Facing Fear With The Silent Eye, Part 4 – Life and Death

I recently attended a workshop with The Silent Eye about Facing Our Fears, an extraordinary weekend spent among the hills and grey stone villages of the Peak District. It’s taken me a little while, as it usually does, to process everything that happened. Once again there was history and mystery, good company and tasty food, old friends greeted and new friends made. And, as always, revelations.This is part three of my account, parts one, two and three can be found here…

(Apologies for the slight delay between posts – I had a project that needed finishing and another that needed starting, so have been focusing on those for the past few days. However, let’s now head back to Derbyshire and the next stop on my journey…)

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear, another glorious day. I got up early, despite being tired from the previous afternoon’s events, as I’d arranged to meet Sue and Stu at 9am and wanted to take a quick look around Tideswell before doing so. Breakfast was downstairs in the small dining room, where I was watched over by a most curious onlooker. Hmmm.

Once I’d eaten, I headed out into the morning, taking the main street past the ancient (yet still venerated) spring, welling clear from a stone set there for the purpose. It was nice to see it marked in such a way when so many of the old springs and rivers have been lost or built over, all in the name of development. I continued past curving walls of grey stone, ending up outside the Church of St John the Baptist, which is known as the ‘cathedral of the Peak.’

It’s certainly a beautiful building – built between 1320 and 1400, it was thought to have replaced a smaller Norman church, and is a wonderful example of gothic architecture, with long windows and pointed arches, carved angels gesturing skywards. I stood and took it in for a moment, then recognised a couple of familiar figures emerging from a car nearby – Sue and Stu had apparently had the same idea I’d had, and so the three of us took the tree-lined avenue leading into the church.

I always enjoy looking around old churches (even the one in Eyam was interesting, despite the weight on my chest). I think about the layers of years in such places, the ceremonies of birth and life and death that have gone on beneath the vaulted ceilings, continuing a thread of human’s celebrating significant events that stretches long into our dim past.

The Church of St John the Baptist was a peaceful place, sun sparking through the stained-glass windows to scatter colour across the ancient stone floors, gilding the old carvings, and we spent a little while wandering around, taking it all in.

Both Sue and Stu were familiar with the building, and so were able to point out some of the more interesting details, such as a small dragon curled up above on one of the ceiling beams.

The richly carved pews, which put me in mind of some of the work at the Natural History Museum, featured green men and salamanders, flying foxes and even another small dragon, not the usual religious symbols you’d expect in such a place.

And, in front of the altar, a knight slept in effigy inside his tomb, pierced marble giving the viewer a peep into his eternal rest.

Then it was time to meet the others and head up towards the moors. We were going to a much older place of worship, one where an ancient tradition was still practiced today.

The Eagle Stone awaited…


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

A Blogging Blip and an Anniversary

Yesterday, as I usually do on a Wednesday, I put together my latest Wednesday Wander post and hit Publish.

But a funny thing happened. While my dashboard assured me that the post was, in fact, published, when I clicked the link to view it all I got was:

Oops, this page doesn’t seem to be here.

Strange, I thought. I went back into the dashboard, thinking perhaps I’d left the page too quickly, negating something mysterious in the process of click to publication. But my post was there, still insisting it was, in fact, published. I could update it if I wanted to, but it was definitely out there.

Except it wasn’t.

After trying a few more times I gave up. Perhaps the Happiness Engineers were tinkering with something, or perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be. I went to bed, planning on looking at it again this morning.

But when I woke up, there it was. My shiny new post, published as promised. Whichever gremlin had been holding it had released it from their claws. So that’s one less thing I need to do today.

There is plenty to do around the house this morning, but I plan on taking a moment of reflection. For today is an anniversary. Six years ago I returned to the UK, my family in tow, arriving on a snowy dark day to the land of my birth. I sometimes wonder what would have happened had we stayed in Australia. I’m not sure if I’d be writing the books I’m writing. I’m quite sure there are several wonderful friends I would never have met. But, as Aslan says, we are never meant to know ‘What if.’

