The Wispy-white Throng

They came on the breath of a warm summer breeze
In the silvery light of a vast setting sun.
Below them, white horses skipped over the seas;
Those white-feathered wisps, that travelled as one.

At the edge of the cliff, in the whispering grass
A circle, where footsteps had gathered before,
And spider web crystals, that sparkled like glass
Lit a fairy-light pathway back down to the shore.

All at once, in the blue, the feathers were gone
As ethereal light fell the air seemed to shimmer.
One by one, they descended, the wispy-white throng
Took their place, side by side, in the soft evening glimmer.

Silky white garments, satin white skin,
Vapoury skirts below corsets of lace.
Pearl-buttoned jackets; blouson to the shin;
Serenity shone from each beautiful face.

Their melody came like the call of the wind
From nowhere, it gathered, and pressed them to sway.
And there, in the orchids, their waltz did begin
To a song, from a dream, and a land far away.

They twirled and they whirled through the grass, hand in hand
Eyes locked in rapture, united as one.
And they danced till the dusk-light darkened the land,
And the sea shone like gold as it swallowed the sun.

On the breath of the breeze, away they were bourn
Above, in the black, the moon shone alone.
And all that remained, in the chill of the dawn,
Was the glitter of dew drops, from where they had flown.

Look to the sky, see more than the clouds,
Don’t let your dreaming by silenced by fear.
Open your heart to the life love allows
And know that the throng will always be near.

Xxx

Loosing control?

Forgive me for sounding biased, but I firmly believe that women are indeed extraordinary. Many of us represent the sun around which the remainder of our families orbit. Whether it be lost PE kit, a last minute birthday card, or that elusive shirt (which was exactly where it should be), whilst striving to maintain our professional/home life balance, we also have in our arsenal the remedy to most of our family’s daily dilemmas. We assume responsibility. And though we may be tired or stretched, something within a great many of us feels that the day has only been a true success if we have we have found obvious solutions in places our relatives never thought to look. But herein lays a great problem. And though it may go against many of our nurturing natures, what we really should be doing, is standing back.

My lesson in being a ‘fixer’ was a toughie. I am glad to report that I have now emerged; perhaps a little straggled, but a whole deal wiser, from the other side of the obstacle course. Had I known now what I know then, I would have faced the climbing net, hand on hips, and firmly declared, ‘no!’ I would then have removed my trainers, and with a polite smile, handed them over. “Forgive me,” I would have said, “but this of your making and is yours to climb. I’m off to take my own, rather easier path. I’ll be cheering for you once you reach the other side…”

High insight; the worst and most unbearable of all life’s “told-you-so’s!”

Trying to find a balance between compassion and control is nigh on impossible when you’re in the thick of it. I thought that my actions, as daft as they appear to me now, would really make a difference. Looking back, my behaviour was so alien to my usual self, that I struggle to recognise the person I had then become. I strayed so far from my own path in trying to help another, that in the process and desperate not to lose them, I almost lost myself. At the time, I congratulated myself on what I perceived to be my unconditional love. Now, however, I accept that there was in fact only desperation. Love in its truest form, accepts another as they are, and respects that, as difficult as it often is to witness, they must be allowed to follow their own path.

We are all on this beautiful, challenging, storm-cloud and rainbow earth to learn. The school of hard knocks often places us in classrooms with others. What we learn by the end of our joint lesson either propels us onto the next wonderful, enlightened stages of our lives, or demands a resit. I had to endure several resits before I finally took on board what my life coach was trying to tell me. Wasted time, though? Not at all.
I woke this morning with urgency about writing this piece. Perhaps I needed to reaffirm it for myself, or perhaps I needed to do it for someone else. Whatever the case, I no longer try to ‘fix’ others. If my opinion is sought, I try to answer in a level, unambiguous way. But I always try to end a reply with, ‘but the decision must always be yours.’

And not because I’m copping out.

But because, their final decision will have either have positive or negative repercussions and these repercussions will mark the start of another lesson in their lives. If they are unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions, and I instead do it for them, they will forever seek answers from another, rather than from inside themselves. As a result, they will never become the magnificent individual they were destined to be.

