Category Archives: animals

Plastic – Polluting our Oceans

Do we need plastic?
That’s one of the questions I believe we should be asking ourselves,
as the ocean begins to drown in the man-made material…

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - The Last Krystallos

A plastic-free society is a scenario I definitely pose in my current manuscript The Seren Stone Chronicles (unedited excerpt):

‘Will’s eyebrows shot up. “There’s no plastic!”

“Legend has it that all your plastic got swallowed up by mother earth in the lunar apocalypse,” said Ianthe. “It melted in the pit of her belly.”

“Best place for it,” said Rhianna.’

In my future Wales, plastic has become a thing of the past, but how do we know how the phenomenon of this synthetic material created only 110 years ago (though natural polymers have been around for generations) and widely available from the 1940’s after the introduction of Tupperware, will ultimately affect the earth that we live on?

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Earth - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I glance about me at home and plastic is rampant…It forms much of my laptop, television, plug points, plugs, wires, my car outside, pens, kitchen utensils, white goods – fridge, freezer, many appliances, and a huge amount of packaging. It even forms veneers on some of my cheaper bookshelves, plastic bags, and more, but the majority of disposable plastic in my home derives from packaging.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Plastic Bags - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

How do we replace it? It shouldn’t be that tough, after all, generations only a hundred years ago didn’t have access to the sort of durable, strong plastics we do now, and they managed! We could move back to using metal, wood, and plant-based materials, but in this society that’s not always easy. A few years ago my daughter tried to reduce her plastic usage and go plastic free using bamboo toothbrushes, trying to buy dry food in jars, even taking her own jars to fill, and her own cups to coffee shops, and using canvas bags for shopping. It was so hard, and so unaccepted that it became near impossible to achieve. Some people have and I salute them, but it makes normal life very difficult.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Glass Jars - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

We live in a society where butchers aren’t used as much as they could be, and meat is packaged in large, thick, sealed plastic boxes. The green grocer is left behind for plastic bags of pre-packed fruit and veg, and the grocer with cardboard boxes and tins and jars has been replaced with plastic bottles, containers, and bags for almost everything.

We are often pushed by governments and local councils to recycle more, fines are imposed when we don’t, and rubbish collection services are cut to force recycling. The fines and restraints should be levied upon the companies using excess packaging, in my opinion, but that’s another story.

Many people are trying their best to be environmentally friendly, after all we didn’t ask for plastic microbeads to be placed in soaps, facial washes, and toothpastes. We don’t need all the packaging that companies force upon us, and we don’t need many of the knick-knacks that are constantly thrown at us. And there are so many organisations trying to show us the way to a more enlightened and environmentally friendly approach to life.

We see how plastic is drowning the sea, how microbeads have devastated oceans and marine life, how plastic wraps have damaged creatures, and how plastic is washing up on beaches across the planet. 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year from bottle tops, to rope, bottles, plastic bags, sanitary products, disposable nappies, and more. Evo News even quoted that:  ‘The number of plastic microbeads in oceans and seas, bigger than the number of stars in our galaxy.’

However, there’s been great news from Greenpeace who reported just last week that by 30 June 2018 all personal care and cosmetic products with microbeads will be off shelves in the UK in a government ban!

Seagull Dreams by Bekah Shambrook Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - the last krystallos

© Bekah Shambrook

We’ve all seen pictures of seabirds with legs and feet caught in plastic bags and debris, turtles deformed with plastic can rings looped about their shells, and fish, seals, dolphins, sharks, and even whales caught up in plastic nets. These are creatures we have the responsibility of caring for. We have the responsibility of caring for the whole earth.

There are several initiatives trying to help clean up our oceans, and make us aware of the pollution of plastic. Von Wong began #MermaidsHatePlastic and borrowed 10,000 plastic bottles to make an art installation that makes a valuable point. Find him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and read his story.

And 4Ocean sells bracelets made from ocean plastic to fund the removal of trash from the sea Find them on Twitter.

My question evolves into a solution when people respond with the continuing need for plastic in our lives, why can’t we use the plastic we recover from the ocean? Hopefully we are, or if we’re not then governments will soon pick up the idea, as they have with home and business recycling.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Bottles - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

But to counter, maybe we can try to use less plastic, invent things that use less plastic, and we could buy and use more environmentally friendly products to begin the move away from plastic. Plastic isn’t generally good for us. Many of us, myself included, reuse water bottles to drink from, but that plastic gradually breaks down and enters our bloodstream through constant use. It’s better to buy a metal or glass water bottle. As charges for plastic bags have come in, we are using less and reusing and taking our own, every little helps. We need to keep doing our bit, no matter how small it is.

