"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.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017


Image result for flying tiger moth plane images

I have wanted to fly since I was a teenage girl - not as a passenger, but as a pilot.  I toyed with the idea of joining the RAF when I was 17 but their lack of equal opportunities and being told I could only 'fly the coffee in' because I was a girl, put me off.  That wasn't what I wanted to do. So I told them to stick it and left in a huff.  I still wonder what my life would be like now if I'd joined up anyway.

What if I could have been a combat pilot like I wanted?  What if I could have played my part in Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting the soldiers, maybe even my soldier, on the ground? I would have been honoured to fly his morning coffee in - or anything else to make his job there more comfortable and safe. I might even have met him all the sooner.  Of course I'll never know the answers to these questions, but every now and then I do still wonder...what if? 

It is this wondering that first made me think about the possibility of learning to fly anyway - without the RAF's help - I don't need their sexism holding me back!  And while I am fully aware that I will never be a combat pilot, is there a chance that I could still be a pilot anyway - just for fun?  Just to learn something new and to expand my awareness of what is possible for me? 

I have never been content to just dream. I always follow through on this kind of questioning and try to find a way to make the dream my reality.  So I was delighted to find that it is indeed still possible for me to fly and that there is a flying school just down the motorway, not far from where I live!  Further investigation revealed that it is expensive, as you would imagine it to be, but you are paying for the experience as much as for the tuition.  It takes a lot of hours tuition to gain a pilot's license, plus written work and a practical test, all adding up to around the same amount of money as my counsellor training has just cost me.  But the point is - it is possible.

There is nothing I hate more than feeling that something I want is totally out of my reach. I'm not used to it - I always get what I want, and that what if feeling has been gnawing away at me for decades. So it's nice to know that I can start to make plans to bring this girlish goal into the reality of my adult life.  The flying school offer lessons by the hour, plus there is a starter package to get you on track for your pilot's license, where you get your log book, text books etc.  They also have a taster session, just so you can see if it's right for you before you start to shell out lots of money.

The planes they teach in look quite dainty and they remind me of the one Taylor Swift is in for the Wildest Dreams video.  They don't look too big and intimidating and so I don't think I would feel too small to handle one.  The sunshine yellow colour reminds me of Tweetie-Pie and I'd quite like to fly in a Tweetie-Pie plane!
So I have decided that I am going to start saving money for flying lessons!  Making it a goal and a plan brings it that much closer to me and setting money aside will reaffirm my decision.  It isn't going to happen overnight, but it is now on my list of goals for next year  2018 - and I always achieve my goals. 

I need to know if it is something I could have done, had I been given the opportunity, because not knowing that is worse than trying it and finding I don't like it after all.  I can live with the fact that it's not for me - I am scared of heights after all, and I have no sense of direction - but I'd rather know from personal experience, one way or the other.  

I might even arrange to take the flying lesson taster course this autumn, after my holiday to Oban in the Highlands in a few weeks time.  If the weather holds out I could at least do that this year and start proper lessons next year, funds allowing.   It will be something to look forward to after my return to the Highlands, which I can't wait for! I've not been to Scotland since 2014 because of my counselling course, so it will be great to be back there soon - and a flying lesson to arrange on my return home...now that sounds like a nice autumnal plan! One day soon I could be flying a plane just like Taylor Swift's...
Who needs the RAF anyway? 

Monday, 28 August 2017

BOOK NOOK; The Magic Cottage by James Herbert

Image result for the magic cottage film

My mum has been an avid fan of James Herbert's books for years, but his horror has never really appealed to me, until she said I had to read this novel.  The title intrigued me and so I borrowed it and I haven't been disappointed at all.

The Magic Cottage is part fairy tale, part ghost story, part Escape to the Country...at times it is twee and enchanting, at other times it is Gothic and spooky.  It tells the story of Midge, a children's book illustrator and her musician boyfriend Mike, who are tired of living in London and buy an idyllic cottage in the New Forest.  From the very beginning the cottage is special - it has an aura of peace and purity that the couple both pick up on and enjoy.  Their creativity thrives, their neighbours are friendly, the wildlife are sociable and trusting, the cottage feels protective and safe, almost alive...it's all very Disney...until it's not.  

