Category: Blog (page 2 of 4)

A very modern Troubadour, Ed Sheeran

I have been listening to Ed Sheeran’s new song, Castle On The Hill. It’s not the first time that he struck me as a very modern Troubadour.

Here is a singer/musician who gives us songs about love and tells stories through his songs that we can all relate to. He does so in a simple yet sophisticated manner. His songs convey sincerity and realness, which his voice is effortlessly able to communicate. Often, it’s just him and his guitar, performing whilst wearing jeans and a t-shirt, hence my reference to him being a modern day troubadour. I feel this is most likely why he has succeeded where others have not.

You may well ask why I’m blogging today about Ed Sheeran and music. Many of you may well know that in a previous life, I worked as an operatic soprano and that I continue to teach. The voice has been, and remains, an obsession and I cannot help but notice when I come across a voice that touches me, that stands out in its ability to be the musical instrument it is, to convey its messages clearly and with sincerity. Ed Sheeran’s voice is one such voice for me. But by his own admission, he didn’t always sound like he does today. It took incredible hard work, tenacity and deliberate practise to get to where he is today, and for that, I admire him even more.

His new song, Castle On The Hill has a great message for us all, don’t you think?

When I was six years old I broke my leg
I was running from my brother and his friends
And tasted the sweet perfume of the mountain grass I rolled down
I was younger then, take me back to when I

Found my heart and broke it here
Made friends and lost them through the years
And I’ve not seen the roaring fields in so long, I know I’ve grown
But I can’t wait to go home

I’m on my way
Driving at 90 down those country lanes
Singing to “Tiny Dancer”
And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill

Fifteen years old and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes
Running from the law through the backfields and getting drunk with my friends
Had my first kiss on a Friday night, I don’t reckon that I did it right
But I was younger then, take me back to when

We found weekend jobs, when we got paid
We’d buy cheap spirits and drink them straight
Me and my friends have not thrown up in so long, oh how we’ve grown
But I can’t wait to go home

I’m on my way
Driving at 90 down those country lanes
Singing to “Tiny Dancer”
And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill

One friend left to sell clothes
One works down by the coast
One had two kids but lives alone
One’s brother overdosed
One’s already on his second wife
One’s just barely getting by
But these people raised me
And I can’t wait to go home

And I’m on my way, I still remember
These old country lanes
When we did not know the answers
And I miss the way you make me feel, it’s real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill




What are the most important elements that glue together a long-lasting marriage?


I’ve been pondering this question a lot. What exactly are the important elements that glue together a marriage?

It came as a result of a question from a reader of my novel, The Healing Touch, in which the protagonist is struggling with the possibility that her sexless marriage is failing. Her feelings are exacerbated when a new man arrives on the scene who gives her a lot of attention.

The reader – let’s call her Jane – sent a long email with her thoughts. She highlighted two elements in particular, which I’d like to share with you. I’d be very interested to find out what you think.

Jane felt that sex was a very important part of a marriage, perhaps the most important part. She explained that sex functioned as the barometer in the relationship. When things get rough, or stressful, or out of sync with each other, sex is often the first thing to disappear. But it is worth making the effort, because it brings you closer together with your partner, and its healing function within the relationship cannot be dismissed.

I agree with Jane on her points wholeheartedly. Sex is the first thing to go when a relationship is in trouble, for sure, but it is also the most healing, nourishing, good-feeling thing that can happen in the relationship. It’s very important to make sexy-time and to honour that appointment.

The other element Jane felt was of utmost importance in the success of a long-lasting relationship is respect. She said that she had been married to the same man for thirty years. Through that time, their relationship had changed, they had changed, but the one thing that remained was a deep and lasting respect for one another. Without respect, there is nothing. She said that whenever she has a problem with him she talks about it with him in a very open way, no matter what it is, even if it’s hurtful or scary.

I feel Jane is right about respect being a very important element to the success of any relationship. Without it, there can be no basis for a real no holds barred relationship, right?

