Welcome everyone Sandra in Spain - FlamencoI’m Sandra Piddock, and I’m a freelance writer, dividing my time between Spain and the UK. I’ll write about anything that interests and/or challenges me, and I like to focus on the lighter side of life whenever possible.. Read more
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Sandra Piddock

I'm 62, and I'm a freelance writer dividing my time between Algorfa on the Costa Blanca in Spain and Bigbury Bay in Devon. I write about anything that interests and/ or challenges me, but I'm happiest when writing about all things Spanish.

International Women’s Day: The inspiring women in my family

The inspiring women in my family
The inspiring women in my family – Me with my daughter and granddaughters

International Women’s Day has been around since 1911, and in 1975 it was recognised by the United Nations as a Big Thing. It’s a day to celebrate the women who inspire you, for me he inspiring women in my family, and to reflect on what you have personally achieved, as someone who happens to be a woman.

I don’t want equality for women – I want equality and respect for everyone, everywhere. We are all born equal, but inevitably, life intervenes, and equality gets pushed way down the ‘To Do’ list. Along the way, we deal with challenges, get through them and keep going. How do we do it? With the help of the Strength of the Weaker Sex, of course!

This Bellamy Brothers song says it all for women everywhere!

Why women are wonderful

Women everywhere, all through time, have tended to solve problems with compassionate emotional strength, rather than engaging in physical conflict on what is inevitably an unequal playing field. There have, of course, been notable exceptions, such as the Amazons – the female warriors, not the online selling site – Boudicca and Joan of Arc. Generally, though, women get through life on tough love tempered with tenderness, whatever the situation.

Thinking about writing this post, and the women who have inspired me through my almost three score years and ten, there way are too many to mention. I’ve been inspired by writers such as Jane Austen, J. K. Rowling and Sylvia Plath, and actresses including those fabulous Dames, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith. I admire the singing of Cilla Black, Patsy Cline and Annie Lennox, and the dancing of Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing), Darcey Bussell and Ginger Rogers. And there are countless women whose intelligence, strength of character, courage and innovation skills have helped fashion the modern world and its values.

However, every single one of the women I’ve mentioned has one thing in common – their first influences, for good or otherwise, came from the family. And I realise I am fortunate to have had the most wonderful women in my life, from the day I was born. So this International Women’s Day article is dedicated to the ladies I love the most – my mother, my grandmother, my daughter and my granddaughters. It’s also for those who are still to come, so they can look back and see just how much they are loved and nurtured.

Start with yourself

I’m going to start with myself. Why? Because I am so proud of what I have dealt with in my life, and I am even more proud of who I am now. I am more compassionate, more caring, more in tune with my inner knowing, and a stronger person. This is not in spite of what’s happened in my life, but because of the lessons I’ve learned from the challenges I’ve faced.

The inspiring women in my family
Enjoying lunch with my daughter

I’ve had two unhappy marriages – my first husband died, and this one won’t! There’s a serious point to this joke – which I first heard from Jethro, the brilliant Cornish comedian. I’m not a victim, who blames outside forces for the bad things in my life. I know that I am not responsible for the thoughts, words and actions of other people – only my own. Personally I can’t control them, but I can control my responses to their behaviour, and therein lies my power and my strength.

What I can do is choose to forgive them for what they did, whether intentionally or otherwise, and to forgive myself for putting myself in a position where I enabled people to hurt me. It won’t happen again. As a writer, my style is to find a lighter touch in the most serious of subjects, so the articles are balanced but not disrespectful to the readers or the subjects I write about. My little joke is my indication that I can put things in perspective and move on.

Yes, my two marriages ended before death did us part, but there were so many good times before things changed, in both cases. I didn’t fail as a wife because I didn’t stay with them when things went wrong. I succeeded as a person because I recognised that we could never put things right, and refused to live a life lacking in authenticity and happiness.

My female role models

The inspiring women in my family include my maternal grandmother, who was a major influence in my life until she passed when I was 27 and expecting my younger son, was also a strong yet compassionate lady. She married my grandfather when he was a widower with four children, one of whom was always having health problems and passed away as a young man.

That was heartbreaking enough, but she also lost three of her own children. Identical twins Gwendoline and Marjorie passed at six months old from scarlet fever, and my mother’s twin, Michael, was stillborn.

As a family, they were always short of money, but would share anything they had with anyone who needed it. I asked how they could do that, and Nanny Jones, as I called her, replied, ‘When you are able to share what you have, there will always be someone who will share what they have when you need it most. It’s the way life works, sweetheart.’

I didn’t realise it at the time, and nor did she, but Nanny Jones was living the Law of Attraction long before it became a Big Thing. Even in her 70s, she would still do anything for anyone, and when Grandad Jones passed, she spent a lot of time with us. Rather than sit with her knitting or read stories to my brother and me, she’d work away, cleaning and cooking, to make life easier for my Mum.

I’m still learning from her even now, as well – 40 years after she passed to Spirit. She’s come through at a couple of psychic nights for me, to say she realised when I was a young child that one day I would be working with Spirit myself. She did something she never did in life too. She told the medium – Ricky Whitemore, who has since become a good friend – that it was about time I started using my psychic powers, as she was fed up with waiting. So I had a telling off from beyond the veil from someone who never criticised me in life!

The inspiring women in my family also include my mother, who was very different to Nanny Jones in her approach to life. She was more direct, and she wasn’t particularly spiritual. Tellings off were common, because we were very much alike in nature, and if I wanted to do something and couldn’t, I expected a reason. For me, ‘Because I said so’ was not a reason.

Nan would try to explain why she was getting a telling off when Mum was being rebellious, but had to resort to ‘Because I said so’ in the end. Mum, unlike her siblings, was stubborn, and she passed that on to me. My daughter is now the official torchbearer for stubbornness in the family, because she would never take a telling either and still doesn’t!

