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


It is over two years since I share the stories from Tales from The Garden that I wrote in tribute to our home in the mountains to the north of Madrid from 1999 to 2016. I went back and forth from Ireland for the first three years as I had my diet advisory clinic here, but finally sold our house, put the dog in the car and ferried and drove across the UK and Europe to live permanently. We inherited a number of statues from the previous owners that were too big to take with them, and I also found some discarded around the garden. Perfect characters for stories, some of whom moved on with us to Ireland and appeared in Tales from the Irish Garden.

Last week as preparations were being made for the last fairy ball of the summer… devastating news arrived from Ireland about the Winter Fairy who was bored and decided to cause mayhem two months earlier than usual.

The Last Summer Ball and the Winter Fairy Part Two

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

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

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

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

‘Bumble, grumble, fumble, crumble’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Garden 2015

Other short story collections

You can find out about all my books and read recent reviews: My books and reviews 2020

It would be great to catch up with you at these sites too.

Twitter: @sgc58
Facebook: Sally Cronin
LinkedIn: Sally Cronin

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed this snippet from Tales from the Garden.. thanks Sally.

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


It is over two years since I share the stories from Tales from The Garden that I wrote in tribute to our home in the mountains to the north of Madrid from 1999 to 2016. I went back and forth from Ireland for the first three years as I had my diet advisory clinic here, but finally sold our house, put the dog in the car and ferried and drove across the UK and Europe to live permanently. We inherited a number of statues from the previous owners that were too big to take with them, and I also found some discarded around the garden. Perfect characters for stories, some of whom moved on with us to Ireland and appeared in Tales from the Irish Garden.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Garden 2015

Other short story collections

You can find out about all my books and read recent reviews: My books and reviews 2020

It would be great to catch up with you at these sites too.

Twitter: @sgc58
Facebook: Sally Cronin
LinkedIn: Sally Cronin

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed this snippet from Tales from the Garden.. thanks Sally.

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


It is over two years since I share the stories from Tales from The Garden that I wrote in tribute to our home in the mountains to the north of Madrid from 1999 to 2016. I went back and forth from Ireland for the first three years as I had my diet advisory clinic here, but finally sold our house, put the dog in the car and ferried and drove across the UK and Europe to live permanently. We inherited a number of statues from the previous owners that were too big to take with them, and I also found some discarded around the garden. Perfect characters for stories, some of whom moved on with us to Ireland and appeared in Tales from the Irish Garden.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Garden 2015

Other short story collections

You can find out about all my books and read recent reviews: My books and reviews 2020

It would be great to catch up with you at these sites too.

Twitter: @sgc58
Facebook: Sally Cronin
LinkedIn: Sally Cronin

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed this snippet from Tales from the Garden.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – #Spain – Tales from the Garden Chapter Five – Trouble in Paradise – Part one by Sally Cronin


It is over two years since I share the stories from Tales from The Garden that I wrote in tribute to our home in the mountains to the north of Madrid from 1999 to 2016. I went back and forth from Ireland for the first three years as I had my diet advisory clinic here, but finally sold our house, put the dog in the car and ferried and drove across the UK and Europe to live permanently. We inherited a number of statues from the previous owners that were too big to take with them, and I also found some discarded around the garden. Perfect characters for stories, some of whom moved on with us to Ireland and appeared in Tales from the Irish Garden. I hope that you will enjoy.

About Tales from the Garden

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

Fairy Stories for children of all ages from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden forever.

Chapter Five – Trouble in Paradise – Part one

In special gardens you may be lucky enough to find that fairies have set up home. Since ancient times they have preferred to build their invisible houses beneath the shade of a magnolia tree. This was the case with the Kingdom of Magia in this secret garden.

The magnolia is a tree that has seen thousands of years of history and survived the earth’s changes and turmoil. The fairies know that its strength will keep them safe and that its roots, so deep under the ground, will always gather fresh water to filter into their homes.

Other creatures within the garden bring their bounty to the tree as well. Bees seek out the sweetness in the blooms that form and die so quickly. But, not before little pouches of honey are stored within the heart of the flower for the fairies to collect at night. Honey is almost as ancient as the magnolia tree itself, and despite the short harvesting season, it never spoils, so can be stored in empty nut shells for the entire year.

