Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Beyond The Looking Glass

As many readers will know from occasional posts on my blog, one of the strands of research I use is availing myself of a friend's ability to tune into the past. The main post is here in my blog archive.
Last weekend, I attended the Romantic Novelists Association conference in Leicester and as part of the discussions and lectures, myself and my friend, Alison, were invited to talk about what we do and what impact it has on the research I do for my novels. The talk was entitled 'Beyond the Looking Glass' and the sub-heading was ‘What if history was recorded on the ether? What if some people could actually read those records? What effect would it have on historical research? I thought readers of the blog might be interest in the brief demonstration we gave and the question and answer session afterwards. I've therefore copied and pasted it to the blog. It was the first time we had ever tried this in front of a larger audience than two and outside of Alison's study where she is familiar with the energies, so I was relieved that it went so well!


I asked Alison to go to Eleanor of Aquitaine in Paris in 1151 when she was queen of France. The Count of Anjou, Geoffrey le Bel would have been visiting, together with his son, Henry, then 18 years old.

Alison: She has a shape and make up rather like one of the Sitwells, that kind of long-limbed elegance but not such a long face. She has her hair done in a sort of net. The net is made of – looks like metal, but it’s flexible and the mesh is really wide and the strings of metal are quite wide as well and every so often there are little jewels in that.

What colour is her hair? Can you see her hair? It’s a sort of golden colour. I would say a sort of burnished colour, quite fair. It’s difficult to put an absolute word on it, but fair. I’ll just go back from the detail and more into her character now.

She’s a very composed, centred sort of person. In this context she is very composed and there is a peaceful smile on her face.

Now to her meeting with Geoffrey Count of Anjou and his son, Henry Duke of Normandy, the future Henry II. I am getting her reaction to Geoffrey Count of Anjou. I get the sense she is not at ease with him. She’s not keen on him. He’s a man she needs to deal with, but it’s not a source of pleasure for her. And his son? There’s not such a strong reaction to his son. She doesn’t seem to mind Henry so much. I think I need to go deeper into the meeting to get any more out of this.

She’s swallowed down her initial reaction. She’s re-centred herself to deal with the situation, so she can put on this very powerful front in the sense that it’s difficult to see through it. It seems very solid. In this I’d say she’s very much the diplomat. She’s looking at Geoffrey with her head slightly down with a fairly fixed smile but she’s thinking inside ‘What do you want?’ She’s weighing him up, she’s very shrewd. I feel as if the meeting is on Geoffrey’s instigation rather than hers. I don’t feel as if she has an agenda here so much as wondering what his agenda is. To find that out I need to focus on him. Go over to Geoffrey? Yes, or I can watch him through her. Yes, do that.

Geoffrey is diffusing what he wants by going from one to the other. He’s chit-chatting, he’s digressing. He’s not coming to the point at all. He’s got what he thinks are very shrewd eyes but to Eleanor they look kind of weasely. It’s like he’s fooling himself into thinking he’s shrewd and he’s thinking that this chit-chatting is doing its job as if he’s fooling her, but he’s not. Now they’re coming to the part that he’s really interested in and it’s to do with his son. So he has just brought it casually (so he thinks) into the conversation. He says ‘And this is my son. This is the jewel in the crown.'

He’s saying ‘Look at him, isn’t he fine? Wouldn’t he make anyone a good husband? Where would you ever do better? And he’s got my eyes…’ Eleanor has a little bit of a giggle herself. ‘Mmm, yes.’ She’s not committing herself or being drawn into anything. She’s not going to show her hand here. She is offering them hospitality. She’s offering them very nice food, very richly presented. She’s talking about what’s going to be going on later. There’ll be dancing later and more entertainment. There’s going to be musicians and poetry. A bard is coming and there’ll be interesting news.