Mum had to be strong and think outside the box, and she’s passed that down too. She was just 20 when she married Dad, who was 10 years older, and had come from a family of tradespeople. They were going into business themselves, and had to bring the wedding forward by six months. This was because the person they were going to rent a fish and chip shop from when he retired passed away suddenly.

They didn’t want to lose the premises, as it came with living accommodation and was well situated for both passing trade and regular customers. Back in 1949, they couldn’t just move in together before marriage, because nobody would have supported a business where the owners were ‘living in sin.’

As it was, there was lots of gossip that Mum ‘had’ to get married, so I must have disappointed a few of the local busybodies by turning up almost three years after the wedding. Mum had the last word though. When the worst offender gushed over me in my pram and said, ‘What did you have then?’ Mum replied, ‘An elephant, obviously, since you told half the street I was pregnant when I got married.’ That must be where I get my sarcasm from!

Fast forward 17 years, and I too was pregnant. Maybe Mum was still a bit of a rebel, because she told me not to get married just because there was a baby on the way. Even in 1969, that was pretty radical, and Mum was 40 years old and already a widow, so life was hard enough for her as it was. I did get married, because I was in love, and I went on to have three wonderful children.

I don’t do regrets, but I am sad that Mum never saw her youngest grandson. By the time he was born, she was blind, as a result of dangerous hypertension. Even that didn’t stop her from knitting, although I had to sew the garments up and pick up the stitches so Mum could knit the necklines.

The inspiring women in my family
My children David, Elizabeth and baby Adam. Mum never saw Adam, as she went blind before he was born.

When my daughter Elizabeth was a toddler, I mentioned to Mum that I’d been looking for a nice dress and matching cardigan, with a lovely chevron pattern that was very popular at the time. Mum said she knew what I meant, and if I got the wool, she’d see what she could do. ‘What she could do’ was to knit a beautiful dress with a matching little jacket, without a pattern – since she couldn’t read one. She worked with two colours, and an intricate pattern, and never made a single mistake. What’s more, it was exactly the right size for Elizabeth.

Mum never let anything stop her doing what she wanted, whatever was happening around her or to her. She must have worked some of that perseverance and determination into the stitches of that beautiful dress and jacket, because Elizabeth is exactly the same. It’s infuriating at times for those of us closest to her, but it’s been a lifesaver – literally!

I’ve written before about the devastating brain stem stroke, which almost killed her in 2013. It’s just about the worst stroke you can have, with a very low survival rate, and only a slightly better recovery rate. It’s a long process – or rather it is for most people. But then, my daughter isn’t most people!

For two weeks, her life hung in the balance. She couldn’t move or speak, and she had locked in syndrome. It was six weeks before she took her first steps and managed to eat something normally, but just two weeks after that she was discharged from hospital.

Elizabeth enters the Wimbledon ticket ballot every year. She’s not always successful, but in 2013, she had tickets for Number One Court on the middle Saturday of the tournament. We were going to send her tickets back, as she was still in hospital in mid June, but she insisted on going – and she did! She was in a wheelchair, but she went, and by December she was back at work as an ambulance care assistant.

She has been left with a few tiresome but not life-changing problems as a result of the stroke. Some time ago, she asked her consultant if her condition would ever improve. He confessed he had no idea, because in 30 years in medicine, he had never known anyone to make such a good recovery from a brain stem stroke!

The next generations

Coming bang up to date, the next generation of the inspiring women in my family are making their mark, and already showing signs that they, too will grow up into exceptional young women. At 13, Chloe is academically bright, popular among her school friends, and also wise beyond her years. She’s shown incredible understanding and maturity as my son copes with being a single parent to four children following the recent breakdown of his marriage.

Lauren is 9, and is usually away with the fairies and unicorns, in the nicest possible way. She’s not afraid to be exactly what she wants to be, and sees no need to explain her choices to others. She’s a free spirit who has already realised the importance of self care and self confidence. She will go far, and she will be happy, whatever she decides to do with her life.

I’m bursting with pride as I read through this before posting, and I realise I have so much to be grateful for. The women in my family have come through everything life has sent their way with strength, dignity and focus. Their experiences have not hardened them to the suffering of others. They have learned to show kindness and respect to those who need it most, because they have been in that position themselves.

This is for each of you and all of you, with love from me. Thank you for your guidance and inspiration, which has helped me to become the kind of person I would want for a friend. We are true soul sisters.

Making the Mediterranean Diet easy on yourself

You’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean Diet, but you may not be clear on how it works, and why.  Here in Spain, where olive oil is king and fresh fruit and vegetables are plentiful, cheap and in season, following this healthy eating plan is easy and economical.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

It’s a traditional way of eating, and it’s been a nutritional model for hundreds of years in Southern Europe. Mediterranean-style eating will increase your health and fitness, help to combat chronic disease, and help you lose weight.Globally, medical professionals and nutritionists consider the Mediterranean Diet to be one of the healthiest eating plans around.  And it also happens to be filling and flavourful.

The Mediterranean Diet is a bit of a misnomer, because it isn’t really a diet at all – it’s more like a permanent lifestyle turnaround in attitudes to cooking and eating. At its core are lots fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats. There is no room for processed foods or deep fried stuff in the Mediterranean Diet.

Health benefits

The many advantages of adopting the Mediterranean Diet were acknowledged a couple of generations ago. Researchers in the late 1940s found that the natives of Crete were blessed with healthier than average cardiovascular systems, after managing for years on a restricted diet due to wartime food shortages.  This was put down to eating mainly fresh, seasonal produce. Meat was in short supply, and processed foods pretty much non-existent

More recently, it’s been demonstrated that people eating the Mediterranean way live longer, more active, healthier lives. They also have less chance of developing chronic conditions likes heart disease, diabetes and cancer. At 82.5 years, Spain now enjoys the longest average life expectancy in the whole of Europe.

