Making a move

kites 407_DxO3I remember reading a Sherlock Holmes novel years ago where the great detective correctly determined the employment of a young woman… a typist… because of the wear of her fingernails. I recall thinking that it was unlikely that a keyboard could do enough damage to be noticeable, even by Holmes. I take it all back… he, and his creator, Conan Doyle, were quite right. My fingernails are no longer the tidy affairs they used to be and the middle ones are always shorter than the rest.

Given how much I type these days I am not surprised. Since starting this blog, and thanks in a large part to the community here and the support I have been given, I have found a voice in words. That means a good deal to me… it is as if, believing yourself mute, you find you can sing the music of the mind. There is a joy in that.

Since then I have not stopped writing. For the past few days I have been working flat out on several projects. Dark Sage is into the final stages of production as we work towards a Halloween release. Signs of Albion has already begun to take shape and manuscripts are flying through the ether in several directions.

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The books began in part because of our adventures in the landscape, in part because of the then infant School we were helping to build and the story of the Silent Eye is intricately woven with our own. Since the initial idea was broached the School has grown and evolved into something vibrant that has changed our lives as we share knowledge and ideas ancient and modern with our students across the world. We have, I think, learned as much from them as we have taught and the School’s teachings have taken on a greater depth and richness as a result.

Over the past few days I have been working on the new website we are putting together. The original site was slow for visitors and expensive and we try to keep running costs to a minimum to ensure that the course remains accessible to all. We are not the biggest School in the world but we want to make the site more user friendly, simpler… and hopefully somewhere we can talk with people.

So we have made a start, choosing a WordPress site, because the format is warmer, friendlier than a standard website. So far it is only a work in progress and it will inevitably change and evolve over time. There is much to add, much to share. I hope you will come and take a look… it would be nice to see some friendly faces as we build our new home.

The Silent Eye on WordPress.

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Adventure

anigarden 020

The fence has blown down with the wind and the rain
And with a small dog that’s disaster,
A cat lives next door
And between them, it’s war,
As we wait to see who can run faster.

The cat likes to sit on the roof of the shed
While the dog views this as an intrusion,
It’s all fur and teeth
As the dog growls beneath
And the birds flutter round in confusion.

Now it’s all very well when there’s distance between
And the pair, by a fence separated,
But take it away
And there’s hell to pay
As the cease-fire zone is negated.

I blocked up the hole in the fence best I could
But the small dog can wriggle right through it;
And chases the cat
At the drop of a hat
And if caught, I’ve a feeling she’d chew it.

So I shored it all up so the hole’s out of sight
And I left the cat nowhere to hide,
But the wind howled all night
And though bolted up tight
The ruddy gate blew open wide.

‘Course, I didn’t notice the insecure gate
That stood open just as the wind blew it;
So I opened the door
And I thought nothing more…
While she opened the gate and ran through it.

‘She’s quiet’, I thought, ‘playing out all alone,
I’ll go out and just have a look…’
And then came the fright…
Not a small dog in sight,
But I see the escape route she took.

I dive back in the house, grab the leash and the ball
And I wonder just how far she’ll run,
And if she meets the cat…
No don’t think about that…
Gawd, I hope that she’s safe, having fun…

You worry so much when they’re out of your care
And I’m kicking myself for my fault
But as I step outside
She is there , grinning wide,
As she skids to a jubilant halt.

Her smile says it all, you can tell she had fun…
She is bouncing with glee, I’m a wreck!
She wanders back in
Wagging tail, impish grin
To collapse in a heap on the deck.

An hour or two later she scratches the door
She’s recovered but in for a shock,
She heads straight for the gate
But alas, it’s too late,
I’ve installed her a nice shiny lock.

‘The moral?’ you’re wondering, ‘Isn’t there one?’
Says the dog, ‘Yes, a simple one too.
Take the moment at hand,
Live it full, and unplanned,
Lest the padlock be fastened for you’

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The Silent Eye in Glastonbury – December

In our final talk this year, the Glaston School of Learning and the Silent Eye present:

The Secret Language of Esoteric Christianity

The versions of Christianity we have inherited from our cultural past are very changed from their fiery origins. Although historical records are scant, the original language survives, in the form of the Gospels. We do not need to agree with the Church’s received interpretation of such things – we live in an age with an unparalleled freedom to think as we wish.