An interesting thing is that she has this urge to stroke Henry’s hair. I don’t know if she’s actually going to do it but there’s a pulse of affection that comes into her. It’s a sort of mildly, motherly sort of feeling, but a pulse of affection definitely. I get the feeling that she’s taller than him as well. She wants to separate him off from his father so that they can talk on a more sensible level. So does she do that? I can feel the impulse and I don’t want to create that. I just want to watch to see what happens. Yes, she takes him to a different part of the room to look out of the window. They’re not saying much. She’s getting a bit of a feel for him. I think her information comes less from words and more from how she feels about people and the subtle things she gets about them – their body language. She seems him almost as a child. Let’s see what they say. There’s not much being said at all. She’s asking him about where he’s been recently. He seems not very forceful somehow – quite introverted. I think I’m running out of information here. So end here:

Me: That was an example of what we do, although the sessions last much longer because we ask a lot more questions and we go to different characters, different situations and scenarios. I’ll ask more in depth questions at a session. Anyway, over to audience questions. I hand the mike to Alison.

Q. Do you actually hear words, or are you picking up on feelings?

A. Both. And when I say hear I mean that the words form in my head, probably similar to when you’re writing and you get the conversation.

Q Can you actually see them? (people Alison tunes into)

A. Yes.

Q Are you with them and beside them?

A I can move around. I can go to whatever perspective I want to. When I say ‘see’ I don’t mean as I see you. It isn’t as in waking awareness. It’s more like if you walk along a street at twilight and it’s foggy and someone’s coming towards you and you know that someone’s coming towards you. You can see the figure in outline and as you get closer you can see perhaps that they’ve got a white scarf on or you might see their features and gradually you recognise ‘Oh, it’s my next door neighbour and I didn’t know.’ That’s the kind of effect I get, so the closer I get, the more detail I get and the more I focus on it the more detail I get.

Q I just wondered if they were at the French Court why they were not talking in French.

A Well it’s a bit like Star Trek. What I’m picking up is the energy imprint and it translates in my own neurology. It just happens that way. Sometimes I do have actual French words come through but they tend to be nouns where perhaps the English noun is not entirely appropriate. So in terms of language the way that I’ve looked at this is that everything is vibration and if you understand the worlds at a vibrational level you’ll understand the meaning; and the meaning to me is obviously in English, so that’s the way it comes out of my particular transformer – my electrical system and neurology. I don’t know if it makes sense of not. The thing is I do get information in all sorts of different media and my system translates it for me. It’s me that does the translating.

Q How do you actually find the imprints? How do you tune in?

A: It’s like Elizabeth said (earlier). It’s a name, a date and a place. If I have all of those it’s the best scenario and it’s easy to do, but I can work in different ways if I don’t have those things, so there are ways round it, but that’s the best way of doing it.

Q. You gave us permission at the beginning to be sceptical. I’m not saying I am sceptical, but I’m putting this as a possibility. You say you’re not interested in the period but Elizabeth is and she must have her head full of these images and theories about these different scenarios. You’re asking a question where you must have an idea – some kind of mental images. I just wonder if there’s some telepathy going on?

A. Alison answering: That’s a really good question and that was one of our initial thoughts and we have tested it out. Obviously if I’m picking up information, some of my information could be coming from Elizabeth, absolutely. But I’m not actually tuning into her for information though. I’m actively tuning into something else. So if I pick up anything from her it’s kind of by the way. But the proof that’s convinced both of us is that I’ve seen things where we’ve both gone ‘No, that’s not quite right, and Elizabeth hasn’t known it either. For instance I saw someone using a metal pen with engraving on and it had a tassle on the end as well. I had a really detailed description of it. Elizabeth and I both shook our heads at the same time. And then she did a little bit of ferreting around and found some pictures of metal pens that had been around. Me: I found one that looked exactly like the one Alison had seen.

Audience member who had asked question. ‘Fantastic. I would much prefer it not to have been telepathy.’

Me: There was another one where Alison had seen Isabelle de Clare, William Marshal’s wife with long shimmering blond hair. You could perhaps take that I knew this because I know that she had gold hair from a poem, but then again all medieval poems said that women were blonds. But later on after I had finished The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion, I was researching the Chronicle of Mathew Paris and he talked about Isabelle de Clare’s daughter, also called Isabelle. She died in childbirth and while she was dying they cut off her hair – in penance I suppose or thinking it might help the baby out of the womb, but they cut off her beautiful flaxen hair. They more or less described what Alison had described in the mother. Now that’s circumstantial – the daughter might not have had the mother’s hair but it says to me that we’re on to something.

Q How old was Henry by the way in this scenario?