The Mediterranean Diet can help you to live a  longer, healthier life. It’s rich in antioxidants, which serve to inhibit oxidative stress, thereby halving the risk of developing  Parkinson’s Disease.

A pivotal requirement of Mediterranean-style eating is regular servings of fish. The Omega-3 oils in tuna and sardines boost brain health, so the likelihood of contracting Alzheimer’s Disease in later life is also reduced.

The Mediterranean Diet is high in fibre, thanks to the fresh fruit and vegetables, and fibreevens out the body’s blood sugar levels and boosts insulin sensitivity.  This ‘two for one’  health benefit minimises the chance of diabetes. Refined carbohydrates and red meat only figure on the menu occasionally, so saturated fat content is automatically restricted. This, in turn, makes for a healthy heart.

The Mediterranean Diet in action

Mediterranean menus are built around plant foods. Fruits and vegetables are headliners, and so are chick peas, lentils and beans. Nuts and seeds are supporting actors, with whole grains, rice and pasta making up the chorus and filling in the gaps in the action.

The good folks who call the Mediterranean home region always eat seasonal fruit and vegetables, so the vitamin content is at its peak, delivering a full antioxidant hit. In many cases, salad comes before the main course. This takes the edge off the appetite, so you’re more likely to take smaller portions of the main meal, and also eat more slowly.

There’s not much space for red meat in Mediterranean eating. The main protein sources are poultry, fish and eggs, with the occasional steak. Beans and pulses supply plant protein, with many Spanish recipes including chickpeas or alubias (white, kidney-shaped beans). Fish is  grilled, poached, baked, or shallow fried in light batter.

Some Mediterranean nationalities – notably the Spanish and the Italians –really enjoy cured hams and sausages. These products are naturally cured, and contain no chemicals. Therefore they can’t really be considered processed foods.

Herbs and spices, rather than are salt, are the main flavourings for Mediterranean recipes, and butter is only used occasionally. Mediterranean people prefer their bread served with olive oil, garlic mayonnaise, or tomato paste. These are all healthier than butter, with no saturated fat and fewer calories per serving.

On the Mediterranean Diet, wine is fine in moderation. Spirits are an occasional treat – wine and beer goes down better with the lighter way of eating. Alcohol is automatically restricted, as it’s customary to drink with food,, rather than just for the sake of drinking.

The Mediterranean lifestyle 

It’s not just the food that makes the Mediterranean Diet healthy – lifestyle is another factor. Life is for living outdoors, with no stress and no rushing around.  It’s too hot for that, and Mediterranean people are more laid back than their Northern European counterparts. 

When Mediterranean people go home after work, they dine on fresh food, cooked from scratch. They’re happy to spend two hours or more seated at table, savouring the food and chatting between courses. This leisurely approach to eating naturally reduces the intake of food.

It’s roughly 20 minutes until the brain gets the signal that the stomach is full. This is the down to the actions of the hormonal system in which neurotransmitters also play a part. If you bolt down food or eat on the hoof, these signals won’t kick in to curb your appetite. Mediterranean of eating allows plenty of time for the brain to register the ‘full’ feeling.  

The Mediterranean Diet is one of the healthiest eating plans in the world. It’s built around high consumption of plant foods, low fat proteins from fish, eggs and poultry, and smaller servings of saturated fats and processed foods. Eating this way minimises the risks of contracting various lifestyle diseases. If you need to lose weight, it’s low in calories and fat, and high in fibre and filling power.

The Mediterranean way of eating is varied, wholesome and healthy. Combined with a low stress lifestyle and a good dose of vitamin D from the sun, it’s no wonder health professionals consider the Mediterranean Diet one of the healthiest eating plans ever.

You should try my Estofado de garbanzos y patatas recipe for a delicious winter warmer.

Estofado de garbanzos y patatas (chickpea and potato stew)

Estofado de garbanzos y patatas is a tasty Spanish stew which is quick, easy and economical to prepare. There’s a powerful plant protein hit, courtesy of the chickpeas, so you don’t need to add meat. However, if you prefer your stews to have at least some meat, try adding some smoked bacon lardons (taquitos in Spanish) with the onions and garlic. Or you can add meatballs or sliced chorizo sausage at the same point.

Before you get cooking, here’s a bit of insider information to help you create a stunning chickpea and potato stew that belies its humble origins. This filling, warming dish was originally developed for manual workers who needed filling power and fuel at an affordable price.

The thick gravy and unique flavour of this stew is due in part to extra starch being released from the potatoes during the cooking time. Once the potatoes are peeled and ready for slicing, cut halfway through the slices with a large, sharp knife, then just break them off. The resulting uneven surfaces allow the potatoes to release more starches into the cooking liquid than straight cuts.

The recipe also calls for grated tomato. This is a Spanish culinary technique which ensures that there are no irritating slivers of skin in the finished dish, and as a bonus, it helps to thicken the sauce and subtly enhance the overall flavour.  Don’t even consider chopping the tomato to save time!

Ingredients for 4 – 6 servings

  • 4 medium potatoes plus 1 small one
  • 1 large ripe tomato, grated
  • A large onion, chopped
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic
  • A 540g jar of cooked chickpeas (garbanzos)
  • Olive oil
  • Small knob of butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh or freeze dried parsley
  • A little fresh or dried thyme
  • 2 level teaspoons of paprika – smoked paprika gives a very different flavour. Try both versions, and see which suits your preference.
  • Small glass of red wine (optional)
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree or tomato frito. (This is similar to tomato puree)
  • Optional extra vegetables: anything you fancy or have available from the following: red or green peppers, courgettes, celery, green beans, peas, sweetcorn, squash. A word to the wise: aubergines don’t work well with this recipe.