Don’t try to control. Instead, lead by example. If your light is bright enough, it will illuminate the way for others.

But always remember, whether or not they choose to follow, is entirely up to them.

With love. Xxx

Herbert And Trevor

And The Poison Ivy Fairy Cake,

(Based on an idea by Leanne & Lou McPherson).

Herbert was the worst of them – The Boggy Brothers, two,
His hair all full of fattened lice, his fingers smeared with poo.
Stubby nails from scratching, teeth black with decay,
His stench was reason on its own to frighten folk away.

He hadn’t always been so foul – in fact he’d been quite fragrant,
But failing eyes had turned him from a prince into a vagrant.
What looked like food, got shoved inside, because it was still hot,
You’d never want an evening meal from Herbert’s cooking pot!

His brother, Trev, though not so foul, was sneaky to extreme,
And jealous that old Herb was called, ‘The Meanest of The Mean.’
So, though he played at being friends, Trev’s plan was always clear.
He’d seal old Herbert’s downfall – become ‘ Trollest of the Year.’

One night as Herbert feasted, on rabbit dropping roast,
washed down with muddy milkshake and served with snake-skin toast,
Trevor lumbered from their bog and laid old Herb a trap –
A poison ivy fairy cake, for Herbert’s midnight snack.

As midnight struck, Herb’s stomach groaned, “Time for me to eat,
‘What I need is something fresh – a juicy bit of meat…”
“But what about your pudding, Herb?” Trevor kindly asked,
“You’re looking pale, dear brother. No need for you to fast.”

Herbert laughed, and farted, then laughed again quite loudly,
“Sniff that,” he dared, and trumped again, this time very proudly.
“Pudding’s just for sissies – give me something I can chew,
If I eat nowt’ but pudding, I’ll end up just like you!”

“That’s where you’re wrong though, Herbert, for pudding’s full of fat,
It keeps Trolls fit and healthy – every troll knows that.
A troll that won’t eat pudding, gets so fragile, he could break.
A clever troll is one who knows it’s vital to eat cake.”

Herbert frowned, and picked his nose, he really wasn’t sure,
‘I’ve read the Trolling manual, and I’ve not heard that before.”
“Are you sure you didn’t miss it, Herb?” Trevor asked him sweetly.
“The manual’s writing’s very small – and you can’t see completely.”

“Pud, it is, then,” Herb declared, and turned and trudged away.
Behind him, wicked Trevor Smiled, “I’ll be crowned by break of day,”
“See you before sunrise” Herb called, scratching at his bum,
“I don’t think so,” Trevor whispered, “I know what’s to come!”

At break of dawn, Herb returned, belching as he lumbered,
And placed a thank-you gift beside his brother, as he slumbered.
When Trev awoke, and looked around him, Herb was lying still.
“Hurrah,” Trev cried, “it looks like Herbert’s really had his fill!”

Then, by his side, old Trevor spied, the gift left by his brother,
A scabby squirrel – but all the same, a present from another.
And feeling peckish from his sleep, Trev shoved it in his gob,
But as he chewed, it struck him, that the squirrel tasted odd.

Herbert peeled an eye open, and glanced down at the ground,
No fox where we had left it – he was glad it had been found.
He’d pretend that all was normal, and he wouldn’t say a word,
For if he told Trevor the truth, he’d think he was absurd.

But Herbert was traditional – a proper kind of troll,
And always conscious that he had his bad name to uphold.
How could the ‘Trollest of them all,’ go eating fairy cake?
What kind of dolly-Trolly reputation would that make?

So when he’d found the pudding that he knew dear Trev had left,
(And not to seem ungrateful or to leave old Trev bereft),
He’d killed Trev’s favourite supper, and opened its mouth wide,
And checking no-one saw him, he hid the cake inside.

Fogotten Princess

The moon on her skin, closed lashes on cheeks,
Mist through her fingers, a smile at her lips.
Bare painted toes brushed the blooms at her feet,
Whispering breeze through her locks to its tips.
She twirled, and she whirled, to a tune of her own,
At a ball of her making, in a dress from her dream.
And the song that she heard from a place far away,
Chimed like crystal rain dew-drops into a stream.

