The Wee Writing Lassie and the Folklore of the Nine Sacred Woods

Into the Cauldron

The Sacred Woods Go

Burn them fast

And burn them slow.

Is it a poem? Is it a limerick? No, Wee Readers, it is a spell. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you should remember that I am a vegan, in fact I was raised vegan from the age of two. How is this relevant to the current post, well, it’s not really – it’s just to remind you that I come from a slightly none traditional family. Which is why it should be less surprising when I say that we celebrated this May Day by performing a bit of magic. That is burning the nine sacred woods in the Beltane Bonfire. Well, what we did wasn’t really a bonfire per say, more like a small fire in a cauldron – but the intent still remains the same. We set fire to sticks from the nine sacred woods – in theory, they’re very difficult to find and some of them are toxic, so mostly we burned sticks that we were drawn to pick up – saying a blessing on to the world with each one we set a flame. Because it really felt like it needed it. The sacred woods consist of the first nine woods of the Celtic Tree Calendar, they are listed below in no particular order – along with some of the folklore associated with them.

9. Ash

Myth in its fibre, wood made word, the fissured bark

of Yggdrasil, world-tree, tree of Ask – the first man

tree of manna, foe feller, child healer, known by eye & fingertip

Excerpt from Ash Tree by Chris Poundwhite

Traditionally the Ash Tree represents the mother of the world. In ancient Norse Mythology the world tree Yggdrasil – that great holy tree that connected all the realms both mortal and otherwise was a an ash tree. In fact mortal Norse warriors would sometimes make their spears from ash, and they were referred to as Aescling or ‘Men of Ash’.

8. Willow

Know ye the willow tree

Whose gray leaves quiver,

Whispering gloomily

To yon pale river,

Lady, at even tide

Wander not near it,

They say its branches hide

A sad, lost Spirit?

Excerpt from The Willow-Tree by William Makepeace Thackeray

In the ancient druid stories the universe, mankind and everything was hatched from two scarlet eggs hidden within the willow tree. One egg formed the sun and from the other came the Earth – which begs the question where was the Willow Tree. This was recreated in the seasonal festival of Beltane using painted eggs. This would later be hijacked by Christians, for the holiday Easter. So just remember, that come Easter Weekend when you’re rolling your brightly colored chicken fetus down a hill, you’re performing an ancient Druid ritual.

7. Hawthorn

My palms rest

Upon the blackened trunk

Of a melancholy hawthorn

It’s choked wood crumbling

Into dust

Falling between my fingers

Extract of Burning Hawthorn by Lotus

In Ireland the Hawthorn tree is known as the fairy tree, although take care to call it something else as it is disrespectful to mention the fairies by name. Because of this connection to the little folk it is considered extremely bad luck to cut down a hawthorn tree. So much so that in 1999 work on the main road from Limerick to Galaway was interrupted because a Hawthorn stood in the way. Wish the owners of the woods near my house shared such beliefs – sometimes I feel there won’t be a forest left by the time this lock-down ends.

6. Birch

When I see birches bend to left and right

Across the lines of straighter darker trees,

I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.

But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay

As ice-storms do.

Extract from Birches by Robert Frost

In Celtic mythology Birch represented renewal and purification – and it was celebrated on Samhain (the holiday that would later become Halloween) which was the beginning of the Celtic New year. It also, as you might have guessed is connected to Beltane – a festival known in more modern times as May Day. Ritual fires were made of birch and oak, and Birch Trees were often made into living May poles.

5. Rowan

rowan tree with berries in summer sunny day

Oh rowan tree, oh rowan tree,

Thou’lt aye be dear to me,

Entwined thou art wi many ties,

O’hame and infancy.

Thy leaves were aye the first o’spring,

Thy flow’rs the simmer’s pride;

There was nae sic a bonny tree

In a’ the countrieside

Oh rowan tree!

Extract from The Rowan Tree by Lady Nairne

In Greek mythology it was said that the Rowan trees sprung from the fallen feathers of the eagle that had been sent to recover the cup of the Goddess Hebe. However it was attacked by demons before it could manage. Thus the Rowan Tree’s leaves are shaped like feathers and their berries are as red as blood. We can see great significance in Norse Mythology as well, where we see a rowan was transformed into the first woman – the first man having come from an Ash. As well as in British Folklore, where the Rowan is meant to protect against witchcraft and enchantment.

4. Holly

But the Hue of his every feture.

Stunned them as could be seen,

Not only was this creature

Colossal, he was bright Green

No spear to thrust, no shield against the shock of battle,

But in one hand a solitary branch of Holly

That shows greenest when all the groves are leafless.

Extract from ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Night’, author unknown

In Celtic legend the Holly King would battle the Oak King at the changing of the seasons. During Winter Solstice, the Oak King would arise triumphed – there after he reigns upon the earth, until the Summer Solstice where upon the two battle again. And this time it is the Holly King who defeats his opponent. And on and on, the cycle of the seasons go.

3. Alder

Are you weary, alder tree,

in this, the age of rain?

From your branches

droop clots of lichen

like fairy lungs. All week,

Squalls, tattered mists:

alder, who unfolded

before the receding glaciers

Extract from Alder by Kathleen Jamie

In Irish Folklore it is generally considered bad luck to pass an alder tree on your journey. The Alder tree was the tree of the God Bran – who you will remember if you’ve been following me, that I mentioned in this earlier post – along with Odin, Apollo and King Arthur. It was also associated with the Goddess of spinning, because it was a source for strong colored dye. In Magical belief Alder reminds us of the need to blend strength and courage with generosity of spirit and compassion.

2. Oak

A mighty wind blew night and day

It stole the oak tree’s leaves away

Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark

Until the oak was tired and stark.

But still the oak tree held its ground.

While other trees fell all around

The Weary Wind gave up and spoke.

How can you still be standing oak?

Excerpt from The Oak Tree by Johnny Ray Ryder Jr.

Throughout the world’s cultures the Oak tree has been venerated, often as the symbol of the greatest god in the pantheon. Gods such as Zeus, Jupiter, Dagda, Perun and Thor – called the Oak tree their own. Many Ancient kings would imply they were personifications of these gods by wearing crowns of oak leaf during times of victory – and even today, the oak leaf remains a symbol of military prowess.

1. Hazel

In the Beginning Love satisfies us.

When Love first spoke to me of love –

How I laughed at her in return!

But then she made me like the hazel trees,

Which blossom early season of darkness,

And bear fruit slowly.

The Hazel Trees by Hadewijch of Antwerp

The Hazel Tree has been venerated since the days of the Druids’ power, maybe even longer than that. There is an old ancient tale – repeated in varying forms across ancient Britain, of nine sacred hazel trees that grew around a pool. In the pool swam Salmon (who were honored by Druids), when the nuts fell from the trees, the Salmon would leap up and eat them – and from those nuts the salmon would absorbed the tree’s wisdom. I’ve mentioned the hazel nut before, in my previous post – because not only does it provide you with great wisdom, but a good boost to your immune system as well.

