Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Tag: Christmas gifts

Cast Your Bread Upon The Water

Gillian in drawing roomAround the turn of the millennium my family and I joined in with Operation Christmas Child, originated by a couple in Wrexham and eventually taken over by the charity Samaritan’s Purse. The whole concept is to decorate and fill a shoebox with suitable items for a child between the ages of 2-4, 5 – 10, or 11 – 14. Ideally the contents are a mixture of school items, toiletries and toys, destined for youngsters in war-torn zones or natural disaster areas… little ones who might have lost everything or have very little.

I encouraged my own son to put together boxes for boys of his own age and he had a lot of fun thinking about what a lad might like and how much he could shoehorn into the confines of a shoebox. Having only the one son, I, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed choosing all sorts of little girly sparkly pretty things which, normally, I never got to even look at let alone buy. In the shoe boxes we sent out we were encouraged to also include a Christmas card with a personal message. I used to also stick in a photo of us all with my contact details.

As my son grew up and life got busier it was an activity which gradually fell into abeyance within our household and I have to confess that I had completely forgotten all about the shoebox appeal… until yesterday when I received a message from a young lady in Serbia. As a child she had received several shoeboxes over the years and faithfully kept the cards and messages which accompanied them. She tells me that the other day she was looking for something and came across the cards and decided that she would like to send her thanks.

To say that I was surprised to receive her message was a major understatement… but I am also utterly delighted, touched and humbled. How often do we reach out to others through anonymous charitable acts, never expecting to hear more about the recipients, let alone receive thanks. My greatest joy is that the little girl who was has grown into a beautiful, accomplished and highly educated young woman with a good job, living in a world which is infinitely better than the one she grew up in. Knowing that I was able, for even a split second, to help support and bring encouragement and happiness to that little one to help her on her way is far more thanks than I could ever rightfully expect. To be able to now put a face and name to one of these children is simply the icing on the cake.

This has truly been my very best Christmas gift!

And you can depend upon it that next autumn I shall once more be filling a shoebox. So far, in the last thirty years since the charity was started, 178 million boxes have been delivered to little ones in need.

Might I interest you in also participating in this enjoyable and very worthwhile activity?

Operation Christmas Child

A Life of Many Hats


An afternoon spent happily working with wood.

During my life I have had many jobs, many interests, and therefore metaphorically worn many hats; teacher, historian, dancer, writer, caterer, healer, as well as mother, wife, daughter, carer and so on. Another ‘hat’ I wore for twenty years was craft artisan and maker of miniatures for the collector’s market – in plain words a designer and maker of period doll’s houses and furniture.

We built houses, cottages and shops of all shapes and sizes, and produced Tudor and 18th and 19th Century country furniture in both 1/12th and 1/24th scale, along with all the soft furnishings and period accessories.  My whole family was involved and we had huge fun doing it, travelling all over the U.K. and even on to mainland Europe to attend specialist fairs as well as posting orders out as far as the U.S. and Australia. We met many lovely people and had some great adventures.

The wheel turns and life changes and soon after the new millenium began I had to step away from it all due to illness and family commitments. But now, I have had what I think is a marvellous idea for a children’s story, which incorporates the making of a small basic doll’s house and furniture to go inside it. My life-long love affair with miniatures is back!

Yesterday, I stood in my local hardware store and just revelled in the smell and feel of all the new wood around me… the panels of plywood, the different shapes and sizes of the ready cut beading, the smooth feel of the grain… ALL that potential! WOW! My husband and I had gone to buy the wood to make a prototype of the model cottage which I want to feature in my next book, (much more about that after Christmas, suffice it to say that I have already begun writing it!)

Miniatures 2

Tiny seats and fireplaces – notice the £1 coin to give an idea of scale. There shall be further blogposts as to what I intend doing with them.

At one time, trips to our huge wood yard back in Lancashire used to be an almost weekly occurance for me, and the thought suddenly struck me that I haven’t done this once regular activity in well over fifteen years. I suddenly felt quite emotional – in a very happy sort of way. It is said that if you wait long enough, everything in life comes round again.

I have now had an idea of utilising my miniature-making skills to also produce Christmas decorations and gifts, so the world of 1/12th scale and 1/24th scale seems to be very much back in my life just now!

Watch this space for what I come up with and in the new year, news of my – as yet – embryonic story.

Wish me luck!

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