Preparation method

Heat a little olive oil to soften the onions and garlic. Then add a small knob of butter and the red wine, if using. Add the parsley, thyme, salt and pepper.

Grate the tomato directly into the pan, then add the paprika and some water to prevent the mixture burning. Cook everything for a few minutes.

When you’re ready, add the chickpeas, together with the preserving juice from the jar. This also helps to thicken the sauce.

Now add the large sliced potatoes, tomato frito, any optional vegetables you are using, and enough water to just about cover everything in the pan. Simmer for around 45 minutes, and then grate the small potato directly into the stew to help thicken the sauce even more. Cook for at least another half hour, until everything is cooked through and the sauce is really thick.

Serve with fresh crusty bread. This dish is even better if you cook it the day before you need it, since this gives the  flavours more  time to develop and blend together.

Estofado de garbanzos y patatas can also be cooked in a slow cooker or crockpot. Adjust the cooking times according to the instructions with your appliance. It freezes well, so you can make a batch and freeze what you don’t need tonight. However you cook and serve this tasty Spanish stew, enjoy it!

Take a look at another great recipe here for Homemade Guacamole.

How to recognise the main indicators of psychic ability in yourself

Everyone has an innate psychic ability, but not everybody chooses to acknowledge it or develop it. What tends to happen is that as children, we easily connect with Spirit because we see the wonder and magic in everything, and accept it for what it is. When we share our experiences with adults, we may be told ‘Not to talk nonsense,’ or ‘There’s no such thing as ghosts,’ so we keep things to ourselves, rather than get told off about it.

Fast forward to the teenage years, and we become desperate to be one of the crowd, so we resist anything that identifies us as different, and therefore Not Cool At All.  Going into adulthood, there’s the fear of being thought ridiculous, so again, we push down our natural psychic abilities, until we get to a point where life is so challenging, we wonder how we are going to cope.

When we’re at our lowest point, and we are feeling lost and helpless, with nowhere to turn, the survival instinct kicks in, and we finally start to think outside the box in an effort to solve our apparently insoluble problems. It’s at this point we remember that we are intuitive beings with psychic abilities that can align us with the energies of the Universe in order to turn our lives around and live in joy and abundance, as we  are meant to from the moment we become incarnate on Earth

The good news is, you don’t have to wait until the excrement hits the mechanical ventilation system before tuning into your psychic ability. Once you know how to recognise the signs, you can harness the wisdom of the spirit world and your own inner knowledge to become more creative and productive, and achieve a balanced state of being.

These are the main indications that you are ready to tap into your psychic ability to enhance your own life quality and help others to do the same. Don’t worry – you don’t have to do tarot readings or bring your best friend’s Aunt Edna through from the other side of life unless you really want to. And it’s never too late to begin your spiritual journey by developing your intuition and psychic abilities.

Everything happens for a reason, and everything happens in divine timing, for the highest good of all concerned. If you notice any of these changes happening in your life, you are ready to connect with the wisdom and energy of the Universe.

You have a positive attitude, and an aversion to negative people

Psychically aware people pick up on non-verbal signals from others, even if they are strangers. Their attitude to life is habitually positive, which means being around negative people is energetically draining. You may find yourself reorganising your friends list so you avoid spending time with anyone who is always complaining, or seems to thrive on drama.

Being positive doesn’t mean not being realistic, but those who are developing their psychic abilities look at things differently. They see life’s challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, and never cast themselves as victims.

Your entire take on life changes

People who were once good friends may seem to have little in common with you as you become more spiritual. Your psychic powers are awakening, and your focus and perceptions are changing as a result. You will find yourself connecting with people who may not have entered your radar in the past. Pastimes and possessions that once meant a lot to you are not so important as the focus of your life moves away from the material towards the spiritual.

You experience deja vu and deep intuition

If you’ve ever been somewhere for the first time, yet can find your way around as if you know it well, that’s déjà vu. The phrase comes from the French language, and literally translated it means ‘already seen.’ You may have visited the place in a dream,  or even in a previous incarnation. The same thing applies if you meet someone for the first time, yet feel you know all about them, and it’s a clear sign of developing psychic ability.

Deep intuition is similar, yet different. If the phone rings, and you know who it is before you even pick it up, or you already know what someone is about to say before they even open their mouth, it’s intuition. This is not just a case of happy coincidence or a ‘great minds think alike’ moment. It’s your psychic powers surfacing.

You experience frequent, vivid dreams

During sleep, your conscious mind is inactive, and there is no resistance to intuitive feelings. When you need to make a crucial decision, there is a conflict in your mind between intuition and logical thought, or the ego. We’re conditioned from an early age to go with the logical, reasoned option, even if it may not be the right choice for you at that stage of your life. In the sleeping state, you surrender logic to higher, more informed levels of consciousness.

Your dreams can help bring a different, deeper perspective to your waking thoughts and actions. It may be insightful to keep a dream journal, so you can analyse how your dreams align with life events and waking thoughts and actions.

These are the early but significant signs of psychic development to look out for. It’s a perfectly natural process, and there’s nothing strange or even scary about it.  We are all privileged to have this gift from the Universe, and it’s up to us to use it wisely for the benefit of ourselves and everyone around us. Namaste.

Ask the Angels – They are waiting to help you

Angels

As more and people turn to spirituality and move away from recognised religious practices,  the concept of prayer is changing too. Traditional formally worded, one-size-fits-all prayers are making way for more heartfelt, personalised, spontaneous requests for divine help, and all you have to do is to ask the angels. It really is that simple!

