Excerpt for Mermaid in The Kitchen by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Mermaid in

The Kitchen

Also by Sarah Delamere Hurding


StarScope with Psychic to the Stars Sarah Delamere Hurding

Sarah correctly predicted the final line up of the pop band Six. Bono called her in when he was setting up his Kitchen nightclub at

The Clarence, and according to Louis Walsh, she's

"the woman who knows everything."
Now Ireland's top psychic has decided to share her gift in probably

the only horoscope guide you will ever need to buy.
For the inside track on where your love, life, career and health

are heading, keep this by your bedside.
Which celebrity shares your birthday? What lies ahead for you this year? Are you in the right relationship or are you and your partner

completely incompatible? Are you in the right career?

Where should you go on holiday?

Get your life in balance with Sarah and StarScope

Published by Poolbeg Ireland.

Mermaid in

The Kitchen

Chasing Rainbows


Sarah Delamere Hurding

Published by

Rainbow Wisdom


Copyright © 2017 Sarah Delamere Hurding

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a

retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means,

electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise

without the prior permission of Rainbow Wisdom

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. Every attempt has been made to contact relevant copyright holders.

Names have been modified in the book to protect the identities of certain individuals. Others are included with full permission. While others are too strongly recognized by universal consciousness to be concealed.

ISBN: 978-0-692-98449-9 (paperback)

Cover artwork: Mermaid Spirit by Stefan Keller (pixabay/kellepics)


1 Chasing Rainbows............................ 25

2 Rite of Passage................................ 41

3 Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.................... 57

4 Nine O' Clock Service........................ 84

5 Makes No Never Mind....................... 92

6 Leaving the City of Ghosts................. 107

7 Dublin Nights...................................... 124

8 The Reluctant Psychic....................... 133

9 Very A-Muse-ing................................ 146

10 Stuck in A Moment........................... 159

11 All That Jazz....................................  176

12 Superman........................................  185

13 Waiting for The Best.......................   201

14 Girl with Crimson Nails...................   215

15 Mermaid In The Kitchen................... 223

16 The Waiting Room........................... 231

17 Soul Mate Dilemma......................... 244

18 Mermaid Magic................................ 254

19 Seeing Stars.................................... 268

20 The Circus....................................... 276

21 You're A Star................................... 287

22 Synchronicity................................... 296

23 Cracking the Code.........................   304

24 Cold Cases.....................................  312

25 The Twain Shall Meet.....................  320

26 Mystical Madness...........................  326

27 Faustian Deal: No Deal................... 343

28 Taking A Chance............................. 359

29 Exmoor Knights............................... 382

30 Dalkey Daze...................................  412

31 It's A Dog's Life...............................  431

32 All That I left Behind.......................  441

33 Groundhog Day..............................  452

34 Coincidentally Yours......................   458

35 Inner-Tuition....................................  465

36 The Law Of Neutrality.....................  472

37 The X-Factor...................................  481

38 It's A Gift.......................................... 489

39 Nuts and Bolts................................. 509

40 Am I A Witch?.................................. 521

Mermaid in The Temple Bar

By Bono of U2 for ICROSS Charity, Oct 2002

To all those I have encountered along the way.

You are my Blessing and my Karma.

May God bless you all. X

The Mermaid's Song

I've watched you from a distance

for I live beneath the sea

calling from the rocky seashore

beckoning you to me.

The ocean, she has dressed me

in her finest pearls so fare

with golden treasure form sunken ships

and starfish in my hair.

Content until I saw you

for you, I'd give my all

there's nothing more lonely

than the Mermaid's song

when evening comes to call.

A thousand years I've waited

my tears have filled the sea

and a thousand more I'll call to you

beckoning you to me.

Sometimes, we only have to watch and listen

to be inspired by those around us. Thanks for

always speaking of Mermaids Sarah De La Mer.

Dianna Varga, author and poet.


A Melancholy Tale

It was nine years ago to the day that The Mermaid had walked out of the sea onto the sparkling sands of the bay. Welcomed by the fey spirits of the land; she was full of anticipation and expectant. Her new life beckoned. Leaving her fins and tail behind her on the beach, she was in search of a truth she knew was out there somewhere. Though why she had to come onto dry land to find it, was at this moment beyond her.

Mermaid left behind a wealth of love and riches beneath the ocean. But she had people to meet and places to go. Besides she knew that her Soul Mate was living in this land of warlocks, wizards and witches. This was the right time to hook up with him and come to some agreement. They had fallen out in their previous existence, and there was still unfinished business between them.

Dripping with seaweed, scaly from her years in the deep, Mermaid chose a private moment whilst she morphed into the proverbial archetypal goddess with long, flowing golden hair, cleavage, and legs. Legs were a strange phenomenon for this Mermaid. To date she had had no use for them, and certainly did not know how to use them. She could not get used to the different view when she looked downwards, and chuckled with glee at the prospect of where these legs might lead her.

Smiling to herself as she flowed towards a fresh new chapter in her life, she felt okay with her new image and identity. She had a date with destiny, and she knew it. Ready for the worst the Dublin scene would throw at her, Mermaid embarked on her journey with enthusiasm. She had a preordained pathway, and a sacred contract to fulfill, that much she knew. But she had mixed feelings as to how to go about it.

Mermaid dried herself off, the sea had been cold, and unforgiving, and her journey to the Fair Isle had not been easy. Choppy waters and gales in the heavens made her fear what was to come. But there was also a sense of excitement, and the ever-present possibility of a bit of magic. Discarding her fins, scales, and life lines, she retained her waist, curves and a certain Mermaidish, je ne sais quoi.

