Many years ago a good friend gave me a set of Chinese Health Balls, which are metal spheres with a sort of bell inside that you roll around in your hand, and sort of gently juggle them, the aim being to avoid clashing them together and also to massage various meridian points on the hands. They come in assorted sizes and designs, some being plain shiny metal balls, some are exquisitely decorated with cloisonne enamel-work.

My set were fairly plain as they go but they had an iridescent finish to them, like very solid soap bubbles.

“I wasn’t sure at first,” my friend said, “which to get you, but then I saw these ones and thought they were perfect. You have an iridescent aura.”

I guess you can gauge the sort of friends I have by that remark.

I didn’t really think anything more of that comment, except when I play with the balls, until the other day when I was waiting at the deli counter of a local supermarket and the assisant’s perfume was wafting over to me and I commented on it.

“Can I smell White Musk?” I asked.

“Ooh yes,” she said. “That’s all I ever wear for perfume.”  

We chatted a bit and I went off to finish the shopping, musing on this and other things. It came to me that I have never been able to settle on a single signature fragrance, and have a “wardrobe” of perfumes, to suit different moods and occasions and I quite simply could not say, this one or that one is my all time favourite. Many women find a fragrance and stick to it, defining themselves by it and even finding conflict if someone else close to them wears the same fragrance. They speak of being “faithful” to Chanel no 5 or some other fragrance, and may never change unless for some reason their favourite ceases to be made.

I recently had to fill in some interview questions and found some of them very diffcult to answer. “What is your favourite colour? What is your favourite thing to eat for breakfast?” It’s never the same and I can’t even pin down one for the sake of brevity.

I think it’s the same for me for so many matters. There is no one answer, now and for all time, for so many questions. I’m in flux, in transit constantly, changing, changing, changing. I suspect this may be why my friend perceived my energy field as being iridescent, that shifting and blending of the colours of the spectrum, moving constantly and never being fixed. If you have ever watched a soap bubble blown by a child, you will see the colours swirl and change and move, right up until a certain point where for one millisecond they become still: and then the bubble pops.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not indecisive at all. But I am changeable in so many ways; my tastes, my choices, my likes and dislikes, my beliefs and my doctrines. I am never truly still and this is a part of my journey. Maybe I will never be still. I don’t know.

Part of the traumatic part of “awakening” is the fact that the journey one begins then has no final end point and for many this becomes too much and they stop searching and looking for more answers. Today, this answer is the right one but will it be tomorrow? Probably not. I find it hard with others who have begun well on their journey and have chosen to reach a point of stasis where they chose to go no further and believe they have reached nirvana(or whatever phrase you chose) and deny that there may be further to go or more to discover. I find it hard not because they have chosen to stop and go no further but rather the condemnation they can so easily show to those who carry on, the condemnation and the distrust and the labelling. It’s quite common among religious faiths to reach a point where you wish to go no further along the road; beyond that point, the dragons are loose and waiting. But instead of accepting that others must go on and seek and even fight those dragons, those who have stopped seek to make demons of those who go on. This is what mystics and visionaries of all faiths have faced for millenia.

I can’t pretend that being the way I am makes me happy. Sometimes it makes me more miserable than anyone who doesn’t know me can imagine. But that said, trying to nail me down and make me stay the same colour, stay in the same place, like the same things, do the same things is about as sensible as trying to trap a bubble floating through the summer air and is likely to have the same effect:


The Peach Tree

I woke up this morning remembering the peach tree in Ely.

I’ve lived in many places in England over the years but from 1997 to 2003 we lived in a small village in the heart of Norfolk. England is a small country but within it, each area is very distinct and different from each other and Norfolk is famous for a number of things: being totally flat, inbreeding and the Broads. I grew up in East Anglia so the flat landscape has always been a familar one to me. We currently live in a town that is referred to as The Gateway to the Broads and for those who don’t know, the Broads are a watery landscape of slow moving rivers and marshes, very popular with boating holidays and nature lovers. I’ve only ever been on the edges of the Broads; the landscape and the type of holiday it promotes has never appealed to me.