Within the safety of the sweeping broad leafed branches, and with a plentiful supply of water and honey, the fairy colony in the garden grew and flourished. Eventually there came a time, centuries ago, when it was decided that a king and queen should be appointed. A palace was constructed within the roots of the magnolia, with linked gardens and passages with vaults of golden honey. Designed to shelter and nourish the new and precious royal family, it was staffed with a select number of senior fairies, who would act as servants and counsellors.

That was long in the past, and the present king and queen were now approaching middle age in fairy terms; which is about 450 years old. Their subjects adored them as they were both fair to look at and generous in temperament, but beneath the surface of this idyllic royal relationship trouble was brewing.

The king was handsome, wise and had a wonderful sense of humour. All the fairies eagerly awaited the mid-summer ball but none more so than their fun loving royal master. When the ball was officially opened on the arrival of the royal couple, with the stoned band playing up a storm, he was always first on the dance floor.

He whirled his many partners around like confetti in their gossamer dresses and sparkling shoes. Their fragile wings lifting them off the ground the faster they twirled. However, he was careful to never dance more than once with any particular lady of the court. He knew from experience that the queen, who was not an accomplished dancer, would be looking on with a watchful eye.

It was after this year’s summer ball that rumours of a rift in their beloved royal couple’s relationship began to circulate. Not just amongst the courtiers, but also the rest of the fairies in their homes beneath the magnolia.

The king had danced with one specific and beautiful lady-in-waiting twice during the ball. It was clear to all present at the time, that the queen had not been amused. In the weeks that followed it was also noticed that she spent more and more of the day in the palace courtyard surrounded by her beloved flowers.

Occasionally a tear had been seen to fall to the blossoms beneath her. They were bitter drops of sadness and soon the lovely petals began to shrivel and fall to the ground before their time.

Beneath his stony and sculptured handsomeness, the king was also troubled, and he could be found hanging around in his own personal garden staring into space as if wishing to be miles away from the palace walls. The fairies braced themselves for bad news.

Once a week the queen would rouse herself from her sadness and tour the rest of the garden that was her domain. She liked to check in with the guardians, eagles and her other more inanimate subjects, to assure herself that the humans were treating them with respect and kindness. She also liked to pop in on the seven dwarves that made up her royal orchestra and make sure they were practicing and not up to mischief. She skimmed across the grass towards their home beneath the canopy of an old evergreen tree with a quick visit in mind and then a return to her lonely courtyard.

Just as she was about to alight upon a conveniently placed mushroom, she bumped right into one of the dwarves who was running towards the centre of the clearing, hand in hand with a giant rabbit. Luckily for the queen her delicate body was unharmed and of course the dwarf barely noticed the brush as light as a feather as he was so distraught and excited.

When he realised who he had bumped into he started muttering away to himself… ‘Say nothing, say nothing, off with my head, off with my head.’

The queen look a little bemused… ‘If you touch my royal personage again in that manner, I will be happy to oblige’ she said rather acerbically.

The dwarf looked sheepish and with his arm firmly around his rabbit for support he tried to smile bravely.

‘I am so sorry majesty,’ he muttered getting redder and redder in the face. ‘We have just seen something shocking and we were just running to tell my brothers about it… it wasn’t anything important I promise you.’

He was having trouble in looking the queen in the eye and suddenly her magical powers locked onto his thoughts…. Oh no, it can’t be true…

The wavering image in the dwarf’s head began to take shape and the queen focused on the silvery figures that emerged.

Dread filled her heart, and even though she could not see their faces, she immediately recognised the figure of the man as he held another body in his firm embrace. It was the king, her one love, her husband of 400 years and the man who had now broken her heart.

©sallycronin  2015

Part Two – Next Sunday.

I hope you have enjoyed this chapter from the Tales from the Garden and as always your comments are much appreciated. Thanks Sally

Other short story anthologies.

You can find out about all my books and read recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews

It would be great to catch up with you at these sites too.

Twitter: @sgc58
Facebook: Sally Cronin
LinkedIn: Sally Cronin

Smorgasbord Short Stories – #Spain – Tales from the Garden Chapter Four – Pearly Girl and the Dwarves Stone Band by Sally Cronin


It is over two years since I share the stories from Tales from The Garden that I wrote in tribute to our home in the mountains to the north of Madrid from 1999 to 2016. I went back and forth from Ireland for the first three years as I had my diet advisory clinic here, but finally sold our house, put the dog in the car and ferried and drove across the UK and Europe to live permanently. We inherited a number of statues from the previous owners that were too big to take with them, and I also found some discarded around the garden. Perfect characters for stories, some of whom moved on with us to Ireland and appeared in Tales from the Irish Garden. I hope that you will enjoy.

