THE SPIRIT OF THE FEN

THE SPIRIT OF THE FEN

The grace of an invisible hand flits across her cheek,
an ethereal sensation.
She leans forward, longing for more.

The bombardment of silence thunders in her ears
whilst the meandering of bumblebees
is amplified to
Concert crescendo.

Eyes closed,
she senses the trials of thousands of years
Swirling around her soul.

The ghostly guide tugs impatiently
At her hand.

‘Not yet’, she replies.
‘Soon, very soon.’

First she needs the grounding
Of the boardwalk.

As far as the eye can see
Reeds and sedge dance in the breeze
A bewildering display unleashed.
The unified being pulsating with life;
Its energy palpable.

The cerulean sky reaches
To infinity.
Unhindered by obstacles it sweeps down to
The sunbeam of golden land.

Ahead indistinct voices drift towards her
The unknown language beguiling.
The air punctuated by thumps of axes
Trees hewn by brute force.

A canopy of oak leaves looms above her
She shivers, sways and swoons
Into the arms of the mystical being.

©Annika Perry, May 2021

‘The Spirit of the Fen’ was inspired by my recent visit to Wicken Fen, the oldest Nature Reserve in Britain. Immediately I sensed an enchantment within the ancient fenland of East Anglia.

An inventive and enjoyable set of boardwalks has been created around the fen to allow visitors to the site whilst protecting the landscape and wildlife. It was thrilling to step out just above the water, gazing out upon the bewitching scenery.

The fens are made up of the fens, marshes, reed beds, farmland and woodland. There is a deep peat soil that is kept wet by rainfall and clean, chalky river water.

Within the low lying water reed and sedge are grown for harvesting. The latter is used for thatch roofing which is still used for many older buildings within the country. The earliest recorded sedge harvest was in 1414.

Furthermore, the fens are rich with a variety of floral and fauna with over 9000 species of animals, birds and insects thriving in the area. I only saw a handful of these alas! Charles Darwin in the 1820s favoured the spot for finding beetles.

A reed warbler

The reserve was founded in 1899 by the National Trust to preserve its iconic habitat and the first parcel of land was donated to the Trust by Charles Rothschild in 1901.

Although some parts of the southern fens were made into navigable waterways by the Romans called the ‘Lodes’, the majority of the fens were barely accessible before they started to be drained for farmland in the seventeenth century using windmills. Wicken Fen remained undrained and continued as a business for peat and sedge until the end of the nineteenth century.

Although Wicken Fen is currently quite a small area a new 100-year project was launched in 1999 to mark the 100th anniversary of the first acquisition. The Wicken Fen Vision is seeking to expand the fen to a size of 22 square miles to preserve and increase its exceptional biodiversity.

Finally, it was fascinating to learn about Bog Oaks upon leaving the Nature Reserve. These are remains of trees preserved in the waterlogged peat and just such a tree was unearthed in 2016 whilst a ditch was cleared, pictured below. Some bog oaks are from the Bronze Age and it is staggering to think that before me lay a tree trunk from possibly 4200 years ago!

Bog Oak, possibly 4000 years old

The magical aura of Wicken Fen stayed with me long after my visit, the peaceful, harmonious presence lingering within. It will not be long before I return to this unusual place of natural beauty to explore more!

AMANDA IN MALTA THE SLEEPING LADY: A BOOK REVIEW

With a unique blend of adventure, friendship, history and travel Darlene Foster has hit upon a winning and inspirational combination for her children’s books Amanda Travels.

The series is aimed at middle grade (aged 9-12) children, although from reading her latest book I feel it would also be suited for adept readers of a younger age as well as reluctant readers.

Darlene Foster’s latest in the series, Book 8, takes the reader to Malta after Amanda receives a letter from her best friend Leah. To receive a letter alone sends concern to Amanda in the modern digital age of emails. Leah hints that something is wrong, but gives no detail and wants Amanda to join her.