When we lived in Norfolk, the village we lived in was so small there were only about 300 people eligible to vote, our nearest shop was in the next village two miles away and the nearest town was almost seven miles away. It was very peaceful and a good place for my daughter to grow up. Living so far from any sort of civilisation meant that you had to plan shopping and things like dentists and so on, as well as keep a fairly well stocked pantry and freezer. Our nearest town was the little market town of Downham Market and for most things, it sufficed but if you wanted anything a bit more exotic, you had to got further afield to King’s Lynn, Norwich, Swaffham or Ely. Ely was about 20 miles away, all through the Fens and at one time before the draining of the Fens, much of this landscape was waterlogged and impassable for the winter months. The Romans began the draining of the Fens and it continues to this day with a landscape of ditches and dykes cutting across the countryside and making it useful farm land. Once, prehistoric forests covered the land before being swamped and lost; bog oak is hauled up every time some farmers plough and a friend used to use my Landrover to go and collect loads of iron hard ancient wood (like ten thousand and more years old)for her fire, that had been ploughed out and left for anyone who wanted it at the side of the road. It took days to saw into manageable chunks and the wood burned very slowly and gave off both heat and a weird blue light as it burned.

It was a lonely life in some ways. I’d not got into the Internet when we first moved there and indeed, even when we left we were still on dial-up. So a trip to Ely, my favourite of our local towns was a treat we would enjoy and extend beyond whatever business we had. My husband used to take me on his day off, and we’d often have a pub lunch. On  Saturday there was a superb Craft market(Thursday was ordinary market day) that meant you could find interesting clothes and so on.

Our favourite pub was quite unpromising until you found the garden. It was just a fairly ordinary pub, about ten minutes walk from the Cathedral and it was only the notice that announced a secluded pub garden that drew us in the first time. This was our summer pub; we went to another in the winter, within a short dash from the Cathedral. The garden was lovely; well tended but not overly manicured and the food was nice standrad pub grub, not expensive and not too fussy.

One of the lovely features of the garden were the trees. Whoever had orignally planted the garden had chosen well; smaller trees that would not shade too much but give dappled shade in the summer heat. One tree attracted me greatly because my own had recently died; a peach tree. Mine had been in a pot, so it could be moved in harsh winters, but it had been attacked by a parasite and had succumbed.

One day in late summer we had lunch at the pub and the peach tree we’d seen bloom so marvellously in the spring was so laden with ripening fruit is seemed impossible. Pound after luscious pound of golden peaches hung from the boughs; the tree seemed to be groaning with the weight of its fruit. It’s rare for a tree like the peach to bear much fruit in our cold and unpredictable climate and I commentd on it to tha landlord.

“Oh yes,” he said. “It’s always been very fruitful, that one.”

He didn’t seem to think anything of it. That was our last visit of the summer and it was mid spring before we were back and I had a shock.

The peach tree had been pruned to almost nothing. Stumps of its branches remained, sprouting leaves but nothing more, I was horrified and I asked about it.

It turned out that the previous year when the tree had been so laden, it had been too heavily laden and the main branches had been beginning to split and break off with the sheer weight of fruit. A tree surgeon had been called in and had recommended drastic action. Amputation of the major branches was the only thing that was going to save the tree from literally splitting itself in two. This had been done and the tree, though looking sorry for itself did seem to be recovering but it would be some years before it would be able to bear fruit again. I’ve not been back since 2003, when we left the area and I do hope the tree has begun to bear again.

Sometimes it’s possible that we bear too much fruit from our creative lives, so much it drains and exhausts us. Perhaps this explains things like burn-out and writer’s and artists’ blocks. We have maybe given too much away and need to draw in our energies and let our strength build for future efforts.

I wrote 8 novels in four years. Maybe it’s time I allowed myself some rest  and stopped expecting myself to be able to work like a machine and churn out stories constantly. Maybe it’s time, like the peach tree, I was given the space to recuperate from being so very, very fruitful.

“Now is the winter of our discontent..”


Don’t you just love it? The sparkling snow, the cosy nights in front of a roaring log fire, the sharp smell of frost and the icing sugar look on the trees? Love snuggling up in your favourite Araan wool jumper and settling down to a good book?


