Halloween is Coming: How to become your favourite Literary characters for Halloween.

As Old Hallows Eve nears, the pressure to create an awesome Halloween look begins to build!  Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I really resent spending a fortune on some cheaply made costume I will only wear once!  So in that spirit, I have corroborated with my amazingly talented friend Rachel Henry, to produce some badass Halloween makeup looks, and since I am a total book nerd, and this is a writing and reading blog, each look will be based on some of my favourite literary characters.  Now I know what you’re thinking…”I don’t have a professional make up artist friend to do my makeup!  I can’t do that!”  But Rachel being the genius she is, has used widely available and more importantly cheap items to create the looks, and we will be providing you with a step by step guide, pictures and all, so you can definitely do this at home.

white witch completeLast time, we went full on horror, and recreated the distinct and terrifying look of Pennywise the clown.  This time, we thought we would do something a little prettier, but just as nasty (because Halloween is all about the villains right?), and have re-created The Snow Queen of Hans Christian Anderson fame, or if you prefer, The White Witch from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  Either way, she is one cold bitch!

The Snow Queen/The White Witch
First of all, we decided that she should look like an incredibly pale and cold blooded woman, not pure white like a clown or ghost, so Rachel used a foundation much paler than my own skin tone and simply covered my entire face, including my eyebrows.  Because they are quite dark, she also used a little white face paint to pale them down even further.  She then sealed the make up with a pale white powder, but you could use a little talc.

Next, she worked on the eyes, using a few different shades of blue to create the tone and white witch 2look we wanted.  Instead of painting one thick layer of blue, try building up lots of thin layers of different colours, using the darker blues on the outside of the eyes and the paler blues on the inside corners.  It’s basically like a smoky eye effect, except with blue tones.  She also used blue eyeliner along the lash line.  Finally, she used a mascara brush dipped in the same white face paint as before, and put it on my upper and lower lashes to improvise white mascara.

Rachel then used white eye shadow to highlight my cheek bones, brow bones, cupid’s bow and the centre of my nose.  Next she used blue eyeshadow, the same as used on my eyes, to low light under my cheekbones and along my hair line.  Think contouring, but with blue instead of skin tones!

white witch 3Next the fun bit…glitter!! Rachel used Helen E Glitter glue to stick the glitter to my face, highlighting above and below my eyes.  If you don’t want to spend the money, you could use water soluble PVA glue (which dries clear) or even a clear mascara or lip gloss- something sticky and clear basically!

For the lips, Rachel used a blue lipstick, and added a little black at the corners and a bit of the lipstick mixed with the white face paint in the middle of my lips, to create an ombre look.  If you don’t want to buy a blue lippy for the sake of one night, you could use the same blue eyeshadows as before and seal with a clear lip gloss.  This would also providewhite-witch-4.jpg
the sticky surface you need to stick on some more of that glitter…because you can never have too much glitter right?  Never!!

I had some stick on pearls for crafting and letter writing, so we added a few of these around the eyes to add texture.  You could go mad if you like, sticking jewels or sequins, whatever you have lying about the house…the sky is the limit!  Eye lash glue or water soluble PVA are both cheap and easy ways to stick little bits like this to your face.  Stick it on and see what it looks like…it’s no big deal to remove them and move them around again.  Have fun with it and let your imagination run wild.

white witch eyes
Finally, I used standard dry shampoo to add a grey/white tint to my hair as well as a bit of volume and texture.  Again, you could go nuts here…white hair spray paints are available for very little money, or talcum powder is also great.

In lieu of a crown, I used a necklace I own, and pinned it into place like a head piece and then topped it off with a jewelled head band.  I then grabbed every shiny silver necklace I owned and layered it up with a blue dress.  This is my improvised costume…the point is to use bits you already own or things you can borrow from others so go as subtle or as big as you want!  Experiment…you could use a fur blanket to create a cape or even buy a cheap wedding dress from a charity/thrift store!  Use your imagination and bring the Queen to life your way!

white witch complete 2

white witch and rach

 

 

If you are as impressed with Rachel’s work as much as me, then head to her Instagram for more inspiration, both for Halloween as well as day to day looks! And don’t forget to give her a follow!!

 

The Essex Serpent: A Book Review.

