Correspondence As a young child, barely six, I had a strong attachment to an unusual object; a clown cap. It was made from cold, rubber latex, and had a half moon shaped bush of fuzzy, bright red, synthetic hair. I don’t know where it came from, and I don’t remember what happened to it. (It would have been shot in the bin if my mother had anything to do with it. It got very grimy, as most things do when you’re under double figures.) I remember tugging it on, and acting out little plays in the corner of a barren, concrete, primary school playground. When I wore this odd accessory, I was a storyteller. Anything seemed possible, especially with my little band of loyal followers, who would eagerly listen, and take part in my madcap, imaginary adventures. But there were also dark times in this particular playground. I remember being in the centre of a circle of older girls, who pushed me, and teased me, and barricaded me in with their big arms and strong legs. They bullied me because my coat came from a charity shop and because I spoke differently to them.(I had a distinct Yorkshire twang.)They bullied me because I wore glasses with rainbow frames and had big eyes. These memories remain as vivid as if they’d happened ten minutes ago. One experience created great joy and freedom, the other meant I went home with bruises and eventually had to change schools. But I have a passion for turning negative experiences around, and, when possible, making something positive from them. So when I was hunting for a title for this new, imaginative creation, Big Eyes was the first thing to come up, and it immediately stuck. It may also, subliminally, be a big fuck you to everyone who ever teased me for having crap eyes. Here at Big Eyes, we’re an insatiably curious bunch. We’re writers, readers, thinkers, artists, designers, all of whom have a collective desire – to learn, to create, to develop, to grow. We’re not about skimming the surface; we like to dig deep...and then a bit deeper. We like to really get to know people, what they do and why they do it. One of our main aims with Big Eyes is to create a strong, creative, mindful network of people, who want to get more than ‘just the average’ out of daily life. Once you’ve finished reading this issue, you might want to go searching for owls at twilight, or try your hand at writing some eco-literature. You might discover you want to teach English in a foreign country, or draw a picture of a part of your town that nobody pays any attention to. You might want to learn how to make laser cut shadow puppets or give Vladimir Nabokov a chance. Go on. Turn the page. Look closer. Katie Metcalfe and the Big Eyes Team. (August 2013)
Inside #1 Editor
Made To Order Rain Clouds ......................................................6 Handmade Business .................................................................7
Reviving A Lost Art Form ............................................................8
Teaching English In Korea ........................................................10 Biscuits Made To Wear ............................................................14
Deadlines And Pushchairs .......................................................16
When In Newcastle, Look Up ..................................................18 Writers’ Block ..........................................................................20
Sue Hooper, Joanne Shawcross, Carol Fenwick
Like A Mad Scientist ................................................................22
Writing Is Good For Your Health ..............................................26 It’s A Lot of DIY ........................................................................28
Write For Inspiration ................................................................32
Tattoo Me Yes, Tattoo Me No ...................................................36 The Science-Fiction of Inner Space ..........................................38 Collected Letters .....................................................................40
Where To Find Us
What Are You Wearing? ...........................................................42 My Notebook ..........................................................................43 The Owl In Daylight ..................................................................44
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ................................................46 Street Food In Reykjavík ...........................................................48
The Heathen Research Network ..............................................49 pinterest.com/bigeyesmagazine
Life Writing ..............................................................................50
Your Bushy Moustache ...........................................................56 Exit/Entrance ...........................................................................57
Bird Studies .............................................................................60 It’s All To Fuck Basically ...........................................................62
Reviewing The Page And Screen .............................................66
E x h i bi t i on
Made To Order Rain Clouds Elin Amanda
Brighten up a miserable, rainy day with a charming little cloud. Who would have thought it! These lovely little decorative pieces are almost impossible to resist. Treat yourself to a made to order rain cloud mobile, or indulge your creative side, by ordering the pattern to make yourself. This crafty Swede is also a dab hand at making cuddly little individuals, like Psychedelic Disco Kitty, Cecil the disgruntled Siamese cat and Izabella the foxy lady. Each piece is handmade and one of a kind. Elin Amanda’s shop is always a real treat to visit, because you never know what she’s going to come up with next. One thing you can be sure of though, is that straight after clicking, a smile will come creeping. Prices start from: £4. You can find Elin Amanda at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ ElinAmanda
We asked Elin where she gets her ideas from: Most of my
ideas I get from people I meet in the street, or friends and family. Often I walk past people and I think to myself “you’d be such a disgruntled Siamese cat if you were an animal” and similar things. I’m also a great fan of weather and the sky. I love a storm just breaking up, and the first trickles of rain on a window pane, and this is where the rain cloud inspiration came from. But most of the time I’m just like a kid with a blank canvas and a bunch of crayons: I just start doing something random until I’ve decided what it actually is supposed to be.
Handmade Business Victory Garden Yarn
There’s always an Arctic chill lurking around the corner, so why
decided to re-teach myself how to properly knit and crochet and
no be prepared, and get yourself something soft, squashy and
eventually began to get more comfortable with reading patterns
snug - a scarf maybe, or ear warmers - for when it shows up.
and doing things (that I thought would certainly be impossible) like knitting socks and sweaters.
Your lovely piece is made to order, and you can choose from
Somewhere in there I moved to chilly Seattle, where I
a gigantic range of colours. So, if you don’t have the time or the patience to knit your own, Anna’s creations are the next best
kept exploring both mediums. After managing and helping to
close down two beautiful clothing stores in town (which both unfortunately couldn’t ride out our strange economy), I decided
Prices start from: £8.00
to start my own handmade business.
Look for Victory Garden Yarn at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/
could commission me to make things for them, and I started
I had a lot of friends and co-workers of friends asking if they to wonder if I could actually make a go of running my own
handmade business, doing something I already loved to do! So I decided to try my hand at creating my very own, original
We asked Anna what inspired her to start knitting: My mother taught me how to crochet when I was about 9 and
designs (one of the most important things to me in my business)
then how to knit when I was about 13. I instantly took to both
and now here I am! I love it and I love the response I get from
of them, but only picked either up as a passing hobby until
people online and in person at craft shows. It is immensely
after I graduated from college and had time to breathe again! I
Reviving A Lost Art Form Isabella’s Art
We love Isabella and her laser cut shadow puppets! This lovely lady from the Netherlands is successfully reviving a lost art form, and shops in London and Milan have seen sense and now stock her wares. Isabella specialises in folklore, and witchcraft is one of the recurring topics in her work. She also creates exquisite prints, and welcomes commissioned work. Be it an eye-catching print or a theatrical puppet, every one of Isabella’s pieces is wonderfully detailed and astonishingly intricate. Can’t help but wonder – how does she do it? Her website is something really special too, like a glorious cabinet of curiosities. You could easily spend hours nosing through everything. Prices start from: £8.00 Witness the magic and mystery for yourself at: http://www. isabellasart.com/
We asked Isabella about the process of creating a laser
cut shadow puppet: I start off by making a sketch on paper.
This I transfer to sturdy black paper in which I will cut the original puppet. This can be quite an arduous job and most puppets take several days to be drawn and cut. Once I am completely satisfied I will scan it and vectorize it in the computer. Then a local company reproduces them for me by laser-cutting so the puppets look (almost) the same as the original.
Teaching English In Korea Katarina Bunge
At what point in your life did you decide to become a
grammar structures, I get to have fun with them and challenge
teaching as a career?
This means I get to know my students and their personalities as
teacher and who or what was your inspiration to pursue
them with productive language abilities - speaking and writing.
I guess the decision to become a teacher happened upon me
somewhat by accident. My father has been a high school and middle school teacher in the past, and now teaches at college
What made you decide to work in Korea?
Working in Korea was not my first choice. Originally, I wanted
level. When I was growing up, I thought teaching was the last thing I wanted to do. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle! Seeing my dad
to work in Taiwan, since I studied Chinese briefly in university. I
stressed out about his students, I vehemently protested against
applied for a teaching position through a Taiwan-based agency,
ever becoming a teacher myself. In university, I pursued a degree
but I was turned down based on my lack of experience. Taiwan
in Environmental Education because I had good memories of
is a very popular destination for English teachers. The agency
outdoor schools, summer camps, and my own wanderings in
accepted me to work in Korea instead, and it’s all come together
the Cascade mountain range - but my focus wasn’t classroom
from there. But, sometimes, I think the places we end up are often
teaching. Nevertheless, after I graduated, I felt drawn to teaching English as a second language, and see a bit of the world while I
better than the places we might have intended for ourselves –
was at it.
and perhaps, there is some greater reason I found myself here that I have yet to discover.
I had plenty of inspiring mentors in university that really made me passionate about teaching as a profession. One couple that stand out in particular run an alternative high school
Can you describe a typical working day?
A typical day for me begins around 6:30 am. I take the bus
in Bellingham, my hometown. Before I enrolled in my major, I had difficulty separating teaching from the formal, lecture-
to work at 7:30 and arrive at work shortly after 8. First period
heavy classroom setting. Since then, I’ve come to a deeper
begins at 9, and depending on the day, I have anywhere from
understanding that the best teachers don’t need to be experts,
three to five 45-minute lessons to teach, along with some
just facilitators. Good learning can happen anywhere, and
additional duties. I have my own classroom, and my desk is
some of the best lessons in life are learned in silence and quiet
in the office adjacent to it, so in the morning, I prepare my
classroom for the day, and set up my lessons.
Did you need to do any additional studies after your
class sizes of thirty-six students, there isn’t much else that can
free time, I plan and prepare for the next week. Lunch is served
They’re all rather PowerPoint-heavy, which I resent, but in Environmental Education degree to become an English
be done! I teach my lessons whenever they’re scheduled. In my
Technically, I didn’t need to fulfil any additional requirements to
after fourth period beginning at 12:30, and consists of white
become a public school teacher in Korea, besides complete my
rice, kimchi, some side dishes, and a daily soup. Today I had
bachelors degree, but I did choose to complete an online TEFL
marinated pork, sesame oil-soaked perilla leaves, white steamed
(Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate in order to
bread, and doenjang soup, which is a bit like miso. The teachers
give myself a bit of an advantage. Since then, the hiring process
have their own table in the same cramped cafeteria room as the
has changed a bit, and a TEFL certificate is now required.
students. It’s a noisy and stressful place to be.
What do you love most about your job?
daily cleaning time at 3:20. In Korea, the students are all required
The thing I love most about my job is the ability to foster
to clean the school daily, including the bathrooms, which are
creativity in my students - a trait that, to me, isn’t given proper
outfitted with traditional Korean squat toilets.
In the afternoon, we have fourth through sixth periods, then
Unfortunately the student bathrooms are chronically
recognition in the Korean educational system at large. I share English teaching with other Korean teachers at my school, and
unsanitary. I supervise my cleaning girls to make sure they do a
while those teachers focus on introducing students to complex
thorough job of the classroom. Depending on the day, we might
have a seventh period class, so school officially lets out at 4:30
Then, once I was accepted, I had to obtain a Korean visa - that
pm. That’s when the day ends for me, as well.
part happened just a week or so before my flight was scheduled! I’ve heard the application process now is even more demanding
How did you go about applying to work in Korea and was
than in the past.
I applied to the EPIK program through an external teaching
Do you earn a good income?
it a difficult process?
I feel rather comfortable with my income. In case you’re curious,
agency, Reach to Teach. The EPIK program is part of the Korean government, which recruits people to work in public schools in
I make 2.2 million Korean Won a month. It’s far more than I need
Korea. There are exceptions - a friend of mine was placed at a
in Korea, but not particularly great once transferred over to the
private school. The application process is very time-consuming
States. My host school provides me with an apartment, so my
and demanding, part of the reason I eventually chose to accept
main expenses are utilities and food. Nevertheless, I haven’t
the job I was offered.
saved nearly as much here so far as I expected to - I guess
One is required (for American applicants) to write a 700 or so word essay, participate in a phone interview, obtain
an international winter vacation didn’t help much with that. I’m
fingerprints, state and federal background checks, fill out medical
primarily here in this job to pay off my student loans, and to that
disclaimers, and much more I can’t remember at the moment.
end, I’m making slow but steady progress. It’s possible to make more money while you’re here if you
All documentation must be apostilled to be internationally valid.
volunteer for additional camp programs, or your school gives you
Mongolia this summer. I’d love to live in Mongolia for a while,
teaching English and studying language and poetry. My dream is to publish translations of Mongolian literature. Eventually, I’d like
What advice would you give to somebody wanting to
to settle back down in the Pacific Northwest, in a dense fir forest
with someone special.
is very different from traveling abroad, and requires a different
In your opinion, what is the key to being a successful
somewhere, and make a sustainable, natural home for myself
teach abroad, and what skills and knowledge would they I would tell the aspiring English teacher that working abroad pace and lifestyle. Perhaps there are people that would
In my opinion, being a good teacher means putting the well-
disagree with me. Go to another country with the intention to work, not primarily to sightsee and travel. Of course you can
being, needs, and egos of your students before your own. It’s
do those things as well, but if you have a work ethic, you’ll be
the same kind of agapic love a parent gives her child. Whether your “children” are child-age or not, teaching is
less disappointed when the reality of teaching finally hits you. Doing an online TEFL course helped me immensely, and I’d
not about you - it’s about them. Being a teacher doesn’t mean
recommend it for anyone interested in teaching English as a
knowing more than your student. It means facilitating and helping
your student develop a love of learning, and the means to research whatever they’re passionate about. Good teachers are
I’d also recommend that people be flexible while living abroad - I know that’s not easy, sometimes. I’ve met many
like dogs, returning again and again with unconditional love - and
unhappy vegetarians in meat-loving Korea, and while I
a stern adherence to class rules.
wholeheartedly appreciate and support vegetarianism, I think it’s important that people bend their own rules a little bit while they’re
How important is creativity in the classroom?
Creativity in the classroom is extremely important - probably,
visitors and guests to another culture.
it’s the most important thing I do in my job. Korean students,
The most flexible, accommodating people I’ve met here seem, to me, to also be the happiest. That doesn’t mean that
teachers, and parents alike often believe that learning is a
you should let others walk over your beliefs and values, but when
process of osmosis. Brains are like sponges, and if one applies one’s self
the bad stuff happens, channel your inner lotus leaf and let it roll
diligently enough, one can perfectly “learn” the materials that
right off you.
will help them excel in life. The most important day in a Korean Spare time – do you have any and what do you do with it?
student’s life is the day of the college entrance exam. Other
I have a fair bit of spare time, but not as much as I was used to
classes are cancelled this day in all schools, and even local
having in university.
businesses shut down so students can concentrate. The student’s score on this exam pretty much determines their
I guess that’s the reality of having a full time job - I experienced a fair bit of grief over that realisation last semester,
fortune for the rest of their life. There are deep roots in this exam
but I’ve come to terms with it during my time here. I’m a
extending back to the centuries-old Civil Service exam. Unfortunately, no one can remember all of the possible
homebody - I love being in my own personal space, reading great books, drinking tea, knitting and making music. Since
combinations of English words to fully comprise a spoken
I’ve been in Korea, I’ve taught myself a bit of the guitar and a
language. That’s where foreign teachers come in - we focus
Chinese instrument called the zhongruan. My next challenge is
on helping students produce their own language, so their
improving my skills on the Korean bamboo flute, the danso. I’m
communication abilities improve. I try to incorporate some
also lusting after the daegeum right now.
creative writing and visual art elements into my classes as well.
I attend a local open mic here every month. Many teachers travel across Korea on the weekends - I do this occasionally, but
You are originally from the US, is there anything you miss
prefer to stay home on the weekend to recover my energy for the
There are so many things I could describe that I miss about
next school week.
home, that I could write a book about it (and perhaps I will
My city is a coastal tourist town, close to the mountains and
the countryside. To me, that heals the spirit much more than the
Ultimately, living abroad for so long has solidified in my mind
grey high-rises of Seoul. I’m looking forward to some camping in
how right the idea of settling down in the Pacific Northwest is for
Seoraksan National Park when the weather warms up.
me. It’s common with many Americans to travel to their ancestral What are your long term goals? Do you plan to continue
countries in search of cultural identity, something I’m certainly
like to pursue?
a feeling of inherent correctness when I feel that soft, rich earth
teaching or do you have another calling that you would
guilty of, but I’m anticipating and expecting nothing more than
I suppose I’m considering many goals over different lengths of
under my feet again. My lifelong connection to the land is probably the thing I
time at this point. As far as long-term goals go, I’m not sure I have any professionally. The professional world doesn’t really
miss most. With that being said, I’m using my time here as an
seem to be my calling.
opportunity to practice mindfulness and appreciation for the present, and this unique place in my life journey. I know it won’t
I’d love someday to be self-employed, but I’m not sure
last forever, so I want to make the most of it that I can.
how that will manifest itself. At this point in my life, I’m content enough to travel and work on my own inward journey in the process. I studied Mongolian language in college, and I want to
Katarina Bunge is a free thinking, globetrotting lady from
continue pursuing those studies - to that end, I’m hoping to visit
the USA. She’s currently teaching English in Korea.
