The Tiger and the Dragon

This is going to be a weird one – bear with me and please don’t judge!

I’ll start off by saying that I honestly don’t have much in the way of beliefs in the spiritual world, beyond my religion. I personally (and this is my personal view for myself – I love that other people have different views and are more in tune with these kinds of things) think that things like this that I don’t understand are beyond my understanding for a reason, and therefore I don’t try to get involved. This is slightly different, as well, and really is something I have an extremely limited knowledge of. But here’s the story.

When I was 4, I had what is now a very simple, routine heart surgery, but at the time it was rather experimental. While the surgery went well, there was a complication that led to a bit of an emergency (my dad will always tell people how I ‘nearly died’) but the doctors were amazing, dealt with it brilliantly and I woke up asking for a blueberry muffin. From that moment forward, if I were to ever have a bad dream or a nightmare, when I woke up I would see a tiger in the top left corner of my room. It was as if he was on a screen, with thick blades of grass in front of him. He would run towards me and after 30 seconds or so, disappear. I knew that if I woke up and saw that tiger, whatever had just happened was only a dream and I was safe. I don’t know why it was a tiger, or what relevance they had to my life. To be honest, they scared me, but this one didn’t.

Fast forward a few years, and as I got older the tiger became a distant memory. It was only this week, when I saw an advertisement on social media for artwork that I was reminded of my little guardian tiger. The advertisement was for an art printing company, and on of the prints was of a tiger on a green background. Suddenly remembering it all, I decided to google the meaning of a tiger guardian spirit, to see if there was anything it may relate to aside from my own childish imagination.

We’ll hold that thought just for a moment while I explain about E. E is my sister-in-law who also had heart surgery as a child. In fact, she was operated on at the same hospital, by the same surgeon as me, despite us growing up in different counties. E’s surgery was much more intense than mine, and for a long while her survival was touch-and-go, but here she still is 20 years later, thanks to the same man that saved my own life. I had been told by various members of the family about E’s dragon. E would see a dragon in her childhood times of need, he would visit her and comfort her and if was there she knew she was safe. E named her dragon ‘Draco’, and it wasn’t until years later that she realised that not only could she not have known about that being Latin for dragon as young as she was when he first came into her life, but that also there is a film in which a dragon called Draco gives a part of his heart to someone to save them. It’s almost hard to believe.

So going back to the tiger thing. When I did my googling, I discovered that the tiger, in ancient Chinese beliefs, must be accompanied by a dragon. I will not go too much into this as I am not in a position to explain, in case my understanding is flawed, but in short the tiger and dragon represent the yin and yang. They balance each other, and cannot exist without each other.

If there is any relation to this in our own animal spirit guardians, then my conclusion is that my tiger, and E’s dragon, exist only because the other does. We both had these things that were there, and they were a part of each other. 20 years later we met and have an extremely close sisterly bond, could this be why?

Pyramid Scheme

A friend of mine once got in touch to ask me to take part in a book exchange. It would start with one person who would pass on their name and address to as many other people as wanted to take part. Those people would give that name and address to as many other people as they could find that also wanted to take part. Those people would post a book, any book – old or new, to that original person’s address. They would then find more people to take part, and pass on the address of person before them. Everyone sends only one book, yet there was scope to receive hundreds, from people they don’t know, in genres they may never have considered.

It sounded like a fantastic idea, and I soon set to work looking for friends and family who wanted to take part – after all, it was only if they wanted to and all they needed to do was post a book. But it wasn’t long before I got a lot of negative reactions, many of which claiming that I was a scammer, this was a pyramid scheme and these are illegal in UK businesses. Unfortunately I’m no expert on UK Business Law, but this was by far the kind of thing they were referring to. It is a very similar concept, and works in the same sort of way – but there is no monetary investment and no promise of return. Just sending a book to someone who wants to branch out their reading list.

So, in the end I didn’t take part at all, which was a real shame. I did, however, end up in touch with a man from New Orleans, US. He had a little boy who was curious about books, and I had in mind gathering these for a young relative of mine so we exchanged addresses and sent each other a local cookbook and our favourite books as children, mine for his boy and his for my relative.

It wasn’t the large number of books I’d had in mind when starting off this process, but it was a thousand times more valuable. We both put a little bit of ourselves, of our lives and of our love for our younger generations in those envelopes, and when I eventually posted it after driving around for a few months with it in the boot of my car, it felt like a very small but very real accomplishment – sending some well-chosen words (Enid Blyton’s, to be precise) across the Atlantic to be enjoyed by someone who’d never before known of lashings of ginger beer or mattresses made from heather.

