We live in violent times. When we turn on the news and are inundated with horrific events, it feels like a punch in the gut. We feel ordinary, helpless, and without hope. Some become angry while others spiral downward in various levels of depression. One person can’t change the world, right? So we vent. We […]
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
I didn’t think it was appropriate to add words to yesterday’s post, in respect of those who lost their lives in the Manchester Arena atrocity on Monday night.
But I was incensed. My blood was boiling and I was physically shaking, from the second I heard the news.
A cowardly attack on innocent young people
How deep is their hated for our civilised and caring society?
For those of us outside Manchester, the true horror of this vile crime really began to sink in as the media started releasing images of those who had lost their lives as the faces of children started to appear on our television screens and social media sites.
Salman Abedi triggered the Manchester Arena blast, killing himself, 22 others and injuring 119 people. ISIS may have claimed responsibility for this heinous crime, just up their street, but it maybe that Abedi acted alone, his tormented brain driven by pure evil and hate.
How and why did it get to the stage when a 22-year-old Abedi, barely in adulthood himself, was compelled to carry out such a horrendous act of violence? There is no glory in committing such a cowardly attack, all it does is glorify the perpetrator as a blood thirsty butcher intent on taking out their extremist, twisted and barbaric ideologies out on the defenceless babies of the civilised world. A cowardly abomination.
In memory of all those who lost their lives on 22nd May 2017.
You will never, ever be forgotten and we will carry on the fight against terrorism.
In my teens … I believed that reaching the age I am now was an eternity away.
In my twenties … life was sweet … a little out of control, but I was living it to the full.
In my thirties … I felt in control, I was still playing sport at an acceptable level and still blissfully unaware that time was passing so quickly.
Being forty didn’t faze me either … I celebrated in style, but as I raced towards forty-five, I began to slow down. My joints ached after years worth of sport and had to concede that my body was past it. I had hit my midlife crisis.
I didn’t feel compelled to bungee jump naked from the nearest 700ft bridge, I didn’t start taking pills and potions in a last-ditch attempt to keep a youthful facade, I started thinking about whether or not I had morphed into the person I was always meant to be and I wasn’t sure that I had. There were still things that I needed to do in my life.
“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.”
During the weeks leading up to my fiftieth birthday I started having nightmares … about being sixty … not fifty. Waking up in a cold sweat and screaming this can’t be happening, with images of my wrinkled older self clinging to the waking fog in my head.
When I actually turned fifty … it didn’t bother me which was because the biological clock had something far more menacing up its sleeve … THE MENOPAUSE.
With oestrogen levels at an all time low I was concentrating on all the things I wanted to achieve before I was sixty … but life got in the way as usual.
My mother had a stroke, so I spent four years flying to and from the UK. Then and all within an 8 month period my emotional shit hit the fan. I was made redundant, 2 months later my brother died, then my mother, then my aunt and one of my closest friends in between. That was my wake up call. Since then I’ve put my life into overdrive. I am 2 years into the novel that I’ve always wanted to write, taken up QiGong and I breath in every sunrise and every sunset with renewed wonder.
So don’t let life pass you by, live the dream. As Joy Baluch said, time marches on. You might not realise it when you are 18, 20 or even 30, but whatever your age, it is never too late to be the person you were always meant to be
I am eternally grateful to the liberated ladies of the Swinging Sixties for sticking their heads above the women’s rights parapet, although I do worry that in 2017 we have started a backward slide but … that’s a blog for another day. Today is bra blog day.
It’s debatable whether any bras were burnt during the Sixties Women’s Lib movement, but I decided to stop wearing mine at 16, much to my strait-laced mother’s chagrin, because I believed this breast liberating gesture was in solidarity with my Women’s Lib heroes. As my mother predicted, all it did for me was make me sag before my time and I am sure Mrs Pankhurst never felt that shedding any under garments would have strengthened her emancipation battle.
In 2013, French Sports Scientist Jean-Denis Rouillon claimed that bras ‘are not needed’ and that they might be doing women more harm than good.
Prof Rouillon concluded by saying that perhaps women should not ditch their bras as he had only conducted his research on a small number of women and didn’t know what the long-term effects of going bra-less would be. Maybe it should be ongoing research for him? Although I am not sure why a male of the species is best qualified to determine the future of bras that have been around in some uplifting shape or form since the women of Ancient Greece started strapping up their breasts. Surely it would be more appropriate for a woman to carry out any scientific brassiere studies ?
