Page 1


APRIL 2016



tales of the explorer ISSUE 2







Instagram: @joshclayton932





welcome. explorer noun noun: explorer; plural noun: explorers a person who explores a new or unfamiliar area.

synonyms; traveller, discoverer, voyager, rambler, globetrotter, rover.

Issue two is here! You’ve found the

tales of the explorer

This theme seemed apt for our first spring issue, everything is coming back to life and the weather is starting to perk up – perfect exploring conditions if you ask us! You’ll find explorers of space and mountains, parallel worlds and lonely old houses in this issue. We’re particularly excited at how we ended up having a whole little outer space themed chapter, read our interview on page 98 of when writer Adrienne visited two astronomers studying at The University of Cambridge. You can also catch our collaboration with Eclectic Eccentricity Jewellery on page 90 which features probably the coolest collection of space themed jewellery you’ll ever encounter. Meanwhile, back on Earth, you can take in 7 days in the life of illustrator Ruth Allen, and her seriously enviable mountaineering adventures (page 44), and our stunning cover image, which was shot by Vivienne Mok, can be found on page 70, where you can find the whole editorial. A huge thanks to all our contributors in this issue, yet again you’ve given us some beautiful work to create this little magazine with!

Exploration has no bounds; all you need is a little imagination and maybe some good walking shoes….


Sam & Kathrina


contents. 12




ellena brine

the busman’s holiday

the pink bungalow

josh clayton









narrow boat

under the stars

the utter truth forward







PAGES: 4, 136, 104-107





burning bridges

charlotte o’hare

blue eggs & tea




surviving in the wilderness







sodium chloride hairspray

jessica smith


carly diep










joe sparkes

lay lady





the tea Shop at the top of the world





debbie morrell

the infinite search

the cosmic voyager














crystal explorer

life in a box: instructions not included

polar light

swimming under the stars









hold fast

a match in the water

razzle dazzle ships




exploring the backcountry of Colorado MAX MELTZER




Instagram: @ellenabrina



the busman’s holiday


“Bus drivers make journeys every day, but no one ever asks them where they want to go. Maybe one day they will take matters into their own hands.” LUCY TOMLINSON - ILLUSTRATOR www.lucytomlinson.com Twitter : @ LT_Illustration


the pink bungalow “ When twelve months are nearly up and you sit on the beach, look out to sea and know you will never forget this �


When you explore a different part of the world,

later told their family had to leave the country

When you get off that plane and the warm,

due to death threats.

humid, thick air hits you, When you smell the burning tar of the dusty

When you befriend the most humble people


you’ve ever met,

When you arrive at your new pink bungalow

When you begin to recognize people in the


street and become part of a community,

When you sit outside the first night and just

When you get over the language barrier and hold

look up at the stars, and think to your self, “I miss

your first conversation with an elderly woman

home already.”

sitting on the bus, When you fall in love with the culture, die your

When twenty smiling children look up at you,

hair black, learn how to dance bachata and how

When you get to know their lives,

to cook baleadas.

When you watch them stand before their parents and recite the Christmas play you’ve

When you’re stuck in hospital for two weeks

been practising with them for weeks and Elias

because you’ve caught dengue fever and your

shouts out to you “Miss, but, but, I’ve said it miss!”

medication is coconut water and grapes,

because he read all his lines at once!

When you return to your classroom and your

When you can’t help but smile at their brave

children tell each other to be quiet because they

maturity and unpolluted innocence.

care about you.

When you notice that the child that didn’t speak a word of English now understands when you

When you’re falling asleep and you can’t work

say, “turn to the next page”

out if the sound of the gunshots are close by or

When one of your children disappears and you’re

far away.


When you have to leave the country every three

plastic bags so people think its only rubbish,

months to renew your visa and Honduran police

When you walk into your classroom the next day,

intimidate you,

look at the girls and pray they will be OK, look at

When another volunteer is robbed at gunpoint,

the boys and pray they’ll know its wrong.

But the feeling, the feeling of hanging your head

When you really start to see what life is like living

out of the bus window and enjoying the warm

in Honduras.

air hit your face and make your hair dance, you feel so free.

When twelve months are nearly up and you sit on the beach, look out to sea and know you

When you’re invited to move in with a local

will never forget this. You realise you only really

friend’s family, when you sleep in the six-bed

experience a country when you become a part

room for the first time,

of it.

When your toilet and shower is no longer inside,

Once you return home, a switch in your mind

When the roof to your home is a piece of metal,

has changed; you can never look at life the same

when the living area is a plank wood bench and a


couple of plastic chairs outside, When you talk to your new sisters about they’re husbands, When they share stories of horrific abuse they’ve had to endure by their loved ones, When you hear one woman is killed every sixteen hours and sometimes even killed for as little as sixteen


dollars, When you hear about girls carried out in black









The Combination Of the orange Beak and the All knowing cartoon eyes With the golden bunny Standing proud will guide us As we meander. Willows Bow and give us their Blessing with their touch. Ducks bob parallel to The smiling faces of Jim And Rosie. We each have Our place. The roof warms Me from the outside while My book melts my heart, Much like the ice-creams That cause our journey To halt for just a few minutes. She hums gently as we Cruise, harmonising with The sound of the waves she’s Created. We smile, For she and us Are Out ‘n’ About.



under the stars “When I was a child my parents would take my sisters and me camping and we would spend whole days walking in the woods. We would climb trees and play in the streams catching small fish and tadpoles. They are some of my favourite memories and those memories inspired this piece.” CASSANDRA AT THE BURROW - ILLUSTRATOR







A line and an oblong. One white, one indiscernible. Two objects that occupied their respective spaces in front of Io. She stood as still as her tremulous heart would allow. A hand, unmarked by age but ravaged by hardship, supported the weightlessness of the rectangle; a piece-of-paper. Full of text, full of potential explanation. The line was also in front, but it was harder to ascertain. Io looked from one to the other, then back to the first. There was no chicken-and-egg sufferance about this moment; she was merely rooted to the spot due to a flatlining of her aptitudes. The more her grey cells snuggled up against each other to stimulate thoughts and ideas and considerations, the less her feet wanted to leave the spot she stood on. It was a spot heavy with meaning. She stood on it lightly. The line in front of her had a number of guises, which was what made the pinning of it down so goddam hard. It was a threshold, and hazy in its form. The toe of her left walking boot was touching, with all the softness of down, the oak frame of the door ahead of her. Here then, was a border. Io’s right foot was placed an inch behind her left, bringing up the rearguard. It had stopped inside the edges of the floor’s very last kitchen tile; perfectly framed. The black of the boot co-ordinated nicely with the antiquated design of the terracotta ‘neath. This tile was another line. On the other side of the warped doorframe, feathers of sunburnt grass tickled at the wood. A landscape of suggestion and struggle was attempting its own crossing, trying to get into the safety of Io’s homestead. Where the lawn started was yet another division. It was hot out there, too. Io raised an arm and felt outside with her fingertips. The change in temperature, from the cool of indoors, was like reaching into an oven. Fingertips sizzled. Invisible, this border, but with a power of its own. For Io to leave her home – which had been the number one goal on her to-do list that morning – she was going to have to step over, and through, a number of lines. The oak, the final tile, the eager half-greenery, the sublimating waver in the air. Upon waking, she had scribbled on the perfectly-proportioned pieceof-paper; her handwriting a soporific scrawl. The paper hung limply in the lifeless air. Threshold it said at the top. Below it, in paragraphs that became more angular as they dropped down the page, was her own explanation of the word. Wordplay. It was an aptitude that rarely failed her. Rarely. Rare; rarus. Latin. Widely-spaced. There were women and men out there in the real world, the changed world, who had developed skills and powers any superhero would have been proud of. Very few used them for heroic purposes. Io had tapped her talent at a very early age. She knew the power of words; she understood them. To call something by its name was to beckon it towards you. To parse it correctly was to gain command. She was mystified at why, and how, threshold was continuing to slip away from her. It was not giving up its secrets – and therefore its loyalty – easily; despite her A4-size page of curlicue’d handwritten notes. Io turned her head and hurrumphed. The noise was neither judgemental nor entirely casual. She’d caught sight of her reflection in the convexed, oval mirror at the back of the kitchen. With the sunlight from the garden picking out the parallelograms of her pale cheekbones she looked like a swollen cameo brooch. The

chipped, gold-leaf frame of the mirror only exacerbated the image. The one eye she kept open to the world rove over the polished glass, looking at its self and the head-and-shoulders that had twisted away from the body, as a sapling branch twists in the wind. The condiment locks of hers were a tumble this morning, so she scraped them aside from her face. The strip of stained muslin that was tied around the left of her head was revealed. That intrusive illumination from the world beyond made the fabric seem all the dirtier. It was dirty. Io rarely (… spaced widely …) washed it, as taking it off was searingly painful. The eye underneath had been bleeding at a snail’s pace since birth, so the blood that dried directly onto the muslin acted as a glue. Without the closure of this eye, she wouldn’t have maintained her talent. “All that’s left is right,” she joshed to herself. A voice deeper than years should’ve allowed was absorbed by the stone kitchen. The thresholds quivered; oak, tile, grass and air all. They knew she was trying to get to their core. How else could she leave this homestead if she couldn’t conquer the first obstacle? “… here you go again, you say you want your freedom,” she sang; a lullaby her laywriting mother had once sung. Threshold. It was a compound. Both parts had to be mastered for the linguistic spell to take hold. She turned away from the mirror. The ghost of a wicked stepmother was sent packing. Her right eye – bold, combustive and of a gold that made Croesus salivate – tried one more fix upon her writing. “Threshold, threshold, the thresh hold,” she intoned. Her words lacked conviction. She was being beaten, and until victory was cooed out of its hiding place she wouldn’t be going anywhere. There was a lot of where to go to, too. “Threshold.” It was stronger; but not yet strong enough. “Threshold. Perxold, therxold. A point of entering.” She didn’t want to enter, she wanted to leave. And desperately, before the last wonders of the world were swallowed up by eager waters, covered over by invasive sand. “Thresh. Drisch, my German kin would say. The old kin. A tread, to tread. The moving of a foot forward.” Io looked down. Her feet hadn’t moved at all. The dark walking boots were acting the part of lead-weights, with consummate dignity at that. “The tread, the movement over the point-of-entering. Every departure is a form of entrance. It only takes a step.” One step. It doesn’t matter with which foot. The left, flirting up to the doorframe. The right, admiring itself next to the terracotta; either will do! “Just tread, girl.” She could command herself, but she couldn’t command the word. Not ‘til it was hers in its entirety. What had been an initial pause was now paralysis. She had held the pause long enough. The sun would soon be at its murderous height.


“Held; the pause I’ve held. Held, held, to hold. Threshold. A pause in one’s step. In my step.” The muslin over her left eye dampened a touch, the muddy vermillion stain deepening some more shade onto it. “Hold the first tread. Hold!” Her exhalation cleared some of the dust off the Assyrian-style tiling. The blades of grass bent backwards in deference, pointing their xiphoid tops to the great wide arena outside. Woodworm families in the oaken doorframe huddled together for safety, aware that Io was getting closer. She had already bested them. Coed, goed, gwŷdd, the trees of Cambria. Vermis; worms and vermin. Easy. Followed by the swift conclusion that she had no use for woodworm, singular or family-bound. “Hold, scold, hald. To support, to have custody of. To own the first step? Too obvious, too opaque. Too nothing. Scold, skold. To scold. What would I be telling off exactly?” The worms continued to tremble. Io clicked her neck with a swift onetwo. Her boots were getting heavier. Too much to see, too little time. Becoming littler. Littler, littler, killing off joy like Hitler. Another childhood rhyme flashing before her. She flinched. The left eye was given her a leaden headache now. The latter half of the compound was playing up. At this rate, it’d all be gone. All those sights on her list that she’d read about, with an eye hampered but absorbed. They weren’t too far, either, the first of those sounds, smells, sensory attractions. The last roosting place of the last starling cloud. The fens were gone, but the final winged million returned from force-of-habit. If Io left today, she’d make the roost just in time. Her path took her through the woods, through their unexpected and majestic rebellion. It was told that within these woods the planet’s last beekeeper held onto a lone apiary. Its population was dwindling fast. Nothing made honey anymore but maybe Io would be lucky enough to see the play-acting mime of industry. Twelve hundred honeybees and the only sound were the trees around striving not to burn. Then, if the landscape allowed; onwards. If the landscape and her languages allowed. Up to the hills where there was a bird that pecked wood, pecked at the gwŷdd. The wolves and bears and lions may have disappeared, oh my!, but there was word – words – of an old man hyrax. Other, loftier wonders. The ridges of mountain that held onto their tops and their trees. The peaks that held onto their fir, the beekeeper that held onto his lone apiary. Held. “Thresheld. A step once owned, but lost. Nice idea. It’s the hold, the damn’d hold! There ‘ave to be clues, there has to be. Porog … no. No help there. Limen. A threshold, sure. Roman line. The watermouth of a river, opening to Ocean. All these dead ends! All these thresholds have no beginning. This sort of irony isn’t even amusing!” Her frustration was becoming all encompassing. Finally, only a month ago really, the shackles of family had disintegrated (some naturally) and the door had been unscrewed, taken off its hinges, leaving a portal most inviting. Yet here she was, still. Plenty had come into the house. Io still hadn’t left. With the left orb leaking almost imperceptibly, a faerie increase in ichor, Io concentrated her right on the vista ahead. A short lawn, unnecessary to mow as the grass fed a multitude of hungry rodents. A magnolia and a rosebush fighting for supremacy over a cool corner of the garden, both plants having taken to flowering all year ‘round in an arms-race of aroma and pollen. A dry creek that served better as a trashtip. Then the forest. One of the few beneficiaries of these enigmatic times. A

