Writer's retreat

Writer's retreat

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Poems from 2008

In June 2008, one of the items for Solihull Writers Workshop was a considered poetry evening. We provided copies of one of more poems to each member of the group for them to read and provide a critique during the following meeting.

The first poem is an addition to a collection I wrote around death and bereavement. This poem is about loss of a different kind. Sometimes I work with organisations who support people with brain injuries and their families. The last verse was taken from comments made by a brain injury sufferer at a workshop I ran in London on Coping with Loss.

Sometimes when I feel a poem coming on, I let my pen run away with me. I used to do this a lot as a teenager, less frequently now. This was how the second poem was born. I was possibly imagining a scene from the televised versions of Cranford or Lark Rise to Candleford, with Tinker's Squeezebox frightening the chickens and elderly parishoners feeling the urge to dance coursing through their limbs.

After the event
Mirror, mirror hanging there
You show a face, a face so fair
But though the eyes are shining bright
The world behind has lost its light
I cannot see
The person
Who once

A stranger stands before you now
With different speech and thoughts that go
Around my head in different ways
I never thought
I could have changed
So fast

Now I scan the camera views
Of people whom they tell me knew
My former self
They look confused and wonder why
I cannot look them in the eye
With smiling familiarity
All strangers now
To the new

I still have thoughts and hopes and fears
My heart still beats, I still shed tears
And if I don’t remember you
Forget the past and think anew
Of what I can still be and do
A different me
A future new

And when we sit and drink our tea
I beg you, please don’t cry
And say how much you miss me.
I’m here,
Beside you
Still here
Not gone
I’m me.

Will you dance?
Will you dance with me again?
My legs are sore and buckle
In the breeze

But will you dance?
I hear a fiddler on the green
Mark out the tune

A squeezebox stirs
Coughing its melody
As chickens fly

Will you dance with me again?
I see hawthorn draped
Across the rose

Summer calls and I must follow
Follow, follow
Down the lane.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Welcome to Mercian Muse

There are many ways to write and many audiences to reach. Some people write entirely for themselves but I have always believed my words don't live unless read by someone else. This blog is to share some of my writing with you. If you enjoy it, tell me by leaving a comment. If you think something could be improved, show me what changes you think would be helpful. If you want to read more, maybe buy my books and stories - the links are on the side!

Here are some extracts:-

The Strongest Magick

An Arthurian romance telling the story of Ygraine, priestess of Avalon & Agryffan, Prince of Orkney. The Strongest Magick celebrates the relationship between love for the Old Ways and the land of Britain when King Arthur threatens to lay waste the countryside by turning to the God of the East.

The Strongest Magick is an Arthurian novel from a different perspective. It celebrates the infinity of spirit, showing a woman's re-awakening to the possibilities of love and her own indigenous power. Ygraine's life has been full of sacrifice. She is beautiful, innocent, fragile - but mostly expendable; her task complete once she hands baby Arthur over to Merlin for safekeeping and training. Torn from the man she loves to marry another at her father's bidding, she grieves for her Sidhe lover, not realising he has already returned to her. Every woman has the essence of the Goddess inside her. When she is a trained priestess of Avalon, tied to the land of Britain by the son she bore to unite its people, how can she stand by and see the land suffer as her people turn from the Old Ways towards the new God from the East?

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-60054-259-6
Length: 128,600 Words
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Rating: Shooting Star


Soon all was ready. Ygraine picked up a fallen branch and began to beat the rhythm of a heartbeat against an old oak. The men took their shields and beat upon them with their daggers following her rhythmic lead. This was not a call to arms, or a display of power to strike fear into the heart of an enemy, this was the call to spirit, both seen and unseen, that they might use this place for their worship.

When the rhythm was strong, she borrowed a shield and without dropping a beat, began the dance of welcome. In and out of the men she wove, bidding them follow her in the dragon dance to call up the wisdom of the earth to assist their rites. Round the grove they danced and up and down until everyone could feel their blood coursing through their veins and warmth stealing into their fingers and toes from the very earth they danced upon.

