Author Archives: Lisa Shambrook

About Lisa Shambrook

A writer and dreamer who loves dragons... Author www.lisashambrook.com and co-owner Amaranth Alchemy on Etsy etsy.com/uk/shop/AmaranthAlchemy

Cow Parsley and its Rogue Cousin Common Hogweed

I love the Welsh hedgerows of summer,
full of white Cow Parsley, Common Hogweed,
and dotted with Red Campion, and purple Foxgloves.

Cow Parsley and its cousin Common Hogweed - The Delicate Beauties of the Hedgerow - The Last Krystallos

Delicate white Cow Parsley and Hogweed flowers sway gently amid roadside flora, and along paths, and the edges of fields. Both Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) and Common Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) are common sights from spring into summer, and their dry stalks and skeletons decorate the verges when autumn and winter arrives.

Cow Parsley Hogweed Flowers - The Last Krystallos

Cow Parsley – Hogweed – Hemlock © Lisa Shambrook

Being an everyday sight in the UK countryside, Cow Parsley has become a favourite wild plant to include in my writing, its form and structure adds to descriptive scenes and offers history and familiarity to the reader.

It’s also familiar to readers who understand herbs and plants, as cow parsley has been used in traditional medicines to treat ailments, stomach and kidney problems; breathing difficulties and colds. You must be able to positively recognise the plant before using it as medicinal, or even in cooking, as you can make Cow Parsley soup and a variety of other recipes. My sister advises me that her horses love Cow Parsley!

Cow Parsley - The Last Krystallos

Cow Parsley © Lisa Shambrook

Cow Parsley is recognisable with its long, green, furry stems which are ribbed and have a V shaped groove, umbels of white flowers often tinted pink (left in picture below), and fern like leaves (top middle). Common Hogweed is a very close relation. Its leaves are edible when young, and it’s discernible from Cow Parsley by its daintier florets and broader leaves, but more rounded (bottom middle) than the jagged, spiky leaves of Giant Hogweed. Another cousin is the Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) with narrow ferny leaves and heads of tiny white flowers, but you’ll recognise the difference as the Wild Carrot’s flower cluster usually has a single red/purple flower right in its centre.

Common Hogweed, Cow Parsley, Giant Hogweed and Hemlock Leaves Stems - The Last Krystallos

Common Hogweed (left/bottom middle), Cow Parsley (top middle), Giant Hogweed (top right) and Hemlock (bottom right) Leaves/Stems © Lisa Shambrook

It has to be said that you need to be incredibly careful not to confuse these with their dangerous and poisonous relations Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) and Hemlock (Conium maculatum).

The first way to tell Giant Hogweed apart from its Common counterpart and Cow Parsley is its size. Cow Parsley can grow to just over 1m (3-4 ft), Common Hogweed a bit taller, but Giant Hogweed grows up to 3m (almost 12 ft) and its umbels of flowers are pure white and can reach the size of 60cm (2 ft) across. Giant Hogweed will generally tower over you and its stems are far thicker. Its leaves are deeply lobed with jagged, serrated edges, and its stem is bristly and purple blotched, (which you can see in the top right picture). Giant Hogweed has violent sap which will react if it touches skin in bright sunlight inducing burns and painful blistering, needing quick medical attention. My mother discovered this when she tried to cut one down without realising what it was and ended up arms of red blisters and hospital treatment.

Common Hogweed Leaves Stem - The Last Krystallos

Common Hogweed © Lisa Shambrook

Hemlock is much smaller, and very similar in appearance to Cow Parsley with fern like leaves, but it also has stems blotched wine-red, though its stalks are smooth (bottom right in picture). All parts of Hemlock are poisonous though it was also used as medication by the Anglo-Saxons.

Giant Hogweed is well known for its dangerous phototoxic sap, but it’s wise to remember that all of these plants have sap that reacts to bright sunlight. In the same way a wild animal would attack if assaulted plants can do the same, and if these plants are cut down by mechanical means (strimmers etc) they utilise their defences and their sap will react and burn when it touches skin.

Wild Carrot - The Last Krystallos

Wild Carrot © Lisa Shambrook

Both Cow Parsley and Wild Carrot are also called Queen Anne’s Lace in the UK. Queen Anne took the British throne in 1702, and she was the second daughter of James II. A story goes that the queen asked her ladies-in-waiting to see who could make lace as beautiful as the cow parsley in the countryside, and only she could. Another story says that Queen Anne pricked her finger while making lace, thus why the Wild Carrot has a purple flower at its centre.

Cow Parsley, Foxglove and Red Campion - The Last Krystallos

Cow Parsley, Foxglove and Red Campion © Lisa Shambrook

I love the wild flowers that embellish my landscape, and along with Bluebells, delicate, lacy Cow Parsley enchants me as it bends in the breeze like fairy blossom…

Sunset and Cow Parsley - The Last Krystallos

Sunset Umbels © Lisa Shambrook

What wild flowers charm you?

