Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden- Summer: Chapter Eleven – Summer: The Foxes by Sally Cronin


Yesterday  the two princesses have been playing up during the Queen’s absence and got themselves into trouble after a night a local music festival.

Chapter Eleven – Summer: The Foxes by Sally Cronin

Image Tales from the Irish Garden..

Foxes are not liked by the farmers, especially those who have hens clucking around their farmyards. At night they hustle the indignant birds into their fenced off hen-houses, where they sit muttering all night on straw nests. As the moon rises above the forest, the red coated hunters slink around the paths, wending their way to their favourite hunting grounds. They are hopeful that there would have been a child who has neglected their chores and left a gate open, or a farmer who has supped too much beer in the pub, forgetting to herd his birds to safety.

The foxes knew to avoid certain farms, where shotguns with piercing buckshot had been fired in their direction before, and with sly cunning, the doglike creatures flickered in and out of the moonlight.

What the farmers forget is that by June, there are pups to be fed. Their father will leave them safe in their den, whilst he desperately tries to find food for the mother as she cares for their hungry offspring. Anything that moves is fair game, and rabbits and rats scuttle back into the shadows when they get the scent of the red devils. But even in the midst of the summer, when all kinds of creatures are abroad, the lure of the chickens and their eggs is fierce. Once the pups are old enough they will enjoy the softened meal that their parents will cough up for them to enjoy… and rabbits become even more wary, as their own young play in the twilight of the summer days.

However, there were a devoted couple of foxes that had been together for nearly four years. They usually searched for food side by side at night all year around, until this year when the female had given birth to three pups. On this particular night in early summer, the mother guarded the den and the dog fox had been gone since the sun went down. The night grew darker and the vixen became concerned that her mate had not returned yet.

The pups were becoming bolder and she knew that soon she would have to take them outside into the forest glade where their den was situated, to let off steam as they wrestled and played tag. They also now had bigger appetites; their demand for food was constant. She was looking forward to the few hours’ sleep she would enjoy when their father returned with enough food for all the family.

The night grew darker and the hoots of the owls in the forest reminded her of the passing hours. She had learned much in the last four years, and had seen the dangers that faced her kind as they hunted in the dark. They had encountered humans with long sticks that spouted fire who guarded the farms, and hidden in the grass were wires that nipped at your heels; sometimes catching you in their grasp. Stray dogs, much bigger than a fox, also patrolled the forest, looking for sport and a meal, and the vixen spent her days in fear for the future of her young offspring.

She still had some milk, and eventually she quietened the pups with a feed before tucking them into her belly to keep the warm as they slept. She kept vigil, waiting for the sound of her mate as he moved aside the branches that concealed the entrance to the den. Even though she was becoming desperate, she remained unwilling to disturb her babies as they snored gently beside her.

This pair of foxes was very unusual in as much as they did not hunt for other creatures and had never stolen a chicken or eggs. They only scavenged the food that had been thrown out from human houses and inns, preferring the tasty spices and seasonings that the scraps had been cooked in. Foxes would often overturn bins, rummaging around in the resulting mess to find edible pieces of cooked food and raw trimmings, especially in a hard winter. But it was strange to find foxes that only ate this by choice.

You see, these foxes began their lives very differently. The dog fox had been born into a wealthy human farming family at the south end of the forest. Tall, handsome and muscled from all his labour on the land, and caring for the large dairy herd, he had the pick of the girls from the local village and surrounding farms. At the dances he would twirl them around, and there was a fair bit of kissing behind the barn; leading to a slap or two.

Then one day, whilst walking in the forest, searching for a lost brown heifer, he spied a young maid washing in one of the small pools of water that collected after the rain. He had never seen anyone so beautiful with her long red hair that almost stretched to the ground, and delicate white skin like the finest porcelain. His heart was captured, and he moved slowly forward so as not to disturb this exquisite stranger, wishing to enjoy this vision as long as possible.

Then he stepped on a dry twig, snapping it with a crack that startled the ethereal creature into leaping to her feet and running off through the forest. The lad swore under his breath and turned to find the missing heifer standing right behind him with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

For weeks, the lad who was called Eddie would slip away in the middle of the afternoon before the evening milking, to the forest and the pool, in the hopes of spying the russet haired nymph again. Venturing further he came across a wooden fence that he knew was the boundary of the magic garden. His parents told him that the Storyteller was a good man, but that there were other creatures in the garden that might do him harm should he trespass. He walked the length of the wooden barrier until he was in sight of the Storyteller’s cottage; rewarded by the sight of the subject of his dreams, as she came out of the back door, and threw some corn down for the chickens. She glanced up and saw him watching her, and he noticed her wondrously blue eyes widen as she recognised him. Eddie smiled, and after a moment or two the girl beckoned him in through the gate in the fence.

He didn’t even bother to open it with the latch, vaulting over the top and walking nonchalantly over to the cottage.

‘Hi, I’m Eddie Walsh…I live down to the south of the forest on a farm.’ The girl seemed tongue-tied, but after a second or two she smiled at him and the lad was smitten for life.

‘Hello Eddie, I’m Dorothy’, she held open the door to the cottage. ‘Would you like to come in for some tea and meet my Pa?’ There was no need to ask twice, and Eddie was through the door like a ferret up a trouser leg. He was in heaven as he watched the slim girl as she led the way into coolness of the kitchen.

So a courtship began, and having met Eddie, the Storyteller was delighted that Dorothy had found such a strong and kind young man. After a few weeks Eddie’s family came over for Sunday lunch, and within weeks they young couple announced that they were engaged. There were wonderful celebrations with dancing and music, and you have never seen such a happy gathering in your life.

However, there was one who was not happy about the engagement, and that was a young Lerpersian who had been cast out of his father’s kingdom, several counties, away for behaving badly. He had been sent to the Storyteller by his father, to work in the magic garden and learn to treat both others and nature with more respect.

At first he had been surly and disruptive, but the Storyteller had been patient with him, listening to his gripes and gently putting him in his place. His name was Magnus, and after a few weeks he was finally asked to supper one night in the cottage kitchen, where he met Dorothy. He was not immune to her beauty, and his dreams began to be filled with visions of them being married and returning to his father’s castle with his honour restored. However, within days and as he was just about to ask for the hand of this stunning creature, Eddie turned up and ruined everything.

In the depths of the forest, in a dark and dank place, lived a goblin that was feared by all who knew of his devilment. Sometimes the villagers would venture to his damp cave to buy spells from him; of the evil kind. Business had been slow of late as the Storyteller had discouraged those around the magic garden from resorting to malicious thoughts and deeds, and the goblin was only too delighted when Magnus turned up with a request that would bring pain to the old man.

For the price of a stolen piece of gold from the vault at the Lerpersian castle, a spell was cast on Dorothy and Eddie that would devastate their families, and leave them forever wondering what had become of them. As the two lovers made their way through the leafy forest, hand in hand, the goblin cursed them to a life as foxes, to live beneath the earth in a den, struck dumb for the remainder of their lives.

To be continued….next Saturday

©Sally Cronin

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

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

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Mar 03, 2021 Jacquie rated it five stars

Life isn’t always easy- sometimes, it’s even the pits.

Sally Cronin’s anthology is an entertaining collection combining sweet, wholesome tales with stories from a more jaded point of view.

I love how she takes everyday situations and infuses them with humor, such as in The Weekly Shopping;

‘What the hell does DNST mean?’ ‘Do Not Serve Treats.’
Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries- Sally Cronin

Bittersweet endings like The Wedding Day when a hero returns from the grave to see his daughter’s wedding.

I teared up think of my Annie with The Nanny. The story of an overwhelmed couple caring for their teething baby and the unexpected help they receive.

Another favorite is a poem titled The Duchess, where the author paints a portrait of her beloved parent.

There were a few stories about the dark side of life, but these just served to enhance the rest and made me appreciate the blessings in my own life. Easy-to-read, enjoyable, and relatable. If you need a fun escape from the winter doldrums, give Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries a read!

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

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

Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden- Summer: Chapter Ten – After the Festival by Sally Cronin


Last time a wedding was celebrated and Queen Filigree and Prince Ronan are off on honeymoon…leaving two princesses behind with mischief on their minds.

Chapter Ten – Summer: After the Festival

© image Tales from the Irish Garden

Following the departure of the royal party and the happy bride and groom, the court slowly recovered from the whirlwind romance and non-stop festivities. However, for the two princesses it was proving difficult to return to their previous studies and lessons in etiquette. Without their mother to monitor their every move, they found it quite easy to slip away for a few hours into the magic garden or the forest to wander the paths, spy on the forest folk and fly around the treetops in a very unladylike manner.

But, after a few days even this began to lose its charm, and on overhearing one of the footmen discussing a Summer Festival in the kingdom beyond Michael’s dairy farm, they decided to push the boundaries of decorum even further. Dressed in clothes borrowed from one of the younger chambermaids, and their faces wiped clean of makeup and sparkling powder, the two young women blended in with the excited festival going crowd. It was dark by the time they reached the neighbouring kingdom and they relished their anonymity as they watched the dancers exuberantly welcoming the new season by firelight.

Princess Persephone slowly and painfully regained consciousness, and keeping her bleary eyes closed, tried to establish exactly where she was. Her wings might have been gossamer thin and delicate, but right now they felt like a ton of bricks. Her head was pounding and it seemed that her body had been stretched over a barrel that was making munching noises.

She felt obligated to make some form of protest at this treatment, but found that her mouth was so dry; her tongue was glued to the roof of her mouth. By all the gods, including Zeus and Hades, what had someone done to her? The last thing she remembered was drinking some gold label, honey nectar made by the Lerpersian brewery in a cave near Glendalough.

She was sure she had only had a couple; it had tasted as sweet and innocent as its name.

The crunching and chewing sounds continued beneath her, and finally she managed to open her eyes; nearly falling off the barrel. In front of her face was a delightful tiny straw hat, perched between two very large ears sticking out at right angles. Persephone burped in a very un-regal manner and covered her mouth with a shaky hand.

‘Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear,’ she mumbled behind her fingers. Narcissus was going to kill her when she got hold of her.

‘Are you talking to me?’ she heard a rather squeaky voice from somewhere in front of her.

Persephone managed to raise herself up into a sitting position and without making too many sudden moves, surveyed her surroundings.

‘Hello, is anybody there?’ She glanced from left to right, carefully manoeuvring her still weighty wings. She waited expectantly; head tilted to one side.

‘It’s about time you woke up you little madam,’ the voice seemed clearer now that the chewing sound had ceased.

‘I have been carrying you all night and my feet are killing me. Which, if you are wondering, is why we are in the middle of this stream of cold water?’

The head attached to the hat and ears in front of her swung around, so that one very large brown eye was staring up at her.

Persephone was now very confused and began to suspect that someone had slipped a Micky Finn into her class of honey nectar last night. Her mother had warned both her daughters that things were a little more relaxed at parties in their new home, and that should they be out in company, some boyo might take advantage of them. This particularly applied to any drinks that they were offered, and to make sure they kept an eye on their glasses at all times.

She was in so much trouble, and no doubt she had managed to ditch Narcissus at some point and would get it in the neck; a frequent occurrence.

She had to get out of this hallucination as fast as possible and find her way back to the festival site. She must locate her sister quickly and return home with her; otherwise when the queen arrived back from honeymoon, she would have her wings clipped for the next month, and no doubt locked in the dungeons in the palace under the magnolia tree for good measure.

She tried to slip off her mount into the water, and in the process discovered that she had been riding a sizeable spotted deer. What was even weirder was that it seemed to be decorated with bits and pieces of her sister’s eclectic outfit she had been wearing last night. Including that saucy fascinator now perched between its ears.