A. Me. About eighteen. Introverted doesn’t really describe his personality, but he was with his dad and it was his first visit to the French court, so he might have been thinking hard. He did have quite a forceful personality, but in those circumstances he could have been hedging his bets.

Did he marry Eleanor of Aquitaine?

A. Yes, he did.

Q So would she have been married to the French King at this time?

A Yes. When this visit was made she was married to the King of France.

So Geoffrey must have been plotting well ahead of time?

A. He was, I think he was.

Q So how old was Eleanor?

A. Late twenties at the youngest. The divorce was on the cards at that time.

Alison laughs.

Me: You didn’t know this?

Alison: No! Those questions were just the questions that were running through my mind when I was doing the session. I was thinking how old should he be then? I was seeing someone slightly shorter and getting a feeling of being younger of not coming forward with any agenda of his own, of hanging back and the woman finding the conversation wasn’t going anywhere and just having to deal with a situation of quiet really. There wasn’t much going on conversationally there. And I was thinking ‘How old is supposed to be, and is this right that he’s a child, or is he a full grown man or what? But I just had to go with what I saw – and try and interpret it because there would have been several ways of interpreting what I saw as well.

Q Do you get smells and physical reactions?

A. Yes. (I take the mike) I sometimes have to ask her to pull out of things. I asked her to go to William Marshal on his way to Ireland and she connected with him on board ship. Unbeknown to her there was a terrible storm and they nearly all died and Alison was feeling dreadfully sick, and I said ‘Fast forward. Connect with him when he’s in Ireland – and she did, when he was actually recovering. If we go to someone in childbirth we get the birth pains and we have to move on from those. When we went to Henry I, Alison didn’t know he’d died of a dreadful stomach upset. I said ‘Go to Henry I when he’s dying and Alison was literally heaving. She was sitting in the chair retching and we had to come out of it. We couldn’t go back to it because Alison just felt too sick.

Q. So you’re not actually observing him; you are him at that point?

A: Alison. I’m not him, no. He is a separate being to me and I wouldn’t cross the line of becoming someone else.

Q So you’re not just witnessing him throwing up, you’re feeling him throwing up?

A I would say it’s more like empathy. When you feel empathic to someone you feel what they feel and I would say that I’m probably feeling that way at the high end of the scale.

Q What about smells? Do you get the horrible smells and things?

A. I’ve had some nice ones as well. Rosewater. Food! I love the food when Elizabeth takes me to a banquet!

Q Were there any smells associated to the experience just now

Q How did you learn to refine your skill? To be able to dip into various people and times?

A I understand where you’re coming from but I don’t feel as if I’ve got better at this over time, I feel as if I could do it and I can still do it and that’s just how it is.

Me. We’d never actually tried to do it until I asked you and you found out you could do it. I don’t suppose your skill has particularly improved it’s just that practise has just made it quicker. We’ve got a good understanding of what we’re doing.

Q Do you go to any other time periods? Have you ever tried that?

A. Yes, it’s immaterial where I go to really as long as I’ve got those coordinates or some sort of link to get me to the correct place so for example I’ve helped people researching genealogy who want to know more about ancestors, so that can be any time at all.

Q Do you have to be given a location of the person, because effectively yesterday and last week are history. Could you use your talents for something like Madeleine McCann or would you have to be told where she is?

A That sort of thing I haven’t really looked into. It’s probably not my forte. I’m interested in doing historical research and genealogical research.

Q Can you take an object like for example that cooking pot and find out about the people who produced it for example?

A. That particular skill is called psychometry - picking up an object and feeling its history and so on – yes I can do that up to a point.

Me: But that cooking pot’s modern, it’s a modern replica so you’d probably just get a horrible vision of Jim the Pot or some big-bellied re-enactor!

Q I was interested in the first time you did it. How did you focus your mind. How did you know what to do. Did you manage to focus straight away?

A. Yes, just straight away. We didn’t have any false alarms or efforts to places that were wrong.

Me. I didn’t write that first session down, but I remember Alison saw a lady standing on a castle green swinging a lure. She didn’t know it was lure.

Alison: I thought it was some way of drying lettuce. (gales of laughter from audience). I said ‘She’s got this sort of bag on a string and she’s going like this with it. I think she might be drying lettuce or something.’

Q When did you discover for the first time that you had this special gift? How did you discover?