Mermaid smiled to herself as she anticipated the adventures to come. But she was nervous too; for she knew that ultimately her date with destiny had a difficult price to bear. Mermaid knew that as the drama reached its conclusion, she was going to have to sacrifice her heart's desire on the rocks of the bay below. The irony was, it was the only reason she was here in the first place. She had to engage in the fray, and go through the motions. Sometimes fate required this. The bitter sweet ending, did not fill her with overwhelming joy. The first bits would be fun though.

Mermaid relished a challenge, and the prospect of what was to come filled her with a certain awe and anticipation. Magic was her friend, but in the land of the human, she knew she had to calm it somewhat. There had to be a level playing field for the correct outcomes, so that the karmic checks and balances, could be fulfilled.

The Mermaid loved magic. She did not need to practice it, for it came naturally to her.

Focus counts for a lot, she smiled to herself.

This is next bit will be interesting, she mused.

Mermaid had prepared herself for this Irish jaunt ever since the age of seventeen. She always had an inner knowing that her path led through the Celtic countries. Thus far, she had never been proven wrong.

There is always a first time, she pondered; and this made her nervous.

What if she had got it wrong? The messages that had revolved around her head since a tender age had never been wrong. She was anxious for the time when the magic faded. Perhaps that time would never come. But in the fantastical, mystical world, you had to be prepared for all eventualities.

Mermaid’s arrival in Dublin heralded a new and significant chapter. She braced herself. Her saga to date had not been easy, that was for sure. Perhaps she was due a sea change, for it sometimes felt as if she had been dealt the short straw in her human related experiences. She had come ashore several times before, and each time was more arduous than the last. But this Mermaid was one of life’s survivors, and had so far been a feisty match for most of what had been thrown at her. Even though she had frequently sought to escape and walk back into the sea, she always remained until the current contract was fulfilled

The soothing depths of the deep waters were her homeland. She often felt like a fish out of water traipsing the cobbles and pathways of ancient gothic cities. She found it difficult to breathe at times, especially when the pollution stuck in her chest. Her sensitive aqueous lungs felt like giving up in the smoke-filled clubs and music halls, that had shaped a large chunk of her life. Mermaid enjoyed the buzz of the nightlife, but she often felt like Cinderella, who had to run home before midnight. So far, Prince Charming was nowhere in sight, and she had learned to make do.

Still, perhaps he lived in Dublin, or thereabouts.

Mm, who was she kidding? She already knew he did. The other encounters had only been rehearsals for what was to come now. This was the real deal, and she had to get it right, or else flounder defeated. Why?

Why was a question Mermaid had asked herself rather a lot lately, as her hopes, dreams and visions tumbled messily around her. Mermaid was in the process of realizing that she had fallen foul of some illusion. She realized that someone, or something, out there in the ethers had cast a spell. She had been seduced on several fronts, and now needed to take emergency action. Drastic measures were necessary to unravel, and sort out her situation. Always a past master at weaving her own magic, she had some important work to do.

Besides this horrific realization, which filled her with dread and fear, Mermaid also remembered that it was a case of, so far so good. Mermaid had always landed on her fishy feet. On dry land, things had a habit of coming right for her, however awful they seemed at the time. Mermaid tried to reassure herself in the midst of her blind panic. She was determined that nothing and nobody was going to succeed in alienating her from her chosen destiny.

She could certainly modify her plans. But she had to work out a "Plan B" to break free of the Sliding Doors syndrome, that had started to haunt her existence. Mermaid realized that she had a mission to fulfill that sometimes inspired jealousy. She found this extremely burdensome. For she could not understand why people did not always warm to her, or like her. She was possibly more human than she cared to admit. But Mermaid had learned to live with a path that had become increasingly irksome and troublesome. Often choosing a reclusive existence rather, than deal with the many issues she was sensitized to.

At times Mermaid found it very difficult to be in the company of the human psyche. She found it loaded and weighty, to the extent that she needed the sea to restore her light vibration.

Sometimes Mermaid could not cope with much at all. Other times though, her productivity and resilience shone like a beacon. She realized that lately, there had been few positive moments, and she was finding it increasingly difficult to recharge her batteries. She needed to take action.


Mermaid frequently sat on the beach reflecting whether or not to walk back into her magical homeland beneath the waves. She was tempted on more than one occasion. Indeed, she had been tempted, tried, and tested beyond her endurance, she almost felt. She was at a loss. Many things had gone pear shaped in her life of late. Could she retrieve the situation? Should she even try? Now that was the question, and there was the rub.

How had it all come to this? She mused, as her four-legged companion, and friend Harley played amongst the dunes. Harley was mad, unlike his po-faced, seriously deep owner.

That Scorpio Moon has a lot to answer for, thought Harley, as he went about his doggish business on the beach. Harley was a wired to the moon Arian creature, darkly handsome with wickedly beady eyes. He answered to various names, "Pretty" being the most obvious. "‘Davor Sucker" being the most suitably obscure. Well, he did like football.

Permanently affectionate, and always licking things, Harley was a tonic, lovely to come home to, and amusing to look at.

A bit like my ideal man, thought Mermaid.

Sad, thought Harley.

Why doesn’t she realize I’m just a fun-loving dog?

Precisely Harley, responded Mermaid telepathically.

Mermaid’s telepathic connection with her dog was a given. He would let her know when he needed water, and how much, and he hated being left alone. When Mermaid was out and about, he would tune in and let her know when he was cold. But he did love sleeping, so he did not usually mind too much.

Harley bore the marks of angel wings on his chest, so he thought he was pretty special. Mermaid agreed: he was. Besides his Grandpa was a supreme champion living in Japan, so he had good credentials for breeding. Harley was assured of both love and beauty. But he always felt a little bit uncomfortable; for he knew that Mermaid carried a sorrow in her heart regarding Freddie, his predecessor.

