Category : Journal

“Each and everyday, we see images and events which are pure poetry in their ability to trigger an emotion… if only we paused a moment to take notice.”

Dear journal.

Been thinking about poetry recently. Oh not the Shelley, Byron, Yeats, Owen, Austen or Aitken type of poetry… poetry that went over my head at school. More the ‘poetry in motion’ type of poetry.

Yesterday I saw bath time in the garden. A while ago we put a shallow dish near the house and filled it with water for the birds, meaning for it to be used as drinking water. Turns out the birds like to take a bath in it  too.

Bath time is when the sparrows, starlings or baby blackbirds gather round and take it in turns to splash about. They even drink out of the puddles they make. Watching them is mesmerising. With a smile on my face yesterday, I stood for ages and watched this ‘poetry’ unfold.

I love watching Swifts at this time of the year too. In late July I can hear them from early morning to late evening squealing at each other and screaming around the rooftops chasing each other and teaching their young how to catch insects. Such aerobatics… they can change direction as quick as a bat. And when they join in small groups, their playful song is the song of a summers eve, wonderful… poetic.

All this nature stuff is poetic. None of it has to rhyme. It doesn’t have to follow rules unless you start talking about Darwin and his rules of evolution, the strongest and fittest. To dissect it that way, though, would be missing the point.

I love watching nature at work because of its poetry… because it’s magical to do so… because, and maybe this is the crux of it, it’s indifferent to us and independent from us. From the seeds that grow into enormous sunflowers or ripened fruit; the birds flocking, playing and bathing, to the hedgehog living with us for the summer. I see it all as ‘images and events which are pure poetry in their ability to trigger an emotion’.

And that’s it for today journal. I’ve attached some pictures for you so you can get an idea of what I mean about poetry in motion. You’ll see that for me much of the poetry around involves nature.

Destiny or coincidence?

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Category : Musings

Anyone who has read either, or both, of my two published novels will have spotted that one of the central themes revolves around fate and they may have wondered if these are concepts close to my heart. Well, I can confirm it’s true. I love a tale where destiny is a strong feature – but where does this passion come from? Well, I’ll get to that in a minute, but first let’s look at the definitions.
Destiny is often described as:-
‘… events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.’, or
‘… a hidden power believed to control future events.’
Whereas coincidence is:-
‘… a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.’
Motivation to believe in one or the other of these concepts is a personal one, and I guess based on personal experience. Others may believe they work hand in hand or are one and the same.
In a classic love story, for example, circumstances may occur where one main protagonist is unerringly driven to be in the same place as another. A road diversion, a broken lift, sheltering in heavy rain, but always the two souls keep bumping into each other. Is that destiny playing its part or just a random sequence of events? To my mind one has an element of romance, the other not so. One holds spiritual comfort, the other not so.
Destiny presents itself in many a tale if you look for it, if your belief structure includes it. For example, Lord of the Rings, the classic fantasy hero’s epic, has many points related to destiny, not least that Bilbo was always meant to find the ring and so Frodo was also meant to have it. The same can be said of romance or chick lit. The guy was always meant to turn up at the front door asking for help, or head into the library to ask for directions and bump into an old school friend. Again, is this destiny or coincidence?
One of my favourite films is ‘Signs’ by M Night Shyamalam. It’s a few years old now, 2002, starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix and is classed as science fiction horror. I’d put it under psychological mystery if it were on paper, which is where my own writing resides. Without giving too much away, the film centres on destiny and how the main characters, all within one family, possess gifts or exhibit behaviours that seem innocuous or mundane taken on their own. However, these all come to meaning when the ultimate crisis presents itself. They were always meant to be, just for that one moment in time when needed the most. When I first saw the film, the power of its meaning grabbed me by the throat… but why should I be so moved?
Another of M Night’s films, ‘Lady in the Water’, a tale based on mystical creatures but set in the twenty-first century, also relies on individuals who possess gifts which when combined result in the saving of the heroin and indeed the whole of mankind. It’s a lovely, imaginative tale that contains humour and tragedy, loss and hope.
Something personal that took place a couple of years ago struck me as interesting. I’m a fan of alternate healing therapies such as reflexology or reiki, and I regularly go to see a reiki therapist. She talked to me once about soul gifts, those unique qualities and traits that an individual possesses. (Yes I’m going all hippy here man!)
During our session she had the vision of a quill and nib centred on my chest and felt that it depicted my soul gift. It was afterwards I told her about my writing and though I may never make much of it, I feel that it has become an essential part of me over the short years since I began. Do we all possess soul gifts? Are we fated to work with them?
So why am I so moved towards a spiritual but none religious belief in destiny? Because of my wife… my soul mate.
I’ll explain, and though the events that took place 30 years ago may be seen to be random or coincidental, I prefer to believe that fate took control because isn’t that more romantic?
The story isn’t dramatic at all, but I met my future wife on a blind date. The night of that first date we had a drink in a local country pub and it felt to me as comfortable as meeting with an old friend… conversation was easy and relaxed. Not being much of a drinker, I asked if she would like a coffee back at my place and she agreed.
Because of my caution and foolishness and without going in to detail, we didn’t see each other again for another month and I thought that was that. (I really liked this woman.) But then one Saturday afternoon she turned up on my doorstep ready to leave a note if I wasn’t in. The rest is history.
Now, imagine if I had been a drinker and stayed at the pub all evening. Imagine if I hadn’t invited her back to my house for a beverage. She would never have known where I lived… never have known where to find me. Our futures would have been utterly different. We would never have spent a year living in Scotland, a location dear to our hearts which features also in the hearts of my characters. I may never have become interested in spiritual healing. I would not have had a dream one night that led to the first tentative steps into writing fiction. I would not be here discussing destiny on a blog.
Ask yourselves, has the lives of my wife and I been based on pure random events or did destiny play its part? I’ll leave that to your own belief structure but if you want to read more about fate and destiny, mingled with the strength of family, maybe you’ll give Song of the Robin and its sequel Reunion a try.

