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Book Extract: She Fights Back by Joanna Ziobronowicz

As children, we are often told stories about good prevailing over evil, and about that elusive “happily ever after”. As little girls, we may be taught that if we’re obedient, we will be rewarded for our goodness. When we grow up, some of us realize that always conforming and always being kind can threaten our boundaries, shatter our sense of self-worth, and at times, expose us to trauma.

I wouldn’t be writing this book if I myself hadn’t fallen victim to detrimental cultural conditioning, psychological trauma and physical attacks that I had to overcome. It took many years and many uncomfortable life lessons to cultivate a strong sense of self-belief, as well as to acquire the valuable physical skills needed to protect myself, but these experiences were necessary in helping me understand what women need to do to keep themselves safe.

After years of working in the security sector, I’ve learned that in addition to relying on my martial arts skillset, it is also crucial to stay alert and keep a watchful eye over people and surroundings.

When I was working in security, threats could come from anyone and anywhere, often when I least expected them. All it took was one moment of inattention to be caught off-guard. However, over time, I found common patterns and warning signs that allowed me to spot and assess threats early on, leading to more efficient responses.

By watching my work colleagues handling conflicts, and also by getting involved in various physical interventions myself, I came to realize that some of the most critical aspects of self-defence are having confidence in your own abilities, and having conviction in your actions. I noticed that these qualities were primary drivers for performance, and for finding solutions when faced with highly triggering situations. Today, I know that I could teach you how to impeccably execute the most effective self-defence moves, but without the ability to assert yourself and without self-belief in your capabilities, they won’t be enough. 

I observed similar psychological aspects of performance during my sports career, both as a coach and as an active competitor in various martial arts. With over 23 years of training experience, I have seen that high performance is fuelled by incredibly strong self-belief, unwavering conviction, and a razor-sharp mindset. I’ve studied alongside world-class athletes, have competed at the highest level, and time and time again I’ve demonstrated, both to myself and those that I coached, that everything begins in the mind. I’ve seen exceptionally talented athletes freeze before tournaments, mentally giving up before even setting foot into the competition arena. I’ve learnt that a champion is made not just through appropriate physical preparation, but also through a strong mental drive toward their actions and achievements.

With this in mind, we should explore both the physical and psychological aspects of self-defence. If you want to win your battles, it’s time to acknowledge and build upon the confidence that will enable you to assert your rights, stand up for yourself, and stay physically prepared.

 

She Fights Back by Joanna Ziobronowicz is publishing July 9th 2024 and is available to pre-order now.

Haunted Lighthouses of Britain by Roger O’Reilly

There can be few lighthouses that do not have a ghost story or some tale of the ethereal attached to them. Often isolated and watching over vessels of all stripes slipping into an out of port under cover of darkness, they are witness to a shadowy world that often leaves more unexplained than illuminated.

At Whitby, in this most famously eerie of all towns, the west pier has its own tall tale. One stormy night the keeper, having temporarily left the tower (some say he was engaged in the local game of knurr and spell), looked over his shoulder and noticed that the light had gone out. Hurrying back and soaked to the skin, he sped up the steps to reignite the lantern. Having rekindled the lamp he attempted to go back down, but slipped and fell headlong into the void departing this mortal coil. Some folk say that on a black blustery night, a lonesome figure can be seen making his way with a covered lantern towards the lighthouse before his disappears through the locked and bolted door.

On the Pembrokeshire in coast in 1801, an altogether more unsettling tale unfolded when one of the two keepers died and his colleague went slowly mad, waiting almost four months for rescue while his deceased partner who had been fastened to the outside rail in an attempt keep the stench of death outside the cramped quarters, stared through the window at him accusingly swaying in the howling wind and knocking incessantly on the storm battered pane. Until that time, two keepers had been deemed sufficient, but from then on, three were always posted on offshore stations.

Sometimes the spirits can seem a little more benign, such as at the Souter Lighthouse on the Sunderland coast where it is reputed to be haunted by Grace Darling’s niece Isabella, who lived here in the late 1880s. Staff have reported spoons floating in mid-air, unexplained temperature drops, and some have even reported having been clutched by unseen hands.

Probably the most famous story strange goings on concerns the Eilean Mór lighthouse on the Flannan Isles about 115km off the Scottish mainland in the Outer Hebrides. The steamer Archtor noted that the light had gone out one stormy evening in December 1900 and the alarm was raised. When a relief ship came to investigate, the keepers were nowhere to be seen. The report stated that the doors were closed, the clocks had ominously stopped, the beds were unmade and that two of the keeper’s oilskins were missing, but the third set was still in place. No trace of the men could be found. The disappearance of the three men, coupled with the death of an assistant keeper a few years later gave Eilean Mòr a sinister reputation. The popular poem, “Flannan Isle” by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson took a number of liberties with the truth and made the story familiar to the wider public, sealing the episode’s fate as a suspense mystery worthy of Edgar Allen Poe.

