Land of Castles & Beaches


I felt a huge sense of privilege setting foot in Northumberland as I became acutely aware of the strategic history of the county.  In particular our visits to Berwick upon Tweed served me well in my quest to understand what makes a nation great.  In 2014 Scotland went through a referendum to decide whether independence from the UK was the way forward.  The result was a no but a marginal one at that.  Standing on the edge of the town surrounded by ancient walls you can feel a sense of passion.  A passion to protect what they know and love.

However, for me the best manifestation of the debate are the two churches (of Scotland & England) standing side by side.  I tried to ignore the fact that the English one was open and the Scottish one was closed but focused on the buildings themselves.  In building churches people are aspirational and celebratory and I have always wished that those feelings could be bottled so that we might take a small sip whenever we need to.  Berwick upon Tweed is a stunning example of human pride and determination but it is also a place of great sadness.  From the walls from which to fire destructive canons to the site of the gallows death is all around you as you walk the cobbled streets in search of what makes the town unique.  There is no doubt that the town is built on its history and its border position that resulted in 13 changes of country status.  It is beyond changing position that we see a glimmer of humanitarian survival that knows no boundaries.


If I totally honest I do not feel a sense of border or country as I see them as largely destructive.  We fiercely protect what we know and ignore what we don’t understand.  We have an acute sense of citizenship and belonging and these feelings drive us to a way of life that has stood the test of time.  Thus this walls in Berwick upon Tweed still have a place in modern life but one can’t help feeling that they stand for what is wrong rather than what is right with the world.

Once I had allowed the sense of struggle to settle I explored the surrounding area with renewed enthusiasm as the expansive beaches, beautiful hills and pretty villages went on and on and on.  Perhaps my favourite day included a very long walk on an even longer beach where it was incredibly easy to get lost in time and space.  While the boys ran up and down sand dunes I strode out and surprised myself in just how far I could walk.  This trip has been defined by walking and it did not fail to deliver.  There was one hillside which was really beyond me as I watched the boys climb it with ease.  I sat on a bench half way up and reflected on what the second bit of the climb to the top meant.  To them it meant a chance to pitch their strength against a particularly steep and long climb.  To me it represented a distance too far and a climb too great.  After 12 years of a particularly challenging illness my mind remains willing but my body screams at me most of the time.  Then I saw it.  I saw a bird take off from the cliff at the top and soar among the pockets of air taking its time to descend the steepness and off into the valley in the distance.  In a second I collected my stick and began the climb.  The boys had rounded the corner and could not see me and, for that, I was grateful.  There was a considerable amount of grunting and some language that is best kept to myself.  Within a couple of steps my shins were raging with pain and my hips felt like they were going to fail me but still I climbed.  As a walk became more of a climb I did wonder about my own sanity while never doubting that I would reach the top.  It was probably the slowest anyone has ever done the climb but I care not.  As I reached the top I turned to see what the bird had seen and smiled inside and out.  The boys appeared and their looks of horror reminded me that I can still be a very foolish person.  It was not wise to attempt it on my own and I took their notes with due attention.  But inside, deep inside my soul. I knew that I had achieved something that I should not have been able to do.  That is my personal and lasting sense of aspiration.

IMG_6185On returning to Berwick upon Tweed I focused more on the modern challenges facing a town badly hit by the recent economic depression.  Empty shops are beginning to be reclaimed and there is a sense of recovery of which they should be most proud.  It is a town on the edge and something tells me it always will be.  But it has a defined spirit and a strong sense of worth that captivated me and will ensure that I visit it again and often.  Our final hours of our week long holiday were spent on the walls again where we have seen returning geese, starling murmurations and a pair of raptors that we are yet to identify.  As the light began to fade we saw a kestrel in perfect hover and I couldn’t help but feel it was watching over the town despite all its historic greatness.  Sometimes it is the simplest things that we remember and the hovering of a bird is what I will take away from Berwick upon Tweed.  I loved every minute of my time in and around the town.  If you have time and space in your life go and visit, but just remember to look skyward.


Learning to stop time – a dialogue

eigg day 3 016The concept of time has long since fascinated me.  I am delighted to be part of a series of blog posts concerned with this very concept and put together by a new friend, Linda, who writes a fascinating blog entitled Litebeing Chronicles.  This post of mine together forms part of her Time machine blog challenge and I was honoured to be have been asked to join a group of thought provoking and stimulating writers.

