Posts Tagged action

‘The Harrowing of Doom’, by David Annandale

I wasn’t quite sure what to think going into this. I love comic books, and have read some of the most poignant and memorable tales within their pages – but my experience with prose versions of the very colourful and vivid characters has been mixed. Somehow words alone haven’t been able to do justice to what is usually a very visual experience.

Within a few pages, I knew I needn’t have worried. I find myself deep in Latveria, home and domain of scientist and magician Dr Victor von Doom, witnessing his quest to rescue the spirit of his mother from Hell. Almost like a damned soul himself, it’s a battle he (literally) fights every year, only to lose over and over. But this time will be different…

I was absolutely captivated by this book. I knew the author from some of his Warhammer fiction, but reading his little note stating his love for one of comics’ greatest villains, I can only agree – he’s more than done justice to what could well have been a pretty two-dimensional character.

The outline of the base plot is above, but threads run swiftly through the pages to depict a busy, thriving country ruled by a benevolent dictator, with everyone fighting their own battles much as we all do. From the lowest to the highest, this book expertly balances magic and science, contemporary and medieval, superstition and fact, love and duty. In a way, it reminded me of the cleverness of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, which confused and awed many critics with its skilful mix of real-world and comic-book.

No previous knowledge is really needed, and it doesn’t take much to suspend your disbelief. If someone were to point out Latveria on a map now, I think I’d just want to know more about it as a place and culture!

This story absolutely left me wanting more. I read it at increasing speed, with moments of calm thoughtfulness slowly ramping up to a crescendo of action – all beautifully described, so I never felt lost.

This is the Doom we have never seen in the movies. I love how his tale has caught the imaginations of many through the years, and I’m absolutely looking forward to future prose versions of his fantastic peers.

Definitely recommended.

Available from January 7th in paperback and electronic format. With thanks to Aconyte Books for kindly providing the review ARC.

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Three Little Words

Words are not coming easily to me right now.

I have reviews to write. Articles. Email replies. I open the file and…

I know it’s not just me. Other friends have spoken of feeling ‘blocked’. I see books delayed, proofreading problems – even social media misunderstandings.

Lockdown may be sending us a little stir-crazy, and the mixed messages coming from those who profess to ‘lead’ us don’t help.

I’m writing this spontaneously, in the hope that it helps to provoke my inspiration, but also that it makes sense.

Words are the tools we use to convey how we feel, our intentions and thoughts. Some of us are more skilled than others, but if we take the time to truly listen to the voice of the writer, that sense of them can be found.

Sometimes, those ideas take more than 140 characters, or a small blurt of ‘Status Update’.

I like the idea of Twitter being the sound of sparrows yelling at each other in a hedge. Lots of noise, but you can probably determine a conversation thread if you listen hard enough. But it’s easy to be sidetracked or mis-hear.

There can be connotations you’re not aware of. A particular word may be unintentionally insulting. A phrase may be new to you, but tired and over-used to others.

A journalist friend recently said to me that the sentence ‘That’s a really good [or ‘excellent’] question’ is so often used by politicians, it virtually translates in the hearing, becoming ‘Now I’m going to talk about something entirely irrelevant.’ I used that sentence in an interview – and I sincerely meant it, because the question was good and new to me. But due to unknown overuse, the way it was received was far different from my intention.

I try to speak honestly, in my verbal words and my writing. Some readers assume I have ulterior motives, but usually I genuinely do just want people to see what’s on my mind! We hear so many soundbites and political doublespeak, it’s hard to discern what’s really meant.

Let’s take an example that we all know: ‘I love you.’ Sometimes easy to say, sometimes not. But familiar from books, movies, chit-chat or intense moments.

I’ve always found it hard to say. Because when I do, I want to mean it.

The first person who was not family that I said this to kicked me to the curb a week later. I think these words made him run, but who knows.

I’ve had alleged ‘friends’ say them to me, before doing things that no caring person would. ‘Love you, babe’ – then cattiness behind my back.