Good Evening fellow book worms!  I hope you have had a great weekend!  For tonight’s blog post, I will be reviewing The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry.  So, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, what’s it about?  Let’s roll out the trusty blurb…

essexLondon 1893.  When Cora Seaborne’s husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was not a happy one, and she never suited the role of society wife.  Accompanied by her son Francis- a curious obsessive boy- she leaves town for Essex, where she hopes fresh air and open space will provide the refuge they need.

When they take lodgings in Colchester, rumours reach them from further up the estuary that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter.  Cora, a keen amateur  naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, is immediately enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a previously undiscovered species.  As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, Aldwinter’s vicar.

Like Cora, Will is deeply suspicious of the rumours, but he thinks they are founded on moral panic, a flight from real faith.  As he tries to calm his parishioners, he and Cora strike up an intense relationship, and although they agree on absolutely nothing, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart, eventually changing each other’s lives in a way entirely unexpected.

First, let me start off by stating the obvious…if you aren’t a fan of classic literature, then this book isn’t for you.  Sarah Perry’s beautiful use of language and the entire style and tone of the book, means it could easily have been written in the days of Bronte and Dickens.  It is a Victorian novel through and through, from its emphasis on class, propriety and wealth, to the character’s attempts to subdue their passions, this is very much a book in the old style.  And yet, Perry cleverly manages to deal with issues which are just as relevant today as they were a century ago- advancing medicine and the moral questions it raises, how the wealthy treat the poor, Religion and superstition and science battling for supremacy and mass hysteria.  Look beyond the classic style writing and setting, and you see the world hasn’t changed all that much.

Perry has a beautiful way with words.  She paints the Essex country side so vividly in your mind, that you can almost smell the saltings as you read.  Each character is incredibly well developed and fleshed out, and the story line, whilst not exactly action packed, keeps you returning to the pages, hungry for more.  The question of the existence of the Essex serpent is the thread running throughout the book, tying the other storylines together, like the blossoming love between Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome, and the unrequited love of Dr Luke Garrett.  However, this book is a slow burner.  For those of you who seek something filled with intrigue and action, this book is not for you, its pace running in tandem with its small village setting of Aldwinter.  Whilst the characters themselves are changed, sometimes profoundly, by the book’s end, everything seems to continue on as it had before, which some readers may find frustrating.  I understand the need to have endings tied up neatly in bows, with love conquering all and people finding their happy ever afters, however life is rarely plays out so simplistically, and often, a happy ending may not be the obvious one.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and would recommend it to anyone who favours their books with a taste of the old.

If you found this review helpful, I am now on Good reads, so find me and friend me for more of the same!  Have you read this book?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

Why me?: A short story.

Hey readers!  I hope you are having a better weekend than myself…I haven’t been very well, and neither has my little one, so it has sucked a bit to be honest.  Tonights short story reflects my current mood…you know when you are having one of those days, where everything seems to go wrong?  Well the main character certainly does.  For this latest edition of my collaborative series, ‘Inspired’, I got to work with the lovely Irem Sysmanturk.  Irem is an artist and photographer, currently studying art at university in Vancouver.  If you love her work as much as I do, you can check out more on her Instagram.  Happy reading!!

Why me?

Have you ever just had one of those days? One where a seemingly endless parade of disappointments and pieces of bad news fly at you from all directions, when every corner turned presents another reason to scream at the heavens in vein, ‘Why me?’ Well, today has been one of those days.

It started as soon as I awoke. My alarm didn’t go off, my phone having decided to simply give up the ghost and transform into a useless lump of plastic, a paperweight with no paper to weigh down, a piece of garbage. Finding myself frantically changing, my hair and makeup done in such a slap dash manner, I resembled a Picasso painting by the end, I somehow managed to end up wearing two completely different black boots. Worse still, it wasn’t even me who noticed this mistake, but my colleague, the perfect and constantly glowing Emily, who pointed it out, giggling. I have never wanted to disappear more than I did in that moment, pretending to laugh it off, all the while wishing with every fibre of my being that I would suddenly and inexplicably develop the ability to become invisible.

Work has been a nightmare, with one complaining customer after another, yelling at me, belittling me, treating me like dirt, and for what? Too much foam, getting almond milk instead of soy? If I didn’t have bills to pay, and require sustenance to survive, I would throw their over priced, over foamed coffees right in their stuck up faces! But I do have bills, and I do need to eat, and so I apologise through gritted teeth and smile and nod and pretend I’m not dying inside.

