Will You Hold My Hand? ~ a poem for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday

Will you hold my hand?

Will you hold my hand

As I sit in the darkness?

Will you sit with me,

Make darkness less lonely?

Will you give my hand

A gentle squeeze,

Warm my cold flesh

With warmer skin?

Please do not tell me

About a light I cannot see.

I will not believe you

And the dark will be denser

For the lies I think

You tell me then.

My eyes are wide open

And I am not blind.

Will you hear my words

As we sit the long night out

Without disputing my right

To voice my thoughts?

Will you let me speak

My soul’s story aloud

Without interrupting

With unneeded reassurance?

Just take my hand

Sit with me in silence

Let the darkness be dark

And wait with me.

A Very British Blog Tour

A Very British Writer blog tour

I’m quite a reserved sort and it always discombobulates me to be asked to participate in various events. I’m the wallflower, standing at the side hoping no one asks me to dance. But this one intrigued me because on several occasions it has been remarked upon how much I clearly love my country and how it influences my work. So when Roz Morris nominated me, I stammered my thanks, took a deep breath and started to think about the questions.


YOu can see the previous post here: http://authorselectric.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/a-very-british-blog-tour.html

Q: where were your born and where do you live now?

A: I was born in a small village about fifteen miles from Cambridge. I’ve lived all over Britain but about six months ago I moved to a small, quintessentially English market town in Norfolk. My family is originally a mix of Welsh and Irish, indeed my great grandmother’s cottage is in the open air National Folk Museum of Wales. Dad has traced my mum’s family back to a Norman warlord called Fulke the Rude (of Anjou), an ancestor of the Plantagenets in the late tenth century, though.

Q Have you always lived and worked in Britain or are you based elsewhere?

A: Always, though I do go to Europe for my day job as tour guide/courier.

Q Have you highlighted or showcased any particular part of Britain in your books, a town, a city, a county, a monument, well-known place or event?

A: The English countryside is a big part of my writing, but generally I avoid naming specific places. Away With The Fairies is set in part in a landscape that is not unlike Wiltshire and the surrounding counties but I never state exactly where it is. Strangers and Pilgrims has all the characters connected by the same long river, again never named, though at the end of the book three tremendously English locations are visited: Glastonbury, Bath and Walsingham, all homes to famous springs. I very specifically refuse to reveal the location of the Wellspring that is at the core of the novel; it is a real place and one I’m never going to betray by naming it. The Bet is set partly on the North Yorkshire moors, but I choose not to name precise locations. I’ve long loved the moors and would love for others to discover them as a result of the book.

Q: There is an illusion – or myth if you wish- about British people that I would like to discuss. Many see Brits as ‘stiff upper lip’. Is this correct?

A: No. And yes. There are many like this, especially men but less so than it was when I was a child. Personally I find it very hard to show my emotions and rarely cry.

Q: Do any of the characters in your book carry the ‘stiff upper lip’ or are they all British Bulldog and unique in their own way?

A: I think most of them do, to some extent. We’re generally not terribly good at expressing strong emotions. In particular, Antony Ashurst, the hero of The Bet, struggles bitterly to express emotions, having had much of that squashed out of him as a child by his ghastly aunt who brought him up. All six of the main characters of Strangers and Pilgrims are concealing quite how desperate they are. Isobel in Away With The Fairies doesn’t know how to grieve and keeps on keeping a stiff upper lip until she cracks.

Q: Tell us about one of your recent books

A: The Bet is quite a shocking story and it shows the extent to which certain mores of sexual behaviour have changed. It’s a book that deals with the fall-out of treating people as commodities.

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: I’m working on several books. I am getting a collection of creepy short stories ready to publish, in the grand tradition of British spooky tales. I’m working on a novel that is essentially an inner journey, a very interesting project of letting my psyche tell the story without too much interference from my ego. I’m also working on a novel that touches on the influence of John Keats, and about what we believe truth to be (Beauty is Truth). This is set in a very English university city which I never name. I’ve got another novel fermenting that explores the living element of folklore in modern society, but I ran into some problems because it was set too firmly in a place I knew well. I want to aim at what T.S Eliot described as “England and nowhere.”

Q: How do you spend your leisure time?

A: I’m a bee-keeper. I also enjoy long walks across the countryside. I’m also a lazy but loving gardener. I read a lot.

