By: A one in ten opportunity

I receive occasional email newsletters from Bridget Whelan, author of Back to Creative Writing School, with hints and suggestions for aspring writers. This one has just arrived, and her suggestion is:

When you have time to write, but don’t  know what to write….
Find the 10th  book in your home (or where you are right now). Go to page 10 and find the 10th word on the 10th line. That will be your title. Use it no matter how difficult, even if you have to look up its meaning, even if it is THE. Write for 10 minutes.

Whilst THE sounded challening enough, I thought it was just my luck to end up with BY. So here goes…

By. What does that word suggest? Immediate response is that it means ownership. Something may be written by me (like this) or it may be owned by me, like the laptop I’m using to write on, or the desk that I sit at or the rather snazzy art deco style chair I sit on when using the desk.

If “by” suggests ownership, it also means the responsibility that comes with it. I have to own and use my possessions in a way that doesn’t harm others; if I write something and get it published with my byline saying it has been written by me, I have to own the views and opinions that I’ve included in the article or blog post or tweet. I can’t wriggle out of something I’ve written or said and pretend it’s not been said by me; to do so would be dishonest and inauthentic.

So “by”, in the contexts mentioned relates to ownwership.

Other verbal or written expressions of the word “by” might be spelled differently and have different meanings – “Bye!” as in goodbye; a “bye” in cricket is a run scored from a ball that passes the batsman without being hit; “buy” is commercial, in the sense of buying goods or buying into an idea or scheme. And if we stand or sit near something or someone, we say we’re by them or beside them.

That’s my ten minutes on “by”. By me, naturally!

Solstice sunset

Solstice sunset

I took this photo from the Great Orme, Llandudno, North Wales, as the sun was setting. It was close to the date of the Winter Solstice. The view is towards the island Anglesey, which is connected to the mainland of Wales by the Menai Bridge.

It was cold when I took the shot – typical of a dark and wintry day in the northern hemisphere when astrologically and astronomically the Sun enters the sign of Capricorn. With busy lives and disturbing events happening around us in a world full of change, it’s good to remember and reconnect with natural events which occur at this time of year.

Connecting with the position of the Sun in relation to ourselves on Earth is something we can do relatively easily at this time of year. On 21st December the Sun is at its furthest point from the northern hemisphere, making this the shortest day and longest night of the year. Meanwhile, down in the southern hemisphere the Sun is riding high in the sky as the exact opposite happens.

The winter solstice is a festival of light and in the northern hemisphere it coincides with Christmas. This Christian festival takes place at the same time of year as the pagan celebration of the solstice which celebrates the gradual and at first impercetible return of the light of the Sun after the long days of darkness. It’s the turning point of the year and marks the return of the light and the rebirth of the Sun (the Son in Christianity…?), together with the promise of the warmth and energy the Sun brings to make crops – essential to life – grow once again after the earth has lain dormant.

This is the time of year when people of all faiths, and none, have festivals of light, or of special significance in their own faith, when we can express our connection with the earth, our life upon it in relation to others we meet, families, and our place in the solar system.

Here in Brexit blighted UK, we’re going through some very dark days as we have no idea what is going happen, and unfortunately neither do our politicians (or maybe they’re just not telling us…?) But it’s a dark and difficult time as we enter yet another government/PM-created limbo waiting to discover what will happen on 29th March 2019.

So here are some suggestions of what you and I could do at this time of year to bring light into our lives, and the lives of others around us:

  • light a candle – simple and easy – remember the sayng that it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness
  • call a friend – reconnect with someone you’ve not been in touch with for a while
  • perform a random act of kindness – just do it!
  • take a risk and smile at strangers as you walk down the street – this one is very rewarding
  • say hello to someone you don’t know – you could follow up the smile with this one
  • glow with joy and a warmth of spirit…and it will come back to you in spades

And may the warmth of friendship be wrapped around you at this time of year.

Autumn fungi


These shots of different types of fungus were taken in the Loire and Dordogne regions during a recent holiday in France.

I’ve failed miserably to ID them using a rather ancient field guide to Mushrooms and Toadstools, but am fairly confident in thinking that two out of the three types of fungus shown above come under the “Bracket Fungus” category.

Top left was in the Dordogne region, in a woodland and growing on a fallen tree trunk.

Top right was by the River Indre, in the Loire region, invading the trunk of a riverside tree and creating interesting reflections in the water.

As for the lower close up of the large group, I have no idea what they are. They just looked interesting, all close together, nestled on the ground, in grass, between trees and not far from where our motorhome was pitched.

Meadow Brown


Staying in the Dordogne region of France last month, I was able to soak up some late summer/early autumn wildlife experiences.

Butterflies of all sorts make me happy whatever the season, but there are usually a lot of Meadow Browns around at this time of year, almost to the point of…yawn…”Oh, another Meadow Brown”….but of course it’s not really like that when I’m out with camera and eyes peeled for whatever flutters by, fast or slow.

I think this one is feasting on wild scabious, seen in a semi-wild meadow adjacent to the garden of a house up on a hillside near the River Vezere.


Looking around the garden in the past few days, I noticed how many purple flowers we have. Purple is a favourite colour; it has regal and spiritual connections and resonates with the violet in the rainbow spectrum.

It’s also a colour which attracts bees – an insect which is so important yet under threat from the use of pesticides.

When taking these shots of the purple flowers I forgot that we have lavender too. It’s just coming into flower and my hope is that it will be visited by as many bees as are in the neighbourhood.

I belong to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. I’m a fairly passive member; I support their work and do my bit in my own way by encouraging an interest in bees with my grandchildren. Granddaughter has moved from being scared of bumblebees to being being brave enough to stroke one carefully (I wrote about this last year) while it’s immersed in its task of collecting pollen. Her interest has spread to liking hoverflies and being fascinated by them.