Smorgasbord Invitation to the End of Summer Party Deja Vu -August 25th – 26th – Far From This Thing by Paul Andruss

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At virtually this time of year – 26th – 28th August, I held last year’s end of summer party. It therefore seemed appropriate to share the post that Paul Andruss wrote for the event again. He is busy at the moment but will be with us in spirit tomorrow and Sunday…

This year I am going for broke… four posts to promote 36 bloggers and authors in two days.

Each one is a meal. Brunch, Afternoon Tea and Dinner on Saturday and Sunday Lunch.

There will be lots of food, the guests, links to their blogs and books, and of course music. This is also an opportunity for you to drop in to one or all of the meals, and to leave a comment sharing a little about yourself, a link to your latest post and to your books on Amazon. It is a party and you need to mingle.

To kick things off, here is Paul’s post from last year that I hope those of you new to the blog will enjoy and those that have read before… I hope it puts you in the mood for the next two days.

See you there starting with Brunch Saturday 10.30 GMT.

Over to Paul.

On hearing that I was holding my end of summer party at the weekend here on Smorgasbord, Paul Andruss donned his dancing shoes and headphones and volunteered some suggestions for music that we might play.

Paul once he gets on the dance floor is unstoppable and in this post we learn how to identify if we are an anchorite or life and soul of the party… (clue: one dances on a pillar and the other on a table). Paul also compares my writing to Fay Weldon.. (he does sometimes wander off into the realms of fantasy but I am flattered nevertheless). Anyway we also get to hear and absorb some of the poetry of Keith Reid who wrote all the lyrics for Procol Harum… including the classic Whiter Shade of Pale.

Grab your dancing shoes and get some practice in for tomorrow..

Far from this thing by Paul Andruss

Yes, I am fully aware how churlish it is to scribble something called: Far from this Thing when a dear friend invites you to a party. What can I say? I am a born anchorite. That’s why you always find me in the kitchen at parties.

An anchorite was a type of hermit, who during the early Christian Roman Empire, decamped to live on top of a pillar. Although in my humble opinion spending one’s life on top of a pillar seems very camp indeed.

Why did they do it you may ask?

Good question.

Perhaps they felt it took them far from this thing, you know, the old the sin-bin of the flesh. Or perhaps they were merely fans of David Blaine.

As with all exhibitionists, they gathered quite a crowd, who would invariable shout up their problems. And no doubt the holy man, being of limited experience, having spent his life on top of a pillar, would shout back down the answer to all life’s problems was to get a pillar of your own.

As these solitary saints invariably attracted hordes of followers, who wanted nothing more than to set up communities where they could all be alone together, it is a wonder some ancient builder didn’t have the gumption to offer designer pillars, with added features: like an internal staircase in case of fire, a flushing toilet and perhaps a sun roof.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings; let’s get to the point in hand…

When speaking of Sally’s work I always say how I admire the way she paints an entire scene in a handful of words and conjures any emotion with a well-turned phrase. She often makes me think of Faye Weldon’s The Lives and Loves of a She-Devil (while sincerely hoping Sally is more pleased than offended by the comparison).

The ‘Lives and Loves’ is a huge story told in few words. Each isolated scene fits, jigsaw-like, to propel the narrative forward at breakneck pace. If Faye Weldon had made less brave choices, its genius would have been chipped away. In the same way, Sally’s prose has no waste. Yet clipped of irrelevance, it sacrifices none of its power or art.
Without colour or nuance, words are reduced to bland reportage. While report is essential to narrative, it doesn’t put a shiver down your spine or bring you up short with a sharp intake of breath. Yet if pace struggles under the burden of description; if we painfully explain motivation, and the significance of every look, nod or shrug, readers are bored long before we catch their interest. So where do we draw a line?

Let me introduce Keith Reid, a bona fide poet who wrote lyrics for 1960s psychadelic Brit pop band called Procol Harum. It is claimed Procol Harum is bastard Latin for Far from this thing. In actual fact the real Latin for Far from this Thing is Hoc Procul. The band, to be honest, only ever claimed Procol Harum was the name of a friend’s pedigree Siamese cat.

In contrast to novelists, like Sally and Faye Weldon, as a lyric poet, Keith Reid comes from the opposite direction by stripping out the linear narrative to leave only emotional affect. In this way he can produce a story in half a stanza, making him the daddy of micro-fiction.

At this point I need to confess I am not a whole-hearted fan of micro-fiction. It often seems a bit of a curate’s egg (good in parts) – used to say well, things that should not be said at all.

By learning how the likes of Sally and Faye Weldon strip prose so the story tells itself, rather than is told, we become better writers. Except, of course, the problem is we read them because they are good writers, and so become seduced by the tale and forget the lesson. This is why Keith Reid is useful. His lack of conventional narrative means there is little to get lost in.

Procol Harum’s 2nd single Homburg tells the story of a mature business-woman’s, indiscretion. Her subsequent realisation, in the sober light of day, leaves her dejected young lover unable to see where it all went wrong.

Your multilingual business friend
Has packed her bags and fled
Leaving only ash-filled ashtrays
And the lipsticked unmade bed

Chorus:
Your trouser cuffs are dirty
And your shoes are laced up wrong
You’d better take off your homburg
‘Cause your overcoat is too long

The final verse describes the lover’s Kafkaesque depression of almost apocalyptical proportions. He suffers only as the young suffer. You would never find Keith’s ending in a story, but it perfectly expresses the youngster’s unfathomable rejection…

The town clock in the market square
Stands waiting for the hour
When its hands they both turn backwards
And on meeting will devour
Both themselves and also any fool
Who dares to tell the time
And the sun and moon will shatter
And the signposts cease to sign

With A Salty Dog Keith writes a complete novel, rich in imagery and myth, love and longing, in three short stanzas.

All hands on deck, we’ve run a float,
I heard the Captain cry.
Explore the ship, replace the cook,
Let no one leave alive.
Across the straits, around the horn,
How far can sailors fly?
A twisted path, our tortured course,
And no one left alive.

We sailed for parts unknown to man,
Where ships come home to die.
No lofty peak, nor fortress bold,
Could match our captain’s eye.
Upon the seventh seasick day,
We made our port of call.
A sand so white, and sea so blue,
No mortal place at all.

We fired the guns, and burned the mast,
And rowed from ship to shore.
The captain cried, we sailors wept,
Our tears were tears of joy!
Now many moons and many Junes,
Have passed since we made land.
A Salty Dog, the seaman’s log,
Your witness, my own hand.

Earlier I used the word Kafkaesque. It pertains to Franz Kafka one of the major figures of 20th-century literature, whose work fused the clinically real and absurdly fantastic. His isolated protagonists faced surreal situations and battled the sort of incomprehensible bureaucracy prevalent in the Austro-Hungarian Empire before World War I.