Freddie had left a gaping wound in Mermaid’s heart that came at an emotive time, when things could not have got much worse. Until now. Mermaid remembered this, and contemplated whether that was indeed the most difficult time of her life. At this point she was not so sure. Freddie was at peace, resting in a secret location on the mystical hill above. Of course, it broke her heart when she buried him. But the place he had in her heart and mind, was confirmed. When she dug down and found a Freddie-shaped nesting place, amongst the stubborn rock formations, she could not believe it.

This is too much of a coincidence, she thought.

Truly heart breaking, but obviously meant to be.

Mermaid had borrowed the spade of the Great Wizard, who had come to play such an important role in her heart and mind.

Destiny moments both, she mused as she remembered.

And maybe I could have done without them both too, she said out loud somewhat fatalistically. Mermaid could be quite the drama queen when she wanted to be.

Freddie Freagle had met with a nasty accident by Druid’s Chair. He survived for a time thanks to a shepherd, vet and vicar, and the Mermaid’s healing ability. The rotund vet said she did not think that Freddie would be able to move ever again. But the Mermaid and her dog had other ideas. They were not going to give up without a fight, and this healthy dose of optimism, amidst adverse circumstances, worked for some time.

On the third day, Freddie started moving his front legs, and embarked on the long road to some kind of recovery. But this was a cruel situation; an emotional roller coaster ride, which swung one way, one minute, and the other, the next. It took Mermaid quite a while to get her head around all this.

Things like this aren’t meant to happen, she thought, as she reeled amidst the pain of unnatural suffering. Mermaid still had a lot to learn about the human condition. She knew was here to observe, assimilate and understand, and this, she surely did. She knew too, that she had signed up for this in all its complexity and glory. So she went about her fate, with as much grace as she could muster.

Mermaid needed more time with Freddie before his passing, and the next couple of months proved to be an enlightening stretch that revealed many secrets. She managed to do some miraculous healing against the odds. But Miracle Dog Freddie, knew that ultimately his time would come. He really had already overstayed his welcome, as part of his contract to his mistress. Enough was enough.

Mermaid came to realize that Freddie was a heavenly messenger, who had agreed to guide her onto the right path for the next stage of her human existence. Her evolution as a magical being was at stake, and she had to embrace the lessons, however difficult.

Faced with the option of giving her dog a set of wheels with which to gain mobility, Mermaid chose to preserve his dignity. She killed him. Undoing all her good work, she called the rotund vet to put Freddie out of his misery. For the skies had spoken.

One day, whilst meditating on what to do for the best, Freddie shaped clouds appeared in the heavens. The first travelled across the view from her window, as if on a movie screen. This was a fluffy clear picture of her sick dog lying down asleep. The second frame was a shot of him running freely across the heavens.

Well, I’m, still no clearer, thought Mermaid as she waited patiently. Eventually, after what seemed an eternity, the clear blue sky sent her a final heavenly vision. There before her, in clear cloud formation, was the distinctive shape of her beloved dog, leaping jubilantly towards the heavens. The Freddie cloud dog was jumping up into the heavens and away from terra firma.

Oh, great, thought Mermaid. But at least she had her answer.

The wise old soul, that was Freddie, did not deserve any more indignity imposed upon him. Freddie departed this earth, aided and abetted by The Mermaid; and he took a big part of her soul with him.

Harley knew it was his job to cheer The Mermaid up, but at times he found it an uphill task.

She can get awfully maudlin, he observed. But he certainly did his best. Mermaid found his company reassuring and comforting. Besides, she did not really care what people thought. Her dogs were not a substitute for some finer feeling. They were at this point the finer feeling.

Mermaid knew only too well that the, "something else," that occupied her heart was another matter; nothing to do with her four-legged friends. She knew the difference between human passion and dog licks. She was not stupid. But to be honest, she sometimes found the later more straightforward.

At least dog love was uncomplicated and unconditional.

Mermaid was quite good at lying to herself too. Of course, the "something else," was a completely different matter, that now needed some urgent attention.

My she does take herself awfully seriously at times, thought Harley in his simple doggy fashion. When he was on the beach Harley was much more concerned with what lay around the next band, than what lay in his mistress’ heart. Mermaid understood her mad, funny dog, and knew he had better things to be thinking about, like where the next meal was coming from; and was it going to be fresh meat, or those awful tins of chum from the newsagent?

Until recently Mermaid had been full of magic and optimism. She could make things happen, and attract everything she needed. But increasingly her burden had become heavy. She had a definite cross to bear, and a karmic situation to work out. From the outside looking in, she was doing just fine. The world at large would have perceived someone making waves, as opposed to drowning in them.

One day, Mermaid conceded. She had covered every possible angle. She had given the Great Wizard every chance to come clean and sort things out. Despite her aching heart, she would have to get on with what she was meant to do. Needs must. Times had changed, and practical realities were pressing in on Mermaid, and threatening to take her out. Besides, there was a story to be told, and a stream of events to live out.

Mermaid had stared the exit door squarely in the face. She was a fighter, and she wanted to survive. She refused to be a victim, and had looked at the many possible ways through her current circumstances. Some looked promising for a while. But ultimately everything turned into a temporary measure, and only worked for so long.

Mermaid kept listening to her inner guidance; and the recurrent message, was that she had to put pen to paper and tell her story. Mermaid had lost count of the many excuses she had thrown into the ethers. She had even explained the situation to the Great Wizard, and had asked for some

assistance. But to no avail. He was a master at burying his head in the sand, clearly. He expressed genuine concern. But his hands were tied. Mermaid had been sorely bruised by his inability to act. But she knew he at least cared. She realized he had interests to protect, and it was more than easy to forgive the situation. Besides, she knew that from his point of view there was an inner need to deny that anything had happened at all. So never mind the Great Wizard’s agenda. He was a big boy after all. Mermaid now had her own obligations to fulfill. Was selling her soul one of them? It appeared so. In order to return to her beloved home beneath the waves, Mermaid had to settle up and clear the decks. She did not wish to leave under a cloud, and she could not justify any other obvious routes of exposure. Her connection with the Great Wizard had been sacred to her. A great love in fact, and it pained her now to even mention it to anyone else, let alone write about it. She apparently had no option, no choice, and no other way to go. The Universe had served up a FATE accompli moment.

