ISSUE NO. 5 FEBRUARY 2016
tales of the EMPOWERED ISSUE 5
Connie Campbell COVER PHOTOGRAPHER
INSIDE COVERs PHOTOGRAPHER
RIGHT PAGE ILLUSTRATOR theillustratedemily.com
Published 2017 Founded 2015 Creative Director Kathrina Wainstok Chief Editor Melissa Legarda-Alcantara
Get creative & get connected www.talesmagazine.co.uk Instagram: mag_tales Twitter: talesmags Facebook: /magtales #talesmagazine
welcome “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” - Marianne Williamson
Welcome, readers, to the fifth issue of
We dearly wanted our first issue of the new year — a political toughie, in all honesty — to be launched on a strong and resonant note, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Enter our theme: Empowered. Because our creativity is our power. Between these pages, you can find metaphorical tales of oppressed societies who find sweet liberation in the art of dance. Autobiographical tales of moving abroad and finding universal power in language. Fearless tales of a child’s magical evenings in a ghostly world. These tales are brought to life alongside stunning visual artworks, curated for your delight. From glimmering Thai temples hinting at the mysterious and divine, to bright illustrations that capture the potency of friendships formed on the cusp of adolescence, you will find food for the soul in every blink of the eye. More power to you. Enjoy. Melissa and Kathrina
check out some of our past issues
all hallows' eve
contents Sky People ........................................................... 12 by photographer Dmitrij Vasilenko
Bloom ....................................................................... 88 by director Jesse Gassongo-Alexander
The Sex Kitten & The Bunny Girl .................... 22 by illustrator ZoĂŤ Scammell
The Bloom response .............................................. 92 by illustrator Erin Aniker, Ieva Ragauskaite & Barbara Malagoli
Revolutions ......................................................... 26 by writer Vincent J.S. Wood Cuba Smooth ...................................................... 34 by photographer Alex John Brown & fashion stylist Bea Linton Gender Fluidity................................................... 44 by photographer Talitha Khachik Body Hair & Me.................................................. 50 by writer Sara Jafari Flame in the Mist ............................................... 54 by photographer Dmitrij Vasilenko Consuming and Conquering ........................... 62 by photographer Connie Campbell Chrome and Black.............................................. 70 by writer Martin P. Burns UNFINISHED ...................................................... 82 by photographer Daniel Adams
UNFINISHED continued ........................................ 98 by photographer Daniel Adams The Power of Silence ............................................ 116 by illustrator and writer Matthew Tate The Twilight Trinkets and The Little Maiden ... 128 by writer David Morales & illustrator Valan Sharp Why Blank Doesnâ€™t Mean Empty.......................... 134 by photographer Dmitrij Vasilenko An Encircled Potency ............................................ 142 by Writer Martin P. Burns
sky people Lithuania, Siauliai, Hill of Crosses Dmitrij Vasilenko WWW.DMITRIJ.CO.UK INSTAGRAM dmitrij.co.uk
PHOTOGRAPHER & STYLING
MAKE UP & HAIRSTYLE
the sex kitten
Struggling to fit into the glossy magazine ideal of an empowered, energised woman, I ofen find myself acting out a somewhat ridiculous impression of one. My Bunny Girl, an ironic image of empowerment, is embracing her beautiful self but finding the process extremely bewildering. Tales Magazine asked contributors to find their inner beast. It would seem my inner beast is some kind of rabbit in the headlights.
the bunny girl
Iâ€™m a London based illustrator fascinated by natural history and the bizarre relationships between animals and humans, from Soviet space dogs to cat weddings to poodle topiary. A dark but joyous sense of humour runs through much of my work. This year I have had work published in the Cheltenham Illustration Awards Annual 2016 and was among those selected for special exhibitions at The Wilson Art Gallery and The London Book Fair. Following my MA in sequential design from the University of Brighton I developed a love of storytelling and am currently working on a weird picture book involving mole people. For more information about my current projects please take a look at my website.
ZoĂŤ Scammell ILLUSTRATOR
WWW.ZOESCAMMELL.COM INSTAGRAM zoescammell TWITTER zoescammell FACEBOOK Zoe Scammell Illustration
Revolutions by Vincent J.S. Wood
A short story about not letting the bastards grind you down.
Vincent J.S. Wood CREATIVE WRITER
vincentwoodwriting.weebly.com TWITTER TheVinceWood FACEBOOK vincentwoodwriting
Imagine, for a moment you are happy. Truly happy. Not just the feeling of contentment some get from knowing everything is in order, but an allencompassing wave of euphoria that is often far too fleeting. Of course, no one is truly happy all of the time, but it is these flashes, these rare punctures of the norm, that we must seek out and stitch together in order to make life worth living.
Initially, people didn't know how to react to that declaration. But when the news trickled through the population that their most beloved and prized institution of the National Ballet was being
Imagine you are in the midst of one of those. Let it boil and rise to the top. Each step and movement brings the toxicity to the surface and oozes it out of the skin. Dance your sins away. You dance so long the sweat dries and crystallizes and all you need to do is wash away the impurity and see all the folly and regret slide down the drain. But for now, you remain moving amongst the rest of the sweating, gyrating bodies trying to dance themselves clean and for those few hours of pumping, pounding beats, you are free.
ransacked by the regime, they took to the streets and headed for the squares, town halls and parks of the cities - but this was no march. It had more of a carnival feel to it as the massed crowds started to chant and sing, some with instruments, some with radios and boom boxes, but all dancing, dancing, dancing.
Unlike most, I know how to seek these moments out. They come to me in whispers and secrets and I follow dangerous trails and clues in order to come by them. Some might think me insane for risking my life for such glancing blows of joy, but what is life if you live it without a sincere smile?
Those who knew how to twirled and pranced with grace and finesse, whilst those who didn't swayed and gyrated to the beat as best they could, swarming through the boulevards and alleys and converging as one in a snaking body of movement. Of course, the regime was not prepared to falter at the first true challenge to their power and so met the protests with swift and decisive force.
Most weren't truly bothered when the regime rolled into town, we'd seen it all before and this was just the same thing with different colours on their uniforms and tanks. We weren't allowed to vote before so no one cried out in anger when they said we couldn't do that. Few of us prayed because it is hard to believe in a god in a country so desolate and forgotten as ours, so no one complained when that was taken away from us. There was no shouting and screaming when we were told what jobs we had to do, there was no choice in the first place. But, when the people were told they could not dance, it was one of the darkest and bloodiest days in our history.
Such was the noise and energy that very few realised the carnage that had begun being wrought upon them as the rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire matched that of the crowdâ€™s dancing, and it was only as the sound started to die away that others then realised they were jigging in the blood of those who had
fallen ahead of them and even then, few fled or dissipated. Many surged forward into the spaces made for them by the bullets knowing that one was waiting for them too, but if they could not dance on then what was the point of living on?
sit stony-faced and carry on with the revolution in my mind. On the days I plan on going that step further, on performing that which is denied to us, it can be hard to maintain that cold, unfeeling façade knowing that later I should be manifesting unacceptable thoughts into a physical actuality.
Undeterred, those with guns kept firing and firing until the bodies piled high, and when the crowds thinned enough, eventually the signal came through to move amongst them in order to crack skulls and break legs. If the dissenters would not stop dancing, then they would make it so they could not dance.
* I’m on my way there now, in amongst the security details and the ministry men who are commuting home from their offices after a hard day of creating and enforcing ludicrous rules designed at keeping them in opulence and us under oppression. I sit across the train carriage from a prime example of one of these fine, upstanding servants to our country. A real toad of a man oozing into the seats either side of him like the human blob of margarine he is, legs wide apart in order to maximise his spread as his tie hangs loose below his many chins. I could just yank it up to his jowls and choke out what little air is left in his cakefilled lungs.
That was years ago now, but there hasn’t been a public display of movement since then with the authorities clamping down on anyone who might even show a ripple or a quiver of movement, with
raids on flats and houses regularly and death issued to anyone who might be hiding forbidden items such as ballet or tap shoes. We have even learnt not to shiver on cold days for fear our movement could be misconstrued.
I can tell he's one of them from the epaulettes on his shoulder but, judging by his age and physique, he's never seen any action and has risen through the ranks through either his creativity for cruel policies or his ability to throw more accomplished colleagues under the bus. Either way, I could end it all now, put a stop to the career progression with a swift jerk of the wrist, but I'd be shot before the train got into the station. Instead, I just sit there with no expression, like a blank canvas that they can project whatever their ideal of a perfect citizen is, onto.
I still disobey, though. I still keep my freedoms alive in little ways. For one thing, they don’t know I’m dancing in my head, forever spinning to a tune of my own. I don’t show it, of course, I don't even smile to suggest I might be enjoying myself, I just
I ride to the end of the line like this, mask intact all the way like a character in kabuki whose true expressions cannot be seen beneath the brightly coloured lacquer. I muse for a moment about the irony of all this hiding of emotions so that I may get to a safe place where I
can express myself, and I contemplate the strange logic behind it. If I weren’t so well trained, a bitter smile might have played across my lips. I disembark in an industrial part of town and circumnavigate two square blocks to make sure I’m not being followed before heading directly to the leather factory some 20 minutes walk, at a brisk pace at that, from the station.
then and only then, may we consider slumping in a corner or up against a wall where a few words or greetings may be risked but never a name. Names are too dangerous. Y o u mayask what’s the point, w h y r i s k all t h e fear a n d the p a i n when y o u can’t even share a name? But you have to do it, even when the days are tough, especially when the days are tough, because we must do what we have to in order to make sure we are the person we want to be even if that means putting yourself in danger because if you’re not living on the edge, you’re just taking up space. We must all sometimes hold ourselves up to the light and if we remain completely opaque, then what have we become?
A grim, square building, made for practicality and little else, the factory had a tannery and drying rooms filled with machines for stretching and pressing, alongside barrels and vats of pungent chemicals and racks upon racks of animal hides in different states of preparation for different purposes. The sound of production was deafening and it stank of putrefaction and death. This is what made it so perfect for our own needs. The whirring, clunking, clicking and clacking drowned out the thudding of our feet as we span ourselves into a frenzy, it drowned out the joy and the laughter of knowing that this was a revolt, our tiny act of rebellion. The smell covered that of sweat and fear, a rancid mixture we always ended up reeking of. At the back was a large room of drying racks, sometimes stacked with skins, that could be rolled to either side to make space for our physical disobedience.
Leaving is a silent, drifting affair as people break off in ones and twos, circle the block to make sure they’re not under surveillance and then head to where they came from, back to the silent façade of compliant citizenship and quiet acquiescence.
There was no reason or rhyme to what we did, we just danced to the songs in our own ears and sometimes we would follow others. It didn’t matter, there was no authority here, just free will and the will to be free. We do not speak when we are here, we do not need to speak. It is our bodies that do the talking, that tells us we are amongst friends, that tell us as long as we keep moving everything will be alright.
My return journey sees less of the insidious government slugs and more of the unresponsive drone type who have fallen into line under the regime. The sort of nice people who don’t want to kick up a fuss and won’t speak a word when they see their neighbours dragged away. Good people who just want to be polite and keep their heads
When our feet blister and ache from the pain, when movement becomes arduous rather than a joy,
down and noses out of other people’s business. I have no time for polite people: polite people don’t make any noise; polite people don’t change the world.
regime figured out they could distract us. It didn’t take a lot to do it either. Short, bold words next to large pictures of what they wanted us to see were put everywhere and they shut down anybody or anything that was prepared to explain things to us in length. I try to remember a time before brevity broke into our conversations as I stare at the slogans plastered all over the train carriage. I don’t see the toad today, but there are plenty of other stern faces of uniformed authority to make me want to get off as quickly as possible. I circle the two blocks at pace and head over to the factory in as natural a manner as I can muster. Although caution is key, it’s best to look as though you should be there rather than checking over your shoulder and giving the game away. The workers don’t look up when you come in, neither through a sense of complicity nor plausible deniability but rather that they have quotas to fulfil and they’d rather not be declared enemies of the state by means of being considered lazy or feckless.