Q Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?

A: Global but it seems that it appeals most to a more local set of readers.

Q: Can you provide links to your works?

A: I can. Go to Amazon. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vivienne-Tuffnell/e/B00766135C/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Q: Who’s next?

A: Lemme see. No pressure but:

Jane Alexander.

James Everington.

Sarah Barnard.

Dan Holloway

Marc Nash

Roberta McDonnell

Suzie Grogan

Elizabeth Jackson

The Evolution of my Animus ~ how he grows and changes as I do

The Evolution of my Animus ~ how he grows and changes as I do

During a conversation on Twitter with Marc Nash I made a throwaway comment about having hero/animus issues. What I’d meant was how the hero (or if you prefer ‘main character’) of one of my novels reflected my own animus. If you are not familiar with the concept of animus/anima then do have a bit of a read. I’m not a psychotherapist and I’m just a writer so those with more wisdom than I on this subject will need to bear with me, without yelling at me that I’ve got it wrong.

Wikipedia, that first port of call for information has this to say about what the anima/animus actually is/are:

The anima and animus are described by Jung as elements of his theory of the collective unconscious, a domain of the unconscious that transcends the personal psyche. In the unconscious of the male, this archetype finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima; equivalently, in the unconscious of the female it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus.

The anima and animus can be identified as the totality of the unconscious feminine psychological qualities that a male possesses or the masculine ones possessed by the female, respectively. It is an archetype of the collective unconscious and not an aggregate of father or mother, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or teachers, though these aspects of the personal unconscious can influence the person for good or ill.”

Much of my life I have found I am a poor fit for being terribly feminine. I climbed trees and made boats and roamed the countryside pretending to be an astronaut. But when I wasn’t being a tom-boy, I wrote. My first novel was written when I was ten years old. I’ll tell you a little more about that shortly.

Jung, whose work on the anima and animus is really worth dipping into, explained that neither is static and is something with develops and changes as the person grows. I’m only going to focus on the animus here as for my sins, I am a woman.


Jung stated that there are four parallel levels of animus development in a female.

The animus “first appears as a personification of mere physical power – for instance as an athletic champion or muscle man, such as ‘the fictional jungle hero Tarzan‘”.

In the next phase, the animus “possesses initiative and the capacity for planned action…the romantic man – the 19th century British poet Shelley; or the man of action – America’s Ernest Hemingway, war hero, hunter, etc.”

In the third phase “the animus becomes the word, often appearing as a professor or clergyman…the bearer of the word –Lloyd George, the great political orator”

“Finally, in his fourth manifestation, the animus is the incarnation of meaning. On this highest level he becomes (like the anima) a mediator of…spiritual profundity”.Jung noted that “in mythology, this aspect of the animus appears as Hermes, messenger of the gods; in dreams he is a helpful guide.” Like Sophia this is the highest level of mediation between the unconscious and conscious mind.

My first novel had an astronaut as the hero. At the time I was fascinated by science fiction and read avidly pretty much everything the library held in the genre. I read things that were so beyond suitable (rest assured, though, parents, much of it went over my head and I only understood a lot later if I reread things) and some fiction written for kids. I was amused greatly recently by an advertising campaign for Lynx deodorant where macho archetypes such as life guards and fire fighters were ‘trumped’ by an astronaut, and if this is to be believed then the astronaut is the ultimate champion or muscle man!

By the next novel, the hero had become a detective. I was completely (and irrevocably) in love with Sherlock Holmes and once I had devoured all the novels and short stories, I branched out into detective fiction of all kinds. For me, the detective was the ultimate romantic man. I stayed writing the detective/adventure genre for all of my teens, only venturing into other areas in my later teens when I became increasingly interested in the paranormal and what you might term the mysteries of life.

The hero of my novel written in my mid twenties was a lost soul, really, betwixt and between the romantic man of earlier but never quite evolving into the ‘word’ that Jung describes. He carried no great message either for me or for any readers at the time. My own descent into depression and apathy at this time following a rejection of a second novel that had reached committee stage at one of the big publishers, meant that I ceased to write.