Mermaid could not go quietly. Mermaid reasoned that an honest account would surely do no harm. But deep in her bones, she knew it could be different. At the same time though, she knew that it was too late to retrieve the heartfelt track she had been on. So what did she have to lose? She had already lost him. Mermaid's story could have played out before your eyes in reality, and not in a book. But as with all good fairy tales, the make-believe aspect carries the story to its bitter end. Whether it is happy or not depends on the way you read it. Perhaps Mermaid’s love for the Wizard was simply not meant to be in this life time at all. It certainly did not look good from the outset; and several years down the road, it looked even more complex. It did not feel completely unrequited. But it might as well have been, for all the issues it caused.

It never ceased to amaze Mermaid, the interest the Wizard inspired in people. She appreciated of course that he was compelling, and greatly loved by just about everybody. Mermaid started to feel, or was made to feel that she had no right to have these feelings. A lengthy struggle of pain and denial had begun, which was pretty isolating. She realized if she talked about it, people would think of her as delusional. The Great Wizard was unattainable, elevated on a pedestal by many. Disliked and misunderstood too, but that was not her problem.

Appearances can be deceiving. The reality of the situation with the Great Wizard was oddly different. Many would assume one thing; the truth was something else. She did not even dare try to verbalize it.

Sometimes in a bid to detach, Mermaid pushed the Great Wizard away. Indeed, on occasion she played things so cool she could have re-frosted the Arctic Circle in a second. Her denial of what she felt to support the common good, now pained her immensely. She was haunted by regret. In many ways Mermaid had been taken in and led on by her own optimism and deep feelings. The White Witch down south, had assured her she would indeed be with the Great Wizard at the preordained time. She had felt bad even asking about this. But the conviction of the witch was so strong, that she was either right, or feeding a delusion. Her other prophesies had proven uncanny and accurate, so it really did look like she was onto something.

The words of the White Witch of Wicklow brought comfort intermittently. But the reality was, things with the Wizard were not progressing. She knew she was partly at fault. The situation had been magnetic, and had had a life of its own. Indeed, it had consumed her for the best part of ten years. Ever since she first met the Great Wizard, she had felt a connection, and a longing, that really was from another time and place. It was difficult now realizing that her energies had possibly been expended on a complete fantasy. Of course, it would all be so easily dismissed by all and sundry, not least the Wizard himself.

Mermaid did not want to risk bearing her soul. It was not really her style. Never happy with being an open book, Mermaid liked her privacy, and her secrets. There was no denying that her emotions had got the better of her. As things now stood, she had no choice but to stare the current state of affairs in the face, and speak her truth. Despite the karmic interference, henchmen, and diversions that surrounded her wished for Soul Mate, she had to soldier on regardless. The Great Wizard had the Midas touch, and his own protection anyhow. So she was not too uncomfortable about how he might react. Actually she had a weird feeling that he would not mind at all. That in fact he wanted an out, or escape route from his current state of affairs. He certainly seemed to be sailing close to the wind at times. The Great Wizard had always been publicly demonstrative, and his affections had been on display and witnessed by a select few. Those people at least would know this was not all in Mermaid's head. But lately, the Great Wizard had been linked with someone younger and apparently more alluring. A friend of Mermaid's named the competition "Twiglet," for the sake of injecting a bit of humor into the proceedings.

Twiglet, really was stick thin, and looked like she might snap at any minute, so it was an appropriate tag. She was darkly gorgeous and childlike, very exotic and Irish, if that were a possible combination. Pictured with the Great Wizard, she always looked so smug, and annoyingly comfortable. Mermaid felt sickened to the core.

Mermaid was assured by the White Witch, that there was nothing significant between them. But she did not believe it. She could sense his distraction, and he was quite quick to disconnect and lose interest. This betrayal of her deepest feelings was difficult to stomach. In fact one night Mermaid was physically sick walking behind the Great Wizard, who was walking on ahead, arm in arm with Twiglet. She literally could not handle it. It used to be her he paid attention to.

The whole thing was becoming increasingly bizarre. Twiglet’s resemblance to the Great Wizard’s wife was uncanny. Was she a replacement for something he was not finding on the home front? To give his wife her dues, she never wavered, and was even photographed in sisterly pose with said Twiglet. The rumors were discounted, and the Great Wizard and his wife did a great job at dispelling any gossip. Perhaps the White Witch was correct after all.

All was well on the home front, and the Great Wizard had much support and solidarity. Indeed, the determined, gracious woman married to him, managed for a time to turn things around in her favor. This woman was very adept at guarding her own interests.

Of course, thought Mermaid,

it’s her prerogative. But one day when Mermaid got a note from her, designed to wrap her on the knuckles, she felt dumbfounded.

Charming. And totally unnecessary. She thought, but at least she now knew, that the Great Wizard really did have some kind of emotional pull towards her. This made her feel a bit better, oddly. Perhaps the Wizard's wife was calling Mermaid out on her connection imagined, or otherwise, with her husband.

Twiglet was also sidelined by the Wizard, and had to move on. Supposedly she fell in love elsewhere. But Mermaid never bought it. She knew only too well the powerful feelings the Great Wizard could stir in a woman. He was clever, but he had not been smart. All the same Mermaid was happy to see him, apparently happy.