Amanda would love to leave the cold wintry weather of Canada behind her for the warmth and sun of the Mediterranean island but would it even be possible?

As with all children’s books, a resolution is quickly found and Amanda joins her class mate and his parents on their holiday on the beautiful island.

Immediately the author captures the heavenly warmth of the landscape, limestone buildings and the history perfectly. In snippets, the reader is enveloped in the amazing historical elements of the island, some of which become central to the story whilst others act as a stunning backdrop to the action.

Any reservation I had that the historical might slow down the pace of the story proved unfounded as the plot is quickly propelled along. Although there are dramatic events such a brief kidnapping, ominous warnings, chases and unexplained killings of protected birds these are all pitched gently and safely for the younger reader.

Initially, Amanda cannot even find Leah and when she finds her it turns out that Leah’s aunt has become mixed up with crooks. Two criminals want Leah’s aunt, who is an archaeologist, to steal the 4000-year-old Sleeping Lady statue from the museum otherwise there will be consequences. Could Leah even be involved?

Luckily Amanda and Leah are not alone on their mission. Max is a helpful and able go-between and Caleb, the son of the family friend, provides many comic moments throughout the book, particularly with his strange phobia of fish and love of all things Popeye.

When finally they visit the famous Popeye Village he is ecstatic and his courage shines through as he has to rescue Leah!

I like how all the main characters are slightly flawed with their fears and how through working together they find courage, helping each other. The warmth and kindness is a beacon of hope!

Amanda in Malta is a hugely enjoyable book, the writing flows with ease and the plot had me eagerly turning the pages. The book took me back to my addictive reading of the Nancy Drew mysteries as young and I can see how readers will long to read and collect the whole series of Amanda Travels.

Although I have unfortunately not read any previous books within the series this is no way hampered my enjoyment or understanding of The Sleeping Lady. The author slips in enough backstory to ensure this book is an exciting and stand-alone book.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

PUBLICATION DATE: 11th May 2021

PUBLISHER: Central Avenue Publishing

GENRE: Children’s Fiction / Middle Grade / Travel

AVAILABLE:

AMAZON US: PAPERBACK KINDLE

AMAZON UK: PAPAERBACK KINDLE

ABOUT DARLENE:

A bit about me. I am a writer of children’s stories, a retired employment counsellor, and ESL tutor, a wife, mother and grandmother. I love travelling, reading, shoes, cooking, sewing, music, chocolate, walking on the beach and making new friends. My grandson once called me “super-mega-woman-supreme”. I was brought up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where I dreamt of travelling the world and meeting interesting people. I currently divide my time between Orihuela Costa in Spain and the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. My husband, Paul, and I enjoy spending time with our adorable dog, Dot.

CONTACT:

Do visit Darlene on her Blog or on Twitter.

Finally, I can highly recommend you listen to a wonderful interview with Darlene Foster on Rebecca Budd’s excellent Tea Toast & Trivia podcast. Their sense of fun is fantastic and their laughter infectious. It is touching how Amanda joins Darlene and her husband on their travels!

FANFARE WITHIN

We left without fanfare, a couple pulling out of the drive without a fuss. The ado was all within me, here an orchestra was in mid-flow, a crescendo of excitement, a flurry of violins, the brass instruments joining in! As we turned down the road did I spot a bagpiper wishing us farewell?!

Our first trip away for nearly two years already felt surreal and mirrored my many dreams of this moment. Days earlier it was with disbelief that the suitcases found their way down from the loft, the cool box washed and aired! My packing list was referred to repeatedly (yet how did I forget my Kindle which later resulted in a magical time surrounded by books in the local W H Smith’s!)

The origins of Ely Cathedral reach back to 672 when Etheldreda, daughter of Anna, king of East Anglia, founded an abbey on the site. It flourished for 200 years until it was destroyed by the Danes. In 970 it started again as a Benedictine community.

From afar the cathedral of Ely dominated the skyline, a glorious breathtaking sight, an architectural wonder! A constant as we approached the city and how it must have seemed a miraculous creation to the citizens nearly a thousand year ago.

