Tales from the Irish Garden – Serialisation – Chapter Ten – Summer: After the Festival by Sally Cronin


Chapter Ten – Summer: After the Festival

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 missy, 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

Image Tales from the Irish Garden by Donata Zawadzka.

One of the reviews for the book

In the frequently confronting context of contemporary literature, how delightful to be lured into quite another territory and immerse yourself in a fully-fledged fairy story! With royal pigeons lovingly reared over centuries, minute messages written and rolled up on onion paper, the symphony of fairy gossamer wings as fairies dance around in a panic, and diets of quail’s eggs, served on oat and almond bread toast and more, this is indeed a magical feast.

Yet ‘Tales from the Irish Garden’ is far more than a fairy story …

In this stand-alone sequel to her introduction to the magical world of Magia, author Sally Cronin tells the story of Queen Filigree and her court who, obliged to flee their sunny Mediterranean home, seek refuge in the very different landscape of the ‘Emerald Island’. The characters they meet there, and the stories they in turn tell in their quest for personal and collective happiness, deftly hook us in from beginning to end.

Supernatural her characters may be, but they share some very ‘human’ traits – from minor squabbling to dealing with dressing for a cooler climate or the ramifications of property development and building like many of us! Seeing their struggles, their imperfections, and their all too human tendencies is a sobering experience, as we recognise ourselves in them. Thus, the tales function at one level as a myth about the human condition, leaving us that much more self-aware, as well as entertained. In lively and whimsical fashion, the author skilfully blends elements of traditional folklore with a sensitivity to contemporary issues; the result is an enchanting and enriching fictional journey.

The fanciful nature of the story and the sometimes capricious nature of its characters is perfectly complemented by the beautiful illustrations by talented artist Donata Zawadzka.

The author’s flair for story-telling and her innate sense of humour ensures that the book will delight anyone with an imagination, of any age and background.

If you would like to browse my other ebooks.. you can find their reviews and Amazon links: 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 eleven 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/

Tales from the Irish Garden – Serialisation – Winter: Christmas Under the Magnolia Tree by Sally Cronin


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…

One of the reviews for Tales from the Irish Garden

In the frequently confronting context of contemporary literature, how delightful to be lured into quite another territory and immerse yourself in a fully-fledged fairy story! With royal pigeons lovingly reared over centuries, minute messages written and rolled up on onion paper, the symphony of fairy gossamer wings as fairies dance around in a panic, and diets of quail’s eggs, served on oat and almond bread toast and more, this is indeed a magical feast.

Yet ‘Tales from the Irish Garden’ is far more than a fairy story …

In this stand-alone sequel to her introduction to the magical world of Magia, author Sally Cronin tells the story of Queen Filigree and her court who, obliged to flee their sunny Mediterranean home, seek refuge in the very different landscape of the ‘Emerald Island’. The characters they meet there, and the stories they in turn tell in their quest for personal and collective happiness, deftly hook us in from beginning to end.

Supernatural her characters may be, but they share some very ‘human’ traits – from minor squabbling to dealing with dressing for a cooler climate or the ramifications of property development and building like many of us! Seeing their struggles, their imperfections, and their all too human tendencies is a sobering experience, as we recognise ourselves in them. Thus, the tales function at one level as a myth about the human condition, leaving us that much more self-aware, as well as entertained. In lively and whimsical fashion, the author skilfully blends elements of traditional folklore with a sensitivity to contemporary issues; the result is an enchanting and enriching fictional journey.

The fanciful nature of the story and the sometimes capricious nature of its characters is perfectly complemented by the beautiful illustrations by talented artist Donata Zawadzka.

The author’s flair for story-telling and her innate sense of humour ensures that the book will delight anyone with an imagination, of any age and background.

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 two and three next weekend. Thanks Sally.

Tales from the Irish Garden serialisation- Previously in the Magic Garden by Sally Cronin


In the first volume of stories (Tales from the Garden), 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.

