DANDER

I get lost easily.

Dander (noun) Scotsa stroll; saunter.

A couple of days ago I was visiting a friend at home and having been to the address a couple of times I did not ponder too much about the journey.

However, coming from the other end of town, I pulled out my mobile and inserted the postcode with every intention of following my nose instead of direction.  Five minutes later, I was lost, before righting myself, listening to Mr Google and setting myself in the right direction, bearing in mind I was ten minutes from home and still within the same town. 

As I parked the car I wondered why, once in a while, I allow myself to get misdirected.  Whether it’s for a few months, a few minutes or a few moments and the conclusion I came to is very simple.

I let myself get lost because I want to.

There is nothing more intriguing than having a destination in mind, being guided elsewhere just for a while and even though you do not appreciate or understand at the time there is always a reason.  Coincidences do not exist.  You are exactly where you are meant to be.  And that is the reason why I get lost because I follow my gut instinct understanding that what is shrouded in mystery will be revealed in the future.

When I write, I love when my story leads me by the nose in the most unexpected creative adventure I neither plan or anticipate and at these times heading off the beaten track is fun, exciting and the words that once tugged now trip fall into an endless waterfall onto the page. 

So, if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; enjoy life off the beaten track, cherish the experience, learn what you are meant to and move on with an open heart towards the next turn in the road. 

Who knows where it will take you.

THE PEPPER IN THE SOUP

I am a people watcher.  

I suppose it’s the writer in me, the need to feel the story within each person I encounter.  When I see a stranger in a coffee shop or library, my imagination kicks in and I wonder about their life, what they do, what makes them laugh, what they love and how they like their coffee.  The same process befalls me with landmarks, interesting architecture and even pieces of vintage jewellery.

So recently, when visiting a hotel, I found myself getting answers to some of these questions in the most unexpected way.  Sipping an Americano with hot milk, my latest java adventure, I found myself hearing an interaction between a couple at the next table. 

A man led the conversation with occasional soft-spoken interruptions by his companion as he described the dampness in their hotel room, the state of the decor and the lack of choice on the menu. Once a selection was chosen and his starter arrived I heard a spoon clatter onto the table as he said impatiently, albeit very politely, “you’ll need to take it back.  All I can taste is pepper.”

As I pondered about the perplexing circumstances as to why I was witnessing an interesting twist of personality, I started to think about human nature.  Why we act the way we do, the motivators, the detractors, the desires and the consequences as we reveal our internal voice to the world. 

As a writer, my characters can form a similar basis.  While some creatives plot and plan their stories, I prefer to throw my characters into the wind within a storm to see how they react and the ensuing results are always unique, unexpected and full of bone tingling possibility and flavour.

And as for me? I like a little bit of pepper in my soup, because if you’re going to live your life you should do so passionately and with a little bit added spice.

So, if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; dive into the flavours of life and celebrate your authentic self.

Follow your dreams. I am.

VIBRATION

“Maybe it is that I keep the spark going, and now that a metamorphosis has taken place, others, who would not see the glow, now see the flame.”
 
Mary Birrell
The Wemyss School of Needlework

I need to feel inspired. The beginnings and ends of my creativity start with the slight tilt of an idea.  Then thrust me into a world of imagination where the only limit is the edge of my mind.  To express myself creatively, is essential to my wellbeing.

As I go down different roads, creative or otherwise, I find myself reaching for the forgotten and the adventures yet to be discovered. 

I’m excited because when you feel the hum of vibration that comes with knowing you are walking down the right road, everything makes sense, everything becomes clear.  Your instincts sharpen and you know when to retreat and when to move on.

And I’m moving and all that I can see is a wide-open road without limits or roadblocks. Like my own personal Route 66, lined with excitement, dreams and possibilities as I drive down this new road.

It’s taken a long time to get here.

I’m happy.

A LOVELY LIFE

I overheard something today.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t habitually listen to other people’s conversations but when your attention is deliberately diverted it is almost always for a very good reason. 

I was on my way to a wet and windy Edinburgh recently, phone surfing as I watched the murky coastline when I overheard a conversation between two women in the opposite aisle talking about the day’s headlines and sharing their thoughts on them.  Both were obvious characters, one a gregarious lady with a thick Fife accent who spoke of her holiday in Edinburgh and another lady, a Londoner with a warm cockney accent who ended each sentence with a charming “innit” that made me smile. 

Perhaps it is the writer in me, the creative curiosity that plays a tune every time I meet someone, listen to them and start to wonder about the lives they lead. I was intrigued. 

It wasn’t until we were over the Forth Road Bridge that it became apparent that these two women had only just met on the train and were sharing an enjoyable bite out of time on the way to a shared destination.