Angelic roots

Angels figure in many religions and belief systems, and have done for millennia. The term itself derives from Greek and Latin roots meaning ‘messenger.’ With the exception of Sandalphon and Metatron, who were incarnated as the Biblical prophets Elijah and Enoch, angels have never existed in human form.

This distinction is emphasised by the fact that all the other members of the Angelic Realm have names ending with the suffix ‘-el,’ which means ‘God.’ Therefore, angels are messengers between Heaven and Earth. The most well known messenger is Archangel Gabriel, who announced the Nativity of the Messiah.

Angels may be from a higher realm, but they are always instantly accessible. Under the Universal Laws, if anyone asks an angel for assistance, they are obliged to help. However, they cannot just step in and fix everything, because it would interfere with the exclusively human prerogative of Free Will. Such action would disrupt the delicate Spirit/Human balancing act. We need to face up to and overcome challenges in order to learn and grow, both spiritually and emotionally.

How can Angels help you?

Angels can and will come to your aid, but it may not be in the way you envisage it. The Universal Laws dictate that the solution to your problem must be for the Highest Good of all concerned. If you’re thinking to put out a Celestial Contract on a troublesome ex partner, the angels can’t deliver.

That’s a shame from some perspectives, because angels have no use for cash, and they can’t give evidence against you or be judgmental. However, the ex may suddenly get an offer they can’t refuse which means relocating, so everyone gets emotional space and nobody gets hurt. That’s the way angels rock, and it’s a lot less messy as well.

For the angels to help you in the best way possible, you must trust them to do the necessary to ensure the best outcome for yourself and others who may also be affected. Don’t give them a wish list to work from, because what you want isn’t necessarily what you need for your soul’s growth. They can see the bigger picture, including the pitfalls associated with your requests.

Talking to the Angels

So, how do you talk to the angels? In the same way you’d talk to any other friend.The difference is, you’ll hold the conversation in your head, and it will be a monologue rather than a dialogue. Start by asking the angels to draw near. If you have a particular intent, you can call on a named angel, such as Raphael for healing, Chamuel for love, or Michael for justice and protection. Otherwise, just inwardly ask for anyone who can help to step forward, and outline your problem.

Keep it positive, because the thoughts you put out are the ones that will be returned to you under the Law of Attraction, so be careful with your phrasing. And remember, the angels know what you need most to be happy and fulfilled, so take a leap of faith and allow them to work their miracles unhindered.

Remember to show gratitude for all the good things in your life – waking up every morning is a bonus, after all! Then thank the angels for their help, and look for signs to show your prayers are being answered. You may experience synchronicities, where events just slot into place, or people come into your life just when they are needed.

Also you may see patterns of repeating numbers, or hear the same song on the radio often. Maybe even see repeating symbols, like birds, butterflies or rainbows. When these things happen, notice where you are and what else is going on around you, so you can play your own part in co-creating your best life.

Asking the angels for help

Asking the angels for help in manifesting abundance and happiness is as natural as calling in a plumber to fix a water leak. You don’t need to use special words to make yourself understood, because they are the experts, and they know what you need.

Remember to approach the angels with love and gratitude in your heart as you ask for their help. Never request anything that would harm anyone – yourself included. Work with the angels for the Highest Good of all concerned, and live your best life. You know it makes sense.

Facebook: The good, the bad and the Face Palms!

Facebook: The good, the bad and the Face Palms!
Making social media more sociable? I’ll drink to that!

As a writer, I depend on Facebook for shares and visibility. Wearing another hat as a spiritual medium, I depend on Facebook to link with clients and to spread hope, guidance and love from the world of Spirit. When I’m just being Sandra Piddock, I depend on Facebook to keep in contact with friends and family. Oh and keep up with what’s going on locally, nationally and globally of course. I love it – and I hate it!

When I first joined Facebook back in 2008, I had a really good reason to do so. We’d just bought a place in Spain, and we planned to divide our time between the Costa Blanca and the Costa Fortune. Otherwise identified as the West Country of England, where we still have lots of friends and family. It was a great way to keep in touch across the miles, without running up a telephone bill of, well, telephone number proportions.

As I got more exposure as a writer and set up my own website, Facebook became a good way to share content and bring new readers to my website. And of course, I could also set up a companion Facebook page. New posts got shared right away, and I could pass on little snippets to keep my readers interested as they eagerly awaited the Next Big Blog Post. Once I began working as a medium, I set up another Facebook page to keep the spiritual stuff separate from my other writing.

Facebook does a lot of good for a lot of people. It also causes a lot of problems for a lot of people. And frequently, it shows a side of humanity where the only possible reaction is a good old face palm. What follows is a brief personal overview, based on my own experiences and observations.

Lost people and pets

The good: Facebook enjoys global reach. When someone is in the distressing situation of having a two or four legged family member go missing, extensive sharing by friends, friends of friends and groups can get them safely home. Often, this happens much sooner than anyone could expect.

The bad: Some people just can’t resist adding their two cents, even if they aren’t in a position to help with the search. They pass judgment by assuming the missing person must have had problems at home to disappear, or inflame passions by saying things like,’It’s only a dog/cat, why all the fuss?’ Then the thread is swamped in negativity, and the original poster winds up even more distressed as a result.

The face palm: Aunty Mabel goes missing in Manchester, with no luggage, no money and certainly no passport. So why does the ‘friend of a friend’ think it would be helpful to post in missing persons groups in America, Australia and Albania? She’s 97, with dementia, and her next of kin are not minted, so it’s safe to say she hasn’t taken a surprise trip, been kidnapped or sold into prostitution. Check the locations before you share.