But the processes beneath it all carry on like an underground river which seeped into the foundations and causes an eventual collapse of my resolve never to write again. A story, and an evolved hero took over my life, almost ten years ago now and if I look too closely at the time, I quake at the implications of it. I won’t talk about the story as such because that is another thing altogether. But I’d like to talk about the hero.

He’s not me, obviously. He’s himself. I’ve often wondered if he exists somewhere out there; in my psyche he’s so complete I think I know him better than I know myself. So the lines can become blurred. He’s the kind of person who makes an impact on others, usually despite not wanting to; he’d rather hide away and not mix with people. There’s events in his life he’s managed to wall over, remove from his everyday consciousness so that he doesn’t get ripped apart by them all the time. He’s intuitive but also quite reluctant to trust that sense of ‘knowing’ that he gets, often over-riding it to try to deal with things logically, rationally. His father is the kind of man who holds up logic, reason, good sense, as things to aspire to, to live your life by, and Antony desperately wants to please his father, to emulate him. Antony’s the quiet, shy clever kid in the corner that got picked on till he turned on his attacker and flattened him; but the bullies had to get in one final beating just to hammer the message home: you’ll never really beat us. He’s wary of people because he’s had too many so far who’ve let him down.

Events bring him to crisis point and beyond it into a free-fall where all he’d once held as certain, sacred, have become unanchored in his new reality. Having lost all his certainties he is faced with starting again, of setting out on a journey to find the self he’d lost or buried long ago. That’s where the third stage of animus expression kicks in. He’s faced with the need to speak, to bring back the truths and to voice them, to release the toxic secrets of his life and be free.

To aid him in this quest, another representation of my animus emerges. Father Peter is the wise old man so many people have said to me they’d love to meet and spend time with. He’s the guide to Antony’s dark journey, and he’s the ‘mediator of…spiritual profundity’. He doesn’t make it easy for his young protégée but he fulfils a role that has long been lacking in the lad’s life: someone who can listen to him, with intelligence and wisdom and discernment. The Bet has two further novels that follow it, as yet unpublished, but the journey Antony takes becomes deeper and darker in each one. For him realising that there is no final resolution for his trials is a tough one, because he’s so very scarred and damaged, yet his ability to keep going even when the journey becomes subterranean is what I hope may inspire others who come to read it. You see, as I have said before, if life is a journey, then any short-cut is a death trap. We all grow and evolve and change during our lives; attempts to remain still usually result in being swept away on the tide of life itself. 

Vine leaves, dandelions and serendipity ~ my thoughts on the TAP conference

Vine leaves, dandelions and serendipity ~ my thoughts on the TAP conference

There is a woman on the train with two small children. She’s beautiful, dressed in stylish clothes, her hair immaculate. The children are boys, one aged about four, the other a baby of about fifteen months, seated in a pushchair. They’re well clothed, clean, well-fed. The older boy talks constantly, the air punctuated by “mummy mummy mummy”, and the baby grizzles in that tired way of babies who need a nap, a feed, a cuddle, the grizzling becoming an occasional screaming fit. The mother ignores the children more or less totally, only answering the older child when his demands become loud or he makes the baby yell. Her entire focus is on her smart-phone, held in manicured hands like a pearl beyond price, her long fingernails whipping across the screen and her eyes dead as they scan the phone for something . Her face is without expression; it looks more like a mask. The older boy glances at me from time to time, his eyes bright but I can see shadows behind them. I want to say, “You have two beautiful children” and take the phone from her and throw it out the window, but I do not know her story, only the one I am making up for her.

This weekend I traveled down to Somerset to be a small part of the annual TAP conference. . Asked to present two small vignettes (that’s the vine leaves of the title) as a kind of grounding exercise, I was inevitably very nervous. I felt entirely out of my league. But my friend Suzie / was wonderfully supportive. She’s their administrator, and also the reason I was there at all. You may remember the launch of Dandelions and Bad Hair Days, / the book collated and edited by Suzie to raise awareness and funds for mental health charities (SANE and OCD Action). The book is a collection of essays, poems, and pictures written by people affected by depression and anxiety (and other things too) and is something I’ve been very proud to be a part of. My essay also gave the title for the book, and it was one of two vignettes I read. The other, which I read at the start of the conference, was The Uninvited Guest.