Life Lessons we can Learn from Cats

I’ve always been a cat person,
with the belief that cats are magical, beautiful, and healing,
and that purring is one of the best sounds in the whole world!

Life Lessons we can Learn from Cats - The Last Krystallos

I didn’t grow up with cats – my parents rescued Shantih and Charity, when I was already an adult. But Vince and I, newly married, rescued Rusty, a five-month-old abandoned ginger kitten, with only half a tail and damaged paw pads, when he tried living beneath my in-laws shed. He was a sorry sight, scrawny and malnourished, and the vet believed he wouldn’t have lasted another two weeks. He lived a happy, ditzy life with us ‘til he was twelve-years-old.

We got Misty and Raven thirteen years ago: having gone to a farm to collect a grey kitten from the masses of black kittens, the canny farmer placed a black kitten in Bekah’s hands, and that was that, we came home with both of them and adore them, as we should!

So, here are some lessons we can learn from these most independent, yet needy, creatures…

The smallest feline is a masterpiece - Leonardo da Vinci - The Last Krystallos - Photo Bekah Shambrook

© Bekah Shambrook

The smallest feline is a masterpiece – Leonardo da Vinci
It’s particularly lovely that this quote comes from Leonardo da Vinci, someone who not only appreciated art, but also mechanics and science. The physical attributes of a cat are truly works of art, from its sheer beauty to its agility. It’s no wonder they say cats have nine lives because if we jumped from a wall several times our own height we’re not likely to land on our feet and nonchalantly continue our journey.
If only we could appreciate our own beauty, the magnificence of our bodies and see just how amazing we are too!

Studied philosophers and cats, wisdom of cats is infinitely more superior - Hippolyte Taine - The Last Krystallos

Raven © Lisa Shambrook

I have studied many philosophers and many cats, the wisdom of cats is infinitely more superior – Hippolyte Taine
Slightly tongue-in-cheek, but don’t tell cats you disagree. Cat’s have an air of superiority, they take life as it comes, without having to philosophise, theorise, and speculate…but I do feel maybe they meditate, they must be thinking of something while they stare out of the window all day…
We can seek out wisdom and knowledge, and then be as lofty as any feline!

Anyone around a cat...patience with the limitations of the human - Cleveland Amory - The Last Krystallos

Misty © Lisa Shambrook

Anyone who has ever been around a cat for any length of time well knows cats have enormous patience with the limitations of the human kind – Cleveland Amory
This picture may or may not back up this quote – Misty is waiting for food, impatiently. However, if I don’t respond she will gracefully wait, until I do… As a people we could certainly do with cultivating patience. It’s not one of my virtues, but my cats have plenty of patience with me, and often humour me!

Cats have it all – admiration and endless sleep and company only when they want it - Rod McKuen - The Last Krystallos

Misty © Lisa Shambrook

Cats have it all – admiration and endless sleep and company only when they want it – Rod McKuen
Patience in a cat does run out…and when it does you’ll know. My cats, Misty and Raven, will pretty much allow you to cuddle, stroke, and pet them as much as you like, though Raven will begin to hiss if you push too far. However, Dad’s cat, Fluffy, is a nope cat, when she’s had enough she will sink her teeth and claws into you no matter who you are.
Many cats will only allow attention when they want it. Cats understand and employ consent. Wouldn’t it be great if people truly respected your time, privacy, and space, before you felt like releasing your claws!

Cats have the courage to live them - Jim Davis - The Last Krystallos

Rusty © Lisa Shambrook

Way down deep we’re all motivated by the same urges… Cats have the courage to live by them – Jim Davis
Why don’t we all try to live our dreams? Rusty lived a life of love and adventure. Raven explores and wanders all the time, and Misty sleeps and eats, yep, there are people who would be quite happy with that! I want the confidence of a cat to live my dreams…

Dogs come when they're called. Cats take a message and get back to you - Mary Bly - The Last Krystallos - Photo Bekah Shambrook

© Bekah Shambrook

Dogs come when they’re called. Cats take a message and get back to you – Mary Bly
There is a definite difference between dogs and cats, and this may be it. You don’t ever control a cat. Cat’s live independently living their own lives, albeit tied in with yours for convenience!
Cat’s choose to give you their loyalty, and if you keep your end of the deal they might keep theirs. The love of a cat is a beautiful thing, because if they love you, it’s because they have chosen to love you. I can’t say it’s as unconditional as a dog’s love, but it’s right up there with reciprocal love. Stay worthy of it!

A house is not a home without books and cats - Anon - The Last Krystallos

Raven © Lisa Shambrook

A house is not a home without books and cats Anon
This one is a favourite of mine. I was raised on books, but not cats, so since we got married we’ve had both, books and cats… Never a truer statement!

Let’s live like cats, with patience, adventure,
and the wisdom to know what we want and to go after it!

What do you love about cats?