Along with the cathedral the River Great Ouse is the heart of Ely and it was here we headed upon our arrival. We took a gentle stroll along the promenade of canal boats and pubs, through the park to the fields beyond. To one side the river, beauty of the natural world, to the right the regular rumble of trains, in between we walked a parallel path. The honks of swans and the hoots of trains became the backdrop to our stay. Our stay on a canal boat.

Yet time tick tocked by and now my husband picked up the pace, a short cut through the woods became a long lost way past shops and houses. Ahh … there was the Jubilee Park and its famous Eel statue. There was the goal … The Riverside Restaurant!

Masks donned we confirmed our booking and registered our arrival before being shown to our table. With only outside dining permitted we happily took a seat overlooking the river and path, safely distanced from other souls.

I picked up a menu yet found myself unable to read! A skill learned from young abandoned to this momentous occasion, the first meal from home for over a year. As my drink arrived I teared up when the food came, I cried! With joy and sadness. A joy that this was possible again with confidence, trust (& jabs!). Sadness for what we have all endured, are enduring and for some countries still overwhelmed by horrors. More than aware of the fragile nature of all our lives.

At last, it was time to check out our canal boat and even gaining entrance was an adventure, through a boatyard, along a metal walkway and across another boat. Already the front of the canal boat beckoned me to unfold the seats and table, to just absorb the peace of the water.

Inside the spaciousness was a welcome surprise, as were the chocolates and wine!

We were set!

Finally, under current restrictions, the cathedral was not open but I have visited this glorious building previously including the stunning Stained Glass Museum. You can read my post about it, An Illuminating Art, here.

For the trainspotter fans, a couple of videos of the railway traffic through Ely are available on my YouTube channel here and here.

The Inaudible Audible

Flowering Pink Camellia

Imagine an early nineteenth-century glass house filled with camellias. Camellias placed there in the mid-1800s in the belief that the glass house replicated the best conditions for these Asiatic plants. Inside the plants flounder, sicken. Black aphids fester upon the leaves, buds of flowers die and drop off before they can flourish and bloom to their full beauty. The few that flower normally do so without the usual heavenly scent.

What are the camellias’ stories? What are the emotions felt by visitors to the glass house?

Wollaton Hall in Nottingham was built in the 1580s and it is home to the glorious glass house. Today the hall houses a natural history display and the grounds include a 500-acre deer park and stunning lake. The Camellia House is one of the earliest cast-iron glass houses in the UK and was built in 1827.

Wollaton Hall Camelia House
The Camellia House at Wollaton Hall Glass House

In a unique experiment in 2019/2020 musician, beatboxer, and composer Jason Singh was commissioned to create a musical composition using ‘biodata’ of the plants. With sensors placed on leaves he captured the electrical signals from the camellias. These were then converted to midi signals and thereafter generated into music and sounds.

Jason was surprised by the depth of his emotions during the project, at times feeling physically unwell, as well as suffering from anxiety and agitation upon listening to the plants.

He gives an evocative voice to the plants, a sound enhanced as musicians on xylophone and harp responded to the plant sounds and added their interpretation.

Where once visitors walked quickly and disinterested through the Camellia House, during the installation they sat, listened and contemplated.

Hopefully many will have added their thoughts to the sight and music before them. Through the melancholic, entrancing tones Jason Singh wanted to stimulate feelings within visitors about the plants, environment, our place in the world as well as conservation and people’s wellbeing. Furthermore, he hoped to raise questions and exploration of our inner selves and our global position within the natural world. In the process, he unexpectedly tapped into his soul and undoubtedly others experienced the same whilst listening to this most original musical installation.

A final word. I had meant to visit this installation last spring but for obvious reasons this was not possible. However, it’s a joy to finally be able to share about it here on my blog!

