Victorian E-type carriage [Wikimedia]

In the mid-to-late 1990s, I started writing a piece of fiction aimed at what is now referred to as a Young Adult audience. As I have started to look back at all my writing to see what can be continued and what might need to be updated, I thought I would give you a taster of The Railway Carriage and see whether it piques your interest enough to  want to know what happens. There are another two chapters which were written at the time, and the story is based around a converted Victorian railway carriage on the Isle of Wight which was owned by my grandmother and was where we spent all our summer holidays as children. If so many of my belongings were not still packed up in boxes from the move to Crete, I would be able to show you a photograph of that very carriage, which had been painted white. As it is, I give you something similar from Wikimedia.

Chapter One

“Why didn’t you tell me it was going to be so painful? If I’d known, I’m not so sure I’d have gone through with it.”

I had to grab the banister to stop myself from falling.  Mum didn’t know I’d heard. She didn’t know I was there.  She was on the phone to her friend Sheila and I guess she thought I was safely up in my room.

I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation because there was too much noise inside my head.  It felt as if someone was drilling a hole in  my brain and pouring plenty of poison into it. So many questions.  Angry ones they were too.

Why?  Why hadn’t they told me?  What had I ever done to them that they should have kept something like that from me?  They’d been living a lie, pretending all the time.  Her and Dad.

Nothing made sense any more.  Apart from their love for Gabi.  No wonder they were so doting towards my baby sister.  Except that she wasn’t my sister, was she?  How can you have a proper sister when you’re adopted?  And what else could I be if Gabi was the first time Mum had gone through the pain of childbirth.

Looking back, I should have questioned Mum about it there and then. I should have walked on down the stairs, waited for her to hang up and asked to talk about it.  But I didn’t.  Then again, if I had, I wouldn’t have got to know Jakob and none of the other things would have happened.

Instead, I went back up to my room and lay on my bed for a good forty minutes.  It took that long for the pain behind my eyes to subside.  I couldn’t cry – I felt numb.

I couldn’t ring my best buddy, Sarah, because she was on holiday in France with her family. I didn’t even have a boyfriend who could give me some support because I’d given Johnny Lace the elbow when he forgot my birthday.  (A bit extreme, I suppose, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s etcetera.)  So I did what I always do when I need solace – I went down to the beach for a swim.

My swimming costume was getting too small for me but Mum had said that it would have to do me a little longer because they couldn’t afford to buy me a new one, what with all the stuff they’d had to buy for Gabi.  Second-best, that’s what I’d been in the weeks since Gabi was born.  Now I knew I’d always been second-best. Always would be.

It was mid-afternoon and the grockles were out in force but that didn’t bother me.  When you live somewhere that most people only go for a holiday, you learn to pretend the tourists aren’t there; either that or go mad.

It wasn’t the hottest day of the summer but it was pretty close and I stormed into the water not caring whom I splashed on the way.  You have to be careful of the rocks and seaweed but I’ve lived on the Isle of Wight all my life and I could draw a map of the rocks in Bembridge blindfold.

I suppose I swam up and down for about half an hour.  The tide was going out and when it was too shallow to swim without paddling miles out to sea, I went and sat on my towel.

A couple of children were trying to build a sandcastle nearby.  They didn’t have any spades or buckets so they weren’t getting very far but it was soothing to watch them.


Bembridge beach, Isle of Wight [Wikimedia]

There was no-one on the beach that I knew apart from Mr. Rozen. And I didn’t really know him.  He lived next door to us in a converted Victorian railway carriage set at the bottom of a small, overgrown orchard.  He kept himself pretty much to himself as far as we were concerned so I didn’t really know what he was like.

I nodded at him when I saw him.  He was sitting further back near the wooden steps that led up towards Swains Lane, watching those same children with their sandcastle. He nodded in return and smiled.  He had one of those very lined faces: wrinkles in places you didn’t think people got wrinkles.

I was glad that we weren’t on anything more than nodding acquaintance.  Right at that moment I needed to be left in peace.  I didn’t have the energy for polite conversation.  How could I when my whole life was in crisis?

Eventually the children nearby were gathered up by their parents and taken off for ice creams and I lay down on the towel and closed my eyes.

