"FUIMUS - We Have Been"

"FUIMUS - We Have Been!" motto of Clan Bruce

All material on SHIMMERCASTDREAMS copyright of Marie Bruce and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Friday, 19 August 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Ice Queen - Freeze Them Out

Once upon a time there was a beautiful Queen whose heart was broken in two

"You will never know this suffering again...
Love is a lie.
 It is a trick played by the cruel on the foolish and weak.
Cast it from your mind. 
Never let it render you frail of mind, or of will..."

Freya, the Ice Queen in The Huntsman; Winter's War

It is a wet soggy day and the rain hasn't stopped pouring since early this morning.  I like days like this.  It is a taste of autumn and a sign that the colder weather is waiting in the wings.  I am ready for the dark season to begin and today I lost myself in winter when I curled up and watched The Huntsman; Winter's War which is a prequal/sequal to Snow White and the Huntsman.

It has fast become my new favourite ice maiden film, knocking Bridget Fonda's Snow Queen off the top spot and leaving Disney's Frozen cold.  The film tells the story of the Wicked Queen's little sister Freya, who starts off as a gentle, trusting and loving woman, but when she is betrayed by both her lover and her spiteful sister, a change comes over her.  She internalises the loss and grief; her heart turns cold and she removes herself from society to a far off palace of ice in the cold, cold northlands, becoming the Ice Queen and wielding a frosty new magical power, turning her focus from love, to battle.  She is a warrior Ice Queen, with her own army.

I have always been drawn to ice maiden stories, from the Snow Queen with her frozen heart and magic mirror; to Holda and her gift of winter snow; to the Cailleach with her deadly kiss of cold, which I have experienced myself more than once - in fact, the Cailleach has been on me so often, it's like the touch of an old friend! 

There is something intriguing about the notion of a woman so wronged in love that she chooses to isolate herself and freeze out love altogether.  It is a theme I have explored in my books, most notably Faerie Magic.  

It takes a very strong woman to live such an isolated life, needing no man at all, complete in her own sense of power and independence. It's not a life for everyone, but it is a life I can totally relate to. Love makes us all vulnerable and vulnerability is a weakness. Love also carries the risk of heartbreak and betrayal...and who needs that?  A strong sense of female independence is far more reliable than any man will ever be. 

Have you ever noticed that there are no Ice King myths and fairytales?  No Ice Prince takes himself away from the world because a lass lied to him and betrayed his trust. I think this is because men just don't love in the same way as women do - if and when they love at all.  Men don't seem to be shattered by betrayal and heartbreak. They are not frozen in time when a lover lets them down with infidelity. Instead they move swiftly on to their next conquest, for one woman is as good as the next to them; any woman can potentially offer what they are looking for and men prefer to make an active search, moving fast, from one love to the next, to the next and so on.  Men are like shampoo - they just rinse off and repeat!

So it's not surprising that Freya takes satisfaction in literally freezing men and turning them to ice - she's simply doing to them what they've done to her.  She freezes them out and leaves them cold.  She is not evil, she is deeply wounded and if she doesn't want to bleed to death from a broken heart, she has no choice but to remain frozen. She cannot risk melting - for to melt would release the pain.  

I think this is why I like Ice Queen stories; because it has been my story and it is potentially, every woman's story.  We can all be ice maidens at times; we have all turned a cold shoulder, given a frosty glare, made a cutting reply with frostbite on our lips, frozen someone out of our life for good.  Yes, it can be painful, but it is also a woman's means of survival.  For that reason alone the Ice Queen legend will forever endure, because she is a part of every woman and she lives in each of us... 

...And because there will always be some cock-sure man who thinks he can be the one to melt her! Melting her is one thing, but can he stay true to her? That is the real question. And so the story continues ad infinitum.   

Saturday, 13 August 2016


Image result for autumn reading images free
When autumn falls it will be time to hit the books again

Yesterday I received the news that I have just been elected to membership of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, or BACP.  While it's not nearly as exciting as being a member of The Society of Authors, it has still given me a bit of a buzz, nonetheless, because it is some kind of recognition for all the work I have put into my training thus far.  I'm looking forward to receiving my new BACP membership card, which will sit proudly alongside my Society of Authors card - the duel aspects of my working life.