Biscuits Made To Wear Tyne Watson
Tell us about ‘Blue Cherry Jewellery?’ How did you get
What materials and tools do you use to make your
Blue Cherry Jewellery started way back in 2007. It originated as
I use the polymer clay, Fimo Soft, cocktail sticks (detail work),
an overflow of my obsession for jewellery. I loved wearing strange
sewing pins (tiny detail work) Stanley blades, my trusty old
necklaces, odd earrings and fun accessories but they were
battered pasta machine, chalk pastel (just baked look), a
expensive to buy in shops, so being the crafty gal I am, I decided
plethora of different sized brushes (for applying chalk dust,
to make some.
glazing, painting detail or even using the handle to make dents or donut holes) a toothbrush (texture), crumpled foil (texture again),
I bought a simple jewellery making kit from Boyes that included earring hooks and jump rings and raided my craft
my collection of handmade moulds (custard creams are quite
supplies for anything that could be turned into earrings. I was
hard to make!), cookie cutters, water based varnish, jewellery
hooked and went searching on the internet to see what else
making supplies, jewellery pliers and super-duper glue. (Plus a
could be done.
ton of other stuff too! That’s my basic kit!)
I found on eBay these things called ‘Destash Grab Bags’ and ‘Gumball Jewellery’ which were bags full of weird little
You focus mainly on making jewellery with a food theme.
plastic charms and pendants, ranging from normal cherries and
What inspired you to decide on this direction?
I can’t really say for sure, a combination of my love for food
strawberries to the more odd crayons and tooth paste tubes. I loved getting these bags full of little tiny things, playing with
jewellery, a love for cupcakes and a notice in the trend for food
them, making jewellery out of them and wearing some of the
jewellery. I also really enjoy making it, which is a fabulous added
But I needed money to feed my habit for tiny plastics, so while on my eBay searches, I found people actually sold their
Did you take any courses in jewellery design or have you
handmade Gumball Jewellery on eBay, and on other sites. I
Entirely self taught! But bizarrely I learnt a lot of tricks and tips
already had quite a collection of unused/unwanted jewellery that I’d made, so I also began to sell on eBay and I even set up a
when doing my degree in Entertainment Design Crafts, namely
Myspace account dedicated to my jewellery.
how to make moulds for my life like cookies and biscuits collection. But the rest was mostly trial, error and looking at
The name Blue Cherry Jewellery was not my first idea. I
tutorials on the internet.
wanted to be called ‘Smoggy Style’ a bit tongue in cheek to match my weird jewellery. But my older brother Paul talked me out of it and helped me choose the name Blue Cherry, and he
What skills should a jewellery designer have or aim to
even put together my original logo of a tattoo style cherry.
I don’t know about skills, but a definite love for what you’re doing
It was around this time that a friend introduced me to
and a crafty noggin for when problems come about.
polymer clay, she saw my jewellery and said I should try making some bits out of this clay stuff. She’d made a sandwich and gave it to me (which I still own) and she also gave me a few
What’s the most challenging part of running your business? Repeating myself. I love to make new ideas, have a play and
packs of Fimo to play around with, a silver, a pink and a blue. I also went out and got a starter pack which had a couple of
see what works and what doesn’t. Then that item does well
pinks, a red and a yellow.
and sells, then I get requests for another, and another and I’m making the same design again and again, which can become
I then decided to get educated with this Fimo stuff, so back to the internet I went. I Googled a couple of things and found
challenging as I can start disliking the piece or get stuck in a rut
this awesome website called Craftster, a crafting forum website,
to the point of hatred. But I just sit back, take a moment, drink
and on there they had some really great basic tutorials for Fimo,
some tea and carry on, it’s all good.
cupcakes seemed the easiest. So I cranked out a couple of cupcakes (which again I still
What do you enjoy the most about what you do?
Experimenting with the clay, what can I put inside the clay?
own) and instantly fell in love with them. And I guess I just took
Glitter? Mineral eye shadows? What happens when I add water
off from there!
to the clay? What consistency do I get? I wonder how I could
Tyne Watson is a Whovian, Sherlockian, Tolkienist and all
achieve the baked look on waffles correctly? That sort of thing!
around geek with a passion for crafting.
What is your most effective method of promoting ‘Blue Cherry Jewellery?’
Social media and the internet! I tweet a fair bit about my items and I’ve got a Facebook page where I post items too. I also post my items onto my DeviantArt account and onto Craftster too. Then, while I’m on Etsy, I talk in the forums, comment on peoples posts and join in team chats too. Which item is your biggest seller?
At craft fairs and shows my best sellers are often my biscuits and sweetie jewellery, they’re something unique and quirky that hasn’t really been seen before. My best seller online (at the moment) is a pair of BBC Sherlock IOU apple earrings. What advice would you give to aspiring jewellery designers? Enjoy what you do, if you’ve got no passion it’ll show in your work.
Deadlines And Pushchairs Sue Hooper
Has your writing life changed since you became a mother?
have a workshop on ‘making characters sound distinct from
Absolutely! Although I obviously don’t have a lot of time, when
each other’, which was very productive. We bounce ideas off
I do, it’s very precious which means I’m more focused and
each other, offer constructive criticism, share interesting articles,
productive. My daughter is almost three years old and she
books we’ve found and have a drink and a laugh. The other
understands that mummy writes and that my work isn’t to be
members of the group have experience in teaching creative
scribbled on! A lot of mums will say that housework can wait,
writing and have had articles published previously. It’s a really
your child is only young once.
fun, lively group and I get a lot out of our meets.
I do bits of housework throughout the day and keep on top of it so any (these days rare) nap times, the few hours she
Can you talk us about the book you are currently working
spends at nursery during the week and some evenings after
I can indeed. It’s a work of fiction and is titled, ‘An Hour Year.’
she’s gone to bed are for writing. When my girl naps, it’s in my lap so I couldn’t move anyway... this works well for both of us. I
I came up with the idea pushing my daughter home in her
don’t often read my work out loud as I should do to see how it
pushchair in August 2011 from the supermarket, ‘What if you
flows, but for fear of waking her up, I don’t. I need to. I’m also
popped out for an hour but it turned out you’d been gone an
more confident on getting my words down as I’d like to have
entire year?’ I drafted 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo and then
work in print as well as for myself, but for her to see/read when
the whole novel needed a complete re-write, an edit, more
she’s older and to show there’s more to life than wiping bums
editing and finally, to completion. It’s being published on 1st
and mashing up vegetables. She started nursery in the autumn
March 2013! The blurb on the back reads: “What if you popped
which coincided with me completing my first novel, ‘An Hour
out for an hour but were gone an entire year?
Leaving three month old Robbie with his dad while she
I find myself writing every day and it becomes a routine
nips to the shop, Alice returns to discover she’s been gone a
I can easily settle in to, whereas before I became a mum, I’d
whole year, Robbie is fifteen months old and she’s missed it all.
spend hours and hours not being focused just writing and never
Confused, upset and with growing urgency, Alice questions her
finishing anything or putting it off and dreaming about it. It’s
own sanity as she battles agitation and anxiety while struggling
made me more determined. More productive in the short blasts
to uncover the truth.
of time I get. My daughter understands I’ve written a book. She
And what exactly is going on between her husband and her
will sit and scribble with a pen or jab at letters on the keyboard
and say, “I’m working! I’m writing my book like mummy!”
An Hour Year feels real. But it can’t be, can it?”
You are part of a writing group who have set a goal to
What other writing projects do you have on the go?
Can you tell us more about this?
decided to self-publish. It was a hard decision because I dreamt
We’re a group of four writers and we meet in a pub in Chepstow
of a publisher picking me up and telling me I was wonderful
every three weeks for an evening. We met through our
etc. but realistically, I want to just get on with it. Maybe in the
participation on NaNoWriMo (www.nanowrimo.org) in November
future, I will be approached with a great offer and I can wow with
everything I’ve done so far.
At the moment, it’s all about getting ‘An Hour Year’ out there. I
each have a book published by the end of the year (2012).
I’ve set up my own company, TsuQuill Books, and I am
Once the month was up, it was decided to start up a group ourselves. We set out in January 2012 but officially launched
doing my own books, marketing and every single bit and piece.
in April so we had time to iron out creases and work out how
So while every error is my own, on the upside, every success
we are going to run. So our writer’s year runs April to March so
is also my own. I’ve just finished preparing the manuscript for
by this time 2013, our books should be out there. It gives us a
Kindle and it’s also coming out in paperback. I hope to start work on another book soon. I’ve a few ideas
healthy deadline. We have an agenda for our meeting where we
bouncing around but I’ve yet to settle on one yet.
bring any difficulties we have, for example, I asked if we could
illustration: Paul Watson
Paper or computer?
What three pieces of advice would you give to a writing
If I’m already doing a quick edit as I type up, then I spell check
One: Make valuable use of nap time even if it’s just half an hour.
I write on paper to begin with and then type up onto my desktop.
Two: Get your partner or a friend you trust to look after your wee
one and join a writer’s group. Find one that suits you. Ask in your
I can’t edit on screen, I find it tedious and I can’t scribble all over the page, so I edit on paper. Then I’ll type my edit on paper
local library or in writer’s magazines. As well as valuable writing
to the computer. Print and repeat. I print four pages to one sheet
support, a group keeps you in the identity/mind-set of a writer,
of A4 to cut down on paper and ink.
and, if you’re like me, the only ‘me’ time out of the house. Or if that’s not possible join one online. I’m much more productive in
What books are you encouraging your daughter to read?
the days after a meet up. Three: Always back up your work and
Any from your own childhood?
not just on one computer. Get Dropbox. Your work will get squash
She has most of my childhood books waiting for her in boxes
spilt into it, it will get coloured in when you leave it unattended to
in the cupboard of doom under my stairs. Reading and weekly
answer the ‘phone or the door, banana will get smeared into it.
visits to the library are enjoyable for both of us.
Label your pages so when small hands get hold of them and drop them, you don’t have to stress. I found this out the hard way!
Her middle name is Rowena, after the author of one of my favourite books that was made into a children’s TV series when I was young, ‘Seal Morning’ by Rowena Farre. I adored that. Also,
Sue lives in Monmouthshire, Wales with her husband,
Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and when she’s a bit older, Harry Potter!
daughter and kitten, Polly. She’s a BA (Hons) English
Language and Literature and a CELTA Teaching English as
What are the writing plans for the future?
a Foreign Language certificate. Sue loves teaching but is
I may go back and work on a piece I wrote a few years ago but
taking a break to bring up her daughter and write her novel,
hopefully I’ll get more ideas for fiction and move on with that.
‘An Hour Year’. You can find her at www.anhouryear.com or
When my girl goes to school, I may go back into teaching unless
on her Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/
this authoring malarkey really kicks off!
When In Newcastle, Look Up Ben Holland
Tell us about your work and how you got started in
working on night time pieces so that’s where the name comes
from. Social media wise, I’m on the usual Facebook (www.
I’ve always drawn, ever since I was a kid. I used to draw pictures
facebook.com/lowmoonoverhightown) and Twitter (@LMOHT)
of footballers or try to recreate album cover artwork. I’ve just
sites. I also try to always have an exhibition up in Newcastle
always carried on really, finding things to sketch as the inspiration
in one of the venues from the collection. Finally, I’ve a stall on
comes. There hasn’t been a point where I thought, “great, I’m
Tynemouth market and can be found there most weekends.
an illustrator now.” I guess I’ve just hit upon a style and current collection that people can engage with.
What aspects of illustration do you enjoy most?
I just love capturing the atmosphere of a building or place. What is it about Newcastle that you find so inspirational?
It’s pretty satisfying to do that, especially as each piece in this
The buildings are some of the most beautiful of any city in the
collection takes around 25- 30 hours to complete - they’re a bit
country. The old adage is “look up” and that’s particularly true in
of a labour of love. Obviously, when someone wants to buy a
Newcastle. Walk down Northumberland Street and have a look
piece of work after you’ve finished, that’s pretty good too. There
above the Carphone Warehouse. Exactly.
are already pieces from the collection found in homes in Australia and New Zealand, so it’s pretty cool to think a bit of a drawing from Chilli Road in Heaton is hung on a wall on the other side of
What materials do you use to create your work?
A pen and a piece of paper. The materials are dead simple. It’s the joy of drawing that you can do it anywhere and for no money. I use 0.1 fine liners all the time and just build layers and layers of
What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?
Draw. Just draw anything you see and build up books and books
ink, rather than cheating and filling the sky in with a marker pen...
of work, you’ll soon see evidence of progression. Use other illustrators as inspiration but don’t just copy them, try developing
Where is your ideal working space?
a unique style, something which is distinctly ‘you’.
Home. I work from mine and my girlfriends flat in Heaton. There’s a kettle, a radio and a cat. Ideal. There’s no real need for a studio unless I start painting (which is the next project...)
Please name three of your favourite illustrators.
Children’s book illustration is what I always go back to. I’ve been What is your process when creating a piece?
reading Tales From Arabian Nights recently and the illustrations
I draw the less celebrated architecture. I’ve no real interest
by H J Ford are incredible, just beautiful black and white line
in drawing the Angel or the bridges as they’ve been done to
drawings with so much life. In the modern era I’ll give a mention
death. I like places where there’s a sense of atmosphere and
to another Northerner, my friend Simon Bartram. He works out
anticipation. I take lots of preparatory photographs to get the
of his shed in Gateshead. His illustrations in the Bob: Man on
detail correct and try to visit the location at day and night. All my
the Moon series (for which he’s won the Blue Peter Book of the
work is set at night, as again, I like the atmosphere it creates,
Year award before) are amazing. Finally, away from children’s
and the interesting shadows and light that is thrown up on to the
books I’m a massive fan of Saul Bass. I got into his work through
buildings. So I photograph the subject, draw the basic structure
Hitchcock film posters and just love his unique style - he was an
out in light pencil and then get into applying pen as early as
possible to start bringing the piece to life. I try and cover big areas like sky and road surfaces first to tie the work together and
Ben Holland is a pen & ink artist currently specialising
then start into the intricacies of the detail.
in atmospheric drawings of Newcastle’s less revered architecture. His next project, an illustrated novel, is
How do you promote your work?
developing a combination of modern fairy tale and noir art.
Online through my website www.lowmoonoverhightown.com.
Away from the drawing board, Ben is the songwriter and
High Town is the original name of Heaton where I live and I like
singer/rhythm guitarist for The Winter Hill Transmission.
Writers’ Block Laura Degnan and James Harris
Can you please describe how Writers’ Block came to be?
photocopied, hand stapled, but these days we’re always told
Laura contacted Middlesbrough Council to ask for an empty
that content is king, and the content is uniformly great. The
space in which to run a creative group with an emphasis on
internet is a grand shop window for showcasing your creativity,
writing, and Julie Marsden from the Business Development
but there’s a lot to be said for producing a physical artefact: an
team provided her with a space through the ‘We Are Open’
object that can be held, folded up, put in your pocket, read on
programme, using ERDF funding. Laura then set about
meeting individuals and groups to ask about new events and opportunities they’d like to see and experience in the Tees Valley.
What tips would you give to someone wanting to start a
Using this information, she set up a number of pilot programmes
zine of their own?
Just do it! It sounds like dumb advice, but it’s the best we’ve got.
Pick a topic you’re passionate about, and go for it. Was there always full support for the set up of Writers’ Block? Who helped you to fund the project and who
Which creative figures and works of literature inspire and
There was full and constant support from Middlesbrough
Too many to list here! Anyone who got off their arse, didn’t wait
assists in keeping it running?
Council. Laura Degnan and James Harris run the company now,
for permission and just went out there and started creating stuff.
with funding from the Arts Council, Digital City Business and
Everyone who comes to our workshops, for a start!
Middlesbrough Council. What are the plans for Writers’ Block in the future?
We’ve got our programme of workshops and events running in
What sorts of events and programmes does Writers’ Block facilitate?
