Ancient Inspiration

Before I get to the main point of this post, I would like to take a moment to mention Windows 10. My laptop upgraded itself the other day. It’s all very well, I suppose – I have nothing to complain about. Unless, that is, you wish to count that I had only just got my head around Windows 8, and now I’m sure it will take me another century to work this one out too. One notable thing I must mention about Windows 10 is its sound. What pretty, delicate little noises it makes, no? Not like the earlier versions of Windows, like 95 and 98, which went DYOINK!! when you clicked on something sometimes. Remember that? And it usually gave you a heart attack, that strident noise. Goodness.

But this upgrade has caused me some grief in one respect: my phone input. I refuse to believe I am the only person who struggles connecting their mobile to their computer. With Windows 8, I had it sussed, all was well and life was splendid. Windows 10? I can’t. I don’t understand. It’s linked me to OneDrive and I cannot cope with such technological complexities. I am not good with technology, in case you hadn’t already gathered this, and, if I can’t cope with technology now, I dread to think what I’ll be like in ten, twenty, thirty years time. It took me about nine thousand years to get the photos from my phone to this WordPress post, with plentiful clawing at the face and near throwing-phone-and-or-laptop-out-of-window moments. But finally! Success.

Yet, one thing I found incredibly curious was how I rediscovered photos on my laptop which I KNOW I deleted aaaages ago. How on earth did Windows 10 bring them back…? Does Microsoft store all deleted stuff in some far-off, technological cavern to snoop on all your doings, or so they may haunt you with things you once believed to be gone for good? Hmm. Though, disconcerting as this thought may be, I did find it amusing trawling through old, once-deleted photos – namely the five hundred or so accidental photos I accidentally took with my temperamental laptop camera (I may be exaggerating just a smidge). Seriously though, how do you accidentally take so many photos? The stupid camera app thing on Windows 8 always got in my way, opening up in the middle of my work, and while my head was down or my eyes were elsewhere I heard a sly click; when I looked up, I saw my face looking back at me. Here are two examples:

WIN_20140214_095846 WIN_20140411_203740

I mean, there I was, minding my own business, TRYING to work, and my stupid camera takes a snap. I swear my laptop has a mind of its own. This is also quite a disconcerting thought. Sometimes, when I open up MS Word, the cursor does a mad jig across the page, or, when I’ve opened a large document (such as my manuscript), it scrolls endlessly down through the pages. Maybe it’s possessed. This is the only logical explanation, obviously. Although, I am pleased to say that accidental photos are a thing of the past, and it has been a long while since MS Word has had a funky jig. Mellowed with age, that’s what it is.

***

So, enough of Windows. In this post I thought I would write about writer inspiration (for myself, at any rate).

I am fortunate to live on the edge of Exmoor National Park, a beautiful landscape in the southwest of England. As a nature-lover, I can’t ask for much more. There are many beautiful walks and sights to see on Exmoor, all of which are no farther than a thirty minute drive away from me. The other day I visited a place called Tarr Steps. A slightly deceptive name on the face of it, for there are no steps at Tarr Steps – unless, that is, you associate the ‘steps’ with the physical stepping one does there. Tarr Steps is actually a Grade I listed (a very old protected structure of historical and architectural interest, for those not from England) clapper bridge, which is an ancient form of bridge usually built from stone found in UK moors and uplands across fords and rivers.

IMAG0228_1

There is some mystery surrounding Tarr Steps, since no one is quite sure how old the bridge actually is: it is believed to be a medieval construction, but that can range from anywhere between 500 – 1485 AD. The word clapper derives from the Old English wordcleaca’, which means “stepping-stones”, while the word tarr derives from the Celtic word ‘tochar’, which means “causeway”.