It means that I am now officially part of the psychotherapy profession - I have my foot in the door and a second career awaits, a new aspect of my self-employment and possibly even my own private practice. The option to set up on my own is always there. 

BACP membership is another small stepping stone behind me, as I make the crossing from my past into my future, and its also a bit of a two finger salute to the medicine man who told me I'd not be accepted without his help and sponsorship.  As if!! Don't you just hate it when a spurned suitor tells you you'll never get ahead in life without him? Isn't always fun to prove him wrong?! ;-) 

Now I'm just waiting on the DBS check to come through and then I can sort out insurance and begin my placement next month, which is something else I'm looking forward to, as I will finally be able to help soldiers, which has been my plan since the beginning. 

In addition I have just applied to do an extra six week training course with Cruse Bereavement, because they offer training on military bereavement which I think will be really useful in the long term.  It's an additional expense I could do without, but it will also be an additional Qualification Certificate, adding to my professional credibility and should win me a few Brownie Points with my placement provider too.  Cruse is also a good back-up plan for a placement, if the one with SSAFA falls through - I like to have a contingency plan in place, just in case!

As I have mentioned before, paying for the courses and all the additional expenses attached to training in psychotherapy, is the hardest part of the journey, so if you are considering signing up for a counselling course this September, you need to bear that in mind. There is no funding help with course fees for the first three levels of training - you have to pay every penny yourself.  At level 4 you can get funding to pay part  of the course fees, but you have to pay the rest yourself and you will also have to pay back the funding too, once qualified.  

Additional expenses include a certain number of hours private personal counselling (the NHS doesn't count towards your course - just as well because you'll be waiting months for a counsellor!), legalities such as the cost of a DBS check and insurance policy, the purchase of a recording device so you can record your sessions to add them to your student portfolio, the cost of text books and paying for private supervision sessions throughout the placement. You will also need to pay extra course fees with specific organisations, such as Cruse, Relate etc, if you want to do their training in tandem with the main course.

It all adds up and there is no financial help available whatsoever; there are no student grants, no maintenance loans and no training bursaries offered to student counsellors.  This effectively means that you're on your own financially, so you will need to keep your real job, or live off your partner's income for a minimum of four years, if you're happy to do so, though very few independent women would want that!  

I'm lucky in that my writing work has paid for my training, and my training in turn has inspired articles and features etc, but it has not been easy and one of the reasons I will be glad to complete the course is because I will be able to afford to have a life again! Horse riding, piano lessons, ice skating, dance classes, even holidays, have all been put on hold while I pay my way through psychotherapy training. So sacrifices have to be made to make room for your training.  It can be tough so be prepared.  

That said, I can now begin to see my way ahead a little bit and providing my SSAFA placement goes well, I can see that a whole new chapter of my life is about to begin.  I have that feeling of  
 excitement, nerves and anticipation - I just know a new phase of my life is about to start, new doors will open, new experiences and adventures are waiting in the wings for me. 

If everything goes to plan then come September I will be starting three new ventures; the final year of my psychotherapy diploma, a placement in a Military setting and an additional six week training course with Cruse Bereavement.  It's going to be a busy autumn! 

Wings are made to fly...

Saturday, 6 August 2016

BOOK NOOK; Literary Romance

Women need romance like flowers need sunshine and rain; we need it to survive and thrive and without it we wilt and die a little inside.
Being in love is such a magical, rejuvenating experience and even if it doesn't last, even if the object of your affections chooses to break your heart, you still have the memory of the first dance to sustain you through darker days ahead, though the memory may be bitter sweet and tinged with heartbreak.

Romance should be part of every loving relationship, but sadly, it tends to wane as familiarity creeps in.  He doesn't hold your hand anymore; you don't get butterflies when you see him...the love has faded into day to day responsibility and duty always calls loudest.
It's hard to keep love alive when you're with someone and its hard to keep hope alive when you're alone; and if you are separated for any length of time, it becomes even harder to make it work. 