G.I, Gurdjieff, the founder of what became known as the Fourth Way, spoke of esoteric Christianity only in the last few years of his life. He said that to do so earlier would have been to risk everything. This talk will examine the views that he, and some of his foremost followers, such as Maurice Nicoll, had about the wonderful inner meanings of the Gospels and their power to reach into the heart and mind of modern man, in a way that is timeless – as long as one possesses the keys to the language. One powerful example of this is the word Metanoia, whose meaning was twisted to be ‘repentance’ but whose true linguistic roots show it to be mean a “turning around’.

From what do we turn? and what do we see when we make that turning?

Join us for an interactive evening, as we explore these inner keys, using examples from all our lives.

Thursday 4th December The Avalon Room
Talk begins promptly at 7.30pm £6.00
BOOKING ADVISED
Once again, the talk will be hosted by the Glastonbury Reception Centre click the link to go to their page for the event.
 
 
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Searching for giants

x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 1162The lady in the tourist information office in Bakewell looked mystified. She shook her head slowly, casting what I can only term a pitying look my way. “It is probably just a myth, you know.” Well yes, I know that… though I object to the ‘just’; myths hold their own reality. But tales of slain virgins, giants and mysterious, cream-fed workmen who are never seen by daylight do have a tendency to come under the heading of myth and legend. The geological features associated with the stories, however, usually have a pretty solid presence in reality as we accept it and it was of these I was fruitlessly seeking information.

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I’ll give the lady her due; she tried… but was unable to come up with any more precise a location than I had for the Warren Stone and its attendant spring, the final remains… according to the legends… of the giant and the defunct virgin in question. She had never, in fact, even heard the legend nor had her colleague, which surprised me. She did, however, give me a phone number of someone who might possibly know a little more. Strangely enough, it proved to be the writer whose book on the stone circles of the area has proved invaluable on our travels. As it was an office number and it being a Sunday afternoon, unfortunately that wasn’t going to be a lot of help on this particular trip. There was only one thing to do… we’d have to go and have a look.

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“Near Ashford” said the only directions I had found, and the legends referenced both the hillfort of Fin Cop and the faery castle we had visited on Friday. Logically, therefore, the island known as the Warren Stone should be in the river Wye somewhere between there and Ashford. It gave us a start. We drove to the village, wondering if we would be lucky enough to find the little shop open. Sure enough, not only open but full of local people… none of whom had ever heard of either the legend or the stone.

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The river runs around the edge of the village and the island is in it somewhere. Not even aerial photos had helped so far as the shadows of the hills cover the course of the water. Legwork was going to be the only way forward for now. We checked from the old packhorse bridge with its sheep dipping pen where the lambs were kept to lure their mothers through the water for washing before being sheared… nothing in sight except the glorious autumn colours reflecting in the stream.

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Regaining the car, we followed the course of the river, keeping our eyes peeled for likely outcrops, until we found a parking area beneath the flanks of the hillfort itself. We couldn’t see the stream from here so we set off on foot to explore some more. The ground underfoot was soggy and stepping stones to the stile made the shallow pools of water look awfully like a spring. It couldn’t be that simple, surely? We couldn’t get down to the river from there to check, though. The ground squelched and neither of us had thought to change into sensible footwear this time. Another possible spring washed its way through the mud and ran down to the river. I followed it, hopping from tuft to tuft of grass in the hope of staying relatively clean while my companion took a look higher up to see if he could find the source.

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There did seem to be a kind of island in the stream, but I couldn’t get close enough to tell if that might be what we were seeking before a third possible spring confused the issue further. Any or all of these might simply be run-off from the recent rain. By this time I am alone in a small and very muddy copse of trees… alone apart from a handful of cows and what looked suspiciously like a bull considering what he was up to as I arrived. A bull with horns too. I stood still, enjoying their presence. There was no sense of threat and as my companion arrived the bovine guardians of the stream calmly stepped aside to let us through, closing again behind us.

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We followed the river, almost meeting the point we had walked to from the opposite direction on our first visit. We had no luck, I have to say, in finding our quarry and decided that a retreat was in order, and a return with both better information and footwear would be a good idea. So we turned the car back towards the city. There is always a reluctance at this point of the weekend… the adventuring is over until the next visit, and though the quest continues with research and realisations on a daily basis there is nothing quite like being able to get the feel of the land itself as you learn. It may sound a little strange but somehow it speaks to you and tells you more than any book or webpage and its beauty brings the stories to life.