Metamorphosis chronicles a man’s transformation into a giant cockroach; The Trial a nightmarish prosecution by an implacable faceless authority for an unnamed crime, unknown both to the accused and the reader. Today, we have largely forgotten how to write like this. Over to Keith for a reminder of how to layer surrealist, even absurdist, images one on the other to produce, in this case, a spiralling descent into madness.

Shine on Brightly
My Prussian-blue electric clock’s
alarm bell rings, it will not stop
and I can see no end in sight
and search in vain by candlelight
for some long road that goes nowhere
for some signpost that is not there
And even my befuddled brain
is shining brightly, quite insane

The chandelier is in full swing
as gifts for me the three kings bring
of myrrh and frankincense, I’m told,
and fat old Buddhas carved in gold
And though it seems they smile with glee
I know in truth they envy me
and watch as my befuddled brain
shines on brightly quite insane

Above all else confusion reigns
And though I ask no-one explains
My eunuch friend has been and gone
He said that I must soldier on
And though the Ferris wheel spins round
my tongue it seems has run aground
and croaks as my befuddled brain
shines on brightly, quite insane

By now, I suspect you feel Keith is not the only one suffering from a befuddled brain.

Bet you regret ever wandering in to the kitchen to say hi!

Go on guys, you’ve suffered enough. Get back to the party…

(Phew!)

But before you go…

(Dang it!)

Here is one that speaks to all writers; mainly because if it wasn’t written, we would probably want to write ourselves.

Pilgrim’s Progress
I sat me down to write a simple story
Which maybe in the end became a song
In trying to find the words which might begin it
I found these were the thoughts I brought along

At first I took my weight to be an anchor
And gathered up my fears to guide me round
But then I clearly saw my own delusion
And found my struggles further bogged me down

In starting out I thought to go exploring
And set my foot upon the nearest road
In vain I looked to find the promised turning
But only saw how far I was from home

In searching I forsook the paths of learning
And sought instead to find some pirate’s gold
In fighting I did hurt those dearest to me
And still no hidden truths could I unfold

I sat me down to write a simple story
Which maybe in the end became a song
The words have all been writ by one before me
We’re taking turns in trying to pass them on
Oh, we’re taking turns in trying to pass them on

Lyrics: Keith Reid :

©Paul Andruss 2017

Buy Procol Harum music: https://www.amazon.com/Procol-Harum/e/B000APTG8C

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul Andruss is the author of 2 contrasting fantasy novels

Thomas the Rhymer

Thomas the Rhymer – a magical fantasy for ages 11 to adult about a boy attempting to save fairy Thomas the Rhymer, while trying to rescue his brother from a selfish fairy queen.

Finn Mac Cool

Finn Mac Cool – rude, crude and funny, explicitly sexual and disturbingly violent, Finn Mac Cool is strictly for adults only.

Connect to Paul on social media.

Blog: http://www.paul-andruss.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks
Google+  https://plus.google.com/s/+jackhughesbooks

You can find all of Paul’s posts in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/writer-in-residence-writer-paul-andruss/

Thank you for dropping by today and please feel free to share the post on your own blog and networks. Thanks Sally

I hope that whatever your plans this weekend you will be able to spare a few minutes to drop in and sign the guest book in the comments.

 

Posts from Your Archives – The Power of Singing. It’s Far More Than Music by Jennie Fitzkee

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I recently invited you to share some of your posts from your archives. It is a way of giving your earlier or favourite posts a chance to be read by a different audience. Mine.  Details of how you can participate is at the end of the post.

Jennie Fitzkee has been a pre-school teacher for over thirty years, I have reblogged several of her posts because they demonstrate how a dedicated and passionate teacher can ignite imagination and a passion for books and music in the very young. Today Jennie tells the story of how singing brought comfort and connection to a child who was distressed and how singing and music can bring all of us, whatever our age, a feeling of belonging to others.

Image courtesy of Pinterest

Yesterday a child in my class had a very difficult drop-off. All the words in the world from Mom, and all her hugs and reassurances just didn’t make a dent. I was equally unsuccessful in helping Mom to say goodbye and leave. Eventually she just had to leave. And, there was her child, crying and not wanting to be consoled at all. We headed outside to the playground, and this child simply sat down on the walkway, three steps beyond the door, full of tears. I sat down right beside her, and then I started to sing. The first song was, “Oh Mr. Sun”. I sang that song so many times, yet each time I would change phrases like, “please shine down on me” to substitute the name of that child. Then, I changed phrases to name other children, the ones that she could see close by. At this point she was not crying, but certainly was not ready to play.

So, I sang again. Actually, it was non-stop singing, making up words to any tune that came into my head. I just kept singing about the children, the playground, the birds; anything that popped into my head. When I did this, I made sure the words were rhyming words. If I started a phrase, I often stopped at the rhyming word. Eventually, she chimed in to fill in that word. Then we moved to the big swing. I made the swinging match the beats of the music. This is where things changed. The swing added natural rhythm to the song. That rhythm is the core of music; it’s what brings all feelings to the surface. It is soothing, whether it makes you cry or feel good. It is the heart of passion in music. We sang, swinging in the swing, over and over again.

I kept on singing, and she sang along. She laughed when I grasped for rhyming words, or when I made up a tune that was fast or slow, high or low. Now she was part of this. Together, we sang our hearts out. Singing works! In the simplest of ways, it makes you feel good, and it is pleasurable. In a deeper way, it is very connective, bonding you to a person, a time or a place. Music does this too, but singing brings music full circle. Pretty powerful stuff.

I frequently do my singing in the children’s bathroom at school. I’ll sit on the bench while they do their business and wash their hands, and just make up something; often about our current chapter reading book, or about a math game. It’s easy and fun to sing words, any words at all. We’ll sing adding numbers, sing about the characters in books, sing about each other. A song seems to ‘cement’ words and concepts, make them more powerful. It reinforces what we have learned in a fun way. A song can be a mini lesson, much more than rhyming and syllables.

Most importantly, singing is the heart and soul of connecting with each other. There were no words to help this child when she came to school. Even a hug was rebuffed. Yet, singing brought her comfort, and that comfort allowed her to participate in so many things. I didn’t need my autoharp; the singing alone did the job. It was a wonderful morning.

©JennieFitzkee 2014

About Jennie Fitzkee

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That’s what I write about.

I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.

Connect to Jennie

Blog: https://jenniefitzkee.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennie.fitzkee

My thanks to Jennie for sharing this lovely post with us today and look out for more next Sunday. In the meantime I hope you will head over to her blog and catch up on her current posts.

If you would like to give some of your posts from the past a little TLC then dust them off and send four links to me at sally.cronin@moyhill.com. If this is your first time on Smorgasbord then please include your links to social media. If you like the experience then we can always look at sharing more.

