A Good Home, Aging, Architecture, Artists, Book lovers, Books, Childhood Memories, elderly Parents, England, Family, Family Stories, Famous Places, Georgian Architecture, Georgian Homes, Home, Home Decor, Interior Design, Lancing College, Life Challenges, Lifestyle, Restoring old houses, Sussex England, Young Adult Books

Author MT McGuire At Home

Author MT McGuire is one of my favorite bloggers. That’s partly because I never know what MT will write about next.  Or how.

Like the time she went metal detecting and found “a strange um…. thing.”  Well, with an opening like that, don’t we just need to press on, to figure out what the um… thing is?

The Thing
The Thing

One day she’s unearthing an 800 year old object and the next she’s breaking your heart with her worry about her parents’ health.

My Mum was 80 a few months ago. She told me, gently, that her father didn’t survive to see 81 and I had a horrible feeling that she was telling me she thinks she mightn’t be around for long.  And I think this is the root of it all.  That my parents are knocking on, and soon they won’t be here.  And I want their last years to be happy, and for life to be kind to them, and while I think they are happy, I know they are struggling.

So I suppose I’m just scared.”

That ability to confront both the weird and the deeply moving may help explain the appeal of MT’s  K’Barthan Trilogy.

Blog Photo - MT Few Are Chosen
 She describes the young adult fantasy series as:  “Above all else, a romp. If it makes people laugh, then — to be honest — anything else is gravy. There are bad jokes, silly names, an unspeakable baddie, flying cars, flying car chases, exciting fights and a smattering of romance.  But I’m hoping there might be the odd universal truth buried in there somewhere, even if it’s only by mistake.”

MT McGuire’s self-description?   “A 45 year old who still checks inside unfamiliar wardrobes for a gateway to Narnia.”

Any luck with that?  “None yet.”

One day, I checked MT’s blog and discovered a wonderful old building where she and her family lived while her father was housemaster of Gibbs House, at Lancing College in Sussex, England.

Gibbs House, Lancing College
Gibbs House, Lancing College

Here’s how she describes it:

“Miles and miles of corridor and a couple of enormous rooms (you know, bed in one post code, wardrobe in another) and a couple of tiny ones just big enough to fit a chest of drawers and a bed, on each floor. You have the spare room; the dormer up top (horrible room, we thought it was haunted – so we kindly put our guests there – phnark).”

Lancing was definitely not a “normal” environment for a young girl, since it was mostly a boys’ school.

“If your life is not like other people’s you end up with an alternative perception of what normal is.”

You also learn to see things that others may miss.

“There were always the lads who were having a hard time at home. They were the ones my parents were extra kind to and for whom they went the extra mile. I never knew what was going on in these boys’ lives but there was something unmistakable in all of them.  So, I guess I developed an eye for people who were hauling baggage which has helped a lot with the characterisation in my books – not to mention day to day life.”

Lancing College Chapel
Lancing College Chapel

So – back to the pictures of Lancing College. They reminded me of another fantasy series — the Harry Potter books.  And sure enough,  Lancing was the producers’ first location choice.

“The school was offered a lot of money to be the ‘film-Hogwarts’ but declined. The headmaster at the time said that it was a place of education and not for Hollywood. He is a charming and mild mannered man.  I wonder what on earth they must have said to him to get such an uncharacteristically pompous rebuttal.”

Back Garden

Today, MT, her husband (“McOther”) and young son (“McMini”) live in another old building (above, built in 1800).

Blog Photo - MT Stairs to Landing

She loves it, despite the fact that the plumbing and heating systems and the plastering need repairs.  MT says it’s like owning a 1960’s Rolls Royce.

Blog Photo - MT Office via landing

Blog Photo - MT LRoom comfy corner

“Sure it needs a bit of care and tinkering but it’s like living in history and it’s so beautifully made. The banister rail is beautiful and the doors and the floors are lovely.  The look and feel goes with our furniture, which is mostly family stuff, generations of hand-me-down antiques and some nice modern things McOther and I have bought.

Blog Photo MT LRoom red sofa

Comfort matters.  “I like a well cared house, but not too neat. It has to look lived in or it makes the guests nervous and then they are far more likely to spill stuff and break things. Well, OK — I am, if I’m your guest. It may be different for normal people.”

Blog Photo - MT Stairs

For MT, home is a place, but, above all, it’s the people who love and understand you.

“Someone as well as somewhere to come home to. When I was a kid it was my parents and brother. Now, it’s McOther and McMini. Unless they are in it with me it’s not a proper home. I guess they are my home in many ways.”


There are 4 books — not three — in The K’Barthan Trilogy.

(MT cheerfully admits:  “Unfortunately, I’ve never been very good at maths”.)

The books are sold on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the other online booksellers. To learn more about MT and her books, please visit:

Blog: www.mtmcguire.co.uk
Website: www.hamgee.co.uk/books

A Good Home, Authors, Book lovers, England, Gratitude, Inspiration, Kindness, Teaching English, Words

You Just Never Know

Somewhere in Birmingham, England, a teacher has been using my book A Good Home to teach English to her students.

Why?  I wondered as I read her email.

You see, I never knew what readers would make of my book.  For one thing, so much of it was written piece by piece, over many years – a series of private memoirs, an ongoing “journal” never meant to be published.  My writing was descriptive, yes, but also simple.

Blog Photo - Red Peony

I wrote about what I was seeing, hearing, thinking and feeling at the time. About my family, neighbours, friends. A special home.  A beloved pet.  A garden.  A flower.  A chance encounter.  And even a tragedy or two.

Not for others to read, but for myself. Because I wanted to remember those moments.

“It’s an excellent example of descriptive, emotive writing”, the English teacher wrote.

My reply must have been a disappointment. It’s easily the least descriptive thing I’ve ever written.

“I’m at a loss for words,” I wrote, still stunned.  But good manners kicked in.  I gave her a heartfelt thank-you.

A Good Home - A memoir by Cynthia Reyes
A Good Home – A memoir by Cynthia Reyes

Now that I’ve gotten over my surprise, I can tell you this:  she made my day.  In fact, she made my whole week.

Someone’s using my book to teach English,” I silently repeated.


From her home in Toronto,  a woman sent me an email.  She said she’d nurtured the dream of returning to the thing she loved most – writing – but years had passed and she still couldn’t find the right space or time to do it.

I urged her to stop for a few minutes. To record a thought, an image,  a scene — anything … and never mind about making it sound fancy.

“Write,” I’d told her. “Just write.”

Later, I followed up with another email:  “Have you written today?”

This week, I got an email from her. She’s back at her craft… and using the story of our exchanges to inspire others. These “others” are people I will likely never meet. But with luck, at least one of them will similarly encourage and inspire someone else.


With a  few words in their email notes, the English teacher and the Toronto writer both gave me a gift — at a time when I needed to be  uplifted.

The original email exchanges with the Toronto writer,  for example,  happened at a time when my body was so inflamed with pain that I felt useless and miserable – unable to help myself or anyone else.  Dragging myself to the computer was unbelievably difficult. It never occurred to me that the few words I wrote would help to change someone’s life.

Nor, I suspect, did the teacher or the writer know what a positive impact their own words would have on me. But then again,  I didn’t know that the ongoing “journal” of moments in my life would become a book  that others would value.

But this much I know:

Words have power. We don’t know, when we write them, how they will affect others.  But they do.

This post is dedicated to Paddy Chung and his wife Jacqui, two of my favorite people, whose words and deeds are uplifting. Not surprisingly, I wrote about them in my book. (You may even remember them from “The Harvest”.)