Fairies at the bottom of your garden?

You all know I believe in fairies and I’m not the only one, but it seems that one believer wanted to see how much remains on fairy folklore in the UK today. Even though the whole thing was later admitted as a hoax, the creator of this had interesting reasons for doing so and ones that made me smile.

Do check out the hoax reveal story, for his reasons and pictures of his fake dead fairy.


and then if you haven’t already, perhaps have a look at the blurb on my novel Away With The Fairies also available in the US


Even though this was a hoax to me it does cheer me that there are still a great deal of people who want to believe in fairies.

Fuel from the unconscious ~ why dreaming is vital to me as a writer

Fuel from the unconscious ~ why dreaming is vital to me as a writer

One of the other less obvious effects of insomnia for me is the absence of dreams. I simply don’t seem to dream “properly” when I am suffering with sleep problems. Some people never remember their dreams but I’ve trained myself to recapture the key images and experiences of a dream and mull them over during the day. If I can, I write them down. I have notebooks with scribbled dreams dating back years and some dreams from childhood still haunt me. I work over old dreams, aiming at uncovering information from deep inside my psyche. I’ve been trying to do a lot more of this yet lately it has been rare for me to dream and remember more than a few tattered fragments the next day.

The sheer tiredness has meant I’ve not been able to do much creative writing at all, and no less than three novels are sitting on my hard-drive in varying stages of completion. There are other reasons why my creative drive seems to have gone AWOL but I’m not going to focus on those now because once I get sucked into that particular nightmare, it scuppers all reasonable thought.

Without the input of my dreams, I feel as if I am writing blindly, without any inner vision to carry me forward. It’s a nasty feeling, like driving with your eyes half shut and I find that those who advocate just forcing yourself to write when feeling blocked perhaps are asking(of me at least) something impossible and undesirable.

It’s the inner vision that carries any artist forward in their work, that shining thread of something that drives the work forward. I have little drive without the impetus that dreams bring me.

I’d like to share two passages from Away With The Fairies. Both illustrate scenes I experienced in dreams and was unable to forget in the light of day. They also show the power of the unconscious working its way to the surface and to consciousness in the mind and life of an artist. Isobel has suffered two serious bereavements and has failed to express her own grief; the paintings she produces are to some extent extensions of her inner workings to try and embrace death and dying.

From p74:

Can I see what you did today?” he asked, eagerly and silently Isobel unwrapped the board and held it up for him to inspect.

He was silent long enough for her to become uneasy.

Don’t you like it?” she asked.

I’m not sure I understand it enough to like or dislike,” he said, thoughtfully. “It’s amazing but you must admit it is a bit, well, disturbing.”

She shrugged, and said nothing.

Well, it is,” he said defensively. “I mean, have you had a proper look at it?”

What do you mean, have I had a look at it? I painted the bloody thing, I’ve been looking at it all day,” she said crossly.

Have a good long look at it now,” Mickey said. “Now you’ve had a bit of time to detach from it. Look at the shape of the mound and the way you’ve got the interior showing as well as the exterior. What does it look like now?”

Isobel stared at the painting for some minutes, blankly, until with a reeling sense of shock that she had not seen it before, she finally saw what Mickey was trying to show her. Even though it hadn’t been at all what she’d painted, she could see now that the entrance to the tunnel and the shadowy depiction of the cavern inside had the look of great hollow eye sockets, and the bare pale frost covered surface of the mound had the look of ancient bone, weathered and scarred by time. With growing horror, Isobel saw that what she had painted had the look of a skull, an ancient flensed head, crowned with monstrous trees that writhed and wriggled their roots down into the skull like burrowing maggots or worms.               

From Page 143

Loneliness and isolation were both swept away once she set up her easel and began to work. She was drawn into her own visions and only when she was in actual pain from cramped muscles and complaining bladder did she stop to rest and look at what she’d done.

Standing on the mound, surrounded by the smooth boles of the beech trees, was a stag, fine and strong and unafraid, the shape of its antlers echoing the barely seen branches above. The ground at its feet looked more like skin than earth, and in places it seemed to have ripped or cracked open, the crevices showing what lay beneath the surface. Closest to the surface the cracks showed heaps of carcasses of deer, piled up and rotting, some newly dead, others in advanced decomposition. As the eye was drawn down to deeper layers, the cracks showed bones and skulls, the antlers still attached and as the very deepest layers were revealed, the bones were crushed, by time perhaps or by simple weight of the corpses above, till at the very bottom, only bone powder remained that blew out of the crevices in clouds like the smoky vapour from an autumn puffball. Above it all, the stag stood proud and alive, and unaware or uncaring of the horrors below it.

