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Tuesday, 25 December 2018

HAPPY CHRISTMAS















HAPPY CHRISTMAS to everyone and wishing you a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Janey Bracken

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Merry's Christmas Angel - A Christmas Tale for 2018 by Janey Bracken















Meredith stood in the corner of the office, a glass of orange juice clutched in her hand as she watched her work colleagues laughing and joking and getting more and more tipsy. Yes, it was Christmas Eve and the office Christmas party that she dreaded each year; She just wanted to sneak out quietly and go home, but she knew that wouldn’t go down too well with the management who had laid on the food and drink for their staff.

Oh no! she thought as she saw Oliver Taylor, the office chauvinist and bore, heading her way, he carried a sprig of plastic mistletoe in his chubby sweaty hand.  Oliver had had quite a bit to drink and he staggered from side to side as he drew closer. Meredith moved quickly out of the corner, accidentally pushing Janine the office junior out of the way and making her spill her drink.  “I’m so sorry Jan!” Meredith said as she grabbed some serviettes off of the nearest table to mop up the white wine that had spilled down the front of Janine’s dress.  “What’s the matter with you Merry?” Janine asked, “Can’t you see where you’re going” she added crossly, mopping away at the wine.  “I really am sorry Jan, I’ll pay to get your dress cleaned” then she whispered to Jan “Oliver was making a bee line for me with his mistletoe and I panicked” Janine spotted Oliver and cringed “No worries” Janine whispered back giggling “I’d have panicked too” she said, now in good humour.  Oliver had turned away from the turmoil of Merry and Jan and the spilled wine and spotted a new victim on the other side of the office and he lurched off towards her, plastic mistletoe still firmly clutched in his hand. 

Meredith was 24 and single, she was attractive, but a little bit old fashioned and shy.  She dressed soberly, usually in smart tailored pants suits and she pinned her soft brown curly hair up into a French pleat. She wore her dark rimmed reading glasses all the time and she looked very efficient but you couldn’t say she stood out in a crowd.  Merry’s boss Josh Burns was a 30-year-old high flyer, he was extremely good looking and very confident, Josh was a broker for Willets & Walters, the Commercial Real Estate company where they worked.  As Josh’s PA, Merry kept everything going  smoothly for him, right down to running errands and she even organized his Christmas gift list for his work colleagues and his friends and family.  She’d been Josh’s PA for 4 years now and their relationship was purely formal, he’d never asked her about her home life and they’d never really chatted at all, except when Josh gave her work and his orders for the day.  Merry secretly adored him, it was the only reason she stayed in the job, but she knew he never really looked at her as anything other than a cog in the machine of his very orderly working life. 

Merry looked around the room at her work colleagues and bosses.  She spotted Josh over by the water cooler with his beautiful girlfriend Tara whom he had met at a Formula 1 motor sport weekend, she had been among the pretty model girls hired to welcome the VIP’s to the event.  Tara had long shiny blonde hair, blue eyes, cheekbones to die for, she also had a slender willowy body with those endless legs that Merry always dreamed of having when she want on a diet, but Merry and diets never worked out very well and she was stuck with her curvy size 12 figure.  Josh suddenly spotted Merry and beckoned her over. Merry made her way to Josh and Tara and she noticed that Josh looked a little bit drunk. “Ah Meredith” he said “Tara and I have a cab waiting, can you give us a hand to take our presents and other bits down to the lobby”  Merry stared at Josh for a few seconds before responding, she thought he had called her over to wish her a Happy Christmas and to thank her for her work, but as ever, Josh never even bothered to send her a Christmas card let alone thank her for doing a great job.  She followed Josh and Tara to his office where Merry gathered up some of the bags and presents to take downstairs.  She noticed that Tara just had her Gucci handbag and obviously thought that she didn’t have to help with the other items at all. 