This is how it should be.

Words could not describe her upset, when she still continued to pick up the vibes and rumors-on-corners of the Great Wizard’s dalliances with Twiglet. Mermaid knew these things she was overhearing, and witnessing were legitimate. She was so connected to him that she could sense and feel his emotional direction. She could read him like a book. Still she tried to reason that the Great Wizard had his reasons, and that he knew what he was doing. She gave him the benefit of the doubt. Yet his lack of concern for her having been so caring in the past was eating her up inside.

At least now, Mermaid knew he had a pattern. And that she had possibly played into his hands as no more than a background distraction. This pained her greatly, since her best years as a mortal had seen her consumed by a love, loyalty and devotion to a Wizard admittedly powerful and well renowned.

But so what?

Mermaid had always known that she would have loved him, whatever his status. He had made her feel special, wanted, and loved in a land that had taken some adjusting to. So Mermaid ruminated, wondered, and pondered, for what must have seemed like an eternity to those waiting for her script.

What to do?

Well, there must have been some reason this whole thing happened in the first place. So, not wanting to spill the beans out of maliciousness, Mermaid proceeded to put pen to paper, in the hope that some good would come of it all. That there would be light at the end of the tunnel, and that her fishy tale might even help others, rather than instill suspicion, judgment, or pity.

She artfully drew a line in the sand...

where thoughts go, energy flows. Make sure you focus on the

rainbows and not the rain.

Always look for the blessing!

chapter one

Chasing Rainbows

My dear old Nan Mary once advised me to "not spend my life chasing rainbows." Her handwritten note was lovingly penned as I embarked on my university career north of the border. Did I listen? No, probably not. But I am assured that from her perspective in eternity, she would not now give me the same advice. Standing beside the Bannockburn monument at Stirling Castle gazing across at the University, Nan and I contemplated the scene which was to encapsulate my rite of passage, from introspective contemplative teenager, to independence, maturity and adulthood. Well, in theory.  

As we pondered the valley, which had seen many a skirmish and bloody debacle in the bid for Scottish freedom and pre-eminence, a magnificent rainbow illuminated the landscape. From the rugged peak of Dymyat, western extremity of the Ochil Hills, the vibrant rainbow emanated encapsulating the most vivid colors I had ever seen. The rainbow encompassed the campus below and highlighted my new student accommodations in particular. There was something magical about its timing. So it gave me the courage to face the bleak reality confronting me, as well as confirming the promise of intriguing adventures to come. I definitely did not want to be so far away from home. But the fates had decreed that my exam results, combined with the prospect of a largely coursework assessed degree, would see me settling into room 333 of Murray Hall for the foreseeable future.   

We had always loved Scotland as a family. Weather-beaten holidays with elemental walks down gullies, over ravines and sometimes nearly off cliffs, had long been a feature of my childhood.  Isolated terrain was a life-long compulsion of my father's. He liked to push the boat out, and set survival challenges like existing on porridge for two weeks on remote Hebridean islands, with geese, gulls and canvas for company. Admittedly this recklessness was pre wife and babies, but something of the maverick rock climber remained with him. I remember my mother Joy having a serious meltdown moment looking up at my father and young brother scrambling on the rocks hundreds of feet above, without ropes.  

Another time, we were all in situ in a typically elemental spot beside Loch Torridon, where my parents had honeymooned. I had a middle-ear infection and mounting temperature, our tent was about to be blown off its pegs, and my father had decided to scale the heights of nearby Beinn Alligin in the fog. Well, to be fair, it had been a fine summer's day when he set off. By six o' clock in the evening, there was a freak storm raging; winds threatening to blow him off the mountain, and rain turning to sleet. My father's blood sugar levels were doubtless low, regardless of Kendal mint cake, and my mother was getting increasingly frantic. The mountain rescue were called out. These were difficult conditions for an experienced mountaineer, let alone a diabetic one.

Thankfully, they did not have far to go. The local farmers who had been sent out to find the intrepid Rog, met him sauntering back along the path, looking mighty relieved. By this time, his family had abandoned ship, and were sleeping and/or eating eggs in the nearby farm house. As our father recounted his tale, we started to pay a bit more attention. We learned that he had nearly walked off a precipice after taking a wrong compass reading. He had sheltered just below the summit and clambered down the cliff-face for a view of how to proceed.  But the cloud was down to sea-level so he had to clamber back up the streaming cliff face.  The compass was possibly waylaid by magnetic rock, yet he had to trust it to find the only safe way of the mountain, a narrow col between steep cliffs. An inner prompting, an earnest prayer and a pause for breath caused him to double check his bearings. Thank God he did. His previous course, arrived at by reading the small inadequate compass, would have sent him hurling to his death within minutes in the depths below. One wrong footing and he would have tumbled into oblivion.

My father's route off the mountain was thankfully not that dramatic. He had to get creative though, as he had lost contact with the correct ridge path. Also, he was up against the magnetic rocks of the area, which can play havoc with a delicate mountaineer's compass, let alone a basic one. Natural intelligence kicked in, and a strong survival instinct. With the help of a map and the dubious compass, he found a steep gully. Scrambling quickly downwards as the gradient was steep, and the ground slippery and treacherous, he finally stumbled upon a more trodden route home.

By God's grace my father was returned to us in one piece. This brush with mortality was sobering and affected everyone deeply. Obviously my father had used yet another of his nine lives. But the episode also showed us that we do not shake off this mortal coil, until it is our ordained time to do so. My father clearly had a lot more to do in this lifetime. It was also clear that, more haste less speed and a charmed prayer in precipitous situations pays off.

