The two volumes of This and That contain a total of 47 short stories arranged alphabetically by title. In some ways it’s an odd assortment of stories, all written for competitions at various stages throughout the author’s writing career.
In the main, however, the stories can best be described as sweet and gentle, ideal for someone wanting relaxing, pleasant read without having to work too hard. It’s the kind of book one can sit down and enjoy with a cup of tea. Having said this, there are some twists and turns in many of the tales, some going in unexpected directions.
The following stories stand out for me, months after having read the book, which is testament (at least in my opinion) to a story well told or which hit a nerve:
Can do Cindy (vol 1): This is the only story in the book which is specifically for children and was written to help the author’s granddaughter through a difficult patch. I love the talking trees.
Foxton Locks (vol 1): It must be the history research aspect of this story that hooked me. Investigating a painting can lead to some incredible discoveries.
Lotta Terracotta (vol 1): the colours evoked by the terracotta and the twist in the tale make this one a highlight.
Just a little pet (vol 1): every parent’s (and aunt’s) nightmare come true. Little boys will be little boys. I say no more, except mention reptile, so as not to give the story away. The young lad should be given credit for ingenuity.
York Express (vol 2): Things are not what they appear in this station encounter. How many times do we misread a situation and end up suffering the consequences unless a chance encounter gives us a second chance.
The last rose of summer (vol 2): people are not always what they seem, but a bad situation can be turned to something good.
Carry on Red Cross (vol 1): What a community can achieve working together, or is it because of who you know?
The Spanish Christmas (vol 2): all’s well that ends well. Who knows how and why things go the way they do. A story of love and friendship.