As the title suggests this novel is full of magic. It has everything; a creepy old witch, dark sects, a cheeky red squirrel, a plague of bats, hints at vampirism,  healing potions, wands, meditations, mediumship - the lot.  Magic, like anything else, has its trends and published in 1986 The Magic Cottage includes the magical trends of the 1980's, such as dark cults and pyramid power. It is all included in the plot. Thank goodness pyramid power was just a passing trend! But the sect reminded me of the alchemists and the transcendentalists of the past - it has that kind of old fashioned magical Order feel to it. 

I liked this book because it describes the fairy tale cottage, deep in the country, surrounded by wildlife, that I have wanted to live in ever since I was a little girl, which is probably why my mother told me I needed to read it.  I like the descriptions of power raising and of all the different kinds of magic the author has managed to cram into one story! And I adore Rumbo the red squirrel - he is my favourite character and I have met a couple of little chaps just like him in Strathpeffer in the Highlands.   

The novel keeps you guessing throughout.  Are Mike and Midge being drawn into a vampire cult?  Is Midge, whose nickname is Pixie, really a changeling and she has been called home to roost in an enchanted forest?  Who was the old witch and is she haunting them? Protecting them?  You'll need to read the book to find out.
It is a lovely, turning to spooky,  read - unless you have a phobia about bats, in which case it's probably not for you.  But I like bats, so I really enjoyed the book.  Who knows, I might even read more of James Herbert's novels now that I have discovered his talent.  You can buy or download the book here  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

BOOK NOOK; The Good Psychopath Books by Dr Kevin Dutton & Andy McNab

"If books on personal development may be fancifully construed as deft keys of transcendental truth gently turning in antiquated, psychological locks, then The Good Psychopath was the mental health equivalent of a nail bomb" 

Sorted! The Good Psychopath's Guide to Bossing Your Life

Forget 'Girl Boss' - these are the books for me!  Ever since I finished reading Andy McNab's Bravo Two Zero  last month I have been hoping that he would turn his pen to writing some kick-ass self-help books.  So when I was browsing round Waterstones last week and I came across these two books I was beyond thrilled that my wish had been granted. 

The Good Psychopath's Guide to Success and Sorted! The Good Psychopath's Guide to Bossing Your Life are brilliantly funny self-help books that teach you how to get a handle on life and make it behave itself.  They aim to demonstrate that we can all learn something from those go-getting, no-nonsense psychopaths out there, who are killing life not people - because psychopathy isn't necessarily a bad thing - it's how it is used that counts.

These books introduce the highly positive aspects of psychopathy, which they call The 7 Deadly Wins, giving lots of examples of how and where it pays in life to be just a tad more psycho.  It's not about sharpening your blade and going in for the kill - it's about sharpening your mind and making a killer deal, getting that job, giving great attitude and being the Boss of your own life...because if you're not the boss of your life, who is?

I love the writing style of these books.  It's very down to earth and completely engaging. Co-authorship can be a tricky business; it can be difficult for the reader to know which author is speaking, but in these books the authorial voices are blended together into a conversational man-banter on the page.  It is like witnessing two good pals having a laugh together and putting the world to rights as they go.  It made me realise how much I miss working behind the bar in the local pub, listening to grown men rag each other like school boys.  The Good Psychopath books have that same sort of laddish tap-room vibe.  This makes the science bit much easier to digest.  You know that these two guys know what they're talking about - it's not just banter - there is a point to it and much to be learned from them.  All you have to do is absorb the information they present and start putting it into practice. 

They frequently take the piss out of each other and when the Dr gets too grandiose, the SAS soldier puts it in a nutshell, brings it back down to earth and makes it easy to understand what's going on.  Conversely when the soldier gets a little too crass, the good Dr elevates the tone and keeps it clean - ish.  All in all this makes for a unique writing style that I have never come across before.  It really made me smile. I learnt a lot - but it was so much fun! 

To add to this comic style are funny illustrations throughout the books - the kind that you might find in a newspaper.  The Rat Nav one really made me giggle!  There are quizzes too, so that you can see where you are on the various dials that make up psychopathy. This means that you learn where your strengths and weaknesses are and what you need to work on if you want to nail life and be more successful.  In this sense it is quite an interactive read - you can take part in the authors' research project if you want to, or simply use the quizzes to enhance your personal self-awareness. 

