The one where I’ve had a very busy week

You know how you can have weeks with very little in the diary then suddenly you hit a week where everything happens? I had one of those last week…

It started with a talk at Scarborough Soroptimists on Monday. Months back the chairperson, Angela, asked whether I might be interested in joining them. I did a careers talk at my daughter’s school recently but this is the first time I’ve spoken to adults in real life since I was an indie author so it all felt very new.

I confess I wasn’t familiar with the organisation so was surprised to discover that Soroptimists International had celebrated their centenary last year. They’re about ensuring women and girls have a voice and you can read more about their great work here. The Scarborough branch meet at Ganton Village Hall which is a small village between Scarborough and Malton.

The talk seemed to go well and it was great to have questions afterwards. A huge thank you to the group for hosting me.

On Wednesday, I met author Rowan Coleman on Scarborough seafront for a cuppa and a doughnut (nom nom). It was a gorgeous sunny day (sunnier than the photos might look!) with a gentle breeze – lovely.

When I arrived, there were loads of primary school children emerging from ‘Aquarium Top’ to queue for an ice cream. I knew that the area that was formerly an aquarium had been painted so I took a quick look when the space was clear. How pretty is this?

On Friday, we were meant to be going to Castle Howard to see Duran Duran. This was advertised as a picnic-style gig where you take food and drink in and enjoy relaxing in a foldaway chair in front of the beautiful stately home. We’ve been to gigs there before and it’s fabulous. However, the promoters – Senbla – sent everyone an email at the start of the week with some ‘additional information’ which changed everything we’d expected. The gig was being held in a field away from the home so there wouldn’t the stunning backdrop with which we’re familiar, food and drink could not be taken in, chairs weren’t permitted, picnic blankets were an option but you might be asked to stand up when the gig started, and it was £10.20 to book parking (this being at a venue in the middle of nowhere to which you pretty much have to drive) or £15 cash on the night if you didn’t book 24 hours before. Wow! This was NOT what we signed up to!

I contacted Ticketmaster who claimed nothing had changed – it had! – and said it was the promotor’s issue, not theirs. I contacted Castle Howard and Senbla via both Facebook and Twitter to ask for an explanation and a refund and also emailed Senbla. All contact has been ignored. I’m not impressed at all.

This had been a gift for my 50th birthday but we had to give it a miss because I can’t stand for several hours and it would have ruined it attempting to do so. Sitting on a picnic blanket for ages wouldn’t be an option either – I’d struggle to get down and up again!

I’m extremely disappointed at the change to what we booked with no responsibility taken from any of the parties. So we’ve had to walk away from the money. We took a drive up to Whitby instead, got a chippy tea and went for a wander. It was strange seeing Whitby so deserted!

As we climbed back up to the car on the north side, there was the most beautiful light with the approaching sunset.

On Saturday night, I was invited over to see my friends at Wolds Hedgehog Rescue – the ‘real’ Hedgehog Hollow – for a catch-up. Nanny Angela needed to bring three hoglets over to be fed during the meeting and I had the honour of having a go at feeding one of them – first time I’ve ever done this. Awww!

Then on Sunday, I topped the week off with a visit into Scarborough. Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow went into The Works a few weeks back but I missed the Scarborough ones as they arrived and sold out really quickly. I was delighted to see they’d had another delivery so had a chance to sign them. As always, the staff in there were so lovely.

I actually hadn’t expected to see the book in there so I’d thrown on the same clothes from the night before (as I’d only worn them for 3 hours) and hadn’t put any make-up on or brushed my hair. So this is the natural look 🙂

I’ve just been on to the website at The Works but Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow appears to have sold through but you will probably still find copies in your local branch.

So overall a very busy week and I’ll finish it with a photo of a garden ornament I spotted in the window of The Gift Company which I absolutely neeeeeeed, and a photo of my gorgeous Eleanor Tomlinson print of Her Majesty the Queen with Paddington Bear. I’m cheating a bit as that actually arrived yesterday – not last week – but I thought I’d sneak it in here. My Steiff Paddington (a gift from my husband on our wedding day) couldn’t resist posing with it. The print went viral after the Jubilee and the signed edition sold out really quickly but Eleanor has printed an open edition (which is how I got mine) and you can get that and check out her other gorgeous artwork here.

