"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.

Monday, 16 October 2017


Last Christmas-time as I sat by the twinkling tree, watching Ice Princess, I decided that I would make returning to ice-skating one of my goals for 2017.  I used to go skating two or three times a week, with lessons and practise sessions and I have certificates for the Skate UK Levels.  I really missed it and it was something I wanted to get back into on a regular basis, so I made it one of my goals for this year.  Today I have achieved that goal and I have just returned home from my very first skate in four and a half years!  

I'm not going to lie - it was pretty nerve-wracking.  I didn't sleep last night due to anxiety about it and my mind was trying to distract me with all the things that could go wrong. But I had a nice message from a pal this morning, which gave my confidence a boost and it was just the pep talk I needed. Then once I got to the rink and got my skates on, I started to feel a lot calmer. My friend was quite right - the first time back is always the hardest. 

My main fear was actually stepping out onto the ice again, but I needn't have been so anxious about it.  As soon as I was on the ice my old training kicked in and I did okay.  I wasn't the best skater by any means, but I wasn't the worst either.  I decided to just take it steady and enjoy the thrill of being back at the rink.  They were playing ballet music, which I love, so this helped to calm my nerves too. 

I'd forgotten how much I love skating, and with arms outstretched like wings, how much it feels like flying when the glide takes hold of you.  In my head I could hear my old coach saying "Glide...be the swan, gliding across the ice"  It was much like riding a bike, in that once you have learnt to do it, it all just comes back to you again and it feels like you've never been away.

I still had some nerves to contend with and there were private lessons going on so there were skaters doing sit-spins and such like around me, which is a bit distracting, but in a good way as its fun to watch.   A couple of hockey players were there too, practising their stop turns and I had to keep an ear out for the dreadful scrunching sound of their hockey skates coming up behind me.  My figure skates sound much nicer - they give a soft whisper as they cut through the ice.  It is a comforting sound and today was mostly for figure skaters anyway. 

For the most part I tried to just concentrate on what I was doing, which was to get a feel for the ice once more and nurture my confidence.  I wanted today to be about feeling comfortable when skating again, so I didn't do any manoeuvres, other than sculling and forward one-foot glides.  The hardest part was maintaining the correct speed - too slow and I'd get wibbly legs; too fast and the blade would bolt away from me like a misbehaved horse - it took me about half an hour to judge the right speed and maintain that. 

I was also very aware of what was going on around me, making sure not to cross the paths of figure skaters having lessons, while giving those skaters who were obviously beginners the space they needed close to the edge.  There is nothing worse when you're a beginner than a fast skater speeding past you too close! I remember it was one of my pet hates when I first started, so I tried to be as considerate to other skaters as possible, while claiming my own space.  I had one slight stumble when I didn't get the correct ballet turn out on my left foot and the toe-pick hit the ice, but it was just a blip in the flow of movement, not a fall, so it didn't knock my confidence, which is good.

On the whole, it was a good skate and I really enjoyed it.  I know it will become a regular part of my life once again, just as it used to be, and I'm already planning which manoeuvres I want to practice next time.  Now that I have finished my college course, I have no excuse not to go skating and I am really looking forward to my next glide on the ice.  I wish I hadn't left it so long, but it is fantastic to be back at the rink, happily skating, chatting, laughing, meeting up with old friends and new.  I had great fun and when I came off the ice I had snow on my blades and my leg-warmers were wet, so I know I worked hard!

So yes, today was a milestone for me and I'm glad I didn't let the anxiety and nervousness get in my way.


Drowning in you...Going Under

Wake me up inside...Bring me to life

Looking forward to their new album, Synthesis, dropping next month.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Gothic; The Power of Darkness

It is that time of year again when our thoughts turn to 'ghosties and goulies, long leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night'.  It is October and the gothic season is upon us.  It is all rather fun and fabulous and fleeting; a month in the year when we can give ourselves up to spooky films, ghost walks and DVD marathons of Supernatural.   But what happens when the shadows seem to linger a little too long; when the darkness encroaches on your day to day life, pulling you down into a gothic abyss? 

I adore the gothic genre.  Books, music, films, poetry, art, architecture...if it's gothic I love it, whether its a classic novel such as Dracula or contemporary art by Victoria Frances and Anne Stokes.  I love to immerse myself in this world of shadowy enchantment.  But you can have too much of a good thing and the power of darkness draws you in like a magnate.