One thing life has taught me in recent months though, is that distance will only get in the way if a man wants it to.  All it takes is a quick text, Skype, Tweet, call or email, just a few gentle words, to set a woman's heart a flutter and put a smile on her face again, yet some men just can't find the time for so little effort.  If it's a one sided love affair; if he's not giving you his contact details - he's not looking to a long term future with you. He's just passing on a bit of time and what self-respecting woman has time for that? You shouldn't have to beg for his phone number! Either he will step up to bat, or he won't, but he can only waste your time and your love if you allow him to.

When your love life lets you down, you need to find your romance from somewhere else - and no, I'm not suggesting you have a meaningless fling!  But you could have a secret liaison with a literary lover instead.  The romantic heroes of novels are a good way to get all the feelings of being in love without any of the risks that a relationship brings.  If you find a male character you can connect with in your mind, you can rest assured that he will never be a disappointment. 

If you like what he does, you're always going to like what he does because he cannot deviate from the story.  He exists only within the book and therefore solely for your reading enjoyment.  He's never going to stand you up, beat you up or wind up in a strip joint sampling whats on offer and blaming it on the drink!  In short, he is always going to be there for you, whenever you need a little romancing - all you have to do is pick up a book and meet him at moonlight, on the page.  Here then are some of my best loved romantic heroes and literary lovers to tide you over until the real thing comes along... 

1. Jamie Fraser - Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.
Hands down, no competition, Jamie Fraser is quite simply the bravest man I have ever read. I adore him.  A gorgeous Highlander (my favourite kind of man) he is bold, daring, fearless, handsome, 'so faithful in love and so dauntless in war' - he is amazing. Read more here

2. Arragorn - The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J R R Tolkien 
Tolkien knew what he was doing when he wrote Arragorn into being - the Ranger who is born to be King; the mortal man in love with an Elven Princess; the leader of the Fellowship and Protector of the Ring  Bearer - Arragorn has it all.  A faithful lover, though he is tested when he meets Eowen, he remains true to Arwen - and I love him even more for his loyalty to her.  A brave fighter in battle and a noble king. The perfect all rounder really.

3. Mr. Rochester - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I fell for Mr Rochester when I was 13 years old and I first read Jane Eyre.  I love the way he and Jane meet - she thinks he's a phantom horseman, he accuses her of being a witch and calling up the mist that made him fall from his horse.  He is tetchy and arrogant, troubled and brooding.  She is feisty and indomitable, refusing to be anything but his equal and his match.  It's Gothic, romantic and superb.

4. Mr. Knightly - Emma by Jane Austen
As his name suggests Mr Knightly is the epitome of gentlemanly conduct.  Always polite, always chivalrous, always knightly.  He is the sexy older man who never puts a foot wrong.  He gives young Emma a ticking off when she needs it, and because she respects him and his judgement, she accepts his chiding and his guidance. He is the 'father figure' lover; significantly older and wiser, but still young enough to be hot!

5. Chevalier, Sir Tristan de Jarnac - My Lady's Crusade by Annette Motley
Set during the Crusades this is a pot boiler romance published in the 1970's, so it is very sensational and has every taboo you could think of in its story-line! That said Sir Tristan is a fantastic character and he spars constantly with the heroine Lady Eden.  She is on a mission to find her husband in the Holy Land, so she is forever dashing off and getting into scrapes, which means that Sir Tristan has to keep rescuing her.  He is frustrated that she won't just do as she is told, though secretly he admires her courage. She is irritated that he is always following her and interfering, though secretly glad to see him when she's in a fix.  It's a classic love/loath scenario, very funny in places and extremely romantic.  If you're looking for a classic knight in shining armour story - this is great, but you will probably have to look for it second hand on Amazon, as it is an old, out of print book.

So there you have it - five literary lovers waiting for you in the wings of the local library.  And if you're not much of a bookworm, all (except the last book) are available as films on DVD, so you can watch them instead.  Grab a bar of chocolate or some ice-cream, curl up under the duvet and allow yourself to be well and truly romanced by these gorgeous fictional men. They always set my heart racing between the covers!
Who said romance was dead?

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; To Be An Adventuress...

When I was a girl I used to love reading adventure stories - those fabulous tales of mystery, intrigue and high thrills penned by Enid Blyton, would often cheer up a boring rainy afternoon.  I enjoyed these stories so much that my friends and I would go out and actively seek adventures, using the gift of imagination to supply the mysteries in our own back yard.  We even started our own secret society, thinking that this would bring new adventures our way.