The Winter Fairy inhabited a garden deep in the heart of the Emerald Island. It had been his kingdom for a hundred years, and in a fit of pique, a number of winters ago, he had frozen everything within his realm, including the humans and animals. He was now bored, but on
the grapevine, he heard of a place where the sun shone for three hundred days a year, and this fired up his imagination. Timing was perfect, as he was told that if he could freeze the ancient fairy kingdom on the night of the summer ball, when all were dancing above ground in the gardens, they would be frozen into statues and visible to humans for all eternity.

Although it was only October, he had left his kingdom and blown on westerly winds towards this sun-filled country. The lands that he passed over experienced bitterly cold winds and frosts that made the people huddle in their homes around hastily lit fires. Weather experts predicted that this unusual early freeze was without a doubt, the sign that a new ice age was imminent.

The Winter Fairy however, had underestimated the power of a secret underground movement in his own kingdom. There was a rat in his organisation and a rabbit and a vole.

The rabbit and his family, had cousins who enjoyed the patronage of Queen Filigree in the magic kingdom, in fact one of them played in the royal band. He was a bit too fond of the Amber Nectar, but a good sort all the same. On the outskirts of the frozen lands was a forest that had refused to be turned to ice and, to be honest, the place was a thorn in the Winter Fairy’s side. The Elms and the Oaks claimed superiority and rights over the land, erecting a barrier of pollen that made the Winter Fairy sneeze and his eyes run. Finally his discomfort had encouraged him to look in other directions for his fun.

In the forest, the birds and animals that had been driven out by the cold from their homes, lived and thrived. Among them were the Messenger Birds, an elite flock of white and black pigeons who carried notes around the globe for the price of a handful of seed. As soon as the Winter Fairy left his kingdom, icicles began to melt and slowly the long frozen land began to thaw. The rabbit whistle-blower had overheard the evil being muttering to himself about his plans to invade the sunny south, and knew that he had to warn Queen Filigree and her Guardians of the danger approaching. He went around the underground folk and managed to scrape together a handful of seed, although he had quite a job getting the rats to give some out of their plentiful store, most of which had been stolen from travellers passing through the forest.

The head messenger came down to the sorting office, which was set up at the boundary of the forest and listened carefully to the rabbit’s message. Within minutes, a young and eager pigeon was winging his way by the express route across the mountains, to get ahead of the Winter Fairy, and warn those he intended to freeze. Worn out, and almost at the end of his strength, he reached the Kingdom of Magia a few hours before the last summer ball of the year, just in time for the Queen and her Guardians to put a plan in place to thwart the frozen- hearted demon.

With the help of Fluffy the Dragon, who blew hot winds to the north, The Winter Fairy arrived to find the garden deserted, and his intended victims partying the night away beneath the old magnolia tree. Despite his best efforts, he failed to breach the defences to the palace and was left stamping his foot in frustration as the snow fell all around him. In a huff, he flew ever southwards, only to find himself in the middle of a desert so barren of life, it refused to freeze. Harsh sandstorms pummelled him, whisking him skywards where his wings melted, and he fell to ground on top of a waterless dune. He found an abandoned lizard’s burrow, and sat at the entrance, with all eternity stretching before him to contemplate his wickedness.

Meanwhile… Back at Magia the snow melted and the weather returned to its normal windy autumnal pattern. The guardians settled down for a quiet few weeks until the Winter Festival, when the fairies and the inhabitants of the garden would again be out-and-about to celebrate.

To be honest they needed little excuse for a party. However, little did they know that more changes were on their way, and that this time the Queen, and her guardians would be unable to stop the resulting devastation.

The story continues…tomorrow…..

©Sally Cronin 2018

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 one tomorrow.. Thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Rosemary – The First Date by Sally Cronin


Welcome to the second of the short stories this weekend from the second volume of What’s in a Name. Meet Rosemary

Rosemary – The First Date

Rosemary viewed her face in the mirror. She sighed as she observed the crow’s feet at the corner of her eyes. They said it was a sign of character and a sunny personality; crease lines from a life of laughter. That could be said to be true of most of the last twenty-five years of marriage to Malcolm. Rarely did a day go by that he had not teased her into a smile or offered up a pun that made her laugh despite the corniness.