It was snowing heavily and Merry hurriedly put the bags into the boot of the waiting taxi.  Josh and Tara came out into the street, but suddenly Josh turned to a young man who was huddled in the doorway of their office block, his few possessions next to him on the step.  “Who said you could sit here?” bellowed Josh. The rough sleeper looked up at Josh, he looked tired and very cold. Josh grabbed the blanket from around the man’s shoulders and threw it into the road.  The man got to his feet and Josh kicked the rest of his belongings off of the step.  Josh called to the security guard Jack who was inside the building and directed him to make sure that the homeless man didn’t come back. Merry was devastated, how could Josh be so cruel, she thought. Without so much as a goodbye to Merry, Josh and Tara got in the warm taxi and left her shivering on the pavement.  Merry went over to the homeless man and helped him to collect his things that Josh had scattered. “I’m so sorry” she said “I hope nothing has been damaged.”  The young man smiled at Merry and she was instantly drawn to his friendly face, he must have been in his twenties and Merry thought he looked very kind and gentle.  “Don’t worry Merry” he said “I’ve nothing of any value anyway and thank you for helping me to pick my stuff up.”  Merry wondered how he knew her name, but she guessed he must have heard Josh saying it.  “What’s your name?” Merry asked him. “I’m Mike” he replied.  Jack the security guard hovered nearby and Merry thanked him and told him that she would handle the situation now.  “Can you wait here a minute Mike?” she asked him “I have to go back to my office and get my coat and bag, but I’d like to have a chat with you if that’s ok” “Sure” Mike said as Merry dashed back into the building.  Josh and Tara’s taxi had already gone and once again Merry thought how horrible Josh had been.

Meredith took Mike to the local cafĂ© as she wanted to buy him a meal. She’d locked his meagre belongings in the boot of her car for safekeeping. Merry bought Mike a full English Breakfast and he kept thanking her, he said he’d been struggling on the streets since he lost his job as a clerk because the company had gone bankrupt. He had come down to London to find a job 5 years ago as there wasn’t much opportunity in the Yorkshire Dales where he had lived with his parents. He stayed in London thinking he could get another job, but found himself homeless when he couldn’t pay his rent, so getting a new job without a permanent address made things impossible.  Mike looked into Merry’s eyes and suddenly said “What do you want out of life Merry?” Meredith stared back into his deep blue eyes and said “To be honest Mike I don’t really know, I’ve got this job that pays well and I suppose I’ll just carry on with it until I meet someone and settle down” As she said it she knew it sounded a bit lame, but she’d never been ambitious and her initial shyness stopped her from pushing herself forward.  Mike smiled at her as she blushed. “I see you put up with a lot from your ungrateful boss Merry” he told her “How do you know that?” she replied.  “Just the few moments that I saw you with him and his lady-friend told me enough, I’m very sensitive to situations” he answered. Merry felt ashamed, she does let Josh bully her and she always made excuses for him. 

Mike finished his meal and Merry drank the last of her coffee. “Where are you going to stay Mike? it’s getting late”  The snow had settled on the roads and it still fell heavily as the temperature dropped to just above freezing.  Mike said that he may be able to still get into one of the hostels a couple of miles away. Meredith had never been one to take chances with people, but there was something about Mike that made her want to help him. “I have a nice comfy sofa Mike if you want to stay with me, just for tonight”  “You’ve done enough Merry” he said  “I would hate to inconvenience you” he added.  “Honestly Mike, you won’t be in the way, I live on my own and you are quite welcome to stay the night on my sofa, you can get yourself sorted in the morning with the hostel” Mike thanked her and they made their way over to the car park to Merry’s  Ford Fiesta.  Merry took it easy driving on the snowy roads and luckily, she only lived a few miles away from where she worked, so they soon arrived at her small rented terraced house.

Merry opened the boot of her car and told Mike to grab his stuff so he could bring it inside.  As Merry opened her front door to let them in she offered to wash Mike’s clothes for him as they would be dry for the morning if she used her tumble dryer. Mike sat in the lounge and Merry found him a large candlewick dressing gown to wear, whilst she sorted out loading the washing machine.  Merry’s parents had split up when her father left her mother for another woman and Merry never got on with her father’s new girlfriend, so she had little contact with him now.  Merry’s mother had been devastated when her father left and had never got over it, becoming deeply depressed. Within a year she had become ill and after a short time she had died of pneumonia. Merry had tried to help her poor mum, but she had simply lost the will to go on without the man she had built her life around.  So Merry had planned to treat Christmas day like any other day, just relaxing, staying indoors and watching the television.  She boiled the kettle and made two big mugs of tea for her and Mike.  Mike who was sitting comfortably by the electric fire, thanked her as she handed him his tea. 
 