‘Oh no you don’t missy,’ a protesting voice issued forth from beneath her. ‘Now that you are sobering up, you can undo the damage you did last night.’

‘Damage, what damage?’ Persephone was becoming irritated by this badgering that made her head pound even more. ‘I’m the one who has been drugged and stuck in the middle of this hallucination with you; so back off.’

Having finally managed to slip off the back of the deer, Persephone found herself up to her knees in the freezing water. She was also now on the level of the animal’s head and could look straight into those big brown eyes that appeared to be vaguely familiar.

‘Now do you get it you little spoilt brat?’ The harshness of the words and tone were slightly alleviated by the sight of several water-lily stems hanging from the sides of the deer’s mouth.

The enormity of the situation had a sobering effect on Persephone as she lifted her legs in and out of the icy water. Things were beginning to come back to her and this was definitely not good. Not good at all.

She clung to the neck of creature, and as she felt the big heart thumping away beneath her hand, it brought back the hypnotic sound of the drums reverberating around the camp fires at the festival last night. As the honey nectar had taken effect, she had felt herself released from her regally ingrained decorum; rising to her feet to dance in time to the intoxicating beat.

Despite her sister’s repeated protestations, Persephone had been swept away with the other revellers, in a wild and organic melee. She swayed as she remembered the thrill and the fever of that freedom.

‘I see it’s coming back to you madam, and you better sober up fast because I am not carrying you any further.’

Persephone decided that if she was not to freeze her sparkly slippers off, they had better move from the stream on to dry land. She gently grasped the halter of flowers around the deer’s neck, leading her onto a grassy bank strewn with daisies. These proved irresistible to the animal, who dipped her head to chew enthusiastically.

Persephone lay back in the softness of the emerald coloured grass and white and yellow flowers for a moment; then shot upright and placed her head in her hands.

‘Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, what have I done?’ She looked over at the object of her despair who had turned her head at the sound of her name being called.

‘What you have done missy, is to cast a spell on me last night, just because I was trying to stop you making an exhibition of yourself in front of all those strangers.’

The deer wandered over, her fascinator falling off her head and into Persephone’s lap. Her sister picked it up between shaking fingers and looked up into the eyes that she knew so well.

‘You better be able to fix it you little minx, otherwise mother is going to exile you to live alone on Inishtooskert for the rest of your life,’ a hint of maliciousness crept into the vitriolic tirade.

‘You will never meet a Prince Charming there, will you?’

Persephone could tell that Narcissus, who she often told people was aptly named, was getting more and more riled up and that never bode well.

‘I know, I know, don’t worry I can fix this,’ and with that she scrabbled around in her hessian bag that was still thankfully slung around her body. Desperately she searched the deep and dark interior looking for her spell book. Finally, just as she thought that it had fallen out as she had rolled drunkenly around on the deer’s back, her fingers closed over the spider’s web cover.

The dark brown eyes of her sister looked on expectantly as Persephone flicked through the book of spells, one minute nodding her head, and then the next shaking it in frustration.

Then with a huge sigh of relief, she found what she was looking for.

She stood up shakily, and placing her right hand on the large wide forehead of the deer, she uttered the required antidote to the original spell.

‘Flabbergast and Flippity Gibbet with a twist of flighty fingers of fidgeters, return my sister to her original body,’ she paused and then added a little insurance policy. ‘And befuddle her brain into forgetting all that passed last night.’

Which is why the disgraceful shenanigans of the young Princess Persephone, have remained a secret until today; and are only being revealed to you, the select few.

©Sally Cronin –

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

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

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Mar 03, 2021 Jacquie rated it five stars

Life isn’t always easy- sometimes, it’s even the pits.

Sally Cronin’s anthology is an entertaining collection combining sweet, wholesome tales with stories from a more jaded point of view.

I love how she takes everyday situations and infuses them with humor, such as in The Weekly Shopping;

‘What the hell does DNST mean?’ ‘Do Not Serve Treats.’
Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries- Sally Cronin

Bittersweet endings like The Wedding Day when a hero returns from the grave to see his daughter’s wedding.

I teared up think of my Annie with The Nanny. The story of an overwhelmed couple caring for their teething baby and the unexpected help they receive.

Another favorite is a poem titled The Duchess, where the author paints a portrait of her beloved parent.

There were a few stories about the dark side of life, but these just served to enhance the rest and made me appreciate the blessings in my own life. Easy-to-read, enjoyable, and relatable. If you need a fun escape from the winter doldrums, give Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries a read! 

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

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

Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden- Spring: Chapter Nine – The Betrothal Gift by Sally Cronin


Yesterday we enjoyed the first Royal Banquet to be held in the new royal palace beneath the magnolia tree.. and there was a hint of romance in the air..

Spring: Chaper Nine – The Betrothal Gift

After the banquet, there followed two weeks of entertainment for the visiting monarch and his family. There were picnics, concerts and sporting events that tested the strength and endurance of the courtiers and stretched Chef Marcelle’s culinary skills to the limit. Rarely were Queen Filigree and Prince Ronan apart, except for those few hours at night when they retired to their individual bed chambers. King Philip and his wife looked on approvingly as they had long wished for a suitable and regal enough wife for their eldest son. Queen Filigree might be quite a bit older than the Prince, but in fairy lifetimes, it was not sufficient to cause concern. Anyway, Queen Seren knew that her son planned on giving his bride-to-be a gift, that she knew from experience would make any age difference unimportant.

One evening, as the court prepared itself for an informal supper in the roots of the magnolia tree, Prince Ronan requested the chamberlain to convey an invitation to her majesty, to join him for a glass of mead in the miniature rose garden. The queen had already finished dressing for the evening, choosing something a little low key as befitted a night of Irish dancing and accompanying shenanigans. The Storyteller had sent over the Dapperman with a gift of a white blouse and emerald and blue tartan kilt, set off with a pair of black leather ballet pumps. She didn’t have time to change into something more formal, and decided that perhaps the off the shoulder blouse, and the string of daisies necklace, made her appear much younger than her years.

The look on Prince Ronan’s face, when she opened the gate to the rose garden, was proof indeed that she looked ravishing. She walked towards him, taking his outstretched hand, only to be pulled into his arms. Breathlessly she looked up into his sparkling green eyes, and within seconds, she found herself kissed as she had never been kissed before.

Reluctantly the prince pulled away from their embrace, and taking her hand, led her to a corner of the garden, lifting away a green silk drape. There before her eyes was a wondrous garden fountain, held up by two lovers entwined with leaves and roses. Queen Filigree gasped, reaching out her hand to touch the water that flowed from a small spout above the fountain, embedded in the root of the magnolia.

‘How did you find my fountain, I thought that it was safely in France with my son at his palace?’ She wiped a tear from her cheek and turned to face the handsome young man by her side.

‘I was visiting your son to discuss joint trade ventures and we walked his rose garden together, making a deal to import our Irish Amber Nectar special blend, in exchange for the lavender grown in his fields.’ He took the queen’s hand in his. ‘Your son told me that this was your treasured Fountain of Life that you could not bring with you to Ireland. He explained that by dipping your hands in its rejuvenating waters each day, and taking a sip of its sweetness, you will remain young and beautiful for ever.’

At Prince Ronan’s beckoning, the queen dipped her hands into the fountain and brought the water to her lips to drink, all the time staring deeply into the eyes of this handsome prince.

She felt a surge of energy as if every nerve in her body was tingling. She turned to Prince Ronan and whispered. ‘You have brought me the most treasured gift I could wish for,’ she touched the side of his face gently. ‘How can I ever repay you?’

The prince took to one knee and smiled. ‘Will you honour me by becoming my wife, and living the rest of your life with me?’

Filigree regretted for a moment, that she had not thought to change into a more fitting attire for this momentous occasion, but the sight of the handsome face in front of her banished all thoughts from her mind as she urged the prince to his feet.

‘I would be most delighted to accept your proposal,’ she whispered in delight.

King Philip and Queen Seren were already in attendance at the party, when the happy couple slipped in beside them an hour or so later. It was clear that an announcement needed to be made, and Queen Filigree requested that King Philip do the honours. The news was met with great excitement by her two daughters despite their envy of their mother’s handsome suitor. The little minxes recognised that they now would have a much more exciting social calendar to look forward to.

This new development further delayed the visiting royal’s trip to their summer home in Meath. The wedding date was set for a week ahead, and it was decided that Queen Filigree would accompany her new husband and his family for a month to celebrate their honeymoon. This too gave Princess Persephone and Narcissus a cause for celebration, as they would stay behind and be in charge of the court. And they would enjoy a great deal more freedom that they usually managed under the eagle eye of their mother.

The upcoming festivities had the whole fairy kingdom and their new friends, the Storyteller, Summer and Dapperman, in a whirl, as they hurriedly organised this royal union.

The wedding dress was being spun by a family of silk worms that the Dapperman had brought from India and installed in his attic. The fine threads were then dipped in vats made from halved dried pumpkin skins from last autumn. Dyes, that had been made the last summer from the flowers in the Spanish garden, were blended to create the prettiest pinks, the most vivid blues and purples, and the brightest reds and greens. Queen Filigree had decided upon a rose pink dress with multi-coloured bodice with a train of mauve and violet.

Even the Dapperman was in awe when he attended the final fitting, and he hurried away to add a dash of purple to the grooms velvet wedding suit, ensuring that he was in perfect harmony with his bride.

Meanwhile Chef Marcelle was beside himself with the stress, but finally with the help of the Storyteller and his suppliers, he managed to put together a feast like none other. For hundred hungry guests he would need 3 filleted trout, 2 lbs of sirloin steak, 1 lb of goat’s cheese, two pints of double cream, 25 fresh strawberries, 100 fresh baked rolls and 2 lbs of butter for cooking and for the feast. Luckily the magic garden had some spring vegetables, and the chef had stored away plenty of mushrooms last autumn in Spain, bringing them with him on the back of an express goose.

The Storyteller donated six bottles of Champagne, and six more each of white and his finest red wine. There were also two large vats of the amber nectar fermented from the court’s own beehives, and sweet water that had been collected in tubs at the base of the magnolia tree.

Finally the day arrived and with the Storyteller presiding, in his capacity of guardian of the magic garden, the wedding began. The groom stood nervously at the end of a carpet of rose petals as the two royal families and courtiers sat on chairs either side. The musicians began to play a gentle anthem that announced the arrival of the queen.

A hush fell over the assembled guests as the beautiful bride, dressed in a shimmering vision of pinks and mauves, stepped delicately onto the rosy carpet. She clasped a bouquet of miniature roses and bluebells, and she glided down the aisle with her eyes firmly fixed on the handsome man waiting for her. It is sad to say that, despite wearing delightful dresses of pale blue and lilac that glistened with sparkling sequins, Princess Persephone and Narcissus were largely overlooked.

With the solemnity that was required for this great state occasion, the Storyteller began the service of wedlock according to fairy lore. Ten minutes later, to resounding cheers, Prince Ronan and Queen Filigree were officially announced as man and wife, and were invited to seal the marriage with a kiss; which went on rather a long time. With anticipation and excitement the guests piled into the rose strewn aisle to follow the happy couple through to the ballroom to enjoy the sumptuous feast. Chef Marcelle looked upon the avid partaking of his finest meals with great satisfaction, before retiring to his kitchen and a filched flagon of the finest amber nectar.

The dancing went on to the early hours of the morning and nobody noticed when Prince Ronan and Queen Filigree melted away together at midnight. The two princesses however, did see the departure, throwing themselves even more enthusiastically into the dancing, knowing that for the next month they would be largely unsupervised.

