Sunday, 29 December 2013

Ring out the Old, Bring in the New

As we approach the end of another year
And anticipate the new
We think of those we hold dear
Although the hours we have spent with them, seem so few

We should not place so much importance on the time we have spent apart
But the fact that we have a place in each other's heart

So wherever we are when the the midnight bells start to ring
We know whatever words we say, they will mean the same thing,

Happy New Year

Friday, 27 December 2013

Sounds Familiar


    The presents were exchanged,  the turkey was eaten, and the crackers pulled. The table was now deserted of diners, but was strewn with empty, plates, glasses, crumbs and spills.

    The family that had gathered earlier in the day were now playing parlour games in an attempt to keep themselves from falling asleep, after consuming too much food.

    It's a story that resounds all over the world, the day that many of us join together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

    A day to touch the lives of others, in return they touch ours; a day for peace and goodwill to all. I hope you had a great day because I most certainly did.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Hope I'm not on Santa's Naughty List

   It's the time of year that we all want to have a bit of fun. So I decided today, to put together a montage of photographs loosely based on the English Christmas song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. The song first published in the book, Mirth without Mischief, in 1780 describes the gifts given to someone by their true-love.

    The twelve days commence Christmas day and end on the Feast of the Epiphany (January the 6th). 
Partridge looking for his Pear Tree

Lone Turtle Dove

Water Hen. Yes should be a French hen 

Calling bird or blackbird was a little camera shy

 Golden Rings
 Geese swimming rather than laying

 Swans a Swimming!
 A Guy a Milking, rather than a Maid (Equal Opportunities)
Ladies and Men Dancing

 Gnomes a Leaping (No Lords applied for position)
Piper Piping and a Drummer Drumming
     Hope this doesn't mean I'm on Santa's naughty list. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Express Myself


   Before I started clicking the keys on my keyboard yesterday, to write the draft of this blog, I dithered about for ages. My pen hovered constantly over some of my ideas I have jotted down in a notebook, and I doodled alongside my favourites whilst I continued to ponder.

    But that little voice inside just kept on dithering and asking, "Should I write about this? Should I write about that? The same little voice that can take on any character role I have the mind-set to do.

    Suddenly the voice asked, "What if you weren't allowed to choose what you wanted to write about? Whether in blog form, or book. What if you couldn't freely express yourself?

    No matter how many times I tried to come up with an informed answer, I couldn't. Why? Because I can write responsibly about anything I want and any restrictions therefore are fully self imposed.

    However there are many writers in the world who do not have this right and that's why I count myself lucky.




Monday, 16 December 2013

Picture Postcard From.......

Montana Rojo, El Medano, Tenerife

    Before I set off on my recent vacation one of my friends said, "Remember send me a postcard."  She was only joking but whilst I was away I found myself looking for shops that sold picture postcards.

    Because it suddenly struck me that sending picture postcards to friends and relatives from your travels had died along with letter writing. We have substituted this form of communication with Instagram, Flikr, Facebook, Twitter, email and the rest.

Harbour, Las Galletas, Tenerife
    The plus side to this is that our loved ones can instantly share our vacation experience with us.  No waiting for the postman to drop the card through the letter box. That's if it arrived, as many that I sent in the past, never did. There were occasions I felt that some kind of mail monster had eaten all my carefully chosen and sometimes overpriced cards up.

    However, there is a big downside and that's in my opinion that we are slowly strangling the art of the written word.




Thursday, 12 December 2013

Stealing the Limelight

Yellowhammer and Chaffinch being neighbourly
    I love wild life especially birds and I could spend hours watching them in my garden. However at this time of year many of our garden birds in the UK pack there bags and head south for the winter in search for sunnier climes.

Blue-tits enjoying a peanut feast
      Something that you will know I am inclined to do my self  on a  regular basis.


     But there are some of my feathered friends that thankfully stick around and I wanted to share a couple of photographs with you.

Robin makes sure I capture his best camera angle, his buddy the blackbird looking on

    You will see that the little guy with the red breast loves competing for favourite all time Christmas character. He sometimes finds that auditioning can sap his strength, so he makes sure he grabs a bite when he can at his local take-away.

Grabbing a bite between auditions
       I can't resist him stealing the limelight, because he's gorgeous. Although he does find that the costume department fails him constantly.

 Don't you have the shoes in a smaller size ?

Monday, 9 December 2013

Words of Wisdom


    The world is in mourning this week for an inspirational and brave man, Nelson Mandela. He once said, "The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
    As well we know life isn't always plain sailing and for Mr  Mandela it certainly was not. But when he fell he definitely didn't give up.