Causeway

noun

A raised road or track across low or wet ground

IMAG0232

The name “Tarr Steps” doesn’t seem so strange for this bridge now, does it? The causeway stepping-stones. But it is no wonder there is so much head-scratching about the age of Tarr Steps, since clapper bridges are constructions first recorded in the Middle Ages, yet its name, tarr, is of Celtic origin. It does annoy me when everyone associates the Celts to purely be the ancient folk of Ireland and Scotland, because, actually, the whole of Britain was once Celtic – the Celts were who dwelt on these lands in BC. There were three main groups of Celts across the northwest of Europe: the Gauls (France, Belgium, western Germany and northern Italy); the Gaels (Ireland and Scotland – Scotland was once called the Picts, I believe, but they merged with the Gaels); and the Britons (ENGLAND and Wales). So. There we go. It is only because invasions pushed the Celts up the country to Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and also down to Cornwall. Due to the hundreds of invasions Britain suffered over the centuries – from the Vikings, Romans, Angles, Saxons and Jutes – this country is a total, total mishmash of ancient cultures and languages, and the invaders ended up merging with the native Celts and their culture, though the Celts were mostly to be found in the corners of the country, which is why the country of England ended up differing and evolving more and more from the Celts they once were. It is, therefore, only fair to say that England has Celtic blood. Always has, always will.

Moving on from that history lesson (sorry about that, I’m a bit of a history geek), I often believe that we folk of Britain have a slight advantage over most other countries of the world when it comes to writing inspiration – certainly fantasy writing, at any rate. Why do I say this? Well, of course, there are fantastic fantasy writers from all across the globe – and certainly from America/Canada, which are very young countries compared to the UK and Europe – but dare I say their fantastical inspiration comes from the parts of history their countries never got the chance to live, to experience? The knights, the castles, the cavalry and the kings; the rituals, the legends, the magic and the myth. Whether we appreciate it or not, we Britons are immersed and surrounded by such rich, deep history, and indeed, it is so second nature for us to see an ancient building, to hear an ancient story, that many of us do not stop to think about it. We absorb this history. It is a part of our blood.

J.R.R. Tolkien changed the face of fantasy forever. Lord of the Rings. He was British.

J.K. Rowling captured the hearts of the world. Harry Potter. She is British.

C.S. Lewis. The Chronicles of Narnia. British.

Lewis Carroll. Alice in Wonderland. British.

J.M. Barrie. Peter Pan. British.

Beatrix Potter. The Tales of Peter Rabbit. British.

Terry Pratchett. Discworld. British.

Roald Dahl. (Too many to list). British.

T.H. White. The Sword in the Stone. British.

Needless to say, the United Kingdom has a pretty hefty list of influential fantasy writers. As children, our historical school trips consist of adventures to castles and ruins, and we are never more than a stone’s throw away from some historical sight or structure. I grew up by castle ruins. I used to go there and hang out with my friends, sat amongst the cathedral ruins in the outer bailey, or walked the dog up there frequently. When I was a kid, I vividly remember going to a castle on a school trip (Warwick, I believe – an AMAZING castle. Go there. Instantly) and we had to dress according to the times at court, so we girls were royal ladies with hennin (those weird hats) or with medieval hairstyles, and the boys were jesters or knights or other royal court people.

Stuff like this

How I wish I had a photo of my old class, but alas. You can imagine how thrilled we were as children to dress up as medieval dames and knights, parading around the castle and its ground to see jousting knight re-enactments and dances and music. What a marvellous country this is.

Needless to say, every time I visit/see an ancient place in this country, my mind swells with imagination, and ideas and thoughts zoom about. It is a joy. There is such wonder in inspiration from history. Of course, some places come to life for you, as demonstrated in the video, and so your mind does not have such an opportunity to thrive; however, even with that you can daydream about a maiden’s story, or a knight’s adventure. Let your imagination flourish!

Tarr Steps was busy with people on the day I visited – families making the most of the elusive sun – but the bridge itself is nothing but that: a bridge. What imagination can come from an ancient stone bridge? So much!