I must have fallen asleep because when I next sat up, the tide was right out, almost as far as the fort.  On a really low tide, it’s possible to walk right up to it.  I stared at the fort for some time before the full import of what I’d learned hit me with renewed force.

Only then did the tears start. And I couldn’t stop them, they just kept rolling down my cheeks.  I neither knew nor cared who noticed.  I felt so alone.  I wonder if you know what that’s like. My world had turned upside down and inside out and I didn’t feel able to trust anyone or anything.  It’s a horrible, horrible feeling.

I did once hear someone say that we come into this world alone and we go out of it alone but I didn’t want to feel so alone at fourteen. Who does?

And the tears kept on coming.  My body didn’t judder and my head didn’t twitch but the tears continued to fall.

“Tell me to go away if you wish, but a happy lady you are not.”

I looked up to see Mr Rozen.  I wanted to say ‘piss off!’ but I couldn’t find the right words.

“Would you mind if I sat down?”  His English was slightly accented and rather formal.  I still couldn’t speak and he took that as a ‘yes’.

“Is it possible I could help?”


“No matter.  You do not have to tell me.”

Why wouldn’t he go away?  Couldn’t he see my tears were none of his business?

“I cannot bear to see anyone cry.”

This made me cry even more.

“Olivia?  That is your name, isn’t it?  I’ve heard you being called in from the garden,” he added, as if not to explain would make it seem as if he had been spying on us.  “My name is Jakob.”

My body was shuddering now.  He put his hand on my shoulder but I was crying so hard that I was past caring about strange men on beaches.  In any case, he wasn’t a stranger, he wasn’t offering me sweets, and he lived next door.

It’s difficult to explain but the touch of his hand had a calming effect on me and the tears eventually stopped.   I told him that although my name was Olivia, everyone called me Mouse.

“Except when they are angry and calling you in for supper?” he suggested.  He was smiling now.  Really smiling.

“Yes,” I said, and couldn’t help smiling myself.


Happy old man on the beach [Wikimedia]

“No, no!” he cried when he saw me reach for a corner of my towel to wipe my face.  “You’ll get sand in your eyes.”  He pulled a wad of tissues out of his rucksack and handed me several.

“Thank you,” I said, and hiccupped.

“I have seen you many times swimming.  You are a strong swimmer.”

“I love it,” I said.  “It’s the only worthwhile thing in my life.”

“Oh now.  I am sure there are other things.  And whatever your problem may be, it will be sorted out.  I am certain.”

“How can it be?” I burst out.   “It’s awful!  I’ll never get over it, NEVER!”

“‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’  Come.  Let us go for a walk.”

And I found myself walking all the way round to the harbour with him and back again.  Not speaking.  Just companionable silence.  I will always be grateful for that.  He knew that was exactly what I needed.

Perhaps we made an odd couple because I noticed someone staring at us quite intently for a while.  I’m average height for my age but Mr Rozen was probably about the same as me in spite of being so much older.  I didn’t know how old he was then but I found out later that he was seventy-three.

He never questioned why I was called Mouse but I told him anyway as we walked back home along Swains Lane. “I don’t do a lot of talking but when I do…”

“…you make up for it!”  He stopped outside his gate and shook my hand.  “Perhaps we meet again for a swim, yes?”

I nodded.  “I’d like that, Mr Rozen.”  It would take a while before I felt happy calling him Jakob.

I watched him shut the gate and walk down the grassy drive.  He was incredibly upright and solid for his age and if it hadn’t been for his wrinkles, you’d have thought he was nearer to fifty.

As I turned in at our gate, a  red Volvo drew up opposite.  I thought it was my father’s until I saw the number plate.  The driver stayed where he was and as I closed the gate behind me, I was aware that he was staring at me.

Sarah Vernon © 27-05-15


Take care and keep laughing!


Originally posted on Tish Farrell.

Denys Finch Hatton obelisk Ngong Hills

This was not supposed to happen. In fact you could say it adds insult to irony:  that a man so steadfastly dedicated to an unfettered life in the wilds should, in death, end up hemmed in, and so very domesticated within this small Kikuyu shamba. Yet here it is, the mournful stone obelisk, marking  the grave of Denys Finch Hatton,  son and heir of the 13th Earl of Winchilsea, Great White Hunter, and lover of two women far more famous than he is: writer Karen Blixen (Out of Africa) and aviator  and race horse trainer Beryl Markham (West with the Night).