A day was needed to recover from the festivities, but bright and early two days later, King Philip, Queen Seren and the newlyweds departed by carriage to continue their journey to their summer palace. The Storyteller was left in charge of the two princesses and it was with some misgivings that he watched their mother heading off with a smile and a wave. A month was going to seem a very long time with these two young ladies on the loose.

© Sally Cronin – Image Tales from the Irish Garden.

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

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

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Mar 02, 2021 Mary Crowley rated it five stars it was amazing

Cleverly penned from the title on the front cover to the final word on the last page with a unique voice, addressing life’s dilemmas and challenges, Sally weaves heart-warming storytelling about ordinary people in real life situations that in some cases can be life changing.

For some of us on-line shopping is straightforward, others find it frustrating. While in short story, The Weekly Shopping, Sally takes the experience one step further in addressing this and brought a smile to my face as I turned the pages, intrigued.

Kind people with big hearts, courageous and generous, offering a glimmer of hope. Long lost relatives, offering a sense of belonging. A reminder romance is not only for the young and we are never too old to find love. Entwined in these engaging tales are peppering’s of beautiful prose. Highly recommend this book

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

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

Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden- Spring: Chapter Eight – The Royal Banquet by Sally Cronin


Last Sunday we met Jeremy the donkey who had to flee the herd of cows because of an angry bull and found sanctuary in the magic garden.

Spring: Chapter Eight – The Royal Banquet

The court was buzzing, and not just because the bees in the hives above the palace were working overtime. The amber nectar, so revered by the fairies, was now stored in vats with tiny taps made from hollow reeds, and corked with willow bark. Honey was being placed in empty walnut shells; sealed with beeswax to keep it fresh. They would be opened on the night of the banquet and the sweet contents poured over the ground-almond pancakes served with baby strawberries.

The Storyteller had donated an excellent wine; imported from his French vineyards, and it had been resting down in the cellar of his cottage for many years. It did not take much amber nectar or wine to make a fairy tiddly, and one magnum of the rich red wine would suffice for the evening. There was also the juice made from a mixture of last year’s blackberries and fallen apples, as well as clear spring water from the well that did double duty as a ‘Make a Wish’ terminal.

Queen Filigree, her social secretary Sir Justin and the royal chef Marcelle had pored over the fresh ingredients available in their new home, creating a menu for a banquet fit for a King and Queen. The Storyteller had also suggested that Summer, whose children had rescued the royal pigeons the previous winter, should be brought in to make the desserts. Part fairy, she not only was a superb baker, but also knew the magic ingredients that increased the delight of those sampling her dishes.

Her chocolate brownies, renowned throughout the county for their medicinal properties, were served with whipped caramelised cream. They had been known to send those consuming them into ecstatic trances and artistic dances. Since dancing plays an enormous part in any fairy feast, her skills would indeed be treasured.

On the day of the banquet wild mushrooms were gathered and cleaned of their grit, ready to be fried in butter with some fresh garlic and cream from the farm on the far edge of the forest. They would be served on little fried squares of bread made by Summer from spelt flour and walnuts. Baby beetroots had been roasted and peeled, served with horseradish sauce and pomegranate seeds.

The main course was poached quail’s eggs and stuffed courgette flowers, filled with minced nuts, mushrooms and goats cheese and fried in crispy batter. This was served with chips and Chef Marcelle’s renowned curry sauce, a favourite after a night of drinking amber nectar.

As well as the delicious brownies made by Summer, there would be a selection of desserts made by this talented master chef, who it must be noted had three Wizard Stars for his cuisine. The elderberry jelly, with shortcake and frozen sheep’s yoghurt, had won awards across the fairy world. There were also some almond sweetmeats to accompany the coffee made from chicory plants in the garden.

For those who did not have a sweet tooth (not likely, but some of the courtiers from the visiting kingdom might be so inclined) there was a special treat.

Esme the goat had provided her rich creamy milk to make delicious tangy cheese, served with mini-pats of butter made from the Michael’s prize winning herd, and some Irish Soda bread rolls courtesy of Summer.

Finally the morning of the arrival of King Patrick, Queen Seren and their son Prince Ronan dawned, and the court was up and about early. In the royal chamber, Filigree bathed in scented warm water and contemplated her new ball gown that was hung on the front of her wardrobe. Made from finely woven silk that had been dyed to a beautiful turquoise, it had a fitted bodice ruched and trimmed with lace and a full skirt with hundreds of minute pleats that showed of her slender hips. Beneath the dress rested a pair of matching shoes with gold roses attached to the fronts and a little heel that would not impede her dancing the night away.

Satisfied that all had been made ready, with the guest chambers being finished with bowls of berries and chilled bottles of the amber nectar, she closed her eyes and imagined her impact on that irritating man Prince Ronan when he saw her in all her finery.

This scene was mirrored throughout the court as Narcissus and Persephone attended to their wardrobe for the evening’s banquet… They were delighted by the rose pink and emerald dresses designed by Dapperman and his team, but were slightly miffed that they would pale in significance when they stood side by side by their mother. However, they were young and loved the queen, and they knew that where there was one Prince Ronan, there was probably another, and their future looked very rosy indeed.

The Queen’s guard, consisting of twenty highly trained and athletic young fairies, were sent off in full ceremonial uniform to await the advance troops of the visiting royal party at the invisible gate at the far end of the magic garden. For strangers passing by from the human realm, it would appear as though a thick overgrown bramble hedge surrounded a broken down cottage. Little did they know that with a few incantations, a gap would appear in the greenery comprising a golden gate strewn with garlands of daisies.

Beneath the gates a path would appear that led directly to the magnolia tree by the Storyteller’s cottage, and on this auspicious occasion, it was strewn with red and pink rose petals. The Queen’s guard stood to attention as they heard the sound of calls and shouts on the wind as the advance party alerted them to their imminent arrival. With a flash of sunlight the royal party materialised at the entry to the gate and the two senior officers advanced towards each other.

With a nod to the Colonel in charge of the Queen’s guard, the visiting troops led the way through the golden gate followed by two ornate gilded carriages and several travelling coaches, packed with courtiers and belongings. As the heavy horse-drawn vehicles crossed the rose petals, a heady scent rose into the air and a rosy aura enveloped the length of the parade. As the soldiers reached the end of the path, they split to form a guard of honour, and footmen moved forward to open the doors of the lead carriages. At the end of a red carpet, Queen Filigree and her daughters waited in a fusion of turquoise, rose and emerald, waiting to greet their esteemed visitors.

The first to alight from the lead carriage was Prince Ronan who was looking very dashing in a black velvet jacket and red and green tartan trousers. He stood tall and handsome and with a smile and bow to Queen Filigree, he turned and helped his mother Queen Seren as she stepped down onto the carpet. King Patrick joined his wife and son and together they advanced to stand before their hostess. After much bowing and kissing of hands, the royal party entered the palace and adjourned to the throne room to partake of some amber nectar and honey cakes.

Courtiers gathered in groups and exchanged information and palace gossip until, with a clap of her hands, Queen Filigree bade her chamberlain escort their guests to their luxurious apartments. As they were ushered away to bathe and change for the banquet, Prince Ronan turned and headed back towards the queen and her daughters. It was clear that the two younger women were both hoping that he would approach them personally, but it was quite evident that he only had eyes for one of the regal beauties.

Disappointed, the two princesses moved away to complete their preparations for the evening’s entertainment, casting glances at the courtiers and military attaches that were still enjoying their refreshments. There was no doubt that those who served in the court of King Patrick and his queen, were all very handsome, and they looked at each other in delight at the possible opportunities that this might offer them.

Their mother was oblivious to their machinations, and was instead attempting to keep her regal dignity, whilst standing so close to this tall and spectacular looking young prince.
‘Your majesty’, a fragrance of warm sandalwood almost made her swoon. ‘I wondered if I might be so bold as to request the first dance with you tonight and the last.’

It was as if she was mesmerised by the deep and velvet voice in her ear. Before she could call upon her indignation as his effrontery, she found herself nodding her head and whispering back. ‘I would be very honoured Prince Ronan’. With a wink, the object of her fascination turned away and walked towards the door. Feeling very faint and much to the concern of her ladies in waiting, Queen Filigree sat on her throne with a thump and called for a glass of warm mead.

Two hours later, the great hall came alive, as hundreds gathered for the banquet prepared by Chef Marcelle and Summer in the kitchens, deep in the roots of the magnolia palace. Queen Filigree sat between King Patrick and Queen Seren, discovering long lost family connections and catching up on gossip from the fairy kingdoms. She was amazed to discover that Prince Ronan knew her son Prince Zachary, and had foraged quail eggs together.

Without trying to look too conspicuous, she peaked around King Patrick to where her daughters sat either side of the man in question. No wonder he seemed to know so much about her when they had first met, and she wondered how much Zachary had told him of her previous marriages and her current loveless situation. She blushed to think that he had been party to some of her most personal secrets, but at the same time, found herself imagining what it would be like to be swept up into his arms for the first dance after the banquet.

The feast went on for two hours, and as the amber nectar and wine was consumed, the noise level in the chamber rose to a crescendo of glass shattering proportions. A little bit lightheaded, from a touch too much of the Storyteller’s red wine, Queen Filigree rose and tapped her glass for attention from the revellers. Slowly the voices quietened and the two courts gave the queen their undivided attention.

‘It gives me great pleasure to welcome King Patrick, Queen Seren and Prince Ronan to our court.’ She paused and ignored the desire to turn and look at her handsome guest just three seats away.

‘It is with great pleasure that I invite you to retire to the anteroom for rosehip tea and almond pastries whilst the banquet tables are moved to allow for the dancing to commence.’

This was greeted by a roar of approval and much pounding on the tables before the guests rose and made their way through the large ornate doors. The royal party descended from their dais and followed the courtiers, with Prince Ronan taking the hand of Queen Filigree and escorting her across the floor. A glance and smile between King Patrick and his queen showed their approval of this development, and they graciously drew the two princesses to their side, to walk with them in warm companionship.

The Storyteller had insisted that his own musicians, the O’Reilly brothers would provide the music for the dancing, and the queen was considerably heartened to see that they had been attired by the Dapperman for the occasion. They were clearly fortified by some amber nectar, and exuded a rosy glow which she hoped would not impinge upon their ability to play. She noticed that they were also joined by two fairies from her court who were delightful fiddle players, and somewhat reassured, she signalled to the Storyteller that they might begin to play.

It was protocol that she should begin the dancing with a senior member of the court but as her chamberlain stepped forward with a bow and an outstretched hand, she motioned him away. The light from the candles was suddenly diminished as the tall form of Prince Ronan approached down the centre of the dance floor. The Queen could barely contain the trembling of her knees as he bowed low to the floor with one leg elegantly stretched out before him. His hand rose to gently enfold hers and with a deep sigh she surrendered.

The queen and prince did not leave the floor until daybreak, enjoying the first and last dance and every one in between. As the first rays of the sun filtered into the palace they bade each other goodnight and retired to their chambers in the knowledge that their story had only just begun.

©Sally Cronin 2018

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

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

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Mar 02, 2021 Mary Crowley rated it five stars it was amazing

Cleverly penned from the title on the front cover to the final word on the last page with a unique voice, addressing life’s dilemmas and challenges, Sally weaves heart-warming storytelling about ordinary people in real life situations that in some cases can be life changing.

For some of us on-line shopping is straightforward, others find it frustrating. While in short story, The Weekly Shopping, Sally takes the experience one step further in addressing this and brought a smile to my face as I turned the pages, intrigued.

