Our holiday certainly got off to a very interesting start. Approximately 10 hours after our wonderful but altogether spooky encounter with Martin Freeman at Heathrow airport, we touched down on North American soil, and what a soil that is. It saddens me greatly that having witnessed such glorious landscapes and communities with such diverse and heroic provenance, America’s presence in today’s world news is dominated by gun crime occurrences and senseless killings.

The flight from London to Denver was rather uneventful which is always a welcome state of affairs, bearing in mind hundreds of people are completely at the mercy of technology and the skill, competence and work ethic of the two men or women at the helm. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that as another little bit of encouragement sent my way was the presence of a third pilot who was sitting with his family right next to us on the plane. In the mind of a person who is a nervous flyer, two pilots are better than one but having three pilots on board is even better than two.

I cannot go into detail about every single place we stopped at during our road trip. We covered over 3,000km by car and so I will only mention my highlights, those moments during which the signs and wonders that stand before you help you regain that much-needed sense of perspective which we often neglect as we bear the burden of everyday life’s concerns and responsibilities.

I have always been very intrigued by the journey of the pioneers across North America; I have always been stunned by their courage and boldness to abandon everything they knew to go chasing the unknown, chasing their dreams of a better life. This fascination of mine became even more poignant when I discovered a few years back that my own great-grandfather left the Basque Country in the North of Spain and travelled to San Francisco, California, in 1907, for these very same reasons and with this very same adventurous spirit which perhaps as for so many, was born out of an asphyxiating sense of desperation. It seems my great grandfather’s gamble paid off and he spent 40 years of his life in the States, returning to Spain at the end of his life with a small fortune and plenty of stories to be passed down the generations.

I knew that though he arrived in California, he spent most of the 40 years in Idaho and so my family and I agreed beforehand that Idaho was a definite point of interest during our road trip. Having had a good night sleep, we woke up the next morning full of anticipation at the prospect of finally setting foot on some of the many spots in the States recognised as places of natural outstanding beauty. And so our adventure set off from Colorado Springs. Amongst various fascinating places where you could almost smell the dust and hardship of the old settlements, we came across a gem named “The Garden of the Gods”, a natural park filled with the most awe-inspiring and striking rock formations. It seems many of the native American tribes had a great spiritual connection to this place and it is easy to understand why. It is an incredibly dramatic landscape as it is unique. The beautifully red sculpturesque and monumental rock formations were not the only signs we encountered in the park, however. No sooner we got out of our car, this uncanny sign welcomed us:

summer 2015 1 of 3 003

The image of a snake is full with symbolism and meaning for a Christian at any time, but context is everything and seeing that sign at that moment in time automatically brought it to life for me. I always look for meaning in things beyond the obvious and what easily appears to the naked eye, and so this translated for me as a gentle and ironic reminder that in life we tend to be safe, if we stay on the beaten track, but step out of it, and you will have to deal with those whose turf you are invading or threatening to bring change to. A lesson we all do well to learn in everyday living. I have to look no further than my own social media experience just prior to this trip. Everybody talks about the value of free speech and how wonderful democracy is, but dare to challenge the status quo, to go against what a fierce majority are saying about any particular subject and you might aswell have begged for World War 3 to start, because retaliation will come your way regardless of whether you deserve it or not.

I leave you for now with some images from the Garden of the Gods.







Just wanted to leave an update here on how I am getting on with my Dryathlon to raise funds for Cancer Research. This is my first ever fundraiser. Please don’t think I am in the habit of asking people for donations. It is not in my nature to ask people for anything, so I embark on this plea with much apprehension and fully aware of how irritating it can be to be made to feel like you are not worth your salt unless you part with your cash to support the millions of amazing charitable causes happening today all around the planet.

I am not the adventurous type or maybe I am, but perhaps not in the thrill-seeking sense that motivates so many to challenge themselves with mammoth tasks such as triathlons, marathons, mountain climbing, parachuting and the like. My courage and adventurous spirit are definitely there but shape up in a much more “behind the scenes”, “mingling in the background”, demure way. I am an introvert and don’t fare well at all when I mingle with lots of people all at once or when the limelight is on me, so seen but not heard is how I like to do things, at least when it comes to my achievements. If you have been reading this blog for a while you will know that with regards to my convictions and the principles I stand by, I make a point of being heard or at least of trying to. Some things are just too important, too essential to who I am to succumb to holding back for the sake of peace keeping and compromise.

I am really pleased to say that so far I have raised, including gift aid, a total of £400. Not bad for a month of giving up alcohol, but I know I can do better, and so I have now upped the ante and committed to giving up alcohol for three months if I reach £500 and for 6 months if I raise £1000, which means I may have an alcohol-free Christmas and that is going to be the toughest challenge of all.