I studied gothic literature at university and in cultural terms it is a very important genre because it brings to the surface all those issues that society as a whole shies away from.  Death, despair, depression, addiction, mental illness, isolation, incarceration, forbidden love, secrets, trickery, manipulation, illusion, delusion...its all apparent in the gothic genre, which lays it out on the table for all to see...and yet it doesn't tell the truth.

This is because the gothic genre romanticises everything, but there is nothing romantic about watching someone descend into addiction, depression or dementia and fading away before your eyes as they become little more than the shell of the illness which holds them.  Think back to the movie Black Swan, which bears all the hallmarks of classic gothic literature.   The main character, Nina is suffering from mental illness, yet the film portrays this as the spirit of Odille, the black swan, possessing her.  It romanticises Nina's frailty with a supernatural twist, because few people would go to see a film about a girl with a controlling and possibly abusive mother, who experiences delusions and  eventually kills herself!  

The gothic culture is also important because it gives people a place of belonging when their life has become a struggle, or when they feel like outsiders, for whatever reason. Goth culture embraces those individuals which society might shun.  The darkness makes all things beautiful. 

When feeling down, you can turn to this genre for comfort because it doesn't tell you to get a grip and get on with things.  Instead it says "You're depressed? But how marvellous! What does your beautiful darkness look like? Let's turn it into music, a song, a poem, a symphony."  And so you can wallow in the realms of  Edgar Allen Poe or Evanescence and feel that your low mood is completely understood, in a way that no doctor could ever comprehend.  Giving yourself up to the mood in this way can in itself be healing, but it is vital you don't let yourself linger too long.  After all, the main point of experiencing dark nights of the soul is that they lead you back out into the light of a new dawn.  Balance is the key. 

A few years ago I had lots of gothic art in my home.  Prints by Victoria Frances adorned the walls of my study and bedroom; black roses stood in a vase on my desk.  Friends would contribute to this style of decor by giving me gothic calendars and mugs etc for my birthday and at Christmas, usually with the comment "I thought you'd like it because you have gone a bit that way haven't you?"  A wiser, more compassionate friend would have asked why I was suddenly drawn to such images of isolated maidens, wounded and alone, wandering in dark forests, and why I felt my place was among them.  

Then two years ago I had an equally swift and sudden change of heart.  I was tired of the darkness. I realised that enough was enough, for it was no longer doing me any good. I'd had too much of a good gothic thing and I was ready to move back into the light once more. I wanted to make my home lighter, brighter, whiter - I wanted it to sparkle, for the sunshine to bounce around the rooms, reflected in mirrors, sequins and crystals.  I put all the gothic art away and bought sparkling pictures of snow scenes instead.  My home is now a snow-scape of creamy white and sparkles and I love it.  I stopped wearing so much black and went back to the favourite colour of my childhood, dusky pink.  I'd had the dark night of my soul, the gothic genre had helped me through it, but now I was awakening to my new dawn.

The darkness is a beautiful and powerful thing.  Enjoy all that the gothic genre has to offer this dark season...but don't allow it to linger in your life for too long! Blessed Be. 

Friday, 13 October 2017

MUSICAL DOLL; Gothic Romance

Pretty music for the Gothic season...enjoy!

Isn't someone missing me?

And will we ever end up together?

But who can decide what they dream? And dream I do...


Thursday, 12 October 2017

WRITER'S DREAM; Psychotherapy Writing Success

It has been just over a year since I stopped writing my Wiccan column for Spirit&Destiny magazine.  Everything happens for a reason and as it turns out, I left not a minute too soon, because I was immediately up to my eyes in essays for  my therapeutic counselling diploma.  In the past few months I have written over 40,000 words in psychotherapy essays!  I have been super stressed-out and when the course ended in July, I was glad to see the back of it, but I did feel a little cut adrift.

With no column to write and no essays to focus on, I had time on my hands to wonder if I'd done the right thing in deciding to switch genres.  Yes, the Mind, Body, Spirit genre isn't nearly so lucrative as it once was, but maybe any writing was better than no writing at all and I felt like I was in a writing desert.   

To add to this, there were major changes going on within the publishing and media houses I work with - changes that had nothing to do with me and which were beyond my control.  For instance, my favourite long term editor decided that she would retire this year.  Losing an editor you've worked well with for years is always traumatic for a writer, because it could mean that the new editor won't support your work in the same way.  Writers need editors to champion our ideas at board meetings - without the editor rooting for us, writers would never get published, so it's imperative that a writer has an editor who is totally on side and supportive of our creativity and ideas.  When that editor leaves, there is always a chance that the new editor will bring in her own pet-writers. 