These meet-ups only happen once a week, sometimes even less than that when the political situation becomes stirred up, but it is enough to keep me going, just the right amount of sustenance for the soul so that I may keep the darkness at bay and have something to look forward to rather than allowing my mind to play with the thought that maybe all of this is pointless. As long as it still brings me joy, as long as it still excites me then there is something to do, something to get out of bed for. It helps me pass each day knowing that I am one closer to the next time I am free, the next time I can let my soul soar, if only for a little while.
So eager was I to begin, that as soon as I was in the back room, I sprung into life off the dusty floorboards as I slammed my boots into their creaking grooves not even bothering to take them off as I twisted and arched like an angry cat, hackles up, claws on end, pouncing and prancing in a staccato rhythm, blissfully unaware that this would soon be cut short by the other boots storming in and taking hold of my flailing limbs.
The days go by without time passing. I am not aware of what happens, I simply get through it feeling nothing; no pain, no joy, just the inner workings of an automaton. That is until some preordained moment, a time I have subconsciously committed to memory that I have deemed close enough to the event that I may start dwelling upon thoughts of its approach.
It was the very things that we thought made us safe that brought about our downfall. The noise of the machines covered the footfall of the soldiers who strode through our sanctuary and not a single worker moved, or even flinched, as they broke into our fantasy realm, too engrossed in their work. This absorption remained as not one lifted their eyes as we were frogmarched out and thrown into the back of an idling van. This was it, this was the moment our revolution of revolutions ended.
Bright colours and loud noises, that is how the
There was no trial nor deliberation. We were merely told that our actions were considered such an obscene insult that we would be executed in the public square so as to make an example of us, so as to show the world disobedience would not be tolerated and the leaders would not be questioned. No one cried out or wept when this proclamation was delivered to us, we all knew the risks and, perhaps deep down, we all knew that this moment was an inevitability. We had chosen death over a life without creative expression the minute we had set foot in that leather factory and the most we could muster now were a few sombre nods in recognition of this. * The day of the execution comes and we are led as a group to the back wall of the old central church, now army barracks, where a small wooden platform has been built. We are placed in front of a thronging crowd, all of whom fall silent when they lay their sights upon us, all knowing that just a few short years ago they were dancing and laughing and singing and now they were watching us being put to death for something that used to come to them so naturally. A few of us condemned refuse the blindfolds offered to us by the waiting firing squad. We want to see the people who would kill a human being for the folly of frivolity. We want to watch if they flinch when they pull the trigger.
This obviously leads to some confusion amongst their ranks as the next order is not uttered but a momentary silence hangs in the air and so I seize upon the juncture and fix my eyes on the gun barrel
Now unshackled, we stand with our heads up and our chins out. We will not be cowed by death even if it does scare us. The sheer anger of being denied, denied a life, denied joy, denied the right to dance, leads me to a strange serenity that I have never felt before, not whilst at rest and not even whilst dancing. When the order for our executioners to raise their weapons is barked at them from some anonymous uniform, I too raise my arms, arching them high above my head, fingertips pointed but not touching each other and balancing on one leg, the other thrust out before me.
Soon there is a roar as deafening and vicious as anything I have ever heard, but I still do not see where this raging wave of sound is emanating from because all I can see is the darkness of the hollow gun. It is too loud for me to hear the command to shoot and I do not see the object that grazes my standing leg, but I feel the hot liquid spring from my thigh and trickle down my shin. And yet, I still do not halt my movement. All I wanted to do was dance. I am damned if they are going to stop me now!
directly in front of me and keep my gaze on it as I begin to spin with all the fury and power that the instant has inspired within me. Noise breaks out in the crowd but I do not see where it comes from, so determined am I not to lose my mark and to keep the pirouette going as long as possible. Orders are shouted from somewhere but not to fire at us, it is for something else and at that, the crowd grow louder. They are disquieted and will not be subdued, but still I rotate.
Shot by Photographer Alex Brown this editorial is as colorful and funky as the fashion itself. From the backdrop of Cubana in Waterloo in London, this photo shoot takes advantage of the Caribbean secret in amongst the hustle and bustle of Waterloo. Playfully styled by Bea Linton, models Glykeria Kissa, Chioma Ehiemere, Giboh David.
Alex John Brown PHOTOGRAPHER
FASHION STYLIST, MAKE UP AND HAIR STYLIST
Glykeria Kissa Giboh David Chioma Ehiemere MODELS
INSTAGRAM alexjohnbrown ShorterThanYourAverageModel gbooggie
Left: Jacket - Designer Shara Johnson, Bralet - Designer Giulia Pandolfino 33
Left: Dress & skirt - Designer KRS Below: Jacket and Trouser - Designer Shara Johnson, Bralet - Designer Giulia Pandolfino, Footwear - Finsk by Julia Lundsten
Below: Jacket and Skirt - Designer Shara Johnson, Bralet - Designer Giulia Pandolfino Right: Dress - DEPLOY demi-couture
ZoÃ« Scammell ILLUSTRATOR
WWW.ZOESCAMMELL.COM INSTAGRAM: ZOESCAMMELL TWIBER: ZOESCAMMELL FACEBOOK: ZOE SCAMMELL ILLUSTRATION Right: Jacket and Skirt - Designer Shara Johnson Bralet - Designer Giulia Pandolfino Mens Vest and Trousers - Designer KRS
Below: Dress - Designer Shara Johnson Left: Jumpsuit, Blazer, Designer Deviyani, Cockcroft, Hat, Designer KRS
Above Left: Playsuit - Designer KRS, Footwear - ASOS Above right: Dress - Designer Ledina Gashi, Footwear - Finsk by Julia Lundsten Right: Dress - Designer Shara Johnson
gender fluidity Talitha Khachik PHOTOGRAPHER
talithakhachik.com INSTAGRAM TalithaKPhotography FACEBOOK TalithaKhachikPhotography
"A comment on my generations willingness to talk, openly, about gender issues and to be accepting of others"
Body Hair & Me Sara Jafari
CREATIVE WRITER www.sarajafari.com TWITTER sarajafari
“What do you mean, ‘do I know I have a beard?’ Of course I fucking know.” The girl opposite me flinched, expecting a sixty year old woman to cower away when asked a stupid question with the intention to humiliate. It was probably a dare. “Sorry… I thought…” she mumbled some pointless words. I could see her friends in the distance, sniggering. “If you have nothing to post then I suggest you leave.” The girl almost ran away. I think she was about to cry. Stupid girls. “Next!” I shouted. “Can I get this sent first class please?” A man asked, avoiding my eyes before looking directly at my chin. I sighed but stood up straight, and held my head high. A couple of years ago I may have cowered behind my counter, asked Rashid if I could take a five minute break and cry in the toilets. Not anymore. ***
It was when I was little girl, seven years old to be precise, that I realised I was a bit different from the white girls at my school. My arms already had brown hair growing from them at speed, and whilst no one said anything to begin with, I felt self-conscious for the first time in my life. In summer, I’d put my school jumper on, preferring sweaty armpits to the stares and giggles. One day, without really thinking, I found one of my dad’s razors in the bathroom. It had bits of his coarse black stubble on the blade. I gave it a quick rinse (too quick, really, in hindsight) and went to town on my arm hair. And you know what? The next day, I felt great. That was until it grew back three days later. The stubble felt tickly and uncomfortable when I had long sleeves on, and yet if I had a t-shirt on, when the breeze hit my arm and my little stubs of hair tried to stand up it felt weird. A bit like how I imagine a cat lacking a tail feels when he’s happy and wants to show it. Anyway, that was how the cycle started. From the ages of thirteen to twenty-five it felt like the hair would never stop growing. My daily regime was to pluck the beard and moustache into submission, shave the legs and underarms, put hair removal cream on my neck and epilate my finger hair. My weekly regime was a trip to the salon in which I got my belly and bikini line waxed. Every month it was eyebrow threading time. I did this for fifty-eight years. It was only in bed reading the paper one day that I suddenly asked myself: Why? It cost me hundreds, maybe even thousands, a year to tame my hair, and it wasn’t even for myself.
The cycle drained me of my time, energy and, in some ways, happiness. I became in some ways ungrateful, seeing myself as a monster; I cursed God for doing this to me. Deep down I knew it was superficial, but society seems to deem women as pretty only if hairless. When did you last see a model on the cover of Vogue sporting a ‘tache? Or at the very least, a bit of fluff above her lip? Never? No? Neither have I. Even the trendy ‘alternative’ magazines which show women with belly rolls and their pink coloured underarm hair fail to show a woman with real hair issues. It’s all well and good to show a girl with light blonde, almost white, body hair and call that progressive. But what about the thick coarse underarm hair, the kind that gains an afternoon shadow two hours after shaving? What about that, indeed. Anyway, I digress. I always do this when I’m pent up. Reading the paper, I saw a silly little article about how more and more young men were growing their beards long. And I thought, if they can do that why can’t I? I started to question who I was trying to impress with all my waxing, shaving, plucking, threading and epilating. I certainly wasn’t impressing myself. I was fed up. Those bearded men weren’t looking at shaved actors and thinking, ‘oh I need to look like them.’ I had been a victim of sexism — from myself — for all these years. Since putting down the razor, I have taken control of my body. Something I wasn’t even aware of, something I wasn’t in control of for fifty-eight years. I’m no longer hiding myself. Or comparing myself. I am me and that is fine. Better than fine: it is great. And if people stare, I stare right on back.
flame in the mist Inspired by Erich Maria Remarque novels
Dmitrij Vasilenko WWW.DMITRIJ.CO.UK INSTAGRAM dmitrij.co.uk
Dmitrij Vasilenko PHOTOGRAPHER
Kevin Callaby MODEL
consuming and conquering Connie Campbell PHOTOGRAPHER
conniecampbell.format.com INSTAGRAM concampbellphotography
Water can come in many forms, from the strengths of the sea to the calmness of a lake. Itâ€™s capacity to change and adapt is vital. My subjects are consuming and conquering this powerful element.