It was not just the laughter that they had shared, but passions for theatre, the cinema, books and exotic foods. There was so little that they disagreed about over the years. Rosemary struggled to remember any real arguments that had intruded into the happiness that wrapped around them like a comforting blanket.

They had travelled far and wide across all the continents taking advantage of his generous salary and the occasional business trips that she accompanied him on. The scents and sights of Africa and India had thrilled them as they held hands and watched glorious sunsets. The rugged terrain of Alaska and the Rockies had tested their stamina and the deep blue colour of the Pacific Ocean had beguiled them. A storehouse of experiences all accompanied by love and laughter and a sense that it would last forever. They had never had children unfortunately, but Malcolm claimed to be happy to just have her all to himself.

But suddenly all that love and laughter was gone and the years together faded into wisps of elusive memory as each day passed. Those friends that she had confided in about her grief and emptiness had offered advice and support for the last six months. They all assured her that was time to face the future head on. She needed to accept that she could not wallow in this self-pity and denial any longer.

She had laughed to herself when she first saw the website that Molly had pointed out to her one morning as they shared coffee in the village just after Christmas. An online dating agency that proudly boasted a near perfect record of finding your soul mate; that one person meant just for you. Molly had been on the site for nearly a year and she had certainly pushed the boundaries of those claims to the limit; she had kept their small circle of mutual friends very entertained with her experiences.

She had brought up the site on her laptop and Rosemary had sat beside her, browsing the various enticements offered by the men posting. Her eye had been immediately drawn to one post that Molly had marked. She read the words to herself, and then again aloud to fully understand what she was seeing. She had believed for so long that Malcolm was the one and only perfect match for her that she was shocked and intrigued at the same time.

Single, tall, fun loving and handsome 55 years old seeks long term relationship with attractive female 30 – 45 years old. Must have a good sense of humour, enjoy the theatre, cinema, fine dining and travelling to exotic locations. Located in London but willing to travel to meet. Box Number 1596

She had looked over at Molly to share her amazement and found her staring down at her hands cupped around the coffee cup.

‘Is something the matter Molly?’ Rosemary was unused to Molly being subdued and quiet.

Slowly Molly looked up from her cappuccino and smiled fondly at her friend.

‘I was going to meet this guy for dinner but changed my mind when I saw him sitting at the table in the restaurant,” she paused and looked through the cafe window as if trying to choose her words carefully. “I know how much you still love Malcolm, but I think that it is time that you faced the reality of your situation and look to the future.’

Molly tapped the advertisement on the screen with her immaculately manicured nail. ‘You need to arrange to meet this man and confront your fear of losing everything you have treasured from the past.’

The two women parted company outside the cafe and Rosemary drove home to the empty house that she had shared with Malcolm for so many years. It was far too big for the two of them especially when he was away on business trips alone leaving her for several weeks at a time. She had hoped at one point to fill the rooms with children’s laughter, but somehow it was never the right time for one reason or another.

Rosemary knew that Molly was right. She could no longer hide away from life; she needed to face the future whatever it held. She rang her friend’s mobile number and asked her to come over the next morning to help her upload a profile to the site to enable her to respond to the advertisement.

So here she was, getting ready for her first date in over twenty-five years with a man called Andrew. When her own profile had been activated, she had replied to the box number in his advertisement and over the next week they had exchanged a number of emails via the site. Although he was eager to know more about her, Rosemary had been reticent to offer her personal email or too much information until she met him face to face.

She had changed her mind several times about what to wear for this first encounter, finally deciding to wear a new dress she had bought on a whim a few weeks ago. Malcolm had always insisted she looked perfect in pastel colours and this daring emerald green number would have certainly provoked some comment. She had also been to a new hairdresser this morning and requested a radical new look. Gone was the long brunette hair that Malcolm said suited her best; in its stead was a sleek blonde shoulder length bob.