I’d love to hear your ideas and feelings about this topic. You can either join in the discussion here or on social media where I will post this blog, or you can email me privately on

In pursuit of excellence



Several of my students are currently either getting ready for important exams or awaiting results from universities. All are in pursuit of excellence. But not all will achieve their dreams.

It put me in mind of the way in which we approach these things. My personal experience includes years of auditions as well, and I know that our frame of mind, when we go into something, is very important.

If we approach an exam, a university entrance, an audition or an interview with trepidation and the feeling or thoughts that we may not be successful, we have just upped our chances of being unsuccessful, for sure. When we feel that others are in charge of our future, feelings of insecurity in our abilities, and feelings of “are we good enough” surfaces. This in turn, paralyses us to do our best, to appreciate our possibilities fully.

But when we go into any situation with a positive mindset we increase our chances of success. This may seem obvious, but how many of us remember this when we’re faced with something we deeply desire, like that dream job, or the issue that reminded me of this in the first instance – a place at Oxford University, for example.

It’s a catch-22. Often, when we desire something intensely, adversely, we actually focus on its opposite. We become tense, obsess about it and talk about it with fear in our hearts. Metaphysics calls this type of thinking and feeling “living from a place of lack,” and you can see why, can’t you?

But as we think and feel ourselves into our desires in a positive way, our pursuit of excellence ceases to exist, because we hold ourselves to a higher standard automatically and we free ourselves in order to achieve an excellence seldom dreamt of.

When we can relax, when we can change our mind and look at our most coveted opportunities from the point of joy, excitement, fun and success, we stop obsessing. We start looking forward to having it. That’s when we’re able to do our best work, and to elevate ourselves to a higher level. That’s when we can genuinely imagine ourselves already at Oxford University, or already in possession of our dream job, or already playing our dream role.

Are good manners important?


“The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners
without seeing any.”
Fred Astaire

I was humming and hahhing about posting this today. The reason is that I’m not interested so much in Donald Trump the politician as in the character of the man, if the two can be separated in this case. Trump’s non-stop insults and threats tell us that he is full of uncontrolled malice toward others, and a bully. No wonder people’s reaction to him.

Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes yesterday was powerful and galvanizing. In particular, she commented specifically on one aspect of Donald Trump’s behaviour. Here are her words:

There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

You can watch her speech here:

Her words reminded me of other, unsavory actions and words I have witnessed during Trump’s campaign. To me he seems to be lacking in empathy and he clearly has an enormous ego. But call me naïve, Meryl Streep’s comments made me wonder if he simply just lacks good manners? The particular incident that Streep referred to sounds like something from kindergarten.

I’m not going to voice my opinions of him as a politician, but if all that was at stake in Trump’s insults was bad manners, that would still be regrettable. Good manners are about respect for other people, and surely a president should be respectful.

So, are good manners important?

For me, good manners refer to polite and good social behaviour. Good manners lay the foundation of stable social patterns and imply certain values of human relationship that keeps society alive and kicking. Good manners imply stable values. Values like respect, loyalty, kindness, concern for others or even obligation are fundamental to our social and family rules of conduct, which have been determined by our respect for such values.

Besides, good manners are an indication of the degree of refinement whether in an individual, a society or a nation.

I believe that good manners are closely linked to moral values, and that good manners are very important for success and a happy life.

It is the crux of a healthy human relationship.

What does loving yourself actually look like?


Many of us aspire to loving ourselves more. It may even be one of your new year’s resolutions. But what does loving yourself actually look like?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe I had good role models for this growing up. Sure, I was surrounded by inspirational, hard-working, honest people. But I don’t believe any of them actually showed me how they loved themselves other than the things we usually associate with it, like earning your own money, being clean and healthy, having a home of your own, etc. but these are simply things we need to survive and fit in with society. It didn’t tell me anything about how to actually love myself.

Surely, there’s more to it than that?

So, I’ve been thinking… and for me, it means having the best, most positive and joyful relationship that you can with yourself. It means not being a bitch to yourself or to others, not putting yourself down, or killing yourself with work, or giving your power away in relationships, or expecting others to make you feel good about yourself. It means being kind, giving back or paying forward, helping others when they need you, being vulnerable, open and loving.

