Monday, 16 July 2012

A Necklace of Raindrops

Once upon a time there were two little girls, one named Fiona and the other called Kate.  They were not friends, indeed they did not even know of each other, although I suspect they would have become good buddies if they had met.  They grew up in different parts of England and were very fortunate – they genuinely had wonderful childhoods: both loved drawing and making things, Fiona was particularly artistic; Kate had a gang and was good at climbing trees and playing hide and seek; they were happy, healthy little girls and, as the children’s rhyme goes, “when they were good they were very, very good and when they were bad they were horrid”, but had fun.  Best of all, they had parents who loved them dearly, who enjoyed encouraging their girls to be brave and give things a go; they introduced their daughters to the magic of the world and read the most beautiful bedtime stories.

In many ways, this blog is about a story… Unbeknown to each other, Fiona and Kate shared a favourite bedtime book – a selection of short stories, written by Joan Aiken, called “A Necklace of Raindrops”.  The story that follows is true: 

With a soft thud a small cardboard package fell onto the doormat.  During the day it waited undisturbed, until Kate got home from work.  Although tempted, she did not open it immediately, she waited until after the family meal and the TV news had finished, before herding her youngest son up to bed, taking the package up with her.  Although many would think her son too old for bedtime stories, Kate and her boy really enjoyed their quiet time together.  Over the years they had progressed from “Meg and Mog” and Orlando The Marmalade Cat  through “The Wind In The Willows” to more complex books such as “The Old Man and The Sea”, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” and “One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich” – each evening a voyage of discovery and discussion for them both.  The teenage boy was looking forward to relaxing with a short story by Saki, instead his mother said that she would tell him a tale…

(With apologies to Joan Aiken), Once upon a time there was “A man called Mr. Jones and” he and “his wife lived near the sea. 0ne stormy night Mr. Jones was in the garden when he saw the holly tree by his gate begin to toss and shake.

A voice cried, Help me! I'm stuck in the tree! Help me, or the storm will go on all night."

Very surprised, Mr. Jones walked down to the tree. In the middle of it was a tall man with a long gray cloak, and a long gray beard, and the brightest eyes you ever saw.

"Who are you?" Mr. Jones said. "What are you doing in my holly tree?"

"I got stuck in it, can't you see? Help me out, or the storm will go on all night. I am the North Wind, and it is my job to blow the storm away."

So Mr. Jones helped the North Wind out of the holly tree. The North Wind's hands were as cold as ice.

"Thank you," said the North Wind. "My cloak is torn, but never mind. You have helped me, so now I will do something for you."

"I don't need anything," Mr. Jones said. "My wife and I have a baby girl, just born, and we are as happy as any two people in the world."

"In that case, said the North Wind, I will be the baby's godfather. My birthday present to her will be this necklace of raindrops."

The North Wind produced from his gray cloak a fine, fine silver chain. On the chain hung three, bright, shining drops.  The wind explained that the baby girl must always wear the beautiful necklace and that the raindrops would not wet her, nor would they come off.  Each year, until her tenth birthday, the North Wind promised to return and provide his goddaughter with a new drop.  Each progressive dewdrop was a gift in itself:

  • the fourth bead would enable the little girl to remain dry, even in the fiercest storm;
  • her fifth would keep her safe from lightening during thunder storms;
  • her sixth raindrop would prevent her from ever being blown away;
  • seven raindrops would enable her to swim the deepest river;
  • her eighth would ensure that she could swim the widest sea;
  • with her ninth drop she would be able to stop the rain by clapping her hands; and
  • her tenth would enable her to start a rainstorm simply by blowing her nose.

In every way a wonderful present from a godfather (as a little girl, when I heard the story, I was enchanted).

The goddaughter, whose name was Laura, took care of her necklace until she was nine.  She was a popular child (and not just because she could stop the rain).  It was not until she went to school, and was forced to remove the necklace by a teacher, that her troubles began.

