Finding my way

I woke this morning with ideas for mapping my life story in readiness for a writing project I’m undertaking in January and, as if reading my thoughts, Facebook had produced a video highlighting events from 2016. This cheered me immensely as it proved that I did indeed have some wonderful memories to celebrate in my writing… in-between the days that I had been dogged with depression (as yesterday’s personal journalling informed me).

I pinned a copy of an old map of Manchester on my office wall as a starting point to the planning of the project, ringing the places that mean something to me. (The map is one of many that will inspire The Studio’s Art Exhibition early next year – my own contribution will be a simple book of appropriate Manchester map poems on hand-made paper.)

That decided, I embarked on a personal journey through the Advent Labyrinth at Holy Trinity Church in Eastfield. There’s no doubt that my current mood has an affect on how I embrace this annual journey and life experiences I hold on to do tend to come to the fore during part it.

The first station was a star – a symbol of God’s light. I was invited to light a lantern and carry it with me as a guide to show me the way. I thought about the darkness of the depression I’d written about in my journal the previous day. It’s comforting to know that God can lighten whatever feels dark for me… when I remember to ask for His help that is.

At the station of burdens, I picked up the large, heavy stone and imagined an image etched into it of God reaching out to me saying, ‘take my hand’. I poured out my pain in connection with my brother’s alienation of me and realised (yet again) that I can’t change him or the situation so I gave the stone to God to carry for me. I picked up the holding cross and the contrast in weight was such a relief that I had to admit to knowing that all I needed to do was hold on to the cross instead of the stone. I asked God to break down my brother’s barriers to forgiveness and left the station with the weight of that lifted from me.

At the gift box station, I gave thanks for the gift of writing and how I had been drawn to use it as a voice for prisoners of conscience on behalf of Amnesty International. I am grateful that this opportunity enhances my gifts of understanding and compassion for others and, through this, I am being led towards becoming involved with welcoming refugees to the town where I live. I want to be part of a people who belong to one another.

At the final station I visited, I reflected of my journey and confirmed my trust in God that He can help me make sense of and heal my memories so that I can move towards reconciliation of self to enable me to help others more effectively. Therefore, in God’s hands I place all these things today.

It’s hard to let go and let God and I was tempted to revisit the burdens station and pick up the stone but I resisted because I prefer the weight of the cross.

On my return home, I received a beautiful Christmas card from a friend which reads: ‘Christmas is more than just a season. It’s a feeling of hope in our lives. It’s the promise of peace in the world. It’s the blessing of God’s love in our hearts.’(author unknown)

I’d like to add that Christmas is about Christ… and realising that truth can set us free.


Plotting Shed Charity Gala Night

in aid of

The Yorkshire Air Ambulance

Sunday 27th November 2016 at 7.15 pm. Doors 6.30 pm.

A gala charity evening of poetry, story, song and more…

to celebrate the works of the 26 local authors of Plotting Shed

Compèred by Heather Ayckbourn and Felix Hodcroft

More info:


THE PLOTTING SHED                                                  COMPILED AND EDITED BY DAVID B. LEWIS

A glass of wine or soft drink included in the ticket price on arrival and the proceeds from the ticket sales will go to Yorkshire Air Ambulance. The format will be cabaret style seating at tables with candles and nibbles and an informal atmosphere. The book will of course be on sale at the special show price on the night. A promotional film launch will take place in the upstairs foyer area before the main event and will run on a loop on a screen during the interval and after the show.

Ticket price: £10 – Under 15 £5



If you can’t make the evening please consider pledging your support on Kickstarter.

You will be helping local writers and helping the world by spreading Creative Writing to the parts most writers never reach.

All you have to do is pledge £10 plus the p and p fee as stated according to where you are in the world and that’s it until 28th November when, if the fundraiser is successful, Plotting Shed will automatically have the money transferred into its account. You will receive your pledge order asap after that. If the fundraiser is not successful nothing else happens.

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 be adding 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.


22nd August:

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

23rd August:

Scarborough Writers’ Circle
telling tales of adventure
in worlds of their creation.

24th August:

People-watching on the cobbles of York: shoppers shoving, children crying, buskers hustling, homeless pleading — and an invisible man sees everything from behind his mask.

25th August:

A downpour of rain hits my hot sandalled feet
springing them back to life
stepping up my pace.

26th August:

The summer’s crowds bless the town with raucous love and laughter
as we dance-dodge in the streets to avoid collision crash disaster.

27th August:

Rescue Remedy:
blowing bubbles in the air
(deep breathing technique).

28th August:

First time flyer trying to retain meditative state whilst juggling baggage to comply with conflicting rules and regulations between airline and airport.

29th August:

And it came to pass…
weigh-in for baggage –
hope home scales are accurate.

30th August:

Snakes and ladders, draughts,
ludo, uno, flying hats.
Games afternoon at Wandales.

Board Games Poster

 31st August:

All packed and waiting to go…
notebook and pen ready for the writing journey.
Brno here we come!