When we departed the train, they said goodbye and hugged each other and I heard the lady from London say to this apparent stranger, “I wish you a lovely life.”

As the other commuters shook their heads in bemusement, I smiled because if there is a sentiment that should be shared in this sometimes too cynical world, it is one of them. 

And in a day of unexpected blessings, I hope that we all wish each other well as we say goodbye and march on our merry way. 

So, if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; have a lovely life, may your blessings be many and all your dreams come true.

JOIE DE VIVRE

I dumped 30,000 words. 

I don’t say that lightly, when it comes to my words and my story they are like children, born into the page and nurtured as they grew into themselves.  All the while, I fuss over them like a mother hen.

But these words weren’t right, I knew it already, your instinct, your gut is never wrong.  But I resisted for a while, at least, because I don’t give up easily.  But it didn’t feel right and my dogged determination to force them onto the page wasn’t going to make it any better.

So, here I was, one story on hiatus and not quite sure where my next creative venture would take me.  When I decided to take a little journey.  I am very, very lucky, I can sit in front of my laptop and the words spill onto the page.  And I was being given one story, then another and then another that I could pursue but I didn’t know which one to choose or where to go. A dilemma that I both appreciated and found confusing. 

I knew that given time I would find the answer, I trust my instincts in every situation and that first tingle of awareness is rarely wrong.

So, a few days ago, I went back to my roots and went to a creative writing group.  I have been looking for one for a while because you never truly stop learning and being in a room, being creative with bunch of writers, well for me, you can’t get anything better. 

So when I came home, full of ideas, stories and inspiration, I knew what I had to do and I started to write. Because when you know who you are and what you want from life you can’t wait to get started.  

And then I remembered the last time I went to a creative writing group and was inspired to write a story and what followed was the 134,000 words that become The Kinship Chronicles®.

This new adventure is going be a lot of fun.  So, if I can leave with you one parting wish, I would like it to this; re-discover your joie de vivre and follow wherever it may take you.  

You may just find yourself and what you were looking for.  I did.   

SAVE OUR LIBRARIES

If it were not for a library, I would not be a writer.

“Libraries raised me.”
 
Ray Bradbury

As child, it was a place of fun, where I would sit cross-legged, surrounded by numerous picture books, because when you are 4 years old, why read one book when you can read six at time, as my Dad waited for me patiently to choose the three  that I could take home with me. 

Leaving pictures for words, I entered the world of Roald Dahl, fascinated by the tales he weaved and Quentin Blake’s eclectic illustrations of Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox and The Witches.  A love affair that has continued until adulthood to the point that I still leave my bedroom window open at night and secretly hope that The BFG will send me a dream as he passes.  

As an adult, I Immersed myself within the worlds created and visited the world of my imagination without leaving my room, seeing realms in Middle Earth with Tolkein, the gritty inner city streets of London with Martina Cole and the out of the ways towns of middle America with Nora Roberts.

And to this day, the most vivid and happiest memories of my childhood were of being in the local library with my Dad and it was the imagination fostered within these books and these great buildings that has made me the writer that I am today. 

Fast forward to last year and I found myself outside Kirkcaldy library on a Saturday morning and saw something I didn’t expect..

There was a queue to get into the building.

Finding all the reference tables occupied, I took myself up the family research room and began writing, happily immersing myself within the peaceful silence of my surroundings.  

A couple of hours and a coffee break later, I chatted away, as I often do, to the librarian about a couple obscure subjects I was researching and a few minutes later I found myself with a list of suggestions and access to some archived newspapers clips – exactly what I was looking for.  For if a librarian can’t find it doesn’t exist.,

Leaving the library later in the afternoon, I found myself looking at the people sitting in café, in the reference room and as I returned a book, I overheard a conversation between an elderly gentleman and a librarian as he told her what he had done with his day and that’s when I fully appreciated that a library is not just a building to house a collection of books.

A library is a community centre by another name.

So, last year when I read of the proposal and subsequent decision to close 16 libraries within Fife.  I reacted to the news with genuine upset.

How can these places, these treasures that are so needed not just within the Fife community but every community be eligible for destruction because of a budget cuts. 

Then I wondered about the children who may not have access to free books, I thought about the queue of people who may have nowhere else to go and I thought about that elderly gentlemen who may not have someone to talk to.

Libraries are the souls of our communities and we can’t let them go without a fight.

There must be another way. 

There has to be another way.

So, if I could leave with you with one parting request, I would like it to be this; please support the 38 Degrees campaign by taking a minute, not even that, to send an e-mail to the 16 elected councilors who have an important decision to make this coming Tuesday.  They can keep the libraries open for another 12 months and this may just be the time that they need to survive long-term. 

https://speakout.38degrees.org.uk/campaigns/fife-libraries-executive-committee

We all have a voice and we can all make a difference. 

