Posted in Family, Reading, Writing

A A Milne – My More Distinguished Twin

The author aged about 5, with a teddy, in her front garden
Me, aged about 5, in my front garden with my multi-coloured teddy as my ally of the moment.

Ever since I was a child, I have wondered what it would be like to have a twin.

As the youngest of three children, with a brother and sister five and six years older than me, I used to crave an ally of my own age to provide a balance of power in our family group.

At one stage, I tried to conjure up an invisible friend as a twin substitute, but I soon dropped her as unconvincing and dull, despite my having a sufficiently vivid imagination to believe that bears would get me if I stepped on cracks in the pavement.

It took me until I was nine to find a suitable alternative: Patricia Lawrence, a girl in my class at primary school. We took our shared birthday as a sign that we should be inseparable best friends, and so we were until at the age of 11 we headed for different secondary schools and drifted apart.

Unless you’re a leap-year baby, finding someone who shares your birthday should not be difficult. There’s a 1 in 365 chance with anyone you meet.

For many years, four people in my immediate family had their birthdays on New Year’s Eve – three related by blood and one by marriage. When my mother, aged nine, was asked what she wanted for her tenth birthday, she replied, “A baby brother”. My grandmother conveniently obliged.

Next on my to-read list: A A Milne’s only mystery novel – endorsed by P G Wodehouse, no less!

I know a lot of people, yet the only other person I’m aware of who shares my birthday is A A Milne, born in 1882. In tribute to Milne’s most famous creation, our shared birthday is now deemed National Winnie-the-Pooh Day. I wonder what Milne would make of that, when he wrote much more besides the Winnie-the-Pooh stories and poems, including screenplays for the embryonic British film industry, various novels, short stories, and humorous articles for Punch magazine.

Alan Alexander Milne died before I was born, but growing up in a household where Pooh stories were staple bedtime stories, I always felt a certain bond with him.

photo of two teddy bears
My favourite childhood Teddy (right) with a bigger friend, Galloway, rescued from a charity shop in Dumfries

Another Milne-related memory from my childhood is my first experience of school drama, when I played the Queen in my infant school’s production of Milne’s poem “The King’s Breakfast”. The King was played by one Malcolm Bothwell, which even then struck me as an impressive name. In later life he’d have been right at home in the cast of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Feeling that Milne belonged to my childhood, I’d never considered him in the context of his own time, so I was startled to discover recently that:

(a) he was taught at school by the Victorian author HG Wells

(b) in adulthood he played on cricket teams with J M Barrie, P G Wodehouse, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (another author irritated not to gain more recognition for his huge output of fiction besides his most famous creation).

That’s one remove from Christopher Robin, Peter Pan, Sherlock Holmes and Bertie Wooster sharing a social occasion – what an interesting fantasy dinner party guest list they would make.

Meanwhile I’m pleased to be sharing A A Milne’s birthday later this month. If he was still alive, on January 18th, he’d be 140. There’s nothing like being the more junior twin to make one feel younger. Thank you, Mr Milne – and happy birthday to us both!

(This article was first published in the January 2022 issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News.)

NB E H Shepard‘s wonderful original drawings of Winnie-the-Pooh are still in copyright, which is why I’ve shared images of different bears here instead

Who is your more famous twin? I’d love to know!

Another Tale of Twins: Murder by the Book
(Sophie Sayers Village Mystery #4)

cover of Murder by the Book
Available in paperback and ebook for Kindle (included in Kindle Unlimited)

I’d always wanted to write a novel featuring twins, and having established the charming Hector Munro as the heroine’s romantic interest in my Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series, in the fourth installment, Murder by the Book, I couldn’t resist cloning Hector to produce his more mischievous and daring brother Horace.

Unlike the sensible Hector, who has chosen the gentle career of a bookseller in the Cotswold village of Wendlebury Barrow, Horace has ventured overseas, working as an adventure holiday guide in Australia. When he comes home to visit one January, he puts Sophie’s loyalty to the test – and finds out some secrets Hector would rather he didn’t know.

This perfect seasonal read is available in both paperback and ebook for Kindle, and if you are a member of Kindle Unlimited, you’ll have free access to this and all my novels as part of your subscription.

Order your copy of Murder by the Book online here – or place an order for the paperback at your local neighbourhood bookshop. (That would please Hector!)


Posted in Reading, Writing

On Box Sets and Books in Boxes – to Mark the Launch of Sophie Sayers’ First Box Set

images of covers of first 3
Is it a box set? Is it a trilogy? Whatever you call it, it’s a bargain!


It’s perhaps an inevitable phenomenon of our digital TV-on-demand era, with voracious viewers binge-watching whole series of their favourite shows at a sitting, that the equivalent should happen in ebook publishing.