Finally, she slowed the beat and brought them back to the circle around the fire and the altar. As they stood for a moment, to get their breath, Ygraine realised Agryffan had donned his priestly headdress of deer antlers entwined with ivy. At other times he had hidden his face behind the stag, but tonight she could see his features clearly. His eyes were golden and glowing in the moonlight and the dragons on his wrists writhed about his arms. She knew there would come a time when she would be asked to bear the dragons for him and she wondered if they would find her worthy after such a long absence.

The glade breathed in the silence, shadows beginning to form beneath the trees. Ygraine could feel their interest as they touched the minds of each person, seeking to know purpose and intent at this time of power. Ygraine took the cup and filled it with clear water, turning to the four directions and honouring the world above and below before offering libation to the earth. Then she knelt before Agryffan, waiting for him to charge it with his dagger, acutely aware of his moment of thrust as if he had struck the blade through her instead of the water. Together they shared the first sip. The strength of the liquid took her breath away. She would have dropped the cup if Agryffan had not steadied her.

"Breathe," he whispered. "It has been too long since you drew power unto yourself and your body has become unused to its strength. Breathe in the night and let our Mother give you strength for what must be done."

Ygraine did as he said and soon the dizziness lifted. She was able to take the cup to the men around the circle so that they too might share in its life-giving force. When this was done, Agryffan took the cup and shared it with Bronwyn and Sianna, hailing the three of them as the manifestation of the triple Goddess, maiden, mother and crone. Ygraine thought he would place the ivy circlet on Sianna's head, for the Maiden ruled this time of the year, but he drew her to him and took out all the braids from her hair, using his long fingers as a comb until it hung free like any maiden's on her wedding night.

"Now is the time outside of time." he said to her, "Gone are the times before and the times to come. As the earth renews Herself each year with the rising of the sap and the wakening of the seeds from their sleep in the rich soil, so too do I call you to awaken, Spring Maiden! Feel within your blood the life force return. Draw down from the moon the power of the Goddess herself to bring you new life, new love, new heart."

Tenderly he placed the circlet of woven ivy upon Ygraine's head and she raised her arms to invoke the power of the full moon. Like a sudden shower, the power began to flood into her. All she could do was close her eyes and accept what was given. She could feel the transformation around her and knew that when she opened her eyes the whole world would be different. She heard the trees begin to groan, as if wakened from their winter sleep too soon. Birds began to sing amongst the branches and into her nostrils came the sweetest scent of apple blossom she had smelt since leaving Avalon so many years before.

Unable to bear the suspense any longer, Ygraine opened her eyes and was greeted with the sight of a glade transformed. All around, trees were in new washed leaf and blossom hung from the many ancient wild apple trees bordering the glade. The moon turned from her silver radiance to the golden light of day so everything shone and sparkled. Beyond the circle she could see rabbits feeding in the short grass and deer cropped leaves of low hanging branches. A lone hare hopped into the circle and sat, twitching her nose at those within for several breathtaking moments before ambling away to the security of the bushes. Both fox and badger stood and watched as they made their way along ancient unseen tracks. They took no notice of the other animals, as if their Lord were nearby and all creatures were at peace in His presence.

At Home And Away

Many people record images of their home and holidays with still or moving pictures. Between the covers of this book lie two collections of images captured in words so readers can paint their own picture of the scene. A Natural Year reflects the ever-changing, unchanging cycles of archetypal English countryside as experienced in the herb gardens in Warwickshire and the Cotswolds, where land has been cultivated since Neolithic times. Memories of Cornwall takes you to the ancient coastline of Cornwall over many summer holidays. You can play with children on the beach, watch the moon rise over the English Channel, or visit the many sacred sites within the county.

Whether listening for the sound of bees, smelling primroses or tasting snowballs, allow yourself to be transported to another place where Nature will hold you and nurture an inner peace.