Also check out: Life Lessons we can Learn from Dogs…

Blue John – Treak Cliff, Peak District

Blue John – the Indigo stone of Clarity…

Blue John - Treak Cliff, Castleton - The Last Krystallos

Crystals, gems, and stones enchant me from both a geological point of view and a healing, spiritual approach. So, when we were up in Nottingham this last weekend, Vince and I drove out to Castleton in the Peak District to visit the caverns.

Blue John - Treak Cliff - Stalactites - The Last Krystallos

Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

We took an underground barge down the flooded Speedwell Cavern and learned about the lead mines and visited Peak Cavern. Peak Cavern is known as the Devil’s Arse, and is also connected to Speedwell via tunnels only accessible to potholers. We didn’t get to Blue John Cavern this time, but did go to Treak Cliff Cavern and our tour guide Katie was brilliant.

We entered via Tardis doors, because as we all know once past the tunnel going in you’ll definitely find that the caves are bigger on the inside… Treak Cliff is different from many cave systems in that moss and algae grow on the roof and walls in some spots and are encouraged as the caves also contain spiders, centipedes, and bats among other tiny wildlife. You can also see fossils adorning the walls, showing that the caves were once deep under the ocean and carved out in the Ice Age.

Treak Cliff Cavern - Castleton - Blue John Fluorite - The Last Krystallos

Blue John, Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

300 years ago the original miners searched for lead, but found nothing in Treak Cliff, instead they found and disregarded a purple and yellow Calcium Fluoride (Fluorspar) running through the limestone. Its worth was later appreciated and Blue John was mined, both in Treak Cliffs and Blue John mines. This mountain is the only place in the world that Blue John is found. The caves are a Site of Special Scientific Interest and protected, and mining of Blue John is carefully monitored.

Treak Cliff Cavern - Castleton - Blue John Vein - The Last Krystallos

Blue John Vein, Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

The miner who discovered the indigo-blue and yellow fluorite very imaginatively called it Blue and Yellow… In France they dropped the ‘and’ to make it Bleu Jaune, and back in Derbyshire without the romantic French accent it switched to Blue John and the name stuck!

Treak Cliff Cavern - Castleton - Blue John Pillar - The Last Krystallos

Blue John Pillar, Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

I loved our tour through Treak Cliff Cavern, moving into caverns full of Blue John still running through its walls, and a pillar of the fluorite worth over 9million, but unable to be mined because the pillar holds up the cavern!

We moved into caves with flowstone, stalactites, and stalagmites.

Treak Cliff Cavern - Castleton - Stalactites - The Last Krystallos

Stalactites, Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

The crystalline gemstone is valuable and rare, as I said, only found in Hope Valley near Castleton, and the mined stone is sold in rough and polished specimens, and turned into exquisite jewellery, bowls, and fine ornaments. Treak Cliff has a wonderful gift shop, which includes a display of items not for sale, but gorgeous. A Blue John dragon sits inside this display…I wish I’d taken a picture of it! I also visited Silver and Stone gift shop on Goosehill Bridge to find my slice of Blue John.

I have a lovely collection of gemstones, having researched them for my current work in progress, The Seren Stone Chronicles, and purchasing a couple of pieces of Blue John was a true pleasure.

Blue John - rough - polished slice - tiny - Calcite -Treak Cliff - The Last Krystallos

Blue John, rough and polished slice, and Calcite © Lisa Shambrook

The fluorite comes in a banded stone, yellow or white, with bands of purple crystalline. The more yellow pieces are coloured with iron ore. Sliced pieces show the gorgeous bands of purple and white. I chose a small two inch piece with intricate purple markings, which look amazing when held up to the light.

Blue John - polished slice - Treak Cliff

Blue John, polished slice © Lisa Shambrook

Blue John’s healing properties include clarity of mind and peace. It boosts mental, spiritual, and emotional awareness. Fluorite has many physical healing energies and Blue John has been used as an elixir to promote health and beneficial mineral absorption.

I love discovering the beauty of gems and stones, and Hope Valley’s secrets are there for all of us to discover, in a rich and striking vein of Blue John.

 

Coping with the Stigma of Antidepressants

Why is it still difficult to remove the stigma of medication
for depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles,
while so many are experiencing these disorders?

Coping with the Stigma of Antidepressants - The Last Krystallos

When we talk about eradicating stigma we’re trying to normalise or accept something that has been deemed a sign of social unacceptability: the shame or disgrace attached to something regarded as socially unacceptable. In general, society is becoming much more compassionate and educated about mental health, and the stigma is relaxing. However, we still have a long way to go and even those of us fighting to remove the labels can have trouble accepting.

I’ve lived with clinical depression, anxiety, and panic for most of my life, and dealt with it in many ways. I’ve had success overcoming it using natural ways, and I’ve had many times when I’ve needed medication. Accepting medications has always been difficult. Nobody likes to admit they’re not in control of their own bodies, let alone their own minds.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I know many people on antidepressants, and many who refuse meds, so how do you know if medication will help you?