2013, culminating in another Meet The Agent event, where we’ll
Mentoring, workshops, showcasing and networking events,
be bringing three top agents from London to meet our writers.
collaborative opportunities for creative professionals to work
Beyond that… it’s in the lap of the Gods. Can we get more
together to create new pieces of work
funding? Will people want us to continue? Watch this space…
Do you have a particular event that’s always popular?
Where can we find you and are there any events coming
lots of people coming to our various creative writing workshops.
We’re based in Dundas House, in the Dundas Arcade,
Our 1-1 mentoring scheme is very well subscribed, and we get
The sketch group we run with ARC is going from strength to
Middlesbrough, and you can find us on Facebook (facebook.
strength, with around 30 regular participants coming to the
com/writersblockne) Twitter (twitter.com/writersblockne) and the
weekly sessions and performing in the shows.
plain old internet (www.writersblockne.com), where you can find a full list of upcoming events and workshops.
The literary scene in Teesside is blowing up! What are your thoughts on the masses of emerging new talent in the
area? Are there any bright sparks that warrant a mention? It’s all good. People are getting out there, making films, putting
on plays, performing poetry, sketches, spoken word. It feels like the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people, but it also feels like the beginning of something amazing. Can you talk about the zine Writers’ Block produce?
We’ve produced a couple of simple, photocopied booklets showcasing the work of local writers. They’re pretty DIY:
illustration: Paul Watson
Laura Degnan was born and brought up in Stockton-onTees. In 2005 she graduated from Oxford University. An
emerging writer/director working in film and theatre, she is represented by MacFarlane Chard Associates. Laura
has worked in development roles at Kudos Film and TV, RS Productions and the BBC. Laura set up Writers’ Block in 2010 to support creative talent in the North East region. James Harris has lived in the North East all of his life.
He has written/made stuff for the BBC (Shooting Stars, Comedy Shuffle, Scallywagga, Fresh Animation On 3,
Spacehopper, Teethgrinder, Parsons and Naylor’s Pull Out Sections), Channel 4 (4mations), Dave (Totally Viral) and
ITV (Cobravision). His films have been shown on the BBC,
ITV, Sky TV and at film festivals world-wide. He has worked freelance delivering workshops in writing, drama and
filmmaking for the Arc in Stockton, Club Creative, The Story Engine, and now with Writers’ Block.
Like A Mad Scientist Phil Robinson / Níðhöggr Studio
You are an accomplished graphic designer and have
name comes from a source close to my heart. Ultimately, I wanted
Design, but from its ashes you’ve created Níðhöggr Studio.
services Níðhöggr Studio provides?
viciously gnaws one of the three roots that support the world tree
As a freelance graphic designer, I work within the music industry,
Yggdrasill. Situated beneath this particular root is one of the nine
and have provided album artwork and logo designs (among other
homeworlds unified by Yggdrasill - Niflheim - a realm of primordial
things) for a number of bands (and record labels) – including
ice and the abode of Hel (the goddess daughter of Loki) - at
Bilskirnir, Cruelty’s Heart, Darker Than Black Records, Fyrdsman,
the centre of which, bubbles and boils the exhaustless spring
Hrafnblóð, UKEM Records and Wyrtrum to name but a few... I’m
Hvergelmir or ‘great cauldron’. The root traps Níðhöggr within
passionate about black metal (and the diverse sub-genres that it’s
Hvergelmir, where it torments the bodies of the dead (those who
given birth to), so to have the opportunity to work with, and support
did not die a heroic or notable death). The arrival of Níðhöggr
these bands gives me great pleasure. I have undertaken a number
into the realm of Miðgarðr (the homeworld inhabited by humans)
of non-music-related projects in the past (as Black Raven Design),
- having successfully chewed through the root(s) of Yggdrasill -
but my passion for the black metal underground was what I wanted
heralds the arrival of Ragnarök, and the subsequent destruction of
to dedicate my time to exclusively, thus, I made the decision to put
something that was representative of black metal’s dark and ‘evil’
recently laid to rest your freelance business Black Raven
Níðhöggr is a powerful serpent-like creature, or wyrm, which
Can you talk about your reasons for doing so and the
to bed the Black Raven Design name after 6 years and establish a new business, with a new name and identity – Níðhöggr Studio.
How would you define your style?
I’m not exactly sure how I would define my style. If I’m honest, I’ve When did you decide that graphic design was the right
never really given it much thought. I guess there are certain traits
career choice for you, and what influenced your decision?
that remain consistent throughout my work – the use of layers
The decision to pursue a career as a graphic designer was made
to create texture and atmosphere is one example. My obsessive
in 2001, I think... I was already studying graphic design at A level;
attention to detail would be another...
as it was a subject I had enjoyed in the past; I hadn’t considered it as a potential career at that point. My ‘dream’ job, at the time, was
Can you describe your ideal working space and
to be an aerodynamicist, and to be involved in motorsport; there
I’m a bit like a mad scientist... I like to lock myself away and work
was, however, one problem – the requirement to study physics at an advanced level... I have a good understanding of the subject
on my own, with music playing in the background. This is how I’ve
overall, I was completely and utterly useless when it came to the
always felt happiest working, and it’s the environment in which I
maths, so, unfortunately, that ‘dream’ never really got going. It was
believe I’m able to be most creative.
after I had finished my A levels that I made the decision – graphic design was definitely something I could quite happily make a living
What process do you go through with your work? Do you
from – it felt like it came naturally to me. After a couple of years
structure the job so you are able to do it in little blocks
studying a National Diploma in graphic design, I took a full-time job
of time, or do you find yourself working flat out until it’s
as a graphic designer (strangely enough)… Black Raven Design
I usually work in two to three-hour stints, on and off... I’ll spend a
was established in 2008 in order for me to combine my interests in graphic design and music, but soon developed into other areas. In
couple of hours working on a project, step away from it for an hour
2013, I decided I wanted to once again focus solely on the music
or so, then come back to it again. I’ve always found it difficult to
industry, particularly underground black metal, and so, Níðhöggr
remain creative when sat in front of the same piece of work for long
Studio was born...
periods of time.
The name for your new venture is a curious one. Can you
What are the immediate challenges you face with Níðhöggr
connection it has to what you do?
I actually work both full-time and freelance as a graphic designer,
please talk about how you came to choose this title and the
so as you can imagine, there are times when I feel completely
I’ve had an interest in Norse Mythology for many years now, so this
devoid of any ‘creative spark’ – so to speak. This, for me, is the
Can you describe how it feels to have your designs out there
most challenging part of my work – being creative 100% of the
on album covers?
I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a sense of pride when seeing
time. When I need to ‘recharge my creative batteries’, I step away
my finished artwork for the first time in the flesh… I know not
from my work completely, at least for a day or two, maybe more...
everyone is going to recognise it as my work, or even notice it al all, but, as long as I’m happy with it, and, of course, the client is happy
How do you manage to stay creative under pressure?
with it, then that’s all that matters, as far as I’m concerned.
I’ve been pretty lucky to be honest; I’ve not yet had a client
(while I’ve been working freelance, at least) that has put me under any unnecessary pressure to produce artwork, or, to hit
What aspirations do you have for the future?
I’m really happy with what I’m currently doing. I thoroughly enjoy
an ‘impossible’ deadline... Having said that, I work full-time for a publisher, so I get my fair share of pressure from that side of my
the intimacy of working one-to-one with an individual (or band) and,
work. One thing I have learned over the last six or seven years is
of course, supporting the black metal underground.
being able to manage my time in high-pressure situations. How do you unwind, or do you find that you are unable to switch off?
In what ways do you market yourself and which marketing
It’s very rare that I ‘switch off’ – so to speak. However, away
method do you find to be the most successful?
My website - www.nidhoggrstudio.com - is where I display my
from my freelance work, I like to unwind by listening to my music
portfolio of freelance work. I also use Facebook and Twitter for a
collection or watching DVDs. I really enjoy dark/surreal/alternative
more ‘immediate’ response to a new piece of work, or, to share
comedy – I’m a huge fan of Red Dwarf, as well as Garth Marenghi’s
news regarding the projects I’m working on... Most importantly
Darkplace, Flight of The Conchords, Peep Show, I’m Alan Partridge
however, the finished artwork itself is the best marketing tool in my
and Curb Your Enthusiasm. I like to see my favourite bands
opinion I, or any other creative person for that matter, has at their
performing live too, so I try to attend as many gigs as possible. I’m
also a huge motorsport enthusiast...
Can you name three graphic designers who inspire you?
How do you think graphic design will develop in the future?
provided me with a great deal of inspiration, particularly when
away from print to digital formats in all aspects of the work I’m
it comes to album artwork. First, Robert Høyem (At The Ends
involved in, certainly in the mainstream. In the underground music
of The Earth Designs/Overhaus) – Kampfar (Mare), Iskald (The
industry, there is a much greater appreciation for physical artefacts,
Sun I Carried Alone, Revelations of Reckinging Day, Shades of
be it vinyl, cassette and even CD. There will always be a place for
Misery), Drautran (Throne of The Depths). His work is so precise
print, regardless how much the digital age ‘takes over’; I can’t see it
and deliberate yet so natural and raw – I’ve always found Robert
ever dying out completely.
It pains me to say it, but I think there’s going be a continued moved
I’d like to mention a few Norwegian designers who’s work has
Høyem’s work to be the perfect visual representation of modern (extreme) metal. The second designer is Halvor Bodin – Satyricon
What advice would you give to anyone interested in
(Volcano, Rebel Extravaganza, Intermezzo II, Nemesis Divina,
pursuing a career in graphic design?
If you’re looking to get recognised for you work, and subsequently,
The Shadowthrone), Darkthrone (Total Death, Plaguewielder, Panzerfaust). There’s something ‘different’ about Halvor Bodin’s
take on more work as a result, I think there needs to be some sort
work, his style is immediately recognisable, it’s modern, yet
of consistency – a developed (and unique) style that singles you out
incredibly dark. As far as black metal album artwork is concerned,
from other designers. And, of course, make sure people can see
it goes completely against the grain, which is exactly what black
your work – be it an online portfolio, a website or even Facebook...
metal is supposed to be all about – it’s unlike any album artwork I’ve seen before. Finally, Trine + Kim Design Studio (run by Trine
Where can we find you?
The Níðhöggr Studio website should be your first port of call -
Paulsen and Kim Sølve) – Enslaved (The Sleeping Gods, Axioma Ethica Odini, Vertibrae), Shining (Black Jazz, Live Black Jazz),
www.nidhoggrstudio.com. If you wish to contact me, I recommend
Gallhammer (Ill Innocence), Mayhem (Ordo Ad Chao). Again,
you go here first. Níðhöggr Studio can also be found on Facebook:
more examples of album artwork in a similar style to that of Robert
/nidhoggrstudio and Twitter: @nidhoggrstudio.
Høyem and Halvor Bodin; beautifully designed with impeccable attention to detail, portraying the music and the band(s) perfectly
Phil Robinson is a Cambridgeshire-based graphic designer
without conforming to the same old tired stereotypes of past
who’s been working in the design industry since 2005 and
album artwork – particularly black metal album artwork.
as a freelance designer since 2008.
Where do you look to for inspiration with your work?
Inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere. I’m forever on the lookout, where ever I am, and where ever I go... What tools do you use in your day-to-day work, and what is your favourite piece of equipment?
My favourite piece is pretty much the only piece I use – my iMac. Adobe Creative Suite certainly comes in handy too! I work almost entirely digitally, though from time to time (and to achieve the right aesthetic) I like to create some elements of my work by hand.
Writing Is Good For Your Health Carol Ross
What inspired you to put together a book about the
What is your occupation? Does writing feature in your
I feel writing helps me, for example by lifting my mood, and
My main job is in clinical audit in the NHS – a very analytical
potential writing has to help and heal?
quality-oriented job. But I also lead weekly writing groups in
making me feel calmer and more relaxed.
mental health wards to encourage patients to write to help their
So I wanted to create a book that would encourage other
people to try writing themselves and hopefully feel wellbeing benefits from doing it.
How important is writing to you on a personal level?
I have always been interested in writing, books and publishing.
Are you able to describe the process, from initial idea to printing? Was it what you expected?
I worked in scientific publishing for many years so I had some
Editing and publishing the book wasn’t much different from what
knowledge and experience of publishing before I started the
I had expected, except that it took months longer than I had
book. I wrote lots of poetry at school, but I stopped for quite a few
envisaged! Also I had to learn a lot as I went along.
years and only started again when my son (then 7) asked me to
The idea was born at a hotel dinner I attended with half
write stories with him.
a dozen people the evening before the Writing in Healthcare
Once I started writing again I began to realise how much I
conference I organised in March 2011 (the conference was the
LOVE the process of writing – the creative process.
finale of the Cumbria Partnership Year of Writing, a big writing project I carried out in the NHS trust I work for). At the dinner I said that I really wanted the momentum of the
Can you talk about what you have learnt about yourself
Year of Writing to keep going after the project finished, and that
and others during the process of creating ‘Words for
I wanted to spread the message about writing being good for
For one thing I learned that I tend to underestimate how long
health and wellbeing as far and wide as possible.
things will take me to do! I learned a lot about how other people
Someone (no idea who) suggested creating a book and four of the people at the dinner immediately volunteered to write a
– practitioners and individuals – use writing, books and stories
chapter for it.
for wellbeing, and I read some very moving personal stories from the contributors to the book.
The tasks involved in producing the book have included: identifying the funding for printing, finding a printer, finding a small number of people to write chapters for the book and
Which books have inspired you before and during the
working with them to get to their finished chapter, creating and
creation of the book?
Prompted to write edited by Victoria Field and Zeeba Ansari was
circulating a leaflet across Cumbria asking for poetry and prose
quite a big influence for me in designing the book.
submissions to the book, identifying people to form the panel
Other books that have influenced the work I do in writing
that selected the poems and prose for the book, coordinating the selection process via email, letting everyone know whether
groups include several by Gillie Bolton, Journal to the self:
their writing was going in the book or not, getting contributors
Twenty-two paths to personal growth by Kay Adams, Creative
to sign and return permission forms, identifying a graphic artist
writing in groupwork by Robin Dynes, and Writing well: Creative
and other illustrators to illustrate the book and liaising with them
writing and mental health by Deborah Philips, Debra Penman
about the illustrations I wanted, editing all the writing that went
and Liz Linnington.
in the book, proof reading, deciding on font, paper size, cover design, etc., creating all the inside pages and fully formatting
Who do you believe will benefit from reading ‘Words for
them in Microsoft Word, ‘printing’ the Word document to a
I am hoping that many people will benefit from reading this book
‘press-ready’ PDF document, sending the cover artwork and logos and the PDF of the inside pages to the printer for them to
– I want people who don’t usually write to start writing because
print and bind.
of it, and I hope that everyone who reads it will find something in
illustration: Paul Watson
there that touches them in some way. The writing in the book is
Born in Yorkshire, Carol Ross settled in Cumbria in
so varied and the chapters cover such a broad scope that I really
1995, where she lives with her husband and son. She is
feel there is something in there for everyone.
passionate about writing for wellbeing, e.g. in mental
health wards. Carol has worked in publishing, has had
several poems published, enjoys writing children’s stories,
Where can we get our hands on a copy of ‘Words for
and has just started writing flash/short fiction.
It is on Amazon or you can order it direct from me. Email writing. email@example.com to enquire. Are there any plans for more books in the future or other exciting projects?
No plans as yet but when we bought the ISBN number we had to buy 10 of them… What are your favourite three writing exercises?
1) Freewriting in response to word prompts, e.g., a themed
set of 5 words and writing for 2 minutes per word, e.g., speed, power, beauty, balance, freedom. 2) Writing in response to picture postcards (photos and art
cards) – endlessly adaptable and many people enjoy writing from pictures. A favourite example is to use 3 carefully selected postcards and all the group members write about the same card at the same time. 1st card – write what you see (2 minutes); 2nd card – write about what it makes you think of (4 minutes); 3rd card – write the story the card suggests to you (10 minutes). It’s always great to hear the different stories we all come up with for the 3rd card. 3) Writing in response to a themed set of objects, e.g., a collection of pairs of gloves, fabric swatches, or holiday souvenirs.
