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issue five mar / apr 2011 ÂŁ4


Egor Rogalev took this photo of his sister in a park near his home town of St Petersburg. She is standing next to a World War II memorial.


oh comely keep your curiosity sacred editors liz bennett, des tan

deputy editor rosanna durham fashion agatha a nitecka illustration dani lurie craft beth davis production michael bennett editorial frances ambler, laura callaghan, amie mills, jason ward words victoria beale, theo brainin, jamie emmott, jane flett, connie han, sasa jankovic, louisa lee, sophia pearson, ellie phillips, luke ryan, vicki turk, victoria watts pictures francesca jane allen, steph baxter, leah bernhardt, ricardo bessa, emma block, ella cohen, katie harnett, india hobson, max knight, egor rogalev, felicita sala advertising steph pomphrey, steph@ohcomely.co.uk. feedback and lost property, info@ohcomely.co.uk. submissions, words@ohcomely.co.uk or pictures@ohcomely.co.uk. oh comely, issue five, mar/apr 2011. Published by Adeline Media Ltd six times a year. B101 Studio 12, 100 Clement’s Road, London, SE16 4DG. 020 8616 2464. Printed in the UK by Buxton Press, www.buxtonpress.com. Cover portrait, Taii Gordon, by India Hobson. www.ohcomely.co.uk Contents © 2011 Adeline Media Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission from the publishers, although conscientious and beleaguered fair users can relax and have a cup of tea. The views expressed in oh comely are not necessarily those of the contributors, editors or publishers, or the authors’ mothers. ISSN 2043-9857.


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on the cover

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we built a boat out of plywood and tape, page 76, illustrated the dreams we couldn’t forget, page 28, played five scenes in colours and clothes, page 60, wondered what life would be like if we’d never moved away, page 86, and tasted porridge from all over the world, page 120.

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art

fashion

16 songs where the words don’t matter frankie rose isn’t a drum machine anymore

50 it’s in the jeans my mother’s humiliating annual ritual

18 dreaming by the sea beach house and their tunes to float to 20 birds in hats alice tams draws the best-dressed aviary 22 I saw three ships go sailing by painting wanderlust in watercolours 24 one, two, three, click step inside the travelling photo booth 26 no man has repose fighting the urge to tweet on the toilet 28 while I was sleeping four illustrators, four memorable dreams 36 a portrait of the artist as a young myspace user sylvia plath never had this problem 40 things look different looking back simon english’s 40-year journey around england

52 michelene in lace the gentle rustle of serene and delicate fabrics 60 imogen poots in her childhood home the actress plays five scenes in colours and clothes 72 little moments imogen poots savours life’s small surprises 74 vassilisa the beautiful the russian designer and the fairy tale that wasn’t


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people

and

76 how hard can it be to build a boat? maybe it is possible to make anything out of gaffer tape

104 a handmade life lucia kempsey is making a life out of craft

86 you can never go home again four writers reimagine their old home towns 92 something curious the mysterious tale of bahrain’s 400-year-old tree 94 what’s left after the family holiday you sent us some photographs and told their stories 98 things my mother never told me how much do you want to know? 100 where did all the notebooks go? so many stamps, notebooks and tears

106 even better than the reel thing four things to do with an old cotton reel 108 the truth and the tea leaves could uncle really see the future? 112 what’s in your bag? three people turn out their pockets 118 please make me some tea but don’t squeeze the tea bag 120 this bowl is just right around the world in three portions of porridge 122 beep beep beep alarm clocks for those forever hitting snooze 124 pretty lovely these things put a spring in our step 128 this quiz will tell you what your life is missing it just might be an egg slicer


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Adventures sometimes just happen. “It’s time we had an adventure,” someone will say, and we’ll hum and nod in agreement because adventuring is something we’ve always wanted to do. We’ll climb into a car with a bunch of good friends and go as far as we can, until we reach the sea. The drive back home will be quiet, save for the intermittent drips on the passenger seat floor. Then someone will wonder out loud if we should keep going. It’s a nice thought, to keep going. With the road rising up to meet us, with the wind always at our backs. Lately, we’ve been thinking about wandering. Our heads are filled with sprawling cities and quiet townships, of hilly terrain and salty seas. We talked to a man who hitchhiked his way across England to spell out its name. We collected up notebooks and sent them out into the world to see if they’d make it back. We pored over holiday snaps and found out the tales behind the smiles. We even wondered what it would be like if we had never left home in the first place.


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Friends on the brink of a journey. Photo: Leah Bernhardt.


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contributors some people who helped to make this issue

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Egor Rogalev is a photographer from St Petersburg. “Born into an artist’s family, I was familiar with visual aesthetics since early childhood. But the first time I really encountered photography was while studying journalism at St Petersburg State University. It slowly grew on me and became one of the things that gives meaning to my life. Тravelling, meeting new people, friends, loved ones, beautiful places—these things inspire me to take photos. On the other hand, taking photos helps me to go on living with an open heart and mind. I like this never-ending circle. Everyday reality is merely the vessel in which the mystery of the world is contained. For me, photography is an attempt to uncover and to catch a glimpse of this mystery. I love photography with all my heart.” Egor’s photo series Distant and Close is a beautiful expression of the different ways we experience things near and far. You can find selected photos from it on pages 86 to 91. The whole series and Egor’s work is at cargocollective.com/soulcraft.

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Ella Cohen illustrates under the name Ellakookoo. “I was born in the city of Haifa. It is a lovely port city in north Israel, and growing up there allowed me to spend time by the sea with my family. As a child, I spent a lot of time inventing stories, writing them and drawing pictures of the characters I invented. The first illustrated story I remember making was about my Arab swimming teacher who, at some point, decides that flying is a much better way to transport herself than swimming. Funny little girl I was. Since drawing has always been my great passion, I decided to become an illustrator. I’m a recent graduate from the Bezalel Academy for Art and Design, currently living and working in Jaffa, Israel.” You can find Ella’s work accompanying Jamie Emmott’s poignant, funny family tale of tea leaves and fortune-telling on page 108. You can find more of Ella’s work online at ellakookoo.carbonmade.com.

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Laura Callaghan is an illustrator in London. “I operate under the unprofessional-sounding moniker of Laura Laura Picture Drawer. I’m Irish, but moved from my town of 25,000 people to London just over a year ago to complete a Masters in Illustration. My work is largely hand-rendered in a ridiculously minute 0.01 Isograph pen and tends to verge on the surreal and macabre. I try to draw as often as possible but at the moment find myself working in a biscuit factory to pay my rent. The perks are making me fat, but the office dogs keep me smiling. At the moment, my work is influenced by Edward Gorey, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and the sliver of escapism that a few hours of daily drawing gives me.” There are quite a few new people at oh comely, and Laura is one of them. She’ll be helping Dani curate the magazine’s illustration. You can find her work on page 30 as part of a feature on illustrated dreams and at lauralaurapicturedrawer.com. We were excited to find out that she works in a real biscuit factory.

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Michael Bennett is a writer and editor from London. “I’m currently at the age where everyone thinks it’s appropriate to ask what career I plan on pursuing for the rest of my life. It’s funny how everyone goes through the stage of hearing that question and hating it, and yet they still ask it. Apparently this is the point at which I’m supposed to choose one thing and start doing it well, but I really don’t want to. It’ll probably involve reading and writing, though, since that’s all I know how to do. Among the things I’d like to write are a novel telling the story of Julius Caesar as a contemporary US politician, a screenplay about the 1976 New York blackout, a short history of Christianity, a theory of economic democracy, and lots of soppy love poetry.” Michael’s editing and page design can be found throughout the magazine. There would perhaps be more of it, had we not asked him to test out alarm clocks. Some were more reliable than others. The verdict is on page 122.


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special deliveries letters that made us smile


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what we listened to


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what we ate

what we did

belle and sebastian at bowlie weekender 2

valentine’s day cake parties

the museum of everything

playing in the snow

the storytellers at true stories told live


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songs where the words don’t matter frankie rose, three bands later interview rosanna durham portrait des tan

Frankie Rose has a habit of band-hopping. She has played with some of Brooklyn’s most successful indie groups but never stuck around to enjoy their success: Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts and Dum Dum Girls. All along, Frankie wanted to front her own band and write her own songs. In early 2010, she started Frankie Rose and the Outs, and released their self-titled album later in the year. A short European tour followed, which is right about the time I met her for a strong coffee.

It’s so different. Dee Dee was the songwriter for Dum Dum Girls. I wasn’t particularly connected to the music. I feel like my record is completely different. So often, people see some strange connection that I can’t hear. The only thing the bands shared was me. How do you know the girls from the Outs?

So you grew up on the West Coast and now you’re living on the East Coast. Can you describe that move to me?

We used to work together in a coffee shop. Kate Ryan I taught from zero how to play the drums. I wanted to play music with friends. I knew we were going to be in a car together for a long period of time, so I knew I’d want a friend in the car, rather than the most amazing drummer in the world who’s also an arsehole. As far as dynamics go, Dum Dum Girls was the band I was happiest in. Those girls are my best friends. It’s sad because I just didn’t want to play the drums anymore. I really didn’t! After a while I started to feel like some sort of drum machine.

I was 27 when I moved to the East Coast. I’d been in San Francisco for about twelve years and I was just tired of it. I was a bike messenger for six years, and I had a vision of myself being a bike messenger at forty.

I listened to a programme recently on the radio. It was about ‘the drummer’ and there were lots of male rock musicians saying that the drummer is the embodiment of primal man! Really!

There are some amazing bike messengers, though. Some people have been doing it forever and they’re definitely characters. Yes, but I didn’t want my face to turn into a leather sack, because that’s what happens to you eventually. You’re in the sun all day.

That’s ridiculous. Let’s not gender it too much, but I feel that selftaught women drummers are much more interesting. They in particular play the strangest beats. The perfect example would be Paloma from the Raincoats. Maybe male drummers are taught correctly from the beginning? This is just speculation.

Do you still bike in Brooklyn?

And you’re self-taught?

Yes, I do. When I first moved there, I did food delivery. On my first day at work in Brooklyn, someone rolled up next to me and said, “A bike messenger just got hit by a car and he’s dead!” I retired right there.

One hundred percent. I have no idea how to play anything! If you told me to play a G chord, I wouldn’t know it. I should really learn how to play chords. It would make things a lot easier.

In the past, you’ve said things like, “If I was a man, I’m convinced my music wouldn’t be any different.”

Do you read other work when you’re writing? What were your thoughts and feelings as you’re working? Words are so weighty. It can be intimidating putting pen to paper.

What are the loos like here, out of ten? I feel like the toilets don’t flush in England! This time around has been a lot more successful. On other tours there have been problems.

The only thing that’s significant about Frankie Rose and the Outs being an all-girl band is that I needed a three-part harmony, so I had to have at least three women in the band. The idea of an all-girl band is really irritating, actually. There are enough women musicians out there that we don’t need to define a band as an all-female band. What if I started talking about all-male bands, for example? It’s ridiculous. These are some really antiquated ideas. I agree. The indie music scene thinks of itself as progressive, but it’s rooted in the conservative and traditional. Absolutely. Music is still really male-dominated. I think it’s getting better only because more women are actually becoming sound people, and becoming the people that run things. Can we talk about musical baggage? I have plenty of that! If your musical history was put in a suitcase, what would be there? Just eight months ago you were part of Dum Dum Girls.

As far as writing words goes, I’m terrible at it. I just try and make lyrics as not-dumb as possible. Lyrics always come last, sometimes actually in the recording studio. There’s a song on the record that’s literally just gobbledygook. The producer said, “You might want to make up some lyrics to put on top of this!” For me, when I’m writing a song, it’s about the overall feeling or the mood that the song creates, the lyrics being another instrument. Which is a shame, because I hear about ninety-five percent of the population are moved by lyrics. What will happen to your music in ten years time? In ten years time, I don’t know if anyone will care! I think it would be great if they did. I plan on making about ten more records. It’s kind of the only thing I know how to do anymore. But music is a really weird thing to be doing. A doctor or a librarian makes a lot more sense to me. You barely make any money. You have ten-hour drives in a van. I just feel like it’s a silly job. And music moves so fast now. People want something new every four months, which is literally impossible if you make music the way I do. It takes me forever to write a song. That’s why I’m going to become a doctor. I’m going to medical school!


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dreaming by the sea beach house float on interview vicki turk The words ‘beach house’ and ‘Brighton’ have a pleasing harmony. There is a feeling of serendipity when I talk to the Beach House dream-pop pair, who are in Brighton for the last leg of their UK tour. The winter weather blows away any improbable images of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally relaxing in the sunshine beside a Brighton beach hut. Beach House describe their approach to music as “natural and immediate.” It would be nice to think the band’s name came from a far-off summer holiday but Victoria’s answer is abstract. “It floated to the surface. It was a meant-to-be kind of thing,” she explains. “The words came into our minds and they ended up staying because they felt right.” The band was a case of musical love at first sight. Beach House formed in Baltimore six years ago. The pair played briefly with each other, and swiftly left each of their somewhat dysfunctional bands.

Victoria and Alex are rare specimens: two musicians who have worked together for three albums without the tantrums or creative differences that success sometimes brings. “I’ve never had anyone else that I’ve been able to write with and work with in the way that we work together,” Victoria says. “I think it’s actually a very rare thing. We’re very lucky. “Alex and I are different: he works on things every day and I can kind of work on things every day, but I also store things and wait for them to boil. Then they come out. We work well together because the one needs the other: freedom needs structure; science needs nature; they’re complementary forces.” The group’s third album, Teen Dream, feels like a natural fulfilment of such a carefree partnership. This was Beach House’s breakthrough moment, gaining them critical acclaim and winning a wider audience. Their distinctive early melodies, ethereal and echoing, matured into something more varied. Unlike many bands whose early sound was as self-assured as theirs, Beach House have not found themselves losing their distinctiveness. “Melody is a crazy thing. It just kind of emerges,” she says. It seems to be a remarkably serene but visual process for Victoria. “There are many, many melodies out there. I feel that melody is kind of visual in a bizarre way, that you can actually almost feel it when it’s going to


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Self-portrait.

happen, and almost see it, and if you’re lucky you can grasp it out of thin air. But sometimes melody is fleeting.”

as possible. It isn’t a glamorous thing to run around, and eat ham and bread every day.”

She compares the name of the album to looking at a painting in a gallery. “When you look at the painting and then the title, they can have overtly nothing to do with one another. But once you’ve absorbed the actual piece of art, for some reason it makes sense.”

But a year is a long time to leave the familiar behind. “We miss friends, we miss family, our practice space, our instruments—that’s mostly it. Very simple things. I think Alex misses huge coffees, large piping-hot coffees. I think that’s probably the biggest thing! It’s hard to find large coffees in Europe and the UK. But we’re fine. When we’re in something, we’re inside of it.”

Despite being named Teen Dream, dreams weren’t always a helpful feature in the songwriting process. “I’ve had dreams where you have a melody, and you hope you remember it,” Victoria says. “Then when you wake up, you’ve completely forgotten it. That’s the cruel joke of memory! It’s just waving candy in front of your face.” Writing songs and making records are only half of the story. Unlike many musicians, Beach House like to tour and find it helps them move on to new material. “Touring is important to us. We love it and we’ve done a lot of it. We’ve been to Europe five times this year,” Victoria says. “The goal is to get it out of you and to give it to other people, so that you can continue to make a future, basically, and find new ways of looking at things.” This year, Victoria has barely been home for more than six days. She says that she can’t really remember what she does beside music. “With all the people we tour with, like our sound engineer and our drummer, it has a very family feeling and we try to make it as lovely

That’s not to say that home isn’t important to them. The duo work best back in Baltimore, surrounded by the things that inspire them. “When we can go back home, and be in our space with our organs and all these things we’ve been collecting over the years: in notebooks, on computers, on four-track tapes. Those tiny, tiny bits of songs that you had in pieces accumulate and hopefully create major sessions. But it’s like predicting if you’ll have a good night—you never know, all you can do is blindly pray for it! Don’t jinx it. You can’t change it!” When asked if there’s anything else to know about her band, she replies, “You don’t need to know anything about Beach House. I would say: life is short and if something makes you happy, you should do it. And the things that are scary are often the things that are eye-opening, and jaw-opening, so you should take risks. In the end, just love as much as possible. That’s the hippie inside of me.”