There are anecdotes from the authors' lives and experiences, but unlike McNab's SAS biographies, there are no harrowing details of conflict and capture given in these books, which was a relief to my sensitive side and this time the tears in my eyes were of laughter because these books are a pure joy to read, from start to finish.

Of course there are the inevitable sports analogies men like to use, which I just didn't get because I don't like sports. Or at least I don't like the sports they mentioned in the books such as football, golf and cricket.  I would have been more on board with a nice sparkly figure-skating or show-jumping reference, maybe even a balletic pirouette in the prose, but hey, you can't have everything.  I wish some nice female soldier would write some self-help books aimed at women - I'm sure that is a gap in the market that needs filling. 

On the whole though these books are a fantastic, informative and entertaining read. They will make you think about how you behave and how you can improve yourself and your overall performance in life.  I read them both in three days and I just couldn't put them down.  They make for great bedtime reading to set you up for the next day. And what smart, intelligent woman wouldn't want to take both a doctor and a soldier to bed with her, at the same time?😉

If you are interested in reading these books, visit the authors' website here and take a closer look at their work. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

MUSICAL DOLL; Dancing With You In The Summer Rain

Oh my love it's you that I dream of...

Somewhere in my heart I'm always dancing with you in the summer rain...

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

FINISHING SCHOOL; The Business of Etiquette

They say that manners maketh the man - or woman - and while we can all be guilty of the odd slip up every now and then, particularly when we are stressed, it is always nice to be complimented on one's charm.   You might think that the days of etiquette and protocol are long gone, along with parasols and corsets, but you would be completely wrong.  In this era of tell-all social media, where even leading politicians are falling foul of social niceties and blurting out opinions they should probably keep to themselves, etiquette is more important than ever.

As someone who has been reading the classics from a young age, etiquette and finishing schools have always fascinated me.  The do's and don't's of social interactions may have changed considerably over time, but a knowledge of etiquette is a useful skill to have and you don't have to go to a finishing school in Switzerland to achieve it.  There are lots of books and workshops available to help you brush up your manners. There are even some lovely week-long tutorials in London where lessons in etiquette are given at Kensington Palace, The Ritz and the V&A - though these are quite pricey. 

When I completed my Level 4 Counselling Diploma recently I felt that I wanted to continue studying, but in a less formal way, so I decided to take a couple of short CPD courses online.  I have just completed a Level 3 Diploma in Business Etiquette and having passed the final exam, my certificate is now on it's way!  This was a really interesting course, run by an Academy based in Covent Garden in London and I enjoyed it very much.  

As a Business Etiquette course it is relevant to modern life and useful for anyone who needs to interact with members of the public or attend meetings, conferences etc as I do in my counselling placement.  It's not pretentious or affected; it's certainly not about pretending that you live at Downton Abbey! - it's more about gaining an edge in the workplace, because etiquette is now big business in the international business world. 

Etiquette can also help you to improve your self-confidence.  One of the things I struggle with a lot is impostor syndrome; this is when a little voice in your head starts telling you that you don't belong, that you're not right for the job, that it's all been a big mistake and eventually you will be found out and get sent home as not being good enough etc.  Impostor syndrome can stop you applying for your dream job; it can make you say no to invitations and trigger social anxiety; it can derail you when things are going well and stop you in your tracks. 

Having a knowledge of etiquette, whether this be self-educated from books, or via an etiquette and protocol course, can help to keep impostor syndrome at bay, or silence it, should it turn up uninvited to rain on your parade!  Completing a training course in etiquette will give you that additional polish that employers are looking for, and having proof of that training in the form of a certificate will enhance your portfolio and CV.  It also gives you the benefit of knowing that you have been formally trained in self-conduct, meaning that you are less likely to commit a faux-par, or if you do, you can make a quick recovery!  We all put our foot in it from time to time, even royalty - hello Prince Philip! - and we all show the odd flash of temper now and again; but knowing how to recover and move on is the key to self-confidence. 