There are alternatives if companies are willing to put the money and research in to develop products that are environmentally friendly – take these plastic bags for example…

I’ve seen plates and tableware made from palm leaves or wheat fibre pulp, bamboo toothbrushes, cotton/canvas shopping bags, water powered clocks, solar power and much more. We can all do our bit by increasing recycling, reusing products, avoiding one-use items, and we can actively reduce, reuse and recycle.

reduce reuse recycleI’ve seen many products that are created/invented using plant based materials, we just need to change our ways, alter our sensibilities, and transform our habits.

Humans don’t like change – but change is what we need to do.

We need to continue the fight to remove unnecessary plastics and packaging,
to help not only our own health, but the health of the planet on which we live.  

What are we doing to Mother Earth?

* Edited to add: 2nd August 2017 is officially #EarthOvershootDaywhich makes this post even more appropriate. Today is the day that we have used up this year’s quota of Earth’s natural resources for one year. We need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to support humanity’s demands on nature… Just something to think about…

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…

Life Lessons We Can Learn From Dogs

I was never a dog person,
but that all changed when an eight-week-old
bundle of German Shepherd was placed in my arms.

Life Lessons we can Learn from Dogs - The Last Krystallos

To be honest, it actually took me a couple of weeks to become comfortable with her, but she rested her little puppy head on my feet, and there was no going back. I fell in love. That was almost nine years ago, and she has given our family great joy.

So, here are some lessons we can learn from these most devoted of creatures…

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than she loves herself – Josh Billings - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Truth. The most unconditional love I have ever experienced has been puppy love, the love of a dog knows no bounds and is pretty much infinite. A dog loves unconditionally and that’s a quality we should emulate as much as we can. I’m not sure we can ever love with as much purity as a dog, but we can try!

When a dog speaks, it is not language but pure feeling given voice – anonymous - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

This matches their ability to love. Dogs can’t hide their emotions, they don’t lie. When my dog greets me, leaping up at me with excitement, I know she really is happy to see me. When she’s stolen a packet of biscuits and eaten them all, and left the wrapping torn up on the floor, the look of guilt is right there for all to see. The trust in her eyes gives you everything. There’s an honesty in dogs that many humans don’t ever show.

Your dog will never wake up one day and decide he doesn_t love you anymore… anonymous - The Last Krystallos

© Caitlin Shambrook

Once dogs have given you their heart – it’s yours forever. Treat their love with respect and you will never want for affection. Let’s try and show this kind of love to all those who mean much to us. This trait revolves around love, joy, trust and forgiveness.

I think we are drawn to dogs - george bird evans - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Oh, yes, dogs know how to have fun! They don’t waste time when adventure is on the menu, just watch your pup race across a sandy beach, splash in the ocean or rivers, and lope through shady woodland. They emit pure joy! Watching my Roxy leaping into the air to catch bubbles was a true delight, and I often think I should mirror her abandon and spontaneity and embrace life for all it offers!

Dogs have a way of finding people who need them - Thom Jones - The Last Krystallos

© Bekah Shambrook

Did you ever know how a dog would fill that void you never knew existed? I had no idea how rewarding owning a dog is until I had my own. We can be that for those around us. We can be there, filling empty hearts with friendship, love, and company.

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog - Agnes Repplier - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

This quote means a huge amount to me. My favourite poem is Beddgelert by William Robert Spencer and is a poem that makes me weep (and I dare you not to cry when you read it), but if you want pure devotion those words are where you’ll find it, within Gelert’s pure hound heart.
My Roxy sits at the window most of the day, my own personal guard dog, she saves me from the postman, delivery people, neighbours, cats that prowl the neighbourhood, and anything that might attempt entry into the house. She makes me feel safe. Outside, I know if anyone attacked me while she was there, they would have to get through her first. Devotion, loyalty, and trust are huge parts of a dog’s life, and you truly are your dog’s life, you are what they live for. Be worthy.

If we could only emulate a few of dogs’ qualities, we would be better people. We would love unconditionally, trust, guard, and care for each other, with honesty, loyalty, and pure devotion.

A dog’s life is a good life.

To Vegan or Not to Vegan – Worldbuilding a Future Generation

An appropriate post for National Vegetarian Week! When I began worldbuilding for The Seren Stone Chronicles, there was much to sort out. Set roughly two thousand years into our future, the populace has learned a great deal from our mistakes.

To Vegan or not to Vegan - Worldbuilding - Writing a Future Generation - The Last Krystallos

Their ancestors had to live through apocalyptic consequences of our generation’s capitalism and complete disregard for the environment. So, their outlook is very different to ours. Many things have changed, from the landscape which suffered and shifted hugely in the ensuing chaos, variations in the chemical makeup of minerals and natural elements, a large loss of population, and the rise of dragons

Dryslwyn Castle Cait and Lisa The Last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The Chronicles are set in Wales within a naturally simplistic countryside, having lost the large cities a millennia or so earlier. Though technology levels, beliefs, and lives the world over will be different, my lands are a beautiful backdrop to include the changes in landscape and scenery, and to introduce dragons. It lends to a natural community which have turned their backs on twenty-first century technology and embraced the organic and elemental ways of life. This is a society that renounced plastic and tech generations ago because of its aftermath, and makes choices with empathy and a symbiotic relationship with the earth.