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birds in hats alice tams and her well-dressed flock interview dani lurie Alice Tams is the hand behind Birds in Hats, a project that combines the ornithological with the sartorial. On her blog, you’ll find a menagerie of fashion-conscious fowl: there are blue tits in party hats, albatrosses in bonnets and flamingos in fascinators. The drawings themselves look like a bird-watcher’s reference book with an eccentric sense of style. Birds in Hats began as a joke that got out of hand. I was drawing a barn owl about a year ago and it wasn’t going very well, so I added a baseball cap and it looked much better. My flatmate asked me to draw him a vulture in a safari hat, and I just kept going. I try not to make the combinations too obvious, although I did draw a merlin in a wizard’s hat. Someone suggested putting a canary in a mining hat, but I really want to draw one in a Mexican wrestling mask. I have no idea why. My favourite is probably the emperor penguin in a fez because he just looks so comfortable in it. They all have their own personalities. The seagull in a baseball cap is an absolute rogue, but some of them just look cheeky and cute. I’ve learnt a lot doing it, especially about hats. I’m worried about the authenticity of the birds, because obviously there are a lot of people out there who will call me on it if I get something like the species wrong. I haven’t had a hat expert’s opinion yet but I would love to! I’d like to get them printed as affordable postcards, but it’s hard to get them produced cheaply as a student without much time on my hands. For now I’m just going to keep going. They’re fun to draw and I’m pretty confident I won’t run out of birds or hats any time soon. I received an email about half a year ago from someone who loved them so much she had the blue tit in a party hat tattooed on her left foot. I’ve seen the photo. She really did! See birdsinhats.blogspot.com for many, many more birds and their hats.


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I saw three ships go sailing by ben wright’s illustrated wanderlust interview dani lurie Ben Wright is a graphic designer from Melbourne, Australia, with a passion for illustration and a heart set on exploring. His style is softly naïve, reminiscent of a bedtime storybook. The work commonly features scenes of woodland and oceans, sometimes with animals in scarves on bicycles, or with people flying kites with feathers in their hair. There are often beds of roses and small ships, ready to set sail for undiscovered lands. I find it difficult when I’m asked to describe my style, but people tell me that my illustrations remind them of old European children’s books, which is a nice compliment. One of my heroes is a Hungarian children’s book illustrator called Károly Reich who created the most beautiful images, and illustrated over 500 books in his time. If I can live a creative life like that, I’ll be very happy! I use pencils, watercolour and sometimes gouache to create my illustrations. I do my illustration work from home, where I’ve got my desk set up with all my art supplies in front of a big window looking out onto our street. I usually have music playing when I work, but lately I’ve been experimenting with working in silence, which I find works really well for me. My work goes into themes of feeling lost, or of still trying to find your place in the world. Maybe the theme of travelling comes up in my drawings a lot because I’ve been wanting to go travelling again for a while now. Starting in April, I hope to spend a year overseas, splitting my time between London and Paris. It’s definitely time for me to have another adventure. You can find more of Ben Wright’s work at iamlarsen.blogspot.com Self-portrait by Ben Wright.


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Portraits taken in Imogen Rabone’s photo booth. Self-portrait, opposite.


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one, two, three, click imogen rabone and her travelling photo booth interview louisa lee

Imogen Rabone has the perfect toy: a travelling 1970s photo booth. She loved the idea of reintroducing these old-style photo booths to her native Ireland. So this year she imported her first, shipping the half tonne of metal all the way from Chicago. The restored booth now moves from a cosy Dublin pub on trips to festivals and events. Imogen invited us to step inside. I saw quite a few old photo booths in Seattle and Portland this summer and I think it’s a wonderful idea to bring old photo booths back to Ireland. Where did you first come across the idea? I thought, “Wow, that would be the ultimate toy.” I have so many old cameras, so it’s almost a giant camera for me and it was a bit of a daydream to have one. I thought it would be nice to go and put one somewhere, maybe in a bar. And I got more and more up to my neck in it, to the point that I actually had one coming over on a boat. I shipped it over from Chicago and now I take it around to different events. In between outings it sits in a bar, which is great because people get drunk and climb into it. I hear stories from the bar staff after a party and they’re like, “There were fifteen nurses in there yesterday!” Do you just have to trust that they’ll look after it properly for you at the bar? It is quite vulnerable. I’m actually dealing with a smashed piece of glass today. I’ve told the bar staff to watch it like a hawk. But then, you know, last night somebody actually got in there with a pint and was a bit drunk and smashed the glass.

It’s got nice bits of enamel, chrome and wood on the inside. It’s much prettier than the modern ones. Do you see them as artworks in themselves? They’re like public sculptures as well, but much more fun and accessible. I always saw them as wonderful machines that take brilliant photographs. Now I look at it more, and I’m getting more cynical because I do a lot of work as an artist and the more I test it ... I mean, people go bonkers for it. They’re very nice photos that it takes. I think that people are captivated by the way that it looks—it does look extremely old—and the way the photos come out. As a photographer, how does that feel? Does it feel strange handing it over? It does make everything I do feel completely pointless: camera, darkroom, studio almost, all in this little box. It feels strange, but in a positive way. I love it. I like the fact that it is mysterious and I think that people who climb into it become little artists themselves. They’re not affronted by the photographer. They’re not alarmed that you’re standing there in front of them with a camera. It’s extraordinary. Friends of mine clam up whenever you put a camera anywhere near them and it takes brilliant photos in there, great poses. Where might you install it next?

What are people’s reactions to it?

I can think of lots of big and grand and glorious places, but I want to take it around isolated places, like stick it on a village green in Yorkshire or outside a village shop and leave it there for a couple of days and let people really get into it. I always wanted to put it in a place where people could wander in or wander past.

I really couldn’t believe my luck. People were laughing me out of the door when I came up with the idea. How ridiculous to buy an old broken piece of junk! I saw it as a labour of love, I suppose. It has one of those old-school seats and a little curtain. Mine’s got lots of charm.

I sometimes think people don’t print enough of their photos. The number of stories where you’ve had someone say, “My laptop was stolen and it’s got all my photos inside.” I like the immediate security: when you press a button and in three minutes you have a memory.


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no man has repose luke ryan tries not to tweet on the toilet words luke ryan, photo leah bernhardt Going to the bathroom these days is an exercise that shows off a peculiar fluid grace. In one movement I unbutton my jeans, dart my hand into my pocket as they descend, pluck out my iPhone and flip it a full turn between thumb and forefinger. I sit, settle myself, unlock the phone, and open Twitter to scan for responses to the hilarious video I posted three minutes ago of a clown being used as a piñata. The whole thing has probably taken four or five seconds. Once done, I can while away that curious in-between period in the company of the 600-odd strangers that make up my Twitter feed. Of course, this sounds glorious. But I have begun to question the easy creep of technology into my life. In 1934, F. Scott Fitzgerald questioned the capacity of a man to sit still for ten minutes without succumbing to restlessness. What a loss, he suggests, that there are no longer people in this world with sufficient carriage to be in full possession of themselves for a mere ten minutes. He needn’t have been so worried. These days I am unable to sit on the toilet for two minutes without needing to grasp at distraction. Not that being a man of such bearing was ever something I could realistically claim. A lifetime of incessant fiddling argues otherwise. Procuring an iPhone, though, certainly ended any pretence at repose. There’s a moment in Peep Show when Mark, desperately waiting for a date to arrive, pulls his phone out for a burst of functionless tapping, opining, “You’re never alone with a phone.” With an iPhone it’s not so much that you’re never alone, more that you’re never allowed to leave. Technology has hit its Hotel California point. I am not denying its wonderful utility or the enriching effect the phone has on my day-to-day life. But somewhere along the line I allowed it the power to dictate rather than facilitate my actions and, as a result, my thoughts. So I thought a resolution was in order: reclaim some semblance of repose. Learn how to be still in a public place without having instant recourse to my phone. It’s more complex than you might imagine. Take sitting alone in a bar. You’re meeting a friend, or a lover perhaps. You’re early, they’re late. You sit. And you do nothing. You glance idly around the room, your hands resting in your lap. You finish your scan, and that’s when the anxiety kicks in. You realise you’re the only one doing nothing. Moreover, you’re the only one alone. Why would anyone be alone in a bar, doing nothing? You don’t even have a drink yet. Are they talking about you, wondering why this person is sitting alone in a bar, doing nothing? What kind of madman goes into a bar and sits by himself, doing nothing? You’re not that kind of madman, are you? Are you? “I’m meeting someone! I have friends!” you want to scream at them and their imaginary judgement. It’s all too much! Your phone, unprompted, appears in your hand. I tried this recently, sans phone. The state of mild panic subsides after the first five minutes. Maybe ten. It’s a reminder of how much continuous activity has become a mark of our culture when the mere act of sitting still can feel so wrong and oddly subversive. But I’m starting to like the sensation. There’s a strength in carriage, in the awareness of oneself that Fitzgerald identified when he was writing about repose. It suggests a certain comfort in your own body. To be able to sit there, silent and contained, while hubbub and chaos reign around you is a liberating experience. Refusing distraction isn’t about to change the world, or even necessarily yourself, but it can still be a few snatched minutes that help you remember what it feels like to be quiet. “They were looking over the other patrons of the restaurant to see if they had repose—Dick said no American man had any repose, except himself, and they were seeking an example to confront him with. Things looked black for them—not a man had come into the restaurant for ten minutes without raising his hand to his face” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night


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while I was sleeping four illustrators draw their dreams


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illustration ricardo bessa


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I eat a lot of late-night cheese and I consume four times as much caffeine as any regular person. So I have some wacky dreams, most of which are forgotten within five minutes of waking. There is one that reverberates in my brain for days afterwards. It’s a recurring dream, but the elements are never quite the same. It takes place near a house. The house varies from dream to dream. It has taken the form of a colonialstyle mansion, the split-level home of my childhood friend and even the minuscule street-side adobe where my grandmother lived for most of her adult life. Regardless of what shape it takes, I recognise this building as home, but at the same time it is not. It is familiar and yet unfamiliar. I begin to search for somebody, anybody else. My search takes me through rooms that house artefacts from my youth: favourite toys, furniture disposed of long ago. Most rooms are empty but occasionally I stumble across a figure. I know these are members of my family— mother, father, brother, sister—but they don’t bear any resemblance to their present selves. More often than not they are younger versions. In some cases they possess strangers’ faces. They don’t recognise me or even respond to me. I am a stranger. I cannot fathom, in the dream, how the people who know me best now do not even know my face and I scream, shout and sob in protest. Yet they simply carry on with whatever they are busy with or turn their back to me, never uttering a word. There is no eureka moment or heart-jolting conclusion. The thought of losing those closest to me is enough to turn this dream into a nightmare. In some sense, it has prompted me to stay in contact with my family more, you know, while they still remember me.

illustration laura callaghan

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My dreams are always nonchalant. There are no dragons, or wizards, or great mountains in the sky. There’s usually just me in ordinary places and then something fantastical happens that dreamme takes little notice of. Like the time a cat in a suit tried to sell me vacuums at the door. I brushed him off, as though it weren’t odd to see a cat selling vacuums, or even dressed in tweed for that matter. I sometimes get a good laugh when I wake up, and I’ve taken the habit of writing down the ones I really enjoy. Sometimes a dream is a great inspiration. This dream started with me fishing in my living room and, as the dream progressed, the water rose. All throughout, in my usual dream-like manner, I took nothing of it. I was dead set to fish and enjoy my tea. I was determined to carry on despite a rising tide. I always took that dream as a symbol of determination. That despite any tide I may face personally or professionally you must always fish on. And drink lots of tea.

illustration ryan macdonald

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Before moving to London, I worked for a while in a special-needs school. Sam was only five when I met him, but had already been diagnosed with severe autism, epilepsy and a multitude of other conditions. It was a lot for a little person to cope with and yet he was a cheerful and inquisitive boy. Like many autistic children, Sam struggled to communicate and couldn’t talk, although this certainly didn’t stop him from making plenty of noise! He was happiest of all in the great outdoors, and he was particularly fond of a tricycle we found in the school shed. He couldn’t work the pedals, but would often slowly push himself around on it for the entire playtime, completely content in his own world. This is about a dream I had where Sam could talk. I remember him looking up at me, right into my face, asking if he could go and play outside. He then ran off into a beautiful colourful space, to race around on his tricycle. I’m not really sure what it meant but, in the days to follow, I found it really encouraging. It helped me to remember that even though Sam couldn’t respond or reply, it didn’t mean that he couldn’t understand. It helped me to see more clearly the little boy behind the disability and treasure the moments where small progress was made.

illustration rachel green

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a portrait of the artist as a young myspace user creative legacy in the age of the internet words victoria beale, illustrations felicita sala

We rarely encounter death when we’re young. When a classmate dies, it’s an alien experience. But to the usual shock and unreality of grief, our generation has a ghoulish addition: a Facebook page for the deceased. A friend’s friend died in an accident while travelling and, from perhaps an over-analytical viewpoint, I have watched what has happened to his cyber-self. His page has been taken over by endless posts by friends or acquaintances or anyone who wants to express their feelings about the death. People even put up funny clips or news stories and, most uncannily, tag the boy in photos, imagining his absent form next to groups of friends, or in a streak of light caught accidentally on the lens. It seems bizarre that in a medium that is supposedly entirely user-controlled it can suddenly be taken over: his page was his own and now he is memorialised with constant mini-eulogies and assigned to hover invisibly in party photos. Our online presences shift constantly as we jettison certain aspects of our personality and seek to highlight others. Many socially-conscious web users’ worst nightmare is their internet self of five years ago coming back to haunt them—the discovery of a Myspace profile declaring love for Blink-182 or Bill Hicks. It seems as though our generation, more effectively than any other, can orchestrate how our images and characters are disseminated. But the fate of an online self after the user’s death is a reminder of how hard it is for anyone to control what happens to their personal information forever. The problem takes on a greater significance when a person of great cultural and historical interest dies: a brilliant artist, writer or musician. The internet intensifies the question, but it has been going on since reputations began. How much of a person’s private life—letters, diary, unpublished drafts—can be legitimately brought into the public sphere? Does critical analysis have to include letters or self-pitying journal entries written at fourteen, or at twenty, that anyone else would be allowed to forget about? Are they worthy to be dragged out for dissection, even if the writer expressly forbids their publication? Artists have always had much to fear from over-simplification once they achieve a level of fame. But until now, in parallel with murder

statistics, the risk has been mainly at home: families commit travesties with artists’ works after death more often than from anyone outside it. The responsibility for managing their work often falls in a legal sense to the people closest to them, but families are frequently far too involved to judiciously manage an artist’s legacy. In the public imagination, Sylvia Plath is often seen as little more than an idol for awkwardly intense adolescents, fed by a perception of her only novel, the Bell Jar, as glorified emo-lit. The Bell Jar charts the descent of the protagonist into mental illness. Parallels with Plath’s own life were drawn even by Plath herself, but it is an injustice to her reputation to let her become, in the words of her daughter, the public’s “suicide doll.” Plath’s own mother, Aurelia, may have exacerbated this vulgarisation of her daughter’s legacy. After her death, Aurelia published a collection of Sylvia’s letters written to her family, dating from her college days until her suicide in 1963. Her intention was ostensibly to stress Sylvia’s goodness, and also to exonerate herself from contributing to her daughter’s mental fragility. Such a decision would likely have been torturous to Plath. It is a shame that Aurelia Plath did not consider enough that letters written to an anxious parent are necessarily and obviously less authentic and that the self Plath presents in her novel, her poems, and her journals was the self she desired to present to the world. It is patently false to imagine that by looking at a friend’s email to their parents we would discover what was most significant to them, their essential character, their greatest concerns and fears. Her ex-husband’s administration of her estate is similarly controversial. Plath kept journals all her life, from the age of eleven until her death. The final two were written in the last three years of Plath’s life, the period when her turbulent marriage with Ted Hughes ended with his infidelity. Hughes claimed that he destroyed one of these journals for the sake of their two children and lost the other. It is one thing when an artist destroys their own work, or demands of someone else that it be destroyed. It is quite another when their estranged husband takes it

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upon himself to destroy it. His reasons for protecting his children are, arguably, legitimate, but the extent to which Hughes was seeking to save his own public perception is open to question. Artists, of course, have no control over how published work is perceived. The art is out there as they created it, and it is neither possible nor desirable to influence what people say about it. I don’t think that anyone should be prevented from projecting whatever elaborate explanations they want onto the Tempest or a shark in formaldehyde. What does take on a debatable moral dimension is the publication of writing that was never intended to be read by anyone except the artist themselves or a named recipient. Should we yearn to see the four lost diary volumes of Lewis Carroll, which might confirm the suspected truth that he fancied little girls? Would there be no appreciable difference between reading these than Jabberwocky? We can, if we choose, take E. M. Forster’s posthumously published novel Maurice and use its yearning, repressed homosexuality to inform our readings of all his other works. But would it be the same as seeking out and anthologising his personal notes, scribbles and suicidal musings that we feel fit into a wider pattern that must be fully revealed? Lewis Carroll is an example of how easily things can go wrong for an artist after death. Widely-believed whispers of his repressed paedophilia may have been started partly because his well-meaning family suppressed mention of his scandalous relationships with adult women. In an attempt to protect his name, they helped to create the impression that Carroll had suspiciously little interest in adults. Given the ease with which artists’ personal lives can come back to haunt them and distort their work, we’re right to be wary of the internet’s unforgiving memory. In death, an artist’s memory often becomes like these eerie, abandoned Facebook pages. This was especially the case for that most iconic and appropriated of deaths, Kurt Cobain. For any twenty or thirty-something who had considered their own mortality, listened to a Nirvana album or watched MTV, suddenly there was a figure to embody their angst. Cobain came to be profound and untouchable in a way he couldn’t possibly have been while alive. Suddenly every Nirvana video and every TV appearance was touched with a kind of eternal genius that it simply hadn’t possessed when Cobain was a brilliant but earth-bound junkie. When an ordinary person dies, the very fact of death often makes every encounter with them become retrospectively more meaningful. With a revered artist, the effect is multiplied in proportion to their exaggerated status. With the advent of social networking, the deification of the artist and the raiding of their past life can reach a new climax. There will be people on Facebook now who will become great writers or musicians. Should their every online impulse since sixteen be subject to study? Just as the grief of an ordinary person’s death is made more obsessive by their online presence, the raking through of an artist’s past will be almost unimaginably increased by the ubiquitous and never-ending stream of messages and updates through which we now live our lives.

