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Owl at Midnight

a story of Gwenllian, the lost Princess of Wales
by Patricia Lennan


Thursday, 16th November 2017, on the promenade at Llandudno, North Wales, and the first time that author, Patricia Lennan, holds in her hand a copy of her historical novel,

Owl at Midnight a story of Gwenllian, the lost Princess of Wales.


It was a big day … the culmination of six years of writing and research of the 13th century events that shaped the life of the last native Princess of Wales.




It was a long awaited day for members of The Princess Gwenllian Society.



Patricia spent time talking with all the guests and gave a short speech in which she explained how she had come to write Owl at Midnight.


Her inspiration was a visit to the birthplace of Gwenllian, at Abergwyngregyn, near to Llandudno.

Gwenllian’s birthplace, Abergwyngregyn.

“I was shown the room where it is thought Eleanor de Montfort gave birth to Gwenllian, the tunnel which led to the sea and other tunnels which once led to the mountains above.
It was here where my story was born.”


Owl at Midnight tells Gwenllian’s known story; the last native Princess of Wales, she was taken as a baby by King Edward’s men and shut away in an English nunnery at his command.
There she grew up and took her vows, never knowing her real identity.


Patricia brings to life a young woman pushing at the boundaries and questioning the rules that confine her.
But she doesn’t leave her there. Outside the Priory, hopes rise to restore the rightful Princess to the Principality of Wales … and here possibilities open up that could have changed the course of history.

Owl at Midnight

a story of Gwenllian, the lost Princess of Wales
ISBN: 978-0-9935078-3-0

Paperback book, 364 pages, with map, Welsh royal family tree, plus pen illustrations heading each chapter.

To buy Owl at Midnight:

Purchase from Waterstones Llandudno

Or order from www.littleknollbookshop.co.uk
Book price – £9.99
P&p UK mainland – £2.80

The website will calculate p&p for other countries
If your country is not on the website for delivery then please email Jenny@LittleKnollPress.co.uk 

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A kind friend has translated the book launch invitation into Welsh – see below –

Owl at Midnight

– hanes Gwenllian Tywysoges goll Cymru


Patricia Lennan

ISBN: 978-0-9935078-3-0


Ganwyd Gwenllian ferch Llywelyn, merch Tywysog olaf Cymru, ym 1282, adeg gythryblus pan oedd brenin Lloegr, y Brenin Edward, yn benderfynol ei fod yn mynd i gipio Cymru iddo ef ei hun. Ar ôl i Edward ladd tad Gwenllian, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, a’i hewythr, Dafydd, a charcharu eu chefndryd, mae’n rhaid ei fod wedi teimlo peth trueni tuag at y baban Gwenllian oherwydd iddo orchymyn ei bod yn cael ei chuddio mewn lleiandy, ei henw’n cael ei newid, a’i bod yn treulio ei bywyd yn anhysbys.

Gan gymryd yr ychydig ffeithiau hyn y gwyddom amdanynt mae Patricia Lennan wedi dod â’r Gwenllian ifanc yn fyw mewn hanes sy’n ymhelaethu ar fanylion gweddïau, gwasanaeth ac ymprydio mewn lleiandy Gilbertaidd, i’r nifer mawr o ddigwyddiadau allan o’r cyffredin ym Mhrydain y 13eg ganrif.


Yng ngeiriau Patricia ei hun: ‘Mae gan Gymru’r enw o fod yn wlad o fythau a chwedlau. Mae’n llochesu hud a lledrith yn y pantiau a’r bryniau, mewn mannau cyfrinachol; mae adlais hen chwedlau yn yr afonydd a’r dyffrynnoedd. Rwy’n eich gwahodd i gamu i mewn i’r hanes byw a rhannu antur.’


Waterstones, Llandudno

Dydd Iau 16eg Tachwedd 2017 – 5 – 6.30pm

Cofiwch ddod!


Fe’ch croesewir i lansiad y llyfr. Dewch i gwrdd â’r awdur a chael eich copi eich hun o’r llyfr wedi’i lofnodi.
Lluniaeth ysgafn
Gwerthfawrogir RSVP os yn bosibl i roi syniad i ni am niferoedd.