forest which led to the futures Io had mapped out; one never being enough. The dark forest, the noisy wood. The wood. More than a home to worms. The wood. “The forest. My German kin knew it: the wold. Perxold. The prexwold, the threxwold. Wold! First step into the wold; the wood. The wood! Tread into the forest, into the darkness. The danger! Away from the home. The first step away from the home. The pause before the first step away from the home.” Io paused. Not in those steps yet-to-come, but in her realisation. “I’ve got you.” Only now did she close her working eye; or, the one that worked upon the external world. She hummed, with a mind somewhat absent. “Who am I to keep you down?” Her posture stiffened. Her free hand reached out and grasped the turgid satchel sat atop a half-painted barstool. The piece-of-paper was crumpled in one fist’s worth of contentment. She had it. The incantation was hers eternal now. Once a word has been made to bend … “I’ve got you.” Threshold! It was broken. The fear felt by the woodworms disappeared instantly and they set to work boring into the oak of the doorframe. Not a week later and it would tumble, bringing the floor above and any incumbent domesticity down with it. The outermost tile of the intricately decorated kitchen floor offered up a tiny crack of resistance. The pattern was broken. Its nature had never been a mystery to Io; tile, known an age ago as tigele. A cover. Now its reason had been uncovered. The grass, too, capitulated. Where the lawn had once had the strength to rebound from a young woman’s step, it would now lay forever flat after her passing. The air pulled its hot shimmer aside, just enough to aid Io, to offer a modicum of comfort. She was free to go. She’d make the roost, see the curvature of the starling flock. Starling. The stærlic, nothing stellar about it. Just a bird, just a gull. Seagull, eagle; a girl who knew them all. A single bird she could command. Flock, flock. It had something to do with people, a corps. Her left eye could concentrate on the conundrum as she travelled further away from the building that had housed her theses last few decades. And now that the moment had come, there were nerves. “Please let these be good nerves.” It was a prayer. She threw the paper away, behind her into the house. The oval mirror ogled at it, eager to learn such secrets. But the oval mirror was empty. Io’s reflection had turned its back on it. “Left, right, left, right, left …” They were not marching orders. It was the process of making a decision. Left foot, right foot? She picked one, picked it up off the floor, stepped over the quartet of lines that had once made up her threshold. They could try, but they hadn’t stopped her. Air, grass, tile and oak all. The current that darted into her pores burnt away a lifetime of drudgery and distaff. There was nothing new to discover here. To even dare to think of living a life where she’d never swim with a manta, run after the Apis bull, jump with toxic amphibians, walk over sheets of young floe with bass voices breaking. To die before experiencing such rare magic, such widely spaced magic? “Nah.” Old English, nān. Old life, gone.





Momokolotus Instagram: G:momokolotus






A victim’s smile never lies and boy could that girl smile. I drove up to Fairview Manor sometime after 2am. She’d been traveling again and I wanted to talk about her year. The smell of winter crosses the threshold and it’s the first thing we talk about in contrast to where she’s been. She says she’s tanned but I can’t tell so she flashes me her hip so I can see the different shades of skin. “You’re still here.” “And you still keep coming back.” She smiles that smile. “My point is, you don’t like it here.” I shrug. “It’s the only place I feel like me.” “You don’t like you.” It’s my turn to smile. At least I know who I am; at least I’m not running from me. Talk turns to chit-chat and we speak about love and money, work and family and all sorts of pointless things and I tell her about my new job and people who have got together, people who’ve split, people who want children and people who have had them. “Wow, so much can change in a year.” “And yet nothing really has. Nothing important anyway.” Time passes quickly, too quickly. I want to stay here and listen to her talk and talk but she has other, more interesting, people to catch up with and I’m just a little footnote on her list of people to see. The sad thing is, I’m the only one who would make the time for her knowing that otherwise I won’t see her before she’s off again. There’s a lull in conversation and I enjoy the silence for a second, two maybe, but I see she has said all she wants to say and as she shuffles in her chair I ask a question. For the first time in however long of knowing her, I ask a question I actually care about the answer to. “Why did you leave?” I don't remember the last thing she said as she left, I just remember the sound of blood pumping in my ears. The truth is I'm scared, so fucking petrified that it'll never be how it was. I know I laughed but I didn’t mean it. I'm not happy at all.



I savour the early morning walk to the shop, not in anticipation of work or some sort of gained self worth through labour but there’s a security in the empty solidness of the dark. It seems so impenetrable and expansively unending and all I can hear is the pad, pad, pad of my own feet. Of course, by the time you get there you realise the darkness is softly broken, mellowing, being slowly nibbled away at by the incoming light and things aren’t so certain anymore, aren’t so secure. I’ve been here a long time, since before she left, and it’s all I can really remember. It was supposed to be something that allowed me time to look for anything better, just so I could exist before real life started. Now, I just exist. I used to wish she’d come in, day dreaming of hypothetical conversations of all the exciting places she had been and all the exciting places I was going to go but, even back then, I knew it was a fantasy. Other people, who had already done more exciting


things were, naturally, more exciting to talk to and didn’t have to compete for her time. I guess that’s why I was so desperate for her to come in. I just wanted her to take an interest in me. I no longer entertain ideas of seeing her whilst I work. I just stare out of the window and wonder what would happen if one day I didn’t open up. What if I just kept walking? Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can see a flight of steps in the middle of cold, grey water. A staircase from the sea. I don’t know this place, I don’t know where it is or even if it’s real but I want to be there. I want to be sitting on that top step staring into the water, just sitting and staring but I am here. A customer comes in, I smile and serve them. A customer comes in, smile, serve. Customer, smile, serve, customer, smile, serve. Everyday: Customer, smile, serve. Everyday, customer, smile, serve. Everyday is the same. Everyday is exactly the same. Every day is exactly the fucking same. Breathe deep, close eyes, staircase, smile, serve.

“Oh yeah, you should get the Baklava here, I love it so much and it’s the only place in town that sells it.” “You know where I work sells it, right?” “Really? Right, oh well, what does it matter where I get it from?” I shrug. Maybe it matters to me. “I’ve got to go.” “Okay, you didn’t get any food.” “I’m not hungry.” I turn to leave and she says something under her breath. It irritates me that I miss it because, more often than not, it’s what you’re not supposed to hear that means the most. I pull at the thought gently, probing it for a way in. Pad, pad, pad. My heart beats a little faster as I feel the low feelings from my stomach rise to anger in my throat. Thud, thud, thud, pad, pad, pad. I need to calm down but I can’t see the steps without seeing questions. I’m no longer morose, I’m angry and it’s because of her. She’s fucked it for me, she fucked my perception of things and now my mind is crocked. It’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not fair. Why can’t I just be happy and be done with it? I’m done with this shit, I’m done with minimum wage and minimum culture and day after day of the same dull eyed, grey faced, dreary clones ordering the same fucking thing. There’s a break in my focus, not that I had any in the first place, but even when I try to picture myself sitting in the top step staring at the sea my mind challenges me. Why would there be steps in the sea? Who would put them there? What would be the point? Even my own mind is telling me my dreams are fucking stupid but there’s a stubbornness about me. I refuse. I refuse to sink into myself and abandon the only image that keeps me sane. Fuck your self-pity; you don’t get to be happy. You get to be you and if that’s not enough for you then you want more than you, or anyone else, gets. If it’s all too much burn the bridges and start again. Pad, pad, pad, thud, thud, thud. I can see the shop now. Pad, pad, pad, thud, thud, thud. It’s there, right in front of me, another day, the same day as before and the one before that. Pad, pad, pad, thud, thud, thud. Maybe not today, maybe I just keep walking.

Standing in line waiting my turn, I find myself staring at the blank walls. The place is soulless and the unsmiling drone behind the till repeats the same questions in the same uninterested tone over and over again. He is a clone of me, in the same job as me but in a different location. I don’t feel sorry for him, I don’t feel anything I just take a step forward as the person at the front of the queue receives their order and moves off. That’s when I feel a hand on my shoulder. “Hiya…” Oh no, please don’t be. Not here. “…how are you?” I turn to face her and I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. “Living the dream.” I reply “You?” She laughs to save me making the decision and I offer a smile. “I’m great, I’m just here to see…” I don’t here the name she says, or maybe I do and just phase it out. I don’t know them but she says it as though I should. I just don’t care. I nod along but I can’t hear what’s she saying anymore. Why do I feel so lonely in your company? “So, what brings you here anyway?” “Just grabbing some lunch.”


* It’s early where I am and I’m not expecting to hear from anyone, let alone her, so I’m a little cautious when answering the phone. “Hullo?” “Hey, where are you?” “Err…I’m good thanks...” “Yeah, great where are you?” “Um…I…I don’t know.” “How can you not know?” “Well, I’m not really paying attention to where I’m going. I’m travelling about just looking for…something…” “You’re travelling? Why aren’t you at the shop?” “The shop? Oh yeah, I don’t work there anymore.” “I know that, I’m here. They said you just stopped coming in.” “You’re there? You never come and see me at the shop…” “Well I’m here now but you’re not.” “No, I’m not. I’m surprised you’re still in town, I thought you’d be off travelling again by now.” “Yeah, I thought…I thought I’d stick around for a little while. I was waiting for something. Anyway, what are you looking for?” “What” “You said you were looking for something, what is it?” “Erm…steps.” “Steps?” “Yes, steps from the sea.” “Are you insane?” “Probably.” “How would you even get steps in the sea?” “By burning bridges.” “What? You’re not making sense.” “Sure I am. If you build a bridge and set it on fire, you’re only left with the steps.” “Riiiiight…and when are you coming back?” “I don’t really know.” “Oh. Okay then.” “Are you alright?” “Yes…I just thought…” “You just thought what?” “Never mind. I just didn’t see you as the sort of person who would just up and leave.” “Yeah, sometimes you’ve just got to burn some bridges.” There was a long silence on the end of the line before she eventually hangs up.



charlotte o’hare O’Hare - COMIC ILLUSTRATOR -

“I chose to use paneling because exploration, I feel, contains some form of journey. And a journey is always made up of multiple, somewhat subtle moments.” www.cohareillustration.com Instagram: @ lottiedotts



blue eggs & tea

“a quiet, systematic morning moving from field to field talking to the Alpacas as I go. Asking them about their weekend, telling them about my own.” RUTH ALLEN - CREATIVE WRITER

and second I drink my first tea of the morning


whilst flicking through my bedside book pile; comprised of cabins in the wood, therapeutic

I rise early. The air is almost always cold,

theory and tales of high-mountain adventures. I

and I pull on more clothes than I feel I need to. I

imagine the blueprints of my own grand design

drive twenty five country miles, excited to meet

- a black timber hideaway on the edge of the

the land again. And when I get there I head

woods at the foot of a mountain. The third alarm

straight for the stables where I sink my hands

reminds me that I have to earn the money first.

into a metal chest full of feed. I close my eyes

I spend the day absorbed in teaching plans

as I draw in a lungful of the sweet, nutty grains

and strategies, weaving paths between rooms

before filling several buckets. The feed round

and buildings until the time bell rings. Tuesday

marks the beginning of my Monday routine; a

is always busy and formal. I feel like a strange

quiet, systematic morning moving from field

version of me. Efficient. Sensible. Back at home, I

to field talking to the Alpacas as I go. Asking

change my clothes from smart to casual, and pull

them about their weekend, telling them about

on alpaca fibre socks and wellies. I set about my

my own. I look out for problems; checking eyes,

early-evening routine of tending to the chickens,

feet and general demeanour as I go. With each

daydreaming about my future homestead, of

passing hour I take on a little more mud. By

not having to sit in commuter traffic. For dinner

the afternoon hay round, I am cursing the wind

I make a paneer curry. As I brown the little cubes

and wondering why I cut the bale string before

of cheese, I think about a trip I once took to India;

reaching the hay cart. I watch the hay chase itself

and how I hated Indian food then. Now I wish I

across the fields and wonder if there’s such thing

could go back and I think I might flick through

as a clean farm. I head home feeling physically

some old photos after dinner.

exhausted but mentally rested.