Roger O’Reilly is a lighthouse expert, artist and founder of Lighthouse Editions. O’Reilly’s incredible book Legendary Lighthouses of Britain is available to pre-order now and is releasing April 9th 2024.

A Brief History of British Lighthouses by Roger O’Reilly

The earliest lighthouses in Britain used whatever materials were available locally; wood, brick and stone. The life of these structures was predictably short, especially if they were offshore.

The rebuilding of the Eddystone Rocks lighthouse off Plymouth Sound by the engineer John Smeaton set a milestone in the progression of lighthouse design. This, coupled with the developing technology of projecting light across vast distances, would revolutionise the lighthouse service around the country.

In England and Wales, Trinity House was empowered since 1836 to compulsorily buy out any remaining private lighthouses and they were soon fully engaged on an ambitious programme of expansion that included stations such as Beachy Head, Wolf Rock and the North Foreland in Kent.

In Scotland, meanwhile, Robert Stevenson was busy building a mini empire of lighthouse builders. Between them, the Stevenson dynasty was responsible for designing and building over 80 lighthouses in Scotland and the Isle of Man during the years 1811 to 1937.

As an island nation, the safety of Britain’s coastline is of immense importance to the shipping plying its waters. The proliferation of lights that dot the north Atlantic shores, the Irish sea, the English Channel or the eastern lights that welcome shipping returning across the North Sea, bear testimony to this dedication to the safe passage of vessels into and out of home waters and the wider oceans beyond.

Roger O’Reilly is a lighthouse expert, artist and founder of Lighthouse Editions. O’Reilly’s incredible book Legendary Lighthouses of Britain is available to pre-order now and is releasing April 9th 2024.

International Women’s Day Author Spotlight Q&A

In celebration of International Women’s Day and the important work that organisations like the UN are doing to level the playing field between genders, we asked six female authors a few questions. Promoting the voices of women, inspiring empowerment and taking an active stance in gender equality are values Watkins stands by.

 

Who are the women who have inspired you in your work and in your personal journey?

 

Jackie Lynch, author of The Happy Menopause:

So many women – my Mum was my first female role model as a little girl. She was the Senior Sister in charge of the isolation ward at the local hospital. She inspired the respect of the doctors and the devotion of her nursing team. Seeing her in this very important role, at a time when many women either didn’t work or had small part-time jobs, I never doubted as I was growing up, that women are capable of great things. and could lead and inspire.

As an adult, I find so many women inspiring, there are almost too many to name. From dedicated investigative journalists, such as Carole Cadwalldr, who dares to speak up when so many don’t, to champions of ageing, such as Joan Bakewell; there are a lot of women out there who are doing great work. In the menopause arena, which is my own area of expertise, I value the work of Professor Anne McGregor on hormonal headaches; Kathy Abernethy, menopause specialist nurse; and Dr Jen Gunter, who speaks out fearlessly against the rising of tide of untrained influencers involving themselves in health matters.

Clio Wood, author of Get Your Mojo Back:

Laura Bates and Caroline Criado Perez for (separately) their amazing work bringing to light the sadly very common discrepancies that women face in all walks of life.

Kim Vopni, author of Your Pelvic Floor:

Katy Bowman, Dr Sara Gottfried, Sherrie Palm, Jill Miller, Julie Wiebe, Kaisa Tuominen, Dr Tamara Rial, Dr Kelly Casperson, Dr Stacy Sims, Shirley Weir!

Ellie Austin-Williams, author of Money Talks:

My mum has always had a strong work ethic and worked tirelessly to provide for me which has inspired me to work hard in whatever I do. I’m also inspired by stories of women who go against the grain and carve out a life that works for them – whether that means a traditional career path, being a stay-at-home parent or something totally different.

Almudena Rocca, author of The Intuitive Drawing Journal:

My mum has probably been my biggest inspiration and influence throughout my work and personal life. I’m very fortunate to have a beautiful relationship with my mum and she has been my biggest supporter as well as someone I go to for advice, guidance and feedback. She has taken many steps and hardships to get to where she is today and in doing this has made the path of being an artist a little easier for me. I’m very grateful for her.

Le’Nise Brothers, author of You Can Have a Better Period:

My mother and all the women who’ve spent years being told that painful and heavy periods are normal and who’ve tirelessly tried to find answers on their own.

 

What advice would you like to share with your female readers?