This is for posts of general interest rather then book promotion, although your work will feature. If you would like to promote your work here then please contact me at the email address above.

Look forward to hearing from you. Thanks Sally.

Something to Think About – Canadian Thanksgiving Day – And a chance to celebrate four years of blogging.

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This post was originally posted in 2015 but with everything that has happened in the last few months on the world stage it seems appropriate on the day that Canada celebrates Thanksgiving to remind ourselves of how much we have in our lives to be thankful for.

It is also four years since I posted my first blog and so a chance to thank some of those who have supported me all the way and to new friends who have brightened my life.

The original concept of Thanksgiving was one of giving thanks for a new life, new home and new friends and that tradition is celebrated around the world in one form or another by different cultures on various days throughout the year.

Today the world is so much smaller as the Internet has enabled us to find friendship, love and common ground in virtually every country that has electricity. But however global our outlook, it is always great to reflect on the people in our lives and those basic needs for our well-being such as a roof over our heads and food on our table.

There are so many who still do not have these simple but essential requirements and that makes me very thankful indeed for the fact that I do.

More than anything else it is the people in my life that have brought the greatest happiness. Some only fleetingly and others who have gone too soon. Some I have been able to physically hug or hold hands with, and others I can only do so virtually. So today I thought I would share some of those who I am thankful for.  Whatever our circumstances it is love and friendship that sustains us through good times and the worst.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you celebrating today and here are some of the things that I am very grateful for and those who will be by my side or in my thoughts.

 

Our families

sally wedding day 1980

sally wedding day 1980

Love

sally wedding day 1980

sally wedding day 1980

Old friends

sally wedding day 1980New Friends

new friends 2

A New Home

Plenty of rain for my flowers!

And last but not least a small selection of the global friends who have supported me and this blog over the last two years and certainly does not include everyone. Thank you so much and if your name is not here it is more about time and space than lack of thought!

Have a wonderful day and I hope that this will give you a nudge to whisper a thank you for everything that you have in your life…

 

Happy Thanksgiving and hugs to everyone.  ♥♥♥ Sally

Smorgasbord Guest Post – One Foot in front of the other Walking by Julie Lawford.

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Time for another of Julie Lawford’s inspiring posts on lifestyle and weightloss and this week a look at walking. Something most of us do automatically from about the age of 18 months to two years and continue to do so until we die. There are times when we push ourselves physically to lose weight and that is incredibly hard to sustain day after day.. But walking briskly every day is less of a punishment and more a pleasure… as you will discover from Julie today.

With the proliferation of boot camps, gyms and celebrity fitness DVDs, one might easily imagine that exercise is hard work. But I’m getting healthier and steadily losing weight, on a very moderate exercise regime. I would hardly even call it a regime.

Chugging Along

Until the last decade or so, I’d been moderately but consistently active all my life. As a child, I swam (enthusiastically), played hockey (unenthusiastically), netball (defensively), tennis (ambidextrously) and rounders (exceedingly well, if I say so myself). I also walked everywhere, as young people used to do before parents became unpaid taxi services. In my twenties I bounced round a sports hall to the tune of ‘Cecilia’ (Simon & Garfunkel, great bouncy tune) in what used to be called Popmobility classes (that’s before aerobics was even heard of).

Since then, over the years, I’ve been a member of no less than four gyms, including three stints with a personal trainer – and that’s not including the one I dated; I’ve cycled (including, just once, doing the London to Brighton Bike Ride), played squash on a weekly basis, gone swimming with the same frequency, walked a mile each way to and from the train station every day, and joined my neighbours for energetic Sunday morning walks.


Yikes! A walkie selfie – complete with bug-eye shades

My periods of supervision by gym-based personal trainers and the London to Brighton notwithstanding, my approach to exercise has been consistent; moderate in preference to extreme, and gently glowing, in preference to sweating-like-a-pig. But if I think back, I realise that over the years I’ve always done something, to aid my physical fitness and counterbalance my largely desk-based occupations.

Until, that is, it all stopped.

Grinding to a Halt

In 2001 I fell victim to a damaging personal relationship and in the middle of that chaos, I was made redundant; a double-whammy that spawned a crisis of confidence. Determined (that’s a bit of a theme in my life) not to let circumstances and my tattered self-esteem beat me, I joined Weightwatchers. Through 2002 I managed the biggest weight loss I had ever, to that point, achieved. But for reasons I don’t fully understand even now, I couldn’t sustain it and the weight piled back on with staggering rapidity. That was when I lost the impetus to take proper care of myself – I gave up. Then the menopause showed up, slamming into me around 2007 and putting paid to what was left of my energy, motivation and self-discipline – and all bets were off.

I spent much of the next eight years sitting for endless hours on my ever broadening bottom, at one desk or another, in one car or another, or in front of the TV. The fact is, when it comes to general fitness and wellbeing, the less you exercise, the less you want to exercise. And the more you sit, the more you need to sit.

Worth saying, the one thing I kept up, right through from 2007, was a weekly one-to-one Pilates training session, and the modest amount of Pilates I did at home, from week to week. Pilates, whilst rarely aerobic, continues to make a vital contribution to my physical wellbeing. I got into it because of chronic back pain (brought on by carrying too much weight – duh); I stayed because I loved it. But more about Pilates on another occasion.

Cranking up the Engine

When I began my new healthy lifestyle last September, I sought help from a number of different sources. One of these was a Great White Elephant which had, a few years previously, taken up residence in my spare bedroom.

The Great White Elephant

I had, in a moment of madness several years earlier, purchased a full-size gym-grade treadmill. I had, with a burst of good intention, converted my spare bedroom into a mini exercise studio, with wooden floor, a TV mounted on the wall, and a fan for comfort. I installed a couple of pieces of Pilates equipment and a vibrating plate thing – and I bought the treadmill. My rationale was, the easier I made it for myself to exercise, the more likely I was to do it. And you can’t get much easier than stepping on to a treadmill in your own spare bedroom, can you?

As it turned out, even that wasn’t easy enough. But that was more about attitude of mind than anything else. And back then, I didn’t have the right one.

So last September, as I began to nourish my body with better food, I turned to my ignored and abandoned treadmill. I couldn’t quite face walking outdoors. I felt enormous and lumbering and it took only a few hundred yards before my face turned blotchy red and oozed with perspiration. On the treadmill, I could begin gradually, walking slowly for a few minutes – 5 at first, but I got to 15 without too much trouble, and kept going. I gradually increased the speed and length of time I used this instrument of torture, until I became thoroughly bored with staring at the TV and going nowhere.

