Tea – best drink of the day?

This week, the Church Mice Writers wrote about tea. (I can neither confirm nor deny this was due to the facilitator being cross with technology and needing to nip off to make a quick, calming brew!)

The first piece was written by David T:

Tea and the Great Central

Tea, or to be more precise the lack of it, has the capacity to bring a heritage steam railway to a standstill.

From the beginning of each day, and just before lighting up their locomotive, the intended crew insist on having a cup of tea in the Mess Hut.

Again before oiling up commences, it is necessary to have another cup of tea before going down under the loco with oil can and large rag.

Nearing the point of full steam and almost ready to go, the crew are joined by the train guard and Operations Manager for instructions and of course, a cup of tea.

For the journey a tin can known as a ‘billycan’ is filled with tea and placed above the loco fire hole door. This delight can be imbibed at any opportune moment.

Further tea making during the journey requires the billycan to be primed with packet tea followed by the expert use of the slake pipe. The original intended use of this rubber hose pipe is to wash down the loco footplate with scalding water from the boiler. The crew will tell you that tea brewing is an essential secondary function.

If the train has cause to wait for a length of time the train guard will also enjoy some refreshment in his brake van. Vans on freight trains have small cast iron stoves installed for warmth and of course making tea.

Back in the engine shed, the staff continue to work on the considerable fleet of locomotives. That is until mid morning when the shout of ‘tea up’ vibrates around the old shed walls.

The mess hut quickly fills up with dirty engineers, joined frequently by the shed cat.

During tea drinking with the lads, the cat will sit on the first available pair of knees and divest itself of a vile mixture of loco ash and inevitable steam oil.

It can be clearly seen that failure of the tea supply would bring the entire railway to a very thirsty halt!

Read another ‘tea’ piece here.

Come back soon for other group member’s tea related pieces!

Remembrance Writing Competition

This free-to-enter competition aims to encourage writers of all ages and is being staged to mark Remembrance Day 2020.

We’re asking for writing on any of the themes in the story of ‘Songster – Loughborough’s Own War Horse.’  These include friendship, bravery, determination and luck, and the theme of remembrance could also be used.  Writers may use one or as many themes as they wish.

Written entries should be no more than 500 words and can be

  • poems
  • short stories
  • personal reflections, journalism or recounts
  • letters (real or fictional)

Applications are invited from writers in the following categories:

  • Junior category: under 14 years of age
  • Young adult category: 14-18 years of age
  • Adult category: 18 years and over

Applicants’ ages are as at 13th November 2020.

Winners in each category will receive a small package of prizes, including a copy of ‘Songster – Loughborough’s Own War Horse’ and to be confirmed.

The writing competition will be judged by Alison Mott, writing coach and author of ‘Songster – Loughborough’s Own War Horse.’

Rules of entry:

All entries should be:

  • written in English
  • the entrant’s own original writing
  • 500 words in length or less.

They shouldn’t have been previously published or broadcast in any form, including online.

Entries which don’t comply with these conditions will be disqualified. 

Only one entry per writer. 

Amendments cannot be made to entries once they have been submitted.

Closing date for entry is midnight on Friday 13th November 2020.

Entries should be submitted by email as a Word document to:

or by post to

Remembrance Writing Competition
c/o Charnwood Museum
Granby Street
Leics LE11 3DU

The email should include the following information:

  • The name of the writer 
  • The title of the piece
  • The category it’s being entered for – Junior, Young Adult or Adult (please indicate the writer’s age if under 18.)
  • ​A contact name, email and telephone number of the writer (or an adult with parental responsibility if the writer is under 18). If the entry is through a school, please also give the school’s details.

Happy writing and good luck!

Back to school

The Church Mice writers’ group has carried on by Zoom over lockdown, but today we managed to meet for a socially-distanced scribble in a garden (despite the rain!)  One of the prompts was going back to school – ‘going back to Hogwarts’ specifically, but we’re a fickle lot and took our writing in many different directions!  Here’s my effort – introducing the gang to the idea of fan fiction:

The rain battered against the windows continuously, obscuring the view as the train sped through countryside.  Countryside, Tash imagined, that very probably looked much like it had for all her 25 years on earth but which, she now knew, wasn’t all that it seemed.  It was something she’d have to adjust to, though she still found it hard to comprehend.

If she hadn’t applied for the obscure little job that’d popped up on LinkedIn – as if by magic, it seemed – she’d never have known anything about it.  The post was a perfect blend of her qualifications and experience, located in a part of the country she’d been wanting to live in for as long as she could remember and, most importantly, included a number of hours of teaching each week – something she’d wanted to do for some time.  She’d applied with a ‘what harm can it do?’ attitude, only to be pleasantly surprised to be called for interview and completely gobsmacked to learn she’d got the job – well, gobsmacked about that and the multitude of other things she’d been trying to get her head round ever since.

So here she was, on her way to Hogwarts, the school’s new social media specialist, with a remit to publicise its existence and build bridges with the wider, non-wizarding world.  Soon, she’d be creating posts about potions, quips about Quidditch and teaching young witches and wizards about social media and its importance to non-magical folk.

Non-magical folk – her eyes widened at the thought of that phrase.  Until the day of the interview she’d not known that magical folk were a thing.  And now here she was, a regular young woman from Birmingham – a muggle, apparently – on her way to a castle in remotest Scotland, about to experience goodness knows what.

Alison Mott