Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A Happy New Year and the Best of Times in 2014!

I've been thinking about calendars because it's New Year and, as I'm usually delving into history, one that came to mind was the Julius Work Calendar  written in or around 1020AD as an instruction manual for the young Monks at Canterbury Cathedral. It gave them guidance on the tasks which had to be undertaken in the 12 months ahead.

I haven't found an updated version of this but I have been trying to make the characters come alive on the page whilst editing my novel about Durstan, an eighth century Monk. The different sights; smells and sounds in an environment which we may never fully know, but which leaves plenty of room for imagination to play a part.

I'm writing about the threads of humanity and emotion which bind us still to those people who lived centuries ago, and whom our Ancestors would have known. 

And I've been thinking about my blog, the different people I've contacted because of it. There were the messages too which I received on Christmas morning from friends I've made across the world. We had a common purpose on 25th December, to wish each other well, and I think the same is true of New Year.

A Happy New Year to everyone on Google +, the people who follow my blog and those I'm looking forward to meeting in the coming months. Enjoy the celebration and have the best of times in 2014.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Greetings

"Christmas Eve and twelve of the clock.
'Now they are all on their knees,'
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
'Come,' see the oxen kneel

In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,'
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so."

On Christmas Eve I've always enjoyed reading the above poem, "The Oxen" by Thomas Hardy. Also, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and see again the well known words from Tiny Tim: "God Bless us, Everyone!"

It's a wonderful time of year for so many, whatever the celebrations and beliefs may be.

I hope you have a very Happy Christmas, with joy and peace in 2014.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Christmas tree, the Holly, Ivy and some Mistletoe

Traditional evergreen foliage decorates our houses at this time of year. It's beautiful to look at and is an important part of the history of Christmas as we know it.

Christianity established itself here in the early centuries. Until that time the indigenous people and those who settled in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales were predominantly Pagan. Their Yule celebration continues to start every year on or around 21st December, and we also of course have a date for Jesus' birthday on 25th as set by the early Church.  The holly, ivy and mistletoe have links to both.

Holly was predominant in the Roman feast of

Saturnalia, and the custom no doubt followed those who came to England in the first century. It also symbolised the nails that crucified Jesus and the crown of thorns he wore.

The ivy which clings as it grows is said to act as a reminder to Christians to seek God in all they do.

No one is sure how the first Christmas tree came about but it may have been in 700 AD when St Boniface saw the Pagans in Germany preparing to sacrifice a young boy by an oak tree. It's said that he was so angry he chopped down the tree, and an evergreen grew there instead.

Mistletoe holds a special place in our hearts. It's linked to the Vikings and Druids who again shaped our history. According to Viking myth Freya, the Goddess of love, ordered mistletoe to grow halfway between earth and sky. When people walked under the trees where it was found they kissed to please her, and if it was a Viking warrior it was the custom for him not to fight that day!

The ancient Druids thought mistletoe was sacred.

"When they discover some, growing on an oak tree, they gather it with great ceremony on the 9th day of the moon... then prepare a ritual sacrifice and feast.. A priest dressed in white robes climbs the tree and cuts down the mistletoe using a golden sickle. Onlookers catch it as it falls in a white cloak and the bulls are sacrificed..."

Pliny the Younger (AD62-113)

It's berries are poisonous, but to kiss under the mistletoe is a Christmas tradition we still have:

"Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Someone came, and kissed me there."

Walter de la Mere "Mistletoe".

Have a Happy Christmas everyone, it's almost here! I'm feeling as if mine may have started last week. I was fortunate enough to have 4 of my poems accepted for publication by Indigo Dreams Publishers http://indigodreams.co.uk/ for their Dawntreader quarterly poetry magazine and Dagda Publishing http://dagdapublishing.co.uk/ for 2 of their Charity Anthologies.

Please leave a comment. I would love to hear about your Christmas.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A Visit to Kenilworth

I live 15 minutes away from Kenilworth in Warwickshire. It's a small town, and I often visit the shops there. I drive past the castle ruins to get to the car park, and usually have a quick look at them through the car window. Inevitably, I start to think again about the Tudors.

Although I'm fascinated by our early history, the Anglo Saxons and Celts, I've also been reading about Henry the Eighth and his wives; Queen Elizabeth the First and her relationship with Robert, Lord Dudley. I've enjoyed reading Philippa Gregory's novels in particular about these times.