A: As Elizabeth was saying at the beginning of the talk we were just sitting having coffee and she said she shouldn’t get the information she wanted on a particular character she was working on. She knew this person existed in history but there was no record about her; she couldn’t get any information she could use on an emotional level in her novel, and her relationship with the other characters in the novel, so I said ‘Oh, maybe I could help you with this by tuning in to her.’ I suggested this because from an energy point of view there is no past, present, future. Everything is happening at the same time. It’s the quantum physics way of looking at the world, so in my mind those sort of things are possible. It didn’t seem insurmountable, so I had a go, and yes, I was able to do it.

And that was your very first experience of being able to do this?

No, I have got a lot of experience of working in different areas of energy work – complimentary therapy, mediumship, different types of energy development for myself – for personal development, so I have been doing this for a long time but not that specific use of it.’

Q If you are doing two hour sessions and they are intense, you must come out pretty exhausted.

A. No, completely not. I just enjoy it so much, I love it. It energises me and I find it very, very interesting to see what’s going on in those different times. I learn so much and it’s very fascinating to see the lives of people that are so different from the lives of anything in my experience. It widens my understanding of life and people and I just find it so life enhancing.

QWould you ever do it on your own without Elizabeth? I mean just for fun? If there’s nothing on telly?!

A. No, I don’t have that inclination because I don’t see it as something that is just for entertainment. I see it as something that is to be used properly. I have a lot of respect for what I’m doing. It needs to be done in a way that doesn’t cause any disruption or harm to anybody concerned.

Q Wouldn’t it be the most fascinating tool to use for historical mysteries? Like the Princes in the tower. If you could get back to a specific date? What did happen?

A. We have actually done this with something that Elizabeth researched which was the death of Prince Arthur. And I did print it out as something to bring with me because it was a very, very intense session but when I was reading it back it was too upsetting and I decided to leave it at home because I think it’s not entertainment. I’ve brought along some more light-hearted episodes that you’re welcome to read in this folder and I’ll leave this on the desk at the end so you’re welcome to have a look through.

Q Do you ever have any sense that these people you are empathising with are in any way aware of you?

A: Yes, occasionally. There are people who have become aware of me being present. One comes to mind when Isabelle Marshal was having a child and the Irish midwife was in attendance. She suddenly stopped and looked up at me and she said something. We had a very short conversation and we carried on with our work. I took it that she was a lady with second sight and people in that sort of job often were in those days. There was another occasion when I was observing what was going on inside a church – can’t remember what the occasion was. I was going to one of the characters that Elizabeth was directing me to and this other lady who was holding a baby, noticed me and she asked for a blessing for her baby. She obviously thought I was something else, but she’d noticed. Certain characters who, over a period of time we’ve built up a very strong link to, we have built up a considerable rapport at what I would call a spiritual level rather than on the level of their lifetime at that time.

Q If you say that time is curved, if you can look back, can you also look forward, and can you feel anyone looking back at you?

A Theoretically I can look forward but it’s not actually a skill I’m developed in. I’m much more developed in historical things, so it would need more work. On the ‘am I aware of people looking back at people’ I would say ‘yes’ because I had that experience when I was a child, or a very young teenager. I was in my bedroom. I had a travel clock and a glass of water like that (Alison positions them in a certain way on the table). And the next day I found the glass had travelled over there onto the floor and not disturbed the clock. It had got over the clock and onto the floor on this particular night, where I also felt that I woke up and saw a lady standing next to my bed who was wearing a peach-coloured dressing gown, had just past shoulder length brown wavy hair and features very much like my aunt. I saw her walk across the room and look at herself in the mirror of my wardrobe which is an oval mirror. I thought it was very strange at the time; I couldn’t understand it, but nearly fifteen years later, I’d had my children, we’d moved to a different house. My daughter had the wardrobe that had been in my room and I was making the bed one day and I looked in the mirror and saw myself in a peach dressing gown with wavy brown hair…so I’d visited myself. And yes, as I grew up, I did come to resemble my auntie.

Q Are there other people in your family who can do this, or are you the only one?

A. Well I don’t know anyone else who can do this but my mother is very mediumistic and has always been interested in this sort of thing.