She is water. Powerful enough to drown you, soft enough to cleanse you, deep enough to save you. ADRIAN MICHAEL GREEN
Chrome and Black I landed in Japan a week ago. Since then, I had begun a profession that was entirely new to me. Yet this was not what brought me here. I had become immersed in a culture as alien to me as if I’d landed on Mars, but this was merely an invigorating by-product of my motive for moving. I had fallen in love, but I hadn’t moved to Tokyo to fall in love. I’d moved here to learn the language. Life in London had reached a bland impasse. My job at a South American restaurant was prosaic, to say the least. I lived in a house that certainly couldn’t be called a home. I wasn’t in a relationship other than the occasional one-nighter that I threw across my path. So I’d plumbed the depths of my childhood memories to remind myself of the things I’d always wanted to do. A chance was in front of me, to achieve one of these juvenile wants. By calling them juvenile, I do not mean to belittle them. It’s often the desires of the young that are stronger and more genuine than those of the adult population. I’d wanted to be a palaeontologist. Then an Egyptologist. Then, simply, Indiana Jones. I’d wanted to win Wimbledon. I’d wanted to learn the fiddle. (The fiddle, not to fiddle.) I’d also held a long fascination with the Japanese language, imagining myself conversely fluently in it to the amazement of other Westerners. There’s a power in words that’s undeniable. You can bridge worlds with a language. If you want to understand a different culture, learn its language first. There is a chicken-and-egg argument revolving around culture and language, but for me the latter informs the former. What people say decides how they do it. A new language has always been an electric jolt to my brain, like a self-installed upgrade. For me, that’s the power of foreign languages. They’re a form of expansion. When asked what superhero power they’d wish for, most people go for the obvious: flight,
electricity, invisibility, sexual infatuation. I would choose the knowledge of every language. It’s different for everybody, of course. I’m not saying there isn’t any power in the essentials of work, society or love. Love is said to make the world go ‘round, after all. Back in the UK, I was in love with an unattainable friend nicknamed Suede, the upshot being that it was preventing me from forming any meaningful relationships. On the flight over here I had written him a letter to profess my feelings. They were powerful words indeed and I was hoping he’d find them reassuring, if nothing else. The power of love was nowhere to be found on the to-do list for my new life in Japan. I had an abundance of newness to deal with, so looking for dates (or worse, a boyfriend!) hadn’t even crossed my mind. It’s always the way, no? I’d met T on my second night in Tokyo and within twenty-four hours we were using that word so hesitantly uttered by most: love. It was a surprise, but it was a beautiful one. The power of somebody loving you is the support it offers. I have always backed me, wagered on myself, but it takes it out of you after a while. Having somebody share the burden of belief in you as a writer and an artist – and one who’s HIV+ – is lifesaving. After four days, T had returned to Hawaii. I had other distractions, anyway. A society as immense as Tokyo’s has a power too. As I’ve said, it wasn’t my reason for transplanting myself to the other side of the world, but it was definitely something I could channel. I’ve long believed
that a crowd is an enervating notion. As for work... well, work’s good for the soul, isn’t it? I would be teaching at an English school called The Ritz, thereby (hopefully) imbuing a power to the locals. How easy it would be after putting myself through an emotional, weekend-long introduction to life in an unknown land... Well, only time would tell. It was June, so half of the year had solidified into memory already. New Year was long gone, but it was still a new era, even if only for me. I was on day two of my qualifying program and I was struggling already. It wasn't so much that I was tired. A coffee from the aptly-named Delirium sorted that out. It was just that I stank. Taking a shower at the house I'd stayed in last night had never been a possibility due to the homeowner’s confusion and suppressed outrage. I was wearing the same clothes as the day before. I was sweaty. There'd been some lovin' on Monday night. I needn't go on. What an impression I must've made at work. An astute colleague told me he'd noticed my shameful wearing of the same clothes. However, still being a bit tipsy did in fact help at the beginning of the day. I was here in this country of rising suns and honourable codes and faces-behind-the-fan to learn the language. One week hadn’t even passed and here we were having an Indonesian class. Ya (yes); Indonesian. Bukan (no), I suddenly didn’t want to stay here, thinking midway through the day that a further move to Indonesia would be even better. I was a great escapist. The language was mellifluous, the promise of sun was greater and if someone had bought a ticket for Mercedes, Kimchee and I there and then, we would've been "sayonara suckers!" (These two wonderful ladies had been my co-conspirators all day, the other naughties at the back of the bus.) There’s a power in friendship, one that’s irreplaceable. The weighty Arm Band on my left wrist testified to that. T had been the latest addition, a thin, red, leather cord that snaked over and in between all the other gifted bracelets. An artisan’s bloodied bindweed.
The girls and I decided to muddle on with Tokyo. Don't misunderstand me: this place is incredible. It's just not easy. As if I was expecting that. Of course, the challenge had only been exacerbated by the romantic big-dipper of the weekend past, but even without that unexpected interlude, I still would've needed my wits about me. After day two’s training, I took a trip up to Oh-My, where my future English school was, to watch a real-life lesson. It may only have been thirty minutes by train, but the squash of people did nothing to hasten the journey or improve my mood. Whoever said it was like sardines in a can must have been a lone fish in a pretty luxurious can. It's weak as an analogy. A dozen baguettes in a condom. An elephant in a matchbox. A world in a grain of sand. It has to be experienced to be believed. Everyone here has a story about someone who's fainted, broken a wrist, had a rib snapped. You can well believe it. I have ascertained that the best thing to do is find a wall, or a corner, and stay near the door. Go with the flow. Don't even think of venturing down into the carriage. It's a circle of hell. I was spat out of the train into the circle that was Saitama. This is where Oh-My was, and oh my! The area was a breath of fresh air after central Tokyo. Trees, plazas, fountains, shiny new buildings without an iota of grime. The building my offices were in was called Astro City. Looking up at it, you could imagine it taking off. I'll be happy working in Oh-My, I thought. Happy as long as I can make a better impression here as well. I felt myself nodding off as I watched the lesson progress. The teacher kindly commented on how stuffy it was in this torturously small classroom, but my lack of rest had caught up with me. I was back in stuffed-up, greenless, plazaless, fountainless, grimeful Hatagaya by eight and asleep by half past. When your batteries need recharging, you have no choice but to plug yourself into bed. *
The rest of the week went much better. Almost. I had a crisis of confidence early, limping into last place in a group activity. My classmates and tutors picked me up, piece-by-piece. Satoka, an invigilator of sorts, admired the way my praise for a student came ribbonwrapped in a bouquet of quintessential English terms. Everything was splendid, superb, fantastic, marvelous! Heavens bless our vocabulary. New Yorker Rich said he wasn't worried about me at all, which meant a lot coming from a Big Appler and someone who'd already transplanted his life to Tokyo. I multitasked in a roleplay and the tutor Patrick admitted it was something he hadn't thought of, another way of conserving time. Thank you catering industry for that one. We did some structural practice using nonsense language and Patrick commented that "... it does have a bit of class with your accent". A combination of being born in Royal Leamington Spa and being raised on Edward Lear. I was also given my name in katakana, which felt like being admitted into some secret society. Just me and every other gaijin in Japan. The writer Ursula Le Guin always maintained that there was power in a name. Two colleagues of mine put on characters for a lesson role-play. Mercedes' Megumi was fine, but Kimberley's Taki only brought out the giggles. It was a name that would be hard to shake off. The power of a nickname is an endearing one, for it strengthens a relationship in a matter of syllables. A private joke is an embrace to both the heart and the ego.
first tremors I felt occurred smack in the middle of the presentation. You couldn't make it up. Tokyo is apparently on something called the Tokai warning, meaning the city is preparing itself for the really big one, which is expected to centre on the city’s bay. If it hits the west, Mt Fuji will explode. If it hits the east, the bay will turn into a gigantic tsunami. I dread to think what will happen if it hits in the middle. In theory, you should feel powerlessness in the face of such gigantic forces, but I merely felt a part of the bigger picture. My ego must’ve been on the up from all those nicknames and hearty embraces. At least I got to try a survival muffin, vacuumpacked in a metal canister. It was a year out-of-date, but I still didn't feel like eating again until the next day. As a class, we started the weekend early. I already knew that when a trio of us said hai to a beer afterwards, that one beer was going to be somewhat epic. It’s hard to fight the powerful influence of alcohol. We strolled east into Akasaka, as upmarket as Sloane Square or Rodeo Drive, if not more so. 'We' consisted of myself, Canadian Kimchee (aka Taki) and Mercedes from Hawaii. This island was cropping up all-too-frequently now. We bonded over how incredible Black Menthol Edge 8 Marlboro cigarettes were. Elegant, supermodel-slim, tasting of Trebors, half-grey and half-white, and eminently (if not frighteningly) smokable. One beer was about seven pints each, with five bottles of sake to share and plenty of cheesu-fonderu. The survival muffin had worn off. I had to become a VIP member to get the happy-hour discount, but that's hardly a great onus. One week in Tokyo and a VIP karaoke-er already. Impressive. Friday was the beginning of the end, at least for our training. Some of us (last night's trio) were struggling. Curry around the corner for lunch helped, and if a New Yorker recommends an eating joint, you go with it. En masse we arrived and en masse we were impressed. There is something quite magical about a waiter of Sri Lankan extraction talking fluent Japanese. He was an instant idol to me. This is what I was striving to do, confound others with a dichotomy
* There is another power felt in Japan that comes as a bit of a shock to somebody from the United Kingdom. We were given a talk about earthquake survival: how to deal with them, how not to panic, what to do in advance. It was sobering, which to be fair was probably what I needed. Unbelievably, the
between my appearance and the voice that came out from within. Our last lesson practice arrived and the pressure was on. By the time we were all finished, with contracts signed and praise given, there was nothing left in us. We could barely move, as if we were reluctant to go our separate ways into the scary wide world. Such a shame we're not all being sent to the same school, a kind of educational Utopia. Even as tired as I was, I still stepped out of The Ritz’s headquarters with an innate sense of being a touch more evolved than a week ago. The beer we should have had at lunch was sipped in a mock-Texan bar, with pitchforks and cowboy paraphernalia on the wall and Conway Twitty on the stereo. Only in Japan could they do something so authentic and so tacky at the same time. The Tex-tack was open 'til 25:00, which is a novel way of saying one in the morning. Legend tells of a bar that's open 'til 28:00, but I'll confirm that when I see and/or frequent it. Where does that time-telling stop? 48:00 would be two days from now, I suppose. Laughter was had as much as embarrassment. As a certified team of English teachers, our finest English skills were exercised. Kimchee asked about the 'things you slip on your feet'. Slippers, I guessed. What teamwork! Our students will be blessed indeed. I practiced my language drilling with Mercedes, in a more original way than taught:
* My second Saturday night in Tokyo and already I was turning down social invites. Such is the life of a hummingbird-around-town. The friends of T that I’d met were hitting the town, but the packing, moving and journeying had taken its toll on me. You bet sitting in a taxi for 35 minutes is hard work. I just wanted to scatter my belongings around my new little sanctuary, my first proper address in Tokyo. I’d finally left the hotel in Hatagaya and re-established myself in an area called Kichijoji-minamicho, which is the kind of name I’d give a pet. A pair of Siamese cats, possibly. It's in Musashino-city. I'm enamoured of the words here – have been since childhood, if I’m honest – let alone what may actually be on offer within the neighbourhood. Exhausted from folding my t-shirts up neatly and deciding where to hang my pom-poms and organising my books, I went to the Big A budget grocery around the corner and purchased all the necessary ingredients for one of my world-famous sarnies. White bloomer, blueberry jelly, shredded lettuce, alligator pear, wieners, Kraft cheese slices, cheesy onion rings... It was a beast. Needing a name, I christened it the Kraft-Krammed-Kichiwich. (Butter seems to be expensive here, hence the blueberry jam, which is about a pound a pot. Replacing butter with jam surely has to go towards getting one of my five-a-day, as well as keeping the arteries a touch cleaner.) I left the house afterwards to walk off the wieners as much as reconnaissance the area. Musashino-city is built on a very tight grid system. Imagine New York holding its stomach in and covered in azalea bushes. It's a well-organised maze, a paradox of a borough. I didn't find anything else I was looking for (i.e. landmarks) so I set myself the goal of relocating my house. Kichijoji – I found out days later – is frequently voted as Tokyo's number one area in which to live. I can see why. Combine the best elements of Camden Town, Covent Garden, Shoreditch and Knightsbridge. Mix them up with a healthy dose
Me: Is he your ex-boyfriend? Mercedes: Yes. Me: Nice full sentence, please. Mercedes: Yes, he is my ex-boyfriend. Me: So, is he your current boyfriend? Mercedes: No, he is not my current boyfriend. Me: Is he your ex-boyfriend or your current boyfriend? Mercedes: He is my ex-boyfriend. Me: What is he? Ad infinitum. It drove Kimchee to the point of hair-pulling.
