Small Stones

August is small stones month.

Use your senses to notice things in the world and write down what you find… visit the small stones website for details.

Small stones everywhere;
take the time to stop and stare.
Indulge your senses.

How fortunate that this coincides with the gift of a diary-free month I gave myself in order for me to be selective in my choice of activities. Therefore, during the month’s progression, I will add my self-indulgent small stones observations as I drift through the days of August… focussing on my response to each day’s chosen activity.

1st August:

Scarecrows at Muston;
interpretation of art
making people smile.

2nd August:

Ordnance Maps
A handful of maps;
from the middle of nowhere
I seek out old haunts.

3rd August:

Woldsway Lavender
The lavender breeze
sprinkles me with happiness
when it starts to rain.

4th August:

Waves lapping at the shoreline
disguise a downpour;
unpredictable weather.

5th August:

My house-guest has left
but the memory lingers;
my home is silent.

6th August:

Rabbit hopping in a field
makes it through the hedge
to become road kill.
I pray for its soul
that, if there is a heaven,
it finds its way there.

7th August:

Orchestra of leaves;
crochets, quavers, semibreves
dancing through the trees.

8th August:

A writer’s nightmare;
computer crash in progress
destroying all files.

9th August:

Sunshine on the sea
as Acapella voices
echo over waves.

10th August:

Comfortable feet;
shopping at ‘Shuropody’
in Earth Spirit shoes.

11th August:

Ordnance Maps Project

I called in at The Studio and chose Map Number 109 – Manchester © 1974. There was no metro-link, no M60, but when I traced my finger along the map’s red lines, I was transported via the 59 bus route through the bitter-sweet memories of my younger days.

(I think it’s going to be quite traumatic cutting this map into pieces for my art project yet, at the same time, an exciting aide-memoir for my ongoing life writing project)

12th August:

The Great Potato Challenge

It’s not the winning… it’s the elation at weigh-in as you unearth your potatoes and breathe in the community spirit of a home-grown meal.

(at Wandales Housing Scheme)

13th August:

Good mobile signal
but when she doesn’t answer
the black dog comes out…
stuck in the moment
the black dog bites my heart out
as the phone rings on

14th August:

Rustling trees reveal two deer as they spring out to prance around then, noticing me, run back into hiding, never to be seen again.

15th August:

Computer Restore:
New programs are challenging.
I miss Office Suite!

16th August:

Summer in Scarborough;
an explosion of tourists
covet the beaches.

17th August:

Bridlington Harbour bustles with tourists tempted by fish and chips as locals relax with cold glasses of ale and people-watch.

18th August:

The fried egg in the pan splits and separates into a friendly face when two holes appear in the white above the yolk and a slit below spreads in a smile.

19th August:

Refreshing rain;
cleansing my aura,
lightening my load.

20th August:

Spreading sunshine with flash mob – singing about a great day.
(at Scarborough Art Gallery for the WEA Art Classes’ Exhibition)

21st August:

I’m still smiling at yesterday’s memory of a guy demonstrating his art by covering himself with clay mixture as he told the story of how God moulded people from clay, making them as empty vessels that he could fill with love. Those of us in the room were invited to go forward and accept a blessing of love by being marked with the clay and drinking refreshing water from a clay pot the guy had made, after which he whispered in our ear: the spirit of love breathes through you.

Beautiful…

22nd August:

Bumped into a friend in town and shared a hot chocolate: Rescue Remedy.

Why not start your own small stones writing?
Click on the link for details.

Boiled Eggs and Burnt Liver

I love to fictionalise life memories as part of my creative writing process because there are so many riches stored in our mind from our everyday ordinary life experiences that it’s practically impossible to run out of ideas for writing. Taking a trip down memory lane always surprises me by unearthing unexpected treasures.

Of course, we all know that it is through our senses that we discover these gifts that memory offers up to us and often wander back through time without even trying. Just the waft of freshly baked bread as it fills our nostrils when we pass a baker’s shop can conjure up wonders from our past; caressing material before we buy an item of clothing can remind us of something we once flounced around in back in the day, hearing a certain song can transport us to a special event in our life that we may have forgotten about; likewise, watching an old film on TV and, my favourite, the taste of gravy made from real meat juices. This can take me back to numerous family meal times with a whole host of emotional turmoil to use as writing material, depending on which memory springs to mind.