Every week on this day I take a slightly

I wake from troubled dreams and refuse

different route from where I live, northwards to

to get up until the third alarm. During the first


Manchester. There seem to be infinite possibilities,

their small-world routines. I drink my third tea

but my favourites all involve driving through the

before lunch and slip into a daydream about

Peak District; up and over the moors. Getting

sweaty tea plantations in China. I realise how

stuck behind a chain of trucks is my chance to sit

much time I spend thinking about other places

in their slipstream and look out across the hills.

I have been. But Thursday is one of my favourite

Like that old quote about men and sex, I think

days as I start to think about the coming

about the mountains approximately every seven

weekend. I rarely plan ahead, preferring instead

seconds. Wednesday has become my future day.

to see what weather comes where, but by

For seven indulgent hours, as a fully grown adult,

Thursday I am beginning to know where I might

I study a subject I love, I venture into my own

want to go. I start to feel a call. I start planning

capabilities and I learn ever more about how to

the weekend, perhaps scrutinising a mountains

uncover other people’s hinterlands. The day is

route over lunch, and this leads me to think of

long and intensive, and I drive home late under

summer adventures. I have plenty to consolidate

a seemingly endless string of sodium lights. I

before I finish my mountain leader qualification

join other night road explorers at the motorway

later in the year. I account for the myriad mind

services, all bleary eyed, clutching coffees and

wanderings of today by working late. I often

wishing for bed. I alternate between Sigur Ros

work late. I draw away under a lamp whilst the

and We Lost the Sea. By this time of night I’m

rest of England begins its sleep and I only stop

done with words. Just before midnight I find my

when I’m ready to.

way upstairs and fall hungrily into sleep where I


dream most often of the mountains or of endless doors and missing keys.

I wake early despite a late night and


already I’m counting down till 5pm when we’ll head out on a weekend adventure. I have a pang

Today the options unfold like a favourite

of sadness; I’m a weekend adventurer. I explore

map. I may complete some illustration work

only when our post-war society says we can.

that will be published in the coming months.

But I quickly correct myself. This isn’t forever. It

I may draw something just for myself. Perhaps

is better than nothing. Adventure costs money.

the beginnings of a map or an imaginary

I also remind myself that there are many ways

mountain. I may practice some photography if

to explore – not all of them require a mountains

the light is good downstairs. I have a fixed lens

or a plane ticket. The rest of the day passes in

on my camera, and a book on how to Get Out of

a haze of order packing, invoicing, bill paying,

Automode. I’ve just made a new piece of work,

sketching and business planning. All the while I

and today I want to add it to my shop. I need to

watch the clock. At 5pm I fill the chicken feeder,

get into Selling Mode. I try to do all of this, but I

lay down two large bowls of cat biscuits, sling my

end up in the garden with my chickens enjoying

pack over my shoulder and grab the keys to the


“ I add another rock to the collection in my pocket, take too many photos and generally feel glad to be alive.” RUTH ALLEN - CREATIVE WRITER


van. The weather looks good in North Wales, so

my pocket, take too many photos and generally

we’ll go there. I pick up my husband from work

feel glad to be alive. At the end of the day we

and we head west in rush hour traffic but not

return to camp, eat a lot of unhealthy things that

remotely fed up about it. By tonight I will be

we probably shouldn’t, and I mean to read but I

parked somewhere familiar near the hills, eating

don’t. I sleep like the dead. Like the happy dead.

Pot Noodle and biscuits, and savouring a hot


drink I got accustomed to (and brought back) last summer in the Slovakian mountains.

Today is much the same as yesterday,


but I feel a little easier in myself. I can relax a little more and let the week round itself out in peace

Saturday is always a good day. We get

whilst I take in deep lungful’s of welsh mountain

up early because every second is precious on

air. We walk again, but this time I am thinking

the weekend and we gently argue over who will

more about what’s to come next week. I think

make the tea. I lose because I so rarely make it

of the Alpacas tomorrow. The new illustrations I

at home and I stretch forward to light the stove

have in mind. I remember that I promised to call

and open the window. After breakfast and

my mother and have forgotten again. As I walk

packing lunch we choose a route to walk in the

up and down the familiar lines of this mountain,

hills. I know we go time and time again to the

I allow myself to plan for the future. I muse on

same places but this is something you get used

the therapeutic properties of outdoor spaces. My

to when you live on an island nation with only

husband has drifted off into the distance doing

a handful of notably hilly areas. Besides, I’m one

his own thing and I’m somewhere else amused at

of those optimistic people who says repeatedly

how much mountains have taken over my life. I’m

‘you can always find something new to explore’.

obsessed, and wonder if I should get treatment

I generally mean it too. The weather will

for it. I audibly snort at that thought. The hills

always offer something new; mainly a different

here are so familiar, old friends or perhaps old

heaviness of rain, or depth of cloud. The rest of

family that I can’t be apart from for long, but

the day is spent walking where I think there will

I think how wonderful it will be to see new

be the fewest people. I love people, but I need

mountains in the summer. This is very much the

my weekends to be quiet save for the restorative

pattern of my outdoor year: weekends in local

chirping and sloshing of nature. Saturday is

mountains to maintain my fitness and sanity, and

always the most vigorous day and my husband

then trips further afield to satisfy my wanderlust.

reminds me it’s supposed to be fun not an army

I once read that 20% of the earth is covered in

training camp. I say “I know you’re right!” But

mountains. That’s 20% of this whole planet I feel

I don’t mean it. As we walk I take mental and

the urgent need to explore. I know I never will

sometimes physical notes of what I’ve seen. I

and so I have long since stopped trying. I’ll just

carry a portable weather station and record wind

do what I can for as long as I can. And this is the

speeds and temperatures. I look at rocks more

thought that carries me home.

than is normal and we take it in turns to lecture each other. I studied Geology and he studied Volcanology so we make for an interesting/

www.blueeggsandtea.com Instagram: @blueeggsandtea

boring fit. I add another rock to the collection in


Lund Shannon - ILLUSTRATOR -




sodium chloride hairspray CREATIVE WRITER - LAURA MCKENZIE



Why see the world when you got the beach? Seems such a silly idea. All the potions of Arabia won’t make your hair as curly as the sea salt And all those dishes with their exotic spices can’t hold up to a fresh fillet of fish. You remember the parties, the great ones. The one where the fire was as high as us and all we could see was the sea, Such a silly thing to leave, but what choice did we have? We were never going to be like those elders eating fish and chips on the benches. So we packed our bags for Troy (With a fresh fillet of fish inside).


jessica smith. www.jessicasmithillustration.com


“the explorer and torch.” JESSICA SMITH - ILLUSTRATOR


“swimming ladies.” JESSICA SMITH - ILLUSTRATOR




everest. MAX EEVI - CREATIVE WRITER Vimeo - vimeo.com/user37429035

KARIM SKALLI - PHOTOGRAPHER www.karimskalli.com

yesterday I caught a train  going south,  towards where I was born. I arrived at the station early:  and put aside a half-hour note but only used a fraction  of the surplus.  I had time,  10 minutes time  and decided  I was hungry,  as I often am. I settled on a small chain, of cheap plastics, selling sandwiches  wrapped in paper-bags.  as I queued, half awake,  three hours stronger,  towards my food, I realised  a fly. the wonderer had overcome the glass that severs purchase from reality,  and landed on the bread.

from one comfort to the next  the fly in turn would land,  until there was none left  to lien.  ownership a hopeless dream. for a while the out-of-towner  rested  on a cocktail stick embellished with a flag.  might it think:  “what a meal! how can I receive food of such proportion?” but for a maddening instant,  desolate to me  I was jealous  of my friend  the fly,  for how much he was given  of what would give me less -  I called out  “there’s a filthy little fly, it’s on the food!” the men around me – three minutes late, five minutes late,


ten days late, a trillionth of a nano-second  late -  recoiled. the food was ripped from underneath my friend the fly, while the vendor closed the plastic for a while to renew the stock. we had to share the nothingness, just for a moment, 


neither me  nor the fly had food.  and he was crushed.



carly diep. “The explorer, with their binoculars, rucksack and furry companion at the ready, steps into another exploration that will then remain with them long afterwards.” CARLY DIEP - ILLUSTRATOR



Joe Sparkes - ILLUSTRATOR Facebook: /joesparkesart


To explore is to revert to a playful state of mind where the world and its curiosities become fascinating through their unfamiliarity. As a child, I watched the family dog explore, discover and scrutinise every detail of the garden on adventures with an unparalleled enthusiasm and interest. Attempting to expose this examination of space and detail, my images hope to intrigue the onlooker into studying the content for additional information and clarity, questioning the individual tales hidden within each image.



There once was a house. A large, old house. Melancholy, perpetually reminiscent of various times past. Although, perhaps there was a lack of any times present, consequently stimulating such entangled nostalgia. Perhaps it had always been in a state of consistent yearning for distant dreams. A grey house, the colour of stone that seems to dominate the Northern landscape. There was a gaunt front door, elevated by high steps that were decorated by ivy and disconsolate branches. However they weren't often used and round to the right of the house there was a small picnic area complete with bench and parasol (lathered in dripping grey of course) which led to a heavy oak door with a large wrought iron handle- used by everyone to access the house.

window in the whole house from which you could see most of the winding and wild garden. Beside the garden there was a cow-filled field that itself bordered upon a farm. Sonia didn't know what to make of this house, with it's dusty, cold rooms and big windows- but she did like the cows. Somehow they seemed happy in their field- eating grass and licking each other's ears. Sometimes she went and sat on the mound of grass next to the ditch and barbed wire fence that stopped the cows from investigating the garden. She would remain still for hours and talk to them, while they gathered round to listen to what she had to say. At least, she thought that was the case. They could easily have just been curious as to what this small, hair-less, 2 legged creature was doing. It was difficult to tell with cows. Sonia would tell them endless stories and entertain them with cartwheel practise- not that she was very good at either. Maybe Sonia sounds like a lonely little girl, but I'm not sure if she was. There's a certain line between alone and lonely, ever prevalent and not always crossed. Anyway, cows can often be better companions than humans.

Upon opening this door and entering there was instantly discerned a faint smell of damp- and often it took a while to find the light switch in the darkness. Once found, an electric bulb burst out of it's cocoon and dazzled with it's merciless glare. It felt completely out of place in this old Victorian house that was much more suited to an oil lamp or flickering candle. On the left were various coats and boots, on the right piles of forgotten magazines and assorted debris arranged on ascending shelves. Further along, a small, white room complete with ceramic toilet. Updated and brought into the modern world by a singing, rubber fish that couldn't help but tell you to always look on the bright side of life. A song that is exceptionally popular at funerals.

Sonia wasn't really sure how she had ended up in this house. Her Mother had bought her here for company- although whenever she tried to perform this service she got lethargically bored. Her mother was going through file after file from a hoard crammed into a cupboard in the study, creating small mountains with sheets of paper. Sonia didn't know what it was her Mother was looking for. She did ask a few times but always got the same reply,

Back out into the illuminated corridor and round to the left led into another, bigger hallway. This, in turn, led into a small, cosy kitchen that dwelt side by side with a dining room. The kitchen was always warm- a contrast to it's surrounding habitat. It had a large window that viewed the picnic area and a small lawn adjoining a vegetable garden. A gravel path provided access to cars around the lawn- halted progress by a red, brick wall about 20 metres away. The kitchen was filled with far too many cupboards to count- everlasting storage. It had an orange tile floor, cream walls and a round, wooden table. The adjacent dining room had a blue carpet and a dark wooden table. It's white ceiling was completely covered in stamps. A party trick invented by a forgotten author and continued henceforth. It was achieved by either putting the licked stamp on a coin which was then flicked to the ceiling, or put on the end of a pool cue and stuck onto the ceiling.

“Sonia, if you're going to ask so many questions, go and ask the cat. You're distracting me.” Sonia thought the cat didn't know what was going on either, but that it might be more interesting to talk to so she went on an expedition round the house to find it. She softly crept up the stairs, if she pretended to be a cat it might be easier to find one. She paused to look at her reflection in one of the glass cabinets. A short, pale girl looked back at her. Her white blonde hair hung limply around her face (her Mother made her cut it short as it never seemed to stay neat and brushed), slightly covered the large mole just below her eye. Sonia thought it was a magic wish spot, but the children she had played with at school had called it ugly. However, witches were often ugly in stories so Sonia concluded she might be a witch. She wasn't sure though. Witches were supposed to have magic powers, and Sonia didn't have those. Although, sometimes, if she looked out of the corner of her eye she could see slight glimmers and dancing from things that shouldn't be moving. Especially in this house. Sonia shivered a little and continued on.