Clearly a love for the wilderness was inherent in the genes. My father Roger's first recourse on holidays was to head for the hills dragging us all, in various states of willingness, behind him. I certainly did not go reluctantly. My eternally patient mother struggled somewhat, home making in the series of damp, ancient and isolated cottages that came our way. She always did say, that the best part of a holiday was getting home. But us kids loved the adventures, and the rugged nooks and crannies of obscure parts of Scotland and Wales. 

    Holidays were a thing of fun and excitement. We all rather enjoyed trying to work out what off-beaten track our parents would lead us down next. Rog-Route roads to remote accommodation at the end of eight-mile-long cul-de-sacs, were the norm. Walks in the freezing wind and rain, wearing florescent cagoules were the norm. Freeze-dried camping meals, to spare our mother the tedium of vegetable chopping were the norm. The love of isolation, in the midst of a loving family unit, was the intrinsic paradox of our communal life. Sarah, Simon, and Rachel, were the biblically named siblings who mucked in, with moss gliding, ice cold stream dipping, sheep chasing, building dams and sketching.  

I apparently was so intrepid from an early age, that I had a temper tantrum, aged three and three quarters, insisting I be allowed to skinny dip in the arctic temperatures of Loch Sunart, on the South side of the Ardnamurchan peninsula. I did not let up until I was allowed to do this. I think eventually my parents conceded that turning blue and catching hypothermia would be a final comment on the matter, and a lesson learned. Not sure that worked. It was nearly as productive as telling me not to chase rainbows. I was probably feeling the pull towards Ireland already. But it was a long swim, and that impulse was premature, and not yet cooked.

On the same holiday, as we arrived in Scotland after an interminable drive north, our VW Camper Van came across the ruined Castle Tioram around six pm. So exhausted was I by the journey, that I was insistent there must be a room for the night ready and waiting.  I must have been overly tired, lost in a haze between times, or sensing a familiarity that felt like home amongst the ruins. But my senses were so primed and alert to the mystery of the place, that I was sure I had a room there, and would not take "no" for an answer.   

This young intuitive was clearly picking up impressions from the etheric energies, atmosphere of the castle, and its environs. It was a potent, otherworldly, out of time experience I can vividly recall, and feel even to this day. Magical as my parents are, there was not much they could do to rustle up a bustling hotel reception in the dank, dark ruins of an ancient castle sitting on Loch Moidart's tidally compromised island. Indeed, it was imperative we got out of there as soon as possible, or a night on the island really was going to be a reality. 

Clearly from a young age I was full of the intention and belief that nothing was impossible, even despite any real evidence to the contrary. I was a feisty, determined, if not stubborn creature, who knew what she wanted in any given moment, and was going to do her damnedest to make it happen. Perhaps I was entitled, and carried the energy of a princess who demanded that the world bent to her whims. I had the biblical name of Sarah after all. Bono, the lead singer of rock band U2, had waxed lyrical on the meaning and context of the name Sarah when I first met him, so who was I to argue?    

There was inevitably drama as a toddler. At the age of two in a Romford shopping center I required a frog instead of a doll: "immediately!" Several stores later, antagonizing increasingly frazzled grandparents, clearly this Essex born aspiring witch, was not going to get her frog any time soon. I had to settle a negotiation with my Nan, which involved making a cloth doll called a "gonk," from the Family Album Craft Book, as soon as we got home. Being allowed to play with Nan's slippery, delightfully scented Camay soap in the bath before bed time, was also a suitable compensatory gesture.    

The frog incident probably rooted the seeds of the historic "chasing rainbows" comment, conjured up by my ever-patient Nan. Equally, I am sure there were many such instances which gave my guardians clues, that I was someone out of the norm, who was going to at least try to defy the odds at any given opportunity.

Doing things my way was an intrinsic part of my spirit from a young age. My soul was defiant that rules were meant to be bent if not broken; especially if they did not serve a true, authentic purpose.

I was obedient and helpful, but I did not like to be dictated to. Not much would put me off if my mind was set on something. I was a pioneer for universal law, and spirited intentions before I could even read or write. At the age of six I packed my little red suitcase, with only my pink dressing gown inside, and stomped out of the house. I was not sure why the pink dressing gown was so crucial, as opposed to warm clothes and camping equipment. But obviously it was a priority. I was leaving home. I had no idea where I was going; but leaving home, I was.

My mother panicked when she realized I was completely serious. I calmly stated: "I have two problems in my life, Mrs. Rees the headmistress, and YOU! Anyway, The Bible tells me to obey God not you." My mother's response was a stroke of genius. She quickly called on the faith she knew I had, and said, "God also says 'honor your parents for a long and blessed life'."

"Oh! Hmmm, yes. You're right. Okay then!" And I trundled back into the house. If I had been equally smart, I would have said, "But God does not say 'obey,' he says 'honor.'" Then again, that might have seen me homeless at a very young age, and there was time enough for all that. Annoyingly my mother had out played me this time. This was not by any means our last contretemps. But I generally was more compliant after that. At least it meant I finally left home at a more reasonable age.

My father quoted this incident in his book, Understanding Adolescence.  I was six, not a teen, when this happened. But I always was advanced for my age, and I think the episode adequately made his point. I have no doubt I was a bit of a handful, for my mother especially. For some reason, she felt she could never teach me anything. I assured her that this was not the case. She was a wonderful homemaker, provider, and an exceptionally good cook. There really was no logical reason to doubt herself. I do think most of her inadequacy as a parent, was a deeper self-esteem issue, which stemmed from the loss of her father in the war.

At the tender age of three my mother lost her father in The Battle of Crete. Grandpa Harding was stationed on HMS Warspite, when the German raiders bombed the living daylights out of the fleet. Many lost their lives that day, and my grandfather, who was Master Boatswain, died in a direct hit on his gun turret, while manning the guns in defense.