If you’ve enjoyed this foray into the folklore of the nine sacred woods, don’t forget to follow the wee blog if you haven’t already. Also check me out on Twitter, Instagram, GoodReads, Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook. And follow The Wee Mailing List, for all new content. Also check out Trees for Life – where most of this folklore information came from, it’s a fascinating site for anyone interested in the folklore of trees. Remember if come next May Day you decide to burn the nine sacred woods in your own Beltane celebration, make sure to exercise proper fire safety – you will be working with open (if not very large) flames. I also advise eating something afterwards, I always feel light and giddily shaky after burning the wood and food in the belly is a good way to ground yourself, or so I’ve been told. If you found any inaccuracies in what I’ve said here today, don’t hesitate to mention them down below in the comments. I love to be corrected, it’s how we grow. Until next time Wee Readers, make sure to get plenty of Sunshine, stay safe and have a bonny day.

The Wee Lassie’s Top Ten Foods that keep your Immune System Healthy

If you’ve been following my blog for a while – hi original wee readers, you know who you are – you should know that I am a Vegan. In fact my whole family are vegans. I was raised vegan from the age of two. But what you may not have guessed is that we are mega-vegans – don’t google that I made it up on the spot. Some of us don’t eat gluten, we all drink major green smoothies and of course all our food is organic. We even grow our own greens that we blend up and eat in our green smoothies. Yes, we’re those kind of people – and that is awesome, particularly right now during a pandemic when health is on absolutely everyone’s minds. Wow there’s no way that didn’t come off as bragging…anyway, here are the top ten foods that keep your immune system healthy.

10. Carrots

Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

For a while these were very hard to get at Tesco, which I view as a positive thing for our society, seeing how healthy carrots actually are for you. A single carrot has 12,028 units of Vitamin A -; Vitamin C; B Vitamins; Vitamin E and the minerals of iron, Zinc and Copper – all of which help keep the immune system up and running for cold and flue season, or the odd pandemic.

9. Broccoli

Photo by Buenosia Carol on Pexels.com

Come on, part of you must have known Broccoli would be on this list eventually – it’s no one’s favorite vegetable, but we all know its good for us. This green veg is high in lutein, a compound antioxidant, and sulforaphane. Along with nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus, Zinc and iron.All of which, as you may have guessed help keep us healthy.

8. Onions

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

My god do I love onions, which is a good thing because not only are my family’s store cupboards just filled with the things, but they are mega good for the immune system. Onions are filled with selenium, sulfur compounds, Zinc, and vitamin C. Also, they are an excellent source of quercetin. They are also an antioxidant which have antiviral properties, and they also have histamine regulating effects.

7. Garlic

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Garlic is a magic food. Not only can it keep away the bite of Dracula, but it’s a natural antibiotic. I’ve been eating it raw before every meal, and my cough’s almost gone. Of course, eating raw garlic isn’t for everyone – it’s barely for me – but never fear, there’s no ends of the dishes Garlic can be put into. Soups, sauces, pies – you name it, it’ll be made much better with a dash of Garlic.

6. Red Cabbage

Photo by Chokniti Khongchum on Pexels.com

Cabbage is great; it boosts the immune system, fights inflammation and arthritis; makes healthy bones and reduces risk of Osteoporosis. It also helps fight chronic diseases and encourages a healthy gut. And it tastes delicious with vinegar.

5. Pears

Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

As juicy when ripe as they are hard when not, pears are rich in flavonoid antioxidants which help fight inflammation and may decrease your risk of diseases.

4. Nuts

Photo by Marta Branco on Pexels.com

Ages past Brazil nuts we’re considered one of the nine sacred nuts. They brought wisdom to those that ate them. Today they can help your body prepare for any battles ahead. Nuts are a great source of zinc, along with selenium which is particularly found in Brazil nuts, but all nuts will boost your immune system.

2. Nettles

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Nettles, absolutely one of the ingredients to professor Snape’s most potent potions. These stinging weeds are high in Vitamins A,C,K and B; Minerals like Calcium and iron; Healthy Fats; Polyphenols, Amino acids and Pigments like Beta-carotene, or luteoxanthin. They have been known to reduce inflammation; help hay fever and enlarged prostate symptoms, along with high blood pressure and blood sugar control.

However, one of the best things about Nettles is how available they are; they literally grow everywhere, so much so that we’ve labeled them as weeds all across the western world. Odds are likely they’re even growing somewhere close to you right now. Word to the wise though, if you’re picking them yourself wear gloves and avoid nettles with flowers, if they’ve got flowers they’re no good and should be left alone. As for the shops, while I have never encountered fresh nettles – nettle tea is delicious, and just as immune system boosting as the fresh stuff. Plus, and I don’t know if this is an official result of such tea, but I always find it calms me right down after I’ve had a bout of anxiety.

1. Avocados

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Avocados are a super food, flat out just a super food, with a capital S. If you’ve been following my blog you may have heard me speak about these amazing things before – they certainly fit well in any kind of smoothie. In fact it’s amazing how versatile they are – avocados blended with coco make a lovely chocolate mousse. However I personally love them in Guacamole, since it’s so easy to make and combines other immune system boosting food, like Garlic – but there are hundreds of other different uses for them, whether you’re spreading them mashed on toast, or just chopping them into your salad. What makes this versatility so exciting – besides the taste that is – is just how rich in nutrients the Avocado is.

They contain Vitamins K, C, B5, B6, A, B1, B2, and B3; along with nutrients like Folate, Potassium, magnesium, maganeses, copper, iron, zinc, and phosphorous. Each Avocado also contains 160 calories, 2 grams of protein, 15 grams of healthy fats, 9 grams of Carbs and 7 of fiber. Making them, the ultimate immune boosting food.

If you’ve enjoyed this interesting look into the nutrients of some of the world’s best food, don’t forget to follow the wee blog, if you haven’t already. Also don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Tumblr, Facebook, and Pinterest. And check out the Wee Mailing List – for all new content from the Wee Archives. Until next time Wee Readers, stay safe, stay healthy, and have a bonny day.

My Coronavirus Soundtrack

This Coronavirus outbreak, and the subsequent madness of the whole god damn world, has left me feeling quite depressed. So to cheer myself up I began formulating a playlist of happy songs – as you do. But for a while that’s all it was, just a thing for myself, and it wasn’t until my mother asked if I was going to blog it, that a far more inventive idea came to me. Why just make a playlist that cheers me up about the coronavirus, when I could make an entire soundtrack for the bloody thing. So here before you, is the finished work – note, this is just a bit of fun and not to be taken as a serious account of the state of the world. We get enough of that from the news and (if you’re like me) Twitter, and while this outbreak is a serious thing, sometimes we just need to laugh.

1. Prologue – this isn’t the first crisis we’ve faced

2. The Outbreak Begins

The First Official cases are reported across the world

3. And so we took to Twitter

Honestly this is the first time in my life I’m checking Twitter several times a day.

4. Trying to Understand why this is happening

5. Wash your hands for 20 seconds

6. The Bog-roll Crisis

I didn’t even have to stretch for this one

7. More Panic Buying…I mean what were people thinking?

8. #CorbynMustStay

Oh Jeremy Corbyn, we almost had a socialist Prime Minister. This one may be slightly localized to Great Britain – but this is a British Blog, (at least for now) so what can you expect?

9. Schools Close for Most

If you think this is an inappropriate song, you should see the one I almost put here.

10. The March of the Covidiots: or this is not a song that should fit so well this late in the timeline of a Pandemic

11. And so the Army was called in

Well, the police anyway.

12. Quarantine Life

Well, guess we can’t leave our houses now.

13. Disney + released

If they didn’t want the comparison, they shouldn’t have bought the franchise.

14. And so the Great Binge watch of 2020 began…

Yes, it’s just the Simpsons theme…why? What are you watching?