Thank you.

FIRST-FOOT

FIRST-FOOT
(noun) (furst-foot)
 
the first person to cross the threshold of a house on New Year’s Day

I love parties. 

The dressing up, the make-up, the fun, the fairy lights but most of all I love being surrounded by people that I care about.

So, when I found home at the end of last year, one of my first thoughts was to celebrate and if you’re going to do that you should pick the perfect day and what better than New Year’s Eve. 

Then I got over excited and made a promise I shouldn’t have…

I promised to cook.

I decided on chili and stovies – not in the same dish – and albeit I am an old hat at the one pot wonder that it is chili.  I have never attempted stovies before.

There was a couple of road bumps; I bought the ingredients, got home then discovered I don’t own a potato masher and I didn’t realise a wee bit of water was needed until 10 minutes in, however, the end result looked awesome.

Unfortunately, my reputation in the kitchen proceeds me and all my relatives nodded and promised faithfully to give it a go with a smile on their face until my Uncle Brian walked into the kitchen and laughed and said, “yes, your Dad warned us you were cooking and to go for the party food.”

However, some shocked and surprised compliments later, it was a success.  The fact that the pan had to be discarded is just unfortunate.

Apart from the drama of cooking there were many moments of joviality and karaoke, I am very, very sorry Mr. Sinatra.  

Then there were the unexpected, special moments.

As a housewarming gift, I got lump of sea coal from my Auntie Margaret for luck in the coming year and given my love of ancestry I was delighted with another link to the past and my Great Granddad Bob.

“You know, he most likely mined that,” she said explaining that she had picked it up from the beach near ‘The Dubbie’ the Francis Colliery, where he was a miner for the best part of 49 years.

Then there were the stories about those who were not there, my Nana and Granddad, but the memories weren’t sad.  They were happy and funny and as we spoke, shared memories and laughed they were in the room with us.  I know they were.

And when I went to bed in the wee small hours of the New Year what I remembered most about the party was that I was surrounded by people who loved me and for that I am very grateful.  

So, if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; count your blessings.  Because if in the great moments of life you are surrounded by the people that you love then you’re pretty damn lucky.

Be happy and appreciate all that you have.  I do.

LUCKY

At 15 years old, I had no idea who I was.  Filled with raging hormones, a sullen disposition and an encompassing struggle to find the real me within, I found salvation in the in the one place I had found it as a child.  Books.

I read anything and everything.  I went to South Africa with Wilbur Smith.  I fell in love with Judy Blume and with each one of these characters I discovered another way of thinking.

Then I stumbled upon a character which, perhaps at that age, I probably shouldn’t have. 

A little bit controversial, a little bit naughty, contained within a book I hid under my bedcovers in case my Mum found it.  Given my penchant for not exactly following the rules I shouldn’t have been surprised.

However, in my defence, I had stumbled upon now of the best female characters…ever. 

Lucky Santangelo. 

Now this was a woman who knew who she was and didn’t take any crap from anyone.  She was smart, ambitious and in a world of hoteliers filled with powerful men, she acknowledged them and did her own thing.  In relationship she set the tone until the right alpha came along and in living her life she did so with gusto, passion and without comprising who she was.

I loved her and every summer I would buy the new Jackie Collins especially if it was an addition to the Santagelo novels.

So, when I heard that Jackie Collins had sadly passed away, I reacted to the news with genuine sadness. As an author, I loved her work but as a person I had liked her even more. 

In interviews, she came across as charming, gracious and humble for the life she lived.  With a penchant for revealing that tantalising piece of gossip on the Hollywood circuit, always with a twinkle in her eye.

They don’t make them like that anymore.

Then I remembered something I shouldn’t have.  A singular line in her dedications, a personal message to her three daughters.  Words said with such love and determination that as a young girl I took them to heart myself.

“Girls can do anything.”

You’re damn right they can.  Thank you, Jackie Collins, this world will sparkle less without you. 

And as for me?  I’m taking lessons from Lucky again. 

DEAR ME

I always learn something new when I meet up with my free spirit, the affectionate nickname I have given my good friend and mentor June Finlayson.

We can chat for hours about the fascinating to the absurd and as she tilts a mirror in my direction I laugh and look at myself differently as I appreciate what she is trying to teach me.

And as I always learn then she says something a phrase, a tug of words that inspires me to some sort of creation buried within yet to be born into life.

It stated with a single question:

“What would you tell your 18-year-old self?”

The question piqued my interest and my writers mind instantly began to assemble a myriad of thoughts and feeling as I asked myself the same question. 