Pretty much what I’ve been doing for most of my life anyway, so maybe I am on the right track.

I found this blog post by Dr. Margaret Paul recently – it’s a great read:


What is gratitude and why is it important?



According to the Oxford Dictionary, gratitude is the quality of being thankful, readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

But what is it really?

“Robert Emmons, perhaps the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, argues that gratitude has two key components, which he describes in an essay, Why Gratitude is Good.”

You can read all about his ideas, here

The reason I wanted to write something about Gratitude today is because I feel 2016 was such a strange year. Well, for me, anyway.

Of course, good things have happened to many people, including to me. I published my children’s novel, George And The Gargoyle Who Lived In The Garden in 2016 and I was supported by so many lovely readers who bought it. The novel was even bought by the central library in Enfield, which means that it is available for loan throughout London. I was able to buy my gorgeous new car, my Abarth, that I’d been wanting for ages. My wonderful students have achieved great things which made me very proud. I have been blessed to have amazing friends in my life and I feel that my relationships have deepened with those people who are very important in my life.

I’m truly grateful for things like the fact that I am healthy for the most part, I can move around freely, I can breathe fresh air, I can see, hear, speak, I have a lovely warm home, I have enough food to eat every day, etc. I’m still here and I get another go at another day, and hopefully, another year

For all of those things, and more, I am extremely grateful.


I feel the world has entered a rather darker phase now than I have ever seen before. Strange political events, terrorist activities, the refugee crisis and war has contributed to make me feel this way. It is difficult to remain grateful in the face of such events. As someone who leans towards the metaphysical truths in life, I know that even these disturbing events have their place, but the human, three-dimensional part of me, can’t quite get my head around the state of the world at the moment.

The fact that so many of our great icons, like Alan Rickman, Rick Parfitt, David Bowie, Prince, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Leonard Cohen, Robert Vaughn, Pete Burns, Terry Wogan, Gene Wilder, Caroline Aherne, Muhammad Ali, Victoria Wood, David Guest, Carrie Fisher and George Michael died last year, among so many other great people, makes me wonder if they all left because they know something we don’t.

The craziness of life can be overwhelming and then, feeling gratitude may be the last thing on our minds, but I feel that gratitude is very important because it allows us to turn bad things and obstacles into opportunities. Gratitude also turns what we have into enough.

Even though some scary things have to carry on from 2016, I trust that 2017 will bring clarity, joy and good fortune to us all. And lots of things to feel grateful for.

Happy 2017! New year’s resolutions!



If you’re like most of us, you’ve probably made a few new year’s resolutions. We all make them, don’t we? Each year we decide that the new year is the best time to start anew – we want to lose weight and get fit, make or save more money, get more organized, be more social, read more, fall in love, etc. But how long do these actually last?

For the best results, we know that we should not take on too much all at once, that our goals should be doable and realistic, and that we should involve at least one other person to hold us accountable. It’s also a good idea not to give up just because we have a few set-backs.

In reality, however, very few people actually achieve their goals. And I feel I know why. We live in a “doing” society. We get uncomfortable with just “being.” It feels weird to do nothing and expect something to happen. Most of us feel much more productive the busier we are. But in our busyness, our eagerness to get everything done, we burn out, lose momentum, get overwhelmed. It is in our stillness alone that we are able to hear the voice of our intuition, our guidance to our next action for the best results.

As many of you know, I have always written stories, but I have decided to start writing seriously only over the last two years, and to have my novels published. It has been a steep learning curve and continues to be so. But one of the most helpful things writing has taught me, is to take time out, to deliberately do nothing. It’s amazing what happens when you do that. I usually take myself off for long walks somewhere in nature. By the time I get home, my head is pregnant with story ideas and characters that just can’t wait to be born. It’s very liberating and inspiring. But it wasn’t easy to do in the beginning. I was convinced that I had to sit in front of a keyboard in order to get the best writing. And yes, you do have to put the time in. Without knowing where you’re going first, sitting  and staring at a screen can be an awful waste of time, however.

