‘Hush, hush, whisper who dares’

As avera2blynn2b1940s child, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, especially with my very dear Granny Joan.   Overnight stays and sick days off school were always brightened by cuddling up together on the sofa with a hot water bottle, duvet, bag of aniseed twists and humbugs, and a musical film. She introduced me to all the classics, sharing her love of music and her huge romantic heart.  As she pottered she’d hum, lost in her own little world, with some ‘Easter Parade‘ here and ‘Singin’ in the rain‘ there. Above all these, however, one song will forever be ‘our song’: Vespers, as sung by (now Dame) Vera Lynn (pictured), better know perhaps as ‘the Christopher Robin song’.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-09-24-08Every night she’d tucked me into bed and then, kneeling down beside, holding my hands in gently in hers, sing, ‘hush, hush, whisper who dares’ whilst I closed my eyes and curled up small and pretended that nobody would know I was there at all. Then she’d kiss my eyelids, turn off the light, say ‘God Bless’ and that was that.  Everything comes back to me when I think of those bed times.  The bed linen and curtains.  The paper on the wall.  The Shake ‘n Vac’d carpet.  The dolls-house that now sits in my Mum’s home for my children, nephews and nieces to enjoy. The creak of the floorboards as she walked down the corridor and stairs. And my Grandpa loudly (over noise of the tele) offering ‘Sherry dear?’ as she returned to the living room to take up her knitting needles in front of Corrie.

img_2756When my grandmother (pictured right in red between my Mum and I) passed away years later, I remember curling up in my bed at her house with tears streaming into the pillow as I sang Vespers to myself (what I wouldn’t have given to hear her sing it again). And years later still, those tears returned when, for the first time, I heard from the hallway my own Mum (now Nana) singing Vespers to my baby daughter.  For both my daughter and her younger brother, Vespers has solidly become the number one bedtime song (followed by Brahms’ lullaby, Hushabye Mountain and Stay Awake – the love of musical film continues…) and for that I will always be truly thankful to the wonderful A.A. Milne.  

Without doubt, the bear of very little brain has also a very special place in our hearts and minds.  We’ve loved the Winnie-the-Pooh books and Disney films; and have also enjoyed their songs to get us going in the morning – with our ‘rumbly in my tumbly‘s, and ‘up,down, and touch the ground‘s putting us in the mood for breakfast and tigger-style bouncing, but that’s a blog post for another day.

A.A. Milne, rest on in peace (having passed away 61 years ago tomorrow), with gratitude and love.  And granny, ‘god bless you’.  


Making storytime memories my business

Since childhood, I’ve found myself forever drawn to children’s storybooks.  This love took on a new dimension nearly two years ago.  

2015 was a bittersweet year.  We’ve all experienced years like it.  A year in which things come in threes.   A year in which, at certain points, you daren’t answer the phone for fear of more bad news.  And at the same time a year in which seeming miracles also happened.  A year in which you remember shade can only exist in the presence of light.

Out of the blue, my invincible father was in a life-threatening condition in hospital and the prognosis seemed hopeless.  For weeks he battled and we prepared ourselves for the worst.  I ‘commuted’ between the hospital in Suffolk and my home in Switzerland, bringing drawings and recordings from my children to brighten his days in hospital. And when at home, playing my children recordings of their grandfather reading stories for them some years earlier – to comfort them at a time when he was little able to speak. We said our goodbyes.  We cherished the keepsakes.  And he made a truly remarkable recovery.  

At much the same time, one of my closest friends lost her husband to a brain tumour at the age of 33.  And one of my neighbours lost her battle with kidney cancer, leaving a beautiful 4 year old daughter without her mother. No miraculous recoveries. No sufficient words for their loss. No putting off some important conversations to be had with my own daughter and others who shared the playground with this little girl who was grieving.

A couple of years before, I had begun creating a little library of recorded stories for my children.  Stories recorded by me, my husband and our respective families (with people living in different countries), narrating our favourite children’s storybooks.  Stories my children would listen to when we had to travel with work and miss bedtime.  Stories we would all enjoy together on journeys in the car, train and sometimes plane.  Stories we would play whilst doing arts and crafts.  Stories from which we took enjoyment and comfort when we couldn’t all be together.  

As 2015 unfurled, I clung to these story recordings and recorded many more for my children. I sought out stories that would help me talk about illness and loss with children.  And I spoke with others about the value of the recorded voice and stories in helping process emotions including grief.  My friend Caroline spoke of how she wished she had more recordings of her husband Iain; and of how she wished there were more resources helping people process and deal with grief.

It was then that Caroline and I each embarked on our own projects to help.  Caroline committed to writing a children’s book.  And I committed to a new business idea I’d had in mind for some time – enabling people to record and share their voice reading children’s storybooks an app called ‘StorySnap’.  Neither would be miraculous cures or fixes for the unfixable, but they might provide some help and comfort. And not only to those facing loss.  The idea of family members and friends simply recording stories for one another seemed something that could benefit so many people in a wide diversity of settings.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-09-40-14Both our projects have come a long way since.  Caroline’s book, Davey’s Really Magic Carpet, is now on the bookshelves.  And StorySnap is in the making – and will include Caroline’s book for people to narrate, record and share. I launched a crowdfunding campaign at the start of November and, once the funding is secured, we will launch the beta version to a community of supporters for testing in December, enabling people to record stories as Christmas gifts this winter!

There’s still a way to go but, just as I found out myself, children’s stories are such an enduring and loved medium that there is much support, especially from communities who particularly feel the strain of separation.  From our own childhood experiences, our favourite stories become treasures to pass on. It’s little wonder, therefore, that we cherish them all the more when combined with reminders and memories of our loved ones.  As author Steven Moffat suggests, “we’re all just stories in the end…”

  • Stories have always been a huge part of my life, and I’m now looking to celebrate them as a mumpreneur. This blog is going to be a window into everything from my childhood memories of storytelling, to the importance of it within my day-to-day family life, and occasionally a peek into how stories are shaping mumpreneurial life for me.