I’m happy that we’re here, even though there are dear friends and family I miss in Australia. That is the lot of a wanderer, I suppose. And so today I will pause, to reflect on the past and celebrate the present.

Hope your day is wonderful, wherever you are 🙂


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

And don’t forget to get your Bloggers Bash tickets – follow this link to join the fun 🙂

Birthday Bug

I haven’t blogged for about a week, probably the longest break I’ve had since I started blogging just over three years ago. We’ve had a bit of a sickness bug in the house this past week, plus the gorgeous girl had a birthday with various celebrations to plan and enjoy, so it’s been a very busy time.

I even missed my Wednesday Wander last week – I had all good intentions of writing one, but the day just ran away with me. However, I have one planned for tomorrow so will be back to it again.

I haven’t even been able to get out for my usual walks – and I love this time of year. I love the way the sun slants low in the sky, the colours in the clouds and the trees, the last remnants of colour before the starkness of winter arrives. My apple tree still has a few forlorn apples left on it, and there are berries on the bushes – early Christmas decorations, perhaps?

I’ve also been flat out finishing some editing work – Ambeth is getting another instalment soon, as well as some different reading options, so watch this space (or sign up for my newsletter!) for more details.

Hoping to be back to a regular blogging schedule again soon. How is everyone out there? Wishing you all a good week 🙂

 

A Wednesday Wander for Roald Dahl Day

img_1684Today is Roald Dahl day, a celebration to mark what would have been the 101st birthday of the author, so I decided to do a Wednesday Wander with a Roald Dahl connection. I’ve visited Dahl’s grave, seen the footsteps of the BFG leading to it, and spent time in the excellent museum nearby (though took no photographs, sadly). However, I’ve also been to the Headland Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, where Roald Dahl’s The Witches was filmed, starring Angelica Houston as the Head Witch. Full disclosure: I have posted about this location before. As it was quite a long while ago and I’ve already meandered elsewhere this week, I thought it might be fun to visit again.

img_1700With magnificent sea views overlooking Fistral Beach, the hotel has a storied history. The so-called Newquay Riots took place during the building of the hotel, when local fisherman claimed the land was common land where they had dried their nets for generations. Out of work miners were eventually brought in to complete the build, but arson, looting and general anarchy carried on for several years.

img_1702However, eventually the hotel was completed, and the first guests arrived in 1900. It was considered the height of luxury at the time, and several royals, including King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, stayed there. However, after the Second World War the hotel fell into decline, until the 1970s when it was purchased by the Armstrong family, who restored it to its former glory.

img_1688Since then, the hotel has been used for many TV and film productions, and is also a very nice place to stay. We were lucky enough to spend a few nights there several years ago, and I can recommend the food, the ambience and the spa, as well as the surfboard storage lockers (very handy when catching a wave out front!)

img_1694It’s not a bad place to watch the sun set, either!

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Beltaine Fire and Butterfly Dreams

Today is May Day, or Beltaine in the old calendar, the first day of summer and the festival that falls halfway between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice.

The garden is green and humming, the blossom almost gone, the promise of Summer’s warmth just over the horizon. Last night I dreamed of a purple butterfly landing on my face, flapping delicate wings as it clung to my cheek. Apparently, to dream of such things is a sign of change, and for the butterfly to land on me signifies that the change will be positive. And to dream of such a thing on May Day Eve? I don’t know, but it seems to add another layer of significance. Or perhaps it was just a dream…

Today the sun aligns with stones, tonight fires will burn on the hillsides, if only in memory, the old customs not yet forgotten. And perhaps I will dream once more…

Note: Ali Isaac, mistress of Irish mythology, has written several posts about the myth and magic behind this festival – click here and here to read more.


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

What Are You Grateful For?

img_0938It’s Thanksgiving in the US this weekend, a time of year when, traditionally, families gather, vast amounts of food are consumed, and thanks given. Even though we don’t celebrate the festival here, I like the idea of expressing gratitude. Of just taking a moment to think about the things I’m thankful for. About a year and a half ago I was challenged by another blogger to take something called The Gratitude Challenge  -I recently re-visited the post and felt it still rang true.