15. Clap for the NHS, and Stay Home

Being serious here people, the NHS (and other healthcare systems around the world) are already overworked – don’t overwhelm them, stay at home and watch Friends.

16. Coming out of Lockdown

Speaks for itself really.

17. And Hopefully we’re all still…

If this playlist offered you any joy during these dark days don’t forget to follow the Wee blog, if you haven’t already. Also don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Goodreads. Also check out The Wee Mailing List, for all new content. Keep safe, Wee Readers, and don’t forget to laugh whenever you can – it’s good for the soul. So, until next time, have a bonny day.

Memories of a 2019 GoodReads Challenge: or, the top ten books to read while you’re social distancing

What ho Wee Readers, how are you all doing? Are you trapped at home in quarantine? Or practicing social distancing to protect yourself and or your family? Yeah, my Mum’s got a damaged lung, so I’m right there with you. At times like these the world can seem a terrifying place, almost overwhelmingly so – and I find the best cure for such depressing thoughts, can be found in the pages of a good book.

Wow, that was a far more depressing opening than I thought it would be. Anyway, if you’ve been following my Goodreads account, then you’ll know that I really enjoy their Reading Challenge. At the beginning of 2020, I challenged myself to read a hundred books, which is quite a step up from the thirty I read in 2019. I’m well on my way to completing this year’s challenge, so I’d just thought I’d take a look back at my favorite reads of last year, to try and forget about this year.

10. Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly

This is a collection of essays about the cancelled tv show Firefly, one of two I read over the course of 2019 – though by far this is the superior volume. Mainly because unlike its sequel, it didn’t go on and on about how not having aliens in it made Firefly the greatest sci-fi show ever to exist. Or sneering at the notion that anyone would ever put an alien in their space fiction, let alone actually believe in life on other planets. Which, as someone who is patiently waiting for the mother-ship to return, I find slightly offensive. Anyway, you won’t find any of that nonsense in this book – at least, none that I can remember.

9. Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds: The Musical Drama

So…Michael Sheen’s voice…wow. Anyway, back on topic…I started this post quite a while ago, and then got pulled away to write another essay (I know I’ve said that before, but it’s not just an excuse, it really is what I’ve been doing all this time) and during that interval the world kind of…exploded. Basically, we somehow woke up one day and found ourselves living in a dystopian novel, which is…well…bad whatever, but if it was going to happen, why couldn’t it be ‘The War of the Worlds’ instead? Look I’m not trying to be crass here, I’m well aware how terrible the coronavirus, the mass panic buying of loo roll…for some unexplained reason…and well everything the British government has been doing lately, is. All I’m saying is that I would rather watch Boris Johnson be disintegrated by a Martian, than worry about the bloody coronavirus.

8. Coffee at Luke’s: An Unauthorized Gilmore Girls Gabfest Edited by Jennifer Cruise

So, this is a thing. Rather like the first book on this list, this is a collection of essays; except this time on the topic of Gilmore Girls. Gilmore Girls is one of those shows in which I have a… complicated relationship with. On the one hand I loved the original show, and yet like many of you out there I found the revival lacking in the charm that made the original so appealing. Also, the characters were all awful, and by that, I mean they were all awful people. Where they like that in the original, I don’t remember that. Still the book is well worth a look, even for the most disappointed of Gilmore Girls fans, and I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys digging deeper into their favorite shows.

7. The Silmarillion by J.R.R Tolkien.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s least enjoyable book…there I said it. I’m of two minds about this book, on the one hand nowhere else is J.R.R. Tolkien’s genius most evident, and yet the only way to describe how I manged to finish this is: with great difficulty. Whether or not you enjoy this book really depends on how much you’re invested in the Elves as a people – for you see The Silmarillion is not just the history of Middle-Earth, it’s the History of Middle-Earth as told by the ruling class of Elves. It’s why we never really get a look into the other races unless they’ve had direct contact with the elves. Notice how it’s only the men who live under the Elves sovereignty who are in anyway explored in a meaningful way. This isn’t the story of Middle-earth but rather how the elves perceive it. And nowhere is this more apparent than the story of the petty Dwarves. The petty dwarves were a diminutive race that lived in the continent of Beleriand (the north most tip of middle-earth) during the first age (or at least round about that time, Middle-earth calendars are a lot less straightforward than you’d think). In fact, they were the first people to live in Beleriand, even before the elves – and what did the elves do when they got there? Come on, we all live in a post-colonist world, you know what they did. That’s right, they massacred them…hunted them for sport actually. Claiming all the while that they thought they were animals. While they do stop doing this once they meet the larger dwarves, and realize the creatures they were gleefully slaughtering – which had worn clothes, and held weapons – were not in fact a strange kind of boar. However, they don’t actually seem to feel guilty about what they’d done. In fact, the text itself implies that the petty dwarves had it coming, because they were…unpleasant, and didn’t like anyone. My Valar of the Forge and Earth, why would a people that have been hunted to near extinction, and smeared in the history books, not have a sunny disposition? Madness, don’t they know that the feelings of their murders come first above all things.

Yes, I am a Tolkien nerd, why do you ask?

6. Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel by Daniel Jose Older

They should have let the cooking robot kill Ben Solo. Out of context that sentence sounds like nonsense, doesn’t it? But trust me, after you read this book, you’ll know what I mean. Anyway, getting down to business. Despite my first impressions of the film I can freely admit that ‘Solo’ is by far and away probably one the weaker members of the Star Wars franchise. Many people have tried to pinpoint the exact reason for this – raging from the sensible to the outright ludicrous – but I have come to the conclusion that ultimately, it was the pacing that let Solo down. Namely, it was originally supposed to be three films, but got squished into one for…some reason…and you can really tell. Despite this, the film had many positive qualities, not least among which was being the only film to note the cruelty many heroes casually throw at droids – I mean it didn’t do it well, but at least it mentioned it. Last Shot is everything Solo should have been: it explores Han Solo’s past but only so much as it pertains to the story, and it gives characters that had previously been killed off before they could do anything more than snark a chance to shine. And most of all, droid abuse and activism was made a central theme and story plot, rather than just something to be giggled at.

5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The book is better than the show. Yeah, I’ll say it, the show was needlessly dark and depressing and… that second season, oh my god, did I hate that second season. I couldn’t even watch it to the end. Look I know both the book and the show cover heavy topics that need to be taken seriously, like abuse, possible murder and body issues, but somehow the book was able to do that without making every single character completely unlikable. I mean what was with that story-line of Madeline cheating on Ed? She didn’t need more drama in her story, her book story-line was dramatic enough and unique. It wasn’t just another copy and paste affair arch. In conclusion, read the book and skip the show.

4. Revenge of the Sith by Mathew Stover

I love this book. I’ve read it more than once, more than thrice really, and each time it just gets better. A common trend when praising this book, is to imply that it vastly improves upon the original film. However, I’m not going to say that, because quite frankly not only is that kind of petty prequel hate repugnant to me in every way but, I found nothing to hate in the original film. In fact, it’s one of my favourites. What I will say is Mathew Stover’s take on the fall of Anakin Skywalker and the rise of Darth Vader is interesting and new, not better just different – but I found his description of the force, particularly how Obi-Wan experiences it, the most fascinating I’ve ever encountered in any Star Was franchise media, films included.