By closing time, I’m exhausted, a blister forming on my wrong shoed right foot, and what I suspect may be a third degree burn on my left forearm, the product of a wayward cup of green tea. I check my watch as I switch off the lights, and impatiently wait for the worlds slowest shutter to make it’s way down, realising, as it begins to rain, that I have missed the last bus. Why me?

why me? imageOf course, I forgot my umbrella in my rush this morning, so I trudge on, wet hair sticking to my face, right foot limping, left arm throbbing, trying to distract myself from the forty-five minute walk ahead. I’m about ten minutes away and soaked to the bone when I hear it, quiet at first, but more insistent the closer I get, a tiny whimper from a nearby skip. I think about ignoring it, but something in the tone, the panic of it, makes me look inside. There, in a cardboard box now limp and buckled with water, is a small puppy, scrambling with all it’s might to get up the side, unable to find footing on the smooth metal edge of the skip. I look around, futilely for an owner, never really expecting to find one.

As I contemplate what to do (should I call the RSPCA? The Pound?), it tilts it’s head to one side, brown eyes wide, tongue lolling, and wags it’s tail, as if it is making the decision for me. Before I have time to work out logistics, it’s inside my satchel, head poking out, it’s tiny, warm tongue lapping at my burning arm as I hold the bag steady.

Now, sitting in my living room, we are surveying each other, figuring each other out. He’s a he (I checked subtly, I didn’t want to embarrass him, or myself for that matter), and he is no breed I’ve ever seen before. He is covered in wiry, ginger hair, with two white front legs, like he’s wearing furry socks, and he stares at me, unblinking, head occasionally shifting from one side to the other.

I have no idea what to do. I have never owned a dog, and frankly, given my track record with gold fish I never considered getting one. They are harder to look after, and cannot be flushed when one forgets to feed them for a week. But here he is, this tiny, furry thing, suddenly dependant on me.

“Do you want something to eat?”

He stares at me, and I wonder if he speaks english. I mean, it’s rude of me to assume, in today’s multicultural society, isn’t it? So I mime eating, moving my hand to my mouth, biting the invisible food, chewing, swallowing, rubbing my tummy, each movement exaggerated and ridiculous. I even throw in a yummy noise for good measure, like I’m part of some absurd play, yet he continues to stare at me, bewildered. I give up, deciding communication isn’t possible, and search my cupboards for something I think a dog might be interested in. I settle on the packet of pre-cooked chicken I have to make my meagre packed lunches with, which seems to be the right choice, as it’s gone in seconds. After a bowl of water is also accepted gratefully, I begin to think I might be getting the hang of it, when it lifts a little leg and provides it’s own fluid, all over my living room rug. I had no idea something so small could produce so much liquid.

Exasperated, I put my head in my hands and say out loud, “Why me?” I hear a little bark, and peer through my hands. It’s closer now, it’s tail wagging emphatically. I’m confused as to why this exclamation of my general dissatisfaction with life would amuse the animal, so I repeat,

“Why me?’ Again, it barks, this time closing the distance completely, to climb onto my knee and lap at my face with it’s tiny velvety tongue. It’s breathe is warm and comforting on my face, and I can feel it’s tiny heart beating as I rub it’s little belly. I laugh, despite myself, “Why me? Why me?” speaking in that weird baby voice that all adults use with small children for no reason at all. I pick him up and hold him face height, his tiny body warm and soft in my hands, his tail still wagging between my fingers.

“It suits you, wymie, that’s what I’ll call you.”

He approves, his tail wagging faster.

“I guess I have a dog now.”

He nuzzles on to my lap, yawns widely, his tongue curling out, and immediately falls asleep, his head resting on my arm. But I’ve forgotten about the pain now, and the bitchy customers and my still wet hair, because I have a dog now. I have a dog and wymie has a human. I guess it wasn’t such a bad day after all.

 

Halloween is Coming: How to Become Your Favourite Literary Horror Characters.

It’s October guys, and that can only mean one thing…HALLOWEEN!  I adore this time of year.  I love horror movies and dressing up, I love carving pumpkins and scrunching my way through fallen leaves, and I love the change in the weather, as it cools down, the air filling with the sweet smell of peat fires.  What’s not to love?

