"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, 23 October 2015

POET'S CORNER; The Last Rose

The Last Rose

Like the last rose of summer she is a wilting flower
Drooping, head bowed, weighed down by the weight of isolation
Her petals are as faded and as crumpled as her spirit
She is a wraith, haunted by her past and the echoes of time
Keening silently in her dreams where no-one can hear
Desolate and dejected she roams the earth
Wailing for her companion, her lover, her friend
She shall be his last lullaby...
Until she fades away with the mist, lost in her aloneness - 
This is what dying of heartbreak looks like...
The silent, invisible fall into desolate, eternal oblivion.

By Marie Bruce


Friday, 16 October 2015

BOOK NOOK; Peace & Plenty by Sarah Ban Breathnach

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"Solvency feels better than anything you can spend money on"
Sarah Ban Breathnach
There is no greater comfort in the world to me than the familiar voice of a favourite author.  Curling up on an damp autumnal day, being deeply absorbed in a book, is one of my go-to tricks for instant relaxation, and that is just what I've been doing.  Yesterday was fraught with a rather fruitless and pointless study group, which left me feeling drained and out of sorts, so today I have been utilizing my self-care skills - deliberately not thinking about college at all, and resting up with a great book.

Peace and Plenty is the latest book from Sarah Ban Breathnach, one of my favourite inspirational authors.  Her writing style is gentle and calming; nurturing and encouraging.  In this book she explores the relationship between women and money.  Yes, money.
It can be a scary word sometimes, causing many a sleepless night to the overspent.   It is not a book about stocks and bonds or financial planning as such - this is a book which looks at how women really handle their cash.  SBB mentions the ingenuity of the 'envelope system' which is something I've used myself for years and plenty of women I know also use it, so it must be quite effective.  Apparently it stems from the war years and rationing, when housewives had to stretch their income as far as possible.

But what can a millionairess author know of everyday money troubles?  Isn't SBB loaded?  Well, yes she was, but due to overspending on frivolous luxuries (Marilyn Monroe's furs, among other items listed in the book! WTF???) and a bad marriage/divorce to a fortune hunter, she is now broke and nearly broken by the experience.  She's had to sell her English writing retreat Newton's Cottage and set up home all over again in a small apartment in the States.  So far, so fallen.

She writes with honesty and humility about the financial mistakes she's made in the past and how she has learnt to pick herself up and take better care of the pennies, now that she's been reduced to rubbing two together and counting every one!  You just know as a reader, that this is a writer who really lived the authorial dream, who had it all and who is now kicking herself for letting it slip right through her fingers. I like her even better for her candor.  It makes her even easier to relate to, for in the wake of the longest and deepest global recession ever, haven't we all had to tighten our belts and felt the pinch now and then? 

Peace and Plenty is full of reassurance though.  All tides turn - those who were once well off and secure can become poor, while those who were poor can look forward to better days ahead.  The book offers advice on how to find peace of mind when money worries keep you awake at night, how to stay calm in the face of debt collectors and where to create small moments of comfort for yourself so that you can feel truly enriched no matter how much money you have in the bank.

Although I don't have a debt problem to manage (my student debt not being due in for a few years yet), Peace and Plenty has made me look closely at how I spend my money, and why. I do believe that women are emotional spenders and I include myself in this.  A quick shopping trip can perk up a low mood and make pms seems more bearable; a new dress soothes a jilted spirit; while a shiny new stash of make-up can be just what you need to put your best face forward.  Retail therapy is good for you, providing you can afford it - that is with cash left over after all the bills are paid, the groceries are in, the car is paid for and the savings account has been topped up by its regular monthly amount. But if you're spending on credit cards, catalogs or bank loans, you're heading for trouble.  And the more money you have, the more debt you can accumulate, so more money isn't really the answer - it's learning how to handle the money you do have, in a responsible manner, that will make all the difference.

Peace and Plenty is a great self-help book for any woman who wishes she was a little bit smarter about money.  It aims to leave the reader with tools for creating a sense of financial serenity and solvency, and provides lots of anecdotes along the way. One thing SBB is good at is putting the laughter into a tragic tale and you will chuckle along with her as she recalls some of her more outrageous money missteps! 

This book isn't remotely depressing.  Quite the contrary. It is an uplifting tome of feisty feminine spirit in the face of financial adversity - and in the current economic climate, with more cuts to come,  who doesn't need a dose of that? 

Saturday, 10 October 2015


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"Most people overestimate what they can do in a year...
 and completely underestimate what they can achieve in a decade."
Anthony Robbins

I love this quotation from motivational author and speaker,Tony Robbins. It somehow always reminds me of the phrase 'the five year plan'.  Of course that phrase is usually associated with women who have only one agenda - to get pregnant and married asap - usually in that order! But as that has never been my life plan, and as I sit here willfully destroying my fertile eggs with a glass of red wine, I've been pondering on what my own five year plan might look like. Where do I want to be in autumn/winter 2020?

I've always believed in the power of goal setting - it's how I got published, got a column, got a recording deal. Set the goal then let it go and allow the opportunities to flow towards you.  But what are you to do when the goal seems so very far away; when you cannot see your way ahead?  How do you go about dreaming the impossible dream, without feeling disheartened and hopeless?

I suppose we have to approach the big dreams in the same way a squirrel approaches the onset of autumn and winter - by gathering resources, one nut at a time and stashing them away, knowing that each small step taken, each nut gathered will increase our chances of survival in an unpredictable climate.  We also have to spend time clearing out the nest and making room, ready for the dream season to manifest our goals.

My five year plan then includes such things as completing my studies and seeing Level 4 through to the end, until I qualify as a psychotherapist. This will take two years of study, plus the time needed to rack up the 450 clinical hours required; all whilst maintaining my writing career.

