"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, 29 June 2015

BOOK NOOK; By Definition I Am A...

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Yep - this is me most nights, and sometimes by day too...comfy with a book

Sunday, 21 June 2015

CLASSIC BOOK NOOK; Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

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A dark and foreboding romantic mystery
Back in 1994 I was working as a care assistant in a nursing home, looking after the elderly.  Having recently left home, I lived in a small flat and struggled to make ends meet, despite also having a second job working behind the bar of a local pub.  Being a carer is a difficult job and to make our shifts pass more quickly a few of us would frequently read the same book so we had something  pleasant to discuss while on sluice-duty! It helped to make a bad shift a little better and it introduced me to the novels of Daphne du Maurier.

Rebecca was the first of du Maurier's novels that I read and I was instantly hooked on the author's descriptive style of writing.  At the time I was unpublished, though I spent my days off hammering out submissions on an old typewriter and posting them out to publishers.  Like any other 20 year old, I was full of dreams as yet unrealized and I found Daphne du Maurier's novels very inspiring.

Rebecca tells the story of a grand house with a dark past.  Manderley is a great country home situated on the Cornish coast. It is famous for it's fine collection of art and antiques, the dazzling balls thrown there each year; the landscaped gardens that lead down to the sea; and the former lady of house, Rebecca de Winter, who died in a boating accident a year before the start of the novel. The protagonist, known only as 'the second Mrs de Winter',  remains nameless throughout the novel, which du Maurier said was challenging to write, but it does add to the sense that she is something of a ghost-like presence in another woman's house, for Manderley is still very much Rebecca's.  Everything is run as Rebecca wanted it, despite the arrival of the new bride, returning from honeymoon with the owner of Manderley, Maxim de Winter.  As the story unfolds we discover that all is not as it seems at Manderley. The shy bride must do battle with  sinister house-keeper, Mrs Danvers, as she tries to assimilate herself into this new world and become mistress of the house. But when the past catches up, her loyalty to her dashing husband is tested to the limits...just how well does she really know him? And how much is she prepared to forgive?

Daphne du Maurier working at her writing desk
Rebecca has all the elements of a classic Gothic novel; secrets, lies, intrigue, whirlwind romance, mystery, suspense, death, haunting etc.  The author builds a world that, as a reader, I longed to escape into because Manderley is so very beautiful. Daphne du Maurier makes you want to have tea in the cosy library, or out under the chestnut tree; or write letters in the morning room; or be the belle of the famous Manderley Ball. She makes her readers want to be the woman who has everything - grace, beauty, courage, talent, intelligence - just like Rebecca.  The author's descriptive passages are second to none; here she describes the new brides' first encounter with the lingering presence of the former lady of the house in the Morning Room;

"I went and sat down at the writing table and I thought how strange it was that this room, so lovely and so rich in colour, should be, at the same time, so business-like and purposeful...

But this writing table, beautiful as it was, was no pretty toy where a woman would scribble little notes, nibbling the end of a pen, leaving it day after day, in carelessness, the blotter a little askew. The pigeon-holes were docketed, 'letters unanswered', 'letters to keep', 'household', 'estate', 'menus',  'miscellaneous', 'addresses'; each ticket written in that same scrawling pointed hand that I knew already.  And it shocked me, startled me even, to recognize it again, for I had not seen it since I had destroyed the page from the book of poems, and I had not thought to see it again...

...There was notepaper also in the drawer, thick white sheets, for rough writing, and the notepaper of the house, with the crest, and the address, and visiting cards, ivory white, in little boxes.
I took one out and looked at it, unwrapped it from its thin tissue of paper. 'Mrs M de Winter' it said, and in the corner 'Manderley' "

Doesn't this just make you wish that the desk was yours, rather than Rebecca's? This is this kind of subtle haunting that fills the novel with such suspense and foreboding, adding to the despair of the protagonist and her increasing sense of impostor syndrome.  After reading it for the first time, I set myself the goal of one day owning a beautiful desk, with pigeon-holes, where I would write for publishers.  It took me ten years to achieve that goal, but here is my version of Rebecca's Manderley desk;

My desk, with pigeon-holes and secret compartments.
Daphne du Maurier wrote Rebecca in four months, which is pretty good going. It is a fantastic novel and a modern classic.  If you aspire to write fiction, her work will give you an insight into building drama and suspense on the page, and how to craft a world so real your readers will want to live there. If you're just looking for a new author, du Maurier was a prolific writer and she created many wonderful novels, all set in the rugged Cornish landscape, so escape to the sea this summer with Rebecca.  It is a very satisfying read.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Witch, Heal Thyself (PTSD)

Sometimes, it's all you can do to just pick up a book...
There is a saying in Wicca "Witch, heal thyself first", meaning that we can be of no service to anyone else unless we are strong in mind, body and spirit.  Helping other people to solve their problems is part of being a witch. Basically this means that we help people to help themselves - we don't wave a wand and make all their problems go away for them, but we do encourage them to look at things from a different angle or offer a fresh perspective.  But what happens when the witch herself falls ill? Well, then she must focus on self-healing and if you have followed my blog for some time you will know that I have been doing just that for quite a while now.