Granny understandably shut down when news of her husband's passing reached home. Being personally acknowledged by His Majesty, King George VI would have normally gone down well. But in the current circumstances, the news was bitter rather than sweet.

The dreaded telegram was delivered from the war office by the Shamley Green post office lady:

"Is it bad news?"

"Yes! The very worst."

This formal message of condolence from The King was a mixed blessing. Granny's reaction to the vicar who then visited to console her was, "and how will being proud help me to provide for my three children?"

Granny, a practical Virgo, was left with the responsibility of providing the best possible outcomes for her children on a shoe string. She had the help and support of near and dear friends. Aunty Frances, the lady whose piano was bequeathed to the household, was an ever- steady presence. Uncle Pete visited frequently with his serious moustache, and even more serious pipe smoking. To this day, Uncle Pete's chair in the dining room, has the aura he imprinted upon it, and the wonderful smell of the rich flavored tobacco he smoked. Pete lived to the ripe old age of ninety something, so no harm done. No filter.

Manelhe, the Harding family home, is stuck in a time warp, a shrine to these times. The old navy sword, proudly worn by my Grandfather stands in pride of place. The antique brass, photographs, china, and fire place are static, and unmoved, except for polishing, dusting and sweeping purposes.

The old Grandfather clock I used to listen to as a child, still pervades the house every fifteen minutes with its magically graded succession of chimes. I would lie awake for long summer nights, listening to the cadences pace the house through the witching hours. If Gran's specialty roast lamb was on the menu for the next day, the night was particularly slow. Her silverware was always laid out correctly, with the prerequisite white napkins; and there was a little button bell to announce the fayre, be it breakfast, dinner, or high tea.

Manelhe had a lot of magic to offer a young child. The coal tar soap in the bathroom and its compelling scent, was not quite so infatuating when being used to try to scrub off my birth mark in the bath tub. Gran mistook this mark with the numbers 4, 11, and 26 at the top of my inside right thigh as mud. It took some persuading her, that it was not.

The Chinese pickup sticks kept at the top of the stairs in an antique china vase were fascinating, and it was a great treat when those were brought downstairs. We played snap, pickup sticks and a card game "Happy Families," which involved getting all the animal suits of one family as quickly as possible. I always aimed for the rabbits.

One summer I was unwell with a fever, and I remember Granny nursing me with her unique perfume 4,7,11. I hated the smell of it; still do, even though it is now obviously evocative. She dowsed me in it, believing it would bring my fever down. My pores were so clogged with this stuff, the virus was no doubt prolonged on a loop in my system. A twelve-year old is liable to shake off most things. But, I was probably lucky to get through that in one piece.

The apple trees in the garden were charming, the sweet peas in the allotment and the peas in their pods, all captivated a child's imagination. But best of all was the croquet on the lawn. Manelhe had a war time pantry, with a very distinctive smell. My Granny filled it with preserves, pickles, eggs, homegrown vegetables from the garden, and homemade purees from the windfall apples. It had a natural chill, and kept bread and milk fresh for days.

The kitchen remains the same as it was during the times of air raids and rations. The big old roasting range, the white cupboards housing all the specialist crockery. The old yellowing boiler above the sink for hot water. The green back door with glass windows leading out to the clothes hanging area, and across to the apple trees, and allotment; then on down and down the long, long path to the tucked away air raid shelter right at the foot of the garden. All still the same.

Michael, my godfather, and my mother's older brother keeps the memories alive. There is still a place set for Granny at the table, something which I find endearing and charming, but which bothers my mother and their younger brother Chris. To quote Michael, "no death goes down well. " He grieves in his unique way, and there is no magic recipe for dealing with such loss.

Michael remains a loyal and staunch defender of his mother; mindful of all she had to cope with. Michael is the retired Deputy Head, who will wear the same jumper for days, and keeps the old square box television sitting behind the flat screen, just in case. He will not throw things away or tamper with the layout of rooms. Michael was required to step up as the man of the house and protect his mother at the tender age of seven, when his father passed away. Very little has changed in the interim. Pretty much everything is just as my Granny left it. This is her space, and he honors that, and so preserves her name.

My mother is a staunch Royalist. This probably relates directly to the fact that her father died for King and Country. There is a definite pride that must be honored, despite the futility of Grandpa Harding's death. Us kids have been unashamedly irreverent about my mother's penchant for all things Royal. God Save The Queen! But underneath it all, we do understand. The establishment was inextricably linked with her father, and she has every right to be deeply proud.

When the bombshell of the passing landed, the drama of the shockwave tremor from a falling missile that had cracked the front porch doorstep, paled into insignificance. That air raid had brought the war close to home, but nothing could dissipate the sinister news that then entered and pervaded the house.

Joy was left coping with all sorts of issues, such as invasion of privacy, and having to be sure to "always do the right thing." She was provided for practically, and materially, but warmth of heart was somewhat missing. Gran had clearly died a little inside with the news of her husband's passing. Now, nothing was ever quite good enough, and there was a permanent underlying stress at home. With her brothers Michael and Chris away at boarding school much of the time, Joy was left to fend for herself. This must have been very isolating and painful for her. But she weathered it, and as time marched on, she got some light relief hanging out with Hilton, cycling the leafy lanes of Surrey, and watching the cricket on the quintessential Green of Shamley.

Once the war was over, Hilton's father Leonard Thorpe increasingly became an important father figure for her, as she blossomed into a beautiful teenager. Joy felt a guidance and reassurance from this man, which brought her inner stability and calm. A timely comment when she was younger from an elderly missionary also enabled her to maintain her equilibrium.

The missionary pointed out the magic of her name J.O.Y. Jesus, Others, Yourself. The words of this woman of God resonated with her. She took the message to heart. "Yes, it is indeed such a great shame that your earthly father has passed away. But there is a heavenly father up above, who loves you very much indeed."