Yet another woman, the one whose shamba this is, shows him a new kind of love, taking care of the garden around the obelisk.  If you want to visit the place it is not easy to find – either her little smallholding on the Ngong Hills, or the grave within. When we visited years ago we found only a hand-painted signpost nailed to a tree. We parked in a paddock outside the farmhouse door and were charged a few shillings. We could have bought a soda too, if we’d wanted. We could not see the grave though, and soon found that it was deliberately hidden from view by an enclosure of  old wooden doors. More irony here of course. More symbols of shut-in-ness.

Denys spent most of his life in Africa avoiding any kind of confinement – out  in the Tsavo wilderness, running shooting safaris for the rich and aristocratic. His clients included the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) . In fact it was during the safaris for the Prince in 1928 and 1930 that Finch Hatton began…

via Caught inside a Kikuyu garden: a memorial to Karen Blixen’s lover, Denys Finch Hatton | Tish Farrell.

The work of the Dutch-born artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema [1836-1912] is unmistakable. A dazzling Mediterranean sea? Exquisitely rendered marble? A delectable female or two draped in classical robes? The chances are you’re looking at a painting by Alma-Tadema. His detailed brush strokes and rich colours owe much to his Dutch forebears and while one might consider his paintings to be somewhat chocolate-box pretty, it’s difficult  not to be charmed by them. You may remember that the last time I mentioned Sir Lawrence was when I adapted another of his pieces, Ask Me No More, for The Proposal.

Lourens Alma Tadema

Lourens Alma Tadema [Wikipedia]

The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra was commissioned by a Samuel Hawk of New York in 1883 and painted in 1885, its inspiration taken from Shakespeare’s play. Alma-Tadema trained at the Royal Academy of Antwerp in Belgium but moved to England in 1870 and there he remained, though he was in Wiesbaden, Germany, when he died in 1912.

Lourens Alma Tadema's birth house and statue in Dronrijp, Netherlands

Lourens Alma Tadema’s birth house and statue in Dronrijp, Netherlands [Wikipedia]

Available at the following galleries:
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Fine Art America
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Take care and keep laughing!


Night Landings © Sarah Vernon

Night Landings © Sarah Vernon

My current obsession with the sea and the coast continues with Night Landings.

The original photograph is by Tim Mossholder at Unsplash and I have blended it with textures from 2 Lil’ Owls – 2LO Haunting 14 and 2LO Haunting 23.

Soon to be available at the following galleries:
Zazzle US
Zazzle UK
Fine Art America
Fine Art England
Saatchi Art

Have a beautiful Sunday…

Take care and keep laughing!


A vintage ghost story for your delectation.

Originally posted on Mrs Daffodil Digresses.

“1855, March 28.—The following story was told me by Lady S., who heard it from Mr. M., a gentleman of considerable note, and one not at all given to romancing:—

“Mr. M., a well-known lawyer, went to stay with Mr.T., in the county of ___. In the course of their first evening together, Mr. M. learned that, among his host’s neighbours, was an old friend of his own, for whom he had great regard; but of whom he had lost sight since college days. The next morning Mr. M asked the gentleman of the house if he would forgive him if he walked over to see his old friend; adding a request that if he were asked to dinner, he might be allowed to accept the invitation.

“On being assured that he might do whatever was most agreeable to himself, he went to make his call—not on foot, as he had proposed, but in his friend’s dog-cart. As he anticipated, the gentleman he went to see insisted on his staying to dinner. He consented, and sent the groom back with the dog-cart, with a message to his master to say that, as it would be a fine moonlight night, he should prefer walking home. After having passed a very agreeable day with the old fellow-collegian, he bade him good-bye; and, fortified with a couple of cigars, sallied forth on his return. On his way he had to pass through the pleasant town of ___, and on coming to the church in the main street, he leaned against the iron railings of the churchyard while he struck a match and lighted his second cigar. At that moment the church clock began to strike. As he had left his watch behind him, and did not feel certain whether it were ten o’clock or eleven, he stayed to count, and to his amazement found it twelve. He was about to hurry on, and make up for lost time, when his curiosity was pricked, and the stillness of the night broken, by the sound of carriage wheels on the road, moving at a snail’s pace, and coming up the side street directly facing the spot where he was standing. The carriage proved to be a mourning-coach, which, on turning at right angles out of the street in which Mr. M. first saw it, pulled up at the door of a large red brick house. Not being used to see mourning-coaches out at such an unusual hour, and wondering to see this one returning at such a funereal pace, he thought he would stay and observe what happened. The instant the coach drew up at the house, the carriage door opened, then the street door, and then a tall man, deadly pale, in a suit of sables, descended the…

