We all need some inspiration. We all need someone to look up to. What do we seek in our heroes? I guess we look for someone who embodies the best elements we wish to see in ourselves. We look for a hero who can show us what it means to be braver, kinder, stronger or better in some way than we generally consider ourselves to be. You may find this in superheroes. It would be easy to when the media is so saturated with them. We may see it in public figures who have some qualities we look to emulate or are doing work that we find admirable. Heroes of all kinds inspire us to do our best and reach for a goal.
You might think heroes are something for children to look up to. I would argue that it’s not just young people who need the inspiration. Adults would do well to find someone to look up to. It could be someone younger too. Take Malala Yousafzai for instance. She is a truly inspirational girl who fought for the rights of others like her to have an education, something I took for granted to a certain extent. Her fearlessness in pursuit, despite her youth, is to be admired. She is a hero in a lot of respects.
For some a hero is someone who lived a long time ago but their impact is still felt such as Sophie Scholl, another young activist. Along with her brother, Hans, she resisted the Nazi indoctrination that was surrounding her. She boldly took part in distributing anti nazi leaflets. The reason her actions still resonate is because of the danger she knew she was putting herself in but still she continued. Eventually she paid the ultimate price for it but she believed there were more important matters.
We live in an age where it is so easy to be bombarded with the evil that is present in the world. There are so many bad people out there it would seem. I dare say there could be stories told about the people I have mentioned that wouldn’t place them in the best of lights. They are only human after all but if you find something in them or anyone for that matter that inspires you then embrace it. On the days you are finding it difficult to find a hero then take that as a cue that it’s you who is to step up. You can be the hero if you need to be. We all can. We can find inspiration and we can inspire.
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I’m going to be blunt here because as you will find from the content of this particular post that’s just how I am. Ever since I was a little girl I have always been made out to be some kind of freak because I tend not to go about things the ’normal’ way. The other kids were, I guess, expected. When you are growing up you don’t know much about the world and you are learning so I can see why I was seen as being somewhat unusual by my peers. That wasn’t just it though. Adults were much of the same opinion.
What made me so freakish? What did I dare to do that was so unconventional? Nothing really. It was a curiosity I had about the world around me that others wanted to curb. They said they were concerned about me. After all, curiosity brought about the demise of the proverbial cat. I wanted to visit museums rather than playing with the other children. I wanted to read books rather than take part in party games. For that I seemed off and weird.
As I grew up I continued on that trajectory, caring not one bit about what others thought. As an adult I was considered strange because I had no interest in having children or getting married. To me marriage is an outdated concept that has no real place in modern society. Sure, there are plenty of people who love being married, are excited to be married or can find happiness in that kind of partnership but it’s just not for me. As a thirty something woman with my own independent life I don’t see any way a marriage could improve my current existence. I’m especially close to my little 11yo niece and my 3yo nephew so they are all the children I need.
I guess the point of this rant is to urge you all to live your life the way you want to. Do the things that make you happy despite what society might think is appropriate. I’ve grown up people thinking I’m a freak. Embrace that freakishness because odd things, atypical hobbies or out of the ordinary life decisions don’t make you any less valid than the most conventional of people. What would the world be without that varied tapestry?
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It’s an age old question that seems to be important to a lot of people. You most likely would have been asked it in your life in some shape or form and that question is, ’if you were to invite anyone in the world (living or deceased) to a dinner party who would those guests be?’
I like this question because to me it highlights the human want to connect with others, no matter the barriers. It shows we like to connect in an intellectual way. The purpose of this exercise is to show who you would like have around your table for the purposes of hearing what they have to say. A dinner party, by nature, is a way of sharing discussion and opening up. Those you would chose to sit around your table says a lot about your personality. So for the purposes of this discussion, my pick of dinner party guests would be as follows:
Not only is he one of my most favourite authors and a huge inspiration of mine, he was also a critic of the moral evil that was present in Victorian London. He used satirical writing to bring attention to these injustices and he was effective in doing so. This undoubtedly influenced writers who came after him to approach their work with the same boldness. I know that certainly was the case for me. From what is told he was a kind hearted, intelligent man who paid close attention to what was going on around him and for that reason having a chat with him would be an opportunity I would hate to miss.