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Simon English’s board, showing the points of his journey. The back is covered with his notes on the trip.


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things look different looking back for ty years ago, simon english hitchhiked to 75 locations in england; n o w h e ’s r e v i s i t i n g t h e m words rosanna durham photos simon english

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Simon’s map of England, showing the numbered points he visited,

When he was a young man in 1971, Simon English travelled to 75 points across England. The points spelled out the word ‘ENGLAND’ and stretched the length of the country: the top of the E, near Newcastle; the bottom of the D, reaching down to Hampshire. It was a vast ‘land sculpture’ that won him a reputation as one of England’s most interesting young artists. He never expected to travel the same distances twice, but when I meet Simon in late 2010 he’s recently completed the 5,000-mile journey for the second time. What he found when he returned to each point was a tiny window looking out onto 40 years of change. At one point near Newcastle, he was challenged by the local farmer decades ago. “The farmer said, ‘What are you doing? Are you throwing rubbish over the hedge?’” Simon remembers. “So I told him and we had a long talk about the area.”

She listened to me and said, ‘You’d better come in.’ And there he was, sat on a chair, completely silent. I spoke to him about it and when he responded I saw that he had really bad Parkinson’s disease. And I thought, ‘I’m too late. I can’t interview him.’ I was too late.” The original sculpture in 1971, called All England, wasn’t too different from his other art school projects, like writing ‘shaved head’ in the stubble of his shaved head. He took a map of England and wrote ‘ENGLAND’ on it. “Or rather,” he tells me, “I had to measure it out very, very accurately so it fitted perfectly.” He spent the summer between his first and second year of art school hitchhiking to each of the points: spots of English countryside or town randomly chosen by the ruler.

He learned the story of an open coal mine on his land. “The farmer told me that, when they closed the mine, they filled it with rubbish and they capped it. And he left his soil for three years, for the soil structure to re-establish and for the worms to get in. His neighbour was greedy and put wheat down, which sucked up all the nutrients in the soil and destroyed the soil structure. I thought, ‘That’s interesting, that’s a little story about this place.’”

“I just threw myself into the world,” he says. His plan was to hitchhike where he could and walk the rest. “Nobody can quite believe it nowadays, but it never occurred to me to take public transport. At the end of term, I hitchhiked to my mother’s house and got her to drive me to point 52 nearby.” Simon took two photos at each location. One was a self-portrait and the other a landscape. In the point 52 portrait, Simon is grinning, wearing a tweed coat and standing next to his mother. She isn’t looking at the camera but pointing to the St George’s flag that Simon used to mark the point.

On his return, he tried to track down the farmer he had spoken to so many years ago. “I’d never been to his house. So I went up to what I assumed was his home and I knocked on the door and his wife answered. I said, ‘You don’t know me but years and years ago I think I might have talked to the farmer here about the open cast coal mine.’

As you would expect, not many of the points turned out to be beside “nice main roads.” The hunt for out-of-the-way places in strangers’ cars became an incidental game. “It was like playing the whole country like a huge Ludo game. Everybody hitchhiked. If you had a car, you gave somebody a lift, and if you didn’t, somebody gave you a lift. It


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Simon’s 1971 card from his starting point, showing plant samples collected from the area.

sounds like some utopian ideal but sometimes you might be standing in the road and then think, I’m never going to get a lift this way, so you’d cross the road and go in another direction.”

left pinned to the 75 locations. “They wrote four or five page letters. People wrote until the flags disappeared. One time, a tree blew down and a man wrote to tell me.”

The game had begun as an artistic statement of the obvious: ‘England’ written over England, like ‘shaved head’ on a shaved head. But as Simon hiked the length of the country, the land began to shape the art. “It became an artwork about absorbing the country I lived in.” Something you notice about Simon’s 1971 photographs is that he is often not alone at the points. As he explained the project over and over to the strangers he met, All England changed in another way. “The artwork lived when I was telling people about it. The map on the wall is the artwork, and so are my plans. But equally the artwork is me sat in the back of somebody’s car telling them about why I’m going up to those Derbyshire hills, and them going, ‘Oh wow, that sounds really neat. I’ll drive you up.’”

At last, the flags disappeared, rotted away or became obscured by hedges; the All England trail went cold and life caught up with Simon. “When I left college, my art slowed down with the sheer slog of earning a living. All my creative energy became absorbed into doing jobs. Plus, when I did these things like working in church demolition, we did it for the excitement. It absorbed a lot of adventure. Working 48 hours at a stretch was really hard, but it was adventuresome.”

His notes at the end of the journey record: “Number of separate lifts: 160. Distance walked: 360 miles. Distance travelled: 5000 miles.” Along the way, Simon picked up prizes of information that would make the most seasoned British traveller envious. “The best blackberries in the country are in Midhurst,” he notes. “You can make a good shelter out of bales of hay,” he wrote, having ditched his camping gear. There was also a more tangible prize: the Northern Young Contemporaries Art Prize. Simon ended his All England artwork in 1971, but it didn’t leave him in peace. Over the following months, he received letters from people who noticed the St George’s flags and the information sheets

The project was still haunting him 25 years later. At the time, Simon was driving an exhausting 320 miles twice a week for work. On the long drives, he began to wonder about how the points were doing. He thought about going back to each point and finding out how the land and the people had changed. He pitched the idea of a programme on the project to TV executives. They were interested, and asked him to write a formal proposal. But here the project failed. “Having done a lot of meetings, I was left with this request to write a proposal. And I just cannot write proposals. It died because I couldn’t write the proposal.” After decades spent seeking funding, Artevents at last commissioned Simon’s return journey: England Revisited. It formed part of a national arts project, the Re-Enchantment, which explores people’s relationships to place. I don’t know what you’d expect to change between 1971 and 2010, but I had visions of creeping urban sprawl. But the mass urbanisation that I picture on sleepless nights in London turns

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out to have been my own ill-informed fantasy. Or as Simon puts it, the popular myth of an urban England prevails, “Because people live in London and they think the sun shines out of their arseholes!” In fact, Simon witnessed more trees being chopped down than wild Yorkshire moors being turned into cities. “I went onto more grouse moors than cow fields and built-up areas,” he tells me, pointing out that if randomly chosen points were half urban or more, we’d be in a lot of trouble. He makes a wonderful list of how fences, tree and houses are shifted over time. “It’s got to be moved by man, or by the weather, or fungi, or be oxidised and rusted away. Nothing will move unless somebody makes a decision to move it.” Sometimes, even when the town swallowed up the country, the point remained eerily unchanged. Point 53 lies in Milton Keynes, a city built from scratch in 1967. “It took months of looking at Google Earth to try and find where I’d been in 1971. Everything had gone and changed.” Equipped with maps and grid references, Simon made the trip. “I go into this housing estate, all modern roads and houses, and there amongst them was this little back alley. It has been called some weird 1960s science-fiction name like Angstrom or Laser Close. But I find it’s the original lane in a newer state, it’s a fossil. The farm lane just remained with the original elms and hawthorns. I certainly wasn’t expecting that!” Simon compares the experience to playing with a time machine. Only standing on the same spot, with his old photo, could he really see the place he had once stood. “When I find that point, suddenly the past and the present connect and I go, ‘Now I understand why I stood in this point.’”

Sometimes he even wore the same clothes. I ask him about the identical trousers he wears at point 61. “Those old trousers, I love them. They’re tartan trousers and they were very tight then and they’re quite tight now! The trouble is, in the intervening years, the moth had got to them and I’d turned up to put them on at point 61 and there was a whacking great moth hole. So I had to put boot polish on to hide my white skin, which the camera was picking up on. And I was standing there with the same hat in this ridiculous pose, wearing these very short tatty trousers that were definitely quite indecent! And the estate manager came along in his land rover, and I had to explain that I had permission to be there.” He politely turned down the man’s kind offer of a lift. For someone peering back into the past, Simon is refreshingly lacking in nostalgia, both for the England of 1971 and for the young man he was then. These two projects happened at the bookends of his life, he says. “I was a young man looking forwards with no knowledge of the future. And now I’m an old bloke looking backwards trying to work out what has gone on. But the advantage that the old man has over the young man is that the old man has been in both places and the young man hasn’t. The old man can think what he was like then and can see the bits in between.” He wonders what will have changed by 2050. “You might think it is eons away, but it’s not. You’ll be there as an old lady! Or not as an old lady, but as someone who thinks, ‘Hang on a minute, I’m still a teenager but everyone is treating me like I’m old.’ That’ll happen to you.” You can see all the photos from Simon’s England Revisited and All England works at englandrevisited.net.


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Point: 12 Letter: N Flag: On a larch tree in middle of a crowded plantation south of Silverhill Farm, 5½ miles southeast of Barnard Castle. Dates visited: 9th September 1971 21st July 2010

Today I can’t be certain as to what tree I used in the plantation. They used to be small and densely planted but now the trees are about 45 to 50 feet high.

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Point: 21 Letter: N Flag: On a gate south of the junction between the moor road and the Bolton Abbey to Threshfield road at Barden Scale. Dates visited: 21st August 1971 24th July 2010

On a gate in the same gateway as 1971. The farmer here today was farming here when I first visited.


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Point: 28 Letter: G Flag: On a stone wall on Knowl Moor, 4 miles north west of Rochdale. Dates visited: 1st August 1971 10th August 2010

On a sheep wire post, cresting the same wall as 1971. On the horizon can be seen the office block and skyline of Salford and Manchester.

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Point: 34 Letter: G Flag: On a lamp post on a dull stretch of the A61 in South Sheffield. Next to a wood yard near the bingo hall. Dates visited: 11th August 1971 27th July 2010

On a pedestrian crossing post in the central island of the road where the original lamp post would have been had the A61 road not been widened. The bingo hall has become a casino.


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Point: 43 Letter: A Flag: On a fence under the M5 and M6 intersection near Walsall. Dates visited: 14th August 1971 18th August 2010

On the M5 and M6 intersection in the Sandwell. The traffic has increased enormously. When I was here last it was just pig and chicken farms so finding riding stables in the middle of the city was quite a surprise.

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it’s in the jeans the humiliating annual shopping trip words sasa jankovic photo francesca jane allen I’m eight years old. I’m in Marks & Spencer with my mum—always Marks & Spencer— probably just at the end of my school summer holiday or some time in early September, for a much-anticipated annual event. It is time (dah dah daah) to buy the new pair of jeans that will see me through the next 12 months. My brother is with us too, going through the same humiliation of our mother refusing to let us take up valuable space for adults in the changing room and making us try on the jeans on the shop floor while proclaiming loudly, “Now, no one is looking at you. We all look the same, so stop being so silly.” This merely served to increase our embarrassment and people’s stares. And this is how it worked, every year. It was one of a coterie of childhood embarrassments: the pageboy haircut, the sensible shoes, making me bathe with other people’s children when we went to stay with them. My mother is hard-working, kind, clever and funny, but when it comes to the no-nonsense practicalities of life she is also stereotypically Northern in her outlook. It went on until I was about 13, the summer-end trip to buy the jeans. Thankfully the shared baths had ended well before. The jeans would last us all year until the following summer when, our spindly ankles now poking out cleanly from beneath at least two inches of grown-out-of jeans hem, and our knobbly pre-teen knees jutting from ripped jeans leg, Mum performed the final act of fashion frugality and cut down our too-short denims to make the shorts we would wear all summer until the grass-stained bums themselves gave way. I particularly remember a beloved darkest blue pair with yellow stitching down the seams, but I also hold a nostalgia for the very fact of wearing something out, often to the very last shred. In this age of disposable fashion, it’s not often that we can truly claim to have worn out an item of clothing these days. I say bring back the summer cut-offs. My dad knows what I mean. In his case, they never went away.


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lace collar: hobbs


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michelene in lace by agatha a nitecka

model michelene auguste | models 1


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dress: reiss


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dress: hoss intropia


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dress: beatrice k newman


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cardigan: hoss intropia / printed jeans: beatrice k newman


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shirt: marc jacobs / skirt: cos


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cardigan: zara / lace body: american apparel / skirt: american apparel / tights: tabio


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imogen poots in her childhood home portraits max knight styling imogen poots and agatha a nitecka


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sleeveless top: uniqlo / red cardigan: american vintage / skirt: vassilisa


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grey top: topshop / waterfall chiffon skirt: asos white


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white shirt: imogen’s own / dress: vassilisa


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dress: vassilisa


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jeans: levi’s / grey top with horse print: stella mccartney


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trousers: cos / beige jumper: warehouse


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little moments actress imogen poots buries coins in central park interview rosanna durham

Self-portrait.

Imogen Poots enjoys life’s small surprises. “The other day, for example, I had this amazing day. I was on the way to a violin lesson and got stranded in Wembley because of the snow and it was all mad. I had no money on me, no cards. And this guy called Gary appeared and said, ‘I’ll buy you a cup of tea.’

tune with people being young and the comedy and the awkwardness of being young. So you fall back on certain aspects of those characters. Even if I was trying to play the cool girl, that was acting in itself. I’m not that kind of girl! I’m a goofball! So it was fun getting to play the part of a hot girlfriend.”

“It was amazing! His friend asked me if I smoked and I said ‘not today.’ He replied, ‘Only when you’re on fire!’”

She gives the impression of being a true actress: someone who enjoys slipping into roles of all shapes. Over the Christmas holiday, she took intensive violin lessons. She had to master horse riding and gun training just as fast for previous roles. “They are three completely separate entities that people spend years perfecting and being given that chance to take them on for a small period of time is amazing,” she acknowledges. It’s a privilege she carries lightly on purpose. She tries not think of everything she’ll never be able to do, she says. She mentions, laughing, that she has mastered Beethoven’s Opus 31. “Well, the first notes!”

