In the footsteps of Jane Austen

Lately the pressure of assignments and deadlines had got the better of me, so my friend and I decided to have a day out. And what better place to chose for two aspiring writers than the home of Jane Austen were she produced some of her best known work. She had lived in the village of Chawton near Winchester from 1809 to 1817. When her health declined she moved to Winchester to be closer to her doctor, where she later died. It was a really great experience to see where she wrote and what her daily life must have looked like. The small round table in the picture above was the table she wrote on nearly every morning. She wrote with a quill and ink. in one of the rooms of the house there was table with ink and paper for visitors to try out what it feels like to write with a quill. My friend and I came to the realisation that we are very lucky to be able to write on a laptop nowadays. Writing whole books with a quill must have been incredibly laborious and strenuous on the wrist. I tried to write a few lines but I found that I was used to write certain letters in a certain way. For example the lower ‘e’ was really hard to form with the quill. I can also see that writing in such a way was time consuming. I can only imagine that Jane Austen must have thought very carefully about which words to put down on the page. Each sentence crafted very carefully. No ink wasted.

It is so easy today to just write things, ideas down and then later erase them or move them around or delete them. especially in emails we often write something in haste and don’t really chose our words carefully. and then we just press send and more often than not it leads to upset or misunderstanding. WhatsApp or snapchat are even worst. Words and sentences are written in a hurry to get a point across fast. Writers are often called wordsmiths. I like that. I think of a silversmith and how carefully they make jewellery and a wordsmith constructs sentences or even whole books in a very careful manor. I am guilty of writing things down in a hurry and sending a quick email here and there or a quick snappy WhatsApp message. Writing with a quill has reminded me to take time with writing. Think carefully about what I want to actually say and which words to chose. I forgot who said that words can be mightier than a sword, but he was right.

Joy

For my University course I had to read an article by Zadie Smith called “Joy” (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/jan/10/joy/?pag…).

She writes that finding joy in your life is quite difficult and even if we do, that feeling of joy does not last very long. in the second paragraph she mentions how much pleasure and joy she gets from food. Even a little pineapple popsicle gives her great joy for a few minutes. I could really relate to that. Two years ago I went on the “a hundred days of happiness challenge. Every day I had to post a picture of something that made me happy that day on a social media website. After a while I noticed that most days my picture contained food. I once wrote a whole poem about how much I love coffee and cake. I thought about that a while ago, when I put myself through a really strict diet of shakes and bars. Why does food give me such joy?

Yesterday I had to go to my GP for my over 40 health check. This check up is to determine the risk of getting a cardio vascular decease. The GP weight and measured me, took blood and checked my pulse and blood pressure. at the end my result was 0.5%. Now that is great isn’t it? But she got really hang up on me being overweight. I have a really healthy cholesterol level, I don’t smoke and only very rarely drink alcohol. She also said that out of all the health checks she did that day I was by far the healthiest, yet all that wasn’t good enough she advised me to go on a diet. I guess she had to, as my BMI was not in the healthy zone.

Two weeks ago I had dinner with a friend of mine. She also has issues with her weight and knows she needs to do something about it. We had a long chat and she said that if she took food away at the moment she would deny herself the only pleasure in life she has left. While food is not the only pleasure I have in my live, I could still understand what she meant. Now this is a whole different can of worms when one uses food as an emotional pick up and I won’t go to deep into it with this blog post.

Of course people also derive joy from plenty of other things, as do I, but the article really made me think about food in particular. Thank you for reading.

Visit to the salt grotto

Due to a family bereavement I am staying with my mum in Germany. Yesterday afternoon we visited the local salt grotto. I had never been to one before.

Here is a description of what a salt grotto is. I copied the text from their website:

A visit to the salt cave strengthens the immune system, prevents diseases and puts you in a comfortable state of relaxation.

Rest on comfortable loungers at comfortable temperatures without changing your clothes. Insulated light and gentle sounds invite you to relax. Enjoy the smoothing atmosphere and absorb precious minerals and trace elements with each breath. Your whole organism can easily relax from the stress of everyday life.

A session last 45 minutes. You are lying or sitting in a reclining chair and cover yourself up in a very snug blanket. You can really feel the salt in the air on your lungs. For extra energy you can hold two metal handles in each hand. I am finding it hard to relax, so I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing. Soon my whole body was tingling. The time passed very quickly. Afterwards I felt great. I have had a bad back for ages and I felt good. No pain and really relaxed.