About Tales from the Garden

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

Fairy Stories for children of all ages from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden forever.

Tales from the Garden – Chapter Four – Pearly Girl and the Dwarves Stone Band

Pearly Girl and the Dwarves is a stone band that plays at all the fairy balls, weddings and birthday celebrations. To the human inhabitants of the villa, they were also playthings for the children who have grown up over the last fifty years and were loved by many.

Unfortunately, like many of the stoned rock bands of the past, the dwarves had not always behaved well. There were a couple of incidences when one or two of the band, who will remain nameless, sniffed a little too much of the pollen of the sneezeweed that grew at the bottom of the garden. They had been banned from playing at any of the fairy events in the fairy kingdom of Magia, beneath the old magnolia tree, for the last fifteen years.

The children of the house had also grown up and left and the band found themselves huddled on the windswept ledge on the back side of the house gathering moss and covered in swallow poop as the birds used them for target practice.

Finally in the late 90s the new owners discovered them in their isolated outcrop and decided to relocate the group to the top of the garden under a large shady tree where they could resume their musical endeavours without disturbing the household or the neighbours. The fairy queen, seeing that they had returned to human favour, decided to give them another chance with a dire warning of consequences should there be further unacceptable behaviour.

Although the band was tucked away in a quiet part of the garden, the abundant wildlife that had made a home in this serene spot soon began to move out. Unfortunately the dwarves were all a bit out of practice, particularly Thrifty with his kettle drum who had gone a bit deaf and drowned out the rest of the band and was asked to stand in the corner.

Shifty was on the fiddle but the others kept their eyes on the expenses. Nifty was on the saxophone, Hefty on the base drum and cymbals and Ditzy blows his own trumpet.

Wiffy tuned up his guitar and that just left Sniffy the male vocalist of the group who insisted on being accompanied by his best friend Buck the rabbit. Buck was okay as a backup singer but Sniffy failed to realise that his BFF was in fact the cause of his allergies. I know that I said that I would not reveal the names of the culprits behind the banishment from fairyland but you can probably guess that Sniffy was not blameless!

Anyway after a few weeks the band was in fine fettle and eagerly awaited the arrival of their lead singer Pearly Girl.

The fairies were holding a birthday party, and tonight was the band’s first performance of the summer and the first in fifteen years. Their future as a band and their chance of staying out in the garden instead of in exile on the poop covered ledge, was dependent on their performance and behaviour.

Buck, as he tended to move a lot faster than the rest of the band, went off in search of Pearly Girl.

He looked everywhere and even asked the resident hippie if he had seen her. The hippie had heard that Pearly Girl and Buck’s cousin Fizzy, had been on the town the night before, and might have got themselves arrested. This was not good news and Hippie and Buck hurried over to the garden’s naughty corner to see if he could find out more.

They found Fizzy almost immediately, obviously still plastered from the night before and they spent precious minutes trying to get some sense out of him. Even Hippie had a go and finally they were told that Pearly Girl was the other side of the holding area in a dreadful state.

Buck and Hippie had their work cut out for them if they were going to get Pearly Girl in shape in time for the performance. Buck got the rest of the fairy juice off her and Hippie raced around getting her clothes and make-up organised. With just minutes to go and as the audience and the photographers arrived they got their star act ready.

The stage was set, the sun shone and the band began to play their first song. ‘One Day my Prince will Come’ and Pearly Girl walked through the garden to join them. As she began to sing the audience broke into rounds of applause.

The fairy queen and her court were duly impressed with the two hour performance and signed a contract with the stoned band to perform at their mid-summer ball the following week.

Happy to be off the poop laden ledge for good, the band wandered off in search of the sneezeweed and a jug or two of organic rosewater laced with some fermented bee pollen.

©sallycronin Tales from the Garden 2015

I hope you have enjoyed the start to the Tales from the Garden and as always your comments are much appreciated. Thanks Sally

Other short story anthologies.

You can find out about all my books and read recent reviews: My books and reviews 2020

It would be great to catch up with you at these sites too.