Obviously, we'll never know exactly what happened between Elizabeth and Dudley, the same as in any true story from any period, since the plot belongs to those who take part in it, but here's the poem I wrote on how I imagined it might have been...

The Castle crumbles in ruin.
Shadows drift, a Queen,
proud peacocks, fountains,
lovers joined in the rose garden.

Desire lives in the turbulent breeze,
pressed into Kenilworth stone.
Birds carried coded messages,
glide still in the clouded mist

as history haunts thought.
The glitter of sunlight a bright
jewel from an Elizabethan crown?
She loved you Dudley, no other,

and yet you desired only this,
to be King, not the beauty,
soul or soft heart of a woman.
She rests lonely here,

afraid of you, for you;
yearns in half light
for touch's dark shiver,
to live again, as she once dared.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Passage of Time

"Let your life lightly dance on the edges of time, like dew on the tip of a leaf."  Rabindranath Tagore 

Time is the dimension in which we order events - the past, present and future, the duration of those events and the intervals in between. It stops everything from happening at once.

It's of the essence to writers since woe betide the timeline which accidentally becomes confused, or out of reasonable sequence, because the novel or story is then unconvincing, something which the reader is unlikely to finish. There are the publishers' and competition entry deadlines too, which we cross at our peril.

One of my earliest memories is of the grandfather clock in the hall which measured the pace of our family life. Mum would consult it for mealtimes, when to walk to school, almost time for Dad to come home from work and at bedtime, the most important occasions in my young life, but I was happy. The hours were structured and as a child I felt secure. The best times though always seemed to be when spontaneity took over, and we had the excitement of the unplanned. How many children don't enjoy the occasional snow day? A holiday, albeit with it's own time frame, but which takes us outside of the routine.

I'm guessing that time has been a  preoccupation since the beginning, as we must always have been subject to nature's clock, the seasons, the light and warmth they may or may not bring. Archaeologists have discovered devices from ancient civilisations which measured the hours, and the oldest book, the Bible, considers how we might properly use them in Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8...
A time to give birth and a time to die." It continues with various examples such as speaking; being silent; weeping; laughing; killing; healing and so on, most of the occasions we'll come across in life.

We often blame being "in the wrong place at the wrong time" when we face change but perhaps that's where destiny steps in, moving us forward or taking us in another direction we hadn't thought to go? Possibly the spirit world, the supernatural, is simply a slip in time as we know it, causing our universe to collide with another which is parallel? There have been many stories written about this. 

The concept of time runs through our lives, literature, poems and one of my favourite quotations from William Shakespeare:

"Time is very slow for those who wait;
very fast for those who are scared;
very long for those who lament;
very short for those who celebrate;
but for those who love, time is eternal".

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Remembrance Sunday

I thought about Remembrance Sunday yesterday, it's meaning, when I came across a compilation of First World War poems on kindle, and again this morning when I heard the Church bells ring.

I was moved as I am every year by the beauty of the soldiers' words as they faced death. I'm thankful and feel humbled that even as a writer I can't truly imagine what it must have been like to be in their place. 

War can have a different meaning for each of us and
the reasons why it happens. I am posting Rupert Brookes' poem today in memory of those who lost their lives because of it. The poem is sadly one of many I could have shared here...

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England.
There shall be in that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

When the Veil is thin

On October, 31st at Halloween the veil is thin between our world and the place of the dead. Ghouls, ghosts and spirits can whisper in our ears, appear as an outline, a fleeting shadow or transient scent worn by someone who has gone before but can still reach out to us in thought.

Samhain, the old name by which it's known, is the time for many to honour the spirits. The Pagan New Year which traditionally marks the end of summer and start of winter. An occasion to consider the past, and the future. Christianity also commemorates it's Saints at the end of October in a similar thought.

It's a great time of year to be a writer! I've read Michelle Paver's Dark Matter; Susan Hill's The Small Hand and Woman in Black; Helen Dunsmore's The Greatcoat and I've just dipped into Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger as I'm ready again to be persuaded to be afraid.

You can feel Hecate's dark power in words, and I like reading  Shakespeare's Macbeth at Halloween:

"Second witch:  Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worms' sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble;
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

All witches: Double, double toil and trouble,
Fire, burn; and cauldron, bubble."

Why not write in this genre when you think you are alone, at night with the wind creaking the floorboards? Your back is to the door and it's more than likely you're wrong. Look into the shadows at the corner of the room furthest from the light. 