Escape artist, circus performer and spiritualist debunker. Houdini is already an admired figure of mine so he would naturally make for an exciting presence at my table. I would love to ask him all about his escape acts and his performances. His thrill seeking presence would keep things lively and I’m naturally engrossed by people who have a performance flare. He spent a lot of his later career debunking spiritualists. Discussing this could make for a lively debate. Also, after some wine has flowed and bellies were filled he could grace us with a demonstration of one of his tricks.
If there is ever a girl with a story to share at a dinner table it would be this one. She lived through great adversity and it was of no fault of her own. She was just a young girl who had no control over the devastation that was arising around her. She already had a fascinating story to tell as is evident in her famous diaries. Learning about this young girl’s remarkable experiences from her own mouth would have the discussions going on well into the small hours.
Those are just some examples of the fascinating figures I would invite to my dinner party. Given the opportunity to reach out to anyone, who would you choose? Funny? Inspirational? Intruiging? What would you look for in your dinner party guests.
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I have hit on this subject matter before but since it is something that really resonates with me and it seems something that so many people have to deal with in their daily lives I am going to broach the subject again. Since we are now heading a little further into 2022 (I can’t stop myself still writing 2020. Where did 2021 go?) we are leaving behind the holidays that force you to interact with relatives and acquaintances that, shall we say, aren’t the most positive influences in your life. That means that you may find yourself a little freed from toxic people. I hear all to often good people putting up with toxicity because ’they’re family’ . Toxicity is toxicity regardless of blood. It doesn’t matter if she birthed you. It doesn’t matter if you shared parentage. It doesn’t matter if some DNA test would confirm you are related, toxicity is still toxicity.
Just the other day I was having a zoom call chat with a friend and they were telling me just how anxious and upset they were because their elder sister had been staying with them and she was making their life a misery. Now, if someone came to you and asked, ‘can you put me up for a little while? In exchange I’m going to take over your whole house, I’m going to treat your hobbies and interests like a joke and I’m going to make your life a misery to the point your stomach starts to rumble with nerves as you reach your own front door, you would say Hell no. However, when they come flashing that magic DNA access pass it seems to make the whole situation more difficult. It shouldn’t be. You have to prioritise your own well being. Being related is no excuse to disrespect you. Your home is your haven and you can’t let it be invaded by noxious forces.
Maybe you have that friend from school that their very company leaves you emotionally dehydrated. You listen patiently for hours as they list off the problems they face and their hatred of the world around them but never ask how you are doing. Life is tough enough. You need people who lift you up not put you down. Knowing someone for a long time and them still behaving like putrid ponce should tell you all you need to know about them. I’m no expert and I dare say I have my own share of behaviours some would consider toxic but to me any relationship is a partnership of sorts and requires mutual respect.
In ode to this I say to all of you have the best 2022 there can possibly be for you. Clear out those cupboards, wash up those messes and dry those tears because every day is another chance to start something new and it can start right now.
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I can almost hear the collective moan as we recover from a year long hangover of lockdowns and all sorts of other struggles. Regardless of that I hope you all had a great holiday. This time of year tends to bring a lot of stress on people (most of it unnecessary). We are conditioned to want to spend money on elaborate gifts, debt rises and the pressure of having to enjoy ourselves really takes it toll.
I for one like a quiet holiday with those nearest and dearest to me. I grew up in a raucous household so nowadays I like things more subdued. It makes me sound like an old woman but life is tough enough without some overly commercialised holiday forcing you to spend time with people you can’t really stand throughout the year. We’re told to grin and bear it, they’re family. They’re blood. Like Hell they are! Family are people who come into your life to make it easier, to support you. If Uncle Jim across the table is on his fifth glass of wine and demanding everyone listens to his racist tirades then that’s not family. When Grandma is guilt tripping you because you’d rather spend your Christmas day happy than crying in the bathroom because she hated your gift then that’s not family.
As someone with no kids I can only imagine how dreadful the approach of the big man with the beard must be for those who do. It has to be tough seeing all those photos of bragging parents with the mountain of gifts they bought their little precious when you are worried if you can even scrape enough together to get those shoes they really wanted. It’s unnecessarily showy. ‘What are you trying to prove?’ I always wonder.