Making new friends – or tracing old ones

The good: Facebook is a great place to make new friends, or even track down Tracey who used to sit next to you in school. And it makes Mike’s day when he stumbles across Jim. They used to go fishing together every Saturday until Jim and his family moved 200 miles away.

The bad: People change. Tracey might have married a millionaire, or may not even remember your name. And your memories may be coloured by nostalgia, so you forget the things about her that used to rattle your chain big time. If you haven’t heard from someone for 30 years or more, is it really such a good idea to get in touch again?

By the way Mike, Jim didn’t ‘forget’ to contact you with his new address. His wife told him not to, because she hated spending Saturdays on her own with the kids. Even worse, your wife had a habit of popping around for a quick cuppa just as she was about to binge watch Emmerdale on catch up.

The face palm: Facebook is not – repeat not – a dating site. I’ve had men of all ages befriend me on the back of mutual friendships with others, or by liking lots of my posts, then they’ve tried to arrange a date. They’ve professed undying love after a quick shufty on my profile, then gone all offended on me when I tell them to go away – or something similar. Even if they were George Clooney lookalikes – and they definitely are not – I’m not going to agree to meet up with a man just because he thinks I should, because I’m on Facebook and post publicly.

Groups and likes

The good: I belong to and follow quite a few groups and pages – writing, local information, spiritual stuff, dog lovers, to name but a few. It’s great to get together with like minded people and exchange support, advice and practical hacks and fixes. It can be very rewarding, and it can enhance your enjoyment of all kinds of hobbies, interests and vocational and professional topics.

The bad: A group or page may be just what you want or need. But it won’t suit someone else, so never add people to groups, or ask them to like pages unless you know for sure they’ll get something out of it. Inactive members give false indicators of the success or otherwise of a group or page, so don’t add without asking.

The face palm: Sellers, spammers and scammers just join groups to promote their own businesses and/or recruit people for pyramid selling schemes or commission only jobs. If you admin a Facebook page or group, check on member requests to keep your site on topic and don’t allow the news feed to get backed up with adverts. Ask yourself why someone who already belongs to over 1,000 groups – yes, I kid you not – wants to join your group or page.

So there are my top Facebook likes, dislikes and frustrations. That said, Facebook is a very useful resource for recreation, business, and keeping in touch with those who need to know what’s happening in your life. Run each post through your mind, and if it’s not a true reflection of you and the message you want to convey, start again. Keep it tight, keep it light, and don’t be the cause of a Facebook Face Palm among your followers. You know it makes sense!

All the dogs I’ve loved before …

All the dogs I've loved before
With Paddy, just three days after he came to live with us.

They say dogs are Man’s best friend, but this girl is an unashamed dog lover too. I’ll be honest, this post started out as a personal post about how my rescue dogs actually rescued my sanity during a bad situation. However, as the background information was fuelled by more and more memories, I decided to save that idea for another post and let the flow of happy memories carry me along.

As a child growing up, and as I raised my own family, there were always dogs – all different, but all special in their own ways. There was Pip, the Sealyham Terrier who was frozen in a snow drift in the bad winter of 1962/63 but lived to tell the tail – pun intended!

Pip was followed by Rinty, a German Shepherd pup who stood guard over my father as he recovered from having all his teeth out just a week after Rinty came to live with us. The only problem with that was, nobody else could get near Dad – not even Mum, with tea, sympathy and painkillers.

Then there was Sooty, the sneaky Miniature Poodle who hid round the back of our house until the postman and paper boy had made their deliveries. Many a morning we came downstairs to see the postman sat on the step, waiting for us to let him out. When our usual paper boy went on holiday, he neglected to tell his replacement that, as soon as the Express and Star hit the doormat, he needed to charge down the path and vault the gate, or risk Sooty sinking his teeth into places teeth really should not be allowed!

All the dogs I've loved before
The legend that was George

And who could forget George, the Jack Russell cross whose ‘finest hour’ was spotting a donkey tethered to a fence outside a country pub in Shropshire, peacefully watching the world go by? Unfortunately, what the pub landlord saw going by the window was his donkey, trailing a fence panel as he left the building, closely followed by George in full on terrier mode. Needless to say, we were not allowed inside to quench our thirst, despite the heat of the day.

George was a hard act to follow, but Patch, my second husband’s Border Collie, was another real character. I met him about half way through his impressive 17 year life span, and I was privileged to cradle him in my arms as he crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

Apart from that, my enduring memory of Patch was when, at the age of around 13, we took him for a run on Yelverton Common, on the edge of Dartmoor. It was a glorious day, and a number of families were enjoying picnics. One of the sheep was very interested in the food, and had wandered away from his mates, so Patch immediately went into full ‘One Man and His Dog’ mode. Crouching low, he gently but firmly herded the stray back to the flock. This from a dog who hadn’t been that close to a sheep since he left the farm where he was born at the age of 10 weeks!

I’ve been lucky enough to live with some fabulous canine characters, but little did I know the best was yet to come. Fast forward to 2014, and we were nicely settled in our lovely garden apartment on the Costa Blanca. However, one thing was missing as far as I was concerned – a canine companion.

All the dogs I've loved before
Luna and Me – girls together, loving life

My husband was adamant we were having no more dogs, as it tied us down, and we were both getting older, so there was a chance the dog would be left behind. Granted, he was 80 at the time, but at 62, I was confident I could see at least one more dog through to Rainbow Bridge Time before I joined the big reunion in the Great Dog Park in the Sky. As it turned out, I was right – there would be more than one more dog for me.

Paddy came to us on March 17, 2014. He was a Spanish dog, and he was going to have a Spanish name like Pedro, Pablo or Paco – until I noticed the date as I signed the paperwork. Then there were only two options, Paddy and Guinness. I didn’t even like Guinness, and I wasn’t having the neighbours thinking I was so obsessed with the black stuff I was shouting about it at all hours of the day and night.

