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Inspired in Paris

Paris is always a place that inspires. I’ve only just returned from my 8th trip — this time with my sister. The strange thing about Paris is that as familiar as it feels, it somehow manages to always be new. Like most tourists returning home from a great holiday, I’m just bursting to show off my photos, so I’m going to share just a few of the shots of the places that inspired me most this time.

Paris in the snow is just another one of the ways that the city was new and breathtaking to me this time.

 

Notre Dame

 

Sacre Coeur

 

 

 

 

The Latin Quarter near the Cluny

 

 

 

The Louvre is always a place that inspires by bringing the myths I love to life in exquisite ways. Most of you know that The Initiation of Ms Holly was based on the story of Psyche and Eros, and to some degree so was The Pet Shop. And this sculpture of Psyche and Eros never stops inspiring me. It’s always one of the works I seek out in the Louvre.

 

 

 

 

Then there’s The Captive, which I don’t know why I don’t remember seeing last time I was at the Louvre, but it’s the sculpture I can’t get out of my head from this trip.

 

 

Somehow I always migrate to the Three Graces on every visit to the Louvre. No visit is complete without my inspiring ladies.

 

 

And for a few minutes, the Three Graces becomes the Four Graces.

 

 

Colour and light at Sainte Chapelle inspiring even in the bitter cold.

 

 

 

Who can resist a Phantom fix? I’ve been a fan of Phantom of the Opera long before I saw the stage production multiple times. Gaston Leroux’s book still terrifies and intrigues and moves me, so the Opera Garnier, which inspired the book couldn’t help but be one of the highlights of my trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paris on a winter night, an unforgettable first for me:

 

 

 

 

 

Parting shots always inspire the longing for the next visit:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A History in Laundry

(From the archives)

“We went through a lot of workout clothes this week,” I say. Raymond is making coffee and I’m folding clothes in front

of the drying rack that clutters our kitchen whenever we do laundry. Sometimes it clutters our kitchen all week long until I finally get around to folding the clean clothes and putting them away. However this week I don’t get to them until the weekend.

 

“We’ve had extra workouts this week,” he says as we both listen to the satisfying gurgle of the mocha maker sitting on the cooker.

 

“Both your gees are clean and ironed, all ready for Saturday.” I nod to the pristine karate uniforms hanging over the kitchen door. He teaches a karate class on Saturdays in Sutton and goes into London for a workout in the morning as well.

 

“Thanks.” He says, getting out the coffee cups. Raymond doesn’t iron, but he makes kick-ass coffee and a mean bowl of oatmeal. “Are you going in with me to walk?”

 

“I plan to.” I just happen to be folding the breathable Eddie Bauer shirt I wore last week when I took a long walk on the Downs, and I smile at the memory. I don’t smile at the memory of the ratty tank top I wear whenever I do the roots of my hair between visits to the hairdresser – always something I put off until I start getting skunk strip down the centre of my part. I fold it hastily and put it in the basket. Interesting that I take care in folding the clothes that I have fond memories of wearing recently, and not so much with the ones I don’t.

 

Raymond hands me the coffee just in time as I turn my attention to the frustrating task of folding his myriad black socks. The thing is, he has a gazillion pairs and they’re all look almost but not quite exactly a like. They’re just different enough to make matching them a real nightmare. Some have different coloured toes, some are ribbed differently and there are at least three kinds that are identical except for the ribbing on the cuffs which varies in width by millimeters. I hate folding men’s black socks. This morning he has mercy on me and takes the task off my hands so I can return to the pleasure of folding the history of our week told in laundry.

 

“You’ve got a rip there on the sleeve,” I say, holding up a blue shirt. “And the collar’s getting tatty. I think we should retire this one.”

 

He studies it for a moment and nods his agreement. “I caught it on the corner of the filing cabinet in the printer room. Something needs to be done about that.”

 

“You know, every week we can detail the past week’s history in our clean laundry,” I say. In our dirty laundry too, I think, but I’d rather not think about that so much reminded of the ripe load of workout clothes I put in with extra detergent on long cycle.

 

He gives me The Look – the one he always does when he thinks possibly meds might be requires. Then he nods to my coffee cup, because clearly I haven’t had enough caffeine yet this morning.

 

“No, seriously. Look” I pull a pair of his blue workout shorts off the rack. “Remember kettle bells last week?”