Finally she stood in front of the long mirror in their bedroom and viewed the transformation. Rosemary took several moments to get used to the new image and then smiled as she decided that she liked it. Picking up a colourful floral scarf to put around her shoulders and grabbing her handbag, she walked down to the kitchen to order a taxi.

She deliberately arrived at the restaurant fifteen minutes early and was shown to a discreet table in the corner. Rosemary could not remember when she had been this nervous and sipped the water provided by the waiter when he left the two menus. She kept glancing at the door of the restaurant apprehensively. She knew that Andrew would have to ask directions to the table as he would not recognise her, particularly in the dimly lit room. On the table to the right of her place setting was a bulky envelope. Andrew in one of his recent emails had suggested that she might bring some photographs of the places that she had visited on her trips and that he would do likewise. A talking point to break the ice.

Closing her eyes she took a deep breath and tried to calm her nerves. When she opened them again she saw a tall, good looking man standing in the entrance to the dining area. He managed to get the attention of one of the waiters who then pointed out Rosemary sitting in the corner table. He walked confidently across with a warm smile on his face until he stood in front of her. Andrew looked into her eyes and he gasped.

‘Hello Malcolm.’ Rosemary attempted to keep the quiver out of her voice. ‘I see that you are not at the New York head office after all this week. Please sit down as we have a great deal to talk about.’

Taken aback by his usually complacent wife’s new look and the rigid set of her mouth, he complied ungraciously; flinging his coat on the back of one of the chairs. She pushed the envelope across the table towards him and as his fingers closed over the bulky package she smiled sadly.

‘Perhaps we should start by discussing these divorce papers.’

©Sally Cronin

My latest book, Tales from the Irish Garden,has received some recent reviews

About Tales from the Irish Garden

The queen of Magia and her court have fled their sun filled Spanish homeland and the palace beneath the magnolia tree. Arriving on the backs of geese and swans, they seek sanctuary in the magic garden of The Storyteller who welcomes them to the Emerald Island, a place where rain is almost a daily feature.

Grateful for their safe haven and the generosity of their host, the queen and her courtiers embrace their new surroundings with delight. As the seasons change throughout the year, they come into contact with many of the human and animal inhabitants of the garden and the surrounding forest, all of whom have a story to tell.

This is a magical fairy story infused with fantasy and romance, as well as opportunities for mischief in the company of goblins, witches and Lerpersians. Suitable for ages 10 to 100 years old…..

One of the recent reviews for the book

Tales from the Irish Garden is a magical book of stories of the queen of Magia as she is uprooted from her beloved home in Spain under the large magnolia tree to find a new home in the green and lush Emerald Isle. She must ensure the safety of all her subjects and precious statues as she prepares to make the move to their new home.

There is fantasy, romance, magical fairies, Lerpersians, and goblins who make these stories rich and fascinating. As I read along I found myself cheering on the queen and her entourage as they travel the long distance and finally arrive to settle down in their new surroundings.

The author has incorporated the personalities of her beloved father-in-law and mother into these characters of the storyteller and the queen. She has created a beautiful book of memories at the same time of her lovely home in Spain and her now new home in Ireland. She puts all her love and feelings into her stories making them even more meaningful to the reader. She is a consummate storyteller who has a talent to draw her readers into the tales and make them believe in magic and the world of fairies.

I highly recommend this exceptionally entertaining read. If you love this book as much as I do you will also love all Sally Cronin’s other lovely books.

Read the reviews and buy the book Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tales-Irish-Garden-Sally-Cronin-ebook/dp/B07HMXTFKG

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Irish-Garden-Sally-Cronin-ebook/dp/B07HMXTFKG

Here is a selection of my other books… an amazing gif designed by Paul Andruss… thanks Paul

You can find details of all my books in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you enjoyed this short story… always enjoy your feedback Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Jack a VIP visitor by Sally Cronin


We are coming to the end of the first volume of What’s in a Name? with the two stories beginning with ‘J’. From next weekend I will be sharing the stories from the second volume.

