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

THE ALPHA MALES

I am surrounded by alpha males.  A few weeks ago, I spoke of my teachers.  The women whose impact on my life had been so phenomenal that I felt compelled to share their imprint in my writing.   Now I find myself wanting to redress the balance and share with you the special men I am lucky enough to have in my life.

First, there is my Granddad Pete.  A smart man whose gruff exterior hides the softest and biggest heart.   He is a walking encyclopaedia, forever with a book in his hand and loves sharing his knowledge of the world with anyone who will listen.  I let my Granddad Pete see a side of me I very rarely show to others and I adore my visits to him and my Gran.  My recent adventures in ancestry have become a joint venture and he has taken on the role of family storyteller, imparting long-forgotten folklore and breathing life back into the family of our past.  Our current project is to find out more about his Grandmother, Christina Anderson, who used to read the teacups and I have no doubt we will find her soon, or rather she will find us..

Then there is my Uncle Peter. He’s been there my whole life standing beside me with an invisible sword at the ready willing to slay any dragons for me.  The family joker, he is never without a funny tale to tell.  When I saw him a few weeks ago he doubled over with laughter, as he often does, as he told yet another story I’d never heard before.  How as a toddler I was standing up in the basin in front of the fire only to jump out of the water screaming when he started to hum the theme tune to ‘Jaws’.  I’m so lucky to have my Uncle Pete; my protector, my Godfather and my second Dad.  I love you millions.

As I blaze my own trail, I look to my inspiring, younger brother and know I couldn’t find a better example of fortitude and courage. 

Then there is my brother Neil who always looks out for me.   He is smart, fearless and braver than he gives himself credit for.  Independent since he left nappies, he started his own business aged 16 and has forged a career as a successful and very talented barber.  As I blaze my own trail, I look to my inspiring, younger brother and know I couldn’t find a better example of fortitude and courage.  I am very lucky to be his sister.

Then there are my nephews, Alex and George, who at 11 and 2 years old captured my heart from the moment they came into the world.

Alex is 11 going on 35.   Articulate with a beautiful mind and soul, I simply love spending time with him.  I could speak to him for hours as he shares his love of life with me.  Whether it is his determination to educate me in all matters relating to Minecraft.  Seriously, Alex, what does potatoes have to do with zombies?  Every month we have an outing, usually instigated by my book research.  Most recently we’ve been to Camera Obscura, where I learned a valuable lesson.  Never sugar up a child and take him back into an amusement.  To Falkland Palace and the huge slab of chocolate fudge cake he enjoyed afterwards “It’s a false high”.  The Muppets at the cinema, “I’m not allowed the large drink thanks!” and next weekend, we’re off to Edinburgh Castle for another adventure.   And as always, my brother will phone and say, “Sis, are you bringing him back?”  Yes, Neil, I am.  But very reluctantly…  

Then there is The George.   A two-year whirlwind bundle of fun who loves his trains and cars and already is showing all the determination and joker tendencies of a Young male.  George prefers to run everywhere but will accept transportation in the form of a hug if it means Percy and Thomas can come too.   Laughter is natural to him, whether he’s pulling your hand to get more “tracks” or singing the songs, only he knows, as he waters aka drowns his Gran’s plants.  He is an absolute joy.   The George is pure, unadulterated love.

Then there is my Dad. 

There are not enough words to describe just how much my Dad means to me and how much I love him.  My family are tactile and every day of my life he hugs me and tells me he loves me.  But whilst he loves, he teases in equal measure.

My Dad believes it is my mission in life to provide him with tea and biscuits whenever he wants them.  A few months ago, I was working at my lucky writing desk when my Dad came in and demanded to know where his custard creams where and why I wasn’t answering my phone.  Bearing in mind my Dad had walked past said biscuits to speak to me, I checked my phone to find three text messages, an e-mail and a voicemail all detailing his request for the biscuits.  Needless to say, the custard creams are still in the cupboard.  In retaliation I started to call him Pablo, after the famous cartel leader, in testament to the case he uses to hold of his medication.  He thought it was funny until I started playing the Miami Vice tune and now threatens to set his hippos on me. 

Notoriously even tempered my Dad very rarely loses his cool instead he just sighs.  Like when we all went to see Jurassic Park and Neil stumbled and emptied his popcorn, large size, all over Dad.   While we fell about laughing, he just starting picking off the popcorn from his jumper and sighed.

My dad is the original alpha male and I’ve finally realised that all my life I’ve been looking for someone just like him. 

I often am asked the question; “Are you Gary Young’s daughter?” 

Yes, I am and I am so proud of it.

But to my darling Dad I’ll always just be Lisa.

FAMILY STORIES

I have a passion for family folklore.  It started as a child staying with my grandparents on a Friday night.  I would watch my Granddad Andy going through his ritual, shining his shoes until they shone and tidying his hair until it sat perfectly.  Then finally, he would adjust his tie in the mirror before Ronnie or Sid came to pick him for their night at Dunniker Golf Club where they would play dominos and drink lager until the wee hours of the morning.

When he left my Nana would make my supper of toast and hot chocolate as we settled down to watch Dynasty.  Then would tell me of her own family at “The Toll House.” How as the only granddaughter of the youngest daughter she was fussed over by her three bachelor Uncles.  How her Granny made the best scones with fresh jam made from strawberries grown in the garden that surrounded the cottage.  Nine years old, sitting in my pyjamas, I would listen enthralled as she spoke of family long gone with the same love and affection as though they were in the room with us.  Having lost my Granddad Andy four years ago and my Nana, very recently, these memories give a comfort I cherish.

It’s the stories that bring the people no longer with us alive. 

Lisa Young

For me, that’s what family folklore is all about.  It’s the stories that bring the people no longer with us alive.  The numbers and dates do nothing for me.  Instead it only leaves me yearning for more.  What were the quirks of their personality?  What made them laugh?  Who did they love?  The stories passed down from grandmother to granddaughter that makes these relative strangers; your kin, feel like people you’ve known your whole life.

My interest has recently shifted from folklore to genealogy.  My next faerie tale has led me back to my past.  Back to the roots of my foundations and I was surprised to realise that beyond my grandparents I know very little about the clans I come from.  Lately, my visits to my Gran and Granddad Pete have taken on an element of storytelling.  Where they delight in giving me stories from the past I can turn into tales.  On a recent visit, my Gran announced she had a video of footage my Granddad Pete taken with his first camcorder in 1995.  Watching the footage and hiding behind my hands, I was transported back to being 18 years old enjoying my graduation party, dancing with my family and friends in my parent’s living room.  Then the footage slowly panned off to the left and for ten all too brief seconds I saw my Granddad Andy, who would have been 93 years old this week, look into the camera.  In those brief precious moments I was in the room with him again.  We looked at each other through the veil of space and time and I started to cry.  In the four years since he passed away, I’d forgotten how I felt when I looked at him.  How his lovely gentle eyes would crinkle in the corners.  How his soft smile would cradle me in a way I’ve never felt since then.  How he affectionately called me “cuddles” every time he saw me.  I cried as I remember something I never should never have forgotten.  I was loved. 

So, if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; find your story.  Celebrate your past and remember where you came from and how loved you are.  This weekend I’m indulging in another adventure to Glasgow to find out more at the ‘Who Do You Think You are? Live exhibition.  But I’m not going alone.  I’m taking my Gran’s Great Grandmother, Marion West Haxton, with me and I’m going to find all about her story.  For her story is also mine.  I am my family and who  knows, perhaps when I’m there, my very own story will start too….       

FEMININE DIVINE

I have many teachers.  Over the last few years, through fate, and circumstance, I have found myself meeting those special souls.  Those people who understand my true reflection.  Who, without intention, teach me valuable lessons.  These serendipitous relationships with these women has taught me more about myself than I ever realised and in the process of embracing my true self, I’ve come to appreciate I wouldn’t be here without them.

I met my yoga teacher, Morag Watson, three years ago when I first attended her class at a local gym.  One of the side effects of the blip was severe panic attacks that left me immobile, panicked and wondering where my next breath was coming from.  I was nervous, I’d hid at home for months and leaving the safety of the four walls I’d imprisoned myself within was daunting.  Entering the room, I initially hid in the corner until she walked over, a petite woman with a warm, gentle smile.  Morag said hello, welcomed me and I instantly felt at ease.  For months, I hid in my safe corner at the back of the room and gradually my body began to listen to Morag.  I never missed her class and gradually I learned to breathe again.  Morag referred to her “toolkit”.  The skills she could teach us so we could learn to live and embrace the life we are meant to.  She laughs constantly and has an internal light so bright; she subconsciously attracts people to her with her kindness and zest for life.  To this day, I still attend her classes and if I miss them my body keenly reminds me I need my “heed hovered” as Morag often says.  Now, I meditate daily without thinking about it, a practice so embedded within my psyche, I can’t remember the person I was before I started.  That’s her special gift.  Her generosity of sharing her knowledge, encouraging you to be who you are and helping you understand the secret; that you had the power to save yourself all along, you’d only forgotten about it.  In my very humble opinion, the world would be a better place if everyone took up yoga.  Thank you Morag.

Then there is June Finlayson, a lady who I’ve known for years through a friendship between my dearly missed Granddad Andy and her lovely husband.  If you looked up ‘Free Spirit’ in the dictionary, you should really find her name under it.  June truly embraces her true reflection, as an Artist, Therapist, Wife, Mother and Grandmother.  We meet every few weeks for a coffee, cake and a chat and I can happily spend hours in her company.  She makes me ask questions of myself I’d thought of but never confronted and is an advocate of lifelong learning.  June is a walking library and recently encouraged me to read ‘Woman Who Run With The Wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and ‘Something is Happening’ by Winifred Rushford.  Two books I enjoyed and learned something special from.  I love her artwork, the patterned shapes and perfectly chosen colors speak to me in my quirky randomness.  Recently, I had the pleasure of attending an exhibition ‘In Time’ at the Lochgelly Centre in Fife and had to purchase my own June Finlayson original.  The Centre filled with people and a certain Gordon Brown MSP was a testament to her and the other artist’s talent and their mission to use creative therapy to help people.  Thank you June.  I look forward to our next confab.

Then there is Margaret Thomson, my Aunt and someone I’ve always admired.  Even as a child, I loved her company.  She is a strong, compelling lady who completely embraces her individuality.  She passionately loves music, her eclectic taste ranges from classical to punk and beyond from Debussy to Nutini and she is a talented dressmaker, particularly with wedding trousseau.  As our Reader in Residence, Margaret generously took on the task of reading my book, refusing to accept anything other than flowers and cupcakes as payment.  Spending hours and hours of her free time working on my ‘baby’ something I’ll always be grateful for.  Margaret teaches me patience, and when I wanted to rush ahead a few months ago, she encouraged me to wait.  “It’s your life’s work Cassie, don’t rush and regret it.”  And so I waited, and I’ll be forever grateful I listened to her great advice.  Thank you Margaret we wouldn’t be here without you.

Her daughter, my cousin Claire, is also an original.  A true bohemian, talented Artist and Furniture Designer to boot, our conversations range from the strange to zany and I always enjoy her unconventional view of life.  Claire works on ten projects at once, always knowing the exact time to return and complete them.  Thank you Claire and remember I want first dibs on that saddle chair.

Then there is my Auntie Karen, who has been there all my life.  She is tactile, elegant and as smart as hell.  Karen always reminded me of the legendary ‘Jackie Onassis’ and carries an air of sophistication that can’t be taught; only possessed.  A real lifelong teacher, I have fond memories of sitting in her house as a little girl, and drawing puffins after I decided I was going to do a project on “birds”.  She sat beside me patiently whilst I drew aka massacred the poor birds, gently suggesting I use the red colouring pencil instead of the neon pink one I picked up.  Karen has been the same all my life, sitting quietly at my side, ready to step in whenever I needed her, like a lioness with her grateful cub.  I am very lucky to be her niece.  Thank you Karen.  

Next is my Gran, a lovely woman with a kind soul who lives for her family and Andre Rieu.  Recently, we saw his Maastricht 2014 concert at a local cinema and as he made the same jokes he’s obviously used many times before, she laughed like a teenager at a One Direction concert.  She sang every aria and although she’s been there from the moment I took my first breath, I saw her as the bright shining light she is and was utterly enchanted by her.  At the age of 77, she got her first iPad and is a demon on the internet.  So much so, she can rival me, a former Police Scotland Researcher, on any day of the week.  When my Granddad had to spend Christmas Day away from us last year.  She doggedly googled the medical procedure he had so she could tell ‘her Pete’ all about and when he came home, she calmed down and looked at him the same way she’s done since they were teenagers about to embark on a new life together.  My Gran is quirky, funny and a true individual and I feel her love for us every day.  Thank you Gran.

Then there is my lovely sister in law, Nicola, who is more than just my brothers wife, but also a dear friend.  She has only ever saw the real me and is one of the kindest, most genuine people I have ever met.  I can speak to hear about anything.  We always laugh and have never forgotten about the Christmas night out many years ago when she ordered a kebab, with lots of cheese only to leave it overnight in my Dad’s car when he came to pick us up.  My family could not wish for a better wife for my brother or mother to my nephews.  We are lucky she is part of our family and I am lucky she is my friend.  Thank you Nicola. 

But my ultimate teacher, the one who helps me more than I ever understood possible.  It can only be my Mum.  She makes me look my reflection more than most, even when I don’t want to and she is there whenever I’ve needed her.  Mum is supportive of my creative ventures, always asking how I’m getting on with my book.  Recently, we went out for dinner and I confessed that I was scared.  My life is going to change in the next months and the shy part of me wants to hide my bedroom away from it all.  She looked at me, with her lovely blue eyes and said determinedly “but you’re still doing it aren’t you?  I felt fortified.  Sometimes, I feel like a dozen pieces that move and shimmer to their own will and I need someone to balance me.  My Mum does this for me.  The unfortunate thing is my Mum has no idea how smart, beautiful and brave she really is.  She worries, fusses and loves us so fiercely we would be lost if she wasn’t there.  Even in her quiet moments, she makes me believe I can do the impossible.  Thank you Mum.


So, if I could leave with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; thank your teachers.  Celebrate the special people in your life who look past the smoke and mirrors and see you as your true reflection.  Take a moment and say those two special little words so they understand the undeniable and lifelong impact they’ve had on your life.  Say thank you.  I just did.

THE TRUE REFLECTION

I’ve always apologised for being me.  I’ve never felt comfortable in my own skin.  All my life, I’ve fit myself into boxes, the student, the daughter, the friend, were some of the labels I adopted and when I was cast in these roles within these scenarios, I would adapt to please the people around me and suit the situation I found myself in.

Throughout my life, I’ve encountered mentors who put a mirror in front of me.  My favourite Teacher at Primary School was Mrs Scott, a warm and kind-hearted woman, who looked past my outside reflection, my innate shyness, and saw the real me.  She encouraged my creativity and every week we would get the chance to write a story.  It was my favourite time of the week.  I would sit in a dream like state, sleepy after drinking my bottle of milk, and my pencil would fly across the page as I wrote the faerie tales in my head, never wanting to stop and only reluctantly handing my jotter in when asked.  Then every week, without fail, Mrs Scott, would lean back against her worn, wooden desk, smile at the class and say she was reading another story written by me.  The class of 10 years old would laugh at my story, especially when I mentioned them by name and the dragons that visited our playground.  I would sit, smiling with pinked cheeks as I listened to the response of my very first readers.

Time passed and life distracted me, in the form of exams, adventures in admin and my career with Police Scotland.  Then I had the blip, got better and was forced to look at myself properly for the first time.   I had to look in the mirror at my true reflection, in fact, there was no way I was getting to move past it and beyond it until I did.  If I didn’t I could never be fully free from the past that held me back.

So I looked into the mirror and finally accepted every part of me.  My mind races at a hundred miles all at once.  Intellect and words turn me on.  I’m interested in everything to the point where no topic is off limits.  I fidget incessantly.  My twin traits of shyness and exuberance constantly fight for dominance.  I rush in where Angels fear to tread, never once regretting the decision but perhaps the way I went about it.  My indecision is final. I don’t like to commit to one choice to the exclusion of everything else.  I’ve an absurd childlike sense of humour and laugh my ass off at the most absurd things.  When words and stories rush though me, I have to write them down or take a photograph, no matter who I’m with or where I am.  And to those who trust enough to let close, I love them fiercely, even when I have to let them go.  I live with hope in my heart that what I want most will come to me at the right time.  I’m complicated and a walking contradiction, and finally, after years of apologising, I’ve finally accepted who I am.   In fact, I quite like the disarray that is me.

In the midst of looking at my reflection, I took a few days away.  My adventures in wanderlust have continued to assail me, and I can’t go a few days without jumping in the car or on a train and searching for what’s out there waiting to be discovered.  My family and friends raise their eyebrows when I mention I am going away on my own.  One of the many lessons the blip taught me was to feel comfortable with my own company.  In fact, I enjoy it.  My few days away, felt like weeks, as I wandered around the historical house hotel, enjoyed afternoon tea beside a roaring fire, and discovered the American redwood from the 1800s in the Chinese garden.   I ventured into the around the local area, visiting a bookshop in an old mill and antique shops filled with timeless treasures.  Heading reluctantly home, I drove past the Hermitage, planning to go in to say goodbye and thank you for the pictures of the story it gave me that become my fantasy faerie tale.  Driving past, I realised I didn’t have to goodbye, because I already had.  I said goodbye the moment I decided to share my creation with the world.

Back home, I realised my journey, the one I‘ve been on my whole life, is nearing an end.  The irony is that no one ever asked me to be their reflection.  This was my choice.  But I wasn’t strong enough to understand that then.  Sometimes, without realising, you need to go away to come back, to learn what you are need to enable you to move forward.  The clarity I was seeking has been right in front of me the whole time.  All I ever needed to do was look in the mirror and accept myself as the complex, quirky character I am and find peace with it.  The person I needed to stop apologising to all along had been myself.  Even physically I’ve changed, I feel like a light has gone on inside of me and I smile and laugh given a moments notice.  I‘m living and it’s joyous.  The power of accepting who you are is immeasurable.  The closer I get to my dream, the stronger I am.

The power of accepting who you are is immeasurable.  The closer I get to my dream, the stronger I am.

Lisa Young

So if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; embrace your true reflection.  Stand for your truth and embrace the unique, amazing individual that you are.  Turn your back on the self-doubts, cut away their illusions and shed their imprint.  Celebrate you.  Be who you are and never say sorry again, even if it’s only a secret whisper to yourself.  I won’t.

WANDERLUST

I have a serious case of wanderlust.  It’s an affliction that’s infected me in recent months and a habit I’ve happily become a slave too, for this addiction always, always helps to satisfy creative cravings.

Eating breakfast one morning, I found myself drawn to the local paper and followed the instinct inviting me to read it.  Scouring the local ads, I found myself reading about a community gathering at the local park and another for an open day for gardens in the local area.  Without any concrete plans, I made a mental note to visit both events, conveniently held at different times.

The Scottish drums that swirled around the air and matched the beating of my heart

The next day dawned sunny and humid and in the afternoon I joined the crowds walking along to Dunniker Park.  Finding myself amongst a plethora of voices and the blast of a horn from an ancient fire engine surrounded by eager kids waiting on their turn. The Scottish drums that swirled around the air and matched the beating of my heart.  Surrounded by a birds of prey display, pony rides, ice cream trucks and children’s teacup rides, I found myself in the middle of a gathering and unexpectedly thrust into my story.  I morphed into my central character, feeling overwhelmed in the midst of the community she once belonged to but no longer feels part of.  I felt her adrenalin and nerves as she holds the intense gaze of the man she once loved and lost.  Smiling, I began walking home having received what I’d needed.

Sitting at home feeding my caffeine addiction, I initially changed my mind about going to the gardens until curiosity won and I gathered my constant travelling companions, a notebook, pen and camera, and made my way to Wemyss Castle Gardens.  Parking my car, I proceeded to the able and sought permission to take some photographs.  Walking into the property, I found myself drawn to a cluster of trees.  Sitting in the thicket of a forest and with my legs partly covered by lavenders and sunlight fighting its way through the branches I felt more peace than ever.  I didn’t want to leave and I did what I always do in these circumstances, I took a photograph and captured the moment, just as my Nana had taught me too.

Reluctantly leaving faerie glen forest, I made my way down to the walled garden and entered another magical world.  Stone seats buried within lush green hedges, flower arches leading the way along an intricate circle pathway, statues giving 19th century selfie’s and stories that whispered into my ear and shared their secrets.  I smiled as I’d finally found the gardens I was looking for.  Watching a documentary recently about the history of the legendary Hyman’s Gardens in Sussex, I realised I needed a garden for my next fantasy faerie tale and, as always, circumstance found a way of giving me what I needed at the exact time I needed it.

My ancestors had been here

To help you understand, Wemyss Castle Gardens is a private property and to visit you need to send an e-mail asking permission.  My unplanned visit was serendipitous.  Walking from the walled garden, I laughed as the penny dropped.  This place, with its beautiful forest, spellbinding garden and the castle that bore the crest of the Firth of Forth waves was familiar because they were steeped in my family history.  My ancestors had been here. From childhood, my Nana has told me stories of her “Granny at the Toll” referring to the ancestral home in West Wemyss that had been betrothed to my descendants by the Laird, motivated according to family lore, by a deed of courage by my great granddad Jock Dewar.   There is a particular funny story about his daughter, my Great Granny Betsy, who was friends with the cook at the Castle and once when the Queen Mother was visiting, she lay on the ground outside the dining room to get a peek of the visiting royal eating her lunch.  Walking back to the car I laughed, understanding the instinct that had brought me here to this place and would return me back home to my laptop.  Sometimes, to take a step forward you need to return to where your story, your history, started in the first place.

Inspiration comes to me in different places.  The most surprising is my car.  I love to drive.  Seeing my car keys as another passport to feed my wanderlust.  I love the thought of getting in my car and going wherever I want to go.  Paris is next on the list.  I can see myself driving around the Champs-Elysees and having a whale of a time negotiating the mad traffic there.   After that, I’m planning Route 66.  There is nothing more pleasurable in life than driving with the window down, the wind blowing your hair around your face and listening to music … loudly as it only should be.  It’s in this space that I’m given the unforeseen, characters names, plots and storylines, that literally pop into my head without warning. 

So, if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; trust your instincts.  Listen to the ghost in your head, and spark a conversation with your twin flame, compelling you to share all things all at once, wholly and forever.  Your instincts will take you to the unexpected, secret places where your story is waiting to find you.  Close your eyes and listen to the murmurs telling the tale.  Then open your eyes and write your story.  I did. 

CREATING YOUR OWN DYNASTY

I always wanted to be Alexis Colby.   As a young girl, watching Dynasty with my Nana on a Friday night, I longed to don the sharp little office suits Joan Collins wore to the office, adopting the persona of the stylish and smart businesswoman with the intellect to oversee a conglomerate and deal with all the Dex Dexter’s who appeared in her life.  Since this dramatic introduction to the business world, I’ve always admired those with an entrepreneurial spirit.  It takes a brave soul to turn away from the what’s expected well-trodden path, make a U-turn in the other direction and blaze your own trail.  While I forge my own path, I find myself drawn to those with an avant-garde and innovative approach to life.

There are many examples on the Fortune 500 list.  Most recently, I read an article about WhatsApp founder Brian Acton, who proved losing out on jobs at Twitter and Facebook shouldn’t define you.  Instead it can spark innovation in the shape of a little app he sold to Mark Zuckerberg for $19bn.  An act of genius if ever I’ve seen one.  But the icon that makes me believe in the impossible?  Who proved passion and creativity can merge within a successful business?  It can only be Steve Jobs.   I’m well known for my weakness for picture quotes and I love to read words from this trendsetter, who believed the only way to do great work was to focus on what you loved.  This is a man who was fired from Apple, the company he co-founded, only to be recruited eleven years later, to transform them from near bankruptcy into one of the most successful companies ever recorded.

Jobs was more than the man with the Midas touch.  In 2011 when he passed away, there was an outpouring of sentiment for the hippy that lived in jeans and wrote code in his bare feet.  He once said being fired was the best thing ever to happen to him, freeing him to enter one of the most creative periods of his life.  Jobs didn’t like playing by the rules, instead he created his own.  He dreamt big and if you’re going to admire a business icon, I figure it should be best there ever was.  So when I decided to start my own company, Tri-Quill, a few months ago.  I discovered something quite surprising; I didn’t need the Alexis Colby business suit.  I am a writer, who has written four books and is in the opening stages of her fifth.  My strength is my imagination and given a blank page and a period of time, I will find my story.  It turns out you can follow your dreams in a pair of skinny jeans and I believe if you plan for success, and work hard at your craft every single day you will attract your serendipitous moment, making it all worthwhile.

So if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; follow your dream.  Whether it’s your art exhibition, your photography studio, your graphic novel or the dress you dream of designing.  Yes, it’s scary starting your own business but the sense of pride in your opus – your dream – is immeasurable.  As Earl Nightingale once said the time will pass anyway – wouldn’t you rather spend it living the life you dream of?  Go for it.  You won’t regret it for one single second.  I promise.

NEVER GIVE UP

I’ve always been determined.  It’s a characteristic that’s followed me since childhood, encouraging my Dad to refer back to the infamous “tick list.”   The mental list I kept in my head with qualifications, jobs and ambitions I wished for.  The driving test, the car, the office job and the degree are just a few of the ideals I was happy to place a large tick against, giving me a sense of achievement.

So when I unexpectedly crashed and was forced examine my list, I discovered something quite unexpected.  I didn’t want it anymore.  Instead of giving me direction, it stifled me, restricting my breathing and putting me in a box I didn’t belong in anymore.   The procedures and routines that used to settle now made me to scream and hurl things and I was surprised as anyone to find I didn’t like rules, never mind following them.  Once accepted, I found I could finally breathe and the air that greeted me was sweeter than I ever believed possible.

So once, after years of convincing myself, I decided to pursue my passion for writing.  My old friend tenacity came back to haunt me, followed by his companion impatience and their stalker self-doubt.  I’ve done the work, my Trilogy is finished, professionally edited and I’m playing tennis between story editing and creating the new world in my next Trilogy that I’m giddy with excitement about.  Recent changes have made me question every area of my life, making me vulnerable to the seen and unseen.  It turns out that whilst I don’t like the rules I need the validation.  The words or message that restores your faith in what you’re doing.  I need to find my audience and share my stories, it essential to me as my newly found fresh air.

This week my faith in my writing, my most sacred unshakeable place, was tested.  The flashes in my head that encouraged me to write my fantasy faerie tale have both equally teased and terrified.  Leading me to ask myself questions I never thought I would.  Is there a point where you should give up on the dream?    When do you decide enough is enough and throw in the towel?  Are you long past due for the reality check?

Instead, I’ve discovered that faith comes in small, surprising doses.  From the unexpected song playing on the radio, to the e-mail from a friend who loved a recent blog and wanted to tell me, to the supportive community on Twitter that constantly amazes me with its kindness and my friends who believe in me, when I hardly believe in myself, never doubting my abilities or future success.  Not even for a one solitary second.  As George Iles has said, hope truly is faith holding its hand out in the dark and when you realise you’re the recipient of such precious belief, you’re more blessed than you’d ever imagined possible.