I certainly feel that I have given myself a better chance in my business life now that I have completed this type of instruction and while not everything in the course relates to my business as a writer and counsellor, at least I now have the knowledge to draw upon at any time in the future, should I ever need it.  While it is unlikely that I will ever meet with a Japanese businessman or a Chinese diplomat, at least if I do, I now know the correct way to accept his business card!  

So I am looking forward to receiving my certificate in Etiquette as it will make a nice addition to my portfolio of professional and educational qualifications, and while it's a long way from a Swiss finishing school, for me it's enough and will hopefully serve my purposes in keeping the dreaded impostor syndrome at bay! For ladies never lose composure...

Thursday, 10 August 2017

BOOK NOOK; Late Summer Reading

Image result for reading in a hammock images

I love long lazy days, stretched out in the sunshine, reading a book that takes me far, far away.   When you have a book in your hand, you can go on flights of fancy, no matter where you are. I especially enjoy those books that stay with you, even after you have finished reading them - the kind of novels that transport you somewhere completely different, say Tudor England or Jacobite Scotland.  Reading is the best way to time travel!

At this time of year my mind turns to thoughts of autumn and I like nothing better than a good old fashioned ghost story.  For me Barbara Erskine is the best modern author of spooky novels and I have just finished reading Sleeper's Castle, which is about a young Druidess who has visions of the Welsh rebellion against the English in the 1400's.   Erskine's books are always very atmospheric, and usually concern a modern protagonist haunted by spirits of the past, but in this novel she adds a twist - for the ghosts are looking back! This is so refreshing to her usual style and completely unexpected.  I enjoyed the Celtic setting of this novel and the Druid magic and weather witching was very authentic.

Another book that had me gripped was Paula Hawkins The Girl On The Train.  This is not the kind of book I am usually drawn to, but I was intrigued by the movie trailers and I wanted to read the novel before I saw the film.  It's a thriller that held me captive and I read the book in a day - I literally couldn't put it down and I got nothing else done at all that day, but it was time well spent as I had been thoroughly entertained.  It also means that I have discovered a new author and I shall be looking out for more of Hawkins books. 

Finding a new author is great, but nothing beats an old favourite and Philippa Gregory is one of mine. Her novel The Little House is a book I like to read during the summertime.  It is full of domestic details and descriptions of a beautiful country-side home and affluent life-style.  It illustrates the dichotomy of mother-hood, wherein a new mum is doing battle with her 'helpful' mother-in-law!  In this novel Gregory presents the war between a traditional mother, for whom nappies should be terry-cloth and baby-food hand-made in the kitchen; and the modern young mum, who believes nappies are disposable and baby-food comes in jars - because who has time for washing and blending when they have a job, a house, a husband and a baby to maintain?!  This is a great novel with psychological undertones and a fantastic twist at the end.  It was also made into a TV drama a couple of years ago, so you might be able to find it on catch-up.  Read the book anyway - it's brilliant, though it made me even more glad that I've never wanted children! 

So there you have it - the books that have been keeping me entertained during the summer.  It's so refreshing not to have to read counselling text books and to be back to my old book-worm self, with my nose stuck in a novel for hours on end.  I'm looking forward to doing more reading as the nights begin to draw in and the weather turns colder. Autumn is just around the corner and I can't wait to welcome it in.  For now though, I am going to light a spiced apple-pie candle, pour a glass of Merlot and watch The Girl On The Train on DVD - I hope it's as good as the book!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Friday, 4 August 2017

POET'S CORNER; The Charm of the Web Weaver

Image result for witch at spinning wheel images

The Charm of the Web Weaver

A faerie maid by a rival cheated
One night was by her hearth-side seated
And picking up her thread and spindle
She cast a spell, her foe to swindle
To take back what was hers by right
She weaves a web of silver bright
As the wheel spins and the spindle turns
Victory wins and her vengeance burns

There she casts her charm of woe
Spinning out her spiteful foe
In a fit of pique, casting down her rival
In a web weaving spell of sweet reprisal
Humming softly a charm of making
Her enemy crushed by triumph breaking
Before the moon doth wax and wane times three
Her vanquished foe cries "Woe is me!"

For as the Wheel turns, the Seasons are bound
In lessons learned and what goes round comes round!

By Marie Bruce