If I am honest I have always held a deep desire to ‘stretch time’ and I thrive in a busy and productive environment.  Thus if I can stretch time more can be realised.  Do not mistake this for a clambering for artificial success or societal achievement as that is not what I mean.  My ‘ambition’ is much simpler than that and relates to the desire to live life to the full.  So my stretching of time could mean working on a creative project with a known deadline with a team of creative and divergent thinkers or it could equally mean stealing an afternoon to walk and meditate.  The concept of stretching remains the same in both contexts and focuses on a deep desire of life and living.

I think somewhere along my life path I have indeed mastered the skill of stretching time as I am constantly confronted with the same observation from people around me.  Their comments reflect a confusion about how I manage to fit so much into a single day.  I know part of the answer and that is that I have a ridiculously organised brain.  It processing and assimilates information at speed allowing me to structure all that I do with great precision.  Along with that comes a natural stamina that has only ever been challenge when I was diagnosed with a chronic illness over 12 years ago.  I am slower than I was but I still manage to use my brain to stretch time.   The other bit of the answer is less clear to me and so more difficult to explain.

eigg sunset 003

When I was about 10 years old I attended my first dance class with a friend and we arrived bound in nervousness and excitement.  We watched a simple movement pattern by our teacher and then we were to copy.  I had never danced a step before in my young life.  The first attempt to copy was clumsy and I had to concentrate on just remembering the steps so the movement was limited.  After several attempts I had the movement pattern down and as I danced it over and over again time completely stopped.  I realise that this is hard to understand but I can assure you that it is true.  In those few moments as a fledgling dancer  I learned to stop time.

Of course being so young I didn’t know that this was the case.  All I knew was that I loved to dance and it is a love affair that has lasted a lifetime.  I have danced my way through life as others have walked, contemplated or performed.  I am at my most creative when I dance and I find a freedom that does not exist in the spoken word that we so often depend on to communicate.  That all said it took until about 8 years ago until I fully engaged with what was happening when I danced and what the relationship between this and time was and is.

We construct time through a combination of natural and artificial influences.  The changes seasons and the ebbing and flowing of light and darkness help to create a cocoon of the very known within us.  We are not content with that though as we layer it with the concepts of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years.  All of these are artificially constructed yet we hold onto them very tightly.  I hold onto them too when I am working with a project constructed by a deadline which is a date on my artificial calendar.  So I buy into these constructs as well.  However, I don’t buy in all the time and as I age I have created some healthy distance from them.  I only ever achieved this when I danced.  When dancing I lose sense of time except for a tenuous link to musical time which I see as less artificial and more organically created than other constructs of time.  My relationship to time becomes separated as mind and body come together as one and all external beings with the parallel context that I inhabit are lost to me.  As the ‘dance’ finds its natural conclusion I once again become aware of beings and time as our two contexts merge and I once again plug into time and its passing.

eigg sunset 007

I am a much devoted Buddhist and have been for a good number of years now and as a religion it too attempts to penetrate the concept of time using meditation as a way of stopping time as a passing concept and learning to inhabit the concept of time fully rather than just being a passenger travelling with it.   This is where my fusion occurs.  I have come to understand the value of stopping time through both dance and meditation and I feel blessed to have discovered both in my own lifetime.  What binds both of these activities together is their ability to bring mind and body together.  Far too many of us live in our heads and only pay attention to our body when it is stimulated or emits pain.  My chronic illness is pain based and not curable by traditional medications so I have used my ability to stop time as a crucial part of my healing tool box.  When time stops mind and body are as one and a symbiotic communication is established that is capable of restoring if not always healing.  With significant practice of both dance and meditation I have learned how to train that symbiotic communication to exist on its own merit.  It has its own breath pattern, its own senses focused dialect and its own habitation of space.  Thus it can not be measured by artificial constructs such as time.

Some might argue that this new space in existence is just me stretching time again but I would disagree.  Stretching makes me extend time in order to place more within its boundaries.  Stopping time removes those boundaries all together.  The stopping of time is incredibly uplifting both spiritually and laterally as we inhabit a space that recognises no boundaries and accepts no interventions from other beings.  I am not sure it matters how one achieves this new time abandoned space or state as long as it does not harm the mind or body in the process.