Kind people with big hearts, courageous and generous, offering a glimmer of hope. Long lost relatives, offering a sense of belonging. A reminder romance is not only for the young and we are never too old to find love. Entwined in these engaging tales are peppering’s of beautiful prose. Highly recommend this book

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

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

Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden- Spring: Chapter Six – The Magic Garden Comes to Life by Sally Cronin


Yesterday The court got to grips with the workings of their new home and as luggage space had been restricted on their flight from Spain, the services of The Dapperman were engaged to provide everyone new clothes.

Spring – Chapter Six – The Magic Garden Comes to Life

Image ©Tales from the Irish Garden

A month after the arrival of Queen Filigree and her court, springtime had brought magnificent colour and creatures to the magic garden. However, there was still sadness in the heart of its queen as she had lived in her previous magnolia tree palace for over 700 years. She had been married twice in that time. Once for over 450 years to a tall and dashing king who had made her heart sing. But he had fallen for one of her ladies-in-waiting and, after fifty years in exile, had been banished to the world of humans.

The Queen in those fifty years had been romanced by many who were keen to be king of her magic palace and its riches, but only one had captured her heart. A blonde and very handsome prince who was some years younger and who had the singing voice of a lark. They had married one summer and had been blissfully happy for twenty years until one day, completely out of the blue, her king had been struck down by a bite from a mosquito and had never recovered. Her majesty had been heartbroken but she was still a young woman, as far as fairy queens go. She yearned to find someone to dance and laugh with and to kiss beneath the glittering firefly chandelier.

Apart from this lack of male attention, she had to admit that their move to this green and welcoming island had been for the best. Despite missing some of the refinements of her palace in Spain, she appreciated that those had taken place during her 700 years on the throne. There was no reason why she could not bring some of those niceties to this palace in time. Income was beginning to pick up from sales of the very special honey that was being produced by the Queen Bee and her subjects. A local amber nectar brewery had commissioned a barrel a month to add to one of their special brews for the coming summer festivals they so loved here. A barrel of honey took a great deal of bees and time to produce, but the income would keep the court in food and necessities for an entire year.

The people were a delight too, and she was particularly fond of the Storyteller whose life had also held sorrow. He was reluctant to talk about his family but she sensed that one day he would share what was troubling him. He had been so generous and clearly she and her court filled a void in his life; which brought her joy. And as for the Dapperman, he was a positive gift for any woman of taste, and she delighted in her new wardrobe of such exquisite design and colour.

The Storyteller assured her that the magic garden that surrounded the magnolia tree was completely safe to venture forth into, and with the warmer weather of late spring, Queen Filigree found herself in a wild part of the garden with the scent of roses perfuming the air. She sat on top of a broad headed mushroom by some old steps; guarded by her faithful eagles who attended her whenever she left the safety of the palace. They had flown across from Spain at the wing tips of her carrier goose, and now resided at the top of the palace with the pigeons until needed.

She was wearing one of the new day dresses that had been designed by the Dapperman, and her hair had been freshly styled by her chief lady in waiting. She crossed her legs and admired her new emerald green shoes that matched the silky material of her dress, thinking how sad it was that there was no handsome suitor to admire it.

As the heady scent of the roses filled her nostrils, she closed her eyes and let the rays of the sun fall onto her flawless complexion. Was she really destined to spend the next thousand years of her life alone? Was there anyone in this new and strange land who would be suitable for a woman of her position? Suddenly she sensed that her eagles were moving around in an agitated manner and opened her eyes… She was somewhat reassured that the Storyteller had been adamant that no harm would ever befall any of the court in his magic garden, but something had spooked her guardians.

‘Well now, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes’. With a gasp of outrage, Queen Filigree turned to find herself staring into bright green eyes beneath an unruly mop of red hair. She blushed as she realised that she was staring, but she had to admit the face that went with the eyes and the hair was remarkably handsome.

‘Do you know who you are addressing?’ she demanded haughtily. She was even more annoyed when this was met with very manly laughter, and turned to her guardians who were standing wing to wing in front of their queen.

‘Begone you impudent wretch or I shall set my guardians on you and you won’t be laughing then.’ She crossed her arms and gave the man her most regal glare.

‘Suit yourself darlin’, but I have come a long way to meet you, and the least you could do is invite me down to that palace of yours.’

‘Darlin’, who are you calling darlin’ you ruffian.’ With that Queen Filigree got off the mushroom and began to walk back through the garden with her eagles close at her heel.

From behind her she heard footsteps along the stone path and looked over her shoulder to see the tall stranger following. She had to concede, in his heather coloured linen trousers and fitted tweed jacket he looked like a fine figure of a man, and for a moment she wondered if she had conjured him up when day-dreaming of romance in the sun?

‘Why are you following me you horrid man, go away or I will order my eagles to tear you to pieces.’ Even her eagles looked at her sideways when she uttered this bit of nonsense. They hadn’t picked anything to pieces except their dinner for centuries; relying on their size and wingspan to intimidate.

‘Allow me to introduce myself to your majesty,’ the stranger softened his voice to a rather alluring tone. ‘My name is Prince Ronan, and I have come to pay the respects of my father and mother, King Patrick and Queen Seren of the Kingdom of Sean-Choill in the forest to the south of here.’ With that the prince stopped on the path and waited for the queen to respond.

‘Well why didn’t you say so in the beginning?’ Unexpectedly, the queen felt a little fluttering in her heart at this surprising turn of events.

‘You may follow me and make your formal presentation to the court, but please maintain your distance.’ She had to say, she didn’t appreciate the grin that spread across this impudent prince’s face but, as she turned back to the path, she found herself smiling in anticipation.

Her heart was not the only one that was all of a flutter at the appearance of this strikingly handsome redheaded man, as he crossed the threshold of the palace, and was escorted by the royal guard into the throne room… The queen flounced into the velvet covered seat and crossed one elegant leg over the other. She beckoned to Prince Ronan to approach; waiting for him to drop to one knee in respect… Instead he walked right up to her and took her delicate hand in his own. He grinned at her, winking, as he leant over and kissed the captured palm, before returning it to her lap. Despite the audacity of the man, Filigree had to admit that she had not felt this young in the last 50 years.

He stepped back and stood with his hands behind his back, and once Filigree had regained her composure, she smiled regally and gestured to one of the footmen to bring across a chair to sit on.

‘You may now speak,’ she announced imperiously.

‘Thank you so much your majesty,’ he smiled charmingly. ‘I am here on behalf of my mother Queen Seren, to ask if she and my father might pay a visit next month, when they travel through the magic garden on their way to their summer home in the land of Meath.’

His green eyes stared directly at the queen and she felt a blush rising up from her neck to bring a glow to her cheeks.

‘That would be entirely acceptable, and please convey my pleasure at the prospect of meeting the King and Queen. We would be delighted to accommodate them in the guest chambers and hold a dinner in their honour.’

She gestured to her court social director and rose from the throne. ‘Please accompany Sir Justin to his office where you can discuss the dates and times of arrival and please convey my best wishes to your parents.’

He bowed elegantly, and dismissed, turned and followed Sir Justin out of the throne room.

However, just as he reached the ornately carved doors, Prince Ronan turned and winked at her, causing her to gasp with irritation, tinged with a little bit of excitement. Perhaps it might be time to call in The Dapperman to plan her new wardrobe for the royal visit.

©Sally Cronin 2018

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

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

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Feb 22, 2021 Alex Craigie rated it five stars it was amazing
Until the pandemic struck, I only read full-length novels. I thought that short stories might be shallow and unsatisfying in comparison. When we went into lockdown, here was my chance to get on with some meaty reading. But I couldn’t. I’ve been restless and unfocussed and when Sally Cronin’s Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries was recommended to me I decided to give it a go. How wrong I’d been about short stories!
I loved this book. The sub heading of Sometimes bitter, Sometimes Sweet is apt as the stories covered a wide range of experiences and each one touched me in different ways. Sally Cronin understands people. Her descriptions of relationships will strike a chord with everyone who reads this collection.
The tone varies, which added to the pleasure for me: wry, humorous, sad, reflective, vengeful, sweet. Some of the characters I positively enjoyed disliking and it was immensely satisfying when they got their comeuppance, others squeezed my heart but I was never left without hope for them.
The plots were neat, too. The first in the book was delightful, very funny but also a touch macabre. Gaffer Tape managed to condense a whole novel of abuse into a few powerful pages with an ending that made me want to cheer. Animals feature in some of these tales and Sally’s love of creatures is evident in the closely observed behaviours and in their impact upon humans. The story about the badly treated guard dog was one of my favourites and left me moved by the innate goodness evident in most people.
Scattered like precious gems throughout the book are exquisite poems. These aren’t rambling sagas; they’re expertly crafted delights that follow strict rules such as the syllabic form of cinquains. The results are stunning in their ability to condense a world of meaning into a few considered words.
I’m a convert now and will be looking out for more collections of short stories by this amazing author.

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

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

 

Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden – Winter: Chapter Five – The Dapperman by Sally Cronin


Yesterday The Queen and the court arrived from Spain and spent their first night in the in their new home under the old magnolia tree.

Winter – Chapter Five – The Dapperman – Sally Cronin

The next few days passed in a blur as Queen Filigree, Persephone and Narcissus and the rest of the court settled into their new quarters. Whilst the royal family had managed to bring a good selection of their regal attire on the goose transport, most of the other courtiers and servants had only managed to bring one change of clothing. Clearly this was going to be problem within a short space of time, despite the fact that a site for the new laundry had been found.

At the top of the new palace, next to the pigeon house, was a chamber with a steady supply of dripping rainwater through a gap in the roots. This fed a trough that flowed into large barrels, fashioned from fallen bark from the forest, and waterproofed with moss mixed with heated pine resin. The fairy engineers who had designed this system many years ago for the previous occupants, had also found discarded tin cans in the woods that had been carefully sliced in two lengthways, to provide excellent washing pots.

Since a palace full of smoke is not ideal, the kitchens were also on this level with chimney stacks from the ovens venting the workspace into the open air. Water would be taken from the barrels in large soup pots fashioned by the tinsmiths over the years. It would be heated over fires on a metal trivet alongside the carefully constructed brick ovens. The head laundress would then bring her assistants in to collect the hot water, pouring it into the two half tin cans. The first was for washing clothes with Soapwort, made from flowers collected from the garden, before being rinsed in the second vat of hot water.

Mangles were then used to remove the excess water, before the clothes and linens were set to dry on rods suspended from the ceiling in the warmth of the kitchen.

In Spain in the warm dry climate, the fairies had worn light clothing, and to be honest, some didn’t wear anything at all except for a strategically placed lily petal. But even though it was spring in the Emerald Island, it was very cold for these warm-blooded creatures, and they were now wearing several layers. The trouble was they had brought so little with them that they were now fighting amongst themselves over bits and pieces; quickly becoming threadbare and ragged.

The head laundress requested an audience with the chamberlain, who in turn approached her majesty with the problem. It so happened, that Queen Filigree had extended an invitation to the Storyteller, to join her and her courtiers for a celebration dinner, and it was to be this very night.

Her newly appointed head guardian duly arrived, shrunk to the appropriate size; dressed in his best suit and wearing patent leather dancing shoes. He bowed low to her majesty and then waved forward three wizened old fellows carrying a violin, flute and a lute.

‘Your gracious Majesty I would like to present a small gift towards this evening’s proceedings, since I know you were forced to leave your own stoned band behind.’ With that he pushed the trio in front of him.

‘These are the O’Reilly brothers, Liam, Herbert and Willie and they are here to entertain us through dinner and for dancing if you will permit them.’ He looked at the queen for approval.