To celebrate all things Halloween, I will be collaborating with a very talented make up artist and dear friend of mine, Rachel Henry.  Rachel has had a life long obsession with make up, and recently decided to turn that passion into a business.  She completed the foundation makeup course at Ciara Daly’s school, and is currently completing a VTCT level 3 in fashion and photographic make up…in other words, she knows her stuff!  You can check out more of her work on her Instagram.  She plans on doing special effects makeup down the line, so she jumped at the chance to collaborate with me on this project.

Each week in October, we will be bringing you a different makeup look, in the style of your favourite literary horror characters!  And because we love you guys so much, we will include a step by step guide, so you can recreate the looks at home!  So dig those costumes out of storage, and get ready to scare your friends!

IT

it makeup 6There are so many great Horror books, and scary literary characters to choose from, it’s hard to choose which ones to do!  But our first choice was easy.  Stephen King is a staple of literary Horror.  His books, and the subsequent movie adaptations, are a must at Halloween and are enjoyed by people of all ages and all backgrounds.  The most recent adaptation to screen was of course the smash hit ‘IT’ (which I really enjoyed by the way). The clown is an iconic image, and is one which plays on all of our childhood fears.  It is also a look which can be easily recreated at home, by even the most novice make up artist!  Rachel made sure to use things readily available and cheap, so anyone can create this look, so why not give it a try?

We wanted to hide my own eyebrows and also create some big arch style brows for IT, It makeup 4similar to the new movie adaptation.  But how did we do that I hear you ask?  Well, this is going to sound crazy, but we used cotton pads and water soluble PVA glue.  I know what you’re thinking…putting glue on my face?  Are you insane?  But as long as you use the water soluble stuff, you will be fine.  Once it’s dry it peels right off, and it didn’t hurt in any way or remove any hairs, it just came off.  Remember when you were a little kid, and you were given a pot of glue to craft with, but instead you painted it all over your hand and peeled it off again…it’s the same thing!  We cut a round cotton pad in half, the kind you take your makeup off with, and used the glue to attach it over my brows.  Once it was wet with the glue, Rachel was able to mould it into the shape we wanted.  For something so simple and cheap, we think it looks great!

 

It makeup 5Next, using the ordinary white face paints you can buy in stores, paint your face entirely.  We needed two layers of the paint to get it as white as we wanted.  Just be careful when painting around your eyes.

 

 

Once the white paint was dry, Rachel used ordinary black eyeshadow and eyeliner to paint around my eyes, and create that dead eyed stare IT you have seen glaring from the movie posters.  At this point, you resemble a B movie zombie, but trust us!

Rachel also used black eyeliner pencil to draw some ‘cracks’ along my forehead, which she then blended slightly, before using a brush to put a light dust of the same black eyeshadow on certain points on my face…think where you would normally contour, like under the cheekbones and at either side of your nose.  Using the same eyeliner pencil, she drew on my new eyebrows, first tracing it lightly to get the shape she wanted, before thickening it up and blending it slightly to soften the edges.

Finally, it was time for the best part, and IT’s signature…the red paint.

Rachel just usedIt makeup 3 red lipstick and a lip brush to paint my lips and nose.  IT’s lips are quite large, so she over-exagerated the size of mine, painting above and below my natural lip line.  She used a red lip liner pencil to trace out the red lines from my lips, and ‘through’ my eyes, before filling them in with the same lipstick.  Once you reach this stage, you can go ahead and keep adding any little touches you like.  Rachel, for example, used a black eyeliner to outline my lips lightly, to really emphasise their shape, and also lightly dusted the cotton pads with black powder so it got into the cracks and really emphasised those brows.

Finally, I didn’t want to purchase an expensive costume and wig.  The whole point of this was to make it cheap and easy to create, so I bought a cheap red wig from a local store.  Believe it or not, the wig was a long straight one with a fringe…not very clown like, but Rachel back brushed it and pinned it into the shape you see using bobby pins.  The only clown wigs I could find cheap, were those comedy, curly style ones, and let’s face it, those are not even slightly scary and would definitely have ruined the image.  I bought some red ribbon from a haberdashery and we just tied it around my neck and then made bow after bow after bow, to create this ‘ruff’ look.  We pinned the edges up using more bobby pins.