My local park – not bad for London suburbs

I was deploying positive affirmations by then, which made me feel more engaged with the idea of getting out into the fresh air, and gradually I migrated my (nearly) daily walks from my spare bedroom to three or four circuits of my neighbourhood, varying distances depending on time and inclination, whether it was light enough to walk through the park, and whether I needed to pass by a shop. A few months in, and I added a longer walk into town, which, when combined with a bit of wandering around the shops, got me to 10,000 steps for the day.

I know that’s not a lot – but that’s my point. [Yes… I got to it at last…]. I’ve been losing weight and getting fitter on a modest 6,000 or so steps a day, with maybe one day a week on 10,000 steps. For a home-based worker, a 6,000 step day is a walk of somewhere between 2-2.5 miles or between 30-45 minutes, plus incidental wandering around at home. It’s really not a lot.

Once I got a taste for being outside (frosty, dark mornings in the winter, crisp springtime sunshine, now warmer lunchtime wanderings), I began to actually enjoy my daily walk. Now sometimes I stroll – stop and smell the roses – and other times I walk as fast as I can, using an App to check my pace. Sometimes I rock it with an exercise playlist, and other times I immerse in an audiobook. I go first thing in the morning, or at lunchtime, or when I’m fed up with staring at my PC. I’m trying not to slip into any kind of routine, because I know how all-or-nothing I can be, and I know that the moment I fail at my routine, it will knock me off course – and I don’t want that to happen. I’m just listening to my body, and making sure I enjoy what I’m doing, and never doing it under sufferance.

Now, with summer beginning to show up (odd days only, so far – this is the UK after all), I’m looking forward to getting the sun on my face and arms, to natural Vitamin D, to watching toddlers in the playground; to the scent of wisteria, honeysuckle and fresh mown grass; to the fact that I won’t be bringing in soggy leaves on my shoes, a curse to my cream carpets, for the next few months.

I have friends, slimmer and fitter than I, who regularly walk 5 or 10 miles a day – for fun. Imagine! I’m comfortably able to walk 3 or 4 miles with no undesirable outcomes, and I could certainly do quite a bit more now, though I haven’t yet had the occasion. Later in the year I’m going on a healthy retreat which will involve much longer walks. Meantime, I’m being urged to do the ‘Couch to 5K’ App, and learn to run.

Maybe I’ll get there, I don’t know at the moment if that’s something I’m prepared to put my 56-year-old body through. But in the meantime, I believe the most important thing is not running, nor jogging, nor even how far you walk, but that you walk – every day, or as near as possible. Because once you walk – once you enjoy the experience of putting one foot in front of the other outdoors, you can always walk more, or faster if you feel so moved, and then there’s no end to how far you can go.

©Julie Lawford – first posted 29th May 2016.

About Julie Lawford

Always engaged with the written word, Julie Lawford came to fiction late in the day. Following a career in technology marketing she has been freelance since 2002 and has written copy for just about every kind of business collateral you can imagine. By 2010, she was on the hunt for a new writing challenge and Singled Out – her debut psychological suspense novel – is the result.

Julie is based in London in the UK. Whilst penning her second novel, she still writes – and blogs – for marketing clients.

Singled Out by Julie Lawford

‘There’s something delicious about not being known, don’t you think?’

Brenda Bouverie has come on a singles holiday to Turkey to escape. Intent on indulgence, she’s looking for sun, sea and … distraction from a past she would give anything to change.

But on this singles holiday no one is quite who they seem. First impressions are unreliable and when the sun goes down, danger lies in wait. As someone targets the unwary group of strangers, one guest is alone in sensing the threat.

But who would get involved, when getting involved only ever leads to trouble?

Singled Out subverts the sunshine holiday romance, taking readers to a darker place where horrific exploits come to light, past mistakes must be accounted for and there are few happily-ever-afters.

A simmering psychological suspense laced with moral ambiguities, for fans of Louise Doughty, Sabine Durrant, Gillian Flynn, Elizabeth Haynes, S.J. Watson and Lucie Whitehouse.

The latest review for Singled Out.

Author Julie Lawford and I got chatting originally on twitter where I was envious of her new bookshelves! She had tweeted a photo. On discovering that she had published her debut novel earlier this year, and because I am always nosey where books are concerned, I took a look at its reviews and decided that Singled Out might well be a read for me. I was right – it’s a really good book!

Set on a singles holiday in Turkey, Singled Out is much more than a light beach read. In the very first chapter we meet an anonymous man who is preying on women. We soon learn that he is part of the holiday group, but not which male character he is or which of the female characters are at risk. Lawford deftly presents her story from two perspectives – a straightforward third-person recounting of the tale is interspersed with chapters from the point of view of The Man – and this creates a chillingly creepy atmosphere. I enjoyed trying to pick up clues and then discovering they could be applicable to multiple men. Great writing!

My favourite character is our heroine Brenda with whom I found it easy to empathise. She has a degree of the obligatory tortured soul persona, but is also warm and caring. She loves her food and the frequent descriptions of Turkish cuisine had my mouth watering and almost a plane ticket booked! It is refreshing to read about a woman who is not a stick insect and also not desperately trying to become one, and I liked that she is portrayed as strong, independent and desirable. Jack’s existence is nicely veiled and explored in an intriguing sub-plot.

Lawford’s presentation of people and places makes it easy to envisage what is going on and I know people just like Adele and Veronica. Singled Out is a good crime mystery read that is more about the participants than just the chase. The writing and plot have an interesting splash of originality and this book is definitely a cut above the identikit mainstream norm.

Read all the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Singled-Out-Julie-Lawford-ebook/dp/B00RO1GH28/

Connect to Julie Lawford at her website and on social media.

Website: https://julielawford.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulieLawford
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julie.lawford.1
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/julielawford/

You can find the previous guest posts in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/guest-writer-julie-lawford-health-and-weightloss/

Thanks for dropping in today and I would love it if you would share Julie’s post – Thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Poetry – Requiem for a Grandfather by Sally Cronin

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I wrote verses from a very early age and filled books with them. Then I moved onto short stories; only rarely written anything but the occasional haiku. However, I am revisiting my scribbles and reworking some that go back nearly 50 years.

This one is a little more recent and is the poem that I wrote following my first visit to my grandfather’s grave in Northern France in 1998.

My mother was thirteen months old when her father was killed on November 2nd 1918. He was 31 years old and had been home for her birth following his third wound of the war since joining up in 1914. He had received this latest one when rescuing one of his officers from the front line. He received the Military Medal for his bravery.

He returned to the front when Mollie was six months old.  Her mother told her stories about him and that is the only thing that she could pass on as the few photographs she had were lost. The location of his grave in a small village of Poix du Nord in Northern France was only discovered by my sister Diana in the early 1990s and she and her husband took my mother shortly afterwards.