3. Snape: A definitive Reading by Lorrie Kim

Awesome, just awesome. Severus Snape is the essential base-breaking character. You either love him or loathe him, there doesn’t seem to be any neutral ground on this issue, but that doesn’t matter because Snape a Definitive Reading is the book for both sides of the argument. Whether you love him and want a conformation of why he is so awesome, or you absolutely hate him, but want an insight into what all your crazy friends see in him, this is the book for you.

2. Room by Emma Donoghue

I love this book. I was so, so about the film – since as a visual medium it lost much of the magic that was Jack’s misunderstanding about his situation in the beginning of the story – but the book was fantastic. Now I’m assuming, Wee Readers, that each of you fall into one of two categories. Either you’ve already read this book/watched the film, and know each of the ins and outs of the story, and therefore don’t need me to tell you what you already know; or you have no idea what I’m even talking about. In which case I don’t want to ruin the story for you. So I’ll just say this, if you’re stuck at home at this strange time, pick up a kindle or audible version of this book, sit back and enjoy.

1. The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

Speaking of good books to read while you’re waiting out the coronavirus. This is, and I don’t think I’m overstating this, the best book published in 2019, hands down. If you’ve been following my blog for a while – hello early Wee Readers – you’ll remember I interviewed the author herself a few months back. If you’re interested go check that out here, or Ailish’s own blog here. There now the plugging is done, onto the real talk of the book.  Without giving away the end – because as we all know, only gypes give out spoilers on the internet – this a book that will not end how you think it will. Whether you are a fan of sweeping Romance, accurate Historical Fiction, Heroines that aren’t a size two, or like me an accurate portrayal of a Scottish accent… this is the book for you. Trust me, Wee Readers, you will not be thinking about the coronavirus while you’re reading this book. Seriously go out and buy this book.

If this wee post has distracted you at all from the ongoing dystopian narrative, we’ve all somehow found ourselves living through, then don’t forget to follow the wee blog if you haven’t already. Also check me out on Twitter – where I am hilarious – Facebook, Pinterest, GoodReads, Tumblr and Instagram. Also check out my Wee Mailing List ,for brand new content. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

The Sunshine Blogger Award…and it’s all mine!!!!!

What ho, Wee Readers! Yes it’s happened, I’ve gotten an award. Finally some acknowledgment on how awesome I am. I’d just like to thank my Mum and my Dad for Home Educating me, and my brother for providing an intellectual sparing partner, and all the friends who had the common sense not to get in my way during my rise to the top. But most of all I’d like to thank Autumn from Mischief and Mjolnir who is the wonderful blogger who nominated me. Seriously go check out and follow her amazing blog right now, or I shall think much less of you from this day onwards.

Okay so acknowledments over, what is the Sunshine Blogger Award?

The Sunshine Blogger Award is an award given to creative, positive and cheerful bloggers by their peers as a token of appreciation and admiration. (Which considering some of my more depressing blogs, I’m a little shocked I got nominated for. Happy, but a little surprised.)

The Rules

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to him/her. (Check)
  2. Answer 11 questions provided by the blogger who nominated you. (Double Check)
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions. (Mwahhahaha! *cough* I mean, sensible laugh that’s not worrying to my nominees at all.)
  4. Notify the nominees by commenting on one of their blog posts.
  5. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your blog post.

My Questions

  • What would be your dream job?

A published novelist

  • What big thing would you love to do if you had the means?

Buy the Woods and the Loch by my house.

  • If a genie gave you three wishes, what would you wish for?

Wish Number One:  to have Mum’s health back.

Wish Number Two: to have my books published and successful

Wish Number Three: to be able to watch the Mandalorian without paying for it (damn you Disney and your malicious ability to provide excellence).

  • If you had the opportunity to change the world, how would you do it?

Change Trump into a wooden doll.

  • What would you do with a million dollars?

*cracks knuckles* Buy a plane and travel round the world. Buy a castle. Buy a mansion in Italy. Buy tickets to Hamilton and Come from Away. There’s too much to choose! Darn, am I only suppose to pick one, then fine…pay my taxes, and according to JK Rowling become a saint.

  • What would you name your pet dragon?

As I am a firm believer of the inverse law of pet naming – which states that the more fierce the pet, the cuter the name, and vice versa – I here by name my pet dragon: Mr. Tickles.

  • Would you rather time travel to the past or to the future? Why?

Hmm, that’s a hard question, indeed. I do so love history, but there’s the issue of what if you kill your grandparents accidentally. You could stop yourself from being born. And believe me, considering my currently living grandparents, it would be a very hard thing not to kill them, should I ever encounter them in the past. Yet if I go any further than that I’m sure to be hung as a witch. So, it must be to the future I go. Yet even that has its dangers, for if you see what’s going to happen to you, or the world in the future – once you’re home how will you ever be sure that you’re not undoing that timeline with your every action? So if I were to time travel at all, it must be to the future, and it must be a one way trip.

  • What word would your friends use to describe you?

Bubbly

  • What’s your favouratie candy?

Fox’s Glacier Mints

  • What’s your favorite song?

It changes daily – today it is Word Up by The BossHoss, but who knows what it’ll be tomorrow.

  • What are the greatest gifts God has given you this year?

While I’m not particularly religious, so probably wouldn’t phrase it like that,  I can understand when a good thing has happened to me – here are some of them:

  1. My mum coming home from the hospital.
  2. Getting a 73 on my last assignment, when I’d been certain I’d failed it.
  3. Getting my newest short story published – despite many people turning their noses up at the Scots’ dialect of the characters.
  4. Just how many people have been reading and enjoying my blog.

My Nominees’ Questions

  1. Who is your favorite author?
  2. If you could rule one of these five fictional/mythical lands: the Galaxy of Star Wars, King Arthur’s Britain, Westeros, Middle-Earth or Discworld – which one would it be and why?
  3. If you had the powers of a god, what would you do with them?
  4. Which famous historical figure would you have round to dinner?
  5. You’ve been abducted by aliens, and they demand that you take them to your leader – who do you take them to?
  6. If there was a film made of your life story, which famous actor would you want to play you?
  7. If you were trapped in a historical time (presumably your time machine has malfunctioned) what period would you be most likely to survive in?
  8. What is your favorite kind of weather and why?
  9. Chocolate or Caramel?
  10. If you could turn into any mythical creature, which one would it be?
  11. Who are you most grateful to in your life?

The Nominees

Linda Gukicova at Some Photoblog

moviefanman at Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

Sophia Ismaa

Eunice C. English at My Parkinson’s Diary

Mia Winhertt at A struggling Author – My Journey with You

JoAnna at Anything is possible

Lolsys Library

amymayj at Sassy Cat Lady

Widdershims at Widdershim Worlds

joanne the geek

Whitneyibeblog at Whitney Ibe Blog!…Always with You

If you’ve enjoyed this touting of my own horn, don’t forget to follow the wee blog if you haven’t already. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Goodreads. Also check out Mischief and Mjolnir, and my Nominees’ blogs – they’re really worth a check out. Until next time, My Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

Fandoms, more classist than you know

Truth time here Wee Readers, you know what powerful political figure I’m really getting sick of… Harry Potter. Okay, maybe a bit of a clarification needed here – in previous posts, I have made my feelings of one JK Rowling quite clear. I don’t believe she’s a a good person, and I sort of have the impression she’s trying to retroactively ruin her own books. Which, honestly is not the worst thing she’s done recently, but is probably the most weird. I mean horrible, sexist, trans-phobic beliefs are just that – but where’s the motivation for trying to ruin the thing that made you so much money? Sorry, got a bit carried away there, because for once this post is not about JK Rowling – that’s right Ms. Rowling is not the reason I’m so sick of whiny, wealthy Harry Potter. No, that responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of her mildly insane fandom.