People now say them to me, and I know they mean it. But it’s hard to respond, because of the fear of what might come, based on past bad experiences.

I never want to do my dear friends a disservice, ever. Family can be more than blood, as modern folklore says.

Again, if I say it, I want to mean it – and for that meaning to be understood.

‘I love you’ means that I’ll run to help if called. I’ll provide what’s needed, from hugs to food parcels. It means you can be safe with me.

There’s levels of relationship, of course, but this is a powerful statement. I can’t say it frivolously. It hurts when those who’ve said it to me act as if it means nothing.

Words hold power. They are basic communication, but also deep magic and connection (why do you think it’s called ‘spell-ing’?). I would be so glad if we could speak our truth to each other and be heard, rather than twisting the words in midair to mean something entirely different…

I can’t guarantee that, though, can I? Because of those connotations and associations I mentioned above. The ones I don’t necessarily know about.

We can only do our best to convey meaning through these squiggles of sound, pixels or ink. We have to trust that those listening hear our intention.

And we have to act – and keep acting – to prove that our words are true. No matter if only one person is listening, or the whole world.

Our words can be powerful, or they can be meaningless.

I hope you understand.

I send you the love of a writer for those who read through to the end.

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Truth in Word and Deed

Recently, I’ve been rather quieter than usual. I realized today that this is since the recent UK Government Elections. With all the noise leading up to it, and then the fallout after, I didn’t really feel that I had anything to say.

No – that’s not quite right. I had a lot to say. It just felt rather like yelling into a void. A void of anger, disappointment, soundbites and oversimplification.

Today, Nimue Brown wrote about Truth in her blog, when spoken as part of a Druid’s role. I’ve also spoken recently about my doubts on the word ‘Druid’ as a label, as it doesn’t quite encompass what I do… but this Truth absolutely does.

I’ve been quiet because I’ve felt the need to pull back right now. The Yuletide season is full of light and noise, and I can’t engage with that this year. Physically, mentally and spiritually, it feels wrong for me.

The image I keep coming back to is actually from what may be considered a ‘seasonal’ movie – not because it’s set at Christmas (it really isn’t!), but because this series is traditionally shown at this time of year, as a fun adventure for all ages.

For the past few weeks, I’ve felt like Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (Episode 4, the original film). Suddenly hit by something, he puts a hand to his head and totters across a room to sit down.

You know the quote, I’m sure. But it’s the whole image for me.

A little melodramatic, but the energy of sheer confusion, powerlessness and wanting to lash out… it’s been overwhelming.

And yet, it’s times like these that demand we speak up. It’s more important than ever, in fact. To stand, as Druid, Priest, human being; to console, protest, debate, find sense in the story that’s unfolding right before our eyes.

15 million people (estimated) didn’t vote in that recent Election. We are at once so disengaged from the process of running this country that we all have an opinion, but feel that our voices make no difference. Suddenly silenced – as on social media, when expressing an opinion and being shouted down. The one who wins is the one who shouts loudest.

I’m not sure how this will all unfold. I’m not sure that anyone could have ‘won’ the political game during this round. But – speaking as someone who is on medication to literally prevent the urge to do this very thing – I know that we cannot give up.

We must keep talking, and also listening. We must relearn empathy, consideration and motivation, why others act as they do. We must challenge, educate and inspire. We hope… but then we must move. Do. Step forward.

I’ve felt for a few days that I needed to write this – I just wasn’t sure how. I’d silenced myself. Then today, I was watching a man who is already considered a great storyteller, reflecting my feelings (and frustrations) perfectly whilst talking about another movie:

“Here you have this event – on the one hand, it’s a beautiful thing, right? We’re all going to get together, we’re going to hold hands, and somehow that’s going to cure hunger. The illusion that we’re contributing to something that actually is making change, at opposed to something that kind of makes us feel better, and absolves us of our responsibility to enact actual change.”