Twitter: @sgc58
Facebook: Sally Cronin
LinkedIn: Sally Cronin

Smorgasbord Short Stories – #Spain – Tales from the Garden – Chapter Three – The Last Emperor by Sally Cronin


It is over two years since I share the stories from Tales from The Garden that I wrote in tribute to our home in the mountains to the north of Madrid from 1999 to 2016. I went back and forth from Ireland for the first three years as I had my diet advisory clinic here, but finally sold our house, put the dog in the car and ferried and drove across the UK and Europe to live permanently. We inherited a number of statues from the previous owners that were too big to take with them, and I also found some discarded around the garden. Perfect characters for stories, some of whom moved on with us to Ireland and appeared in Tales from the Irish Garden. I hope that you will enjoy.

About Tales from the Garden

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

Fairy Stories for children of all ages from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden forever.

Tales from the Garden – Chapter Three – The Last Emperor

High above the garden, our feathered cousins soar on the updrafts caused by the scorching summer heat on the peaks and valleys of our mountain. They search diligently for their preferred prey which is anything that dares to fly beneath them or scuttle out of the undergrowth in search of food.

Majestically they accomplish what we cannot, and have never been able to. From our place guarding the main entrance into the building that now stands on this ancient site, we watch enviously with our own wings fixed in stone.

We are the last of the stone eagles that have watched over this magical place. The first were made by a slave of the Roman merchant who built his villa on this mountain over eighteen hundred years ago. He and his countrymen had swept across and settled on the now peaceful sunlit Iberian Peninsula after many centuries of war. He supplied olives, figs and grapes to his fellow Romans and delivered casks of wine to the garrison of soldiers in the camp down by the river. He was a rich man with many slaves collected and bartered during the long journey from the coast to this central part of Spain.

For two hundred years the merchant’s family prospered and enjoyed the life so far from their original home. The skill of stone carving was passed down from the original slave to his sons and their grandsons as the seasons rolled through the decades. But then it all changed as the Visigoths invaded from the north and violence once more shattered the peace of the land.

The merchant’s family left and retreated back towards the south and eventually began a new life far away. Slaves were left behind in the panic, but being essential to work the land, were allowed to settle on farms and in small villages. But the stonemason of that time remained in the crumbling ruins of the old villa, and built a modest dwelling where he continued to work and pass on his craft.

Finally his large family scattered across the surrounding area as towns and cities lured them away from the rural life. But always one remained to learn the trade and instruct another to take his place. The very last stonemason who had no sons, crafted us before he died, and as he smoothed our stone wings and hid us within the leafy folds of the boundary hedge, he muttered final words to us.

“Wait for the last Emperor, he will come and find you.”

We waited and the protective hedge grew around us. The stonemason’s humble home crumbled in the heat and snow filled winters, until it too joined the grand remains of the Roman villa beneath the soil.

Finally, fifty years ago, the sound of modern machinery woke us from our sleep and we watched between the large green leaves of the hedge as a new villa emerged in front of us. We heard human voices for the first time in many years and the sound of laughter as children played in the gardens.

But still we waited.

Thirty-five years passed and the children grew and left the home leaving an elderly couple rattling around its vast empty rooms. Soon they too left and all was quiet again.

One bright morning, as we lay in our hiding place, we were startled and shocked by the sudden intrusion of a long canine nose that pushed aside our overgrown covering. We stared into a pair of eyes that sparkled gleefully upon us. From this creature’s mouth came forth a high penetrating noise; enough to awaken even us stone bound creatures. Two human hands reached around the canine and pulled him gently back by his dark purple, imperial collar. They then returned and each one of us was lifted clear of the entwining stalks and leaves and we were placed in the sunlight for the first time in over a hundred years.

I won’t go into the indignity of being cleaned with brush, soap and hot water in places left untouched since our stonemason fashioned us. But finally we were pristine again and placed on our ledge to guard the house as was our duty.

We remembered what our old master had said as he had hidden us from sight. And, within a short time, we knew indeed that the last Emperor had arrived, as he came before us wearing his wreath of office and informed us of his imperial title of Moyhill Royal Flush. We and his courtiers were permitted to call him Sam, but only in private.

Our joy was beyond comprehension as the prophecy was fulfilled and we took pride and delight in guarding our new master. We remained alert over the next many years as our Emperor roamed the grounds on his daily inspection, supervised the garden workers and reigned over his house slaves.