via The Funeral Coach: 1855 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses.

Originally posted on First Night Design.

It’s a very strange feeling when you discover that an artist you admire had the same disabling illness as you have, especially when it’s relatively rare, not to mention impossible to describe succinctly. Paul Klee — though it wasn’t diagnosed until ten years after his death in 1940 — had Scleroderma, an autoimmune condition that can be utterly debilitating. I have wanted to write about Scleroderma and its affect on my life and work for some time but I never thought I would be doing so with reference to Paul Klee!

In essence, Scleroderma in all its forms is a chronic circulatory and connective tissue disorder in which the body’s defences attack its own organs and tissues. The Raynaud’s & Scleroderma Association website describes it thus:

‘Scleroderma is an uncommon disease of the immune system, blood vessels and connective tissue. In this condition the skin, usually…

via First Night Design | Me, Paul Klee, and Scleroderma | First Night Design.

Swan & Edgar’s Fashionable Furs was one of the first greeting cards I made at Zazzle. I scanned this advertisement from one of my early 20th century editions of the English theatre periodical, Play Pictorial.


Even if you have never heard of Swan & Edgar’s, this grand department store was housed in one of the most recognisable and iconic buildings of Piccadilly Circus, between Piccadilly and Regent Street. It was the establishment in which to be seen for it sold the most sumptuous clothes for the well-heeled. The store had its beginnings in a haberdashery stall in St James Market run by William Edgar early in the 19th century. After meeting George Swan, the two men combined resources:

They first opened a shop together in Ludgate Hill which Mr Swan had been operating, but moved to 20 Piccadilly in 1812. They then moved to 49 Regent Street when their former site was demolished to make way for Piccadilly Circus, which had been the home to the Western Mail coach offices and the Bull & Mouth public house. George Swan died in 1821, however Mr Edgar continued to use the name. By 1848 the premises had expanded to 45-51 and the entire corner of Piccadilly Circus… [Wikipedia]


Available at the following galleries:
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Take care and keep laughing!


Adolf Wölfli [1864-1930] was an extraordinary artist from Switzerland, whose detailed drawings bear repeated examination. To learn that he spent most of his adult life in an insane asylum somehow doesn’t surprise me. He was abused by his parents and orphaned at ten years old.  A series of foster homes followed before he worked as a farm labourer and had a stint in the army. He repeated the sins of his fathers by spending time in prison for child molestation. After a second conviction for the same offence, he was incarcerated in the Waldau Clinic, a psychiatric hospital in Bern, in 1885, and remained there until he died in 1930.

Adolf Wölfli [1864-1930]  - Wikipedia

Adolf Wölfli [1864-1930] – Wikipedia

Click here to find out more about Adolf Wölfli.

Irren-Anstalt Band-Hain is available to buy at my store, First Night Vintage.

Take care and keep laughing!


Originally posted on HistoryLondon.

Was it something in the water? Wandering around the City of London’s Square Mile I have been surprised to learn that five of England’s greatest poets were born here, within a few hundred yards of each other, in a concentration of poetic genius I would hazard is not surpassed anywhere else in the world.

The lives of the five: John Milton, Alexander Pope, Thomas Gray, John Keats and Thomas Hood, occupied a key period of about 250 years of London’s history from 1600 to 1850. Their poetic styles were very different, and none of them, except perhaps Hood, is remembered particularly as a London writer, but I thought it would be interesting to find out what they had to say about their home city.

In 1608, John Milton was born an unquestioned Cockney, in Bread Street just three houses south of Cheapside and the…

via Five Cockney Poets | HistoryLondon.

