#Writephoto – All That Remains

 

 

 

 

He came to me after dark, as night lay like soft velvet in the hollows of the hills. The fire burned low, his feathered cape laid over the chair shimmering iridescent blue as the birds stirred and gave their first sleepy chirps, my breath coming fast as he touched me and held me close. He told me his name, and I spoke it as I emerged from the dream.

‘Armand.’

The day dawned bright, my room pale, my bed cold and lonely as it always was. Yet the dream stayed with me throughout the long day, making me blush as I worked behind the counter making coffee, smiling at the customers who ebbed and flowed like the nearby sea, only staying long enough to smile and talk, but not long enough to truly connect.

I felt like the island out in the small bay. Close to, but not part of the small town that bustled along the curving shore. It takes time, I told myself, to make friends. Moving to a new place is a big step for anyone. Just give it time.

But at night feathers enclosed me in a soft embrace, my dreams taking me beyond the lonely confines of my world. Sleep became a refuge from the cold days, the aching feet, my broken heart.

One night, sleep eluded me. I sat at the window, my breath misting the small panes as I watched night leave the hills, black sky fading to blue. Glimmers of light appeared below as the town began to wake, gold in the sky over the nearby sea, flashing from the steeple on the hill opposite, soft gold to white, then fading away. My eyelids became heavy, my head drooping over my hands. A voice whispered to me. ‘Come and find me, beloved. I am waiting for you.’

I didn’t go to work that morning. No coffee scented fingers, hair gone limp from steaming milk, mouth tight from smiling so much. Instead I went across the valley, taking a gravel path past mossy walls to where the ancient church slumbered in a cradle of yew trees. And I found him.

Armand De Courcy, the plaque read, much rubbed by time. And on the marble, next to the bones that marked his resting place, was a single feather. Blue, like the twilit hills, like his eyes, like my heart.

This is my response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt, my favourite photo prompt in blogland. For more posts, or to share one of your own, head over to Sue’s blog for more information 🙂


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.

Growing Up

In the excellent miniseries, Big Little Lies, there’s a scene where Reese Witherspoon’s character is talking to her teenage daughter. She says (and I may be paraphrasing slightly) ‘they don’t tell you, but you lose your children. The little girl whose hair I used to braid is gone.’ This line, and the way she delivers it, really hit home. I’m emotional now just thinking about it.

For my gorgeous girl is growing up. She starts secondary school in September, which I find hard to believe. It doesn’t seem that long ago we were counting cats on the way to school, pretending to be dragons puffing ‘smoke’ in the frosty air. When my dancing didn’t make her cringe, and the only phone she had was plastic and sparkly with a puzzle on the front. The gorgeous chubby cheeks I love to kiss are melting away, smooth cheekbones emerging, the legs and arms that once looked as though they had elastic bands around them now long and lean.

I’m excited, of course, for this next stage in her life, seeing her grow into the marvellous young woman she’s already showing signs of becoming. Every part of this process has been a joy. But oh, I get it now, when people shake their heads and say with a smile, ‘It goes so quickly.’ For it does, it does, and the change, when it comes, is sudden, a realisation that childhood days are gone.

For a variety of reasons, she is the only baby I’ll ever get to have, and I count my blessings every day. I’m so glad I got to dance, pick roses, blow bubbles and sing silly songs with her when she was small. Those moments are immeasurably precious, and always will be. I realise the teenage years will have their own set of challenges, and I can only hope I’ve given her a strong enough grounding that she can make good decisions for herself.

So now I must get past my tears, and look forward. For I am the stable bow, and it is time for me to help her fly.

‘You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth… Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.’  Kahlil Gibran


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.

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#writephoto – Dark

Sue Vincent’s #writephoto is a wonderful source of inspiration, and this week she’s shared this beautiful photo as her prompt. She also shared another post, Breaking the Rules, which featured an interpretation of a Pablo Neruda poem that really spoke to me. The words that came to me were inspired by both of them. And here they are:

Darkness falls

Or does it rise?

From silver lakes

In hollow hills

Cradled in

A giant’s hand

Long fingers reach

Beyond the stars

Leave your cares

Leave work

Leave the slow death behind

Follow the water

As it gleams

I wait for you

To join me here

Where time itself

Slows and stills

Ride with me

Through valleys deep

And let us dance

Beneath the stars

Leave your cares

Leave work

Leave the slow death behind

Follow the water

To your dreams

Darkness rises

And it falls

And nothing is

Quite as it seems


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 🙂

A Good Start

As I mostly work from home these days, I try to take myself out of the house at least once a week, and one of my favourite spots is a nearby cafe on the edge of the canal. The food is homemade and delicious, the staff friendly, and the interior replete with fairy lights, which suits me very well.

