They say that manners maketh the man - or woman - and while we can all be guilty of the odd slip up every now and then, particularly when we are stressed, it is always nice to be complimented on one's charm. You might think that the days of etiquette and protocol are long gone, along with parasols and corsets, but you would be completely wrong. In this era of tell-all social media, where even leading politicians are falling foul of social niceties and blurting out opinions they should probably keep to themselves, etiquette is more important than ever.
As someone who has been reading the classics from a young age, etiquette and finishing schools have always fascinated me. The do's and don't's of social interactions may have changed considerably over time, but a knowledge of etiquette is a useful skill to have and you don't have to go to a finishing school in Switzerland to achieve it. There are lots of books and workshops available to help you brush up your manners. There are even some lovely week-long tutorials in London where lessons in etiquette are given at Kensington Palace, The Ritz and the V&A - though these are quite pricey.
When I completed my Level 4 Counselling Diploma recently I felt that I wanted to continue studying, but in a less formal way, so I decided to take a couple of short CPD courses online. I have just completed a Level 3 Diploma in Business Etiquette and having passed the final exam, my certificate is now on it's way! This was a really interesting course, run by an Academy based in Covent Garden in London and I enjoyed it very much.
As a Business Etiquette course it is relevant to modern life and useful for anyone who needs to interact with members of the public or attend meetings, conferences etc as I do in my counselling placement. It's not pretentious or affected; it's certainly not about pretending that you live at Downton Abbey! - it's more about gaining an edge in the workplace, because etiquette is now big business in the international business world.
Etiquette can also help you to improve your self-confidence. One of the things I struggle with a lot is impostor syndrome; this is when a little voice in your head starts telling you that you don't belong, that you're not right for the job, that it's all been a big mistake and eventually you will be found out and get sent home as not being good enough etc. Impostor syndrome can stop you applying for your dream job; it can make you say no to invitations and trigger social anxiety; it can derail you when things are going well and stop you in your tracks.
Having a knowledge of etiquette, whether this be self-educated from books, or via an etiquette and protocol course, can help to keep impostor syndrome at bay, or silence it, should it turn up uninvited to rain on your parade! Completing a training course in etiquette will give you that additional polish that employers are looking for, and having proof of that training in the form of a certificate will enhance your portfolio and CV. It also gives you the benefit of knowing that you have been formally trained in self-conduct, meaning that you are less likely to commit a faux-par, or if you do, you can make a quick recovery! We all put our foot in it from time to time, even royalty - hello Prince Philip! - and we all show the odd flash of temper now and again; but knowing how to recover and move on is the key to self-confidence.
I certainly feel that I have given myself a better chance in my business life now that I have completed this type of instruction and while not everything in the course relates to my business as a writer and counsellor, at least I now have the knowledge to draw upon at any time in the future, should I ever need it. While it is unlikely that I will ever meet with a Japanese businessman or a Chinese diplomat, at least if I do, I now know the correct way to accept his business card!
So I am looking forward to receiving my certificate in Etiquette as it will make a nice addition to my portfolio of professional and educational qualifications, and while it's a long way from a Switz finishing school, for me it's enough and will hopefully serve my purposes in keeping the dreaded impostor syndrome at bay! For ladies never lose composure...
I love long lazy days, stretched out in the sunshine, reading a book that takes me far, far away. When you have a book in your hand, you can go on flights of fancy, no matter where you are. I especially enjoy those books that stay with you, even after you have finished reading them - the kind of novels that transport you somewhere completely different, say Tudor England or Jacobite Scotland. Reading is the best way to time travel!
At this time of year my mind turns to thoughts of autumn and I like nothing better than a good old fashioned ghost story. For me Barbara Erskine is the best modern author of spooky novels and I have just finished reading Sleeper's Castle, which is about a young Druidess who has visions of the Welsh rebellion against the English in the 1400's. Erskine's books are always very atmospheric, and usually concern a modern protagonist haunted by spirits of the past, but in this novel she adds a twist - for the ghosts are looking back! This is so refreshing to her usual style and completely unexpected. I enjoyed the Celtic setting of this novel and the Druid magic and weather witching was very authentic.
Another book that had me gripped was Paula Hawkins The Girl On The Train. This is not the kind of book I am usually drawn to, but I was intrigued by the movie trailers and I wanted to read the novel before I saw the film. It's a thriller that held me captive and I read the book in a day - I literally couldn't put it down and I got nothing else done at all that day, but it was time well spent as I had been thoroughly entertained. It also means that I have discovered a new author and I shall be looking out for more of Hawkins books.