Each night, he would hold court from the front balcony of the villa, listening to his canine subjects in the valley as they recounted the day’s events in his domain. He would wait until they had completed their report and then respond for several minutes, encouraging them to be vigilant and valiant.

He would then wait for his house slaves to bring him ice cubes to cool his parched tongue and platters of his royal repast in the form of chicken gizzards and sweet smelling Basmati rice.

We, as his loyal cohorts were not forgotten. As he passed us each day he would delicately sniff our bodies to check our health, and if he felt we were dehydrated, he would anoint us with his regal blessing.

We treasured our role as his elite royal guard and although, to our great sadness, he has now passed from our sight, we still stand sentry over him today. It is in a place where he can continue to view his great domain and listen to his many canine minions in the valley below. The last emperor has left his mark on this place, on us and on his people and will never be forgotten.

©sallycronin Tales from the Garden 2015

I hope you have enjoyed the start to the Tales from the Garden and as always your comments are much appreciated. Thanks Sally

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

Other short story anthologies.

It would be great to catch up with you at these sites too.

Twitter: @sgc58
Facebook: Sally Cronin
LinkedIn: Sally Cronin

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – #Free #Book Marketing – New Series 2020 – Share an Extract.


We put a great deal of effort into promoting our new, recent and upcoming books but often our previous releases get sidelined.

In this new series I am offering you a chance to promote an earlier book (not your most recent) by sharing an extract from the book.

The aim of the series

  1. To showcase a previous book and sell some copies.
  2. Gain more recent reviews for the book.
  3. Promote a selection of other books that are available.

I will top and tail in the usual way with your other books and links, bio, photo and social media. I will also select a review that I feel has the best selling pitch for the book.

  • This series is open to authors in the Cafe and Bookstore who have more than one book (as this already gets promoted on a regular basis) and have reviews for that book I can select from.
  • I suggest an extract of approximately 500 words or a poem that you feel best reflects the theme of your collection.
  • If you have an illustration or images you can attach to the email for me to include. No need to send the cover as I will have that or will access from Amazon.
  • I will check reviews on Amazon sites as well as Goodreads and select one I feel is a great advertisement for the book.
  • As an author in the Cafe and Bookstore I will already have all your details, links and covers of other books so need to send anything further.
  • Please send your extract and any accompanying images to sally.cronin@moyhill.com

To give you an example of what it will look like I am sharing an extract from Tales from the Garden, one of my earlier books from 2015

tales-from-the-garden-cover

About the book which is also in Spanish

Fairy Stories for children of all ages, from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden, forever.

With over 80 photos/illustrations, “Tales from the Garden” by Sally Cronin,reveals the secrets that are hidden beneath hedges and trees.

You will discover what really happens at night as you sleep unaware in your bed. Stone statues and those hidden worlds within the earth are about to share their stories.

The guardians who have kept the sanctuary safe for over fifty years will allow you to peek behind the scenes of this magical place. They will take you on a journey through time and expand your horizons as they transport you to the land of fairies, butterflies and lost souls who have found a home here.

An extract from the book – Little Girl Lost

I am a long way from home and find myself in a strange place listening to a language I do not understand. The winter nights are colder than I am used to and the wind is harsh as it brings snow and ice to fill my basket and numb my bare toes. Now the searing sun is blazing down and although I have been placed in a shady place, it is not like the green and mild garden of my home.

I was given to an old lady many years ago to stand in an alcove on a bed of lobelia that frothed around my feet with soft blue. She would look out of her window from her high backed chair and each day she would fill my basket with water for the blackbird to drink from after he had eaten his sultanas for breakfast.

As the seasons passed many people would come and go along the path beside me. I would hear them say such things as ‘Isn’t she sweet? and ‘Such a pretty little girl’. I felt that I was special and cared for. Each new season the blue ceramic pot in front of me would hold new flowers. Geraniums in the summer and wintering flowering pansies for the winter. I loved to watch the old lady spend her afternoon carefully placing the new blooms around the rim.

As the years went by my friend became frailer, and I was moved closer to the window for her to see me, but I still kept watch over the garden and the creatures that visited. On warm days she would venture outside with her stick and touch the top of my head with her frail hand.

‘How are you today my fairy princess?’

Other creatures popped into amuse us at dusk. The hedgehog who stole any sultanas left by the blackbird and the fox and her cubs. I could hear the old lady laughing as she stood by the window watching them at play.

