Oh Comely 34

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stories / film / music / fashion / mischief / ideas

The places that define us Style cues from our younger selves Inventing time travel

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issue 34

“He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep” Oscar Wilde, The Selfish Giant

There are patterns in nature that recur. Sequences, shapes, seasons. All appears to be stricken in winter – the bare trees, the empty skies, the hush of the world – but it’s just a necessary pause. Like our own retreats back to home towns, families, it’s a lull before a bolder re-emergence. Where we embrace our fondness of old traditions before looking forward to a bright new year. So, this issue, we return. Welcome back.


contents Features


In every issue

18 Wanderers’ return Four adventurers share what it feels like to return to everyday life

16 Welcome, winter Jordan Hernandez celebrates a new season’s rituals

30 Rethinking resolutions New ways to approach the year ahead

50 To be a troubadour Jennifer Reid takes a trip along the Leeds to Liverpool towpath

10 Reader’s letters 12 Contributors Meet some of the lovely people who helped to make this issue

34 Billie Marten We find out what makes the Yorkshire singer-songwriter happiest 52 Sara Pascoe The comedian on feminism 55 On the night bus Portraits of people on the move 56 Happy returns We dig out our family photo albums for style inspiration 76 Colour mapping Ceramicist Rachel Cox takes us on a journey

Photo (left): Amber Butchart by Liz Seabrook, book illustration by Will Jarvis

78 Begin again The Alkonost's jewellery celebrates freedom and reincarnation

40 Going home Four writers share tales of what 'returning' means to them 84 The book that never made it back A minor act of teenage rebellion 88 The good old days? We wonder if things were really that fastastic back then… 104 Gran's house Celebrating the time spent with our beloved elders 110 The time traveller's life Jason Ward grapples with the invention of time travel

14 Curious things Recycled and repurposed treats 26 What we're reading The books we revisit again and again 68 Three questions We spend some time in Margate with fashion historian Amber Butchart 74 Subscribe Treat yourself to a year of Oh Comely 86 Women who changed the world Henrietta Lacks 115 Wunderkammer Frances Ambler’s collection of retro souvenir badges 123 Infrequently asked questions #4 We pose a question in prose for you to answer

81 Fashion cycles We update a theory from the 1930s

126 Playlist Songs we keep coming back to

90 B eauty in decay A photographic exploration of nature’s cycle of life and death

130 Mischief Some reunions we actually might want to attend

100 Gabriella Cohen Get caught up in the momentum of the Aussie musician


118 Craft for a cause Harness the power of your needles to show solidarity with refugees

38 A brief guide to comets The science and superstition surrounding these celestial wonders

120 Maren Ade The writer-director of 2017's funniest film

66 Tiny investments that really paid off Five tales of how a little can go a long way

124 Walk in their shoes Explore illustrated travel journals

98 Six returns from the dead The only sure thing about life is death… or is it?

WIN! 29 £ 500 to spend on clothes! Split £500 worth of vouchers with a friend at vintage-style clothing brand, Joanie

Cover portrait of Florence by Lauren Maccabee. Florence wears a denim jacket by Filippa K and a yellow polo shirt by Norse Projects. Styling by Rachel Caulfield. Make up by Sophie Higginson using Bobbi Brown. Hair by Tracey Cahoon for CahoonasLSOH. Pages four and five feature Maren Morstad's atmospheric photography, and we're pleased to have her pictures illustrate our writer's stories throughout this issue.




What we’re reading Writers share the books they like to dip into again, and again, and again

photo liz seabrook

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens words jason ward It’s surely not a coincidence that our most ebullient rituals occur during the bleakest days of the year. As winter batters its fists upon the windows, tradition is a friendly face at the door, a comforting visitor to help us ignore the darkness outside. Without even noticing, Christmas rites accumulate naturally around us. We listen to the same songs every year as we put lights on the tree, make the same biscuits we always make, watch the same Christmas specials that we could recite by heart. For the satisfaction they bring, we observe these events as closely as if they had been ordained. Here’s a ritual of mine, then: every December I listen to a different audiobook of A Christmas Carol. An unabridged reading takes around three hours, so I’m able to get through it over a couple of crisp, lonely walks. In keeping with the oral tradition that fomented literature, A Christmas Carol is not a story you’re meant to read, but rather one you’re meant to have read to you. Dickens himself did this for 127 audiences during his lifetime, including his final public reading. Like a bicycle or the zip on a jacket, we take A Christmas Carol for granted because it works perfectly. Possessing the quality of a fable, the story unfolds with such pleasurable inevitability that it’s difficult to imagine someone actually sat down and toiled over its nouns and verbs, that Ebenezer Scrooge and his misery didn’t always exist somewhere. Not wasting a moment, its elegant narrative works like a machine: there’s a reason why two centuries later we’re still telling the story to ourselves, not just through adaptations but