The episode stayed with her all day. “I thought, ‘This is so funny.’ That day people were really caring, despite the fact that I was in a ridiculous situation.” Her stories pepper her conversation, often punctuated by laughter. There was the time she sat next to a Mormon on an aeroplane. “Salt Lake City,” she exclaims, “it’s mad! I wasn’t converted but I was fascinated. We had a really long conversation, all the way from Salt Lake to New York City. You do learn so much from these bizarre experiences.” Imogen has applied her lively observation of people to a series of acting roles. At 21, her variety of parts is impressive. She is perhaps still best known for her role in Danny Boyle’s 28 Weeks Later, but recently had a more challenging casting in the TV series Bouquet of Barbed Wire. In her most taxing role so far, she plays Prue Sorenson, a teenage schoolgirl who gets pregnant and then married to her teacher. Prue’s struggle is played out before her protective, incestuously-interested father. Her next film role is Blanche Ingram, in an adaptation of Jane Eyre out later this year. Imogen is a down-to-earth presence. I don’t expect actresses to sweep in as a matter of course, but her ordinary demeanour was still a surprise in the over-dressed Soho cafe where we met. She speaks in a matter-of-fact way about the scope of young female roles. “Finding female parts as a woman of my age, well, it’s always interesting. You’re often there to fulfill some sort of role for the man.” Last summer, Imogen played the leading man’s girlfriend in the remake of the 1980s horror classic Fright Night. But even then, she didn’t feel trapped in the role chiefly as a love-interest. “In that situation you are there as a support really. But I think I’ve always felt challenged and fulfilled, even in Fright Night, where I was playing the lead guy’s girlfriend, and the character could always be dismissed as the stupid blonde girl. But the director Craig Gillespie, he’s really in

Her life beyond the screen is characterised by the same high activity. “It’s a ridiculous idea to go to bed when there are things to be done. If someone says, ‘You’ve done enough now, go to bed,’ that’s insane. You haven’t done enough until you’ve done it, whether that’s reading books, or watching films, or creating things.” In the end, she concedes that she did spend some of her holiday doing nothing. “Relaxing to me is literally just putting on Leonard Cohen and sitting on the sofa and just switching off completely.” It took her a moment to answer. Most of the time, Imogen seems too absorbed in the world and its small strange moments to stay still. She said she wrote a letter to Woody Allen. “I wrote to him but he didn’t reply! Not that I asked anything specifically of him. But I don’t know if I even told Woody Allen I’m an actress. I just told him about what happened in my day!” She had better luck with Jodie Foster. “She did reply to my letter. That was amazing. She’s someone I’ve admired from the year dot.” If Imogen has a spiritual home, it is perhaps New York. She stayed when filming Solitary Man at the age of 19, a watershed moment in her life. “New York is my favourite place in the world. It’s where I’m happiest. The city symbolises independence and inspiration for me. It’s completely separate from London. And I love that idea of burying things in New York, like in Brideshead Revisited, then going back and digging them up! I’ve done it a little bit in Central Park and I don’t know where I’ve put these things. Just small things like coins. I’ll probably never find them again.”


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vassilisa the beautiful not quite a russian fairy tale interview rosanna durham Naming your fashion label after Vassilisa the Beautiful is rather like calling it Cinderella Ltd, but that’s what Russian-born designer Nadja Solovieva did, capturing something both playful and quintessentially Russian. I grew up in Moscow, where I went to a high-profile communist school where they sent you away if you wore red shoes. It was very disciplined. We didn’t have access to western culture as such. People were either wearing Soviet clothes, or they had access to contraband western clothing, so they were crazy about jeans and pullovers. People always shopped in secondhand shops. I was really into grunge and I was always different. There were no fashion magazines at all. I modelled at the Moscow Fashion House from the age of 17 til about 19. We did a lot of shows, and I was always looking at finishings and looking at fabrics. That was where I learnt about finishings and when I first saw luxury shoes. The designer was Slava Zaitsev, the only Soviet designer approved by party in the 1970s. He was always bringing luxury tights from Paris, so when I was 17 I was absorbing all that. He lived in a dream world. In Moscow, I lived with my parents, so I guess I was a bit naïve when I came to London. I was studying at the London College of Printing, but it was a disaster. I was still doing okay but it was difficult. I was

miserable in London. I thought for a long time that I had to conform to the norms of that world. People around me seemed to be obsessed with making it. What does it mean to “make it”? For me this concept just doesn’t exist. I thought I had to live in a superficial way, with rich boyfriends. I got engaged to someone wrong, all because I thought I had to be different. It’s like I was trying to prove to my father that I was high maintenance. I would dress up and think, “What am I wearing? I’m really uncomfortable in this pink jumper!” I was living in someone else’s skin. It was quite funny, me and that identity. I had always been to life drawing since I was 17. I never particularly paid attention to it. It was like a psychological healing for me or something. Then when I was at the London College of Printing, I went to Central Saint Martins for the evening life drawing classes. I was drawing and drawing. I just needed a model, not a teacher. But when the teacher saw my work he said, ‘Oh!’ And in the end they gave me a place on the fashion course. I broke up with my rich boyfriend and left my house in Knightsbridge and thought, okay, I better be myself. Some of my friends still think I’m crazy. My final collection was in 2007 and I thought, “How can I do what is typical to me?” I decided to focus on my roots. Russians often hide where they are from to fit into the West. I was inspired by the Soviet times when people couldn’t express themselves, like my grandmother and my mum; they are both highly creative but they had to have full-time communist jobs. I was always told that I had an eye for luxury, but not in the way that Russians see luxury. I’m not a girl who goes and spends her last dollars on a designer bag. There is no uniqueness in that for me. For me, the understanding of luxury is something unique or something that communicates emotion, something that not everybody has. There are lots of definitions of luxury but for me it’s something on the border of art.


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Designs from Nadja Solovieva’s sketchbooks.


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how hard can it be to build a boat? drifting through life on plywood and gaffer tape interviews vicki turk, rosanna durham illustration katie harnett

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we spoke to terry kenny, a wise old coracle builder Terry Kenny has made hundreds of coracles to date, following the traditional Ironbridge model. He loves the nimbleness of these tiny, top-heavy boats and that you can sling them on your back. Their silent movement means they are perfect for slipping down a river in search of shy wildlife. You see more kingfishers in a coracle, he says. I’ve been messing about in boats since I was a boy, really. In Shropshire in 1989, someone pointed out to me that there was a coraclemaking course at the Green Wood Trust. And so I went along, and that was it. I’ve been doing it ever since. I build coracles for other people on commission. It’s just the thing for a Christmas present if you’ve got a small piece of water on your land. Each river that has a coracle tradition has its own style of coracle. There must be a dozen or so different types, mostly in Wales, but you also find a lot along the Severn. At one time there were actually three different styles of coracle on the River Severn because it’s a longer river. The Welsh ones tend to have a squarish front and a pointed back. The Ironbridge coracle is different because it’s much rounder: perfectly round or an oval shape. It’s difficult to tell how far back the history of coracles goes because it’s not something that people wrote about. In the early days they would have been made from a framework of willow covered with animal skin, so they fell to bits. You can’t tell from the component parts that it was ever a boat. We know for sure that they were here in Roman times because Caesar wrote about seeing them in Britain. It’s a pretty simple thing to make when you think about it. A simple one is something like a North American bull boat: a framework of willow tied together with strips of hide with an animal hide stretched over it and lashed into place. So the only tool that you need to make it is some kind of cutting edge and that’s been available since the Stone Age! Until fairly recently most of them were willow, but when the machinery became available to saw timber thin enough in Victorian times, ash became more commonly used. The covering material also changed. It began to change probably around the 1500s when people realised that you could use cloth, soaked in tar, as a substitute for animal skin. Of course, it makes it possible to make a much lighter boat, which has always been very important in coracles. It’s a round or square thing, so it doesn’t have any speed, which means that it will basically only go downstream. So somewhere along the line you’ve got to carry it back upstream.

It’s a very basic thing to do. The wood is just nailed together, so if you can use a hammer you can build a coracle. In just two days, you can build a coracle and put a cover it, and then you can take it home to paint at your leisure! The only trouble is that the paint tends to be sticky for a while so you need to wait a bit for it to dry. But you can certainly do the whole thing in three days if you want. It takes me about twelve man hours, but then I have done a few hundred. I like it because it’s such a simple thing. The nice thing is that pretty much anyone can make one. It doesn’t cost much money; it doesn’t cost anything to run; it doesn’t take up a lot of space. It’s a very relaxing thing because you can’t go fast in a coracle. You’ve got a top speed of about two miles an hour if you really try, so you really have to relax and literally go with the flow. It’s super-simple and it always has been. It’s always been a poor man’s boat. It’s just enough to get you afloat so that you can cross a river or go fishing. If you want to travel distances, you don’t choose a coracle. The weather is a factor too: coracles don’t like wind. Because you’re sitting on top of it, you’re very exposed. You do see a lot of wildlife, because you’re drifting with just a single paddle that’s steering and giving a bit of propulsion and the paddle stays in the water, so there’s very little movement to alarm wildlife. You definitely see more kingfishers in a coracle than you do in other forms of boat. It’s very silent too. The Ironbridge coracle men were great poachers because they could take a coracle out at night without being heard. They would go up the river a few miles, hide a coracle on the river bank and go off into the fields catching rabbits, pheasants and the like and then one man would take all of the loot back in the coracle. He would drift down the river, very quietly, staying close to the bank so as not to be seen, and the others would go home with no incriminating evidence. Then they’d meet up the next day and divvy up the spoils. There is a strong tradition of poaching in coracles in the Ironbridge area. There’s something very satisfying about making something and in my eyes—well, I’m probably biassed!—a boat is a good thing to make because you know if you’ve got it right or not. A lot of people who want to make coracles work as part of a big organisation, so they do don’t do a complete job, if you know what I mean. Whereas if you make something like a coracle then you can point at it at the end of the process and say “I have made that.” To find out more about Terry’s work or take one of his courses, visit coraclemaker.co.uk.

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then sophia pearson made her own coracle Sophia Pearson lives on a stud farm that is a healthy one-hour drive from the nearest middle-sized town, and proudly describes herself as a Yorkshireman. She seemed the perfect person to take on the challenge of making a boat from scratch. For good measure, we reassured her that if the boat were to sink, it would just be more entertaining. I got a call saying, “Would you build a boat?” I was like a rabbit in the headlights. “Oh, okay,” is all I said. I’d never really liked swimming. I must have been about nine when my brother and I were going down a river in an inflatable lilo. We were going down the rapids and it flipped somehow. I ended up underneath and he was on top. I panicked and flipped it over and then he was underneath. It was quite terrifying. I don’t like dark water either, because there’s obviously a giant shark in every puddle waiting to chew me. I searched and I realised there were actually quite a few stages to building a coracle. Yes, I did just google it, but I wasn’t going to go and find an old wise man to say, “Well, madam, you want to build a boat, do you?” One. Saw a sheet of plywood into laths. The guy in the timber merchant thought I was a nutter. I went in with a photocopy of the instructions and said, “I want to build a coracle, please!” I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted, so I kept reading bits out to him. He asked me, “Why are you doing a coracle?”

“Good question! My friend works for this magazine and thought it would just be hilarious to get someone with no idea what they are doing to build a coracle.” He said, “Yeah, like you have nothing better to do!” I spent the rest of the afternoon setting up the stable to build the rim. I needed a flat surface to do the weaving for the base, and the problem with stables is that they’re sloped so all the horse poo can drain away. I took a picture of all the things that I thought I’d need: the laths, the saw, a drill, all laid out. “Ah, this is going to be easy,” I thought. “Look at this!” Two. Start by building the seat. I started the seat the next day. The instructions said, “Oh, buy this timber and make a seat.” But I thought, “I’m not buying any more timber.” So I used an old pallet, got the old crowbar out, yanked a few planks off, and glued them together. Three. Attach a temporary plank to the underside of the seat at right-angles to it, forming a cross shape. This will determine the length of the coracle. Bend and glue three layers of laths around the ends of the seat and the plank in an oval shape, forming the rim or gunwale of the boat. This bit is simple, but I had to get my brother and his girlfriend to help because you have to clamp it down really quickly. Only when we were halfway through making it did we realise we didn’t have enough clamps, and had to rummage all through the workshop for


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more. At the timber merchant they hadn’t cut it exactly straight. So we’d get something perfectly straight along one rim edge and then we’d realise that the other edge it was all out.

You’ve got the lattice, and underneath there are two planks going lengthways. On top of it, going the other way, are two planks to hold it in place.

I had to leave it to dry overnight. And I wanted a beer. Stables aren’t exactly warm places to work in.

Seven. Make three vertical supports for the seat and glue and screw the gunwale and seat structure to the bottom using the supports. Make a frame to rest the rim on while you bend the laths up to rim.

Four. When the glue has dried, remove the plank. When I woke up the next morning, I was convinced that it would have come apart. All I could think of was a wooden spider monster, where all the laths had pinged out. Or I imagined that when I took the clamps out it would suddenly come unstuck. But actually, it had dried.

For this, I nicked some brackets off an old bird feeder. First thing the next morning, my mum said, “Why is that bird table lying on the ground? Where have its feet gone?”

Five. Weave the bottom of the coracle out of laths.

Eight. Start bending the laths to the gunwale and attach them with small screws. Heat the plywood using a heat gun to enable laths to bend tightly.

Interweaving the laths was fine. I quite enjoyed it because it meant I could just indulge my OCD side, because each square has got to be the same. It’s not exactly easy on the knees, though.

I found an old heat gun for stripping paint in one of the old workshops. I did a test and the first lath I did bent so easily that I thought to myself, “This is going to be easy. No problemo.”

The problem was that where there had been knots in the birch, they took them out and put a disk of wood in there. Which is fine when you have a flat sheet, but when you’re starting to bend it they tend to ping out. I’d finished the weaving and I was really happy, and then I looked closely and saw this one disk of wood poking out where the lath had bent, saying, “Hello! You missed me didn’t you! And now you’ve got to take four laths off to get to me!”

And then I tried another one. I did exactly the same thing, but then it went ‘craccckkk’ and broke. I think maybe I hadn’t heated it for long enough or I hadn’t heated it in one spot. I just don’t know. It seemed like I’d done everything the same. In the instructions it said, “Once heated, it will bend like cooked spaghetti.” And the writer put a little smiley on the end, winking.

This was the most successful bit of the whole build, getting the lattice exactly right. I enjoyed doing it the most because the rest of the build was a case of having elevated ideas of my own ability, and the slow acceptance as I was going along that, actually, it was going to be a bodge job. Each little stage was fail, fail, fail. It took me about two days, but I wasn’t working solidly on it, just in between sore knees and stuff. I was walking round the house with these old builder knee pads on: “Alright, squire, like a cup of tea?” Six. Strengthen the bottom using four planks, nailed in a square: two on the underside and two on the upper side.

That’s when it started to get stressful. The first one I did on the boat wasn’t too bad. The second one cracked. I was heating it and leaning it on my shoulder and then I heard this ‘ccrrrraaacck’. I really didn’t know what to do. I managed to get a clamp to hold it in place and thought, “Gaffer tape! Where is the gaffer tape?” and I wrapped the bit that had cracked round and round with gaffer tape. Gaffer is wonderful stuff. After that I had the emergency strip of gaffer tape ready. I was getting quite hot and sweaty, as I was wearing my brother’s leather apron, which he uses for welding. I was also getting slightly paranoid that I was going to set the whole room on fire. I did about


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five or six laths that night and I wanted to cry. I thought, “You lied to me! It doesn’t go like spaghetti.” I started getting really stressed thinking that I’d come so far and despairing that it would all fail.

my brother to help me, as it was quite fiddly. We both had different ideas about how to do it and we met in the middle. The first layer was so wrinkled it ended up looking like a centurion’s scrotum.

The next day I carried on. There were 32 to bend up. It takes a while for the wood to bend up; you can’t just do it. To time it, I counted to fifty and then back down again. The more I did, the better I got.

The problem was the folds of the plastic were very stubborn and once the visqeen had been folded you couldn’t fold it again to make it neat and perfect. So I had a bit of a hissy fit. It was driving me insane. I just stapled it on and did the next layer a bit better. It’s still wrinkly but it’s evenly wrinkly. I finished it on Sunday night and thought, “It’s done! It’s done!”