As it seemed quite timely, I thought I might share it again:

I was tagged in a post by the lovely Dee the other day, challenging me to write about something for which I’m grateful.

I’m actually finding this quite difficult. I’m grateful for most things in my life, to be honest. Therefore, choosing one thing to focus on is tough🙂

And I suppose I should be grateful for that, too – that I have such an abundance in my life. Oh, I don’t mean financial or material abundance – though we’re more fortunate than many on this planet in that we have enough to eat and a roof over our heads. I try and see everything that happens to me as an opportunity to learn – when I had a job I hated, I still tried to learn as much as I could about the role, adding to my experience. I also learned which industries I didn’t want to work in, ever again. When a good friend turned her back on our friendship, I learned how wonderful my other friends were as they rallied around me for support. When I lost family members I tried to remember the joy we shared, rather than focusing on the times we would never have again – there was regret, of course there was, at years and opportunities wasted, but it taught me to value the moment and to make the most of it, to make the effort to keep up with family and friends, as you never know how long you might have with them.

Coming to a place in my life where I choose to be thankful for the things I do have, rather than regretting the things I don’t, has taken work. I’m far from perfect and still have my moments where I feel I let myself down. But if we choose to make a conscious process towards appreciating life, rather than shaking our fist at it, then that’s part of the battle won. I’ve had dear friends come into my life who have taught me to appreciate all that I have. These people came to me when I most needed them, even though I didn’t realise it at the time. If all I’d been focusing on was myself and my own sorrow, perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed their arrival.

So I suppose I’m grateful to be alive. I’m grateful for my family and the love that surrounds me. I’m grateful for my friends, for the fact I get to express my creativity every day, for the fact that I can connect with people all around the world with the click of a mouse. I’m grateful I still have the capacity to learn and enjoy new experiences, wherever they may take me. And I’m grateful that I can appreciate it all.

So what are you grateful for?


If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Reflections, Fireworks and a Zombie Prom Queen

img_4273I’ve been out and about these last few days, as half term winds down and the celebration season winds up. On Saturday I walked along a stretch of canal I hadn’t visited before – I love reflections, and the calm water made for some interesting shots.

img_4276Yesterday was Devils Night, the precursor to Halloween, and also Diwali, so fireworks and light were all around, crackling in the night sky. The gorgeous girl and I headed into our Old Town, which was having a Halloween celebration complete with street stalls, rides and costumed revellers, culminating in a fireworks display at the nearby park.

img_4286It was great fun, with just enough spooks and thrills to get the atmosphere going, yet very family friendly. We met up with friends and managed to squeeze in a few activities before heading down to the park for the display.

img_4289However. It was a chilly night and a mist had descended, the air hanging still beneath the trees. When the fireworks started the lack of wind meant that the smoke just stayed put, drifting a little across the crowd but mostly just hanging in midair, mixing with the mist to obscure all but the most determined fireworks. Still, there was lots of laughter in the crowd, and cries of ‘That was a good one!’ after particularly loud bangs, even though we could see nothing in the murk.

img_4300Tonight is Halloween proper, or Samhain, in the old tongue. A night where the barriers between life and death are supposed to come down, and spirits walk the night. I will be walking the night as well, or at least the very early evening, accompanied, I am told, by a Zombie Prom Queen. Sweets will be sought and tricks avoided, although it will be a fairly early finish as tomorrow is a school day, sadly for her.

And then it begins. My favourite time of year. Bonfire Night, woodsmoke, the trees shedding the last of their leaves, Jack Frost arriving to line the fields and houses with silvery blue. And lights, everywhere, sparkling on rooftops and lamp-posts and high streets, an antidote to long dark nights. Gathering with friends and family, the warmth indoors counterpoint to the cold outside. Wishing you all a wonderful season, however you choose to celebrate!