Queen Filigree clapped her hands in delight, ordering that the band be brought some amber nectar from the royal beehive, and that they be positioned at the end of the ballroom. Having seen the three brothers happily seated on chairs on the bandstand, she led her honoured guest to the top table to sit at her right hand side. She introduced him to her daughters and they instantly fell under the charm of this eloquent raconteur. He in turn, starved of female company for many a year, twirled his fulsome moustache and made the most of the opportunity.

As they dipped into the first course of roasted cowslip tongues with crispy ants, Queen Filigree mentioned her current problem with the lack of clothing for the rest of the fairies in this much colder climate. The Storyteller listened attentively, and then going slightly against protocol, placed his hand on the forearm of her majesty.

‘I have just the man to help you your majesty and, if you will permit me, I shall make arrangements for him to call tomorrow with his staff of tailors. You will find no better person in the whole of the Emerald Island when it comes to creating attractive but robust clothing for both his elite customers and those who might have less to spend on a suit.’

With that little problem out of the way, the evening proceeded, and in the fashion of those who inhabit the Emerald Island, the Storyteller insisted that every courtier stand up and deliver a piece of verse, a song or a comical anecdote. This indeed was a strange custom, but as the amber nectar flowed, and the courses continued to tickle the palate, each of the queen’s inner circle stood up and delivered their party piece. There was much laughter and good natured ribbing of the participants and Queen Filigree became a little concerned as her own turn rapidly approached.

She stood up from the table and the rowdy crowd immediately went silent. She indicated their special guest and smiled to her audience. ‘Far be it for me to steal just one more moment of anticipation of our honoured guest’s own contribution.’ Pausing for effect she touched the shoulder of her companion. ‘Without further ado, I give you the fabled Storyteller, who I know is going to delight us all with one of his own stories.’

With a flourish of her hand she sat down and applauded as the Storyteller took to his feet.
He stood a little unsteadily for a moment as he adjusted to the amount of amber nectar he had imbibed, and then smiled at his audience.

‘Stop me if you have heard this one before!…’

The following day the Queen was partaking of a long soak in her rose-water scented bath, recovering from the night before. Her head seemed to be ringing in time with the dandelion clocks outside the entrance to the palace; reminding her that she must get her bell master to prevail upon them to only ring between the hours of nine in the morning and ten at night. But, overall she was very happy with her new palace and the surrounding gardens and forest were delightfully green. Since their arrival a week ago there had been an unseasonal dry period, but the local weather expert that had been provided by the Storyteller, warned that a wet front was coming in.

She rang a bluebell by the side of the bath, and her lady of the bath chamber, Brianna, popped in immediately with two large fluffy cottontail drying mitts they had managed to push into the last cases as they fled Spain. They were spun from the moulted underfur of specially bred rabbits, and were soft and absorbent. This reminded her majesty that she needed to start a new breeding programme with the male and female that had been sent ahead with the pigeons. She smiled to herself knowingly, as she surmised that the project might already be well underway.

Dried, dressed for the day and fortified with a glass of beetroot and fennel juice, Queen Filigree glided down to her state room to consult her advisors on the various plans in place to ensure their well-being in this new land. She walked in to find a fashion show in progress, and was taken aback by the lack of ceremony that accompanied her entrance. The cause for this kerfuffle was a little man in a black and green velvet jacket with a tape measure in one hand, and a cushion of gold pins in the other.

‘My dears, that is not the way to walk when wearing knickerbockers. Please stand up straight, knees parallel and toes pointing forward’. With that, the tiny man demonstrated the correct pace and posture to best show off the tweed trousers being modelled by half of the royal council.

Queen Filigree was not used to being ignored and clapped her hands to get the attention of the mannequins.

She regarded the startled faces that turned towards her, and was gratified to see that her chancellor had the grace to look embarrassed. Her advisors all rushed forward bowing and opening a path way to the throne, and the now mollified queen passed gracefully through.

Having seated herself she gestured to the little man and his tape measure to come forward.

‘And who, my fine man, would you be?’ she asked imperiously.

With an elegant bow, and a perfectly extended stockinged leg, the little man made his obeisance to the queen. He rose to stand in front of her with a delighted smile on his round and pink cheeked face.

‘Your Highnessnessness,’ He approached to the steps of the dais. ‘I am the Dapperman, and I have been sent by the Storyteller, with my assistants, to provide your court with the clothing that they will require for our unpredictable and unusually damp weather.’

He ushered forth his three assistants who in turn bent their knees to her majesty, and he introduced them as Leuan, Zane and Freddie. Over their arms they carried piles of brightly coloured clothing of all types, trousers, skirts and dresses with wonderfully tailored tweed jackets and coats.

‘You are welcome Dapperman, as are your assistants.’ Queen Filigree settled down and looked around the room before leaning forward to whisper ‘I am afraid, we do at this moment have limited resources, as our honeycomb banks are depleted until the hive can be rejuvenated by your spring flowers.’

The small man leant forward as far as protocol allowed and whispered back to her. ‘Your majesty, the Storyteller has covered all of this season’s clothes as a welcome gift to your court, and only asks that he be invited to more of your stupendous parties.’

Very relieved that the honey stores would not be depleted any further, the queen signalled for the fashion show to resume, and to summon all the servants that they might also be suitably attired. With a lively jig supplied by her borrowed trio of musicians, the O’Reilly Boys, the next few hours passed in a wonderful blaze of colour and style. Even the Queen retreated behind some discreetly placed shell screens to change into some very fetching tweed wear.

By the end of the day, all the residents of the kingdom, from the chief advisors to the lowliest kitchen maid, had been measured for a wardrobe of warm clothes, some more fashionable than others, but without exception, everyone would now own a pair of waterproof boots and a cape that would cover them from head to toe on rainy days.

The Dapperman appreciated that this was a rush job. He sent his assistants post haste back to his factory on the edge of the forest where a team of experienced seamstresses would whip up the unusually large order, working day and night. Their boss was a generous man and with a hefty advance from the storyteller in his pocket, he ordered Zane to order in some bottles of homemade ginger beer and some brack, the fruit loaf favoured in this neck of the woods.

With her court now due to receive their changes of clothing within a few days, her majesty requested the presence of the Dapperman in her private chambers to look over her diminished wardrobe, and of her daughters, that had been brought from Spain. Aware of the need for respect when measuring his royal patrons, the Dapperman requested that Lady Ellie hold the tape measure under his direction. In all honesty he was quite taken with this exotic creature with jet black hair and a slightly haughty air about her. Her eyes were the deepest green and he had to shake himself to come back to the task in hand.

Queen Filigree and the two princesses sat around a table and consulted the design on display and the swatches of silk and satin. The colours were slightly more muted than those that they were used to in the bright light of Spain, but they were delighted with the vibrancy of the imported silks from the orient. Many hours passed and the Dapperman held court as he sipped amber nectar and nibbled on buttered oatcakes. Seldom had he enjoyed such illustrious clients and he was going to enjoy throwing all his creativity and skill at the project.

As he left, many hours later, he did a little jig and flung his topper into the air. In his pocket was a small but beautifully formed ruby. The queen had been very grateful for the generosity of the Storyteller to her court, but wanted to bear the cost of her finery herself.

There would be something left over, after the new wardrobes had been designed and created, for some beautiful matching shoes for her majesty made from the imported cast-off skin of the slow worm. As the Dapperman skipped through the meadow, towards his factory, he also thought about the emerald linen that was left over from an order last spring that would match the eyes of the exotic Miss Ellie. A gift perhaps, in return for her services this evening, and perhaps it might lead to a thawing of her imperious nature.

©Sally Cronin 2018

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

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

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Feb 22, 2021 Alex Craigie rated it five stars it was amazing
Until the pandemic struck, I only read full-length novels. I thought that short stories might be shallow and unsatisfying in comparison. When we went into lockdown, here was my chance to get on with some meaty reading. But I couldn’t. I’ve been restless and unfocussed and when Sally Cronin’s Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries was recommended to me I decided to give it a go. How wrong I’d been about short stories!
I loved this book. The sub heading of Sometimes bitter, Sometimes Sweet is apt as the stories covered a wide range of experiences and each one touched me in different ways. Sally Cronin understands people. Her descriptions of relationships will strike a chord with everyone who reads this collection.
The tone varies, which added to the pleasure for me: wry, humorous, sad, reflective, vengeful, sweet. Some of the characters I positively enjoyed disliking and it was immensely satisfying when they got their comeuppance, others squeezed my heart but I was never left without hope for them.
The plots were neat, too. The first in the book was delightful, very funny but also a touch macabre. Gaffer Tape managed to condense a whole novel of abuse into a few powerful pages with an ending that made me want to cheer. Animals feature in some of these tales and Sally’s love of creatures is evident in the closely observed behaviours and in their impact upon humans. The story about the badly treated guard dog was one of my favourites and left me moved by the innate goodness evident in most people.
Scattered like precious gems throughout the book are exquisite poems. These aren’t rambling sagas; they’re expertly crafted delights that follow strict rules such as the syllabic form of cinquains. The results are stunning in their ability to condense a world of meaning into a few considered words.
I’m a convert now and will be looking out for more collections of short stories by this amazing author.

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

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

Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden – Winter: Chapter Four – The Flight to the New Land – Sally Cronin


As I am going to be in full on writing mode for the next couple of months and it is a over two years since I last shared Tales from the Irish Garden.. I thought I would it bring it out of mothballs for those of you who might have missed the first time around..

Last Sunday The pigeon messengers returned from The Emerald Isle with an offer of a new home for the royal court in the magic garden of The Storyteller…time is running out and now the court has to move, lock, stock and barrel…

Winter: Chapter Four – The Flight to the New Land

Back at the Palace it was pandemonium, with fairies flying around in a discordant symphony of gossamer wings. Finally, after a day of panic, Queen Filigree ordered her advisors to bring all the members of the court to the ballroom so that she could address them. She also summoned Jacamo the pigeon master, the Queen Bee from the royal hives and Sir Gregory’s chief butterfly messenger; all of whom were essential to the planning of this massive migration to the new land.

‘I want you all to sit down on the chairs provided and close your eyes for a few moments to compose yourselves.’ Queen Filigree looked around the ballroom to make sure all complied with her order. When all the fairies were sitting calmly, she took a deep breath herself, and then issued the following edict.

‘Unfortunately we cannot pack all that we have collected in the last 700 years, and we also cannot transport many of our stone guardians that have guarded our secrets so well.’ The queen heard one or two gasps and ran her eyes over the crowded chamber until she spotted several of her courtiers with their eyes open in dismay.

‘Fairy Nikisha, close your eyes this instant and pay attention.’ Immediately she saw the little blonde fairy’s eyes snap shut again.

Satisfied that she had everyone’s attention she continued. ‘Those guardians that we cannot carry by swan, will be transported north for safety to Prince Zachary’s palace, where one day he will be king. He lives in a safe haven that is protected land, and they will be welcomed there. I charge them with caring for my beloved son and his family for their lifetime.’

Those listening heard the break in their beloved queen’s voice, as she shared this news of their revered guardians. ‘It is with much sadness that I lose their loyalty and wisdom, but we will be taking with us the eagles, who have been our guardians since Roman times, and the Princess Lucinda who came to us from my mother’s kingdom in Anglo.’

Tears were in the queen’s eyes as she took a moment to calm herself. She knew that she had done the best she could for her beloved guardians, and she smiled wryly at the thought that she would even miss that wretched Stoned Band.

‘Now, all of you are to take one silk bag from the corner, and that will be sufficient for some clothes, toiletries, personal mementos, and a honey drink and blueberry muffin for the trip. The Swan Express will be supplying us with Canadian Geese to carry the passengers, and Swan Cobs for the household items such as furniture, linen and gold.’