And voila!  I think the finished look is really effective and instantly recognisable…perfect for any Halloween party, or if you just feel like terrifying your neighbours and friends!

IT makeup

 

it makeup 7

I would just like to thank Rachel for collaborating with me on this project!  You are super talented!  If you guys feel inspired by this and end up recreating any of our looks, I would love it if you tagged us so we can see the results!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghosts: A short story and the latest in the Inspired collaborative series.

Hello readers!  I hope you have all had a wonderful week.  Sunday nights can suck, because it means one more sleep until another full week of work, but I’m hoping my story will cheer you guys up and ease the pain of another weekend lost.

First I wanted to let you guys know what I have planned for the blog this month.  I adore autumn, and I love Halloween even more, so I have lots of awesome treats for you guys.  First of, if you are an Instgrammer, check out the photo challenge I am co-hosting on my page.  It is Halloween themed!  I will also be hosting a competition on there shortly, so keep an eye out!  Finally, I will be running a collaborative series with a very talented make up artist friend of mine, Rachel Henry.  Every week in October, we will be bringing you a blog tutorial on how to do the make up of your favourite literary horror characters, so no excuses for a bad costume this Halloween.  Now to the post…

For the latest collaborative piece, I have had the privilege of collaborating with the incredibly talented artist Lisa Reschefski.  Lisa is a visual journalist, artist and freelance illustrator who creates the most breathtaking images.  If you love the image as much as I do, you can check out more of her work on her Instagram.  Happy reading!

Ghosts

Ghosts are very real. They may not be literal phantasms, transparent spirits or ectoplasmic creatures who wail and float through walls, but they are, nonetheless, real. They are our past. They are our regrets and missed opportunities hanging heavy in the air. They are lost loves and forgotten friends. They are everything that we were and everything that we wish we could be. These are the ghosts which haunt our lives, and they can strike fear more easily than any spectre or ghoul.

Elise had such ghosts. They were always there, the apparitions of her past haunting her present. How could someone so young, be burdened with such regret? At just twenty years old, she should have been enjoying her life, but instead, she found herself looking past her family and friends, seeking a face in the crowd which she knew would never appear, a face long since gone from this world, the face of her beloved Richard.

ghosts imageThey had been childhood sweethearts. At just eight years old, he had told her, quite matter of fact, that she would be his, and from that day on, they had been inseparable. His hand had been the first hand she had held, the first lips she had kissed, the first and only man she had ever loved. They had made so many plans. They would travel, and see and do as many things as they could, and then they would marry and have a dozen children in a house built by his own hand. It was naive she supposed now, to plan a future which may never happen, to believe so strongly that love was stronger than any other power on earth. But love is not stronger than war.

There had already been a war, when she was a child. It had been called the war to end all wars, yet here they were, everyone she knew and loved, huddled around the wireless listening to the announcement. Hitler had invaded Poland. We were at war once again. Richard was of age, but he hadn’t waited for conscription. He said it was ‘his duty.’ Duty? What about her? Where was his obligation to her? They had fought for the first time, and amongst the screaming and the yelling and the tears, she had told him she would no longer be his if he left to join the fight. She swore, if he walked out that door, she would never speak to him again.

He had begged and pleaded for her to see reason, to marry him before he left, to believe in what he was doing and have faith he would return. But the idea of losing him blinded her with a terror she had never felt, and so she stood her ground, sure he would bend to her will. He left for training the next day.

She had cried every day for weeks, and every time she thought she would stop, she would receive a letter from him, telling her about his training and his new friends, and the tears would fall once more, spreading ink across the pages. He had asked her to write, but she refused. Her pride was wounded. He had chosen the army over her, he had put a uniform and a far off war ahead of their love, and she was too proud to see it from any other perspective but that of her own broken heart.

By the time she had realised her foolish arrogance, it was too late. One day, instead of a handwritten letter, she received a telegram. In a few typed words, her entire world had fallen apart. She had collapsed, unable to carry the weight of her own remorse, and for days, they could not bring her to eat or to speak. She had just lay there, awake, but asleep at the same time. The local physician was called, and he would check her pupils and pulse and place smelling salts under her nose, or shake her by the shoulders, even slapping her hard on the face. But she could not be stirred from the depths of her sorrow.

Only after her younger sister, through tear filled eyes, had pleaded with her to recover, for her family’s sake, had she come back from the brink. But she did not come back whole. Part of her had died that day, a part of her that would never heal.