CYSWLLT: Jenny Knowles, Gwasg Little Knoll Press
ffôn: 023 8084 2190

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Owl at Midnight

– a story of Gwenllian 

the lost Princess of Wales



Patricia Lennan

ISBN: 978-0-9935078-3-0



Waterstones, Llandudno

Thursday November 16th 2017

5 – 6.30pm




gwenllianThe story of the story

When some years ago Patricia visited her uncle’s house at Abergwyngregyn and discovered that this was where the last native Princess of Wales was born, she was intrigued!



Shortly after Gwenllian was born, her father, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, and her uncle, Dafydd, were cruelly killed by King Edward’s men, and her boy cousins, Llywelyn and Owain were incarcerated in prison for their remaining days.


But the Norman king was determined be rid of any heir to the Welsh Principality, even a baby girl was a threat, and so he hunted down the infant Gwenllian and hid her away in a convent at Sempringham, Lincolnshire.


It is recorded that Gwenllian’s keep was paid for by the King, but she was renamed when entering the convent and it is likely that she never knew who she really was.


The book

These are the bare bones of Gwenllian’s story from which Patricia has brought to life a young woman schooled in the ways of a 13th century Gilbertine Abbey but pushing at the boundaries and questioning the rules that confine her.


Outside the convent tumultuous events are taking place and hopes rise to restore the Principality of Wales …  Of course, you’ll need to read the story to find out what happens!

If you like historical fiction you will love this book. It is well researched, with wonderful detail that captures the daily life of people during the iron rule of Edward Longshanks, King of England and ruler of a reluctant Wales.


In Patricia’s words

‘Wales has a reputation for being a land of myths and legends. She harbours magic in the hollows and hills, in secret places, the rivers and valleys echo with ancient tales. I invite you to step into the living history and share an adventure.’


Coming to the book launch?
Please let Jenny know if you can so we have an idea of numbers – Mail@LittleKnollPress.co.uk
Would like to pre-order a copy of the book?
A link will be put here in the next couple of days. 

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Neil in eminent company at the Royal Asiatic Society, London

Neil T. Sinclair

author of the book

Letters from Manchuria

gave a fascinating talk to the

Hong Kong group

Royal Asiatic Society

August 5th 2017

Neil points to an example of his mother-in-law, Marion Young’s letters from Manchuria

Neil and his wife, Helen, first selected and transcribed sections of the letters written by Helen’s mother, Marion Young, over the six years from 1935 – 1941 that she spent in the north east Chinese province of Manchuria.


They then chose photos from the albums she had brought back from China to illustrate her story.

Helen and Neil transcribing Marion’s letters

So why would a young Irish woman want to go there, so far away from family and the place she knew?

Neil quoted a passage from the unpublished memoir of Margaret Griffiths, a school friend of Marion’s, explaining how even before she was ten years old she knew what she wanted to do.


… None of us had such clear ambitions. We were going to be film stars, actresses, spies, poets, university professors, dancers, doctors, duchesses, nurses decorated for gallantry in war, everything by starts and nothing long. Marion was going to be a missionary. It was not a day-dream, but an intention; she had no need for day-dreams.’

Margaret Griffiths is on the left and Marion is standing second from right

Marion with schoolgirls in Faku


Marion & Wang Suu Wen with baggage bearer

Helen with schoolgirls in Faku

Margaret also wrote of her good nature –


… It was the good and simple spirit in her which made her so dear a friend to all who knew her. In her company, life seemed to be a straightforward matter, with the orderly gladness of a Bach chorale. She passed securely through chaos with serenity of heart. Fortified as she was by this serenity, it was fitting that she should become an adventurer.


And an adventurer she did become, her good humour and very Irish sense of fun shining through her letters from Faku, although when she had the opportunity to avoid the censors by sending letters with colleagues who were travelling home for furlough she gave a fuller picture of the cruel oppression of the Chinese by the Japanese regime.


In 1941 the regime brought Marion and thousands of others greater grief … but that is for you to read in the book, as is her joy when her worst fears were not realised.


Helen’s brother, Harry, spots himself – much younger, at Berkeley Castle, armed with sword for boys’ adventures!

Helen, Mr Sung, Harry and Joy 1956

Harry and nephew, Tom. Can you see they’re related?