It’s A Lot of DIY Stuart Bartlett / Tombs in the Valley Productions
Can you give us a bit of background into your work in the
people I deal with, if you’re wanting a particular audience. For the
most part I find people like this a lot more accepting and willing
I started going to DIY gigs around 2001, got inspired by the
to check out new music, or take an interest in what is going on
work ethic of bands/promoters and labels alike so decided
with the label. I’m not sure why people who are, let’s say more
to ‘get involved’. Started up my own distro around then too,
mainstream, don’t seem that interested in supporting the real
Aheadshotforyourthoughts. I basically bought a bunch of records
underground gigs or labels. I mean I only got into this because
I wanted and added a few extra copies to sell around the area.
of getting into metal through the likes of Kerrang/Metal Hammer
To this day, I still have a bunch of them left, even though the
etc, just like most people of my age or older.
bands are now cult or something, I also ended up giving loads away when I was becoming particularly disenfranchised with the
Can you talk about the process of setting up a record
scene, and didn’t see the point in doing it anymore. I also had a
label? Were you faced with many challenges?
If you’re into releasing DIY music, there isn’t that much of a
few failed attempts at doing labels too, before starting up Tombs in the Valley Productions. Around 2003 I decided to book a gig
process, basically get a label name, ask a band, release the
in my home town of South Shields with No Comply (Ska/metal
music. Of course there is all the organising and boring stuff in-
band), Ultra Shit Inferno (Noisecore), The Presdigitators (Guitar/ Drums Improv noise), Spitfire Down (Straightedge Hardcore).
between, but if you have the money, there are always bands
The gig went well, due to it being the same night as the local
looking for help to release their music. The only real challenge
student/mosher night, I even got punched in the face from a
was the name, the name I wanted to use wasn’t accepted by
local NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) legend. So as
one of the other guys, the one who bailed anyways. Kinda wish
a first gig it went amazingly well!
I had stuck to my guns now, as I’m still here and he isn’t. But it was quite simple really, I have dealt with only two presses myself
After that, I met a bunch of people through Newcastle and started working with a bunch of local bands, doing gigs and
from the label, where the others were sorted by other labels as
what not. After a few gigs I started to move into booking gigs for
they were co-releases, apart from the plant taking ages for one
touring bands, then eventually on to booking tours for bands. All
of the releases it was fine dealing with the pressing side also. I’ve
the while losing loads of money, but making some killer friends.
done a few layout and design things too, but they’re very basic
So basically I’ve paid for my friendships, pretty sad situation
and I just did them because I was bored at home.
when you think about it. Towards the end of 2011 I started up Tombs In The Valley
What is your preferred medium to use when listening to
Productions with a few mates, one of which bailed and started
At this precise moment I couldn’t care less, if I want to hear the
his own thing, and one who is still around helping when he can. Looking at trying to work with a friend in the USA, to make things
music I’ll listen to it in whichever format I have at the time, for
easier for my releases to get over there, he plays in the killer old
example going to work I’m not going be taking my record player
school Grindcore band Manic Scum (I released the first EP). Also
with me, but will have my MP3 player or phone. The vinyl hype and the stupid costs some labels charge
towards the end of 2011 I got involved with a few mates and started to do gigs again after I hung it up after becoming
have become totally depressing, even more so when 99% of
completely burnt out. So far we’ve done three gigs and it’s
them are basically MP3s pressed on to wax. I’d rather just
been wicked, also the support has been overwhelming.
buy the CD for cheaper instead. But then you also see labels charging £12 upwards when the costs of CDs are so small,
Tell us about your record label ‘Tombs in the Valley.’ What
unless you are doing a special release. If it’s an older album/
audience do you cater for?
single I do prefer vinyl though, when it actually sounded good
If I’m honest I don’t have a particular audience, I’m willing to
and wasn’t about the fact your piece of wax glows in the fucking
work with any type of band as long as I personally like the music.
dark and you have a special wooden box which doesn’t fit on
I guess due to the size of the label, it’s a lot of DIY similar minded
your shelf to house your massive MP3 disk in.
What are your thoughts about record stores going out of
great. Also, they have been a total pleasure to deal with, and
so it’s great they are in good bands with a good sense of ethics,
business? Do you view it as a terrible loss or essential
incredibly helpful. Without their help we’d have been screwed,
Well of course the easy answer is it sucks big time, it’s great
they understand the scene is ours and without us it wouldn’t
walking into a record shop and browsing, then coming across
exist. We just need more people with that outlook, the more
some killer record. Also it’s great to support local businesses
people through the doors, the more good feedback from bands/
at the same time. But then the prices can be high, of course
tour managers, means the more offers we get, which means the
running a shop isn’t cheap in the slightest, so costs have to be
more bands coming to the area. You can come to Newcastle
covered. I’m guilty of not buying a release from a shop and then
at the minute any day of the week and see lots of people in
buying it online to save some money. At the minute there seems
none mainstream metal shirts, or even more mainstream but
to be somewhat of a change happening though, as postage is
still something ten years ago you’d be surprised to see people
becoming increasingly expensive, pricing out the general record
wearing these particular band shirts. I think we need to get out
buyer and pushing them back into the shops, because where
more and flyer/advertise to these people and bring them to our
before you could get an LP for around £10 post paid, it’s now
gigs, show them there is an alternative to the academies of the
double. Also you have to wait x amount of days/weeks, hope it
world, show that it’s possible as a DIY promoter to bring bigger
reaches you, hope it’s in one piece etc, whereas you can walk
bands and have successful events in the North East. We have
into a shop and buy it then leave. No doubt there will be a time
such a strong and legendary heritage of music here, and metal
when they all close down and no doubt it will be a great loss.
is one of them, so there is no reason why we shouldn’t be back
Is it essential progression? I’d say no way at all, making music
on the map for bands to play here. Then we have people like
unavailable to people isn’t progression, it’s regression surely? Of
yourself doing Big Eyes, all of this has been missing for a long
course you can buy/steal online, but you still need a place to go
time up here, there are the odd bits and bobs here and there,
and hangout while checking out the new or old collections sold
or has been over the years. But it seems like a lot of people are
in to stores. Also it’s a great advantage when finding out about
now involved in the metal side of things, I can’t ever remember
up and coming gigs, as no one seems to give a flying fuck about
there being a zine covering metal, loads of punk/hardcore stuff,
so it’s great. It’s all really positive stuff going on, and long may it continue.
What do you look for when signing a band?
I’ve never signed a band, and never will. I’ll answer it as “what
What advice would you give to someone interested in
do I look for when releasing a band,” quite simple really, good
starting their own record label?
Don’t bother? Make sure you don’t care about losing money,
music, good people. Nothing more, nothing less. Every band I’ve currently worked with have been great, and it’s more than
make sure you actually like the music and do it for that reason
just about releasing the actual music, as I’ve “met” some great
rather than to look cool and all that bollocks. Or if you know a
people through doing this. Kinda works both ways as now they
mate already doing a label, try and get involved with them. Oh,
help me out with things I need, and I help them out, mutual
and the most important thing, don’t rip off bands or customers,
respect I guess.
but that’s blatant.
When it comes to promotion, what do you find to be the
Can you reveal your top three albums?
If I’m honest, I have no idea at all. I only use Facebook and a few
websites really, I’m very, very lazy when it comes to promoting
King Diamond – Them
what I do, I’m rather self deprecating, I don’t think what I do is
Rompeprop - All of the releases
This one changes all the time, so I’ll go with my current listing
most efficient method?
anything that special. So when people actually are into buying
Satan - Caught in the Act.
from me it’s great, but I don’t force them to check me out or
anything, maybe I should. I haven’t even made any flyers for
Stuart Bartlett, born in the U s of K, is one half of Tombs
my label or anything, I kinda think I could spend £80 on 5000
in the Valley Production which was formed in April 2011
flyers, or I can spend £80 on my next release, completely stupid
in the home of NWOBHM, Black Metal, Gazza and Jimmy
I know. If I had more money, or better cash flow through the label
Nail. With the intentions of releasing DIY music from
I’d spend a little on promotion, but at this point I’m just cruising
across the globe. Also 1/3 of the massively OK promotions
along, not making much, but hopefully with more releases under
my belt, I’ll start to pick up more custom, I’ll have to wait and see to be honest. Maybe I should get someone to start a marketing division or something and pay them in records no one wants. What are your thoughts on the current metal scene in the North East?
I can only really speak from the few gigs we’ve done as Bro(UK), we’ve had really great turnouts for our gigs, like you’ve seen. The younger generation seem really enthusiastic about the gigs, and they are actually playing in good bands. No stupid fashion bands, proper Grindcore (Rat Faced Bastard), proper technical death metal (Plague Rider), proper thrash (Vortex), which is
Write For Inspiration Steve Urwin
Talk to us about your latest book Shades of Grey.
Durham. When I started scribbling in a diary towards my twenties
Shades of Grey is a collection of writings from my early to mid-
the term flash fiction was unheard of. I was penning vignettes
twenties ranging from diary/journal entries to dream pieces,
that were neither poems nor stories, I didn’t know what to do
prose-poems, fictional snapshots and a couple of essays on
writing. It’s not an easy book to classify. My publisher (Sheila
It wasn’t until I read Charles Bukowski’s poems about
Wakefield, Red Squirrel Press) was asked by the ISBN Agency
rejection slips and small press magazines that I naively began
for category clarification and decided it was best to let them see
chopping my texts into lines of verse. I’d send them to Iron, The
a copy and make up their own minds – they deemed it poetry.
North, The Echo Room, etc – and get rejection slips with ‘not
I wrote the first pages whilst still living at my parents’ house,
quite what we’re looking for’ scrawled on them in return. It took
before I’d had anything published. I was employed by a giftware
me a few years to develop and have any success with poetry.
distribution warehouse at the time – stacking shelves and handling returned goods for a criminally low hourly rate.
What would you say is your greatest writing achievement
In Shades of Grey the banal sits side by side with the
extremely visceral. I channelled a lot of my angst and bitterness
Probably securing a book deal with Red Squirrel Press. They
into the writing. Through a series of untitled vignettes, the
have published two of my books now and have just offered to
reader becomes privy to the inner workings of a mind in turmoil;
take on another. Other stand-out moments would be having a
a journey through fatigue, displacement, estrangement and
poem published in the same issue of The Wide Skirt as Simon
self-loathing. Oh - and there are occasional glimpses of poetic
Armitage when I was still working in the warehouse. I don’t think
enlightenment, as well. But I’ve been told it’s generally quite a
he’d have much time for my work but I do admire his poetry and
he is undoubtedly up there with the best of them. I had poems
I finished selecting pieces for the first draft in 1996 and
in ten consecutive issues of a magazine called Psychopoetica
waited another four years before re-editing it. To be honest, I
in the nineties. Some of my biggest personal achievements are
was reluctant to publish it as it was so old. But I was surprised
more to do with performance – due to a mental breakdown in
when other writers saw it as something of a new direction. It
my late twenties, my once high-functioning short term memory
wasn’t, but most people think of me as a spoken word poet,
is now greatly diminished: it happened overnight; one day you
so I’m pleased that a substantial amount of the book works in
can open a book and scan a poem in seconds, the next you
a live setting - which helps with promotion – but at the time of
wake up in hospital and can’t even retain a simple sentence
composition I never thought I’d be performing anything anywhere
without half a dozen repeated readings – so being able to deliver
a fifteen-minute poetry set without the page in my hand is rated
Ironically, it was by way of performance that I secured a
pretty high for me. But it takes a lot of effort. My girlfriend, Jenni
book deal with Red Squirrel Press. During an open mic event at
Pascoe, can learn a two-minute poem in an afternoon; the same
the 2007 Hexham Book Festival Sheila Wakefield approached
piece would take me a month at least. Other achievements
me and asked if I had a novel. I said ‘No’ and jokingly added,
would be to do with facilitation and promotion: running creative
‘But you can read my diary’. She asked to see the manuscript –
writing workshops in mental health settings for best part of a
and four years later, published it.
decade; and organising the Waddington Street Centre WADDY MEGA SLAM in September 2011 – an event featuring 30 poets
What is your earliest memory of writing?
from across the region. Oh, and I was pretty chuffed that me
My only recollections of poetry from childhood are a primary
and Jenni supported Joolz Denby and New Model Army’s Justin
school lesson in which I was asked to compose a limerick -
Sullivan at a gig in Darlington recently.
using my own name in the first line - rhyming Stephen with pen, or hen or den - and the phrase ‘drunk with fatigue’ from Wilfred
Do you have a daily writing routine?
Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est from one afternoon in my early
Yes, I do. I’ve kept a daily journal/diary for best part of twenty
teens at Blackfyne Comprehensive School in Consett, County
years. At the start of 2012 I also returned to morning pages,
illustration: Paul Watson
made famous the world over by Julia Cameron; three pages of
ground. I’d sometimes send two or three batches a week via
long-hand writing on plain A4 sheets as soon as you wake up.
snail-mail. I liked seeing A5 envelopes on the doormat; it’s high
Supposedly a means of clearing away all the dross from your
time I got back to the small press magazine circuit.
head before getting down to real work, but after a few months I found that morning pages have become a net for catching
Where is your favourite place to work?
In addition to morning pages in bed upon waking and at the
dreams, lesson-plans, speeches and poems – many of this year’s NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) pieces came
drop-leaf table in the living room by the window of an evening,
I will often scribble on bus journeys. I find that movement, constant change of scenery and the snippets of overheard
I also keep a work-log of gigs, workshops, activities,
conversation fuel the pen.
thoughts on writing. So that’s three opportunities a day to catch
I also like participating in writing marathons. I have hosted a
the creative part of the brain at play. But much of my journal is little more than talking to myself with a pen. I go through my
number of these events in various venues. A writing marathon is
journals a few weeks down the line and type up anything that
a very intense four-hour workshop with up to eight participants,
surprises me. If it catches me off guard there’s a good chance
keeping the focus on short bursts of writing followed by
it might engage someone else. I’ll let the words dictate the form
read-backs without commentary. People lose their inhibitions
and tinker with a piece for a while, then muster up the courage to
quickly and everyone gets the benefit of hearing fresh drafts
try it out at an open mic night. If it gets any response, I’ll work on
from their peers whilst sinking into a writing headspace that
it further. And then, as I said earlier, there’s weeks of rehearsals
is comfortable due to zero threat of criticism. Some startlingly
and fine-tuning till I’m happy with the way the words flow out of
emotionally-charged material is produced. I tend to come up
my mouth. It’s a slow process from first spark to final draft. And
with performance pieces more easily in these situations than
as far as subject matter goes, I’d be first to admit I’m one of the
anywhere else. Some interesting results occur when you respond to the
most self-indulgent writers going. Occupying and consuming myself at the same time – it’s pure catharsis and documentation
buzz of everyday activity in public too – it’s good to take notes
of my movements. I write reams of stuff but only a tiny fraction of
and let the imagination respond to observations. So, lots
it becomes poetry. I also post regular updates of raw entries on
of places really. But I love the part in the process where I’m
a blog as well.
taking a page of scrawl and discovering what shape the words when typed will make on a page, so I’m probably at my most
As I’ve spent the last four or five years concentrating on live performance, I’ve not submitted poems to magazines as
comfortable sitting at the computer in my bedroom. I think,
regularly as in my twenties and thirties. I used to be a total
generally though, it pays to be flexible with regards to creative
bibliophile – for me, a poem in print used to be the real testing
workspaces. And as far as rehearsals go, I often get strange
looks on buses from passengers who catch me mumbling
television. Scour the internet – there’re millions of articles,
under my breath, trying desperately not to look at the printed
exercises, opportunities. Find a writing guide, not necessarily a
page in my hand. If you can recite a poem without messing up
‘How To’ book, but an author whose book becomes the friend
whilst being subjected to iPod leakage, one-sided mobile phone
you read. Don’t be distracted by people who don’t share or
conversations and screaming infants, you should be okay at the
support your enthusiasm, don’t engage in fruitless activities.
Avoid procrastination. A writer writes. Simple as that. Do it. Keep it going. Good luck!
What inspires your writing?
At the start of a new course of workshops I give participants a
Can you name three favourite poetry collections?
I enjoy reading books that sound like the author is letting off
handout stating the benefits of keeping a journal. At the bottom of the sheet is printed WRITE FOR INSPIRATION, DON’T WAIT
steam and allowing you to witness it. So obviously the work of
FOR INSPIRATION TO WRITE. Writing is a lifelong process and
Henry Rollins, Lydia Lunch and Charles Bukowksi were initially
an act of discovery; I rarely know what I’m going to come up
very influential. In my mid-twenties I started reading Beckett,
with until I’m in the thick of it. I had a pretty difficult upbringing
Kafka, Paul Auster, Mark Strand, Carol Ann Duffy, Simon
so I’m often concerned with issues of family dysfunction and
Armitage, The Mersey Poets, Sharon Olds, Michael Gira, Henri
the affect that has on a person’s ability to adapt to adult life.