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There was, however, no reason to hurry and we called for a half of Stowford’s at a pub on the way back. Perched at the bar my companion picked up the village magazine and flicked the pages in a desultory manner. Then his face changed and he placed the thing under my nose. A final coincidence? Well, at least someone has heard of the Giant of Fin!x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 190

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Hills and crosses

x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 026Sunday morning dawned damp with a promise of sunshine and we eventually headed out towards Bakewell to explore a hillfort. We knew it was there somewhere and had seen a likely site from the church on the other side of the valley. We drove to the lane we needed to walk to the hill. Or so we thought. The hillside certainly looked ‘suspect’ and in keeping with others we have seen. Now, however, it also looks like a golf course. We continued to climb, the wind roaring in the trees that cover the hillside, catching sight of odd features that seem reminiscent of other such sites, and a clear view of Fin Cop from the hairpin bend in the road. A lane led off on a nice level path from there… we, of course, continued the long, steep climb to the top, knowing by now that the sign saying ‘unsuitable for motor vehicles’ had lied and we could have driven. On the other hand, there is something important about the expenditure of energy at these places… and something special about walking the path, in contact with the land itself.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 031
We were not sure what we were expecting to find on top of the hill… we certainly got more than we bargained for though, seeing the evidence of a settlement at least three thousand years old in the landscape around us and, in a very special moment, watching the clouds part and the sunlight stream down on Fin Cop, that distant, high hillfort we still need to visit. We had this once before where a hill was lit for us. It had taken some time to be able to get there… but when we did, our visit was memorable. We took it as a good sign and as we descended by the straight route back through the woods, I wondered if our visit to the ‘faery castle’ might have been the key that would finally unlock Fin Cop. We can only wait and see.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 089
Next there was lunch on the riverbank where the Wye runs through the little town. The shallow water is home to a huge number of ducks and opportunistic seagulls as well as the trout that seem to hover in the fast flowing stream. There are always tourists, winter and summer, though the turning year thins their numbers and it was the quietest we had seen the place for a while.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 094
Our final job in the town was to have another look at one of the Saxon crosses in the churchyard. It is a pleasant walk up the hill to the church and the birds seemed to be in attendance, awaiting our arrival. Once again new details sprang to light as we approached but my companion was curiously uninterested. He seemed preoccupied as we stood discussing the possible symbolism of the swirling carvings I got the distinct impression that there was more going on here than appeared on the surface. Time will tell… perhaps.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 115
We sat looking out over the valley for a while, eyeing up the hillside we had just climbed before calling in to the church in search of refreshment… there is a small café in the south transept. Apple juice in hand we took a closer look at one of the windows. We have, of course, been here before on several occasions, but there is always something else that you may well have seen but which has not really registered. While I enthused over the window, my companion remained curiously abstracted… definitely mulling something over, I thought. We headed back to the car. We still had a stone to find.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 061

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City break…

x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 032It had been a good meeting on Friday evening and we had sat and talked for quite some time on our return to Sheffield. On Saturday it was decided that we would abandon the car in favour of public transport and wander into the city centre. It took some doing, as we felt no need to hurry and ended up getting lost in Rimbaud whilst discussing the vagaries of poetic translation and interpretation. From there it was not much of a step to Leonard Cohen, Victor Hugo and Saint-Exupéry and we could quite easily have lost the day. However, we needed to get a better photograph or two in the Cathedral Church for Dark Sage… a project which could be completed in mere minutes… so we finally got ourselves organised and headed towards the city.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 050While I love living in a more rural area, I do rather like the vibe in a city. There is something in the air, and occasionally it is good to spend a little time soaking it up. Not a lot, I hasten to add, but there are bookstores and artworks, statues and architecture on a scale not seen in the villages I love. There is music in the streets and people-watching is a never ending fascination, especially in a city like Sheffield with a vibrant University and arts scene and where the artistry of many students extends to their appearance. The graffiti is of a high standard and mingles happily with the grandiose buildings of Victorian civic pride, while modern concrete monstrosities snuggle up to mellow Georgian brick.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 036
We headed down to the Showroom, an independent cinema, to see if there was anything on that might take our fancy and in search of refreshment, pausing to snap the poem What If..? by Andrew Motion on the side of the Hallam building. The question was, coincidentally, one we had been pondering based on some of the symbols in the church. We found that we were just too late for a talk by Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk. The book, which my companion had recently given me, lies beside me as I read the final chapters. Just one of those odd coincidences. The event was part of the Off the Shelf literary festival and there was a call for poems to be submitted. Oddly enough, as we had been looking at poetry before leaving, one of mine was still on the display of the phone. Another coincidence, of course, so I was prodded to submit it at the festival desk.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 038
There was a further stop for refreshment at a small pub in a quiet street and a futile foray to a store before being introduced to a rather unusual but altogether delicious pizza. Seated in a tiny yard we marvelled at the buddleia growing in the crevice of a roof. You just never know what you are going to find tucked away in a city. In the cracks of the mortar and between the brickwork mosses and wild plants seem to thrive in an apparently inhospitable environment and the tenacity of life itself seems somehow to be reaffirmed and celebrated by the gentle invasion of Nature. We may build our cities upon Nature’s breast but it is she who nurtures her children. We cannot keep her out and to be fair, why would we want to? At eye level there may seem little but plate glass, chrome and price-tags. Look up, however, and there is always something to see. Amongst the finials and sculptures there are birds and green things growing. The stars, however, are faint here, drowned by the artificial light.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 041
In some cases though, you also have to look down and we paused to look instead at the stars of the Sheffield Legends outside the Town Hall, plaques commemorating those from or connected to the city and who have made their mark in the world. We left our shadows on the pavement there… it is, after all, the closest we are ever likely to get to joining their number!x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 051