You can buy Letters from Manchuria from www.LittleKnollBookshop.co.uk and from your local bookshop by request.

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An inspiring visit

to the


Art Gallery & Museum


Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, Bournemouth

Alan Langford contemplates ‘The Gypsy Drovers’ by Lucy Kemp-Welch

It is a rare treat to visit the work that has inspired a painter, in the company of that painter.

Alan Langford, equestrian artist and highly skilled graphic artist, invited a group of friends and fellow artists to visit the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery with him to see the large oil, ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers’ by Lucy Kemp-Welch, painted in 1894 when Lucy was a student under Herbert Von Herkomer RA.

In his book WELGORA Alan wrote about the day when Lucy was inspired to do this painting:

‘The idea for this painting occurred to her when she saw the approach of a number of heavy-hoofed cobs, driven by tough-looking Romani riders along a muddy country lane, under a grey wintry sky.

Rushing from her lodgings with palette and brushes in hand, and the lid of her paint box to serve as a paint board, she executed a swift and skilful composition as this irregular, rampant procession proceeded before her.’

Lucy Kemp-Welch sketching The Gypsy Drovers on her paint box lid – Illustration by Alan Langford in the book ‘WELGORA’

One of the group inspecting the small head of a horse by Lucy Kemp-Welch. (On the other side of this picture is mounted Lucy’s paint box lid with the sketch for ‘The Gypsy Drovers’)

The curator of the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery, Duncan Walker, showed us the actual sketch on the paint box lid.
This stunning little oil sketch is a very special art work in itself, showing movement and detail in a few quick strokes of the brush, with the texture of the rough wood adding a further dimension.
The painted paint box lid is on the back of the picture of a horse’s head shown in this photo, also by Lucy Kemp-Welch.
I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of the box lid, but … what better excuse to go to the art gallery and see it for yourself?

Lucy went on to paint ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers‘ on an 8 foot long canvas – an enormous project for a diminutive young woman (she was in her early twenties) and in that Victorian time.

Alan explains in his book WELGORA how with trepidation Lucy presented the unfinished painting to be viewed by Herkomer, a man not averse to putting a huge black cross of paint across a student’s work if it was not to his approval!

But as Alan writes:

‘Herkomer was so impressed by ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers’ that he recommended that Lucy submit it for the next Royal Academy Exhibition.

This she did, and it was hung in a good position just above the line and was quickly purchased by Sir Frederic Harris for £60.00.

At that time £60.00 represented a significant sum; Lucy would have been overjoyed.’

Part of the scene depicted in ‘The Gypsy Drovers’ by Lucy Kemp-Welch

Barry Miles and Peter Frost discuss ‘Gypsy Horses’ by Lucy Kemp-Welch

This was just the beginning of Lucy’s career, which included illustrating the children’s book, Black Beauty.


Her large oil ‘Gypsy Horses’, also in the Russell-Cotes Gallery, is shown in this photo being admired by Barry Miles, author and watercolour artist, and Peter Frost, painter, professional printer and retired New Forest Verderer.
There is something different to see at every turn in the Russell-Cotes Gallery – paintings, marble busts, Japanese incense burners, memorabilia, painted ceilings, stained glass, mosaic work and bronzes, all collected by the Russell-Cotes over the years from 1880 to 1901.
They travelled back from Japan with over 100 packing cases full of art and collectables!
The museum and gallery building, East Cliff Hall, was gloriously designed to the directions of Merton Russell-Cotes, as a gift to his wife. Its late Victorian style mixes Moorish, Japanese and French influences, making for exotic and indulgent surroundings.
It’s easy to find a piece to sit in front of and savour, and it’s also easy to miss a dozen others, but this makes it worth visiting again and again.
Apart from the paintings, which have been added to since 1902, the artwork that particularly took my eye on this visit was a glazed Parian ware figure of a boy, dressed in lederhosen and Tyrolean hat.
I used to make ceramic models of people and the largest I made was quite a challenge at about 12 inches tall.
This nearly life size figure was used for advertising in a dairy shop in Austria.
How did the artist make such a perfectly detailed piece of such size and how was it transported from pottery to shop, and then from country to country to arrive at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery?