We visited again with my mother in 1998 when we were living about 70 kilometres away in Brussels. Standing there 80 years after his death it felt very emotional to imagine that this young man, Herbert James Francis Walsh, had died  so young but had still managed to  pass on his genes to those of us standing by his graveside, and since then to two more generations.

REQUIEM FOR A GRANDFATHER By Sally Cronin

I know you through my mother’s words
Even though she was so small when you left.
Her mother told her of your life
And how your sacrifice left her bereft.

Born back in Victoria’s reign
An Irishman, black haired, tall smiling bright
You courted a builder’s daughter
It was love for both of you at first sight.

Came war and you were first in line
To stand and fight for your adopted land.
How proud you looked so tall and strong
As you marched to the docks, kit bag in hand.

A soldier and a hero too
You never once turned your back on duty.
But returned time and time again
Horror muted by a new born beauty.

When the remaining few came home
To parades, loved ones and welcoming arms.
You stayed behind to guard your men
As they lay amid the burnt out French farms.

Today you lie in foreign soil
Tended by strangers who honour your name.
But you also live here in hearts
And a young child’s face whose smile is the same.

Your brief life carries on in us
And on and on through generations strong.
So even far in the future
A child with your blue eyes will read this song.

©sallycronin1997

I hope to post a poem a week but you are very welcome to send either a link to your own poetry or share one here with the story that inspired it.. my email is sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Smorgasbord Short Stories – The Flying Officer by Sally Cronin

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The first time Patrick Walsh saw her, was as he wended his way slowly down the hill between the slow moving trucks on his motorbike. The road was lined with women and old men who were handing out hastily cut sandwiches and mugs of tea to the men in the trucks, whose outstretched hands gratefully received these simple acts of kindness. It was clear from the their faces that they found the peaceful summer skies overhead, and clamour of women’s voices, a much needed reminder of home and safety.

He knew where they had come from, as for the last six days he had been flying over them as they had scrambled into small boats to be ferried out to the larger naval vessels waiting to take them to safety. He and his squadron were a part of the massive air defence operaton. Thousands of soldiers were pouring off the beaches having gathered over the last few days from the surrounding countryside; exposed and being attacked by superior German forces. On the last run today his spitfire had received a direct hit to the cockpit from a persistent Messerschmitt Me 109; luckily missing his head by inches apart from a cut over his eye, earning him a few hours respite. His plane would be ready to fly first thing in the morning. The ground crews at all fighter squadrons were working around the clock to get pilots back in the air until the evacuation from the French coast was complete.

As he carefully maneuvered between the trucks he responded to the shouts from the men above him with a small wave. He knew that their good natured jibes were aimed at his uniform and the wings that it displayed, and that their friendly ribbing was their way of showing gratitude. He decided that it would be easier to wait until the convoy had passed to continue into the village square. He dismounted, standing by the hedge to watch the villagers as they persisted in their need to comfort these dispirited men with tea and offerings of food.

She stood out from the crowd of women. Tall with long red hair tied back with an emerald green ribbon, she was dressed in overalls and wore heavy boots. She had a natural elegance as she darted between an older woman, holding a tea tray piled with jam sandwiches, and the trucks. Despite the men’s exhaustion, eager hands grasped the food, winking and flirting with the prettiest thing they had seen for a long while.

Patrick leaned back against the saddle of his bike and let himself enjoy this brief moment of humanity that was so rare today. He had been flying since the first weeks of the war and his squadron had suffered huge losses; particularly in the last few weeks as they had provided air cover for the retreating British forces. They had been warned that far worse was to come as the enemy amassed both fighters and bombers for an all-out offensive on the country. Having already lost many friends, Patrick knew that it was only a matter of time before he became a statistic.

Some of his fellow pilots and aircrew decided that they would live as hard as they fought. There were plenty of pretty girls around the station that were delighted to dance the night away and bring some laughter and sometimes love into the young men’s lives. He had seen the results of these whirlwind romances at the Saturday night dance in the village hall. As the airmen arrived in an ever changing group of young men, expectant faces would be watching the door and it was not unusual to see a girl being led away in tears by her friends.

Patrick loved to dance but gently refused the invitations to take to the floor and over the last few months he had become regarded as something of a misery. His friends gave up on their attempts to persuade him that he should live for the moment, and with a wry smile he listened to the chat up lines that were guaranteed to pull the heartstrings of a pretty girl.

But now as he watched the red head flying back and forth and smiling up at the men in the trucks, he felt an overwhelming urge to hold her in his arms and waltz around a dance floor. He shook his head and reminded himself that it would only lead to heartbreak for her, and he couldn’t bear the thought of those beautiful green eyes filling with tears.

An hour later the last truck in the convoy disappeared through the village square and out of sight. There would be more coming through from the coast, and Patrick watched as the crowd of villagers gathered up their cups and trays and disappeared back into their homes. They would prepare more from their meagre rations for the next wave of returning soldiers and be waiting for them by the roadside. He remained by the hedge until the red headed girl had linked arms with her mother and entered her house before riding down to the square.

‘Patrick, are you awake my friend?’ The voice of his Polish friend Jakub intruded into his daydream about dancing with his stunning red head.

‘Just about, do you want to go to the Black Swan for a beer? He sat up and rested his head in his hands and tried to bring his mind back to reality.

He looked around the Nissen hut that was their home, taking in the four empty cots that waited for the new arrivals. They would be mostly teenagers with only a few hours flying solo, and none of them in combat. He was only twenty-four, but he felt like an old man compared to the fresh faced and eager boys that would come through that door tomorrow.

It was now August and the skies were filled with formations of enemy bombers most nights. His plane was grounded again having the undercarriage repaired after a problem on his last landing. His mechanic said he had the ‘luck of the Irish’. Patrick was well aware that he was now one of only a handful of pilots remaining from the original group a year ago; he knew that his luck was bound to run out sooner or later. There was just one thing that he needed tonight, and that was the sight of Red, and she would be helping out her dad behind the bar at the Black Swan.

Two hours later he and Jakub sat quietly at a corner table with their glasses of beer. One beer was the limit as both of them would be back in the skies tomorrow; a cockpit was no place for lack of concentration. Jakub was married and expecting his first child and was happy to sit quietly in the warm and welcoming atmosphere thinking about his next leave in a week’s time. Patrick however spent his time watching Red as she served customers and laughed with the regulars. That laugh was in his head and was added to all the other pieces of her that he carried with him as he flew missions. The thought of those green eyes helped dispel the voice of the other constant companion that was by his side each time he buckled himself into the cockpit. Her presence in his heart and mind had helped him control his fear; bringing the realisation that he was in love for the first time in his life.