This morning I sat down with my notebook and my tea, and noticed this sign on their wall. I thought it a lovely way to begin the day (and the year).

And I thought I’d share it with you. Happy Friday, everyone!


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 🙂

A Coventry Win, And A Guardian Article – Happy Weekend!

If you’ve read my Author Bio, or my About page, you’ll know that I grew up in Coventry, England. My family have deep ties to the City and most of them still live there, so I visit often. When I returned to the UK in 2012, I spent my first six months back in the country living there again, only moving away due to my husband’s work. It’s a place that holds a lot of happy memories for me.

Coventry is also the real-world setting for my Ambeth books. Alma lives on my old street, and the Gate of Oak is in the Memorial Park, a place that has always held magic for me. It is telling that, when I sat down to write my first book, Coventry was the inspiration and starting point. It is a city I still hold close to my heart.

So, when Coventry was named 2021 UK City of Culture this past week, I was thrilled! I tweeted out my congratulations, adding that I thought it a well-deserved win. Less than an hour later, through the strange workings of Twitter, The Guardian newspaper had contacted me. Would I like to write a piece about the city and why I love it, they asked. Would I? I jumped at the chance, even though they needed it done that afternoon and I was at work – there was no way I was missing this opportunity.

I was given 700 words and a short brief – truly, I could have written double that amount – and feel I only touched on the many layers of history and culture the city holds. The article was approved, and is now live on the Guardian site, less than 24 hours after my original tweet. (If you’d like to read it, click here)

And that’s it! A wonderful, and quite unexpected, start to my weekend 🙂 Wishing you all a great weekend wherever you are and, #happywriting.

xx

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 🙂

 

Wednesday Wander – Plas Newydd, Llangollen

This week I’m wandering to a rather wonderful place tucked away on the hillside above Llangollen. This is Plas Newydd, once home to the famous ‘Ladies of Llangollen.’

The two ladies in question were Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Charlotte Butler, who came from Ireland in 1778 to live in Llangollen, North Wales. Their story is a fascinating one. Both born to noble families, they met at school in 1768 when Sarah was 13 and Eleanor 29. Sarah was an orphan and ward of Sir William and Lady Fownes, while Eleanor came from the Ormonde family and lived at Kilkenny Castle. Lady Fownes was friends with Eleanor’s mother, and Eleanor was asked to keep an eye on Sarah while she was at school. The two became close friends, corresponding for several years until, both unhappy in their home lives, they decided to run away together. Eleanor was under pressure to enter a convent, while Sarah was enduring the unwelcome attentions of Sir William, who had decided she would make a perfect second wife (even though his first wife was still alive!).

The two women first attempted to escape in March 1778. Dressed in men’s clothing and armed with a pistol, they made it as far as Waterford before being apprehended and brought back to their families. Despite further pressure, Eleanor managed to escape again, running to Sarah. Faced with such devotion, their families finally relented and they were allowed to leave Ireland in May 1778 to start a new life together.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons – Manfred Heyde (own work)

They moved into Pen Y Maes cottage, as it was known then, in 1780, renaming it Plas Newydd (welsh for New Hall). They extended and renovated the cottage, including the addition of stained glass windows and extraordinary wood carvings on the interior and exterior of the building, many of which were salvaged from old churches and furniture. You aren’t allowed to take photographs of the interior, but I did manage to find this image of one of the staircases, just to give you an idea of what it looks like inside. The details around the exterior doors are also extraordinary, and it must have been a magical place to live. The Ladies lived there for almost fifty years, in what they called ‘a life of sweet and delicious retirement’, until Eleanor passed away in 1829, Sarah dying just two years later.

During their lifetime the ladies were figures of curiosity, well-regarded and attracting many famous visitors, including Lord Byron, the Duke of Wellington, William Wordsworth (who composed a poem while staying with them) and Madame de Genlis. Their relationship was seen to embody romantic friendship, a high ideal much sought after at the time. The true nature of their relationship is still unclear – they shared a bedroom, sleeping together in the same bed, and referred to each other as ‘Beloved’. They also dressed in men’s clothing and powdered their hair, as can be seen in the few portraits that survive.

Whether The Ladies’ relationship was simply one of platonic love, or something more, doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that they were both strong enough to live their lives outside the conventions of the time – yes, they both came from privilege, but this was still a time when women were reduced to ‘wife of’ once they were married, no longer allowed to hold either property or their names. I love the story of the Ladies because it’s a story of love, of friendship, and the desire to live life as they pleased. The house in its in green gardens, ruined castle on the hill beyond, stands as a beautiful memorial to life, to the Ladies, and to love.

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.