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Anne Stormont’s eclectic blog. For me, my writing is a form of therapy. I hope you enjoy reading it. Comments welcome.

Part subversive old bat; part sweet old grandma; but, just sometimes, the rational, balanced and intelligent part breaks out...

Anne Stormont – Part subversive old bat; part sweet old grandma; but, just sometimes, the rational, balanced and intelligent part breaks out…

All writing and images are © Anne Stormont unless otherwise stated.

 

My New Novel and a special offer…

Displacement Cover MEDIUM WEB

I have a new novel out. It’s called Displacement.

The story line could be summed up as: The search for resolution after the upheaval of loss. A journey full of insight, forgiveness and love.

And the back cover blurb goes like this:

From the Scottish Hebrides to the Middle-East, ‘Displacement’ is a soul-searching journey from grief to reclamation of self, and a love-story where romance and realism meet head-on.

Divorce, the death of her soldier son and estrangement from her daughter, leave Hebridean crofter, Rachel Campbell, grief-stricken, lonely and lost.

Forced retirement leaves former Edinburgh policeman Jack Baxter needing to find a new direction for his life.

When Rachel meets Jack in dramatic circumstances on a wild winter’s night on the island of Skye, a friendship develops, despite very different personalities. Gradually their feelings for each other go beyond friendship. Something neither of them feels able to admit. And it seems unlikely they’ll get the chance to because Rachel is due to leave for several months to visit family in Israel – where she aims to re-root and reroute her life.

Set against the contrasting and dramatic backdrops of the Scottish island of Skye and the contested country of Israel-Palestine, ‘Displacement’ is a story of life-affirming courage and love.

This is the second novel I’ve published and I’m very proud and happy to have done so. I’m especially pleased because I wrote it whilst still teaching full time. All my evenings and a lot of my weekends and holidays were taken up with writing it. But it wasn’t a chore. When it comes to writing, I’m very motivated simply because I love it so much.

RRB Logo

I set up my own imprint Rowan Russell Books and published this one myself. I also re-published my first novel, Change of Life, under the new imprint.

I employed the services of  wonderful editor John Hudspith,  talented book and cover designer Jane Dixon-Smith and  forensic proof reader Perry Iles. So my books are professionally produced as well as, I hope, good reads.

Displacement is set both on the Isle of Skye and in Israel-Palestine. I know these aren’t two places you’d necessarily put together, but it works. One of the main characters, Rachel, has connections in both places, as do I. And the book is dedicated to my very dear Israeli friend, Revital, who works tirelessly for peace and a fair settlement for all in her country.

It’s available on Amazon as a paperback and as an e-book and there’s a link to it at the side of this post or by clicking the cover image at the top. AND it’s about to go on special offer as a Kindle Countdown Deal. From 8.00am (GMT) tomorrow, September 30th until 4pm on October 3rd it will cost you only 99p and then from 4pm on October 3rd until midnight on October 7th it will be £1.99 before reverting to its full price of £2.99.

As a side offer Change of Life will be free for Kindle from September 30th until October 4th.

Thanks for your interest in reading this bit of self-promotion and thanks especially if you’ve already bought either of my books or are intending to do so.

A subversive old bat looks at the thistle…

 

©Martin Fowler/Shutterstock.com

©Martin Fowler/Shutterstock.com

 

(with apologies to poet Hugh MacDiarmid for the misquote above)

I prefer emblems to flags and patriotism to nationalism…

Thistles grow in the wild and in gardens. And like her emblem, Scotland is strong and adaptable. Life persists in the economic wastelands as well as the richer business districts. Last week Scotland’s people, rich and poor, young and old, voted. Regardless of how they voted, theirs was a vote for change.

It has now been a week since the declaration of the result of the referendum on Scottish independence. It has been a week of celebration for some, but of grief for others. The question asked was ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ Those who voted no, 55% of those who voted, were the ones reaching for the champagne, delighted that Scotland would be remaining part of the United Kingdom. Those who voted yes, who wanted Scotland to be independent of the UK and to have complete self-determination were gutted.

But is it now business as usual for Scotland? Will the status quo of the pre-referendum campaign era return?

I would answer no to both questions. It must be no, has to be no, regardless of the outcome of the vote. Why? Because the very act of having the referendum, of the unprecedented level of engagement with the questions raised, of the inclusion of 16 and 17 year olds in the voting process, of having a record 85% turnout of people placing their cross on the ballot paper–– has changed us, has changed Scotland. And I believe it has changed Scotland for the better. I even dare to hope it will change the whole of the UK for the better too. I hope people power, the grassroots, bottom-up approach to policy making and to politics that was reignited by the referendum, catches on throughout the UK . I hope all of us get a fairer, less centralised deal.