Backstory first. I’m a bit of geek, always have been ever since I was a…well, an even smaller wee lassie. And I had the luck of being born just at the right time, Anne Rice was no longer hounding people in their own homes for ‘infringing’ on her copyright, and J.K Rowling had yet to reveal to everybody just what a terrible person she was. It was the age of the fan-fiction. And I, like any 12 or 13 year old with a healthy imagination, got stuck right in. I read a lot of fan-fiction while I was growing up, in fact strangely enough it was one of the things that made me want to be a writer. But here’s the thing, when you read that much fan-fiction you begin to notice patterns, particularly in certain fandoms. The same plots, and or tropes, appearing over and over again from authors so varied they cannot possibly have consulted each other. What do I mean? Well…what if Harry was not as gullible as he seemed? What if he got wise to the manipulations of Dumbledore and / or the Weasleys – say he discovered they were doing something terrible, like …stealing from his bank vault. So thus he decides to break away and become a power in his own right. I hear you say, why Wee Lassie that’s a very specific plot, surely it can’t have been reproduced that many times. Oh how I wish I still had your hope in mankind, but sadly Wee Readers this plot is just one of many such repetitive narratives found with the Harry Potter fandom. Now, I’m not here to judge…people like what they like, and yet you do sometimes have to wonder why? What motivates all these writers to go back to the same plot again, and again?

I focused on the…let’s call it, ‘Non-gullible Harry’ story-line (although I am sure it’s gone by better names than that) because it has the strange peculiarity to have at once everything and nothing at all to do with canon. While in cannon Harry is indeed manipulated, by Dumbledore no less, into sacrificing himself for the good of the many. And yet more often than not, Dumbledore’s faults are exaggerated to such a degree that it almost seems ridiculous that anyone would believe he was a good man. Of course, whatever the argument Dumbledore is not a nice man, he’s barely a good one – despite what J.K Rowling seems to think, he certainly deserves all the bile the fandom can throw at him. However the same cannot be said of the Weasley family – who are so hated in the fandom that they’ve even got a whole trope named after one of them ‘Ron the Death-Eater’. But for a long time I put this down other to sour-grapes about their ship not being cannon, or to the film’s butchery of the character of Ron. And yet that same repetition of plot kept repeating and I notice a troubling detail in many – though certainly not all – of these stories. Namely that when it’s revealed that the Weasleys are using Harry, it’s almost always for wealth and or status of some kind – often specifically stealing from his bank vault. Putting aside that this is complete nonsense when it comes to canon, it always struck me as strange that this is what people focused on as the great injustice that has been done to Harry Potter…his wealth being stolen by the poor. Think about that for a moment, in our world of austerity, food-banks, children being denied benefits if their family already has two children (yeah, that’s a thing now in Britain, go check it out here)- the worst thing you can think of that happened to Harry Potter – The Boy who Lived – is his wealth being stolen by the poor. For Calgacus’ sake! The boy was raised in a cupboard!

Looked through this lens, suddenly all those ‘Weasley-bashing’ fics – not limited to but certainly including the live action adaptions themselves – take on a sinister twist. After all it is a classist writing practice to portray lower-class characters as significantly stupider than middle and upper-class ones. Which I can tell you is certainly what happens in the films to lower-class Ron, compared to middle-class Hermione, and (arguably) upper-class Harry. And I’ve gotta say, this continuous putting down of Ron as stupid or beneath them is really making making me not like Harry Potter or Hermione, or the people that ship that.

So let’s say that all this hate – or rather the peculiar way it comes out in fan-fiction and adaptions – is an underlying classist sentiment, follow me to that peer. Would we then say that this is a problem confined purely to the Harry Potter Fandom? After all, J.K Rowling is a terrible person as I think she’s thoroughly proven by now – and she certainly was one of the loudest voices sneering at the actual left-wing candidates in our modern neo-liberal time; while clomping on to Blair who I’m sorry – no matter what you want to say about anyone else, is an actual war criminal and should be in jail. But no, it would be easy to say that – ridiculously easy – but this problem, for once is bigger than Madame ‘J.K.’ Voldemort; I think it’s more to do with our society as a whole. In our neo-liberal society, wealth has become a virtue in itself, rather than just an abstract fact about a person.

For instance, look at the character of Iron Man. At the time he was first created, which was sometime in the sixties I think, Stan Lee intended to create a character that was something young people would hate – that is, a war profiteer, a figure of the establishment, and a millionaire – and make them fall in love with him. Jump to today, and that idea seems to have worked a tad too well – Tony Stark’s fan-base is larger than most other heroes put together, and he is one of the main power houses’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Granted he’s dead now, but that still hasn’t stopped both Disney and Fans alike from gushing about him like he’s the second coming of Jesus-Christ, despite the fact that he’s a morally dubious character at best. Now I’m not saying that a love of Iron Man instantly makes a fan classist (that would be ridiculous) but once again, it’s how this adoration is expressed. Namely by tearing down other superheroes of more humble origins. No better example is found of this then the many fan-fictions dedicated to ‘bashing’ Steve Rogers -the former sickly son of a first generation immigrant, raised in the great depression – or Wanda Maximoff – an orphan from a war torn nation, whose parents were killed by one of Stark’s own bombs – that popped up around the release of Captain America: Civil War. Many of these portraying the millionaire not only as always in the right, but as the victim of his former friends; despite the original film being deliberately opaque in who was actually in the right. I mean god Steve, how dare you put the well-being of your PTSD suffering, formally brain-washed best-friend over the feelings of your privileged work colleague’s feelings.

This post took a very long time to complete – not helped by me being pulled away by yet another assignment half way through writing it – and looking back now, I can see that it comes off as more judgmental of fan-fiction writers and fandoms in general, than I meant it to be. Not all people who write ‘Ron-bashing’ fics do so for reasons anymore sinister than anger over a ‘ship’ and just not liking the character. All characters are flawed by nature, and not everyone is going to gel with the same ones. Same goes for those who like Tony Stark – he’s a funny character, and very hard not to like – trust me I know, I’ve tried. Rather the point of this post is to get people to stop and ask why they express themselves in the way they do. If you hate Ron, or Ginny, or any of the Weasleys so much – why make them steal from Harry Potter’s vault? Why that? And why so often? In the same vain, if you love Tony Stark so much, why act like he is the greatest victim in all the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Why demonize the characters of different classes – and I haven’t even touched upon what many fans do to characters of different races, nationalities and genders – to defend the most privileged one? If he’s so great, why do you need to bother? Why do so many people love this fairly selfish, privileged ( I know this is the second time I’ve used that word, but I feel it’s important to emphasis it) jerk? It has to be more than just that he’s funny, that doesn’t explain the hate. Rather I propose, that this may be an unconscious veneration of the wealthy – something that started out as ‘look at Tony Stark, he’s so rich, isn’t that fun to watch’ quickly became ‘look at Tony Stark, he’s so rich, and therefore better than everyone else’. Ah I see you roll your eyes at me, and you’re probably right… maybe I’m reading too much into this – but look me in the eye and tell me there isn’t something innately classist in a society that venerates Draco bloody Malfoy, over Ron Weasley.