I don’t want to put a downer on Christmas. The truth is I do find it a fabulous holiday. It’s message is to be kinder to each other, to bring joy and cheer to each other and to spend some time in celebration with those close to us. That is a principle I will always champion. I guess my point here is don’t let yourself get bogged down with the pressure of it all. Remember, toxic people are toxic people and don’t deserve a seat at the table even if they are blood and Aunt Kate will be really put out if not invited. Screw you, Aunt Kate. If you force yourself in then cousin Derek will have to come too and he can start a fight in an empty house.
We all have them. This time of the year is always a real test. But it can also be a marvellous opportunity of new beginnings. A new day, a new month, a new year. When you are given the chance of complete revival it doesn’t matter what came before. Look forward and make this the best year ever!
I love you all folks and I sincerely wish you the best time ahead.
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My ten year old niece is hitting that stage of life where she is observing the world around her and developing her mind into her own tastes. She has found herself fascinated by the darker side of literature, movies and art. She knows her aunt is very much the same so it is a beautiful bond we share in that respect. I was much the same when I was her age. I read macabre books, I watched horror movies and Edvard Much’s Scream was my favourite painting and still is one of my favourites to this day. With that in mind we came to a discussion on the line between fiction and fact. We discussed how throwing yourself into a dark mindset can require you to know that there is a firm difference between creative licence and reality. I’ve already discussed the influence media can have on the temperament in a previous blog which you can read HERE but I’d like to revisit the topic from the perspective of those of us who create dark material.
I told my niece that some of the work that I write requires some dark thoughts that you of course wouldn’t even consider normally. In order to write characters with despicable intentions you have to think like that and it can be a little mentally exhausting. Creative licence is important and I don’t believe in hindering yourself if you really want push boundaries in art but as a young person I wanted my niece to realise that as okay as it is strive for some dark art, to listen to those nasty songs or to watch those horrifying movies you need to be prepared to pull self back and take stock of reality again. She is just a young kid and as a youngster she is influenced by things around her as she finds her own creative voice. However, I have personally seen people completely lose themselves in a mindset and it doesn’t take much searching to find stories of others where this has happened to.
It’s fun to lose yourself in twisted imaginations. By all means enjoy those things that can manifest when you give way to the darker emotions. The important thing is to remember that the world is generally a great place to. Find your happy spot. Don’t let it consume you. I guess what I’m really saying is let the light in every once and a while.
I have been ranting about my illness on Twitter because frankly I don’t make a great patient. However, for those of you who aren’t aware I have been ill for the past couple of days with a stomach bug. The reason I mention this is because it unfortunately coincided with a visit from my niece and nephew, making it even more frustrating that we couldn’t do all the fun things I had had planned. Instead we spent the time in bed watching movies so I guess it wasn’t so bad. Anyway, finishing that rant and onto the real point of this …
I don’t have my own children. I don’t care to have my own children. My niece and nephews give me all the joy of motherhood I could ever want. With that said I’m so used to living my life a completely independent person, people tend to react to me as such. I can’t help but notice though people tend to respond slightly differently when I’m pushing the buggy or chasing the kids around the park. People are more helpful, they are more understanding and when visiting my hometown of Glasgow you will not be allowed to struggle anywhere with a pushchair without someone offering assistant . Strangers brighten when they see the kids. My youngest nephew has such an angelic face he would have anyone smile and wave as he passes. My niece is such a strong minded, intelligent and witty ten year old people are often taken aback by how great a conversationalist she is so I can see (through a biased aunties eyes) why the reactions would change when this grumpy, hoody wearing author has them with her. But it’s more than that though. I like to think there is still a really decent part of our society that sets out to help mothers with young kids. It’s always a pleasure to see.
Travelling back home my toddler nephew was starting to become a little frustrated with the train rides. There were two women nearby and rather than becoming frustrated at the sound of a grumpy child they sparked up a conversation about their own toddlers. For a moment it was like being part of a unique group. I’ve had those, ‘got your back sister,’ moments in my life but this was really something else.