And besides that there’s the matter of the last minute promises made by the Better Together campaign. The major devolutionary measures (or Devo Max) promised to Scotland, including full tax-raising and spending powers have to be delivered if the three UK political parties who made the promises are to maintain any credibility. And I suspect it’s not just in Scotland that their credibility will be questioned if they fail to deliver. Who could ever trust them again?

Lots has been written and spoken about the above by wiser more qualified people than me. I’ve been particularly impressed by two of Scotland’s newspapers in their coverage pre and post referendum. The no-supporting Scotsman and the yes-supporting Herald offered fair, insightful and informative journalism throughout.

All I can offer is a personal reflection on the process. Like her emblem the thistle, Scotland now stands straight and tall. The well- documented Scottish cringe is nowhere in sight. My overwhelming emotion when I consider the referendum is pride. But it’s pride mixed with humility and gratitude.

I’m proud that the debate prior to the vote was largely carried out in a civilised and respectful manner. I’m proud and grateful that not only such a large proportion of voters turned up to vote, but that we live in a country where it’s possible to do so. And that’s the most humbling thing. Scotland (and the rest of the UK) gave a great show of democracy in action just by having the referendum. Not only were the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democratic politicians of the UK given a sharp, panic-inducing reminder of what people power means and what it can do, but other countries such as China could only watch open-mouthed at our demonstration of what it is to be free.

©Volina/Shutterstock.com

©Volina/Shutterstock.com

Yes, it’s all relative and Scotland seeks even more freedom from within the UK setting. Yes, there seems to be a feeling throughout the UK that federalisation and decentralisation of power from Westminster to the regions is the way forward. And yes, UK politics needs to be less about the vested, maybe even sinister and hidden interests of those who fund the main parties, and more about the interests of the people. Bottom up has to be the way to go.

But looking out at the rest of the world, how can we not be proud, grateful and humble.

Looking out at the Ukraine, Gaza, Syria, Iraq or South Sudan–– to name only a few–– is to gaze on a chilling prospect.

©spline_x/Shutterstock.com

©spline_x/Shutterstock.com

That’s why I believe the Scottish and the British have a lot to be grateful for and have something very precious that we must never take for granted. I think the main legacy of the referendum for all Scottish voters is the reminder it has given us about those very things. So let’s hold onto that, let’s keep working to make things better whatever side we were on, better for us and better for the rest of the world. Let’s not allow our politicians off the hook. Let’s not be cowed and return to the status quo. We have ability, power and freedom. Let’s cherish them, extend them and use them for the good of all.

 

 

 

 

January Mindful Writing Challenge – days 26 to 31

And so here are the final five days ‘stones’…

Nov 20th 2010 Geary 028

26. Wild, wet Sunday. Gusting to gale force makes the roof flex. Safe and warm indoors. Elemental versus fundamental – eternal battle.

27. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out – awareness.

28. Decision made; a good decision just for having been made; a right decision. The time has come. The momentous in a moment.

29. Thoughts: fleeting, rippling, tangenting; serious, speculative, fearful, frivolous, uncharitable, affectionate. CONSTANT. But they are welcome to float by…

30. The new moon and Venus hang, ice-bright in a navy-blue sky. Cosmic signposts. Eternity fleetingly viewed.

31. Another day, another week, another month. The ups and downs of life keep it flowing, depositing good and bad, giving it flavour.

Thanks again to Satya at Writing Our Way Home  for setting the challenge. I’ve really enjoyed it.

January Mindful Writing Challenge days 20 to 25

Lichen encrusted bench

 

20. Focus on hope. A shield, a rock, a comforter – on a very trying day.

21. Fatigue, sleeplessness, stress; take time to reset, note the now, the now of a breath, the now that is okay.

22. Acceptance; this too will pass. Comfort taken from a thoughtful gift. A gift that says, ‘Chin up. I understand’.

23. Cool, fresh bed linen. That moment of lying down and of laying aside. How beautiful it is to rest.

24. Connection. Advice sought and freely given. Appreciation, recognition. Gratitude.

25. Me and him in sun and rain, step out, pacing ourselves. Walking side by side in time and space. Always.

Tae the Lassies – or – Let’s Hear it for the Ladies

This is a supplementary post to the usual monthly magazine in honour of Scotland’s national bard or poet Robert Burns

Robert Burns

 

This year Burns’ suppers will be held on Saturday 25th January all over Scotland and the wider world wherever ex-pat Scots are to be found. It’s a time when the Scottish people  traditionally hold a special dinner of haggis, *neeps and tatties* and drink a wee dram or two of **uisige beatha** to remember our greatest poet, Robert Burns and his work.