of high-class boutiques and enough neon to frighten Liza Minelli and there you have it: the perfect place to live. There was enough going on here to occlude any homesickness. I will miss the British music scene, obviously, as music has a power all of its own. It acts as a vector for feelings that would otherwise be too painful or intense to face up to. My friends and family, also, but I shouldn’t have to state that anymore. Maybe Zovirax, too, as I had come out in a grotesque cold sore due to the classic combination of fatigue, stress and kissing. Oh, and fishfingers. I can survive though.
stroking hand. Inokashira is apparently one of the top spots in which to see the hanumi, the cherry blossom festival. It's another reason I wanted to come to Japan. When the sakura erupt in a fortnight of fluttering pink petals, the country allegedly goes loco. The two weeks of unimagined beauty are said to represent the ephemeral quality of life itself. Blink and you’ll miss it. Rejoice in it while you have the chance. There is a cultural myth behind this word sakura. It is omnipresent in this country, in the names of products and places and people. The Japanese also know the power of a word, to the extent that they have a belief system that revolves around it: kotodama. Their nature rests on it. Kotodama can be translated many ways, but ‘soul of language’ is a widelyaccepted one. It is a central concept in the country’s mythology and the nation’s religion, Shintoism. It is magical and mystical, claiming that names have power and that the sound of words can affect and influence absolutely everything. Could it be the Japanese belief in this power that drew me here without me knowing it? Though I have to wait almost a year for the next blossoming of the cherry trees, I have grabbed the opportunity to indulge in a cherry-blossom ice cream. Heaven in a cone. The choice of flavours here is mind-boggling, though. I may give soybean a miss. As an aside, I have also found the tennis courts, so it wasn't senseless carrying my racquet around all day. Now, I just need a partner. I was already using my brain as if it was vacating my head tomorrow and I knew I had to balance this with some physical exercise that wasn’t horizontal. Tennis has been my go-to sport for years. As evening settles here in the park the atmosphere becomes even more relaxed. Lovers sit together on the benches that I was using to write missives. Lights on the bridge twinkle, the fountains tinkle, the cool breeze stirs pot-pourri from out of the trees. It's altogether too romantic here to be hitoribocchi. On my own.
* I spent the following day off in the local park. I have found my spot here in the verdancy of Inokashira-koen. Everybody needs a location that grounds one’s self. Mine is on a bench with a vista of a huge pond, fountains, wooden bridges and deepgreen woods beyond. It really is remarkably serene. I have made another friend, too, a black terrapin adorned with yellow and red stripes, rather like one of Tokyo's taxicabs. He is trying valiantly to crawl out of the lake to see me. There are sausage-sized dragonflies, dynamic in piebald. The pigeons here are much cleaner and better groomed than their London counterparts. They even have all their toes! With the sheer amount of amiable wildlife here, I felt like I was in a Japanese animated movie. This is entirely apposite as the Ghibli Musuem is just a stroll away. Strangely, you can only reserve your tickets at Lawsons, which is basically a 7-11. They must've struck a deal. Sitting here now, I am halfexpecting the birds and the beasts to start talking to me. The koi carp are making obscene gestures with their mouths, as if desiring a snog. It's amazing how tame and intelligent they are. They come right up to the water's edge when they sense a figure, waiting for the breadcrumbs. And they don't shy away from a
stomach was forcing me out and I thought, well, here's an adventure. A walk to the Big A in the middle of a typhoon. I couldn't get back quick enough. The streets were empty, for Japanese standards, which meant I could see about twenty people at any given moment. Umbrella skeletons littered the streets, forced up against walls and fences by the wind. It was still warm, but when one turned into a particular road and faced the oncoming gale then ouch. Walking at a 45-degree angle helped balance you out. Eventually you became accustomed to it. It's only when you return home and the mirror reveals a blown-up turkey-carcass staring back at you that you realise a typhoon certainly isn't good for the hairstyling. How did Dorothy remain so perfectly coiffured? Like I said though; that typhoon had been a small one...
* It was my first day at school. Properly. It made me think of my first real day at school. Yes, I remember that: 30-odd years ago. There are some things you don't forget. I remember I had a blue teddy-bear with a red jumper and that I wore dark-tan sandals. I walked into a lamp-post heading towards Baginton Infants. These are the things that stay with you. My first day of school in Tokyo was a blur. Maybe your senses become less acute the older you get. The adrenalin must have blurred any recollection. I do remember the feeling that the week of training I had been given had hardly prepared me for the real thing. I'm sure I shall get the hang of it. I'm English, I love the language, and I'm a writer at heart and soul. What could possibly go wrong?
So, I am a VIP member of a karaoke bar. I think you know that. Did I mention I am a gold-card holder of an internet café too? It may not mean anything here, but those little pieces of plastic in your wallet make you feel like a true member of society. Something's got to as I have neither bank account nor phone still. I was on the hunt for an internet café as my computer was doing its frequent trick of playing silly buggers. I think it just craves attention (like computer, like owner). With no phone, I was craving contact to the world I'd left behind. Tracking down a cybercafé is not as easy as I thought it would be here. You have to look high and low. High, especially, as most of them are away from the masses on the 6th, 7th, 8th floor of shopping centres. At least I taught myself how to ask for one: "Internettu ga arismasu ka? Doko desu-ka?" Survival dictates the absorption of language. The café I found was called Manboo. Loving the name already, I took the elevator up to the gods and was greeted by a bouncer. Such security, such a cordial greeting, I thought. The lighting was
Today in Tokyo: typhoon alert. I had a lesson in how to use the storm shutters every home comes equipped with. Your house becomes a kind of architectural armadillo. The lady in our local post office warned "... very big typhoon". My summer attire must have concerned her. I suppose if Kichijoji is blown away it’ll at least make the evening news over there in England. I might just get my very own Dorothy moment. Then it arrived. Tyhu. Apocalyptic rainfall. Storm shutters: shut. Hatches very much battened down. Nothing quite prepares you for the force of a typhoon (and this is a small one, I learned later). I was understandably nervous to go outside, but needs must: food, for a start. I was starving and for more than just Kraft cheese and blueberry jam. The tyhu sounded like a cavalcade of elephants, if elephants wore ironsoled Doc Martens and tap-danced. The noise was deafening. I don't know what the superlative of pitterpatter is, but that's what it was. Pitterest-patterest. I shall never moan about British weather again. Still, my
low. There was the soft thrum of electronic music. The decor was space-age black and silver, with the occasional pink neon tube light adding a splash of seedy colour. How classy, I thought. I didn't think 'how seedy' until it was too late and I was ensconced in booth number 24. (My lucky number, naturally). Even when the receptionist asked me whether I'd like a reclining leather chair, nothing suspicious ran through my naive, Western mind. When I said I just wanted to send a few e-mails, she gave me a look that was the Oriental equivalent of "...yeah, right". Only when I entered the main hall (even lower lighting, with rows of individual rooms) and started looking closely at the selection of DVDs that lined the walls did I begin to realise something was afoot. Let's call the range of movies 'special interest'. What a terribly British euphemism. Sitting in booth #24, I could hear the occasional noise (a grunt, a sigh) from other booths and the yen dropped. I wrote my e-mails pretty quick. I also put my iPod on. It's highly distracting to hear other customers having such a good time when you're sending an electronic letter to your family, extolling the virtues of Japan's cultural sights (and sounds and – yelch! – smells).
London and your delicates would be swiped before you could say 'unmentionables'. It's refreshing and wonderful to know there is still a society out there that operates on such a level of trust. * My day at school this afternoon was actually a day at two different schools. Occasionally, us Ritz teachers get sent to cover shifts in other LCs. Learning Centres. The Ritz is replete with acronyms. Today LC – sorry, school - was Shinjuku. Being very close to my home, I had no problem with that. Before my first day at Oh-My, I was told the staff was friendly and that there was a nice camaraderie about the school. This has turned out to be true. With a dash of innocence, I hoped that this would be true of all the others. Surely those who aren't of a Japanese persuasion would be eager to talk to a like-minded soul? How wrong I was. To say I was greeted with a chilly sangfroid at this school in Shinjuku is to play down the sheer lack of manners. I do not mean the Japanese staff. I mean the legion of British, American, Ozzie, Kiwi, and miscellaneous alien residents who also worked there. Shinjuku is one of the bigger, if not biggest schools. I arrived at about 12noon, walked into the staffroom and said a bright, breezy and confident "good afternoon" to the fifteen-or-so teachers lounging around. Not a single one replied. Maybe they see a lot of temporary staff come and go, but in my universe that is no excuse. Shinjuku Ritz, you should be ashamed of yourself. It certainly made me appreciate where I had been placed. Oh-My seems like a frat-house in comparison. When I relayed this to my manager the next day, he only nodded with a degree of sadness and admitted that I wasn't the first new teacher to say this. Shameful. So, let me not fudge up too frequently at Oh-My as I don't want to lose this job.
* Even in the busiest of districts here you feel entirely unthreatened. The Japanese have all manner of technology draped around their persons, like Christmas trees garlanded with mobiles and mp3s. Oversized wallets poke obtrusively out of back pockets. Theft does not seem to exist in this land. I went and dropped my laundry off the other morning and it was a joyous feeling to be able to leave it unmanned without an employee present and go off to complete another task. Time is precious here, so my groceries were bought whilst sheets and socks and shorts all tumbled away without their owner's eyes following the drum 'round and 'round and 'round. I even left my suitcase by the machine. Risk that in
Shinjuku is on my home-to-office journey. Let me tell you a few things about the train network here in Tokyo. Yes, it runs like God's clockwork. Only once have I heard of a train being delayed and that was after the earthquake that knocked out the Fukushima power-plant a year ago. If a train is late, you are allowed to demand a free taxi to take you where you are going, though of course, the Japanese are far too polite to do this. Quite how this huge metropolitan operation is run so smoothly is something of a mystery to me. I always thought Clapham Junction (as Europe's busiest station) was a bit of an annoyance, but Shinjuku is apparently the busiest station IN THE WORLD. Four million people pass through its convoluted structure on a daily basis. That takes some imagining. Train-travel is obviously ingrained into the Tokyo masses at a very young age. People rock in motion with the train, whether awake or asleep. They go with that flow I mentioned. Snippets of shut-eye are caught on every journey. At one point, I looked around my carriage at four in the afternoon and every schoolgirl was asleep, in a variety of poses. One was stood up, her head bowed and her feet super-glued to the floor. Impressive skills.
management with all the skill I can muster. An Oscarwinning performance was on the cards. This is a company that will really look after you (unlike some catering establishments I may have already named) and I don't want to jeopardise any future career I may be able to craft within their ranks. The Ritz is also a splendid passport to have. The same goes for the English language, of course. Let's hope they want to retain me. I have a few months left of my probation to show them my mettle. I am not ready to return, prehensile but trouble-making tail between my legs. Establishing one's self as a citizen isn't that easy either. To get a bank account or mobile phone or laminated alien-card you have to have the other two ... see the problem? It's a vicious triangle. Who said emigrating was easy? Oh yeah. Me. Trying to open a bank account, and failing spectacularly, begins to make you suspect that Japan doesn't actually want me here. Have I missed the boat? The government is tightening up its visa and immigration laws and you get the feeling they are reverting to before those days (around the 1850s) when Japan opened its borders to the world. Yes, they want to learn English, though begrudgingly, one feels at times. Those are the students who are being sent to The Ritz by their companies. Japan opened its gates once. Is it trying to close them again? In some sense, I can understand the feeling. This is one of the richest and most populous nations and it got there without any help from anyone, thank you very much .... Well, let there be a gap in those visa restrictions big enough for me to slink in-and-out of for at least one more year. That is how long I am giving myself to crack this lingo. If I feel like I have planted my Martian flag firmly on their soil then it will be new horizons conquered.