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A leisurely afternoon

x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 178There were buzzards over the hillfort at Great Hucklow. We watched them soar as we met our companion for lunch and a few hours working on things for the School before the monthly meeting. Our students are worldwide, but a core group of us come together each month to share an evening exploring the concepts we study, an odd glass of wine and just enjoying the company of friends. These are also the days when the three of us converge upon a given spot and usually walk, talk and prepare the next event or discuss the elements included in our correspondence course. Great Hucklow is, of course, a special place for the School and it is in this tiny Derbyshire village that we hold our annual workshop in April.X heather weekend 237
We had already spent a busy morning at our ‘castle’ so lunch was welcome by the time we all met. Discussing ancient Egyptian symbolism for April, the psychological ramifications of the Enneagram for the lessons and esoteric Christianity for the Glastonbury talk in December, while eating fish and chips in a 17th century inn is about par for the course… that little village has seen odder things over the years and we feel at home there.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 218
From Great Hucklow we moved a little closer to the venue for the evening, calling at Castleton, a small town famous for the veins of blue john stone that is found in the caverns there. To us it is a place of watchful jackdaws and it was here we captured the cover picture for the new book and found that one of the pubs sells Stowfords… We revisited the church of St Edmund, the martyred Saxon king, which nestles in the centre of the town beneath the ruins of Peveril Castle. The Norman keep is built from the local stone and the similarities to our illusory castle of the morning were striking at this distance, yet this was no faery construction or geological feature but a place that had played a huge part in the history of the area.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 187There is some lovely stained glass, including a portrayal of St Edmund and Dorcas, as well as the Faith, Hope and Charity window which echoed the text of Corinthians in the open Bible at Church Broughton on my way north. The church itself had served the soldiers of the Keep and traces of the original building remain, mingled with the evolution of both town and church and echoing a changing world. The old corpse road that crosses the hills leads to the church door and we felt as if we were joining the unceasing flow of human history as we stepped inside. The church is built on a slight mound, as are so many of these ancient places of worship. Two of us had visited the place before and shared what we had found.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 182
There are traces of medieval wall paintings that have recently been uncovered and which will demand careful conservation. It is exciting to see these small patches of colour and you cannot help wondering what lies beneath the more recent plaster, waiting to be brought to light. Another painting was featured on the information boards about St Edmund’s story and the three of us pored over the possible meaning of the symbolism for some time. There is much to learn from legends and from the artistic representation of a story.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 209
Mind you, even in this realm of artistic license there is room for both error and humour. In a glass case near the Norman chancel arch are examples of some unusual Bibles. I have mentioned before the Breeches Bible from 1579 where a puritanical streak required Adam and Eve to clothe themselves with some decency. Whittingham, Gilby, and Sampson: translated Genesis 3:7 as “and they sowed figge-tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches.” There is also a copy of the infamous “Vinegar Bible”, from 1717: J. Baskett, Clarendon Press set the chapter heading for Luke 20 as “The Parable of the Vinegar” instead of “The Parable of the Vineyard.” Apparently the entire publication is dotted with errata… a thought which gives me some comfort as I head back to the editing of Dark Sage