Mike asked Merry about her life and how she had ended up living on her own so Merry told him her story and about her parents. It was nice having someone to talk to, she thought and just for a little while she had stopped thinking about Josh.  Mike looked at Merry and said “You know that you are wasting your time hoping your boss will fall for you don’t you Merry”  She looked shocked, it was as if he had been able to read her thoughts. She blushed and then laughed “Am I so transparent Mike?” she asked him. Mike smiled kindly at her “I could see the way you were looking at him Merry, that you have a thing about him, he’s not right for you, you know, he’s totally in love with himself and he’s too shallow for someone as nice as you.”  Merry sat there pondering, Mike assumed so much about Josh, but she knew deep down that he was right.  “So what will you do now Mike? It must be so hard living on the streets” she said “I’ll go to the hostel in the morning, as it’s Christmas Day, I’ll go and see if I can give the volunteers a hand as there will be lots of older and not so well people calling in for a hot meal.” Merry felt like she wanted to cry, she felt so ashamed.  Mike had nothing, yet he still wanted to help other people, she had everything she needed, but only thought about herself. “Mike” she said, “I’m not doing anything special tomorrow, do you think I could come along and help too?” Mike grinned at Merry and nodded “Yes of course, I think you may even enjoy spending Christmas in the hostel, everyone has a story to tell Merry and you may meet some really interesting people.”  With that they agreed to go together on Christmas morning and sat chatting until nearly midnight, when Merry headed for her bedroom and Mike made himself comfy on her sofa. 

Meredith wished Mike a very Happy Christmas when she got up the next morning and busied herself in the kitchen cooking them both eggs on toast for breakfast.  They headed over to the local hostel at 9.30am and asked the people there if they needed any volunteers for the Christmas holidays.  Janet who ran the hostel welcomed them with open arms and gave them a list of things to do. Merry and Mike arranged tables and chairs, helped with preparing the veg for the Christmas lunch and generally greeted people at the door as they turned up cold and hungry. Merry made them endless cups of tea and coffee to warm them up. She got chatting to lots of the homeless people and found that her heart was breaking, many had hit on hard times after losing their jobs, not being able to keep up their payments on their homes or getting divorced, some had been mentally ill and society had abandoned them. They took to this friendly lovely girl Merry and found that they could talk to her, she was interested in them and she really did want to help. 

Mike watched her from across the room as he served food to the line of people at the counter. He was right to have stepped in to help Merry, to give her the opportunity to start anew. He’d been concerned about the rut that she’d found herself in with her thoughtless boss Josh.  Josh would never give her the chance to move up the corporate ladder because he needed her to run his own job.   Merry’s talent was her warmth and her ability to get on with just about anyone she met, she just needed a little nudge……….

At the end of the day when the last of the dishes had been washed, Merry went over to find Mike to tell him what a great day she had had, probably her best Christmas Day ever, but he was nowhere to be found. Concerned she asked the other volunteers where Mike had gone.  No one seemed to have seen him leave and Merry felt upset that he never said goodbye.

An elderly homeless lady called Sally touched Merry on the arm and asked her if she could have a word with her.  Merry sat down with Sally to see what she wanted and Sally looked kindly at Merry as she told her that she was a medium and often spoke to people in the spirit world. Merry looked confused, but hadn’t wanted to say that she didn’t really believe in anything like that. “I’ve seen Mike before” Sally told Merry “Always round Christmas time at different hostels and because I’m a medium I can see a certain aura around him, he’s already passed over.”  Merry looked at Sally startled, but listened to what she had to say.  Sally told Meredith that after she had seen Mike a couple of times, she had been curious and made her own inquiries about him.  Apparently he had lived with his family who were very poor and he needed to get a job to support them so he had traveled to London to find work. His name was Michael Brewer and was born in 1894. Mike had managed to find a job, but the company closed down and then it was the start of the first world war. He had been living on the streets for a while, but then joined the Army to fight for his country. He was killed in action in 1915.  Sally smiled at Merry “You see, we all have Guardian Angels Merry” she told her “Just that sometimes they need to help you along a little and I do believe that Mike is looking after you.” Merry was stunned, she was always the one with common sense, the one who laughed at ghost stories and anything out of the ordinary, yet Sally seemed so sincere.    “Be proud that Mike contacted you Merry, he must have other people to watch over too, he’s a good spirit, he brings love and friendship to people who need him.”  Merry hugged Sally and thanked her, she realized that even if Sally’s vision of Mike wasn’t entirely true, that he really did make her decide that she had to change her life around.  Merry said goodbye to everyone and promised Janet that she would return the next day to help out again. 