Why not choose a cold, sepulchral setting for a story or poem like Newstead Abbey, the Bryon ancestral home in winter when the candlelight flickers and extinguishes easily from a draught? Cold and darkness draw on something buried deep within us, the primeval creates atmosphere. Dark Matter wouldn't have worked nearly so well had it been set in the desert as was originally envisaged by the author. The tension builds in this novel as the plot moves from an artic summer to winter and the protagonist is alone, almost.

And what of Magic, the part it plays in all of this? The Oxford dictionary defines magic as "the pretended art of influencing a course of events by occult control of nature or of spirits, witchcraft." Whether you believe in it's power or superstition, the distant cousin, I see magic in the everyday not just at Halloween. The shimmer of sunlight in the trees on a hot summer day and the patterns in the clouds during a rainstorm. There's much in nature that lends itself to this. The beautiful sensation of falling in love and feeling the other person's heart beat next to yours. How can that not be magical too?

On October, 31st to trick or treat is part of the magic of life, the fun we can have. Open that door if you dare, but be safe and enjoy this year's celebration of life, and death.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

It's all about Writing!

I'm editing the first draft of my novel and trying hard not to do any more research. I want to finish writing the story, but there's still a few gaps left to fill, and some where the archaeology hasn't yet been able to complete an eighth century jigsaw puzzle. It's a fascinating time to write about.

I've written a number of poems too over the last couple of years, and would like to enter some competitions. I'm also thinking of compiling a poetry Anthology.

Scribble is a good venue for short stories www.parkpublications.co.uk/scribble.htmand Prize Magic has lots of ideas about where to submit the poems www.prizemagic.co.uk 

I've recently discovered Twitter, the challenge of 140 characters or less. Please follow me https://twitter.com/SharonBradshaw0   

I love old poetry Anthologies. An extract from an anonymous poem, printed in the 1918 edition of A Garland of Quiet Thoughts, makes me think that the writer understood the value in quiet perseverance.  

"And on through the hours
The quiet words ring,
Like a low inspiration -
"Doe the nexte Thynge."

We do though keep going as that's the nature of life, but every time we do something different it changes us, however imperceptibly, and which leads then to more change. I guess that's also the case when we write, helping us find our elusive voice, and hopefully then publication.

Here's one of the poems I wrote some time ago about the changing seasons in a relationship.

"The snow's cold tonight,
my love, icicle
fingers tingle.

A teardrop froze
on stained window glass,
did you see it,
feel the distant touch
of Spring? It's waiting 
for a thaw, to kiss 
again the snowdrop.

I remember,
just that our love
was once as wild 
as the summer berry
in the forest,
where magic walks
under the oak.

And now...
word - the sharp sting 
of the nettle bed."

Snowdrops in Spring represent hope, new beginnings, the place we can eventually reach as we carry on. Happy writing, have a great weekend!

Please leave a comment. I love hearing from you. 

Monday, 7 October 2013

Hands on the Clock

A minute moves imperceptibly,
each second rests in memory,
a sepia thought. It lingers long
in the hallways of yesterday,
the flowers in laughter's field,
soft summer kisses,
a few words spoken in love.

And if all the clocks don't stop
as death dims our eyes, but
continue a hopeful pace into
the hour when hearts race again,
will you stretch out your hand,
for mine, in just one more breath?

This week's Magpie Tales image is by crilleb50. If you would like to read more stories and poems based on this please visit http://magpietales.blogspot.co.uk/

Monday, 30 September 2013

Beyond the Horizon

They hung him there on a day like this,
from the tall tree by the barn, a cold day.
The salt tang of the distant sea
in the bitter wind from the north.
It made his eyes water,
dragging him reluctant behind
the sweating horse, up a stepping stone path,
in half light the chasm between day, night.

He knew what they meant to do alright
- for poaching, the crime of instinct.
He looked up before they noosed him,
desperate to see God's smile
in a single sunlit ray, but stark grey
overshadowed the tawny brown earth,
the sky a darkened cauldron beyond.

And the boy's eyes left them,
sightless black in death,
as the fragrant scent of skinny rabbit
lingered in charcoal ash.

This week's image for Magpie Tales is a photograph by Mark Haley called Top Withens. If you would like to read more stories and poems based on this then please visit http://magpietales.blogspot.co.uk/ 

Monday, 23 September 2013

A Moth to the Flame

A Moth dances in artificial light
darting, flitting, until confused
she grasps close the source,
and her languid limbs can lie
lovingly around the orb.