Of course, the passage of time has its own healing properties. Over many years, the pain slowly lessened. She married a man. A nice man, with kind eyes and a good heart. A man she loved very much, but in a different way from Richard. It was no less worthy, no less beautiful, just different. They had three children, two girls and a boy, and a house with a white picket fence and hundreds of family photographs. They had a good marriage, and a happy life.

But Richard’s ghost never left her, not completely. She would feel his presence, when she smelled sweet pea, the first flowers he had ever brought her. She could hear his voice singing, low and melodic, when she heard certain songs. Sometimes, she thought she could feel a hand on hers or a kiss, soft as a spring breeze, caressing her cheek, appearing suddenly and disappearing just as fast. Sometimes, she even saw him, in her dreams. He would be wearing his overalls, grease stains from the cars he was helping his father fix, sweat on his brow or he would have his good suit on, the one which was handed down from his father, at least one size too big, which he wore on Sundays and special occasions. He would hold her tightly, the way he once had, and she would breathe him in deeply, savouring the mixture of oil and perspiration. Often, when she awoke, the smell would linger, that unmistakeable scent which once made her dizzy.

She was thankful, for the life she had had, for her children and her husband, all of whom she loved beyond words. She would never change the course of her life, but she couldn’t help but imagine how things may have been if he had outlived the war. She couldn’t help think, ‘what if?’ After a life filled with love and laughter, it was not a regret exactly, but her only unanswered question, her only ghost.

And so, almost fifty years to the day after Richard’s death, as she lay in the hospital bed, life slowly leaving her body, she thought of him. She was surrounded by her family, tears filling their eyes, her youngest daughter holding her hand, her husband stoic and strong for his children, wiping his eyes when they weren’t looking. She had said her I love yous, her goodbyes. She felt at peace. She felt ready. And as her pulse slowed and her breathing stopped, her final thought was of his smile, his eyes, and she hoped, that if there was another life beyond this one, if she was lucky enough to exist beyond this moment, that wherever she went, he would be there. Her Richard. Her ghost.

 

 

The Bridge: A short story.

Hey everyone, I hope you had a lovely weekend!  For the latest edition of Inspired, my series of collaborative short stories, I have collaborated with the incredibly talented John Watson.  John is a print maker from Edinburgh, Scotland, who uses linocuts and wood engravings to make his stunning, one of a kind images.  If you love his work as much as me, you can check out more on his website or Instagram.

Because he is from just across the water in Scotland, I was inspired to create a story featuring the Giant’s Causeway.  For those of you unfamiliar with Northern Ireland, The Giant’s Causeway is a world heritage sight in Antrim, made up of a collection of hexagonal rocks created by a volcanic eruption 50 to 60 million years ago.  It’s a beautiful natural wonder, steeped in legend.  According to the legend, the causeway was a road built by a giant called Fionn Mac Cumhaill (pronounced Finn McCool), creating a bridge across the North Channel, between Northern Ireland and Scotland in order to allow him to fight a Scottish giant called Benandonner.  It is said, that when Fionn realised his foe was much larger than him, he hid from him, disguising himself as his own baby.  When Benandonner sees how large Fionn’s baby is, he flees back to Scotland and destroys the Causeway so Fionn can not follow.  I hope you enjoy my spin on such a well loved story…happy reading.

The Bridge

In Northern Ireland there is a legend; the legend of the Giant’s Causeway. It is said, that these geometric rocks used to cross the Sruth na Maoile all the way to Scotland, creating a bridge between the two Gaelic lands. The story goes, that the causeway was built by giants, but really, a volcano created them, millions of years ago, long before either shore was claimed by man. Beth sat on one of the rocks now, tracing the hexagonal edges with her finger. She wished the bridge did exist, and she could simply walk off the land’s edge, away from this place, away from her life. But her body betrayed her dreams, and she remained stuck, stranded, alone.

She was allergic to almost everything. Some things brought her out in rashes or made her sneeze, others hospitalised her, or almost killed her. Ordinary household items were like weapons against her, and she lived in constant fear. Growing up, to prevent her becoming sick, her Mother would clean obsessively, washing every surface with bleach until her hands were raw. She could smell it on her clothes even now. She felt caged, by her body, and by her mind.