My five years with Paddy taught me a lot about companionship, and the unconditional love dogs shower on their human guardians. Through him I learned about strength and courage, through his example. When he was killed defending me in March 2019, it felt like my own life was over too. And then along came Luna …

What can I say about Luna? She’s the first female dog I’ve ever lived with, and she’s also the most traumatised and feisty. She’s given me a lot of grey hairs, but she’s also given me love beyond measure. I’ve learned a lot from her, and hopefully she’s learned that she has found her forever home with me.

A great song from the Bellamy Brothers that says it all about dogs

Over the years, my dogs have taught me a lot about love and life. They’ve given me so much more than they will ever know, and I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. This article is dedicated to all dogs, everywhere, with love and blessings.

We talk about kindness – but what is it really?

We talk about kindness - but what is it really?

There’s a lot of talk about kindness right now, following the recent tragic suicide of Caroline Flack. The former Love Island presenter was due to face trial charged with assaulting her boyfriend. Mental health problems and pressure from mainstream media and social media trolls proved too much for her.

Just a couple of days before she died alone at home, Caroline put out a message saying:

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

It has become her epitaph, and people are adding ‘Be Kind’ to their social media profiles, and urging people to check on fragile friends and family members. While it’s an admirable sentiment, there are a couple of flaws in this theory.

The good and the bad

The first problem is, such an all-encompassing, sweeping statement just adds to the distress of the deceased’s friends and family. We tend to blame ourselves when a loved one passes in these circumstances, and they will have already been thinking along the lines of, ‘Why didn’t I do enough/say enough/support her more/visit more?’ You can probably add other ‘Why’s’ and ‘If only’s’ to this list – the permutations are endless.

The second issue is more complex. Kindness can work miracles, but in some cases, it’s just not enough. When someone is in the grip of a deep, all-consuming depression, they can’t be saved – or pushed over the edge – by kindness alone.

Often when true depression hits, reasoning leaves by the fire exit, and the object of your kindness may not even recognise it for what it is. When you can’t even process your own motives and feelings, nothing else has any impact, positive or negative. All you want to do is make it stop.

What is kindness really?

Kindness in its purest, most helpful state of being can’t be turned on and off like a tap, or the central heating. It’s a state of being and a way of living. It’s not something you’re born with, either, although it is something you can and should nurture and cultivate in yourself.

Kindness is like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes, and the stronger you become as a result. It emanates from you, and is noticeable without the need to draw attention to it. You can’t hide it, because, just like ripped muscles, it’s there for all to see in the way you carry yourself.

On the other side of the coin, if you don’t exercise kindness regularly, just like muscles, it will waste away from your being. And again, it will be aparrent to everyone around you. Your body may not be out of condition, but your soul certainly will be, and it will show on the exterior.

Just as muscles cannot be built up overnight, nor can kindness. You don’t need to work hard to build kindness, but it does require regular practice. It can’t be emphasised enough – kindness is not a trend that will be forgotten when the Next Big Thing hits the news and social media. Just two weeks after everyone’s news feed was full with ‘Be Kind’ memes and hearts, the Coronavirus hype has taken over, and suddenly everyone is a public health pundit.

How do we utilise kindness?

So, how can we best cultivate and utilise kindness? Lead by example, and do it quietly. If you plaster evidence of your kindness all over the place, it doesn’t come from the soul, it comes from the ego. Kindness does not need recognition or validation.

True kindness is its own reward, because when we help someone with words, thoughts or actions, we vibrate at a higher level of energy, and we feel better about ourselves. Not because everyone knows about it and is congratulating us, but because, thanks to something we did, another human being feels better about themselves and their situation than they did previously.

Be kind – always. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone – including yourself. True kindness really does make the world a better place. Let’s spread it far and wide.

Also see my post Happiness is a job, and here’s how to upgrade your career status.

Book Review: Ghostly Echoes by Mai Griffin

Ghostly Echoes

As well as being a rattling good yarn, Ghostly Echoes gives interesting insights into the world of spiritualism, and debunks many of the myths perpetrated in other novels and on screen. Sarah and Clarrie are ordinary people with extraordinary talents. Life hasn’t been kind to them – they are both widows – but they’ve found inner peace and fulfillment in their new lives.

Mai Griffin is an artist and author who is based in Javea, on the northern coast of Spain’s Costa Blanca with her daughter, Gaile Griffin Peers, also a writer. The ladies are also involved in publishing. I met them for the first time in 2017 at a writing conference in Velez Blanco, Andalusia. That’s where Mai gave me a copy of her novel, Ghostly Echoes, to read and review.

Life got in the way, so it was just a few days ago that I finally picked up the book to read. The main characters in the novel are Sarah Grey and her daughter, Clarinda – Clarrie for short. Sarah is a gifted psychic, but doesn’t like to brag about it. Clarrie is also blessed with the gift, but sees it as more of a curse and tries to ignore it. However, as experienced psychics and mediums know only too well, if Spirit want to work through you, they won’t be ignored.

Sarah sometimes works with Alec, a Police inspector and good friend, giving him insights into difficult cases. In this book, the first in the series of ‘Grey’ books, a child is kidnapped, another child and a young boy die. In the course of the investigation, a trio of unrelated murders are solved as a bonus.

Mai Griffin is a master of storytelling, elegantly weaving a multi-faceted tale spread over a number of years and locations, including Wales and Spain. There’s just the right level of suspense as the story unfolds, and the reader is quickly drawn in. It’s an overworked phrase, but I really couldn’t put this book down. All the characters – on this side of life or the afterlife – are well crafted and engaging, with a couple of notable exceptions. The reader just knows these men have ‘dunnit,’ just not how or why, and that’s just a small part of the overall picture.