Recently, however, it was a burnt pan that took me on a reflective journey down memory lane. I wondered how, from being able to create a roast dinner with all the trimmings from the age of 13 for a family of 6, I’d come to the point where I could burn a pan of water by simply steaming potatoes and vegetables.To explore my past memories in order to answer this question would justify the production of an epic memoir and the time I’ve allotted to write this missive would not come close to touching the surface of that.

Therefore, I’ll try not to meander through the memories that burnt pan brought to mind as I share with you my initial responses, though it will be difficult because each memory we have touches on another in some way and, once the writing process begins, the mind starts to filter those connections through the pen onto the page, where it flows in a river of thoughts – as I said, an epic memoir waiting to be written.

I’ll endeavour to remain focussed on brevity and tell you that in 1971, after giving up my job as a shorthand typist at the local psychiatric hospital, I went off to work in a cafeteria at a holiday camp in Wales (I know… Crazy). One morning, I was put in charge of making egg sandwiches for the display cabinet and duly placed a copious amount of eggs in a colossal pan of water and lit the gas. Whilst waiting for them to boil, I went back to the counter to butter bread and finish off a few other jobs. Thirty minutes later, interspersed with loud popping noises coming from the kitchen, a voice boomed out ‘who… the… xxxx’s… left… all… these… xxxxing…eggs… on… here?’ I ran into the kitchen to witness two dozen eggs exploding through the air in all directions from the burnt out pan.

eggsThe kitchen staff were rolling on the floor laughing and it was all I could do to keep a straight face as the scary head chef’s cheeks puffed out in red rage.

This memory then led to me thinking about the incident that was the impetus for me becoming adept at cooking a family roast with all the trimmings, albeit the memory is a futile attempt to stop me grieving the burnt vegetables and potatoes in the steamer.

In the 1960’s, my mother suffered from severe problems that required regular electric shock therapy to the brain for a number of months and, after each treatment, she would forget how to complete tasks she had been performing for many years, such as cooking. One night, when the family sat down to eat the meal she had prepared, my four siblings and I stared at one another round the table when faced with liver that looked like crisped cinders. Dad broke the silence with, ‘come on kids, eat up. Your Mum’s worked hard on this.’ He winked at us, took some burnt liver into his mouth and, when Mum wasn’t looking, gathered it into his serviette which he placed on his lap. So as not to upset Mum, we followed Dad’s lead, even to the point of complimenting her on how nice the meal was. At the end of the meal, we each had a lapful of liver tucked up our sleeves in serviettes and, one by one, asked to leave the table.

These photos, taken 15 years later, show she did eventually recover from that particular illness and as a family we went on to prepare and cook many a meal together… with no burnt liver in sight.

Christmas 1979From left: hubby Eric, mum, (photobomb daughter Gaynor), dad, (photobomb nephew Lee), brother Paul, sister Jan and me. Brother Daz was taking the photos…can’t recall where sister Mandy was that day.

xmas 79Our combined children at a separate table. From left: Jolene, Nicola, Gaynor, Graeme, Colin and Lee.

No doubt a variation of the above incidents/events will find their way into one of my future fictional stories, the seeds now firmly replanted in my journal of ideas. Indeed, the saplings are already pushing their way through a thousand other memories towards the surface as I write.

However, it is the popping eggs that have provided me with the reason I recently burnt that pan of water when steaming vegetables. I was simply distracted by something else, which is what happened in 1971. It comes somewhat as a relief to realise that I’m not completely useless in the kitchen after all, merely easily distracted.

I felt quite proud of myself this morning. I actually boiled a perfect egg for dipping toast soldiers into. But maybe a roast dinner is a bit ambitious just yet as I am totally out of practice with that one… so I’ll continue to sample the various eateries in and around Scarborough with my husband. After all, there’s only the two of us now and I think we deserve a break from cooking a meal – on Sundays at least.

Rain Dance

 The Inspiration behind Rain Dance

(a short story of fiction influenced by life memory)

Given the subject of ‘the weather’ as a theme for the Scarborough Writers’ Circle’s latest competition, I wanted to write about the rain because it hadn’t stopped for days. I began by writing a statement to that effect, and produced a rough draft straight off. This took into account my personal feelings of how the rain affected my thoughts in relation to a current life event – over which, like the weather, I also have no control.