 

Jackie Lynch:

Be kind to yourself. The menopause can be a difficult time, so a little self-care goes a long way. Simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can make a world of difference to the way that you experience this tricky phase of life. Reach out for help and support from health professionals and your loved ones. If they don’t know that you’re struggling, how can they help?

Clio Wood:

So many societal stereotypes are based on the male gaze and patriarchal norms. If you don’t conform, there’s nothing wrong with you; there’s something wrong with society. Also, it can take years to find the confidence to express and live that. I’m still working on it.

Kim Vopni:

Don’t accept suffering, for any reason. Be curious. Seek multiple opinions for care/treatment. Believe in your body’s ability to adapt. Get informed and make the decision that is best for YOU.

Ellie Austin-Williams:

Financial literacy is one key way we can work towards a more inclusive society for women, so invest in your financial education and you’ll reap the rewards.

Almudena Rocca:

I don’t know if this is advice but, I say: “we are all on our on paths – some may be very different from others but you are doing your best and that’s more than enough!”

Le’Nise Brothers:

Painful and heavy periods aren’t normal and aren’t something you should just accept and live with. If you’re not getting the answers you deserve, get a second, third or fourth opinion until you get the support you need.

 

Thank you to these inspiring women for participating in this Q&A! You can find their incredible books on our website. Browse the Blogs section for more Author Q&A sessions.

 

Q&A With Briana Pegado: Author of Make Good Trouble

 

We sat down in candid conversation with Briana Pegado, author of Make Good Trouble to find out her inspirations and top tips for trouble-makers. The book is being released April 9th 2024 and is available for pre-order now.

 

What do you hope readers will take away from Make Good Trouble? 

I hope readers will take away the courage and confidence to step into their own energy and to better understand it. This book has been written to help people make connections, learn from my experiences, and hopefully have a deeper understand of how beneficial disruption can be. For the people out there who feel that disruption is constantly in their wake, may they feel reassured that this is not a mistake or a fluke, but incredibly intentional — it is part of the fabric of why they are here on this earth. Ultimately, this book is a framework for all of us to live in a more peaceful world, filled with authenticity, if we are all brave enough and courageous enough to shake things up. 

 

Give us one tip for taking care of your own energy. 

A big part of taking care of our own energy, is the capacity to recognise what is our energy and what is someone else’s energy. Protective tools are a good way to practice this discernment. Whether that’s crystals that we carry with us, or taking a moment to cleanse ourselves of lingering energy in the shower, there are many ways we can protect our energy. 

One of my favourite tools is imagining a warm white light all over my body that acts as protective shield. I visualise this before leaving the house. Another simple way I protect my energy is through using an essential oil blend every morning. I take a moment to breathe in the smell and apply it to my pressure points. It is a little ritual that grounds me, and something that can be returned to throughout the day. I use ritual oil blends from my friend Brooke at Black Moon Botanica in Edinburgh, but you can use any blend that appeals to you, or even one you’ve made yourself. 

 

What does goddess energy mean to you?

Goddess energy means channelling the energy of the goddesses, who are incredibly powerful beings. Through their power, they enable us to remember our own power. Studying them, performing rituals in their name, and asking them for support, opens their energy to all of us. By focusing on a certain goddess through meditation and asking them questions; or wearing colours, objects, and talismans that represent them, they can guide us and protect us on our journeys. Some goddesses find us at pivotal points in our lives, so it is important for us to incorporate them into daily rituals and begin to build that relationship. 

To me, goddess energy means power, but power that enables us to better understand ourselves and our role in the world. They can remind us of different aspects of ourselves and of the world around us. If we trust them, they can show us the entire nature of the universe. 

 

How can energy catalyse change in society?

Change in society only happens by catalysing change, in other words, organising and bringing people together under a clear set of values. It is through movement, supporting one another, and daring to question the world around us, that we can cause a flow of energy and bring about change. However, changing society requires us to start with ourselves. It is only by daring to look inwards, at ourselves, our families, our communities, that change can begin. By making positive choices at an individual level we can change our inner world, which reverberates through wider society. 

 

Who do you see as the ideal reader of Make Good Trouble?

The ideal reader for Make Good Trouble is anyone curious about making good trouble. For readers who often feel out of place in their families, workplaces, and friend groups. For those led by their principles and values, or anyone looking to live in closer alignment with these values. For anyone who has been part of movements for change, or leaders in movements for change. This book is also for the curious reader and those led by their intuition. This book is for the bold; the certain and the uncertain; for the seeker with a long relationship to energy, and the seeker at the start of their journey. This book is for anyone interested in changing their life gently and incrementally. This book is for everyone. 

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