Jack a VIP Visitor

The gardens of the old house were kept immaculately by a team of unseen gardeners, so that others may visit to walk its paths, and smell the fragrances that drift like smoke through the air.

However, not everyone is allowed to wander unaccompanied across the green and luscious lawns, to discover hidden treasures behind evergreen bushes and ancient trees. This privilege is only for those, who in their lives have touched plants with love and respect. No ripping of the roots from the soil or unworthy cuts with sharpened tools when the blooms have faded and died; just a gentle touch prompted by love.

One such special visitor to the magic garden was an elderly man who walked delightedly amongst the riotous late spring colours of the flower beds and along the old stone paths. His name was Jack and he had spent a lifetime working in his own garden; gifting that love of the earth and all that grew within it to his three children and many grandchildren. As he walked in the soft late spring sunlight he caught sight of a flash of pink behind an old wooden shed and heard the tinkle of childish laughter. Intrigued he made his way across the dew damp grass to explore further.

His hand reached out and touched the delicate petals of the wall climbing rose and it reminded Jack of his two daughters. The plant was beautiful and vibrant; with the strength to grow and bloom every year in this hidden spot of the garden. He remembered how delighted Katherine and Amelia had been when Jack had bought them their first climbing rose to grace the wall of their home. He smiled to himself as he remembered the looks on their faces every time he arrived home with a new pot from the nursery on his way home from work. When their mother has died when they were still so young, it had been a way of bringing light back into their desolate home.

As he breathed in the scent of the pink blossoms an image came to his mind of a beautiful woman sat in a chair holding her beloved children closely. A feeling of joy spread through him and he stood for a moment relishing this precious memory.

This garden was not a formal place of worship but that did not matter as he knew that there was spirituality in simple things. Such as being amongst these beautiful plants and listening to the insects that hummed with the joy of spring. It was also in the sharing of fairy stories and cocoa before bedtime, hearing his grandchildren’s laughter and knowing that he was fulfilling his dying wife’s last wishes.

Part of that wish was that he continued to create a special garden for her daughters and son. She wanted them to grow to adulthood appreciating the beauty of nature and how to treat growing things with love and tenderness. It was a task that at first had been very painful, but over the years, it became a source of joy for all of them; and to those that they welcomed into their home. Many a stray dog or cat found sanctuary amongst the bushes and flowers along the borders of the lawn and even the wild foxes knew they could bring their young in safety.

Jack continued to wander, touching a rose here and a gentle scented lilac there. A yellow rose caught his eye as it was the only bloom of that colour in the garden. It stood out amongst the pale pinks and vibrant reds and he thought of his son Michael standing proudly between his two sisters and smiled to himself at the image it conjured.

He found a stone seat under a shady tree surrounded by funny little statues of dwarf musicians. He fancied he heard teenage laughter; and was that really the sound of a guitar playing nearby? Peacefully he sat drinking in the scene before him until a flash of colour and the whirr of tiny wings startled him. Hovering before him was a delicate butterfly decked out in vibrant gold and shimmering green. Amazed Jack held out his hand and the little creature settled delicately into his palm. They looked at each other for a moment or two and then the butterfly flew away back towards an old magnolia tree.

No words had been spoken but a message had been passed between them. Jack knew that he would be welcome to visit the garden anytime that he wished; a place to remember those that he had cherished and to touch again plants and petals he had loved.. But for now it was time to leave. With a lingering look at the beauty that surrounded him, he walked across the grass dotted with daisies and faded from sight into the walls of the boarded up house.

©Sally Cronin 2015

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

On the subject of magic gardens….. Tales from the Irish Garden was launched this week…

About Tales from the Irish Garden

The queen of Magia and her court have fled their sun filled Spanish homeland and the palace beneath the magnolia tree. Arriving on the backs of geese and swans, they seek sanctuary in the magic garden of The Storyteller who welcomes them to the Emerald Island, a place where rain is almost a daily feature.