I didn’t want to be on antidepressants for the long term and I believed meds would only offer the placebo effect after so long. I chose to take six month courses, weaning myself off by nine months, believing the serotonin, the meds, and my biological body would work together to rebalance.

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© Lisa Shambrook

So, what happens when your plans don’t work, when your body doesn’t do what you want it to?

Sometimes you have to allow your body to take its time.

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© Lisa Shambrook

The last few years have been tough, culminating in a psychotic episode almost exactly ten months ago last week. An episode I wasn’t sure I’d return home from. It scared me and my family. The following week got worse, and eventually my GP prescribed Setraline and got me on a waiting list to see a counsellor.

I was scared of where I was and with a history of self-harm and suicidal tendancies I sought out private counselling. This helped greatly with learning coping skills and discovering how to deal with my demons. However, medication does a funny thing. I saw an initial counsellor who saw me in a terrible state, tears, panic, and reflections of the psychosis, and she referred me to a therapist closer to home. By the time I saw my new counsellor, I was a couple of weeks into my antidepressants and despite the side effects they were working. I was calm, relaxed, intelligent, and totally understanding of my mental health state. We worked hard together for seven months – and I felt fine.

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© Lisa Shambrook

You know you often hear about people stopping their meds because they’re okay now? Yes, that. You truly believe you’re fine, and sometimes completely forget that medication is what’s at work.

Granted, I had many more tools in my mental health coping strategy tool belt, but I didn’t realise how well the antidepressants were working. I spent my seven months on them and (disliking the side effects) decided to lower my dose (with my GP’s say so). I halved my intake and within days I noticed the difference. My proposed weaning off from seven months didn’t go to plan. I became erratic, anxious, and paranoid. And when I experienced my second psychosis, my GP insisted I upped the dose once again.

I am now in what I call ‘no-man’s land’. I haven’t ever been here before and I don’t like it. I feel reliant on medication and I don’t want to be. I feel like I failed. Why didn’t my mind/body stick to my usual plan, the six month – nine month course that always worked before? I don’t want to be dependent on medication and I am stigmatising my own mental health.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Here I am, championing mental health awareness and trying to eradicate the stigma, yet I’m scorning my own need. There’s truth that mental health conditions mess you up – it’s what they do. And accepting that you’re not in control is incredibly hard. I’m a control freak, so there’s that too. I know that I need to be on medication to stabilise, and I don’t know how long it will take for my brain and my biology to do that. I can’t treat it like a broken arm. I can’t time it, or give myself expectations, and I can’t hurry it up.

So, instead, I work on myself, I work on acceptance. I work on loving myself and giving myself time. That’s all we can ask for. For ourselves and those around us also living with what seem like insurmountable health conditions. It doesn’t matter if you have mental health issues, cancer, a broken limb, or any other health condition, nothing should stigmatise what we’re each coping with. Compassion, education, understanding, and love should flow. More so, when governments are assessing and stigmatising conditions and people who need help.

I have no idea how long I will be on medication for, and that’s okay. While I’m on it, I’m fairly stable, and I’m mostly me, and that’s what matters.

Many health conditions are tough to deal with
when all we want are bodies that work the way they’re supposed to.
How do you deal with your health problems when they don’t go to plan?

Going Underground – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

abandoned subway station - City Hall Station, in New York

Abandoned Subway by John Paul Palescandolo & Eric Kazmirek, featured Daily Mail 2012

Talin grabbed Cae’s arm, yanking her away from the wall and down to the ground. Cae yelped, but dropped beside him cursing at the cry she’d uttered. She bristled as his arm swept across her chest in a protective gesture and he held her against the crumbling wall. Falling bricks and concrete echoed amid the crash of shattering glass, and dust clouds rushed round the corner.

They pulled bandana scarves up and over their mouths and shrank back. A billowing fog of debris and death smothered the back street, and they remained crushed against each other and the broken wall.

Moments later, Cae impatiently pushed against Talin’s restraining arm and signalled to him. Reluctantly, he released her and followed as she began to creep, toe to heel, along the wall, her dirty fingers clutching at the disintegrating brick as the ground trembled beneath their feet.

Fog and dust swirled and rotors whirred above them, the hum of drones hovered, and Talin moved behind Cae, wiping the dirt and grease from his goggles. He could hear her breath wheezing behind her neckerchief, and knew her asthma was playing up. He reached out to slow her, but she was gone.

Explosions and splintering glass still rang in his ears as tenements crashed and collapsed behind him, and as he bolted forward, the ground disappeared and he fell through the same rotten boards Cae had.