Finding a new author is great, but nothing beats an old favourite and Philippa Gregory is one of mine. Her novel The Little House is a book I like to read during the summertime. It is full of domestic details and descriptions of a beautiful country-side home and affluent life-style. It illustrates the dichotomy of mother-hood, wherein a new mum is doing battle with her 'helpful' mother-in-law! In this novel Gregory presents the war between a traditional mother, for whom nappies should be terry-cloth and baby-food hand-made in the kitchen; and the modern young mum, who believes nappies are disposable and baby-food comes in jars - because who has time for washing and blending when they have a job, a house, a husband and a baby to maintain?! This is a great novel with psychological undertones and a fantastic twist at the end. It was also made into a TV drama a couple of years ago, so you might be able to find it on catch-up. Read the book anyway - it's brilliant, though it made me even more glad that I've never wanted children!
So there you have it - the books that have been keeping me entertained during the summer. It's so refreshing not to have to read counselling text books and to be back to my old book-worm self, with my nose stuck in a novel for hours on end. I'm looking forward to doing more reading as the nights begin to draw in and the weather turns colder. Autumn is just around the corner and I can't wait to welcome it in. For now though, I am going to light a spiced apple-pie candle, pour a glass of Merlot and watch The Girl On The Train on DVD - I hope it's as good as the book!
"No aspect of your life is insignificant to the angels; nothing is too small for their compassion, care and celestial assistance. So whether you are up and coming or down and out, getting hitched or getting ditched, the angels know all about it and they are there to help you through it."
Angel Craft and Healing by Marie Bruce
When I wrote Angel Craft and Healing back in 2007, it was my ninth title and the culmination of a very happy partnership with my original publisher. I knew it was the perfect title to end with, and although I was already contracted to my second publisher for The Wiccan Temptress, I knew then that I didn't want to write any more Wiccan books. I'd written ten books in a few short years, plus the annual updates for The Witch's Almanac, so I felt that it was time to take a break from books and concentrate on the Moon Chantsalbum I was composing and the magazine work, including my original column with Spirit&Destiny.
How strange it is that now, ten years later, I have come full circle and I am once again working with the angels, but in a completely different way. Because it seems to me that while Wicca and witchcraft are earth-work - by that I mean that they are attuned with nature and bound by the four elements of earth, air, fire and water - psychotherapy is more akin to spirit-work, or angel-work.
As a counsellor I am constantly dealing with intangibles; thoughts, feelings, confidence, responsibility, associations etc. I am helping people to come to terms with all the fleeting moments of time and the ephemeral emotions that are the basis of being human; helping them to accept that nothing lasts forever and change is inevitable.
This is spirit-work and it is especially the case in grief counselling. It is spirit-work because it is intangible - it cannot be packaged and sold as a product or taken as medicine; rather it is something that evolves in the relationship between the client and the counsellor - both parties need to be fully present in the room if the practise is to be effective. And due to the nature of this kind of work, it can frequently feel as if I have one foot on the ground and the other in the celestial realms of the angels!
In a way, it feels like a very natural progression of my magical path, but angel-work isn't something that I ever set out to do. I enjoyed writing about the topic, but I never planned to walk a spirit-path in such a hands on way - I was happy enough with the spell-craft. So it has taken me somewhat by surprise but I can feel that I am working in the Light when I am in consultation with clients. It is rather strange and lovely, a bit like the first time I ever cast a spell that worked - there is that same feeling of awe and wonder about it all.
It is also quite a relief. When I first considered doing grief work I was concerned that I might find it too sad, too depressing or just too overwhelming. It isn't though, because it isn't really about death - it is a death that brings people to grief counselling, but I try to make the sessions themselves very life-affirming - for me, it is about helping people to live again, beyond the loss of a loved one. Again, in a magical sense, that comes down to spirit-work, guiding people through their own personal darkness and bringing the light back into their lives once more.
Spiritually I feel as if I have just been boosted up to the next level of a magical computer game! It feels as if I have achieved all that I wanted to and needed to as a witch, passed on my witchy knowledge for the next generation via my books, and now I have been lifted to a completely different kind of task as a Light-Worker. I have the same kind of awe and resistance to it that Paige has in Charmed, when she is forced to embrace her White-Lighter side but all she really wants to do is cast spells and be a witch. I feel a bit like that too, in that I chose to be a witch, but this is something else that I hadn't really bargained on and didn't ask for!
