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 🙂

 

#writephoto – Sunset

Sue Vincent runs an excellent weekly writing prompt called #writephoto, where she shares a wonderful, evocative picture from her collection, and you have until the following Wednesday to write something inspired by it. Here’s this week’s photo, and this is my response:

He liked to leave the house at sunset. Once the lamps had been lit, the dying sun painting licks of fire against the clouds. It hurt, to be outside at such a time, but it was worth it, to feel his soul twist and open against the beauty of the world, a reminder of something he could no longer have.

He remembered hours spent lying under blue skies, golden sun warming his skin. Lazy summer days drifting on rivers, nursing a beer in a pub garden, the sweet-sour taste on his tongue. The way the ocean shifted hue with the sky, the bright green of sunlight through leaves, the miraculous coloured arc of a rainbow.

All that was lost to him now. No beer, no warmth, no sunlit skies. It had seemed like such a good deal at the time, immortality an irresistible lure. And she had been so lovely, with her pale skin and red lips and dark promises – how could he have denied her?

But now she was gone. Vanished without so much as a by-your-leave. He was alone, confined to his house by day, wandering the streets by night. He had no taste for blood, despite his endless thirst – and besides, these were his neighbours. The thought of feeding from them was repugnant. So he made do with what he could find, small scurrying creatures that tasted of soil and berries, better than nothing, but nothing like the ecstasy she had promised.

He had no fancy for capes, nor for lurking in coffins. He left his house each evening, taking the curving road that reflected red back into the shimmering sky. One day, he thought, he might just keep walking, see if he could find her again. Or, failing that, someone else like him.

Eternity, after all, is no fun spent alone.


Like this post? Want to read more? 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.

Wednesday Wander – San Sebastian Old Town

It’s Wednesday again, and this week I’m wandering back to Donostia San Sebastian, the beautiful Spanish coastal town I visited this past summer.

Last time I wandered here, I visited the beaches, golden curves of sand deserving of their own blog post. This time, I’m venturing into the Old Town.

While there is evidence to suggest that San Sebastian was at one time part of a Roman territory, the first recorded history of the place is in 1014, when the monastery of San Sebastian was given to the Abbey of Leire. By 1181, the town was officially chartered, though was mostly destroyed by fire in 1489, then again by Napoleonic troops in 1808.

Therefore, most buildings in the Old Town date from the nineteenth century, including the Constitution Square, built in 1817.

The numbers above the windows are from the time when the square was used as a bullring – the numbers corresponded to private boxes from where bullfights could be watched. When a new bullring was built further out of town, the boxes were converted to housing, the numbers kept as a reminder of its past.

There is also an old harbour section, home to several excellent seafood restaurants (we ate at Igedo), as well as the aquarium. While the buildings here may look old, they were actually built in the early 20th century after a section of the old town wall was demolished. In the evening it’s a wonderful place, local teenagers doing somersaults into the clear green water in a bid to impress their friends, families and couples walking and talking, the restaurants buzzing with conversation and the scent of cooking in the air.

After dinner, we joined the crowds wandering along the harbour, stopping outside the aquarium to watch the sun set, colours changing in water and sky. It was completely beautiful, one of those places I’ll always remember visiting, and somewhere I hope to get back to one day.

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.

Wednesday Wander – San Sebastian Beaches

It’s Wednesday and time for my weekly wander. This week we’re heading to Donostia San Sebastian, in the Basque country region of Spain. Donostia is the Basque name for the city, and is another way of saying San Sebastian – in honour of the dual heritage of the city, both names are used.

I visited earlier this year and fell under its spell straight away. The gorgeous old buildings and curving golden beaches were like a scene from a story – it was hard to believe people were lucky enough to live in such a place.

This is the iconic La Concha beach, the best known of the city’s beaches, voted the second best city beach in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine. A well- deserved award, I think. As you can see, it’s pretty popular – the clear green waves and golden sand make it a wonderful spot to lounge and take photographs during the day.

At night the beach changes, the deckchairs folded away, the entrance to the bay a perfect frame for glorious sunsets.

I sat for a half hour or so on the cool sand, watching the light change across the water, gold to red to violet, hardly able to take in such beauty.  Dark silhouettes danced at the water’s edge, the illuminated statue of Jesus on Monte Urgull seeming to watch over it all.

Day and night, the ornate promenade was full of people, families and couples and young people, all walking, laughing, enjoying the view. There are several small restaurants built into the seawall itself – one of them made excellent pizza, and was a fantastic place to watch the waves and people passing by.