Michaux, Charles Simic and many more. If I had to name just three – although not strictly poetry –
Dissatisfaction, anger, fear, keeping depression at bay – all strong
I’d like to include something by Rollins; so I’ll cheat and say
impulses to get the pen moving.
The First Five – which is a compilation of his early collections
I am also inspired by alternative music and dark culture – gothic imagery, the macabre – although I find horror novels
published in one volume. Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame
virtually unreadable. What really inspires me to write, and this will
contains some of Charles Bukowski’s best work – before Black
sound so ridiculous as to be risible, is the desire to have books
Sparrow Press started letting him get away with murder. And
with my name printed on the spine; and to have something come
at present, I’m enjoying For Beauty Douglas – Adrian Mitchell’s
out of my mouth on stage other than; “I’m terrified”.
Collected Poems 1953 – 79. But I also like Emotional Terrorism by Joolz Denby; Some
Subject matter; initially I was interested in capturing the solitary figure entering or leaving seclusion, a very ascetic kind
They Can’t Contain by Buddy Wakefield; The Time Office – New
of experience –which was my life for a long time. I’ve become a
and Selected Poems by Tom Kelly; Cemetery Nights by Stephen
lot more sociable in the last decade – due, I suppose, to being
Dobyns; The Sign of Saturn by Sharon Olds; Sagrada Familia by
active on the spoken word circuit. I just try to record my life as
Kevin Cadwallender… The list is endless!
accurately and honestly as possible. And I’ve been lucky enough to reach people who enjoy seeing and reading the results.
Steve Urwin is a diarist, ranter and multiple poetry slam winner from Consett, County Durham. He works as a
E-book reader or paper book?
freelance Creative Writing outreach facilitator and editor
I can see that Kindle is good for authors who want to self-publish
of new INK BOMB magazine. Books include Tightrope
without the risk of producing a mountain of unsold copies, but
Walker, Hypomaniac and Shades Of Grey. He also hosts
for me it has to be the paper book. I enjoy physically making
Poetry Jam and Lamplight Open Mic Night.
books actually; binding them, coloured endpapers - chapbooks, monographs. Books are tactile. I admire a good edition, sometimes regardless of its contents. I used to make one-off selected handwritten journal collections or manual-typewriterproduced poetry chapbooks as gifts for friends when I had the time. Now, I have a pile of unread paperbacks from Amazon in every room of the house and never sit still long enough to even begin to enjoy them. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write regularly. Every day. Find out what you want to write by writing and when you do find out, go and study others in the same genre. Devour as much as you can by authors who fire your enthusiasm. Study as much as possible, read widely. Writing is a solitary business most of the time; if you need support, join a writers group or take an evening class. Personally, I did some of my best writing by simply going it alone, keeping my head down and getting on with it. Sheer bloody mindedness. Are you really hungry, how badly do you want to succeed? Are you willing to sweat, to sacrifice, to put everything you’ve got into it? Start sending work out to magazines – don’t be put off by rejection. Learn from it. Make the work as strong as you can. Does it fit the mag house style? Try as many smallpress magazines as you can; go to readings, listen to radio programmes featuring writers, watch book programmes on
Tattoo Me Yes, Tattoo Me No Ben Leighton / Paramedic, Musician
Vickie Robinson / University Student
I’m the type of person that goes through very short lived, fleeting
I’ve got five tattoos, one on my ribs saying ‘a rough road leads
obsessions and so the idea of getting something that’s on me
to the stars’ in Latin, a freedom swallow symbol on my right foot,
forever is quite terrifying. I did want some lyrics tattooed on me
my Gran’s birth date in Roman numerals on my lower back, ‘I
a few years ago, from I think Vide Infra by Killswitch Engage,
am strong’ in Arabic on my right hip and two little feet on my
but I completely wimped out. I also think I have a lot of left over
Christian dogma from my youth which never ever really fully goes
I don’t regret any of them cos they tell the story of my life
away as well, and that probably contributed to the little voice in
and are meaningful to me, it takes me about five minutes to
my head saying “don’t do it.”
decide what I want cos it’s usually a eureka moment. I have
Because of that, no doubt in years to come, when I find
one more planned for the near future, I want the chorus lyrics to
myself hopefully with kids and a proper life of my own, I might
Elbow, Beautiful Day on my right hand side ribs when I can
celebrate this by getting a tattoo of sorts. Nothing as silly as
getting a kid’s name, but maybe something for my 30th as long as I’m happy where I am in life by then to represent that.
Vickie Robinson is dippy, stubborn, happy, troubled and
I absolutely love tattoos on other people, as long as it’s done
for a good reason. I think there is nothing sexier than a tattoo on a female, as long as they can tell me a reason for getting it that isn’t totally stupid and moronic. With guys, I think a lot of men now just get them for the sake of it. I would never want to do that. Workplaces discriminate off the books all the time against people with tattoos and it’s awful how much they get away with it. I don’t find scarification flattering at all, but there are probably people out there who feel that it compliments them maybe better than a tattoo. I’m not at all against any type of body modification as long as it’s done for a good reason. Some people benefit aesthetically from it, others just do it to fit in with a crowd, and that’s fine as well but I’m always a bit cynical with that type of behaviour. Ben Leighton is a 28 year old born and bred in Stockton on Tees. He is a musician, currently playing bass in the
hardcore band Taller Than Trees and enjoys pretending to
be a rock star. His religious and political views are complex at the best of times.
illustration: Paul Watson
The Science-Fiction of Inner Space Phil Simmons
It’s standard practice when considering the literary claims of
on the whole planet. Given the date of composition, I don’t think it
‘genre’ fiction to point out that some of the canonical works of
is fanciful to see this as Malzberg’s Vietnam novel, and it certainly
Eng. Lit. could easily be so ghettoised if they hadn’t long since
has relevant political content. As Folsom recalls one bureaucrat
been accepted as ‘proper’ literature. Where science-fiction is
saying: “Some of the opposition of course were referring to the
concerned, this usually involves the invocation of Frankenstein,
program not as one of amalgamation but of ‘conquest,’ the
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaid’s Tale, and the collected
brutalisation of innocent worlds to bring them into the hands of
works of JG Ballard. So consider this done. As Oscar Wilde
the Federation, render their natives hostage, their resources as
nearly-but-not-quite said: “There is no such thing as genre fiction
plunder. Although everyone connected with the Bureau knew that
or literary fiction, only good books and bad books.”
this was untrue… [A]ll that the Federation was trying to do was
Barry Nathaniel Malzberg has written some very good
make the universe a safe and agreeable place in which all of the
books. Between 1970 and 1985 he was almost bewilderingly
races could live equably and without fear…” We have heard this
prolific. More than 30 novels on a SF theme appeared in that
throughout the history of colonial exploitation. Malzberg is extremely interested in contemporary
time, of which the best-known is probably Beyond Apollo (1972), winner of the 1973 John W. Campbell book award. Described
phenomena and the ways in which they might play out in the
by one commentator as “2001: a Space Odyssey written by
future. Like Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition (1970), The Destruction of
Samuel Beckett”, it is a series of short, obsessive monologues
the Temple (1974) explores continuing public fascination with the
by one Evans, an astronaut confined in some kind of psychiatric
John F. Kennedy assassination (with walk-on parts for Malcolm
institution, attempting to piece together a coherent narrative
X and Martin Luther King), positing a repetitive, obsessive
of an abortive space mission during which his crewmate, The
reconstruction of the event against the background of a decayed
Captain, mysteriously disappeared. His accounts to himself and
New York City – whose nomadic, semi-feral inhabitants also
his interrogators are hallucinatory, fragmented, and contradictory.
strangely recall those of Ballard’s later High Rise (1975.) New York in a more recognisable form is the backdrop for
Did he murder the other man? Was it suicide? What was the precise nature of their relationship? Why were they sent into
two other novels. Overlay (1972) is a blackly comic account of
space at all?
the attempt by an alien interloper to precipitate Armageddon by manipulating the human tendency to irrational belief: “We have
Evans’s accounts are highly sexualised, both in terms of his homoerotic attraction to the missing man and memories of
to approach them from the edges, concentrate on mysticism,
his failing marriage. This sexuality is swamped by technological
spirituality, the occult… That’s the only way to topple them.” His
metaphor, highly reminiscent of Ballard (particularly Crash,
choice of a social group to influence is neither ideological nor
which Apollo predates by a year), counterpointed ironically by
religious, but a ragbag of small-time compulsive horseracing
the mission’s putative destination, Venus. The mystery unfolded
gamblers – although the combination of illogical metaphysics,
through Evans’s ravings is never resolved, but the real question
all-consuming resentment and a final scene of suicidal terrorism
is not what happened to The Captain as an individual, but what
make this tale seem strangely prescient and familiar. Herovit’s World (1973) satirises the science-fiction milieu
has happened to the human race since we began to apprehend the true vastness of space and our inability to understand
itself, the protagonist Jonathan Herovit hack writer increasingly
it definitively: “Everything is blind chance, happenstance,
frustrated not only by the disjuncture between his own chaotic life
occurrence; in an infinite universe anything can happen. After the
and the heroism of his creations, but also envious of the character
fact we find reasons.”
and lifestyle he has attributed to his own pseudonym, ‘Kirk Poland’: “Kirk was a good first name. Nothing insoluble could
The identity of outer space with an existential ‘inner space’ is further explored in On A Planet Alien (1974): “Lying on the bleak
happen to a man named Kirk once he put his mind to things.” There are no conventional SF elements in this novel,
earth of this blasted planet, listening to the wind filter through the trees, it is possible for one moment in the clinging darkness
although there are various Malzberg trademarks – emotional and
to believe that it is not impossibly removed, that it is not at the
psychological disintegration, sexual anxiety, strange voices. I have
far edge of the universe but that it is Earth itself and this has not
no idea if there is anything autobiographical here, but some of
been a voyage outward but a voyage in, to some other aspect of
the characters – Herovit himself and his monstrously egotistical
colleague Mitchell Wilk, for example, – are vividly grotesque. It is also extremely funny, and illustrates brilliantly the range
Folsom, leader of an ostensibly peaceful embassy to a distant, tribal society, is another narrator whose grip on reality is
of Malzberg’s abilities, both thematic and stylistic. His lack of
rapidly loosening. The ‘natives’ do not react with the expected
general recognition in the UK is probably not helped by his books
compliance, and appear to have more sophisticated philosophical
– in their garish, inappropriately spaceship-festooned covers –
ideas than they should. The paranoia this engenders in
having been out of print for years. Is it too much to hope that
Folsom rapidly develops into megalomania, and is then turned
a recently-announced film adaptation of Beyond Apollo might
murderously on his supposedly treacherous colleagues, possibly
Poems and criticism widely published in small presses,
1990s/ early 2000s. Last seven years spent trying to get mojo back. Author/co-author of six short collections,
including “Dark and Evil Music” (Leafe Press, 2000) and
“Ends of the Earth” (with Gordon Wardman, Mynah Poets, 2004.) General arts blog “The Dilettante” (Blogger.com.)
Collected Letters Dick Loftin
Years ago, I came across a copy of the Letters of E.B. White. It
Adams and his wife Abigail are some of the most beautiful
was a thick, 700-page collection from 1908 to 1976, the year
letters ever written. The Adams’ understood the critical times
the book was published. The only thing I could think of was,
they lived in, and saved every one of their letters—well over a
“Why in the world would anyone want to read someone else’s
thousand. The Adams’ letters are collected in a fine volume
mail?” When the White collection was published, editor Dorothy
edited by Margaret A. Hogan and C. James Taylor called My
Lobrano Guth lamented in the introduction about how people
Dearest Friend—Letters of Abigail and John Adams, published in
never wrote letters anymore because of “the intrusive urgency of
2007. Another important John Adams-related collection is that
the telephone.” The comment seems almost quaint today. But
of his correspondence with Thomas Jefferson. After a decade of
people continued to write letters, and many more collections
estrangement, they renewed their close friendship in 1812. The
of letters and journals appeared, but today, Ms. Guth’s worry
Adams-Jefferson Letters, edited by Lester J. Cappon, contains
seems valid. [A revised edition, published in 2006 was edited by
their complete correspondence from 1777 to 1826. Both Adams
his granddaughter, Martha White, and features a fine introduction
and Jefferson died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826,
by John Updike. It contains White’s letters up to his death in
the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Just
imagine these letters being lost to a hard drive crash or the careless deletion of an associate.
With the introduction of digital communications, the
Letters can contain much needed advice, some appreciated
traditional letter, the one with an envelope and a stamp, seems lost. Texts, emails, Facebook, Twitter, and any number of social
condolences after the passing of a loved one, some family
media platforms are quick hits of our lives. We don’t write
information, some good news. They could also contain a literary
about our lives in letters, we write about them in Tweets, very
kick in the pants. In his excellent book, John Adams, David
public Tweets, which are shared and shared again around the
McCullough writes of a letter sent by Abigail Adams to her son,
world. Unlike letters, there are no carbon copies or files where
John Quincy Adams, upon learning the young man was getting
duplicates are kept for future reference. Sure, there are places
a little too impressed with himself. She warned of “Watchfulness
on your email where a copy can be “saved,” but even these are
over yourself,” and wrote:
heavily thinned out over time, or deleted altogether with just one
“If you are conscious to yourself that you possess more
click. It has historians such as David McCullough worried over
knowledge upon some subjects than others of your standing,
the future of history and especially biography. Historians in the
reflect that you have had greater opportunities of seeing the
future, it is feared, will have less and less primary source material
world, and obtaining a knowledge of mankind than any of your
to study because of fewer and fewer actual letters being written
contemporaries. That you have never wanted a book but it has
been supplied to you, that your whole time has been spent in the
I lost my first copy of Mr. White’s letters years ago and
company of men of literature and science. How unpardonable
was thrilled to find it—in hardcover—at a flea market in Tulsa,
would it have been in you to have been a blockhead.” Priceless. I can only imagine what John Quincy thought
Oklahoma. I also found a copy of the Letters of Ronald Reagan.
upon receiving the letter from his very straightforward mother.
On another visit, I found the Letters of Carl Sandberg. The
Letters are guarded and unguarded, elegant and not so
Reagan letters were published in 2003, the Sandberg letters in 1968. Finding these books at a time when digital composition
elegant. They are most of all, a look through the window of
has taken over our way of writing made me appreciate them
history from the pen of the people living it, and taking the time to
even more. It made me realise why we should still be interested
write about it. Many people of Adams’ time would end the day
in reading the exchange of letters from these individuals. It is the
with reading or catching up on their letter-writing. Letters, like any great literature, will take you back to a
firsthand history of a public figure’s life. Letters are generally personal. A private message from
time when history was alive and in the moment. A discovery
one person to another, usually written for no one other than the
of a shoebox in a musty attic can take us back fifty years into
recipient. The letters are private, but they can be funny, serious,
someone’s life. We hear the voice, we engage the hope, and feel
testy, sweet. They can be heartfelt, horrible, or sensational.
the despair of the writer. The joy of opening the mailbox and finding a letter from
They are always interesting. The sensitive letters between John
illustration: Hugh Mooney
someone special hasn’t changed. It could be a note in crayon
typewriters. While roaming around a flea market recently, I
from a grandson or daughter. It could be a reply from someone
watched a man buy a Hermes 3000 typewriter for his daughter,
we respect, a letter from an admired author or other public
who was all of 16. There could be a whole generation of people
coming up who may be overwhelmed by technology, and yearn for something simple, something Grandma and Granddad
Emails are so frequent and many times so intrusive, they have become throwaways; we just want to wade through them.
used to use: a dusty old typewriter. And writer Stephen Elliot
Letters are special because we get so few of them. Part of the
has started a grass roots campaign, ‘Letters in the Mail,’ to get
joy of Christmas is receiving an “annual letter” or card from a
people to write letters. I have started a little campaign of my own
friend or loved one. The cards have nearly vanished. Holiday
to write a letter to a friend once a month. Who knows? Young people start a letter-writing revolution
greetings come in our inboxes now. It isn’t the same, is it?
with typewriters, Elliot’s campaign catches on, historians can
Volumes of collected letters are still being published. Rub
relax, and maybe even the post office will be saved.