It was beginning to rain, tiny droplets forming all over the surface of her coat. She stared out at the water. She wondered if there was another girl, sitting on the same rocks, on the other side. Perhaps she wished to come here, escape Scotland and her own troubles. Maybe they could swap places, this girl and her.

“Beth.”

It was her Mother calling from the pathway. She pretended not to hear, continuing to stare out at the water.

“Beth. Beth are you deaf?”

She sighed, before pushing herself off the cold rock. She stood a moment, a foot in a separate hexagon, and marvelled at how nature could create such perfect shapes, like the honeycomb in a bee hive or the smooth curve of a bird’s egg. She read once, that bees made their perfectly formed honeycombs in the shape of hexagons because that was the most compact and efficient shape, and used the least resources to build. She liked the idea of a bunch of bee scientists and mathematicians getting together and experimenting with different shapes, trying to work out which was best.

“Beth, for God’s sake, hurry up.”

Her Mother sounded shrill now. She began to walk towards her, watching her step as she went. It would be a long car journey home, and she didn’t feel like listening to her Mother ranting. They walked in silence up to the tourist centre, where her Mother would browse the pointless knick knacks in the gift shop and inevitably buy something pointless. She loved her very much, but sometimes she wished she could have a holiday from her and her good intentions. Her Mother was determined to take care of her, and often her version of ‘taking care’ was tantamount to suffocation.

Her mother browsed while she read the exhibits about how the causeway was formed. It seemed bizarre to her, that something could have been there for so long. Humans had such a finite amount of time on earth, and her time could well be shorter than most if she were to come into contact with the wrong thing. These perfectly formed shapes had been here for 60 million years. They had seen animals now long extinct, and would be around to watch humans meet that same fate.

“Shall we?”

Her Mother stood beside her, gift bag in hand.

“Got myself a lovely wooden spoon and tea towel set. It will be a nice reminder of our day.”

She wondered why her Mother wanted to think about rocks while she cooked, but thought better of asking. The car was stuffy, and the air conditioning smelled musty as it blew tepid air into her face. Generic pop music filled the car from the radio, disguising the sound of the engine. After a few miles, she felt her head bobbing, and her eyelids becoming heavy. She could hear her Mother singing along to the music as she drifted away.

the bridge 3There was fog, all around her, so thick she could see nothing beyond her own nose. It felt cold on her skin, her hairs rising up, it almost muffled sound. She felt like she was under water. Her coat and shoes were gone, and she was wearing a simple silver dress, knee length, with straps. Her bare feet rested on the cold hexagonal rock, worn almost smooth by the elements and it’s many visitors. She was afraid to step forward or backwards, unsure where on the causeway she now stood, nor which direction she now faced. One wrong step and she could fall, breaking her bones, opening her skin like a ripe orange, or perhaps she could fall into the cold waters and drown. So, she just stood there, entombed in the mist, praying it would clear.

Time passed, but the fog remained. She yelled out, but no answer came. She began to feel panic rising. It was then she realised she was not alone. A figure stood beside her, taller than any man she had ever seen, in fact he was so tall, she could not see his head through the thick fog. The feet beside her were so big, instead of shoes, they wore rowing boats secured with rope. She was surprised to find that she was not afraid. It sat down with a thump, the very rocks shaking under it’s weight. She could now see his face, staring down on her, smiling. He had pale green eyes, and long hair tied back into a pony tail. He was surprisingly handsome for someone so huge. When picturing giants, she had always imagined them as grotesque, something to fear, inhuman, but he simply looked like an ordinary man who had been enlarged.

“Hello there.”

His voice was booming, but friendly, and had an almost melodic quality to it.

“Hello.”

“What’s your name?”

“Beth, what’s yours?”

“I’m Fionn.”The bridge 1

“Are you the Fionn from the story?”

“That I am. That I am.”

“Is it true then? Did you really dress up as a baby to avoid a fight with another giant?”

“I did, outsmarted him. Sometimes you have to fight, stand your ground, but the rest of the time, you have to use your head; live to fight another day.”

“That’s good advice.”

“Thanks. Why are you here all by yourself?”

“I don’t know, I just sort of found myself here. I had been visiting, and I wanted to stay. Perhaps that’s why I came back.”

“Perhaps. Why would you want to stay here? It’s fearsome cold.”

