Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas is Love

It's only one day, isn't it? A time for children, not us! All we'll do is eat and drink too much, regret it afterwards! I can't afford expensive presents! I'm not religious! I'm on my own so what's the point? 

There's more, but if you believe the true message of Christmas is love ~ for one another, friends and family, ourselves then the season will have a very different meaning. 

The woman who lives alone but is excited about decorating her apartment for Christmas; the man who is looking forward to eating a festive dinner with his family; the puppy which can be walked for the first time on Christmas morning, and being with the children when they open their presents. 

What about the restaurant which is serving lunch to the homeless on Christmas Day? The Ladies from the local Church who are disappointed they can't do more, and are filling shoe boxes with gifts for children in war torn countries.

Christmas is a time for love... acts of kindness. May the magic of the season be in your heart, the beauty of a winter blue sky, the lengthening day and sparkle in a child's eye seeing Santa Claus. There's so much to be thankful for...

It's a time to remember those who have gone, family and friends. "Times Past" was the first of my poems to be published a few years ago. It appeared in the Winter issue of  a small press magazine,"Countryside Tales":

                    Old age memories, times past,
                    summers of stolen years,
                    winters spent at blazing logs
                    and holly berried Christmases, snow.

                    A lifetime of seasons, days gone by,
                    thought lives on as light grows dim.

                    Friends and family who have left 
                    stay in our hearts, much loved
                    if not more so, than years spent then.

I hope you have a wonderful time filled with peace and joy, from Yule to Christmas Day and the New Year.

Happy Christmas! Thank you for visiting the Hope and Dreams Blog.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Let there be Fire in your Heart

December in the UK is a cold month with hoar frost, ice and sometimes snow but we have holly's deep red berries and the cheerful robin too.

It's a season of darkness, also joy and light. Christmas is almost here. The full Moon shines on frost covered trees to create a magical landscape. A time for giving gifts and of looking forward to the New Year ahead.

We have fire to keep us warm, light our homes. It mirrors the strength of the Sun, the heat of passion. Gazing into it's heart can give inspiration and spiritual illumination.

The orange, red and gold of the flames create atmosphere in my novel "The Monk who Cast a Spell". Durstan falls in love with Ailan before the dying embers of the fire in 794 AD.

In Chapter 17 the Yule feast is in progress at Lord Duncan's enclosure on Mull. "The massive log had been brought in from the forest before the blizzard began in earnest. It was burning well in the fire pit at the centre of the Hall... The Druid had been out with his sickle knife to cut the sacred mistletoe. It was hanging from the beams and candlelight danced at every turn."

Winter, a time to rest and ruminate... but let there also be fire in your heart to warm body and soul. Be inspired, live and love in the warmth from the hearth! Look forward to the Yule and Christmas festivities, a new Year soon to be here.

And I love to see the Poinsettia again in December with it's beautiful crimson petals...

Thank you for visiting the Hope and Dreams blog. I hope you have a great weekend, Google+ Friends.

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Monk's message is Love

It wasn't until I had finished my novel, "The Monk who Cast a Spell", that I knew what the story was about - finding and losing love, life being incomplete without it, the importance of change and helping others to realise their dreams.

Each one of us has the natural ability to "cast a spell" for kindness and compassion if we choose to do so. We can give someone a hug, touch their arm in sympathy if they are having a bad day, or say a kind word. It's all part of the alchemy of love.

People in the 8th century were looking to survive as well as they could. They saw magic everywhere including the letters in the Monks' manuscripts and relied on spiritual belief as a form of protection from the Gods, a comfort in darker days. Their superstition was a way of trying to control the frightening situation in which they lived. 

Imagine not knowing whether a Viking long ship would appear on the horizon and with it the threat of death, violence or slavery. Equally, this might come at any time from another Lord and his men who were stronger than those at the Hall where you lived. Famine and disease were prevalent too.

I can understand why people changed their Gods often, and so many were fearful of the new religion with it's Christ God that their Ancestors didn't know. Choosing the right one could save your life, give you a better or worse opportunity, and be one of the most important decisions you would ever make.

The seasons in the novel change from spring through to midwinter when the old Gods are in the firelight and shadows at Yule. It's a time when the early Church continues not only to be challenged   by traditional belief but also the Druids.

And for us it's almost Halloween, the night of October 31st or the ancient Samhain when the souls of the dead revisit. The Church celebrates All Saints Day on November, 1st which has been it's tradition since the 4th century and All Souls day on November, 2nd to commemorate those spirits which are said to have gone to the biblical Hell. 

