I’m still sort of jet-lagged, so I’ll do just a little introduction… well, if you’ve been following my blog for some time, you probably heard from Viv and her previous book Strangers and Pilgrims. She’s back in action and covers me to give me time to get back on track… ladies and gents, please welcome Vivienne Tuffnell!
Most children stop believing in fairies somewhere in their tweens, if not beforehand. It’s a charming belief like Father Christmas that adults usually encourage them to hang on to but are never surprised when they finally declare in that argument-defying tone, “There’s no such thing!”
I suspect I was no different, though my personal belief in Father Christmas persisted a little longer due to an incident involving bells, the interconnecting chimney system in the Victorian house I grew up in and my father’s attempt to wrap an impossibly shaped toy. I’ve long been involved in the supernatural; a diocesan exorcist or two have been among my close personal friends and I’ve experienced many things that would make the researchers of Britain’s Most Haunted lick their lips in glee.
But fairies? Come on, now, flower fairies with gossamer wings? Tinkerbell?
I returned to a belief in fairies some time in 1997, when we lived in an isolated rectory at the edge of the Norfolk fens. Items of small worth but immediate need kept going missing and reappearing in improbable places, often where several of us had looked numerous times before. Glasses, jewellery, keys, precious little things all vanished into thin air. My husband or my daughter or I would storm around the house hunting for the missing item, getting more and more stressed about it.
Having coffee with a friend and neighbour Sam, I mentioned this and she let out a full throated chuckle of a laugh.
“It’s the fairies,” she said and I spilled my coffee and spluttered with disbelief.
To my shock she detailed the things that happened, the kind of things that went missing and where they tended to turn up. Half convinced, I asked what I could do about it.
“Not a lot, really,” she said. “I find leaving them sugar and the occasional glass of something sweet and alcoholic helps. They tend to return things quicker if you ask politely. And sometimes they give you things.”
After this I tuned up my inner vision and I did start to sense presences, around me. Most of them were in the garden which we’d cultivated as a traditional cottage garden filled with old fashioned scented plants, but some liked the house. They liked my collection of stones, polished gemstones and crystals; these were my most commonly borrowed items. They liked my house plants and the small grove of large leaved plants that I had in the larger of the reception rooms.
So, still a little sceptical, I tried working with them, and to my surprise I found that the garden grew better and the house felt happier. Things still moved around but I didn’t worry too much. Even when car keys vanished when I needed them, I tried to stay polite and eventually they were returned.
Of course, the big question is what ARE fairies? There are a number of possible options. They may be nature spirits, of the type termed devas, which work with the natural world to keep things going smoothly. In some theologies, they are the spawn of fallen angels and are to be mistrusted and shunned; these are the kind that stole children and replaced them with changelings. They may be disembodied spirits, those of the dead or those not yet born. Or one theory is that in antiquity they were a pygmy race of humans driven to the margins and subsisting by stealing from us. This last theory is somewhat borne out by the discovery some years back of a miniature race of humans on the island of Flores; nicknamed the Hobbit, these tiny folks, now extinct, would have lived at the same time as modern humans.
And of course, for some, they may just be a figment of the imagination, the product of a deranged mind, a sustained hallucination. We use the term “away with the fairies” to denote someone has lost touch with ordinary reality and is on a trip of some sort. It’s a kinder way of saying someone is a bit mad. It’s also the title of my most recent book.
“Away with the Fairies” is the tale of artist Isobel, trying to carve out time and space from busy family life to pursue her career as a painter. Isobel has endured tragedy and hardship but has brushed all these under the carpet in the need to get on with everyday life. But none of these things have really gone away, and her life unravels spectacularly when she hits a deer driving home. Sequestered at their isolated holiday cottage, Isobel notices odd things happening, small things appearing and disappearing and doors and windows refusing to stay shut. Dismissing it as nothing at first, she becomes immersed more and more deeply in the cycle of visionary paintings she has begun until the strange events become impossible to ignore. That’s when she gets scared…..
My own experiences always tend to influence my books, so finding fairies in a story wasn’t that great a surprise, though the conclusion I come to in the book was a bit of a shock to me. That is one of the great joys in writing, that finding of secrets you didn’t know you knew.
It is also available at Amazon France, and Amazon Germany but I haven’t put up the links from those places as I can’t imagine it selling in either country.
Isobel’s a sceptic, as I suspect most people are, but she learns that there are far more things in the world that she never imagined could exist…….