Me too. Of course, those are all the pluses of winter, which I do like but they’re smal compensation for the misery of the winter blues. S.A.D (seasonally affective disorder) is becoming much more recognised these days and in some Scandinavian countries, where the winter suicide rate soars, you can check yourself into special SAD wards in hospitals if it all gets too much, for some light treatment.

It’s the lack of light that does it. I’m not precisely immune to cold but it doesn’t really bother me. Remember the Arran jumper? It’s the lack of light and those long cold days of grey skies just make my depression so much worse. I’ve got a permanent battle with the old Black Dog of Depression anyway but the winter really bites deep. Once I get to the Winter Solstice, I start feeling a tiny bit of hope as the year slowly, very slowly begins to turn.

Now in late January I can see a few more minutes of daylight every day and the birds have begun to warm up their preliminary pre-Spring territory-defending songs. But it’s still dark and cold and miserable and I don’t feel much like going out when it’s blowing a gale, raining or hurling sleet at me.

My armoury against the winter blues? I have a special light box that sits next to my computer screen so as I work here, I get some of the light I need. I didn’t use it last winter and it was much worse for me. And another valuable weapon is Badger Balm’s Cheerful Mind balm. This is a balm from the very special Badger Mines , almost all of which I have tried and loved, but this one works very well as an anti-depressant. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a magic pill to take it all away and medicate you into a smiling zombie. It’s a simple balm made from extra virgin olive oil, pure beeswax and essential oils of: sweet orange, lemon, rosemary, spearmint, neroli, ylang-ylang, and cinnamon plus CO2 extracts of Calendula and Rosehip. It smells glorious and used on the skin as a skin cream is lovely. But as a mood balm it comes into its own. I use a little on the backs of my hands before I start typing, a little under my nose and some on my lips and temples. I carry a smal pot of it in my handbag and when I feel my mood flag, out it comes.

Not strong enough to affect those around you (good news for those with close associates who object to perfume) it lifts the mood gently but firmly. Applied regularly through the day, it’s a little lift when you need it.

Now for those who are unsure and who think aromatherapy is for the girls, bear in mind that essential oils work in a number of ways. The smell alone is one, affecting us in deep and sometimes unpredictable ways, but also the naturally occuring chemicals in essential oils have powerful effects whether we smell them or not. Some essential oils are known as anti bacterial agents more powerful than their synthentic counterparts. Some like tea tree are anti-viral. And some are known as anti-depressants. All the oils in the cheerful mind balm are recognised as anti-depressants. The most powerful of them in my opinion is neroli. Neroli is the essential oil taken from the orange flower, and is sweet but not oppressively so. I believe it to be one of the most uplifting fragrances going.

But the blend of oils used in this balm is so cheering and lively that each of the oils is perfectly in balance with the others and none dominates the overall fragrance. It’s not a girly fragrance, it’s basically a citrus and mint aroma.

If you’ve been struggling with the winter blues, try it.  It’s not expensive and it might be the  boost you may need.

Fortune Cookies

We had a Chinese takeaway last night, slightly delayed from the night before, and it came with fortune cookies.

I love fortune cookies. They make me smile because of the incongruous, mistranslated English and the weird things they say.

But last night they were each strangely appropriate to each of us.

My daughter(who is 20) got one that said, Learn from the mistakes of others.

My husband(who is an analytical chemical consultant and a priest to boot) got, Your mentality is alert, practical and analytical.

And mine was, Faith will move mountains.

I liked that. Not Faith CAN move mountains, but Faith WILL move mountains. In light of a project I am about to launch, this was a good omen.

Watch this space!

