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A Roman Wall

Sough – in my glossary of Scottish words- means to whistle softly. Young’s mastery of words is breathtaking.

Bhdandme's Blog

Lazy grey cattle dozed in the August heat, between sharp falls of rain from dark explosions of cloud, a half mile or so to the west of Crag Lough, where the Whin Sill marks the vertical edge of the old Roman Empire.

Nearby lay a dip to Turret 38, stuck in the bottom of a gulley with hills to the west, east, and north. What a stupid place, you can’t help thinking, to put a watchtower, when a hundred yards to one side or the other would have brought you to a hilltop with views 360 degrees around, and for miles in each direction. It tells us something about the men who made the wall, the men who planned it that is. It wasn’t a military mind, I think, that planted the watchtower there, but a bureaucratic one, marking off the right number of paces from tower to tower –there’s…

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The Blood of Kings by Angela King #CoverReveal @bombshellpub @angelaS969

Source: The Blood of Kings by Angela King #CoverReveal @bombshellpub @angelaS969

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Guest Post by author Victoria J Brown #WhenDreamsComeTrue @victoriajbrown 

Source: Guest Post by author Victoria J Brown #WhenDreamsComeTrue @victoriajbrown 

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SPARKLE

There you are child. Come sit by the fire and I’ll explain your duties. I’m not getting any younger, about time I had someone to help with the chores. Hopefully you’re not afraid of hard work. Everyone expects me to drop whatever I happen to be doing, wave a magic wand and turn their problems into happy-ever-after. Well I’m having to be far more discerning these days. Clients are making all manner of impossible demands since the princess sold her story to Messrs Grimm. I know times are changing but being immortalized in print is hardly ideal when one needs complete obscurity for dreams come true.

Personally I’ve never seen the need to advertise when word of mouth has proved perfectly satisfactory. You see I earned my reputation by never refusing a wish once committed, even where the final outcome seemed totally impossible. It’s taken many years to perfect these happy endings and I don’t accept disappointment lightly. I know there’s been some criticism regarding my latest case but nothing was due to my failings. Such a pretty girl but working as a skivvy did nothing for her language. I’ve a cache of spells for making even the most lacklustre girl appear glamorous, that’s really quite easy, and Prince Charming fell hook, line and sinker for her beauty, but I never guarantee what the far-distant future might hold. I suspect the Prince formed some early misgivings at the wedding breakfast after being seated next to the bride’s step-mother. Brimming with intellect she was not. After she’d drowned her sorrows in the ‘never-ending’ champagne she enquired about my services for her other daughters. One must be discreet but there are some things even I can’t fix.

Is it any wonder we fairy godmothers are a vanishing breed? Recently I was even accused of elitism. But surely one has to have standards. We can’t go granting wishes to just anyone who happens to recite the magic words and I’ve rarely received any on-the-job support so is it any wonder my methods are somewhat out-dated. Once upon a time I trained another apprentice, far younger than you; taught her how to grant simple wishes so I could concentrate on providing a better-ever-after service but she wasn’t comfortable with the world of fantasy and so very slovenly she failed to drum up any real sparkle and without sparkle there’s simply no magic.

Many thought me foolish for choosing such a calling but the truth is I’ve always aimed high and it didn’t take long to discover I was blessed with natural aptitude for happy-ever-afters. And servicing an exclusive clientele keeps me out of mischief, although there have been times I felt tempted. You see it’s never been about limitless riches, in fact in Cinder’s case it was in memory of her mother, poor soul. In the deep distant past I granted her wish to attend an exclusive finishing school but then, without so much as a by-your-leave, the little fool fell head-over-heels in love with a clothier’s son. I’ve always said that untold wealth is rarely the best basis for wedded bliss. Agreed, he was handsome, but lacking even basic people skills. When she died of a broken heart he was soon hoodwinked by that money-grabbing witch and her repulsive daughters. I daren’t think what would have become of young Cinderella if I hadn’t been alerted to her fate. I’ve an excellent informant in Rumpelstiltskin; he may be old but keeps his ear to the ground. Yes…I’ve heard the rumours about blackmail but needs must as the saying goes. I’ve learned to stay on my toes.

Speaking of toes I wish I knew how to put to a stop to those wicked red shoes but I never dabble with vanity, my talents being better tuned to match-making. I wish I could boast a career of infinite successes but, be warned child, during my formative years I made some dreadful mistakes. It’s easy to forget that nightmares are born from misused spells. Take heed from the sorcerer’s apprentice… such an impossible boy. And never, ever, underestimate the opposition, particularly if they favour dressing in black. Nor should you be persuaded to allocate any form of responsibility to dwarves. At best they can be scatterbrained but once in their cups there’s no reasoning with them and I can’t agree that manual labour offers any excuse for wholesale inebriation. Snow White was almost lost that day. Another lesson learned, as they say, which is why I now insist on complete jurisdiction from the very beginning. Reputation is everything.