Of course when you are young, every day can be an adventure, but as we get older, the adventures seem to be few and far between.  We become so focused on responsibility that we forget to make time for playfulness; we work our way through a to-do list, when we should be working our way through a bucket list.

In recent months I have been pondering on my current attitude towards adventures and I have come to the conclusion that I have been avoiding them, when once I used to seek them out.  As we get older we become more risk averse so we need to really push ourselves beyond our comfort zone.  Suffering from disappointments and trauma can also make people less inclined to put themselves out there, preferring to cocoon themselves away as a kind of self-preservation strategy.  It works too, but a safe life is also a small life and before you know it you're feeling hemmed in and trapped, rather than cosy and cocooned.

That has certainly been the case with me in recent months and I am just beginning to chip away at the cocoon and think about stretching my wings once more.  I think part of the problem is that my perception of an adventure is huge - I dream big - and then decline accordingly! 

When I think of an Adventuress I call to mind images of the glamorous wing walkers, dancing on the wings of an aeroplane;  or of the women who were spies during the war, such as Mata Hari who was killed by firing squad; or the Suffragettes marching shoulder to shoulder to change the world and being imprisoned and force fed.  It's little surprise then, that I have been habitually turning away from adventures, when I hold such high expectations/risk assessments in my mind! I need to adjust my associations.

But what about the other, everyday adventures?  To someone who has just been widowed, booking their first solo holiday is an adventure; to the veteran soldier living with a life changing injury a trip to a public gym is an adventure, not to mention an act of tremendous courage.  To someone who has had an operation, removing the bandages and looking in the mirror is a brave thing to do. To the heartbroken, just smiling at a new possibility can seem like a high risk adventure, with no safety net.  These smaller, everyday adventures are no less important or valid, for without them we are not living, merely existing.

I have also realised that I am missing part of the equation.  My own spirit of adventure is triggered by my competitive side, which in turn is triggered by a male presence.  Growing up with an older brother and no sisters meant that I constantly had to prove myself; that I could do what he did; that I could catch up and keep up; that I could pull a wheelie on my bike, climb a tree, a rope, a drainpipe (!); and that I could go one better and do things he couldn't do i.e ride and jump horses.   

The things we are exposed to as children stay with us and inform who we are as adults, which means that I still respond to a male presence when it comes to being adventurous.  In fact, I need it. Some of the best riding I've ever done was at Leeds Armouries when I had the chance to joust against their First Knight - of course I hit him - three times!  He hit me too, but I kept my seat in the saddle, refusing to let him win and I loved every minute of it. 

The competitive spirit was my driving force, because I was riding against a man and I had to prove myself.  The same thing happened when I used to hack out in the woods with a man who was an equestrian trick rider and circus skills instructor - I rode beside him like I belonged there, un-phased by all his tricks, refusing to be impressed by him - except that I was, secretly quite impressed. It made me a braver, bolder rider - if a little reckless at times during our wild gallops through the mud!

Without this male presence to pull my Adventuress trigger, I am less inclined to push myself physically.  Without a male playmate to compete against, I turn to my Jane Austen side, pick up a book or my tapestry, and settle in for some girl time.  In short, I retreat into the safety of my shell and become the Indoor Girl.  This is no bad thing, but too much of a good thing can get you into a bit of a rut. 

Which basically means that I need to stop seeing men as the enemy or I'm never going to have any new adventures!  I need to start seeing them as valuable playmates instead; pals who can push me to push myself, like my brother used to do.  I need to start looking for male instructors to teach me the things I still want to learn ; sword fighting, motorbike riding, archery, rock climbing and more self-defence etc, so that I get the trigger I need from the professional presence of the instructor.  That way I can enjoy all the thrills of being a bold Adventuress and return safe home to more ladylike pass-times once the lesson is over. Genius plan, if I do say so myself.  What adventures are you planning this summer?

Monday, 11 July 2016


Safe and Sound - even though the sweet music's gone, the protection will continue. 