The Seren Stone Chronicles -Worldbuilding - Writing a Future Generation - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The question of food and sustenance crept into my worldbuilding, and I thought I’d be making the decisions, but my characters told me exactly where their values stood.

Their choices lead me to Carnage, a BBC iPlayer mockumentary on veganism. This also coincided with my daughter (who’s been vegan for over a year and vegetarian for two) showing me Cowspiracy as I needed to learn about the environmental damage caused by our current diets and animal agriculture. I wanted to know if meat-eating, vegetarianism, or veganism would be part of their future.  I like that we can be both light-hearted and informative about veganism, especially when the stereotypes are so vicious, but both these programmes and further research opened my eyes to much more than I’d expected.

Field -To Vegan or not to Vegan - Worldbuilding - Writing a Future Generation - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

As I wrote, my characters let me know that environmental issues are an imperative part of their lives. They are determined not to make the mistakes of ancestors and they choose to live sustainably. This doesn’t mean they have no tech – just very different devices to ours – and their food choices and health became a crucial part of my worldbuilding.

They use natural materials for building, clothing, and technology, but my biggest dilemma was with leather. However, leather is still a by-product of wild animals, and dragons, quickly reaped when animals die and is highly valued and respected.

Moors - To Vegan or not to Vegan - Worldbuilding - Writing a Future Generation - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Without the huge populations that we have today, mass-marketing and factory-farming are a thing of the past, and choices based on environment, welfare, and ethics are much easier to make.

Incidentally, my research brought me to a pivotal point in my own life. I won’t judge anyone on their own choices, but within a month I was a fully-fledged vegan. We often get portrayed as self-righteous and of inflicting our food choices on others to make them feel guilty. This, in general, couldn’t be any further than the truth. Our care and evangelism is about the environment and the animals about us – and you can’t blame anyone for wanting to share how to help the world, can you?

Berries - To Vegan or not to Vegan - Worldbuilding - Writing a Future Generation - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I’ve also discovered a true love of food and the alternatives that exist out there. I thought I could never live without milk-chocolate, or cheese, or lamb, but I don’t miss any of it. My characters couldn’t imagine a life any other way, though there are definitely people who will differ and choose other diets and ways of living, just as it is in our world.

Worldbuilding is a fascinating process, especially when your characters spell out their ethics and conscience to you, and help you change your own life!

Have you ever been influenced by another world in a book,
or wished you lived in a different time?

It’s the Little Things…

Have you ever thought how it really is the little things
that make the difference in life?

It's the Little Things in life - that make you truly happy - The Last Krystallos

Last Saturday I had a good day, a really good day! I had no commitments and it was a beautiful sunny morning. I popped into town nice and early, enjoyed the sunshine, and listened to the birds sing amid the hubbub of town life. It’s the little things.

star wars tattoos - the last krystallos

Great legs! © Lisa Shambrook

I wish I’d told the man in front of me on the escalator how much I loved his legs! I did call out how cool it was to hear two girls (mother and daughter) singing ‘I’ve had the time of my life’ at the top of their lungs as they paused at the traffic lights in a cabriolet. And I smiled at a six-year-old Ironman swaggering through the precinct, flexing his muscles and grinning at everyone. It was that kind of day!

The evening before, in the warmth that predicted a beautiful day to come, Vince and I walked Roxy and listened to the birds in the trees. Noting how different their calls and songs were, from the courting couple of cooing and crooning collared doves, to the blackbird’s familiar call, to a robin red-breast singing his little heart out on the top branches.

robin singing - the last krystallos

Sometimes the smallest things are the loudest © Lisa Shambrook

Sometimes the smallest creatures sing the loudest and have the most beautiful voices.

Do we listen?

We even attempted to get a photo of the tiny robin atop the tree (our phone cameras were pitifully lacking for this!), and it was a giggle to watch passing motorists’ passengers straining their necks to see what we were looking at!

It made us realise how lucky we are, and how the littlest things can often be the best things.

It's the Little Things - The Last Krystallos

The little things are the best things © Lisa Shambrook

…Like the way your cat purrs when she snuggles into you – one of your favourite songs playing in your car – brushing your hand across velvet moss – a flower blossoming – new leaves appearing on trees – getting lost within a great book – your dog’s welcome home – your favourite hot chocolate – being silly with friends – the feel of your favourite jumper – a hug – snowflakes – your bed after a hard day – creating art – dancing in the rain – fresh baking – holding hands – watching a sunrise – something that makes you laugh and many more…

What are the little things that make you grateful and happy?