From the window in the dining room you could see a much larger lawn which disappeared into a multitude of elegant trees, shiny bushes festooned with plump flowers that had broken forth from the bounds of their society. Leaves carpeted the ground under the trees and easily hid small creatures who wished to pass unseen through the world. Opposite the dining room was a small study. A 1970s TV in the corner, and many photographs neatly arranged on tables and the walls depicting grimacing family members. There was a fire place surrounded by smooth, comfy chairs and sofas. In one corner a desk with a fold down lid complimented by a carved, red chair- very much used. Again, this room led an animated life that was not evident in the rest of the house.

“Now, if I was a cat (which I am),” she reminded herself, “where would I be?” She searched through the bedrooms she was allowed into, looking under beds, in cupboards and anywhere that she could think of. She returned back into the landing, when she heard the muffled but distinct sound of paws. A ginger head peeked round the side of a door. It was one of the doors she wasn't allowed through. There was a section of the house that had been where Sonia's grandparents had slept when they were alive- and her Mum had said Sonia wasn't to go in there.

Back out and around the staircase led to a much more dominant hall. Most likely would have been used as the main entrance to the house in years long remembered. There was a large staircase with a winding banister. The walls were papered with a cold yellow, and there were cabinets filled with ceramic animals amongst other things that stood guard over the front door previously mentioned. To the left of this hallway, when facing the door, was a long, green room. It's walls filled with cabinets that hosted endless crockery. Plate decorated in pinks and blues and gold detail- but never used. Doomed to a life of dust due to their supposed beauty. This room would have been the main dining room had the whole house been used and was still filled with a dark, oak table that could have seated 20. However, it had ended up being used as a storeroom and a playroom for children and was usually strewn with open books and toys.

“Kitty! Come here!” This came out in a whisper but Sonia's foot also managed to stamp in slight impatience. Kitty, however, didn't seem to hear what she said and instead went back hence it came. “Kitty!” said Sonia in exasperation, but curiosity getting the better of her, she followed the cat through the door.

Across the hallway was a sitting room- much bigger than the study but much less inhabited. The furniture covered in silk and other pointlessly expensive fabrics. Far too lovely (in certain people's minds at least) to be used on a day to day basis. Except due to this it's cream walls started to look forlorn and it's carpet lonely.

Although it was the middle of the day, the room was dimly lit due to the heavy, dark curtains that were drawn almost shut. What light had escaped into the room displayed a large, low, four posted bed covered with layers of thick blankets and pillows. A dressing table with an oval mirror placed upon it as well as some perfume pots and old, horse hair brushes. The light from the window reflected upon the mirror and showed thousands of particles of dust drifting dreamily through the air. The carpet was a deep red, also covered with a layer of dust- though slightly exacerbated by the movement of the cat.

Up the staircase led to more hallway, more cabinets and then along to bedrooms. A blue twin room complete with flowered eiderdowns and a tea making kit. Next door was a magenta 1960's bathroom that echoed any sound made by an inhabitant. Neighbour to this was a small singular room that was filled with a whole bookcase of fairy tales. Grimm brothers, the Knights of the Round table, fairies of all colours of the rainbow- the kind of room a child with a passion for reading and a limitless imagination could easily get lost in.

“Kitty.” Again thought Sonia- having been momentarily distracted by her perusing of the room. She looked around, noticing more objects on the walls- paintings in fact. Also, in the corner, a large, intimidating wardrobe.

Alongside this was a very large, white room that could have fitted 5 beds in. It had the biggest


Having got over her initial negative pre-disposition, Sonia walked more confidently into the roomtelling herself she was still looking for the cat but really just wanting to see what the paintings depicted. She stopped in front of the first one. Even though it was covered in a thin film of dust still very visible was a portrait of a mouse aboard a large 18th century ship. The sea was stormy and virulent, and seemed to be vomiting hoards of eels into the boat. Lightening echoed all over the scene, tumultuous and enthralling- Sonia was hypnotised.

“Don't worry about that. Now go and make us some sandwiches for lunch. And look where you're going this time!”

“I'd rather be an eel than the mouse.” she decided.

As Sonia wandered to the kitchen she thought about what her Mother could be doing. Why they had come from their lovely house in Kilmorack just so that her Mother could look through a bunch of silly bits of paper. Sonia knew that in the adult world bits of paper were more powerful than magic spells- but she wasn't sure why. In school they'd used paper to write things down upon, and draw pictures on- but she was sure that her magic mole was more powerful than them.

Thinking of mice she remembered the cat, but upon looking around again and being unable to see him she moved along to the next painting.

“Maybe if Mother had a magic mole she wouldn't need to look at all that paper!” thought Sonia, “and we could go home!”

In this one beams of a house seemed to be bleeding- the thick blood changing from deep red to incandescent silver as it highlighted the characters in the painting. There, cavorting, bird- like demons appeared to be making merry at the expense of a tortured crab lying on the ground- his shell a cup for their liquor. In the dark gloom surrounding these creatures other less discernible forms seemed to leer out, with claws that attempted to try and scratch their way out of the picture. This painting Sonia liked even less- although strangely it did jog something in the back of her mind as if it reminded her of something.

Although, in some part of her mind, the house was growing on Sonia. There was far more space for her dreams to play in these big, empty, unloved rooms- and the garden was a magical kingdom filled with wild characters always just out of sight. Then she shivered and thought of the lay-lady in the wardrobe. Maybe dreams shouldn't be allowed to play for too long. Why was it in the painting too? Had the lady felt an especial affinity for her? Whilst buttering bread for the sandwiches Sonia thought that she should try and find out who the lady was.

She moved right, this next round painting was a portrait of a very austere looking lady. She was wearing a dark green Victorian style dress with a pale collar. It looked itchy and unflattering. Her brown hair was parted in the middle and pulled tightly back from her face into a bun. In the background Sonia could make out what looked like a dressing table- similar to the one in the room- and a life-size mannequin. The lady's blue eyes watched Sonia as she moved away. She surveyed the room again- more paintings, the wardrobe, no cat.

“Like Miss Marple in a detective story!” So after lunch, where her and her Mother slowly ate cheese and pickle sandwiches quietly- each immersed in their own thoughts, Sonia went and sat on the bottom step of the large staircase and thought about where she could discover more about the lady.

“Maybe he's in the wardrobe,” said Sonia to herself, and softly walked over. She placed her hand on the handle, it felt ice cold. She opened the door- nothing. Except for a mannequin.

“Well, there's quite a lot of books here. I've read all the fairy tales but there's lots more. Maybe if I look in them I'll find a clue!”

“Odd, it looks just like the one in the painting,” said Sonia.

The majority of the books were stored in the bigger dining room so Sonia began there. She sat at the table on one of the satin covered chairs, after pulling down a big pile of dusty volumes and placing them in front of herself.

Actually, it looked more like a lay-figure than a mannequin. Sonia remembered being told they were used by artists to see how fictional figures would look. Lay figures had joints and faces, whereas mannequins modelled clothing. This lay-figure had a painted face with beady eyes, a tiny nose and rosebud lips. It had little, pointy ears and a few lines painted on it's crown to represent hair. It didn't exactly scare Sonia, but when she touched it's porcelain hands a small electric spark shot up her arm, making her jump. Sonia wondered what it would say if it was alive. “It?” thought Sonia, “would it be a he or a she?”

Each one laid bare entirely new worlds to Sonia. She was transfixed as she perused them one by one. The first was an atlas of the world as recorded in the 19th century. The maps were framed with interlacing leaves and flowers, and little pictures of ships were placed sporadically around the page. She day dreamed of riding atop camels walking through the deserts of Niger, of watching crocodiles and snakes fight in the groves of Mango trees, of all the different, colourful people that existed around the world.

Sonia thought it was probably a lady.

“So many people!” she thought, with a slight pang of loneliness. The pang didn't last long though.

“You can be my lady friend!” said Sonia.

Another book was filled with pictures of illuminated letters drawn exquisitely onto goat skin. Sonia had learnt about these in history. She liked how someone had spent so long making the words elegant and pretty.

However, as she looked at her lay-lady it's painted eyes started to seem a bit too real and Sonia felt as though they had eye contact.

Book after book filled her head with new ideas, places, fantasies. She thought that she still liked the storybooks best- but these ones were pretty good too. After sifting through about 10 thick volumes Sonia came to a slimmer book. It was covered in red leather and had no words on the outside. Upon opening it Sonia discovered that it was another kind of storybook. The stories didn't seem like any ones she had read before- but that didn't matter. After flicking through a few pages she came to one about a mannequin. When she spied the title Sonia felt a little cold, but without a doubt that it was a clue she began to read.

“What could you be thinking?”, but the more and more that Sonia wondered what the lay-lady was thinking the more she decided she didn't really want to know. In fact, she began to feel frightenedan alarming cold tingle was gently winding it's way down the back of her neck. She stepped backwards and nearly fell over. The cat that had tripped her up yowled and ran out of the door. Sonia looked back at the lay lady and, although it might have been her imagination, she thought she was slowly moving toward her. Her voice caught in her throat and she managed to scramble up, turn around and run out of the door as quickly as she was able. Without looking to see whether she was actually following her she shut the door and ran down the stairs, almost knocking over her Mother.

Once upon a time there was a little boy called Arnold. Arnold had ginger hair, brown eyes and an upturned nose. He was tall for his age and he liked to think he was big and strong. He wasn't a very nice little boy- and took pleasure in bullying the other children at his school- pulling the girls arms and the boys hair. Dropping bricks off the roof and leaving dog poo in corners. His mother loved him very much and it made her very sad that he had become so mean. However, she didn't know how to stop him. She tried to talk to him, to punish him, to bribe him- nothing would work.

“Sonia! What are you doing? You almost made me drop all this paper!” Sonia wondered if she could tell her Mother what had happened, but decided that her Mother would probably just tell her off.

One day Arnold was alone at home- bored. He had done everything he could think of doing- he had “Nothing, just chasing the cat. What are you doing with all those papers anyway?” she asked.



“ Maybe dreams shouldn't be allowed to play for too long. Why was it in the painting too? Had the lady felt an especial affinity for her? ”



made a chocolate sandwich, switched the salt for the sugar, played video games and gone through his Mother's desk. Arnold was not a very imaginative little boy. So he decided to explore the house. He tried, and failed, to get in the attic, so next he thought he'd try the basement. It was dark when he went down the steps- he groped around for the light and found a switch. However when he switched it on it just flickered dimly- casting long, dancing shadows everywhere. There wasn't much in the basement. An old trunk his Grandmother had used for transporting things, and some heaps of moth-bitten clothes in-cased in black bin bags. Arnold thought he'd try looking in the trunk for entertainment. There was a lock, but it was weak after having been left so long in the dark and damp, and broke easily. Arnold opened it slowly, but soon realised that all there was was an old mannequin. Although it looked more realistic than the small wooden ones he had seen in shops. It had a ceramic face and hand. Eyes, rosebud lips and small ears had been painted on.

Who was the mannequin? Who or what was it that was now residing in his body? Arnold was left to ponder these mysteries by himself, in the dark. Arnold's Mother couldn't understand the change in her son. He no longer looked at her with the eyes she knew so well. Nor did he show her the random bouts of affection that he had done before. But neither did he bully and torment the other children, or mess up the house. So she decided not to question it, and left the explanation to Arnold 'growing up'. Never knowing that her real son was left trapped in the body of a doll, in the basement. Nor did she think, a few years later, when she decided to give the mannequin to a junk shop, that she might be giving away her son. Sonia finished the story with a racing heart. It had been so vivid, so intense. She had felt the pain of Arnold trapped in the mannequin so clearly. She was no closer to finding any information on the lady- but her fear of the mannequin had certainly be re-kindled. She decided she had had enough of books and the green striped dining room. She decided to go outside, even though it was raining.

Arnold pulled one of it's hands up (almost as big as his) and shook it, saying gruffly, “Nice to meet you Sir!” “Nice to meet you too.”

She stepped out into the rain, the water cooling the fire in her heart that the book had stoked. She was only wearing a thin dress but Sonia didn't feel that she needed anything else. There was something completely exhilarating to surrender herself to the weather. Most people in this world try to fight against it- huddling inside their coats and hoods, under umbrellas and hats. There is nothing more chilling than waiting for the cold to seep in through cracks and crevices while standing around shivering.

He burst into a snorting laugh, this laugh faded quickly though, leaving a tense silence. Arnold could hear someone mowing their lawn two doors down. A dog barking on the other side. “Probably Frank,” thought Arnold. Suddenly he had a feeling that the mannequin was watching him and could hear his thoughts.

