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Issue #1

2013

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)

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Inside #1 Editor

Exhibition

Katie Metcalfe

Made To Order Rain Clouds ......................................................6 Handmade Business .................................................................7

Editorial Assistant

Reviving A Lost Art Form ............................................................8

Lucy Russell

Dialogue

Designer

Teaching English In Korea ........................................................10 Biscuits Made To Wear ............................................................14

Phil Robinson

Deadlines And Pushchairs .......................................................16

Proofreaders

When In Newcastle, Look Up ..................................................18 Writers’ Block ..........................................................................20

Sue Hooper, Joanne Shawcross, Carol Fenwick

Like A Mad Scientist ................................................................22

Cover Illustration

Writing Is Good For Your Health ..............................................26 It’s A Lot of DIY ........................................................................28

Anya Grainger

Write For Inspiration ................................................................32

Email

Detail

bigeyesmagazine@outlook.com

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

bigeyesmagazine.wordpress.com

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ................................................46 Street Food In Reykjavík ...........................................................48

bigeyesmagazine.tumblr.com

The Heathen Research Network ..............................................49 pinterest.com/bigeyesmagazine

Life Writing ..............................................................................50

twitter.com/big_eyes_mag

Inspired

Your Bushy Moustache ...........................................................56 Exit/Entrance ...........................................................................57

facebook.com/BigEyesMagazine

Bird Studies .............................................................................60 It’s All To Fuck Basically ...........................................................62

Retrospect

Reviewing The Page And Screen .............................................66

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E x h i bi t i on

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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.

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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

thing.

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

VictoryGardenYarn

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

rewarding!

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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.

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Dialogu e

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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

well.

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

contemplation.

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

teacher?

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

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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.

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volunteer for additional camp programs, or your school gives you

Mongolia this summer. I’d love to live in Mongolia for a while,

overtime classes.

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

need?

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

teacher?

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

second language.

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

about home?

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

someday).

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.

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13

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),

jewellery?

started?

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

jewellery.

bonus.

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

taught yourself?

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.

obtain?

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!

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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.

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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

on?

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?

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

best friend?

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

2011.

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

16

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.

mother?

Two: Get your partner or a friend you trust to look after your wee

and print.

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!

SusanCHooper

17

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

illustration.

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?

the world.

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

absolute genius.

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.

18

19

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

the toilet.

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.

and events.

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

motivate you?

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

up soon?

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:

20

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.

aesthetic:

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

the world.

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

environment?

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

finished?

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,

Studio?

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

22

u

23

u

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

disposal...

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.

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25

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

everyday work?

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

wellbeing.

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

Wellbeing?’

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

Wellbeing?’ 

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

26

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.

Wellbeing?’

It is on Amazon or you can order it direct from me. Email writing. year@cumbria.nhs.uk 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.

27

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

DIY scene? 

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

music?

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.

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What are your thoughts about record stores going out of

great. Also, they have been a total pleasure to deal with, and

progression?

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,

flyering anymore.  

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

top three:

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

company Bro(UK).

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

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31

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

with them.

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

to date?

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

heavy read.

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

on stage.

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,

32

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,

from them.

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

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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.

open mic.

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

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De tail

35

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

stomach.

No tattoos

5 tattoos

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

afford it.

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

very strong-willed.

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.

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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

familiar terrain…”

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

change this?

38

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.)

39

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

1985.]

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

and saved.

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

40

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

figure.

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.

41

What Are You Wearing? My Shoes / Craig Barlow

To start with, my shoes are actually boots. I don’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 it’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.

musician.

42

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.

43

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

(Asio flammeus)

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

wrecks.

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

Folklore

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

journey home.

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

44

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’

with reality.

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

Fine Art.

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

46

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

the summer?

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

York City.

48

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

49

Life Writing Decisions

But no, I leave the fruit and veg section by artfully squeezing

Ruby Elliot

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

yoghurt.

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,

Ruby Elliot

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.

50

Bottom of The Barrel Scrapers

doors off and paint the shelves in a variety of psychedelic colours.

Ruby Elliot

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

Crying

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

Ruby Elliot

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

51

Death Masks of Memories

Maybe it faded, silently ebbing to the horizon, slipping like that

Maeve Buckingham

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

communicate verbally.

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

Conveyer Belt

help others overcome the difficulties I have endured and enable others to benefit from the soul-enriching benefits of creative

Maeve Buckingham

endeavours.

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

Maeve Buckingham

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

52

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u

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 you’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.

54

I nspired

55

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.

nights.

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

short stories.

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.

56

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.

58

59

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.

61

It’s All To Fuck Basically Ruby Elliot

62

63

64

Re t rospect

65

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.

(Olympia, 1955)

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

particular topic.

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

possessed?

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

inescapably abhorrent.

– 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.

thoughts.

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.

paedophile.’

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

66

u

illustration: Anya Grainger

u

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)

book.

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

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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

(2012)

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

much.

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.

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