Queen Filigree clapped her hands. ‘Now, open your eyes all of you, and has anyone got any questions?’

Immediately the Queen Bee lifted one of her furry feet and waved it in the air and began to buzz her question.

‘Your majesty, what about my subjects, and the stores of beeswax and honey, how are they to be transported?’

‘Thank you for asking Queen Bee. You and your hive will be transported in special honey baskets that will be provided by Swan Express. They will be strapped to their most experienced employees, and will leave in two days.’ Satisfied with the solution, the bee queen left to supervise her minions.

The next three days passed in a much more orderly fashion, with treasures taken up from the roots of the magnolia, to waiting swans with capacious saddle bags that were filled to the brim. When they left fully loaded, they also carried a senior courtier, who would organise the unpacking and furnishing of the new palace on the Emerald Island.

With only a day to spare, Jacamo and the queen, released all the non-nesting pigeons into the warm spring air to make their own way. A message had already been sent to the Storyteller who had built a dovecote in the branches of the magnolia tree in preparation for their arrival, and within three days, they were all safely roosting and exploring their new surroundings.

On the last day, a line of Canadian Geese lined up on the grass, as a queue of nervous fairies, clasping silk bags with their treasured possessions, waited to fly up to take their seat along the bird’s broad back. Each was tied on with a thread of spider’s silk and a humming- bird moth moved between them checking they were strapped in and comfortable.

The last goose in the line was reserved for Queen Filigree and her two daughters, with considerably more bags of belongings than those flying in economy. But, as a queen it was important that she meet her new guardian, the Storyteller suitably attired.

With everything loaded, she turned for one last look at the garden that had been her home and kingdom for 700 years, following her arrival as a young bride to the handsome prince.

He was now long banished to the human world for his dishonourable behaviour. However, she had many happy memories of her life here, and she would so miss her guardians in the garden, now departed for her son’s palace. She looked up at the branches at the broad green leaves of the magnolia, and saw the tears that had formed on the tips dripping onto the ground. Her own eyes overflowed and she wiped them away with sorrow.

With a deep sigh she flew up to the broad back of the goose where her throne was tied down with spider silk, ready to receive her royal behind. A humming-bird moth brought her a glass of amber nectar, and a packet of honeycomb mixed with ginger in case she felt airsick during the flight. After thanking the flight attendant, the Queen checked that her two daughters were safely seated behind her, and waved her wand in the air to signal that the goose could take to the air.

The goose did a circuit of the now empty magic garden to check that no fairy had been left behind. With a final wave Queen Filigree said her farewell and settled down for the long flight to her new home.

Two days later, with the aid of a tail wind, the goose carrying Queen Filigree and her daughters, arrived in the garden of the Storyteller. As the now weary bird circled to land, the queen looked down at the greenest garden and woods that she had ever seen. She was used to her garden in Spain, remaining much of the year brown and arid, going months without rain. Even in the winter just past, with little snow, the grass had barely recovered and some of the bushes and shrubs had failed to come to life again in the spring.

This was a very good start, and hope flared in her heart again, as she saw lines of geese on the ground close to the magnolia tree that was to be her new kingdom. It seemed that all had arrived safely, as had the swans now pecking at corn and seed that had been strewn across the emerald grass for the hungry birds by the Storyteller.

He was standing waiting by a small strip of red carpet, dressed in his best suit and with a freshly shaved face. As the queen flew down from the back of the goose onto the carpet, the human shrank down in size and stepped out to meet her.

‘Your majesty,’ the smartly dressed man greeted her warmly. ‘It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to your new kingdom beneath the magnolia, where all your belongings are now safely installed. He waved his hand in the direction of the tree, as her excited subjects and courtiers spilled from the roots, rushing towards their queen in joy. She held out her arms and hugged each one with thanks for their safe delivery, and then turned to their new guardian.

‘Thank you Storyteller for your kind hospitality, and I hope that you will join us in a few days, once we are settled, for a banquet of celebration and in your honour.’ The old man smiled in delight and offered to show the palace chef his extensive kitchen garden, and also the herbs available in his neighbour Summer’s garden.

With the greeting ceremony over, Queen Filigree and her daughters were escorted into her new Palace where she found that her courtiers had been busy overnight preparing the chambers. She asked to see the Queen Bee to make sure that she was satisfied with her new quarters, as they were dependent on the honey for so many of their needs. Happily there was a satisfied and a productive hum coming from the roof of the palace, which had access to the garden and the wonderful array of flowers and greenery surrounding their beautiful new home.

After a simple supper prepared by Chef Marcelle, the queen wandered through the passages and caverns that had been another royal palace many moons ago. She admitted to herself that her predecessors had certainly had great taste, and she loved the throne room with its turquoise lacquered walls and drapes of the most vibrant pink. The throne was covered in a woven cloth that combined the two colours, and as she sat and rested her arms on the carved wood armrests, she gave a sigh of relief.

Her imagination had been running riot for the last few weeks, conjuring up every kind of disaster. She slipped from the throne room and down the corridor to her bedchamber, pushing open the door to find a warm glow coming from a roaring fire in a beautifully decorated granite fireplace. Lady Ellie came forward with one of the royal silk nightgowns over her arm, and gently led her over to the separate dressing room to remove her travel crumpled clothing. Before she placed the featherlight nightgown over her majesty’s head, Lady Ellie gently washed her body with a soft natural sea sponge dipped in warm water. Filled with minerals, not only was the dirt removed but the queen’s body was infused with nutrients to aid restful sleep.

Within moments of her head hitting the silk pillows, gentle snores could be heard and Lady Ellie quietly let herself out of the door and into the corridor. The palace was silent as the courtiers and servants slept soundly, content with their new home. All that could be heard was the gentle buzzing from the beehives in the roof and cooing of the messenger birds.

©Sally Cronin 2018

I hope you have enjoyed and will join me tomorrow as the court settles in to their new home in the magic garden.

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

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Feb 22, 2021 Alex Craigie rated it five stars it was amazing
Until the pandemic struck, I only read full-length novels. I thought that short stories might be shallow and unsatisfying in comparison. When we went into lockdown, here was my chance to get on with some meaty reading. But I couldn’t. I’ve been restless and unfocussed and when Sally Cronin’s Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries was recommended to me I decided to give it a go. How wrong I’d been about short stories!
I loved this book. The sub heading of Sometimes bitter, Sometimes Sweet is apt as the stories covered a wide range of experiences and each one touched me in different ways. Sally Cronin understands people. Her descriptions of relationships will strike a chord with everyone who reads this collection.
The tone varies, which added to the pleasure for me: wry, humorous, sad, reflective, vengeful, sweet. Some of the characters I positively enjoyed disliking and it was immensely satisfying when they got their comeuppance, others squeezed my heart but I was never left without hope for them.
The plots were neat, too. The first in the book was delightful, very funny but also a touch macabre. Gaffer Tape managed to condense a whole novel of abuse into a few powerful pages with an ending that made me want to cheer. Animals feature in some of these tales and Sally’s love of creatures is evident in the closely observed behaviours and in their impact upon humans. The story about the badly treated guard dog was one of my favourites and left me moved by the innate goodness evident in most people.
Scattered like precious gems throughout the book are exquisite poems. These aren’t rambling sagas; they’re expertly crafted delights that follow strict rules such as the syllabic form of cinquains. The results are stunning in their ability to condense a world of meaning into a few considered words.
I’m a convert now and will be looking out for more collections of short stories by this amazing author.

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

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

 

Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden – Winter: Chapter Three – A Place of Sanctuary by Sally Cronin


As I am going to be in full on writing mode for the next couple of months and it is a over two years since I last shared Tales from the Irish Garden.. I thought I would it bring it out of mothballs for those of you who might have missed the first time around..

Yesterday Queen Filigree sent out New Year’s greetings by feathered messengers to family and friends to try and find a place of safety for the court. These are stories for ages 10 to 100+

Winter: A Place of Sanctuary

The magic garden was bordered by ancient forests, and during the frozen years the surrounding farms and villagers had been protected by the cloud of pollen produced by the trees, in response to the threat from the Winter Fairy. Life had gone on as it had for centuries, but it was with great relief for all who lived around the woods, that there was now a warm breath of spring in the air.

Most of the old-timers knew the Storyteller, and had been grateful for his intervention over the years during times of hardship. He was a kind old man and despite suffering tragedies of his own, he had never turned down a request for help. When news arrived of the lifting of the curse, villagers packed up baskets of food and fruit, taking the paths through the forest to welcome him back from his imprisonment.

To the south of the forest that bordered the Storyteller’s garden, was a cottage on a small plot of land with a pretty flower borders and vegetable patch. A widow and her children had returned to her family home last year when her father had passed on. The mother was a healer, growing many herbs that she made into essences, and sold to the villagers who would come to her door. The village was too remote to have its own doctor, and she was welcomed home from the city with her children with open arms. Along with her healing gifts, the mother, whose name was Summer, was also of royal fairy blood. Many hundreds of years ago there had been a love affair between a farmer’s daughter and a fairy king who had fallen for her red-haired beauty. Although through the years, that magical connection had been diluted, it was still powerful enough to give Summer the ability to work with nature, and understand the language of animals. She was not sure if this gift had passed to any of her three children, but she had a feeling she was just about to find out.

Summer looked out across her vibrantly coloured spring garden and smiled in satisfaction at the vivid green patch of herbs. She searched for her two sons and daughter; catching sight of them standing by the door to the garden shed, and wondered what they were looking at.

The three young observers peered into the dim depths of the shed, and the eldest, who was no longer a child, but a young man, placed a protective arm across the shoulders of his younger brother and sister. They had come to collect wood for the stove in their living-room, and having opened the door, had been startled by the sight before them.

After a moment or two Alexander realised that their visitor was not going to bring harm to Jonathan and Savannah, and the three of them quietly eased into the gloom.

Gently they moved towards their guest who looked at them with weary and bewildered eyes. As they drew closer, Savannah suddenly smiled and reached out her hand to the bedraggled speckled bird with his winged legs. Without hesitation the pigeon hopped from his perch on a wooden coat peg, and sat cupped in the young girl’s hands. Just then there was a rustling noise in the corner of the floor, and as their eyes became accustomed to the poor light, they saw two more black-and-white birds huddled together on top of an old basket of logs.

At first, Alexander wondered how the birds had managed to get into the shed, but then noticed that the small window had been blown open by the recent high winds. Luckily for these weary travellers; who would have surely died if they had not found this small sanctuary.

Jonathan ran inside to find his mother whilst his brother and sister waited with the weary visitors.

Alexander watched as Savannah raised the black and white speckled bird towards her face; it seemed to be whispering a message in his young sister’s ear. A few minutes later their brother returned with their intrigued mother, a shallow dish of fresh water and some bird seed that was put out every day for their own garden birds. The three pigeons clustered around the welcome food and water, and the family backed away leaving the birds to their meal.

As they sat around their kitchen table with mugs of hot chocolate and cookies, Alexander asked Savannah if the bird had really been talking to her, and if so what had it said.

The young girl’s eyes lit up and she beamed at her mother and brothers. ‘He told me that they are fairy messengers sent from a Spanish queen, and were blown off course by the storm. A rescue party will be sent out to guide them home, and we must look out for a butterfly that will be searching for them.’ Savannah who had always believed in fairies and magic, wriggled in her seat in excitement. ‘The pigeon said that he could tell that I would understand him as I was clearly very special.’

Summer smiled at her youngest child and was delighted to know that her gifts had been passed onto her lovely red-haired daughter.