A GHOST AND HIS GOLD: A BOOK REVIEW

A Ghost and His Gold combines the paranormal with intense violent battle scenes from 1899-1902; it features three ghosts not only haunting a house and its occupants in present-day South Africa but who are themselves haunted by events in their past lives; it’s a story about seeking forgiveness and ultimately finding redemption.

Furthermore the book explores not only the horror of war, concentration camps, scorched earth policy but also date rape, rape, violence against women. Can any ever be forgiven? Can anyone carrying out these acts ever find peace within themselves and acceptance by loved ones again?

Initially, A Ghost and his Gold appears to be a normal paranormal ghost story as Michelle and Tom, both working in the finance sector although she is also a part-time writer, move into their new home. The new townhouse is situated on the site of an old Boer homestead. Michelle immediately senses and sees a presence in the house, one that makes itself known to them and their friends during a party using an Ouija board. Tom, a hard-nosed realist, is sceptical that the man named Pieter was there or even existed.

From the close-third person narrative in 2019, the novel switches to 1900 and Pieter is in his house with the family as he is woken by banging on the door with a warning that the ‘khakis’ (British soldiers) are on the way.

It is in the midst of the Second Anglo Boer War and the events focus on Pieter, his strong-willed wife, their daughter Estelle and other children. Estelle is treated with contempt by her mother, a woman who later rejects her.

As another ghost called Robert makes itself known to Michelle, she discovers his journal written whilst he was a British soldier during the war. The first-person perspective of the journal is especially powerful, personal and direct. During the siege of Mafeking, Robert befriends a young man called Richard and he takes him under his wing.

Roberta Eaton Cheadle’s research of the period is impressive. Yet she does not fall into the trap of using all her knowledge with a flood of information, rather skilfully incorporates detail where necessary; be it of the furniture or buildings of the era, the form of travel, clothes and she is particularly adept at writing battles scenes, the weapons used, their tragic consequences. I felt as if I was in the midst of the carnage, feeling the horrors experienced by Robert, Pieter and the others.

Whilst Pieter and some of his family and friends have some reservations about the war, their women have no such qualms and see no other option for their ‘Volk’. Tragically they suffer dreadfully during the war and these scenes in the book are not easy to read, horrors repeated many times throughout history and alas in present times.

The third ghost is a poltergeist who first appears on Michelle’s computer screen — this part of the book had me jumping back in fright as I read it! Estelle is consumed with ferocious anger against Tom and as she starts to haunt him he suffers nightmares and becomes increasingly sick, all the time unaware of the cause of his illness. Michelle knows the cause, Estelle, but why does Estelle hate Tom with such frightening malice and enmity? Slowly I learned her history through her own third-person narrative.

Throughout the author manages the nigh-impossible; equally portraying the ruthlessness and violence of both sides as well as their humanity and warmth. It is heart-wrenching to see how the mutual loathing and hatred intensified as the battles were protracted and that both Robert and Pieter, who had briefly met in battle, lose their kindheartedness and compassion. It is only in death that they realise the true cost of war and that so many wrongs need to be righted for them to find peace, for Estelle to be freed from her path of vengeance. However, they need help and at last through Michelle, they have found it!

The finale of the book had me totally engrossed as I read late into the night, with the story building to a crescendo of action and emotional pinnacle I could see no resolution. Luckily the author had and with expertise she brings the book to a terrific conclusion and some light in the darkness.

A brief note regarding the start of the book which begins with a list of names of famous characters from the era along with a timeline of major events. I couldn’t wait to read the novel and skipped these informative pages. They are a valuable resource but feel they might be better placed at the back of the book. The shorter explanatory notes scattered throughout the novel are extremely helpful.

This is not a book for the faint-hearted, or those seeking a simple ghost story or cosy read. One recommended for readers looking for a thought-provoking, action-packed novel with a rich variety of characters set in historical times with a paranormal twist!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Publisher: TSL Publications

Available to purchase:

TSL Publications (ebook and paperback)

Lulu

Amazon

Reading Challenge 2021: Oskar’s Quest – Annika Perry

A review from Charley at booksandbakes1 is like seeing my own book anew! Her insight and detailed analysis of ‘Oskar’s Quest’ is extraordinary and has me twirling with joy in my studio!