Apart from the different social and political setting, there's so much which hasn't changed across the centuries. We remain without world peace, most of us still consider spiritual belief at some point in our lives, create a plan for survival even if it's only financial to deal with the life changes we know will occur, and most importantly we all search for love as Durstan did in 794AD. 

There'll be more news on the novel soon. I have a poem, "Deo Gratias", published in the Autumn issue no:028 of The Dawntreader poetry magazine, and my short story "Lost on the Moor" was shortlisted by the new online publication, Kishboo It's been automatically entered in their next competition for the Spring issue.

And I regularly post Twitter poems, if you want to take a look. I would love to see you too on Facebook where there's different content.
Twitter Facebook

Thank you for reading the Hope and Dreams Blog. I hope you have a great week.


Monday, 29 September 2014

A Milestone ~ Submitting the Novel

The most likely questions people ask if you are writing a novel are: "what's it about" and "when will it be finished?" Then, as time goes by, "haven't you finished it yet?"

My answer was always as soon as possible. There was so much more which I desperately wanted to write. A second novel, a third, poems and new stories to explore, adventures to have with different characters and fingers that couldn't type fast enough. 

I said that I had to learn how to "write", find my voice and style which would only come through practise. A novel was different to a piece of prose or a poem. I also had to learn how to manage the volume of ideas which came to mind over the last couple of years whilst researching the 8th century. 

In the beginning when I thought of a solitary man sitting on a stone wall gazing out to sea, I remember asking myself the 5 questions - why, where, what, when and how? The answers pieced together became the plot and eventually a timeline. 

Durstan, a Monk, was scanning the sea for the arrival of the Vikings on Iona in 794AD. The 1st edit completed the gaps in his story and with further consideration it was done. 

Different characters are still waiting in the wings for their chance to be on the page and will no doubt fight me for the opportunity, but Durstan and Ailan's story will continue in Book 2. I'm planning to write this next whilst I am still very much in their world.

It can be a solitary occupation being a writer and I've enjoyed hearing different viewpoints on social media, realising that other writers have the same fears and uncertainties as I do, but their success shows too that it can be done and which has been an inspiration.

It's a long journey writing a novel but I'm ready now to take the next step and submit the first 3 chapters with a synopsis to a publisher. 

The Celtic Cross which I bought from Swanwick, the UK Writers' summer school, a few years ago when I began to write stays on my bedside table. I didn't realise how important it would eventually become as a reminder to persevere and continue writing about a Monk's love in the 8th century.

Happy writing, Google+ Friends. I hope you have a great week. Thank you for visiting the Hope and Dreams blog.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Starry, Starry Night

The Majesty of the Universe is here,
how tiny I am in it all
unable to create one true copy.

Stars pay homage to a silvered Moon,
she hides behind Night's blue-black veil, 
to tales told by the wind to the beautiful sky,

and Nature beckons 
her village, town... my soul. 

I stand in awe of this Creator.

His tender flowers carpet my feet.

"Starry, Starry Night" by Alex Ruiz is this week's lovely image posted by Magpie Tales If you would like to join in and write a story or poem please follow the link.

I hope you have a great weekend, Google+ Friends. Thank you for visiting the Hope and Dreams Blog. 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

August and an 8th Century Love

We need love to enable us to grow and flourish but an 8th century Monastery enclosure would have been a harsh, austere place to live.  

Durstan, the main character in my novel, struggles in this environment and falls in love with Ailan at a time when the early Christian Church was attempting to replace peoples' belief in the Old Gods. 

"Alone with none but Thee, my God,
I journey on my way.
What need I fear, when thou art near
O King of night and day?
More safe I am within Thy hand
Than if a host did round me stand."
St Columba 

Contemporary Kings are buried in the cemetery on Iona, a spiritual place filled with historical detail. It was a precarious society where illness was prevalent; fear of being outcast, left to survive alone in the forest, a wild place; or enslaved by others; starvation if the crops failed, and for women, death in childbirth. 

People from other parts of the world were attacking and the most fierce, the Vikings, had arrived. 

Survival could depend on having the strongest Abbot, Lord or King. It's certainly an interesting time to write about, and I've enjoyed doing the first edit of my novel. 

I also reached 10,000 Followers on Google+ a couple of days ago, which was great news! 

Thank you to every one who is following me and reading my posts. I'm grateful. I hope you are having a lovely summer. 

August is one of my favourite months, warm days in the garden and seeing again the beautiful sunflower turning it's face to the sun.