* My first Sunday on the rota, twelve classes to teach, twelve students waiting for my words. I called in sick. I had nothing left in the tank. I even tried to go to work but my mind and body had taken a Tokyo assault. Partly my own fault but at least I am aware of my culpability. I needed to rest. So, this is what it feels like to be overwhelmed. Strange, I didn't think I was the type to suffer this. In the past I have been told I'm too sensitive, but I never thought it was a negative thing. In fact, I always believed it was something the rest of the world could have done with: a bit more sensitivity. As Malcolm Middleton says in 'Choir', "my beginner's luck is wearing thin, I'll need to rely on skill if I'm going to win." Skill it is then. I shall have to schmooze the
Shinjuku is apparently the busiest station IN THE WORLD. Four million people pass through its convoluted structure on a daily basis. That takes some imagining.
Back home, to vent my ire and disappointment at my own financial shortcomings, I lit up a filterless cigarette, burnt off another section of my lungs and went for an evening stroll around the placid lanes of Kichijoji. I instantly perked up on taking a wrong turn and discovering an Irish pub. It's called Sullivan’s, they do fish'n'chips and have Guinness on tap. It's £9.50 a pint and probably tastes like sock juice, but it's near my house. I shall save my debut for when I really need it. Which will of course be the morning of payday. Guinness and a game of tennis, possibly not in that order. I need it to be payday to cover the expense of the latter. The going rate seems to be about £100 an hour. Quite what the courts are covered in is anybody’s guess. Emerald brick?
* The next day I was luckily teaching at another school. I could refine my award-winning performance a little more. I arrived at Shinagawa with barely ten minutes to spare before my first student. I didn't get lost. Tokyo's just big. And I was dawdling. I got to see a whole lot of the city, though, and all on an empty stomach. I save the feasts for when I really need them, such are the budgetary demands. The universe must have been in a mischievous mood. The teachers in the staffroom at Shinagawa (another rather unfriendly bunch) were talking about food. One fat, obnoxious American in particular was saying he loved nothing more than ripping into a wellcooked steak (I know, the heresy). Strange, as he was eating a salad. Steak or salad, my stomach was still grumbling with a certain amount of menace. I recalled a colleague of mine telling us that one of his students had complained to head-office about his teacher having IBS. It is easy to hear the hungry in Japan.
* Each morning and each night I take out from my wallet a small paper package on which are written my ambitions. They are duly recommitted to memory. This is how I achieve the things that I achieve. It is an exercise that works for me, so why change something that works? They are wrapped in my lucky dollar, which came back with me from a family vacation in 1989 to the state of Florida. The entire package consists of five pieces of paper. Precious and powerful words. One of them is entitled 'Tini's Tennis'. They are my rules for success on the court. Reading them the other morning, I started analysing them and realised they were entirely appropriate for all walks of life. I thought I'd share some of them.
1. Look through a luminous yellow pupil. This is my way of stating 'don't take your eye off the ball'. It may seem silly, but I remember my friend Lesley-Jane telling me one day while playing that she noticed I occasionally seemed to be looking off into the distance. At an enigmatic cloud, a particularly attractive passer-by, an interesting outfit, anything but the ball that was coming at me with interest. There is something to be said about not being swayed by distractions. I read a wonderful aphorism, which I also keep with me: "...survival starts by paying attention to what is close-at-hand and immediate. To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one's life away."
From these rules I draw strength. If you can talk yourself down from a ledge then you can talk yourself up a mountain. There will always be different aspects of life that need to be drawn upon to encourage and invigorate one’s self. The love of a good soul, the exertion of a competitive match, the succour of close friends and family, the universality of music or the confidence of an ambition. I shall add the investigation of a new language to those. It resurrects grey cells that may otherwise have lain dormant. There’s a song by Sky Ferreira called ‘Wish I Stayed’ which opens with the line “Why can’t we speak another language, one we’ll all agree on?” Now, come on, Sky. Where’s the fun – or power – in that? The power of the word, especially when written, makes me simultaneously nervous and excited because it can be found in my own hand. I’ll stay exactly where I have placed myself, I reckon.
2. Dance. Move Tini, run! Don't stand still. The world will rust around you and you with it. Keep things fresh by keeping them active. 3. Get it over the net. No showboating. I have seen Venus and Serena, two ladies I use as templates for success, succumb to this. Sometimes an easy shot that would win a point, game or match is grandstanded and it subsequently goes out. You can feel the frustration. Just return. This is the most important thing. Nobody likes a show-off, isn't that what they tell you at school? 4. Get in early, step up. Always reminds me of something my beautiful Argentine friend Vanesita once said to me a day after I thought I'd upset the powers-that-be once. "Offense is the best defense." 5. Breakfast! Can you believe I had to write that down? I had a game once with my younger brother, without having had a single morsel to eat. About half way through the match, I completely ran out of steam. It's like the joke about the Essex girl who has to wear a badge saying "Don't-forget-to-breathe. In/Out, In/Out." Eating. It works apparently.
Martin P. Burns CREATIVE WRITER
6. T says I can do anything. Listen to those nears-and-dears. Keep only the positive people.
Daniel Adams PHOTOGRAPHER
danieladams.format.com INSTAGRAM danieladamsphotography TWITTER danieladams4
Born and bred in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He discovered his love for traveling last year and takes every opportunity he gets to explore a new city or country! â€˜UNFINISHEDâ€™ is a series of works exploring his identity through his past experiences that have been projected onto models through the use of textures, colours and patterns.
The short film by Jesse Gassongo-Alexander
A curated joint film screening and exhibition, BLOOM, which is a short film written and directed by emerging young director, actor and Brit School alumni, Jesse Gassongo-Alexander. Jesse GassongoAlexander is a British film maker, actor and former graduate of the renowned Brit School for Performing Arts and is available for interviews.
summer holiday coming to an end, we realise that the sun may also be setting on a part of their youth that they will never be able to get back. The film aims to encourage further conservation around notions of self, gender, friendship, identity and immigration. Topics which seem particularly prevalent in today’s current climate.
BLOOM is a new, coming of age, short film and a triumphant exploration and celebration of teenage sisterhood. Centred around four teenage girls, Sabrina, Rianne, Tracey, and Ruby, on the cusp of adulthood during their school summer holidays. The film acts as a lens into the world of the everyday teenage girl, exploring crucial themes of friendship, sexuality, class, race and gender through a mélange of secondary school timetables, dance routines, music, and looming issues of sex and sexuality. We experience how each character grapples with these themes during this transitional period as both individuals and collectively, as girl friends. As the film draws to a close, with the girl’s
Part of the BLOOM project also includes carefully handpicking several young and up and coming female visual artists from around the world to create new pieces of art in response to the film. The artists have come from an array of different places including; London, Paris, Copenhagen, Sofia, Oslo, Moscow, Cape town, Rio De Janeiro, Wellington, Sydney & Bangkok, to name just a few. The exhibition alongside the film screening, aims to promote and support creative crosscollaboration through the concept of an international sisterhood.
Jesse Gassongo-Alexander DIRECTOR
bloomthefilm.com INSTAGRAM bloomthefilmuk
This event, compromising of a joint screening and art exhibition of response works from selected artists, is carefully curated and displayed within a series of lighting and plant-based installations by recent St Martins, Brit School and UAL graduates. The event took place at Copeland Gallery, within the 4,400sq foot warehouse, where all the art works from the various different artists will be on show alongside the film.
BLOOM is currently completing the rounds at various film festival circuits. The film was originally shown at a taster event back in London in September 2016 and in November, 2016, at the Copenhagen Pix Film Festival. This event is the first, official launch of the full film which will be released online for streaming towards the end of 2017.
the bloom response This triptych was created in response to the short film ‘Bloom’ by emerging actor and director, Jesse Gassongo-Alexander who approached me, alongside several other artists, and asked us to create a piece of artwork in response to watching the short film. The short film, 'Bloom', immediately struck a chord with me, as I’m sure it will with many. Evoking feelings of nostalgia, it drew me back to my younger, teenage years and the amazing, strong women who I’m still lucky enough to be friends with now. Having this ‘girl gang’ and support network at any age, is so hugely empowering. The four girls in this film mirror an older friendship group of mine that has since grown, and though adulthood has taken us all into different careers, countries, and paths, we still keep in touch and are there to support one another.
ILLUSTRATOR www.erinaniker.com INSTAGRAM erinaniker TWITTER erinaniker
I think this concept of international sisterhood, based on shared interests, hobbies and friendships is important, very empowering and doesnâ€™t have to be dictated necessarily by background, culture or race. Any piece of art, like 'Bloom', that acknowledges, celebrates and explores this concept of a diverse sisterhood in some form, immediately grabs my attention. Itâ€™s something that can be taken for granted but I think, especially in todayâ€™s current climate of walls and hateful rhetoric against women and immigrants, it's extremely important to give more public platforms first and foremost to art made by, and for, a diverse range of women, from all backgrounds. Bloom Film Launch and joint exhibition, 9th February, 7-10 PM, Copeland Gallery, Peckham, SE15
Ieva Ragauskaite GRAPHIC DESIGNER
ievarag.tumblr.com INSTAGRAM ievarag
Barbara Malagoli ILLUSTRATOR
barbaramalagoli.com INSTAGRAM bmalagoli
The Power of Silence:
Finding the reality in allegorical coded imagery through the unspoken dialogues and details that are lost in the shadows I am mysterious. I am secretive and keep myself to myself. I feel that you can speak and describe your ideas in a certain way but in the details you can feel so much more in another way.
PHOTOGRAPHER/ PRINT MAKER
matt-tate.co.uk INSTAGRAM matthewjr.tate
The way that we translate our thoughts to each other can be done in so many forms, not just through communicating to each other vocally. Keeping myself mysterious must be one of the reasons that I find allegory so interesting as an artist. With allegory you have this brilliant power, and—in many cases such as the ones that I write about below—the freedom to communicate in many different ways through symbolism, composition and aesthetic style. Through my research I have begun to understand that today allegory has moved beyond what classic masters had originally intended for it to be. Allegory serves as visual device and unspoken interactive dialogue within my art and design that communicates to my audience on different levels. Using figurative language I can allow my audience to explore my work at their pace and discover the smaller, finer details of my art. In this article I am going to describe to you some ways that artists and designers have been communicating and illustrating allegorical stories in innovative manners. For the readers of Tales, I think it would useful to describe a bit of the history of allegory. ‘Allegory’ was first coined in 1382 and comes from the Latinisation of the Greek word, ‘Allegoria’, which means ‘veiled language, figurative’. In Medieval art, allegory defines what current audiences today understand as symbolic imagery. Medieval allegory freezes a part of a story and enhances it with a spiritual context. Allegory frames a hidden ‘reality’ which underlies the rhetorical or fictional images that are described. These realities are the real details and intentions hidden within the image. Essentially, the soul of the thing is hidden away; lost in the shadows.