Comments are closed on my reblog here but I look forward to catching up with you all on her wonderful blog!

booksandbakes1

Hello Lovelies!

I hope you’re all well and are getting into the Easter spirit 🐣! I’m thoroughly enjoying my Easter break – reading plenty, spending time with my family (my support bubble), in the garden and spending time soaking up the warmer days. I seem to have got my writing mojo back so whilst I appreciate it is now April, I have a couple of posts I need to catch up with. Today’s post is the book I chose to read for the reading challenge. The focus for March was: Read a book that was gifted to you. If you’d like to catch up or take part in my reading challenge, please click here for more information. I’m sure all my avid reader blogging friends get books for birthdays, Christmas and then when you decide to treat yourself… or is that just me? Anyway, I had the perfect book in…

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Dear Creative Spirit

Dear Creative Spirit,

Thank you for the gift of creativity.
For the ability to read and write
May I learn to trust Write,
to gain confidence that my words matter.

Thank you for placing these gifts in my hands.
Let the faith you show in me
give me belief in my own ability

Thank you for my precious imagination,
A world without is incomprehensible.
Let it run free and wild.

Give me strength to let loose the reins,
to overcome my many fears and worries
that bind and shackle me.

I see my spirit floating freely
As creativity is unleashed

I imagine these moments of epiphany
I will find you, I will find infinity.

I know there is nothing I cannot do
Thank you for letting me know.

May my words help others, be a support;
May they find enjoyment, humour and
the spirits of their own
lifted within my words.
Giving hope.

My heart is full of joy and excitement
at the thought of my creative capabilities.

©Annika Perry

‘Dear Creative Spirit’ is one of the first exercises set by Julia Cameron in her ‘The Artist’s Way’ and after my initial hesitation of what to write, I found myself inspired as I addressed my own Creative Spirit.

I came across a rough draft of this recently and since have edited it to this final version here – I hope it gives others the ability to trust in their gift. Lack of confidence in one’s capabilities is often the hindrance to even start writing and sharing one’s work.

Clearing out is a task I throw myself at with glee! For some this is a chore, understandably so, whilst for myself, the opportunity to revisit past items, letters, papers is an act of time travel!

Amongst the haul, I unearthed a calendar beneath a desk, papers were strewn on top, dust neatly and evenly covering the surface. I cleaned down the pretty cover and flipped through the images.

The artist is Erkers Marie Persson and for many years she painted for the Swedish Calendar. In her paintings, she tries to capture the wonder of bygone eras when generations mixed easily with each other. The pictures included in my post are taken from this delightful calendar which our company gave away to customers! Thankfully, I retained one as well!

Over Easter, I will be enjoying a ‘home-holiday’ and taking a mini-blogging break, popping in now and then. I wish you all a peaceful and relaxing holiday time!

“A childhood without books — that would be no childhood. That would be like being shut out from the enchanted place where you can go and find the rarest kind of joy.” Astrid Lindgren

CREATIVE HAVEN

Often we let our dreams remain just that — a fantasy! A longing etched in the heart and mind, slowly dissipating into oblivion.

One such dream had lightly rested in my spirit for a long time and finally dared to take form within me last spring. For a week or so the idea gently took root, and as always I tried to stomp out the ridiculous notion! It would not obey and instead reached deeper into my consciousness, my dream took on a dramatic design. At last, I could see it! My writing studio!

For another week I pondered the possibilities, the position for such a building in the garden, exploring the numerous different garden offices for sale as well as taking into account the overall cost.

With all the boxes ticked I approached my husband to discuss the plan and his enthusiasm mirrored mine! After much deliberation we settled on a building and time-frame — delivery was organised for the middle of January!