Another city beach in San Sebastian is Zurriola, which is on the other side of Monte Urgull. This beach is wilder, the waves popular with surfers, although it is safe for swimming in parts, the Spanish lifeguards using a flag system similar to that we were used to in Australia. We visited La Zurriola most days – it was less crowded, yet easy to get to with ample parking nearby. I actually got dumped by a wave the first day there, scraping my knee – haven’t done that in years! Oh, and apparently, Zurriola is also somewhere you can hang ten in the buff, should you choose to – one of several beaches in Europe which allow nude surfing! Just remember to apply plenty of sunscreen 😉

When I began writing this Wander, I’d thought I would write a single post about San Sebastian. But, when I began writing about the beaches, they seemed to merit a post of their own. It seems certain that I’ll be wandering back to San Sebastian, both on this blog and (I hope) in real life too.

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.

Maiden Mother Crone, Part 6 – Rain to Bow

Along winding roads through green fields, the purpling hills beyond, we travelled back to where our journey began – Easter Aquhorthies. We returned to a circle transformed from the screaming wind and rain of the previous day – this time, the sun drew shadows from the stones, the distant peak of Mither Tap clear against patches of blue sky. There was still rain around, but none really came to trouble us as we once more found our stones and learned more about their alignments.

‘My’ stone was warm, welcoming again, and I gave it a gift, something I’d been carrying with me, looking for the right place to leave it. It seemed to have been accepted. I learned that ‘my’ stone aligned with the winter solstice sunset, and also with the viewing platform we could see through the trees… which also lined up with the circle and carved stone in the housing estate beyond. Truly, the people who created these monuments worked on a large scale and with great accuracy, the alignments of sun and moon and land precise to the decimal point.

Another group came through to the circle, four people, and we could hear them talking amongst themselves, wondering what we were all doing. A joke was made about practising for the sacrifice later, and that we only needed four willing victims. They laughed, but didn’t stay too much longer – we were just joking, honestly!

One of the interesting features of the circle is the two smaller stones sitting against the huge recumbent. They are angled out slightly, almost like welcoming arms and, we discovered that, if you sit down between them, your voice will carry throughout the circle, even through howling wind. However, stand tall and it is lost. And so, with the weather a little kinder, Stuart treated us all to a gentle chant, the notes rising and falling around the stones, vibrating among us all. We were invited to join in, if we chose – I did not, choosing to listen again, my eyes closing as I leaned against ‘my’ stone.

… I stood with my back to the stone and could feel the alignments, arrow straight, running through me to the left and right of the stone, making a perfect angle. The alignments behind me didn’t matter – it was only the ones that ran in front of me across the circle that were important. I could feel the curve of the circle, too, and I was reminded of the shape I saw earlier, carved into an ancient stone – the broken spear, intersecting the curve. The lines were strong, the stone at my back comforting, a gentle guide…

I opened my eyes and the sky was transformed, rainbows around us, bright against the grey clouds. After the fierceness of the previous evening, it felt like a balm, a gift and, perhaps, an acknowledgement. If the storm and rain had been a test, perhaps we had passed?

After ooh-ing and aah-ing and taking photos, we left en masse. It was getting close to dinner time and we were all feeling hungry. After a brief moment of struggle when one of our party’s vehicles became stuck in a ditch (huge thank yous to the LandRover driver who pulled them out!), we headed back to our respective hotels with a plan to meet for dinner later.

To be honest, I was tired at this point. It had been a long and intense day, from the darkness at Cullerlie to the brightness of rainbows at Easter Aquhorthies. I was cold as well – despite the rain clearing it had been windy on the hillsides. My bed beckoned… but I decided to head out once more. It wasn’t often I got to spend time with the group, and I was looking forward to catching up over another meal. However, Saturday night in Inverurie coupled with the size of our group meant dinner bookings were hard to come by – we managed eventually, to find something.

I sat next to Stuart at dinner, and he leaned over and said ‘I have something for you. It’s a book.’ I was surprised, and got the feeling there was more to it than just something new to read. He continued,’ It’s from a friend of ours, who passed away. I’ve been told I’m to give it to you.’

Another coincidence. I’d never met the woman who owned the book, but remembered reading about her on Sue’s blog, and how she’d seemed quite a wonderful character. And now I was to have something of hers. It seemed fitting, on such a weekend, when the role of women was a theme that presented itself again and again, that I was to receive this gift. I felt honoured, to be honest – it was no small thing. And, as I sat opposite another new friend and reminisced about places and people we’d both once known, living in the same town for years but never meeting until this moment, I wondered to myself about the way the Universe seems to present things, waiting until the right moment.

Some of the group decided to head back up to Easter Aquhorthies – the night was clear and it was a chance to see the stars almost as the ancients would have, out among the hills. I declined – it didn’t feel like the right thing to do. Perhaps I was tired, or perhaps I felt unready, but I did feel that I might get the chance to do so again one day. So instead I went back to my hotel to rest, ready for the last day of our adventure…

This is my account of a recent weekend spent away with The Silent Eye. Click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.