I will be engaging in more awesome “deliberately doing nothing” this year. I hope you take the courage to try it for yourself.

Happy Winter Solstice 2016!


I LOVE the winter solstice.

There are many festivals during the month of December. But the one I like to celebrate, is the winter solstice. I love the idea that we’re experiencing the shortest day of the year on 21 December this year, in the northern hemisphere, at any rate. In the southern hemisphere, the opposite happens as it’s the longest day of their summer.

The word, ‘solstice,’ derives from the Latin, ‘stolstitium,’ meaning ‘sun standing still.’ And in fact, on this day, the Sun does seem to stand still in the Tropic of Capricorn, before it ‘turns around,’ and reverses its direction.

I just love the fact that the day after the winter solstice the days start to lengthen again until the summer solstice. It’s such a joyous reminder that life goes on, no matter what our own personal challenges might be. A promise that summer will return to our lives, no matter the darkness that some of us have to battle.

This time of the year can be particularly challenging for many of us as we face the challenges of being with people we don’t normally spend time with, and perhaps we have difficult relationships with them, or for others it’s the loneliness that this time of the year can bring. It seems such a pivotal time because it’s so close to the new year. It’s a time when many of us make new decisions for our lives in the new year.

This year, for the first time in years and years, my husband will be in London with me, and we will spend the winter solstice and Christmas together. I’m usually on my own at this time of the year, and over the years, have developed my own ritual that I love and look forward to every year. So, to have him here this year will be quite lovely but strange.

It is thought, in times gone by, though, that the winter solstice was indeed more important to people than the summer solstice. It was the time when wine and beer were finally fully fermented and animals were slaughtered. It meant they did not have to be fed through the winter. But it led to big feasts that everyone could look forward to and enjoy.

The winter solstice has been celebrated throughout the ages by many different cultures. Among others, we find Saturnalia in Ancient Rome starting from around 217 BCE that included a huge weeklong feast. The Feast of Yuul in Scandinavia involved putting an entire tree in the fireplace. Yalda, an Ancient Iranian festival celebrates ‘the longest and darkest night of the year,’ and the re-birth of the sun, and during Santo Thomas in Guatemala participants still indulge in the flying pole dance.

Today, in the UK, people flock to Stonehenge in Salisbury, Newgrange in Ireland, or Maeshowe in Scotland to celebrate the re-birth of the sun. All these megalithic monuments clearly align with the sun and face the winter solstice sunrise.

I’d like to wish you all a wonderful winter solstice, however you celebrate it.

Why are romance novels so popular?


Why are romance novels so popular? According to book seller statistics, romance novels are the most popular genre ever. Period. But why?

I’ve been asking myself that question for just over a year now, ever since my novel, The Healing Touch, was published and, for a brief moment in time, rose to within the top 100 in its category on Amazon.

The funny thing is that I never intended for The Healing Touch to be a romance. Yes, it’s about love, and a man and a woman fall in love with each other, but it’s not a romance novel in the truest sense of the genre. The love story, however, are what readers of the novel loved.

As I’ve been advised to listen to my readers and give them what they want, I’m now writing the next novel, following those characters and their relationship. The novel, Forever And Ever Love, is set over three lifetimes and will be published in 2017.

Meanwhile, the question of why romance novels are so popular had been haunting me. Late one night I watched a documentary on BBC 4 about literary novelist, Sally Duffy, taking on the challenge of writing a Mills and Boon romance novel for their 100 year anniversary. The programme was illuminating as it soon became clear that, no matter what non-readers of the genre may think of it, it is not easy to write.

But very interesting to discover, was that romantic fiction is written for women by women. Does it therefore fulfil some kind of yearning within women? I would suggest that it goes further than fulfilling any kind of romantic fantasy or fairy tale. Romantic fiction is very important because it may be the only art form developed for women by women. Think about it. Other art forms have been fashioned and developed by men. But romantic fiction looks at the world only through the eyes of women.

Today, I came across a remarkable blog on romance novels by Freddie Bateman. Freddie’s blog looks at the reasons why the romance novel is so popular and how it has developed over the years. If romantic fiction is your thing, his blog is a must-read –

Extracts from Freddie’s blog:

“Who Reads Romance, and Why?

