A Tale Of Two Birthdays

I’ve just had a birthday. It was a quiet one, of course – the day spent at home, gifts arriving via post and email, birthday messages virtual for the most part. I was lucky, nonetheless, to hear from so many people, and to have immediate family with whom to spend it. It was very different, though, to how things were a year ago. I had a big number birthday last year, and celebrated via a pub lunch with extended family in a crowded restaurant, then by watching Supergrass at the Alexandra Palace that evening. My parents stayed over for the weekend and, the following evening, we all went to the Royal Albert Hall to watch my daughter dancing in the Schools Spectacular. A wonderful, yet fairly normal weekend… then. Now? Unthinkable.

A lot of people were happy to see the end of 2020, and I understand that. For me, however, the turning of the year was tinged with sadness, as 2020 was the last year of the old days, when things were as they used to be. Our world wasn’t perfect – the fact that pollution decreased so dramatically in the first few months of lockdown was an indication that we really needed to stop moving – but it seemed bright, compared to the narrowness of our current existence.

The first lockdown, coming only a week or so after my big birthday weekend, was a shock to the system. Spring was already making an appearance, the weather turning. April and May were glorious with blossom and sunshine, there were rainbows in every house window, and more bees and butterflies than I remember seeing for years. But it was a frightening time as well, none of us sure what would happen next. I was paralysed creatively for the first few weeks, unable to unlock my writing until I joined a virtual Camp NaNo cabin. Yeast took up residence on the back of my hands thanks to the sourdough I tried to ferment, and I confess I did worry a bit about loo roll. I still remember my first trip to the supermarket a few weeks after lockdown (we’d managed to get deliveries until then). I stepped out of the car and it was like a new world, as though I’d never been outside before; the sky gold and purple, the trees heavy with white blossom, the car park almost empty.

Now we are a year into rolling lockdowns. Over 120,000 people in the UK have lost their lives to Covid, and over 2 million people world-wide. It has been an extraordinary year of grief and loss and scientific discovery, a year that will be written into the history books, and that our grandchildren will ask us about. The UK has been working hard to roll out vaccines, and there is hope that all restrictions will be lifted by the summer.

And, the day after my birthday, I received a text inviting me to book my own vaccination appointment. I’m booked in for next Tuesday, for the first of two doses.

Last year, my birthday was a flash of light, a last gasp of the old world. This year it is the first light of hope, of us moving forward towards a brighter future, of life and love and seeing family and friends once more. That’s a pretty great gift, I think.

————————————————————————————————————–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 or my website to see more.

What a Difference A Day Makes

I took this photo last Friday. The sun was shining, bees were humming among the blossoms, and it felt as though Spring was finally on her way.

What a difference a day makes.

This was Saturday morning. Overnight an arctic blast had come through, the temperature dropping to a face-freezing minus one, snow falling. It hadn’t quite begun to settle on the ground at this point, but it was resting on the tree branches where, less than twenty-four hours before, it had felt like Spring.

Nature has a way of doing the unexpected, doesn’t she?

A day later, this was the scene in my back garden. However, today temperatures are starting to rise, the MiniBeast withdrawing back to the frozen east where it belongs. The spring equinox is almost upon us, and there will be more blossom and bees soon…

…I hope.


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 – The Spring

the-silver-well-3It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for another lovely #writephoto prompt, courtesy of Sue Vincent. Here’s my response to this week’s image:

Squat and heavy, the stone sat next to the little spring, which was all boxed in and bricked up, water pooling, corralled, channelled, rather than roaming free.

The stone had been there so long it remembered a time when the water ran through green grass, from a natural pool lined with tiny flowers in curled leaves, the earth so dark and rich it was almost black.

The stone had held a different shape then. More curves, less angles. It had been chosen for its shape, placed there with careful hands, venerated and looped with flowers and ribbons. Now all that adorned it was moss, and the hands that touched it were no longer so careful, using sharp metal and blunt force to control its shape as they had controlled the spring, wanting to impose order on the land.

But the water still flowed, still clear and cold, tasting of deep caverns where light never shone, where dark towers of stone held crystal roofs high. The stone remembered being there, deep in the earth, in the place where the water was born.

And now, bit by bit, it flowed back there again, the spring taking it home.


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.

The Turning Of The Season

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Spring is here, at least according to the calendar, and with it the desire to wear something new, tired of the same old boots and puffa jacket, winter’s uniform of black and grey.

It seems the earth feels the same way. Perhaps that’s why spring is so gorgeous, the world clothed in blossom and wildflowers and bright green, buds blooming wherever they get the chance, the sky washed clean clear blue, light like pale golden wine slanting through the clouds.

I realise it’s not Spring everywhere. In Australia, where I used to live, autumn is in full glow, the nights growing cool though the days are still warm, grapes ripening on the hillsides, harvest bounty to be had before winter’s chill arrives. And it does, believe it or not – it was cold enough for frost where we lived down south, the ocean icy with currents from the Antarctic, winter storms pounding the jagged coast.

And so the seasons turn. Happy Spring (or Autumn), everyone!

White Rabbits

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The first day of February has blown in blustery and clear, hints of blue in the swirling grey clouds. Temperatures here have been unseasonably warm for some time, daffodils and snowdrops appearing much earlier than usual, yet today feels more like Spring than any other so far this year.

Our neighbour’s tree, still holding a tattered birds nest from last year, is now covered with blossom. A dusting of white like snow from a distance, yet up close all delicate petals and yellow stamens, portents of fruit to come.

And I started the day, as I usually do, by saying ‘White Rabbits.’ My mother told me years ago that, if it’s the first thing you say on the first of the month, it’s considered good luck. There are varying sources for this tradition, which seems to be of British origin – apparently saying ‘Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit,’ is also appropriate.

Ali Isaac has written a lovely post about today being Imbolc, the first day of Celtic Spring. As for me, I’m also writing. A Thousand Rooms has now gone to several beta readers, a couple of new ideas are taking shape, plus I’ve the fourth Ambeth book to start editing. A busy year beckons and, now that the January blues are past, it’s time to move forward.

January was also my biggest month ever on this blog, which is really nice! If you’ve followed along this month, welcome, and thanks so much for joining me 🙂