versions starring everyone from Bugs Bunny to Fred Flintstone. Despite the Bob Cratchit in my head bearing a striking resemblance to Kermit the Frog, however, I am helplessly, joyfully drawn to the original text. I love how its opening line – “Marley was dead: to begin with” – manages to be spooky and witty at the same time. I love that it’s written with a noble purpose and yet Dickens can’t resist showing off how clever he is. Most of all, I love the meaning of the tradition in my life. Every year, wandering the same city as Scrooge once did, I’m provided with a reminder that change is achievable, and that it is always possible to be one’s best, most compassionate self.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf words holly williams Often, what we love about a book is its story or characters. Mrs Dalloway doesn’t have that much of a story – a middle-aged woman prepares to throw a party, and reconnects with old friends and lovers; a shell-shocked First World War veteran contemplates taking his own life. And when I first read it, aged 18, I didn’t massively relate to the eponymous 1920s society hostess. But Virginia Woolf’s novel did something bigger: it changed my understanding of what fiction could do. Dubbed ‘stream of consciousness’, Woolf’s writing got closer than anything I’d read to recreating how we experience life: a seamless flow of sensory impressions of the external world braided with a rich inner world. In building meandering sentences she captures how, just walking down the street or buying flowers, inside we can also be transported by 


Songs, sweets and quiet happiness Billie Marten weaves together feeling and landscape in her delicate debut album. We photographed her in her native Yorkshire, then met back in London to talk songwriting, YouTube stardom, and finding inner confidence

interview marta bausells portraits liz seabrook stylist alice burnfield hair & make up alice oliver

When I meet Billie Marten, she’s in the middle of arranging pick-and-mix cups for the fans coming to see her play a bit later. We’re at the solemn St Giles-in-the-Fields church in central London, a candlelit space of calm that matches her breathy indie-folk music perfectly. She’s chosen the sweets based on her song titles: there are hearts for ‘Lionhearted’, teeth for ‘Teeth’, eggs for ‘Bird’, milk bottles for ‘Milk & Honey’ (“I couldn’t really find any honey”) – and that’s after she couldn’t bake for everyone in the audience, which was her original plan. This extreme thoughtfulness mirrors that of her debut album, Writing of Blues and Yellows, where the acute sensitivity of this Yorkshire musician comes out in full force. Her lyrics of longing and landscape, of wistfulness and doubt, merge with her delicate voice and the serene, intimate sound that first made her famous on YouTube at the age of 12, when her mother posted videos of her singing covers to share with her family and it went viral. She’s 17 now, and Writing of Blues and Yellows came out this autumn to critical acclaim after having been nominated for the BBC’s Sound of 2016. We take a walk in the church and, while distant soundchecks continue to echo across the building, we sit on a staircase and chat.

Leopard print faux fur bomber, Ganni; Cream roll-neck, Beyond Retro; Gold necklaces, Cabinet Jewellery.

I find the title of your album Writing of Blues and Yellows, curious. Why did you choose to juxtapose sound and colour? I struggled with this for ages, because a title is the worst thing to do, it’s just so difficult. And in the end I just thought, what

can I see when I listen to the songs, or what do I feel? And they’re all different colours to me, because I have that synesthesia thing, which means everything is sort of jumbled up and in the wrong order. So I get it with names and places and people. This album was kind of mostly blue, and yellow, and green, and orange… but obviously that’s too long a title so I just went with the first two! Your songs speak of very intimate emotions and reflections. Where do you draw inspiration from? I come from a very beautiful place, so every song weaves together whatever I’m feeling at the moment with some sort of natural thing. I’m really into romantic sensibility. And studying English has really helped me connect with that. So I guess everything does stem from home. The first song I ever wrote was about a painting that was in our house and I just thought it was great; it was of the Moors. It was called ‘I’m Gonna Run’. I was like, eight. Massive, massive banger! How do you recall the experience of being 12 and suddenly becoming a YouTube sensation? It must have been pretty surreal. I guess the right word for it is just strange. My mum put videos of me singing on YouTube, simply so my grandparents in France could see them. And then, when I was 12, she put me up for Ont’ Sofa series, which was the video after which all the silliness started. But music was purely a family thing. And I didn’t know anything other, so the whole YouTube thing is just crazy. And then certain amazing people saw it by chance, including my 


Alice and Lily recreate their classic party look. Lily wears: White dress, Masscob. Alice wears: White dress, Edit.