And you saw, and you watched, and your eyes never strayed.
Your future, to hold her, this was your chance.
That princess you’d place at the top of all things,
And you’d never forget how she loved to dance.

The days on her skin, damp lashes brush cheeks,
A cut on her fingers, concern on her lips.
Once painted toes hide in house-slippered feet,
Coffee mug cold, too busy to sip.
She sighs as she chops, and she washes, and folds,
Glances out of the window, and pauses to stare.
Clouds racing, storm brewing, blue fading away,
Imaginary bars lead outside to nowhere.

And you see, and you watch, but your eyes never stop.
Your present, you have her, this is your chance.
That princess you’d place at the top of all things
When was the last time you asked her to dance?

Old age on her skin, thin lashes bat cheeks,
Your rings on her fingers, shared years on her lips.
Worn fragile toes crammed on shuffling feet,
Knees that won’t bend, nagging pain in her hips.
She sinks to her chair, she stares at the fire,
Watches the flames as they leap in the grate.
Says nothing, but watery eyes speak instead
Time now to give her, but time is too late.

And you see, and you watch, and your eyes never stray,
Your past now your present, never once seized the chance.
That princess you swore was the top of all things,
How soon you forgot that she loved to dance.

Mum’s the Word

“Parenting is one of the hardest jobs you will ever do, with the least amount of training…”

It’s Thursday, and I’m preparing for another ‘Positive Parenting’ session; despite my initial reservations, the course and its methods are very effective. It’s true that a great deal of what I’m learning is common sense (which doesn’t help silence that inner critic), but I console myself with the notion that there are times when common sense eludes us all. And because understanding and a sense of comradeship underpins each session, for a couple of hours at least, my inner critic takes its place on the naughty step.

If you’d asked me years ago if I could ever see myself on a course such as this, I probably would have laughed! Being a mum was an ambition. I viewed myself and my temperament as perfectly suited for the task. My own mum was/is amazing. As a child with a brother 10 years my junior, I watched my mum and her methods with hawk-eyes, making a mental note of everything I later wished to imitate. It never struck me, as I watched the kindness and the patience, that in moments of solitude, she might have wept or shouted her frustration.

My son is incredible. He’s loving, funny, boisterous, determined, competitive… And he’s bloody-minded; to the point that he will argue, whilst spitting crumbs, that he is not eating a biscuit. I make no bones about the fact that I struggle with his strength of will, and make no apology for the fact that I don’t enjoy confrontation. But I also make no apology for him. And my reluctance to embrace the aspects of his personality I find challenging, is not his problem, but mine.

We set examples for our children every day of our lives. As I once did as a girl, children watch their parents carefully and mimic what they see. If we raise our voices, or interrupt, or put down, we can hardly be surprised when our children do the same. The blank canvasses that turn our worlds upside down when they arrive need the best of our behaviours to give them the best chance to succeed. All the time we wear the ‘Parent hat,’ we must remember that our children don’t know any better and that it’s up to us to show them. So, at the end of the day, when we’re tired, frustrated, unwell, or plain fed-up, we have a responsibility to place our knee-jerk reactions on the back burner – for adult company only – and react to that request for another glass of water with a patience that contradicts every one of our aching bones. In years to come, when our children are dealing with their own children, surely it will be better to be proud at their reaction to a similar request, than to wince?

I have often wondered why no-one, mum included, warned me about how hard this job could be. That amongst the talk of booties, and cuddles, bath times and gazing, no-one actually said, “there are going to times when you question your suitability for this task to the point of self-destruction.” But of course they didn’t. Because, for one reason, there’s also a lot of joy. And for another, learning to deal with a challenging child puts a whole new perspective on handling difficult adults.

And finally, but probably most importantly, if my lovely mum had warned that being a mother was one of the hardest jobs in the world, I might have misinterpreted that as a slight made against me.

And to this day (and possibly one of the reasons why I so wished to parent like her), my lovely mum has never, ever done that.