There’s a nice balance between fast-paced action and reflection. What really sets this book above other ghostly tales is the way the spiritual angle of the story is presented. As a psychic herself, Mai has excellent insight into the way Spirit work, and how mediums bring messages to the living. She cleverly illustrates how those who try to use this special gift for personal ends can come unstuck when ego comes into the equation. She demonstrates beautifully that not everything is always as it seems, on both sides of life.

Mai Griffin writes with an authority and humour gleaned from almost 90 years of experience of life and its idiosyncracies and synchronicities. As a bonus, even the book blurb is hilarious. Ghostly Echoes actually started life as Deadly Shades of Grey, long before the last three words were preceded by a number and given an altogether different meaning.

There may be no spurious sex or sado-masochism within its covers – Javea’s not that sort of place, and Mai’s not that sort of lady. Ghostly Echoes has much more going for it. It’s a well crafted tale, with just the right balance of humour, action, authenticity and reflection. It satisfies the most discerning readers of crime fiction. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

How to get the best guidance from psychics and mediums

psychics and mediums
Me with my spiritual mentor, teacher and friend, the Quirky Medium, Alison Wynn-Ryder. One of the most talented mediums and psychics I know

I regularly see evidence that lots of people don’t fully understand how psychics and mediums and the world of Spirit works. Furthermore, they are unsure whether a medium is good, bad or indifferent. The situation isn’t helped when some mediums talk themselves up into something they most definitely are not. To get the best guidance from psychics and mediums, there are a few things you should consider.

What’s the difference?

Each of us has psychic ability, but whether we are aware of it or know how to use it is something else. There’s a school of thought that psychics are made and mediums are born, but I dispute that, and so do most people I know.

There is a distinct difference between working psychically and working as a medium, but both of these intuittive aspects of spiritual work can be enhanced with training. This article explains the difference much more clearly than I can, but in nutshell, psychics work mainly with the living, drawing on guidance from the other side of life, while mediums actually blend with the energies of those in Spirit.

What can you expect from a reading?

All psychic work is based on energy. In fact, the Universe is all about energy, because even inanimate objects have an energetic vibration. It’s tuning into these energies that helps psychics and mediums to bring you information and advice that is readily available to you, as long as you know how to access it .

In psychometry, the energies of a piece of jewellery or another personal possession can reveal a lot about the owner, and it’s also possible to do a psychic reading from a photograph. Mediums and psychics who work with law enforcement agencies can connect with the energies of items belonging to missing people or murder victims and provide evidence that is impossible to glean from other sources.

So, there’s a lot that mediums and psychics can do, but what can you expect from a reading? More importantly, how can you tell if the practitioner is genuinely gifted with psychic abilities? Those seeking help from the world of Spirit are often traumatised and/ or vulnerable, so it’s important that those they seek help from are well placed to deliver it.

Someone who talks about ‘their’ gifts, without listening to what you need from your reading is motivated by ego to some extent. We do not decide to work with Spirit – we are chosen. And we are mere channels for everything that comes through. The Upstairs Team are the ones calling the shots and directing the action. The psychic or medium you connect with should not be on a power trip – your reading is all about you, not them.

Common misconceptions

Another misconception with mediums is that they can call up the spirits of loved ones to order. No medium, however well connected to Spirit, can guarantee to bring through your father who passed a few weeks back, or Great Aunt Agatha, so that you can thank her for leaving you all her worldly goods.

In fact, we can’t guarantee to bring anyone through, because Spirit will not come through for a third party just to say hello. It takes a lot of energy to speak through someone else, and they will only come through with an important message that they need to pass on. Spirit can – and do – visit loved ones often, and you may sense them around you, even if you don’t consider yourself to be psychic.

Some of the information may be trivial, rather than jaw-dropping. That’s usually just to confirm your loved one really is around. I had a gentleman come through for someone in the audience at my first demonstration of mediumship, and I had difficulty pinning him down to a member of the audience, as he’d passed some time ago. I asked for an up to date confirmation, and he told me about a friendly disagreement about how carrots should be prepared for cooking. From that, the right person was able to take the message, even though she had never known the messenger from Spirit in life.

Working with spirit

Working with Spirit is so much more than just ‘Talking to dead people,’ although that’s a common misconception. It’s about helping the living to deal with their challenges and make the best choices for themselves and those around them. A lot of people are sceptical about this.

When I was attending psychic development training, my husband was very sceptical, and always had a sarcastic remark ready for me to come home to. One day, he asked if I’d been talking to my father, who passed many years before we got together. ‘Yes, I have,’ I replied. ‘He’s really looking forward to meeting you next week’. There were no more silly remarks after that, and my husband was very subdued over the next few days!

That anecdote wasn’t just to make you smile – although laughter raises the vibrations. It links neatly to my next point. No psychic or medium with any integrity will deliver bad news. Spiritual work is about upliftment and easing worries, not causing more stress or heartache. All genuine messages from Spirit are positive. You won’t be told you have inoperable cancer, or that Uncle George won’t be coming to your Christmas party because he’ll be with the Angels by then.

That doesn’t mean to say it’s all sweetness and light. If you need a warning from Spirit, you’ll get it, but the medium or psychic will deliver it in a positive and empathetic way. This is so as not to cause further distress or worry. For example, you might get a message that the pain in your chest needs investigating, so get it checked out so you can get the right treatment. You will only receive information that is in your best interests.

Having a reading from a medium or psychic, whether one to one or at a demonstration, should be a positive, fulfilling experience. If you know what to expect, and if the practitioner is working with humility and love, it certainly will be. Go to your reading with an open mind, and prepare to be amazed!

Image credit: Rai Woods, November 2016

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