A few photos from Baddesley Clinton, one of my favourite National Trust properties, a short drive from my home in Warwick.
In England we do love talking about the weather and so during the last few weeks we have had several heavensent opportunities to express a wide range of thoughts and feelings about it.
But beauty is everywhere, and there are few things more poignant and touching than signs of fresh new life juxtaposed with a blanket of virgin snow.
In the last few weeks we have enjoyed bright sunshine and beautiful fresh blossom, interspersed with treacherous ice and white-outs!
So here I share some images of these contrasts in the natural world.
A few images from Dunham Massey, a National Trust property in Cheshire. These were taken on 19th February – just at that time of the year for us in England where the spring flowers are arriving, heralds of joy and new hope.
Exciting news! Mystical Circles, the prequel to A Passionate Spirit, will be relaunched soon by Luminarie.
I already have the new cover design and it’s very exciting indeed! I love it and I hope and believe you will too.
The new cover will express a much darker mood, as does the cover design of A Passionate Spirit, with some significant variations… this will update the branding of the two thriller suspense novels which explore strange and paranormal happenings in the same idyllic Cotswold location… a beautiful manor house in a hidden valley deep in Gloucestershire.
Watch this space – the brand new edition with its fabulous new cover will be available to pre-order on 1st August. And that’s the day when I’ll feature the Cover Reveal on this blog.
The publication date is 5th September.
Also out on 5th September from Luminarie will be the new edition of Perilous Path: A Writer’s Journey.
This is my inspirational writer’s guide, packed full of helpful and encouraging tips, insights and reminders for writers.
Both these Luminarie editions will be available to pre-order on 1st August when I’ll have the cover reveal of Mystical Circles edition 3 for you.
And if you haven’t already ordered your copy of A Passionate Spirit, get the paperback here .
And here‘s where to get the ebook.
During my visit to The Holy Island of Lindisfarne last year, I sat on the shore by the Lindisfarne Causeway and watched the tide come in and cover the road.
Here are my insights – and a few images – from that experience.
Sitting at the end of the causeway and watching the tide come in is one of the activities suggested for you here Give Yourself a Retreat on Holy Island by Ray Simpson. It has many benefits and can be quite amusing as you watch cars driving along the road well outside the safe crossing time, and wonder whether they’ll soon be floating away. This too can be a good prompt to reflect upon the quality of patience.
It’s also a challenge to your ability to sit quietly for an extended length of time and meditate; to some it can become boring. We sat with several other people, some of who left early, but we stayed till the water was surging across the road.
I found myself thinking of the High Tide of God; sometimes it comes flooding in over the road and then you may not pass. At other times, it is out, and your way along the road is free.
Of course, you can interpret the tide differently, reversing the meaning.It all depends upon the viewpoint you take; whether you see yourself sitting on the shore, or whether you see yourself as a boat, or as a bird skimming the waves. Instead of equating the tide with a signal that you must patiently wait, you can equate it with a time for fruitful action. That is how Shakespeare interpreted it when he wrote: There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.
So even non religious people can sit here at the end of the causeway and take from this their own reflections on life.
Whichever way you view it, the whole experience is full of symbolic meaning, which you can also explore in this book: Sacred Spaces by Margaret Silf.
My personal reflections for my own life, work equally well when applied to the current world scene.
I believe, with Tolstoy (see my previous blog post here) that “the times produce the man”; and currently, those who voted Trump in as President hold the moral responsibility for elevating him into a major role in their society. The tide in the affairs of men, that Shakespeare referred to, has thrown up this situation… and though many hold different views, perhaps we must just wait for the tide to recede, taking with it all the flotsam and jetsam.
Curiously, you can apply this principle to the writing of novels too. Sometimes you find you have a major character in a minor role, and vice versa. This can underlie problems with story-writing when you get stuck, and perhaps you can’t initially work out what you’re doing wrong.
And also you can equate creativity with the tide; the high tide of ideas. As the tide surges in, so can our ideas – but only if we get to work.
And lastly we, as writers, can see the tide as Shakespeare did: a tide of fortune. Are we boats, or birds, or perhaps merely foam on the crest of the waves? We may be a beautiful beached fish, just waiting for the tide to sweep us up again. However we see it, we can learn many things from sitting patiently at the end of the causeway, and waiting and gazing.
The English love to do fun – and some might even think silly – things on Boxing Day.
Perhaps this is a relief from all the stress of preparing for Christmas. It’s also the opportunity for people to gather together in the fresh air and enjoy themselves with traditional English entertainments.