Which Animal Lives in your Heart – what Animal Are You?

Many of us identify with animals…
we relate to certain creature characteristics, to animals we connect with,
on both an aesthetic level and on a much deeper spiritual level.

Which Animal Lives in Your Heart - What Animal are You - The Last Krystallos

Lots of novels bond their protagonists with animals, from Philip Pullman’s Lyra and Pantalaimon, her dæmon, in His Dark Materials, to Harry Potter and his stag Patronus, and countless other books. My own Seren Stone Chronicles, which I’m currently writing contain animals that have connected with some of my characters, and it’s definitely fun to write.

Many cultures have beliefs that connect them to animals like Native American Spirit Guides and Animal Totems. There is huge significance to those who recognise their animal guides, and it’s not a frivolous choice of whatever creature you like, but a deeply sacred experience. There are plenty of online games and quizzes to find your Spirit Animal, but it doesn’t work like that, a Spirit Guide will come to you, not the other way round and no one can assign an animal to you.

So, I am not talking about Spirit Guides or Spirit Animals here, I’m taking a more light-hearted look at animals that we feel a commonality with.

Years ago I wrote a paragraph, at a time when I felt trapped and confined in my life, and I yearned for escape: ‘I once answered a question: If you could be an animal, which would you be and why?  No hesitation… I would be a horse, a wild horse. “I couldn’t stand being a trained horse, left in a field and ridden when the owner wished…” I wrote. “I would be wild and free, roaming valleys, mountains, forests… I would race, chase the wind and explore, as free as the air. Graceful and beautiful.” Then I put a spin on my answer, I wouldn’t be a horse, I’d be a unicorn. I would not only be wild and free, but I’d be mythical and mysterious. People would wonder if I really existed, I would live in dreams, a free spirit, magical and carefree… I would be a unicorn.’

When I came upon this piece recently, it made me think about animals we relate to, and what animal I would associate with myself? Then I expanded and was curious which animals I would link my family to. I wonder if they agree?

Although I don’t like to limit the choice to one, I’d still love to be a unicorn – I know much more about myself and I believe I am probably a Squirrel

Lisa Squirrel

© Lisa Shambrook (bottom right: Squirrel wallpaper)

I’m anxious, socially awkward, and a hoarder. I scamper about erratically, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, collecting treasure – acorn cups in particular – and I am very much at home in nature, within the forests, wandering through mossy glens beside trickling streams. I will observe you from a distance, and maybe, just maybe, if I feel confident enough, I’ll sidle up close to see if I can trust you enough with my presence! I am soft, nervous, bold, a paradox, and wild, just like a squirrel.

Vince Bear

© Lisa Shambrook (top left: Bear wallpaper)

I see my husband as a bear, a big, brown bear. He keeps me safe, and gives me confidence and my trust in him is implicit. He’s large, in the best way, has a huge heart and when I’m in his arms, nothing can touch me. When he’s grizzly and grouchy he needs love and appreciation, and then his fur fluffs up and he’s happy to explore and adventure with us. His inner strength shines like the sun. Vince is cuddly, protective, tender, warm and passionate, just like a bear.

Bekah Fox

© Lisa Shambrook (top left: Fox wallpaper, bottom right: Fox wallpaper)

Bekah is a wild one, she moves to her own beat, and follows her own path. She has a nature that embraces adventure and exploration, and a spirit that defies definition. She knows what she’s doing, constantly bettering herself, learning new things and developing. Bekah is an individual – conforming is not in her dictionary – and her style is her own. She is passion and cunning, spirit and character; she’ll twinkle like the stars and keep you enchanted and enthralled, just like a fox.

Dan Dog

© Lisa Shambrook

Dan is definitely a puppy dog. He’s cheerful and loving and sensitive to everything about him. He’ll play with gusto and disregard, and throw himself right in at the deep end. Dan will be your rock, your companion, the person you can rely on, and he will trust you just as you trust him. He is faithful and strong, playful and open. You’ll know exactly where you are with him. He’s adorable, happy, stubborn, funny, and caring, and will always be there for you, just like a pup.

Cait Wolf

© Lisa Shambrook (top left: Wolf wallpaper)

My lone wolf is Cait, a spirit that seeks something deeper and won’t rest ‘til she finds it. She’s a deep thinker, an empathic soul that desires the best in an imperfect world. She wonders in the simplicity of nature, and yearns for compassion in her fiery heart. Cait will champion your cause and fight for your rights while wrapping herself within her own aesthetic. She is quiet, sullen, bright, and quick-witted, sharp and devoted, and she will move beneath the moon, just like a wolf.

What animal do you relate to most and what do you think others’ would perceive you as?

If you could be any animal, which would you choose?    

And…I might be a unicorn, or a squirrel, but I am also a dragon, and a cat…
and much, much more! What about you?