Most Haunted Live

   On Friday morning my husband rang me from work with the fatal words, “I know you’re probably going to say no but I thought I’d ask anyway….” and then proceeded to tell me that a colleague of his had offered us priority tickets to go and be in the audience for Most Haunted Live. Now if you’re not familar with this programme, I’d suggest you look it up but basically it’s a team of people who visit various sites around Britain that are said to be haunted and conduct what they call experiments in the paranormal and what most people would describe as running around in the dark, screaming a lot. There’s an equivalent programme running in the USA and many countries and they have a faithful fan base who adore their show. The team consists usually of a so-called psychic or medium, a paranormal investigator(often from a university no one has ever heard of) a lot of camera crew, and a tame celebrity or two as well as the presenter. In this show’s case, the presenter is the panda-eyed Yvette Fielding, most famous for screaming an awful lot on this show, and the tame celebrity was Paul Ross, brother of the more famous Jonathan.

I very nearly did say no, as I would have a bus ride to town, then another hour on the bus to get to where my husband works(where he was waiting with the car) and then at least another hour driving through the wilds of Norfolk in the fog and the cold. But I thought, What the heck, it’s an experience, to which my daughter’s comment  was,  “Yes, but then so is getting your tongue caught in the tumble dryer!” 

We had to be there by 6.15 to get our priority seats but due to the fact that there was nothing on our map to tell us where the actual entrance to West Raynham air field was, we drove right round the perimeter one and a half times before finally finding our way in. It was then 6.30, but Nigel wasn’t letting this deter him, nor the fact that despite being told our names would be put on the guest list instead of the friends who couldn’t make it, neither set of names were there. We just stood there looking stubborn and the TV steward woman, flapping a bit at our stony demeanour hustled off and then came back with two wristbands and took our names. We then had to be searched and Nigel got sent back to the car with his two inch Swiss army knife. I hope none of these people ever work properly for security as I had a much bigger Swiss army knife on the belt of my jeans and nobody noticed. They just opened my handbag, removed my tissues from their wrapper so I didn’t rustle and vaguely patted me down. The sawn-off Kalashnikov in my boot went unnoticed too…

We were in a massive air craft hangar, on the disused air base, and it was all set up with sufficient seats for 500 people. Now, clearly I am naive but I was surprised at the optimism of this. How could they possibly expect 500 people to turn out on a filthy night like this, just to be in the audience for a third rate TV show?

How wrong I was! By the time it began all seats were taken and about 100 people were lurking out the back and sides in the hopes of a seat if any of us lucky ones gave up and went home. By the time anything happened, I was already bored.

The premise of the show is that the team go and conduct an investigation of a supposedly haunted site, and this had been going on all week. What the viewer gets to see is the scene in darkness, viewed with night vision cameras, the “crew” talking to each other with torches under their faces to light them up spookily (just as at school camp), the medium telling them what he can sense, then noises and rapping happening, supposedly sounds being heard, etc etc etc ad nauseam. The screaming is all part of it. During the live shows, audience members(carefully vetted beforehand I assume, the public are not to be trusted!) are selected to take part in seances usually with ouija boards and in vigils where they sit in darkness and wait for the ghosts to communicate with them by either touch or by other means.

At this point, I need to point out that I am a firm believer in the existence of paranormal activity. I’ve come across enough of it first hand to be unable to deny it. This then is why programmes like this one upset me so much.

It’s not just the pretentious TV bods, so full of self importance and shit I can’t imagine how they can actually live, or the exploitation of vulnerable members of the public, or the sheer stupidity of what we’re expected to swallow as “research”, or the obvious fakery and trickery that goes on and the contempt for the viewer that is self evident.

It’s the fact that if there are truly spirits trapped between the worlds, they seek to contact them and make them perform like circus animals.

“Can you throw something? Can you touch someone? Can you knock once for yes and twice for no? ”

Oh, please. That should read Oh puh-leeze! Can you imagine how you might feel, finally making contact with someone only to have them demean your plight by asking you to do tricks? I’d do more than throw things, believe me. If you were stuck between life and death, surely you’d want someone to come and help you get unstuck?

This is the arrant cruelty of the show and the paradox. If there really are spirits in this place(or another) then they come along and mock them. If there aren’t spirits in that place then the whole thing is a total sham.

Relax, I can hear some say. It’s only entertainment.

Hmm. I do remember something about bread and circuses, except Roman circuses had gladiators fighting to the death.