He landed in a pile of rubbish with an oomph that juddered through his body. He jumped as a hand rested on his leg, as Cae grabbed him and pulled him to his feet. He knew it was Cae as her breath still rasped and rattled, and he immediately snatched her backpack off her shoulders. Even in the gloom he knew what he was looking for and his fingers quickly located her inhaler. They slipped off the mound of rubble and waste, and collapsed onto cold concrete. Talin found Cae’s hand and pressed the inhaler into it. He heard her cough and then gulp down the medication. There was silence as she held her breath, then she took another puff.

The sound hissed in the eerie silence, and then Cae breathed softly, more measured, and Talin relaxed.

“Where are we?” she panted.

“Don’t talk,” he warned. “We have to move from here, in case we’re tracked.”

“The drones can’t get down here…” began Cae.

“Never say never.” Talin squeezed her arm.

The vague light from above disappeared with a thunderous crash as the wall they’d inched along fell, and more dust and grime mushroomed down the hole.

“Not know, anyway!” cried Cae, leaping away from the falling stone and filth. She shrugged her backpack on again and felt along her belt until she found the torch hanging at her waist. She flipped the light on and a stark white glow shone out into the dark.

A broken steel ladder barely clung to the wall, rusted and hanging free of its bolts, and they stood inside an alcove. Cae stepped forward and cried out again, “We’re in a tunnel, the old railway!”

Talin pushed past her and stumbled on the ancient iron rails. Regaining his balance, he switched on his own torch and swept it about the tunnel. “Trains haven’t run for years…” He pointed his light at the tracks. “But these rails look so clean…”

“We shouldn’t be down here…” whispered Cae, clinging suddenly to his arm.

“Rather here, than up there,” said Talin, patting her hand. “And there’s no way back up there.”

Together they moved forward, following the tracks, stepping from sleeper to sleeper, their pace increasing as they hurried over the wooden stepping stones. Torch light bobbed ahead of them and they flinched as the sound of devastation continued to rain above.

The sound of war lessened the further they ran, until up ahead a soft golden glow shone like a candle in a window. The tunnel widened opening up into a vast domed underground station. Cae gripped Talin’s hand as they slowed to a walk then they stopped as two tiny red lights shone in the dark.

The red dots danced lightly across their chests, settling on their hearts. They stopped and waited.

Two women, dressed in combat trousers and torn jackets, with rifles and military boots, stood before them. “Friend or foe?” they asked in unison.

“We were escaping… I’m Talin, this is my sister, Cae.”

Broad smiles lit the women’s faces, “Talin, Cae, welcome to the Resistance.”

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Another great photo prompt from Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge over at Finding Clarity.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

For the Love of Books – What’s Your Favourite Genre?

Reading is a true pleasure, and not only do we all have books we love,
stories we adore, but we often have genres that we lean towards
when we’re searching for new books.

So, where’s your heart when it comes to the books you read?

For the Love of Books - What's Your Favourite Genre - The Last Krystallos

These days books are very much pigeon-holed into genres, which when I first began writing didn’t occur to me at all! I just wrote the story inside my head before discovering it really didn’t fit a particular genre. In the end, my first series of books, The Hope Within Novels, actually fit very well into the Young Adult field, and we all know YA can be read and loved by any age at all!

Since my first book, I did learn that to succeed it’s pretty important to know your genre, and through flash fiction and short stories, I discovered my passion is fantasy – moving into steampunk and post-apocalyptic.

I grew up with Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five adventuresexploring ruins, islands, castles, and moved into Narnia, The Hobbit, and my favourite The Dark is Rising Sequence. I was hooked. From there Philip Pullman, Tolkien, Eoin Colfer, and again, my favourite author, Garth Nix and his Old Kingdom series captivated me. I read many genres, but love writing contemporary and fantasy.

So, what do you love?

My love of fantasy arrived with dragons and after Smaug, I fell for some friendlier types in the rather wordy Eragon series by Christopher Paolini. Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea is a classic, as is anything by Tolkien, and I’ve loved current books Orison by Daniel Swensen and the beautiful Quest of the Dreamwalker from Stacy Bennett. I am also entranced by Patrick Rothfuss, and fell in love with The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Are you a romance reader? I went through some steamy romances in my twenties, my bored housewife/young mum years, but my palate grew up and I now love fantasy and contemporary romances. I have been completely enchanted by Sophie Moss and her Seal Island Trilogy, and can’t wait for her latest book in the Wind Chime series… And you’ll love ditsy Katie Button from Lizzie Koch.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Or does horror chill you? I was never a horror fan, preferring movie versions of most horror stories if any, but I did love James Herbert’s Portent, and I’ve read a few Stephen King. J. Whitworth Hazzard blew the zombie genre right out of the water with Dead Sea Games, and I adored the chilling literary tales from Max Power and Darkly Wood.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Do you love the classics? Are you a Bronte fan, or do you go weak at the knees for Mr Darcy? I’ve always loved fairy-tales, stories that chill, enthral, and fascinate bringing us dragons, fae, and much more. I love Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, then there’s The Count of Monte Cristo from Dumas, and so much more. The classics are right there, standing the test of time.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Are your tastes more eclectic? I remember raiding Dad’s bookshelves to read John Wyndham, introduced to Chocky by the BBC TV series on Children’s Television back in 1984 – and I then devoured The Midwich Cuckoos, The Chrysalids, The Kraken Wakes and more. Sci-fi is still up there with my favourites, but I tend to watch sci-fi much more than read it.