Lament for Winter

Where is the snow?
In this dark time, earth sleeps
Ploughed furrows wait for frost
Seeds hide deep
Thick coats longing for scarification

Black clouds hover overhead
Brooding, resentful
Firing raindrops in sullen, pounding waves
Drenching an over-watered land
Where man-made lights stay lit throughout the day

No bright noon-times
No golden-dawned sun dazzling ice-sculptured
No chilled gasps of freezing air
No clouds of steam from feeding herds
No ice-covered troughs
No skating on frozen ponds
No toboggan rides down slopes
No snowmen with coal-black eyes and orange noses
No snowballs to throw or taste
No orange globes set fire to evening skies
No joy, no laughter, no fun!

Just damp, mud, rain
Not cold, not warm
Just soggy leaves from trees who seem unsure about sleeping
It is the time of dark, of rest
It rains.

Insect Song

There are spiders on the curtains
There are earwigs on the light
There are lacewings on the windows
When all is dark at night

There are ants on all the circle stones
Chasing us away
They only fly but once a year
Why should it be today?

There are bees upon the heather
Butterflies on the gorse
Damsel flies, green and turquoise,
Glitter along the course

Why are dragonflies so enormous?
Why does honey come from bees?
Why do flies drown in my teacup?
What do insects mean to me?

Bees and butterflies suck the pollen
Ants and beetles prey on leaves
Sandhoppers dance on seaweed
And they sometimes dance on me!

So many shapes and sizes
Different colours, different hues
At least there are no scorpions
Hiding in my shoes!


Going for a drink

A true tale from Community Health Council Days - who supports the supporters?

Healing across time

Past life regression has unexpected consequences...


As the sun began its downward path, she stopped; searching for food in her pack. Dried meat and bread took time to chew, but they stopped the pangs in her belly until it was time to sleep. She rested against a low rock, watching clouds chase each other above other mountain peaks. A sudden flicker of movement caught her attention. When she turned, a man sat watching her on the other side of the trail.

"Where has he come from?" Claire wondered. The man sat, his arms relaxed against his sides, showing he meant no harm. His face bore marks of deep weathering from many seasons.

"He's not from my people." The men of her tribe kept their faces shaved, but this man's beard was flecked with grey, his hair hanging loose past his shoulders. His clothes seemed familiar, but his deerskin was dyed green and underneath she could see a cloth shirt nestling against his skin. His eyes were shaded by the broad brimmed hat he wore. She knew enough of strangers not to seek his gaze, lest it give him power over her before she set her own protection.

"Why is he here?" She made no move to greet him, trying to make some sense of his presence. "Am I not to travel alone?" she wondered. "Have the Old Ones sent me a companion, or is this just another test I must endure?

His tangled web

Internet friendships can become complicated when you don't tell the truth


He expected me in velvet.

"I always see you in velvet" he said, when I admitted velvet skirts were my favourite clothes for relaxation. A style left over from the swinging sixties. A time of love, peace and goodwill to all men. A time I wanted to be part of, but missed by several years, hating the torn t-shirts, safety pins and spiked hair of the punks who coloured my adolescence.

I wanted to float, to dream, to spend time doing nothing except watch the sunrise and sunset and the glories which fall between.

Life isn't like that. When you finish feeding your mind with facts other people want you to know, there is work and work and more work. If you're lucky and find the right person, there is love and play and homes and children and joy and cares and tears and laughter.

I used to watch them. The mothers walking their children to school - clean clothes, neat hair, book bags dangling by their sides. Skipping along holding hands, with the light of enthusiasm still bright in their eyes. I watched them grow older as they changed schools. Boys with shirts hanging over their trousers, ties askew, girls in tight, short skirts and no coats no matter how cold the weather.

It didn't happen like that for me. There was never the right time, the right place, the right job. I thought there was the right man, but he was taken when I met him, bound up in commitments to wife, mortgage, children. There was passion, but he offered no promises, suggesting future opportunities, but the future has a habit of disappearing, subsumed by the present, making me realise the futility of allowing my future to be fashioned from the crumbs of another's possibilities. After fifteen years, I said farewell, taking my leave, determined to find a sunset of my own choosing.