Joy, thus connected to a way of life, which she adhered to religiously, exhibiting faith, hope, love, and impressive practicality. There was also some light relief in the village in the form of Sir Richard Branson.

No, he most definitely was not the village idiot. Quite the contrary, as you might expect. Richard was a character. As a youth, he came to have a bit of a reputation as a loose cannon. Somewhat notorious in his ways, he blossomed into a creative, infamous local. If they could bottle opportunism, enthusiasm, and making things count, Richard would have been feted. The Shamley Green gossips were never quite sure if Richard was going to be a millionaire, or end up in jail. I have it on good authority that he still owes someone seven pence in the village, and that the local deer population was often a bit depleted come hunting season. Say no more.

Sir Richard, was quite the trophy child, with his baby blues peering out from under his pristine white bonnet. My mother as a young teen frequently saw him being pushed around The Green in his pram. He was accident prone even then. On one occasion he was hurled unceremoniously to the ground, landing straight onto his head.

I am not sure if this close shave is amongst the seventy-five near misses Branson recounts in his autobiography Finding My Virginity, but obviously there were no adverse effects. Living on the edge is Richard's modus operandi, so he was merely setting a precedent with the pram tumble. Things subsequently panned out wonderfully well for this maverick personality with the Midas touch.

Richard clearly stayed more or less on the right track, choosing the high road in business, and in the stewardship of this wealth, and talents. I saw something of his enlightened approach when I needed funding for my M.Phil in Publishing. I had exhausted my government grants for education, and was having to resort to more imaginative means for paying the fees for my masters.

Thinking outside the box, my mother reached out to Richard, and he sent me two first class return tickets to sell in the German restaurant where I worked as a chef. I have to give him credit, this was an elegant and imaginative fob off. Richard expected me to find some stranded Americans, and sell them a flight home in order to fund my education. The catch was they had to want to go one way to Miami or LA. I guess he was envisaging that two people were likely to have mislaid their return tickets home to different destinations. Unlikely.

In the end I thankfully got funding for the M Phil from a postgraduate scholarship fund, The British Academy, on my third attempt. My mother, as always expressing the "J.O.Y thing" to the max, returned the tickets to Richard.

Oh! I was wondering if I might have done a couple of trips!

Oh well.

As my mother's horizons expanded, she left Sweetwater Lane to train as a nurse at Saint Bartholomew's Hospital in London. There, she promptly met my father, as he was carrying a bottle of urine across The Square. Awkward? Apparently not. They chatted and fell in love pretty quickly; locking eyes, minds, and hearts at the famous fountain. My father gave mother a small wooden mouse, and their fates were sealed. Joy's brother Michael queried the modest gesture of the mouse; but my mother clearly found it charming and endearing. If only the course of true love were always that simple, and romantic.

Despite their backgrounds of considerable hardship, and on-going challenges, my parents forged a lasting bond, which has seen them through some very testing times. My Father has written about their journey in his own autobiography, As Trees Walking. Much of their married life has been a quest to monitor and maintain my father's health. Diabetic since the age of seventeen, my father confirmed his intention to train as a doctor, during his first hospitalization. He had to totally revamp his A level schedule, and ended up with seven A levels, in both arts and sciences, having aborted his original decision to be a land surveyor.

The bottle of urine he carried at his first meeting with my mother, proved to be symbolic indeed. The backdrop of the trickling waters of the fountain also added irony and pathos. Diabetics obviously have to check their urine frequently for glucose intolerance; so really it could not have been a more fitting "meet cute."

My mother, a patient, facilitating nurse, was just the right partner to practically maintain the status quo, through two episodes of blindness, quadruple by-pass surgery and endless in-growing eyelashes. "Joy Birds" and Roger are a testimony to lasting love; and nothing is quite as charming as my father's proposal. This overlooking the fact that my mother was second on his handmade list of prospective wives. My mother's maiden name was Harding, and my father's surname, Hurding. So the proposal was a bit of a no brainer really. Ma readily agreed to "change her 'A' for a 'U'."

My parents have been through a lot together, but never failed to provide my siblings and I with a wonderful, safe, loving, and nurturing environment in which to blossom. They were open minded, never overly strict or unreasonable; and endlessly patient with their three unusual children. We all have huge gratitude for the way we were raised. Considering all my parents were contending with financially and health-wise, we were rich indeed.

Obviously as role models, my parents were pretty much perfect in my eyes. My brother had issues of our father being a bit controlling in moments. But I have no memory or recall of this. I actually think it was Simon's own internal pressure to live up to an expectation. A projection rather than a demand. Simon was talented creatively and artistically, and could have taken a more left field route through life like myself. But he went for the hard graft, and trained as a doctor. Even despite being taught the wrong course in Chemistry, Simon persisted, and eventually got all the results he needed to go and qualify as a doctor via Sheffield University. That, plus an elective position for a few months, in the snake infested wards of a North Indian Hospital in the middle of monsoon season, and he made the grade.

My father did not insist that Simon follow in his footsteps. But Simon certainly did a good job of achieving perhaps much of what my father might have wished for, had his own health been better. With a general medical practice in The Highlands of Scotland, and membership of The Mountain Rescue team for Glenelg, Simon had created an amazing life. The Hurding family traditions of splendid isolation and hard graft were wonderfully upheld by my brother.

I know I personally wanted to get results and achieve good things in life, but I did not feel it was ever demanded of us. The key was, we were loved and understood. It made leaving home quite a traumatic event. Although I wanted to spread my wings and be independent, I really felt bereft of the background support my parents had provided. Of course it was still there in theory. But there was definitely a sense of being pushed out of the nest to fly.

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