 

With love to mums everywhere – and especially mine. You’re doing an amazing job! Xxxx

Twit-ter

Following the death of David Bowie earlier this week, an atrocious Tweet not only made the headlines, but made my blood boil. Normally, I wouldn’t use my personal FB feed to lash out (the action is, I hope, fairly unlike me). However, I was so utterly outraged, I felt compelled to reply. Since my post, I have had time to think. And though I don’t regret my challenge, I have spent a while contemplating what could possibly have prompted the Tweet in the first place.

David Bowie touched and influenced generations. For many, his was the voice of their youth. For others, his was the LP discovered amongst a parents’ or grandparents’ collection which, years later, still resonated. He was brave, and he was individual. A man not frightened to experiment, David’s determination to evolve meant he remained current. As we grew older, so did he; as our professional directions changed, so did his. David Bowie’s music became the soundtrack to our individual life movies. Perhaps we might be forgiven, therefore, for assuming he’d be there to play out our final credits.

I was never lucky enough to meet David Bowie, and I would never claim to be a dedicated fan. But I did weep when I heard the news of his death, and across the world, more ardent fans are still weeping. And whilst the vast majority of them were never known by Bowie personally, surely the joy he brought to their lives makes him a friend, of sorts, to them?

I wondered if the Tweeter, experiencing a heightened level of emotion prompted by their grief, had simply knee-jerked. Yet, the Tweet was almost possessive, as though the writer believed that only certain individuals had the right to ‘own’ Bowie’s death. Firstly, only David could do that. And secondly, though we’re all guilty of it – chastising our grief because we believe someone is more worthy – we are still prone to believe that levels of grief are validated by levels of association.

But death and grief aren’t as simple as all that. And every tear shed by David’s fans is every bit as valid as any shed by his family. Because every tear is real.

I have been knocked sideways by death twice in recent years. And both times, the outpouring from others, both known and unknown to me, has been immense. However, the difference between my and my Tweeter’s reaction to it is this. Firstly, rather than protest that my grief was more valid than another’s, the thought that I was not alone in my sorrow came as a great comfort; grief can be a very lonely place. And secondly, my love and adoration for those whom I’d lost was utterly validated by the views, memories and experiences expressed by others.

I’m not going to brood on the Tweet any longer – I have a book to write – but I will finish by saying that, contrary to the misguided views of one, I’m sure David’s close friends and family are hugely grateful for every kind word and emotion expressed by every one of his fans…

…And I’m sure, as he swaps stories with Syd Barrett and they contemplate, that perhaps from where they’re now sitting, the Star isn’t so black, or that side of the Moon isn’t so Dark, David is very grateful too!

With love to the most beautiful of Goblin Kings. Xxx

Happy New Year?

The start of a new year is, for many, a time of great significance. An opportunity to wipe the slate clean, to live a more healthy life, or to wave a not-so-fond farewell to a previous year, the chiming of the midnight hour on 31st December offers as much hope as the most joyful of dawn choruses.

Yet for some the New Year offers no respite from the one preceding it. And for a few, all it has to offer is greater challenges and increased worry. As the year turned, my mind was full of these people and how I might be worrying if I walked in their shoes. And looking back upon times in my own life that had been very bleak, I concluded that I had spent a great deal of that time worrying, and yet that doing so hadn’t changed a thing.

I once believed I was a creature of habit. That’s not to say that I didn’t like to travel, or to try different cuisines, or to experience different cultures. But I liked the things I called ‘my foundations’ to remain the same. Remove one of these, I thought, and I go a bit wobbly. Thinking about the challenging periods in my life, however, it dawns on me that I am not so rigid as I had once believed; that my foundations stem from me rather than something or someone else. And that rather than resisting, I have withstood the greatest of life’s storms by being flexible, and sometimes, by even letting go.

There are things in life we can effect; our diet, our lifestyle choices, our relationships. And yes, if any of these are areas of concern, we have the right and the ability to do something about them. But things like death and illness we cannot control. And though we all tend to narrow our focus in times of difficulty and to concentrate on the clouds, how much more positive would we feel, I wonder, if we held on to the notion that somewhere just behind them the sun still shone? I try not to worry about the time I’ve wasted worrying… But I do wonder, during past moments at Christmas, when my eyes fell upon the empty dining chair and I wished my dad was still alive, what hilarity I might have missed going on just behind me.