Autobiographies, Mum and Gran loved reading about people, real people, and my husband enjoys it too, not so much my cup of tea.

Contemporary, is a hit and miss thing for me these days. There are some brilliant books out there like Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep from Joanna Cannon, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, but you can easily hit some real misses.

I also enjoy Thrillers, Harlan Coben being my favourite.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Children’s books, I still read kids’ books, why not? They are what introduced me to reading and inspired me to write myself. The Silver Brumby absolutely entrances me, and I will always love it. I’ve even been known to reread Blyton’s The Castle of Adventure as an adult…

From children’s books to Young Adult…a genre that is a law unto itself. Harry Potter broke the mould with children’s books, bringing them to children and adults simultaneously. Now, you’ll see YA in the hands of all ages. John Green and Meg Rosoff inspire when they pen great stories, and so do some much lesser known authors, like Angela Lynn who had me completely in love with All the What Ifs, and Louise Gornall with an emotional journey through Under Rose Tainted Skies. Another book that made me weep was Loser from Jerry Spinelli, a book I would read again and again, and Anne Holm’s I am David. My books, Beneath the Rainbow, Old Oak, and Distant Star, also inspire through difficult journeys and true to the YA genre have been loved by all ages!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Lastly, I love short story books. I love a book I can pick up while I’m waiting, and I’m often waiting for children, dentists, Drs, and other appointments. Short tales are inspiring, eclectic, a good use of spare time, and they also introduce us to new authors, or an author’s writing style, when you fall in love with their writing, you can search out full-length novels and bury yourself among your favourite words! And, like with Human 76, you can sometimes find a completely original and exciting concept, this time a book of tales by different writers, brought together in the same world, but each telling a unique story.

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© Lisa Shambrook

So, tell me, what books do you love, where is your passion,
and what genre is your ‘go to’ when searching for a new read?   

Where does the Beach take you?

It’s turning into beach weather here in the UK…
though, in my opinion, all year is beach weather for me.
I love wandering a lonely, cold, winter beach as much as
paddling through the surf on a warm, summer evening.
But what entices you to the ocean, what floats your boat?

Where does the Beach take you... - The Last Krystallos

Is it the heat, the sun, and the chance to sunbathe, or family time and BBQs, building sandcastles, and jumping waves, or do you prefer to explore, climb rocks, and appreciate the beauty?

Do you enjoy the sounds of the ocean rolling across pebble beaches? I grew up in Brighton, and the sound of the sea turning pebbles brings back all kinds of memories.
I adore walking barefoot over sand, and letting the surf lap across my feet, so the gorgeous West Wales beaches, where I live now, fit me perfectly…

Pebbles-vs-Sand-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you like the flora that thrives in the salty air, and the seaweed decorating the beaches? I have a weird penchant for wearing seaweed hairpieces…

Flora-and-Seaweed-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you collect shells, do you search out conch, mussels, and pretty shells, and do you put them to your ear to hear the sea? Do you listen to the shrieking gulls with pleasure or irritation?

Wildlife-and-Shells-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

And speaking of irritation, do you feel compelled to share your chips with the local birds? Fish n’ chips on the beach can’t be beaten! Do you sit on the beach with can of coke and newspaper wrapped chips and watch the sunset? Do you embrace your loved one as the sun disappears below the horizon in a fiery ball and the stars begin to sparkle?

Sunsets-and-Food-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you love your feet in the ocean, do you paddle or dive right in? On the hottest days, dunking beneath the waves can be refreshing and invigorating.
Or do you prefer to sunbathe, lying on the beach worshipping the sun, or do you take a book and lose yourself in stories?

Feet-in-the-Sea-and-Relax-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Are you one of the lucky ones who can surf the waves – either on a board, or in a boat? Can you relax on board and let the ocean rise and fall beneath you?

Boats-and-Ocean-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you love to explore, to climb the rocks, dive from cliffs, build dens, and get creative? Do you take photoshoots of mermaids, dystopia, and conquer pirates?

Explore-and-Dystopia-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Are sandcastles your thing? Are you an architect of the golden grains? Do you build turrets, and moats, and make lolly stick flag poles? Do you sculpt the sand to your every whim, designing and creating with imagination and the salty breeze? Can you build towers of pebbles, balancing in an ever more intricate game of Jenga?

Fun-and-Craft-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The Palace Pier, now the Brighton Pier – though I can’t ever call it that – was a haunt for my childhood self, walking along the wooden timbers watching the green sea swell beneath me, feeling the ocean in my hair.
Do you search for lonely bays, lost coves, quiet havens, and romantic harbours? Do you walk from one end of the beach to the other, kicking through the rippling waves?