Bloody hell,” breathed Isobel when she saw what she had produced. She had been so absorbed by the work that she had been unable to see the whole, the complete picture till now. Obviously she had seen it but she had not taken it in, had not registered the finished images.

Now Isobel is in some ways a powerful alter ego of mine, and a character I identify with strongly; tying my night time visions into her experiences was very natural process of letting my unconscious mind direct my conscious one. Words flowed like spring water, easy and a plot unfolded without having to stretch and strain at contriving one.

Without this resource I am pretty much a hack writer, good with words maybe but useless at reaching anything deeper. And without that deeper expression, there is little point in me writing until that returns or is proclaimed missing presumed dead.

I’m not giving up hope yet. I’ve been taking a supplement called 5htp and it seems to have been helping me sleep a little better and even dream too. If I can get decent sleep, then maybe my dreaming will return. 

Devas, fairies, and the unseen worlds ~ why there are more things than we ever dream of

Devas, fairies, and the unseen worlds ~ why there are more things than we ever dream of

I’m a mass of contradictions, me. Like Lewis Caroll, I can believe ten impossible things before breakfast and not think it strange, and yet, some things I simply cannot accept. Of all the disciples of Jesus I most identify with, I think Thomas is the closest to my heart. Dear old Doubting Thomas, who demanded to put his hands in Christ’s wounds before he could fully believe in the resurrection. I’m like that; I have to experience certain things before I can accept them. So for all my scepticism, there are things that I believe in that mark me out as one of the fruit-loop brigade. I have enough crystals to set up a business, and while I cannot begin to explain why, I know that using them has had benefits for my health. You may dismiss it as placebo, or something as simple as appreciating them for their intrinsic beauty, but I’ve always found something uplifting, soothing, calming or energising about certain rocks. I can’t explain it, nor can I really justify it, and I’d be very hesitant about attempting to offer the kind of recommendations I see and hear of crystal healers giving. The complex pseudo-scientific rationales about how crystals work actually annoy me.

The same goes for stuff like fairies. I know damn well I must appear crazy to believe in the existence of otherworldly beings, Tinkerbells and the flower fairies, not to mention things like angels and elves, and dryads and the rest. And yet, crazy or not, I think they are real and on occasions interact with humans. I’ve seen and experienced things I cannot dismiss as tricks of the light, visual disturbances, psychotic hallucinations and the products of a vivid imagination.

But I still have no explanation for what these beings are, what they history is and where they come from. I could waffle on about many dimensions, space-time continuums, parallel universes and the like but it would be pointless. I just don’t know.

What I do know is that when I have aimed to work with these unseen beings, things flow in an almost magical way. Gardens bloom with greater vigour, and my home has had an atmosphere of welcome and kindness that people notice the moment they walk in. There is a school of thought that calls the beings that work with the natural world Devas, a Sanskrit word meaning shining ones and the depictions of them correspond to the occasional glimpses I have had. The Victorian idea of flower fairies being pretty winged children of minute size does somehow diminish them, in my view. Devas can be any size they choose to be; in fact I don’t think size has any meaning.

Isobel in Away With The Fairies found that the unseen beings around her became more insistent that she pay attention to them. In her isolated holiday cottage, where the modern world intruded less into her life, she was plagued by odd events. Doors refusing to stay closed, even unlocking themselves, small items of value vanishing and then reappearing where she’d looked ten times, strange fairy gifts of woven twigs and leaves appearing and disappearing; scary and unsettling sounds, electricity faltering and failing.  Her sense of self had been vanishing, her unique identity being eroded by the mundane grind of living a life that wasn’t fully authentic to her creative self. I’ve found the same. So I’ve decided to start paying more heed to them. That’s not to say you can cart me off to the funny farm just yet. In my defence, every year there are discoveries made that overturn previously cast-iron theories. Science is constantly obliged to re-evaluate itself. There are far more things in this amazing world of ours than we knew about even ten years ago. Who is to say that what we know in another ten years will not supersede even that?

My gift to myself this weekend, using hoarded birthday money was this pendant of a deva, in silver, to remind myself that there truly are things beyond imagining, and to re-connect with my own experiences of such things. I may be mad, but I think I am harmless. I’m going to start accepting that my experiences are real, and that there truly are other beings, composed of quite different material to us, dipping in and out of this world, and which wish to work with us and not against us.

Interview with Isobel Trelawny ~ Star of Away With The Fairies

Interview with Isobel..


