"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.

Sunday, 30 October 2016


The Swan Queen

There once lived a Swan Queen, whom you may know, for she is frequently seen gliding upon the waters of her enchanted Loch.  She paddles around, minding her own business and dreaming the dreams only a Swan Queen can dream...dreams of love and freedom, of spells cast and curses broken, of her enemies vanquished and victory won.

The other birds often stare at her, wondering what her secret is, for surely all birds should quack and waddle and gossip in groups... shouldn't they?  Yet the Swan Queen does none of this.  She has her dreams and she knows what she must do to achieve them.  So she continues to paddle hard, keeping herself moving steadily forward and serenely staying her course.

The other birds dislike her for it; for her independent spirit and the strange allure of her magic, so they often taunt her by pecking at her and gossiping about her whenever they can. All they see is a swan gliding effortlessly upon the water - they never look deeper to see all the hard work the swan is doing beneath the surface, to get to where she wants to be.

Occasionally it all gets too much and the Swan Queen is forced to retaliate by demonstrating her strength and power with a show of aggression, for she is no coward and her power is formidable.  But then she is called a 'crazy bird' and renamed Trouble and the gossip continues on and on.  It is always the ugliest ducks that quack the loudest and try to waddle their great weight around the most.

The Swan Queen understands; their spite is all they have to recommend them. They can't help being ducks anymore than she can help being a swan.  But still, it irritates her from time to time and she would rather show her strength and get back to serenity than try to change the ducks into something else...something they were never meant to be. She cannot make them swans.

And so the Swan Queen continues to work hard at her dreams, paddling away beneath the surface where none can see, determined to one day leave the ducks far, far behind, flying away to freedom and taking her magical allure with her. It isn't always easy to be enchanted.

She bears it as gracefully as she can. She doesn't allow it to ruffle her feathers too much, for she is a Swan Queen and she can regally rise above it. 

And for putting up with all that, the Swan Queen deserves a medal...for it would bring out the gold of her crown!

Saturday, 22 October 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Cats, Books and Wine

It is almost midnight, the Witching Hour, and I have been trying to study - but Pyewackett had other ideas!  He kept sitting on my books and putting his claws through my notes and basically demanding attention.  He is a little under the weather today and we have a regular visit to the cat-doctor coming up - I don't even dare type the V word or he will hide under the bed until January!  He's a senior citizen cat now at 18 years old, so he needs medical attention more frequently, just like old people do.  So after lots of cuddles, kisses and fuss, he has finally settled down on my feet and he is purring softly in victory.  

I wonder why cats are so drawn to books?  Sitting on them, climbing on them, sleeping on them, demanding attention when you are trying to read or study?  Pye even likes me to read to him when he is feeling very poorly, but he has to be in the right mood. He seems to enjoy funny cat poems...  I just read him "I Could Pee On This" from Poems By Cats. It made me laugh and praise him for being a much better behaved cat than the feline in the poem, so maybe its the attention he likes, rather than story-time. But I am happy to read to him and he seems happy to listen. Is that weird? Does anyone else read to their cat? Please say yes!

After all this feline interference, it was clear I wasn't going to get any studying done tonight, so I thought I'd write a quick blog post instead.  It is nearly Halloween and I've got my ceramic pumpkins out,  each burning a Yankee By The Fireside tealight, so I am surrounded by glowing faces and the room is filled with the warm, spicy, woody fragrance of mulled wine and a log fire. I have a glass of red wine beside me - just plain, not mulled - and I am feeling grateful for a cosy home and a snugly cat. I am aware that I have to make the very most of Pye now as I try to face up to his mortality. The years seem to be catching up with him all of a sudden. But he is still as mischievous as ever, as proven by the claw-marks in my college notes!

I am looking forward to half-term.  Our college course has been very disrupted so far due to our tutor being off sick with stress, so classes have been cancelled, or taken by a supply tutor, which is far from ideal.  Our own tutor is back now though and so normal classes will resume after half-term.  I am a bit concerned that we are now five weeks behind, and we've been informed that we are to be given two essays to write over the Christmas holidays this year, to try and make up the time.  This hardly seems fair, but I do want to pass this course and qualify.  

I can see the glimmer of the finish line in the distance now and I just want to get there and get through it, so I can move forward in my life. It will have been a long four years of studying by then.  I honestly don't know how vets, pharmacists etc do it...years and years of training...and no guarantee of a pass at the end of it all.  It really is a form of mental torture. And I have paid good money for this torture.  Money which could have been spent on Scottish holidays and Chanel perfumes and all those lovely things that keep life liveable.  Alas, I have to write six more essays between now and June next year - six! Good thing I'm a writer by trade then...and a fairly productive one too, despite Pyewackett's best efforts!
Good night x

Monday, 10 October 2016

BOOK NOOK; White Rose Rebel by Janet Paisley

"Maybe it was just pride and he wasn't man enough to admit being wrong. Maybe he couldn't face Anne, humbled, and back down. Not to the woman he loved..."

White Rose Rebel is the first novel I have ever read that takes place, in part, at Fort George among the Black Watch.   It tells the story of Anne Farquharson, a woman who is in love with two men. The first is Alexander, a Jacobite and the second is Aeneas, a soldier in the Black Watch ...so far, so my life and this book has certainly turned my mind towards thoughts of Inverness!