Near life size boy in Parian ware

A part of the painting ‘The Little Beggar’ by Laura Knight

I was also intrigued by the story of Laura Knight, who in the early 1930s used to drive out to gypsy encampments and set up her ‘studio’ in the back of her Rolls-Royce.
Here you can see only a part of her large canvas ‘The Little Beggar’.
Laura Knight’s most notable paintings is ‘The Nuremberg Trial‘. This thought-provoking painting is at The Imperial War Museum, London.
This only touches on the artwork at the gallery and museum.
I aim to go again.
Next time you’re in Bournemouth why not drag yourself away from the beach and walk up East Cliff to the art gallery and museum. It will be well worth it!

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Get Creative

Workshops in Hythe Library

a Waterside Arts Festival event

On Saturday 15th July

you can get creative at Hythe Library with local artists and authors

Alan Langford    Gervase Gregory

Anthony Ridgway and Suzan Houching

There will be two workshops for all ages

they will be fun and they are FREE!




Alan painting at Eyeworth Pond

The first workshop

will run from 10 – 11 am

with Alan Langford

author and illustrator of




Gervase at Waterstones, Lymington






Gervase Gregory

author and illustrator of

A Lifetime in Postcards



Postcard of Prospect Place, Hythe, from original watercolour by Gervase Gregory

Alan and Gervase will share their skills in drawing and painting, as well as their wonderful stories of local places and people.







Sketch of the artist painting in the New Forest, pencil and wash by Alan Langford

Come along with your questions and your stories, pick up tips and to try out your own drawing, painting and writing. 








Anthony and Suzan discussing the illustrations for ‘Wizzy the Animal Whisperer’

The second workshop

will be from 11.15 – 12.30pm

with Anthony Ridgway

author of

Wizzy the Animal Whisperer


Suzan Houching

the author and illustrator of

My Story in Colour

and the illustrator of Anthony’s Wizzy book.


Anthony, who has cerebral palsy, writes using a special computer programme, a bit like Prof. Stephen Hawking.

At the workshop he will explain this in a short video



Dan and Wizzy meet Nellie the horse, an illustration from ‘Wizzy the Animal Whisperer’

Anthony’s funny and colourful story is brought to life perfectly with Suzan’s illustrations – a collaboration predicted to run and run!



‘Red and White’, a watercolour illustration from Suzan’s book ‘My Story in Colour’





Suzan has a gift for finding the humour in everyday life and this can be seen in her delightful book My Story in Colour


Come along and be inspired.
You can just walk in on the day
or let the library staff or the organiser Jenny@LittleKnollPress.co.uk know beforehand and be sure of a workshop place.

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‘How I Write’

by Anthony Ridgway

Anthony Ridgway has made this short video to show how he wrote his children’s book Wizzy the Animal Whisperer.


Anthony, who has cerebral palsy and is partially sighted, writes using Dolphin Guide, a computer programme that enables him to find the keys on a large keyboard with the computer speaking out each letter, number and space as he presses the relevant key.
     It is a similar way of writing to that used by Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge, but Stephen uses a combination of head, eye, and cheek movements to operate the computer, as well as predicted text which speeds up his writing.
     Using Dolphin Guide on his PC, Anthony writes for an hour or two each day. It is a laborious process … as Anthony says, Because I only write with one finger, it takes me about a year to write a book.


“Wizzy, the Animal Whisperer made me laugh out loud.” David Suchet


“. . . funny, imaginative and extremely visual, and the wonderful illustrations by the talented Suzan Houching bring this great story to life even more.” Ros Holness


To buy the book Wizzy the Animal Whisperer

written by Anthony Ridgway

and illustrated by

Suzan Houching

go to LittleKnollBookshop  


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Anthony R in studio croppedIt was a great day in London for Wizzy and his author

Anthony Ridgway

attending the audio-recording of

Wizzy the Animal Whisperer

voiced by

David and Sheila Suchetwizzy-book-cover-front-b-200ppi-rgb



In the children’s story, written by Anthony and illustrated by Suzan Houching, Wizzy and his friends, Dan, James and Sophie, set out to solve a mystery on their farm holiday and end up having an amazing adventure with the help of Wizzy’s special powers.