 

“That was a killer,” he says with a smile that says he likes kettle bells class best when it’s a killer.

 

“And look, those walking trousers — I wore those in to try on new boots at the North face shop, but they didn’t have my size. Then I got ‘em muddy on the walk to Newland’s corner the day after.

 

“And that long-sleeve t-shirt there,” I nodded to a faded red V-neck. “I wore that last Wednesday when the house was like a deep freeze and I was working on my blog. I wore that blue hoodie too and spilled tea on it in the process, and then I got toothpaste on it that evening when I brushed my teeth before bed.”

 

“I guess you’re right,” he says, looking around at our partially folded history lesson. “I never thought of it that way.

 

Neither had I, but there have to be a thousand stories in people’s laundry – dirty or clean. My laundry mostly tells the story of someone who writes and works from home, someone who walks a lot and works out a lot. Raymond’s tells the story of a man working in management, seeing clients, catching up on never-ending reports. They tell the story of a man who loves martial arts and loves being active. Sometimes there are travel stories, like the stain from some exotic sauce acquired while entertaining clients in a seafood restaurant in Alexandria. Sometimes there are anatomy stories, like the way his socks wear on the heels while mine wear out on the bottoms. We both threw away a couple pairs of socks after we’d finished the Coast to Coast walk a few years ago. I wear high socks when the weather’s cold and I’m sitting on my arse spending long hours in with my characters. I wear short light socks in the gym.

 

The point is that the stories of our lives and the fodder for the stories of lives I make up can unfold – or fold, in this case – in unexpected ways. Perhaps Raymond was actually using his martial arts skills to fight off spies who infiltrated the copy room to steal company secrets. Perhaps that’s how he ripped his shirt. Perhaps I woke up this morning and found myself folding the laundry of some stranger, none of it mine, none of it familiar. Perhaps the mud on my walking
trousers was actually from my night haunts of staking vampires in old churchyards.

 

Mind you, most of the time, the folding and putting away of laundry is cause for little more than a sigh of relief that it’s done for this week and I can take down the racks and unclutter the kitchen. But sometimes, even folding the laundry can be more than it actually appears to be, and at the end of the day, everything tells a story – even men’s mismatched black socks.

 

My Blissemas Celebration of the Dark

 

 

The season of Blissemas starts on the Ist Dec and will finish on the 17th. Every day of Blissemas a different erotic author will post up gems of delight in the guise of festive stories, excerpts, recipes, hints and tips, etc.

 

Leave a Comment on a Blissemas Blog and you will go into the Grand Prize draw to win yourself a Kindle 7 packed full of Smut! Come back each day for more chances to win.

 

 

 

Happy Blissemas everyone! Blissemas is my favourite blogging season. It’s always a delight to celebrate and anticipate with all my blogging and writing friends. Special thanks once again to Victoria and Kev Blisse for all they do to make Blissemas happen.

 

I’m a big fan of the dark. I love it a lot! What writer doesn’t love a character with a little darkness and conflict? Is there any better way to show the light in a character than by seeing it through his darkness?

 

The darkness is the realm of dreams and sleep. Bears hibernate, people bundle up and hunker down. I don’t know about you, but I’d happily go to bed at seven pm when it’s dark by four. And snuggling down under a nice thick duvet is one of the best things about the long winter nights. In the dark we reflect on what’s past. In the dark, we sleep and dream, and prepare for the return of the light.

 

The main reason I love the darkness is because it’s an exquisite showcase for the light. You can’t see light without darkness. And what that dark reveals is sometimes stunning. Ask anyone who has ever looked at the stars on a moonless night. Ask anyone who has ooohed and awed over the sparkling lights on their Christmas tree. Ask anyone who has huddled around a campfire telling ghost stories. It takes the dark to show off the light.

 

 

We humans know that deep in our bones. We’ve known that from the dawn of time. To me that’s what makes this season so special, so set apart from any other time of the year. It’s dark. It’s dark in the morning. It’s dark in the late afternoon. It feels like it’s been dark for-friggen-EVER! The days are short. And then it’s night and night and night …. Here in the UK, even when it’s day, it’s gloomy. But we know, we just KNOW like it’s some instinct inside us, that the light is coming back. Honestly, I’ve never felt the kind of anticipation I do this time of year. When I was a child, I anxiously looked forward to Santa Clause coming, but I don’t need Santa now. I don’t need gifts. Something even more amazing than Santa Clause and pressies and tinsel and trees is about to happen. The darkness has reached the tipping point. It’s as dark as it’s gonna get. And then … And then … Get ready for it. It’s time for the darkness to give it over and show off the return of the light.