“Books are carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculations at a standstill. Books are the engines of change, windows on the world, ‘lighthouses’ (as the poet said) ‘erected in the sea of time.’ They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.” Barbara Tuchman

Available at the following galleries:
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Fine Art America
Fine Art England

Take care and keep laughing!



A beautiful video by a new friend, Jean Luc Delagree, of springtime in Barnes, South West London, an area I know well having lived most of my life in Richmond and East Sheen. Enjoy!

Take care and keep laughing!



Writer Raymond Mortimer, Frances Partridge (then Marshall) and Dadie Rylands.

‘What I most dread is that life should slip by unnoticed, like a scene half glimpsed from a railway carriage window. What I want most is to be always reacting to something in my surroundings, whether a complex of visual sensations, a physical activity like skating or making love, or a concentrated process of thought; but nothing must be passively accepted, everything modified by passing it through my consciousness as worm does earth.

From a 1940 diary entry by Frances Partridge [1900 – 2004], a part of the Bloomsbury Group who outlasted them all.

Take care and keep laughing!


This painting of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving as Beatrice and Benedict in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing in 1882 is from The Library of Congress and enchanting in its own right.

The background is a blend of the interior of The Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1851 from an old encyclopaedia — the venue was originally constructed in Hyde Park and the exhibition was organised by Prince Albert and Henry Cole — and textures from 2 Lil’ Owls.

As soon as I layered the actors over the blended background, it conjured up the likes of William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti!

That I neither feel how she should be loved
nor know how she should be worthy is the opinion
that fire cannot melt out of me. I will die in it at the

Available at the following galleries:
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Zazzle UK
Fine Art America
Fine Art England
Saatchi Art

Take care and keep laughing!


Adam's Apples © Sarah Vernon

Adam’s Apples © Sarah Vernon

Vintage apples from The Graphics Fairy and textures from 2 Lil’ Owls. I haven’t uploaded it for sale yet but I thought you might like it, particularly Mary of Oil Pastels for Mary as we were talking about doing something like Copper Pear. I told her I could never repeat a particular kind of beauty!

Do you think I need to make the apples greener? I’ve been farting about with it forever and I’m still not sure.

Soon to be available at the following galleries:
Zazzle US
Zazzle UK
Fine Art America
Fine Art England
Saatchi Art

Take care and keep laughing!



Originally posted on Albert Jack (except for the image!)

To Double Cross a person (or to be ‘double crossed’) is to cheat somebody, or to betray a confidence. Initially this phrase used to mean to indicate that both parties were involved in the deception, although it is now commonly understood as applying to only one party. There is a suggestion that this expression began life in the Middle Ages when Venetian merchants (Venice being the capital of the trading world at that time) would affect allegiance to fellow Westerners by making the sign of the cross in the way Westerners did, and then show the same loyalty to Easterners by crossing themselves in the way Easterners used to. It is said that this divided loyalty led to the introduction of the term ‘double crosser’. But there is stronger evidence suggesting the expression is far more recent, being in fact a horse-racing term from the early 19th century. Any jockey who had been paid to lose an event by race fixers, but who then found himself in the lead, would cross himself twice as he passed the winning post as a prayer to God for forgiveness for his double deception by accepting the bribe to lose and then winning the race. He might also have added a third cross to pray the race fixers weren’t waiting for him when he got home for his tea.

Another possible origin for the term, and one that I prefer, relates to the  doings of an 18th-century bounty hunter by the name of Jonathan Wilde. Legend has it that Wilde kept a book with the names listed of all the criminals and wanted men throughout England. He formed an underground information network and would pay or protect any criminal who provided him with information of the whereabouts of another. In this way, Wilde would apprehend and turn over wanted men to the authorities for a fee. Each of these informers had a cross placed next to their name in the book of thieves. Once a man was no longer useful to Wilde, or began to refuse to give information, the Thief Taker General would place a second cross against his name and then turn him in for the bounty money. However, Wilde also used to blackmail men to steal for him and even to murder rivals, so inevitably he was eventually double crossed himself, turned in and hanged for his crimes.

via To Double Cross (Origins of Phrases) | Albert Jack.

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Sarah Vernon

Sarah Vernon

Artist, Actress, Writer

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