I wonder now and again whether the young boy liked, or even read, that book, but I’m going to just say that he did, and he loved it.

Rational Explanation

I’m not a massive believer in the paranormal, but in all honesty I’ve never been able to convince myself that ghosts aren’t real. Personally, I think that it’s something that I’m not meant to know about, if it does exist, so I’ll keep my distance, but there are a few things that I’ve experienced or heard about that have no scientific explanation, should I say.

I tell some of these stories quite a lot when the topic comes up in conversation, but the ones that aren’t my own experience may need to be taken with a pinch of salt, and the ones that are may be anxiety-fuelled, so this is no confirmation of anything existing or otherwise.

My dad works as a nurse, and he’s had a few weird things go on whilst on the graveyard shift in a hospital with a very old building. There was one particular night that he was working on a geriatric ward. On this ward, in the bed nearest the window and furthest from the door, was a lady with a catheter that needed emptying every hour. My dad (let’s call him Josh) and his colleagues were taking it in turns to do it, because that area of the ward gave them the creeps, for lack of a better term. One of the other nurses went first, and said she felt something strange, like there were things running past her while she was crouching down to do the catheter bag.

When it was Josh’s turn, he hesitantly crept through the ward, past all the sleeping patients. He crouched down, and experienced the same thing as his colleague had described, but when he turned around there was nothing there. He wished away the seconds and began to make a speedy exit when he saw one of the patients sitting bolt upright, smiling.

Josh stopped and asked the lady sitting up if she was okay.

“Yes, I’m fine. I’m just watching the children play”.

Josh went on to do a bit of asking around, and found that a few people had mentioned seeing children in old-fashioned clothes running around playing in that ward. He later found out that back in the 1930s, it was in fact a children’s ward.

The second thing I heard from Josh (which will go on to a more confusing story as well here) was about a phantom nurse with a veil. There’d be many unrelated patients who would ask when the nurse with the veil was coming back to tuck in their blankets. Word on the wards was that this was the spirit of a ward sister who took her own life in one of the side rooms in this part of the hospital. I did begin to think that this one was a bit of a tall tale, until something else happened that made me doubt myself.

A school friend of mine was an inpatient in the same hospital, and when I went to see her she told me about a stupid thing her mum had said. She told me that her mum had gone to the toilet, and when she came back she said to her that she’d seen a nurse wearing a veil, but when she went to speak to her she walked off and had disappeared. She thought her mum was just seeing things.

There were also the rumours that Josh heard and swore to be true, which I’m not convinced were anything more than rumours. The one that stuck with me the most, however, was a break room for the nurses on night shift to use for a nap if they wanted to. Apparently, any female nurses that slept in the room would wake up with their hair plaited. It went on so much and for so long that, apparently, management at the hospital had to lock the room up and it’s not been used in years.

Obviously, these are all stories I’ve heard, and while my dad maintains that he experienced them as described, I can’t swear any truth in it. I can, however, share one or two of my own weird experiences.

I’ll start with my university accommodation. It used to be a convent back in the day, and was a grade 2 listed building, so no works could be done to upgrade much of it, so it had that weird feel about it anyway. I was on the second floor, which was the top floor, of my house (which was a section of the building that was built in a square with a courtyard in the middle. On the ceiling in my room was a loft hatch, and one drunken night my friends and I decided to open it and see if there was anything up there. Ever since then, the house felt totally different. I’d wake up and see a person running out of the door, it was just generally freaky. Can I say I’m sure that this wasn’t because of my vivid imagination? Of course not.

The second place I lived at university was a funny old house with a 1960s style front. It had always felt unwelcoming as it had been left in a complete state and not professionally cleaned as promised. There was what looked like a large blood stain on the living room carpet, and all the furniture was in random rooms – two beds in one, three wardrobes in another, all sorts of crazy things. I was already feeling a bit weird about these things after the last palaver from halls, but a house that was only 50 years old was unlikely to have anything, right?