I realise when you compare my challenge with the mighty physical and mental battles others take on for charity, what I am doing is nothing to shout about, but I am a great believer in small beginnings and humble efforts. I am convinced that if every single person who is able, used what they have to improve another person’s life, be it directly or indirectly, this world would be a much more balanced and healthy place.

Besides, it is not just cancer which affects so many of us but alcoholism too. You must be wondering at this point whether I am an alcoholic myself. No, I am not, but I do like my wine and if it wasn’t for the grace of God, I could easily be one. I am doing this as a change in my personal lifestyle, but much more so in honour and remembrance of those whose life has been lost to either of these two awful illnesses or to those whose life has been affected in some detrimental way by them.

I hope that if you fall into either category and can spare some change, you can make a donation no matter how small. Who knows? If I was to reach £1000, I may have to consider remaining apart from my dear old friends Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for even a year. Now, that would be a Marathon worth shouting about, wouldn’t it?

Cancer and alcoholism have been in the scene for far too long. I’d say they have definitely overstayed their welcome. Will you stand with me to bid them farewell? If you are a bit cynical and are thinking right now: That will never happen just as “The poor will always be with us..”, I put it to you:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…”


When you are a nervous flyer, you need all the help you can get: moral support, emotional reassurance, the odd reminder of how to breathe properly and even the more effective reminder that whether we fret or not, it is all in God’s hands anyway, so why waste energy worrying about what may or may not happen, right? Easier said than done, though. Phobias can be and often are totally irrational, but for those of us who suffer them, they are as real as the air that we breathe and often cause you to suffer in silence uncontrollably; they are as tangible as feeling your every heartbeat resonate so loud, strong and fast within your chest that your heart no longer feels like a heart, but instead a time-bomb which could explode at any moment; they are as evident as copious amounts of sweat running down the palms of your hands soaking whatever you touch. It certainly doesn’t improve things when you are surrounded by people who lack any kind of empathy or compassion and who put your phobias down as cowardice or a lack of courage, enhancing your already disproportionate sense of doom and gloom.

I always pray hard and often before boarding a plane, not just as I am sitting down in readiness for take off but on the days leading up to my departure. I pray that there is not much turbulence and that we have a safe and enjoyable flight. It is often said that when we pray, God does not answer our prayers so that we get what we asked for, but so that we get what we need to build up our character in order to fulfil our purpose during our journey on this earth. I have found this to be true, time and time again. There are however times when I strongly sense God sending me a life-line or some sort of encouragement to ease the fear of what I am about to embark on, literally.

On this occasion, that lifeline came in the form of Martin Freeman. Only God really knows the life-altering, redemptive and healing effect that The Crucible and Richard Armitage’s rendition of John Proctor had on me; only God really knows the deep and complex reasons why I feel my spirit is so akin to Richard’s; only God really knows the turmoil and heart-break I have gone through in these last few months as I have experienced first hand what it is to be hounded like an animal on social media for simply exercising my right to free speech and to expressing up-front my personal opinions with respect and honesty. Therefore, only God could have known how much was truly riding on this “holiday” and what would be the one and only occurrence which would put my fear of flying at bay; only God could have known how to take away my apprehension and replace it with ironic humour; how to put in front of me a sign that anyone else but me could have missed (indeed no one else but us queuing up to go through security, seemed to recognise Martin Freeman); only He could have been so attuned to me to give me the very timely and opportune reminder that though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for He is with me; his rod and his staff shall comfort me; He will never leave me, nor forsake me.

Think of all the actors in the world I could have bumped into at the airport; the very many days when I could have been at that specific terminal (compared to most I travel often and not just for pleasure but to visit relatives); the many hours in the day when flights take off; the many moments in a minute, minutes in an hour when I could have found myself in that exact queue right next to someone who is so emblematic of the very reasons why I was so desperate and in need of getting away at this point in my life. A miracle would have been to have Richard Armitage himself queuing up right behind me, but bearing in mind I was aware that he was in Vancouver or LA at the time, that turn of events would have been too obvious a choice of a miracle and not have required much faith on my part, would it?

To be continued in Part 3


We have just completed an unforgettable and eventful three week road trip across a small section of the United States. We started in Denver, Colorado, and finished off in Seattle, Washington. Well, our exciting adventure really started from the moment we arrived at London Heathrow Airport.

For the first half of my life I saw God as this powerful, mean being who lied in wait expecting me to err at any moment, so that he could discipline me and send me back on the right path. Add another 23 years and life has taught me that yes it is wise and smart to have a good measure of fear of God, but that He also has an impeccable and timely sense of humour. He orchestrates moments and happenings in such a way that the joke remains only between you and Him, but when one of those moments takes place, you are left in no doubt as to who is behind it and on whom the joke is.