Attraction is an impression,
a lover's face
in the pillow of last night's dream,
as Nature's moon beams out of reach
beyond the darkened window pane,
an almost opening
to softly kiss the joy of flight.

This week's image from Magpie Tales is The Moth and the Lamp by Cesar Santos. If you would like to read more poems and stories about this painting then please visit 

Monday, 16 September 2013

St Ninian's Map

I knew a man once, a simple man,
brave of heart. He carried the Celtic cross
beyond Hadrian's wall into the Pagan land,
Alba. A lover of nature's all, the puffin's cry and
silver fish swimming with the seal, he sought love
in God's light. A faithful few built the Candida Casa,
for him a bright white house at Hwiterne, above
the seashell shore where he walked in sun, 
rain when God's holy grace watered crops,
but the Pagans said the clouds opened anyway
as the Sun God slept.

I knew a man once, a good man.
He would sit quietly gazing at the tide, its ebb,
flow, praying for a change to Christianity.
They called him a Saint for his miracles.
He would have laughed at the propaganda,
not agreed, for all he did was give his heart
to his God, told them of a Holy Spirit
who walked the land, as he prayed to be safe
in the Lord's hands.

And solitary sometimes in a dark cave in
the earth, under the omnipotent moon Goddess'
starry sky, he must have wondered there alone
if the old Gods of creation the recalcitrant
Picts revered were so different after all.
All blessed nature's path to ease the mortal
journey into death's afterlife, called
for every man to abandon evil in his tracks.

I knew a man once. His bones were warmed
by the hearth just as mine, but the piety
of the desert fathers had inspired his soul.
The Jesus legend was a new story to be told,
retold on a cold winter's night, at the Yule Solstice.
Christians and Pagans worshiping alongside in
that same ancient place, huddled together for warmth,
a survival, for the night's breath chilled
indiscriminate to the bone.

I knew a man once, it was long ago. Bede's Ninian was my brother, his name was Uinnian.

If you would like to read more stories and poems on this week's St Ninian's image by Magpie Tales please visit http://magpietales.blogspot.com/ 

Monday, 9 September 2013

Maybe, just maybe...

A boy needs to eat, wherever he may be
- grow bones, a strong heart.
Breakfast begins
the uncharted daily adventure,
in which it's a blessing not to be alone.

To be seated at love's table
laid by hands of every skin hue,
from religion's harvest, or not,
a simple kindness
the belief in the light joining us all.

And the boy becomes the man
who has learned how to live, be
a good father to the child within,
the ones who shall come after.
The world changes when this is so.

This week's Magpie Tales image is Boy in a Dining Car 1946 by Norman Rockwell. If you would like to read more stories and poems based on this then please visit http://magpietales.blogspot.co.uk/  Thank you for reading my poem.

Monday, 2 September 2013

It's what you believe..

An earth Angel climbed slowly
up the red twig tree.
She had fallen far
onto undulating soil, rocks below,
and could hear faint dulcet tones,
the dove, a spirit on high.

Her tiny wings had yet to open, so
she perched nearby on a bare branch,
listening to the wondrous tale
the messenger told of lands afar, sights,
riches uncountenanced.
How she longed to fly, our earth Angel!

"Close your eyes and dream",
he whispered gently.
"The world above, below, is for us all.
It's yours too, believe in yourself.
A basket is full of abundance, joy,
if you think it so.
Hope and dream, earth Angel,
for we live in love and light."

This week's Magpie Tales image is by Jeannie Tomanek. If you would like to read more stories and poems based on this please visit http://magpietales.blogspot.co.uk/  Thank you for reading my poem.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Tomorrow's Passing Place

Do you remember last year
the passing place on the narrow road,
it was signposted?
We smiled politely, said we needed one
on the tarmac to Sullom Voe,
slipping down into an oily terminal,
the nowhere really inlet
where you carried on when I turned back.
You didn't realise I wasn't with you,
couldn't see me waiting for you,
before I had to go the other way.

We both missed our son.
He stopped long enough
to call our names, couldn't reach us,
had to continue silently alone.
But you didn't give up!
You said you could see him still,
touch his tiny heart in the passing place,
that I never could.
I couldn't stay long enough for all of us
in a single breath.

It's strange how we have become invisible,
you and I - searching for a safe place
where we might manage another day,
with hearts wintered, love trickled in ice.

But Spring will be here soon.
Leaves that unfurl in blossom scented breeze,
nature's beauty caressing us both, gently.
Perhaps it can be then, my love,
we shall meet again in our passing place?