This week is shaping up to be really busy too – hair appointment, dentist for a filling (argh!) and also a Facebook Live at lunchtime today. So if you read this post this morning and you’re free at 12noon, you might like to join us on Book and Tonic’s Facebook page. The Live will be Jo Bartlett, Helen Rolfe and me chatting about building our communities.

Have a fabulous week.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I spent a day in the REAL Hedgehog Hollow

The Hedgehog Hollow books are the gift that keeps on giving. They bring escapism, pleasure and knowledge to thousands of readers and listeners. For me, they are an absolute joy to write.

Those hedgehogs kept scampering up the charts on publication day yesterday for A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow acquiring a #1 Best Seller flag, reaching #39 on the overall Kindle UK chart, #88 on Audible and #11 on AppleBooks.

And they have brought me two unexpected new friends and a special new role…

I set up a Facebook community about a year ago called Redland’s Readers for those who love my books and would like to find out more about the worlds and characters I’ve created. A lovely reader called Angela joined after discovering my Hedgehog Hollow books and told me she was a real life hedgehog rescuer for a rescue centre in the Yorkshire Wolds – the real life Hedgehog Hollow country!

I immediately followed Wolds Hedgehog Rescue on Facebook and enjoyed seeing posts of the hedgehogs and hoglets being treated by the team. I’d had an open invitation to visit all year but with Covid restrictions, holidays and book deadlines, only managed to get my act together to visit in mid-November.

What a fabulous day I had! Ann runs the rescue centre’s base from ‘The Hoghouse’ in her back garden in a village called Hutton, not too far from Driffield in East Yorkshire (Reddfield in my books!) She works closely and supportively with another rescue centre – Walkington Rescue Centre – in the area although they are two independent set-ups.

A team of volunteers are essential for the amazing work they do. Wolds Hedgehog Rescue has foster carers who rehabilitate hedgehogs whose needs are no longer urgent enough to hog a crate (excuse the pun!) in the Hog House e.g. hedgehogs who need to gain weight ahead of hibernation.

Angela’s role is very specific as a hoglet nanny although she’s a foster carer outside hoglets season. She runs a nursery from her home in Hull during hoglets season (spring and autumn), feeding the hoglets around the clock, toileting them and cleaning up after them because hoglets (and many adult hogs too) tend to be a smidge (or a lot!) on the messy side!

The help doesn’t end with Angela and the foster carers. There are volunteers with a variety of other roles – fundraising, helping in/cleaning out the Hog House, making crafts to sell for funds and so on.

Ann’s husband – ‘Man Who Can’ – makes hedgehog houses and can turn his hand at anything practical. Angela’s husband – Mr Hedgehog – turns wood, creating beautiful products for sale. Nobody is asked to do anything they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing and any skills are very much welcomed.

So, back to my visit, I asked Ann and Angela lots of questions (just stopped short of an interrogation!) about how they both became involved with rescuing, what sorts of cases they dealt with, highs and lows, the practicalities of running a rescue centre. It was such a valuable opportunity to gather more information for my future books. I do loads of research and I have an auntie who runs a small-scale operation but it was great to see firsthand how a bigger set-up runs.

In theory I helped Ann with the daily activities. In reality, I probably got in the way as I took photos and wrote copious notes, but I was made to feel so very welcome.

When Angela arrived, I looked under a microscope at the poo samples from a new admission to work out the treatments required, after which came my absolute highlight: an opportunity to hold a hedgehog. Found on Remembrance Day and appropriately named by the person bringing him in as Poppy, he had a slight name change to Mr Poppy after he was sexed.

You’l notice I’m appropriately dressed in a hedgehog Popsy dress!

