Tag Archives: girl friends

Crossing the Topiary Chessmen off my Bucket List

The winners of the AUTHOR HUMILIATION CONTEST in the author category will be posted Friday. Meanwhile, enjoy Wendy’s adventures in Scotland!

Digital CameraI hadn’t seen my friend Bun in eight years, since leaving Scotland for the States. We used to run a storytelling club together, and like me she is an avid textile artist.

So when she said she had promised to take her mother on a garden tour Sunday afternoon (the only day I could see her) I–who can’t tell an onion from a lily–said sure, I’d tag along.

“Great!” Bun said. “It’s at Leuchars, Earlshall Castle.”

Could it be…? Leuchars was only a few miles from New Gilston, where Jack and I used to live in Scotland. As a bride my first year there, I’d tried several times to visit a famous garden in Leuchars, listed in the guidebook just before the new owner had shut it up and installed security cameras.

Digital CameraHot diggety! In one of those rare coincidences life sometimes hands out, I not only got to spend a happy hour with my friend Bun, but she led me straight to something I’d wanted to see for more than ten years: the Topiary Chessmen.

Hey, I don’t make comments about what’s on YOUR bucket list.

Digital CameraThe pieces are laid out in mid-play. Allegedly, one king is under some threat; to really appreciate their positioning, you have to view them from the tower window of the castle. As the family weren’t offering that option in their Open Garden for Charity day, Bun and I contented ourselves with running about screaming, “Oh, here’s a knight! This must be the queen! Look, that one’s a Dalek!” and generally acting like school children.

Digital CameraMost of the people attending had come straight from the Church of Scotland’s Sunday Service, and were dressed in expensive shoes, sweater sets, and suits. Bun was wearing a lot of her own handiwork, plus a poncho. I was wearing “tourism casual.” We attracted several stares.

Which made us cut up more. “You will be exterminated!” Bun intoned in front of a Dalek-esque pawn.

Digital Camera Digital CameraA man in a flat cap with tweed patches at his elbow stopped, looked at us, looked at it, and said in a posh English accent, “Blimey! THAT’S what it reminds me of. Ta, ladies!”

Tis true that some of them required more benevolent imagination than others, but I’d been wanting to see these things for ten years. In fact, I suggested a run out in the last week Jack and I lived in Scotland, just to see if perchance we could get into the gardens.

Digital CameraJack does not share my fascination with hegemonic sculpture.

And now I’ve seen them. And Bun and I will remember our day out among the topiary chessmen for a long time. About as long as the owners of the garden remember us racing ’round shrieking in nasal drones, “Exterminate!” and doing mouth music versions of the Dr. Who theme.

Isn’t that what friendship is all about? Silliness, long-lost dreams helped to come true, and a really good cup of tea in the garden?Digital Camera




Filed under Big Stone Gap, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, post-apocalypse fiction, publishing, reading, Scotland, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing, YA fiction

Those Lovely Moments

rosesFrom time to time authors get incredibly humbling messages about what their books have meant to people. Balancing out the egotism that follows these moments are the one-star reviews and snarky private messages. So please don’t get the idea that it’s all teacups and roses once you publish. 😉

But it is lovely to know that at some point in other people’s lives you’ve said something that counts. And this post from a Facebook friend this morning made me cry:

You saved my life last night! I got some bad news from a family member and I was really upset and could feel my heart pounding in my teeth so I figured there was not calmness going on in my body. It was bedtime and I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep. My favorite things to do before bed is to read but I was just agitating too much! I thought, I need a good book that is all about hope, courage, persistence and yes scary times but coming out on the other side after walking with faith and hope to a new life. So I thought of rereading your book, “The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.” It was a great decision because I became calm and hopeful that all would work out. Powerful stuff at midnight on an ordinary Thursday night! So thank you and I am looking to continuing the story today. Peace.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, writing

Santa Signs for the Pirate

shelley tube dressToday I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine. This is Shelley. (Eat your heart out, guys; she’s married and loves her husband.)

Shelley is one of the Grammar Guerrilla Girls, and a spirited person; she took Jack and our shopsitter Andrew to see the Santa Train when it came through last month, despite having had life-or-death surgery just about six weeks before. (Shelley inherited a bad set of internal plumbing, and when it finally got fixed, the surgery almost killed her. When her friends and family say, “All I want for Christmas is you,” it means something a little more intense.)

As you can see, Shelley is well on her way back to health, for which we are all grateful–not least Shelley’s adorable daughter, Holly.

I think it’s an unwritten law that beautiful, feminine women give birth to tomboys. Holly is more rainbows than rosebuds. She plans to be a pirate when she grows up. holly gunholly 1








As her mom said when posting pix of Holly on her first deer hunt with Dad, “Be afraid, world; be very afraid.”

The GGs support each other in our various endeavors, so when The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap came out, Shelley and the others wrote about it on their FB sites, pinned it on Pinterest, and came with their families to get signed copies to give as gifts. Last week when our heat pump went out, Shelley brought a heater, and while with us encouraged Holly to pick out some books –setting in motion our favorite Christmas story this year.

Right after leaving our store Holly went with her Gran to see Santa. Holly plopped down on the big guy’s lap, held out the Little Golden Book of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas she’d gotten at our place, and said, “Santa, could you autograph your book for me?”

Holly rocks. (So does her mom. So do all the GGs – God Bless Us, Every One!)holly face

That's Heather, Shelley and Jessica, GGs and camera-shy sweet things.

That’s Heather, Shelley and Jessica, GGs and camera-shy sweet things.


Filed under Uncategorized