A Walk On Midsummer’s Day

This morning we set out, my faithful companion and I, to wander the woods on Midsummer Day. The paths were cool and shaded green, sun glimmering through the leaves to create patterns of light and dark. In short, it was a pretty magical way to start the day.

I have a long tradition of going to the woods on Midsummer. When I was small, my grandmother used to take me there to look for fairies – whether we found any or not I can’t say, but it always seemed a magical time to me. My grandmother knew the name of every flower and taught it to me, as well as phrases of her native Welsh. We would pick snowdrops in springtime, wandering through the village with our large basket overflowing with tiny white bells and green leaves, which we then parcelled into posies for gifts.

When I lived in Australia, the summer solstice occured just before Christmas, so it was a slightly different celebration. Still, I always tried to surround myself with green leaves, whether walking by the Yarra or driving through the Mornington Peninsula hinterland, where twisted pines reached for the sky and once, magically, kangaroos bounded across the road as dusk was falling, their fur grey as shadow.

Today, however, my canine companion and I took the winding streets and backways until we reached the Little Wood, as it’s called, a small patch of wilderness leading to a green and pleasant meadow, one of doggo’s favourite places to run and play.

The grass was tall, starred with dandelions and buttercups, deep blue speedwell and pink campion, butterflies fluttering here and there. The trees were bursting with green, as though decorated to celebrate the turning of nature’s wheel, the blue sky festooned with clouds.

I threw doggo’s ball for her and she chased it, disappearing into the long grass and emerging decorated with dandelion seeds, lying down to have a rest every once in a while. We saw one of her doggy friends from puppy training and they had a play, then we wandered back past the broken tree, while ravens danced in the high branches.

We left the meadow, taking the main road back home, entering the world of men once more. But I carried a little piece of forest magic with me…

Happy solstice, everyone – may your light shine bright 🙂


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Wonder Woman, Ladybirds and Girl Power

I just got back from taking my gorgeous girl to see Wonder Woman. She loved it, as did I – the messages overwhelmingly positive, the women on screen powerful characters with their own strength and agency, refreshing to see. As the action progressed every so often I would hear her say ‘awesome!’ and, on several occasions, ‘girl power!’ When Diana emailed Bruce Wayne, she leaned over to me and said ‘Bruce Wayne is Batman, right?’ I nodded. ‘So she’s emailing Batman.’ I nodded again and she grinned.

When the movie ended we walked out into the sunshine. As we headed home I asked her what she thought of the film. She said she loved it. I asked her why. Her answer was simple. ‘Girl power!’ And I was quietly glad. She went on to tell me that women can do what they want to do, be who they want to be, and I was grateful that she felt that way, knowing that if she’d been born in another place or another time, things would be quite different for her. I mentioned how far we’d come in the past 100 years and she agreed, saying that we can now vote, something she seemed very pleased about. Then she went on to say, ‘But I think women should be paid equally.’ This is something that’s concerned her for a while, since seeing a headline stating it would be 2069 before we saw pay parity – that is, the same pay for the same job (not long to wait now, ladies!). I agreed with her, and said that, even though we’ve come a long way, there was still a way to go before equality.

As we walked and she pulled silly faces and did acrobatics, watched bees buzz and kites dance, we talked about women and what equality means. About equal pay, equal rights, equal opportunities. We spoke of how the fim’s director, Patty Jenkins, was a woman, and how that was unusual. And that, even though we’d come a long way, there were still women around the world who were being held back by old rules and old ideas, restricted from working or driving or visiting a doctor without a male in tow. I couldn’t explain why there were those who still thought that way.

Towards the end of the walk she stopped me, reaching up to disentangle a ladybird from my hair. We both smiled, then. A ladybird, to us, is my grandmother, a force of nature and one of the strongest women I’ve known. A volunteer since she was a teenager during the war, she ran her own business, was a magistrate and a school governor, in a time when women didn’t usually do those things. She was also a fabulous singer, performing with big bands in her youth, and never missing an opportunity to entertain – at the end of my husband’s and my wedding, when everyone else was flagging, she was still going, playing piano in an impromptu performance for the guests as they left the venue.

So it seemed fitting, on a morning when my daughter and I had celebrated women, and discussed women and all they can do, to be reminded of her.

Btw, Wonder Woman was awesome – five stars!


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.

#writephoto – In The Flames

flameI do enjoy Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompts, and the variety of responses she gets for each image. I usually know, when I look at her photos, whether I have something. This is what came to me for this week’s prompt:

What do you see in the flames, little one?’

Her hair was burnished gold, little flickers around her rounded cheeks, small teeth like rice grains as she smiled. ‘I see stories, Nanna.’

‘Stories?’ I raised my eyebrows.

‘Yes,’ she said, reaching her small rounded arm towards the fire. I held out my hand, warning her back and she shook her head, curls bouncing.

‘Oh, don’t worry, Nanna. I know I’m not to touch, Mama said so. I just like to watch the pictures.’

I went still. A curl of excitement started in my stomach. It had been so long I’d almost given up hope. Our tribe had given up, too. I reached to smooth my hand over her soft hair, the fire casting spidery shadows from her long eyelashes as she watched the fire dance.

‘And so what sort of pictures do you see, my precious?’ I waited, half-holding my breath.

‘I see things that have been, and things to come.’ Her voice was deeper for a moment, her childish tones more grown up and I let out the breath. So here it was, here under my very nose. I closed my eyes, knowing that the path before her was long and hard, but that she was the only one who could walk it.

‘I saw the man, the man that came the other week? With the beads and the furs?’ She was all childish excitement again, grabbing at my hand. ‘I saw him ages ago, that’s why I knew what I wanted when he came.’

‘Did you now? Well, that is a fine thing.’ I laughed with her, remembering how she had chosen the small wooden boat, its prow carved like a dragon, like the ones the invaders rode on so long ago. ‘And why did you choose a boat?’

She turned to me, her little face all at once serious. ‘Because I saw them too, Nanna, in the fire. It told me the boats are coming. They’ll be here soon.’


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

Remember

img_4589It’s Christmas Day. As you read this post I’m with family, probably eating, definitely enjoying myself. I lived away from my family for many years and missed a lot of Christmases, so now I make the most of being in the same country with (most of) them once more.

And at Christmas time I remember. I remember my paternal grandfather in his church, holly and ivy in the snowy churchyard, the old carols I knew and loved ringing along the ancient stone walls. I remember my grandmother setting up the inflatable Santa and reindeers, sitting us in a small sleigh and taking our photos. I remember my nana and grandad’s house, the tree with old-fashioned glass ornaments and glittering tinsel, the way the sky turned purple over the fields as I looked for a star each Christmas eve. I remember Christmas dinners and laughter and most of all, love, like a great golden glow encompassing us all. I remember the time we had together and I’m grateful for it, just as I’m grateful for the memories we’re creating today.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas, wherever you are.


As well as a Christmas post, this is my response to the 30 Day Writing Challenge – it’s day 25, and today’s prompt is: Remember.

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