Caresse Crosby (born Mary Phelps Jacob), author, activist and the owner of an unfortunate whippet she named Clytoris, takes credit for patenting the modern bra in 1910.
Apparently the awesome Charlie Dimmock was bra-less when she made the Ground Force programmes. I avidly watched the whole series without noticing her mammary liberation, presumably because I was too busy absorbing her gardening tips.
I would have thought it stands to reason … the bigger your bazookas … the more important it is to wear a bra.
Cassie The Blog Dog and I have just been for a walk. Cassie to burn off some her exuberant joie de vivre and me to burn off the calories and the after effects of last night’s plummy little Merlot. The sun was out, albeit a watery glow in the sky. I walked and she tore through the fields like a gazelle about to go into orbit. She is a joy to watch and I wish I had an nth of her va va voom.
Cassie seizes each and every day in her happy little paws. No challenge is too big, no blog is too small. She goes for it. If she gets hissed at by a cat, growled at by another dog, she is not phased by it. She doesn’t dwell on anything that happened one second ago, she lives for the here and now. Happiness is her credo. We should all take a leaf out of her book.
She arrived in our lives two years ago as a tiny pup. I was going through a time of crisis.
Dogs have a way of finding people that need them ……
Filling an emptiness we don’t even know we have.
Leading up to Christmas 2013, I seemed to have completely lost all my va va voom. There was certainly no joie in my vivre, no spring in my step and no jo in my mo. I tried filling myself with vitamin supplements and Ginseng. I went on the wagon from Monday to Friday (well, sometimes Friday Eve). I started having long soaks in the bath by candlelight, with music playing softly in the background. Then, during one long soak, I got too close to one of the candles and set fire to my hair. It was then I realised that swallowing copious quantities of vitamins, giving up booze and long soaks in the bath was not helping me get my va va voom back.
I had made a bah humbug decision to stay at home with Cassie last night – New Year’s Eve 2013 – I didn’t see why she should be on her own anyway – to lick my emotional wounds. I told everybody that what I really needed was an early night, but the evening didn’t really go as planned. After a few hours in Cassie’s company and having watched a particularly uplifting Jools Holland Annual Hootenanny gig, we were both dancing round the living room feeling good to be alive. I raised several glasses of that plummy little Merlot to toast Cassie’s and my health and wealth in 2014. I made a few slurred phone calls to my nearest and dearest before falling up the stairs to bed at 3a.m. with a positive spring in my step and a resolution to start blogging again. I had finally realised, through my Merlot fug, that what I needed to do to get my head together was to get things off my chest. And today’s the day we start.
“The future depends on what you do today.” Mahatma Gandhi
My paternal grandfather spent many years living in the bush with The Pygmies and shooting everything that moved, with his trusty cine camera. I will never understand why, at that particular time in his Yorkshire born and bred life he decided to down tools and leave his worsted spinning business in the capable hands of others and go and live in the bush. A coping mechanism perhaps after the death of his young wife, but still no excuse as, to fulfill his African dream, he sent my four-year-old father to boarding school. I was sent away to board at eleven which was bad enough. My half-brother was eight when he was sent to Uppingham and had also just lost his mother. At eight it was cruel and four it was blatant child abuse. My grandfather died the year I was born and my father died when I was a child, so I never had the opportunity to quiz either of them about why he chose Africa over his son. So … if I have to admit to inheriting anything from him, it would be his passion for travel and adventure.
In 1997 I travelled around South Africa with my aunt, spending the first four action packed days on safari. I was working for the late Gerald Durrell’s Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust at the time (now Durrell) and I loved my job. So the opportunity to see animals in the wild state for the first time was a hugely exciting one.
Our ranger Tom, was a rare individual. Passionate about his job and enthusiastic about passing on his knowledge of the bush and I was a keen student. He was bronzed with Adonis-like features, always happy to take people out on foot and I suddenly developed a passion for walking.
I was the only one in our group who was interested in going out on foot which was a bonus and I was prepared to walk for miles with Tom. Within the first few hours I enthusiastically learnt to identify whose dung was whose.
Whilst on safari, I lost weight fairly quickly and it wasn’t just to do with the heat. After enjoying a sundowner watching impala gambol happily in the bush, we would return to camp to find them on the dinner menu, which was just too hard to swallow.
