking goose seemed to understand how important the next words might be for their future.

The lion continued. ‘You can leave of your own free will if you wish. However, if you would like to remain here in safety you will be turned to stone and become apprentice guardians under my tutelage. You will help protect the smaller citizens of this world from evil like the witch and the goose will make an excellent and very loud sentry.’

The boy let out a long sigh and looked down at the goose in his arms. The bird was alone too, and as he had mated for life, he would continue to wander the migration route in solitude. The decision was an easy one. He smiled at the lion who nodded in pleasure.

The two butterflies flew to each side of the pair and the boy felt himself lifted up high in the air.

Gently the two large flying beasts carried the boy and the goose to a ledge overlooking the mountains, under the shelter of a jutting roof with strong stone to the back and sides of them. As the butterflies released their precious cargo the boy felt a wave of peace begin at his feet and spread up through his body.

The goose turned to stone in his arms and the last human thought that he felt was happiness… they were safe and together they would become the best guardians ever of this magical sanctuary.

 ©Sally Cronin Tales from the Garden 2015

About Tales from the Garden

Tales from the Garden reveals the secrets that are hidden beneath hedges and trees. You will discover what really happens at night as you sleep unaware in your bed. Stone statues and those hidden worlds within the earth are about to share their stories. The guardians who have kept the sanctuary safe for over fifty years will allow you to peek behind the scenes of this magical place. They will take you on a journey through time and expand your horizons as they transport you to the land of fairies, butterflies and lost souls who have found a home here. Fairy Stories for children of all ages from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden forever.

One of the reviews for the collection.

Robbie Cheadle 5.0 out of 5 stars An enthralling book Reviewed in the United States on May 1, 2021