Why are romances so popular? There are as many answers as there are readers. And there are a lot of readers—RWA’s (Romance Writers of America) 2005 study showed that 64.6 million Americans read at least one romance in the previous year.

Half the readers are married; almost half are college graduates, and 15 percent hold graduate degrees. Women between the ages of twenty-five and fifty-four make up more than half the romance-reading audience, but readers range in age from their preteens to over age seventy-five.

A fair number of men read romances, too—22 percent of all romance readers are male, according to RWA—but not many are willing to talk about it. (Some even subscribe to by-mail book clubs in their wives’ names to keep their secret from the mailman.)

Romance is just as popular in other countries as it is in North America. Harlequin Books publishes in 25 languages and in 120 nations, and counts its readership at more than 200 million individuals worldwide.

…Romance novels are the best-selling segment of the paperback fiction market in North America. According to statistics compiled for the Romance Writers of America (RWA), romance novels account for well over 50 percent of mass-market paperback fiction sold in the United States each year. More than a third of all fiction sold in the United States (including mass-market paper, trade paper, and hardcover books) is romance fiction. Paperback romances outsell mysteries, literary novels, science fiction novels, and Westerns. More than two thousand romance titles are published each year, creating a $1.2 billion business in 2004.”

Thought provoking, right?

How does a supermoon affect us?



We experienced our last supermoon of the year on 14 December 2016.

The word ‘supermoon’ was coined by an astrologer, and has now become widespread, even among astronomers. We know a supermoon is super because it coincides with a full moon or a new moon and the fact that the moon’s orbit is closest to the earth. Astronomers, oceanographers and fishermen tell us that the supermoon also causes higher-than-usual ocean tides on the side of the earth closest to the supermoon. But how else does a supermoon affect us?

We’ve all heard of full moon or supermoon madness. I undertook quite a bit of research to ascertain if this was true or not, and found only articles written by scholars disproving the idea. But one thing is for certain. Many of us can feel slightly out of sorts during the time of a full moon or a supermoon. And it’s not just people. My cat has been behaving in a particular eccentric way this entire week!

Astrologers, however, take a full moon seriously, and a supermoon, very seriously. As this was the last supermoon of the year, their advice is that it’s all about “out with the old, in with the new” – letting go of old patterns and things that no longer serve us, will make way for new things and new beginnings to come to us.

Maybe they have a point? Maybe now is the time to contemplate what you’ve achieved and accomplished in 2016, and what you would like your 2017 to be like? Why wait till January to decide what your 2017 goals will be? But most of us make the same goals each year and never achieve them, like losing weight, going to sleep earlier, eating healthier, going to the gym more, making more money. These goals might be too general, but whatever your goals are, the best way to achieving those starts here:

  1. Tell people. Make yourself accountable to your friends and family. If you share your goals on your social media networks, you might even find people joining you on your journey, and you’ll be more likely to achieve them.
  1. Break it down into bite-sized sections. If you set yourself a goal to lose weight, for example, maybe work out what you need to lose each week in order to accomplish your goal. Or if you’ve been thinking about writing that novel, start with 500 words a day. A few months later, you’ll have your finished novel. Most of us give up on our goals if they appear too big to accomplish, but by taking baby steps we can achieve anything.
  1. Write them down and set a date. If you have written them in pen in your calendar, you’re much more likely to achieve them.

Don’t worry if you’ve missed your chance to do so on the 14th. Astrologers believe that the effects of this supermoon will last over the next two weeks. Apparently, the reason this supermoon is so powerful, is because it’s so close to the beginning of a new year. As it was in the sign of Gemini, and carries the Gemini energy, it is meant to be optimistic, energetic, easier to communicate, and to focus on discovering new ways to do things. Let’s hope that’s true for 2017.

Personally, I usually contemplate my life around the time of the Solstice anyway. So, on Wednesday, 21 December 2016, please feel free to join me in celebrating our achievements in 2016, and setting new goals for 2017.

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