Sonia was learning to face the rain and wind head on. She giggled when the raindrops tickled her skin and kissed her face. She let the wind throw her about- became part of the dance that lifted her hair and her dress. She stood tall and strong and took in the entirety of the sky above her. The terror of the story was still in her- but the elements reminded her of how resilient she was. More than capable to stop fighting as she felt it's power course through her whole being.

“Don't be silly,” said Arnold, growing steadily more scared. “You can't hear me!” There was another silence, and Arnold was on the brink of running back upstairs when he thought he heard something. Something that sounded suspiciously like syllables. It was very quiet, so quiet that he almost couldn't hear it. He looked frantically around the room, hoping with wild eyes that it was his Mother come home or some other reasonable explanation. He heard the sound, the voice, again. This time he was certain it had come from in front of him. From the mannequin. He looked at it for a while, then slowly rotated, bent down and put his ear near it's painted mouth. This time he heard it clearly.

“Sonia! Sonia!” her Mother called. The spell was broken. Sonia felt a shiver and ran inside. Her mother was standing there with a towel to wrap her up in. “What on earth were you doing?” Her face depicted complete confusion with more than a pinch of worry.

“I can hear your thoughts. I can hear all of you. I can hear the beat of your heart, the throb of your blood, your lungs expanding, the friction between your bones as they softly grind together. I can hear your eyelids blinking, your nostrils flaring. Most of all I can hear your obnoxiously loud, booming thoughts. I make no sound at all, so I can hear everything else so vividly. You wouldn't understand. Maybe you will though.”

Sonia just shrugged. How could she explain?

Arnold's heart started racing. His palms were clammy. It was freezing down in the basement, yet he could feel beads of sweat begin to form on the back of his neck. What did it mean?

“No, she wouldn't understand and she'd just tell me off.”

As they sat silently through a supper of ham, egg, peas and chips Sonia felt the fear creeping back into her. She wrapped her woolly cardigan tighter round her and wondered whether she should tell her Mother everything.

Besides her Mother was still totally wrapped up in thinking about the content of the paper. Arnold tried to stand up, to work out what was going on, but he found he was stuck- unable to move. In fact, moving slowly into the mannequin's arms. An electric embrace.

“Mum, when are we going home?”

Arnold tried to scream but could only gasp, drool dripping onto his chin. He tried to grab something to pull himself away only found his arms disobeying him and welcoming the grip of the ceramic fingers. The world seemed to slow down, Arnold's mind delirious. He didn't understand what was going on, but he knew that if he touched the mannequin everything would change. Closer and closer he went. Until he fell, and lost all consciousness.

“Huh? Oh, soon. I've just got a few more things to look through. I know this has been long. When we get back I'll buy you a new book for being so good. How does that sound?” Sonia shrugged. “Mum, do you know who an old lady with tight hair and a mannequin would be?”

When he came to Arnold could see himself slowly standing up. Stretching his arms, rolling his wrists, his head. The other Arnold caught his eye, and winked. He said in a wonky voice,

“Old lady? Mannequin? No. Why?”

“Told you I could hear you.”

Sonia shrugged again.

He walked away, up the stairs. He switched off the light leaving Arnold in complete darkness. Arnold was confused. Scared. What did the other Arnold mean? He tried to move, to switch on the light- but found he was paralysed. The terror started to rise up in him, wave upon wave of piercing ice-cold horror as he tried again and again to move- but to no avail. After remaining in this hell for a long time, the fear slowly returned whence it came, bit by bit. He thought about what could have happened. Soon it dawned on him that he had become the mannequin, and the mannequin had become him.

That night Sonia felt the fear overwhelming her. Curdling inside from the tip of her toes to the crown of her head. She tried desperately to get to sleep. Now the sound of the wind outside and the rain against the window scared rather than strengthened- but eventually she surrendered to the realms of sleep. Suddenly her eyes snapped open. She was wide awake. She sat up and looked around. Everything was quiet, the weather had calmed and Sonia could see the moon bathing everything in a


menacing light. For no explainable reason Sonia felt the urge to get up, put on a jumper and slippers and walk out the room. At first she wasn't sure where she was going- but soon it became obvious. Her body was taking her to the room. Panic bubbled inside of Sonia, white hot and tempestuous, but there was no stopping herself. She walked up the short flight of steps and turned the handle. She stepped into the room. It too was all stroked by the light of the moon. She walked past the paintings again, looking in the mirror briefly. A pale, frightened girl looked back at her. She paused before the painting of the lady. Sonia wasn't sure but she thought she might've changed position, and the mannequin. The mannequin was closer. Almost touching the lady.

Sonia cried more than she ever had before- until she had no more tears to shed but her body still shook from the sobs. Finally, she looked around the room with swollen, red eyes. Now everything just looked dusty and neglected. The lay-lady limp and inanimate. “All the magic has gone too.” thought Sonia. “You know, I'd completely forgotten about this room. God, look at those paintings- pretty horrible. Though might be able to make some money from them. I see how you were asking about the lady and the mannequin. I think that's your Great Aunt Rebecca. She was an artist which would be why she had the mannequin. No idea why it would be in here though- your Grandmother did like to hoard things.”

Sonia continued on, her hand reached out to open the door to the wardrobe. The door swung open with a creak that echoed throughout the entire room. Sonia stood and faced the lay-lady. She remained thus for a long while. Both watching the other. The lay-lady's lips smiled mockingly. Slowly, the lay-lady reached out her hand. Sonia could feel her heart beating so fast it could have exploded out of her body and begun it's own adventure around the world. However, not through any will of her own- Sonia began to reach out her own hand to match the lay-lady's. Not only that but her body was walking toward the lady- as if to embrace each other. All Sonia could think about was the little boy in the story, who became trapped in the mannequin after touching it. She tried with all her might to pull away, to leave the room, but somehow she wasn't able to. She moved closer and closer, the lay- lady's face looming pale above hers. Closer and closer until Sonia's shivering body was wrapped around the lay-lady. Engulfed in her material arms.

“Mum, I think we should give her to someone, or sell her. I think she's lonely.”

With a sharp movement Sonia felt the weight of the lay-lady falling on top of her, knocking her to the ground. Unable to move. She screamed and screamed, twisting and scrabbling- she realised that she was in her own bed, but the lay lady was still on top of her, heavy on her chest. She kept waking up to then realise she was still lost in the unrelenting nightmare- the lay-lady's white ceramic face ever present. Sonia's eyes rolled in absolute terror, her tongue lolling, her arms twitching- until just as quickly as it all had happened, she woke up.

The next day they packed their things- ready to go, placing them neatly in the car. A thought occurred to Sonia.

Sonia's Mother smiled at his, but shrugged her shoulders. “Yes, probably a good idea. Now shall we go back to bed?” They walked out of the room, and switched off the light. Sonia paused for a second to look at the laylady. They smiled at each other. Sonia's Mum then closed the door.

“Mum, what were you looking for in all those bits of paper?” “Oh, I wasn't. Sometimes you don't need to look for anything. You just need to sort through things, see what's what, who's who. Don't worry, we won't come back again.”

Sweating and panting, Sonia looked around. She was still in her own room. Nothing was on top of her, although her entire bed was drenched and the sheets in complete disarray. She was fine. She could see the moonlight gently drifting in through the window- no longer menacing.

“No, I think I'd like to come back again. It's a beautiful house. I just needed to make friends.” “Hmm. Well, if you want. There is more stuff to sort through here. You can come with next time.”

The terror was mostly gone- although Sonia could feel it effervescing in her stomach. She wanted to go back to sleep however she was scared of returning to the dream. Besides, there was something she knew she had to do.

Sonia smiled. She looked up at the house. The never ending grey seemed to sparkle now, the ivy elegant rather than confining. The wind gently caressed the grass, the trees and Sonia's hair- Sonia knew she would definitely return. She turned and looked at her Mother.

She sat up, for a second time that night, and again pulled on a jumper and slippers. Sonia felt the fear begin to build again as she stepped towards the door- but she had been calmed and empowered by the moonlight- so she managed to keep it under control. She opened the door. Just like in the dream the room was visible by moon light. This time Sonia drank it in, using it to fortify herself. She walked toward the wardrobe. Again, she looked at the paintings, the lady and the mannequin were back to how they had been before. She hesitated when she reached the wardrobe, took a deep breath, then confidently opened the wardrobe door.

“Mum, can we go to Loch Bruicheach on the way back?”

The lay-lady looked at her with her rosebud lips still smiling. Sonia looked at the lay-lady. The laylady had such magnetism, the terror began to fizz again in Sonia's stomach. Then Sonia smiled. She reached out and stroked the lay lady's cheek. The lay-lady smiled back at her. A tear dripped down Sonia's cheek. “You're just lonely, aren't you.” She stood there for a few minutes, holding the lay-lady's hand. She realised that she hadn't been foolish, she just hadn't understood. All at once the shadows took on another meaning. What had once been dark holes that could hide vindictive creatures became pockets of comfort and calm. Sonia felt peaceful. She listened to the wind outside, finding harmony within it. “Sonia, what are you doing?” A bright, electric light switched on and her Mother stood in the room. The look of confusion from earlier amplified to the extreme. Sonia thought for a second, then decided to tell her Mother everything. Her Mother hugged her and stroked her hair as she cried her way through the story.

Twitter: @HParkerJervis Facebook: /hollyparkerjervisart starspangledbutterknife.blogspot.co.uk/

“I'm sorry, I didn't realise. Anyway, I'm pretty much done now so we can leave tomorrow.”


maya VIVIENNE MOK - PHOTOGRAPHER Photography/Styling: Vivienne Mok Hair/Make-up: Vivienne Mok Model: Maya @Time www.viviennemok.com Instagram: @vivienne.mok

Right: Coat: Anne Valerie Hash Blouse: Vintage Dress: Mes Demoiselles ...Paris Boots: Anne Valerie Hash 70



Top: American Vintage Skirt: Vintage Stockings: Calzedonia Boots: Anne Valerie Hash


Top: American Vintage Dress: American Vintage Stockings: Calzedonia



Above: Top: American Vintage Skirt: Vintage Stockings: Calzedonia Boots: Anne Valerie Hash Right : Coat: Anne Valerie Hash Blouse: Vintage Dress: Mes Demoiselles ...Paris Boots: Anne Valerie Hash




Photography/Styling: Vivienne Mok Hair & Make-up: Vivienne Mok Model: Maya @Time Blouse & Dress: Vintage



Photography/Styling: Vivienne Mok Hair & Make-up: Vivienne Mok Model: Maya @Time Blouse & Dress: Vintage


The Tea Shop at the Top of the World It is a rather strange feeling to wish you are lost, to hope upon hope that the place you were struggling and striving to reach is not where you now stand, but it was exactly this desire that eddied around Georgette, mixed into the freezing air now nipping at her body like an unrelenting beast trying to peel the very nerves from her. It was the undeniable shrinking of the world that had led her to its edges. She wanted to rail against the ever increasing confines of the ‘social community’ the entire globe had become a part of and so had set out into the snow to find…well, nothing at all. Despite her need to know if this was the place of her ultimate goal, she was still reluctant to use the electronic device that could tell her exact co-ordinates. The problem being, it would simultaneously log her whereabouts, and allow anyone who wished to be searching for her to pinpoint that location, whilst telling her where that may be. Still, these were unforeseen circumstances and so she stared at the machine’s tiny, grey screen hoping it would inform her she had gone astray somewhere along her travels and ended up in the wrong place. Alas, all it did was confirm she was where she wanted to be. She stood staring at, what should have been a unique

blankness, a cold, white void on the peripheries of human existence, and yet she was disappointed. Confused and disappointed. In almost any other setting, the non-descript wood cabin would garner little, to no, attention but here, amongst the swirling ice chill that had made the landscape around it so strikingly desolate, it was the only thing the eye could be drawn to. The aesthetic itself was a curious choice. Out here, in the harshest of conditions, why would you choose wood? It’s not even a practical decision in terms of available resources, there are no trees here, there’s nothing, just an endless layer of ice and snow! Stranger still was the swing sign above the door that was reminiscent of the country pubs Georgette used to see back home. Not so much now as most have closed down but you occasionally spotted one hanging from dilapidated premises if you were driving through the middle of nowhere. Here, the hinges had frozen so that it stood firm against the arctic winds that battered it and had covered whatever image it was supposed to display with snow. But if this was where Georgette should be, then surely the building should not, as she wasn’t expecting any building whatsoever and so she felt it only necessary to investigate.