At the same time, a re-shake of the entire media house was going on, with magazines being out-sourced and editors switching from one magazine to another.  This does happen periodically, but it means that most commissions are put on hold until the changes have been made.   To add to the confusion, one of my book publishing houses was in the long process of merging with another house.  So it was all going on at the same time and freelance work was very slow.  

I had all the same feelings that any writer has when the work is going through a lull; feeling that maybe that was it and I would never receive another commission; that I would never write another word;  that I should have stuck with MBS and been grateful for it, unless the genre disappeared altogether.  In my mind, the words of  all the naysayers of my past were coming back to me - how I'd just been 'very lucky', or 'it's just a hobby' and how it was all just 'a flash in the pan'.  Fortunately for me, I didn't believe them back then and I certainly don't believe them now, after 20 successful years in publishing!  But it was a very anxious year and I had to be extremely firm with myself to keep the faith that something would change for the better soon. 

I really needed my holiday in the Highlands!  The mountain air, the space, the freedom of the place, all helped to clear my head and keep my spirits up.  While I was there, I decided to cast a sea spell in Oban Bay, because it never hurts to have a good dose of magic on your side! As soon as I'd cast the spell, I felt an immediate shift of energy and I knew that the spell had worked.  I gave thanks and walked along the esplanade back to my hotel on the sea-front.  It was a beautiful September evening and I felt a gathering sense of optimism growing within me. 

A few days after my return home I received a new freelance commission, for a psychotherapy feature, which marks the continuation of my switch in genres and the beginning of a whole new publishing outlet.    I am now writing for a new editor, with a new media house, for a new look magazine.  It is great to know that I am making the cross-over into more therapy based writing, and that my reputation as a reliable contributor of MBS is actually helping me to make this switch in saleable writing expertise.  

Yes, switching genres is a bit like starting all over again and it will take time to build a firm publishing platform and body of work in this area. But I have so much enthusiasm for this kind of writing, because I enjoy making it unique, with its own style. It is a relief to know that I have new editorial support for this style of work and for my ideas in general.  

I have mentioned that, in the past, certain individuals have tried to throw a spanner in the works with my editors at Spirit&Destiny, and that I had made plans to work with a whole different publishing outlet; one that those individuals know nothing about, in order to prevent their spitefulness having any adverse effect on my writing career.  

Well now I have achieved that goal.  Spitefulness isn't enough to stop me.  I love to write.  It's my job and what I get paid to do.  And now I am writing features in my new genre of psychotherapy, for a new media publishing house and building up a working relationship with a lovely new editor.  I got exactly what I wanted.  But then, I always do!  So here's to a whole new chapter in my writing career...I'd better crack on with it. 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Oban and the Western Isles

I forgot to reset date on my camera, but all these photos were taken last week!
This time last week I had just returned home from my holiday in the Highlands.  I stayed in Oban again and this time I visited some of the Western Isles, Seil Island, Glencoe and Loch Lomond - all places that have been on my bucket list for a while.  I took some rather nice photos but because I'm a technophobe I didn't know how to set the date on the camera - all the images here were taken just last week, between the 23rd and 30th of September 2017, not in 2005!

I have been to Oban before, back in 2013 for my 40th birthday.  It was the last time that I saw my soldier and I remember dancing with him in front of the hotel, losing my shoe on the steps and him kneeling to replace it - I call them the Cinderella steps now...

The Cinderella Steps to my hotel

This holiday though, it was just me and Scotland getting reacquainted after a three year separation, although I did have a good laugh with the hotel bar manager, Cameron, in the evenings. He's great fun to be around and they all really looked after me because I travel alone.  It felt so good to be back in Scotland! The mist was beautiful.  It has been three long years since I last saw Scotch mist clinging to the treetops, curling up from the pine forests like smoke and wrapping around the mountains like a scarf, just the summits peaking out at the very top.  The beauty of it is indescribable and its something you really have to see for yourself to appreciate.  

On my first day I took the advice of Colin Maclachlan and went on the ferry to the Isle of Mull.  As we sailed, we went right into the rain and the island suddenly loomed up on us out of the cloud. It was a fantastic sailing trip and I loved every second of it, despite the drenching from the rain.  Rain is something to enjoy in Scotland, because without it you wouldn't see all the many waterfalls flowing down the mountainsides.  It is beautiful in all weathers and I love it.

