Thursday, 30 December 2010

In Conclusion

I have been deliberating about whether to set New Year's Resolutions for 2011, after having had many many years of them not really working for me and indeed making me disillusioned with myself. Thank you to everyone who has sent me advice and encouragement on this subject.

My conclusion is that I am going to have overall themes rather than resolutions for 2011 and then add to these monthly achievable goals to move myself forward. As I was typing those words this felt absolutely the right way to go.

So my overall themes will be:

Fitness - with the view to increasing my stamina and body tone.

Health - aimed at reducing my weight and sorting out niggly small health problems.

Writing - increasing my output, finishing projects and marketing my work.

This sounds much more positive than the resolution stick to beat myself with. What do you think?

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Do I Need Them?

Do I need New Year's resolutions? I found myself straying to them when I woke this morning. Would I be better calling them goals for 2011? Or not having any at all?

They won't be too different from those of previous years even if I do have them. You know what I mean, they go along the lines of - 1. Lose weight, 2. Exercise more. 3. Write more.

Of course goals are supposed to be measurable and achievable, so I guess they should read - 1. Lose two stones in weight, 2. Go to the gym three times a week, 3. Write 2000 words a day. But am I motivating myself with these, or setting myself up to feel bad later in the year?

Maybe I could set myself monthly goals, or weekly goals, or daily goals.....

Help please. How do you approach this and what would you recommend?

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Memories

Merry Christmas to you all and best wishes for a happy and successful 2011.

In honour of the occasion, I thought I would note down a few Christmas memories.

1. Santa leaving our presents all over Mom and Dad’s bedroom and my parents were still asleep when we woke up.

2. Dad buying Mom a food processor and it wasn’t a popular choice.

3. The huge turkey which was Dad’s Christmas bonus from work. It sat in up in the fridge and turned us all off eating it.

4. The year I gave James a hamster and the rigmarole of getting the neighbours to hide it for me.

5. Mom’s ancient (70 plus years old) paper cottage that has always been on her Christmas trees.

6. The icicles I have hanging on my tree, which my Granddad obtained during the war.

7. The lovely huge chocolate boxes we used to get as children.

8. Boxing Day tea at my Pussy Nan’s.

9. My uncles plying my Nana Browning with Avocat.

10. My Dad’s abysmal attempts at charades.

11. Nana shaking the table cloth crumbs under the table when she thought no one was looking.

12. Huge family gatherings.

13. Boxing Day walks.

14. My sister being certain she had seen Santa with no clothes on!

Please add your own memories in comments.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Tribute to the Winter Solstice

Below are two pieces written in tribute to the solstice.

Solstice Celebration

We sat in a circle on small wooden stools. The fire burned at the centre of the group and made my face feel hot despite the chilly weather. All around us on the hillside was white sparkling snow. I loved the smell of the wood smoke and Sarah had perfumed it with herbs and pine cones. Flasks of mulled wine were shared amongst us to warm our bodies.

The drumming began low and slow. My beater against the goat skin seemed to take on a life of its own as my heart joined the rhythm. We drummed as one being, connected to earth and spirit. The hypnotic sounds echoed out into the hills as the moon rose slowly, majestically over the far peak. It was a perfect winter solstice moon, haloed with a blue shroud of glowing ice crystals. The sky was clear and dotted with brilliant stars. We sat in a hollow amongst the hills at a place where the ley lines converged and all of the spirits of this powerful place came together in a whirl of emotion and energy.

Wrapped warm against the cold, I realised that even my hat was gaining a coating of frost. It felt like a turning point. I felt part of this group and had never known such a belonging before. Even now I could see Andrew across the circle, his shy looks confirmed my feelings of connection and I wondered if this attraction could grow into something more promising.

Winter solstice, but not just any winter solstice, a solstice combined with a total eclipse of the moon. This pairing had not happened for four hundred years and I felt privileged to be here to witness the magical event.

Our leader, Sarah, cloaked magnificently in white with a fur edged hood was speaking and I drew my thoughts back to her. She thanked us for our support in 2010 and wished us well for the New Year. She acknowledged that the past year had been an intense journey of healing for many of us and boy was that true for me. During the year I had often felt extremely uncomfortable. It had been a big test of my trust in the unfolding of my life purpose. Sarah said it was now time for us to shed our old fears and to jump into the new with enthusiasm and knowing. I felt ready. I felt sure. My time was coming, I could feel it in my bones, like the chill in my toes. She told us to dream wildly and wisely, a sentiment that sent my active imagination into overdrive.