Out the Words: the Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1959-1974,
It could happen.
has been recently published by Little, Brown. A collection that will be particularly interesting to me will arrive in October. The Lennon Letters, a collection of the cards and letters written by
Dick Loftin is the publisher of Endpaper Review.com, a
John Lennon to friends, family and others around the world, is
website and blog featuring book reviews and commentary
expected on the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Love Me Do,
on books, reading and the writing life. Join us online at
by the Beatles. It is also being published by Little, Brown.
EndpaperReview.com, on Facebook and Twitter. Dick is
Could letter-writing return? Young people, particularly
also a broadcaster in Oklahoma (USA) and a passionate
those under 30, are discovering the joy of writing with vintage
collector of vintage typewriters.
What Are You Wearing? My Shoes / Craig Barlow
To start with, my shoes are actually boots. I donâ€™t think I own any
They are very comfortable, and as of yet have not taken in any
shoes. Well, not shoe type shoes. I have smart boots that I wear
water. The first day I wore them, I went to see a friend at work. His
for work. By smart I mean tidy. Unlike everyone else at work, my boots are black, and not brown and pointy. I appreciate itâ€™s
boss came over and asked if they were Brasher boots, as he had
not green hair and facial tattoos, but for a middle aged middle
just bought a pair. For some reason he pronounced it Braysher.
manager, it is a small victory for non-compliance.
He asked me lots of questions, and was very enthusiastic about them. So much so that I was beginning to worry if he
For everything else I have these boots. The boots are made by a company called Brasher. I believe this is an in-house brand
was confirming a wise footwear investment, or wanting us to be
of Go Outdoors, which is where I bought them. They are Chinese
boot buddies. Despite being new, the boots gave no blistering,
made, and have GORE-TEX powers. I bought them because
enabling me to walk away quickly. I would recommend them to
the laces in my last pair of boots had snapped, and it would be
anyone with an outdoor footwear requirement.
an insult to new laces to re-lace them. The reason I chose them over all of the other boots in the shop was the 50% off sign, and
Craig Barlow is a middle manager, retired DJ and failed
they were the cheapest boots there with GORE-TEX powers.
My Notebook Steve Toase
illustration: Paul Watson
The first thing you need to understand is that I’m a nightmare to buy presents for. No really. If I see something I want, and I have the cash knocking around, I’ll treat myself to it. This gets so bad that I have an embargo placed on me for the months leading up to Christmas (luckily my birthday is around the same time, otherwise there would be two sanctions a year). However, my notebook, a present from my wife, is not something I would have bought for myself. Not because I don’t like it, this volume wrapped in a leather cover is one of my favourite possessions, but because I would never have considered investing in something so beautiful. The cover is solid, with natural textured pages, and the advantage of being able to add more if the need arises, or remove them if I have to. Not that this is likely. My main notebook is a scribble book, filled with ideas written at café tables in Munich and York or in bed during the early hours. The book is not small. It has solidity and heft. You know when the book is in your bag. It weighs easily the same as a netbook, but with more character. Much more character. I’m left handed, and due to the weight of the book I have trouble writing on the odd pages, so all my work starts on the even pages, scribbled in lines of decreasing sizes. When I get to the end I can turn the book over and come back to the beginning. Stories rarely get finished in these pages, but like a greenhouse it nurtures small ideas, and is a pleasant place to while away a Sunday afternoon. Steve’s stories tend towards the unsettling and unreal,
dealing with revenge, loss, faery, chess playing bears and ancient gods. In his writing Steve explores the places
where other worlds seep into ours. His work has appeared in publications such as Beautiful Scruffiness, Sein und
Werden, Cafe Irreal, streetcake magazine, Weaponizer and nthPosition.
The Owl In Daylight Thomas Hendry
Species profile: Short Eared Owl
equates to the colour of fire, as seen in the Shorty’s blazing yellow
Standing on a tussock of tall grass, I stared across the wire
get a good close view. Who says Latin is a dead language!
eyes. When perched or in flight, these eyes truly glow when you
fence that encaged a large expanse of undisturbed wilderness. It
Status and distribution
was not always the case. This 7km exclusion zone once hosted an MOD (Ministry of Defence) arms depot. Who knows what
This owl is unusual among British owls in that it hunts primarily
weaponry is buried there! The site is strictly off limits to the public,
by day, though dawn and dusk is an ideal time to watch them
but this privacy has allowed the landscape to become wild again.
hunt and display. It is also unique among owls in that it is ground
Long grass, and moor, unrestricted vegetation has made the
nesting, and favours open, treeless country, especially open
ammo dump a haven for wildlife. Ghostly shells of old admin huts
moorlands and wet grassland habitats. It is a scarce breeder,
are dotted about here and there, littering the zone like clerical ship
with 1000-3500 pairs located primarily in Northern England and
Scotland. It is in winter that the species can be most readily
Dusk creeps in and there is movement in the sky. They are
enjoyed. Continental birds migrate from Scandinavia and Russia
owls. Pale, silent Short Eared Owls expertly navigate the trees and
to escape the harsh winters, and numbers in Britain swell from
huts in search of their favourite prey, Short Tailed Voles. I watch
anywhere from 5000 to a staggering 50,000 birds!
as not one, nor two, but four Short Eared Owls display, flying so
Populations are difficult to estimate, as the owls are highly
close at times that you instinctively duck. After seeing one for the
nomadic, travelling and fluctuating in accordance to vole
first time, you can never mistake it. Pale, creamy underneath with
populations. Short Eared Owls often winter in communal roosts,
chocolate speckles, they rise from the long grass like butterflies,
and it is one of these communal roosts in West Cumbria that I
their long dainty wings look cumbersome but prove anything but.
have been observing for several weeks. At this particular site,
This owl’s face is so flat that it appears headless in flight, adding a
human disturbance is thankfully minimised by the fenced off
touch of the surreal to this being of day and dusk.
private land, but it must be emphasised that communal owl roosts can easily be prone to disturbance, and the birds’ space and
boundaries must be respected at all times. It is early spring now, and the owls have almost left the British
The Short Eared Owl has a circumpolar distribution, found over Europe, North America, South America and the top of Asia, and
coastlines, leaving the small number of resident birds to breed in
has inspired and mystified in equal measure, transcending the
remote moors. I watch them, knowing that any day the Sea Owls
mind and floating into myth. The Inuit believed it was once a girl,
will return from whence they came. But before they depart, they
who was magically transformed into an owl with a long face and
treat me to some unforgettable sights. I arrive one evening to
beak. When she became frightened, she flew into the side of a
find an owl simply perched on a telegraph wire. He is rotating his
house and flattened her face and bill forever after.
head, a little wary but assured, those lemon flamed eyes blazing in all directions. Another instance, two owls are circling around the
In other cultures too, the wing beats have left their mark. The Hawaiian subspecies is named ‘Pueo’, and holds an ambiguous
wider area, forming a huge ring of space around the grassland,
role in the local folklore. He is the protector, and holds a key role
carved in two by a road and hedgerows. The two owls meet
in many stories by resurrecting dead heroes after being killed and
above the fence, and lock talons for a split second, in greeting or
rescuing others in peril. If an owl crosses your path in Hawaii, it is
farewell. The last time I see one, it is perched on a tree, hungrily
a bad omen, and it would be wise to abandon your journey! The
tearing at a small rodent and eating it… valuable energy for the
name has permeated deep in the subconscious, and its name
now lies in many peculiar sayings. For example, ‘child of an owl, whose father is not known’, ‘the owl as a protector in battle’,
T J Hendry is a writer and conservationist who explores
and ‘the owl who sings of war’, not to mention all the valleys and
a mixture of sci-fi, nature and fantasy themes. He lived in
places named after him.
Canada for a year, and has participated in conservation
Legends aside, there are countless local names worldwide
projects in Iceland and the Hudson Bay.
that are more down to earth, but equally delightful in their literal interpretation of the owl’s appearance and actions. ‘Evening Owl’, ‘Meadow Owl’, ‘Bog Owl’, ‘Woodcock Owl’, to name a few, ‘Mouse Owl’, ‘Brown Yogle’, ‘Pilot Owl’ to name others. The name ‘Sea Owl’ is intriguing as it alludes to the migratory, sea crossing nature of this owl, but my favourite has to be the Chinese ‘duan er mao tou ying’, which translates to Short Eared Cat- Headed Owl. There is also beauty to be interpreted in the scientific name. The Asio in the Latin name relates to the owl family, but flammeus
illustration: Paul Watson
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Terry Myers
Upon having been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress
vivid and you wake soaked in sweat and absolutely terrified.
Disorder (PTSD) and with the added understanding of the illness
These repeat nightmares provide your mind with the excuse
from my Mental Health Support Team, I now realise just how
not to sleep at all. Psychologically your mind learns that sleep
misunderstood and nebulous this psychological malady really is.
will only induce nightmares so you not only dread bedtime; you
Commonly associated with combat veterans; the fact is anybody
cannot switch off and sleep anyway and end up with chronic
can develop PTSD following a traumatic incident. A traumatic
insomnia. I average two fitful hours of sleep per night, struggle to
incident is defined as anything out of the ordinary range of daily
obtain sleep and it is not uncommon for me to go from one day
life which is deeply distressing to the individual concerned.
to the next without sleep. Sleeping pills are both addictive and useless after a time.
I was diagnosed with ‘complex PTSD’ which in layman’s
Obviously sleep deprivation exacerbates the other
terms, denotes that I endured a series of traumatic incidents in close succession, suppressing each to the best of my ability,
symptoms and you exist with a ghastly and weird illness. Quality
until my coping mechanisms became overloaded and shut
of life becomes at times abysmal. You are constantly tired yet
down. Aside from becoming deeply depressed, these incidents
paradoxically hyper-alert. You mistrust, are in a perpetual state
shattered my faith in life, my image of me and my trust in others.
of anxiety, edgy, jumpy and constantly worry that something
The PTSD emerges in part through shock (the incidents were
dreadful is going to happen again. Avoidance prevents you from
random and without warning) but primarily because the mind
‘moving on’ and the result is mood-swings, despair, loss of
holds on to the memory of the trauma so strongly. Psychologists
confidence and self esteem, hopelessness, guilt. I am lucky. I have a cerebral GP and the diagnosis was
infer this is a natural ‘self protection’ mechanism to ensure you
caught early. I am to undergo nine weeks of psychotherapy and
do not get into similar situations again. It was the loss of faith in life I found the most disturbing. I
along with medication I will recover. The medications I take are
lost all interest in life, felt I was living on borrowed time, could see
a combination of anti-depressants and tranquillisers. I will learn
no future and contemplated suicide. This may explain why the
to handle ‘avoidance’ and ‘exposure’ which will enable me to
suicide rates for PTSD sufferers are shamefully high. Initially I was
‘move on’, an important progress to recovery. I am informed that
diagnosed and treated for clinical depression, but the problem is
a large proportion of the trauma in my mind can be discarded
depression is only part of the illness.
psychologically, the remainder I will learn to compartmentalise and live with at the back of my mind. During recovery the other
A PTSD sufferer cannot engage with the illness independently, indeed you do anything and everything to avoid
symptoms will ameliorate over time including some minor
the issue, a trait known as ‘avoidance’. I went out of my way
physical symptoms. I will never completely forget what has
to avoid anything that reminded me of the trauma. I avoided
happened to me, but I will learn to live with it!
people, places and even inanimate objects such as telephones. This is not as easy as one may think, and through avoidance I
Terry Myers is a York based poet, writer and artist. A
became reclusive, which is detrimental, because a recluse with
member of York Writers group he also participates in
PTSD can become strange, distant and begin to lose contact
‘Manuscript Critique’ meetings and a ‘Novelist Support’
circle and frequently reads poetry at ‘Open Mic’ evenings.
The issue of avoidance is but one aspect of PTSD, but this
He is currently an art student working towards a degree in
augments other symptoms. Another problem I had was that
certain circumstances would bring back images of the trauma. These intrusions into the mind are termed ‘flashbacks’ and are very distressing to the point they cause panic attacks (which are short in duration and manageable once you know how) or anxiety attacks (longer in duration and particularly unsettling). Most of the instances which gave me flashbacks were related to the trauma – strangely – some were not. I could not abide the jangle of keys, phones ringing, large buildings where footsteps echo and skip-wagons. You learn to overcome these with a process known as ‘exposure’. By far the most debilitating symptom is the nightmares or night terrors. Most of these nightmares are a repetition of the trauma and I would wake in a state of panic, smoke endless cigarettes with no hope of getting back to sleep. On other occasions I experienced the most horrific dreams; totally unconnected to the trauma. These nightmares are extremely
photo: Delores Storr
Street Food In Reykjavík Tony Bangora
Always eat the street food. Everywhere you go. It should be
first set foot on this constantly spreading volcanic up thrust from
a Rule of Travel. It doesn’t count if you don’t eat the street
the depths of the Atlantic), Iceland is pretty young, for Europe.
food. At Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur - took down 2 with the works,
Tomorrow I will drive to glaciers and waterfalls. Today I will
Bubba Clinton aka the President’s favourite. Locale is great, a
stumble back uphill and pray to Thor and Odin that my room is
semi industrial zone near the navy part of the harbour facing a
ready. That was a tasty dog. Does the sun really not set here in
highway while gulls shriek in a language I don’t understand, and
not just because it is in sea-gull. The Sun is beating down on my back and I have smeared some sort of strange sauce on my
Born in Santa Barbara, California, Tony does not so much
iPhone typing this. The hot-dog racks are a nice touch. Didn’t
consider himself an ‘expat’ as a ‘citizen of the world’. A
sleep last night on the flight. Going on 30+ hours with no sleep
jack of few trades and a master of even fewer, when not
and all that is left now is the reptilian brain, cerebrum long since
travelling he is trying to grift major research institutes so
melted away. Good. A much higher state than drunkenness. At
that he can hit the road again. He currently lives in New
slightly more than a thousand years old (counting when humans
The Heathen Research Network Matt Kay
substitute Germanic gods for their perceived Roman equivalents (Interpretatio Romana); the archeological record is often difficult to interpret by itself, and the consultation of the extant literary sources is fraught with the same pitfalls as examining the sources by themselves; and the Christian-era texts are composed with a bias that seeks to portray the ancestors in a way that exaggerates the perceived enlightenment with the coming of Christ. The purpose of The Heathen Research Network is to bring together as many sources of heathen thought as possible - from the earliest Roman records to modern academic evaluations of new archeological discoveries. Each text will be thoroughly examined for its context, purpose and readership, not merely by what the words ‘say’, but how they might relate to other texts. The approach is intended to be entirely without bias with the purpose of creating a database of resources, including links to downloadable source-texts and a full bibliography, as well as an encyclopedia encompassing summaries of relevant thoughts on given topics that anybody can use. Therefore, the Network will be a very slow operation, not intended to ever be ‘complete’. It is impossible to define what is meant today by ‘heathenry’ -
Personal blogs can also be set up on the website, where opinion
almost all those that use the term, which descends from Old
and feedback on a wide range of relevant topics can be given,
English hæðen, most likely a loan translation of Latin paganus,
allowing the Network to fully develop into its namesake. The Heathen Research Network is currently online at
or ‘country-dweller’, used to describe those not of the Christian faith - do so in relation to a specific religious worldview; that of
www.heathenresearch.com with the first text - Gaius Julius
the pre-Christian, Germanic peoples. To sum up an entire way
Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico - currently being examined.
of life, that encompasses thousands of years of pre-Christian
Updates directly from the Network can also be found on Facebook
Europe, with only one word, demonstrates what little value the
- /HeathenResearch and Twitter - @HeathenResearch.
Christian mindset placed on this period - or how much they feared it! - and how these attitudes have shaped modern views.