Ann has a beautiful long garden with a log pile, trees, leaves and lots of hedgehog houses and feeding stations: a hedgehog paradise.

I had such a wonderful day with a spot of lunch and a chance to meet another rescuer (and interrogate her too!) I’ll be back again soon and will also visit the nursery during hoglets season.

Yesterday, to celebrate launch day, I was absolutely thrilled when Ann and Angela agreed to be my guests on a Facebook Live. What an inspiring, engaging and passionate duo they were, full of fascinating insights.

We had a special guest appearance from Cactus, currently in Angela’s care, and she talked us through the equipment needed in the nursery. If you would like to be captivated, entertained and learn so much along the way, please do check out the video on my publisher’s Facebook page here.

I mentioned at the start that I now have a special role. I came off the Facebook Live feeling inspired and eager to help out. The reality is that I can’t be a hedgehog rescuer or foster carer. While it’s not something I’d completely rule out at some point down the line, my home, career and personal circumstances just now mean this isn’t an option for me. I don’t have the time or the facilities. I’m also local but not handy local.

I thought about what Ann said about different volunteers coming with different skills and I realised I had a set of skills that I could contribute remotely. As an author, I regularly engage with my readers and listeners on social media and prepare visuals to support the messages/news I have to share so I put a proposal to Ann and Angela.

I’m delighted to say that I’ve been welcomed into Team Wolds Hedgehog Rescue and am now an Admin on their Facebook page where my first task today was to activate the reviews facility and encourage service users to leave feedback. Within five minutes of doing this, the first review came in. I’m so thrilled!

Ann, Angela and I need to get together to talk about how I can bring the best benefit them in my new role. We also need to decide on a job title for me. If anyone has any inspired ideas, do shout up! I’m looking forward to seeing them already, especially as cake might be involved!

The Facebook links for both rescue centres are below:
Wolds Hedgehog Rescue
Walkington Hedgehog Rescue

As well as the team of volunteers I mentioned earlier, rescue centres also need the support of the general public to provide funds and equipment. Wolds Hedgehog Rescue have a PayPal donation facility but most valuable and helpful for them is having items purchased from their wish list which includes food, cleaning materials, and equipment. This is set up on Amazon and Ann regularly updates it with the priority items and quantities needed. If you don’t wish to shop on Amazon or would like to shop around for different deals, you can always use the wish list for inspiration; it’s not essential you make your purchase there. There are items on it to suit all budgets and all donations are gratefully received. The links are:
PayPal
Wish list

And, of course, you can support by attending open days or events. A date for your diary is Sunday 1st May for an open day at the Hutton Hoghouse where there’ll be tours, talks, stalls, tombola, raffle and a whole pile more to entertain and enlighten the family. More details will be advertised nearer the time. I won’t be there as I have a landmark birthday that day but I’ll do whatever I can to promo and support the event before.

Finally, as well as leaving the Hoghouse in November with lots of pictures, information and some new friends, I left with a chair which was a little unexpected! Ann’s an upholsterer and she created this gorgeous chair which I knew would be perfect in the corner of my office so I had to make a swift purchase. It only just fit in the back of my car as I’d forgotten there was already a dog crate in there!

In theory, it’s a reading nook. In reality, it’s home for my ever-growing hedgehog cushions and soft toy collection!

What’s even more special about this chair is that it’s stuffed with the fleece from the two sheep, Rosie and Rita, who live in Ann’s neighbour’s garden who you can just see in the background of this photo (one is central and the other is to the left just behind the cluster of leaves on the branch). How delightful is that?

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at the photos and I really hope you’ve watched the video. Believe me, I could have chatted to Ann and Angela all night as they were absolutely brilliant! A huge thank you to them both from me, the team at Boldwood Books and all the listeners who absolutely loved it.

The great news is the dynamic duo have already agreed to come back for another Live in hoglets season and I can hardly contain my excitement at the idea of a live hoglet feeding session.

Whether you’re local or not, if you can help out with any donations, that would be amazing.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx