#writephoto Sanctuary

Sue Vincent’s #writephoto is one of my favourite blog writing prompts. The photos she chooses are always so inspiring, and she gets such a variety of responses to the same image. I don’t always get a story but, when I do, they come immediately. This one appeared when I saw her image for this week:

‘So, this is the place?’

The man grinned, revealing chipped and blackened teeth, his hair blonde against the blood-spattered furs he wore. His similarly-attired companion shrugged.

‘It is.’

‘Some sanctuary. It doesn’t even have a door.’

‘Huh. C’mon. This is where she’ll be.’

They moved towards the small building, their boots crunching against the snow. More flakes swirled around them, catching in their long tangled hair, melting on the iron blades they carried.

***

She watched them approach, fear closing her throat. There was no one left to hear if she screamed, anyway. She closed her eyes, willing herself to stay still, pushing aside her grief. When she got through this, if she got through this, there would be time enough to mourn.

She could hear their breathing as they stepped between the pillars, the clank of their weapons.

They entered the sanctuary.

It seemed as though the forest itself held its breath.

‘What the-‘

From her hiding place she heard a clatter of metal on stone, then a thud. A tear escaped from under her closed eyelids. They had destroyed the offerings, from the sound of it. The bronze bowl she used for scrying now taken as a spoil of war, the stone pillar on which it had rested knocked over.

Anger curled in her stomach, combining with the fear. She felt sick. But there was nothing she could do except wait, and hope.

***

‘She’s gone.’

‘Bitch probably ran into the woods.’

‘Hehe, yeah. She won’t get far.’

‘Let’s go. If the wolves don’t get her, we will.’

They left the small temple, stopping in one final act of desecration to urinate across the threshold, laughing as their piss hit the snow. Then they disappeared among the trees, the crashing of their passage growing fainter until she could hear no more.

***

She took in a deep breath. Uncurled her cramped and cold fingers, shook the snow from her hair. She spoke a word of power, and the branches enclosing her opened, releasing her. She spoke another, and two grey wolves appeared, their soft fur brushing her hands as they circled her, awaiting her command. ‘Go,’ she said, and they bounded away, golden eyes sharp with the thrill of the hunt. She listened as the howling grew louder, thought she heard a distant scream. Then she stepped inside her temple and began the work of cleansing.

She hadn’t been able to save her village.

But she could still avenge them.


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Wednesday Wander – Heidelberg Castle, Germany

It took me a while to figure out where to wander to this week. Usually a location will present itself to me, or I’ll scroll through my photos and find somewhere, but it all seemed a bit vague this week. Then I remembered a conversation I had with a fellow blogger where I mentioned Heidelberg, so I’ve decided to wander there.

More specifically, to the ruined castle, sitting high on the hillside overlooking the old town and the rolling Rhine river. Built in stages between 1214 and 1295, the castle was subsequently destroyed by lightning, fire and war, resulting in the picturesque ruins we see today.

For many centuries the castle was home to the Palatine counts, powerful nobles who married into royalty, including the English Stuart and French Orleans families.

Mark Twain visited the ruins and wrote about them in his book A Tramp Abroad, stating that,

‘A ruin must be rightly situated, to be effective. This one could not have been better placed. …one looks down through shining leaves into profound chasms and abysses where twilight reigns and the sun cannot intrude.’

I visited a little more recently than Twain, and can attest that not much has changed since he wrote those words. Trees and vines still garland the ruins, the view across the town and river just as breathtaking as it always was.

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


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.

Wednesday Wander – Leaning Tower Of Pisa, Italy

pisa-2For this week’s Wander I’m visiting one of the most recognisable structures in the world – Italy’s famous leaning Tower Of Pisa.

When I took the photos out of the album I noticed I’d written ‘everything leans!’ next to the images, and I do remember that being true. The Cathedral and Baptistry were also slightly off-kilter, though it is the tower that demonstrates the most profound lean.

pisa-1Construction on the tower started in 1173 and took nearly 200 years to complete – this is partly because of wars halting construction for close to a century. Built of white marble, the tower started to lean during construction, due to inadequate foundations on ground too soft to support the tower’s weight. When construction was halted due to war the tower was only two floors high – this delay allowed the soil beneath the foundation to settle and stabilise, so when building resumed the tower did not fall.

However, it did continue to tilt, and the top is now nearly four metres out of alignment. When I visited, access to the tower was closed off, as it was felt that the tourists tramping up and down it, year after year, had contributed to further lean. That didn’t stop a couple of enterprising young men from coming up to us and telling us they had the keys to the tower if we wanted to go up – no doubt a line, but very entertaining nonetheless! The tower has since been stabilised and re-opened, so perhaps I’ll get to go up one day.

pisa-3The tower has had an interesting history in its long life, including unsubstantiated stories of Galileo conducting experiments in speed and mass by dropping cannonballs from the top of the tower, and it being used as an observation tower by the German forces during WWII. In fact, it was almost targeted in an artillery strike by Allied Forces – only the beauty of the site kept it from being destroyed. Thank goodness for that!