I hope you enjoyed reading through my daily offerings of small stones at Spinning Stories from the Secret Self. The month ends on a good note of discovery with one of my poems shortlisted and an article published in the print edition of Writing Magazine (October Issue).

I’ll be back mid-September with an update on my experience as a first time flyer… meanwhile please do check out my personal perspective on ‘seven things you need to know about writing short stories’ at Kate Evans’ Blog: (due to be published on 5th September).

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)


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


It’s time to claim back my butterflies

Since retiring in March, I’ve thrown myself headlong into various activities. I had many of these interests during my working life but, like so many new retirees, I thought I would have more spare time so added new interests to those. Hence, I have taken on so much that I am no longer enjoying my freedom from the routine of a working life. I realised this when I reached my birthday recently, a number that does look quite attractive, and took stock of myself. I looked at what I’d committed myself to and compared it to what I was actually enjoying. And it was a chance encounter with a friend that helped me reach a decision about taking drastic action to cut down on activities.

My friend’s name is Julie too – and she asked, ‘Julie, where have all your colourful butterflies gone?’ She went on to explain this as being the aura I usually carry around with me that she was so used to seeing and it is what makes me… well, me.

I thought about this some more when I got home and looked in the mirror. I looked tired and dull and there was definitely no sparkle. I’d confided in my friend about a stressful period I’d been going through in recent weeks and how I’d felt quite unwell, both physically and mentally, at times. She advised me to stop pleasing others and please myself more, to encourage my butterflies back. Looking in that mirror again, I think I saw what she saw: I was surrounded by dark moths that had taken my light and they were flying around me like prophesies of doom.

Over the next few days, as people made demands on my time, it finally came to a head with me reacting badly to a situation. I demonstrated traits of my character that I do not like. I knew I had to do something immediately. Once I’d made that decision, it was easier to sort out what I would keep and what I would let go, and I felt in control again.

At the moment I am honouring two commitments that end in mid-December, have dropped two things I am no longer enjoying, and I have two commitments to honour in early 2016. I feel refreshed knowing that after this I will have a clean canvas to work with. I have already started saying ‘no’ to things I’ve been asked to do that I really don’t want to do. And I owe it to myself and my butterflies to continue with that promise to myself.

At the Scarborough Writers’ Circle this week, one of the members led a session in celebration of Thanksgiving Day. The remit was to bring a piece of writing to read on the night illustrating the subject of ‘giving thanks’ by way of our own interpretation of that.

This was my offering:

I’m thankful that I am able to express my creativity through writing, painting, music and dance; I am grateful that I am blessed with the means to do this because of my sense of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch… thus enabling me to use the therapeutic qualities of my creativity as a celebration of my life.

I give thanks that my response to this creativity highlights what is important to me, and it is through the gift of my creative self that I recognise my belief in a God who gave His only son as an atoning sacrifice to pay for my sins… so that I may be forgiven and receive salvation for my soul.

I give thanks for the people I encounter on my life journey who help me grow into the kind of person fit to serve a loving God… and I also give thanks for those I encounter who bring out distasteful traits in me by their challenging behaviour, because this helps me strive to change my own reactions to that behaviour.

Mostly I give thanks that in His mercy God does not look on what I am now nor on what I have been but on what I desire to be.

I am grateful that in this world of manmade rules and regulations there are none that govern how I should pray; there is no right or wrong way. I simply talk to God, sometimes baring my soul and falling before Him like an open wound. And He picks up the pieces and fixes me within the boundaries of my broken life.

And in the midst of all this, there is love.

I give thanks for the love I’ve known; the contented feeling of loving arms; the warmth of a human heart from a random act of kindness; a loving touch of support from a friend; a visit or phone call from a prodigal – returning home – and I’m grateful for a bond so strong that time apart has allowed for a reconciliation and a rebirth of that relationship.

I give thanks for the love of my partner; my children; my family; my friends; the people in the places where I work, rest and play – yes, even those who are ‘not like me’. I give thanks for our individuality – our diversity – and that I am surrounded in love, completed in love and enabled to share my love with others.

So then at the end of each day… when I’m stripped of myself – of my expectations – of others’ expectations – of what I am or should be, and love, even love for myself, flows down like grace into my empty vessel, I can become full of what God intended me to be – for His purpose, His plan – not mine, or yours.

And I pray that God’s glory will shine from me, reflecting the love I have received, so that others who touch the edge of that radiance will know that they are in the presence of God – because God is the essence of me.

At the end of my reading I sat down and I knew that I’d just described what my butterflies look like.

And I want them back!


The Postcard Challenge (post Festival)

It was like whizzing through a whirlwind in a hurricane for me… spinning from event to event… being grounded again when I was placed firmly back in my place at The Postcard Challenge. There I met a novel of people… characters of all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, displaying a vivid variety of personalities. I invited and encouraged each one to create a postcard of a moment that had taken their breath away during the festival period.

Attached is my interim report until I present my slide show for you to view… and relive those breathtaking moments…  or for those who were not there, to experience the breathtaking moments for the first time.

with love, Julie

Scarborough Flare Thoughts