As I told the above story I could see that my son was both intrigued and a little bemused as to why his mother should be telling him an innocent but seemingly childish fairytale.  I adapted the story to make it more appealing for him.  Our neighbours own a beautiful Burmese cat, called Suki, which sees our house as an extension of her own domain.  At times she climbs through my bedroom window to bid us good morning.  My son is very fond of Suki, so it was simple for me to elaborate on the original tale by explaining that Suki heard Laura’s weeping at the loss of her necklace and felt sorry for her.  In addition, being a cat, Suki was pleased when Laura could stop the rain, as she hated getting her paws wet.  My son and I know that Suki has a particular fascination for the goldfinches that chatter to each other whilst feasting on nigella seeds in the feeder hanging in our bay tree.  Later that day, when eavesdropping on the goldfinches, Suki heard them gossiping about the sparkling treasure that a bigger bird had found and taken back to its brood.  Creeping quietly, the cat moved to within striking distance, leapt and caught a red-faced goldfinch. She threatened to toy and tease the poor shivering creature until lunchtime, unless it explained what had been taken and by whom.  As soon as Suki heard that it was the magpie that had gleaned a glistening ornament to decorate its nest, the cat realised that it must be Laura’s necklace.  With care she climbed up to the untidy cluster of twigs in the birch tree and, carrying it softly in her jaws, Suki transported the necklace back down to earth and took it to Laura.

It was at this moment that I instructed my son to open the package that I had brought up with us.  He was nearly as amazed as I to find inside a fine, fine silver chain with ten crystal drops hanging from it.   It was exquisitely made, beautifully wrapped and sent to me.  If you are interested in Fiona, here is a link to her blog:

I must explain that Fiona is a jeweller whom I have met via Twitter.  Through talking about her craft and inspiration for her work, she and I learned of our mutual love for the story “A Necklace of Raindrops”.  Perhaps it was because of our precious childhood memories, maybe it is due to our having more in common than we know, whatever the reason, we struck a chord with each other – hence the creation and delivery of a symbolic necklace for me.

In the original story, Laura gets her necklace back through the help of creatures, to whom she had shown kindness, and also because she proves herself to be both honest and determined – the final droplet that makes her full quota is one of her tears, caused by sadness at her loss of the necklace and remorse at the disappointment and anger she rouses in her godfather.  Needless to say, all ends well and, in addition to being reunited with her treasure, Laura makes a new friend and also manages to deliver an Arabian country from drought.  I must confess that, given the weather we have been having in the UK recently, I think I’d prefer her to start clapping her hands, rather than blowing her nose (certainly, judging by recent downpours and the time of year, it’s clear she suffers from hay fever!).

Although an innocent tale, the A Necklace of Raindrops’ message holds true for us all, both at work and in our wider lives.  It is a story with many layers of meaning - perhaps more for me than most... I have a beautiful god daughter of my own, called Sophie, and I hope that she will always remain happy, healthy, loved and able to achieve all the things that she is capable of.  Having seen Fiona's necklace, I intend to find some smaller droplets and have two other necklaces made, one as an 80th birthday gift for my mother - to thank her and to celebrate all that we have enjoyed in the past - and the other as a birthday gift for Sophie with my wishes for a wonderful future.

So, to end with a “happily ever after”: I am the proud owner of my own necklace of raindrops.  It is special to me in so many ways: I value it for what it is, for the care with which it was created, but more importantly for why it is; the sight of it makes my son smile when he sees it hanging round my neck (and that makes me smile too) and the gift will be continued when I give my god daughter and my mother necklaces of their own and see them smile; it has enabled me to share some of the delights of my childhood and to create a new tale for the future; it is a tangible example of the power of communication and the value of talking time to connect with and understand others. 


  1. Dear Kate,

    This is the most beautiful of your posts so far and that's saying something! I love your Necklace of Raindrops!

    Bina. xx

  2. Hi Kate, what a wonderful story! I love it! My Dad used to read to me at bedtime when I was a child. It's one of my treasured memories.

  3. Wow Kate, what a great start to the day - can't wait to get home tonight to read it to my kids. My Edward lost his first milk tooth y/day so we did the tooth fairy thing. This morning he wanted to write her a thank-you letter before breakfast. Special times.

  4. Hi Kate,
    It's really glad to be here because, I have been through many blogs and got ideas regarding gemstone jewelries and in face got a necklace of black onyx beads but here is something unusual I found. The above necklace is so beautiful and that's made to say you "I love you" because I don't have any other for you. Anyway, thanks much and just thanks for your beautiful post.

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  6. Thank you so much for writing such an entrancing story about us and our shared love of this wonderful story. I like the way you adapted the story for your son (and in yet another bizarre coincidence, I had a kitten called Suki when I was young!), and I can just imagine his amazement on opening the package. I'm thrilled that you like the necklace so much, and that you have helped me create the new version with the little glass drops.
    By the way, I've had to move my blog since you wrote this, so the first link now auto-redirects people to my Etsy shop; if they'd rather read the blog itself the new link is