That and, of course, being out in temperatures of -31°c rather makes the prospect of any sort of structure that could offer shelter far more interesting than it otherwise would be regardless of whether it ought be in that location in the first place. Intricately carved on the door were the words ‘Always Open’ which raised the question, to whom and why? It did however, alleviate any reservations Georgette might have about entering the cabin as it seemed like an invitation.

to no contact with the rest of the world in a landscape inhabited by ravenous bears and yet still, approaching this glass panel made her nervous. Coming close enough to glimpse what was beyond the copse of coats, Georgette saw a familiar scene of comfortable, yet durable, seating carefully arranged around faux-wooden tables with, what could be described as, a ‘rustic’ finish to them, as people sat in booths or in small clusters talking casually amongst themselves as though they were completely oblivious to the fact they were in the arctic circle, straddling the magnetic North of the globe. In one corner milled a few people behind a counter of shiny chrome equipment spouting steam and hot liquids, tapping and banging things with a deft touch and focus. The whole picture had an air of contrived cosiness about it but remained a little…soulless. Although what she saw in front of her was recognisable, it did not make any sense and was only made more baffling by the door she was peering through swinging open and a bearded gentleman appearing in front of her with the sort of grin only someone who has worked in the service industry can muster. The one where teeth are clenched a little too tightly, lips just a little too wide apart but the eyes show nothing but resentment. “Hello there and welcome to ‘The Tea Shop at the Top of the World!’” “Huh?” “‘The Tea Shop at the Top of the World!’ Is this your first time

Pushing through the entrance and stepping into a porch area, she was struck by the heat. Such wondrous, persistent warmth washed over her skin and started to sink into her bones, a warmth she hadn’t felt in weeks since starting this expedition. It felt so good she could almost taste it, flicking out her tongue in a reptilian manner to probe the air around her. Along each wall, rows of coats hung in uniformed lifelessness as a pair of heavy boots were tucked under each one as though an army of snow people had descended in ranks upon this spot only to melt away the very second they had come in contact with it leaving nothing but their outer layers hanging eerily in resignation of their deaths. Mirroring the one she’d just come through, another door stood at the opposite end of the room, this time with a small glass panel at head height that allowed her to see yet further inside. She’d travelled hundreds of kilometres, through freezing winds and snow, on her own with little


here?” Georgette was not sure whether this man was an idiot, insane or just a figment of her imagination brought on by the perils she had been through but, in any case, how could there be a tea shop on top of the world and why would she have been there before? Considering this man-vision, she wondered as to why her mind would present her this scenario in what were, probably, her dying moments and how it could create such an intricately detailed picture in front of her. She studied the bushy, yet neatly trimmed, beard surrounding the overly-taut lips and she carefully roved her gaze over his close crop hairstyle and pale, grey skin. To his credit, if he were real, his dead eyed service smile did not falter at this intense scrutiny. “Why is there a tea shop on the North Pole?” “Ah, you’ve clearly not been before. I’m Johann, but you can call me Jan, and I’ll be your server today. If you’d like to take a seat, I’ll be right over to and explain everything to you and then take an order.” He held out a hand toward a row of empty booths at the far end of the room and, suspicious yet dutiful, Georgette tiptoed carefully to a spot she thought might suit. Jan departed and Georgette started to peel off layers of her clothes, kicking off socks and boots, and throwing her thick coat beside her. If this was a projection of her dying mind it sure was making it hot for her. Slumping a little, Georgette tried to take it all in, to calm

the whirring train of thought careening around her head desperately trying to identify evidence of reality, or otherwise, but there was nothing she could definitively cling to. Jan returned, ridiculous grin still affixed in place, and slid a menu onto the table before looking over to the pile of clothing next to her, slowly steaming away, boiling in its own snowy residue and Georgette’s sweat. “Would you like me to hang your things in the lobby for you?” Staring first at Jan and then at the crumpled attire, Georgette thought this an oddly mundane question to be asked immediately after trekking to the North Pole and was somewhat deflated by it. If her brain were now shutting down on itself, it was neither trying very hard to be interesting nor was very self congratulatory. As such, she decided to keep her gear nearby as a remnant of reality should she devolve into further madness, although she did concede the lobby must have been where the ghostly coats hung when she entered so there must at least still be some logic to things. “No, thank you.” She said meekly, shaking her head. “Alright then, well if you change your mind just let me know. Now, as I’ve already told you, this is ‘The Tea Shop at the Top of the World.’ You’ve clearly not heard of us, which is okay, we are fairly new and actually get quite a few confused arctic explorers, like yourself, through our doors. We opened last year as a place intrepid adventurers could stop, take a rest and have a hot drink after all this way.


We have free Wi-Fi so you can let all your friends on social media know you’ve made it to the top of the world!” “Well now I know I’ve gone insane. Why would anyone trek into the middle of nowhere just to put it on social media?” “As a matter of fact, our business model is actually built around the millennial social media user. People love to show their friends something new and exciting with pictures and videos of places and events that they haven’t seen before and that’s exactly what we offer.” “You put a tea shop in the arctic wilderness so people can get a selfie to make their friends jealous?” “I…er…wouldn’t put it quite like that-“ “…And what happens when enough people have been here that it becomes boring?” “There is an expansion plan in place should this location be successful.” “Where? Where can you possibly go from here?” “We have licenses for the Mariana T§rench and Mount Everest: Tea Shop in the Trench’ and ‘Tea Shop at the Tip of Tibet.” “Jesus, I think I need a drink.” “What can I get for you?” “Coffee. Strong. Black.”

were they so irritable at its very existence. Why did this woman take such exception to innovation? It was merely entrepreneurial cunning that had landed the business here and he, as an employee, had fully got behind the idea. He was glad to place the cup down on an empty table with only a coat and boots sitting there as, he assumed, his customer had gone to make use of the facilities. That was the only logical conclusion with all her gear still left here, you wouldn’t get very far if you went outside, that would be utter madness.

Safely enshrouded in his chromium fortress, behind a wall of steam, Johann sighed a breath of relief at the brief reprieve from his belligerent customer. Many were bemused upon coming across the tea shop but rarely




e t a a rt gal m i t l lery u e h t j us s i ta y k

e v bo


. s u

Th e s

- Ralph Wa l d o


Twitter: @debsmorrell Facebook: debbie morrell



the infinite search WRITER - GRACE COLLINS

The infinite is a God. Something there but slipping between fingers.

ILLUSTRATOR - RONDIE LI www.rondieli.com

Tirelessly trying to hold something bigger than the sea. Hanging between each second or breath. A planet falling in the corner of your eye. Too big for lungs, too bright for eyes, too heavy for shoulders, so deafening it shakes the air. Too far to touch. Too close to see, to kiss, to handle like its not something known, familiar and forgotten. The roar as it slips away, the sun melting into the line of the land, a great blockade between the body and a dying star. A perennial sadness; being tall enough to see and too old to understand. Funeral flowers the marker of knowing something bigger than the length of the body, from foot to thought, finger to finger, as far as the eye can see, as far as light can travel. You will only get so tall and when you think about this the beast grows.


Photographer: Sam Eleanor Holden Jewellery: Eclectic Eccentricity Model: Eliza Wardrobe: Models Own Above: One Small Step Moon Landing Astronaut Necklace ÂŁ20 Right: Perfect Alignment Solar System Necklace ÂŁ55

the cosmic voyager 90



Left: Ephemeris Planetary Nebula Locket £19.50 Above: If I Could Give You The Moon Moon Dust Necklace £120 Line Up Constellation Bracelet (Worn as choker) £7.50


Perfect Alignment Necklace £55 Constellations Vintage Rings £7.50 Phase Moon Crescent Ring £12 Plain Rings (Models Own)


Halo Cosmos Bangles ÂŁ12


Above: Over The Moon Lunar Locket £19.50 Right: Moonwalk Outta Here Moon Necklace £19 To Infinity! Space Shuttle Necklace £17.50

“ keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground ” - THEODORE ROOSEVELT





On February 12th myself and Editor Sam Holden boarded the 9 o’clock train to interview Ryan MacDonald and Sarah E.I. Bosman, two PhD Students in the astronomy department of Cambridge University. After wandering around the grounds, peering into the secret library - and the 200 year old telescopes - we heard a little about what they were doing:

Sarah: I can give a vague feel. When you study

burgeoning science of exoplanet atmospheres.

space, you can get larger and larger scales. First

I’m trying to find what the atmospheres of planets

there’s our solar system. That’s part of something

orbiting other stars are made of, so that hopefully,

bigger, a whole galaxy. And there’s other galaxies,

in the not too distant future, we can find evidence

and if you look at it you realise that these galaxies

of life elsewhere in the universe. That’s what

line up in patterns and are moving away from each

really drives me, and we’re so close now, so it’s

other very fast. You trace it back in time and say


they were much closer in the past, and you reach

And what was it that lead you to this?

one point which is the big bang. But there are a lot

Sarah: So I think I’m quite unusual in the respect

of things happening between the big bang and

that I was actually always into astronomy. I was the

these things appearing.

annoying kid that would tell everyone facts about

The elements you can make at the very start are

Mars, like ‘Mars is this many kilometres away, did

very simple but the way that things are actually

you know it’s red because there’s iron on it!’. I came

formed out of them are quite complicated. So

from a poor family near Brussels. There was this

there’s a lot of scientists who just focus on the first

cereal brand I always ate, and one of them had a CD

five seconds. I work, on the formation of structure

that was facts about the solar system. I must have

after the start - so how this pure gas became

watched that CD about a thousand billion times, it

something as complicated as people, and all the

completely amazed me.

steps in between.

Ryan: I remember when I was growing up there was

Ryan: I’m a new PHD student here at the Institute

two things I was interested in: space and dinosaurs

of Astronomy in Cambridge. I’m working on the

- half of me just never grew up! I chose to study


physics in school for instance, because that was the

‘wow, it’s actually there!’, I couldn’t believe it was

subject with the most space in it. Even before my

actually so big! Children make me remember the

undergraduate in Physics over in Oxford I already

actual getting excited about space part. Some

knew I wanted to do exoplanets, because the Kepler

parts of my work are boring. It can make you upset

Space Telescope had just in launched in 2009. So, I

that you are not actually doing science, you’re just

just said yes and I’ve kept following that path ever

curled up in all the things besides it. Kids are the


complete opposite! I can just tell them about the

I believe I’m right in thinking you both work with

first black hole merger, and they are like, ‘Wait,

children, how important is this work to you?

black holes can merge?!’ I don’t really care about

Ryan: Not just to children,

getting public coverage

outreach to everyone! When

of it, it’s more the groups

you have this childlike

that come here, I set up the

curiosity, it’s easy to speak

telescope and I show them

to children and show them

our neighbour galaxy and

how science is exciting, and

they are amazed, and then I

you can do amazing things

can go home and feel really

with science. A generation

happy about it.

of children who want to

What else are you working

become scientists when


they grow up, a world with a

Sarah: In three weeks I’m

populous that is scientifically

going to go on my first

literate, and genuinely loves

trip to Hawaii to use their

what they do - that’s a world

telescope. It’s on the top

that I would love to live in. I

of the mountain 4000

think society as a whole will

kilometres high. I am

make better choices if the electorate as a whole

ridiculously excited about it. I’m going for two

understood science more. But there’s also the fact

working nights with two nights to rest - you work at

that when I was growing up, I didn’t really have any

night when the sky is dark. It will just be me and my

big positive role models to encourage me to go into

supervisor. He managed to convince some people

science, I just kind of discovered it myself . There are

to let him use it - but he’s having me there to do

so many people who could have had that but didn’t

the actual hard work while he just sits back and

get the same opportunities. So every time I do an

watches the outcome. I’m there for manual labour.

outreach event I’m thinking that if even a single one

In Hawaii - it could be worse!

of these young people has an epiphany, then that

I also do a lot of teaching, since I’ve started as a post

more the justifies it for me.

graduate; supervising undergrads, and teaching

Sarah: I got into astronomy very early. I remember

them about whatever course they want to do. They

at some point looking at the sky and just thinking,

are all so different. When I first started I was amazed


at, what they find easy, what they don’t, why they

characters that go down radically different routes,

are doing it. There’s all this complexity in how you

on one of them I toy with the idea of the descent

reach to them, how you help them understand

into madness, which was very fun to write. After my

stuff. I like it.

PhD I’m going to sit down and make a second draft

Ryan, we should talk about Mars One!

and hopefully then go and publish it as an e-book

Ryan: I’ve been wanting to go into space for my

on amazon.

entire life. I think as a scientist the impact I would

Sarah, how important is it for you to be at

leave being one of only the first four scientists

Cambridge University?

on Mars, is much greater than that I’d be likely to

Sarah: For me it is like a dream come true, I can’t

leave as one of millions

believe every day when

here on the Earth. We are

I wake up here. When I

still feeling the effects of

was young, ‘Cambridge’

the generation that was

was just this kind of

inspired by the moon

word that we heard. No

landings. Just in the

one we knew had ever

United States, the number

gone abroad to study.

of people studying

From my perspective it

Science and Engineering

was like suddenly I can

doubled in the space of

do the things I actually

ten years, because those

wanted to do – I’m

few landings took place.

obviously good enough

And the impact of humans

to do them. So, it was

going to Mars would

really really amazing

be substantially greater

that I was able to come

than that, so if I could

here after all this time. I

contribute to that in any way then I see almost a

never want to leave - it is my home now, I’ve been

moral obligation to do that, because of how much it

here for 7 years.

would improve people’s lives.