Over the weeks since that first day on the hill, there had been moments in the pub, when he would catch her eye and they would both smile then look away. By sitting at the bar when he popped in alone, he had gathered more information about her. She wasn’t called Red of course, but Georgina and Georgie to her friends. She didn’t seem to have a boyfriend amongst the regulars who frequented the pub, and one day he overheard that she had been engaged to a soldier who had been killed within weeks of the war starting.

He would watch as she gently refused all attempts by eager young warriors to take her on a date, realising that her heart had already been broken. This reinforced his resolve not to give in to the growing need to tell Georgie of his feelings; convinced it would only bring her further sorrow.

Through the rest of the summer months missions intensified, with both daylight and night bombing raids on the docks and major cities; almost bringing the country to its knees. In the October the tide began to turn, but not without the loss of thousands of fighter pilots and bomber air crews. It was then that Patrick’s luck ran out as he limped home with a badly damaged plane and shrapnel injuries in his chest and arm.

Patrick fought to stay conscious as the plane shuddered and bucked as he flew using his one good hand. Blood from a head wound almost blinded him, but as he saw the runway rushing up to meet him, he managed to bring the nose around and head for the grass to the side. The last thing that he thought about as the world went black was Georgie’s face and laugh.

A month later Patrick got one of the pilots to drop him off at the Black Swan and he walked into the early evening quiet of the bar. He had just received his new orders on his return from the hospital. From Monday he would be moving into an intelligence role where his experience in combat could be put to use. He was making a good recovery, but the extensive injuries to his arm meant the end of his flying career; now he would be ensuring that he kept others safe in the skies. In one way he felt that he was abandoning those that he regarded as family in their close knit squadron, but he also knew that it offered him the opportunity to fulfil a dream that was equally important.

Georgie was polishing glasses and looked up to greet the new customer with her usual smile but instead she took a deep breath. As he moved closer Patrick could see that there were tears in her glorious green eyes. Georgie stepped out from behind the bar and walked towards him, glancing at his arm in its sling and the scar that was etched into his forehead. She stood in front of him and neither spoke for a moment until he reached out his good arm to take her hand.

‘Is there any chance that you might let me take you to the dance tomorrow night?’

She smiled through her tears. ‘How are you going to be able to dance with only one free arm?’

He pulled her into him and looked down at the lips that he had imagined kissing so many times in the last few months.

‘Don’t worry Red… I’ll manage just fine.’

 

©sallycronin 2017

Thank you for dropping in and I hope you enjoyed the story. Thanks Sally

Sally’s Bookstore and Cafe – Book of the Week – Words We Carry by D.G. Kaye

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sally's cafe and bookstore

Welcome to the new series where I will be featuring one of the books on the shelves of the cafe and bookstore. There are now over 100 authors and their books, with more added each week as they are promoted in the regular features. To join the other authors you will need to be promoted in those posts first and here is the link for how you can do this.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/book-promotion-smorgasbord-summer-reading/

Book of the Week  kicks off with  Words We Carry by talented non-fiction author and friend to many of us in this blogging community, D.G. Kaye.. also known as the elegant and charistmatic Debby Gies. It so happens that Words We Carry is on offer all of this week.

Special purchase price for Words We Carrywww.smarturl.it/bookwordswecarry

5148dy-kWHL._UY250_First here is D.G Kaye with a few words about the book and I have also selected one or two reviews that the book has gathered from readers.

Words We Carry focuses around women’s self-esteem issues. My essays focus on my own experiences I suffered from my younger years when I was left to feel inadequate and harbored a deep inferiority complex.

Being a memoir, the stories are told through my own struggles, and I share the methods I used to try and conquer my own feelings of low self-esteem.

The stories progress with the impact that the residual damages have on our feelings of insecurity as we carry through into life and relationships.

Women of all ages can relate to this book. Ridicule, nor abuse of any sort should ever be tolerated. My goal when writing was to share and empower not just women, but men too who have endured similar events in their own lives.

Blurb

“I have been a great critic of myself for most of my life, and I was darned good at it, deflating my own ego without the help of anyone else.”

What do our shopping habits, high-heeled shoes, and big hair have to do with how we perceive ourselves? Do the slights we endured when we were young affect how we choose our relationships now?

D.G. takes us on a journey, unlocking the hurts of the past by identifying situations that hindered her own self-esteem. Her anecdotes and confessions demonstrate how the hurtful events in our lives linger and set the tone for how we value our own self-worth.

Words We Carry is a raw, personal accounting of how the author overcame the demons of low self-esteem with the determination to learn to love herself.

A selection of reviews for the book.

I just now finished “Words We Carry” and wanted to come here and write a review while it was still fresh on my mind. But it is actually the kind of book that you will draw from as needed in different circumstances as the occassion may arise.

It is a journey through this author’s life, describing the effect that words have had on her. And it really makes you think twice. It helps you kind of re-evaluate your own life and agree with a lot of the points she brings up and has you feeling not so alone in your own journey.

D.G. Kaye makes you feel as if you are sitting at her kitchen table, just having a friendly conversation about “life” and experiences we have as women. I wish I’d read “Words We Carry” in my twenties! She makes you think that other people think and feel and have had the same experiences as you. She talks about abuse and red flags, jealousy and lonliness. It is empowering and real and was timely for me, since I just quit a job of ten years and am beginning a new one next week!

A great gift for young girls just moving away or someone like me who has already lived a half a century, and am starting a new job! Thumbs up on this one!I am becoming an avid fan of D.G. Kaye books!Can’t wait for the next one.

I really gained a lot from reading Ms. Kaye’s memoir. I appreciated her struggles with self-esteem and how she came to terms with herself and began living life on her terms. I appreciated her candor about the process and her advice for how other women can do the same. And yes…I’ve been more conscious of wearing my lipstick…thanks D. G. 🙂

 Special purchase price for Words We Carry : www.smarturl.it/bookwordswecarry

Also by D.G. Kaye

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Buy all of D.G. Kaye’s Books : http://www.amazon.com/author/dgkaye7

About D.G. Kaye.

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D.G. Kaye was born and resides in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of Conflicted Hearts – A Daughter’s Quest for Solace From Emotional Guilt, Meno-What? – A Memoir, and Words We Carry. D.G. is a nonfiction/memoir writer. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.

D.G. writes to inspire others. Her writing encompasses stories taken from events she encountered in her own life, and the lessons that were taken from them. Her sunny outlook on life developed from learning to overcomes some of the many obstacles that challenged her. From an emotionally neglected childhood, to growing up with a narcissistic mother, leaving her with a severely deflated self-esteem, D.G. began seeking a path to rise above her issues. When she isn’t writing intimate memoirs, Kaye brings her natural sense of humor into her other works.

D.G. began writing when pen and paper became tools to express her pent-up emotions during a turbulent childhood. Her writing began as notes and cards she wrote for the people she loved and admired when she was afraid to use her voice.