The idea of ‘reality’ in art came back to me during my exploration of Gothic. During my research of Gothic Romance I read about the first credited gothic novel, Horace Walpole’s “The Castle of Otranto”. The story sets up many Gothic tropes, but the most interesting thing about this story is that Walpole published it under a different name. In its first edition he signed it under the alias ‘William Marshal, from the Original Italian of Onuphrio Muralto, of the Church of St. Nicholas of Otranto.’ This alias, according to the source, apparently originates further back into the Crusades. Walpole builds the narrative for the audience even before the first word of the story is read, establishing a new protective identity for himself to create ‘authenticity’ and ‘reality’ in his story, the same way that Medieval artists did with Allegory. Walpole wanted to ‘blend the two kinds of romance, the ancient and the modern.’ By creating this alias, he blends the ancient and the modern romances together outside of the narrative and communicates it through an unspoken dialogue to the audience. The symbolism and atmosphere creates a puzzle to solve. The alias and the story are the pieces of that puzzle. The audience, should they choose to explore it, can discover the reality of the piece of art, and Walpole’s intent for writing the story. The way that artists show stories and use unspoken dialogues is evolving in contemporary industry. In the 21st Century we have interactive media to describe narratives and imagery, which now allows us to tell new stories through new forms of art such as digital design, film and even video games. I may be mysterious, but one fact that a lot of people know about me is that I love video games. What I love the most about games is they can tell original stories in such interesting, innovative ways. Storytelling within video games notably starts (for me) in 1986 with Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda. The initial spirit of the series was unbound exploration with puzzle elements, where you could essentially progress through the story in your own way and still be able to complete the game. You are placed within an environment and have to it figure it out from there with only a small synopsis of your place in the world. Just like the Castle of Otranto, figuring out the puzzle starts the minute you are placed within the piece of art.
That explorative spirit returns within games such as FromSoftware’s Bloodborne, directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki. Bloodborne uses the same formula that the original Legend of Zelda started. The narrative and story is told outside of the traditional ‘player narrative’ of cutscenes and NPC (non player character) dialogue. Bloodborne builds the story instead through item drops, world building, character design and atmosphere, which gives the player and therefore the audience the choice to decipher and build each part of the story, should they choose to do so. This is a form of allegory, using interactive media as the unspoken dialogues, such as sound design and atmosphere, where we are invited to discover the meaning of the story that we are literally taking part in. Like Walpole, Miyazaki creates a true Gothic atmosphere through the smaller allegorical details outside of the conventional narrative. He creates a ‘reality’ within a fictional world, which is communicated through unspoken dialogues to the audience. In Bloodborne’s case, the narrative revolves around the nature of being alive in a wider sense – but only to emphasise what self-obsession and selfishness can lead to. Bloodborne’s story shows that either way, the player character and the world they exist in are doomed to entropy, regardless. I realised that Walpole and Miyazaki had come across something important in how we regard our audiences. They had proved that our consuming audience don’t want to be pandered to, or to be ‘toured’ through art; rather, we need to trust our audience to interpret the work that we make. I remember my time as a teacher where I wondered why my students weren’t truly inspired by the lessons that I was teaching. It was only when I let my pupils move beyond my control and allowed them to learn the way they wanted, their curiosity and determination to explore increased tenfold.
The point I am trying to make is that Walpole and Miyazaki have taken unspoken allegorical coding one step further. They leave the reality and intention of the artwork in the hands of their intended audience and give them the power to interpret the reality of the work in their own way. This is where my research now has began to impact my artwork, and where my experiences travelling abroad come in. Last summer I travelled through South East Asia to explore new artistic horizons. In South East Asia the Thai, Laotian and Vietnamese people are predominately Buddhist; their ideas and Buddhist philosophies of resurrection and death really had fascinated and allured me. I had also begun to read about Buddha’s journey of enlightenment of finding himself through teaching others inspiring, I related to this journey, especially having spent the previous year as an art teacher. I felt that his journey could impact me and help me come to understand myself and the way that communicate to others.
During my travels in South East Asia, I visited Wat Doi Sutep in Chaing Mai, Thailand. Interestingly, how this temple came to be still remains relatively unknown. Legends tell of a monk who found a sacred relic in the form of Gautama Buddhaâ€™s shoulder bone, which was enshrined on the back of a white elephant and taken to the top of Doi Sutep, whereupon reaching the top it trumpeted three times and dropped dead. Doi Sutep was built on top of that site. The architectural designs found within Wat Doi Sutep have a mysterious quality to them. Wat Doi Sutep is approached by three hundred steps which are guarded by Naga Serpents. The serpent motif also adorns the roofs and facades of the Stupahs within the courtyards. The Naga Serpent as a symbol plays a part in the Legend of Gautama Buddhaâ€™s journey to enlightenment. Upon visiting the temple I watched the younger monks practicing their chanting in the main central chamber, where suddenly, something caught my eye.
Looking skyward in this temple there were these bizarre wooden shapes and hieroglyphs on the ceiling. Some were just lines or shapes, whereas others were much less abstract, shaped like fish, and even strangely mundane objects like a tennis racket. Connecting these shapes there were baubles and coloured lights. All this weird imagery and spiritual atmosphere combined with chanting of the young monks singing really struck me. I asked the monks as best as I could what the shapes meant, and they too didnâ€™t understand them. These markings and patterns are mysteriously untold, and remain stuck in my mind even to this day.
This series of five prints is inspired by those glyphs. Visually I have drawn elements of the Thai and Lanna Architecture that I had witnessed at Wat Doi Sutep, and combined them with traditional Gothic Romance. By combining these architectural styles, a sense of intrigue resonates within these images. Each image itself is a visual representation of a word, which collectively combine together to make a phrase. This sentence now remains untold. Using layers of coded allegorical imagery, the real words now remain hidden within the unspoken dialogues of symbols, shapes and motifs which now need to be deciphered to be truly understood, in the same way that Walpole and Miyazaki do in their own allegorical work. The images work in this order: images 1, 3 and 5 represent one word each; images 2 and 4, on the other hand, are two words in represented in one image. The phrase, when completed, is seven words in total and describes a powerful reality underlying these images. I leave this work in your hands to interpret it as you wish, and it can only be realised by you now. You must leave no stone unturned. Dig deeper, keep reading and communicating with these images to find where the true unspoken realities exist. They are waiting for you to find them, all lost within the shadows.
PRINTMAKING ILLUSTRATION PHOTOGRAPHY
LOST IN THE SHADOWS Private Showing April the 04
2017 at the MENIER GALLERY
6.00 to 8.30
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org Menier Gallery, 51 Southwark Street London SE1 1RU Light refreshments will be provided.
Matthew Tate is a recent graduate of Norwich University of the Arts. He read for a Bachelor of Arts in Illustration and received a First-Class Honours in 2015. He has been Artist in Residence at King Edwards School Witley for the past two years. Matthew has previously exhibited work at the Society of Graphic Artists Draw 14 exhibition in 2014 and at the National Studentsâ€™ Art Exhibition in 2012. He has also curated and exhibited with Printmaking 2015, and Untold in 2016. This year in 2017 he has an Exhibition being shown at the Menier Gallery entitled Lost in the Shadows. Lost in the Shadows is Matthewâ€™s breakout solo exhibition, and showcases a complete comprehensive collection of his work so far. Lost in the Shadows as a theme explores the ideas of coding and symbolism within art. The symbolism within these images evokes an understanding to the audience of the unspoken dialogues that occur between people. Each of the collections of artwork explore the landscape of communication design through the three mediums of illustration, printmaking and photography.
Matthew can be contacted via email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org matt-tate.co.uk I NSTAGRAM matthewjr.tate Lost in the Shadows Menier Gallery 51 Southwark Street London SE1 1RU Exhibition will be open from the 3rd of April to the 8th of April. Opening times are: Monday to Friday- 11.00 to 6.00pm, Saturday- 11.00 to 4.30pm 126
The Twilight Trinkets and The Little Maiden Once there was a poised and adventurous little girl who lived along the coast of a desert empire.
The girl was kept safe in a castle tower, surrounded by a huge metropolis spanning over mountain tops and wheat plains. With her mother, she made house and played with her dolls along with her eldest sister, sneaking away to spy on fatherâ€™s rocket experiments in his mysterious castle laboratory. The little girl, accustomed to attributions of integrity and faith, collected precious toys and trinkets that modeled her innocence and nurtured her aspirations, hoping that if she gathered enough, that one day, all her hopes and wishes would come true. One mystical night while sleeping, the girl awoke, and peered out of her tower window to see a white sparkle, glistening in the moonlight and collecting near the ground; it seemingly ascended, slowly, then reappeared before her. In disbelief, she stood up and ran down the castle corridor, checked to see if her mother and father were asleep, and proceeding out of the
draw-bridge door, wandered off into the crisp cool air. The little girl observed the vivid autumn palette of red, oranges, gold and lavender browns settling from the sky as the cold winds produced a cloudy mist, concealing the dense evergreen beyond. Instantly enchanted by the brisk autumn night, she began to play in the piles of colorful leaves, vaguely noticing the silhouettes of the children of the night approaching. As starlight cast through the foggy humid air surrounding her, she took cover in the leaves as the ghoulish children neared. Laying in the thick patch of wet leaves, she could see hideous shrouds covering their faces, laughing and singing songs of tricks and tasty treats, gathering precious trinkets in the night as they passed by. One child wearing a pointed hat sounded a cackled inflection; another masked a skeleton face.
Bewildered, the little girl followed them to the valley below and, while hiding behind the thick forest trees, curiously watched their ritual romps. The childish ghouls all stood around a bonfire chanting and dancing while eating their treats. Then from the forest behind her, more children joined the feast, causally walking alongside her, greeting her welcome. At once the little girl stood up and joined them, happily dancing and throwing her arms wildly in the air. In the valley below, the little girl played with all the children who disguised themselves in ceremonial habiliments of the dead; welcoming kindred spirits from far off places. She sang and danced, warding off the evil spirits that destroyed the land, and preventing their loved ones from returning home. Each night they camped and danced around the fire to protect the valley, collecting precious trinkets in her bag of treats, so that one day they could all return home.
Then one cold day, a blizzard covered the valley. Mystified, the little girl excitedly wandered off in the woods, following falling snowflakes, stumbling through the thick and heavy snow. Soon she found herself next to a magical creek. Peering into the creek, she spotted her reflection, pondered for a moment; smiled, and began to stare. Suddenly a volatile effervescence erupted from the creek and in her reflection appeared visions of a vast universe and the worlds inside them. Illuminated by starlight phases, she envisioned an alien animal kingdom and valleys beyond the stars. She saw long journeys with friends and family who lovingly appraised her an austere indoctrination. The little girl missed her family, and wished for them to be near. All of a sudden, her precious trinkets started to glow and flew out of her bag of treats, falling into the creek beside her with a big kerplush! The little maiden knew that it was time for her to leave this place. She knew it was time to wake up from her dream. Just then, from the snow bed creek, a spirit appeared and whispered to her: It is time for you to depart this land and
wake up from your dream. You can come back anytime you like by remembering your reflection in the frozen creek. For it is your true self. Never forget your inner self, and always be true, a child at heart, and you will always be able to return here.
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With that, the spirit granted her wish, turned away and went back into the creek as she awoke in her bed lying next to a bag of precious trinkets and treats beside her.
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Why Blank Doesnâ€™t Mean Empty By Dmitrij Vasilenko
Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Seoul, South Korea. She told me I would love it and I did. When we met for the first time to discuss our fashion editorial she choose this place for a reason. It brought that emptiness to her that she could fill with her own ideas. I believe that it was one of the important factors when it came to choosing the office location. On the other hand, Dongdaemun Design Plaza is very close to the fabrics market and as a designer it is very important to have access to materials. Another pleasant surprise is that this is the place where Seoul Fashion Week is held.