Anthony R boarding train 6inW 200ppiActually, it was Wizzy’s alter ego who went to London with Anthony, this being a manual wheelchair with electric drive fitted to the large wheels – a bit like an electric bicycle. ‘Alter Ego’ Wizzy allows Anthony to sit a bit lower than in ‘old faithful’ Wizzy and this gives enough headroom for both of them to get into a London Cab.


On train 6inW 200ppiThe railway journeys worked wonderfully. There was help on hand at each railway station to place the ramp (this was organised beforehand by Grethe, Anthony’s mum and main carer) and once on the train we found ourselves guardians of the accessible toilet, it being conveniently situated opposite the space allocated for wheelchairs and bicycles! We also had a good view of the passing countryside …

Ant in cab 6inW 200ppiAt Waterloo Station we joined the queue for a cab and with the help of our Cabby manoeuvred Wizzy up the ramp and into the central space of the cab. Wizzy just fitted with a bit of wriggling, and then Grethe and I climbed in and squeezed onto the seats.
I must admit, seeing Anthony’s face when Wizzy reached the top of the ramp, I could hear the words he had written in his book –
[Dan] ‘I felt a brief sensation of fear. Was this such a good idea?
[Wizzy] “I will protect you, Dan. Do not worry.”
[Dan] “Nothing gets past you does it?”’


Rehearsing 6inW 200ppiArriving at the RNIB Talking Books Studios, we found the studio manager, Daryl Chapman, there to greet us, and he guided us down the lift and into the recording suites. David and Sheila Suchet were already in the studio, rehearsing the book script while the sound engineer, Paul Pink, adjusted the sound levels ready for recording.
Ant in recording booth 6inW 200ppiThe ‘large’ recording technician’s booth had just enough room for Anthony (and Wizzy) to get a front stall view and Grethe and I to stand behind Paul. The recording started and we were spellbound …
We had set David and Sheila a challenge, asking them to conjure up different voices for each of eight characters.
Anthony’s writing is dialogue driven, logical as his hearing is very acute. This required each character in Wizzy the Animal Whisperer to have his or her own distinct voice.
recording 6inW 200ppiDavid took the parts of narrator, Dan, Wizzy, Neil Hayes and the Police officer, and Sheila took the parts of James, Sophie, Mrs Braishfield and Karl – quite a task, especially when changing from one character to another during a quick exchange of words.
Of course, David and Sheila were up to it, producing the whole range of voices, and without hesitation – in Wizzy’s words, “Affirmative. I’ve processed the information. My speeds are the best.”
Ant, Sheila & David 6inW 200ppi
It was a wonderful day and our thanks go to the railway services, the London cabbies, RNIB Talking Books Studios, and most of all to David and Sheila Suchet.
Without Anthony we couldn’t have done it, and, as the children say in the book, We couldn’t have done it without Wizzy.”



The audiobook will be coming soon. Please email me if you would like a copy – jenny@littleknollpress.co.uk


wizzy-front-of-pcard-invitation-250ppi-rgbThe printed book, beautifully illustrated by Suzan Houching, is available now.
To buy a copy click on the picture to the right

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norwood school 2 cropped

Pupils of Norwood Primary School with Anthony Ridgway, Grethe Ridgway and ‘Wizzy the Animal Whisperer’

On 1st March 2017 in preparation for

World Book Day

children’s author

Anthony Ridgway

enthralled pupils of Norwood Primary School with his recently published book


the Animal Whisperer


Ant with keyboard 10.64cmW 400ppi RGB colour adjAnthony, who has cerebral palsy and is partially sighted, writes using Dolphin Guide, a computer programme that enables him to find the keys on a large keyboard with the computer speaking out each letter, number and space as he presses the relevant key.

    It is a similar way of writing to that used by Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge, but Stephen uses a combination of head, eye, and cheek movements to operate the computer, as well as predicted text which speeds up his writing.

    Using Dolphin Guide on his PC, Anthony writes for an hour or two each day. It is a laborious process … as Anthony says, “Because I only write with one finger, it takes me about a year to write a book.


Norwood school 1 cropped

The children were fascinated to hear Anthony speak, look at the lovely book illustrations by Suzan Houching and listen to some pages from Wizzy the Animal Whisperer being read out loud.