I've have mentioned in previous posts about my knack for modifying my own memory - it is something I have done unconsciously since I was a young girl.  I still have no recollection at all of my grandfather's funeral when I was 13, though I know I attended and was inconsolable.  But I don't remember it. Lost memories are only half the story though and while ignorance is bliss - what you can't remember can't hurt you, right? - the flashbacks that inevitably follow are anything but.

There was a time when I thought a flashback was just a lazy story-telling technique used by third rate novelists.  Then I started having them myself.  At first I didn't even know they were flashbacks.  I'd be doing something mundane, like driving my car to the supermarket, when suddenly my mind would be filled with images, sounds, smells and conversations from the past.  It was like watching a movie in my own mind, of my life as it was several years, sometimes decades, earlier. It would be over quickly to begin with and I'd just shake my head and think "Well, that was weird!" and carry on with whatever I was doing.  

The flashbacks themselves were not horrific and nothing terrible happened in them - they were just weird and strange and disorienting.  Sometimes I'd flashback to good times I'd forgotten as well, but while the memories were pleasant the flashback experience was still tough to get through.  This is because a flashback isn't quite the same a memory - it isn't just a case of sitting there reminiscing.  Flashbacks are like an assault on your mind, you have no control over them at all, you cannot make them stop and there is usually no warning as to when one will show up to ruin your day.  They leave you exhausted, shaken, trembling in a cold sweat and totally drained of energy.  To put it bluntly, they're a bitch, but you just have to get through them and move on with your day.  This is much easier said than done! 

For me the worst time was 2011 - 2013.  Not only were the flashbacks happening everyday, but I had two separate bereavements to contend with also.  It was a dark place and I was bloody miserable for a bloody long time, but I soldiered on and got through it somehow.

Of course, as soon as I realized something strange was going on I looked for answers.  I sought the help of two doctors.  One ignored me completely and the other fobbed me off with Vitamin D supplements, which did nothing to help me at all, though I expect my bones were grateful to him at the time. I wasn't so grateful and we had something of a doctor/patient domestic!  It was obvious that the NHS wasn't going to step up to the task and ride in to rescue me, so being a bolshie Bruce I decided to just set about fixing myself.  I had a long think about it and then  looked to the one place that has never let me down - I looked to the page and found the help I needed in the form of books on healing, stress, trauma etc.  These books helped me to make sense of what was going on and why people suffer flashbacks in the first place.  I also started to keep a healing journal in summer 2012 and I believe that this was the turning point for me.  As soon as I began to document the flashbacks and how they made me feel etc, the flashbacks began to ease off - not immediately, but within six months I felt I had a way to deal with it, and within a year I felt I had a firm grip on the problem, and within two years I knew that the worst was behind me and I was on the mend.

I also found help, understanding and kindred spirits in random meetings with military men.  These men knew exactly what I was experiencing as they experienced it themselves.  They called it PTSD.  They were a great help to me, so I began to read more books, this time looking for titles about mental resilience and mind-training written by servicemen, recommended to me by a soldier and ex-RAF guy.  Again, the page didn't let me down, and these military books gave me the information I needed to keep on getting myself better and to speed up my recovery.

I still forget things now and then, so my next task is to work on improving my short-term memory. I'm happy to report that the flashbacks have pretty much ceased for the most part, and my life is back to normal.  I feel strong again and back in control and I'd like to thank all those readers who left comments, tweets and emails for me following the bereavements - they really did help me a lot.  And that's the reason for this super long post.  I wanted to write out my experiences so that if you, or someone you know, is dealing with something similar, you can find the books that were of huge benefit to me in my recovery.  I hope you have better luck with your doctor than I had with mine, and while I can't conjure up a couple of hot military men to assist you, I can pass on what I know...start a healing journal and write all the flashbacks down; get them out of your head and pin the little blighters down on the page.  Read as much as you can about self-healing, trauma etc. These are the books that I found most useful and they are all available from Amazon UK;

Healing from Trauma; A Survivors Guide to Understanding Your Symptoms and Reclaiming Your Life  by Jasmin Lee Cori

Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff, PhD

The NHS let me down, but the Military came through for me at the darkest hour so when you begin to feel a tad stronger try these...

Unleash the Warrior Within by Richard 'Mack' Machowicz
The Way of the Seal by Mark Divine
Unbeatable Mind by Mark Divine.

I hope this post finds those who need it most and that it proves helpful to them. Let me know how you're getting on at marie.webweaver@gmail.com 
Love to you all
Marie x

When you're back on your feet, you'll feel ready for anything!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Tree-Swinging...

This is what I want - I used to have a swing like this in Strathpeffer - it had my name on it and everything!

It's a day for sitting down with an ice-cream and reading a classic novel while swinging from a friendly tree...

It has long been my ambition to have a tree-swing in my garden and if I can get my chain-saw loving neighbour to leave my trees alone for long enough, perhaps one day that dream will come true...

 So mote it be