Jordan Peele, speaking about the duality of America as depicted in the 1980s ‘Hands Across America’ movement in the movie ‘Us’.

The noise of this season is coming together with the frustration of these times. We can’t make change while we’re busy worrying about our own problems: paying for gifts, sorting food, travel, the needs of relatives. Yes, community and sharing, but with more emphasis on image than truth.

We get together and talk about even more problems that we see: those in power, those without, immigration, homelessness, rich versus poor. And then we return to our lives and enter the next year. Back to ‘normal’, whatever that means.

Yes, such debates happen amongst those with privilege, to some extent. But that’s not helpful either. Guilt or blame gets us nowhere.

My Druid phrase comes back to me again, right now:

What am I Doing?

My husband is heading out tonight, working Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to help those in need. I’m here at home, wondering what I can do.

I can speak. I can write. I can make things to help people. I can listen when called upon.

I’m honestly not sure what else I can do just yet, but I’ve no doubt I’ll find out as we enter 2020. The challenge, as always, is to stand up. To reach out. To engage.

It’s so very difficult right now. But I cannot stay silent. It’s knowing what to say – and then what to Do. It’s overwhelming, but I feel that I can’t stay silent any longer.

Season’s blessings, my friends. Stay strong, remember that you are loved and that you are more powerful than you think. Use your words well, moving forward.

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Quiet Rebellion

The world seems to have gone mad right now. As the news rolls on, with the British Government apparently heading towards dictatorship (or oligarchy at least), I’ve felt so powerless. My MP has never listened to anyone but those who agree with him, so what can I do?

Himself reminded me of the image below.

We could run away, or as one fine Tweet said this morning, ‘Fuck off into the EU that you love so much.’ We could give up and flee.

Or we could stand. No matter what symbols they make us wear, or freedoms slowly curtailed.

This is my land, my home. It can do so much better. We must stand together – apathy is not an option. If we give in to powerlessness, those who benefit from that inaction win.

We must stay. Stand. Remain, even. When they come for us, standing to raise your voice beside the river of truth can be a powerful act of rebellion.

Much love, my friends.

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Walking Your Own Path

This week, I have mostly been exhausted. It’s a busy time of year, my diary is crammed, I knew it would be happening. But that doesn’t stop me about worrying – about the work I’m not doing (while I’m resting), how tired I am, the ever-present To Do list…

I suppose this is symptomatic of the modern age. We’re encouraged to always be Getting On, doing something worthwhile, answering our emails within 24 hours (at most!), always being on-call.

I’ve never liked such a demanding life – I doubt many do. From having to answer questions via mobile from my boss while on holiday in the middle of a field, to explaining that no, I’m not ignoring someone because I haven’t answered their message, I’m just not getting a telephone or internet signal while away. We’ve all become very needy, with this constant (time-saving?) connection to each other.

While the positive is that we’re living as an ever-widening community, the negative clearly is that your own self can get lost, subsumed in the noise. I hear parents say this all the time. They’d love to do certain things but can’t, because of the demands of the children. I understand that to some extent (not being a parent myself), and certainly honour their choice to give up their life for the rugrats. But I can’t help thinking that we then grow up with those expectations, of someone being there for us as soon as we need them to be. A child, tugging on its parents’ cuff, whining ‘Mum, Mum, Mum’ – like the incessant ring of a mobile phone.

My parents gave things up for myself and my brother. But then when they needed to do something, go somewhere, we were taken along as well. We learned from an early age to be polite in public, sit quietly (I still always carry at least one book with me wherever I go), or amuse ourselves without being naughty. Yes, of course we got bored – but we made up games to keep ourselves amused. I vaguely remember some sort of ‘hide and seek’ in the furniture department of a large store, and discovering early video games with an original Atari display in a shop (yes, I’m dating myself – it was the early ’80s, if you must know).