What impact will your studies have on matters here

You’re very busy! Any other projects?

on Earth?

Ryan: Over the past few years I’ve written a near

Sarah: None whatsoever. We should just look for

future hard science fiction novel, which is about

new stuff because it hasn’t been found yet - that’s

a family that gets separated as society goes

the only reason you need! It will affect society in

through an immense period of social, political and

the same way that art does. Like, if I tell you that

technological upheaval. So that’s the short blurb!

all the carbon you are made of was made in a star

I have endeavoured to make it the best vision of

billions and billions of years ago, and it made its

the future that I can imagine as being realistic. The

way here through such an amazing sequence of

story is told from the perspective of two different

processes, such complexity to reach where it is now,


then maybe that can inspire people. Our whole

takes us, but there is often a sharp transition

universe was decided in the first minute or two, and

when there’s resistance to a radically new

everything after just follows the same rules that

idea. Science consistently takes us closer and

we know, and leads to where we are today - that’s

closer to the truth, and ultimately the better

amazing. When you look back into the past you

we understand the universe the more that we

can build this history of the universe, all the stages:

have control over the universe: we can build

the first star appearing, the first planets forming,

planes because we understand the concept of

you know – when did that happen? What were

fluid mechanics. So, that’s what’s exciting: when

they made of? What colour were they? This is all

science works, we learn to do stuff we couldn’t

interesting stuff!

even imagine before.

Ryan: For me, there are two possibilities: that we

In one of your videos, Ryan, you mention the

find evidence of life, in which case we learn that

idea of leaving a legacy. How important is this to

we are not unique and that could have profound

the both of you?

implications for religion, politics, and how we view

Ryan: As far as I see it at the end of life what

ourselves. What science has done consistently is

matters is the impact you leave behind for those

knocked us off pedestals; it’s made us more humble.

who follow. After I’m gone I want people to

Alternatively, if we don’t find evidence of life, then

have a better quality of life because of my own

that could have an even more profound impact. It

existence and I don’t understand why anyone

suggests that life on Earth might actually be special,

wouldn’t think that way.

and we should actively do something to protect it.

Sarah: I don’t know, I don’t really think about

As scientists ultimately we go where the evidence

these things, I just do what I do because I


find it fun. Learning new things has always been

de-localisation, but not many people seem to think

what I enjoyed doing the most. At school I did all

in that way.

the things I could possibly learn about. I think,

And quickly before we finish: favourite sci fi book

ultimately, I’m into science because I want to

or film?

discover new information. If you just keep learning

Ryan: Well, film, for me, would have to be The

more things, at one point you reach the edge,

Martian, most recently. The science is pretty good

and beyond that you are the first one to know

in the film – not all correct, but it’s one of the best

something. But there’s so much information there!

Hollywood films I’ve seen with trying to get the

Like, there’s the information that is accessible

science right. And it’s also fun, I love that film.

through history, social sciences; science that we can

Sarah: It has to be The Hitchhiker’s Guide! It’s not

do here on Earth. But then there’s a universe out

even a hard competition. That’s what I want to be, I

there with so much more information in it which we

want to be a space explorer. I want to build my own

have no idea about, so I just go where there is the

spaceship and just go and see planets.

most things to learn about. Ryan: See, it’s interesting because I feel the sense of childlike excitement that you definitely have, like I love just loosing myself to my research and trying to understand new things but then what I’m left thinking awake at night is, when I come up with this new knowledge, what will be the impact that it has on society as well. It’s almost a double edged




Picture a blank space, filled with nothing but the most profoundly soft and beautiful silence. A space with no borders and no limits. A wholeness with no separation… A bliss so complete and all encompassing, existing beyond any finite concept. The indescribable described, crudely, as words are unformed within its infinity. From this place, eternal home of the unborn, countless fragments of pure love, crystal sprits of light – firing themselves from a kiln of their own making. They are as one the spirit of adventure about to explode, come to life as dream weavers and storytellers descending through subtle planes of moving images, and eventually, sounds and colours to explore the wonders of moments passing, and space dividing. They dream of spaces, and places and things to fill them. Its a long story, and fittingly for the spirits that create it, there are no real limits to where the explosion can take them as they have created a most ingenious brush with which to colour, and a magic pen that never runs dry… In one language it is known as Imagination.

say no more than this, except that they had evolved the skill and expertise to be invisible to the ‘naked’ eye, that is to the vision of any materialised sentient beings whose senses had become dulled by the passing of time and had lost their way in the great journey through the forest. As Crystal gazed more deeply, she began to understand how some dream weavers had spun dreams so dark, that had become nightmares, terrifying trips into uncharted unknown space, like black holes that sucked them into a breathless void. She looked away then took a deep breath, grateful that she was observing from above. “How had they forgotten to see beyond the stories they weaved?” She wondered. Then she reminded herself…when lost in the forest, it ’s so hard to see the wood, for the trees…or the trees, for the wood. Crystal looked closely now as nightmares raged and the sphere became a smokescreen. Forest fires burned and creatures ran for their lives. The woods from so many different varieties of tree were at war with what they perceived as ‘each other’. The mighty woodland was no longer a haven for its inhabitants, but a dark and dangerous place, where fear lurked in the shadows and waited to pounce on its enemies, to destroy those that chose to be different.

Scrying came naturally to Crystal. Her parents knew this before she took birth. They were informed of her coming by enchanted forest dwellers they had discovered while looking for the path that would lead them from the dense unfamiliar dark shadows. The wood had enticed them in, so they could be lost in a story, surrounded by giant trees grown close together and with so little light to see their way forward, or backwards. But they were crystal spirits, and a way was found…is always found. Crystal gazed at the sphere, softly and with no pre-conceived notions. She knew her story, but there was so much more to discover. The perfectly formed sphere was not just a crystal ball, but a universe in miniature, one that she held within her gentle hands. And within that universe she saw great forests emerging from seeds so tiny as to have no apparent mass at all. But they were dreamed into shape, and form. She smiled with delight as she witnessed them coalescing into an infinite variety of beings’…”Forest dwellers”. She could see forests of trees and wildlife covering vast areas confined within bubble-like spheres…”Giant crystal balls”. And one in particular held her within itself. She could see spheres within spheres expanding and contracting and more and more crystal spirits descending from the perfect silence into motion, and stories taking shape. Her eyes opened wider with each revelation. Now she saw the great waters, an ocean covering great distances, and landmasses that danced with time and offered themselves to the crystal dream weavers. And she saw a wonder even more amazing than all this, an illusion that borrowed the garment of ‘reality’, for the sake of a story… ”Where did time begin…Where will it end?”, she wondered. The answer came from within the crystal sphere, as circles within circles began to spiral upwards and vanish into the mist…and she held all this in the palms of her hands. She could see, as the mist slowly cleared, how the secrets of the dream weavers had become obscured by the passing of time, but also how the great forests had saved them from being lost ‘forever’. She decided to go deep into the forest, to find out more, to know more about the enchanted forest dwellers that had known her parents before she was born. She only knew that they were crystal spirits, but her parents would

She thought of her parents now, and the enchanted ones that had come to their aid when they were lost in the forest. The crystal spirits that fear could not see, whom the magic of love kept ever safe from hatred and violence. Crystal looked for them now, as the circles and spirals of time moved on from the battlefields of fire, shining their beacon-light on the same path through the forest her parents had taken. She saw how the misguided ones were slain by their own hatred, consumed by the fires of their own making, and how the innocents who had appeared to die at their hands had risen again as the immortal crystal spirits they always were. Her sphere was as clear as crystal once more, and there was much more to learn… and so much more to see. “True Love cannot be destroyed by anyone”, she whispered to herself. “And hatred consumes itself, driven by fear into oblivion”. She closed her eyes for a few moments to feel more deeply and to absorb the essence of her discoveries, to reflect on the questions, and her quest to find the answers from within the crystal sphere. Her eyes gently opened, and at the same time she felt her heart open wider and then a light from the sphere drawing her into itself. And there she saw the enchanted forest dwellers for the first time, dancing to the music of the spheres. And she saw the eternal dance in the forever-light, and within that… everyone’s story.




Life in a Box: Instructions Not Included ALEX EVANS - SCREEN WRITER / DIRECTOR Twitter: @Part_Time_Hero www.framelesspictures.co.uk Jack Galer as Tom Ford Katie Loizou as Odessa Wilde

INTERVIEW BY MELISSA LEGARDA ALCANTARA www.illumelation.com Instagram: @illumelation



Instructions Not Included, written and directed by filmmaker Alex Evans, is a science-fiction short best described as an introspective, humorous, and deeply philosophical reflection on what it means to be human. The film centers around young astronaut Tom Ford (Jack Galer) who, stranded alone on a space station, begins to question the reality of his situation when a case of déjà-vu begins to dawn on him. Meet the Director

these big Hollywood movies,” says Alex. “Later on I

Alex Evans was born a storyteller. Growing up

got a little Mini DV camera and that’s where the real

just outside of Norwich, a picturesque city in East

work began.”

Anglia which had only one cinema with a single screen until the late nineties, the young English

*Instructions Not Included

filmmaker suspects that his love for telling tales

Originally conceived as two separate films that Alex

nurtured his desire to make films. “I’ve always loved

had been working on, Instructions Not Included

to tell stories,” says Alex, “so I suspect that might be

eventually emerged due to overlapping concepts

the root of my obsession. There’s something about

and production possibilities. “I originally had a

the way people look at you when they’re really

rough draft about an astronaut who was stuck in

engaged in what you’re saying. I think making films

space, with only his automated navigation to talk

is just an extension of that.”

to,” explains Alex. “The other film, which would

Alex first got hooked on the prospect of creating

become the narrative, stemmed from an idea I

cinema after watching Jurassic Park for the first

had whilst lazing around at home. I realized that

time on VHS. “I was absolutely hooked! Every aspect

if someone didn’t tell me to do something, then I

of it fascinated me,” Alex recalls. “The production

wouldn’t do anything at all. That got me thinking

design, the effects, the music and the casting. I

about what would happen if people stopped doing

must have watched that tape a hundred times. It

anything unless they were instructed to.”

inspired me to make films just like it. To create these

After tossing the idea around, Alex ended up

rich and diverse worlds and explore them with a

with a story about a small cul-de-sac of 50s style

camera.” As such, once he laid hands on his dad’s

America houses, in which the occupants would

chunky, broken Panasonic video camera, Alex spent

be delivered an instructional video tape for the

a good deal of his childhood adopting a Steven

day by an over-the-top mailman. Within the film,

Spielberg persona. “I had to pretend I was making

one of the characters would be delivered a blank


tape by mistake. Because the last instruction he

acknowledges. “Something I didn’t realise until

received the day before was to make sure he got his

quite recently, actually. Almost every film I’ve ever

instructions, the protagonist would set off on this

written has had at least a degree of sci-fi to it.”

grand quest to find them and accidentally uncover

Some of Alex’s favourite sci-fi films include Moon,

the truth – a concept running in similar vein to

E.T., Sunshine, About Time, Star Wars, Alien, The

iconic film, The Truman Show. “This film was well

Martian, Inception, and Super 8, the vast majority

beyond my means at the time, which is why it was

of them sharing one thing in common: space travel.

eventually packaged into the space theme I had so

Instructions Not Included follows in the footsteps

wanted to make.”

of Alex’s favourite films as being not an epic,

Alex’s film is made quirkier by a humorous cartoon

passive adventure into black holes, but rather,

sequence in Ford’s instructional video, which the

an intimately active character development that

director says was stylistically influenced by the Men

unfurls with the backdrop of the galaxy. The

in Black ride at Universal Studios. “Before you get

narrative blossoms rapidly within few minutes, and

on the rides they have these immersive themed

as Tom’s thoughts grow profoundly reflective in his

queues,” explains Alex. “In this case, an instructional

unique situation, it feels as though the director and

video that prepared you for the ride. It was called

writer is communicating a greater message to his

‘The Story of Doofus and Doright’ and it was an


animation about two contrasting young agents and

“There was one central idea I had in my mind the

their misadventures.”

whole time we were making the film,” reflects Alex. “It was important to me that this big reveal, this

A Word on Sci-Fi

big mystery behind the curtain, had to be kind. It

After watching Instructions Not Included, it’s clear

sounds daft but there are so many films that take

that Alex’s obsession with Jurassic Park – cheekily

a darker view on the way people treat each other. I

paid tribute by Ford in the film – left a lasting

wanted to show that even in the darkest time, Ford

impression on him; specifically, the imaginative

had people watching his back. In this case, people

pushing of scientific boundaries. “I do, as it turns

he didn’t even know.”

out, have a certain passion for science fiction,” Alex


On creating a space-station

Looking to the future

“The student films I’d worked on previously had

Alongside working on a couple of shoots here and

always had such a bland aesthetic,” says Alex,

there, Alex is nearing the completion of his latest

discussing the visuals of his set. “Without a budget

short film script, working title ‘Project Amblin’,

you have to take what you’re given unfortunately.

which he hopes to shoot this summer. “If you

With Instructions, I decided that I wanted to own

know what Amblin is then you know what sort

every inch of the canvas. I spent a lot of time

of film we’re trying to make,” says Alex, hinting at

designing and redesigning the set. It started off as a

Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking entertainment

much bigger room with a bed and large window. It

company, known for producing classics including

gradually got smaller until it became just a 6’ cube

Back to the Future, Gremlins, Casper, and more. “It’s

with a bigger circular window on one side.”

something very close to my heart and our most

“I was very selective when choosing items to dress

ambitious film to date. I’m also planning a director’s

the set. I wanted this cacophony of mismatched

cut of Instructions Not Included with some scenes

eras to make it seem as if this place had been

that were cut for timing reasons. So keep an eye

thrown together in a hurry. I was keen for it to have

out for that!”

a sense of realism, so I spent time watching films

That Alex has boundless potential as a filmmaker

praised for their scientific accuracy like Gravity and

can be gleaned from the humanitarian morals,

Interstellar, as well as looking at the International

well-paced dialogue, and elegant plot of

Space Station itself for ideas.”