Through the years, Kaye journaled about life, writing about her opinions on people and events and later began writing poetry and health articles for a Canadian magazine as her interest grew in natural healthcare. Kaye became interested in natural healing and remedies after encountering a few serious health issues. Against many odds, D.G. has overcome adversity several times throughout her life.

D.G. began writing books to share her stories and inspiration. Her compassion and life experiences inspire her to write from the heart. She looks for the good and the positive in everything, and believes in paying it forward.

“For every kindness, there should be kindness in return, Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”

D.G.’s Favourite Saying: “Live. Laugh. Love …and don’t forget to breathe!

When D.G. is not writing, she’s reading. Her favourite genres of reading are: biographies, memoirs, writing and natural health. Kaye loves to read about people who overcome adversity, victories and redemption and believes we have to keep learning–there is always room for improvement! She loves to cook, travel, and play poker (when she gets the chance).

Links to connect with Debby.

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/dgkaye
Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/pokercubster
Blog – http://www.dgkayewriter.com
Facebook –   http://www.facebook.com/dgkaye
Google   –   http://www.google.com/+DebbyDGKayeGies
LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/in/dgkaye7

Thanks for joining us today for the first Book of the Week from the Cafe and Bookstore. Please help promote Debby’s book on promotion by sharing. Thanks Sally

 

A Christmas Short Story – to go with the chocolate……

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THREE MINCE PIES  

three mince

The little girl lay in bed asleep, blonde hair spread over her pillow. From her restless movements it was obvious that she was in the grip of a disturbing dream and dark rings beneath her eyes gave her small face a pinched and unhappy look.

Downstairs, Jenny looked at the Christmas decorations and cards around the room. In the corner, the tree lights sparkled and flashed through the tinsel, and presents for Sophie were piled beneath its green spiky branches in a colourful heap. Family and friends had rallied round, determined Sophie would have everything her father would have bought her this Christmas.

Jenny rested her hands on the mantelpiece and stared at the photograph in front of her. It was the last that was taken of them all together. They smiled out of the picture, brown and happy on their holiday in the south of Spain at the end of October. It had been their first family holiday in three years as business had been tough and there had been no extra money for holidays or other luxuries. Ironically, she now had more money than she knew what to do with, but she would give it all back in a heartbeat.

Jack had inherited his father’s building business and although initially work had been plentiful, there was now more and more competition for fewer contracts. He had worked seven days a week and she could see from his face that this was taking its toll. Just after their holiday in Spain, Jack began to experience chest pains that he dismissed as indigestion after eating and drinking too much while they were away. Jenny had grown more and more concerned and she had begged him to go and get checked out. To keep the peace, Jack had begrudgingly taken a couple of hours off one evening and gone to the surgery. The next day he was in hospital undergoing tests and that afternoon he was taken to theatre for an emergency operation.

It had all happened so fast they had barely time to talk about the situation and Jenny had been unable to take Sophie in to to see her father before he was rushed away to theatre. Jenny had called out to him as he was wheeled away but she had no way of knowing if he had heard her soft “I love you.”

She and Sophie had sat in the family room, playing with coloured bricks and a jigsaw to while away the time. There had been other families in the room all looking nervously at the clock until doctors or nurses entered to reassure them that their loved ones were safely recovering from their operations.

They were alone when finally a tall man in a green scrub suit entered the waiting room, loosening the mask from around his face. Jenny took one look at his eyes and knew from their bleak directness that there would be no visit to the recovery room for them.

She allowed the tears to fall – here in private she could grieve – away from the eyes of her small daughter who could not understand why Daddy was not coming home from work every night. She tried to be strong for Sophie’s sake, but she had watched her normally lively child lose weight, become silent and withdrawn. Tomorrow was Christmas Day. How could they face it without him?

She heard a noise from upstairs. Sophie would be having one of her nightmares, crying for her daddy, tossing and turning, and reaching out into the dark. Wiping the tears from her face, Jenny walked upstairs to her daughter’s bedroom. She opened the door quietly and was startled to see Sophie sitting up in bed, clutching her teddy bear and staring across the room.

Jenny looked across to the toy cupboard with a plate of mince pies and a glass of sherry on the top. Suddenly she felt warm air flow over her. She blinked and stared at a glowing image that grew brighter and brighter.   Clamping a hand over her mouth, she darted a glance over at Sophie. Her daughter was smiling and holding out her hand to the light. Jenny’s eyes were drawn back across the room and she gasped as in the glow she saw her husband’s body materialise.

Riveted to the spot she watched Jack reach out a hand, take a mince pie from the plate and raise it to his lips. Taking a bite he grinned across at her. She felt the warmth of his gaze as it rested on her eyes and her mouth and an overwhelming sense of peace passed through her. Jack nodded once and then walked across to his daughter’s bedside where he reached out and touched Sophie’s outstretched hand. A radiant glow spread across her small face and laying back against the pillow her breathing settled into a gentle rhythm, and she was peacefully asleep.

Her father left her bedside and walked to the door. Jenny stood absolutely still as his body passed in front of her. He stopped and she looked into his eyes and felt a gentle touch on her shoulders. He smiled at her and all the love that they had shared was in that wonderful look between them and she knew that he was saying goodbye. He moved out into the hall and turned for one last glance over his shoulder. Gradually the light faded and the figure disappeared, but the warmth inside her remained.

She stood for a few minutes with head bowed, absorbing and taking strength from that feeling before crossing to her daughter’s bedside.   She kissed her forehead gently and moved over to the toy cupboard where she stared at the plate with its two mince pies. Three had been put out for Father Christmas.   This year he really had come to visit.

©Sally Cronin Flights of Fancy 2014

 

Change – Part Three – Emotional fluctuations.

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In the last two posts I looked at the physical and mental changes that take place as part of a natural process and with our voluntary contribution. Today I am looking at some of the factors involved in our changing emotional responses through our lifetime that are hardwired and those that change with the influence of time and our experiences.

First a look at a couple of the hard-wired emotional responses that are activated by the chemical and hormonal balances in our brains and other organs.

Oxytocin is a neuromodulator in the brain that is stored in our master controller the Hypothalamus and then released by the posterior pituitary gland. In essence it is one of the most powerful triggers of emotions in humans and a primary trigger for some of our instinctive behaviour.

Whilst we may aim to be doctors, authors, space explorers or musicians, our bodies from before birth are programmed to do two things as well as possible. Survive as long into our possible lifespan as we can and to reproduce.

To this end at various times in our life cycle the brain will either increase or decrease levels of hormones that regulate both the development of certain cells and organs and also our fertility.