This initial draft constituted three-quarters the allotted word count of 1,000 words. On re-reading, the middle section didn’t quite gel. It veered off slightly from the main theme, which could have become a sub-plot if I was writing a novel. For such a short story there is no room for meandering within the time frame. Thus, I turned over possibilities of connections to the beginning that tied in with how I, more-or-less, wanted it to end, though I remained open to changes – as is my usual writing process.

I had taken part in two May Day dances during the week of this rainy weather, thus a strong memory of my sister being crowned Rose Queen of May from our childhood was prominent in my thoughts. I wanted to explore this a bit more in connection with my story, as my sister is very much at the forefront of my mind since her diagnosis, so I went along these lines and used an edited first section of my story’s draft as a lead in.

Many words and phrases presented in relation to that May Day as I was writing. I jotted these down to capture the image and emotion of it on the page in a higgledy-piggeldy way. Next was the task of connecting the memory to the present day beginning of the story. I remembered the smell of the paper roses we made for the head garland and used this as the glue to bring it together in the middle section. I felt I was on the right track when my husband, knowing nothing about what I was writing, walked into the room singing Paper Roses (remember the song by Marie Osmond?).

After much exploration of the theme and going to and fro’ with various connections from the May Day memory to my current emotional state, I played around with words until I had enough material to write a final draft. This then lived in my head for a week and, whenever an additional piece of information occurred, I incorporated it into the draft. I read it through again after a two-day break from writing, making adjustments where necessary. I continued in this pattern until I reached the point where I was able to finally say ‘this is a story’. I didn’t feel the need to alter anything in the main thrust of it but waited another day for any stray ‘gems’ that could enhance it in any way.

The link between my memories, my creativity and my faith is a never-ending cycle of circles and, during the waiting period for any stray ‘gems’ to emerge, I attended a church testimonial service where the title of the talk was offered as ‘Praying in Circles’. As the talk progressed, I recognised this as being a God-incident with it being delivered on the very eve of the completion of my story which, incidentally, is about dancing in circles. Influenced by the talk, I did make one phrase change in the story that illustrated circle dancing as an analogy to circle praying­­­. It felt like a missing piece of the jigsaw.

If you ask me the question ‘what’s the story about?’, the answer will be ‘dancing in circles’, but if you ask me the question ‘what’s the story really about?’, in the context of what’s going on for me I would have to answer ‘it’s about coming to terms with my sister’s diagnosis.’

The experience of analysing my story in line with the talk has given me a great insight into the way I’m dealing with my sister’s illness. It has shown me a way forward in that I can use a prayer circle instead of merely accepting the inevitable. Prayers have already been answered that my sister remains positive, and the tumours have shrunk considerably to afford her more time. Yet, until the delivery of this talk, I no longer knew what to pray for in respect of the situation. The outcome of the talk’s influence is that I am going to be bold in my prayers and circle pray without ceasing for the miracle I want.

Written 22 May

(Competition closing date 24 May – Results announced 21 June)

STOP PRESS:

Posted on the Scarborough Writers’ Circle Facebook Page:

Yesterday evening we had the Nikki Barker competition results. For the first time (well since I’ve been a member, at least) the entries were judged by people outside the Circle. Thank you to the Scalby Reading Group.The winner was Julie Fairweather with her story ‘Rain Dance’. It was a very moving story – and a bit of a first for Julie – it had a happy ending! Sort of.

Post penned by Chair of the Writers’ Circle, Dorinda Cass, on 22.6.16

I would say Rain Dance has a hopeful ending…  Julie F

 

Sister

Poem from the onset:

The diagnosis floored me.
In its aftermath I walked a mile
with the sun warming my face
and a trace of your smile
as sun slipped into shadow
beamed full on my face.
My beautiful Aurora Balouris.
Your breath-taking light
radiated through memories
as I walked over the sand
and skimmed stones on the sea.
Then, in a downpour of rain,
I laughed, and laughed, and laughed
until I fell to my knees and cried.

The fear of c a t s is real

I have an alarming aversion to c a t s and, if I catch a glimpse of one, the unfortunate people within the vicinity could become victims of an unforgettable (even psychologically damaging) experience when witnessing my reaction.