IMAG0223

Ancient places are so special. What stories do these ancient stones have to tell? What sights have they seen throughout the ages, and who have they greeted? I was but one more footprint to add to its immense history, already gone and forgotten. In centuries to come, will another stand upon these stones and wonder who walked there before them? Maybe they will stand in the exact same place I did.

***

Wander through an ancient place and listen to the tales the stone tells you. Your mind will hear! Let the grass or trees or river whisper to your imagination, and you may find the greatest story yet to be told.

May your mind be free and your heart peaceful.

-JKM

Umeraard-ite (Glowing Heart Day)

I am basically writing this post specifically tailored for Prince Stevick the Agwikus, and indeed writing it purely because of him. But writing this will induce many smiles for me, which can only be a good thing, for as of late I have been having quite a rotten time of it, and it is nice to forget your heart’s woes by distracting it with laughter, wouldn’t you agree…?

But before I get to the smiles, let me just briefly overview why things have been so rotten, and why my soul has been so unbelievably miserable recently. As most of you will know, I have been dealing with my mental health situation… It is a dingy, grim little alleyway to get yourself through, let me tell you. Anyway,  2015 has not got off to a good start. I tripped over through the transitional gate and fell flat on my face. But, no matter, I’m picking myself and dusting myself off. It’s fine. My mother became horribly ill and spent a week in hospital, so I had to look after my disabled brother for a time and that just became unbearable because he hits me and screams at me blah blah. And my therapist dropped a bombshell on me the other week which, upon arriving home after the session, made me cry for the rest of the day. There are sticky situations, and then there are deathly consuming viscid situations, and then there’s the situation I’m in… 😦

I swear, all I have been doing this year is crying. Sobbing. You know when you cry so deeply that, when inhaling, you can feel you soul tremble? Yeah. That.

But the misery does not end there. Ilimoskus, anyone? Anyone heard me mention that before? 😉 My laptop got some hideous virus not too long ago, rendering the stupid thing useless and ruining all my writing files. And then, as if all my technology planned to conspire against me, my main writing USB drive became corrupt… And my Book 2 manuscript file became corrupt and I could no longer access it… And my Times of Old manuscript – the one I have spent a lifetime re-editing – was wiped completely, as were my website files, and also another insanely important document for the Ilimoskus story. And because my backups (on my laptop) had too messed up… Well… I’m not even going to attempt to explain how I felt. But I cried. Again. A lot. Of course. However, my eldest brother is a technological miracle worker and saved the day, PRAISE BE. And now I have forked out on an IronKey USB (brother’s recommendation), because that is NOT happening again. Ever. Nope. Not having it.

Anyway… Moving on from depressing things…

SMILE TIME.

😀

***

I happen to share my birthday with a few famous faces, which therefore makes my birth date the best ever. No? Oh. Well, allow me to reveal their faces to you, all the same:

Charles Darwin – a man I hold deep respect for.

Abrahaaaaaaaaaam Lincoln

Gromit the Dog!

As you can see, I share my birthday with some marvellous fellows. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THEM ALL. Also, if you do not know who Gromit is, I feel you have been deprived in life for not knowing the classic that is Wallace and Gromit – product of the wonderful Aardman Animations.

Did anyone notice Gromit’s eye roll upon opening the singing card? That is rather accurate to my response to birthday jubilations and the like. As is this:

I am referring to Squidward, you understand, not Spongebob and Patrick. But oh, the old Spongebob episodes are glorious things. But I am not a birthday celebrator. At all. It’s just not who I am, not what I do.

Anyway.

It’s my birthday. I therefore received some gifts, which is always a very kind gesture from people. But I am here to share some with you (and when I say ‘you’, I really mean Stevick. But you, too 😉 )

I shall save the best ’til last. But let’s start with this:

owlmug

This is an owl mug. I laughed upon opening it. And I shall tell you why I laughed. Stevick and I have been having the most ridiculous (hilarious) conversation about Owl City and Umbrella and Ilimoskus (don’t even ask) recently, and then I am given an owl mug. Which reminded me of Owl City. And thus of our conversation.