They had lots of questions for Anthony, including:-

Why do you write?

AnthonyI’ve always liked writing ever since I was little. My dad and I did my autobiography and since he died I wanted to be able to do my own writing, so I got a special programme called Dolphin Guide. Writing is a good way of sharing my ideas; I can get them down on paper.

How many books have you written and where do you get your ideas?

Anthony “I’ve written eight books at the moment and ‘Wizzy the Animal Whisperer’ came from a farm holiday, for example.

Where did you get the name ‘Wizzy’ from?

Anthony “It came from a friend who called my wheelchair, ‘Wizzy wheelchair’.

Are you ever worried you’ll forget an idea?

Anthony “Yes, I do have to come and write it down.

What is your next Wizzy book about?

Anthony “I am writing another one at the moment and we’ll see what happens.


wizzy-book-cover-front-b-200ppi-rgbWant to buy the book?

Click on the picture 

ISBN: 978-0-9927220-9-8 

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letters-from-manchuria-front-cover-12cmw-200ppi-rgbOn Saturday 21st January

12 noon – 1pm

Neil T. Sinclair

will be in Waterstones Sunderland

signing his book

Letters from Manchuria – The Story of Marion Young missionary in Japanese-occupied China

ISBN: 978-0-9935078-1-6

17a newspaper article greyscale cropped ..cmW 200ppiIn 1935 Marion Young arrived in China to work as a missionary sponsored by the Girls’ Auxiliary of the Presbyterian church’s Women’s Association for Foreign Mission. For for the next six years she wrote weekly letters home to her parents in Ireland. Her letters give a vivid picture of life in the market town of Faku and also of the villages in Inner Mongolia which she visited as part of her mission work.


Helen and Neil working on the book.

Neil Sinclair and his wife, Helen, spent over a year sorting through the hundreds of letters which Helen’s mother, Marion Young, had sent home during the years from 1935 – 1941 when she was working in Japanese-occupied China. They then transcribed extracts from the letters with Helen reading and Neil typing into the computer. Next came the task of deciding which photos to use in the book ‘Letters from Manchuria’. It is a fascinating story of a young woman working in a remote and harsh place, the political and social history of north east China, and of the resilience of the people who live there.


This photograph is of Marion’s senior colleague, Dr O’Neill’s 70th birthday party: Marion wrote home –
The 70th birthday is a very big day in a Chinese family, so we are to be his family and act things out. Joey and I are going as twins – his granddaughters.

In the photo Marion is 5th from the left and Joey McCausland is 7th from the left. Dr Frederick and Annie O’Neill sit in the centre.

marion-companion-with-baggage-bearer-200ppi-greyThis photograph shows Marion travelling with Wang Ssu Wen to visit one of the small ‘churches’ in the area surrounding Faku. The church was often a small family group with a Deacon.
Marion wrote home –
We were cycling straight into a north wind … a man carried our luggage on a long pole over his shoulder – about 80 lbs – no small weight for that distance (18 – 20 miles).

111) Pg 214 MCY & Miss Wang grey 8cmW 200ppiMarion and Ssu Wen would stay in the Deacon’s house, often also the church. The house in the photo is luxurious compared to most.

Marion wrote home –

This photograph will give you some idea of what a k’ang looks like. The bedding is rolled to the back during the day. The chests at the side hold everything … in the foreground is a stove with a kettle on – that isn’t proper Chinese …

060 pg 78 Little Peace and Happy Grace greyscale 6cmW 400pp lighter12iMarion felt at home with the Chinese people from the start.

She wrote home about ‘Little Peace’ and ‘Happy Grace’ –

They are both about 3 years old and the greatest of friends. En Fu runs with a shriek of “Ping An! To lie la!” (Ping An she’s coming) when I heave into sight.

When writing about the oppression of Japanese rule, to avoid the censors Marion used coded words. On the rare occasion when she could send a letter back by hand with colleagues going on furlough she could be more open.  

They treat folk a bit more kindly before freeing them, to give the marks of beating or torture a chance to clear up – isn’t that a bright thought?

You can buy a copy of this book from www.littleknollbookshop.co.uk or by emailing Jenny@littleknollpress.co.uk

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