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The faery castle

x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 111We were meeting the third of our triad for lunch on Friday some miles from our base in Sheffield. First, however, we had something to do… somewhere we needed to visit. We had tried and failed on a few occasions now. This time we knew where we were going… well, we hoped so. We were on a mission.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 169
We were greeted by jackdaws as we left the car by the pub, and a woodpecker and bluetits flashed in as we set off down the path that skirts the face of the steep sided valley below Fin Cop. We were seeking a ruined fairy castle, but first we had to find our way through the enchanted forest.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 073
Of course, it isn’t a really a castle; it just looks like one… and the forest is real. But the Fae associated with the place in the stories seem to be more goblin-like than fairytale. There are legendary giants turned to stone, tales of death, skeletons and virtuous virgins. What else would one do with a Friday morning before a meeting?

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The ‘castle’ is only about three quarters of a mile as the crow flies. It is, or certainly feels, a little further as the intrepid adventurers walk… down rain-damp, slippery pathways covered in fallen gold from the trees, up steep banks where the thick moss and wildflowers hide the treacherous rubble of previous rockfalls underfoot…. And finally to a hidden pathway that took us to our destination and which would provide us with a far easier route back, I have to say.

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There were once brachiopods and corals in a warm, shallow sea here. Now their fossilised skeletons are visible in the exposed rocks high above the current level of the waves far away. The wind in the trees, however, calls the tides to mind and far below the rushing water of the fall can be heard before we climb too high for it to reach us. All around the trees are heavy with berries, hips and haws, blood red against the grey morning.

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It is an incredible place of fractured rock, rent and shattered by the elements into fantastic shapes. Great drifts of stone litter the earth and faces seem to loom from every angle. Yet, in spite of the hard edged stone, there is a gentleness to the place, an underlying joy that is hard to explain. The crows watch us as we invade their domain and we are watched too by the giant whose home we have come to see.

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A great fissure in the rock face is his doorway, a tunnel beneath fallen boulders his threshold. Today we will not enter, The rocks are wet and slippery and we do have to remain at least fairly tidy for our meeting. Another day, however, that might be a different matter.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 103
For now it is enough to have finally reached this place and take in the unique feel of the towering stones as we look back along the valley where the river shines beneath a grey sky, reflecting light in the watery mirror of its surface. All too soon we had to leave and head on back to the car. The skies began to clear and our route was far simpler on the way back, as if having persevered and attained our goal we were given passage… although, having failed to procure the traditional offering of cream for the denizens of the place a price in blood was paid. Quite inadvertently, I might add, as the half healed thumb split as I changed my walking boots, echoing the crimson of the berries on the hillside. Even so, it seemed appropriate… mere mortals always pay a price, say the old tales, for a passage to the Otherworld and the morning had indeed felt as if that was where we had been… somewhere out of time and beyond the world.x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 158

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Doomsday, Kindle countdown deal- Final Day

Rowan Barbrook (47)The huts are gone. The green lawn beside the stream holds only an echo of their fallen carcasses. Their fires sleep forever in shadow. Voices whisper only in the wind. Stones line the way, guiding reluctant feet towards the hidden valley and the stark, skeletal rowans of winter. The land wears an ancient garment of bronze and the wind howls.

I see you.
I called, and you have come. The time is now.
I know you fear what you will find and the veils you will part.
I see it in your eyes… in your footsteps… in the tilt of your head.
Wind in hair the colour of faded bracken, beside you he who sees the world with the eyes of the heart, while you see with eyes aflame.
I know your name… though you do not. Not yet.
Not yet, little sister.
Names matter. They contain the power of bringing into being; the power of making.
Mine was never spoken, after my choosing. And after the flames only one remained to hold it safe; he could not speak it, his voice ever given to the gods except in service. We never spoke, never whiled away the winter darkness…our voices touched only to serve the seeing. Yet he saw me as clearly as I see you now, a mirror of destiny across the bridge of time. Empty vessels of the gods.

Yes, closer still… Come. It is all in the finding.
Even though you do not understand what it is you seek here. Not yet.
That will come.
Yes. Here they laid my bones, clean and white, marked with earth, laid under earth, not given to the flames. That was their gift to me… to those who went before. Those whose soul’s gift I carried. They laid me under earth and under stone, beside the cool waters in the quiet place. He waited in silence until his ending, an ending of his willing. My name on his lips at the last.
Listen. You can hear it still, whispered on the wind.

