OPEN YOUR HEART

I’ve always been interested in the story.

As a child, it was Roald Dahl and it was within his story of The BFG that I first fell in love with storytelling.  The tale became so embedded that when I was eight years old, I would leave my bedroom window slightly ajar so that if he happened to be passing The BFG would blow a beautiful dream my way, while I slept and dreamed of stories.

However, as an adult, I never envisaged that it would be my own personal story that would consume me the most.

I have always been interested in ancestry and wondered about the secrets locked within the caverns of my family’s past.  Finally, last year, I explored my interest at the ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ exhibition in Glasgow.

Since then writing has taken over but in hindsight I wasn’t meant to start my research then.  It wasn’t the right time.  

Now it is the right time.

I started with the usual websites and quickly found myself obsessed and as my once buried research skills rose to the fore.  It turns out once a bloodhound always a bloodhound.  Figures and facts initially assailed me until underneath the surface I saw the stories buried within the past emerge into life.

Then I found myself meeting two great Aunts, Margaret and Isabella Dewar, born in 1854.  Perhaps it was The Kinship Chronicles and the creation of Amber and Aiden within me but I found myself piqued by these twins and particularly in Isabella.

After the age of seven, I could find no trace of her.  I found possibilities like a certificate that showed she could have married at seventeen or the 1930 American census that showed she might have ended up in Texas, living with her sister.

Curious and looking for answers, I went to the Scotland’s People Centre in Edinburgh to get some answers.

Armed with pads of paper and my folder of research I walked happily into the building on Princes Street, as quiet as a church, with thick dusty registers on the large forgotten shelves I found myself within the past and I knew for certain this would be the first of many visits.

Logging onto the system, I enthusiastically searched for Isabella determined to find out what had happened to her.  Hitting a brick wall, one of the archivists made couple of suggestions and finally I found her.

Isabella Dewar died on 22nd March 1865 at the age of 11 from pleurisy.

It’s strange to mourn a little girl born over 100 years before you but as I read the words on the screen I honestly wanted to cry.

For this little girl had lived in my dreams and had taken my heart.  In my mind’s eyes I had seen her dancing alone to bygone music in a drawing room and I loved the possibility and hope she represented. I so wanted Isabella to have lived a happy life and finding out she left this world at such a young age made me feel sad.

Now, even a few weeks later, I still feel her with me and I know now she will forever be alive because she is part of my history and as my family marks the progress of time, so will she.

Then I understood the lesson.

All I had to do was open my heart.  When you’ve been hurt you protect yourself. You guard your heart with a shield that few can penetrate.  Except it is only by surrendering, by trusting and opening yourself up to every emotion that you find your true self.  It is this act of faith that will give you the life you want, if you are prepared to work for it.

So, if this is my story and my relatives find me 100 years from now this is what I would like them to know;

I am a storyteller who is consumed by words.  I like cinnamon in my coffee.  Every time I go for a walk on the beach, I come back with pockets full of stones and shells.  I am clumsy and I have a soft spot for musicals.  And when I love I do so with a passion that knows no bounds.

So, if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; open your heart and it will set you free.  In the meantime, while I write my new series, I’m away to finally find my great granny, Christina Anderson, who read the teacups.

I can’t wait.

FEEDING THE STORY

I can’t cook. I know this saying is banded out quite regularly but unfortunately, in my case, it is very true.  I really can’t cook.

When I moved into my flat, my family and friends asked how I was going to fend for myself with genuine concern and assumed I would be living on a diet of sandwiches and takeaways.  However, I have to admit they have a point.

I once put an omelette in the oven. Honest.

Then there was the time, I once attempted to make a curry that turned into a risotto.  

I even have an interesting approach to toast.  I don’t like the bread fully toasted only slightly browned.  I like pizza cooked but not the cheese hardened and I add runny honey to my cereal.

It’s not all bad, I can twist a jar open like nobody’s business and I never, ever give up.

I am still determined to make the perfect omelette but it’s a delicate operation.  Last week, I almost got there.  Unfortunately, I made the pan too hot and it the omelette was boiled instead of heated and it tasted…crispy.

This step in the right direction has been shattered as I’m currently writing this after attempting to make a mushroom omelette that willingly jumped into the bin along with the frying pan.

Cooking for many is considered a creative talent and the love of food and an appreciation for the skills required to produce such art is renowned the world over. 

Unfortunately, for me, this art form has far too many rules.  Ingredients have to be measured and added at a particular time and given the law of physics is yet to be bend to my thought process I have decided to concentrate on what I love most. 

Writing.

The world of words has no limitations or rules and that’s exactly what blows my mind about it.  The world inside my head plays a story.  A song that only I can hear.  Listening to my heart I write what I am meant to at the exact time I am meant to.  I am following my destiny. 

Now, thousands of words in and willingly caught within the whirlwind of storytelling, I have come to understand that while I was living and learning I was feeding the story instead.  

Perhaps, one day I’ll learn to cook.  Until then, I will appreciate all the flavours out there and stick to what I am good at.

So, if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; feed your story, whatever that may be.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with one final question; toast anyone?

BLESSINGS

I get lost easily.

In this world of satnav and Google maps it seems that this feat should be impossible.  However, I must confess, it still happens to me on a regular basis.

So, when my Mum and I went for a walk towards the Frances Pit recently and given our history of heading to Edinburgh and ending up in Glasgow, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t a complete disaster, we saw the winding gear but couldn’t find the path to get to it until eventually we found ourselves in the middle of an industrial estate.  We thought we got lucky when we found a path only to discover it belonged to a farmer and we were not only on his land but also in the next village.

Then it started raining. 

Not tiny spring droplets but a full shower.  Then the hailstones said hello.

Sheltering behind a van my Mum pulled out her mobile determinedly and phoned my Dad to get ‘directions’.

Then all I heard was “Gary, it’s snowing, you’ll need to come and get us.”

It wasn’t snowing.

Ten minutes later en-route we were picked up by my Dad who stopped the car and just shook his head at us, as he has done many times before.

I suggested we go a coffee and five minutes we were sitting with lattes and sausage rolls enjoying breakfast together.

Looking out over the now sunny harbour and a lone elderly man walking his dog. My Dad, the original storyteller, told a story of a man who phoned while whilst he was volunteering for a charity helpline on a Saturday night many years ago.  He called not because he had a particular problem but because he simply wanted to talk.

That morning he had won two tickets for the Brandenburg concertos in Vienna through a competition.

And that night, at 10.30pm, he phoned a charity helpline because he had no one else to tell.

My Dad, the original alpha male, got emotional as he said;

“You know, you could have phoned about 20 people to pick you up today but some people don’t have anyone.”

Looking at my parents and thinking of my family and friends, I realised just how blessed I am. 

I have a home, the means to look after myself, a passion for writing and most importantly I have people who care for me and thinking of that man I wanted to cry myself as I realised that some people aren’t as lucky.

So sometimes, lost in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.

Lisa Young

So sometimes, lost in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.

It’s about honouring yourself and those around you by showing a kindness.  By taking a minute just to speak to a stranger because you may just be the only person they speak to that day.

This has sown a seed within me and I want this to grow, because maybe by being kind to just one person we can foster a world where someone doesn’t have to call a charity helpline to share their good news. 

When I was dropped off, I opened my mail and knowing that actions speak louder than words I contacted the Salvation Army who work with the homeless and the lonely and arranged a monthly donation to help their work.

We can all make a difference to someone else.We just need to believe that we can.

So, if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; count your blessings and celebrate your family and friends even those who were once strangers. I just did.

SMARTIES

I organise my smarties. 

First of all, I separate them into colours.  

Get comfortable, I’m just getting started.

Then I eat surplus so each colour has the same number. 

I’m not finished yet. 

Then I eat the dark colours before I gradually come to my last and very favourite colour – pink.  

No, I’m not kidding.

I even eat them in a particular way and don’t get me started on Ferrero Rocher.  We could be here for days.  

This ritual has followed me quite comfortably into adulthood.  In fact, as a family joke, I get given a packet of pink smarties as a Christmas gift every year.  Only my Dad laughs more than I did. 

On the other hand, when I write I follow no ritual or plan.  I trust my instincts completely, utterly and without question and I know that I will go where I am meant to go.  I don’t story board my books.  Don’t get me wrong I’ve got a fair idea of where I’m going but I can’t follow a list of notes or a spreadsheet.  In my humble opinion, it would take the fun out of it and if it’s not fun it’s not worth doing in the first place.

I would rather experience the pleasure of writing and being surprised by a memory that sneaks upon a character and it is this experience that feeds my love of storytelling.  When the characters born in my imagination take on their own lives and tell me what to do.   There is nothing like it in the world.

When I write I follow no ritual or plan

Lisa Young

For me, it’s about all about trusting your creativity.

It’s about holding out your arms, closing your eyes and falling backwards into the unknown and as you hurtle towards the ground you can only believe that the story will catch at the exact moment it is meant to.  

Creativity is clever and never fails to surprise or intrigue me by giving me the ending of the story before I had even written one word.  Another adventure with no map or compass makes it all the more fun when you reach that final sentence of the story.

And as for the sweeties I’m not a control freak. Honest. For me, pleasure, true pleasure should be savoured. So, if I can leave you with one parting wish, I would like to this; anticipate your pleasures, creative or otherwise.  I do.

TIME TO CREATE

I am a performer.

I walk out into the Great Hall at Storm Castle and come to a standstill in front of the Queen.  The guards at either side of me are extras but I don’t need a supporting cast. 

This is my show.

The problem is that I don’t even get to play the part I want.  The true me.  The killer without a consciousness.   Instead, I have to pretend I’m sorry.

No chance. 

My eyes narrow on the Queen as she speaks and I stifle the urge to burst out laughing at this farce of a trial.  We all know how it will end.  I watch as Povack, the pompous ass, stands in front of me dressed like a decorated turkey and reads out the charges.  Looking beyond, I see the girl who was my mission in the crowd.  Biting her lip, the beat of her breath leaping in her throat.  As our eyes meet I smile as I appreciate that for her alone I can be me.

I drag my tongue along my teeth as the declaration is made and I hear her scream.  That delicious, chilling surrender and I feel an unexpected emotion – appreciation for her reaction.  I needed it. 

I am so bored.  

I am tired of being what everyone else wants me to be.  I am tired of society’s expectations.  I am done with doing something other than what I want.  I have had enough and I mean to do something about it.   

The drama of the extras ends and I am led away at the order of the King, if you could call him that.   I test the shackles around my wrists and know it is a matter of time until they are removed and I relish my freedom.

In the meantime, I am a performer and I am magnificent.

“Condemn me, deny me, it matters none,

The balance is gone, never to return,

I am but a shadow cast by all,

Yet man wonders why the mighty fall?

So when will the lamb lie with the lion?

That’s one prophecy I’ll never let happen”

Luther

The Kinship Chronicles

NANA’S CHRISTMAS FLAN

You will need:

Cake sponge (circular)

Fruit cocktail tin (large)

Powdered jelly

Directions:

Open cake sponge and place on Christmas plate.

Open tin and extract juice. 

Place fruit cocktail on top of cake sponge.

Open back up tin if needed.

Ensure all surface of sponge is covered.

Open jelly, mix and place on top of fruit cocktail.

Place in fridge to set. 

3 hours later…

Open fringe and place Christmas flan on tea trolley.

Place tin of whipped cream beside Christmas Flan.

Place 6 Christmas plates on bottom of tea trolley.

Push tea trolley through to dinner table.

Graciously accept praise for baking Christmas Flan.

Pass out plates and offer generous portions.

Laugh as family fight over tin of whipped cream.

Shake your head and offer the true dessert of Christmas cake and cups of tea.

Love your family.

Make them smile. 

Love Nana

xxx

REMEMBRANCE

I miss my Nana and Granddad. 

For the last few days, I have felt nostalgic.  For most of my life, I have been incredibly lucky.  Until 4 years ago, I had all my grandparents and I am very fortunate to still have my Gran and Granddad.  A delightful couple that make me laugh with their bickering and humble me with their obvious love for each other.    

All I know is that as the year draws to a close, like many others, I feel the loss of those no longer here even more keenly.

All I know is that my Nana and Granddad are never too far way.

This year, I have felt my Granddad Andy every time I walked through his golf club and looked around for his car.   I would smile when offered an Werther’s original and last week I got teary when I opened a box and found his handkerchief, neatly folded in two, just as it had been when he handed it to me to keep safe.  Andy Young was a gentleman and he is never too far away because when I look and speak to my Dad I see him.

My Nana makes her presence felt on a daily basis.  Earlier this year, when I was researching her family history.  I found myself in MacDuff Cemetery in East Wemyss and hearing her voice say “up near the castle, at the back.”  Directions that for me, the eternal lost traveller, proved fortuitous.  Looking at the gravestone, I could hardly believe I was finally meeting her ‘Granny from the Toll’.  

The original Jessie.  

My Nana’s middle name and the name I affectionately called the manuscript of TKC.  So this weekend, it seemed only right to take a wreath and pay tribute to my great, great grandparents George and Jessie Dewar and my great Aunt Kate for the help I received beyond the veil.  Where love has no barriers. 

I still bought my Nana and Granddad a Christmas card this year and left it at their tree.  It seemed wrong not to as she would religiously count them every year and was never satisfied until they reached the magical number of 40 but nearing 50 was better.  

And when I found my flat it seemed fated that its location would be directly opposite Nana’s church.  She definitely had a hand in it.   

And while I miss them, the memories, so full of light and laughter, make me smile.   I may not see them anymore but I know, in my heart, that they are never too far away. 

There is something about Christmas, that makes us remember, that makes us kinder, that makes us celebrate our family and friends more.

It’s about paying tribute to your past and making new memories for the future.  

It’s about Love.


Love is all that matters. 


THE LAST TIME

For the last year I have been walking the same route. 

As with most circumstances in my life it wasn’t intentional.  Still when I wake up on a Saturday or Sunday I feel compelled to walk through the woods, past Dunniker Golf Club to Dunniker Park and back. 

I love to walk. Even now when the frost is painting circles on the footpath I cosy up and still head out with my music.  As I’m moving to pastures new next weekend I took this route today for the very last time and I will miss it. 

I will miss how the sun shimmers through the trees and paints diamonds on the forest floor. 

I will miss the friendly nods from the regular dog walkers I pass. Knowing them but not knowing them.

I will the beagal that barks at me every single time I pass him after being told by his owner “he’s scared of hats. Don’t be offended lass he doesn’t like runners either.” 

I shall miss going into the pro shop at the golf club and buying a latte to drink on the way home.

I shall miss looking up towards the 6th hole and almost seeing my Grandad Andy lining up his golf ball to take a shot. 

I shall miss being stopped by all the golfers who know my Dad and always ask after him. 

I shall miss coming back to the house and my Mum and Dad smiling as they see me.

But as with the end of one life and the beginning of another.  A change of route heralds new opportunities and I’m excited.   

But I will still miss it. 

MAKE IT HAPPEN

I love TED Talks.

I stumbled upon them a year ago when my cousin Claire, the bohemian artist, raved about them at a family wedding.  Curious, I went and found our more and loved what I found.

For those who are unaware, TED was founded in 1984 as a one-off event.  A plethora of speakers presenting different ideas.  Since 2005, the talks have been offered online.  By 2012, TED Talks had been viewed one billion times worldwide.

These days, I don’t have time for television marathons.  My inner writing voice demands most of my time and while I love my creative outlet.  Sometimes, I need to the foot of the gas and take five minutes for myself.  My friend TED helps me do that. 

There are talks about every single subject under the sun and I watch them all, always learning something I never knew before.  And every once in a while I come across one that resonates so deeply I can’t deny its impact.  It is called The Mystery Box by JJ Abrams. 

I love JJ Abrams.  He would be an honoured guest at my fantasy dinner party along with Maya Angelou, Orson Welles and John F Kennedy.  His enthusiasm for his craft and storytelling is infectious.  As you listen to him you instinctively know that this is a man with an imagination and perception that is limitless and his message is clear.  Accept no barriers and “Go and make your movie.”

As humans, we impose rules and constraints that limit our view.   But if you take a step back you understand that the possibilities are endless and the tools and talent is out there to make the pictures in your head a reality.

Manifestation is the most powerful tool you have.  If the thought exists in your mind it lives a life of infinite possibility. 

So if I could leave you one parting wish, I would like it to be this – make it happen.  Your life is happening right now, don’t miss it.  

Opportunities appear to those who look for them. Go out there and live the life you imagined.  

I am. 

NATURE

The storm rages inside me.  It’s always been there.  I tried to quell it, to bury it inside me so deep, only I could hear its insidious whisper inside my soul. But it raged and it screamed, relentless until today when I finally set it free.

I look in the mirror as I push the dirty wet cloth over the stains on my skin and acknowledge what I have become.  My eyes find the white lines embedded into my skin.  Permanently interwoven into my flesh like a jigsaw within me that will never be solved.  I only know what was responsible.  The whip… The belt…  The knife…. The hand….  I have faced them all.  I have stood; ready, waiting, anticipating the next blow. 

The man who raised me never pretended he was my father.  My first memory is of being pushed outside in the pouring rain and being told to fight for my supper with the dogs.  They devoured the scraps before I reached them and hid under blackened and broken pieces of wood.  Watching me nervously, growling and worried I was going steal their makeshift shelter.  I knew I had to survive.  I plunged my small hands into the mud, picked up a handful and ate it.  

I was 3 years old.

Throwing the cloth into the dirty basin.  I look past my reflection to the body in the other room.  His skin is dotted like a piece of art clothed in circumstance.  He is finally silent.   He always had too much to say.  When he threw down the jug of brew and stalked towards me I knew I had a choice and as the blade silenced him.  I released a long held breath.  One I had been holding inside for 15 years.  And for one blissful moment, the relentless screaming inside me stopped and I found the peace I had always been searching for.  Then as I turned away the scream returned.  Loud, unforgiving and relentless.  My lips curved into a smile as I acknowledged my purpose.  

I am to silence the storm.

Picking up my sack of meagre belongings, I leave the ramshackle building without looking back and head outside to another life.  Looking up into the purple Sensio sky I swear that one day it will reflect the hate inside me.  Turning at the unusual sound, I register the steady movement of wheels as they leave the woods and stop in front of me.   The carriage is ornate with royal blue and gold spindled across the structure, so out of place I am hypnotised for a moment.  Before I become annoyed at the intrusion.  I want to leave.  The carriage stops in front of me and I look into the cabin and meet the eyes of the one who has finally come for me.  Slowly, I smile.  I’m going to enjoy this. 

“Condemn me, deny me, it matters none,

The balance is gone, never to return, 

I am but a shadow cast by all, 

Yet man wonders why the mighty fall?

So when will the lamb lie with the lion?

That’s one prophecy I’ll never let happen”

Knight Luther Barton

The Kinship Chronicles