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After 12 years of the challenge to find wellness it is now slipping away from me.  My answer to that is being constructed just at this time and will become clear in the very near approaching days.  I am currently creating a new pattern of existence in an attempt to reverse the decline in my health and I can assure you that my relationship with time is at the epicentre.  In the coming days I will be sharing this new construct with you all and looking forward to your comments, feedback and advice as always.  It is a necessary and. I hope, healing intervention that will purchase me with less pain and increased mobility.  Although an enforced intervention due to illness I am, nevertheless excited by the prospect and the new learning it will invariably generate.  The challenge will be recorded both here and on my meditation and intuitive journaling website and I hope to involve others in this experimental journey.  I can confirm that in this instance I am using an artificial time construct as the challenge will last for 365 days, after which I will review.


As always I look forward to new living while being thankful for the moment.  Stop by soon for much more on, what I hope, is an enlightened existence.  We shall see.

scottish island mum

A whisper in the future

eigg sunset 003I can hear a whisper in my own future and if I ignore it it will build and build until it is a scream.  The wonderful thing about a whisper is that you have to become very quiet to hear it and that, I feel, is the point.  I believe that we all have the benefit of whispers into our own future from time to time but we are often too loud to notice.  The loudness comes from the dashing around we do as we run in ever decreasing circles.  The circles decrease as we go through a natural ageing process and it is part of the organic nature of living.  Some days I feel that these decreasing circles are an impenetrable barrier and resistance is futile but other days see the edges bend as far as I can.  That is something to do with inner peace and when this is achieved all is well with the bendy circles.

A whisper in the future is a note that is being shared with you and if you are wise you will listen.  I spent my 20s and early 30s shutting any whispers out believing that the present knew best.  I also stupidly believe that I could control my own future,  I soon learned how foolish I was.  In my late 30s my whisper had become a scream and I blamed my late father.  He once told me that I would follow him in a decision to walk away from a very good career and change the direction of my life.  I told him he was wrong and he just smiled.  He died not long after that and I stopped smiling for a very long time.  In this time I grew quieter so I heard the whisper on a regular basis and in order to start breathing again I turned my back on my career and moved my family to a small Scottish island,  My father would be smiling then and I even allowed myself the faintest of lip curl.

Lately (and probably for too long) I have heard a whisper and because I wasn’t keen on this message I tried to ignore this one too.  Will I never learn?  This relates to a life long obsession with filling every second up and keeping incredibly busy.  This strategy has had its uses in recent years as it has twinned with a bloody mindedness and together they have been very effective weapons in my campaign to ignore my long standing illness.  But the whisper is telling me that it is time for a big change once again.  This time it is rethink how I think and what I do to allow my days to come to me rather than to chase down every minute.  I recently walked a 5k as part of a charity event and I did not know that I could do that and from that point on I have allowed the whisper to gain in strength and it is now positively shrieking at me.

Enough now with the time chasing, enough with the projects, enough with the ideas.  Replace all of that with walking or one day your body won’t be able to do that anymore and it will be your own fault.  Your illness will have won.  Pretty strong for a whisper me thinks.

So I have already begun a massive clear out of my life replacing most projects with walking and some with swimming.  I want to walk and I don’t want to have to depend on anyone else, ever.  So what if it is painful.  Get over yourself and walk Mrs and it is quite as simple as that.  I have a brand new pair of walking boots replacing ones that are just too heavy for my ankle to support and I am walking.  Hills are the worst but I am not avoiding them although it would be a stretch to say I am embracing them.  I have shin splints all the time.  I have a very bad pain in my pelvis and the pressure points on my feet are screaming at me.  It would be around about now when it might seem sensible to question the authenticity of this particular whisper in my future….. That, however, is not an option.  Walking means a quality of life that I am desperately trying to hold onto.  If you have ever seen the film Forest Gump who will know that he didn’t know why he began running he just did.  I have quite decided that I am going to take that attitude although I might draw the line at the excessive facial hair.

If anyone wants to join me I would always welcome the company but I also enjoy walking alone.  ‘At last’ I hear the whisper echo around me.  She is paying attention.  Enjoy Mr Gump below.


scottish island mum