Obviously I worry about the future. After that last fall I rather lost the will to fly yet I dread what the future of true-love will be without some sort of magical intervention. I can’t be alone in suspecting that the current generation of princes lack back-bone? Last time I chose an eminently eligible consort to wake a beautiful princess with a single fateful kiss he proved such a limp lettuce I was obliged to prune the undergrowth before he’d enter her chamber. While I agree one hundred years of neglect had left its mark I anticipated a little more gusto.

Now child, would you mind dropping off this pumpkin on your way past the lodge and don’t take any nonsense from the mice. If you must use the wand keep within your capabilities and, be warned, magic doesn’t work once they’ve forgotten how to dream.

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Make your next book purchase count!

Just got my copy on Kindle, can’t put it down.

fabricating fiction

darkminds

Today is the publication date of Dark Minds, the charity anthology compiled by the fabulous Betsy Reavley of Bloodhound Books.

Firstly, the important stuff. All proceeds of  the sales of this book will be donated to Sophie’s Appeal and Hospice UK.

Sophie’s Appeal was founded in memory of Sophie Louise Barringer and supports the social, emotional and educational welfare of children, their families, nursing and support staff and provide a caring and supporting environment in both local hospitals and in the community. There are many ways the Trust provide support to parents, carers and schools who find themselves suddenly faced with the reality of cancer.

Hospice UK are the national charity for hospice care, supporting over 200 hospices in the UK. Their aim is to make sure that everyone with a life limiting or terminal condition rightly get the very best care, and hospices are critical to achieving this.

Two…

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Coming Soon! Dark Minds.

The Sins of Muriel McGarry is only one of 39 short stories on the subject of crime and I am so very delighted to see Muriel’s story in print.

Paul D. Brazill

dark-mindsI’m pretty damned pleased that my yarn ‘Life after Life‘ will be included in Bloodhound Books‘ forthcoming  Dark Minds anthology.

The charity anthology is edited by Betsy Reavley and the full cast list is as follows:

Dark Minds Charity Anthology by Bloodhound Books

1. Ten Green Bottles — B A Morton
2. London’s Crawling — Emma Pullar
3. The Shoes Maketh The Man — Louise Jensen
4. Never tell a Lie — Tara Lyons
5. A Christmas Killing — Richard T Burke
6. By the Water — Betsy Reavley
7. A Cup Of Cold Coffee And A Slice Of Life — Tony R. Cox
8. Slow Roast Pork — S.E.Lynes
9. A Lawful Killing — Ross Greenwood
10. Sticky Fingers — JT Lawrence
11. You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger — Ron Nicholson
12. The Wages Of Sin — Lisa Hall
13. Hidden — KA…

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Secrets

Raffles estate, Carlisle, late Saturday night.

Mary (not her real name) hears a heavy knocking on her front door. In her eighties and recently widowed she takes a long time to reach the entrance and slot the safety chain into the frame. She’s lived on the estate all her life and knows its dangers too well. Her eyes struggle with the darkness and she can barely believe her eyes when she sees two bulky men in uniform standing to attention on her doorstep.

Clearly they’ve come to the wrong address. They’re wearing identical smart black uniforms but speak with strange foreign accents. Surely can’t be police.She asks them to wait while she phones for her son. Looking out of her window she sees their car; bigger and blacker than the Daimler hired for her husband’s funeral. And there’s a flag on the bonnet, she can just make out the colours under the street lights – red, white and blue.

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Her son arrives in minutes. Known as the local enforcer his legend is usually enough to keep anyone from messing with his mum.

Aware the neighbour’s curtains are twitching he invites the strangers inside. He can barely believe it when they announce they’ve come from Moscow with a special honour for his dad. What exactly did his dad do in the war?

In a brief ceremony they present his mum with the highest honour for bravery that the Russian people can award, to a foreigner – the gold star.

As soon as the Russians leave he sits his mum down, makes a cup of tea and fires off questions. All his mum remembers is that his dad spent half the war in prison, up in Scotland. Well a sort of prison, it was really an internment camp.

But his dad was English to his bones. What on earth had he been doing that condemned him to spend half the war in prison? Was he spying for the Russians? That couldn’t be right surely.

Next day he looked through his dad’s papers, discovering that he’d served in the Merchant Navy before the war began. So what led to him being arrested? Nothing in the boxes of photographs and faded documents explained this time in prison.

That’s when he asked if I could do some research. And I discovered a dark secret that the government tried very hard to hide. So much so that everyone involved spent the rest of the war in an internment camp. And it had nothing whatsoever to do with Russia.