It gave me cause to think about other areas of our society where if we just treated people they way we do with mothers with young children in tow how far we would go. Think about it. Someone is struggling with work: Need some support there? Someone is going through difficulty with their family: Need someone to talk to? There are plenty of great resources out there don’t get me wrong but I’m talking about that natural supportive instinct we show young mothers being more ingrained. Is this a pipe dream or am I still ill? What do you think?
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A question was raised to me the other day that really does bear thinking about. And that question was, ‘do you think violence in movies, books and video games creates more violence?’ Given the nature of my own work this is an interesting concept.
Violence and a whole lot of curse words can flow quite readily in my books. When this kind of material is available not just in books but everywhere you turn does it desensitise folks? It would be difficult not to become immune to the horrible things you see in media. But for a moment let’s take a look at the real world. The news is filled with images of war torn countries. That’s not a video game or a movie. That is real life. Those people you see on the screen are real people, with real lives that have been destroyed.
There has been a trend lately where more and more people are becoming obsessed with serial killers and their antics. Those aren’t made up characters. They are also real people who committed real atrocities. To me that is true desensitisation. I’m not suggesting that the world shouldn’t have these things brought to their attention and I’m drawn to serial killer documentaries with as much morbid curiosity as the next girl but it is all violence isn’t it? The difference is, you can play Call of Duty and gun down fictional enemies in your own living room knowing you were immersing yourself in a digital (i.e. not real) world. Or you can switch on the 6pm update and see that same thing happening for real.
Shock and disgust are two very captivating emotions when you’re a writer. It turns heads and it gets the audience talking. It is with these same sentiments photo journalists opt for the most dreadful pictures they can get and why they will chase the stories that are sure to get people talking. Just as sex sells and always has, people will be more likely to be grabbed by a headline that reads something along the lines of:
TEACHER CAUGHT WITH SNUFF FILMS
than they would be for something that said:
TEACHER RECEIVES AWARD FOR TEN YEARS DEDICATION
I do believe that violence in fiction can have a detrimental affect on people. If you shut yourself off from the world and live nothing but a violent world where you know there are no real life restrictions on your behaviour it can’t help by make you a little less human in thinking. However, that being said, most people know how and where to draw the line between fiction and reality. I am a huge fan of Stephen King’s ‘Misery’. Both the book and the television adaptation were fantastic in my opinion. I can be a bit fanatical about things myself and as much as I loved the character of Annie, portrayed beautifully by Kathy Bates, I’m not going to hobble anyone.
Yes, violence in the media can be a bit encouraging to those with an already violent disposition but to counter this my sister in law has taken to reading a lot of non fiction about medieval history. There was no internet then or video games but if those weren’t violent times to live in I don’t know what was.
As a writer I like to push boundaries. My books are dark, violent and horrific but when those pages turn and the book closes I would encourage it as a means to realise what damage we would do to our world if we let that violence take over. Be good to each other and give those journalists something nice to write home about.
What are your thoughts? How much influence to you think violence in media plays in our society?
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I’ve had many strange dreams throughout my life. Maybe it’s the symptom of having an over active imagination. If you follow me on Twitter you may have heard me discuss this (@VivikaWidow).
The dream world has always fascinated me. Those little stories that your mind tells you as you sleep can be vivid and memorable. They can be akin to some of the best experiences of your real world and they can also make you realise worst. Since I’m a lover of all things macabre I’m going to take a look at some of the darker moments I have experienced in the dream world.
Yes you read that right. The earliest dream I can remember must have occurred when I was about six or seven. In the dream I had heard my mum wildly exclaiming at the news. (In real life this was no rare occurrence. She was an excitable sort). She was crying to my dad to get me away from. Whatever was on the news would be too much for my childish sensibilities. It didn’t work though. I saw the report. In the news report the journalist was discussing the spread of an unexplained phenomenon that was effecting children just like me. The footage showed a large spider in a box. This spider was unusual in that it had the head of a child. His name had been Ricky before. Now he was spider boy and not in a friendly neighbourhood spidey kind of way.