It is a very Scottish book, written in the mingled languages of English, Scots and Gaelic (translations are at the back of the book) and the Scots accent leaps from every page.  It is quite bawdy and vulgar in places, but then that's the Scots for you - to say they're oversexed would be an understatement!  In fairness there was little else to do in the Highlands in the 18th Century.  It's an atmospheric read and I could almost breathe in the fresh mountain air and smell the pine forests and the heather of the Highlands as my eyes drank in the descriptions of places I know and love. 

Anne is a valiant supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie and her dearest wish is to see the Stuart King restored and the Union with England broken.  It is basically a story of the Scottish bid for Independence and the events that lead up to the final Jacobite Uprising of 1745.  Please note - it's an Uprising - it's only a Rebellion if you're totally English, which I'm not.

I found this book to be very moving and I had a physical response to it.  In the run up to the Battle of Culloden I had butterflies in my stomach and a feeling of dread, as I knew what was coming. Reading the battle scene was heart-rending and I had tears in my eyes.  I have been to the battle site of Culloden Moor; I have photos of it on my phone and I could visualise the battle clearly in my mind's eye. It was a difficult few chapters to read, as history repeated itself on the page. 

Anne is a figure from history that I had never come across before, and while this is a fictionalised version of her part in the Uprising, she was a known Jacobite in her own right.  I didn't warm to her as a character though, largely because she has an over-developed sense of entitlement and uses both the men she loves to provide for her every need and whim.  She is demanding and belligerent and I felt sorry for the Scotsmen having to deal with women like her on a daily basis and provide for them.  I only began to sympathise with Anne towards the end of the story, when she is faced with the consequences of her actions and has developed a sense of humility.

Reading about the destruction of the Clans was tough as well.  The aftermath of Culloden was brutal; the banning of tartan made me stop reading and put on my red tartan arasaid in defiance!  I also learnt things from this novel - for instance, that the Fort George I have seen on my visits to the Highlands was actually built in order to keep the Scots in check, after Culloden. Ironic that the bag-pipes that were banned at the time now play loud and proud at the Fort George Highland Tattoo each year!  

Sad too, that the Scots Regiments of Fort George are usually some of the first soldiers deployed by the modern UK government and the fighting spirit of the Highlanders is now shackled to the whim of Westminster and the Crown.  If only more had voted "YES" in 2014 the Scots could have won their Independence. Alas the Jacobites fell in vain.

If you like Scottish history or you have enjoyed the Outlander series then you will love White Rose Rebel.  It is a gripping read and it has made me even more excited for my return to the Highlands in September next year, when I go to Dornoch.  I really can't wait for that! And yes, I will be wearing my Bruce tartan and Clan brooch! The Jacobite spirit lives on.

You can buy the novel by clicking here   Enjoy! 

Sunday, 9 October 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Living a Pretty Life

There is a saying that a beautiful woman has a beautiful home. That has certainly been proven true to me among the women I know and I do believe that women are naturally drawn to beauty of all kinds. We love sunsets, snow falls, flowers, full moons, baby animals...the list is endless. 

Naturally we want to bring some of that beauty into our home so that we can enjoy it everyday.  While a man might head off to B&Q with a practical task in mind and the tools he needs to get the job done, a woman is more likely to shop from her senses, looking for tactile things with which to create an atmosphere, so she will head straight for the soft furnishings and candles.  

To women cushions, throws, crockery and candles are tools, though we'll never get a man to see the sense of it!   They are tools because they create warmth and comfort, a sense of plenty and fragrant light to cheer the darker nights.  Atmospheres are like magic and a bad day can be lifted with the help of a luxury bath creme and a scented candle. Women know this instinctively...and it shows in our shopping baskets! 

I think of it as living a Pretty Life, which is the kind of lifestyle I like to lead.  It's not about having lots of money to fritter away either - you can pick up scented tealights from Poundland if you're strapped for cash, and they will still create a pretty glow.  It is more about creating an atmosphere of abundance by being selective in the things you do buy.

I have one rule - if its a choice between pretty and plain, I always buy pretty.  Why settle for something plain when you can get something pretty for around the same price?  Over the years this simple rule has enabled me to build up a home full of beautiful things and I apply it to everything, from notebooks and office supplies to egg-cups and tea-sets. In order to earn a place in my house it needs to be pretty as well as practical. 

When you take this attitude to shopping, you will be surprised at how quickly you build up a collection of 'pretties' that visitors comment on.  Recently I had a gas worker at my home to service the boiler and he told me "You've got a lovely house.  My wife will love it; she's been thinking of decorating.  Do you mind if I text her some pictures?" lol  It's always nice to be an inspiration! 

You have to be your own Muse. If you make the decision to bring beauty into every aspect of your life then your life will be beautiful, because the law of attraction states that like attracts like and what you focus on is what you get. And its so simple - just buy Pretty! 

There are some women who seem to have everything; who live successful lives of elegance and glamour, surrounded by beautiful things. Everything they do has beauty attached to it; everything they own adds to their glamour and their dog matches their decor! We've all seen woman like this on TV, You Tube and across social media such as Instagram.  Allow yourself to be inspired by them; don't give in to pangs of envy which will destroy your sense of abundance, focusing your mind on the things you lack.

Instead, choose to live a Pretty Life, even if you're on a budget. Choose to buy the pretty option, even if you have to save up a bit longer to afford it. Be your own Muse of inspiration and inspire other people in turn. Because when people start to copy you, that's how you know you've created something beautiful and people want to take the atmosphere you've created away with them to their own homes.  Now that's a compliment! Happy Shopping.