 

Oh it’s not much at first. It isn’t even really noticeable. The Solstice comes and goes quietly and then like a coy seductive strip tease, the light is revealed, slowly, tantalizingly, flirtatiously. While we may not see it at first, we feel it in our gut, we feel it with a restless excited certainty that’s always there even if we can’t quite say how we know. And then, as the darkness gives up its best kept secret, that it’s the revealer of light, we look to new beginnings, new growth, new revelations that the light always brings. And we can’t help it really. We can’t help feeling like everything has been transformed and made new – axial tilt and chronobiololgy make room for a little raucous celebration and a whole lot of hope for what the light may bring.

 

Here’s to the light, my dear friends, and the velvety darkness that reveals it. Happy Holidays.

 

 

 

Be sure to check out the other fabulous Blissemas blog posts and comment for a chance to win the Kindle 7.

 

The Battle to Get “Fit Enough”

 

For those of you who have been following my pole posts as I prepare for a photo shoot, I’m very chuffed to announce that I just got bounced up to the big girls’ class … well the intermediate class actually, but it’s the big girls’ class to me. I’ve looked forward to this major milestone since my first session. I can now do my basic spins, I can climb, do basic stands and sits, manage some really cool looking poses and as of today … wait for it … I can do my invert! It’s not elegant yet, and it’s not without a lot of effort, but still, getting upside down is a major accomplishment. Happy dancing all around!

 

What being booted up to the intermediate class means is that the learning curve, which is already steep, just went off the chart again, and the hard work is just beginning. Like any other challenge, there are obstacles to overcome. With pole, once I was hooked — and that took me all of ten minutes of the free trial class, I began to realize that the real obstacle, as much as learning the techniques, is getting fit enough to perform them. Essentially that means getting strong enough. I started out fairly fit, but as my instructor,  Lauren McCormick, reminds me, everyone starts pole at the beginning, and being fit doesn’t necessarily make you fit for pole. I wasn’t … I’m still not … BUT I’m getting there.

 

I have two pole workouts a week – one with the group and one that’s a private lesson. I can’t afford to miss either if I’m going to get where I want to be. In addition to that, I have one brutal workout at the gym a week with Klaudia Cel. We train strength, stamina and endurance as well as coordination and balance. That workout is entirely geared toward pole. Right now with an occasional kettle bells class, that’s about all I can handle. I do my regular pole conditioning and stretching exercises at home as well as kettle bells and walking everywhere I possibly can. Am I a bit obsessive? Of course I am! But any of you who know me already knew that. Even so, I only have to be with the pole ten minutes before I realize just how unfit I still am. And no matter how impatient I am – which I am – it takes as long as it takes.

 

 

The lovely instructors at Polerocks have a fantastic way of helping us gage our improvements. It’s called The Board of Pain, which I experienced for the first time Tuesday. There a dozen and a half basic pole conditioning exercises written on said B of P with a space under each for our names and our times or rep counts. We record those as we complete each exercise. To complete the exercises on the board takes an entire class. We’re competing against only ourselves, but in three months time, we’ll do it all over again and see how much we’ve improved. The B of P is a way to chart our progress. Like any other discipline, the basics are the building blocks for everything else, and conditioning is a seriously basic build block essential for pole.

 

The other battle with conditioning for pole is the bruises. I’m getting fewer as I progress, but every time I learn something new, there’s a good chance I’ll do it wrong multiple times before I do it right. And, as I mentioned before, the pole is not the most forgiving dance partner. That being the case, there are only so many times I can practice a move with repeated bruising until I have to give it a rest and practice something else.

 

 

I know it all sounds a bit mad, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it, if I didn’t love the challenge of it. I push myself hard because I’m impatient, and I want to do really well. The truth is I adore the creative aspect of fitness. I completely understand why people get bored with the typical gym workout. It’s a bit like writing the same novel over and over and over again. My body craves creativity just as much as my mind does, and thinking through spins, combos, ways I can train core, ways I can gain conditioning and flexibility, is like thinking through the plot of a story.

 

This week’s challenge was the superman move at the top of the post,  which Lauren had me approach from an invert. Strangely enough though it was my first invert on my own, I was so focused on the superman, that the invert seemed secondary.