Musings #2

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Category : Musings

It’s only after you experience something you fully understand and appreciate what is involved – how life changing the experience may be. Ok, a bit vague and I guess that could include every experience we ever have. But to elaborate, during the spring of 2020 the phrase ‘National Health Service’ or its acronym became part of daily conversation and on every TV and radio news article. For the majority of us this national treasure of ours has lingered ever present in the background, but only given thought during an occasional trip to the doctor. This year the NHS has taken on a new meaning for me and with it a new respect.

Coincidentally timed with the rise of the COVID 19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, I began to fall ill, becoming increasingly fatigued whilst losing significant weight… and believe me I had little of it to lose. Ultimately, all roads led me to an admission via A&E followed by a three-week inpatient stay.

During my confinement with no visitors, and amidst a barrage of tests, scans, biopsies and medical information coming thick and fast, I floated on a roller coaster of a journey both physical and deeply emotional.

I don’t know if being a writer of fiction lends itself to an additional and harmful level of imagination, but during the dark hours when alarms regularly ping, when regular obs are taken, ‘Robert I’m just going to take your blood pressure’ or another patient requires help, I slipped into the rabbit hole.

This period was very dark and I now understand the potential effects of depression. I wandered into a world of finalities. What was wrong with me? Is it sinister? I’m so weak will I be able to walk the dog again or work in the garden – be anything other than a burden. Seems over dramatic in the cold light of day. The only thing that kept me from floundering were the daily video calls from my guardian angel… my soul mate. She, who amidst who own demons, gave me practicalities to focus on with an endless supply of love and encouragement. Thank heavens for technology and the smart phone.

I was something of an anomaly… didn’t quite fit the profile for a simple diagnosis, and it took a number of consultants of different specialisms to agree to a likely cause and begin treatment. There’s no doubt that my life has now changed. To what degree has yet to be understood.

But these musings are less about me and more about the experience of being drawn in to the NHS machine.

Three weeks is a long time away from loved ones, but long enough to appreciate what we take for granted.

The unstinting care I received from the moment I arrived in A&E was without limits. I was cared for. I was fed and watered. I was kept informed… visited by highly specialised consultants who answered my questions clearly and with patience, so I knew what to expect and when. From the senior doctors, through nursing staff, domestics, porters, students, care assistants and admin… everyone has my admiration for their dedication to care, at the same time amidst the nightmare of a pandemic with its increased risks.

This NHS of ours is often regarded as a faceless entity, a collective target for complaint derided for its failings as if ‘it’ is some single celled beast. But it is not. It is made up of 1.5 million highly dedicated individuals who could be our parents, our sons or daughters – our  friends. People we pass in the street every day. Normal people who unstintingly give of themselves to allay our fears, make us comfortable and doing this not just for us as an individual, but for each of the other poor souls lying in a bed a few feet away.