If you’ve enjoyed this wee exploration into some of the classism – even I admit there’s deeper to go with that – within fandoms, or just think I’m full of crap, drop me a note down in the comments and tell me what you think. And don’t forget to follow the wee Blog, if you haven’t already; also you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Goodreads. Until next time Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

12 vegan meals made by a complete amateur

What ho, Wee Readers! I hope you had a good Christmas. If you’ve read my last post you’ll have already guessed that mine has been a bit stressful this year. If it wasn’t the ever increasing difficulty of my course work, then its the mountain of assignments I had due – but I don’t like to complain, at least in a non comedic manner. So, I’ll move on to more entertaining challenges – namely my terrible cooking. Due to some personal matters, I’ve taken over cooking duties for my family. Mwahahahaha , now nothing can stop me from making whatever I want, except budget constraints and general lack lack of talent! *Lightening flashes ominously*…*cough* Anyway, here are the twelve vegan meals made by a complete amateur.

12. Pasta and Raw Sauce

Pasta, carrots and leftover pasta all covered with a raw sauce that would leave even the most hardened of Carnivore’s mouth watering.

Raw Suce composed of:

1 apple, chopped roughly

handful of walnuts

juice of 1 lemon

two or three celery stalks chopped – once again roughly

olive oil

Garlic

But of course you can put all sorts of veg and nuts or seeds in it. Then plop it all together in a mixer – the power of which will depend on how roughly you get to chop your veg. I have a Vitamix so I can chop things however I like – but different brands may vary.

11. Leftover Baked Sweet Potato and Pasta Salad

This is one of the easiest meals I’ve made yet – if you discount the original cooking of the sweet-potatoes. But even then all you do there is, rub olive oil on the potatoes and stick in a pre-heated oven for about an hour. Then boom, delicious, Sweet Potato goodness. They taste so good that usually there’s nothing left come the next day – but this time I got lucky. So I mixed the leftover potatoes with vegan pasta salad – available at any decent Tesco – plumb tomatoes and Quorn Ham. A substance my family refused to eat for ages, because Quorn refused to make their vegetarian range even a little vegan, and their original adds were stupid and condescending. Also they’re made from mold, genetically modified mold. Turns out I really like the taste of mold …mmm genetically modified sin against nature.

10. Roasted Courgette and Tofu with Sweet Potatoe Fries

Now this is one of my favorite dishes to make – mainly because not only is it easy, fairly cheap, almost impossible to mess up, but it’s delicious too. Take two packets of plain Tofu – I use the brand Tofuu, but it’s not a requirement – two or three courgettes, chop them all up into fairly small pieces and put them in a olive oil covered baking tray. After that the original recipe calls for a splash of soya sauce sprinkled on top, which I do recommend if you can handle the salt as it is absolutely delicious – of course not every one can, and we really have too much salt in our diets anyway. So if that’s the case for you, just use more olive oil, works the same.

Put in the oven, wait till everything goes soft and that’s that – one delicious, easy to make, vegan dish, that won’t bankrupt you.

9. Sausages and Mashed Potatoes

I don’t know why I was so nervous about making mash potatoes. They’re the easiest thing in the world to make. You don’t even have to peel them. Just cut off the bad bits, chop them into manageable sizes; boil ’em till they go soft – then add a chunk of vegan margarine and mash like you’re a crazy person. Most fun thing I’ve ever made. As you can see I’ve combined this dish with sausages – vegan of course – and a bag of frozen vegetables. Easy, done!

8. Spaghetti and Soya Balls

The best thing I ever discovered was The Seeds of Change range of sauces – just plop them in a pan, heat ’em up and wallah. This picture here is the Bolognese sauce, paired with spaghetti and soya balls – that is, meatless meatballs.

7. Pasta with Tomato and Courgette Sauce

At number seven, we have the tomato and basil ‘Seeds of Change’ sauce – combined with a chopped courgette and yellow pepper. I know I’ve already done and talked about the ‘Seeds of Change’ brand on this list but this is my favorite sauce of all time – and look! Look how well the photo turned out. I mean you can actually see the steam rising from the sauce, mmm – makes me hungry just looking at it.

6. Pineapple and Mango Smoothie

Now we come to the first of the two smoothies on this list. Just take half a bag of frozen pineapple chunks, and the same amount of frozen mango chunks, combine with three bananas, nuts ( ideally walnuts, because they’re the best, but really any will do), fresh orange juice and coconut water. Then throw it it all in a blender – again I use the Vitamix brand, but any kind of blender will do. Turn up to full blast for a few minutes, and then get ready to pour your fresh new smoothie.

5. Sausage and Potatoe Waffles

I love potato Waffles, I’d have them all day if I could – I could just throw them in the oven , heat them up and have them all day. I witter on like this because there’s not much to say about this meal. Other than the sausages – which take a grand total of maybe eight minutes frying in a frying pan – the rest are so simple and easy I could have done them in my sleep.

4. Black current Smoothie

Blackberries straight from the freezer, three bananas (again), an Avocado (no nuts this time, never put nuts and an Avocado together in a smoothie. I’m not entirely sure why, it’s just one of those cooking rules my Mum told me) lin seeds, fresh orange juice and coconut water. Blend it all up and, be careful not to spill any when you pour it. We done? Great, Next order!

3. Schnitzel, peas & carrots, and sweet potato fries

This ready made schnitzel ( I hope I’m spelling that right) takes about eight minutes to cook in olive oil, but is slightly hard to turn over half way through due to the increased side. Also the tendency of its skin to stick to the pan doesn’t help either on that front. Joining it on the plate is sweet potato fries and garden peas & baby carrots.

Sweet potato and Tomato Soup

Funny story – I burned myself making this soup, and not a small one either – my entire arm was covered with the boiling stuff. That will teach me to fill the blasted thing as much as I did. My dad did the same thing when he made this soup a week or so later, except because he didn’t fill it up so high, he only got a splash on the hand – ah well, live and learn. Scalding burns along my arms aside, this is a delicious soup made of sweat potatoes, tomato, celery, garlic and a pinch of sault. Cook up first in a pan untill all the vegetables are soft – and then throw it in a blender and hope you don’t burn yourself when you take the lid off after a througher blending.

1 Christmas!!!!!

Yes, I had originally planned to make this an entirely separate blog post by, but I’ve been very sick lately and I released I was falling behind on my planned schedule. Also, turns out when you’re cooking a meal as involved as Christmas lunch you may or may not forget to take pictures while you’re doing it. Ah well, it was a fantastic meal anyway and makes the perfect closing piece for this wee list of mine. Alright, the dishes making up these grand piece de resistance are as follows…

Roast Potatoes

Generally you would boil the potatoes first, before you roast them in olive oil – however if you chop them up very small you can skip the boiling part and cut the time of cooking down by half.

Sprouts

Funny story, I actually meant to cook chestnuts and sprouts, but it was the first time I ever cooked them and I bought the wrong sort of chestnuts – they had shells. Still the sprouts were good regardless, I don’t know why people make such a fuss about them, they were awesome.

Pigs in a blanket

Ready made.

Stuffing Balls

Ready made by Linda McCartney – check ’em out.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with added Garlic segments

These are simple, just cut them into manageable slices, place ’em on an oiled baking tray; sprinkle some oil oil, add your peeled garlic segments. No need to chop those, they taste just as good when you don’t. Plop it all in the oven and wait about an hour – same as the potatoes.