Bays-and-Piers-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Or are you like me, as long as my feet are in the water, I let the siren call of the ocean beguile me, and I lose myself in the beauty of the sea?

Beauty-and-Waves-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

What is it for you? What draws you to the beach, to the salty sea?

What entices you to the ocean?

The Key of Life – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - KeysTime was running out and she knew it.

Alys let her eyelids drop and rested her head on the soft feather pillow. A tear trickled down from the corner of her eye, slowly running down the creases of her skin and into her ear. She smiled wryly at the warm sensation. She relished every sensation her aging body still had, even tears.

Sunlight spilled through semi-closed curtains, muted by the veils of voile that hung from the rail. Dust motes danced in the summer breeze drifting through the high open window.

The sound of birdsong took her back to days gone by, of days when the sun shone, days when she flirted, and teased, and lived ‘til twilight fell and stars glittered in the sky.

Even the subdued rays teasing her window reminded of nights beneath moonlight, nights of passion, nights of love, and nights embraced in warm arms.

Those days, and nights, were long gone, and so were the people who’d inhabited them with her.

Now, she reclined in solitude upon crisp white sheets, soft pillows, and surrounded by the fragrance of orange blossom from the vase upon her night stand. No one visited any longer except nurses, who were dutiful, and friendly, and engaging, but none were family, none mattered beyond the essentials.

Time was waning and Alys was fine with that.

She listened to the whispering breeze curling around the mock orange outside, lifting the scent to join the foliage in her room. Beneath her dry, closed eyelids her eyes itched, and her nose whistled as she breathed. A limp curl of snow-white hair fell across her brow and tickled her furrowed forehead. Her throat rattled, and despite the nurses’ regular attention, her parched mouth gasped.

Alys placed a frail hand on her chest, gently stroking the lace beneath her fingers, then letting her palm rest still. Her heartbeat pulsed, slowly, steadily – like the rhythm of an evening cricket’s chirrup. She knew the time had come.

She pulled lightly at the ribbons holding her nightgown closed, and they slid away from the bow the night nurse had made. Alys drew her nightgown open and exposed her chest. Pale, papery skin threaded with lilac, purple, and blue veins sat across bones that protruded beneath their fragile shroud. Alys reached down towards her heart, feeling gently along her delicate, cool flesh, until her fingers stopped at warm metal.

A weary smile curved her lips, and her fingers smoothed over the bronze metal plate that sat over her heart. She lifted a thin tab and withdrew a small key. The key was intricate, ornate, and truly beautiful, and she held it between her fingers with true reverence and gratitude.

Not everyone had a key, but due to heart failure decades ago, when young children still sat on her lap, she’d been fitted with a bio-mechanical heart. Coronary lockets they called them, with a narrow door and an interior mechanism that worked with biology and clockwork movement.

Alys held her key and brought it to her lips. With unsteady arms she lifted her hands to her head, and carefully slotted the key into the bundle of curls upon the crown of her head. She liked shiny things – and hairpins, decorations, and ornaments adorned the nest of tousled hair caught up in her bun. The nurses would search for the key – but it was hers and there wasn’t another like it – and eventually they’d find it, but time…

She’d outlived everyone she cared about, and now was her time. She placed her hands back upon her chest, closed her eyes, and listened to the birdsong at her window. Orange blossom filled her senses, and her mouth lolled slightly open. Her chest rose and fell, and her heartbeat began to slow. Alys felt the sun roll across her and as its warmth finally dissipated, her heart whirred, and jarred, and stopped.

Alys was finally where she wanted to be.

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Loving the photo prompt for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge over at Finding Clarity.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

 

Losing your Armour – Breaking Down Walls – Embrace YOU

If I’d been a fairy-tale princess, I’d have been Rapunzel – not because of my hair –
but because I keep myself locked away in an impenetrable tower…
Have you lived behind walls – a self-imposed fortress?
Is there really a way to break down those barriers?

Losing your Armour and Breaking Down Walls - Embracing You and Becoming who you should be - The Last Krystallos

Living with anxiety, panic, depression, and low self-esteem lead me to seclusion. I only had a few really close childhood friends. I was open and friendly, but also detached. I was very hurt when in one of my school reports my class tutor wrote that I was aloof. I was about fifteen and though not shy, I was reserved and quiet, and the thought that anyone believed I was unapproachable or lofty was painful. If you truly knew me, I opened up, and was as fun and as giggly as the next teen, but you had to fight and get past my demons before you were allowed into my space.