And so I move on to my next little gift:

coastag

So, I happened to get two coasters for my birthday this year. This is one of them. A stag. Look at it, bellowing with ferns stuck on its antlers. Hilarious. So in love with stags/deer.

And this is the second coaster I received:

genuinelaw

From my dearest darling Meggie, of course. Who else? Yesterday a large parcel came in the post, from my darling, and when I opened it today I was treated to an array of little gifts in a box. All marvellous, obviously. And on this particular coaster Meggie had stuck a Post-It Note on it, and it read: ‘This is some genuine law advice from me.’ I should probably explain that she is in Law. Love her. I howled (laughed) at it all.

And on the mention of Meggie, this was the card she got me:

seduction

I swear, Meggie and I make it our mission in life to out-do each other with the cards we send. They are always hysterical affairs, inside and out. On the inside of this one she wrote, ‘This card is an image of us trying to seduce men. Accurate, no?’ The love I have for this girl cannot be described.

And finally, I reveal what you’ve all been waiting for. Or at least Stevick, anyway, since the rest of you have no knowledge of this. Drum roll, please.

A SIGNED PHOTO OF NICK HEWER.

NICK

Oh, sorry, I mean Higi Hewer. That man has such illegible handwriting.

I honestly spent forever laughing this morning when opening the envelope that enclosed this little delight. I have laughed so much today. It has been lovely. Though, I won’t lie, there were tears earlier on, but short-lived! How can I possibly be sorrowful when such hilarity surrounds me?

How I must thank Stevick for arranging this, and how we must both thank Countdown for letting it become a reality.

Here is a close up of the man.

closeupNICK

What a smirk.

But that was not the end of my giggles. He had also written on the back!

nicknote

You can’t really see it, but it is written in green ink. Nick knows me so well, clearly, for green is by far my favourite colour. But, as I said: illegible handwriting. If anyone can work out what on earth it’s supposed to say – Happy ___??? – please do let me know. The man can’t even write his name. How does that look remotely like ‘Nick‘? Why are there two dots, as though there are two i‘s? Unless he has written Nicki – which is again hilarious – but then where is the k? Deary me. Still. This is fabulous in every way.

THANK YOU, STEVICK.

x

***

Anyway, I leave behind depressing and amusing notions to now turn to earnest ones. I cannot possibly do a post and not drag the Ilimoskus into somehow, right? Perhaps you are wondering about the title of this post.

‘Umeraard-ite’

‘Glowing Heart Day’

On an Ilimoskus birthday, their heartlight (the little four-pointed star situated on their chests) glows brightly throughout the duration of the day. But let me tell you of the Ilimoskus belief regarding their heartlight…

The Ilimoskus believe that their Creator’s spirit resides in the hearts of all. Broaden that belief out and it becomes them believing that there is a light in everyone’s heart. And this light is there to guide you, help you, throughout life.

‘May the light from your heart always guide you’

And I believe this too, you know. This is the case for humans. It is not just limited to the Ilimoskus. There is a light within us all, and all we need to do is embrace it. And when we do, the world becomes a very bright and beautiful place.

*

Once upon a time, I had a good German friend called Christian with whom I have many joyful memories. I haven’t seen him for many years, and we fell out of touch, but, due to the wonders of social media these days, he is a friend of mine on Facebook. Today he messaged me saying, “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag”. I never knew what “Happy birthday” was in German until now. Can you believe I never asked him? It made me smile.

Though, I did learn this from him in our time:

“Ich liebe dich”

From my glowing heart, I share a loving light, and so I say Ich liebe dich to you all. I love you. For what is life without love? Love to all, and compassion for all.

*

Embrace the light in your heart

and let it be your guide,

and nevermore will you become

lost within the night