Night is followed by day. Winter is followed by spring. So is it really so foolish to hope that every tear is followed by laughter? Pondering my previous years, it seems that it’s the challenges that have given me strength, the sadness that’s made the happiness real, and the grief that’s opened my heart to greater love.

I enter 2016 calmly and with serenity. Perhaps, then, it’s easy for me to look on the brighter side of life. But I do remember a time when the New Year began very differently. And thinking back, I wonder, when my head was down and my eyes were focussed on the shit at my feet, how many rainbows faded over my head?

My lovely dad ended our wedding speech with the following quotation. At the time I believed his reference was purely materialistic. With a few more years under my belt however, I believe something else entirely:-

“Remember, to be upset about what you don’t have,
is to waste your time with what you have.”

Happy New Year, everyone.

Big Love. Xxx

Mind Games

The mind is a wonderfully powerful tool. In moments of extreme danger, it is the driving force behind self-preservation. In moments of desperation, it administers that metaphorical kick propelling us out of the darkness. Yet the mind is also a wonderfully wicked entity. It inspires us to follow our dreams, then fills us with doubt when we try; it urges us to strive for happiness, all the while flooding us with the guilt of the unworthy. On my faltering spiritual journey, the one common denominator to all the books I have read on the subject of inner-peace is the power of the mind. And if there is one piece of recurring advice on how to tame that mind, it’s meditation.

Sitting quietly for half an hour, calming your breath and focussing on the positives, appears, on paper, to be a simple ask. Yet my attempts at home have been so unsuccessful, that I have finally signed up to a local course in the vain hope that numbers will provide the safety my mind obviously requires.

The setting is a small Buddhist Centre not far from Matlock; the Monk presiding over us appears very sincere. Therefore, though the basic concepts of Buddhism are used as meditation focus points, being such positives as happiness and inner peace, I feel happy that I am being introduced to a new way of thinking, rather than groomed for a new religion (which, incidentally, I do not desire).

My fellow students and I arrive at the Centre at the same time every Friday. We swop details of our respective weeks, sip water, and wait for the allotted time before politely filing into the meditation suite. The room itself is warm and peaceful. The chairs are comfortable. And our numbers are small enough to ensure that no student is sitting too close to another. For the next hour and a half, in these perfect surroundings, the ability to meditate seems almost within my grasp. But as my breathing slows and my eye-lids fall, something within my brain senses that it finally has my undivided attention. And rather than paradise, I, instead, invariably find my mind trawling the aisles at Tesco…

I am a day dreamer and a worrier. I can spend hours fretting over non-existent scenarios, or feeling guilty about the unhappiness of another even though I am not the cause. I am not a glass half-empty person – I have a great deal in my life to celebrate and be thankful for – but I do allow my mind to spend far too long in the doldrums. However, the popularity of the spiritual books I have read suggests that I am not alone, and that many of us are seeking minds that are half-full. And if the books’ authors – some of whom I admire – have used daily meditation to find a level of inner peace that is obvious in the words they write, then that’s all the inspiration I need to keep trying.

That, as humans, we tend to veer towards the negative, to spend hours brooding over another’s harsh words rather than be thankful that we do not carry their burdens, seems indicative of our species. Very recently, I heard resentment described as ‘meditating on anger’ – put like that, it made me realise how easy we do find mediation. Unfortunately, just on the wrong things.

I will continue with my meditation course, and I will keep practising at home, too. And one day, I hope to report that I have wrestled my greatest adversary – my mind – to the floor.

In the meantime, I offer my sincerest apologies to my fellow meditation students. I hope that they are having far more success ‘closing out external distractions,’ than I, and that their experience has not been spoilt by the gurgles of my empty stomach, as my mind finds the Tesco biscuit aisle… and offers my stomach a Twix!

Ignorance is bliss?

Social media is a wonderful thing. It allows us to bridge the distance between ourselves and those we love, and can be interesting, positive, and extremely humorous. I regularly check-in during the course of a normal day, and comment on or share posts. And I always try to react to a birthday reminder – after all, friends and family are very important and they should certainly feel that way on special occasions.