Bread Sauce

This needs to be begun the day before, and cooked on Christmas day. Break up at least part of a bread-loaf, into a baking tray. My Mum can’t handle Gluten, so I made my breadcrumbs from a non-gluten loaf, but it’s not a requirement. Then cut an onion in half (after pealing first of course) and stick cloves into each side, until both rather more resemble hedgehogs than any kind of onion. From there your going to pour soya milk – or your own choice of milk alternative – over the breadcrumbs and onion halves until you get a nice gloopy mixture. You can add cinnamon stick and pepper of course – but its not vital to the dish. Then just cover the dish with foil, and stick it in the oven on Christmas day.

Turkey Roast

Ready made – ah the age of the Vegan era has truly begun. Soon were will run the world and now everyone else will have to put up with condescending articles, telling them them their diet is lacking. See how they like it! *evil laugh while lightening flashes in the background*…*cough* *cough* Sorry I blacked out for a moment, what did I just say? Oh no, she’s arisen…my inner manic Vegan!

And Cranberry Sauce

Out of a jar, I don’t see the need to make cranberry sauce from scratch.

And that’s that, all twelve of the pictures, I remembered to take, of the food I made while I was in charge of cooking. I still am of course, and I began to make far more competent looking meals than these, but then that really wouldn’t go with the theme of the post. Anyway, if this list of edible vegan goodies has left you hungry for more don’t forget to follow the wee blog if you haven’t already. Or follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and check out my Facebook, Goodreads and Tumblr pages. Until next time, my wee readers, have a bonny day.

Side note: apology to those who were surprised when this post disappeared off the internet – my WordPress app was acting up and switched it to draft. Still it’s back up now 🙂

We now interrupt your regular scheduled programming with a message from a Wee Lassie

What Ho My Wee Readers – I’m back, and I haven’t died or vanished from the face of the earth. Unfortunately my course work became somewhat overwhelming – so I had to make some cutbacks on the rest of my work, and the blog lost out mainly because there isn’t a deadline for the work I do here.

Anyway, happy times ahead because I’m back, along with some exciting news. Check out my Stories page and you’ll find a brand new addition – my short story, ‘The Squirrel’ was accepted for issue 7 of the online magazine, Route 7. Check it out and marvel at the authentic use of Doric. Also, we’ll have some new blog posts hopeful up soon, including but not limited to:

12 Vegan Meals cooked by a complete amateur

Due to some personal reasons, I’ve taken control of the cooking for my family – behold and watch the terror unfold before you

The Top Ten Books of a Wee Lassie’s GoodReads Challenge

If you’ve followed me on GoodReads than you might know that I’ve finally completed my Reading Challenge for the year – this is my top ten favorites.

Cool Motive, Still Murder: an in-depth look at why the Sherlock Christmas special is not feminist, it’s stupid

I think this one speaks for itself.

A World without Aliens: why what works for Firefly, can’t work for Star Wars

Ditto with this one

Friends: This is not the Best Day of Your Life

Din’t you ever find it both annoying and very strange how Friends treated the desire to be a bride, not only as expected for women, but so commonplace that even women from completely different countries, can understand it in each other, even over their own future husbands. Yes, it’s another Friends post – but if the Friends’ writers didn’t want lengthy think pieces twenty five years after their show began, then they should have taken more care to make it age better.

The Amateur Vegan Cook: Christmas Lunch addition

Yes, that’s right I’m cooking Christmas Dinner this year

And since J.K Rowling is kicking up dirt again – surprise everyone who hasn’t read my earlier post, J.K. Rowling is supporting a transphobe – I’ll be talking a bit about her work, and just well…all the things I kind of just let slide first time round, because of the lightening bolt shaped stars in my eyes. Also the fact that I was basically six when I started reading the Harry Potter books.

And that’s about it – a story published, an update that I’m not quite dead yet, and some plans for the future.

If you’ve enjoyed this Wee refresher into the insanity which is my mind, don’t forget to follow the wee blog if you haven’t already. Also check me out on Instagram and Twitter, along with my Goodreads, Pinterest and Tumblr accounts. Thank you for your infinite patience during this long hiatus between posts that we’ve somehow found ourselves in – I’ll try not to take so long with the next one. So, until next time my wee readers, have a bonny day.

7 impertinent questions for Ailish Sinclair

Set in the the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear , by Scottish Author Ailish Sinclair – out now in paperback and Kindle – is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

Now I know what you’re thinking – well that sounds terrific Wee Lassie, I would really like to read that! But why are you talking about it? Well, never fear my Wee Readers , I shall explain all. Recently I’ve received some very exciting news – fellow Author, Ailish Sinclair, has had her book – The Mermaid and the Bear – published. I was very excited anyway, as I am when any fellow writing Lassie gets her book published – especially when they mention me in the acknowledgements ( buy it and check it out, I’m mentioned under my birth name Charlotte) – and then something occurred to me. Ho, ho, I said, this is something my Wee Readers should know about, after all by your very nature you are readers. So thus, with the idea in place I approached Ailish herself, and formed a plan.

The basic idea for this post was an interview, which is kind of what we ended up with, but with a bit of twist. As we already knew each other, the questions didn’t have to be quite so formal, they could be…down right impertinent even. Okay, let’s start with a Wee Introduction: Ailish Sinclair is an author from the north of Scotland – like yours truly – who was trained as a dancer in London; before returning back up North, where she taught ballet and met her husband. She now lives beside a loch with said husband and two children, surrounded by castles and stone circles, where she writes and dances (yes, still) and apparently eats a lot of cake.

Ailish loves Stone Circles

Her book is refreshingly also set up North in the region of Aberdeenshire, in the late sixteenth century – during a period of our history that’s not often talked about by the wider world, or indeed Scotland itself: the Aberdeen Witchcraft panic of 1597. There’s a real feeling of authenticity when it comes to Sinclair’s writing: from the clear amount of research that has gone into every aspect of late sixteenth century life, right down to the accurate Scottish dialect that many of the characters speak in. I’m not going to harp on too long about this, since it’s neither the focus of the book nor this post , but it’s very rare to find Doric in a modern book – which if you’re like me and live in a place where that’s just how people talk , it’s nice to not be left out for once. Another inclusive detail in Ailish’s novel is the fact that her heroine – Isobell – is a plus sized women, and this is never treated like a problem, or something about her that needs to be fixed, by the narrative. All body type inclusion, yeah!

Alright, enough with the introductions already, on with the impertinent questions.

7. As a fellow Writing Lassie from up here in Scotland, would you say your book has something more, or deeper, to say about Scottish culture than can be found in other books?

I live in Aberdeenshire, where the book is set, and have done so for most of my life. I hope my deep love for the countryside comes across in the narrative, and that I’ve captured the way people speak and behave towards one another here. I had to tone down the local language somewhat to make it easier to understand. ‘Ken fit like?’

6. You’ve mentioned before in other interviews that you become quite intense with your research when you’re writing a Historical Novel. So, my question is, what’s the maddest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?

Eating primroses? Sliding down dangerous cliff sides in bare feet? Cross examining the poor wardens in St Nicholas Kirk? I’m not really sure about the maddest. The hardest part was knowing when to stop. When is enough information enough? Research could go on forever, but once the story has formed firmly round it, and you know what sort of underwear everyone was wearing, it’s probably time to write the book.