Then one day there was no more laughter behind the window. People came and went and the garden seemed to wait with bated breath. Suddenly it went dark as I was covered by many layers of popping material and I could not see. I was packed tight between boxes and for many days I was bounced between them.

When my eyes were uncovered I found myself alone on a balcony without friend or foxes. And I was sad. But then one morning I woke to find that with the sun, had come new friends, and in my basket were special stones from around the world that had been given to me to safeguard.

I had been placed on a step with a view over the garden and mountains and strong companions stood beside me to keep me safe.

I am happy now and whilst I miss the old lady I have my friends and a place by the front door where all that come and go can see and talk to me. My new mistress whispered to me as she placed another stone in my basket. ” Wherever we go; you will go with us little fairy princess”.

One of the reviews for the book

HappyReader 5.0 out of 5 stars Magical! Reviewed in the United States on April 1, 2017

Author Sally Cronin mixes imagination, whimsy and magic to create this charming collection of short stories. Each tale takes place in the garden and lovely photos contribute to the enchantment.

First, we meet the Head Guardians of the Magic Garden. These powerful stone creatures introduce us to the fairy kingdom that lies under the old magnolia tree. According to the Guardians, which look like magnificent Lions to me, once every 500 years some very special people are allowed a glimpse into the magical world of fairies.

The Guardians let us peak at the inhabitants and learn more about their lives, which are quite entertaining. We meet the Dwarves Stoned Band, the King and Queen of the Fairies, the one-eyed pig, and other friendly creatures, and we watch them all cavort and celebrate birthdays and hold summer balls.

My favorite fairy tale story told how the garden folk fought against the Winter Fairy, thanks to the help of the Dragon, who has his own internal combustion system. But, the story that I loved the most is about Mollie (The Duchess) Coleman. Author Cronin’s mother tells about her favorite gardens through the years. Mrs. Coleman liked pink flowers, and believed in being dressed and ready for her say by 9:00 each morning. She closes her recap by saying, “If you catch sight of me perhaps you could do me a great favour and pop a large cut-glass tumbler of whisky and water, no ice thank you, on the table beside me.”

My pleasure, Mrs. Coleman. I would have loved to chat with you and savor a whisky in your lovely garden.

Sally Cronin writes with a warm, friendly voice and creates fairy tales with a modern feel to them. I highly recommend this delightful collection. Readers will enjoy relaxing in their own gardens, as they read these pleasant tales and gaze at the photos. This would also be a wonderful book to read to the youngsters in your life.

My mother read fairy tales to me and I believed in the wee folk. I did look for them under flowers and under the forsythia branches. Tales from the Garden continues the delight!

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon UK

And Amazon US: Amazon US

A selection of other books by Sally Cronin

Find all the books, reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

And: Amazon UK

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: Goodreads

About Sally Cronin

I have been a storyteller most of my life (my mother called them fibs!). Poetry, song lyrics and short stories were left behind when work and life intruded, but that all changed in 1996. My first book Size Matters was a health and weight loss book based on my own experiences of losing 70kilo. I have written another twelve books since then on health and also fiction, including four collections of short stories. My latest book is a collection of verse, micro fiction and speculative short stories titled Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in Words

I am an indie author and proud to be one. My greatest pleasure comes from those readers who enjoy my take on health, characters and twisted endings… and of course come back for more.

You can connect to me on the following sites.

Blog: Smorgasbord Invitation
Twitter: @sgc58
Facebook: Sally Cronin
LinkedIn: Sally Cronin

I hope that you like the idea of the new series and will contact me so that I can put one of your earlier books in the spotlight.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Happy Birthday Mollie Eileen (The Duchess) Coleman- 1917 – 2012


It is my mother’s birthday today and she would have been 102. Goodness knows what mischief she would have been up to if still with us, but I have a feeling that she is probably with my father and has got him suited and booted and going to a dinner dance tonight.

In the first Tales from the Garden written a few months after her death, I decided to  write her story as a bonus at the end of the book – from her perspective. Since it is a few years since I posted it here, I thought those of you new to the blog might like to meet Mollie Eileen..

Her last few years were not easy, but she was at home and could potter in her garden which she loved. Right about now the pots would be emptied of the geraniums and the winter pansies would be filling them with colour. I follow on in that tradition, and I think she would also approve off the mini cyclamens, in several shades of pink that are thriving.

I hope you will enjoy Mollie’s story of a life well lived..