Slowly but surely. I’m learning the techniques, I’m getting stronger and more sure of what I’m doing. Progress, any progress makes me feel powerful, and I have to admit I like that feeling, bruises and all.

I’ll be back with another update in a week or two. If you’ve missed the first two installments, and want to read them, follow the links below.

A Pole, a Photographer and … Me?

Getting Upside Down

 

Getting Upside Down

 

 

As promised, today’s post is the second installment of Fit to Write and my challenge to prepare for a pole photo shoot in June 2018. (If you want to read the 1st installment, follow the link) For those of you who don’t know, I started a beginning pole dance class six months ago when Polerocks opened a studio just up the road from my gym – first lesson free. I wanted to give my workouts and my fitness routines another dimension. Well, that might have been how it all began, but it definitely evolved into something way more than that.

 

I just learned that I’ll be graduating to the intermediate class in January. I’m both pole-happy-dancing and biting my nails. I’ve been training for almost six months now. I can climb, I can do the sits and the stands, I can do the spins and combos we’ve learned – maybe not elegantly, but I can get through the techniques. At the end of the day, though, all the strength and conditioning, all the core training during those months, all the stretching and all the bruises have been leading to one major goal and that’s inversion – getting myself upside down without help from an instructor.

 

The thing about training pole is that unlike kettle bells, I can’t order one online and just stow it behind the sofa when I’m done with it for the day. My house is way too small to easily use one even if I did. That means my brain is constantly trying to think of ways I can practice techniques and core building and flexibility at home. That means every signpost, every light pole, every scaffolding pole I see, I speculate whether or not I could use it to practice when no one is looking. I can’t help wondering if a middle aged woman could get away with climbing the rugby goal posts in the middle of Stoke Park – when no one is using them of course. While I’ve not done that just yet, but there is a plan in the works for going over very early some morning …

 

Part of the reason I love pole so much is because it’s endlessly creative, even as I fumble about to figure how best to train when I’m not in class. Starting January 4th there’ll be pole classes two days a week rather than one. While I’m very excited, I’m now faced with the task of getting myself conditioned enough that two classes a week, plus my normal training, won’t kill me. That’s a post for another day. In the meantime, it’s all about getting upside down.

 

I had no idea just how complex the core is, and how much there is to training it just so I can pull myself into a v-sit position (a Teddy) and then into an inversion onto the pole. I’m close, but there’s one little sweet spot I haven’t quite trained enough, coaxed enough, strengthened enough to get my body over that one last hump. My goal, at the moment, is to be able to do that inversion from a Teddy on my own before the January extra classes start. Each night I sit in front of the telly doing v-sit leg lifts. At the gym, I practice leg raises from the dip machine, I do jackknife push-ups with the TRX suspension straps. I’ve even figured out how to use sheets of plastic or paper plates on the living room carpet to do sliders. And then there are the times when I’m just too tired to do anything at all, the times when my body reminds me that I ain’t twenty, and like it or not, my ass better get some patience or there’ll be hell to pay. In fact, I’m just getting over a nasty cold because I didn’t get me some patience when I needed it.

 

The shots in this post were taken last Friday. Having signed up for the June photo shoot, looking good upside down has become even more important, so most of the session with my pole trainer, Lauren McCormick, was about getting upside down. The screen shots are because I’m not quite brave enough yet to share the videos that happen in training, but this gives you an idea of what’s involved in getting upside down.

 

Oh! And did I mention skin? Yes, there’s a very good reason why pole dancers don’t wear a lot of clothes. It’s because skin grips and cloth slides. Gripping on the pole is essential, thus my exposed belly. It’s taken another level of courage for me to wear shorts, let alone expose the middle of me, but for the Gemini move, the extra grip along the side and hip makes all the difference.

 

 

I find it fascinating that all of our journeys, no matter what we’re doing or where we are, happen on so many more levels that we can easily see. I’ve never been more aware of it than I am now when my body’s journey mirrors, sometimes even predicts and leads the journey of my mind and of my creative self. There’s something about pushing, even when I’m scared sh*tless, that makes me aware there’s always so much more going on in all of us than we ever expect. We’re all capable of so much more than we think we are. That makes us all explorers of our own unknown if we’re brave enough to take that first step, even if we do it with knees knocking and heart racing. That gives me hope.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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