As a writer, I meet some extraordinary people in the course of my work and I get to write their stories for them. Of all the people who have appeared in my books, Isobel Trelawny, whom you may know from Away With The Fairies, has appeared in more tales than anyone else. She’s played best supporting actress in several but she’s the star of Away With The Fairies and today she’s agreed to sit down with me and have a bit of a chat. We’ve got the coffee, but instead of Isobel’s favourite biscuits, (chocolate Hob-Nobs), I’ve only been able to find some ginger snaps.


Viv: I hope the biscuits aren’t too much of a let down.

Isobel (laughing; she does this quite a bit). That’s OK, I’m cool with ginger biccies.

Viv: I’m glad to hear that! Anyway, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.

Isobel: It’s a pleasure. Gets me a bit of space in my day, to be honest.

Viv: I gather that can be quite a problem, yes?

Isobel: Well, I know your family is grown up now, but I’m sure you remember how much hard work small children are. Miranda, my oldest, is alarmingly bright and I have to be up to the mark all the time. Luke’s much more laid-back about life. And simply finding the mental space to day dream rather than doing things all the time is really hard. I’m often so knackered by the time the kids are in bed, I really don’t have the energy to paint, or even think.

Viv: You weren’t sure you’d be able to have kids, as I recall?

Isobel: True, which makes me feel guilty about whinging about them when I do. I had a series of miscarriages when Mickey and I first got married. There wasn’t an explanation; there was nothing wrong, as far as the quacks could see. I just kept losing them early on. Then some years later, I woke up one morning not only knowing I was pregnant but also being fairly sure this one would go to term.

Viv: Your parents died when you were pregnant with Luke. How did that affect you?

Isobel (laughing again) You know damn well how it affected me! OK, well, I was shocked and then I was angry. I’d not had a good relationship with them, to be honest. I felt (and I had good evidence about this) that they neither of them approved of me and my life choices very much. I was just at the point in my life when I felt it might be possible for them to start approving of me when they killed themselves. I don’t think anyone really knows how they truly feel about their parents till they’re gone. I certainly didn’t. I didn’t know how ill they both had been. I’d kept them at arms’ length for years, avoiding anything that might bring out any emotional reaction. And when they were gone, suddenly, like that, I couldn’t process it. I was heavily pregnant and people kept telling me to relax and not get upset and so on. Oh and “Think of the baby!” So it was a while later before I could start to even think about it all. By then, you see, people assume you’ve done your grieving and you’re tickety-boo. But I wasn’t. Far from it. I was pretty much at breaking point and yet, I simply didn’t know it. It was killing that deer with the car that was the tipping point that meant I couldn’t go on pretending any longer.

Viv: I know. Since the events of Away With The Fairies, you’ve had some more tough things to deal with, so it does seem a long, and ongoing process.

Isobel: I think what’s gone on since then has been long overdue. I’ve got a streak of wildness that I thought I had under control but it seems not. I’ve always soared from extremes to extremes but never quite as devastatingly as this. 

Viv: Now, your husband Mickey is a clergyman. Looking at you, you seem a long way from any clergy wife of popular but horribly dated sterotypes.  (Isobel has henna’d hair, wears ripped and paint smeared jeans, and a rather wonderful amber necklace that matches her eyes. She talks very fast and with a lot of hand gestures; she’s a comfortable person to be around but she’s not prim and certainly not proper) How much impact does his job have on you?

Isobel: Too much, sometimes. The doorbell and the phone never stop bloody ringing. Oh don’t get me wrong, generally, the vast majority of folks aren’t a problem, but once in a while, I get people making a big deal of the fact that I don’t do anything in church. I don’t get involved in groups or lead anything. The fact that I turn up at all is a miracle some times. My best friend Chloe is a very rare sight in any church, and her husband and Mickey trained together.

Viv: I’ve met Chloe too. Given what she went through at college, I’m not surprised.

Isobel: I feel mildly guilty at times about that. The events of her final year at the vicar factory which ended with her breaking her leg every which way but Sunday were partly down to me. My wild, rebellious streak got out of hand and poor Chloe was the one who got hurt badly. I don’t think she’s ever blamed me, but I do sometimes blame myself.

Viv: I’m sorry to hear it. I know the story and I think whatever you and Chloe had done, it would have ended badly. Possibly worse.  Now, you were able to buy a small place in the country where you could paint. I’m having trouble with my writing and I’d love to spend some time at your cottage. Is it really so spooky as you said?