I was growing old. The endless chatter of students brushing past me as I took my lunchtime walk in the park annoyed me. They spilled out over footpaths like a mindless sea, brushing aside anyone or anything in their way. I was invisible. The middle aged woman in the long green coat, merging with the hawthorn hedge or disappearing into the yew grove when no-one was looking.

"Will you come and hear me sing?"

The question surprised me. He lived so far away, why would he want me to come and listen to his songs? It wasn't as if we were real, we'd only been talking over the internet for a short time. It felt like a short time. Late at night in the darkness of winter when spring was still a glimmer of hope suggested by violets we came across one another. An evening of laughter. He made me smile. I appreciated the quick wit and banter, but did not expect to talk to him again.

I was wrong.

We found so many things to talk about. Music, books, work, play – the list was endless and immaterial. We talked. We shared experiences, hopes, the small minutiae of our daily lives. I learned the names of his colleagues and cousins, heard about their children, lives and events. I shared the pressures of my daily life,frustrations with my clients, the uncertainties of my job.

Somehow it made it easier having someone else to tell. He became my sounding board for new ideas, a sponge absorbing my emotions, helping me back towards a sense of balance. He was my friend.

We joked about meeting one day, about visiting art galleries in our wheelchairs, chaperoned by uniformed attendants who would push us where we wanted to go. I knew it wouldn't happen. He was too far away. There was no reason to spend so much money on just a trip.

I knew he would never visit me. Things were so different for him. It was as much as he could do to earn enough to keep himself and his son. His ex-wife had a drink problem and didn't work so he gave her money to keep her from losing a roof over her head. He blamed himself for what she had become, no matter how much I tried to show him it wasn't his fault, that we all choose our own path and walk it alone.

So how did I come to be standing here, outside the bar where I knew he was singing tonight?

Tears in a Dry Land - WARNING Chapters 6 and 8 contain adult content.

A romance from the shores of an ancient Mediterranean


The girl stood in the shadow of the mud house to watch the rich man's progress through the market place. Her ragged dress could not hide the thickening of her waist. Her head was covered with a heavy veil to keep out dust swirling around on the hot wind from the desert.

Sometimes, men -- strangers to this place - thought her condition made her an easy target for their desires, but others would soon warn them about the curse. Anyone who lay with her would die. Though some tried, her vacant stare and mindless prattling soon made them seek easier companions.

She often stood here watching crowds jostle around the flimsy stalls, sometimes loading their purchases onto donkeys or haggling with the stallholders for a better price. Today a group of women were berating a small child for dropping a basket of watermelons in the dust. The fruit was well past ripe, the basket too heavy for her to hold. As she stumbled, melons slid to the ground, spilling their juices and fragrances into the dust. No-one would pay money for damaged fruit.

Already cunning beggar boys were picking them up and disappearing into the maze of alleyways before anyone could stop them. Furious hands struck the child, angry voices scolding her for not holding more tightly to the basket.

The girl did not hear what the rich man said. She heard only the silence which followed. She saw silver being pressed into the young girl's hand. Then another strange thing happened. The rich man raised his head towards her, his dark brown eyes meeting her gaze. He looked tall and thin under his simple robe, only his proud bearing marking him out for who he was. Everyone knew him. Everyone deferred to his command. Everyone, except the watching girl, who knew no-one.

In two quick strides he stood before her. He placed his hand on her belly and for a moment her vacant eyes cleared. It was as if a lightning bolt struck her. She could not tell if she staggered, but suddenly she knew this man fathered her child.

When she looked up, he was gone. Her eyes scanned the crowd, suddenly catching sight of his bare head moving away through the throng of people. At the edge of the square, he turned and looked back at her, seeming to pause for a second.

There was a meaning in his gaze, saying, "Come with me, if you will, but come now."