Social media is also a great tool for connecting with like-minded people. From visual art to nail art, music to home décor, the shared interests list is as endless as it is eclectic. As an animal lover, I have used social media to share many a tale and photograph featuring our lovely black lab, Archie. I have also been able to follow businesses specialising in quality doggy products (barksand bunnies.com – the brainchild of my beautiful cousin, Amy – to name but one), and to support and sponsor the plight of animals who aren’t as fortunate as our ‘Belly-Rub,’ four-legged family member.

However, there are times I wished I hadn’t pressed that ‘like’ button, and evenings when, scrolling through my newsfeed, I come across a post so horrific that I’m unable shake it for days. It’s during these moments that I wonder if perhaps I should refine my ‘follows,’ and stick to people and things that make me smile.

A few years ago, during an idyllic holiday in the Indian Ocean, Mr Mac and I were able to place a very large tick next to a shared bucket list item, and to swim with whale sharks. The added bonus of experiencing the episode with my parents made it even more precious. For creatures so large with mouths so immense, the father and son pair where more gentle than I could ever have imagined, avoiding the spectators hanging perilously (and possibly, stupidly) close to where they swam, with slow, gentle movements… Last month, a FB post reported on a Chinese fish market trapping whale sharks in nets and dragging them for miles before barbarically cutting them into pieces on the jetty whilst they were still alive. I wept.

Like the slaughter of big game in Africa, the dog-meat trade in Thailand, and the suffering of abused and abandoned animals closer to home, I often find my heart heavy with the madness and sadness of it all. I simply don’t understand how human kind has become so nonchalant towards the lives of the other creatures with whom it shares the planet, or so immune to their obvious suffering. One thing, however, is for certain. Each terrible picture and unimaginable event will provoke instant outcry. And I would always like to count myself amongst those making the noise.

Organisations like PETA, Greenpeace, Change.org, Soi Dog Foundation exist for a damn good reason. They exist to tackle the issues that need to tackled, but that many of us feel unable to. I’m sure every one of those organisations is extremely grateful for the coverage and exposure social media gives their causes, and for the people, like me, who choose to follow and to support them.

So, although I might briefly consider a little FB housekeeping in an attempt to restrict my newsfeed to ‘sugar and spice,’ an ‘unlike’ isn’t going to make the issue disappear. And next time I swim with a whale shark or cuddle my dog, I’d rather return their gentle gaze with the steady reassurance of someone who cares, than look away with the guilt of someone who doesn’t.

And let’s be honest, when it comes to FB, even friends and family post difficult stuff sometimes!

The boy and his guitar

Takes his place beneath the lamp light, solo shadow at his feet,
Wipes the moisture from his brow, clears his throat, clears his mind.
Growing thunder, heavy footsteps, match his heart with every beat,
Living now and in this moment for a past not left behind.
Pedals metal, crowd goes crazy, gives them something to believe,
Playful fingers answer those who swore he’d never get this far.
Asks you take him as time made him, wears his life upon his sleeve
No DAT magic, smoke and mirrors, just a man and his guitar.

Takes his place beneath the lamplight, solo shadow on the wall,
Wipes the lager from his mouth, closes eyes, closes mind.
Empty faces, stage-ledge addicts, wait to witness his first fall,
Coiling critics, poison pen friend, crystal ball what they will find.
Strikes her boldly, crowd falls silent, pin-fall jaw-drops to the floor,
Smiles as modesty will let him, at the him who raised the bar.
Brings in both his XY factor, always opened his own doors,
3 6 5 reality sound-check for the kid and his guitar.

Takes his place beside the lamplight, solo shadow by his side,
Wipes the salt stream from his face, opens pages, opens heart.
Notepad screaming, non-judge black lines, only place he can confide,
Past laid episodes in verses, white noise holding them apart.
Elusive finger tipping future strokes the tethers to his past,
Determined notes reply like beacons, bright horizon, northern star.
One more sofa, one more tube night, one more city dawning fast,
One day everyone will know him, the boy and his guitar.