Our drumming increased in pace and intensity, encouragement for the moon and sun in their dance across the skies. My fingers were growing numb, but somehow my bodily comfort did not matter. I could see golden light around my companions as our auras joined and became one. My body swayed with the music of our tribute to the skies.

We fell silent as the sun began its passage across the face of the moon. It was as if it was slowly being eaten by a dark shadow, hidden from our view to take part in some mystical process of renewal. We collectively held our breath as the last fragment of shadow passed away and then we were cheering and drumming again with an otherworldly rhythm of togetherness, sending ripples of love out to the Universe and all of its beings. Our ceremony of prayer and healing became a glorious celebration of life and growth.

As we rose to make our way back to the farmhouse for a communal breakfast, Andrew fell into step by my side. He held my elbow when I stumbled a little on the uneven snowy ground and it felt right, so right.

© Morton Gray 2010

The Chosen Ones

Ancient ones feel closer.
Two score candles glow.
From the sacred beaker,
Blood drawn symbols flow.

Fire-lit red dolmens
Scented flower gowned.
Ceremonial tensions
Circle all around.

Power crystals twinkle.
Prophecy we seek.
Sacred water sprinkle.
Spirit energies peak.

Chanted incantations.
Trance provoking dance.
Soul remembered patterns.
Mistletoe enhanced.

Wode, chalk, red ochre
Painted on white faces.
Revere departed souls
Gathered in dark places.

Greet the wakening dawn
One with earth and sky.
Scanning misty heavens,
“Good harvests” we cry.

© Morton Gray 2010

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

I Only Met Him Once

We had only just arrived at the dance hall when I noticed him. Tall, with dark, closely cropped hair and a stature that suggested authority. All of the men were in uniform, it was after all a dance to celebrate the efforts of our forces. There was some indefinable difference that made him stand out.

My friends were giggling. We’d all tried to dress up as best we could given the restrictions of the war. Our well used frocks were embellished with ribbons, bows and flowers. Mary had dabbed cheap perfume behind our ears and it wafted around us like a group identity.

I was suddenly aware of how I might look to that man at the other side of the room. My cream dress with brown polka dots was borrowed and consequently it didn’t fit well. I’d added a red belt to pull in the waist and a red rose, which was already threatening to lose its petals. I didn’t possess stockings, so my legs were long and white. My shoes were practical and it pained me to see the high heels of others.

A group of men at the other side of the room were eying us up. The dance band struck up a tune and one by one my friends disappeared into the press on the dance floor. I started to feel self-conscious and analysed why I hadn’t been chosen. Tears sprang to my eyes and I blinked them away, praying that they would not dissolve the mascara applied from her precious black block earlier by my friend Marjorie.

I was just debating whether to leave or to hide in the ladies powder room when the tall man appeared at my side. He stood observing the dancers next to me.

‘We seem to be the only ones not dancing.’

It was a comment rather than a question. I felt I must reply, but all rational thought had deserted me. I managed a feeble, ‘Do you like dancing?’

‘Not particularly.’

‘I love it, but I rarely get the chance.’ I gazed at the dancers wistfully and then blushed as I realised he might think I was asking him to dance.

‘Do you live here?’

‘Yes, I was born in the village. Lived here all my life.’

‘So you know everyone and everything here?’

‘Painfully. I often dream of escape.’

‘Pastures new?’ He looked at me at last. His face was pale and his eyes dark.

‘I suppose so.’ I began to sway to a favourite tune.

‘Let me tell you something, er…’


‘Well Susie. I’m David by the way. Never underestimate belonging somewhere.’ He sighed.

‘That sounded heartfelt.’

‘I’ve never belonged anywhere. My father was in the army too. We never stayed in one place longer than six months. Now this war has meant I move even more. When it is over, I’m going to find myself a nice village like this and take root.’

The room had filled with cigarette smoke. I was thankful that I had never smoked as my eyes smarted. Pairs of dancers disappeared to the darkness. The band’s limited repertoire repeated often. We talked on. We never did dance. By the end of the evening, I had agreed to write to David and had his regimental address written on a matchbook.

I dutifully wrote, even though memories of his face blurred and I was writing to his upright image. I had letters from all over Britain and Europe in the next few years. They weren’t exciting letters, but it felt good to get them. I knew he kept most of the pain and gore from me.

One day they stopped. I mourned their loss. I never found out what happened to him, but in my heart of hearts I knew.