As clinical depression hit in my late teens, I withdrew. My husband soon became all that I needed, especially after I cut the proverbial apron strings. I brought up three children in my twenties and hit a major crisis in my thirties. Except for my husband I had no one to fall back on, and I felt increasingly lonely. This loneliness lead me to build walls, and when friends I made generally moved away, I stopped making close friendships. My family became my life and my sole focus, even to the detriment of knowing myself.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are -E.E.Cummings - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

An assault took me to medication and therapy, and finally I began to take time for myself. My psychiatrist once told me that women in their thirties made the best psychiatric patients as they truly work hard to know themselves, and can make changes in their lives. My children, then teens, also encouraged me to know who I was and to venture from my tower.

To be nobody but yourself - the last krystallos- lisa shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Midlife can be the best time to work on you – to truly learn who you are and what you can become.

Brené Brown put it like this:

”I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:

I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”

Over the past fifteen years I’ve started shedding my armour and discovered how to break down my walls.

owning-our-story-and-ourselves-bravest-thing-brene-brown-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I’d spent so long hiding that emerging was tough. It still is. But there are so many reasons to open up and become who you should be. Just watch spring blossom, or a rose, bloom – it’s worth every painful moment of development.

We grow all the time, inside us – ideas, passions, talents, confidence, courage, all these things are slowly rising ready to develop wings to lift us over our walls, bursting forth preparing to shatter our armour. We only have to acknowledge and embrace who we are.

If you cannot be the poet, be the poem-David Carradine-Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

How? I hear you say, weighed down with cares, emotions, and an introvert’s anchor plunged deep into your ocean bed…

It’s all about beliefself-belief. That armour that served you so well, keeping you safe, will eventually crush you, it will weigh you down more than your anchor, and will crush your spirit. Instead of hiding behind your walls, let those wings open like a phoenix and lift you over your fears and everything that overwhelms you. Soar like a dragon, set fire to your inner demons and 

Know that you are perfect just as you are.

Know that you don’t need permission from anyone else to be great.

Know that you are exactly who you are meant to be.

Know that you are loved and worthy of love.

Know that only you can ever be the best you.

Our deepest fear... - Marianne Williamson - The last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I still live in a tower, but I’m learning how to break down the walls, how to fly and soar, free from the anchors and armour that weighed upon my spirit and dampened who I am.

Be who you are meant to be…

Figuring out who you are is the whole point of the human experience-Anna Quindlen-Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Break down those walls and become who you are…

It's time to show up and be seen - Brené Brown - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Your Vote Counts – Vote for the Future #GE2017

This week, in the UK, we Vote…

Your Vote Counts - Vote for the Future - General Election 2017 - The Last Krystallos

My colours are nailed to the wall, always have been…
I’m the kind of person you can read like a book
and I wear my heart on my sleeve.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but if you’ve seen my Facebook or Twitter you’ll know where my heart lies, and I won’t apologise for posting information and my political beliefs.

My plea for this election, a sudden – out-of-the-blue – UK General Election, called purely because the Prime Minister thought she’d win with a landslide, is to vote for those around you rather than for yourself, if your circumstances permit.

We’ve seen this world – this society – become overwhelmingly selfish. Those who are wealthy – want more, those who have enough – want more, those without – want more. It’s a natural ideology, we all want more, and that’s okay, but only one of those groups actually need more.

I’ve been on both sides of the coin, excuse the pun, we’ve counted the literal pennies and had nothing left at the end of the week, and at other times we’ve been able to save and spend. 90% of those without are without because of circumstance, not a lack of hard work, or laziness, and it’s highly offensive to blame people for their circumstances without knowing or understanding them.

The test of our progress... Franklin D. Roosevelt

We need to be considerate and compassionate and vote accordingly. We need to vote to help jobs, to save the NHS, to save lives, to offer affordable education, to raise living wages, to raise living standards, to eradicate poverty, to care for our children, the environment, and their future.

I want to vote for the future of this world, not my present one, but for policies that will guide and save our future – not condemn it and future generations. If I can do that I will save my present world alongside the future.

I want to vote for the future o f this world... Lisa Shambrook The Last Krystallos UK General Election 2017

© Lisa Shambrook

Please educate yourself, learn about the parties and their policies: Labour Conservative Liberal DemocratsGreenUKIPPlaid CymruSNP…  Read the manifestos and vote with your conscience.

As a final point – no matter what, please vote.

It wasn’t long ago that only Landowners and the Aristocracy could vote.

It wasn’t long ago that only men were allowed to vote.

It wasn’t long ago that only those over the age of 21 were permitted to vote.

There are still countries that deny the right to vote, through gender, age, circumstance, and still countries that do not hold free elections.

People have died for your right to vote, and every single vote matters. It doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 118 – your vote is important in free politics.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke

© Lisa Shambrook

There are plenty of apps and information out there to help you make your decision. Take a look at this 2017 Election Quiz or this one 38Degrees GE2017…and see whose manifesto policies you affiliate most with. Don’t listen to the mainstream media, do your own research.

But, most importantly, use your privilege to cast your vote – make it count…

…For the Many, Not the Few…