It is 3.30pm on a Monday afternoon and I am fighting a bad cold, curled up with my laptop and a box of tissues and procrastinating my final essay.   I have psychotherapy books all around me and I am looking for quotations to include in the essay - so I am still working on it - just very gently!

For the past few nights I have been dreaming of my soldiers and I can't seem to shake the feeling that they might be needing a bit of a magical boost, so for the past few days I have been casting protection spells to keep them safe and sound.  There are currently spell candles flickering around me as I type - shining a little bit of love and light into a dangerous world.   I have been having a break from casting due to the fact that I am so tired from my course, but I do listen to my instincts and follow my intuition.  

I love this Taylor Swift song above - it always reminds me of the things we would do to protect a loved one and keep them safe. The video makes me think of the Bronte sisters too, wandering the moors and woods of Yorkshire, dreaming up their novels and anti-heroes.   It suits my mood today, as I work and worry at the same time, but I have deadlines to meet so I have to get back to work now. Enjoy the music and stay safe - love to you all x

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; End Of Academic Year!

It is quite late at night and I have just come home from the last class of the 2015/16 academic year.   Tomorrow I am going out for a celebratory meal to mark this milestone in my training, as I am now three quarters of the way through the diploma, with just one more year to go.

Although there is still some work to do, in the form of an end of year essay to be turned in mid-July, right now I am in a reflective mood and I wanted to mark this night with a blog post - and a glass of red wine!   It has been quite a challenging year of studying.  This higher level of the course has meant a deeper level of intensity and a new task-master tutor.  We have had to develop our professional persona as psychotherapists, prior to going on clinical placements and working to achieve our clinical hours.  Last week I passed my Fitness to Practice test, which was another milestone and another step forward in my training.  This means I am now competent and professional enough to be let loose on the public as a psychotherapy counsellor.

After three years of training we are now on the same level as a Registered General Nurse, in terms of how much studying and training we have under our belts and if I had chosen to spend the last three years doing nurse training instead, I would be qualifying this year.  Come September we shall be moving up another level and progressing into further studying and even more training, alongside clinical placements, so it will be even harder.   I am starting to see why counsellors like to tell people that they are on the same level as a doctor - I don't personally feel that way myself, but maybe I shall after another year of study.

As the academic year has drawn to a close I have frequently compared it to finishing a big creative project.  I have all the same feelings that I usually get when I have been writing a book for months on end and I have just turned it into my editor; or when I had sung myself hoarse, to the point where I literally lost my voice completely, as I wrote and recorded my album Moon Chants.  The feelings of elation, relief and fatigue are exactly the same.   I am mentally exhausted and physically drained.  

As always happens when I reach the end of a big project and a prolonged period of creative work, I can feel a bad cold coming on.  It happens like clockwork - as soon as I have some down time, I go down with a cold - it's like the germs have been waiting for me to sit down long enough to catch me.  I think it is my body's way of making sure I get the rest I need.  And I do need it!  My thyroid illness makes everything about ten times more difficult and it has been screaming at me for the past few weeks that I need to take things easy for a bit, but I just haven't been free to do so.

All that changes from tomorrow!  After a celebratory meal out, I can spend my days working quietly at home on my essay and my writing projects.  My psychotherapy feature ideas continue to be commissioned so I am thrilled by that and I love writing on my new subject of expertise.  Beyond that I plan to read lots of novels, work on my tapestry, practice my piano, get out into the garden and the countryside and generally catch up with all the lovely aspects of my life that have had to be put on hold to make way for study time.  

I'm going to enjoy a nice long summer break of gentle activities, fun outings and of course, my writing work.  No more classes; no more homework; no more course stress for the next two months...just relaxation and recharging my batteries, ready for the last big push of my final year come September.  But that's too far in the future for me to think about.  I'm currently looking forward to long, lazy summer days, reading in the garden, taking country drives and generally recuperating from academic anxieties!  

For the remainder of tonight I plan to curl up under the duvet and watch rubbish TV in bed.  It has been a long and rewarding year of academic study.  I feel a sense of achievement now that I have come to the end of it, but right now I just need to start getting some rest.  Goodnight Moon :-)

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

WRITER'S DREAM; Pretty Words That Fly

Being a writer is...
... hatching out pretty words that fly off the page like birds so they can roost in the minds of your readers.