Throughout the next day, the new young guardians of the magic pigeons, checked on their well-being several times. Within hours the birds looked stronger, and even came out on the roof of the shed to sit in the winter sunshine and fresh Irish air.

In the late afternoon, Jonathan came rushing into the kitchen waving his arms and twirling in excitement. ‘It’s here, it’s here,’ he shouted in delight. The whole family rushed out of the back door and sure enough, perched on the wall of the garage was a brightly coloured butterfly.

Savannah stood beneath the creature and stared up into its eyes. It fluttered its wings in understanding, and as the three children walked away across to the garden shed it followed gracefully in their wake.

Respectfully the family stood back as the butterfly entered the shed, and after a few minutes they returned to the warmth of the kitchen to observe through the window. The pigeons flew out of the shelter and perched on the garden wall next to the house. One of the birds fluttered onto the wooden gate and stared into the kitchen; nodding his head several times. The two brothers looked at their sister who smiled happily.

‘He says that the butterfly will guide them home now that the winds have dropped, and they will be home safely in two days,’ Savannah cocked her head to one side as she absorbed more of the bird’s message.

‘Our home is now protected by fairy magic and we are officially appointed as a Royal Pigeon guest house to be used on long journeys across this part of the world.’

She turned to her mother who stood watching this interaction with delight. ‘Mother, the pigeon says that he is breaking protocol,’ she shook her head at the word, but her mother nodded in understanding.

‘He is carrying an important message from his queen, but we would not understand the fairy writing so he has to break his bond and utter the words. His queen and her court are in danger, and she is looking for a new home, and he wondered if we might know of a safe place where she could bring her court to live?’

Her mother thought for a few minutes and then smiled. She nodded her head and beckoned the children to follow her to the end of the garden and through a gate that suddenly appeared in the hedge. The children stared at their mother, but she just laughed and told them to follow her along the path through the forest. High above them the canopy of trees sparkled as the spring sunlight filtered through them to light their way. The three pigeons and the butterfly flew from branch to branch as they watched their new friends walk swiftly through the trees, until they entered the brightness of the day again.

The pigeons and the special envoy lined up on a branch of an old oak tree and stared in wonder at the emerald jewel before them. Hedges of brilliance surrounded a garden full of bushes, budding with gems of purple and rose. There was a fountain in the middle of a lush and wild field, gushing sweet water that flowed over its brim and onto snowdrops and bluebells surrounding its base. Fruit trees gathered in an abundance of blossom to the side of a stone cottage, standing proud in the middle of the land.

But the queen’s messenger’s eyes settled on the most wondrous sight of all. A tall and ancient magnolia tree grew by the side of the house, with large pink buds just waiting to burst into beautiful blossoms. It was a fairy tree, and the pigeons knew that beneath its strong trunk, lay a wonder of roots that arched into chambers fit for a queen. Summer and her children walked hand in hand across the lush grass towards the house, and as they did so, the back door opened, and the Storyteller emerged to greet them. The pigeons and butterfly followed and perched on a limb of the magnolia, observing the humans as they talked. The Storyteller approached and looked up at them and immediately spoke to them in their own language.

‘You are welcome to my land which has been released from the curse of the Winter Fairy. There once lived a mighty Fairy King and his court in the palace beneath this tree, but he left for warmer climes 100 years ago. Please convey my best wishes to your queen, and tell her that she is free to come and share this garden with me for all time. I am the guardian of the land and will remain so for many hundreds of years to come.’

The pigeons and their companion fluttered down to the Storyteller’s outstretched hands, sitting there for a moment or two, absorbing his essence. Finally satisfied, the butterfly flew away, followed by the birds who circled the house several times, imprinting the location before winging their way back to Spain with this wonderful news.

Two days later a very happy Jacamo carried a wicker basket down from the garden to the pigeon loft where he and Queen Filigree fussed over their beloved birds. They listened to the story of their adventure, and learned about the three special rescuers, and the offer of a new home in the Emerald Island. At first the queen was a little bit doubtful, since it had been the home of their arch enemy the Winter Fairy. However, she had heard from one of the southern realms that he was now grounded for all eternity in a sand covered desert and no longer a threat.

She called a special meeting of the council, and plans were drawn up to move the contents of the palace, and as many of the guardians from the garden, to their new home as quickly as possible. The deadline for the new owner to begin the destruction of the house was only a week away and there was no time to waste.

A few days later as the children played in their overgrown garden in the Emerald Island, one of their new black and white feathered friends arrived, carrying a personal note of thanks, written on gossamer silk paper and infused with magic so that they could read it. They dashed inside to their mother as she prepared their evening meal, excitedly relating the news that the royal court of Magia was on its way by swan express and would be here in the next two days.

Summer and the children hurriedly made their way through the forest to inform the Storyteller of the imminent arrival of the Spanish court, and to help prepare the palace for its new occupants.

©Sally Cronin 2018…

I hope you have enjoyed and will join me next week as the Spanish court packs up their treasures and mounts the evacuation of their home.

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

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Feb 22, 2021 Alex Craigie rated it five stars it was amazing
Until the pandemic struck, I only read full-length novels. I thought that short stories might be shallow and unsatisfying in comparison. When we went into lockdown, here was my chance to get on with some meaty reading. But I couldn’t. I’ve been restless and unfocussed and when Sally Cronin’s Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries was recommended to me I decided to give it a go. How wrong I’d been about short stories!
I loved this book. The sub heading of Sometimes bitter, Sometimes Sweet is apt as the stories covered a wide range of experiences and each one touched me in different ways. Sally Cronin understands people. Her descriptions of relationships will strike a chord with everyone who reads this collection.
The tone varies, which added to the pleasure for me: wry, humorous, sad, reflective, vengeful, sweet. Some of the characters I positively enjoyed disliking and it was immensely satisfying when they got their comeuppance, others squeezed my heart but I was never left without hope for them.
The plots were neat, too. The first in the book was delightful, very funny but also a touch macabre. Gaffer Tape managed to condense a whole novel of abuse into a few powerful pages with an ending that made me want to cheer. Animals feature in some of these tales and Sally’s love of creatures is evident in the closely observed behaviours and in their impact upon humans. The story about the badly treated guard dog was one of my favourites and left me moved by the innate goodness evident in most people.
Scattered like precious gems throughout the book are exquisite poems. These aren’t rambling sagas; they’re expertly crafted delights that follow strict rules such as the syllabic form of cinquains. The results are stunning in their ability to condense a world of meaning into a few considered words.
I’m a convert now and will be looking out for more collections of short stories by this amazing author.

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

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

Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden – Winter: The Messengers of Peace and Desperation and The Storyteller by Sally Cronin


As I am going to be in full on writing mode for the next couple of months and it is a over two years since I last shared Tales from the Irish Garden.. I thought I would it bring it out of mothballs for those of you who might have missed the first time around..

Last Sunday Queen Filigree and the occupants of the magic garden celebrate their final Christmas before having to vacate the home they have shared for hundreds of years… what will happen next is in the hands of destiny and some feathered messengers. These are stories for ages 10 to 100+

Winter: The Messengers of Peace and Desperation and The Storyteller

Queen Filigree did not send out Christmas cards; her festive wishes were carried on the winter winds that sweep across the continent, dropped off at other fairy realms with kisses of snow. However, the queen believes that the New Year has very much more importance for her subjects and those of the world, always sending out her special winged messengers of peace two days after Christmas. This year her beautiful birds would carry more than New Year greetings, as they would also carry a request for any information about a possible new site for the palace. Since they would be sent to the four corners of the world, somewhere, surely there would be a place for Queen Filigree and her court to live in safety.

The royal pigeons had been lovingly reared over centuries, and all have their own fairy powers. In addition, they have extra wings of magic feathers attached to their legs, enabling them to fly higher and faster than normal birds. They come in two colours, pure white and with black and white speckled feathers; all are bright eyed and clever.

After the over indulgence and exuberance of the Christmas feasts, it had been a pleasure for Queen Filigree to remain quietly in her chambers within the palace beneath the magnolia tree.

She would sit in front of a roaring fire, composing her messages of peace and prosperity, to other fairy heads of state and their subjects. Her elegant handwriting was invisible to human eyes; so small in size that the messages were easily contained on a tiny piece of onion paper. This was then rolled into a silver cylinder, and taken by her chamberlain to the pigeon loft in the roof of the palace. Little had she known that this year her message would contain such desperate news and entreaties for assistance.

In the pigeon loft was an old hump-backed fairy called Jacamo, whose task would be to gently lift the most trusted of the pigeons from their nests, inserting the cylinders into spider’s thread silken pouches on their long legs. Usually there were twelve messages being sent to Queen Filigree’s royal relatives, and also to special humans who had done great service to the kingdom over its very long history. This year, Jacamo was surprised to be asked to prepare all fifty of the royal birds who were not nesting, to go on a special mission.

The queen walked up the winding staircase that led from the palace, through the roots of the magnolia tree, and out into the cold but sunny winter morning. Jacamo was there with the pigeons in wicker baskets awaiting the royal command to release their precious contents.

The queen loved her birds and decided that this year, with so much at stake; she would launch them into the sky herself. She opened each basket, gently picking up the pigeon within; kissing the top of its head, before raising her arms and throwing it into the air. The fifty birds circled their home for a few minutes; took their last look at their home and beloved queen, then flew away towards their individual destinations.

Five days later, Jacamo waited anxiously under the shelter of the magnolia, as wicked winter winds buffeted the branches and leaves above him. At his feet were forty-seven baskets containing the birds that had returned home safely, carrying responses to the New Year greetings sent by their queen, and the special request for sanctuary that had been included.

Three birds were late, and the pigeon master was very worried that they had been swept away by the violent storm raging across Europe and now right above his grey head.

Another day passed, and it was with a sad heart, the old fairy asked for an audience with Queen Filigree, to pass on the bad news that three of her winged messengers were lost. He found her sat on her throne, looking pale and exhausted. At her feet were the gossamer paper responses that had been returned by the forty-seven messenger birds. They expressed sorrow at the troubles that had beset the queen and her kingdom, but regretted that all of them were under similar pressure, and had no hope to offer.

After the storm had subsided and the winter sunshine had returned a day later, the queen decreed that every effort must be made to find her beloved birds as they were the last hope for their salvation. She consulted with her head guardian Sir Gregory, who was also her chief of communications. The shaggy lion had a network of messengers including a fleet of magic butterflies that could travel at the speed of light and communicate in many languages.

After a lengthy consultation with the guardian and her resident weather expert, a pixie named Vortex, it was determined that the birds in question, who had been headed to northern Europe, must have been blown off course towards The Emerald Island. This information was relayed to the waiting butterflies gently flexing their wings in the winter sunshine. Vortex reached over their colourful backs and sprinkled them with fairy dust, before despatching the fleet towards the previous home of the Winter Fairy.

Meanwhile, in a snowy garden on the eastern coast around this small jewel of an island, nature was coming to life again after being frozen for several years. The Winter Fairy’s grip on this magical place, circled by an ancient forest, had ended the moment he had left to conquer the southlands.

Now, with his exile to the arid wastes of far distant desert, the small shoots of spring pushed through the remaining snow and ice to reclaim their world. Trees in the garden rustled as the icicles dropped from their branches and soft velvet buds exploded overnight across their barren skeletons.

It was not only the land and hedgerows that stirred, as the house in the middle of the grassland also began to disrobe from ice and accumulated snow. The windows that had sparkled with crystallised patterns became clear, and water dripped from guttering long clogged with ice.