It was wonderful in the midst of this dark and traumatic month here in the UK to have this positive exciting new project underway.

I revelled in planning all the elements of the venture, from the construction to the completion, overseeing all the various stages.

First trees and bushes had to be cleared; I bade a fond sad farewell to a beloved acacia tree and climbing roses. In its place, two super guys laid a cement base and the light and airy feel to the corner lifted my spirits and I could not help but give a little twirl on this temporary perfect outdoor dance floor!

All ready for the cement!
Me in a celebratory twirl on the newly dry cement base (Thank you to Pam at ROUGHWIGHTING for encouraging me in this dance, no snow alas!)

Whilst waiting for the building electricity was an urgent necessity and a professional company explained that this would need to come from the mains in the house. Furthermore, a trench 600 mm (2 feet) deep needed to be dug from the house to the new building for the armoured electrical cable. My husband took on this unenviable task, digging in all weathers, and for all his hard work I happily listened to his descriptive monologues of each varying layer of clay (there are many!)

The final trench

Soon enough the building arrived and the two guys came back to erect the kit-form building.

Floor bearers laid and start of wall construction and panels added!

Within four days, the piles of wood and building parts had been transformed into a magnificent new garden office. At their suggestion decking was laid all around the building and this complemented the modern sleek design perfectly!

Ta-da! My Completed Writing Studio!

With the exterior completed it was time to tackle the interior and at first I was daunted by the gaps between walls, ceilings and floor. No fear, I was reassured by my husband, as all would be finished beautifully and during the coldest days in the year he filled, painted, added skirting, coving, trims as necessary.

In less than two days the electricity was all put into place and at last there was light and power in the building. All in time for the new carpet and curtains.

An opening ceremony was held one sunny evening and with great aplomb, I cut the ribbon strewn across the handles and we stepped inside. My mother poured the champagne she’d brought and we had a wonderful celebratory time picnicking on the soft carpet!

Finally it was time for a heave and a ho! Three days later all my furniture was in place, which included ‘borrowing’ a bookcase from another room and putting my all-important ornaments, knick knacks and pictures into place.

My writing desk side!
The computer desk side!

The pièce de résistance was the most unusual and stunning present from my mother — a beautiful Tiffany lamp. Can you see the dragonflies flitting about?

I have now fully moved in and I am ecstatic. Ensconced within this cosiest of writing retreats I’ve found that creativity has flourished! It is peaceful within, the rain on the roof a mediative tune for my soul, the tap-dancing pigeon gracing me with its presence in-between nibbling seeds below the bird feeder just a metre or so away from me. The light is startlingly sheer and invigorating. Within me the transformation has been astounding, my heart is full of joy and energy, life feels lighter and more positive. Already I feel inspiration bubbling within me!

“Dreams are the illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.” Marsha Norman

A snug welcoming haven even at nighttime!

Note: All photographs by & copyright ©Annika Perry

SWAYING ENIGMA

As I headed out into the garden one sunny February afternoon a movement caught my eye; upon the decking the wooden swing seat was gently swaying and for a moment or two endless possibilities swarmed to my mind. A ghostly being seemed to have taken comfort upon the seat, enjoying the wintry sunlight. Alas, the reality is most likely far more mundane and the breeze caught the slats as if a sail.

However, the image would not go away. Luckily I’d taken a video and soon poems came unbidden to me. Here are a couple of them.

The first is in a traditional Haiku format composed of only three lines. The first line of Haiku has 5 syllables, the second line has 7 syllables, and the third has 5 syllables.

ROCKING

Childhood memories
Sway with mysterious ease
Gentle cosseting.

©Annika Perry, March 2021

My second poem is a form called Eyeverse and is a four-line poem based around an image. The name was coined by mslexia, a British magazine for women writers founded in 1999 which releases four editions a year.

MOMENTS

Tea spilled on your torn jeans
My curls tousled through your fingers
Our first youthful kisses
A mere ghostly presence.


©Annika Perry, March 2021