Let me put this into context. Seeing The Crucible with Richard Armitage at the Old Vic Theatre during the summer of 2014 was a pivotal moment in my life. It was an epiphany kind of day for me and its effects lasted for weeks and even months. In fact, nothing has been the same in my life since. Having said that, what started as a momentous occasion full of transcendence and spiritual meaning evolved into a bit of a providential obsession with Mr Armitage’s journey, well-being and growth from there on. Don’t ask me why, but I have felt an overwhelming sense of burden and concern for this man’s life and career for months. I guess only God has the answer to that one.

Anyway, so here I am at London Heathrow Airport dead excited about getting away from it all, specially from twitter, the world of Richard Armitage and the relentless claws of a handful of some of his very protective and “devoted” fans whose creepy behaviour on social media makes Francis Dolarhyde’s mental state appear pretty balanced and tame by comparison.

Sunglasses at the ready, open-toe sandals in place. Denver, here I come! I am so ready for a huge adventure at this point, for a time away from the hustle and bustle, a time of freedom, of soul-searching and reconnecting with myself and with the Creator. I am in a bubble and nothing and no one is going to burst it and send me back any time soon to the reality I am trying to escape from. EXCEPT THAT… as we are queuing to go through the Security Check and I am getting ready to grab a tray to put my personal effects on, lo and behold right behind me is none other than the one and only Hobbit, actor Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage’s co-star in the Hobbit films. So much for me beginning my detox from Mr Armitage and anything and everything remotely Armitagistic. Is there such a word? Well, I guess there is now.

To be continued in Part 2


Well, it has been a while since I was last on here, but I am now back from a wonderfully refreshing, awe-inspiring and eventful holiday, and so I am ready to get back on the saddle again.

On the very first day back from our holiday, I saw an advertisement on the TV about a fundraising initiative called Dryathlong. All you need to do to become a Dryathlete is give up alcohol for a month and create your own Justgiving Page in order to raise money for Cancer Research.

Having indulged in copious amounts of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir this summer, this very much felt like a timely wake up call from Heaven to get healthy but also to sacrifice something in order for others to reap the benefits, and so I made up my mind there and then that this time such a call was for me and not someone else.

I know, most of you must be thinking: “Well, she is hardly committing to climbing Everest or jumping off a plane with a parachute” and you are right to make such a remark, but if you enjoy wine as much as I do, perhaps you can begin to understand that there is nothing easy about committing to give it up. Yes, Cancer Research has suggested this is done for just one month, but I have done this in the past and know the real challenge for me would be to give it up for longer, and so I would like to commit to doing so, but in order to do that, it would be a massive encouragement to me if I am able to raise some much-needed funding for Cancer Research, and this can only be done if you who are reading this are prepared to trust my good will and honesty, and can part with some of your cash to donate to a cause which as we all know has or will touch our life at some point, be it directly or through someone we love and care for.

In the past few years my husband and I have always supported friends and family and even people we hardly knew when we found out that they were prepared to take on a challenge or make a sacrifice in order to improve the quality of life of others, and so I am hoping and trusting that those who have benefitted from our love, support and encouragement will now find it in their heart to return that gesture.

On the top right hand side of this page, you will find the JustGiving prompt you can click on which will take you to my fundraising page where you can donate as little or as much as you want. I have never ever done any fundraising before. I don’t like asking people for anything, and so I feel a mixture of excitement and also apprehension as this is one of those instances when you find out who really believes in you and cares for you enough to part with their hard earnt cash. It doesn’t have to be much at all, but the simple act of giving lets you know that those people are willing to encourage you in whatever you are trying to achieve.

To those who answer this call, thank you from the very depths of my heart.



“Let’s not censor too much, and yes we must speak our minds and the truth; but we must also ‘watch the destination of our words’ and understand the ‘fuel propelling it’. It could be anger, it could be hatred. Sometimes it’s provocation, sarcasm, humor. Sometimes it’s just to be contrary to what everyone else is saying. Just stop and think before you hit ‘send’.”

Extract from Richard Armitage’s blogpost which you can read fully here

 Dear Richard,

At the bottom of the piece published yesterday on the Cybersmile Foundation blog we were kindly invited to give feedback. If you mean what you say, which I believe you do, and you are truly up for bringing “debating society” back to schools, I assume you will also be open to and welcome this feedback as a means of extending the conversation that you have started within this online “community”. You are right, it is impossible to know how one’s words will be received when we don’t have the addressee face to face, but it is also true that by the same token, we must not be too harsh in judging the motives of those who speak online against us or the people and things we care for. I always say that none of us are the sum of our tweets, and we MUST take the time to peel off the layers of people’s souls, before passing sentence and assuming it is only ill intent that fuels their “negativity”. There is a fine line between that and advocating censorship so that we protect ourselves from anything that challenges our own views.

