img_4589It’s Christmas Day. As you read this post I’m with family, probably eating, definitely enjoying myself. I lived away from my family for many years and missed a lot of Christmases, so now I make the most of being in the same country with (most of) them once more.

And at Christmas time I remember. I remember my paternal grandfather in his church, holly and ivy in the snowy churchyard, the old carols I knew and loved ringing along the ancient stone walls. I remember my grandmother setting up the inflatable Santa and reindeers, sitting us in a small sleigh and taking our photos. I remember my nana and grandad’s house, the tree with old-fashioned glass ornaments and glittering tinsel, the way the sky turned purple over the fields as I looked for a star each Christmas eve. I remember Christmas dinners and laughter and most of all, love, like a great golden glow encompassing us all. I remember the time we had together and I’m grateful for it, just as I’m grateful for the memories we’re creating today.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas, wherever you are.

As well as a Christmas post, this is my response to the 30 Day Writing Challenge – it’s day 25, and today’s prompt is: Remember.

If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Thursday Doors – All-Hallows-By-The-Tower, London

IMG_2474These two lovely doors are both from the church of All-Hallows-By-The-Tower, in London, England. IMG_2481The church was founded in 675AD, making it one of the oldest Christian churches in London, and parts of the original building are still visible inside. Standing outside, if you look one way you see the Tower of London;

IMG_2479And if you look the other way, you see the ‘Walkie-Talkie-, one of the newest buildings in the city.

IMG_2480If there was ever a building that could be said to encompass the history of a place, then All-Hallows-By-The-Tower is it. Built on the site of an earlier Roman building, you can go down into the original crypt and walk on tiles laid almost 2000 years ago. You can see a Saxon arch made using Roman roof tiles, and interior walls still blackened by a direct hit from the Luftwaffe during the Second World War, which reduced much of the building to a shell. Beheaded victims from the nearby Tower of London were sent to All Hallows for temporary burial, before heading to their final place of rest and the church tower, built in 1658, was the place where Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist, watched London burn during the Great Fire of 1666, the church itself only narrowly escaping destruction in the flames. Truly it is a building that spans millennia – if only the walls could talk.


This is my entry for Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors challenge – for more doors, or to add one of your own, head over to Norm’s and click the link.



Thursday Doors – St Margaret’s Church, Wolston


This is the doorway to the church of St Margaret, in Wolston, England. It’s a typical Norman-style church doorway – the church was built in 1186 – with a simple wooden door. Yet the colours of the stones, the simple shapes and worn lines, give it beauty, as do the fresh flowers and shrubs in tubs around the door, evidence of a church still well-used and part of the community.


Despite its simplicity, this door is very special to me, and I have several photographs of it. In one, my paternal grandfather, smiling and in his vicar’s robes, is greeting my maternal grandfather and my mother. My mother is dressed in silk and lace, her father in top hat and tails, and they are on their way into the church when my father is waiting, along with the wedding guests. In another photo, a very small version of me is coming out of the church, accompanied by other small children, all of us dressed in costumes for a festival.

My grandfather was vicar of this church until 1979, when he sadly passed away, and there is a memorial chair to him inside. He is buried in the churchyard, along with my grandmother, great-grandmother and great-aunt, so it is a place that holds many memories. In fact, I blogged about some of them here.


And this is another reason I think this is a special church. I rather liked this poster. It seemed to me to embody what religion should be – open to anyone and accepting of all. It’s how I always remember it being when I used to come here, so it’s nice to see that nothing has changed.

This is my entry to this week’s Thursday Doors Challenge, courtesy of Norm 2.0. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s blog and click the link.

Thursday Doors – St Mary’s Church


This is one of the entrance doors into St Mary’s Church, Hemel Hempstead. I love the colour of the wood and the curling ironwork hinges, reminiscent of the more ornate doors at Notre Dame, Paris.

St Mary’s Church is in Hemel Hempstead, England. It is a Norman building, built between 1140 and 1180, and has a wonderful 14th century spire, one of the tallest in Europe. The Church is still in use – friends of mine were married there, and you can hire out the adjacent Church Hall for parties. It’s located in the Old Town, and there are plenty of stories about Henry VIII rampaging through these parts, chasing after Anne Boleyn. I wonder if they ever visited the Church? 😉


————————————————————————————————————This is my entry for Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors Challenge – to see more doors, or add one of your own, visit his blog and click on the link.

Ghosts of My Grandfather

My grandfather died in his church.

For many years he was vicar there, the ancient village surrounding it dating back to the Domesday Book (and possibly beyond). It was the kind of place that had a castle once, but ‘Simon De Montfort and his crew tore it down.’ Where the old manor house had fallen prey to post war neglect, where another old home had an indelible bloodstain by the fireplace, relic of misdeeds long ago.

My grandfather was a wonderful vicar. At least, that’s how I remember him. He preached love and tolerance, filling the church with vegetables and fruit at harvest time, the scientist and historian in him acknowledging traditions older than his religion. On Sundays, after the service and Sunday School and dinner in the old Georgian vicarage, he would sit at his desk and prepare his notes for next week’s sermon while I danced around the small circular table at the centre of the room, French doors open to let in the scents and sounds of the garden beyond.

He died when I was only nine, struck down by a massive heart attack as he readied himself for service in the small vestry. He was carried out through the packed congregation (which included my grandmother) and, several days later, laid to rest in the churchyard nearby. I still miss him (as I do all my grandparents), and feel glad I had the chance to know him for a few short years at least.

We sometimes visit the village where he lived, though I haven’t been for a couple of years now. It still slumbers peacefully among the fields, the small stream where I used to play Poohsticks with my grandmother meandering through the main street past half timbered cottages and Georgian houses. It’s a beautiful place and not much changed since I was small.

About eight years ago we visited, taking my husband and baby daughter to the church where my parents were married and my brother and I christened, a carved wooden memorial chair marking my grandfather’s years of service there. It was an auspicious time for me – coming out of a difficult spell after the birth of my daughter and reconnecting with my past, the trip we made to visit family in the UK was life changing for many reasons.

And so I stood in my grandfather’s church and I remembered. Singing in the pews next to my grandmother. My very-small-at-the-time brother deciding one day that he would rather stand with Grandad in the pulpit than sit in the pew (nobody minded). Taking my basket of apples up to the altar at harvest time, so heavy I had to use both arms to carry it. Years and layers of time and memory weaving around me. And then something, I don’t know what, prompted me to take out my camera. I held it up and thought (again, I don’t know why), ‘Grandad, if you’d like to be in this picture, please do.’ Then I paused for a split second before pressing the shutter.

And this is the image that appeared:

Church Interior

I don’t know how you feel about the idea of an afterlife, or our loved ones coming to visit after they are gone. I have my own opinions but I won’t bore you with them today. However, this photo seemed quite special to me.

Do you see the two orbs? The big one is directly above my grandfather’s memorial chair, while another seems to be ascending the stair to the pulpit. (it’s on the bottom step)

Church face image

And then who is this peeping around the pillar? The chapel to the right is called the Lady Chapel, and houses two very old and worn burials of a knight and his lady, their names lost to time. Did one of them decide to come back and have their picture taken?

I should go back, I suppose, and take another photo from the same angle. It’s a very old building, after all. Dust, tricks of the light and worn marks on the stones can sometimes present images that seem other than they are. So I leave this with you without further comment, although I’d be interested to hear yours.