72 years and climbing is a remarkable achievement and one we should take stock of and give of our gratitude. I for one have an endless supply of it.

Thank you to our NHS – our National Treasure.


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Category : Wildlife

A few weeks ago, and knowing that hedgehogs would be actively looking for mates and nest sites, I decided to purchase a trail cam. Nothing too sophisticated (or expensive), but enough to capture nocturnal activity.

At the same time I knocked up a feeding station out of lengths of deck boards so I could keep away our more common nocturnal adventurers… cats.

The feeding station now has to be topped up each day and with a little experimentation the camera has various positions to choose from.

What joy then that we’ve captured a few images and videos of these most delightful of hidden creatures. We also feel that since we have at least one smaller hedgehog we may be blessed with a nest somewhere in the garden, possibly under a shed where it is sheltered and dry.

We will continue to feed them and ensure there are sheltered areas in the hope they may set up home and overwinter.

Here’s a few images.

Midnight Musings

Category : Musings

It’s just past midnight.

At this early hour, the ticking of the clock day is fast becoming an old friend. The only other occasional sound is that of the dog when she occasionally turns on her bed at the top of the stairs where she sleeps.

I’m tired but not tired, a statement which requires explanation.

I’m tired because I’ve only slept for around 2 to 3 hours, but then I’m in a sort of bleary-eyed mania because my brain is active and I’m journaling (is that a word?)… which I understand is normal for some authors?

Not so for me. The cause of my nocturnal sojourn is prednisolone, high-dose steroids, which I’m hoping will reduce soon and allow me to return to my usual sparked out state during the hours of darkness. But enough of the reason.

I mentioned above that other writers do work when the world is at rest and I have to admit during a previous couple of hours on the sofa while mulling over my writing, an idea occurred to me regarding central themes within my tales.

Most of my storytelling uses the Indiana Jones methodology, I make it up as I go along and quite early on during the days when Song of the Robin was in its infancy I began to introduce ‘family’ as a focal point.

The main plot for Song of the Robin is all about the deep rooted love a man has for his wife and his desperation when faced with impending tragedy. However, as with all good tales, the backstory required as much detail as current events to give life and depth. This is where my focus became more intense, where I could introduce the emotions of grief and joy, loss and belonging… those emotions that make our own lives real. What I don’t recall is planning to introduce this particular theme, proof that much of my writing is unplanned and only drifts along these tributaries once a few sentences appear on paper.

Thinking about the theme of family, it only hit me recently where this came from. They do say you should write from personal experience so that your words are more believable. (Worrying with so many serial killer thrillers in print!) For me, this theory is clearly the case.
My main protagonist is lacking in a broad spectrum of family members, most importantly no grandparents during her childhood. This reflects my own childhood. Only now as the years have advanced have I developed more of an interest in my parents and grandparents lives, but they are long since gone. I have no recollection of my paternal grandparents, and though I was around ten when my maternal grandparents left, I have little memory of any relationship with them… I never felt close… was never left with them… never played. To be honest, they were old people, and I was a little scared of them. But in those days there was still an element of ‘children were seen and not heard’. So different from my wife’s experience, where a huge expanse of her childhood is filled with memories of all her grandparents – as with our own children. I feel no regrets but as with all fiction, the notion has filtered through to be expanded and dramatised to fulfill a purpose.

Unwittingly and unplanned, this emptiness of mine has manifested itself in the backstory of my central characters in order to create a hole in their lives that can be filled with plots and side plots, poignancy and joy. Indeed the same theme extends to other characters which of course led to the extended tag line for Song of the Robin.


And also to a moment’s clarity with the heart of my heroin.

“Sarah’s need for the sanctuary of family was her greatest strength and her greatest weakness. What was family, she thought, if not a place to belong? Family was everything. It was a warm blanket… an embrace… a safe place to hide when the world threatened. A refuge where the door was always open, and a friendly face welcomed.”

Ever since I began to write, I’ve been enthralled at how a story develops with little forethought. How a basic idea can change course, follow a different path and still arrive via a circuitous route at the conclusion, hopefully intact as a coherent tale.

Hmm. Almost 03:00. Yes, ready for sleep now. Night.

Blogging… what to write about.

Category : Uncategorized

I guess this will be a work in progress — a place for my thoughts or ramblings, some of which may be of interest and, as a writer, grammatically correct!