Listen.
Listen to the wind in the trees.
To the flight of birds and the song of stones;
to the call of the goat and the laughing waters;
to the whisper of leaves and the tales of starlight
in the cavern of night bound by the ribbon of the gods;
and to the waves of the shore my eyes saw only in the dreaming.
Learn to hear…listen to learn.
You will find the white stone.
When you need help, ask…
You know my name.
When you can hear it,
when you catch his echo in the heather,
whisper it to the winds…
set it free.


As we prepare to relese the second book in the Doomsday Series: Dark Sage, a Kindle Countdown price promotion will be running from 17th August to 21st October on Amazon UK and Amazon.com forBook One of the Doomsday Triad:

DD front coverDoomsday:

The Ætheling Thing

Stuart France & Sue Vincent

“Who was this Arviragus bloke anyway?”

Don studies the light as it plays through his beer, casting prisms on the table. How is it possible to hide such a story… the hidden history of Christianity in Britain? Oh, there are legends of course… old tales… Yet what if there was truth in them? What was it that gave these blessed isles such a special place in the minds of our forefathers? There are some things you are not taught in Sunday School. From the stone circles of the north to the Isle of Avalon, Don and Wen follow the breadcrumbs of history and forgotten lore to uncover a secret veiled in plain sight.

Full colour illustrated

Also available in Paperback.


Kindle Countdown Deals start at the lowest possible price and rise which rises in increments for the duration of the promotion until they reach the normal sales price. This is a limited time offer and the book will display a counter with the current offer price and time remaining for that price.

Did you know? You can download a free Kindle app for PC, Mac, android and other platforms that allows you to read the books available, even if you do not own a Kindle.. and there are thousands of books to choose from, including many classics, and hard-to-find volumes! With a huge catalogue of free, discounted and rare books to choose from it is a treasure trove for bookworms. You can download the free Kindle reading app for your device here in the UK, or here in the US.

Be kind to authors – make their day and leave a review.

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Time to spare

x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 002The journey north should have given me the first clue to how the weekend would unfold. To be fair, it did… I just didn’t realise. A rainy week had given way to sunshine as I pointed the car north and the hawks kept an eye on my departure. After three hours driving the flat plains gave way to the first of the hills; there was still some way to go and I was still much further south than we usually work, but nevertheless, once you cross one particular road you seem to enter a different landscape and know yourself to be in Derbyshire.

x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 017Making good time I decided to turn off the main road to a village that looked as if it should have some kind of ecclesiastical building to visit. Several miles of winding country lane later I parked in the centre of Church Broughton and headed off on foot with the camera to inspect the village’s namesake.

x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 034A neat avenue of trees leads to the porch of the old church. The door opens on a peaceful place, typical of so many of our village churches. This one has stood here for at least the past 900 years and traces of the Norman building still remain in the font and the pillars of the nave. There may have been a church here before as the village seems to trace its roots back even further to a time when it was part of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia, but nothing now remains here that predates the Normans.

x hobhurst, ballcross, bakewell, sheffield weekend 009The font, however, is unusual in its decoration of flowing, intertwined geometries; unlike any I have seen before. In spite of its great age it looks rather modern. There are some old carved heads looking down on the aisle and the east window is well worth a little study, but perhaps the most interesting story is that of the people of the village, traced as a living history throughout the building and in the traditions it still upholds… the Maypole and May Queen, for example, along with the somewhat eccentric teddy bear parachuting from the church tower in summer.

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There is a literary connection too with a strong link here to the Auden family. Two of the vicars of the church were uncle and nephew of the poet W.H. Auden. In the sanctuary St Michael holds the dragon with the point of his spear, the statue a gift from the family. The weathercock on top of the tower still bears the bullet holes left by one young Auden; possibly W.H. himself says the information provided, though that is mere speculation. The sun glints from the weathervane, but the birds and the carved faces on the tower take precedence over bullet holes in my eyes.

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I drive on, taking the twisting, narrow lanes towards Ashbourne, pulling over when movement in the skies catches my eye…four huge birds in flight over the fields. The dog walker looks at me and shakes his head as I snap away in a futile attempt to capture them … ah well, the photograph, after all, matters far less than watching this aerial display of grace that welcomes me back to the north. It was looking as if it could be a good weekend.

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