Grateful for their safe haven and the generosity of their host, the queen and her courtiers embrace their new surroundings with delight. As the seasons change throughout the year, they come into contact with many of the human and animal inhabitants of the garden and the surrounding forest, all of whom have a story to tell.

This is a magical fairy story infused with fantasy and romance, as well as opportunities for mischief in the company of goblins, witches and Lerpersians. Suitable for ages 10 to 100 years old…..

The book is now available in Kindle on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tales-Irish-Garden-Sally-Cronin-ebook/dp/B07HMXTFKG

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Irish-Garden-Sally-Cronin-ebook/dp/B07HMXTFKG

Here is a selection of my other books… an amazing gif designed by Paul Andruss… thanks Paul

You can find details of all my books in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Rewind – Writer in Residence – The Birch Maiden by Paul Andruss


I am sharing this particular early post by Paul Andruss as it introduced me to the work of Donata Zawa who created some of the illustrations for Tales from the Irish Garden. I cannot recommend her work highly enough as she worked from ideas I had for the stories and created such lovely images.

The Birch Maiden by Paul Andruss – Illustrated by Donata Zawadzka

picture1

The Legend

The Birch Maiden is a Scottish folktale about a beautiful fairy inhabiting a birch tree. One evening she is tempted by a basket of apples left on the ground by soldiers sleeping in the grove. One young handsome soldier awakens, and seeing her is instantly smitten. When discovered, the shy creature flees into her tree, which only makes the soldier desire her more. Eventually he learns of a way of making the fairy maid fall in love with him and she forsakes her tree to become his bride.

Here the story takes various twists and turns depending on the tradition that preserved it. Popular tales are rarely straight forward. Stories diverge due to being passed down for hundreds of years within the families of professional storytellers, from father to son. No doubt, some versions are embellished with orphaned fragments of otherwise forgotten tales.

Sometimes the fairy can only be freed if the soldier speaks her name three times under a waxing moon. Cunningly the soldier learns her name by hiding in the woods and listening to her sisters as they dance and sing in the glade. In this version the maid may sicken and die when she forsakes her tree for a mortal man’s love. In other versions she loses her memory, until one day she learns, from the song of a tame robin, her tree is dying and abandons her husband to resume her former life in the wildwood.

In darker versions, the soldier tempts her with an enchanted apple, obtained from a witch (sometimes the forest queen in disguise); traded for an impetuous promise to sacrifice what loves him most. He forgets to warn his wife to send out his favourite hound to greet him when he comes home from war. Thus his wife, or young daughter, is condemned to return to the tree, and the soldier learns the harsh penalty of trafficking with fairies.

The History

The Birch Maiden is reminiscent of ancient Greek tree-nymphs called dryads and hamadryads. The difference between the two is hamadryads die if their tree is harmed.
The word nymph requires explanation. Nymphs are girls of marriageable age. In ancient and medieval times, a girl was married off as soon as she was sexually mature, often around the age of 11. The classical world seeing women as inferior, and somewhat feral, feared their unbridled sexual appetite; which could only be contained in marriage.

Wild women such as Dryads and Maenads were viewed as sexual predators because they existed outside the civilised boundaries set by men. To be fair, the women followers of the wine god Bacchus, called Maenads, were pretty mean drunks who tended to rip blokes limb from limb after a night on the old Lambrini. But then again, with attitudes like that maybe the men deserved it. The Ancient Greeks were not half as trendy as we like to think.

Finding Grecian tree-nymphs at the northern edge of Europe is not surprising when considering the migrations of peoples during ancient times. An Irish tribe called the Scottii gave Scotland its name when they settled in the east by Hadrian’s Wall during the early Dark Ages. Here they met other migrants from Belgium, Holland, Germany and Denmark.

Many European tribes believed they originated in Greece. Germanic tribes and the Norsemen claimed they came from the ancient city of Byzantium. The antique Irish ‘Book of Conquests’ tells of the Fir Bolge, who lived as slaves in Greece.