In addition I need to start thinking of my long term goal of moving to Scotland; this is bound to take time, but unless I start to make some real preparations for it, it is likely to remain a pipe-dream.  I'm not really one for pipe-dreaming - I like to make my dreams my reality, or what's the point of dreaming?  Dreams show us our potential so that we can take steps to live up to it.

So I need to begin a major declutter of the entire house.  I do declutter habitually, but I have a bad habit of hanging onto things for sentimental reasons.  Not anymore. I am going to be ruthless, because the idea of having to move EVERYTHING I currently possess to Scotland is frankly overwhelming. The more I have the more it will cost in removal expenditure. So I need to start paring things down a bit. 

I've decided to ask myself, with each item, "Would I take it to Scotland with me?"  If the answer is No - out it goes! I've even made a note of what items of furniture I want to take and which pieces I would like to replace once north of the Wall. I'm even going to declutter my library and film/cd collections. I plan to donate lots of my books to local libraries, whittling down my collection to only those books I love and read repeatedly.   

I made a small start on this declutter earlier today.  Some things are difficult to throw away, but as I didn't know why I was holding onto them (my very first riding hat from childhood! Engagment cards for an engagment that was broken off nearly two decades ago! Why do I still have these things???) getting rid of them was the right thing to do.  And as soon as I had chucked them I immediately felt a wave of relief wash over me.  It made me realize that these items were actually weighing me down, not lifting me up.

I am never going to be a minimalist - I am a woman and I love to have pretty things around me, because on darker days they can be a comfort. Pretty things are a woman's shield against a sometimes cruel world.  Her nest is her safe place, her home is her retreat.  But if you start to feel a tad weighed down by too much stuff - it's time to start letting go.  

I have realized that the most important things to me are not the wardrobes, four-poster bed and chaise-lounge - all of which I plan to leave behind when the time comes and buy new things in Scotland - the most important things to me are a basic library of books, films and music; my piano; my mermaid altar table; my desks; my laptop, rocking chair, tree screens etc and a few special ornaments, such as the Lord of the Rings goblets.  With these items I can build a new home for myself anywhere.  And as they will easily pack into boxes, along with the remaining items of furniture, a big move no longer seems like such as impossible task.

A fresh start deserves a fresh colour palette, some new furniture and a fresh new look, with old favourites to bring the comfort of familiarity in a new place.  It may take longer than five years - but all I know for certain is that I can finally see my way ahead; I can finally start to make some small preparations; I can finally visualize the plan coming to fruition. And what you can visualize, you can manifest into being.  
Where do you want to be in 2020?

Saturday, 3 October 2015

BOOK NOOK; The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

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"But seeing those words that were first written, and scratched out, and rewritten again in print and bound into a book, I know that I love the process of writing and publishing.  To take a thought and work on it, to render it into the clearest form possible, and then to send it out into the world - this is work so precious and so joyful that I am not surprised that men have kept it to themselves." Kateryn Parr

Quotation from The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory.

It is 9pm on a Saturday night and I have just spent a lovely afternoon and evening curled up reading Philippa Gregory's latest Tudor novel.  I have been a fan of her work since I read Wideacre when I was 18 and I always look forward to her new releases.

The Taming of the Queen is the story of Katherine Parr, or Kateryn as she is known in the book - the unfortunate woman who is chosen to be Henry VIII's latest wife. She is famous for being the one who outlived him, who managed to survive marriage to a wife-killer, but she is also the wife most equal to him for intelligence and personal ambition. 

At the beginning of the marriage Henry loves his clever wife, encouraging her to debate with him and speak her mind, but as he begins to tire of her, as he tired of all his wives, her scholarship and opinions start to irritate him and an irritated Henry is a dangerous man to be around - Kateryn has to talk herself out of trouble on more than one occasion. 

There is an on-going sense of duress throughout the book - you can feel the net closing in around Kateryn as her enemies plot against her and she has no idea if she will be the next queen killed.  To add to this duress, all the gifts her husband presents her with in his generosity belonged to someone else.  She is expected to wear Anne Boleyn's crown, Katherine Howard's furs and Jane Seymour's hood - and be grateful for them.  All her gowns have been worn be former queens, former wives and she is acutely aware that she is simply the latest in a long line of royal playmates. After sitting for a royal family portrait she realizes that she could as easily find herself on the scaffold as on the queens' throne.

There are a few historical milestones mentioned in this novel - the sinking of the Mary Rose is described in tragic detail; the execution of Anne Askew, the first woman ever to be tortured in England because Henry changed the Law specifically to stretch her on the rack (such a nice man!);  and the swinging back and forth between the papist and reformist religions, depending on what mood Henry is in and who are his favourites at the time.  It is all so very precarious.  Laws are changed in a moment, just to accuse and condemn someone; people are favored one day and in the Tower the next. 

In spite of all this though Kateryn Parr steadily moves towards her own ambitions of pushing for a more tolerant and reformed Church.  She works with theologians to translate prayers and religious texts, believing that common people have a right to understand the word of god and read the bible in their own language. This is partly what gets her into such trouble. 

Having said that, Katherine Parr was the very first woman in England to write and publish her own work, under her own name and for breaking that glass ceiling, every woman author since owes her a huge debt of gratitude. I certainly have a special fondness for her and I admire her greatly for achieving her ambition in such dangerous circumstances and for paving the way for the rest of us to follow in her footsteps down the path to publication. It's not easy to publish now - it was downright life-threatening then. 

The Taming of the Queen is such an interesting book and like with all Gregory's novels, the history is told in an entertaining and vivid way so you learn as you read. It's a decent size, weighing in a 425 pages and it will have you gripping the edge of your seat as Kateryn negotiates her way through a marriage that could turn deadly at any moment. If you like Tudor novels, you will enjoy this one.