Taken from the ferry, heading out to Mull

Mull is such a pretty island.  Tobermory is a little coastal town there, with a row of pretty pastel coloured gifts shops and cafes.  It reminded me of a storybook, all the pretty colours being washed clean by the rain.  There was an aquarium I visited too where they had the cutest little octopus, about the size of a tea-plate.  As I watched him he scratched his head with one tentacle and his back with another. It looked like he was playing that co-ordination game of patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time - and he was very good at it too!  They also had a very rare blue lobster who was equally lovely, though a bit shy. Apparently blue lobsters get bullied a lot in the wild, so they keep him safe at the aquarium for conservation purposes.  He kept trying to hide behind a rock half his size, so I don't think he's quite grasped the concept of camouflage and taking cover, but he was adorable.

Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull

Tobermory main street

On the second day of my holiday I kept a promise.  A few years ago I swore to my Strathpeffer friend Petr Royston MacGreggor that I would one day go to Loch Lomond and see the area where our hero Rob Roy had lived.  Roy told me that I would love Loch Lomond and that it would suit me.  He wasn't wrong - I fell in love with the landscape and loch as soon as I saw it, partly for its own beauty and partly for his sake.  Sadly my friend Roy died a few years ago, but I kept my promise to him last week and threw a pebble into the loch for him.  I could feel his presence as I walked lochside, watching two swans paddling together on the water and I knew that he was keeping his promise to me too. He said he would always be watching over me like a daughter - and he was.  It is clear to see from the photo below why Clan MacGreggor were known as The Children of the Mist...the beauty of the place has a haunting, ethereal quality, swathed in Scotch mist...it would be so easy to just slip back in time and become a Highland lass.

Loch Lomond
The two swans reminded me of Roy and his lovely wife Betsy.  They were such good friends to me and I miss them both.  
Swan love on Loch Lomond

For the next couple of days I stayed in and around Oban.  I went on a seal spotting boat trip which was wonderful.  Its hard to recall that I was once terrified of boats because I can't swim.  Now I love boats!  I do still get nervous and I can't walk around on them yet - I cling to the side like a barnacle, but I like to be up on the top deck, open to the weather with the wind in my hair and the sea spray putting roses in my cheeks.  When the boat rocked and rolled I just remembered my soldier telling me, years ago when we were in his boat together, "The boat has to rock so as not to let the water in lassie - when the boat rocks, it's keeping you safe".  So I have learnt to face my fear of boats and I have come out the other side loving them!  I love the sense of freedom and liberty they give you - it's as good as a great gallop on a fast horse.  If I were a man and I lived by the water, I would definitely want my own boat.  It felt like a great escape to be out on the Atlantic Ocean with the sea gulls screaming and the wind blowing my hair into a million sea knots!  I think I am learning to trust that the boat will carry me safe out to sea and back to port.  Sailing is wonderful!

I also went to Dunollie castle, which Robert the Bruce confiscated when the MacDougalls  betrayed him.  There isn't much of it left standing, but it was nice to know I was walking in the footsteps of the Good King and Sir Walter Scott.  It is a pretty place with a lovely Celtic Cross in the grounds. The hike up the cliff is worth it for the panoramic views.

Dunollie Castle

The stunning Celtic Cross in the grounds of Dunollie Castle

On the final day of my holiday I went to Fort William.  Again this is a pretty Highland town, very small so you could never get lost there, which is great for me as I have no sense of direction!  There is an impressive museum there that is full of artefacts, from targes and claymores to Victorian gowns and the kilts of clansmen. It was interesting and I would like to go back because there was so much to see and read that I couldn't take it all in.  

And on the very last day, on my way home in fact, I managed to find something I had been looking for all week - an Outlander scarf, made in the very tartan that was designed for the TV series and which is worn by Jamie Fraser!  So I was thrilled with that and I've been wearing it ever since.  It was the perfect end to a wonderful week in the Highlands and already I am thinking about my return to Scotland and where I want to go next.  

Edinburgh has been suggested to me and is somewhere I have always wanted to visit so the suggestion has taken root in my mind. And somehow, I don't think I would be on my own quite so much there, so I am considering a fun trip to Edinburgh next year...watch this space! 😏

Bardic harps at the Fort William Museum


Thursday, 21 September 2017


Running through the clouds towards love...

This is my favourite Whitney song.