The digital book box set allows readers to stock up on a whole batch of books in a series by their favourite author, or in some cases a collection of books each by a different author in the same genre.

Box sets are usually priced significantly cheaper than it would cost to buy the books separately.

Catching the Box Set Omnibus

I confess I’m jumping on the box set bandwagon myself this week, with the launch of my first box set of the first three novels in my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series. If you buy the box set, you effectively get the books as a 3-for-2 bargain, as the price is the equivalent to what you’d pay for books two and three if bought alone.

As these are ebooks, the box is of course only notional. Although I have to say I do loved physical boxed sets too – and single books that come in their own little slipcase, the sort that the Folio Society is so good at, not so much a box set as simply a book in a box.

There’s something very comforting about physical box sets of books. My mother’s gift to me of a P G Wodehouse collection of Jeeves novels twelve years ago was as much a cure for my pneumonia as prescription drugs…

P G Wodehouse box set

…and I only have to look at this box set of the complete Sherlock Holmes to feel better.

Sherlock Holmes Box Set

When I was little, I only had one box set of books, a beautiful Disney-themed collection for my ninth birthday and still treasured.

Disney box set

But I did have several omnibuses – a collection of single books in a single fat volume.

Mary Plain's Omnibus book cover

In fact, I was quite grown up before I realised that an omnibus was “long” for the word bus, despite the handly clue provided here by Teddy Robinson.

first page of Teddy Robinson's Omnibus book

Climb Aboard Sophie Sayers’ Omnibus

images of covers of first 3
The first three Sophie Sayers books are now available in a virtual box set – a single ebook

If you’re an ebook reader, and have not yet climbed aboard my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, I hope you’ll enjoy her first box set. And if you’ve already read these, and the following book 4, Murder by the Book, I’ve got something for you too: the fifth in the series, Springtime for Murder, will be launched in November. More news on that book coming soon…

  • If you’d like to be among the first to know when I’m about to publish a new book, and to keep up with other news about my writing life, just sign up here to join my free Readers’ Club. You’ll also receive a free short story. (Of course, your details won’t be shared with anyone else or used for any other purpose.)


Posted in Family, Reading

The Joy of Sets (of Books, that is)

Cover of "Abigail: The Breeze Fairy (Rain...
Cover via Amazon

This evening, everyone in our house has been immersed in a book. There’s not much to beat a good book, beyond the thrill of discovering that the one you are currently enjoying is part of a set.  Once you’ve finished, there’s another one, just as good, lined up to take its place.

My husband is gripped by Lustrum, the latest Robert Harris thriller to be set in Ancient Rome.  He’d been unable to put down its predecessors, Pompeii and Imperium, written about three years apart.

I’m lapping up The Perfect Paragon, the sixteenth Agatha Raisin detective story.  M C Beaton can be relied on to churn out another one or two each year, in between new Hamish Macbeths, but I must slow down now so as not to overtake her.

My small daughter Laura need not hold back on her current passion: the Rainbow Magic books by the sweetly named Daisy Meadows.   Once she’s finished Amy the Amethyst Fairy, fifth of the seven Jewel Fairies, she can progress to the Weather Fairies: Crystal the Snow Fairy, Abigail the Breeze Fairy – you get the idea.  Then there’s a set for the colours in the Rainbow – Ruby the Red Fairy, Amber the Orange Fairy.  Plus a handful on a party theme – Cherry(Cake), Melodie(Music). I’m sure she’ll love the Funday Fairies – there’ one of those for every day of the week. Plus there are fairies rolled out for special events. Laura doesn’t know it yet, but the Easter Fairy will accompany her Easter eggs. Kate the Royal Wedding Fairy is probably best read before April 29th.

Discovering eight more Rainbow Magic titles are due to be published  in July 2011, I suspect there may be more than one pen behind the Daisy Meadows name. But can you ever have too many fairies?  Not if you’re a seven year old girl.  And I’m sure there will be plenty more where these came from.

In fact, now I think about it, there are fairies everywhere I look.  Putting out the dustbins, I dream up the Recycling Fairies: Polly the Plastics Fairy, Bella (Bottle), Coco (Cardboard), Nina (Newspaper), Rita (Rags).  The Housework Fairies are always welcome to visit us – come on down,  Deirdre the Dusting Fairy, and bring your friend Ida to do the Ironing.

Did I say there’s nothing better than a set of books? But there is, as a glance up at my bookshelf reminds me: the boxed set.  Taking pride of place is a special edition boxed set of P G Wodehouse, which hastened my recovery from pneumonia a few years ago, and one of Sherlock Holmes, bought just because it was so lovely.  Of classic boxed sets I will never tire.  And you could get an awful lot of fairies in a box.