Perhaps these are racial memories of an ecological disaster from 7,500 years ago, when the Mediterranean Sea broke through at the Bosporus (near where Byzantium would stand) in a mighty waterfall that caused the Black Sea to double in size in a matter of months.

Archaeologists estimate during this catastrophic flood, the water level rose by 5 meters a day. With farming established on the shores of the Black Sea for almost 4,000 years, the panicked population fled to Southern Greece where the first farming settlements in Europe are found around this time.

While we are familiar with the Biblical tale of Noah, not many people know is it is based on a number of flood stories thousands of years older that survived in the Greek myth of Deucalion and the Celtic of Hu Gadarn.

It is possible the Birch Maiden is an even more ancient. A tradition from the largely unknown aboriginal inhabitants of Northern Europe: the fishermen and hunters who had lived there since the Ice Age retreated some 13,000 years ago.

The incoming farmers already believed the gods punished mortals for clearing woodland without first propitiating the tree-nymphs, so it is easy to see them adapting the birch into their own traditions. Due to its shimmering white bark, the birch was already known as the Lady of the Woods and sacred to the primeval White Goddess of Old Europe.

The birch was the first tree to colonise Europe when the Ice Age ended and the mile-high glaciers that stretched almost down to London melted. Because it is well adapted to the cold it was also the first to leaf and so became a symbol of impending spring.

The Irish Ogham Alphabet names each of its letters after a tree which either leafs, fruits or flowers in succession throughout the thirteen lunar months of the year. The first letter is ‘Beth’: the birch. Its month starts after the winter solstice extending from the plough days of late December to the 20th of January. The first ogham message was 7 Bs, scratched on a birch twig that read: 7 times will they wife be carried off to fairyland unless the birch is her overseer. It is thought the word ‘book’ derives from its ancient name.

Associated with fairies, witches and the goddess, the birch encourages fertility and health. Cradles were woven from birch twigs to protect babies. Cows herded with a birch switch would be become pregnant. Maypoles were made from a birch trunk, and at Halloween witches flew to their Great Sabbath on birch brooms after first anointing themselves with a flying ointment made from the hallucinogenic fly-agaric, or fairy-cap toadstool, found growing amid birch trees roots.

Birch rods were used to beat wickedness from lunatics, criminals and children, a punishment used until recent times in the Isle of Man. Brooms made from birch twigs swept ill luck from the house and were used to beat the parish boundaries in spring to drive away all evil.

©Paul Andruss 2017

I would now very much like to introduce you to the wonderful artist and illustrator Donata Zawadzka who has graced my work with her art.

picture2Polish born Donata Zawadzka is one half of an accomplished husband and wife artistic team, now living in Gravesend. I have known Dona for 6 years.

After seeing her work on the internet and falling in love with it, I cheekily asked if she would mind doing some illustrations for Thomas the Rhymer. She agreed, but only if she liked the book. Fortunately for me she did!

Although she has many styles I fell in love with her delicate black and white line drawings reminiscent of the classic Victorian illustrators such as Charles Snicket, Walter Crane and of course the great Arthur Rackham. The Birch Maiden is a prime example.

I am sure that you will love her work so please to and view her outstanding art on her site. If you are looking for an illustrator you will find that Dona is a dream to work with and your books will be beautifully enhanced with her artwork.

picture3Connect to Donata Zawadzka

View her website : http://dezawadzka.wix.com/donatasgallery
Buy her work on Redbubble: http://www.redbubble.com/people/donattien/works/7004053-the-birch-maiden?c=32080-ink-illustrations
Like Dona on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/donataewa.zawadzka?fref=ts
Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DonataEZawadzka

Thomas the Rhymer

You can find out more about Paul Andruss and his posts in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/writer-in-residence-writer-paul-andruss/

And as an extra bonus.. here is the gif that Paul designed for me to celebrate the release of Tales from the Irish Garden, including some of the illustrations by Donata.