It is always darkest just before dawn.  Then the sun rises, illuminating your world from shadow into breathtaking glorious light. 

It is always darkest just before dawn.  Then the sun rises, illuminating your world from shadow into breathtaking glorious light.  The moments in between are the true test.  When you sit in the dark blanketed only by the promise in your heart that the Sun will rise again, just as it promised when it left.  Belief can foster the same magic, taking you from the bleak darkness of no man’s land to the warmest brightest sunshine of a Santa Monica beach.  So, does it work?  Yes, it most certainly does.  I got the message I so desperately needed.  The faith that trembled proved it was stronger than I was.  My writing; the characters, relationships and world I created believed in me when I didn’t.  A realisation that is both mind-blowing and humbling.

So if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; never ever give up.  Acknowledge the battle between your head and your heart and let it continue without your involvement.  Believe in the whisper that reassures you that your choice to follow your chosen path will illuminate the best way forward at precisely the right time you need it.  Ignore the negative doubters and choose to believe in the creations that you’ve nurtured, honed and worked on until the wee hours of the morning.  Believe in the person you’ve become and the life you want to live.  Believe in what others say is impossible.  Believe in yourself. 

NANA

I’ve always been close to my grandparents.  My childhood is littered with memories of time spent with them; Sunday afternoon dinners, birthdays and Christmases filled with excitement and laughter.  I never went a week or two without seeing them.  Even when I reached adulthood, my internal alarm clock would remind me to phone at least once a week for a chat and to plan a visit.  Life’s eternal changes ring deep.  The last four months of my life has brought changes I never planned or anticipated.  I have given up a career in Police Scotland to pursue my dream of being a writer.  I have returned home after years away.  I’m starting again in every possible way.  A feat that’s equally daunting and exhilarating.


So when my Dad phoned to say that at 86, my Nana had passed away, it was a sudden blow I never expected.  She’s had Parkinson’s for many years, but it was losing my Granddad four years ago that led to her decline.  They were always together and the loss of her Andy hit her hard.  Sitting alone in the house listening to the dial tone after my Dad rang off, I tried to digest the news.    It’s was difficult to fathom that I’d never speak to my Nana again, that I wouldn’t hear her laugh as I kissed her cheek goodbye and told her to behave herself.  Then, without warning, the theme tune for ‘The Golden Girls’ began to play in my head, bringing back memories of staying with my Nana on a Friday night watching Blanche and Dorothy drinking hot chocolate.


The next day we went to her home, using the same route I’ve travelled all my life.  I was able to pretend until I walked into the living room and saw her empty chair.  In that moment, it hit me and I started to cry as I realised I’d never again visit for a cuppa and a chat and watch her wrestling with the TV remotes.    It’s hard to pack up someone’s life into boxes and put treasures so lovingly placed on a mantelpiece away from sight.  But as the weeks passed and the last night arrived, the emptiness of the house echoed our toast to Evelyn and Andy with a glass of glayva and we locked the door for the very last time.  Pausing to make the special knock on the window we always used so they knew it was us at the door.


The last few weeks although tinged with sadness brought back memories as we remembered the quirks of my Nana’s personality.  Evelyn Young was unique and I’ve never met anyone quite like her.  She was a strong lady confident in expressing her opinions, a trait my Granddad handled admirably, by waiting for her to finish speaking then asking “Are you done?”  She was proud of her family history, always sharing stories of her “Granny at the Toll” referring to the ancestral home in the West Wemyss.  She loved people and always used their full name when including them in a story.  She was always well turned out with a plethora of rings and brooches.  She shared her love of musicals with The Sound of Music and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to the point where I know the words to every song.  She was generous, loyal and there was never a moment of our loves that we doubted her fierce love for us.

When it came to organising the Order of Service, my Dad asked me to look out some photographs.  When packing up the house, I was worried I’d forget the memories that gave so much comfort.  Hours passed as I searched the numerous boxes visiting the past in the form of holidays, days out and sunny days in the back garden.  Remembering the camera forever in her hand, and looking at the results, I realised I didn’t have to remember.  Nana had already done it for us.  She’s captured every moment of our lives together.

Nana also made it into my writing.  I didn’t purposely plan her inception into my creative world.  She has been a profound influence in my life.  How could she not be part of the world I created?  Memories of her holding the camera has started my own love affair with the lens and I can’t help but want to take photographs, understanding that they are not just a visual record but a snapshot of the memory for the future.

The people we love never truly leave us

If I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; capture the moments.   Remember them through photography, art, song and word.  Imprint their memory into your soul and appreciate the moments they lovingly leave behind.  The people we love never truly leave us; we just can’t see them anymore.  So, I know my Nana will always be there because I feel her with every beat of my heart.