The only time I have ever been offered a gin and tonic for breakfast at 5.00a.m. was on safari and it was the only time I have ever refused one, sensibly realising I was getting enough quinine in my anti-malarial tablets.
My aunt was not very keen to go out on the early morning drives and on one occasion, it was just as well. I was in the back of a very small four-seater jeep with Tom and tracker Elvis in the front. We had been tracking a cheetah with her recent kill when, in dense bush and within 25 feet of an uneasy cheetah, we had a flat tyre.
I was told to stay close to the jeep whilst Elvis and Tom changed the tyre. I did as I was told, my camera quaking in my hands, not through fear, it was the excitement of being out in the bush and ready, like my grandfather, to shoot anything that came close. And the beautiful cheetah was very close.
That afternoon I went out on foot with Tom again as I enthusiastically identified various piles of dung and even now, I am still confident that I can recognise elephant poo anywhere. We all know an elephant never forgets and I will never forget one particular bull elephant.
We were returning to camp in two larger land rovers after the late afternoon drive. I was in my usual place in the leading jeep, next to the driver, Tom, feeling like I was a seasoned ranger. It was dusk and the dry bush heat was heavy with the sweet scent of the Gnidia flowers and the dung from many species.
Tom planned to cross a dry river bed, but was surprised to see three young bull elephants feeding there. He put the jeep into reverse, but the wheel to the left of my feet started spinning wildly, grinding ever deeper into the sandy, gritty earth. We were close enough to feel the breeze as the elephants flapped their enormous ears, unimpressed by our unannounced arrival. One of them snorted angrily then charged aggressively towards us.
My aunt’s ‘Oh my God!’ from the back of the jeep was echoed in several different languages from our fellow passengers. His enormous body ground to a halt within inches of me. Close enough to wrap his trunk around my arm and toss me over his withers like a discarded Kleenex.
I held the elephant’s stare, confident, unlike everybody else, that he was not going to knock the jeep over. Frozen to my seat in fascination, as the others were in fear, the elephant backed-off as I knew it would. Tom slammed his foot on the accelerator and, eventually, the jeep went into reverse.
I turned around beaming, to see my aunt buried under her safari hat and a Japanese gentleman was kneeling on the floor clasping his Nikon to his head. For me it had been a hugely exhilarating experience and returned to camp to make a ridiculously expensive telephone call to my best friend, regaling the thrill of being charged by a bus elephant and living to tell the tale.
On my final day having seen so many different species both on foot and in the jeep, I didn’t think it could get any better until a leopard strolled by. Not quite as close as I had been to the bull elephant but close enough that when I held my breath, all I could hear was my beating heart.
Tom had plans to the visit the UK so I enthusiastically I gave him my address in Jersey and my aunt also gave him hers. I was so excited that I might have the opportunity to give him a personal tour of the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust and of the island. And, yes, he did come to the UK, but he opted to go and see my aunt in Yorkshire.
Lorna is someone who I am very pleased to say has helped me enormously through her Fictionfire Literary Consultancy, describes IGISIRI as a simple project. You randomly select two books a month to read from your own bookshelf.
I confess that, unless I’m on holiday, when I have been known to read 6 books in two weeks, I read very little. Shame on me! The last book I read was Stephen King’s On Writing and his words of wisdom often haunt me:
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
So in an attempt to redeem myself and give myself a better chance of becoming a proper writer, I am definitely up for Lorna’s challenge and the two books I have grabbed for May are:
The latter is a recent purchase which I have just started reading and Sue Limb’s More Bad Housekeeping is a part of her series of books featuring her wonderful character Dulcie Domum, who has always been close to my heart.
I blame everything on the steroids these days. I reluctantly take them because they seem to have some control over my immune system beating itself up and not because I have any desire to pump iron. I just want to feel better.
I have good reason to believe that the steroids are responsible for my bouts of insomnia but boy, when I do sleep, my dreams are escalating out of all proportion. Last night I dreamt that a tarantula was crawling over my face.
I suffer from
at the best of times … in fact anything with a 8 legs and a plump, hairy abdomen and I’m off. So, why would I dream about a tarantula crawling across my face and open mouth? One theory I’ve filched is from dreamculture.com:
The dream tarantula may also symbolize the “dark” side of your personality or predict poor health or a disappointing love affair. A spider (tarantula) dream usually symbolizes someone in your waking life who is sneaky and cruel. It could also represent someone who is smothering you.