Merry unlocked her front door and went straight into her lounge, she was exhausted, but she had had a wonderful day, a rewarding day and she felt really content.  As she sat in the chair by the fire, she spotted a tiny crystal angel ornament on the coffee table. It must have been left by Mike, as no one else had visited her over Christmas.  She picked the little angel up and she suddenly felt a warm glow spreading through her body, pure love, she looked at the little ornament in disbelief, she would treasure this tiny angel forever. 

Meredith was true to her word, she did indeed change, she went back to the hostel the next day and decided to stay on as a volunteer in her spare time.  After the Christmas holidays she went back to work and made an appointment with the Human Resources department to see what other jobs were available within the company, she had made up her mind to go for promotion, her new confidence made her realise that she shouldn’t be afraid of new horizons, she had so much to offer.  Out of politeness she told Josh that she was going for promotion and he was horrified. He told her that she would be sorry leaving her PA job because of the stress and worry that another job may bring her. He was angry, but he tried being nice to Merry to make her want to stay. Merry was having none of it, she no longer fawned over Josh, she saw how self-centered he was and how mean he had been to her.  She also had the image of Josh scattering Mike’s few possessions all over the pavement, which she would never forget.

Within three months and a few interviews later, Merry had been promoted to a Liaison Officer post where she would meet the clients and give them legal advice.  She worked hard, but also kept her promise to use her spare time at the hostel, which she loved doing. She’d also met hostel owner Janet’s nephew Peter and they’d instantly clicked with each other; Before long they were going out and Merry was enjoying a real social life that she’d never experienced before.  As for Josh, he’d employed his girlfriend Tara as his PA, but soon realized what a mistake he had made. Tara wasn’t interested in work at all and Josh was tearing his hair out, he wished he’d been nicer to Meredith, but he would never admit it and he blamed his now chaotic working life on Merry abandoning him.  

Merry carried her little crystal angel around with her wherever she went. She would hold the angel now and again and feel the tingling of the quartz crystals through her fingertips as she sent her love to Mike, her Guardian Angel.  “Thank you Mike” she would say to herself.  Mike had taught her that the simple act of helping people gave the greatest rewards. She saw others inspired too to give their time and compassion to their fellow human beings. Slowly, Little by little, from person to person, the new wave of consciousness and  love would spread across the whole of the planet to push away the greed and hatred that the few had created over the last few decades. Mike would still spin his magic each and every Christmas until his job was done…….

Janey Bracken
A Very Merry Christmas To Everyone And A Peaceful And Happy 2019.

Monday, 17 December 2018

The Designing Worlds 2018 Christmas Ball Was A Spectacular Event














We only have a week and a half until Christmas now! It’s all coming around so quickly that I’d forgotten about the Designing Worlds’ Christmas Ball until I received an invitation from Saffia, Elrik, Aisling and Wildstar to attend this grand event a few days ago.  The Ball is organized by Saffia Widdershins, the owner of the extremely popular Prim Perfect magazine for Homes and Gardens and Saffia is also the Producer and Presenter of the Designing Worlds Show which specializes in the latest designs and spotlights designers in the virtual world. The event is annually held at the amazing Garden of Dreams sim, a romantic and gorgeous place to visit where you can also purchase their designs, it’s well worth a visit. 