    This statement is relevant to us all and I for one plan to recall them on the occasions I feel I have failed. Because they are words of encouragement and strength; helping us all follow his lead with grit and determination.

    R.I.P Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 18 July 1918- 5 December 2013.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Normal Service Resumes


Mount Teide  before the storm

    The last two weeks I've been having some chill out time in Tenerife, the Canary Islands, but as from today normal service will resume on this blog. That means if you're a new follower, posts will be updated Mondays and Fridays. If you're a regular reader, thanks for hanging around.

    The weather on my trip was a pretty mixed bag, as was my Internet access. If it hadn't been for obliging friends I wouldn't have been able to publish my last post. Gracia amigos.

Mount Teide after the storm
    The storms I experienced on vacation decided to catch the five hour flight home with me and is battering most of the UK progressively today. With winds recorded in excess of 100 miles an hour in my area and 146 miles an hour in others, things were a little scary around here last night and this morning.

    The rail network in Scotland completed grounded to a halt today, flights have been diverted, roads and bridges such as the Forth Road Bridge have been closed to traffic. Unfortunately lives have also been lost, so I need to count my blessings that I only had a few large puddles inside my home to mop up.  The important thing is that my family and I are unharmed. 

    Catch up with me on Twitter @RowellChristina  and make sure you drop by Monday.





Friday, 29 November 2013

Shopping Around


    With not so many shopping days left until Christmas, it's time to hit the shops.  I do prefer to shop online and do regularly, when buying clothes, or luxury goods for myself.

    The thing is I'm much more decisive when purchasing something for myself than I am for others. I am apt to change my mind, which isn't so handy when you're shopping online for a large family. It can mean days on end, waiting on the delivery courier and endless trips to the Post Office with the returns.

    I try to avoid the weekends when visiting the bigger stores, but that isn't always possible. Therefore I'm just going to have to grin and bear the fact that I will have to endure the crowds at one point. Already I'm anticipating the jostling, noise and tired feet.

    However when the gift package is opened and a smile of appreciation is flashed my way on Christmas Day, the little hassles that have been endured will be forgotten.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Racing Hearts


    A recent study has found that the heart rate of children in the UK is on he rise. Since the 1980's the resting heart rate of  a group of 9-11 years old was found to have risen by up to 2 beats a minute. Meaning that the next generation of children are at greater risk of suffering from diabetes, and heart disease.

    The professionals say that spending too much time watching TV, using PCs, and smartphones, to text and tweet is at the root of the problem.

    Another study done in the US, also found that this technology which fills our homes and lives can  cause our kids stress, fuelled by lack of sleep and online bullying. Not ignoring, the obesity that sneaks in when we sit around for too many hours.

    Therefore it doesn't matter what side of the pond we live on, it's agreed that the technological gadgets that are the must haves for kids, should carry a health warning.

    For one set of parents in Nottinghamshire in England, they decided to do something about their two daughters sedentary lifestyle and banned them from watching TV for 12 months. The girls aged 8 and 10 years old, were given 100 outdoor challenges to replace screen time.

    The pursuits included, climbing, sailing, kayaking, skiing and according to newspaper reports they loved every minute. So much so, that even although some screen time has been reinstated into their lives, they've now set themselves another set of outdoor challenges for the next year to come.

    Tips from the experts for children keeping a healthy heart and body include, limiting screen time, keeping the family active and establish an exercise regime. This family definitely showed us all how to do that.



Thursday, 14 November 2013

Home Alone


    Many of us will have watched at least one of the 20th Century Fox movies,"Home Alone" and chuckled at the antics of the child who has accidentally been left behind when his parents go off on vacation at Christmas. The lone child has to defend his home from burglars in one movie and in another, he has to stop thieves from taking his radio car which if I recall correctly has an important micro-chip inside.

    In reality  there is no comedy element in a youngster coping if left alone for any period of time. We as adults know that it is a frightening experience for a child, because there are times when it is scary for an adult being alone.

    The recent typhoon in the Philippines is one such time that being frightened does not age discriminate. It has left both children and adults not only alone, but homeless, hungry and without anyone they can call family. On a news item I saw one man who had lost his wife, parents and children in the storm. Whilst other items told us about the children who have now been orphaned and have no family that they can be reunited with.

    Humanitarian relief, once it gets through, hopefully will help people rebuild their lives. However, for hundreds of thousands of people, life will never be the same because of the day Haiyan arrived.