The events were organised by Kenilworth Lions who not only give people a lot of fun and enjoyment, but also provide tremendous support to local charities through their fundraising.
The entertainments included Morris dancers, Punch and Judy Show, and the best dressed dog contest at Kenilworth Castle…
……..and the annual duck race along the brook through Abbey Fields – an event which attracts a huge crowd. We followed this with another very popular local activity – a walk through the fields behind Kenilworth Castle, through the area once covered by the Great Mere, filled with pleasure boats, out to the former site of Henry V’s “Pleasance in the Marsh” and back again to the Castle….
May I take this opportunity to wish you a happy New Year and for all of us the chance to play our part in making the world a more compassionate, caring and loving place for us all, one in which people may come together in a spirit of mutual tolerance, acceptance and good will, so in many more countries people may enjoy being together as shown on the pictures in this blog post.
What do you do in a heatwave? We headed for the Cotwolds and one of our favourite places, Broadway Tower.
The last time I was there a cold gusty wind and a heavy damp mist greeted us.
But on this visit, the sun blazed out of an azure sky,
and it was an ideal day to climb the Tower and view the 16 counties from the top.
I’ve written about Broadway Tower before on this blog as it’s a place of inspiration, not least because of its association with the preRaphaelites and in particular William Morris, whose philosophy I admire and whose designs I love.
As I wrote in my previous post about Broadway Tower, among all things most romantic to me is a high place.
I go to high places for calmness and peace, and also to reconnect with that sense of perspective we all need so dearly in the world today.
There are a number of high places I love to visit, from where I live in Warwickshire. the nearest are the Burton Dasset Hills; Broadway Tower is about half an hour away; and the Malverns a little further. But all are sources of inspiration.
What are your favourite places to visit, for inspiration and upliftment of spirits? I’d love to hear about them, wherever you live… unless of course they are secret locations that you don’t want to be swamped by visitors! Do share in the comments below.
A Passionate Spirit is featured in the latest edition of “STEPS” the Lancaster University alumni magazine online.
The picture below was taken on Box Hill, in Surrey, on a recent visit.
I have happy memories of Box Hill from my childhood, as I was born and brought up in Kent. This is a landscape which has aroused love and feelings of spiritual wellbeing in many.
This time I couldn’t help but recall once again one of the most famous scenes in fiction; the picnic which takes place in Jane Austen’s novel Emma, when Emma allows her irritation with Miss Bates to overcome her forbearance… provoking a reaction from Mr Knightley which makes Emma realise for the first time how much she cares for his opinion of her.
And, curiously, Emma was the subject of my very first English Literature seminar at Lancaster, when I was pounced upon and challenged to mount an argument in defence of Jane Austen’s literary reputation. I had much less insight into human psychology then than I do now, having spent many more years observing people and relationships and the many ironies of this life; and (to my eyes at least) I failed miserably on that occasion!
A fitting literary scene, then, for an author photo to go alongside my Lancaster University alumni article.
Find the article here
Isn’t it lovely how many different moods and themes can be captured by garden designers and landscape architects?
A week ago I was speaking to the guide who led our tour around Highgrove Gardens about how HRH The Prince of Wales viewed Capability Brown. And the answer was that he realises in some contexts the ideas of that great eighteenth century garden designer might be appropriate, but personally it’s not his “sort of thing”. For when Capability Brown was brought in to transform the surroundings of a stately home, he would be thinking of sweeping lawns flowing seamlessly into the extensive parklands via the ha-ha, dotted with majestic parkland trees, and would of course throw in a cunningly-situated lake, which would create a perfect vista from the house. This is a profoundly different approach to that of the sequence of interconnected rooms full of quirky and unexpected things, which is itself a very popular style of garden design among the great gardeners (such as Vita Sackville West with Sissinghurst Castle Garden, of course).
However yesterday I was in one of my favourite Capability Brown landscapes at Compton Verney in Warwickshire
And again I thought how calming and uplifting it is to be in this spacious parkland, which wraps around the house perfectly, providing an ideal setting.
But there’s now a new feature in the landscape, of which HRH the Prince of Wales would wholeheartedly approve: a new wildflower meadow on the West Lawn, with mown paths running through it corresponding to a William Morris design, relating directly to the theme of the excellent Arts and Crafts exhibition currently showing inside the house.
As we visited it on the last day of August the wildflowers were long past their best; apart from a single patch which gave some idea of what the entire meadow will look like next May:
I’ll see you back on this blog on Monday 17 August.
Right now I’m taking a break in one of the most scenic places in the world: England’s lovely Lake District.