Oh dear …
Mr Freud on the other hand actually believed that dreaming about spiders represented the devouring mother who consumes her children through possessiveness or her power to arouse guilt. She is symbolised by the spider that traps and lives off her innocent victims. As dreamsleep.net commented … ‘Freud’s Mom has a lot to answer for!’
You know what? I think … maybe … I should just give up eating cheese …
The University of Winchester Writers’ Festival was founded in 1980 by Barbara Large, MBE, who I was lucky enough to meet for the first time two years ago.
Back in 1983, Barbara, who is a Fellow of the University of Winchester, understood that writers need to meet other writers and be given the opportunity to connect with the literary and publishing worlds. Scary places to the uninitiated.
Networking with other writers is invaluable. It gives you an untapped opportunity to bounce ideas around. The Festival also offers full-day courses and Sunday workshops, with limited availability. So book now to avoid disappointment.
If you have partially finished or have completed your manuscript, you could book a one-to-one appointment with a leading literary agent, commissioning editor or an author. They will offer constructive criticism on your work-in-progress, discuss publishing/marketing possibilities and invaluable advice.
To find out more about the cost of attending this exciting literary weekend and have the opportunity to hang out with like-minded people … go to http://writersfestival.co.uk.
I don’t know about you but, for me, the best ending to a rollicking good story is either one that sends a shiver down your spine or one that makes you say OMG! I wasn’t expecting that!
One closing line that I first read when I was 15 and has always stuck with me belongs to Margaret Mitchell.
“Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” From Gone with the Windand more recently …
“An excellent year’s progress.” Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. OK … two of my favourite authors.
I have celebrated finishing my first novel twice now. The first time was when I finished the 1st complete draft … how ridiculous was that?
The second time was after the 1st re-write … even more bonkers.
I have just finished a 2nd re-write but I am not celebrating. I have a long way to go yet. The re-writing has only just begun and the ending needs honing. Actually, I need to choose which ending … at the moment … I have four. I am working on the explosive, but will settle for a big bang, or maybe even a sparkler but, after two years of blood, sweat and tears, I refuse to finally give birth to something that ends like a damp squib.
"There is no such thing as an 'aspiring writer'.
You are a writer. Period.”
Matthew Reilly, Area 7
I agree with Matthew Reilly’s words of wisdom from his novel Area 7 to a degree, but you have to aspire to succeed and to succeed you need confidence.
Starting out as a writer is a lonely place and finding someone to help you build your confidence and self-belief is not always easy.
Jersey is a very small island and we rarely have the opportunity to entertain visitors who come over to share the passion and fire they feel about their chosen careers. But, just once a year, we aspiring writers do get lucky, we have the opportunity to learn from two extraordinarily motivating teachers who are passionate about creative writing, Barbara Large and Adrienne Dines.
Barbara Large MBE has spent most of her life encouraging others release their inner storyteller.
‘It is vital to provide ways of encouraging talent and creativity if we are committed to making progress in building our ‘new society’, to encourage
people to think creatively and to have the confidence to believe in
themselves. Writing is a profession that is difficult to embrace without
support.' Barbara Large
Adrienne Dines is a novelist, creative writing tutor and after-dinner speaker, who so enthusiastically imparts both her wit and creative wisdom.
Barbara Large (left) and Adrienne Dines
Barbara Large (left) and Adrienne Dines
I first met them at their Arts Centre weekend in 2015 and their enthusiasm rubbed off on me with such a force that I started writing the novel that I never quite had the impetus to start, let alone finish, as soon as I got home. As of now, I am about to finish the second re-write.
You need fire in your belly to write and a weekend absorbing ideas, writing techniques, as well as having the opportunity to bounce ideas off other like-minded people, will fan the flame.
I am not sure why this is happening today of all days and I am not sure that I deserve it, given that I couldn’t wake my brain up to do any blogging this morning. I will have to make sure that my next post is worthy enough to be read by those of you (or the one) who clicked on just about every post I’ve written during the last four years. No pressure on me then?
A traffic spike for me is mind-bloggingly exiting and it spurs me on to write a better blog. Thank you for dropping by and please feel free to get lost here any time. In the meantime …