But I’m only a tiny part of this conference. There were other vignettes, and three main speakers. Dr Christopher Irons, Alison Evans and Martin Seager were the headliners. Alison spoke about Mindfulness, a buzzword right now, and billed to be the next magic bullet for the NHS once CBT starts to lose its lustre. Chris spoke about Compassion Focused Therapy, and his words on the genetic side of depression made a big impression on me. “It’s not your fault. You didn’t choose this.” At the heart of this is compassion, the theme that ran through everything, and cropped up seredipitously in every conversation. Compassion for the self. “It’s NOT your fault. You didn’t choose this.” It was good to hear. I see and read and hear so much from people who espouse the philosophy of The Law of Attraction whereby (put simply) everything in your life from relationships to illness is something you have at some level chosen and drawn to you. The guilt and the self blame and the sheer misery this is creating in many people is a damning indictment of such a concept. Those of us with illness that threatens our very existence do not need such blaming.

It was the final main speaker whose words really made me sit up and take notice. I’d had dinner with the other speakers and the committee members the night before and that had been a great chance to get to know them a little. Martin mentioned that he’d suffered a serious bereavement that week which gave certain poignancy to his talk, because the nub of his hour and a half is that depression is not an illness that can be medicalised but rather something endemic to the human condition.

This is what he said:

Depression is not a “mental illness” but a common part of the human condition when key emotional needs are not met  Where does self-worth come from? Not difficult to answer. It comes from relationship from the first attachment onwards.

Mentalization and personality/self development  The vital relationship between identity and identification – if a caregiver doesn’t accurately identify with you, you can’t become a healthy self

We don’t fail to value ourselves because we have a condition called “depression”, rather we feel depressed when our lives are not mirrored, valued or supported – this is the human condition


2007 (Seager et al) paper refers to 5 key (overlapping) needs that can be summarised thus (beyond Maslow’s hierarchy which is upside down!):

(a) to be loved (attachment and emotional investment)

(b) To be heard/recognised/attended to (empathy)

(c) Identity and belonging (identification with a family and/or other social group)

(d) To make a difference (achievement and influence)

(e) Belief, meaning and purpose (spiritual)

It brings me back to that little family on the train. I don’t know that woman’s story, or why she failed to engage with her children at all. I was on a train with her for more than forty minutes and another forty minutes in a waiting room. She never once met my eye or the eye of anyone else. She never spoke to her children, or cuddled them. She attended to their physical needs, giving a drink to the baby without letting him out of his pushchair, and gave a baby wipe to the older child so he could wipe his own hands and face. There was an awareness of the basic needs of the physical, of keeping them safe, and warm and fed, but from an observer’s point of view, that seemed to be all.

Imagine this: if all human beings have these needs {to be loved (attachment and emotional investment) To be heard/recognised/attended to (empathy) Identity and belonging (identification with a family and/or other social group) To make a difference (achievement and influence)Belief, meaning and purpose (spiritual)} and if these needs are not met, is it any wonder that depression is the fastest rising condition and there was a rise of 40% in medication to treat it in 2011? You cannot put love in a pill. You cannot give meaning to another life by medicating the person. You cannot hear a person by prescribing them with Prozac. Martin (and I for that matter) are not against medication for acute phases of depression; it can save lives. But the evidence is that medication is not working and the search for newer, better, medications and therapies goes on. My thoughts are we are missing something very important here. 

The Wise Mice

The wise mice

The wise mice hold words

between tender paws

and twining tails

Guardians of quiet wisdom

Sentinels of gentle encouragement

and whisperers of hope.wise mice

I’m prone to whimsy. I’m prone to an incorrigible belief in synchronicity and the tools of the oracle. I’m prone to a need for distraction, for heading off the dark paths my mind will wander down, seeing a distant twinkling light that lures me away from the black pit I’m heading towards.

I collect oracle sets of one sort and another, from traditional tarot to angel cards. They’re just printed card, and yet they each show me a door I may try. Beautiful art work, or finely crafted words provoking thought and raising spirits.

The wise mice sit upon one such set, and their furry faces reassure me that they guard nothing that will lead me deeper into despair. Some oracle sets I will never touch when I’m low, knowing that the challenging concepts some cards illustrate are ones I don’t have the strength to face that day. But the ones the wise mice guard may lead me to brighter thoughts, and so they are the ones I will reach for in dark times.

Lightness card