 For the next couple of weeks my blog will only be updated on a Friday. Hope you stick around.  


Monday, 11 November 2013

The Eleventh Hour

    On the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month  every year, we observe a two minutes silence to commemorate past, present, British and Commonwealth service  personnel who have fought and died for us in wars and ongoing conflicts throughout the world. The date and time is significant in our history because this day in 1918 was the day that signalled the end of the 1st World War hostilities, the day that is known as Armistice Day. 

    Our shopping malls, homes, offices will grind to a temporary halt when the clock strikes eleven. Two minutes isn't a long time to pause our busy schedules and pay our respects to the individuals who have laid down their lives for us all to live in peace and freedom. It's also a time that silence can speak louder than words.

   The poppy symbolises remembrance for us at this time and yesterday cenotaphs and war memorials throughout the UK had wreaths of the blood red flower placed upon them. The flower inspired Lt. Colonel John McCrae to write "In Flanders Fields" in 1915, when he saw it  growing wildly on the graves of his fellow soldiers who lost their lives in the 1st World War. This symbol will always have deep meaning for us all who want to remember the fallen. May they R.I.P.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Image of Winter

A misty Linlithgow Loch
    I'm never too excited about the onset of winter. Short daylight hours, long dark nights and the biting cold winds instantly come to the forefront of my mind.  However, the sudden changes in the landscape in the northern hemisphere at this time of year, has in the past stimulated the minds of many writers.

Frosty trees

    Robert Burns writes about the leafless bower in his poem titled, A Winter Night. John Keats tells us of how his face feels the winter wind in his poem, The Winter Winds and Robert Louis Stevenson describes the frost on the trees, houses, hills and lakes being like the frosting on a wedding cake in his poem called, Winter-Time.

    When I was out walking the other day I couldn't ignore the beauty that the early stages of winter has already bestowed upon us. The look of the leaves as they turn a russet colour, the mist as it dropped over the loch, the frosted countryside and the sound of the winter geese flying over, quickly outweighed the negatives that were trying to take root. Without a doubt, winter will carry on inspiring writers to write about it, forever and a day.

    Are you inspired by the seasons in your part of the world? Please tell us your thoughts.


Monday, 4 November 2013

Life's Challenges


    We all face challenges in our lives, but for some of us life throws difficulties that are lifelong . This week in Scotland it's, Dyslexia Awareness Week and dyslexia is one such difficulty. Although geographically this campaign  which is taking place between November 4th and November the 11th may not be something that you can take part in, it is a problem I'm sure you will care about.

    This condition does not discriminate by creed, colour, or religion, but unfortunately humans do. Despite being of normal intelligence, sufferers can find themselves being judged, even bullied by others because their oral and reading skills appear to be impaired. They may indeed be discriminated against because their numeracy and organisational skills don't meet the expectations of their peers. Therefore low self esteem and depression can also be a problem.

    If diagnosed early in a child, the child can be assisted in gaining the important skills that help them communicate with others freely and confidently, Some may require continued support on reaching adulthood, as having continuing problems in literacy and numeracy skills may make it harder to gain employment. It is imperative that parents, carers and teachers recognise the symptoms early, if the obstacles that have been put in the child's way are to be tackled efficiently and effectively.

    There are organisations throughout the world such as Dyslexia Scotland and if you want to find out more about the condition and its symptoms their websites are the best place to start.

Friday, 1 November 2013

The Country I Call Home

Ganavan, near Oban. Looking towards the island of  Lismore

    Lonely Planet named Scotland as one of thee top places to visit in 2014. Grabbing third place in their Top 10, with Brazil taking the top spot and Antartica second.

    2014 is going to be an awesome year for Scotland as Glasgow is hosting the Commonwealth Games, with the opening ceremony kicking the event off on July 23rd. The batton arrived in Australia yesterday on the start of its long journey.

    I feel blessed to have been born here, in this beautiful part of the United Kingdom. To give you a little taste of what my country has to offer I've included more photographs than usual. Because today, pictures speak louder than any descriptive I could use to convey the natural beauty of the country I call home.

Lossiemouth, Moray sits on the mouth of the River Lossie

Fort George, Ardersier north east of Inverness.
The sight covers an area equivalent to 40 soccer pitches. 