I wore my ivory gown from the Junbug fashion house and I knew that there would be some beautiful outfits to photograph whilst I was at the Ball.  I wasn’t disappointed, the elegant set of people really got into the spirit of things and it was a spectacular party. We were greeted at the door by Rae 'Skittle' Willow who gave everyone a very warm welcome.  The music was also awesome, the first artist, Toxie Darkmatter sang live and she was terrific with her mix of popular tunes including Christmas favourites, a real talent. Following Toxie was DJ Elrik Merlin whose choice of music I love, he weaves some hauntingly unusual tunes into some festive folk style music and the mix is a sheer delight.  the evening went quickly and it was getting late for me, but I had to stay to see the Raglan Shire Carolers who took the stage after DC Elrik. They were so cute! The tinies in their colourful Christmas costumes stood at the bottom of the massive Christmas tree in the centre of the dance floor and they stole the show as they belted out those Christmas tunes in their funny chipmunk style voices.  

After the Raglan Shire Carolers it was time for me to leave as it was approaching midnight, and just like Cinderella, I headed home after the Ball.  What a wonderful evening and a big thank you to Saffia and the others for inviting me along.

Janey Bracken







Toxie
Saffia
 












DJ Elrik
 



















Thursday, 13 December 2018

Beautiful Bento Horses At The Water Horse Sim















It’s funny how sometimes you listen to group chat in Second Life and discover something really nice. Someone was asking where they could get an SL horse to ride.  Well I haven’t bought a virtual horse for years and I still love the ones I have, which I get out from my inventory from time to time to gallop over some of the open sims; Even though they are only pixels on a screen you can imagine how great it would feel to be riding along in real life. Something a Londoner like me had never done, but I’d always liked horses from when I was a child, I guess most kids do.  One of the ladies replied in the  group chat, she told us about a store called Water Horse and said that they did bento horses there. Well that made me even more interested, copying the link she kindly gave us I headed over to the SL Water Horse sim.

I hadn’t intended to purchase a horse, but like most fairly impulsive people, once I’d seen the horses I wanted one.  I tried the demo first and took it around their very pretty sim which I really enjoyed. The horse’s movements are really natural looking, he gently moves his head and he even turns around to nuzzle your foot as you sit in the stylish saddle.  I don’t know about you, but I usually have difficulties choosing what colour outfits to buy in SL, as I often like a few different colours and it was the same with the horses in the past, I liked both black and white horses and some of the others too. But this is the great thing about Water Horse, they give you a hud  so you can change him/her to whatever you want, even swapping the style and colour of the tail and mane as well as the eye colouring.  You can also change the blanket under the saddle and other bits.
  
There’s also an AO package you can buy that allows you to double up and ride with someone else, which I thought was a lovely idea, so I bought that too; It was great fun trying it out.   It’s well worth joining the Water Horse group before you make any purchase as you get a discount.  I bought a Quarter horse and then got a Warmblood horse too for half the price as I’d already purchased the Quarter horse. The full price of the Quarter horse and Warmblood horse is LS3,889, but with the discount of joining the group it’s LS3,50l. There are some lovely draft horses there too for those role playing Knights in Armor themes etc. There’s a choice between a Belgium or a Clydesdale draft horse, the full price being LS3999 and it's reduced to LS 3,600 if you join the group. So make sure you join the group first before you pay. 

Water Horse also sell horse avatars which look amazing, I haven’t tried one of those yet, but it’s something to think about later on, as it would be great fun.  Whilst I was at Water Horse I met Tabbicatt Tigerfish who has a store in the sim.  Tabbicatt was driving a splendid carriage drawn by a lovely horse with antlers attached for Christmas, which I thought was a brilliant idea.  Tabbicatt makes these wonderful carriages and she showed me a fantastic Dr Who style carriage, complete with a Tardis on board. Go visit Tabbi’s store while you are in the Water Horse sim and take a look.

I may never have ridden a horse in real life, but I did have a treat this week, I took my first ride on a Segway personal transporter, one of those two wheeled futuristic carts that you can whizz about on.  We aren't allowed to use them on the pavements or even on the roads in the UK, but you can use them across the fields providing the farmer give you access to his or her land and it was a brilliant day.  You can't really tip it up as the Sedgway has sensors under your feet that level out the balance and you literally just lean in the direction you want to go, it was fantastic though rather muddy. I'll be having another go in the spring once the dryer weather comes.  

Janey Bracken







Tabbi's Tardis Carriage