5. Now that you’re getting published, and you can look back on your career with a clinical eye – what would you say was the first moment you felt like a real writer?

I actually think the most precious writing time is well before publication is even being considered. It’s that first draft. Anything is possible then. Fall in love with your story and your characters and they will lead you to all sorts of places you never imagined possible. So, to answer your question: when I was working on the first draft, and wanting to write it ALL the time, rushing home to get back to it, thinking about it ALL the time… that’s when I felt like a real writer.

4. As a confessed recovering Chocoholic, was it terribly difficult to leave the substance out of The Mermaid and the Bear?

Well, I felt deeply sorry for my poor characters that they couldn’t have any chocolate of course, but not so sorry that I withheld it from myself. I have to confess that I am, in fact, not in recovery, and have no intention of ever being so!

3. Your new novel – The Mermaid and the Bear – deals with the long-forgotten Aberdeen witchcraft panic of 1597. By choosing this subject you have brought the voices of women unjustly forgotten by history into the public eye again. What I want to ask is, is there a feminist undertone to your choice of subject matter; and if not, is there some other reason you were drawn to that particular area of Scottish history?

Given that 85% of those accused of witchcraft in Scotland were women, yes, there is definitely a feminist side to the novel. Women supporting each other, standing strong against misogyny, and believing they have the right to aspects of life that were the dominion of men at the time, and even now, do come into the story.

2.Okay, let’s dig a little deeper. If you were put on the spot, like I’m doing to you now, and you were forced to choose a person or persons (plural), that you really admired in that part of history. Who would it be?

Anyone who stood up to oppression and abuse. These people rarely make it into the recorded history of the time, so historical fiction provides scope to write about bravery, love and heroic acts as they might have happened. When bad events occur there are always those who stand strong and true, often among those who are persecuted themselves.

1. Alright final question, and then I’ll let you go. Would you say that the romantic hero of The Mermaid and the Bear – The Laird – resembles anyone you know in real life?

While aspects of his character were inspired by a local historical Laird, my fictional Laird is a little bit like my own husband. I am lucky to be married to a man who accepts people as they are, doesn’t judge anyone on outward appearance, and has an open heart and mind, just like Thomas Manteith!

Ailish Sinclair and Husband
Ailish and Husband house shopping

I love that final answer, it always make me well up – especially if you’ve read her mention of him in the acknowledgments.

If you’ve enjoyed these impertinent questions to the emerging Author Ailish Sinclair, remember to follow my wee blog if you haven’t already, and check me out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and my Tumblr account – or sign up to the Wee Mailing List. However if you’ve also enjoyed the long suffering answers of Ailish herself, remember to follow her wee blog here and sign up to her Mailing List here. Also check her out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest , Facebook and Goodreads. And don’t forget to check out the The Mermaid and the Bear, now out on Kindle and Paperback where all decent books are sold. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

The One with the Male Nanny: The Complicated relationship between Friends and Toxic Masculinity

If you’ve read my previous post on the subject, you’ll remember that while I and many in today’s 2019 society greatly enjoy Friends – it doesn’t mean we’re blind to it’s flaws. Indeed, looking on it with today’s socially conscious mindset it is a piece of art with many flaws. Homophobic, Trans-phobic, Sexist, low-key racist; name a terrible thing to be, and friends probably made that kind of joke. But by far the most interesting flaw to discuss, at least from an intellectual perspective, is the show’s relationship with toxic masculinity. With the other kinds of prejudices on display, the show makes a joke about it – has the nerve to think it’s funny – and moves on to the next mildly to extremely offensive joke. However when it comes to the subject of Toxic Masculinity, the show seems on some level to not only be aware of it, but to condemn it. And yet, we still gotta make those jokes.

What do I mean? Well let’s take a look at one episode in particular, to gain a little better insight into this strange phenomenon – the sixth episode of season 9 : The One with the Male Nanny. First, a brief plot synopsis before we get to the real meat of the episode. After slogging through hordes of disappointing applicants, Rachel finally finds the perfect nanny for her Ross’ daughter Emma – but there’s just one problem, he’s played by Freddie Prinze Jr. That’s the main story anyway, there is the secondary story of the Episode with Chandler being upset that Monica called one of her co-workers ‘the funniest guy she’s ever met’; however since it only briefly crosses narrative streams with the titular plot-line, I won’t be going too deep into that .

Ross takes an immediate dislike to the new Nanny – named Sandy ; mainly because he is performing a role traditionally considered part of the feminine domain, child care. However Sandy is also a very sensitive man, he cries unashamedly when he is happy – as when he is accepted for the position – and sad – as when he is remembering his last charge. He also cooks, plays the recorder, and has the audacity to do all this while still being completely heterosexual. Ross can barely stand to be in the same room as Sandy, and laments long and hard to whoever will listen of the weirdness of having a male nanny – although never within said nanny’s earshot, such is the coward’s nature. This is a pretty standard move when it comes to Ross, he is the guy that made such a fuss when his toddler son started playing with a barbie doll. What is strange about this situation however, is Rachel’s reaction. She loves Sandy and whole heatedly endorses his non-traditional version of masculinity, being a factor in her child’s development. This is a stark removal from the Rachel Green who once dumped a boyfriend for crying too much; or regularly belittles her male friends when they step even the tiniest bit off the narrow heteronormative version of masculinity. I mean she was right there with the rest of them glaring down at Ross and Joey, when they’d fallen asleep together. That’s it, nothing sexual, just took a nap on the same couch.

So, what does this sudden turn around in one of the main characters of the show mean? Well probably many things, not least among which Rachel doesn’t find Sandy attractive – and thus doesn’t require him to live up to her idea of the ideal man. But the notion I’m going to focus on here, is the underlying message of the story-line. Namely that Ross is wrong. He is wrong to hate Sandy and he is wrong to try and encourage that hate in others – in other words he is wrong in his Toxic Masculinity. A fact that is underscored in the episode’s ending, when Ross breaks down in Sandy’s arms after recounting the abuse his father heaped on him, for not living up to the masculine ideal . Now I know what you’re thinking, Wee Lassie I thought Friends had a bad relationship with Toxic Masculinity – this all sounds really good. Ross finally realizes that he’s been continuing the circle of abusive toxic Masculinity began by his awful father – and he can finally break free of it and become a better man, nay a better person all round. Except that’s not what happens, this is Sandy’s last episode and these themes, or Ross’ connection to them, will never be brought up again. So what can we really take away from this episode? Toxin Masculinity is bad, yes absolutely, but does that lesson have any impact on the viewer, if it has none on the rest of the series?

Femininity in men continues to be mocked. Chandler continues to be called gay – with the implication that this is somehow a bad thing – if he expresses so much as the barest interest in culture ; and the men can’t so much as hint at their love for each other, without the women implying that their masculinity is somehow lessened from the action. At the end of the episode, Sandy still looses his job because he is a man working in a non-traditionally male occupation, and that is what the audience must take away from it. The Writers’ intention, either good or ill, means nothing if the product as a whole cannot reflect it. Still, even if it was only for one brief moment, at least they tried.

If you’ve enjoyed this strange analyse of a 90’s flawed tv show, remember to follow the Wee blog if you haven’t already. Also check me out on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads , Instagram, and Tumblr. Also check out the Wee Mailing List for all new rants, photos and more. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.