© Morton Gray 2010

Monday, 20 December 2010

Striking a Chord

I read Maisey Yates’ blog this morning and it struck a chord with me. My sister’s husband had a life improving operation on Sunday and I swear she had already written the eulogy for his funeral. He’s fine by the way. As Maisey says, why do we always imagine the worst?

As a trained Louise Hay teacher, a philosophy that advocates positive thinking, you would imagine that I would be better at this myself. I suppose the answer is, yes I am, most of the time. I accept that when it concerns your nearest and dearest it is more difficult. The thing is, as I’ve seen over the last few days with my sister, if you begin to think black thoughts, you seem to invite more in and then end up in a right stew.

Message for the day then? Let’s all make a concerted effort to look on the bright side this week, despite the restrictions imposed by the weather.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Present Dilemma

It is a bit disconcerting having a seven year old looking over your shoulder and reading out your manuscript. Thank fully I wasn’t working on a racy bit!

I’d forgotten how my time disappears when Daniel is on holiday. Hubbie is working from home at the moment too, so I seem to have become a washing and food preparation factory. Big son returns from university on Saturday with his girlfriend.

The cards are written, all 122 of them. I keep thinking that I have all the presents, but then today I realised I’d forgotten big son’s girlfriend and the gardener.

So to my dilemma. We have made an agreement between my sister, step-brother and step-sister, supposedly to simplify things, to buy a present for each family to the value of £15. This is instead of trying to cater for each individual in the four families. Sounded like a good idea at the time!

My sister is giving each family a photo calendar (she’s the photographer amongst us). My step-sister will probably (please Santa) bring beautiful chocolates from France. I haven’t got a clue what to get. Bearing in mind that step-brother’s family will be returning to Hong Kong before New Year and step-sister’s to Paris, so it has to be flat or consumable.

At the moment it will be a nice bottle of wine and home-made chocolate truffles or biscuits. What do you think or can you make a better suggestion please?

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Quick Panic

In the warm summer days of 2010 when I agreed to do a talk to the local WI on 14 February 2011, it seemed ages away. I woke up this morning realising that it is not far away at all!

My subject is “You and Your Family History” and I have an hour. I’ve done talks on family history many times before and even taught adult education classes, but I decided that this time I want to stress the importance of our older generations recording their memories and family stories. Even a few thoughts in a notebook can be helpful. A family tree can be a dry thing, full of dates. Most people can construct one with a little research from birth, marriage and death certificates, and other readily available records, but for me the thing that makes it come alive is the colour from actual memories.

I am fortunate as my mother has now written two volumes of memoires from her diaries. These include all the stories about how she met my father and where, what her thoughts were on the day of my birth, descriptions of her childhood family home and the deprivations of the war years. Priceless! Maybe she should be the writer instead of me.

This Christmas maybe give a thought to recording the stories from your older relatives, even the ones that bore you to tears every year. You may not be very interested now, but there will come a time when you are and it may be too late to ask. The writers amongst you may even find some gems of inspiration for stories.

While I am on my high horse, please ask relatives to write on the back of family photographs to avoid being given a box of nameless faces. Meanwhile, I’d better get back to making some notes for my talk.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


I managed to avoid it during November, as I was too busy with the Nanowrimo writing challenge, but now I feel firmly on the Christmas rollercoaster (and a little out of control!).

Little son breaks up from school next Friday (10 December), which feels obscenely early. While we will have fun though doing lots of Christmassy things, it feels as if I have one week to get Christmas organised.

I think we shall put up the trees and decorations when D has finished school. Meanwhile I have over a hundred Christmas cards to write. Thankfully managed to send the ones winging their way abroad last week. Present buying is virtually under control – I think!

It's Christmas lunch with the girlies tomorrow. I’m looking forward to that and have their little presents are already wrapped. It’s at our favourite cafĂ©, of course.

My Christmas cake is going to have to be one of those last minute recipes this year. How had I used to find the time years ago to make mincemeat, Christmas puddings and a cake, whilst working full time and being a single parent? I suppose I was a lot younger in those days.

Which reminds me, I must take the layers of dust off big son’s bedroom and make his bed. His been at Uni since September. It will be great to catch up with him. Hope he has been working hard, as it’s his final year.

Don’t suppose I shall be getting much writing done this week, but you never know. My characters have a habit of nagging me when I am busy doing other things, so I'll keep a notebook handy.

Hope your Christmas preparations are going well.