Now, a week later, I think I’ve found some of the answers.

Dear me…

It’s okay to take a risky gamble every now and then, that is how some of the most magnificent things have come to pass and made history

You can tell who a person is by their actions, not their words.

Look in the mirror, the person looking back at you? That’s the only one you ever need to impress.

Red lipstick is never wrong.

Remember that 7 inch heels are less comfortable at 2am when you’re trying to get a taxi.

Laugh your ass off at least once a day.  Times three.

There is nothing wrong with wanting an Alpha. Your Dad is one.

When your Mum tells you to walk tall and be proud, believe her.

When your sister in law writes you a letter telling you how much you mean to her, keep the letter & tell her how much you appreciate her, she’s awesome.

When your brother grabs you in a cuddle, hug him back, hard.

Set your own self worth, it’s priceless.

Know that you are stronger than anything that tried to hurt you.

When someone jokes that you are never in, agree it’s a good thing even though you are exhausted.

Learn to cook for god’s sake, you suck at it.

Same goes with tea, leave the bag in for more than 10 seconds, people will be surprised it’s not as bad as usual.

Music is just the best thing ever, stick with it.

Express yourself creatively.  Every. Single. Day.

Love yourself before you even think about loving someone else.

Self-respect means much more than attention.

You’re a complicated woman and that’s okay, appreciate it.

If it’s not fun, it ain’t worth doing.

Be passionate.

You can never buy enough books or music or both.

When you fall in love, don’t be afraid to open your heart.

Trust that your heart will be cherished and protected by the one that is meant to keep it.

Life is short, cherish it.

Tell Nana and Grandad how much you love them, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Always take your notepad when you go and see Gran and Grandad, you are recording history and they love it.

You have clothes, food and a warm bed to sleep in at night.  Always show gratitude, you’re damn lucky.

You never needed any gym/Zumba/whatever. Just walk.

Keep on swimming. Keep on swimming.

Fresh air is the best therapy you’ll ever get.

The ocean is one of nature’s miracles. Spend time near it.

Get rid of the tick list.  Just chill out.

Smile more it makes you happy.

Words – little ones, big ones. Appreciate every single one of them.

Let go and let be. Best advice ever.

When you are strong and centred nothing can knock you down.

Respect is earned not given.

Appreciate your curves. Jennifer Lopez made a career out of hers.

Be a woman your daughter would want to grow up to be like.

Be a kick ass woman but smile with it, it’s helps a lot.

Respect the lessons life gives you even if you don’t quite understand them at the time, there is always a reason

Always apply mascara at least twice.

Any self-respecting girl owns a pair of eyelash curlers.

It’s okay to fall on your ass once in a while, just make sure the heels are fabulous and the champers was expensive.

Dresses. Wrap dresses. Shift dresses. Celebrate your curves.

Home hair dye kits. Avoid them. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

You’re clumsy. Not everyone is meant to have a full set of unbroken crockery. Martha Stewart is just glad you’re using a plate.

Stop guessing the microwave times, it’s on the box, dinner does not need drama.

Disco naps are an unrecognised art form.

Be glad of your friends, you’re lucky to have them.

You are enough, you always were.

THE PAUSE

I rarely get ill. If fact, I consider myself very lucky that I rarely get a sniffle or a cough.  However, when I proudly declared this fact at lunch with friends a few weeks ago, I should have known that my off the cuff remark would soon catch up with me.

It started with a little cough, tickly and annoying that developed a few days later into the uncontrollable bray of a donkey.   Then when I ignored it, my body told me in no uncertain terms that I had no choice but to accept the pause and rest.

Lately, my life has resembled a hurricane, with damaged debris being thrown my way and whilst I have lurched from side to side and batted the broken ricochet into some unknown distance I didn’t know my body was paying the price.  But when you go at 100 miles an hour something has got to give.

Through the noise of the howling wind and shouting, I found it difficult to hear my usual flow of words that rollercoasters through my mind I was unable to focus on one of my true loves:  Writing.

To express yourself creatively is one of life’s greatest most precious gifts, whether it is through the quill or the paint brush, it not only makes you feel free but it transcends through your soul and allows you to share your unique creative vision with the world.

Now, fully rested and with a newfound peace of mind, I’ve dived right back in again.

And the words, who insisted on their few days away, have returned as though they had never left in the first place, bestowing soft butterfly kisses on my ears and making me smile once more.

Sometimes, without understanding why, you need to embrace the pause so that you can begin anew and welcome all the possibilities that your life, creative and otherwise, has in store for you.

So, if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this, take care of yourself and take a step back, then jump right back in with a big smile on your face.  I already have.