Q This may seem a facetious question but I once met a bloke who said he could see auras, and he said ‘I can see a golden aura around you. Elizabeth said you can see auras and I want to know is my aura gold or was he just spinning me a line?

A. Laughs. Auras are very complex things and they tend not to be just one colour. It would take a long time to explain all the different aspects of it.

Q Rosemary Brown who you will probably have heard of had actual people from the past like the composers approaching her. Have you ever had that feeling that someone is trying to get through to you for that same sort of purpose because you are obviously such a good medium.

A. The only famous person I haven’t pursued that I have actually been aware of is John Lennon. When I was doing some writing of a musical he came along and gave me a little bit of advice, which was lovely. But generally no. When I read about mediums who are pursued by people wanting to get messages through, that is not the way that I work and I’ve not really experienced that. I like to be in control and I tend to do the journeying. I do the connecting, so I don’t work like a traditional medium. People expecting that sort of work would be very disappointed with what I do.

Q You mentioned John Lennon. Was that before or after he died?

A. After he died.

So can you go into the past of someone who is still alive now – someone in the room for example?

A I do this in a therapeutic context. If say someone is having difficulty in a relationship and it’s a communication difficulty, it may be solved by connecting to that person at a higher level than the personality level that’s having difficulty in breaking through the communication problem and it can make a tremendous difference.

Q I’ve got a question for Elizabeth, which is: Everything that Alison has found has confirmed you in your total and utter admiration for William Marshal which I have to say after reading your books I share, but what would happen if Alison discovered something that was contrary to the narrative drive of the book that you’ve got in hand.

A. Me. I would probably try and find a way round it or leave it out. Hopefully when I decide who I’m going to do next nowadays, we do some taster sessions. If I don’t like them, then I don’t do them. But I was half way through William Marshal when we started doing this, so it would have been a disaster if he’d turned out to be awful, but as it was he turned out to be really lovely anyway. But it does throw up difficulties with historical integrity because for example we came across a murder while researching The Scarlet Lion. William Marshal’s daughter in law died nine months after her marriage. I just expected to go there and see a childbirth tragedy and Alison went there and came across a murder. And I had to decide ‘Do I write it as a death in childbirth or do I write it as this undiscovered murder? I wrote the murder because I felt I had to. I felt I would be compromising the character’s integrity. It’s not written in the history books, you won’t find it. It was one of the pieces that I sent off to a genealogist friend and we sorted out who was responsible, but you won’t find it in the history books because it got covered up.

I feel that I’ve put the truth out there. Sometimes you’ll face dilemmas like this and you’ve got to decide how to work your way round them – whether to put them in or what to do. So that is a very difficult question for me and one I have to think about.

Oh yes, we also visited Simon de Montfort who I was considering as a side character for a novel, but he turned out to be so obnoxious. Alison didn’t want to go near him. She just felt yuk, get him away from me, so I won’t be writing a novel about him sometime soon.

Audience comment – Not if you want help anyway! (Laughter).

Another audience comment – And we’re in Leicester. (general comments about de Montfort university etc.

Alison said ‘Yes, I was looking forward to visiting Simon de Montfort. I was in Simon de Montfort house at school because I come from Leicester, so it was a huge disappointment to me when he turned out to be less than admirable.’

Audience member – Well give us a clue

Alison – being circumspect. We can e-mail it to you afterwards.

Audience member – Oh go on!

Me He was a prude and a rampant sex maniac at the same time – a manipulative sex maniac. Alison. ‘No conscience.’

Q. One of the things that fascinated me was that you seemed to be both here and there at the same time. I just wondered where are you? Do you still see us and still hear Elizabeth’s questions?

A. Yes. As I say I like to be in control and to do this I have to know who I am. I have to have a strong sense of ‘this is me’ and that’s somebody else and recognise the difference and that’s how I do it.

Out of time so end of session, although it carried on downstairs for some time with people queuing up to ask more questions.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Tollerton Show photos

Here are a few photos from the Tollerton Village Show. I'm in the brown dress tending the cooking fire and swigging mead! You can see the broad bean pottage in the foreground in one of the shots. The Mishimishya was in the big cauldron on the right and I am stirring the onions in the almond milk pottage. Thank goodness the rain mostly held off!
I'm off to the RNA Conferenfe for the weekend, but will return to blog anon.