Like you, I spend hours, days, editing what I initially write, and as a passionate lover of languages and words, I am fully aware of the repercussions words can have, but in a society where high profile men and women have such platforms, influence and effect on collectives and societies, I refuse to assume that the majority of people who are controversial, critical or in some people’s eyes negative, call it what you will, do it with the sole purpose of being contrary to what everyone else is saying.

“Not all those who wander (from the flock, the herd, the masses) are lost”. How very wise and inspired those words were. Often those who wander, wander because they are able to see what others can’t or won’t; what others conveniently choose to ignore, because it is in their interest to do so, because it is safer to stay in the confined safety of the pen than to venture out, or because conforming to what the majority are saying will get them where they want to go or simply because it is not in their nature to rock the boat as they like to enjoy a trouble free, peaceful life (what an impossible contradiction). Departing from the trodden path takes great courage and it is one of the most costly things a person can do in life. Costly because they will lose everything and people whom they hold most dear in the process, but also a worthy crusade because they will gain the elusive peace and incomparable joy that comes with knowing that you have been true to yourself, to what drives you and what you believe in. It is a tough gamble, but when done for the right reasons, it sure pays dividends to risk it all on that one hunch.

History has taught us, or perhaps not all of us, that when we ignore those who wander; those who are contrary to what the majority are saying, it is often to our own peril and at an unforgiveable cost. The way I look at those who wander, who are often contrary, is not because they are trying to draw attention to themselves, which a few are, but because in being contrary they are raising the alarm, spreading awareness of those symptoms in people, relationships, communities, social tendencies which if ignored, can develop into a full blown condition which often brings the most intense of suffering, humiliation, and devastation.

I consider myself one of those people who is “contrary”, but not because I seek to draw attention to myself, so not who I am, but because the things I speak about matter to me at times more than life itself. I can’t help it. It is the way I’m wired and boy do I feel wired at times? I feel this power, electricity within to say the things I do, because I believe there is a valid discussion to be had about them, because to feel those things in my heart and not bring them to the table would be to deny who I am and the ability to change those things which I can. I have been on twitter and WordPress for years, and to this day I only have a handful of followers because I have raffled a few feathers; I have refused to buckle under pressure and swim down-stream because everything in me was shouting out “Change course, take a step back and look at what is ahead where the majority are heading.” Nevertheless, the few who are kind and brave enough to stick around and read what I have to say, know they are getting someone who will not be tossed by the waves or the direction of the wind. I’d rather fight alone for my convictions than be in the company of thousands who repeatedly change their true colours like Autumn leaves.

I absolutely love and respect your insights and it pains me that such a wonderful human being as yourself has suffered so at the hands of bullies. I love how you have opened up this forum where we can express, discuss and challenge our own opinions but also learn to  accept that when others’ opinions differ from our own, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are to see them as the enemy or someone we need to knock down with our nasty, rude words and witch-hunts until they speak no more.

I applaud you for that. It takes courage to make a stand and try to be a light in all this darkness so many are encountering in social media, and no doubt putting yourself in this spot will cost you, but I think what you will gain will be so much more valuable than what you lose.

Take care my friend and keep up the good work.

Mercedes Underwood X

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Some of my ramblings below as a result of turning on my tablet on the Google Search page with the following image on St. George’s Day, 23rd of April

St George's Day - 23rd April

St George’s Day – 23rd April

There is something wonderfully poignant, emblematic and foreboding in that image. It just struck me as I look at it more and more, how it reveals itself as a metaphor of Richard Armitage’s journey as an actor, indeed of the very journey we all humans embark on from the moment we are born: now the villain, then the hero; now the dragon, then the knight; now the psychopath, then the pilgrim; a life driven by the powers of hell as a result of the mental turmoil and deep scarring of wounds past or bad choices made by others, but then a holy journey of redemption or pilgrimage inspired and driven by nobility, honour and faith. And so our life goes on as Good and Evil rage within our soul in a fierce battle which never ends until one or the other is victorious, commands our spirit and claims our destiny.

I get the attraction, the appeal of wanting to be an actor. One gets to experience and live through all the things which we may be too scared or perhaps too sensible to not engage with in real life. Acting gives one the opportunity to love too much or love too little; to let our heart feel with abandon until it wants to explode but without really surrendering any part of ourselves in the process; to risk too much without risking anything; to find out what the consequences of a bad choice are without really paying the price; to choose evil instead of good without really entering into hell; to gain honour, fame and a place in history without really sacrificing every single thing that is dear to you in order to get there and claim your prize. That image of St George and the dragon is foreboding because in life many of us like to behave like actors and serve two masters, but the truth is nobody can live like that without paying the price. We can pretend this world is a stage and that we are all actors on it, but eventually we must all make the choice of whom shall we serve, whom shall we follow: the dragon or the knight?