Isobel: It can be scary, which might be me understating it rather a lot. But it rather depends what baggage you go with. My friend Antony spent some time there a while ago. But apart from stopping his mobile phone working, nothing happened that time. More recently, he stayed, and some deep issues he’d not been able to deal with began to surface. It’s one of those places that has a foot in both realms. In the ordinary, everyday world, it’s a slightly run down, rather picturesque hideaway. But it’s also a place that stands on the edge of the other world, the world of beings that we seldom interact with, and that can be tough to deal with.

Viv: You’re talking about the fairies now? 

Isobel: (grinning now) I suppose I am!

Viv: You’re a pretty pragmatic sort of person from what I know of you, and you’re not at all one of these New Age believe-anything women. So, far as I can see, you’re not the most likely candidate for getting caught up with the whole concept of fairies. Can you tell me what they’re like?

Isobel: I can tell you what they’re not. They’re not anything like what you see in modern depictions of fairies. There’s no glitter or pretty-pretty faces. None of the sparkly magic and so on you see in both kids’ books and the New Age ones you referred to. They’re…..well, primeval is the only word I can think of. Earthy. They’re not what you think and they’re not what you expect. I’m not even convinced I understand them myself. 

Viv: OK, and that brings me to a hard question. How does any of what you experienced in the cottage square with your faith?

Isobel: That IS a hard question. I’m not sure how to answer it. Churchianity tries to give nice neat answers to life’s tough questions and it gets cross and burns people at the stake for refusing to accept those neat answers as all that there is. I don’t believe we can know all the answers, but that we have to keep asking the questions anyway, even after we think we know the answers. Certain branches of Churchianity would tell me that my parents are burning in hell for committing suicide, that by that one act after two good, caring lives they damned themselves forever. And yet, I came to see that their deaths were possibly the most noble things they’d ever done.

Viv: Churchianity? I like that term!

Isobel: So do I. The thing is, God is not bound by human rules and that sadly is what many churches have sought to do: bind God by their rules. That’s like trying to cage the air, and make it obey your rules. Anyway, enough God-talk.

(She’s looking a bit uncomfortable about this, so I think it’s time to move the conversation to something else.)

Viv: OK, so tell me about your painting, your art?

Isobel: That’s tough. Hmm. Let me think. OK, I don’t have your way with words, but I think I paint my stories. You write yours, but I have to paint them. I paint the things I see and I feel inside my head, and I try to use that to tell the greater narrative of life. I can only paint a tiny section of it and hope that it adds to the greater picture somewhere.

Viv: I certainly feel you succeed with it, as much as any of us can. Anyway, can you sum up for us your experiences?

Isobel: You do go for asking the tough questions! I’ll try. Hmmm. Perhaps it’s best to say that there are more things that we don’t know that that we do, and to be open-minded about the world and not get bogged down with dogmatic answers to life’s big questions. Oh and love your family with all your strength. That’s something too easy to forget, that the love you share with family and friends is not an automatic right that’ll be there forever. People die and they don’t always give you any warning of it. So tell those you love that you love them. I never got a chance to tell my mum and dad I loved them until they were gone. Don’t make my mistake.

Viv: Thank you very much indeed, Isobel. I’d like to wish you luck with your continued exploration of the world through your art.

Isobel: It’s a pleasure. Now, do you think we can sneak off for a glass of wine somewhere? I’m parched!

Viv: Sure, but you’re buying!


Amazon US



Amazon UK



Lulu paperback (will be on both Amazon sites in time)


(The events with Chloe will be appearing in a new book this year, titled, Square Peg. From the title I suspect you can guess that one of the themes is not fitting in and being uncomfortable about it. I’ll let you know when it’s ready. Many of the characters in my books appear or connect with other characters in other books, so you can often meet new people and familiar ones in surprising places.)

Why I believe in fairies

I believe in fairies ~ just don’t ask me to define what a fairy actually is!

(this article has appeared before but as a guest post. Do forgive me; I’m not lazy, but rather bogged down with depression at the moment.)

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.   “Away With The Fairies” is available as an e-book from Amazon USA : http://www.amazon.com/Away-With-The-Fairies-ebook/dp/B005RDS02A/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1318763160&sr=1-2   From Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Away-With-The-Fairies-ebook/dp/B005RDS02A/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318763071&sr=1-3   And currently as a paperback from Lulu, (though in a few weeks time it will also be available from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Away-Fairies-Vivienne-Tuffnell/dp/1470923416/ref=la_B00766135C_1_2_bnp_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1422703517&sr=1-2 ) http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/away-with-the-fairies/17985792   It is also available at Amazon France, and Amazon Germany etc 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…….

Miranda the fairy