Views over the Moray Firth from one of  Fort George's bastions


Wallace Monument, Stirling


Edinburgh Castle (Spookiest place in UK) and Princes Street Gardens


Ganavan Beach, near Oban 
Oban Bay on the banks of the Firth of Lorn 

McCaig's Tower ( a folly) overlooking Oban Harbour

Monday, 28 October 2013

More than a Little Distracted


    Sometimes I get distracted from my writing and my mind decides to go for a stroll. I try to be disciplined, but on occasions my brain decides to rebel and refuses to be reined back in. Friday was one of those days and remaining focused was not an easy task.

    When I got up in the morning I was full of good intentions. So what went wrong? I didn't bank on the power company turning up for the second day in a row and deciding that my driveway could be used as a parking lot at 7:15am. That's what. I should have known then and there, that I would have been better going back to bed and having a duvet day.

     But as I had been unable to do anything constructively the day before, I didn't take heed of the little voice nagging from deep down inside my gut saying, "Go back to bed, go back to bed. You won't be writing today."

    Initially I read through the last chapter of my WIP, in the hope that I would regain my focus. However my brain wasn't playing ball. Sitting in front of my PC was no use, my thoughts were not clear. In fact they were all over the place, definitely not where they should be and as transparent as a pool of muddy water.

    The weather was horrendous outside, so going for a walk to blow the cobwebs away was out of the question. I finally had to abandon my work for the day and settle down with a book which I started to read recently by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, titled The Prisoner of Heaven .

    Was my day wasted? No, because I became absorbed in Zafon's world and what a wonderful world to become lost in. Later that evening my muddy pool of a brain cleared and words once again flowed freely like the deep blue ocean. Happy Days.



Friday, 25 October 2013

The Day the Lights Went Out


    Most mornings I get up at around 6:30am and after a quick caffeine fix I'm at my desk for 7:00am. I rarely deviate from my routine. I check my emails, Twitter and finally I read through some newspaper headlines. Then it's time to hit the shower, get dressed and have breakfast. Normally I'm back in front of my PC by 8:15am and ready to get down to more serious work.

    But yesterday the electricity company were having to carry out some essential repairs in our village and I had been notified that my home was going to be without power from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.

    So as soon as I got up I had a quick cup of coffee and jumped into the shower. Getting dressed hastily, in fear that the power would go off prematurely, or one of the workers would need access to my property before I was at least presentable.

    I had some emergency measures in place such as a portable gas heater, camping stove, storm lamp and a thermos filled with hot water. All of which I was glad of, as the weather outside was bracing to say the least. But no heat, light, food or hot beverage could make up for what I pined for and that was the Internet. I had my tablet charged up, however there was no broadband available and my life had been thrown into turmoil and disarray.

    I was able to type this up on my tablet in preparation for posting today, however all the little things that start kick my brain in the morning were sorely missed. It was a long day as the power wasn't back on until 6:00pm last evening and I can't help but feel that someone stole my day from me, the day the lights went out.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Taking Things for Granted

    When the autumnal sun came streaming through the windows of my home yesterday morning, I couldn't wait to get outside and inhale the cold crisp air. So after a hearty breakfast my partner and I set off in the car and parked up at a local beauty spot called the Helix Park.
    We decided not to walk through the park but to walk along the pedestrian and cycle path on the banks of the adjoining Forth and Clyde canal. The cyclists ting, tinged the bells on their bicycles as they passed by us and the dog walkers greeted us with a "Hello," or "Good morning." We all had something in common and that was, we wanted to enjoy the morning sunshine.

     The blackbirds and robins were gorging on the plump and vibrant coloured fruits of the wild blackberry, raspberry and rose hip bushes that edge the path.
    Splashes coming from the water caught our attention and an adult swan posed for a picture before he carried on munching through the plankton. Another splash and the air bubbles rising to the surface of the murky waters drew our eyes to the thick reeds on the opposite bank. We laughed when a water fowl appeared with a small silver fish in his beak, which he/she proceeded to toss in the air before consuming it.
    Finally we reached the canal basin and sea lock, where the moored barges and boats groaned as their hulls bobbed on the water. I was sure they were trying to tell me the story of their last voyage, or their voyages to come. However their voices faded when my eyes fell upon the wondrous sight of the two Kelpies, the mythical marvels that each stand 100 feet high and dominate this once industrial landscape.

    Once the camera was put back into it's protective casing, we about turned and started to make our way back to the car. We didn't say much as we took in more images and sounds that memories are made of. But these types of memories, made up of both sights and sounds are not possible for all of us.

    Communicating with the dog walkers, or stepping aside to allow the cyclists to ride by, for some of us is impossible without help. 356,000 people are deafblind in the UK and face every day difficulties. For them taking in the beauty of the world we live in is not so simple as jumping into a car.