Well, my housemates hadso thought there was something there, and over time I did too. I had a project due to be delivered and it had been a nightmare making it from start to finish. I’m not the most organised person (which you’ll probably notice from reading my ‘daily’ poetry that definitely isn’t daily) so I laid everything out, the label I needed, the project, everything required in the correct order on my desk. I went to sleep and woke up the next morning to find it had gone. This happened to me a lot, which was why I had started to question things – my passport or documents, for example, would be one moment next to me and another moment gone and in some cupboard or drawer. I had convinced myself it was me forgetting I’d moved stuff, but after this I wasn’t so sure. I started panicking a fair bit, as that project had to be in at 9am on the dot for submission. I trashed my room looking for it, and eventually found it on top of my wardrobe, underneath a suitcase I kept there. I’ve never sleep-walked in my life, so unless that happened out of the blue, I have no real explanation for this one.

The next, and final, thing I found a lot harder to ignore. When I first met my wife, I was staying at her mum’s house a lot, sometimes on my own as we worked different shift patterns. When I was there alone, the cat would always come and sit with me and look around at something that wasn’t there. According to my mother-in-law, who rented the house out for about 20 years before moving back into it, almost every tenant that had passed through had made comments about strange goings on, and they were sure there was something there. When the family moved back in, they would find things would go missing and turn up in unexplainable places. Hangers would clang against each other in closed wardrobes, and there were sections of the house that always remained icy cold. She had eventually decided to have a confrontation, and announced that she didn’t mind living alongside whoever this was, but could they please welcome them as they now welcome her. Nothing happened after that, unless I was there alone, which I guess would make sense, as I wasn’t there when that was said, so I wasn’t included in the agreement.

There was one time that really was unexplainable. It was Hallowe’en as well, which I don’t give a lot of thought to as I am Christian, which is also part of the reason why I like to leave things like this alone, as they’re not for me to explore or understand.

So there’s the kitchen door opposite the bathroom door, and a mirror on the wall in between. I was using the mirror to put on some makeup before I went out, and suddenly a musky perfume smell wafted past. There was nobody in the house, and none of those automatic air fresheners to be spraying away. It seemed to come from the bathroom and go into the kitchen, and a few seconds later, the lid of a jar that was by the sink flew across the room and bounced on the tiled floor with a heavy clang. That was it, I went out with only one eye done.

Like I said, these are stories from word of mouth or my own experiences which may have perfectly rational explanations, I just don’t know what they are.

I’m so sorry.

It’s been about two (or three or some kind of unacceptable number) months since my last blog or “daily” poem… I’M SORRY. With such a crazy time going on, I had to put blogging in the back seat. It was like being missing a limb.

But I’m back! So if you still fancy reading along and you’re not too disappointed by my blog abandonment, then that’s fantastic. With lockdown going on, and many other crazy things happening around us in the world, we need a bit of a release sometimes.

I’ve been working on a new creative project alongside this, and with any luck, if I feel confident in it enough, I will be sharing it with you all very soon (ish). I’m late for everything so please don’t take the fact that it doesn’t appear any time soon as meaning it’s not coming. I had some equipment to use for it, but the last piece is on its way. I made do but I’m tempted to re-do it all, so please do bear with me. Whether it’ll be any good is a question for another day, but you can laugh with me or at me, and either way I hope it’ll put a smile on your face, even if it is just for the sheer awfulness (is that a word?) of it.

Now I’ve rambled on, in a way that’s a disgrace to literature, I’ll let you carry on. But keep an eye out, any support is so much appreciated. Just seeing a notification that someone has liked one of my blogs or poems is enough to put a smile on my face for at least a day. I hope my work can do the same for you.

I know some of it can be a bit heavy, but trust me, this new project is the total opposite. I’ll try to make you all smile, because after all, we all know – when life gives you lemons, surpass expectations and eat them.

Writing Daily or Writing Crazy

I type this post with a dog sitting on my feet in the comfort of my post-workday living room. I’m just missing a cup of tea and a slice of toast (a habit I have regretfully picked up from my mother, the queen of toast-eating). I decided a little while ago that I wanted to publish some kind of post every day, but finding something interesting enough to share about my standard work, home, feed dogs, cook, eat, wash up, watch TV and go to bed life proved rather tricky. The only update I really have to give at this stage is that I am totally bogged down by the gruelling process of a house purchase (wouldn’t recommend), but once that’s done I should (haha) have more time to write!

Anyway, after that meaningless ramble, the point I was getting at is that I’ve decided to write and publish on my site (as well as Twitter, Instragram and Facebook – please check those out too for extra content) a poem every day. The majority of these are syllabic, meaning that I am quite restricted, which is great because anyone who has read my poetry on this site will notice that I don’t know when to stop.