Oxytocin plays a large part in this process and in particular at that moment before birth as a baby prepares to enter the harsh environment that is life. The release of Oxytocin makes for a smoother birth for both mother and baby and it also facilitates that magical and so vital first moments of bonding. This includes encouraging milk production and a baby’s ability to suckle aided by the instinctive need by a new-born to obtain essential immune boosting and detoxing elements of his mother’s milk, Colostrum.

A baby’s entire system has to be kick started gently to avoid undue stress and another very important role of colostrum is to cleanse the new-born’s body of any toxic build-up within the first few hours and days. None of this would be possible if the oxytocin had not been released during the last stages of pregnancy, during delivery and bonding.

So that is the first time that our body will regulate our emotions with the release of a chemical enhancer. Oxytocin however has been shown to have an effect on our emotions as we grow and develop as it is at certain times released into the parts of the brain that are responsible for our emotional, reasoning and social behaviour.

There is some research that indicates that in fact the release of oxytocin could also be responsible for anti-social behaviour in the form of instinctive rejection of outsiders and aggressive behaviour. This may however also be linked to a break in the natural chain of events at childbirth where perhaps a baby is removed before it has a chance to bond with its mother and then is brought up without the accepted form of nurturing.

A baby will act on instinctive behaviour that can seem to be a voluntary emotional response but is actually nature’s way of keeping it safe. For example we know how powerful and piercing a baby’s cry can be and in fact it is at a pitch that makes every woman of child bearing years in the immediate vicinity leap into action! There are many parenting advice columns that are happy to tell you to pick up the baby, ignore it, roll over and let your partner deal with, feed or change its nappy. It can be tough for a new parent to understand the variations of yelling and screaming that a new-born baby can utter but each has its own distinct meaning.

The one clear message is that the baby wants your attention and it wants it now….

Before being able to use language a baby will use verbal and non-verbal communication to make its feelings known. The terrible twos are an example where frustration and emotional intensity can become more voluntary as a baby begins to understand the power of manipulation to achieve an end result.. This is also a great time to bring in gentle but also persuasive strategies to encourage a more social element to a young child such as socialising with other children of a similar age where another form of bonding takes place and a better understanding of how to deal with your peers.

Children begin to identify objects with words and slowly language builds. Emotional responses die down accordingly and as a child goes to school, learns more and works within a group and has other adults to emulate more voluntary emotional behaviour develops.

Social etiquette is one thing but for many children this can also be a time when their natural personality can be repressed. Discipline is needed within a social environment so that we can exist side by side peacefully. Thankfully we have moved past the very strict discipline environment of schools 40 to 50 years ago but there are some who feel we have moved too far the other way.

Then we hit the teenage years when the sex hormones such as progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone begin to be released, maturing our reproductive organs and throwing both brain and body out of whack until our early 20s. To parents who have been through this phase with their offspring I probably do not have to say too much more.

After about 24 years old things settle down again except for women who have babies and are affected by the oxytocin during and after pregnancy. There might also be postpartum depression caused by the reduction in oestrogen and progesterone, physical and emotional changes following the birth and in some cases the stresses resulting from being a parent of a new baby. Women until their 50s are also subject to monthly hormonal changes that can have a very powerful effect on emotions at certain times of the month.

Then comes a gap until we hit our mid-40s when there is again a change in our hormonal make up. Changes begin to take place in our bodies and it can lead to a period of time when emotions fluctuate. The good news is that after about 55 for both men and women the instinctive drive to reproduce subsides as the hormonal balance reaches its new level which will last the rest of our lives.

This is not to say that you cannot fall in love, enjoy a physical relationship or feel all the normal range of emotions. It does mean that there is room for more voluntary participation in the process.

Although our hormone levels decrease in middle age they are still produced in other tissues of the body such as the adrenal glands. This means that new lovers will still be affected by oxytocin and in fact it is still as important in bonding between two adults as it is between a mother and child.

FEAR

Fear is an instinctive emotion that then triggers the body to produce a chemical response. Adrenaline is a hormone that is released by the adrenal gland as a response to the recognition by your mind or your body that something is dangerous, stressful or exciting. It is the body’s natural way of giving you the strength to deal with an extraordinary event. Honed over many thousands of years it is usually referred to as the ‘fight or flight response’

Adrenaline acts fast, it dilates our airways and blood vessels to make sure that oxygen is available to either face the danger head on or run like hell.. In the early stages of our evolution this reaction was probably activated regularly as we tried to survive a hostile environment. However, our modern lifestyle may not have rampaging herds of mammoths or cave lions but we do have the equivalents. I cover this in more detail in a series of blogs on stress.

Stress is not always bad as it makes life interesting but it becomes dangerous when it is so frequent your adrenal glands are pumping out adrenaline constantly. This leads to serious health and mental issues.

This requires the intervention of voluntary emotional responses that calm the body’s instinctive reactions. It might involve taking more exercise, changing diet, lifestyle choices and sometimes jobs and relationships. This takes us onto our voluntary emotional responses.

Voluntary Emotions.

As I mentioned earlier it is clear that we all learn from experience with regard to both the emotion that we offer others and also what we will accept.

We build walls, boundaries, create rules, push away, avoid and develop other strategies that we feel will protect us from past events and hurt. We learn behaviours that we reinforce time after time verbally. For example: ‘Nobody would find me attractive anyway’- ‘I am happy as I am alone’ – ‘I prefer to keep myself to myself’ Etc. I have also seen physical barriers created to prevent emotional involvement. Obesity can be a great way to distance yourself from relationships as can wearing drab clothes and a plain appearance.

It is a complicated business and I have experienced this type of emotional behaviour myself. The one thing that has become clearer as I have got older is that no one person reacts the same way to events or trauma and that at best you can only generalise. Pain in the form of loss of some kind is very hard to overcome and many times we feel that we cannot open ourselves up to that again.

Instinctively we want to belong to a family or group and that is hardwired. It is therefore our own voluntary actions which prevent that from happening.

If you find yourself saying that you are lonely, nobody calls you, you find it hard to make new friends, you are bored, then perhaps it is time to think about how you might be putting up barriers to prevent interactions with others. And even though online relationships may lack that face to face element, they are no less valid and certainly I have known people who have gone on to meet people they have met online and to enjoy great relationships both platonic and romantic. If necessary do find someone qualified to talk to as it may be that discussing with those close to you is uncomfortable and may raise even more issues. Try to find someone who is recommended or referred by your doctor.  Not all counsellors are created equal!

Listening to our instinctive intuition and taking into account common sense regarding our own safety means that we can change our voluntary emotional responses and perhaps get a great deal more out of life.  It is an old adage, but life is really far too short to spend hidden from all that it has to offer.

©SallyGeorginaCronin2014

Photos abclawcentres.com, victorygardeninginitiative.org. and growingbolder.com

Links to the two previous posts on change and the directory for stress.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/change-3-part-series/
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/stress/