So far, the spirit messages have been on hold, which I'm grateful for! I have passed spirit messages onto people in the past, but it has never happened with a client. Again, this is something of a relief, as it is a side of magic that I don't embrace - I don't want the floodgates to open! So I keep it under wraps as much as I can, but I am aware that it has happened in the past and it will probably happen again in the future at some point. I am taking it as one of the angelic signs that I have been brought to this place in my life for a reason - to help others.
I firmly believe that you wouldn't have a talent or a gift if you weren't meant to use it. It can take time to get comfortable with a magical gift, to learn how to tap into it and embrace its power in a safe way, but you wouldn't have been given it if it was more than you could handle. You just need to allow yourself time to figure out how to use it well. Slow and steady always wins the race!
In a way it feels like a rebirth - I need to take baby-steps as I find my way around this new level of magical living, this new spiritual environment, this new type of responsibility. It all supports the theory that I've had for some time; that I have been through a transitional period and my life was in the process of receiving a cosmic make-over. Now I think that I am just beginning to emerge from the other side - the light at the end of the tunnel is angelic and I begin to feel a new sense of purpose. I have no idea where the Light leads, but I am at the stage now where I am willing to follow it, saying "Show me, teach me, tell me, lead me" - I am trying to surrender to it, which is not something that comes easily or naturally to me, as I prefer to be in control.
But I am more open to the idea of surrender than I have been before - I just want to see what could happen next because I have a deep trust that it will be something wonderful! A new beginning. A fresh start. I feel a new sense of calm and inner peace. My stress levels have decreased somewhat. I now feel that acceptance is the key to power - saying yes rather than no, being open rather than closed off, embracing adventure and opportunity rather than dismissing chance for fear of risk - these are the things I will try to surrender to from now on, just to see where they lead. For if you don't take even the first small step, you will never get anywhere - and I am the kind of person who likes to feel that they are constantly moving forward in life.
Finally, it all begins to make more sense to me. I know once more what path I am on, what my new role is and I am ready to embrace it. I feel that my sense of trust in Spirit has been renewed and that I am safe to trust the journey and just go with it, knowing that it will all work out for the best...in faith, trust and angel dust!
A group of unicorns is known as a 'blessing'. In folklore these creatures are said to bring good fortune and they can only be tamed and ridden by a virgin. They are a symbol of purity and the magical alicorn upon their brow can purify water and detect poison. It also has healing powers.
I have always loved unicorns. I have a unicorn key-ring and tea-cup; and as a pony-mad child I had pictures of them all around my bedroom. I still have one of these pictures (the last survivor!) and a few unicorn statues in my study where I write. So when I was walking through the city centre to my counselling placement last week and I saw Paperchase had a new range of unicorn stationery in the window, I popped in to take a peek.
I have been on the hunt for a new organiser or agenda because my academic diary is now due to run out. I wanted something pretty and small enough to carry in my bag, so A5 or smaller. I was spoilt for choice with the new Flyaway range! They have everything a feminine heart could desire, from water bottles and lunch boxes to coloured pencils and pencil cases - all designed with a pretty print of unicorns and winged deer, lama and rabbits! It is such a beautiful range and it is the kind of enchanted world most magical writers want to live in. It suits my personality, so I started to look for a new organiser.
I finished up getting a few bits from the range, as you do; I got a lovely academic diary to keep track of all my client appointments, supervision sessions etc. Hopefully this should see me through to the completion of my clinical hours. It is A5 and has pictures of unicorns and winged creatures on every single page, plus a page of stickers for things like holidays, doctor appointments, parties etc. It was just perfect for what I needed, so I got one. I love this design so much that I also got a perpetual personal organiser, so once the new academic diary is finished next summer, I can just use yearly Filofax inserts in the organiser and still enjoy the Flyaway artwork for years to come. This is in pink, so it goes with everything I've bought this year.
I like to use clipboards too. I always have a clipboard and pad by the side of my bed because it is usually in the half state between sleeping and wakefulness that I have some of my best writing ideas and I like to note them down asap. So I got an A4 Flyaway clipboard for this purpose and the old wooden one I was using, that used to give me splinters, can go in the bin! Plus I bought a little folder of sticky post-it notes, page markers, to-do list and memo pad, which will come in very useful. Finally, I got pink index cards to write down a new set of affirmations, because all my old affirmations have now come true; and some pretty pink and white love-heart paperclips.
So now my office supplies have been replenished with a beautiful new unicorn makeover! The good thing about being a self-employed writer is that shopping sprees like this are tax-deductible. Stationery is a legitimate business expense, but no-one says it has to be boring, so why would you not buy pretty? And when office supplies come as beautiful as these, its hard not to get carried away by the unicorn dream...