 Mollie (The Duchess) Coleman 1917 – 2012

My daughter thought that I might like to introduce some of my many gardens to you as a break from her own and my other daughter’s beautiful surroundings. I am afraid that I have to go back nearly 90 years to describe my first real garden but luckily I do have one or two photographs to share with you. It is a tough ask to cram 94 years into 1000 words which is what my daughter expects (and is not likely to get), so I do hope you bear with me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wedding day Wednesday September 11th 1940

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

Sonia and Diana Sinclair 1944

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

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

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

Sonia, Sally, Eric, Diana and Mollie 1955 Ceylon

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

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

In 1959 we were posted to Malta and then in 1963 to 1965 we lived in South Africa. This was followed by two years in Lancashire before returning in 1967 to Portsmouth for good.

Sally, Mollie, Eric, Diana, Jeremy and Jane our Boxer.

When Eric retired we moved across the high street into a lovely flat but my garden became even smaller. However, we did have a flat roof and I placed all my planters up the wrought iron stairs and around the roof top. Here I am completing the small crossword in The Daily Telegraph with my coffee which is something I enjoyed doing each morning.

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

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

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

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

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

I had a wonderful 90th birthday party with the whole family and lunch at my local pub which I frequented every Friday with two of my dearest friends. I of course had bought a new outfit for the occasion and this time it was my second favourite colour, turquoise

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

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

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

Anyway the day came when it was time for me to move on to my next adventure. I will always remember that last view through the window and the sight of my little fairy princess in the alcove. It is engraved on my heart.

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

All the best… and don’t forget that whisky and water will you!
Mollie Eileen Coleman October 5th 1917 to July 28th 2012 The Duchess

©Sally Cronin- Tales from the Garden. 2015

Happy Birthday Mollie…try not to get into too much mischief…..♥

Tales from the Irish Garden Serialisation – Winter: The Messengers of Peace and Desperation and The Storyteller by Sally Cronin


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…

One of the reviews for Tales from the Irish Garden

Tales from the Irish Garden is a wonderful book. It has the magic of the Narnia Chronicles, the mystery of The Secret Garden and the delight of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland.

As I read this book I became completely immersed in the world of Fairy Queen Filigree and her court. I shared her anxiety as she searched for a new home where her people and bees could be safe and participated in her delight when the perfect spot is found on the faraway Emerald Island.

It is not an easy task to undertake such a big move but the fairies managed it admirably with the help of some of their friends. The Storyteller, a delightful elderly man, is a wonderful new character you will meet and get to know and he proves himself to be kind, thoughtful and understanding. In no time at all the fairies are settled into their new home, kitted out in clothing more suitable for the colder, damper weather and even aided in meeting new friends.

Of course, life is never straightforward and Queen Filigree and the fairies experience their ups and downs, losses, romances and worries as they adapt to their new environment. There are plenty of celebrations and happy moments to smooth the way and it all makes for a very entertaining read.

The illustrations in this book are deserve a mention as they are amazing. They are the creations of talented illustrator Donata Zawadzka.

Robbie created a beautiful fondant Queen Filigree to accompany her review on her blog.

If you would like to browse my other ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Thank you for dropping in and I hope you enjoy the rest of the book.. Chapter Three tomorrow.. Sally.

The previous chapters of Tales from the Irish Garden can be found here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/tales-from-the-irish-garden-serialisation/

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


In the summer I will be releasing Tales from the Irish Garden.. stories of magic and fantasy. It is the sequel to Tales from the Garden published in 2015 and I am going to share the stories from that collection with you in the next few weeks.

About Tales from the Garden

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

Fairy Stories for children of all ages from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden forever.

Yesterday I shared Part One of the Last Summer Ball and The Winter Fairy : https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/04/28/smorgasbord-short-stories-tales-from-the-garden-the-last-summer-ball-and-the-winter-fairy-part-one-by-sally-cronin/

The Last Summer Ball and the Winter Fairy Part Two

Yesterday the fairy kingdom received devastating news that the Winter Fairy was up to mischief and determined to bring a devastating early winter to their garden. The queen and her court must make preparations and plans to thwart his evilness.

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

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

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

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

‘Bumble, grumble, fumble, crumble’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin Tales from the Garden 2015

Other short story anthologies.

You can find all my books at these links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Smashwords for Epub: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thank you very much for dropping in today and next weekend I will be sharing the final story in the book over the two days. Thanks Sally