Miracle at Mont Saint Michel

I first went to Mont Saint Michel in 1980, aged only 14, and returning thirty years later felt strange. I returned as a part of an assignment for work. I took a group of 21 mixed aged English school kids and their two teachers for a five day trip round France. On Sunday the 30th of May, the feast day of Joan of Arc and also Mother’s Day in France, we arrived as the monks were ringing the bells for morning prayer. Drawn by a need to sit and find some inner peace, I chose a bench halfway down the abbey church and was surprised to find a couple of the older girls joined me. Incense began to fill the air, and music played. I shivered, that goosebumps moment when you feel God is very, very close, and you feel that if you look up at the right moment, you will see Him. Tears began to fill my eyes and I felt alarmed. I couldn’t have an emotional meltdown here. I was in charge. The kids would think I was an idiot. I bit down hard on my need to cry and let myself detach from my emotions a little. To capture the moment, I held the camera above my head and snapped a few photos, so I could maybe later recall and give way to my feelings.

Plainchant in French made the hairs on my body stand on end and the readings, caught in snatches because of my poor French were like Sybil’s leaves blown on the wind….

“Before the hills were made, I knew you. I knew you in your mother’s womb.”

I can’t recall what book from the Bible they were from.  

I went on, determined to be strong. I toured the rest of the abbey and bought the obligatory fridge magnet. A little later, I discovered I had lost my purse, containing all my Euros. I nearly panicked. I ran back up to the abbey shop and asked there. Nothing. I left my name and address and was told to report it to the tourist office, which I did once I found them open again after lunch. I stayed in French, which I am proud of and I stayed calm. It was only money after all.

As I sat I remembered all the times I have had small miracles, where unexpected money has come my way just when I needed it. I can’t help hoping that my 50 or 60 euros went to someone who really needed it, and as I sat there thinking that, I thought, may they have joy of it.

The rest of the trip went well, but on the channel ferry yesterday, we were looking at photos. I’d snapped away and never actually looked at any of my own. The photo below was greeted with astonishment and awe:

I  am myself astonished and greatly moved. The window behind has no pattern in it; there isn’t a figure in it, as far as I saw. You will have to take my word that this photo is unaltered; anyone who knows me also knows stuff like photo shop is beyond me. I saw nothing when I took the photo.

I know who I think the figure is.

Who do you think it is?

Everyone agreed that it’s a sign, but a sign of what?

Truth is that today I feel that the world has become far more complex than it was before. I’m the sort of person things happen to, but they are usually not good things. I’ve never had anything like this happen before. I’ve been given something extraordinary and I simply do not know what I must do with it.

This has happened for a reason, just as I lost my purse for a reason.

I pray that the reason becomes evident soon.

My New Book

As the observant among my readers have already noticed, and some of you already knew, I’ve just launched my first novel. First to be published, that is; I’ve been writing a long time.

I confess I feel a bit awkward about this post because I’m someone who finds the process of self-promotion excruiatingly uncomfortable. I wasn’t brought up to “blow my own trumpet”, to sound my own praises. I’m old-fashioned British, if you like. But the world moves on, and uncomfortable as it is, the author needs to do some book promotion, even when she’d rather just shove it at you all and squeak, “There it is. Enjoy!” and run away, crimson with blushes.

I’m glad you can’t see me now, for that reason. Beetroot meets tomato, if you like.

The central premise of this book is that even strong, able people break down beyond the power of their own recuperation, due to the hand Life can deal them. I’ve been there. You probably have too. But have you ever sat at the computer, in the small hours of the morning, thinking, you really can’t go on, that “My heart is broken and I am dying inside”? Each of the six protagonists in the book come to this point, and in this space of despair, type those words into an internet search engine, and start the strangest and most powerful journey of their lives.

This is a book for a seeker, a book for those who wonder “What if?”. It’s a book that draws you into the world of each of the six characters and keeps you there. J said he wanted those six as his friends, and didn’t want the book to end because then that time with them would be over.

It’s not chicklit, it’s not murder mystery, it’s not vampires, it’s not spies or cops and robbers and it’s not romance. In fact, it’s quite hard to categorise because it doesn’t fit into any easy genre slot. It is itself and that’s probably the best way any book should be. If you’ve been through or are going through major life challenges, this is the book for you. It might be fiction, or it might not; there’s an ambiguity about the events that you need to make up your own mind about. But fiction or not, it’s also true in ways that go beyond literature.

The book is available as a paperback from Amazon, but it’s also available as a download, if you prefer that: http://www.lulu.com/product/strangers-pilgrims/6169550

I’d appreciate feedback if and when people read it; and if you like it, add a review at Amazon. Every little helps!

Not what I expected to write today

What I wanted to write was a short account of my week away.

I always find when I come back from a trip or a holiday, I have a strong sense of anti-climax, like a sudden surge of depression. Last night I was very relieved to be home, and a few hours later we were watching a tv programme we all enjoy when I noticed blood in my dog’s mouth. Now, she’s got cancer of the tongue and her tongue has been in a mess for a while, but the amount of blood that appeared was alarming. She’s been treated for an infection in it, and what I think happened was the pocket of infection emptied, and bled clean. Needless to say she was unconcerned and after we mopped up the mess, it stopped. By the time we went to bed, she was OK. This morning, she was also fine. Her tongue looked ok;  well, as ok as it’s ever likely to be and we headed out for a long walk. As I may have said before, she’ll be fine until she’s not. Last night I had a real fright that suddenly she was not fine. I slept badly. I couldn’t stop shaking for hours.

To all intents and purposes, there was nothing wrong this morning that wasn’t already wrong, but today has been a tough old day. Dog walkers talk. We stop and talk about our dogs; it’s the one thing we have in common and today I talked to several people. Holly’s cancer came up. I was upbeat and cheerful about it, but the second time, after I headed up the beach, I found myself crying.

By the time I got off the beach and into the woods, I was sobbing. Thankfully no one was about so I didn’t have to worry. I was thinking about all the much loved animals we’ve shared our lives with and what sent me almost into hysterics was the sudden memory that it’s actually been ten years this year since Watson, my legendary ginger tom, died. Ten years. It doesn’t feel like it. I miss him still. I miss William, my big black shaggy cat, who slept on my pillow curled round my head, now gone twelve years.

I sat under an old oak and howled for a few minutes. Holly came over and put her head on my knee and we sat there like that for a while until I couldn’t let myself stay any longer.

I’m not afraid of my own death. In some ways it doesn’t matter to me if death truly is the end for me, that there might be nothing after it. What matters right now is that if there is nothing more after death, for humans or for animals, then I’ll never see my friends and family(whether human or animal) ever again. The void they leave when they go is so immense, today I feel the great weight of that void crushing me; my chest hurts as much as if an elephant had sat on it.

Our lives are so brief, our lives are so brief. All that I strive to do and be in this life, what is it all for? What does any of it mean?

Even when I feel this bad, I usually try to turn it around and find and up side to even the worst of days. Today I can’t. I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better tomorrow, but for today, I am right here, hurting quite unexpectedly.

Oh and if anyone mentions anything to do with the Rainbow bridge, I shall probably puke. Sorry.