I counted to fifty obsessively and listened to Radio 4. It seemed too quiet otherwise. Count to fifty, listen to Radio 4, wonder what the burning smell is—that was generally how I gauged when to bend it. Sometimes I would get frustrated and storm out and roll a cigarette or storm into my brother’s room. Nine. Glue and screw the lath ends to the gunwale. Once the glue is hard, cut the lath ends along the top edge of the gunwale. Glue one more lath layer onto the gunwale to cover the lath ends. Once all of them were bent up and I had securely gaffer-taped the whole boat, there were all these bits sticking up off the rim. I found a jigsaw and that was satisfying, really quick and neat. I sanded the top down and then put another lath round the rim. There was the same process of clamping and glue. Ten. Make a cover from canvas or any sturdy fabric-like material. Attach the cover to the frame as tightly as possible and waterproof with three coats of bitumen. I should have been using cotton canvas with bitumen paint but each coat needs a week to dry. I realised I didn’t have time so I got some visqeen plastic. Visqueen is thick and not quite malleable enough. It’s difficult to bend. You fold it over onto the inside and then you use a staple gun. I had to do two layers. I’m one of those people for whom a nice thing about Christmas is obsessively wrapping people’s presents. I asked

Eleven. Test your coracle. I got my guinea pig, my brother, to test it. I don’t know why, but I didn’t think it would float. My dad came with us, as he wanted to see it in action and, if it fell apart and sunk, he wanted to see that too. We put it in shallow water at first, and my brother got in and struggled to paddle it. You can’t paddle side to side as you just spin around. I got in and it was quite fun. Then I heard this ‘crack’, and then another ‘crack!’ I had a mild panic attack, but it was just the seat support, which had come unglued from the underside of the seat. It was such a beautiful day and so quiet and sunny and I got a handle on paddling really quickly. We’re going to take the coracle and have an on-the-water picnic in the summer and put some beers in a dinghy. I originally wanted to make a woven one out of willow saplings, but materials were a problem. So I think I’d like to do a woven coracle next. Don’t start making a coracle without some proper research: the instructions we’ve included here aren’t enough to guide you through the process. If you google “cooked spaghetti coracle plywood,” you’ll probably find the ones Sophie used. Bear in mind that coracles are dangerous boats to sail: they’re tiny, top-heavy and impossible to sail against a current. Various bits of the making process are also pretty risky. Be careful not to set your house on fire.


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you can never go home again what would life be l i k e i f y o u ’d n e v e r l e f t your home town? photos from the series ‘distant and close’ by egor rogalev Eamonn got fat; Lewis got thin. Chris manages a Poundstretcher and dreams of becoming a policeman. Jane is married and is giving birth to her first baby next month. She was the first girl I kissed. Facebook is a funny thing. The popular perception of my relationship with Wales is that I burned all bridges with it. When I was 16, I left my childhood town of Pontypridd for Cumbria while everyone else stayed behind. Our lives diverged at this point: I lived in a bedsit, stayed up all night sitting by rivers and writing bad poetry. My friends did A-Levels, started driving and learned to drink properly. It’s a loss I never properly digested. The sorry mess reached its apogee when I visited for my friend Sarah’s 18th birthday party, where I drank half a bottle of rum and vomited on my left knee. I fled her house and ran through the wet streets, fighting tears and trying not to die of embarrassment. I’ve never been back. It’s silly to think of yourself as being in exile, but that’s how it’s always felt. This is why Facebook for me is such a strange, addictive, deeply sad place. I keep finding myself guiltily checking the profiles of my old friends, who are all still in Pontypridd or thereabouts. They never left! They pop up in each other’s profiles and in each other’s lives. They all still hang out together, visiting the same bars and seeing the same people. I check their photo albums: that’s them enjoying Christmas, that’s them at a pub quiz, that’s them at an engagement party. I see these things and feel about as many emotions as it’s possible to feel while being on the internet. I live in London and my life is filled with friends and adventures and possibilities that can only come from being away from Pontypridd. Do I want to spend every evening with the people I grew up with? The answer is no. It’s also yes, just a little bit, but I try not to think about that. Surreptitious stalking aside, my old friends are all at a different stage in their lives, something I suppose that comes from living in the town where you already know everyone you’ll need to know. They’re all getting married and having children and buying houses (at 24). Property and a future are cheap things to obtain in Wales. They’re in a different country in every sense. I suppose if I’d never left this life would be mine as well: I’d be engaged to some nice girl from my old comprehensive, with a steady job and my eye on a house in Graigwen. Maybe in my spare time I’d do some reviews for the local paper, or work on a book that I’d never finish. I’d learn to enjoy rugby and would have a reliable secondhand car. I would lie awake some nights, wondering what would have happened if I’d left, romanticising it out of all proportion. Children would come, in time, and they would be well-loved and well-raised. Life would be so, so comfortable.

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Anyway. Eamonn got married last year, to a girl called Kathryn. When we were twelve we both had massive crushes on her. We would spend entire sleepovers talking about her, imagining what it would be like to be her boyfriend, giddy on the potential of it all. They became an item shortly after I left. I wasn’t invited to the wedding.

words jason ward My mum’s family are homebirds. At one point there were four generations living under one roof at Nan’s house. My mum and I were the only women in the family not living within a 10mile radius, and we were only an hour down the motorway. I was never like that: the black sheep who, aged ten, went to Selfridges to see Santa and declared that London was where she’d be as a grown-up. Unless of course I was whisked away to Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. The list got longer as I did: New York, Buenos Aires, Barcelona. I planned to never stop moving. My mum encouraged me. She and Dad had worked in Qatar for a year when I was three and we travelled abroad twice a year until her MS made flying too difficult. Even then, we made a 13-hour train journey to the south of France, with oxygen and carers in tow, every year until she died. People thought we were mad. Mum thought they were boring. At 18, the reality of my plans hit me. When I left home, I’d have to leave Mum. By then, Dad had gone and Mum’s future was precarious: it might be decades, it might also be months. Would she be OK? Should I stay? Was I a terrible daughter for wanting to leave? I struggled with these questions before every departure: when I left for my gap year, when I went off to uni, even when I returned to London after my weekly visit to see her. I would offer to stay, and I’d intend to, but in hindsight, my desires were always transparent; you don’t ask these things, you do them. Mum was steadfast: I couldn’t stay in Redhill, I’d be bored; I should live my life. I always knew there must have been a part of her that wished the thing I dreamed of was to stay, but perhaps, as the humanists once said, love is a desire for a person to be nothing other than yourself. I trusted her to tell me when she needed me and I returned for weeks and months through times that were tricky, but she never let those months turn to years. She’d get better and urge me back to London. She liked the stories, the letters I sent and the gossip we shared. If I’d never moved, those stories would have changed. I wouldn’t have learned to find my way


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around foreign cities, fallen in love over late-night chats in university halls, or met a best friend on the night bus home. I’d have been a different person. Most of all, the way Mum and I were would have changed. She inspired people because she never let MS get the better of her. It never defined her and it never characterised our relationship. She did the things that mothers do: she nagged me, raised her eyebrows at my ‘new look’ and reminded me to get the car insured. Sometimes her carers were the conduit but she was always the force. If I’d stayed those extra eight years, that dynamic might have changed. Perhaps I’d have become the carer, the boundaries been blurred, the lightness weighed down. We’d have had more time, but perhaps too much; savoured weekends would have been made into the everyday. And although my guilt might have lessened, hers could have grown—we were brought up Catholic, there was no way around it. I spent a lot of time wishing I was the homebird. I’ll never know if I did the right thing, but I do know we had fun the way it was.

words victoria watts Fleeing home is a family tradition. Mum, South African and pro-ANC, fled from apartheid. Dad, American and Jewish, fled, I think, from his mother. Last October, with nothing much to flee from at all, I made his decades-delayed return journey to New York City. Hibernating in the quiet, snow-blanketed suburbs, I can’t say that my life has been changed forever. Were I in London, I would likely be doing what I am now: working part time, pondering going back to university, wondering if I can afford to. I probably eat more bagels than I used to. It has made me think, though, about who I would have been if Dad had never left, if I had somehow grown up here. And today it hit me: I think I would believe in God. I look at my family on both sides of the Atlantic, and religion is what defines their differences. At most, the Londoners claim to be spiritual, flitting between Kabbalah classes and tarot readings, and festooning their houses with Buddhist art. But the New Yorkers all believe in good ol’ God, no bones about it. I doubt my fence-sitting agnosticism would have survived a New York childhood. I think that the lack of a state religion in America explains it. Without an equivalent to the Church of England, woolly though it may be, there isn’t the same national culture here. Public life is not informed, however quietly, by a unifying religious tradition. All religious groups, even

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the biggest and the most integrated, are very much their own tribes, and their religiosity is intensified by it. As a child, I grew up with the Queen, a figurehead for the nation and for Protestants at once; I sang hymns at school assembly once a week, read parables in class. My nursery, where I built with blocks and brought in homemade Play-Doh, was actually in a church. Those are the kind of hazy memories that many British Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus have, and they make casual participation in varying religious traditions seem harmless. You can go along without buying in, and God won’t mind. I’ve noticed it playing out in the small details. Like Christmas. In London, we “do” Christmas. Last year it was on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. As a result, the party, 95 percent Jewish in its attendance, was a particularly blasphemous event. Two hours in, and a late-arriving family bustled through the door, hurrying from Synagogue. “Thanks, Mum, going to Shul was such a classic way to ruin Christmas,” complained a teenager, as the Menorah languished on a corner shelf obscured almost entirely by Christmas cards. That’s just not a scene that seems possible in New York. I’ve met plenty of people who are totally unobservant, but they still wouldn’t buy a Christmas tree. The fact that we have a Santa hat in the basement is an item of controversy. New York is a very diverse place, and to me it seems that people of different backgrounds mix more than they do in London. Everyone has friends and co-workers with different beliefs. But while communication between religious groups is high, the intermingling doesn’t include religion itself. The conversation stops at that point. The only people who really involve themselves in your beliefs are evangelists, or people who believe the same things you do. What would that have meant for me? It’s hard to say for sure. But I think that growing up, I would have only heard one story—and without my family’s pic ‘n’ mix inner life, the message of a religious upbringing might have been heard, loud and clear. Maybe, just maybe, I would see the entire universe differently.

words theo brainin The idea of living in my home town is a strangely recurring theme to my daydreams, especially considering that my favourite hobby while I lived there was to fantasise about leaving. The name aside, Grimsby itself is not the stuff that dreams are made on. My memories are of the muddy brown of the North Sea, miles of flat, indistinguishable fields, the murmur of a local train on its hourly service. And simply having nothing to do.


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I passed too many of my teenage years sat in my bedroom, thinking about all the shops, gigs and boys that awaited me elsewhere. But now, when I have the life I so desperately longed for, the idea of having left its friendliness and calm sometimes seems mad, a thought that normally occurs when I’m shoehorned onto a commuter train. Like a dedicated Game of Life player, I work through the possibilities. If I’d stayed in my home town, these are the ways it could have gone: One. I thrive in this slow pace of life. Though my job isn’t too stimulating, I have the time to write and perfect my scribbles of ideas. I remember to phone my friends and always send their birthday cards in the post. There are fewer shops, so I’m more creative by necessity and I have the time to unearth finds from charity shops. I have the leisure to think properly about things I read and never forget the names of characters in novels. I complete the newspaper crossword everyday. I finally write that novel, run that marathon and revive the town’s failing fish industry. I even make the dizzy heights of having my picture—smiling, thumbs up—on the front page of the Grimsby Evening Telegraph. Two. All my friends have moved away. I don’t like chain pubs and I’m hopeless at team games, so I don’t make any new ones. I take comfort in my books. I buy all my clothes from charity shops and begin to look like a crazy lady. I slowly get a reputation as the local oddball, eventually to be found dead, crushed by an overstuffed bookshelf. It makes the front page of the Evening Telegraph, but only because it’s a slow news day. Three. I have kids, I buy a house, I finally learn to drive. I grow up and don’t get stuck in the Peter Pan lifestyle that’s allowed in a big city. I get in just after five each day to put dinner on the table for the kids, before sitting down and watching the soaps. I’m content but, oh, am I bored. I scan the Telegraph each day, looking for names I recognise. This is the closest to how I see that my life would pan out back in Grimsby. It’s the closest and it’s the most likely to come true in the end. The truth is that one day I see myself returning to somewhere like Grimsby, probably when I decide to have kids. When I left, I was at odds with everything the town had to offer. If I return, it’ll be for things like affordable housing, green spaces and good schools. My children will be as bored as I was but, like me, they’ll cope. A bit of boredom is helpful in the formulation of dreams. And, if you don’t go too far down the scenario two route, boredom allows the English eccentric the space for experimentation. Just think of Bowie’s Bromley background. When the time comes, I’ll support my kids’ dreams, whether they want to stay in the town or to move away. Courtesy of small town life, I’m sure they’ll have more than enough time to think about it.

words frances ambler

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something curious sheyma buali’s polaroid essay about bahrain’s 400-year-old tree interview rosanna durham photos sheyma buali Sheyma Buali documents old Bahrain in Polaroid essays: fishermen’s huts, old houses, the Grand Mosque, the Water Garden. With almost-extinct film, she photographs endangered pieces of the country’s culture. This is her series on the Tree of Life: a huge and iconic mesquite tree far out in the desert. The Tree of Life seems strikes me a being hugely vulnerable. It’s totally unprotected although it’s a national landmark. It is vulnerable. You can see the blue and red lines of graffiti on the tree in the photos. People carve the names like Bob Marley into the tree. It’s a tourist spot, a playground and has traditional, folklore connotations. It’s a scientific wonder as well because no one really knows how old it is. I go over there and have picnics, so why wouldn’t anyone else go over there and maybe take a guitar and play Bob Marley?

How do you get to the Tree? Isn’t it odd that it has no path leading up to it? You drive there through the desert. It’s a well-known place, and I understand it’s been there for four hundred years. But this is the interesting thing about Bahrain: histories are not official. Does that mean that they can be changed? Yes, like anywhere, when it comes to national and political history some stories are erased, others are tweaked. But in Bahrain, there is no commonly understood national history. But with cultural histories it becomes really interesting because oral history merges creative stories and fantasy stories. Like the local legend about Um Ihmar. She’s an old grandmother character and is half donkey and half woman. Um Ihmar has supposedly been spotted around town, and lives near the Tree of Life in one of the desert crooks. Why are these myths important for Bahrainis? I think it’s because Bahrain is so tiny and has a strong oral tradition. Today there are maybe just over half a million people. Back in the day, even thirty years ago, everyone knew each other. What does the sign you’ve photographed say? This one says, “Remember Allah.” They’re along a road going through the desert. It doesn’t go directly to the tree, but just past it. These


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signs are what creates a spiritual setting. I love it because I don’t know who put these signs here. They are anonymous and standalone. They don’t represent anything more than what they say. A lot of real-estate developments are happening now and if the signs ever come down I will be really upset. There’s the formula one track and a new airport built in middle of the desert, for example. The desert is shrinking and being used for more projects. It’s an open space that doesn’t belong to anyone and it’s being moved in on. It’s exactly like the Water Garden; this is a free space that people can go and enjoy. The Water Garden is a place that most Bahrainis went to as kids, and now we don’t know what’s going to happen to it. There are not many places for low-income families to go and have fun and enjoy a day out. More and more, Bahrain is becoming catered to a luxury focus. I’m concerned about this because the majority of Bahrainis can’t afford the luxury that is being developed. The people who use these spaces don’t really have a voice about how these places will evolve or even stay the same. I’m not worried about the area around the tree of life being ruined. But the desert is definitely starting to be changed. There aren’t so many areas of land that are unknown now. This morning I was reading about how Google Maps is censored at points in Bahrain, because poor people live in cramped, congested villages, and there are also huge mansions with gardens. People were starting to notice this more through Google Maps and then it was blocked. Bahrain is the size of London, so everything is close together.


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what’s left after the family holiday your holiday photos and their stories When you rifle through old boxes, you’ll often alight on forgotten photos. That’s how I discovered my great-grandmother’s holiday snaps. These were great pictures of fishermen and monks and waist-high wool skirts. But unfortunately no one could recognise the people she had travelled with or the city she visited. That’s the way with holiday photos: they need their holidaymakers to narrate their stories. Otherwise they’ll just sit in unopened drawers and accumulate in their thousands on our laptops. Pictures quickly become old photos with unfamiliar faces and lost memories.

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In a bid to tell these lost tales and adventures, we asked you to share your holiday photos and tell us their stories. Some were from last year’s summer break and some were unearthed years ago when no one was looking. Here they are.

sylee gore

rosie moss

1. I found this photo in a dusty album a decade ago. It’s my favorite holiday photograph. It was taken 45 years ago. My mother grew up near Mumbai and went to the Taj Mahal with her family when she was 18. Every detail of her is precious to me: those over-sized sunglasses, the set of her lips, that black and ivory handbag looped over her arm. You can feel her steely gaze though you can’t see her eyes. She is with her father, an older brother and a cousin. She must have been about to start university.