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


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.

 

 

Wednesday Wander – Coventry Cathedral

img_2627Yes, I am still doing the 30 Day Blog Challenge, but it’s Wednesday, and I always go for a Wander on Wednesday. Today’s prompt was: Very Loud. I thought about places I’d been that were loud – rock festivals, waterfalls, train stations, airports. Then the phrase ‘louder than bombs’ came into my head, and I knew where I wanted to wander.

So this week we are heading to a place I know fairly well. This is the ruined cathedral of St Michael, in Coventry, England.

img_2673Built in the late 14th/early 15th century, St Michael’s was the largest parish church in England until 1918, when it was elevated to cathedral status. However, on the evening of November 14, 1940, the city centre of Coventry was almost destroyed by a ferocious bombing campaign, courtesy of the Luftwaffe. One of the casualties was the cathedral, a direct hit burning the roof and interior away, leaving only the walls standing.

father-forgiveOn the day after the destruction of the cathedral, the cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, found two charred roof beams lying in the shape of a cross. He tied them together, and they were placed on the altar. The provost, Richard Howard, had the words ‘Father Forgive’ engraved into the wall behind. Howard was also responsible for the Cross of Nails, made from two of the medieval roof truss nails – there are now 160 such crosses made from the roof nails across the world, including one donated to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin. Like St Michael’s, it was also destroyed in a bombing raid, the ruins of the old building preserved next to the new.

img_2626In 1950 a competition was announced to design a new cathedral. The winning design was by Basil Spence (later Sir), who insisted that the ruins of the old cathedral be preserved as a garden of remembrance, joined to the new building. Nowadays it is a popular place with visitors, and has appeared in several movies, including Nativity. It still remains hallowed ground. Recent excavations have uncovered a crypt, as well as exposing burned timbers – when I was there recently you could still smell the ash, an eerie reminder of a night seventy-six years ago.

Death has now taken many of the survivors of the war, their voices silenced, one by one. So the charred cross and simple message of the cathedral are powerful reminders of a night when bombs fell, yet spirit remained. Louder than bombs, indeed.


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.

Of Ironing Boards and Boats

IMG_0770

It’s probably reasonably well documented that I’m not a fan of housework, feeling it takes up time I could spend doing other things such as writing. However, there is one household task I quite enjoy. One that I find meditative and soothing. It’s ironing.

I know, right? I can hear the screams from here. But there is something about taking a basket of crinkled fabric and converting it to smooth hanging clothing that I find very satisfying.

Many years ago, just out of high school, I worked for a clothing factory as a presser. I had a really cool (well, I thought it was) ironing board that had a suction pedal, so you would lay the fabric flat, press the pedal and it would be sucked tight to the board. It then only took a few moments to move the heavy steam iron across and smooth out the wrinkles. The iron was set to one temperature only – hot – and that was what we used, whether it was silk, polyester or cotton we were ironing.

The ‘we’ I refer to is myself and two Vietnamese ladies, the three of us standing in a row on our section of the factory floor, racks of newly sewn clothing next to us waiting to be smoothed and slid into plastic wrappers, ready for delivery. We would often chat as we worked, the rhythmic motion of the iron, the hiss of the suction pedal becoming second nature, freeing our minds up to discuss whatever we felt like.

I asked the ladies about their homeland, and what they missed about it. I was an immigrant myself so I could understand the yearning for home, or so I thought. It turned out these ladies were boat people, refugees who had left their native land in search of safety after the devastating war. I don’t know about you, but I think it takes a special kind of desperation to leave your home forever, entrusting yourself and your children to a rickety boat in an unforgiving sea.

Migration is part of human history since the earliest times – it’s how we colonised this planet, after all, taking our first steps out of the Rift Valley to find more. More land, more resources, more ideas. Wars have displaced people for almost as long – after the Second World War my husband’s grandparents, scarred after all they had experienced in their native Belarus, applied to leave. When they were asked where they wanted to go my husband’s grandmother chose Australia, as it was the furthest she could go from where she was. They never went back.

And now my husband is back in the Europe his ancestors left over half a century before. And that’s the other thing about migration – just as people arrive, so too do they leave. In search of more. More work, more sunshine, more money, more culture, more lifestyle. I’ve lived in a few places myself, fortunate in that my movements across the globe were as a result of work and love, rather than war and disaster. And even though I loved so much about the places I lived, eventually I came to realise that I yearned for home. The place where I was born, the flavours and scents and sounds, the way the light fell across the sky. And that’s what the Vietnamese ladies told me they missed too. Their home.

Funny what you think about when you’re ironing.