Now, as an adult, I see children running almost out of control in shops and restaurants, with parents uncertain how to deal with them, how to set boundaries. This isn’t the norm, though, despite what some tabloid newspapers may have us believe – it’s simply that the louder children are more annoying and incessant, so more visible in their obvious demands. I see smarter, abler, more responsible youngsters regularly in the streets near me, but fortunately, the parents here are more inclined to the old ‘good telling off’ method of discipline than wrapping the little darlings in cotton wool.

But then we see it with adults as well: demanding, shouting, raging in public when something hasn’t worked out to their liking. That expectation, the sense of control being lost and subsequent crying like a child – I find it rather scary. I’ve felt it too, the frustration of being treated like a number by those apparently trying to help – but these are systems that we have agreed to live within, as they rise around us. Anger isn’t going to change that. Acting like a mature adult dealing with another, however…

One of the most common excuses I hear for not following a spiritual path is ‘I don’t have time.’ I understand, but it still frustrates me (when I do it too, by the way – I’m not immune!). But as I’ve often said, Druidry is a lived spirituality. We are living it, all the time.

In this mad connection of busy-ness, calling to and being called on by others, we are speaking, listening, thinking, seeing… or are we? How often do we find ourselves lapsing into the easy laziness of absolved responsibility? Like a child, allowing others to take over, and then complaining when things don’t work out as we’d like? It’s far easier to laugh at mistakes when they’re your own, that you should have realized but didn’t – because you know your own thought processes. Did you cock up because of enthusiasm, ignorance, distraction, or all three? That’s ok. Now you know, you can fix it.

Or if we’re working as part of a team, are we doing our bit well, or spending all our time worrying about others? Are you frustrated by those workmates’ own laziness, allowing you to pick up the slack while they hang back? How far are you letting them do so? How much easier is it to blame others, bitching from a remote moral high ground where nothing will ever change? Or are you really seeing the whole story?

We all need time for ourselves. All of us. Whether it’s to recharge, or just to simply breath out and take stock, that ‘Me Time’ is crucial to our sanity. From the classic sit-com image of a husband relaxing in his greenhouse, to a busy mum closing her eyes as she lies back in her bubble bath. We all know it – the difficulty is ‘fitting in’ that time amidst everything else.

But the truth is, like our spirituality, we are always in our Me time. How could we not be? We are each ourselves, an individual, walking our path in a larger world but ultimately ME. So what are you doing with that time?

We aren’t encouraged to stop, to rest. Try it now. Pause. Take a breath. Look around, really look. Smile at what you see (I hope). This is your life. You chose to be there, doing that, reading this. I chose to type these words.

I chose this path. I avoided it for a long time, before listening to that Universal voice telling me to get on with it. I can’t complain about my busy-ness, because ultimately I’m doing something that I love, which brings happiness to others, or at least helps them out a little. I’m not just doing this to massage my own ego or to be ‘needed’ – I’m here because people keep calling on me. I’m fulfilling a role, one which is flexible based on each individual and their circumstances. Connection, but each time entirely unique.

I’m truly not trying to be some sort of ‘guru’ or ‘leader’. At best, I’m a guide – noter of the possibilities, kicker-up-the-bum to action, deflater of complacency and provider of tea in times of crisis. But I need that too, from time to time. Of course I do.

This is where we learn to stop, to stand, to take stock and breath. To take responsibility. Even if that means saying ‘no, I’m sorry, I can’t do that’. To see, listen, investigate, understand; or if not understand, then either walk away or find an alternate route. To be part of the flow, which helps you to ride it more effectively rather than push against the tide.

We need to find what recharges us, fuels us. To maintain our personal practice. Yes, I do firmly believe that you can find time to set aside for this, but if you absolutely feel you can’t no matter what, do so when waiting for other things – a bus or train, a kettle to boil, while running a bath or washing up. Those are good times to think, to consider, to connect. After all, each one is a ritual act in itself…

Try it. Live your life, your responsibility, your spirituality. And, as always (both actively and passively): What are you doing?

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