Burns was a ladies’ man, a philanderer and would nowadays be given short shrift by any sensible woman. But he was a romantic and a charmer and he did seem to genuinely like women, so I can kind of forgive his lack of fidelity. His were different times. And nowadays it can often be boys and men who find it hard to work out where their place is in society – certainly in settings other than the workplace. Feminists quite rightly have made their mark. I count myself as one of their number – as a child of the sixties, and one of five daughters, how could I be anything else? And we continue to push to improve the lot and treatment of women. My fervent hope for my granddaughter’s generation is that by the time they’re grown-up, if not before,  there will no longer be a need for feminism as a political movement, that all of us male and female, will be judged by who and what we are and not by our class, age or gender. I hope the two sexes can share a truly mutual respect and friendship for and with one another. I think my toast this year  is to the lassies and the laddies. Lets hear it for humanity. Cheers/Slainte! 

 

Below is my post about Burns and the ladies from January last year:

In this week’s post I’ve decided to verbally toast all the most important women in my life. Why? Well, because this week sees the commemoration of a poet who was very fond of the female of the species. Let me explain…

On Friday it will be Burns night. No nothing will be on fire.  Friday the 25th January 1759 is the birth date of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns. So popular and successful was he as a poet that every 25th January his life and work are remembered and celebrated. He is Scotland’s national Bard. But it’s not just in Scotland that he’s known. There are Burns clubs all over the world. And there can be very few people who have never at least heard, if not sung, his most well known song, Auld Lang Syne’.

Burns was from Ayrshire and he was a farmer and excise-man. He was fond of drink and women. He died aged 37 and left a large body of work of poems and songs in both Scots and English.

On Friday night there will be Burns suppers held in schools, hotels, clubs and homes. The menu will be haggis, neeps and tatties (neeps=turnip of the large yellow variety, tatties=potatoes) washed down with whisky in many cases. The proceedings will follow a set pattern. There will be speeches and toasts – one to the haggis, one to Burns’ Immortal Memory and one Tae the Lassies (to the ladies).

And that last one has got me thinking about which particular lassies I would want to mention if I was proposing the toast.

First would be my maternal grandmother, Peggy who I wrote about here. She was such a positive influence on my early life and made up for my rather distracted and weary mother’s lack of time for her children. She instilled in me a love of words, storytelling and writing that has never left me and she made me feel very special.

My mother though not especially maternal in her child-rearing, instilled a work ethic and stoicism in me that has stood me in very good stead over the years. She raised a large family with very little money. She had a paid job – long before it was the done thing for mothers to work outside the home. And she was an amazing role model for independent and self-sufficient womanhood.

Next would have to be my four sisters. All are amazing, strong, loving women.

Sister number one was, after thirty years working in business, made redundant just once too often and she changed tack completely to become a personal carer. She earns a pittance working for her local authority but by providing care to elderly, sick and vulnerable people she makes it possible for these people to stay in their own homes. She has never been happier at her work.

Sister number two had to face early and tragic widowhood, but she rebuilt her life and has raised two fine young men. She is a pre-school teacher and she too loves her work.

Sister number three left school with no qualifications but didn’t let divorce and single motherhood prevent her from gaining a degree in nursing and building a successful career in that profession, in one of Scotland’s busiest and biggest hospitals.

And sister number four has also had to cope with redundancy – her husband’s and her own –whilst raising her sons on an, at times, very tight budget. She also spends a huge amount of her time looking after our elderly and extremely difficult father – for which she deserves sainthood and a medal.

Next there is my feisty daughter. Born with cerebral palsy and a steely determination, she grew up to become a veterinary nurse, wife and mother. She doesn’t think of herself as disabled and has always met every challenge head on.

And of course there’s my one-year-old granddaughter – who is of course the most beautiful, most intelligent and most adorable baby ever born J

And then there are all my most fabulous friends – my support network of very different and very amazing women. I’ve come to know them across every phase and location of my life – school, university, work, motherhood and neighbourhoods. They’re intelligent loving and loyal. I couldn’t live without them and I hope they know who they are.

My grandmother was born in the 1890s, I was born in the 1950s and my granddaughter was born in 2012. From Granny’s time to now, women’s lives have changed out of all recognition. I can’t imagination how life will be for my granddaughter’s generation of women. But there’s one thing I hope doesn’t change – and that’s the wonderful, life-enhancing support that  the lassies offer one another.

So here’s to us all. Here’s tae the lassies. Cheers, ladies.

* mashed swede and potatoes. ** whisky.

January Mindful Writing Challenge days 14 to 19

Here are my next six mindful stones:

A Jan day of snow 2011 021

 

14. Spirit low. Step out, wood smoke, blackbird, child’s laughter, ice-cold air, mountain’s downslope, hope…

15. Olive-oiled, spitting hot tomatoes; crackling, melted cheese, toasted pinenuts, green-fragranced basil and al dente pasta. The present of a meal.

16. In the dip between the peaks there is light.

17. Pause; 31 years ago today it was snowing in Glasgow and I gave birth to a son. Joyful then, joyful now. Gratitude.

18. Stillness, earth’s damp scent and the chill of the wind, peace, perspective in a moment taken.

19. Birdsong awakens me. No longer the solitary winter song of the robin; more trilling voices acknowledge the earlier dawn. The world moves on.