Thank you for visiting the Hope and Dreams blog.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Editing my Novel, Summer Days and the Orient Express

The 1st draft of a novel is from the writer's heart and soul whilst edits are necessary for a better translation.

I'm finding my way through a 1st edit of the draft I've completed, filling in gaps in the story line, sorting out continuity and chapter length. 

I plan to concentrate next on Durstan, my Monk, looking at his strengths and weaknesses as he has the main point of view in the novel.

Since I posted last I've written a few poems and have been reading a lot. I've recently finished "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn; "Just in Case" by Meg Rosoff and a compilation of poems, all of which I enjoyed. The psychology behind the characters in Gone Girl is fascinating; Justin Case hilarious, and I love poetry.

I'm halfway through Phil Rickman's "The Remains of an Altar" featuring the incomparable Merrily Watkins and which is again a great story. 

I've always read in different genres out of interest and to stretch imagination.

I have Veronica Henry's light hearted "A Night on the Orient Express" to dip into next. I've wanted to make this train journey in reality ever since I traveled as a teenager with Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, and a murder was solved along the way. 

All of which still leaves plenty more in the To Be Read pile!

You can also now find me on Twitter and Facebook Please Follow me and Like my page.

I'm still helping my Son, Tom, at his gym in Warwick
Upgraded Performance and we recently ran a competition on behalf of the Ifakara Bakery Project Charity Charity Link raising funds to buy 350 loaves of bread for the Tanzanian children.

We are now well into Summer, hot days and beautiful flowers. The red geranium is a favourite of mine. It reminds me of Italy and the Mediterranean sun. 

I hope you have a wonderful week. Thank you for visiting the Hope and Dreams Blog. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

More about the Celts, Anglo Saxon Jewellery and Summer Flowers

Anglo Saxon times in Britain from the 5th to 10th centuries followed the decline of the Roman Empire and were once thought to be primitive and terrible, the Dark Ages, but archaeology has taught us otherwise. 

It was a skilled culture where the Blacksmith, or craftsman, created beautiful book covers, swords, warrior helmets and jewellery. 

The enamelled brooches, rings, necklaces, bracelets were worked from iron, gold and silver into intricate filigree designs encrusted with coral, crystals, amber, glass, garnet and other semi precious stones.

The Anglo Saxon hoard, a vast collection of these items, was discovered during 2009 in a field in Staffordshire and was taken to Birmingham Museum where I was able to see some of it.

We have many artifacts now from the world where my novel is set, the 8th century, including amulets the Anglo Saxons would have carried, treasure which may have been meaningless to others but priceless in the owner's hands. 

We still have our own amulets today. Mine include the silvered Celtic Cross I bought at Swanwick, the UK writers Summer School, in 2008. It marked the beginning of my passion for writing and has had a bearing on my novel, Durstan, the Monk's tale. 

I also treasure my Mother and Father's photographs, the painting they did as a hobby; Grandmother's bracelet and Chinese lacquered table; an old musical box which was a childhood favourite and there's a few more.


Each of us too finds beauty in different places. The early Celtic Christians saw it in nature, the landscape and all of creation which they believed came from their God. 

And I love the abundance of summer flowers everywhere, their beautiful colours. I discovered this tub outside St Mary's Church in Warwick last week, when I passed by.

Thank you for visiting the Hope and Dreams blog.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Tradition, Morris Dancing and Roses

Tradition is the handing down of beliefs, customs and legends from generation to generation by word of mouth or practice. It includes food; medicine; values; weddings; music and dancing. 

Morris Dancers wear colourful costumes, bells on their shins and use sticks, swords or handkerchiefs to entertain us. They became popular in England during the 15th century and can still be seen at traditional festivities such as the May Day pageant.

I was in Warwick on 17th May, 2014 when 138 dancers took part in a world record attempt to perform the largest Morris dance since 2007. They danced in the streets, were wonderful to watch and won the day!

Queen Victoria wore a white gown at her wedding to Albert of Saxe-Coburg on 10th February, 1840. It popularised, and may have started, the tradition of being married in white.

A red rose has long been the symbol of love. Robert Burns (1759-1796) wrote:

"O my love's like a red, red rose,

That's newly sprung in June..."

The later poem by Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) gives us a light hearted comparison:

"A single flow'r he sent to me, since we met.
All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet-
One perfect rose......

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it's always just my luck to get
One perfect rose."

It's the beautiful rose for me every time!

Thank you for visiting the Hope and Dreams blog. I hope you are having a great weekend.