"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, 26 August 2016

BOOK NOOK; Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory

Image result for three sisters three queens images

"...I think that these are women's troubles indeed - when a woman loves a man who betrays her.  Betrays her completely - in thought and word and deed.  In plan and in whisper, in the day and in the night, and - worst of all - in public, before the world...

...I wake in the night, thinking that I am the greatest fool that ever lived and I am humbled to dust for my stupidity."

from Three Sisters, Three Queens

It is one o'clock in the morning and I have just finished reading the latest novel by Philippa Gregory; Three Sisters, Three Queens.  I have enjoyed it, mostly because it is set in Scotland and much of the story takes place at Stirling Castle which is one of my favourite places north of the boarder.

It tells the story of Margaret, the sister of Henry VIII and the granddaughter of both the Red Queen, Margaret Beaufort and the White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, so if you enjoyed those books you might like this one too, as it successfully bridges the gap between the end of the Cousins War and the better known history of Henry VIII's Tudor court. 

Margaret is sent to marry the King of Scots, James IV and so secure a lasting peace between England and Scotland.  Of course, it doesn't work and she finds herself at war with members of her own family in England and with the Scots lords, who all want to manipulate her for their own purposes.  The Scots dismiss her as 'the English Princess' and she has to fight to claim her power as Queen. Much of the book is about this constant struggle, the betrayals and so on.  There are some hair raising exploits along the way and it keeps you guessing as to whether her husband is really on her side or working against her.

I have to say though, that I did find Margaret quite irritating at times; her constant envy of her sisters was tedious.  She has a well developed sense of entitlement and her jealousy is just annoying  - but then I have known women just like her and it was an accurate description of how petty minded female jealousy works! I just wanted to give her a slap though and tell her to stop whinging.  

Margaret marries three times and each time she has to fight for her position in Scotland.  The constant jostling for supremacy is evident throughout the novel and the author doesn't shy away from describing the cultural habit of the Scots for being completely two- faced, which I really admire her for - it takes a Yorkshire woman to tell it like it is!  The Scots say one thing and do the opposite; they make promises they have no intention of keeping and then come back with a ready excuse and a bit of charming prattle - and Margaret falls for all of it.  Of course she does - she's English, she has been brought up to believe that an man's word is his bond - but the Scots just aren't like that.  She has some harsh lessons to learn. 

My favourite part of the book happens quite early on, when a Comyn gets punched in the face - this was a treat I wasn't expecting and it did make me giggle.  What can I say? I'm a Bruce, right through to the bone - I'm always going to feel smug at the fall of a rival clan.  This is a nice book to add to my collection of Tudor novels, but due to the constant struggle of Margaret's life it is a rather sorrowful read - in that respect it reminded me of The Red Queen by the same author.  If it's a period of history that you like reading about though, you will probably enjoy this novel.

"To be loved by a man like Archibald Douglas is to be scorched, to be rejected is to be scarred.  I want to heal and forget that I ever knew him."

from Three Sisters, Three Queens

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. Probably not... 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?