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Destined to never sleep

A week from the finish of our loft conversion. I had been looking forward to achieving some sense of a ‘normal’ marriage after sleeping separately from Jake for 2 years.  And looking fo…

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Day Trip through Cumbria

Tuesday. Michael’s birthday (age irrelevant) and we took off for the day, abandoning all our responsibilities. Bliss. Autumn is such a majestic season and Cumbria does it so well. When the sun shines (and it did) the scenery is due a sharp intake of breath as the fells stride across the horizon, grandiose and serene.

Mist cloaked the Eden plain as we set off, the landscape still holds memory of the long shallow lake that once lay between Penrith and Carlisle. Our first call was Sizergh Castle, a conglomerate of stone buildings dating from the Norman Conquest. The Strickland family were movers and shakers during the Border Wars but made their fortune (and extended their lands and power) through pertinent marriages. Since the 1950’s the house has been in the care of the National Trust.

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We arrived to discover the house didn’t open until noon, because they were into their ‘winter’ programme, but there was a ‘tour’ at 11 so we explored the gardens while we waited. The famous lime-stone rockery was designed by Hayes of Ambleside in the 1930’s when Sizergh was undergoing renovations by the current lady of the house (reported to be the third richest woman in England). Volunteers were busy tidying the long borders still brimming with blousy blooms and a velvet-smooth croquet lawn steps down to the small lake which is surrounded by wild flower meadows. We discovered a traditional Maltese gondola laid-up in the great barn and during our tour of the house learned a Strickland was first Prime Minister to Malta. Unfortunately at the same time he was MP for Kendal and virtually dismissed from the House of Commons for putting Malta before matters more pertinent to his constituency. Perhaps our first MEP?

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Sizergh Castle

During their years of tenure the NT have re-established Sizergh’s unique interior – negotiating the return of its Elizabethan fixtures and fittings from the V & A Museum in London. Death duties forced the family to sell what is thought to be the best surviving example of domestic Tudor panelling, restored to its original setting in the master bedroom in 1999.

Almost noon and we crossed into the vale of Windermere. We rarely get a chance to visit this part of Cumbria because it’s clogged with tourists all summer, making the roads impassable.  We took the opportunity to visit Blackwell, a property gifted to Kendal Museum of Art at the turn of the 20th century. Architect MH Baillie Scott was commissioned to design a summer residence for brewing magnate Sir Edward Holt of Manchester. It encapsulates all the innovations of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

When I went to Art College we were drilled with the achievements of Morris & Co and Blackwell House captures the spirit of that revolution in design. Every detail in the house is produced to work in harmony with the overall theme of nature. Worth a visit although very little of the original furnishings remain.

The weather still being kind we decided to forego lunch in order to visit Holehird Gardens, another long-held wish fulfilled. Originally the Lakeland Horticultural Society leased two acres of an abandoned rock garden above Holehird Mansion in 1971 but this has grown into a magnificent series of gardens which provide inspiration for anyone who loves gardens, but most particularly those north of Preston. And the views across the surrounding fells are breathtaking.

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Holehird Gardens

 

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Balance

roobs

A study of Reuben, by me.

 

There has been much talk of late about raising the health of the nation, following the Olympics and Paralympics in Rio, and how we’ve all become couch potatoes. Now I don’t want to bang on about the pros and cons of physical fitness because I don’t see this as the issue. What I see lacking in our society is the conviction we should follow our dreams, whatever they might be.

My life is spent being creative and I find it really difficult to relate to any client who says she can’t visualise a piece of jewellery that I’ve drawn or described. That’s really sad. To me it seems a more serious flaw than not being able to run or jump or skip (although Delilah tells me only girls can skip). Not being able to see something in your head, not being able to imagine… that’s frightening.

Writing is my outlet but it isn’t my life, I’m surrounded by family, business and an unruly garden which I vindicate by saying it’s fashionably wild. Mother tells me all the things I should be doing like trimming the lavender and pruning the roses. Once I’d have obediently dropped everything in order to keep the borders contained but I need my writing more than I need tidy hedges. Mother comes from ‘chapel’ stock, where ‘play’ of any kind is seen as frivolous and may only be undertaken when ‘work’ is diligently completed. And that’s how I grew up, believing ‘frivolous’ activities such as drawing, painting and writing were for another breed, not mine.

A recent study of the mental health of our nation produced some very damning statistics. More young people than ever before are suffering mental breakdowns, a truly worrying reflection on our culture, on the constraints that fixate society. I’m not qualified to give reasons but I believe everyone has problems and life is complicated. Surely balancing the bad and the sad with doing something creative, even if it means imagining a dream world, is one way of coping. My way of coping.

Once upon a time… isn’t that the most enigmatic beginning? But it isn’t healthy to put the past before the present. Dreams are about tomorrow. Dream Big.

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