That aside, it’s pernicious for several reasons. The first I have mentioned. The second is the fact that this sort of thing diminishes real paranormal research; it makes it seem ridiculous and beyond a joke and despite the fact that valuable research is going on it is denigrated by many. The third is it inocculates the public against the real thing. By this I mean that the majority of viewers see it as probably all a sham and therefore all paranormal activity and research is seen in the same way. This has a knock on effect. It means that fewer people are open to the idea that there might be more to life than what we can see and hear right here, right now. If you’ve seem something on TV, and have drawn your conclusions about it, what need is there for further thought, further consideration of the issues? It’s the same as dismissing all church matters because you’ve heard some priests turn out to be paedophiles.       

Bursting with both laughter and indignation, we waited for a commercial break and sneaked out at about 10.30pm, the show going on till midnight, and grabbed a hot drink and a burger at the van outside(not complimentary either but thankfully not expensive) before hitting the road home. We got home at around 12.30, and it’s taken me since then to put my thoughts together. Did I enjoy it? Yes, and no. It was a very interesting experience to watch the process of making live TV, for which I am grateful. Would I go again? Probably not, unless I had some way of actually contributing my real thoughts on it. As an audience member I was(with 499 others) treated with a certain amount of contempt and general rudeness by the stewards, and really, we were there to give a spurious credibilty to a show that has none of its own. We were there to clap and look enrapt; to verify credibility when we were in no position to actually do so. Watching the ouija board action up on a projection on the wall, it seemed very certain to me that the finger of crew member and presenter Yvette Fielding was the one pushing the glass. I could see her move first; she also had an earpiece on which meant it was an easy matter for someone to direct her to the right letters in the darkness. I can’t prove this but that’s what it looked like to me. And if you ask a reputable spiritualist, they’ll probably tell you the oiuja board brings  pretty low class of spirit…

TV has a lot to answer for.

Light and Dark

I have been wanting to put a photo up of this stone for ages. I found it some years ago, on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales, in a tiny little cove known as Ram’s Grove. It’s coincidentally pretty close to the cave where the burial of a Neanderthal body took place, the so-called Red Lady of Paviland(it was actually a man!) It’s one of the oldest known human burials, where ritual took place using red ochre and flowering plants.

The time I found this stone, we were camping  a few miles away and had slipped down at the end of the day for a paddle. The tide was coming in quite fast and my husband spotted a large boulder with the very clear sign on it, of a white image embedded in black rock. I managed a quick and rather fuzzy picture of it before the tide covered it. I was very taken with it as it was an almost perfect natural yin-yang sign, but it was a massive boulder, embedded deeply among other rocks. I prayed out loud, that I might find a similar stone that I could take home with me and when I finished those words, I glanced down and by my feet was the stone above. I nearly fell over. I was shocked. So seldom are prayers answered THAT fast, after all.

I’ve kept it close ever since as a talisman and as a reminder that in light there is always dark and in dark there is always light, and also that just sometimes, you do get what you ask for in life, that prayer does work and finally, that God has a rather whimsical sense of humour.

Mud and Tears

Mud and tears.


After the snow: the rain.

After the rain: the flood.

After the flood: the mud.

Snow imprisons me

And I dread the thaw:

Tears, anger and the mud.

What a mess!

But the black Nile silt

Laid thick across the plain

Made Egypt once

An Empire’s breadbasket.

Let then the ice melt:

Welcome the dancing torrents

And await the healing mud.



Additions to the blogroll

I’ve been meaning to post this for some days but brain has sort of frozen due to the cold and the inactivity…

Two new poetry blogs to go and investigate:   (Mark) and (John) have been commenting here for a while now and I’d like to invite you to check out their blogs. Their poetry styles are quite different from each other but both are quirky and original and I have enjoyed their work. Poetry blogs generally don’t attract the kind of hits they should in a sensible world, when mommy blogs and recipe/food blogs do. Not at all sure why either of these phenomena should be so, but they are. Swim against the tide!

There’s a few blogs on my blog roll I am aware have gone dark for some reason. I’m leaving them up for the time being as it’s not unusual for people to take  a break or change blog provider, so if you are one and you still read this blog, let me know and I can change the address. Also, if you’re a regular here and you’d like to be on my blogroll, please tell me and I’d love to do so. There’s a couple of blogs I’d like to put on and I wasn’t sure yet if the blog-owners would like this. I’d hate to step on any toes.