Inside the awakening mansion, the Storyteller slowly awoke from his slumber, and as his eyes opened, he took a moment to gather his scattered thoughts. The last thing he remembered was that vicious little Winter Fairy shouting at him, with a curse that would freeze him for all eternity, for not permitting him to set up his kingdom in his garden.

The Storyteller had laughed and walked away, but within hours, first his hands and then his feet became very cold and he could no longer stand. He had sat in his old rocking chair and tried to warm his hands on the dying fire in the grate. But the ice filled his veins until his brain had stopped working and he was left staring sightlessly into the future.

Now the warmth continued to flow through his body and after several hours of agonising pins and needles, the Storyteller could stand and move through his home. There was no dust or other indications of how long he had been in his frozen sleep, but as he looked out through his kitchen window, he could see that the land was bursting with the life of spring.

He would go and walk through his beloved gardens and vegetable patch later to check on its condition, but as his stomach rumbled, he realised he needed to check his larder for dried onions and mushrooms for some tasty soup for lunch.

©Sally Cronin 2018…

I hope you have enjoyed and tomorrow, after a long flight the messengers arrive in the Emerald Isles and find a possible new home for the royal court.

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

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Feb 22, 2021 Alex Craigie rated it five stars it was amazing
Until the pandemic struck, I only read full-length novels. I thought that short stories might be shallow and unsatisfying in comparison. When we went into lockdown, here was my chance to get on with some meaty reading. But I couldn’t. I’ve been restless and unfocussed and when Sally Cronin’s Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries was recommended to me I decided to give it a go. How wrong I’d been about short stories!
I loved this book. The sub heading of Sometimes bitter, Sometimes Sweet is apt as the stories covered a wide range of experiences and each one touched me in different ways. Sally Cronin understands people. Her descriptions of relationships will strike a chord with everyone who reads this collection.
The tone varies, which added to the pleasure for me: wry, humorous, sad, reflective, vengeful, sweet. Some of the characters I positively enjoyed disliking and it was immensely satisfying when they got their comeuppance, others squeezed my heart but I was never left without hope for them.
The plots were neat, too. The first in the book was delightful, very funny but also a touch macabre. Gaffer Tape managed to condense a whole novel of abuse into a few powerful pages with an ending that made me want to cheer. Animals feature in some of these tales and Sally’s love of creatures is evident in the closely observed behaviours and in their impact upon humans. The story about the badly treated guard dog was one of my favourites and left me moved by the innate goodness evident in most people.
Scattered like precious gems throughout the book are exquisite poems. These aren’t rambling sagas; they’re expertly crafted delights that follow strict rules such as the syllabic form of cinquains. The results are stunning in their ability to condense a world of meaning into a few considered words.
I’m a convert now and will be looking out for more collections of short stories by this amazing author.

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

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

Smorgasbord Stories – A return to Tales from the Irish Garden – Winter: Christmas Under the Magnolia Tree by Sally Cronin


As I am going to be in full on writing mode for the next couple of months and it is a over two years since I last shared Tales from the Irish Garden.. I thought I would it bring it out of mothballs for those of you who might have missed the first time around..

Yesterday we left Queen Filigree, and her magic kingdom of Magia, recovering from an attack from the Winter Fairy who had threatened to disrupt the final summer ball of the year. Although the danger has passed an even more perilous situation is developing. These are stories for ages 10 to 100+

Winter: Christmas Under the Magnolia Tree

By December, high in the mountains, the rain fell as snow and lay deep on the ground in the magic garden. Christmas was just two days away and beneath the roots of the old magnolia tree preparations were well in hand. The bees, that had been forced to hibernate in the special honey-chamber when the Winter Fairy brought early snow; hummed festively in the background.

Queen Filigree was very excited, not just because she adored Christmas, but because her favourite son, Prince Zachary, was coming home for the holidays. He had married a princess who lived in the gardens of a Royal Palace many miles to the north and she had not seen him for many years. They were due to arrive tomorrow and the ladies of the chamber were bustling around in the guest apartments, preparing the beds for the visiting royalty and their two young children. All the activity and noise were giving her majesty a headache. She wrapped herself in a spider-spun silk cloak and popped out to get some peace in her snow- covered kingdom.

She was invisible to humans, but the stone statues, which were the guardians of the garden, could see her and were delighted that she had taken this opportunity to visit them. As Queen Filigree made her rounds; wishing the Stoned Band, Fluffy, Fizzy and the other creatures a Happy Christmas, she caught sight of the old owner of the villa at the edge of the garden. He was wearing a shabby coat and tattered scarf, and his mittens clearly would not keep his shaking hands warm. He was also visibly distressed; tears rolling down his cheeks as he stared off across the valley to the distant mountains, glowering under the dark snow-filled skies.

The Queen was deeply saddened that the man who had taken such care of their sanctuary for so many years should be so unhappy, and intent on finding out the reason, she headed for the font of all knowledge here in the kingdom. Sir Gregory was one of the two head guardians of the magic garden and could be relied on to have the facts to hand.

She perched lightly on the shaggy stone mane and whispered in her knight’s little ear. ‘Your majesty,’ the guardian bowed his head. ‘I have indeed sad news to impart about the
master of the house we protect.’

Tears filled the queen’s eyes at the sadness that had overwhelmed the old man. ‘Did you manage to ascertain the cause of his distress?’

‘It would seem that he has not seen his son and family for many years and they have written and told him that they will be here tomorrow to spend Christmas with him.’

‘Well surely that is joyous news for him, as is my own son’s visit with his family?

‘Apparently, he has little money now, and it all goes on the upkeep of the house and
garden. His needs are few but he has not sufficient money for a tree, decorations, food or
presents for them and he is ashamed.’

The queen shook her gossamer wings beneath the warmth of her spider-thread cape.

‘Well we cannot have that, he has been a wonderful caretaker of our garden,’ she rose in the air and zoomed off back to the magic kingdom beneath the magnolia.

All the courtiers and servants were summoned to the throne room and stood chattering about the urgency with which they had been taken from their duties.

Queen Filigree clapped her hands and the room fell silent.

‘Listen carefully! We have work to do and not much time to accomplish it!’

The next morning the old man rose as usual to light a fire and prepare some simple bread and vegetables for the arrival of his family.

He walked into the cold and sparse living room and a sight awaited him that brought tears to his eyes. The floors and the furniture shone with wax whilst the candles on the chandelier sparkled like diamonds. The sight that took his breath away however was to be found in the corner of the room. There stood the most beautiful Christmas tree with lights that sparkled; with many gifts at its base with gold and silver wrappings.

Unable to believe his eyes, and fearing that he had passed into heaven overnight, the old man wandered the rooms of the house. Every room sparkled and new bedclothes adorned the guest bedrooms. The kitchen tables were laden with festive foods of every kind, including several bottles of his favourite honey mead wine.

As he stared in wonder at the transformation of his humble home, he heard the large brass bell at his gate chime, and with a sprightly step he rushed to open the front door. Standing outside in the wintery sunshine, stood his son and family beaming with delight at the sight of him; bearing hampers of food and brightly wrapped gifts. Within moments he was wrapped in their loving embrace.

Many hours later, Queen Filigree sat with her own son Prince Zachary as they watched through their magic portal into the house above them. The old man was sitting contentedly by his fireplace, sipping from time to time from a glass of the finest brandy.

From now on her majesty would keep a better eye on the old man. He had served them well, and deserved every bit of magic that had been woven about him this last night and day. She looked across as her son and saw that he wore a troubled expression.

‘Whatever is the matter Zachary, you look like you’ve seen a ghost?’ She laid her hand on her son’s blue velvet sleeve.

‘Mother, I have had some bad news, and I wanted to wait until after today’s festivities to tell you.’ He paused, closing his eyes as if to put off delivering this devastating announcement for a few minutes longer.

Queen Filigree waited patiently as she could see this was clearly painful for her son but coldness settled around her heart.

‘We have discovered from a trusted source within the human world, that this house is to be sold, and the old man to be taken to live with his son and his family. Like all properties that have provided sanctuary for our kingdoms over the millennia, this house was earmarked in the records so that we would have forewarning.’ He looked across at the ashen face of his mother as she covered her mouth with her delicate bejewelled fingers.

‘But surely Zachary, the new owners will not know we are here, and whilst I would be sad to see our old friend leave to live with his family, it should not impact the magic garden.’

‘I am afraid mother that the news was not just about the sale of the house, but also that the new owners have submitted plans to demolish the property and everything within the boundaries. This includes cutting down all the trees, and removing the vegetable and flower gardens to make way for a massive new house.’ He smiled sadly at the queen. ‘That will of course include the magnolia tree and the destruction of your palace.’

With tears pouring down her face, Queen Filigree retired to her chambers where she paced the floor all night. She declined her usual glass of warm nectar from the royal bee chamber, and instead helped herself to a glass of the liqueur made from the poppy petals that sharpened the mind and enabled visions of the future.

The next morning, the queen gathered her two remaining unmarried daughters, Princess Narcissus and Persephone, and her special advisors around her for an emergency summit conference, the first since the threat from the Winter Fairy. This fact was not unnoticed by her faithful and loyal courtiers, and they stood before her with solemn faces. Their concerns were confirmed when their queen delivered the message from Prince Zachary; many taking to the seats in the chamber and reaching for their own glasses of poppy liqueur.

‘We have just a very few weeks to find another location for the palace,’ the queen held her hands upwards in despair. ‘We have been invited to go to the North to live with my son’s family, but it would mean living in the court of his mother-in-law, and I am afraid that this would only make his life more difficult.’ Some of the courtiers stifled their giggles as they had all heard tales of the mad Queen Megan and experienced her rather strange notions. Serious though this situation was, they remembered the last time she had accompanied her daughter and Prince Zachary for a state visit. The Stoned Band had played their usual popular playlist, but Queen Megan, who rather fancied herself as a singer, had decided to accompany them.

To say that her majesty could not carry a tune was putting it mildly, and in fact to this day, Wiffy who played guitar was still too traumatised to play.

Anyway, the courtiers knew that living under the same roof, and being beholden to Queen Megan, was not going to be possible and suddenly all humour was sucked out of the chamber. Where on earth were they going to go? They had been here thousands of years with the present queen now 700 years into her reign with many hundreds of years left of her life. All the kingdoms to the south had been similarly affected by the modern building boom, and as forests and countryside were swallowed up, there was no likelihood of finding a new palace.

Prince Zachary informed them that the old man who lived in the home above them would be leaving at the end of the week, and the new owner was taking possession in three weeks’ time. To move the entire kingdom, and as many of the guardian statues that lived in the garden as possible, they would need to locate a new garden and palace in the next two weeks. An impossible task without some magic to make it happen.

The senior advisors, their queen and Prince Zachary, sat for many hours over the next two days and finally a plan was laid on the table for consideration.

©Sally Cronin 2018…

I hope you have enjoyed and next time…..messengers of peace are sent out in the hopes of finding a new home for Queen Filigree and the court.

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

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Feb 12, 2021 Pamela rated it Five Stars

Short stories have become “the thing” now. Until recently, short stories didn’t receive that much respect, particularly compared to novels. But in the past few years, more readers are appreciating the sharp intake of breath that can be delivered by a well-written short story. And that is exactly what Sally Cronin delivers here in her Bowl of Short Story Cherries. Like life, each story does not end up happy. But neither do they all end up bitter or sour. In fact, Cronin offers her readers a glimpse into “real life” with characters who could be your next store neighbor. Characters who search for love or money or happiness and find it, perhaps, in the least likely places. A few of Cronin’s stories caught me with a tear or two, as well as with a burst of laughter. That’s the kind of stories I like, where the characters’ emotions mirror mine, and we all learn our lessons in unexpected ways

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

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