This was so upsetting for me. However, before I could process anything this dream was telling me I found myself at an indoor carnival. Who doesn’t hate clowns, right? I just happened to have watched Stephen King’s IT at the time and my elder brothers, the darlings that they were, told me Pennywise hid in my closet and waited for me to go to sleep so he could eat me. So as fun as this carnival was with all the lights, music and rides I was deeply concerned. I was on my own. I was lost. Then I saw a clown. (He was remarkably like Pennywise – no surprise). He was handing some candyfloss to a little girl with blonde pigtails and little pink glasses. The clown turned his attention on me. I knew better. My brothers had warned me so I ran away. I didn’t want any of his damn candyfloss.
Running away I stumbled into a storage room. I could hear the clown and all his clown friends looking for me. I could hear a rattle of something tapping against glass. As my eyes adjusted I could see hundreds of jars, each containing a child with a spider body. Including the little girl with pigtails!
“Come e’re!” The clown cried.
That’s when I woke up. I was so startled by this dream I was crying. It sounds like childhood fantasy now mixed with the unfortunate placement of being the youngest sibling in a household of wind up merchants.
Ducks in a row!
I was just a young teenager when I moved 200 miles away from my home to attend medical school. Needless to say it was a time of stress and big changes. It is common to experience vivid dreams during times like this.
During my first week of classes I had a dream whereby I was walking past a river and saw a group of baby ducks. A raft of ducks I believe is the proper term. These baby ducks were struggling to get back to the river so being the caring soul that I am I decided to lend a hand. I gather the ducks in my arms and start to head to water. One slips out and splats on the ground (complete with side effects and everything!). Then another slips. SPLAT! Then another. Before I know it all the ducks have splattered on the ground. With there being no real logic in dreams I scoop those splattered ducks up in my arms and still take them to the river. The ducks just fill with water …
This dream obviously speaks to my anxiety of beginning a new part of my life and moving away from home at a young age but it was really vivid at the time. It played on my mind for some time afterwards. Well, having just recounted it for you it seems it still plays on my mind …
Dreams aren’t all bad. There have been some where I’ve been rested on a beach with a bronzed hunk. There have been some where I’ve achieved impossible odds or met my idols. There have also been some where my devious sister in law has tried to send me into space or billions of years into the future. My point is, anxiety and hopes, fears and ambitions all reveal themselves in the dream world. When time comes for us to wake again it’s up to us to do decide what to do with that.
So tell me about your dreams. What’s some of the wildest you’ve had?
Speaking of nightmares … The circus is in town and there’s no coincidence home invasion robberies are on the rise.
Performers of Stoker Circus can slip in anywhere. When fresh money making opportunities are offered it may be their downfall.
This is a difficult question. After all there are so many that would have been life changing to have been around to witness. The moon landing, the abolition of slavery, great battles of old (Bannockburn anyone?) but to chose but one you would have to consider which event draws your attention most. Perhaps it’s because this event had a huge impact on your own life. Perhaps it’s because it’s the one that simply fascinates you more than others. Taking all these things into consideration I think I would have to choose seeing Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ being played at the Globe Theatre for the first time.
Five years after the plague had closed theaters, The Globe took shape and performances of some of Shakespeare’s most notable works were played there. I choose Hamlet in particular because it is one of my personal favourites. It also has the tragic events of his son’s death and that of his father surrounding it so as a writer it stirs my morbid imagination with the dark beauty that the play became.
As a young child I was a bit of an odd ball. (I know, shocking, right?). I would much rather read than play games with the other children and the library was always my favourite place. One particularly gruelling day of primary school I was losing myself in books as usual when I came across a copy of Hamlet. As I opened it up and began to read I was completely overwhelmed with awe in the daring story telling, the dark ambience and those immortal words, “TO BE OR NOT TO BE.”
I was completely besotted just finding a dusty old copy of the play in the library. I can imagine the thrill of stepping into the Globe with the backdrop of London at that time and having the play brought to life by the actors as the Bard himself intended. Not to be all fan girl or anything but it was surely a thing of beauty to behold.
Honourable mention has to go to some historical events that do have a huge impact on my life. Women being given the right to vote is a victory that would have been amazing to have witnessed. It paved the way for little old me to make her way in the world and I am eternally grateful to the ones who made that happen. The work of Dr Henry Turner who first described Turner’s Syndrome in 1938 which is a cause close to my heart and opened up a beautiful sisterhood for me and other TS women.
So what would your choice be? If you could bear witness to a historical event which one would you choose?
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