Matthew Kay has been a practising heathen for several
However, with the decline of Christianity’s hold over academia
years, having spent time amongst the Odinic Rite, Fealu
and as an institute of primary socialisation, it has become
Hlæw Deod and Five Boroughs Hearth before developing
evident that aspects of these ancient cultures have survived into
The Heathen Research Network. Whilst currently studying
the modern age - not merely through widely adopted religious
for a Masters Degree in English Literature, he also spends
practice, such as the festival of Easter, whose name is taken
time creating pre-Christian, Anglo-Saxon themed music
directly from an Anglo-Saxon goddess named Eostur according
under the moniker Æþelruna.
to the Venerable Bede (although not without controversy!) but also language in a more general sense, the composition and character archetypes of Western narratives, and even in the laws composed by - and sense of justice found in - those descended peoples. The imperialist nature of early to mid Christendom owes itself to the religion’s adoption by the Roman Empire; a people whom historically found little value in the Barbarian cultures to the northeast of their northernmost provinces. Much of what we know of migration-era Germanic culture comes from Roman writings - particularly Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico and Tacitus’ Germania - and other than the archeological record, which is highly interpretative, we do not see Germanic literary sources until the Christian period. None of these sources of information is a perfect record by any means - the Romans viewed the Barbarians as inferior, and would often
Life Writing Decisions
But no, I leave the fruit and veg section by artfully squeezing
between bagged salad and a barrel of melons (?) in pursuit of
I think everyone struggles to make decisions: Which university
less troublesome sundry items. Yoghurt. Yoghurt is good. I can
should I go to? Which sandwich should I choose? Should I
deal with yoghurt. I admire it as the most culinary versatile of
refrain from accidentally on purpose dropping the dog on the
dairy products. I stand in front of the chiller cabinet, willing any of
piano because my brother is playing “Down by the Riverside” for
the 20 available varieties to jump into my basket so that I don’t
the seventeenth time this morning? (Probably.)
have to go through the effort of picking one. How am I meant to know what I want? How can I be sure I am choosing the brand
But when you are depressed, every decision becomes so achingly protracted, so fraught with conditions and incessant
that will offer me optimum creamy goodness? How can I go on
“what ifs,” that lying under the duvet is often the easiest way to
when I might be sitting at home EATING THE WRONG KIND OF
avoid all the relentless inner indecisiveness. The situation can
YOGHURT. I AM BEING FLUMMOXED BY THE ALL IMPORTANT
easily escalate to the point where you can lie perfectly still for 20 minutes, arguing with yourself about whether or not to turn your
CHOICE BETWEEN AN ACTIVIA SNACKPOT AND A FAGE
head away from the wall. And thus everything you encounter
TOTAL GREEK. ARGHHHHHH (etc.)
seems to burst into a billion tiny negotiations. Take a simple
And so this is why sometimes (most of the time) I do not go
shopping trip for example -
out, I avoid going to school and I let other people choose the
The first concern is of course actually finding an impetus to
get out of the house. Can I really be bothered to find any clothes that are clean/black/without holes/don’t make me look like a
How To Not Give Up
total weirdo? Once getting dressed has been achieved, I will need to locate the three essential ‘going out’ items: phone, keys,
oyster. Seeing as these could be scattered in any and every far
Today would be a perfect example of how low self-esteem
corner of the house, I often give up at this point and gravitate
affects me in my day to day living.
away from the front door. Then there is the on-going dilemma
I didn’t go out until 6:45pm when I left the house to walk to
of the weather. Most people would just look outside, choose
my cousin’s house, which is about 9 minutes from my house.
the appropriate outer garment and be on their way. It takes me
After changing out of my pyjamas and into no less than 5
at least 20 minutes to find a cardigan of correct thickness to
different combinations of ‘blackwear’ or as I refer to it, ‘99% of
match the temperature. This is a delicate process, exacerbated
the clothes I own’, I finally threw some socks at the mirror and
by the fact that when it is too hot I cannot undress to a single
went downstairs to leave.
layer for strict aesthetic reasons. And by the time I have put my
Then I remembered that I was too nasty, and really the
coat on, run upstairs to look in the mirror, realised that I look like
only possible way I could leave the house would be clutching
an oversized pregnant little red riding hood, and run downstairs
a pillow to my front, as a sort of protective shield between my
again to shrug it off, really all I want to do is sit down and weep
body and other people’s eyes. I mean, if I had had more time and
into a coffee.
motivation I would have strapped pillows to each individual limb
Anyway, if I make it out the front door, I can then just about
and vague body area, but I compromised and just went for main
walk the 200 metres down the hill to the shops. Long hair
frontal body coverage.
becomes useful at this point in avoiding all possible eye contact
So there I was, my Goin’ Out Pillow and I, wombling down
and just concentrating very carefully on the pavement. I have
the high street overwrought with shame and disgust and vague
to keep an eye on my feet so that they continue to move in the
rage that I had left the house at all. But the good thing was that
required direction (they have a tendency to turn me around in the
I did have a really nice time with my family and we watched
direction of the house). Even deciding which side of the road to
television in the dark, which is one of my favourite things
shuffle along feels like a massive effort.
because it’s noisy and distracting and I can sit down.
On approaching target (probably Budgens) I fold my hands
I suppose the conclusion I can draw from today, and pass
over myself and walk through the door. Apples are on the list. I
on to other people who are sprawling around not knowing what
walk round to the apples, simple enough. But no, the list does
to do, is this:
not specify amount or variety. I stare intently at the Granny
Go out. Even if it is just to sit in the darkness of another
Smiths, ponder the Pink Ladies without any inkling as to which
person’s home. Even if you have to look at the floor all the way
shrink-wrapped fruit I should be opting for. Then I realise how
there with little tearsies dribblin’ down your face. Even if you feel
stupid I am for not being able to make a decision on fruit. Then
like you don’t want to see anyone. Even if your hair is all not.
I feel worse for not being able to decide. Then I realise a woman
Even if you have to walk around clutching a pillow. Even if you
is tapping me on the shoulder asking me if she “could just get to
don’t want to talk or smile or hug. Because it is very rarely a
the bananas deary.” Oh my god, now I am getting in everyone’s
bad thing to have another voice making noise that isn’t the bad
way. I should just leave, I’m cramping Budgens’ style.
secret one in your head.
Bottom of The Barrel Scrapers
doors off and paint the shelves in a variety of psychedelic colours.
Since being a little girl, I have had memories of people walking in
There seem to be so many people I know that have been/are/will
and saying “ooh isn’t your kitchen colourful” in the same way they
be in mental peril. Trouble with food. Trouble with mood. Trouble
might look at a child with ADHD who has just eaten a trough of
with a troubled mind. I’ve met people who have been scraping
Smarties and say “ooh isn’t Derrick lively this afternoon”. Colourful
along the very bottom of the barrel of life, and it is a truly grubby,
is a polite understatement for what really is a bit of eccentrically
scabby, nasty place to be. Anyone who has been there, flailing
lurid paintwork. But I think that was Ma’s taste at the time, all
around hopelessly in the strange world they entered the day they
yellow and pink and bright blue. After all, these were the days of
were told they had got a ‘mental illness’ will know what I mean. In
just one (yet to be diagnosed with cancer) baby and a new house. Since then, I guess the house has grown up with us. The
fact, you don’t even need that label to have been there. It’s a sort of super-heightened emotional state, whether that be sadness,
sickly green hall carpet that we used to bomb up and down on in
anxiety, fear, anger, agitation, that just cannot be contained in any
the ‘brick trolley’ has long since been replaced with a wooden
sensible or calculated way. And so you become imprisoned in a
floor. And entering the playroom no longer brings with it the risk
strange sort of self-perpetuated unreality, where you are constantly
of embedding a small plastic cow in your foot. My father does,
half-drowning in your personal sea of disturbed thought and
and has done habitually for as long as I can remember, seized any
cannot really connect with what is going on around you. Having
opportunity to re-organise and compartmentalise everything. He
experienced this myself, and now seen it with my own eyes, it is
would often get up from his Saturday morning toast and say, “Right, we’re having a clear out today”
frightening how out of control your behaviour can become. And
This was the signal to run into the playroom and guard our
I think what is even more frightening, not least for those around
most beloved beanie babies..
you, is the indefatigability and tenaciousness of these often
“NOO! NOT TOBY, YOU CAN’T TAKE HIM, HE’S A DOG”
self-destructive behaviours. They become so overwhelmingly
“Look, the toy chest is bursting with toys you never play with;
compulsive it is shocking and painful to watch. I suppose the most
we need to throw something away”
frightening thing of all is, when you are really at a low point, you
“NOOOOO, WE’VE ONLY GOT TWO TOBIES. WE NEED
know you cannot stop, and so does everyone else. You feel as
THEM BOTH. THEY ARE BROTHERS”
hopeless as the people around you that are desperately trying to
At which point, Pa would normally leave us with a toy disposal
help you. And all you can do, all they can do, is carry on day after
ultimatum in which we had to bag up five toys we didn’t want
day after stupid day, at total mercy of the mind.
anymore and send them to their musty death on a shelf in Cancer
I guess my point is, lots of people get this way, I did/have/ probably will again. But, whilst in these darkest moments of
Research. In fact, over the years, my father’s constant compulsion
torment and anguish and total despair it simply feels like the world
to tidy has spread to all areas of the house. And we as children
is over, it is not a permanent state. And I have seen/know of
have become accustomed to his disorder disorder. For example, I
people, who were almost all gone, come back to life and flourish
might casually wonder into the living room to find him staring at a
and do wonderful things and just be in a bit less of a shitty place.
bookshelf muttering, “I wonder how I can make this more efficient”
SO, for all those brave little people, who are lost on the edge
At which point I will walk straight back out of the door. I know
of the world, I have this to say...
if I stay too long he will try and rope me in-to a trip to IKEA and
as appealing as those tiny unlimited pencils are, I just don’t think I can face another afternoon spent watching him try and ram bits of
plywood into the boot.*
Have you ever cried so hard that you can no longer tell what is tears and what is snot? Have you ever cried so hard that you run out of Kleenex? Have you ever cried so hard that your hair gets
* I have just read this bit to my father, his only comment was a
all wet and salty, your eyes get sore and your pillow gets soggy?
terse: “MDF not plywood”. Thanks Dad, you pedantic bastard.
Have you ever cried so hard that when you try and hug the dog, she puts her ears back and scampers off downstairs? Have you
Ruby Elliot has lived all 18 years of her life in London. She
ever cried so hard that all you can do is collapse into bed with your
enjoys writing about the deep and delicate subject of
head pounding? Have you ever cried so hard that you have to lie
mental health –incorporating her extensive experiences
in a corner of a room facing the wall so that no one hears you?
- in a way that is often darkly comic and accompanied by
Have you ever cried so hard that you begin to shake? Have you
cartoons and illustrations.
ever cried so hard that all you can hear is screaming in your ears and an accelerated heart beat? Have you ever cried so hard that the cries turn into screams, faint at first and then roaring, guttural and throaty? Have you ever cried so hard that people become worried? Have you ever cried so hard that you think you will never stop? Have you ever cried so hard and not wanted to stop because that would mean carrying on? If you have ever cried that hard, it’s okay, I have too.
The Kitchen And Other Things Ruby Elliot
When my parents moved into our house in 1991, my mother decided it would be a good idea to rip all the kitchen cupboard
Death Masks of Memories
Maybe it faded, silently ebbing to the horizon, slipping like that
blood red sunset that left an air of magnificence, before it died
Writing seems to amalgamate within the depths of my
into the hands of the night. You notice. But you don’t. You see,
subconscious. It is always propelled by life experiences both
but only that padded lumpy corpse dressed in a cloak of dewy
positive and negative, and I use it like a camera lens capturing
sadness. You only see regret- what you once were, and what
‘death masks’ of memories otherwise irretrievable. As a child, I
you could be. You could have been ‘thinner’ or ‘more athletic’ or
had a passion for books, words and poetry, though it was not
‘cleverer’ or whatever penultimate list you have stowed away in
until I underwent profound and traumatic life experiences as a
the Wendy House. You ate a little more today, perhaps to quell the sadness
teenager that I realised that writing is my catharsis, my therapy, my crutch upon which to rest and piece together shards of a
and the fear that rockets like jagged forks in your brain. You
fractured world, that I otherwise find difficult to connect with.
could have eaten a little less, but you chose more. Perhaps you knew you could never replicate yesterday, that the little
At fourteen years of age I fell ill with Anorexia Nervosa and severe depression and for the majority of my teenage years I
shadow bobbing on the horizon tipped into the blood red void.
was in and out of inpatient treatment centres, in a constant war
And beyond its aura left an absence too profound. Heavy and
with my soul and my body. While my personality and physical
listless you seem too full to comprehend, chucking it all back,
strength crumbled, I unconsciously underwent a period of
swallowing without expelling and sitting absent with a leaden
chrysalis as I now regard all negative life experiences; serving
load. You’re so heavy you can’t move and so you sit and wallow
to make our hearts stronger and more compassionate towards
in the stillness, breathing in, breathing out. But all the time your
other creatures. I continued to write when I felt well enough,
heart pumps blood to each of your vital organs you fail to notice.
and poetry served as a release of my blackest emotions and
It doesn’t register you’re alive. It doesn’t register you live in a
the intangible turmoil reverent within me that I could never
lovely house in the countryside, with loving parents who have
given up everything for you. It doesn’t register that there is a world outside your window and you could step outside the front
Through writing I did and do filter out sense from the nonsensical, porcelain memory from the fractured truths. My
door if you believed, but you don’t tonight. Tonight the world
words serve as written photographs- to commemorate a
seems too vast to imagine, too overpowering to rise up to. You
moment gone, a past embellished on my memory intrinsic yet
would rather lie down, surrender and let it wash over you. Rain
invisible. By releasing my fractured words I make the intangible
falls, sometimes it fucking PELTS. You could walk out in the
tangible, and while prior to writing I may have felt detached and
rain right now, get soaked to the skin and no one would hear
segregated from ‘reality’ afterwards I feel fulfilled and as though a
the crying, the screaming and hyperventilating. You need to be
bridge has been forged to the pluralistic society.
inconspicuous. Let yourself lie low, stagnant and untouchable. They will walk above you, and you will gaze up at each one,
All of my words emanate from the core of my unconscious
contemplating its struggle, its oblivion, its demise.
with a purpose of abreaction. I am currently studying a BA in Fine Art and hope to progress to be a qualified art therapist in order to
help others overcome the difficulties I have endured and enable others to benefit from the soul-enriching benefits of creative
Sometimes, the brain can be your own graveyard. You dig your own grave beneath the earth, shovelling up mounds of mossy,
Looking Down From Above
aged earth, delving deeper and danker and darker. There is
no light inside the coffin box, only a lid that obscures your
Looking down from above, everything seems different, clearer.
consciousness, your identity. You lay porcelain inside the box
For the first time in a century of sleep, things make some
and you need not know you are porcelain, glassy and vacant.
coherence. You look down upon yourself inside yourself. But
Your mind is oblivious, but fuck knows where your mind has
sitting in my own skin, soft and fleshy around the edges with faint
gone. Gone. Gone mind. Mind gone. Everything you know now
white scars traced on your left arm reality prevails. But you can’t
is impermanent, illusive, fictitious. You choose your own reality,
see it- reality is scarce, feathered and a slate of grey. You try, but
for reality is merely a lie. When the lid is closed there is no going
every time you fail. My body and I are one, a unison of ideas and
back. The darkness is forever, it is infinity. We all dig our own
amalgamation. You can’t separate, can’t see beyond. Starving
graves at some point. Looking up I can make out the ‘emergency stop’ button, but
thins it down to its minimalist entity, a ghost ridden parameter of death. Ketones stench and adrenaline keeps the corpse from
invariably I can’t reach it. I am underneath the surface, gazing
flagging into the epitome of surrender. Transcending. Whisking
up like a naive child in a daydream. I am aware I am humiliated,
up, swirling. Higher.
defenceless. But somehow I resign to defencelessness, and lie there on my chest, on the conveyer belt, pumping forwards with
I need to step outside the casing, unzip the flesh and let the blood seep in willowy branches as I gently part the ivy-cased
a relentless and emotionless energy. It courses through me, I feel
walls, bend the bones of porcelain childhood and fold them up...
it ripping at my knee. I know there are only moments between
and look down, look upon. Fingering myself could create a sense
saving myself and lying there, decrepit and alone, in the box. The
of ‘reality.’ Grounded by touch, awareness of now kicks in. You
world is pumping, the music is coarse and coursing adrenaline
remember it is May. Summer has come, the evenings are long,
through the gym bunnies spinning to the beat. But I am in the
and the last time you sat back and time enveloped you in its
darkness, submerged and vacant. Moments unfurl hazily, the way autumn leaves degenerate
mesmeric wanderlust, you were in darkness. Unforgiving cold. It may have been December...but you were alive. Remember that
so tentatively you would barely notice them shrivel, not until the
smile? Yes, your smile. The one that illuminated the blackness.
moment the brittle stalk snaps and they hover ethereally to the
mossy temple. I could not tell you what happened before the light switch flickered, or what happened after. But I rose, I got up. Because frequently getting up and carrying on is the only option we all have. The cyclical nature of life alludes to a conveyer belt, we have to become resilient, we have to tend to our own wounds and our own sorrows because ultimately nobody else can creep into mind and control the system. Least of all our own mind. Nothing deludes fear. It stagnates and permeates all boundaries, it is as corrosive as a cancer, cancer of mind. Mind is all that matters, all that generates the system, though you convince yourself the system operates everything, most of all the brain. Worrying again, Fretting. Numbed by fear, racing thoughts. Palpitations. Sweating. Or even just the mentality of being scared, scared your life will terminate before youâ€™ve even lived, run through a green meadow and reached the other side, smiling in retrospect of the journey you have endured. Every day feels like there will be limited other every days. Some day every day will end, and the world will be devoid. You will be devoid. And mind will be mind less. Maeve Buckingham is currently studying for a BA in Fine
Art and hopes to progress to be a qualified art therapist to enable others to benefit from the soul-enriching benefits of creative endeavours.