So it is with trepidation that I have accepted an invitation to the ‘unravelling of writers’ group meeting on 2nd May to work on the finer details of ‘the book wot we are writing’ collectively. The collective being current/past University of Hull students who are participating/have participated in the Creative Writing Honours Degree Course since 2004. The book celebrates the 55 writers (along with their tutors) who have been involved in the programme during its reign at the Scarborough Campus, which is now coming to an end.

The lovely hosts for the meeting have offered to place their two c a t s in the bedroom where they ‘should sleep for the duration’ they assure me (YES… TWO IN THE SAME PLACE AT ONCE! YIKES!).

I don’t want to put anyone out but I know I will be riddled with anxiety in case someone accidentally opens the bedroom door.  Asking people not to let the c a t s out (as opposed to ‘don’t let the dogs out’) is not something I can announce without attracting unhelpful and irrelevant comments such as, ‘aw, pussies are so lovely, why don’t you like them?’ Er, it’s not that I don’t like them; I’m simply terrified of them. Doesn’t anybody actually know what ‘phobia‘ means? (Please note the sarcastic emphasis of this rhetorical question.)

There is an alternative option available in that the lovely hosts have offered to ask their daughter to keep the c a t s for the day instead of using the bedroom solution. I feel this is going to be a big deal – eg, maybe she lives a million miles away? – and have said (against my gut instinct) that I can probably try to cope with them being in the bedroom, especially as two understanding friends have volunteered to be on ‘lookout‘ for me.

I really appreciate the support on this one. And before anyone comes rushing in with advice for a cure, believe me, I’ve been there already (yes, even those ‘cures’ advised in the link at the end of this post!)… with all attempts proving frighteningly unsuccessful. I have suffered some horrible c a t experiences that I would not care to repeat and I still have nightmares about them.

I have attempted to write about these incidents, on a number of occasions, as a sort of exorcism to enable me to achieve a more comfortable place of acceptance rather than a cure. To date, this has been unsuccessful. The writing has proved far too scary and instilled palpitations in me to the point of passing out. I can’t help thinking it’s such a waste of experience for me as a life memory fiction writer. The horror story potential of the material is remarkable, particularly for an audience of readers who will go to any lengths to avoid any form of contact with c a t s, like myself.

However, it is a step forward that I’ve been able to write this post and ‘come out’ in public as a c a t phobic when you think about it and, looking through one of my journals recently, I did find a first draft of a c a t story that deals with the origin of my phobia, so there is hope.

The story fits my criteria for life memory fiction but I find the content too awful to revisit – today at least. In the future, if I can edit and craft this story into a worthy piece of writing, it is a good indication that I am capable of reaching out to that more comfortable place of acceptance I mentioned earlier. It’s worth a try but don’t hold your breath.

I’ll keep you updated on it (if I can)… and also on how ‘the book wot we are writing’ at the ‘unravelling of writers’ group progresses (whether I make it to the meeting or not).

The fear of cats is real  (LINK WARNING FOR PHOBICS – CAT IMAGE ALERT!)

Which damn fool decided it was a good idea to put an image of a  c  a  t  in an article about the fear of  c  a  t  s ?

Daffodils of Shalom

On Holy Saturday night, a vase of daffodils surrounded by glowing candles was the focal centrepiece of the evening. Friends circle-danced around it in time to the meditative rhythmical melodies as harmonic voices sang songs of Shalom.

Later, I prepared the Sacred Space Prayer Corner at Burniston Church in readiness for Easter Day, placing the gift of daffodils from the dance as a central focus below the cross – to celebrate our risen Lord.

On Easter morning, as the scented narcissus filled the room with Shalom, the congregation’s joyous rhythmical melodies and harmonic voices rang out in praise and worship.

Easter Day 2016 Sacred Space

Doorstep Daffodils

Yesterday, I walked along the roadside taking in my turmoil of thoughts – the result of a traumatic few weeks’ events… and I prayed with each step to regain my peace of mind. I prayed for the return of that sacred space in my heart that brings me close to a spiritual presence. I didn’t notice it happening. I didn’t notice anything on my journey as I was intent in my prayer. I came to a bench where I decided to sit and wait for my bus into the busy town.