This week's Magpie Tales image is a photograph by Steven Kelly taken at a passing place near Sullom Voe in Shetland. If you would like to read more poems and stories based on this please visit http://magpietales.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

All for Love

An ethereal Selkie wanders
the beautiful sea, frantic
for she has lost Oberon's heart.
It's crimson ribbons torn
by the angry King, deceived
in the sweetness of song,
the lingering scent of an ocean,
the enchantment of dreams.

She searches
midnight moonbeams
lighting cold depths below,
prays to ancient Gods
to send fast a shoal of silver fish,
their scales shimmering bright
to see again his heart,
heal the loss.

But too late it's gone
as has the sealskin breath,
earthly Oberon holds this captive.

Llyr's wrath terrible if raised
strikes fear into the dark deep,
here the shapeshifter Selkie.
She has broken nature's law,
she loves a mortal!
No use now dolphin magic,
oyster pearls or seashell trinkets.

Listen only to the breeze
whispering in the waves, you'll hear
a Selkie cry to the lonely lost sea as

she hurtles through salted teardrops

searching the last of the tangled seaweed

for a lover's truth.

This week's image at Magpie Tales is an underwater photograph taken by Elena Kalis. If you would like to read more of the poems and prose inspired by this please visit http://magpietales.blogspot.com/ for a list of writers taking part. Thank you for reading my poem.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Santus, Louis and Ben

Santus lives in Tanzania and has been offered a place at college to study Human Resources Management, but which he can't afford to accept.

He is unlikely to be able to find a job without a college certificate and his family are unable to help him with the fees. This is a photo of their home in Lihami village:

Santus is the eldest of 4 children. His father is a carpenter who helps the Valenova Foundation with charitable projects when there is no work for him to do.

The Ifakara Bakery Project Charity are trying to raise £720 by the end of August, 2013 to pay Santus' college fees, accomodation and food for 6 months, and a further £720 to be paid by Christmas to enable him to complete the 12 month course.

If you are able to help Santus, please contact me by email sharonbradshaw_6@hotmail.co.uk 

Whether you can provide full sponsorship or a small gift, all monies will be sent to help Santus with his education without deduction of administration charges.

Alternatively, if you know of someone else who may be able to help then please tell them about Santus.

This is a photograph of him outside the Valenova Foundation study hall where he spends much of his time.

I believe that education can change lives and the world in which we live. Mine would have been much poorer had I not been given that chance. The Charity will provide updates to any sponsor on Santus' progress at college if he is able to go. 

I wanted to tell you too about Louis and Ben Schellenberg's cycle adventure. These young men, who are 15 and 19 years old respectively, are currently cycling over 1000 miles from Land's End to John O'Groats to raise funds for 2 charities, Malaria No More UK and the Ifakara Bakery Project Charity. You can follow their progress by visitingwww.virginmoneygiving.com/Schellenberg   

Thank you for reading this post. Have a good weekend.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Let's Dance Flamenco again!

This week's Magpie Tales image is by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec http://magpietales.blogspot.com/

The man standing on the right of the painting watches the dancer. He remembers a sultry night last summer in the square in Montmartre, Paris, just behind the Moulin Rouge. They had drank red wine with the Gitanos, learned a new dance from Andalucia...

Night vibrates
to melodious tune,
hard feet stamps,
raw sexuality
stagnant in halves
once before loved.

Arm, leg sinews,
graze hungry in
a saturation feast.

Notes shimmer
silver, caress breath
as moonbeams glow
in their tangled passion,
the flamenco,

and stillness,

once the moment is gone.
It waits for next time.  

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Hold my hand

Hold my hand in life
as you will in death,
to ease both the passing
and our return.

You and I,
known one to the other
since infinity had memory.
Hold my hand in death
as you have in life, for
it's the moment to depart.

Tears fall on barren earth,
for you and I go now
to reunite the flame
in the star, the beauty of a river
that attends the sea, crossing
rocks and verdant meadow.

Until we are once again, my love,
hold me safely in your hand.

This is my poem for Magpie Tales http://magpietales.blogspot.com/ this week. I hope you enjoy reading it.

There's still time to join in with the challenge of writing a poem a week using the image provided, if you follow the link. This week it's Drawing Hands, 1948 by MC Escher.

Please leave a comment. I would love to hear about your week.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

A Writer, Coffee and a Car

My day usually begins early with a mug of coffee, checking emails and the blog, followed by a look at as many others as I have time to read before work.