Each blanket had a spiral on it as well. This spiral is a Celtic symbol. Here is the explanation from their website:

THE SPIRAL

    The spiral is an ancient and mysterious symbol of the Celts. Their importance is not fully understood and will certainly remain a myth. It is assumed that the spiral symbolizes the journey from the inner life to the outer soul. This outer soul includes the own way of the knowledge, as well as the way to higher mental forms. The spiral is therefore the epitome of growth, development and energy.
    In the Salt Cave in Gießen you can try on our DAGREWA cuddly blanket. Feel the cosmic energy for your body.

The dark side is for warmth and the light side for cold, depending on what your body needs energy wise.

Some if the text are copied from:

https://dagrewa.de/en/home-en/

I really enjoyed the experience and would like to go again before my return to the UK.

Lava lamp

I recently revamped my office and added a lava lamp. Not a fancy one. It was really cheap actually. Today when I got home after being away for a few days I switched it on and watched what happened. When the mass inside finally got warm enough and started separating I was mesmerised. Of course I have seen lava lamps before but I never watched it from the beginning when the thick liquid inside starts making forms and moving around in the clear water. It was absolutely silent around me, which added to the ‘magic’. It was like when it first starts snowing and all sound is muted and you look out of the window and watch the snow fall. It happens silently. The falling of snow makes no noise at all and I got that same feeling from watching the lava lamp. It somehow makes me feel more relaxed and silent. It forced me to be still and just watch it happen. I can’t quite put the feeling into words, but it was just what I needed today.

I have been so busy with University and getting course work ready and my thoughts are doing somersaults in my head. I have not been sleeping well for days and still I just could not calm my mind down to form a clear thought. I have to get two story ideas ready for submission and I have a clear way to start them but can’t really find a clear way through them. But today just sitting there and watching the lamp has helped me to calm my thoughts down and kind of think about nothing for a few minutes, just emptied it, or shut the thoughts off. It was so great. Like a shower for the mind. It kind of cleansed it. I can highly recommend to get yourself a lava lamp!

Book Review: The Mag Pie Tree by Kathrine Stansfield

Picture: Carole Burns on the left and Katherine Stansfield on the right

I actually met Katherine Stansfield last week, as part of our writers in conversation event at Southampton University. For our course we had to read the second book in her Cornish mystery series ‘The Magpie Tree’. The first book is called ‘Falling Creatures. Although Katherine said this book can be read on its own, I think it would have been more beneficial to have read the first book first.

In ‘The Magpie Tree’ the two ladies Shilly and Anna are investigating the disappearance of a young boy. Sir Vivian, a wealthy land owner and magistrate employs the two ladies to find a young boy that went missing in the woods. His fragile, pregnant wife is very worried and stressed about the incident. He lets them stay in the summer house in the woods near the waterfall. There are also two foreign women, that also life in the woods, who are said to be witches and everybody beliefs that they are responsible for the missing bouts death. But things are never quite as simple as they appear to be…

It took me a while to get into the story of the book, as I mentioned before, it would have been better to have read the first novel first. The book is very much about the power of women. Shilly and Anna are in a relationship. Which for the time the book is set in, would have been outrageous. The book is very carefully set up and really well researched. It is set in 1844, a time were women would have had very little or no rights at all, other than to be married and to have children. For two women to be ‘private investigators’ would have been unusual, or even unheard of. But the story is carefully set up and it makes sense why the two women are there to investigate the disappearance of the child. To start with I found it annoying that they were in a revaluation ship, but it is not ‘in the readers face’. There are just subtle hinds. The way the wood is set up is very good, it takes on its very own role, like a separate character, with its own temperament.

I can highly recommend the book. It is a mixture of Daphne du Maurer meets Sherlock Holmes and ‘The Birds’.

Soulmate

People always use the term soulmate to describe a special link they have with a partner, or better the love if their life, the one and only person they were destined to meet.

But a soulmate is much more than that. I liked Elizabeth Gilbert’s description of a soulmate from her book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’:

People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. 

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. 

A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master…

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
A soulmate is a mirror that reflects back at you. Over the past few months I learned a lot about myself through my new partner and sometimes what was reflected back at me was ugly. I saw a side of myself I am truly ashamed of. I hurt him through my actions. What I have noticed about myself is, that I have learned behaviour patterns I need to change. Thank goodness he has been very patient and forgiving and I am grateful he stuck by me despite my terrible behaviour. But it has been a learning curve for the better and I think I can say, I have truly found my soulmate ❤️

Reading and writing

I came across this blog post and thought I’ll share it with you:

https://literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-daily/2015/07/16/reading-is-like-breathing-in-writing-is-like-breathing-out

I totally agree with this. During the past few weeks at Uni I realised how important reading is for my own writing. Even books that take you out of you usual genre can really enrich your own writing so much. Especially if you read like a writer and pay attention to how characters, plot, time or place are set out in a book.