DDP was designed by famous designer Zaha Hadid and her neofuturistic inspiring design left me speechless. Right after our meeting I knew exactly what I had to do in ways which I could fill the emptiness. At first it felt giant and whatever you did you felt like a tiny particle in this enormous universe. Curved corridors led to spaceship like rooms, where you could conceive new ideas, trying to fill the room with your own concepts. Hadidâ€™s creation has echoes of an intimate emptiness that engages your ingenuity, a vessel large enough to nurture the soul by giving it space to thrive and henceforth create.
Artists are like aliens to other people and maybe this is why this design is so comforting. It feels like you go far away from reality becoming a blank sheet of paper that needs to be filled. The atmosphere is incredibly important for an artist as what I think we do is reflect the reality through our own prism of understanding and perception, which is shaped by what we face every day, people that we talk to, things that we see. It is important to have a special place in your life for travel as it expands our perception of the world, it is important to keep it away from daily routine that can be damaging. Everyone is an artist, everyone creates his or her life, builds it from scratch and we all need that place where we can come to be on our own and sculpt, shape and form our own reality.
Art is a form of communication, the universal language that we all can speak. The highest form of art it is the one that can become the platform for our own ideas and inspire to create new ways or explore different ways of interpretation. Because any piece of art is just an object if it not filled with meaning, it has no value and price if it delivers nothing. What Zaha Hadid has created for me is the platform on which I used to express my own feelings, a sense of loneness in this colossal universe in which we live. It made me understand the true value of relationship between people, it has shown me that creativity comes not only from the inside but from the outside and only by being open you can truly be creative.
Dmitrij Vasilenko WWW.DMITRIJ.CO.UK INSTAGRAM dmitrij.co.uk
An Encircled Potency
It was a coursing.
Blood had fled the scene; white and red cells sliding out of their venous tunnels in panic, to be replaced with a sensation Io could only describe as a continual static. Atomic vipers bit as they struggled through her arteries, the wriggle within orgasmic. It was a rout, an absolute defeat of that once-believed-essential, syrupy, red glaze.
A single word had done it, but Io’s head was so full of sounds she’d never heard before – the flatulence of a cathedral’s organ, the buzz of a swarm with stings at the ready – that the word itself had been lost. It had fallen from her grip with the ease of a courtesan dropping a tout paid up. The word, the word; what had brought on such an anatomical cataclysm? All around her was a blast zone. She was the epicentre of a personal mushroom cloud. Even now, her single, exposed eye detected genies of vapour in a ring encircling her. Through asymmetrical tears that soothed her burning right cheek – leaving her left one to throb like a left-on stove – she could make out the fading wall of smoke and a ground that was now so flat it resembled chocolate marble. Her hands were resting on this flattened earth. In the night’s hue, it was the brown of a hunting weasel. She’d seen the soil in the daylight, a sandy and uneventful blur like the rest of the landscape. Something had triggered her. Not a part within her, but her; all of her. She sobbed, expressing nothing but a physical ruin. The eye open to the world blinked and looked desperately around at the source. The echo of a word clanged within her head. Whatever it had been, whatever had caught her sleeping attention, had ignited a hitherto hidden power source.
Martin P. Burns CREATIVE WRITER
“... all of the landscape, it’s just an empty place...” A song, trying to make itself remembered from out of the crowd of her aching head. A song from her mother, but Io couldn’t think on it. There was enough immediate pain to deal with. Her neck felt raw and scoured as she turned it slowly one way and then another to find the object of her infliction. She could barely see the dry pine trees that were a further bailey around her, plants that had once held the promise of the evergreen but had succumbed to the heat like everything else. The surge had lasted but one minute, yet its force had felt like labour. Its origin had been a mistake, a glance from the corner of her right eye. She hadn’t been seeking something to parse, something to bring in line; she hadn’t even been fully awake. Io was a fitful sleeper; always had been. Like one opiated, she had stirred, fluttered her right eyelid – only her right, mind – and alit on... What? She moved from her slumped boulder of a position to kneeling. Running her hands through her fizzing hair, she caught the last remnants of an electric aura. It jolted her into a more socially appropriate position.
The dying pines swayed their appreciation. Hands with unnaturally hot palms met at the back of her head, feeling for the bandage’s knot there. It was still tight. A new bandage orbited her skull and covered her left eye with all the zealousness of an underworld Cerberus. It had been gifted to her a week ago, in a small world that had contained the last green known to her. Even though it had been her right that had spotted some haze of a thing, it was the left eye that had clawed it close. This was where Io’s true talent lay, swirling petulantly within the hidden orb as it waited for a name to tear asunder. She waited for them at all “Predator!” times; names. Words were her nourishment, in the sense that they fuelled more than just the biological in A droplet of catarrh came out with the command, her. Her very chemistry was plugged into them. For Io, oozing away from her lower lip, easing up the sloth spelling was not a stringing together of known letters, of her voice as well as clearing the underwater timbre but the magic that lay within every word’s ownership of it. over its serf. “Predator,” she incanted with a shaking volume. breath and a remembrance.
Praedari, in which one robbed. When you took a life, you were stealing. The Romans got praedator out of this, the plunderer. It may have first applied to predators from the insect world – those that feasted upon their own - but everything with an appetite had to eat, had to rob the essence of another thing. She drew the linguistic strings together, a haystack of control, pinched at the waist.
That was not it. She held no more sway now over the forest’s predators than she had done before waking in a storm of rushing light and insistently deep pokes to the cortex. Had she seen something the previous evening, before lying down to recharge during the night? Had it been some creature that had moved closer to her in the wilderness, waiting for slumber to transform her into ready prey? Io tried to pin it down. “Where are you? and what are are you?” she asked aloud in a voice that would’ve been low even without the rising catarrh that her lungs was forcing up. The furnace within her had coagulated a number of vital ichors, causing her to speak with the acuity of a vinyl disc dragged to a slower tempo by the delicate pressure of a single pinkie-finger. It was a voice Io could feel, even if not hear. She harried her sight around to find a suitable candidate for the sixty-second pulse. Night, pines, dust, smoke, ghost, trail, uncertainty? What was she
uncertain about? Her guilt? No. No, no, no, no. Dressed as the morning star, Venus was winking at her. Venus, whose name was rooted in wen, an ancient word for desire both sexual and loving. There was a plural, veneres: too many types of love. Io’s exposed gold pupil combusted centrally while the hidden left one twitched uncontrollably behind its leather fascia. No answer settled. She was no clearer as to what had jolted her body awake with such force that it had emitted a halo of layered silver rings, as scalding as wen and sharp like its rebuttal. She sank back, the pines having retained enough of their life to bark in whispered disgust. There was too much of a hullabaloo in Io’s head to be concerned with the etiquette of a few pensionedoff forest denizens. With each small moment, a joint cracked. An ankle when she moved a foot to quell the numbness, a knuckle as she twisted one of the simmering sunflower strands in her hair. One more deep breath and she felt an equilibrium resettling. Her hands – palms now at an appropriately human temperature – smoothed over her outfit, trying to find any sign of torched damage. She had survived in her entirety. Her satchel was where she had left it, plump and acting as it usually did during the night-time; as a pillow. No sign of burning there. No sign, either, of a white mark, a platinum residue. She would’ve expected this, considering the intensity of what her body had radiated.
At first she thought it was a second Calamity come upon the world. This is why she had sat up from the ground so fast. The silence in the depths of the blackness had been loud to begin with, Io’s mind being the sort that eclipsed an absence of noise with a pressing solitude, the sort that fills the aural canals up with unheard gum.
been a time when the world outside the small family home she’d been raised in (... raised? Raised to what?!) had been less than inviting. That’s what conditioning’ll do for you. Evaporate those instinctual wants away. But then Io did what all children did as they started to break away from their parents and see the flaws from a clearer, distant perspective: she learned. The very thought of travelling into the greater world started to Had the pyrotechnics affected anything? Was that hold an amorous duality for her. She would be able even the right way to describe the momentary event? to see those sights and whiff those smells and touch those strangers, all the experiences she had been reading about, learning of, attempting to understand. “Pyro, from where pyre comes. Pyro, as in fire; but And she knew she had to hurry too; the world was not one that is comforting or warm, not one to sit too disappearing under eager sands and invasive water. close to. This was not a homely fire, not what I gave. And I gave it, I must have... Why? Why, why, why....” That was one side of travelling, the less nefarious. Not homely and also... Not total. It was a mystery as With the hope of escape into that legendary whoto how Io knew this, but her nerves and limbs quaked knew-what, she could also be rid of the parental rack. with the smallest hint that there was more to come. Familiarity and trauma had bred the urge to flee for Would it be prudent to have both eyes closed to the higher, unknown ground. world, lest she spotted the catalyst again and let out an almighty fume? She would not be blind. Io had no She had started to worship her own catechisms. fear of walking through a world with no visual. Her mind could guide her, of that she was sure. “The greatest sin is unworldliness,” she would repeat into a cupped hand as her parents slept. She was able to see their silhouettes through the glass partition of She was not infallible. She could be wrong; their bedrooms and she would repeat and repeat and unfortunately. Maybe there was every chance that dwell on how to move them aside, off of the path she her story would be just a burst, a flare upon the ground could see but hadn’t been allowed to take. with only a few footprints left to others, imprinted as a warning; tread carefully. If your sole is delicate, people may think your soul was. They had been successfully disappeared.
She tapped her forehead, lightly as if reassuring herself. Her breathing had stilled. The night was back to normal; as normal as anywhere in this executed world. She took stock of where she was, where she’d been. Io had been tremulous to begin with, but the disappointment of a land ravaged by foolhardy decisions had soon distilled any anxieties. Any excitement, too, if she were to admit it. There had
Io hadn’t expected the same fate to have befallen her travel wish-list. It was hard to believe, hard to fathom. Her garden, after all, had been surrounded by green; even a dash of pink thanks to the victorious magnolia in the corner. The lawns may have been parched of colour, but that lone example of nature’s elegance was enough to make Io believe that wonders remained beyond her juvenile realm. Disappointment is akin to being abruptly dumped:
incomprehensible to the egotism of one’s previous ideas.
up and point at one of the zodiac’s constellations, though one of those twelve constellations only.
Day after day she had been faced with an absence. No flocks of starlings coming into roost. No mats of bluebells ringing in the spring. No lone apiary from which she could finally taste honey, a substance that had taken on the parable’s godliness of ambrosia. No lakes the size of cities, where the horizon was only more water, causing the viewer to believe it was the sea she was looking at.
Mommo sewed for Io, she imparted. She also gave a recommendation that was too amazing to ignore.
Have I been walking in circles?
“You should head east, there’s one train that still
A train. From trahere, to pull. Pull me onwards! In old France the train was the trail of a gown. A romantic way to be led into the next. Io’s upbringing had never mentioned balloons or vehicles that flew, but she knew of trains. To be conducted, to have a conductor decide upon one’s destination!
It was the lack of water that engendered this thought. She’d read about the waters that were invading, defeating any land lower than a kneecap, but as She started practising as soon as she left the graveyard. impatience and the weeks set in, she became more “Conductor... Conductus, the carrier. Carry me, as I and more loathe to believe these stories. Where was command.” The decision would not totally be the all this liquid, all this cheeky sapphire? Even if it had conductor’s. shown its watery face in murky greens and browns, Io would have been thankful. Where was all this water? She was still saying it the day before she’d lain down to sleep, unaware her subconscious was about to be rattled They weren’t a failure, these travels. A by an unknown. balloon ascent under the hand of a predator, a plunderer, named Oonagh had offered a new view and Io pulled her aching legs in their black, chamois boots out a new test. She’d survived, so where was the failure from underneath her. Toes were stretched, pulling the in that? Another lottery of green had been stumbled light but durable fabric along with them. into, where graves kept company with a woman as old as gravity sat darning and hiding the jewels under her cape. She played seamstress for Io and presented her “Back east,” she mused. Io hated a back-and-forth journey. with the leather swatch that now protected the skilful Advice was given to be taken. That was the tool’s purpose, left. she supposed. And now that she was violently awake again, “I will sew you something brown and shining, it would not do to linger; especially not if the explosive yes, something new.” Her voice had been adulterated shock had been caused by some entity following her. with the sound of prepubescence. With Mommo, Io had learnt something she never would have picked up at home: how to assuage guilt.