I found the little blue car yesterday on http://magpietales.blogspot.com. It was posted by Tess Kincaid as part of a blog hop and will be followed by other images every Sunday. 

The idea is to write a short poem or story about the picture, and leave details of your blog on Magpie Tales after you've done it, so the others know you are taking part.

I didn't have long to write a poem this time but I came up with a few words.

I saw them fly overhead -
balloons, a little blue car.
Whether real, or dream instead,
they're travelling near and far.

Let's follow them on high,
at night, and every day.
Driving across the sky,
where we're going who can say?

For life's an adventure, it's here!
Take fun, happiness in your hand.
Hold on tight, put the car in gear,
we'll find a good place to land.

I hope you decide to take part, please let me know if you do and have a great week! 

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Julia's Blog, the Anthology and Friends

I've wanted to say this for a long time - I love blogging! I've made lots of new friends across the world and it encourages me to keep writing. 

I was so pleased when Julia, whose blog I've followed from the start of mine, asked to review the Hope and Dreams Anthology which I compiled earlier this year in aid of the Ifakara Bakery Project Charity.

If you would like to read Julia's post "Life stories and a meaningful cause" then please follow the linkhttp://juliahoneswritinglife.blogspot.co.uk/

Her blog is full of interesting quotes; poetry; reviews and writing. She has highlighted the work being undertaken by the Charity in Tanzania and mentions favourite stories from the Anthology.

It made me think again about the poems and stories which were submitted to the competition last year. I appreciate that my opinion isn't impartial but I really did enjoy reading them all, and was sorry I couldn't include many more. As a writer I know just how much of ourselves we put into our words, and possibly even more so when they are sent to support a charitable cause such as this, to buy bread for those in need in Tanzania.

So, thank you again to everyone who contributed as all the stories and poems were part of the journey, and a single competition entry fee of £2.50 bought 10 loaves of bread which means a great deal to a child in Ifakara.

I still have a few more Anthologies to sell from the first print run, to buy more bread, and if you would like a copy the details are on the Hope and Dreams Anthology and Donations Page. Thank you.

Please leave a comment too as I would love to hear from you and about how your weekend is going.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Confessions of a Churchyard

"Constantly think of the Universe as one living creature, embracing one being and one soul; how all is absorbed into the one consciousness of this living creature; how it compasses all things with a single purpose, and how all things work together to cause all that comes to pass, and their wonderful web and texture."

Marcus Aurelius (121 - 180, Rome)

I realised last week that place is the most important trigger for me in writing a story, if I can delve deep enough, even though the actual setting may itself be small. There can still be a myriad of characters and potential happenings waiting for the magic of words.

Writers seek out atmospheric places and my latest is St Mary's churchyard in Warwick. I discovered it whilst handing out leaflets in the town centre to advertise Tom's gym.

I could imagine it straightaway at Halloween, a ghostly mist shrouding the graves and those buried there, even though I was looking through the eyes of a hot summer day.
I had read that people planted lime trees in churchyards, and they did here. Their trunks are gnarled like ancient fingers holding dead hands in the graves beneath.

I found the wrought iron railings to begin with, surrounding the churchyard, with Thomas Bryan's grave on the edge. He died in 1824 after his wife Elizabeth in 1819, she lies nearby. As I stood quietly two white doves flew overhead in the clear midday sky, marking the beginning of a poem.

And the Church still stands strong in the background, to remind us of God the protector and the Holy Spirit who walks on the grassy banks between the fallen stones. I thought again of Thomas and Elizabeth lying entwined there and dreaming of what, maybe nothing at all now their day has gone?

But the setting was right for their story wherever it ends - regency railings, 1830's houses opposite and inside the Church those who were considered more important in an earlier time.

Another Elizabeth's favourite, namely Robert, Lord Dudley and Earl of Warwick. His bones are there with his wife, Lettis, and their son, the Little Imp. I know their story from reading the history books but I couldn't help but think what if it had been different, and Dudley had been King? No doubt he would be resting now in Westminster Abbey with a very different story told.

St Mary's Church has a wealth of material waiting to be written, but then doesn't any place we visit if we delve deep enough and ask questions of our imagination? People centuries ago often didn't travel far in a lifetime, and yet they all had a story to tell whether historically or from their own years.

Where have you visited recently that has made you think a little more about it? Please share your thoughts, and leave a comment.