As I gazed at the green fields on each side of the road, a watered down sun appeared and its rays began to filter through – startling the green meadow into life. Horses trotted playfully across the wide open space facing me. The birds’ intense conversations filled the air and, in the distance, their songs welcomed in the morning.

My ears were deaf – dulled with age perhaps – to the occasional whoosh of a passing car, only noticed because, in their passing, my eyes were alerted to the daffodil-lined verges. I hadn’t noticed them before. How could I have missed such a display of yellow happiness dancing in the day as I’d walked that route moments before?

If I hadn’t stopped to sit and stare I would have missed all these things.

I gathered in the peace that I’d prayed for and, as the bus pulled in to the stop, I took the peace with me for the remainder of the day.

At the end of a perfect day, I arrived home to find an anonymous gift of daffodils on my doorstep.

With love and gratitude,

Julie

Doorstep Daffodils

Sacred Space at Lent

 Welcome to Sacred Space Prayer Station (Lent 2016)

Burniston Methodist Church, Scarborough, North Yorkshire

SS lent Week 1.201614th February – Purse of Betrayal
21st February – Bowl and Towel
28th February – Bread and Wine
6th March – The Whip
13th March – Crown and Robe
20th March – Palm Branches
24th March – Maundy Thursday
25th March – Good Friday
27th March – Easter Day

On Easter Day there will be a vase of water available in which you are invited to place a flower in celebration of our risen Lord.

AMEN

Read about Jesus’ Betrayal, Arrest, Crucifixion, and Resurrection here (John 18:1 to John 20:31)

 

I’m Here and I’m Now

As someone who has always worked to deadlines, I’ve spent years struggling with learning how to live one day at a time but now I think I’ve finally got the knack. This has come about through a close relative’s attitude to her diagnosis of terminal illness and the example she is setting in living each day as it comes. I have been convinced that, without question, what’s important is ‘right here and right now’ and simply being in the present moment is the best place to be. The past is gone and the future’s to come. Why bother worrying about either of those? Therefore, I didn’t start the year with a heap of resolutions. Nor am I in my usual state of panic because I am only just, on the edge of the end of the month, penning a January blog.

I’d already decided at my November birthday (see blog 27 Nov 2015) that I had been doing too much since I retired in March, so I dropped those activities that made me feel like I was still ‘working’. For example, I came off the Committee for the Scarborough Writers’ Circle (though remain a member).

I believed that saying ‘no’ was to be a new mantra for me in 2016 but, as always, life had a different agenda and presented an obstacle to that last Thursday. The speaker for the next Writers’ Circle session had to cancel and I felt obliged to provide something for the members to come along to – seeing as it was me who had booked the speaker in the first place.

So much for saying ‘no’ then…

The next best thing to not saying ‘no’ is to look for damage limitation. With that in mind I reached for a reliable cliché and killed two birds with one stone, ie, the first exercise planned for the session is to write a blog of how your year is going so far.

Ta Da!

If you are in Scarborough on Tuesday next (2nd Feb) you are very welcome to join us. We meet at 7.15-9.15pm at Vernon Road Library, Scarborough. The meetings cost £2.50 (including refreshments) or £1.50 if you are a student or member.

The outline for the evening is as follows:

Bit of a blog talk from a personal perspective…
Sharing of blog/journal/diary entries (those who have done one).
Three quick warm-up exercises for ideas in gathering inspiration to kick-start a piece of writing.
From a selection of news stories to be given out on the night:
Choose one headline and write a blog/diary/journal entry using that headline as a subject
OR
Choose a news story – rewrite it from the POV of one of the ‘characters’ as a blog/diary/journal entry.
Read and share the above (and any blog that’s come to fruition during the evening.)
Discuss the process/progress of the writing.

Simples!

And so it is with enthusiasm that I embrace my new found inner peace and feeling of well-being as I continue to follow my relative’s example by enjoying being in each moment… whatever each moment holds for me as it encompasses the conception of living in the here and now.

With peaceful blessings to you all,

Julie

New Year’s Eve

The end of the year feels more like the end of my life as I know it. I am unable to engage with my in-depth writing on social media for the foreseeable future and will be using my private journal. I am too wounded to share.

I leave you with this thought:

It is better to come to the Lord in prayer with a heart full of love and no words than many words and an empty heart. 

Jesus bauble