MUSIC MOOD CHANGER

I love music and can’t go a day without listening to it.  When my PTSD, now thankfully long gone, was at its very worst, watching television only festered it.  The pictures on the screen only reminded me that others lived their lives while I hid from mine.  Some days, I would sit in the kitchen feeling desperately ill and lonely, wondering if I had a future beyond the four walls I’d imprisoned myself within.


One day, frustrated and tired of the infernal silence, I picked up my mobile and played some music.  The quiet receded and its place in the form of notes and chorus emerged a smattering of hope.  Within minutes, I went from a vague numbness to feeling alive.  From then, I purposely integrated music into my daily life, seeing the silence in the room not as an echo of my existence but a space in which to share another’s creation.

I’m an eclectic music lover

I don’t do reality television or the soaps, no judgement; they just do nothing for me.  Instead, I’ve got a weird fascination with National Geographic documentaries on bigfoots, crop circles and a near obsession with Game of Thrones.   These wide ranging tastes also run to my playlist.  I’m an eclectic music lover, refusing to be tied down to a particular type of music instead enjoying a love affair encompassing a little bit of everything.  In all honesty, given a choice between the glass box in the corner and music, there’s no choice to be made but one of mood and memory.

For nostalgia I love the classics; Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Doris Day among them.  I have a soft spot for musicals; an interest fostered by my Nana and can’t help but smile when I hear ‘My Favourite Things’ from The Sound of Music.

For adrenalin, I need rock that gets your heart racing and threatens to burst your ear drums, in the form of the Foo Fighters, Linkin Park and AC-DC.  I prefer live performances, reminding me of sore hands and feet from attending concerts on a school (work) night, showing a raw version of the song, more in tune with what the musician wanted to communicate when they wrote it.

I have a burgeoning love affair with classical music, more to do with appreciation than knowledge of the pieces performed.  I’ve always loved Pachelbel’s Canon in D and The Flower Duet, and am of the humble opinion that ‘Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis’ performed at Proms 2012 is the best piece of classical music…ever.

I love film soundtracks enjoying the quiet instrumental pieces from ‘The Grey’ and the ‘Last of the Mohicans’.  I admire the selection of music by Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino that cleverly cultivate music as a pivotal character within their stories.  The opening scenes of ‘The Departed’ played against ‘Gimmie Shelter’ by The Rolling Stones is an act of genius.

I like the quirky individual.  The random songs you hear once and stay with you forever like ‘Chan Chan’ by Bueno Vista Social Club and ‘Homelands’ by Nitin Sawhney.  I like the cheeky fun ones.  I loved ‘Blurred Lines’, or ‘burnt water’ as my Mum once referred to it, with its hypnotic beat that I couldn’t help tap out with my fingers.

Music syncs easily with the scary and exhilarating life I’ve created for myself. 

Music syncs easily with the scary and exhilarating life I’ve created for myself.  I love the unpredictable nature and its aberration from routine.  When you hear a song for the first time, you’ve no idea what words will be sung, what direction a verse will take or what form the chorus will follow.  You have no idea why you like it or you don’t.  There’s no logic involved instead only the undefinable.  The magic that sparks from the creation and resonates with you, creating a connection and embedding a memory that stays with you forever.

For me, it’s the same when I write; I never analyse the reason or purpose to the images spilling from my head onto the blank page, only seeing myself as the conduit responsible for capturing the words.  At first, they appear messy and incoherent until the moment when everything clicks into place. I have same experience with reading.  I can’t explain why I feel like I’m eating a smooth bar of galaxy chocolate every time I open the latest Nora Roberts.  There’s a secret ingredient, a connection between the words and the experience that makes your soul sing.  As a writer, it’s my hope I can deliver this experience to my readers.

When I began writing, I started a You Tube playlist that would play in the background.  I have a knack of separating the two acts, managing to keep one ear on the music in the background and another on the images playing on my head.  Sometimes, I sought solitary silence, especially when I was held within the grip of the last three chapters of my trilogy.  I was so consumed with the world I’d envisioned in my head, and dreaded ending the story I loved, I needed the silence to cushion the myriad of emotions overwhelming me.

The power of invention is extraordinary

The power of invention is extraordinary, lifting you from the place you were faltering to where you’re meant to be.  Whether its music, art, photography or film.  Your production is your opus.  It’s sparks and lights a passion inside you that will never burn out.  Making you believe the impossible can come true.

So, if I could leave you with one parting wish this week, I would like it to be this; turn up the volume and follow the yellow brick road.  Let yourself be swept away.  Chase the undefinable and trust it will illuminate at the exact moment it’s meant to.  It’s worth the wait.  I promise you.