I’ve already almost forgotten on some days, and while I have the privilege of scheduled posts on here, there is no such thing for the rest of the accounts I try to keep up to date. Still, here we are, I have committed myself and for once I am determined to stick this one out and not fall behind on it. I’ve always loved writing and this is something I can look forward to doing each day, from my sofa, with my feet up, with my dog.

I hope you enjoy reading the daily poems, or spam, depending on your perspective.

Remember to surpass those expectations and eat the lemons life throws at you this week. You can do it.

Lost (in books)

Rather than getting lost in a book today, I decided to get lost in a bookshop. Literally. It was like a maze of literary heaven. Choosing only one book was hard (I have to limit myself each time I go), so I went for a selection of short stories this time, or should I say ‘The World’s Greatest Short Stories”. The book doesn’t seem to display a publication date, but from looking at it, it’s been around for many a decade.

The literary maze

This shop has the dynamics of a TARDIS, with winding corridors and wonky stairs. If there was the time to spare, you could easily spend an entire day exploring the covers and pages of works of fact and fiction.

The literary maze round a corner

The joy of a book of short stories, I have discovered, is that when unsure what to read, or during those times in life when getting into a novel seems strenuous, you can just open the book on a random page, sift through a bit and read an entire story.

The literary maze round another corner

My usual genre is non-fiction, and I have a great interest in the Second World War, probably stemming from the stories my Great Grandfather told me every Sunday at teatime, of all the brilliant and brave things he did. Having grown up, learning about the harsh reality of it all has become an important part of my life.

The literary maze up some stairs

The reason I went for something different today, however, was in a way for some more inspiration. Like reading, I find it difficult to get all the way through writing a novel, with a number of half-written files on my Google drive. Not only will it (hopefully) get me reading in those small spaces of time throughout the day, but also (hopefully) it’ll help me to improve my short story writing, because let’s face it, I’m no expert at this.

The joy of being able to flick open a book of short stories

Saturday Summary

I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of blog content I should write for quite a while, and got nowhere with it so far other than sharing poetry and fiction. With a lot of my spare ‘sitting around’ time taken up with novel writing, the daily blog entries I’d envisaged when setting up this site never materialised. So, a weekly summary of one thing or another it is.

Scrolling through social media recently, I saw an article about things that people have seen but have no proof of, many of them being completely unbelievable things that not many people really believe. I don’t have many stories like that, and the ones I have are going in a memoir which may or may not appear in the future, but there is one that I think is worth sharing.

The story begins when I’d recently got my second dog. The first one was a timid little Jack Russell x Chihuahua (she’s a rescue so there’s probably a lot of other breeds in there too), who didn’t have a lot of personality. Even now, she behaves more like a cat than a dog, and is impossible to read. Her behaviours aren’t always typical, so figuring out what she wants or what she’s thinking is next to impossible. Training her went out of the window within a week – maybe the saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks really is true (she was 8 years old when we rescued her).

The Xbox dog

Anyway, there was one day that she and the second dog had a minor disagreement, and she’d snapped at her. She’s tiny and absolutely harmless, and there was no fight, but we needed to do something to teach her that she can’t go round snapping at her dog housemate. We put her in the crate next to the TV, which was only really there for the second dog. She stood there, seething. She was practically shaking with some kind of anger, her beady little eyes staring right at me. If she could talk, she’d have been saying “who do you think you are to put me in a crate”.

We decided to give her until she’d stopped trying to cast a spell with her face and had calmed down before letting her out. It took a good ten minutes or so, but she eventually did and we opened the door. Her little head popped up and back came that expression.

I was using my Xbox to watch a DVD at the time, and this dog seemed to know that. Without breaking her creepy little eye contact, she waltzed over to the Xbox, turned her head as if she was flicking her ears like hair, and turned the Xbox off. With her nose. Dead on the power button. Then she did her ear flick back round, looked me dead in the eye, and walked off.

I do actually have a witness to this, but even so the whole thing sounds ridiculous. I imagine it was a bit of a coincidence, but I can’t fathom any real reason why she would do that. She’s never had any fascination with an Xbox or other console of any description. Plus, how did she know to press that button, on that console? She had the other Xbox, the Virgin Media box and the retro Nintendo Wii to choose from.

Believe it or not, coincidence or not, it happened.

Sweet Sweet Lemons – Why the sour face?

Living an average life can be testing, exhilarating and beautiful, often all at the same time. Let’s not beat around the lemon grove, and dive in to an honest account.

From fictional and poetic writing to exploring the general experiences of modern real life, we’ll explore the world of today through a variety of lenses.