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night has always made me inexpressibly sad in ways it’s quite hard to quantify, especially when you know how hard I find it to get into a Christmas Mood at all. As a child I found it devastating to put away the decorations and the tinsel and go back to normal, knowing it would be another year before it happened again. A year to a child is a massive amount of time, after all. As an adult, I bemoan the fact that Christmas stuff is up in the shops in September, and two days after Christmas, Easter chocolate has already appeared on the supermarket shelves. I didn’t get the tree up until almost Christmas Eve and now I am dreading taking it down. My lilies, bought on Christmas Eve are about finished, one or two still pristine but most dropping petals on the floor and looking very sorry for themselves.

Today I lit my angel lights for the last time.


I love this little trinket, bought in Germany before Christmas, and was like a child watching the tiny silver angels as they spun, casting winking lights around the room. Later, I will dismantle it and put it back in its box, carefully, and the same with my fine glass icicles on the tree. I’ll collect all the sticks of cassia that have been sitting on my radiators and scenting the house and put them all away.

Today is also the day of the Epiphany, I think, the day the last of Jesus’s visitors showed up. The Magi, or if you prefer, The Three Wise Men. Or as some would have it, the Three Kings. I visited their relics at Cologne cathedral before Christmas and I even bought some Drei Konig’s incense, which I am burning today.

Who were these three late arrivals, turning up in the wake of the angels and the shepherds? There’s a great deal of legend and speculation and not a lot of hard facts. They almost certainly arrived some years after the birth of Jesus and some have them down as Zoroastrian priests. I don’t know. There’s something rather romantic and intriguing about the idea of these three(well, we don’t even know their number) exotic strangers turning up from unimaginably distant lands, bearing extraordinary gifts. Of the parts of the Christmas story, it’s the Magi that get my imagination going.

The gift giving of Christmas is somehow meant to last the whole year, but the gifts of the Magi a lifetime. The Gold was probably what made the difference between poverty and comfort for the Holy family, the Frankincense a fall back too, and the Myrhh, well, that’s one to put away and hope you never need it. No mother wants to have to bury her son.

Is then the sadness of Twelfth Night for me a foreshowing of the Easter road, that long hard road to Calvary or is it simply the long cold days of January and February? The sky is full of snow and while I know the light grows daily, with the cold and the grim grey days, Christmas was a brief and hardly felt respite in the harshness of winter.

Tonight I have saved a bottle of somethingfizzy and frivolous to drink as the last night of Christmas, and I shall try and fix my eyes on the Spring ahead. Maybe I shall buy some potted snowdrops to urge on the Spring!


I’ve been thinking about the things that get my goat, those irrationally annoying things that can set my teeth on edge but which don’t seem that annoying to others.

My former boss had a real bugbear about the misuse of the apostrophe and would pontificate for hours about how people who couldn’t master such a basic grammar point should be rounded up and shot and how reading poor grammar and spelling made her eyes bleed. It does sound extreme but I suspect we all have something that makes our blood boil even if it simply isn’t that important in the scheme of things.

I’ve got a few. I’m quite a placid and tolerant person but certain phrases make me scream internally. One of which is “You’ve never lived till you’ve….” It annoys me intensely because it’s illogical for a starter. OK, so what have I been doing up to this point then? Being undead? It also has a strong element of elitism: the I’m-doing-something-terribly-exciting-that-most-of-you-haven’t-done-yet kind of elitism. It smacks of having discovered something truly amazing and lifechanging, and in 99% of cases, it’s so far from the truth. Maybe it counts as an honorary hyperbole. But it pisses me off when people say it. “You’ve never lived till you’ve danced in the rain!” Big bloody deal! “You’ve never lived till you’ve seen Paris!” It’s another city, get over it!

I’ve got plenty more where those came from but what about your bugbears? People who tell you they’re arriving at 10am and never show up at all? The inserts in the Sunday papers?

Go on, make my day and tell me your bugbears. Please.