2, 3, 4. The man asleep on a deck chair is my great uncle Sid and the woman on the beach is my great-grandma Amelia on my mother’s side, who was a very elegant lady. I don’t know much about them, except that my great-grandad was in the Merchant Navy based in Falmouth, so it’s my guess that these were taken somewhere in Cornwall on a trip to the seaside. I just love how smartly dressed they are here—so British! Photo 4 is my grandma Sylvia, on my father’s side. She was on holiday with grandad Roger on holiday, or maybe even on their honeymoon, some time before my father was born in 1952. It is likely that they were somewhere in West Sussex. This is where she and her family lived when she was a child, as her father was a sailor, before moving to Birmingham—as far away from the sea as possible!


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6 5 8 7

10 9 ines armandon

andrea fernandez

sophie will

5, 6, 7, 8. During the Christmas holidays, I went with my friends on a trip to the northern point of Denmark, Skagen. It is the point where the Baltic and the North Sea meet, a vast beach all white because of all the snow. It was really cold and windy that day and taking pictures was hard. I especially like these pictures because my friends look very small compared to the immensity of the place. We were walking around, even running, to get warm, so I was lucky to get the four of them together.

9. This photo was an accident. Well, the whole roll was an accident. I went to Glastonbury and took some photos on my little camera. A couple of months later, I went to Paris and took some other nice photos, but I didn’t realise they were on the same roll of film. I was really upset when I realised but, as soon as I scanned them in, all these gems of Glastonbury-meets-Paris appeared. Surreal, but doesn’t the thought of festival mud over Paris scenery sound great? In this photo you can see my friend Claire horizontal over the beautiful rooftops of the French capital.

10. This photo epitomises my delight and determination after a 17-hour stand to get to the front of the crowd with a friend. It was at a music festival in summer 2010 and my first time seeing an Iron Maiden concert after many years of dreaming. I’m the red-haired girl right at the front, in the middle. It was worth every minute. There were plenty of photographers going around, but I thought that the pictures would never be seen again. However, when I returned home, they were posted on the official website in all their glory. We haven’t smiled so much since.

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11 12 13 14 15 16

brittany sullivan

cath barton

emily osborne

11, 12. The best pizza I have ever had was in Sorrento. I had a mushroom pizza and lots of JD and coke. I had never had a pizza like it; it was so simple and thin and light. Back home no other pizza compared. When asked if we should get some pizza, I would sigh and say, “Okay, but it’s not the same as Sorrento.” This year I went back to Sorrento. I’d been dreaming of this pizza for years and was looking forward to sharing it with a new friend. We only had a spare two hours before we had to meet our tour group. I ran inside to order my mushroom pizza only to be told that the wood fire pizza ovens wouldn’t be ready for another four hours. I was devastated!

13. This photograph was taken on a trek in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal in autumn 2009. Wherever you stay on the trekking routes you get the same choice of food—usually variations on rice, noodles or potatoes—and most of us were avoiding meals to minimise the risk of tummy bugs. On this morning, we stopped for a break and Miranda and Eric produced the wonderfully named Scof Pork Luncheon Meat and some crackers, which they had bought at the lodge where we stayed the night before. It came from China and we didn’t examine the ingredients list too closely but, in that high mountain air after five days of same-y food, it tasted delicious. That was after we’d nearly failed to prise the can open, but my Swiss Army knife came to the rescue!

14, 15, 16. These photos are of my grandma in the 1950s, on the Isle of Sheppey in Leysdown, Kent. It’s the most bizarre place in the world and hasn’t really changed since these photos were taken. Photo 15 is of a beauty contest she and her sisters entered and they are lined up to be judged. My grandma explained to me that after the war people were still trying to get some form of normality back. For holidays people would come down from London to Leysdown to stay at the caravan park, as there was also a social club. The club would have dances and fancy dress nights, as well beauty contests. My grandma won quite a few of the beauty contests including the one in the photo!


The day I was Queen Or at least that is how it felt. The year was 1953 and it was Elizabeth II’s coronation. In similar pomp and ceremony I was delivered in a large box tied with a big sash bow. I was delicately lifted out from layers of white tissue paper then carefully slipped on with regal elegance. Everyone’s attention was on the small nine-inch television dwarfed in its walnut cabinet. That is until I swirled into the room.

To be continued... Vintage at Oxfam. www.oxfam.org.uk/vintage


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things my mother never told me sometimes the truth dies with the people we love words victoria watts photo leah bernhardt “Write a card to Peter. Say sorry from Mary.” Who’s Peter? I know everyone Mum knows, I write the Christmas cards every year. “My first boyfriend, before your dad. I need to say sorry.” My mum has MS. She’s had it since I was five. Early on it was simple. I could explain it by saying, “It just means she can’t walk,” but not now. Now it’s worse. It progresses slowly: plateaus and falls, never improvements. Mum’s a fighter though, still smiling at every stage. Her motto is: “You’ve just got to get on with it, what other option is there?” That’s the best thing my mother’s ever told me. Nowadays she’s for the most part bed-bound. She can only move her head. We do go out sometimes, but she finds it exhausting. Mum’s mind’s still there though. Sharp, sarcastic and mischievous, she still has plenty to say. The problem is getting the words out. As the day goes on, her voice goes too. This has happened slowly over the past few years. So slowly, you don’t really realise. The mornings are best. I can understand for about half an hour, but then she gets tired. The rest of the time, I get there through guesswork. I know how her mind works; I can anticipate what she wants. But not with new things. New things are difficult. Early in the day I might get an outline but details are near impossible. So much to say, without the means to say it. So when she asks me to write a card to Peter, her first boyfriend, you can imagine my confusion. She definitely mentioned him before, years ago. I know they worked in a hospital together, and that he had suffered burns on half his face. I ask Mum how long they were together. Four years, she says. But why did she want to say sorry? What did she do? Did she cheat on him with my dad? I asked her. She says no. She met him when with Dad but the rest I can’t make out. But whatever it is, she felt the need to say sorry some 28 years later. I was reluctant to write the card. Firstly, where would we send it? Amazingly, Mum remembered the address, the address he had when they were together. It takes half an hour for me to understand it, but we get there. Secondly, what will I write, and is it a good idea? What if he has a family now? Won’t he think this weird? Should the past not be left alone? The week before, Mum had suffered a chest infection. It was touch-and-go whether or not she’d make it. You can’t really say no in a situation like that. And she was adamant. So we wrote the card, a short note from Mum saying: “I just wanted to say sorry for hurting you all those years ago. Hope you are well,” and a little note from me explaining that Mum had been unwell and that this sorry note was something that seemed important, and I hoped he didn’t mind. We didn’t include our address. For Mum, it was enough to send the card. It was only a gamble that he’d even get it. But somehow, it did make its way to him. The mystery surrounding this card made me think. Why didn’t I ask more questions before? Why didn’t I listen to the answers? Why did I sulk moodily when my parents took me to


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Bristol and showed me the places they’d once lived at, danced at, kissed? At 13, you don’t realise. The last thing you want to know is anything about your parents. You want your own life, certainly not theirs. Four weeks after posting the letter I’d forgotten it. Mum’s never mentioned it again. But Peter’s tracked me down. I have a message on Facebook from Peter Osborne: “Is your mum’s name Mary? If not, please ignore this.” I’ve seen his photo; it’s a bit blurred but you can still make out the burns. I know he studied politics at Glasgow and now works as a sculptor. He’s a member of a number of socialist groups and has friends called Mandy, Alan and John. I know things about this man that maybe my mum doesn’t know. I could ask him why she said sorry. I could find things out. But I won’t. I’m not replying to his message. I thought about it and I don’t think I should. Mum has said her sorry. She hasn’t mentioned Peter again. I know there are things he may want to say, to accept the apology or ask questions. But Mum chose not to include her address for a reason. She’s made her peace, and I don’t need to know. Peter is Mum’s past, not mine. I know the important things; I saw for myself how much she loved my dad before he died. I remember the things Mum told me when she could, the things she repeated, the things that meant the most. Anything else would be a luxury. There may be questions left unanswered, but you can’t know everything. Sometimes the things your mother never told you must stay that way.


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where did all the notebooks go? so many stamps, so much disappointment words liz bennett, deeds rosanna durham We often rely on the curiosity and helpfulness of strangers. It’s more fun that way: we never know quite what will happen but we know it’ll be interesting. And it usually works. This idea was simple. We started with lots of notebooks. You see, although we were naive, we weren’t so naive as to think this was going to be easy. We wrote our address on the outside and added ample postage and some instructions. The instructions said: write or draw something about a journey you go on, and then pass the notebook on to someone else. When the notebook was full, or after a certain date, it said that whoever had it should pop in a postbox. The job of giving out notebooks fell to Rosanna. She prepared 35 altogether. Then she set off to find people who wanted to take part. Some time between Christmas and the New Year, she found herself in Brighton with a scrappy plastic bag full of notebooks and a city full of strangers who might like one. What happened next felt uncomfortable. “It was like shopping for the right person,” she said. “It made me feel slightly weird. I found myself just walking around the area and I felt very awkward. I was trying to size people up.” What was she looking for? “There was a woman I saw and I thought, ‘She’d hand a notebook out!’ because she was walking really slowly and looked relaxed but still engaged in the world and I thought, ‘That’s the perfect candidate.’ Someone who had time but also has a life. It was like a form of prostitution in a way! At least a soliciting of something. It felt like that. Looking at people and choosing who

to hand them out to. The whole project involved lots of nice people: men and women, people who were young and old.” We were so excited. Each notebook would be a random and beautiful trace of people’s journeys, revealing little scraps about the lives of everyone who had scribbled in it. Each one, we thought fondly, would develop a personality of its own. We expected most of the 35 to be lost, but we hoped that six or seven would come back to us. We can still hardly believe that it didn’t work. We keep thinking that all the notebooks are out there somewhere, and one day a huge bundle of them will turn up at the door. “I still think one will come back,” she said. “At least one should. It would be terrible if one didn’t. I feel desolate about it. Especially meeting all these people and talking to them. They were all really generous with their time. I feel there’s a secret gnome who has hoarded all the notebooks. There’s nothing else to say, really. It was just lots of sellotaping, lots of stamps, lots of hope, and lots of disappointment as well, as it turns out.” But this isn’t quite the end. Two notebooks did return. One of them only had a few pages filled in, although it did have a detailed pencil drawing of a lecture at UCL. The other one, well, you can read it for yourself. It’s also not the end because we want to try this again. We’re not sure how. Perhaps we’ll seal some messages in bottles and let them go down the Thames. In years to come they’ll return, waterstained and yellow, with the stories of people from far away or 500 metres downstream.


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Case of the month - History ... - What do you .... - Neighbour

Name: Sherry Location: Cruciform LT1 (Lecture Theatre 1) Bloomsbury. Jokes. Date: 04.01.2010 Me: I love chocolate, climbing mountains & London.

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I am currently on the Jubilee line of the London Underground, UK. So far the journey has been uneventful although we are about to get to ‘St. John’s Wood’ so who knows what will

happen there. Our destination is Kilburn, a charming area of London where I was promptly offered ganja with two minutes of arriving in the area. We just found out our friend has broken up with his

Sat on the train from London St. Pancras to Leeds. Opposite are a sat a couple spawn from the devil, she looks like a semi-committed emo aged from 14–20, I don’t care. Her boyfriend is bald with a Brent style beard. He could well be in his 30s. They are burping

girlfriend.... Happy New Year! Nico Franks Leeds, 31.12.10 (Student, 20 yrs) www.nicofranks.blogspot.com

and talking about hiding things in each others bums for their entertainment. On second thoughts this man could be her dad, summing up the tedious and fucked up nature of this train journey. See you in hell. Alan Wilyman Leeds, 2.1.11 (Student, 20) twitter.com/alanwilyman


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Yorkshire tea The dog’s bollocks (Brew) “Dip me!! ... Again!!”

in a tight leather outfit, in front of an audience of seedy men at the ready with £10 notes in their hands. Will Lanhot WTL89—Youtube Check it out!!!

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Currently in the car travelling to the Farsyde in Ilkley. My Granny’s telling my mother, who has recently joined a weightwatchers, that a good way to lose weight is by going to pole dancing sessions every Wednesday. Because of this I will be scarred with the image of my mother sliding down a pole

I was on a train recently from York to Aberdeen. The man next to me cried the whole journey home. His wife had won custody of the children.... www.twitter.com/bgroom WAIT! Thats not true! His children were dead.

It is past 2. Cold. Walking home. I don’t know what to write because Ilkley’s really boring. Have more fun than me xxx


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a handmade life lucia kempsey lives and breathes craft interview beth davis

We’re not sure we’ve come across anyone else who is quite as enthusiastic about craft as Lucia Kempsey. She’s evangelical about the joys of patching up something old into a new and beautiful piece of furniture or clothing. She teaches craft workshops in Sheffield and is a craft expert on Make Do and Mend, a series on Channel 4 later this year. Over the page, she showed us how to make some clever things out of cotton reels. I have always been keen to dispel the myth that craft is about church halls full of straw dollies and pet portraits. I love getting people excited about craft. It’s a fantastic feeling showing someone that you don’t need to be a super-seamstress to make something you would be proud to have in your home or wear. Over the past few years, I have been delighted to see a rise in the number of craft and design fairs, online shops and events making craft accessible to more people. Bring it on, I say. I always liked art as a child. My mum ran a craft gallery where I used to help out, and my brother and I went to an after-school pottery club until my brother made some inappropriate nude sculptures. My studio is actually the spare room in our attic that usually tends towards the chaotic. There are always ten projects going on at once alongside the piles of fabric, multiple computers, glue-guns, typewriters and sewing machines. I have pictures and mood boards on the wall. I keep craft and design books around to inspire me, as well as a box of my old notebooks. I’d love to say that I wear clothes I’ve made or customised every day, but more often than not I can be found in simple old jeans and a t-shirt, and so my home is much more of a showcase. Apart from the odd Ikea shelf, most of our furniture is stuff we have got secondhand or found in a skip and spruced up. Every time I see something I can’t afford for the house, I try and work out ways to make it myself using recycled materials. Wooden bobbins are one of my favourite things to use and I love using vintage tea-towels, which I transform into cushions, use to re-upholster seats or make fabric buckets from. When my grandma passed away last year, a lot of her possessions were passed on to me, and one of the things I inherited was an old souvenir tea-towel from the Isle of Wight that she got on

her honeymoon. I wasn’t sure what do to with it at first, as it had such sentimental value, but in the end I used it to reupholster the seat on a little sewing chair I also got from her house, which looks so lovely and always reminds me of her. One craft I’ve never been able to get my head around is knitting. I know it’s supposed to be something you do to relax, but my squares look like circles and my circles look like squares and the whole thing tends to stress me out. I blame it on the fact that most books are aimed at right-handed people. You’d also think that I’d be into baking and coming up with creative recipes, but I’m a pretty awful cook to be honest—I much prefer the eating bit. Similarly, I tried my hand at a bit of gardening last summer and, although I managed to grow a few tomatoes and radishes, I was far more interested in the accompanying crafts such as finding old apple crates to grow the vegetables in and making plant markers from lollipop sticks. I do love the great outdoors, though. Growing up in the Cumbrian wilderness, I was really into nature as a child. A few friends and I even set up a group called the Club For Nature, which we ran from the garden shed and involved collecting ‘samples’ and doing fairly useless protests in our back garden. “Don’t Stamp on Bees” was the first. We even made our own placards. Even though my CFN days are long gone, I still like being outside and trying to identify birds and trees when I’m out walking. For a long time I have dreamt of opening my own workshop and retail space that would encompass a cafe and craft book library alongside open-access studios. It would give budding craftspeople and designers the chance to use facilities they may not otherwise be able to afford. I think about that space most nights before I go to sleep, and have planned so much of it in my head that I feel like I know every inch of it already. But although I would dearly love to see it become a reality in the future, I just hope that craft still gives me as much joy in ten years time as it does now. Crafting and creating is my raison d’être. I do it because I enjoy it so much.

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even better than the reel thing four things to make from old cotton reels words lucia kempsey, illustrations beth davis

stamp

picture holder

Here’s how to make a simple craft stamp that you can use to decorate wrapping paper, envelopes and notepaper—for any letter-writers— and just about anything else you can find lying around. The foam and the ink pad are both available from art and craft stores.

This project is super simple and requires no craft skills whatsoever.

You will need bobbin pen PVA glue or strong double-sided tape foam craft sheet ink pad One. Work out what design you want your stamp to be. Keep it simple. It needs to be small enough to fit on the bottom of the bobbin. Two. Draw your design on the foam sheet in pen and cut it out. Three. Stick it to the bottom of your bobbin using PVA glue or double-sided tape. Leave to dry. Four. Now it’s time to start stamping! Press your stamp gently into the ink pad and you’re away.