“I don’t want to go home. I’m sick of it there. I hardly ever get to go out, because there are things which make me sick. I want to leave.”

“That’s not right. You can’t stay hiding all the time.”

“But I might get sick.”

“And you might get struck by lightening. No point dwelling on the what mights and what ifs.”

“But…”

“No buts neither. Like I said, sometimes you have to fight. No point living another day, if you never live at all is there?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“So…live.”

He reached down to her, something contained within his massive fist. She held both her hands together, forming a kind of bowl, fearing it would be something huge, but it was simply a thistle flower, the purple petals providing the only colour in their foggy blanket.

the bridge 2“It’s to remind you. Thistles, are fragile things really, just a plant which can be picked or chopped or eaten, but it protects itself, see? It doesn’t stop growing, afraid of these things, it just grows. It even finds ways to grow in the barren places, where other plants are too weak to survive. And if it does fail, and wither, it just grows somewhere else. You got to be like it.”

“Thank you. It’s lovely.”

“You’re welcome Beth. Better be getting back now, can’t be staying here too long, it’s no place for your kind. Swallows you after a while.”

“I don’t know how.”

“Yes you do, you just wake up.”

Beth awoke, slouched awkwardly in the car seat, her neck stiff from the position she had been in. She looked at the moving landscape around the car, and realised they were almost home, she had slept most of the way.

“Hey there sleepy head. Thought you’d never wake up. Been out cold for well over an hour. Are you feeling ok? Should we ring the GP maybe?”

“I’m fine Mum, just tired.”

“Well, let me know if you start to feel ill won’t you. You know we have to catch these things early.”

“I know Mum.”

They pulled into their driveway, her Mother continuing to tell her all the symptoms she needed to look out for, as if she was unaware of her own body. She went to get her phone from her pocket, and felt something stab her finger. She smiled, as she pulled out a thistle flower, purple and lovely.

“Oh God Beth, why would you pick that? It’s a weed and it’s probably covered in all sorts of germs and pesticides. Give it here, I’ll chuck it out.”

“No.”

She turned away from her, protecting the flower within her cupped hands.

“But Beth, it’s a weed.”

“No it’s not. It’s a fighter, like me.”

 

The Spirit of Music: A piece of Flash Fiction.

Hey guys, I hope you all had a lovely weekend! First, I would like to apologise!  I am quite neglectful of my blog these days.  The simple fact is, between a full time job and a small baby, I struggle to find the time to write and read.  I just want to thank you, for following me, for reading this, or for reading any of my work, because it means the world to me.  I haven’t forgotten about you guys, and I will keep producing pieces and collaborations when I can, so please be patient with me!  I have some amazing collaborations coming soon, with some fantastic artists, so keep an eye out for those, and in the mean time, enjoy this short piece!  Happy reading…

The Spirit of Music

music picShe dances on the breathe of tuneful voices, and moves to the rhythm of tapped feet and clicking fingers. She exists only in song and music, swaying and moving, a living embodiment of the notes. Whether it is an orchestra or a child humming a nursery rhyme, she is there. Whether it is a sweet symphony or the thumping bass of heavy metal, she is there. Whether it is loud and shouted, or quiet and whispered under breathe, she is there. Her hair is as long as she is tall, and it changes in colour to match the tone of the tune; many shade of blue for tear filled songs of loss and fiery reds and oranges for songs of joy. She is bright and loud and soft and sweet all at once and she is everywhere at once and nowhere at the same time. She is the spirit of music.

Once, all things had spirits and souls. There were river spirits, green toads with long legs and even longer tongues, and tree spirits, tiny glints of green light only visible in your peripheral vision. These were the beings of old. But over time, as religions grew and new Gods were declared the only Gods, the old ones were forgotten. Such beings, without worship of some kind, fade into nothing, disappearing into shadows and fogs. But not her. Music is still worshipped by so many. Even the church goers, with their new Gods, used music to celebrate him, and so she remains strong and defiant in the world without belief.

She exists as the raised hands at concerts or the strumming guitar in the corner of a pub. She exists within the bored fingers drumming on table tops and the high pitched voices of driver’s singing along to the radio. She thrives and grows stronger everyday. She is loved as every culture and country and religion in this world love music, and she is never lonely, as long as there is song. She dances still. She is beauty and celebration. She is the spirit of music.