Your Bushy Moustache Flash Fiction / AJ Kirby
You were a special man, and perhaps the real house that
I was always a little bit scared of you. You were a big man, or is that memory playing tricks with me? Perhaps it was your
you built, your real dream, was the one you left behind in all
presence which was big. To a child, you seemed to radiate
of the generations of the family which have followed you. Dad
an uncompromising intolerance which meant that you would
and his brother were the first in our family to go to university,
subjugate the rest of the room. You had a blunt, unforgiving
spreading the family wings across England. In The Summer of
demeanour which for some reason was embodied in your angry
Love, they went as far away from you as they dared, growing
moustache and furrowed brow. Even your roar of a laugh echoed
their hair and dabbling with mind-altering substances. But when
with challenge, contempt, and arrogance.
my dad rebelled against you, he still retained your protestant work ethic, and I’ve always been regaled with stories of him
When you died I felt relief. This remains difficult to admit, however I’m sure you could forgive a seven year old with no
blearily, beerily staggering into lectures and taking notes for the
concept of the real implications of time and of permanence.
whole class of 1968. Now, he’s a father himself, and knows you
You were not somebody that I saw every day, and for some
better as he has built a house of his own. He knows that in order
reason, I’d always had a dream that I could go and live with my
to build a house which will last, you must dig deep and build
grandma, your wife, and with my mother’s dad, mainly because
firm foundations, you must build a refuge and a haven, a school
I seemed to receive presents and praise in equal amounts from
and a playground, a structure with wide windows overlooking
those two. Your death might just open the door to this eccentric
the wider world, and warm rooms to close it out on dark, dark
plan actually happening.
This desire for things to happen simply for my benefit, no matter how much trouble they could and would cause is
AJ Kirby is the award-winning author of six published
something which you would not have recognised in me, but
novels (Sharkways, 2012; Paint this Town Red, 2012;
which I can still see when I look in the mirror to this day. Perhaps
Perfect World, 2011; Bully, 2009; The Magpie Trap, 2008;
I’m being disingenuous to you when I imagine that you would
When Elephants Walk through the Gorbals, 2007), two
bear all manner of hardships, all slings and arrows of fortune,
collections of short stories (The Art of Ventriloquism,
all the missed opportunities of life with your no-nonsense
a collection of crime shorts, and Mix Tape 2010), three
Yorkshireman acceptance and a shrug of the shoulders. Perhaps
novellas (The Haunting of Annie Nicol, 2012; The Black
again, I’m only seeing a blurry image of you comprised of
Book, 2011; Call of the Sea, 2010), and over fifty published
stereotype, characters from films and middle-class guilt. Perhaps
you never simply accepted death, but raged against the dying of your light. Perhaps you swore and beat your fists against the hospital bed at the injustice of it all. Perhaps you wanted to see your grandchildren grow up. No matter how I try and capture you on a page you will always slip through my fingers. I could trace you in registry offices, speak to relatives about you, or I could look at photographs. Can an image lie? Can I write you without my words falsifying evidence by trying to be too flowery, too meaningful? Or should I start by describing what you did, despite the fact that my own work could by no means describe me? You escape me with every tap of the keyboard. You become a manufactured, imagined object. But I could build a you for me. Build something that I can remember. You were a builder with big rough hands and peas at the bottom of the garden. You built your own dream house on the edge of town for you and my grandma to live in. You surrounded it by acres of land for growing vegetables, you gave the house a name, not a number; you added extra rooms for your kids. But you only lived in it for two months before she demanded to move back into the centre of town, less than half a mile away to be closer to her church and her friends. How did you deal with this shattering of your dreams? Well, it never put you off growing peas, tomatoes, lettuce, radishes in your new house in which you remained for the rest of your years.
Exit/Entrance Photography / Delores Storr
Foreword by Andrew Hall
Claire Delores Storr is a 28-year-old writer, photographer
and darkness, other worlds and revelatory light. They
1st class degree in Photography in 2008, and recently
Doorways hold mystery, promise security, lead to stairwells offer opportunities or close them off to everyone but the
holder of the key. Their image is steeped in literary history, a potent discourse of poetic symbolism. This collection of images illustrates just that; the welcoming, enigmatic and thought provoking subjectivity of the entrances and exits that bolster, divide and - by their very nature – create the
myriad worlds which we inhabit. What lies on the other side of your doorways? Ethereal planes? Blissful epiphany? Or the vitriolic shadows where you dare to tread?
and designer based in Carlisle. Claire graduated with a completed an MA in Theoretical Photography in 2010. She has worked on editorial projects with the likes of The Guardian and The BBC, and most recently with
Jenny Uglow on the upcoming Faber and Faber book
‘The Pinecone’, based on the life of Sarah Losh in Wreay. Involved in creating exhibitions and gallery events
nationally and internationally, Claire is available for both
editorial and collaborative projects, and is contactable via her website – www.deloresstorr.com.
Bird Studies Daryl Watson
Daryl Watson has had a passion for art since he was a
small child and on leaving secondary school education
immediately went on to study a BTEC national diploma in
Fine Art at Cleveland College of Art and Design. During the 2-year course he discovered his love for illustration and
fluid medias. He is now studying BA (Hons) in at fine art at Northumbria University.
It’s All To Fuck Basically Ruby Elliot
Re t rospect
Reviewing The Page Becca Campbell
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
and clearly illegal, there is a certain level of detachment because
‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta:
scenes for example, I had a hard time working out whether
the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate
certain acts had actually taken place because it was so cleverly
to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.’
subtle and not obscene.
of the clever use of language. In some cases, during sexual
At the same time, what is being presented to us isn’t
I’ve wanted to read this book since I discovered that it was actually banned in the UK at one point – I was amazed any
acceptable (for lack of a better word) but it doesn’t make us
literature was banned in such a liberal country as Britain – and
want to run from the room screaming. Another aspect of this novel I encountered whilst looking at
when it came up as a potential text to study on my A-level English lit course. All I knew about the novel was that it was
other reviews was the discussion of Humbert’s love for Lolita:
about paedophilia – an older man falling in love with a child and
some called it doomed, some eternal but personally, I find it
when I mentioned the novel to my parents, it instantly sparked
debatable that he loves her at all. There is no denying that
controversy as to why I would want to read a novel about this
Humbert is obsessed with Lolita so arguably it is obsessive love
but at the same time, it can also be argued that he isn’t actually in love with her as a person, as he can’t get enough of her even
Humbert Humbert is a literary scholar from Europe, with a history of mental instability and is haunted by the premature
when he possesses her. Instead, I believe he is in love with a
death of a childhood sweetheart, who is supposedly his reason
concept – the concept of a Nymphet form which he cannot
why he has an obsession with particular young girls he refers to
escape from. Even when he finally has Lolita for himself, he still
as ‘nymphets’. After an unhappy marriage, he moves to America
catches himself looking at other small girls suggesting he is in
to the town of Ramsdale. Whilst being shown around his home
fact in love with the concept of a nymphet as opposed to Lolita
by his landlady, Charlotte Haze, he meets her twelve year-old
herself. I was saddened but unsurprised by the reviews this book
daughter, Dolores with whom he becomes instantly infatuated. He will stop at nothing to possess her and when fate gives
had received. Although it seemed to have received the acclaim
him his chance to do so, he clasps at it with both hands. But
it deserved, I also came across a lot that dubbed it as just
his actions are not only repugnant, but also illegal, and he can
‘pornography’ and even people outright refusing to read it
only possess Lolita for so long, and will she tolerate being
because the main character is a paedophile. Personally, I find
both views extremely ignorant as there is a lot more going on in this text than just a paedophile falling in love with a child but I
When I eventually bought the novel and started reading it, I was entranced by it, even though his paedophilic was
won’t delve into the subtexts, suggestions and innuendoes here
– if this was an essay (I wish it was) I would do so fiercely but this is a book review blog, not deep literature analysis.
It is full to the brim with wit, wonderful descriptions and it
Even the cover of the novel had an impact on me. My copy
is beautifully sophisticated. The almost excessive use of words in a single sentence piles meanings up to the point where you
had a close up image of a child’s face – her freckles like those on
want a dictionary to hand so you can fully understand the words
a quail’s egg, beautiful eyelashes and stunning blue eyes. There
you’re unfamiliar with. It will make you laugh whilst making your
was so much innocence in that face that made the content of
eyebrows creep ever further into your hairline. It’s such a shame
the novel more striking – to me at least. Normally at this point in my review I would be saying
I didn’t get a chance to study this for my English lit course because I would have had a field day with it. Even though I
something along the lines of ‘this novel was fantastic’ or
managed to resist writing notes on post-its and clogging up the
something of that nature but I struggle to find the right words of
pages with them, I still found myself launching into discussions
my own to describe this work. The comment made on the cover
with people about the book and actively taking notes about my
of my copy was ‘A Masterpiece’ and I wholeheartedly agree.
Impeccably written with some complex concepts and subtexts that literature students can and will have a field day with. I don’t
I was very much aware of the fact this novel was manipulating me; Nabokov presents this novel in first person
feel I can use the word ‘enjoyable’ for this novel either as it just
and Humbert talks directly to the reader on several occasions.
doesn’t seem applicable. Instead, my personal comment about
Nabokov has Humbert actively trying to get us to pity him, to
this piece of work is stunning. The fact that this novel – the reading in itself, the emotions
empathise with him. Whilst browsing over other reviews for ideas, I found a line someone had written that I couldn’t have
it makes us feel, the moral conflict clearly shows that this is an
written better myself to summarise this particular point: ‘We find
extremely powerful novel and cannot ever be simply branded as
Lolita disquieting because it makes the reader sympathise with a
‘pornography’ or a man falling in love with a child. A must read.
If I had to make a list of books to read before you die, this would be on it.
Although the actions of a paedophile are inescapably wrong
illustration: Anya Grainger
Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
in the paragraphs above just don’t cover the scale of how heartbreaking these events were. If you want to understand, read the
(Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970)
pleasure. I tend to stick to fiction as, inevitably, non-fiction tends
prevalent but one of the things I could never bring myself to do
to be heavy going and often dull reading if interesting. ‘Bury my
was to actually cry. The information was…sobering for lack of
heart’ is the Indian history of the American West; the white man’s
a better word but I wasn’t surprised. If anything, this book only
destruction of the Indian race, culture, food and land. I have
fuelled my already existing dislike for the ignorant Christians and
always been interested in the American Indians – I think almost
the human race. The pain I felt for these people has been locked
everyone has been exposed to the typical stereotype; strong,
away, deep in my heart, so I shall never forget such an incredible
handsome faces, elaborate headdresses, dream catchers and, if
people who should have been an example to us all and now are
you ever watched any westerns, their portrayal as ignorant and
scattered remnants of a culture, lost in the wind.
This book made me feel many things – misery and sadness
This book was the first non-fictional book I have ever read for
evil barbarians. I know only snippets about their culture but I have always
Becca Campbell is a purple-haired northerner studying
respected their devoted love for the earth which I mirror and I
Environmental Science with an ambition to save the world
also admire their crafts, weapons and dress for being so unique
and stop environmental destruction. When not roaming
and so in keeping with the natural landscape. Brown actually
across fells and dreaming about snow, she studies, listens
describes the Indians as ‘the first real conservationists’ and
to metal or eagerly scrawls poetry on scraps of paper.
so, as someone with an ambition to be a conservationist, it is no surprise that I feel drawn to learn more about these people. I always knew, before reading this book, that white man had oppressed and killed the Indians but I did not appreciate the sheer barbaric nature of some of the things white men did – ironic considering it was the Indians who were meant to be the barbarians – or the scale of events. This book opened my eyes. Brown recounts accurately, from many sources, the fate of many tribes across America. Beginning with the arrival of Columbus and the Spanish, and ending with the massacre at Wounded Knee, this book will break anyone and everyone’s heart. Brown explores the fate of many iconic and less known tribes and their leaders – Little Crow, Red Cloud, Captain Jack, Geronimo, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull - and I couldn’t help but be amazed at what white man did to these incredible people. Broken promises, misunderstandings and murders led to the white men stealing the Indian’s land, destroying all valuable game and resources and wiping an incredible culture off the face of the earth. In every chapter I found death because of a misunderstanding, death because of sheer evil and cruelty – because they had nothing better to do – and death because of broken promises. Some of the hardest chapters involved reading about the murder of children by merciless white man and coming across a white Indian sympathiser was so rare, because of the abuse they themselves faced for showing a little mercy, a little pity, towards these people. Ignorance of their ways led to many a figure choosing to lead the Indians to ‘righteousness’ through the Christian faith i.e. through annihilation and through the threat of having their land taken from them. Even in those few refreshing chapters where the Indians fought back and took some small victories, in later chapters, they would be exterminated like vermin, brow beaten and then sent to reservations where life wasn’t safe, food was often lacking and they died through starvation and disease instead of in war. I was stunned by how cruel the white men were – so few questioned Indian rights and considering that in one chapter there is actually a trial to decide whether or not Indians are people, that’s no real surprise. Promises from Washington – now one of the most powerful governments in the world – were lies, white settlers destroyed and took land just for gold and the Indian people were treated, frankly, like shit because nobody understood or valued them. These few things I have mentioned
illustration: Anya Grainger
Reviewing The Screen Max Evans Kirkman
illustration: paul watson
Dark Shadows/Tim Burton
energy, and a third dimension to him. Helena Bonham Carter is
I’m one of the few people I know who isn’t a devoted fan of Tim
find her distracting and ineffective, and while I enjoy the other
Burton and his films, yet this pleasantly surprised me. Expecting a
actresses’ performances, I wonder who would be better at her
dreary dreg with as much soul as a rotten apricot, albeit with a few
role. Eva Green’s presence was unsettling throughout most of the
gags, I started to notice more and more of the visual and technical
film, but she makes up for her pantomime accent with her strange
highlights, as well as enjoy its few charms.
and creepy smile and eyes. By no means on par with Casino
one of the reasons I consistently dislike Burton films, as I often
Royale for instance, more of a Mars Attacks appeal, sporting one
From early on you’re treated with some gorgeous
of the worst screen deaths I’ve ever seen.
photography, with an almost predictable eerie glow, and while
Dark Shadows also suffers from irregular gag quality (many of
the heavily Bram Stoker’s Dracula-inspired voice-over and music introduction was somewhat hasty, it proved effective and set
them spoiled by trailers) and a werewolf appearance that made no
up an interesting story. The film’s colouring is sumptuous and
sense at all. Whether this is just a gloss-over of the original show’s
deliciously dark, boasting some clever, eerie and even sinister
story I can’t say, but it spoiled a decent finale for me. Overall, a dramatic, beautiful and exciting film that appealed
special effects, particularly in the finale. It’s hardly new for a Burton film when it comes to gothic iconography, high contrast, deep
to me more for its great production design, cinematography and
colours and poetic imagery, but this has actually rekindled my old
directing than for its comedy it quite heavily relied on. I think it’s
fascination with this overall style. Certain scenes even reminded
fair to say that this is slightly underrated at the moment, but not by
me of the silent era, with excessive make-up and melodramatic
performances, and I honestly think some of the later shots were sublime in both purely aesthetic qualities and metaphorical.
Max is a 26 year old film student who grew up in the Middle
The performances here were somewhat erratic, and in a way
East and France before moving to the UK. An aspiring
mirrored the flawed storyline. While Depp is far more convincing
screenwriter, director and sound designer, he occasionally
and enjoyable here than in Alice in Wonderland, Pirates of the
tries his hand at poetry and lyrics, and enjoys writing film
Caribbean Three and so on, his character left me wanting more
reviews of both the new and the old.