You will need wooden bobbin hacksaw sandpaper vice One. Find a suitable bobbin and remove any leftover thread. Two. Place the bobbin in a vice so that it is on its side. (I don’t have a vice, so I just hold the bobbin while I saw, but this isn’t a good idea for your fingers.) Three. Using your hacksaw, saw a straight line into the centre of the bobbin. This will give you a sawn groove which runs from the top to the bottom of the cotton reel. If there are any splinters, then lightly sand them with sandpaper. Four. Pop your photo stand on the mantelpiece, slide the bottom corner of your photo into the groove, and stand back to admire and relive your memories.


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bobbin button These natty handmade buttons will add a unique touch to an outfit. Choose bobbins with pretty labels on their top and tail to give your buttons extra pizazz. The bradawl is essentially a thin spike with a handle. You will need

ribbon holder If you have tangles of ribbons and bobbins lying about the place looking unsightly, (Looking pretty? Yes! Unsightly? Surely not ... Oh, ok) then these charming ribbon holders will get you looking shipshape again. You will need bobbin sticky tape pin untidy ribbons One. Iron your ribbon if it’s looking a bit dog-eared. Two. Take a 1-inch piece of sticky tape and use it to fix the end of the ribbon to the bobbin, taking care to make sure the right side of the ribbon is facing outwards. Three. Wrap the ribbon round the bobbin, so that the ribbon hides the wooden spool of the bobbin. Four. Pin the end of the ribbon in place to secure it. Nothing could be simpler!

wooden bobbins hacksaw vice bradawl, or other sharp pointy implement clear varnish One. First you need to saw off both ends of the bobbin using the hacksaw, sawing as close to the ‘shaft’ as possible. It’s a good idea to pop it in a vice to keep it steady. Two. Mark on your first button in pencil where you want the holes to be. It can either be a two-hole button or, if you’re feeling extravagant, a four-hole! Three. Next grab your bradawl. If you haven’t got one, then a sharp thin nail would probably do. Using a twisty motion, firmly press down on your marks to create the holes. Four. To make sure your buttons are long-lasting you will need to give them a coat of clear varnish. I use Plastikote polyurethane spray varnish because it’s cheap, works a treat and isn’t too shiny. It also saves you having to faff about with a brush, but use whatever you have to hand. Five. Et voila! The only hard part is deciding what to fix your fancy new fripperies to. Note that the buttons are really dry-clean only, so bear that in mind when deciding what to sew them onto.

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the truth and the tea leaves fortune-telling with uncle geoffrey words jamie emmott, illustrations ellakookoo I don’t want to give the impression my mother is some New Age hippie into tarot cards and Ouija boards, but in the past she, along with my father, occasionally dabbled in clairvoyance. Maybe it was a seventies thing that lingered into the next decade, but in the early eighties we sometimes had a wheezing, overweight old man round the house. Uncle Geoffrey. He had spectacles with thick, black, circular rims and lenses solid as the bottom of jam jars. He wasn’t actually our uncle; he wasn’t even one of those close family friends who earned the title Uncle by frequenting our house for birthday parties, or buying us presents and giving us money. No, Uncle was a title he gave himself. For a nominal fee, Uncle Geoffrey would sit alone in a room with you and provide you with a reading. Sitting opposite, just looking at you, he asked a few questions and then told all the secrets of your future which he had seen as images. After me repeatedly asking, “What will I be, Uncle Geoffrey? What will I be?” Uncle Geoffrey gave me a reading. He saw this eightyear-old boy as a man, flying on an aeroplane carrying a briefcase, a premonition I found intoxicatingly exotic. He also saw me turning the pages of an album filled with stamps from the Far East, something I found a bit boring in comparison. He said he could see a big red fire engine and I started to worry. He was asking if any of this meant anything to me. “My brother has a stamp album? And I once went to visit a fire station with the cubs?” I offered hopefully. Thirty years later, while I have been on planes, I have never had a briefcase, and I have never received any mail from the Far East. My only association with fire engines has been to have the crap scared out of me as they have sped past, lights flashing and sirens blaring. In my quieter moments, I do wonder how different my life would have been as a firefighter, or a Middle East envoy. He saw the images of my dad’s future too: reading glasses and cameras. Reading glasses— what a genius, has anyone made it to old age without the need for visual assistance? The camera thing was an interesting touch, though. Dad did like his photography, forcing us to endure family slide shows with image after image of bumble bees on roses, sunsets and butterflies. But up until that point he had always worked in the Pathology Lab at the local hospital. His days were spent smearing faeces onto jelly to see what it would grow. There was a time I had been troubled by a lengthy bout of diarrhoea and, with a glass of lucozade in hand, I watched Dad scrape my runny turd from the toilet bowl with a tiny plastic spoon, and fasten it safely into a specimen bottle. He took it with him to the hospital to “see what it would grow.” I waited excitedly each evening for Dad’s return and an update on the tropical rainforest my stools were producing. It wasn’t until university that I discovered what would grow wasn’t actually the fragile unfurling of a white stem with two delicate green leaves, but blotches of colourful bacteria that resembled minute jelly fish. Dad was hoping for a rare mutated form of salmonella, while I’d have been quite happy with a small spider plant or a potted ivy. It was shortly after Uncle Geoffrey’s visit that Dad got the opportunity to become the hospital’s Medical Photographer. We were very excited: this proved Uncle Geoffrey’s fortunetelling prowess and I took to imagining what type of business I was doing with my briefcase and long-haul travel. Being a Medical Photographer allowed Dad to take a break from the shit-smearing and instead to take pictures of the severely anorexic, or magnificent cases of elephantiasis, or STD-infected genitalia dripping with pus. Or even, most memorably, a stiff penis with a mechanics wrench stuck round it. “It takes all sorts,” Dad would say with considerable pleasure, giving the assembled audience a break from the usual content of the family slide show, followed by, “Let that be a lesson to you—never put anything round your How’s Your Father.” I looked at the glistening maroon organ projected on to the living room wall. It looked incredibly raw, sore and somehow frostbitten. I promised myself nothing would ever go round my dick. “Not even a rubber band,” Dad said to me, as if reading my mind.

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I wouldn’t be surprised to learn now that Dad got the photography job at the hospital because Geoffrey put in a good word for him. It would, after all, help to promote his legend and secure more bookings from those desperate for a glimpse of their future, no matter how tentative or predictable it may have been. We hosted a number of parties for Uncle Geoffrey where neighbours and friends would attend for lambrusco and twiglets and an opportunity to sit face to face with the fortune teller. It became quite a social thing for my parents. Mother even went to a party at someone else’s house where she had her tea leaves read. There were two things seen in Mother’s tea leaves. The first was the vision of a child, arm in a sling. This turned out to be me. I was at the Christmas party after the annual village pantomime when my fingers were trapped in a door jamb. A violent burning sensation chewed the end of my middle and ring fingers, breaking the bones, splintering the wood of the door and scarring me for life. The ends of those fingers were sewn back on, although there was initially talk of amputation, something to which I was oblivious until years later. I had to wear covers for my fingers that tied around my wrists and, to remind me that I should avoid playing twister, I also rested my arm in a sling. The second vision in the tea leaves was a child on crutches. One evening we were in the living room watching television. A family friend was there and she was shown my brother’s ankle. It had a lump on it. The lump was soft and warm but it didn’t have a pulse. Then my brother went to hospital. A hospital I could not go to because children were not allowed to visit. Of course such hospitals don’t exist, but I was kept away in case I asked my brother what amputation meant. They didn’t want him to know about his leg being removed, possibly from the knee but probably from the hip. I wasn’t sure if we would be celebrating Christmas that year. Sitting on the back of the settee, and looking out through the living room window, I watched a cold, grey December Saturday pass by on an empty street. I saw the homes of our neighbours and, through their windows, the dullness inside them. Next to me was our tree: the soft, pointless yet resilient glow of coloured fairy lights and the hopeful scent of pine in my nose. A brown car pulled up outside the house driven by my uncle, my real uncle. He got out and opened the boot, taking out a pair of crutches, which he held out for my brother. I stood up and leaned forward to watch as he swung his legs out of the car and stood, steadying himself with the crutches, getting out of the passenger seat. He was home for Christmas, and his leg, like the ends of my fingers, had been saved. I was eight and he was twelve and for the next two years, for a week every month, he had treatment. He lost his hair, the contents of his stomach and, ultimately, the cancer cells that multiplied and divided in his body. After the cancer was cut out of him, his ankle was exposed to radiation and his body to chemotherapy. Meal times became a challenge as my brother struggled to keep the contents of his stomach to himself. We all tried to pretend it was alright, like the family on John’s Not Mad, whose Tourette-suffering son spits fish and chips at them. With masticated batter dripping from their foreheads, they would politely ask for the vinegar to be passed. As the Grange Hill theme tune played over the credits, I would hold my breath, close my eyes and stop chewing as the sound of retching and the acrid, bitter smell of vomit filled the room. He usually used an old plastic Christmas pudding bowl, which was taken up to the toilet and emptied. Once, when the urge to puke came over him again when Mum was upstairs, I heroically cupped my hands and held them out to him, turning my face away waiting for the hot sticky splash in my palms. I sometimes wonder how those two years affected us and what else was in the tea leaves and if Uncle Geoffrey ever saw anything real; how many of his predictions came true not because of but in spite of what he told people. I’ve also wondered, if it hadn’t been visions of fire engines and stamp albums, whether I would actually have wanted to hear Uncle Geoffrey say, “I see two boys, one appears to be vomiting into the hands of the other.”


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what’s in your bag? some old tissues and a train ticket words ellie phillips photos des tan Remember rifling through your mum’s bag? Taking everything out. Lining it all up: the brightly-coloured plastic cards, the car keys, door keys, change, notes. All those tantalising symbols of adulthood and independence that you hoped to have one day to put in your very own bag. Your very own bag begins life unpromisingly, holding school books or sports kit. But even then the urge to make it yours is strong. You customise it with key-rings and scribble, fill it with secret notes or ‘show and tell’ or stuff you’ve smuggled into school: hair spray, body spray, forbidden eyeliner. Later you choose a smart new bag and then another. With each comes a brand new resolution to be organised; to keep everything in order; to throw away the receipts, the sweety wrappers, the tampon that came unwrapped. This new bag will reflect the simplicity of my life. It will hold the bare essentials: my phone, my purse, my keys, my travel pass and a condom. That’s all. There are attempts by others to colonise your bag along the way. Your boyfriend likes to keep his fags in there and could you carry his mobile too and maybe his headphone amp? Babies replace it with something called a Change Bag: an evil padded, pastel thing with pockets for wipes and bottles and endless changes of clothing. You dream of the moment when you will be able to leave the house with your very own bag holding just your phone, your purse, your keys and your travel pass—no use for a condom these days. And then as suddenly as it went, it returns. Oh joy! I have my bag back! With all its detritus for small hands to rifle through—and from which you will move the contents ceaselessly and with unending hope from the old bag to the new. Is it possible to tell from the owner or even the exterior of the bag what secrets lie within? I think not. Expensive bags with expensive owners may carry the contents of the average rubbish bin. The inkiest satchel might reveal treasure. So what would I find if I rifled through your bag? Are you the organised, fresh tissues, lip-balm, spare-tights type? Or do you have one sock, a doggie chew and three marbles? I cannot tell. You are going to have to show me. Three people in Oxford bravely turned out their bags to show what was really in there.


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nina German rail ticket Keys Squashed penny souvenir Ticket to Harry Potter Eight receipts Leon voucher Two letters Christmas card Purse Two packs of tissues Used tissues Scraps of paper

Two cheques Chocolate wrapper Pair of earrings Tissues Purse One glove Candy cane Samsung phone Pen Fashion modelling flyer â‚Ź8,62 82p

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rachel Purse KrisFlyer card Pen Two receipts BlackBerry Diary planner Keys Water bottle Gloves Moiusturising cream Large pack of tissues Used tissues Bike lights Vaseline Umbrella 70p


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si min Digital SLR camera External flash Spare memory card Contact lenses Sanitary towel Purse Pack of tissues Used tissues Lens cloth Nail clipper Fragrance Two sticks of rock Toy koala 1p

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issue six is out on the 19th of may We were starting to worry that the copy for illustrator Yelena Bryksenkova had got hopelessly lost in the post. But just as we were putting the finishing touches on this issue, it arrived at her home in the States and she took this lovely photo. Perhaps the snow had delayed it crossing the Atlantic.

subscribe If you’d like each new copy of oh comely delivered to your door, you can subscribe. It’s £18 for a year, and you’ll get six issues. Visit ohcomely.co.uk/subscribe to buy one online. Alternatively, you can write down your order and post us a cheque made out to Adeline Media to the address on the back of the magazine.

let’s take some furniture apart And put it back together so that it was better than it started. We’d like to hear your furniture-modifying ideas: the ones that worked, the ones that didn’t, the ones you’re too afraid to try. We’re interested in the stories of the shiny, well-polished successes and the failures that went straight into the basement. Better still, tell us your ideas and we’ll give them a go. We’ll be chancing our luck at DIY success or humiliation in the next few months. Drop a line with your thoughts to build@ohcomely.co.uk.


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please make me some tea just don’t squeeze the tea bag words liz bennett, illustration emma block One morning, I sat in my room, blindfolded, and tasted one cup of tea after another. Six cups in all. It was my third year of university; important things were afoot. But here I was, sipping tea in my room and deciding whether I thought the tea bag had been squeezed or not. It was the last act in my longest-ever and most pointless argument. Tea-drinking is like any other drinking in that you seek out a companion with boundless enthusiasm. Kirsty never refused a cuppa. Our drinking at times became distinctly unhealthy. We would drink so much that we’d be faintly juddery from the caffeine and would lie around feeling bloated. Every now and then we’d comment on the noise the tea was making, sloshing around in our stomachs, and then get up and put the kettle on. We went to the bathroom constantly. It was obscene. So in many ways, it was perfect. We drank every time we saw each other. We drank it alongside trays of pasta bake and cheery TV dramas. We drank tea to dilute the pain of our studies, which were not as much fun as we’d hoped. But something bothered me: Kirsty squeezed the tea bags. What was worse was that she flatly refused to admit that it made a difference to the taste. Our feud followed us quietly through the terms. It survived almost three years of listless studying and six seasons of Gilmore Girls. Until that moment. There were three pairs of tea to taste. One cup of each had been left to brew, with the other Kirsty had carefully mashed the tea bag just as she always did. I got it right, of course. She didn’t believe me, of course. She declared that the result not statistically significant. I wasn’t the mathematician, so there was nothing I could say. But I knew I was right: I hadn’t got it right by chance, I got it right because I knew which was which. The squeezed tea bag tasted acrid and a little bit dreggy, just as I knew it would. There are plenty of other things to get angry about with tea, of course: too much milk, an under-brewed cup, tea bags left floating in the bottom like jellyfish full of tannin. But with tea bag-mashing, it’s not just the bad taste. There’s also something unnecessary about it. It’s always deliberate. There is no half-mashed middle: people either look insulted or utterly bewildered when you ask them not to mash your tea bag. Some people say that a cup of tea is a tiny gesture of kindness in a hard world. It is true that I find it sweet when someone makes a me cuppa. It makes the world seem softer and gives you something warm to wrap your hands around. On days when everything threatens to descend into chaos, a cup of tea makes me feel a little more loved. But only if someone didn’t squeeze the tea bag.


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this bowl is just right porridge from around the world words liz bennett Once a week, I get up at 4am for a morning shift at a bakery. At this time in the morning, ordinary porridge is your only friend. I haven’t included it here, but it’s worth remembering how easy it is: a handful of rolled oats, a splash of water and a splash of milk. Bring it to the boil, stir until it thickens and add sugar, salt or whatever you like. You won’t be hungry for hours. You’ll be able to bag hundreds of bread rolls with ease. These are three of the world’s variations on the theme of something stodgy, filling and delicious. The term ‘porridge’ is a little stretched here, but they all have the same nurturing effect as a bowl of traditional porridge. Each was tested by my sceptical, halfasleep parents, Chris and Esther. These recipes make about four portions. If you don’t have a set of cups, I’d advise you to find a mug and guess, rather than covert them; the exact measurements here aren’t important, only the proportions.

irish oatmeal This is a less humble and more delicious variety of the traditional porridge, more accurately a variation on Irish oatmeal than an Irish recipe itself. It uses standard water-based oatmeal, but all sorts of delicious things are hidden at the bottom of the bowl, and fresh berries are added on the top. I’d be tempted to eat it every day if I thought having brandy for breakfast every day was a good idea.