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Begin again Kimberley Dawn’s unisex jewellery brand The Alkonost explores decoration, freedom and reincarnation

words lara watson portrait nicole gomes hair & make up hannah williams

Both raw and refined, tough and delicate, The Alkonost collection of mostly silver, animal skull-inspired jewellery pieces nod to punk and goth styles, yet also have a forever quality to them that go beyond popular subculture. Kimberley originally studied textiles and fashion photography before gaining qualifications in hairdressing and jewellery manufacture, bringing a range of creative disciplines and understanding to her work. We spoke to her about the mythologies and concepts influencing each piece, and why jewellery is such a personal thing. What is it about jewellery that so attracts you? The notion of it being timeless. To me, it’s something that’s special and provokes a meaning or emotion from a certain time, a certain place, a certain person… it’s very nostalgic to me. I like the idea of having a keepsake close to you. I feel that the style and essence of a piece helps to exude your own individuality and enables you to express a certain presence and distinctiveness.

Kimberley wears her Eyes of Heaven choker and Two for Joy earrings along with a sapphire necklace given to her by her grandparents.

What materials and techniques do you use in your work? I mainly work with silver. I create my designs using actual animal bones and carved wax. A silicone mould is made from the design and

filled with silver to create a hand-crafted, refined piece of jewellery. It’s beautiful how you give new life to symbols associated with death. Is that something you’ve always been interested in as a designer? I try to interpret beauty in diverse ways, using actual bones and endowing them with new heart and meaning. I like to think that my work signifies that death isn’t the end, that new life can be created; and that that piece will be timeless. It’s important to me in today’s world to apply ourselves to use what nature has given us to create things that are stylish yet sustainable. Tell us about the name of your brand, The Alkonost. What’s the story behind that? In Russian mythology the Alkonost is a being that unites the body of a bird with the head of a beautiful woman. Mesmerising sounds emanate from her, obliterating the memories from those who hear it, with the promise of a welcoming future. The Alkonost is said to live in a blissful place and enters our world only to convey optimistic tidings of good fortune. I am fascinated by mythology, particularly because it opens up the possibility of being able to achieve what we’d originally believed to be unattainable. Stories and myths of the unknown world can help you visualise 


Beauty in decay What moment in the transition do you find acceptance?

photos aloha bonser-shaw direction liz seabrook

From curled, dry and faded edges, like the leaves of a treasured old book, to the bruises under wrinkled skin, puckering up, soft to the touch. Eventually, it all collapses into dust, or the palest green powder, settling on the surface, then carried on the air to a new beginning. At what point in the cycle of life and death does something truly lose its appeal? Maybe we should look again.



The time traveller’s life Associate editor, Jason Ward, attempts to invent time travel

words jason ward illustration abi overland

“Jason, can you hear me?” I said to the empty bedroom. “Are you there?” Apparently I was not. I I got up from my seat, plodded to the doorway. “Jason, I am giving you a sign. This is what the sign looks like.” I shook my arms around like I was trying to flag down an ice cream van, but the corridor remained stubbornly empty. “You’re remaining stubbornly empty,” I told it. I’ve never had much of an aptitude for materialising on cue. Venturing to a new place inevitably results in me getting lost, so why did I think this occasion would be any different? If I struggle to find bus stops and unfamiliar pubs then what chance did I have locating a hallway years in the past? I’d probably overshot the landing. Right now, time travelling me was probably somewhere in the late 90s, trying to warn people not to buy polyphonic ringtones. I checked my bedroom again, just to be sure, and my subsequent sigh was heard by no-one. It all made sense. Of course I’d be an unpunctual time traveller. ** When I was young I didn’t dream of becoming a teacher, veterinarian or engine driver. The first thing I ever wanted to be was a time traveller. Having now traversed a few decades in slow motion, it’s clear that what I really wanted to be was Dr Sam Beckett, the compassionate, funny, unerringly decent protagonist of Quantum Leap. For a spell, however, my zeal masked my decidedly average scientific abilities. With the misplaced

confidence of an enthusiastically encouraged child, I assumed that I’d eventually figure out some way to accomplish my goal. In time, of course, my priorities shifted, as priorities tend to do, and I left behind my ambitions of moving at will through the fourth dimension. But I was still compelled, again and again, by stories about time travel. As a teenager I was truly haunted by The Time Machine by H.G. Wells; while the book’s sociological viewpoint is uncomfortably archaic, I will never fail to be devastated by Wells’ descriptions of the end of the Earth, millennia in the future. He evokes a world of abominable desolation where the only life remaining is a few monstrous crabs with gleaming eye stalks and ungainly claws, smeared with algal slime. If I could travel, this would be the place I’d go. Forget ancient Rome, the Renaissance or the Belle Époque. I want to see the very end of things. Like the vogue for neon windbreakers, Quantum Leap stayed in 1992. Before I knew it I was 30, with no romantic partner but a respectable number of jumpers. And then I was cycling through torrential rain. As sodden corduroy clung to my legs and my glasses sundered responsibility for maintaining my eyesight, I cursed myself for not bringing waterproofs. If only I could go back, I thought, and then I did: back to the living room carpet of my youth, back to being splayed in front of the television on a Tuesday night, rapt and inspired. What was stopping me from returning to my dream and actually doing it? I announced my plot to the rest of the Oh Comely team. 





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