Even now, days away from that spectre of a woman, guilt’s echo made the hairs on Io’s arm stand
Io stood and then she saw it. It might not have been the object she’d sought after in the dirt, but it was inexplicable enough to give pause. The sort of pause in which a turning point revels.
“Don’t forget to look at the smaller things,” she said to the diminishing night. At her feet – too close to have been noticed with eye at ground-level – was a tongue-shaped piece of confetti entirely unexpected and extraordinary in this beige locale: a petal. “My magnolia....?” Magnolia, she pondered, never having to control the tree; never wanting to. It was only a dead man’s name anyway: pointless. Surely this petal couldn’t have come all this way with her, as some fluttering familiar? She questioned the posts of pine around her, using eye and words. They weren’t responsible. It had been a fool’s question. Even a fool has to eat. Bending awkwardly at the hips, she dragged her pack towards her and fished the remains of the meal she’d been eating these last few days. The harem-free cockerel had been as scrawny as these trunks Io now kept company with. That didn’t make his meat and innards any less delectable in such surroundings. Very little was left. Down went two silver bullets of liver: metallic and a death to any suggestion of the gourmet.
Other essentials were still there, including one that satisfied her in the same way that water could slake her (when it was available). Her notebook was an angular presence in the gloom of the satchel. Considering the journeying Io had undertaken since leaving the house, it was in a remarkably pristine condition. She had control, true, book being a far from insurmountable word. (Before the Germans became themselves it was bokiz they wrote on, the beech. From there it became buche, buch... Any word for ‘that-which-iswritten-on’ usually came from a tree. In Sanskrit it came from the ash. There was the Latinate librum, too: the inside bark of a tree. Io could control a tree easily.) Only one leaf of her book had the ears of a papery canine. It was a crumpled sheet she had reinserted into the book as successfully as possible. Its presence gave her some doubt. She had thrown the spell away, upon using it to escape her family home for good. It had been the only threshold she’d been concerned with crossing. Only a day later had she found it again. She didn’t remember going back to collect it, but the evidence was there. It can’t have been thrown away.
A retch accompanied her rising from the floor. This train had better have comestibles, she cursed inwardly. A bend at the hips that went beyond awkward and into the unwise, brought her bag up from the ground. The water flasks within sloshed with the movement The other linguistic musings in the book were worked of assured thirst. Io could feel their sniggering. To out to the hilt as she was on the road. Her method of double check, she took them out one-by-one, her studying was like a hamster unfolding its own wheel, heavy bag pulling on her gums as held the bag’s strap flattening down the path ahead with claws the size between wobbly teeth. of sharpened grains of rice. Her talent didn’t have to be kept fresh, it was there. Each new word, however, Sure enough, there was more darkness within the was a new string to an already orchestral bow. flasks than liquid. Where was this water?! Sipping water that had the taste of inactivity, she looked to the sky. With dawn playing semaphore to her departure, she was pleasantly surprised to see a moon keen enough with which to harvest corn. A friendly wind picked up, one that was empty of the dust and disaster that so many winds had held in recent years. Heading back east, Io thought she might pass through the graveyard again. She longed to talk once more to 148
son who’d never be married off to her. Where were they now? What had happened to the neighbour who she’d last seen bringing in the crops only hours before the culmination of Io’s misfitery? No more heroes, her mother had once sung. Their chieftain had been one, according to the mill. Running campaigns underground, went the song. Io could sense the words within her, but no longer hear the tune. Io’s ability to digest this music had been killed off with the last vestiges of a salvation.
Mommo, the seamstress of the cemetery. Io’s feet must have been out of alignment, for instead she started to feel the shade of an urban palimpsest erect itself from out of the ground to meet her. It was a land of myths now, and a hot one. Unlike many others, the heat didn’t oppress her. Io found it a comfort, even if solely for the reason that at least her sweat was a type of moisture she could lick up. One’s own salts couldn’t be dangerous, she justified.
The voice of Laura, her laywriting mother, had faded as well. Pet psychologists would have said that it was a fade of a forced-upon nature, but Io wouldn’t hoot once about that let alone give two. The abuse of a mother is worse. Io had known only so much about her before that name was revealed. Laura. A girl from the town of bay trees. More trees; when they had been in abundance. The parents had only ever been mother and father, when Io was younger. Now that the daughter thought about it, had they suspected the quality of their child’s power? As many could testify, once Io knew a name, she was deadly.
No longer suffering the heat of guilt, she was growing to like the blaze, day-by-day. The sun was at a murderous height during most of its career. It ascended as if shot from the bowels of hell and fell like a bullet-strewn game-bird. It just, now, felt somewhat tame to Io after the lightning display from her body the other night. The sun did one other thing, too: it revealed the unknown city’s blueprint. It had been damaged a time ago, obviously, but to Io it seemed like the pieces had been placed here on which a builder could stamp his signature. In what she reckoned were the outskirts, Io saw nobody. No travellers, no ballooners, no conductors. Nothing remotely resembling a working train. No people, no vehicles and no sky. Blue was an exercise to remember. The weather had been the same since that last helpful dawn. Wisps had clouded over the sky with such convincing density that it was now a grey heaven above at all times. Infrequently, she saw a grey that moved differently, but who knew what burned over there? Wherever this was, it was no relation to the village she’d suffered for a home. They had been a ragtag bunch of miscreants indeed, reminiscent of the Ark having been washed up to leave all the partnerless animals in the unfortunate position of finding themselves a bedfellow.
Once she took charge of a word, the object became what every other object was to her: a machine. Now, there were real machines embedded to her right, as she walked along the ridge of a dried riverbed so wide it made her old local Widewater regret its former name. She could control a word like machine and could control a machine if she knew what it had been, but as for these half-stuck unknowables: they were junk. She had no need to parse such a word, not for a life in which she was trying to shirk off rubbish, not accumulate it. The city was populated by these metallic ribcages of man’s fallible ingenuity, as well as the real McCoy. It was a world of bones she was walking through. She looked at a certain conglomeration in
She knew of the fate of her parents, of course. Her hands were elbow-deep in that story. There were others whom she thought of. The village chief and the 149
front of her, osseous pick-up-sticks tangled amidst the baked clay cascading away from her. Whatever these animals had been when alive, they’d been small. Io prayed that they’d been animals, as the size of their frames and the fact they were holding paws (... please be paws, not hands... paws...) spoke of children drowning in polluted rivers. They hadn’t wanted to float away from each other. As those aimless prayers went unanswered, her path along the top of the strand was crossed.
The lips of the first one were read as they both stared at Io. Number one had asked her something about a destination, though having missed the beginning of his question Io wasn’t sure whether he was referring to where she was going or where they desired to go. “Na.” It was a catch-all response. They were as swarthy as Io was Arctic. The speaker, the bolder and more muscled of the two, was the friendlier in appearance. His mouth was large but turned in the right directions at the corners: up. He came across as having a hearty appetite, as opposed to being grotesque. His eyes shone with as much enthusiasm as he gave across through those full lips and confident body language. The second was more of a sylph. He stood close to his ursine companion. In fact, they stood a bit too close to each other for
Io’s liking. The second – thinner, with blue eyes and a part-jaundiced colouring to the roasted olive skin; a relative of the pike – was so close to the first that they each had a forearm touching the other’s. Io could see their veins pumping in time, synchronised. They were in love. Io’s mind spoke, conversing with her soul, her nerves, her vagina, her spleen, her inwardly-focused eye. (Jealous. I know it in the Danish tongue. Skinsyg, skin-sick. I’m not, I’m not.) She ignored the tittle-tattle of her own shortcomings and watched the broader one proffer up introductions. “We do not provide names to strangers, not until trust has joined us. This is Valentino and has been my matinee idol for as long as care to recall.” The pike nodded, moving that intimate arm up to lay a hand on his partner’s angular shoulder. “I have been known as Il Bellofatto and since the title has served me well, I shall not refute it. This is how you will address us... “
It was left hanging, waiting for a RSVP.
“Iris,” she said. Colour flashed before both
eyes and for a brief second they felt like a pair. Il Bellofatto, she thought. She knew her Latin; she knew what this title meant. The beautifully done ... and he was indeed. She couldn’t control his name because it wasn’t his name. These were a worldly pair, then. And there, under the heat of a day without a date or a season, amidst the remnants of a city that had positively encouraged the Calamity’s occurrence; Il Bellofatto gestured for them to sit down. The demands of road etiquette were to be met, even if they went their separate ways after this. As both parties were headed east and had been advised to find this one, working train, the three wayfarers became a single party. The two men were heading further east than Io had ever even heard of, after a belief in something Valentino referred artfully to as ‘the sacred sound spirit’. They became a trio; reluctant. Three walked, scavenged, slept and kept watch for a fortnight together. The monotony was delicious and Io felt as if she’d found a life, the kind teens are encouraged to go and seek out. A life that led into maturity. It couldn’t last. A triangle is the strongest shape if all the sides are equal. When one side shortens then structural integrity can begin to liquefy. She saw it happening long before it ever truly did. Part
of the fault was hers, foolishly. She would check, on occasion, to see if Il Bellofatto was looking at her.
“Keep in, keep in, keep in!” she hurriedly whispered. Don’t cry out loud; keep your confidence to yourself! Don’t let the light go....
He rarely was. All this was ahead in the future.
Confide in nobody, that was the way. Whole and only one.
All this Io was blissfully unaware of. She slept next to one while the other looked to the east.
Her mother, the words of a song... 'Cause it's burning through the bloodline...
It was an evening not long after they’d banded when Io stood up as a soldier does to their officer. The men were a pair of double parentheses. Gone were the other two halves.
Her blood was burning and she looked around in panic for the thing that might be setting her off. What was the same here as that first night, when morning followed on the heels of an outburst?
There was a terror, and it was the loneliness of the huntress. She could not refute it; she was designed to be on her own, to be alone. (Old English, all ana: wholly oneself.) Though she didn’t realise it being swamped with opaque thought, the type that let the light neither in nor through - her fingers started to scratch the side of her kidskin trousers.
Dressed as the evening star, Venus’ wink had widened to an admission of pride. Woman to woman and women to the world.
She was facing up to her guilt and it frightened her, not because of what she had done and the fact that she’d been capable of it, but because she knew the universe would look for some justice. There’d come a day where she’d have to defend herself. The ground she stood on, with the men sleeping not five yards away, cracked. It was the slow, determined opening of a bowel movement. Nothing seismic, no Hadean reveal shrouded in sulphuric intensity. She knew what was coming. The sticky underside of her skin and her hidden eye and her heart and her womb had all irradiated a Morse code of light in the last few minutes. She couldn’t see it, but the very atoms of her being were shaking nervously with it. How had this power of hers intensified?
Io heard words for the first time in decades. The failure of men to survive wasn’t just a foregone conclusion, it was a necessity. Where men had failed, she wouldn’t.
until next time . . .
ISSUE NO. 5