Ingredients 2 cups rolled oats 2 cups water 1 cup berries 1 cup raisins 1/3 cup syrup

1/4 cup brandy 8 tbsp cream 4 tbsp brown sugar pinch of salt 4 tbsp butter

One. Simmer the syrup and the brandy together in a medium saucepan on a medium heat. Add the raisins and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool. If, like me, your ability to complete most tasks is on the blink in the morning, you may want to do this the night before. Two. Bring the water with the salt to a rolling boil. Add the butter and the oats and lower the heat. Three. Simmer until the oats are tender. Four. Put 2 tbsp cream, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp raisins at the bottom of each bowl. Spoon over the oatmeal and sprinkle the berries over the top.

Esther: Absolutely scrummy. Beautiful. Actually got me into a good mood. Chris: I basically hate porridge, that’s my problem. All lumpy and horrible. I can’t stand that consistency.


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norwegian rømmegrøt

korean pine nut gruel

This is a traditional Norwegian sour cream pudding, often served at Christmas. I first came across it when a friend returned from Norway and told me how much she had hated it. It sounded too interesting for my family not to try it.

This is probably the healthiest of the three, consisting mainly of pine nuts and rice flour. Also known as jat-juk, it is considered a delicacy due to the price of pine nuts. It originated as a cold remedy and is still used as one. I substituted normal dates for jujubes.

Ingredients

Ingredients

2 pints sour cream, not the low-fat variety 11–12 tbsp flour 2–3 cups hot milk 1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp sugar melted butter sugar to garnish cinnamon

2 cups water 1 cup pine nuts 1/2 cup rice flour dissolved in 1 cup water 8 jujubes, or Korean dates, soaked in water for two hours 4 tsp honey, plus some more to garnish 1/2 tbsp sugar salt

One. Simmer the sour cream for an hour uncovered, until it reduces a little. My hour was a little on the short side, more like 20 minutes, in fact. Two. Add the flour a spoonful at a time, beating well with a whisk, until the mixture starts to come away from the edges. Skim off any fat that comes to the surface and reserve. Three. Stir in the hot milk to get a porridge-like consistency. Add the sugar and salt. Four. Serve with melted butter (or the reserved fat), sugar and cinnamon on the top.

One. Grind the pine nuts in a food processor with 1 cup of water. Add the rest of the water and grind again until smooth. Strain the pine nut water using a strainer and discard the residue. Two. Remove the jujube stones and cut them into thin slices. Combine with the honey and set aside. Three. Bring the rice flour in water to a simmer over a low heat, stirring constantly until it starts to bubble. Four. Add the pine nut mixture, the sugar and salt to taste. Cook on a low boil for two minutes. Five. Pour into bowls and add the jujubes and honey to garnish.

Esther: It tastes like yoghurt. Lovely delicate taste.

Esther: I feel like I’m eating putty. I detest it. Vile consistency.

Chris: Oh, wow, that smells bad. (Pause.) I rather like this Norwegian one. This is lovely, it’s the best.

Chris: That was very nice. Better than normal porridge, normal porridge is revolting. Tastes like semolina.


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beep beep beep this is your wake-up call words michael bennett clocky £30. The marketing refers to Clocky as ‘he’, and so will I. Ease of use: For quite a complicated beast, Clocky isn’t that hard to use. Gets you out of bed: When Clocky goes off, you get one chance to turn him off. If you hit snooze, the next time he goes, he drives off your table and runs away, forcing you to get out of bed to chase him around. He has some ability to steer around things when he runs into them, but he isn’t particularly bright, and usually just goes straight ahead. The problem with Clocky is that it’s a bit too easy to just turn him off the first time your alarm goes. I found it ended up a bit like a nuclear stalemate: the threat of it was enough to make sure I never let it happen. Sounds like: The aliens have landed. 7/10.

lumie bodyclock starter £60. This state-of-the-art dawn simulator wakes you up with light. The box shows images of smug ladies who wake up wearing makeup. It gives off a pleasant orange glow, quite like the sunrise it’s supposed to imitate. Ease of use: This clock was incomprehensibly hard to program, partly because the designers thought it would look better with only three buttons, so I was never quite sure if it was actually going to work. Gets you out of bed: The first time I tried it, I had a poor night’s sleep and slept right through the default setting, light and no noise. I have vague memories of looking at the light and thinking, “I’m sure it gets brighter than this. I’ll wait til it’s finished coming on, and then I’ll get up.” Perhaps I’m just too used to sleeping til noon to be bothered by a bit of light. Still, it seemed like a lot of money for a dimmer switch. Sounds like: Your microwave meal is ready. 3/10.

argos value £4. If a design is perfect when there’s nothing left to take away, this might be the best item on the list. Ease of use: Setting up alarms is always much easier on analogue clocks. It doesn’t really do anything your phone alarm couldn’t do, except that it’s nice to have a clock face next to your bed. Gets you out of bed: Workman-like efficiency. There’s no snooze button, which may be good, depending on your level of self-discipline. For the price of any other clock on this list, you could buy four of these and arrange them around your room, going off at staggered intervals. I’ve certainly stooped that low in the past. Sounds like: The iron cage of modernity. 7/10.


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john lewis classic £15. There’s something quite nice about having an alarm clock that looks like what you’d draw if ‘alarm clock’ came up in Pictionary. Ease of use: The hands glow in the dark, which I thought was handy until my girlfriend described them as devil eyes. I think she just took against it because it ticks so loudly, which didn’t bother me. Gets you out of bed: Even though I knew it was coming, it was still incredibly loud: loud in a way that makes you leap out of bed to turn it off before it wakes up all the neighbours. Sounds like: The school bell. 8/10.

smart cat £15. What could be cuter than a novelty alarm clock cat? Ease of use: Incredibly frustrating. Like a lot of digital clocks, it’s not very easy to set the time or alarm to begin with. However, this one really sets itself apart by loudly meowing every time you touch any button. By the time I cycled though a whole day to get the correct time, I wanted to throw it against the wall. Gets you out of bed: Well, yes, but only because it’s so annoying. Apart from the meowing, it has flashing blue lights in its ears, and nobody wants a disco when they wake up. I was desperate to make the cat shut up, but I actually couldn’t work out how. In the end, I gave up and ripped the batteries out. After this trauma, I decided I needed a little rest. Sounds like: A tiny, tinny, robotic cat. 1/10.

tea Free. Amazingly, I was woken up by my father with a cup of tea almost every single day when I was a child. This caused no end of grumbling from my much older siblings about how spoiled I was, and how, “in their day,” nothing like this happened. Ease of use: If you have a long-suffering and generous dad, nothing could be simpler. It would need a fair amount of familiarity to begin with, though I’m told not many other people actually sleep naked. Gets you out of bed: First, you have to sit up in bed to actually receive the cup, which is halfway towards standing up. After that, the time it takes me to drink a cup of tea seems to be the same as it takes me to approach full consciousness. Get your benefactor to open the curtains for an even better effect. Nothing beats being woken up by someone nice. Sounds like: The chink of teacups and the shuffle of slippers. 10/10.

nothing Free. People coped for centuries without clocks, so why can’t we? Ease of use: My method was simply to tell myself before I went to sleep that I needed to wake up before a certain time. I was bit too chicken to just rely on this, so I set an alarm too. Gets you out of bed: This worked better than I expected, and I woke up on time each morning I tried it. However, it didn’t make for a very restful night’s sleep. It was akin to the feeling you get when you have to be up for something important the next day. It’s also not very precise, and worked rather too well one morning when I awoke two hours before I needed to. Sounds like: Pride, independence and willpower. 5/10.


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pretty lovely things to put a spring in your step drop a line to free@ohcomely.co.uk by the end of april if you’d like the chance to get your hands on any of these goodies

Yellow Bird are a Montreal-based organisation dedicated to making a change via cotton-printed philanthropy. Casey and Matt work together with indie musicians to design illustrated t-shirts and the profits from their sale go to the charity of the artists’ choice. Devendra Banhart was the first to sign on and they’ve since worked with the likes of Broken Social Scene, Au Revoir Simone, the Shins and Bon Iver and Beach House, whose awesomely illustrated efforts are pictured here. The big-hearted Bird is offering a t-shirt of your favourite band, along with this rocking indie rock colouring book, so email in with your choice to be entered into the competition. You can feast your eyes on the whole range on their website: www.yellowbirdproject.com.

So what did come first: the chicken or the egg? At least you can ponder the answer at leisure with this adorable hen egg cosy by textile artist Seren Stacey and be safe in the knowledge that your breakfast will be kept cosily coddled until you reach egg-lightenment. Seren is a self-confessed textile lover who uses her gorgeous merino fleece felt for its warmth and wit. “Boiled eggs are fun!” she says and we couldn’t agree more. We have two hens in need of a home so for a chance of winning one, email us at free@ohcomely.co.uk. You can find more of Seren’s work at www.serenstacey.com.


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Pow! Kabloom! We love a green-fingered form of rebellion, so imagine how excited we were to come across these seedboms—friendly, biodegradable pods exploding with flower power and making it easy to inject a bit of cheer into unlovedlooking spaces through getting in on the act of guerilla gardening. The bombs cost £9.95 for four from www.kabloom.co.uk, and each pack contains Native Wildflower mix, Nasturtium Peach Melba, Cornfield Annual mix and Sunflower Incredible. The good news is that we have two packs to give away to responsible rebels, so for a chance of winning, email into the usual address telling us which secret spot you’d choose brighten up and why. Shhh, your secret’s safe with us.

Why not make 2011 the year you eat more vegetables, contemplate a pet goat and generally embrace the good life? If that sounds a tad overwhelming, maybe these beautifully alliterating seed cards by illustrator Kate Broughton are a good place to start. Available as Cauliflower, Carrots, Beetroot and Broccoli, each of her cards contains a pack of seeds with planting and care instructions to help your crops grow. And while you’re at it, what better way to proclaim your new-found wholesomeness, than with her stylish vege-tote-le bag? Ahem. The cards and bag are available from www.katebroughton.co.uk, but we have a complete set of seeds and a bag to offer, so for a chance of winning, email in to free@ohcomely.co.uk with your best veg-based pun. They say you should talk to your plants, so why not practise your best hairdresser’s small talk on this charming cress head planter by Polly George and reap the benefits from his deliciously curly crop of hair. Polly is a ceramic designer based in East London, whose beautifully humorous porcelain is as English as she is. Her whimsical pieces are adorned with hosts of butterflies, roses and birds and are handmade in Stoke-on-Trent. The cress head is available to buy from www.pollygeorge. com. We have one cress head to give away, so email us at the usual address and tell us what goes best with cress in a sandwich.

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Squishy yet square, with a daffodil yellow door, this favourite place pillow by Lucky Boy Sunday reminds us of the house we wanted to live in when we grew up (and secretly still do). Established one Sunday in 2007 on a bench in Copenhagen, Lucky Boy Sunday is the brainchild of two ladies named Camilla, who create beautifully strange knitted goods. Camilla and Camilla have generously given us a cushion for one lucky reader to win so for your chance to call it home, just email us. You can find stockists and further flights of fancy at www.luckyboysunday.dk.

These lovely rabbit egg cosies from the Linen Cat can’t help but make you long for brighter days, dippy-eggs and daffodils. As adorable as he is practical, he’ll certainly keep your eggs in fine style. That aside, we like the tongue-twisting qualities of a rabbit trimmed with ric rac. The Linen Cat is Beth Foster, whose beautifully simple creations are designed to show off the fabrics she loves. Everything is lovingly hand-made by her. For those who want to keep their eggs safe and warm (until it’s time to eat, that is), the cosies are available from www.thelinencat.com. We have three to give away, so email in to the usual address for a chance to win. Was there ever a nicer combination than tea and mustard? Well, yes probably, but all that will change with this nostalgic Colman’s teapot by Pheasant, who sell the loveliest hand-picked crafts from Yorkshire. They confess that their favourite part is sourcing, especially when the process involves “a sneaky half-pint with a pub lunch at Brymor.” This cheerful pot was handmade in Leyburn, North Yorkshire. They retail at £54.00 from their website, www.pheasantmailorder.co.uk, and they’ve kindly given us one to give away to a lucky reader. For the chance to brighten up your breakfast table, email in to the usual address with something nice to say about Yorkshire.


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If you go down to the woods today, be sure to go in disguise. That’s what these adorable wood-dweller brooches must have been thinking. These tiny creatures are part of a collection of art dolls, puppets and wearable art created by Argentinian Flor Panichelli, who works under the name Sweet Bestiary. She says that her whimsical work is inspired by “nature, history, children’s books, humour and all those bittersweet things in life.” Each of her little beasts is sculpted and painted entirely by hand, and are available to buy from online at www.etsy.com/shop/sweetbestiary. Flor has kindly given us three of her charming little beings to give away, so drop a line to free@ohcomely.co.uk to win.

Be still, our fluttering heart! We love this vintage tin-pin butterfly brooch by the Aviary, but if prettily flying insects aren’t quite your thing then don’t fret, as each piece is completely bespoke and custom-cut to a shape of your choosing. So whether animal, vegetable or mineral, if you’ve ever fancied a llama for your lapel or a loving tribute to your great aunt Maud, then they will do their very best to please. Born over tea and biscuits from a love of redesign and all things handmade, the Aviary specialises in utilising vintage ephemera to create their delightfully decorative home-wares, jewellery and artworks. The brooches costs £29.00 and are available from www.the-aviary.co.uk.

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Ever wondered if there was a kitchen gadget missing from your life? Well, you should have.

Do you ever sometimes pause for hours in the kitchen, hungry but unsure where to start? Do you find yourself frozen like a rabbit in the headlights by the sheer number of carbohydrate options there are in the world?

Sometimes I cry silently inside, thinking how little time we have on this earth and how many pies must remain untasted.

You need the three-in-one doughnut, waffle and toastie maker. As Hippocrates may well have said, if only he’d got his act together: “the art (of delicious carby treats) is long, life is short.” He was saying, of course, that life is too short not to have a three-inone doughnut maker. I hope this helps.

Not really.

You need the avocado stoner. a, salgo para El fin de seman , bailar la beber el mojito rebilión la r salsa, y incita erica. am d su en politica

Err… what? Actually I prefer to spend my weekends reading, gardening and relaxing in a hammock.

Fine. While gardening, you discover that you have shrunk to a mere 6 inches tall. Stumbling in horror through the undergrowth, you come upon a giant caterpillar smok ing a hookah on a mushroom. He suggests that if you nibble one side of the mushroom, you will grow back to your former size.

Are you insane? Do you know how many bacteria might be living on that mushroom?

¡Dios mío! Acabas de describir mi vida. ¡Viva la revolución!

I don’t really have time for that kind of thing. And when I say, “that kind of thing,” I mean, “reading what you’ve written in that box.”

I don’t know what they’d say at the office if I turned up like this on Monday morning.

Your fiery Latin blood tells you that no revolution is complete without a good guacamole, and maybe some tortilla chips. Remember, no one likes to run out of dip in the middle of a coup, and that’s a fact.

You need the egg slicer. You must be what this gadget is designed for: someone probably dull enough to enjoy sliced boiled eggs but too busy to slice them. Have fun with this egg slicer, but not too much.

Ac tually, it’s kinda dinky being this small. I sort of lik e it.

You need a fruit guard. You need some mini vegetable brushes. We’ve all wielded a potato brush in our time, but did you ever realise you wanted an egg brush? Or a mushroom brush? With a little mushroom-shaped handle? Well how on earth do you get your comestibles clean? What? You just wash them? With your hands and some water? Madness.

words connie han, illustration steph baxter

You need a miniature whisk and cupcake cases. Unlike many, you think tiny things are cute, rather than strange, fiddly and annoying. While away hours making tiny cakes with your tiny whisk and baking them in tiny cases, and invite your fairy friends round for a lovely tea party. Adorable!

You enjoy maintaining the status quo, and it distresses you when the status quo of your carefully packed lunch is harshly disrupted by other heavy objects in your bag. And when I say “disrupted harshly” I mean “squished into a shapeless pulp.”


gsm europe: +33 5 58 700 700

natasha knit - tam denim

live . learn . grow – elementeden.eu


Oh Comely magazine issue 5  

Oh Comely is a print magazine that makes people smile, full of quiet moments and stories. Read it with a cup of tea or a toddy. Subscribe he...

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