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.

Wednesday Wander – Biarritz At Dusk

I recently took a trip to Basque country, visiting San Sebastian in Spain and Biarritz in France. Less than an hour’s drive lies between the two cities, even though they are in different countries. I thoroughly enjoyed the holiday – there is a magic to that stretch of coast and I felt very at home there, for some reason.

I saw a lot of different places while I was away, including two locations used for Dragonstone in Game of Thrones (I blogged about them here and here), so will be writing a few Wednesday Wanders about the various locales. This week, I’m wandering to Biarritz, and the beautiful main beach at dusk. We spent a lot of time walking along here, both day and night, as it was the direct route into the town centre. With the beautiful view, the combination of rocks and sea and sky coupled with Art Deco architecture, it was a pleasure every time.

One of the buildings along the seafront at Biarritz is the Casino. Built in the 1920s, it was opened only a few weeks before the Stock Market crash that marked the end of the glittering art Deco era. It is a beautiful reminder of that decadent time, nonetheless, and a survivor – plans to knock it down in the 90s were thankfully scuppered, and the building restored and designated a historical monument. Nowadays it contains a pool, restaurants and a casino, and was full of people every time we passed by.

The walk along the beach also passes this lovely islet, connected by a stone bridge to the mainland. It seemed like something out of a fairy tale (so I loved it, obviously). There was also a lovely church, as well as the old fishing village, which I’ll write about in more detail soon.

But for now, let us look at the gold and violet sky, the shimmer of ocean against dark sand, the clean lines of the Art Deco building, the warm lights of the coastline against the dusk sky. It is a supremely romantic coastline, with a warmth in the air that filled me with joy.

I can’t wait to go back one day.

Thank you 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.

Maiden Mother Crone, Part 3 – Balance

The next morning I woke early and went to breakfast – to find several of the group already there, including our guide. We hadn’t realised we were staying at the same place, so it was a nice surprise to catch up before the day began. The meeting place for the rest of the group was a short walk away, and I set out after breakfast, wandering past old stone houses and tall pines, glimpses of sunshine giving me hope the day wouldn’t be quite as wet as the previous evening. Nonetheless, I had worn my wet weather gear again. We had several sites to visit that day, and I wasn’t sure when we’d get back to the hotel.

When I think about the second day, the first stone circle we visited remains elusive, for some reason. I cannot quite grasp where we were or what we saw. Perhaps that’s because of what came after, at the place of the dead. Even though the locations of the rest of the weekend are clear, I had to look through my photos to remind myself where we were.

And now I remember. The church at Midmar.

When we arrived, pulling into the small car park, it was wet underfoot but not yet raining, green leaves reflected in puddles along the track that ran nearby. The church itself was charming, blue doors and window frames a bright contrast to the surrounding green and grey. And beyond, just peeping around the building, we could see what looked like part of a stone circle.

The church was built in the 19th century, perhaps deliberately in such a position so as to block the view from the stone circle to a nearby standing stone. The circle itself has been ‘tidied up’, as the sign put it, which meant removing one or two stones completely so hearses or wedding cars could be parked there, as well as replacing several other stones in positions not original to the site.

Despite these adjustments, the stones that remained still spoke, still held power and beauty. The great recumbent lay in place, flanked by its companion stones, their sharp smooth edges, so we were told by our guide, directing the eye to significant solar and lunar events, the circle aligned precisely with the movements of the sky. The church did not diminish their power –rather, there was a sense of unity there, of both temples cohabiting the same site, peaceful on their hillside.

Once again we were invited to find a stone that ‘spoke’ to us, a place where we felt comfortable within the circle. One stone caught both me and another of the companions, inviting us to look closer, to photograph its moss strewn surface, unable, unwilling to leave its side, even when urged to join the rest of the group. It wasn’t until I took a small stone, blessed, from my pocket and bent down, burying it in the earth at the base of the stone, that it released us. As I stood up my companion, who hadn’t been able to see what I was doing, said, ‘Shall we go?’

It was raining, of course, the weather that seemed to follow us from site to site returning, though with none of the wildness of the previous evening. We wandered through the graveyard afterwards, all of us stopping to admire the gravestone of a local artist, decorated with a beautiful tree-of-life sculpture (for more information about this grave, head over to Sue’s account of the day, and the comments by Running Elk).

Before we left, I went to the old tumbled stone wall and, through a space in the trees, took in the beautiful view. Like Easter Aquhorthies, this circle was built almost at the top of a rise – almost, but not quite – for a lovely sense of harmony with the land.

There was a peace to this place, a feel of tree and stone and endless time, even with the more modern church nearby. It felt in balance, as though all things were well. This was in contrast to our next destination…

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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.