Instructions Not Included. If he communicated so

Ford spends his days in what appears to be a

many ideas in a twelve-minute short, one can only

spacecraft interior, which was constructed using

imagine what he will bring to a feature-length film.

familiar objects (bonus points if you spot the

As Alex continues to write, produce, and direct, he

egg cartons). The mise-en-scene is charmingly

is adamant that his future career plans very much

realistic, with furniture from a hodgepodge of eras,

involve filmmaking, and almost certainly, more

including a vintage television set, VHS player, and

science fiction. “The best piece of advice I got when

car seat, being juxtaposed against more advanced

I left University is to keep making films. So that’s

technologies including fairy lights, a computer

exactly what I plan on doing!”

headset, and a MacBook. Physical appearances of the characters themselves hint at modern times: Ford, with his mussed hair and Dickies overalls, has a tribal tattoo encircling his forearm; his guardian, Odessa Wilde (played by Katie Loizou), happens to be wearing a crop top. When I ask about the significance of the memorable character names,


Alex makes a valid point: “Can you imagine if Han

WRITER - MELISSA LEGARDA ALCANTARA http://www.illumelation.com

Solo was called John Smith?”



polar light. PHOTOGRAPHER - GEMMA LOCK www.gemmalock.com Instagram: @gemmalockphotography





swimming under the stars SOPHIE MOATES - COLLAGE ARTIST www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SophieMoatesCollage sophiemoatesdesign.tumblr.com Instagram: @sophiemoates



“ The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.” - SAMUEL JOHNSON






hold fast. ILLUSTRATOR - MARK FOREMAN www.markforemanillustration.co.uk


a match in the water. CREATIVE WRITER - MARTIN P. BURNS

“You bloody idiot,” I stated to the coffin, having stepped

sitting now, but standing in front of the last place and the last

up to pay my respects as the chief mourners filed out. I agree with

moment that I would be physically close to my friend Win. He

what you’re thinking. There was an element of disrespect in that

was lying-in-wait for the flames and my only happiness came

sentence, but the whole situation was upsetting, ridiculous and

from him not knowing it. I hope he was aware of the turnout


though. His wife - Cara, vivacious and loyal - had been surprised

Only a few weeks before, at work, my pocket had

at the number. I suspect I wasn’t expected, as it had been a few

vibrated with the telltale sign that somebody was calling my

years since I’d seen them both. Right now I felt utterly rotten for

mobile. Good timing, I thought. I was just leaving the floor to

such a lapse.

take a break. My happiness increased when the name of my

dear, absent friend Nicky flashed on the screen. It was Nicky

when it should be the other way around. Friendships should get

who had once admitted that she could see my writing becoming

in the way of life; pointedly so. They should be the entirety of life.

commercially viable only posthumously.

Life really does get in the way of important friendships,

Somehow, I never

Our priorities were squiffed up and upside-down. All the money

held this point-of-view against her. It merely made me smile. I

I had made recently couldn’t buy another second with Win. Not

appreciated our rare chats. Better to get them in before my clogs

another game of Scrabble, another crossword done at the bar,

were popped.

another analysis of the day’s headlines.

On this memorable afternoon, we’d have an hour to exchange

news, gossip, opinions and the other pieces of life’s shrapnel that

people had the courage to live their days playing games and

had crossed our paths.

crossing words.

I was presented with quite the bombshell.

I never thought anyone actually used the line “...you’d

Sounds like a bad neighbourhood, doesn’t it?

I should have been a hippy in the ‘60s, when I reckon

As it was, I was a soul in transition in the twenty-tens.

better sit down, honey, I have bad news”. There it was though,

a line of Hollywood scripture whispered to me from a couple o’

nothing to complain about. After all, it wasn’t my husband who

hundred miles north of my present location, London.

had made the decision that, because he couldn’t extract the

shrapnel that had crossed his path, he would extract himself

And now here I was. A couple o’ hundred miles north

In respect to my current situation, however, I had

and a few thousand pains inside. Surrounded by the bad news.

instead. Cara was showing remarkable fortitude. The portrait she

The bombshell wore black, apart from the few children

wore was a still-life. Any emotion you were feeling could have

whose parents had let them off the sartorial brutality of grief.

been transposed onto her facial expression, so nebulous was it.

Being in the funeral home was trauma enough for them. I wasn’t

I was used to seeing her with mischief in her eyes and laughter


under her cheek. I have an enduring memory of how much fun

of two days. I say space. All in the lack-of-space and time a single

we used to have together. If there were any laughs forthcoming,

weekend has to offer. It would be quite nice to see my parents

they’d be desperate ones.

before I departed, too.

I had to leave soon, as well. My weekend was straining

By the time I got to saying farewell to Mum and Dad, I

under the three-bus syndrome. I had been waiting for a social

would be emotionally wrung. Wrung, stretched and a little torn

occasion and a trio had come along in swift succession. A couple

in the middle.

of hours in a pub garden catching up with old faces, finding solace in embraces that were longer than the average hug and

drinking enough wine to prepare me for the journey ahead, and I

stick by me for this trip. It’s not often you go to a funeral and have

was gone. I had bemoaned the fact that good friends now spent

no idea about the person who brought you there.

most of their time being good strangers. People who had shared

highs, middles and lows were lucky if they shared a Christmas

happened is anybody’s guess. I have caught a terrible case of

drink. A funeral is nobody’s idea of a reunion. Yet there I roamed,

Stockholm syndrome from time. It arrests me and I will never be

hypocritical to my own beliefs. Choosing to send myself off

released. I love it, though remain captive. I am resolutely English

halfway across the world to experience gods-only-knew-what. I

but with a proud Irish half. A writer since before I could talk. A

saw myself as one of those little plastic men in an Airfix model kit.

struggling artist, a cliche. A waiter. The only people who will

Crouched, chairless, ready to be placed somewhere fitting. The

be remembering me are my regular patrons. Even then, they’ll

arm had swollen. Using that distended limb I would snap myself

forget me when the tips are being pocketed by some other

out of the frame.

young enthusiast. Writing and writing and waiting and waiting,

literally and metaphorically. On tables and on something bigger

My respects were brief, but I hope Win knows I still

I should introduce myself properly if you’re going to

I am thirty-four years of age, though quite how that

think about him. He was a man in love with words, but they

to happen.

competed against him, as opposed to playing on the same side.

Win lost that one. I am still competing with words and I am

long for love, an adjectival combo that is entirely off-putting to

determined to get the upper noun.

any prospective suitor. Hard plus fast plus long equals desperate.

And they say you can’t apply scientific rigour to the art of love?

I absconded from the occasion feeling like a smaller

I have no ties. I had been looking hard and fast and

man than when I’d arrived. A part of my history had been shorn,

roughly too. Without permission, in a manner fitting some mock

grabbing whatever horned animal came my way and riding it into

Delilah. I moved away from the grieving epicentre to dwell on

a bigger, better, brighter future.

my own sorrow with only motorways and flat, English arable to

reflect anything back at me. Eleven hours later, and I was still in

sign. That’s three decades of being aflame. I am thirty-four and


I am also gay (no biggy) and HIV-positive (a little bigger), but

Taking this forthcoming trip to Japan was a means of

My paternal surname is Burns and indeed, I am a fire

Most people rest before taking a long trip, especially if

neither figured in my decision to move to Japan. Neither factor

they’re moving from birthplace to a point on the other side of the

figures in any decision I make. Naive or brave or a touching

globe. Most people aren’t like most other people and I was no

combination of both? Deep down, I think it’s my general affability


that helps me survive most situations, so maybe a touch of brave

It was the weekend prior to flying to Japan and there was that

naivety will help me over the hurdle, over the continents, over

funeral in the north of England (York), a wedding in the far south

the sea. I am putting out good and avoiding evil. I am counting

(Cornwall) and a birthday in-between (London). All in the space

on the forces that are good in this world to put out right back


at me. Those that are evil can cold-shoulder me all they like. I

I may as well have landed on Mars, so alien did the cityscape feel.

wouldn’t stretch myself to say I am a spiritual person. I just think

Yet, because it was a city, I also felt instantly at home. A crowd

it’s a matter of physics.

is an enervating notion, as long as its individual members have

In that most momentous of years, I had sent out

a direction to go in and aren’t just pressed in around you. The

vibes, wishes, requests, letters, emails and anything that would

throng was now mine to be a part of. I could walk its streets and

metabolise this desire for a change quicker than my normal rate

call myself a native. I could sing its morning chants and dream

was doing. A company responded, called The Ritz. Putting out

the same dreams that floated up from the roofs of toy apartment

the vibes and putting on The Ritz. Doing nothing to offend them,

buildings, trackside hovels, love hotels, inner city shrines and

employment contracts were duly signed, visas obtained, wells

knife-edge skyscrapers.

fared, byes bested and a flight boarded.

Japan, get ready.

sun was done for the day, its power exhausted. It was slinking


home to recharge for another bout of twelve-hour brilliance. My

Here I was, standing at my hotel room window. The

horizon was filled with a city new to me, a bewildering vision.

I’ve always travelled light.

Power switches were being turned to a resolute ‘on’. Lights moved

I was upping-and-atting, but I wasn’t going to struggle like some

with purpose, determined to sell their products: technology,

bag lady in the attempt to up-and-at. An airsteward friend of

karaoke bars, native beer, beautifying cures and a range of things

mine always told his passengers “... you pack it, you stack it.” I have

I couldn’t identify. A million experiences were in the middle of

taken that motto with me all through life. I was travelling to Japan

being experienced.

after all, the land where consumerism was born, turned into a

national pastime and then made into an artform.

man than when I’d arrived, imagine how I felt at being stood here

The inventory of my luggage was small. One computer on the

in Japan. I was a felt-tip pen outline on clingfilm. You could see

blink (I was certainly heading to the right place to rectify that).

through me to the other side. Touch me and I’d be impossible to

A minimal wardobe (Tokyo was about to begin its legendary

shake off. I was sticking. All I could do was stand here constrained


by a sort of paralysis, thinking of the life I had just left.

My notebooks.

Some literature, both highbrow

If escaping my friend’s funeral had left me a smaller

(The Complete Short Stories Of Franz Kafka) and some heavily frowning (Jackie Collins’ Hollywood Wives), and my very own

London versus Tokyo, how would they match up in

bible, Jack Canfield’s How To Get From Where You Are To Where

the ring? Who would come out in tatters and who would be

You Want To Be. My medication, tennis racquet, iPod and a few

adorned with another victory-sash, to add to all its others? They

precious photographs to wake up to. Family, old friends and

were both cities that had led the world at points. London with

past destinations. The Arm Band clasped tightly around my wrist

its finance, dominance, culture and dubious history. Tokyo with

representing friends of a newer ilk. There was no Mr Me to worry

its finance, technology, culture and occasional antagonism. I was


still rooting for London, even though I had deracinated myself and was attempting to put down new roots here. Who knew if

There was only me and Tokyo. Tokyo and I. East

they’d take, but I was going to give it my best thrust.

capital. Previously Edo, the estuarine dweller. Window on to a

My body, minus its clock, was in Japan. My mind had arrived

river. No longer pronounced Tokei, for that was an Anglicism now

before that, racing ahead at miles-a-minute. Kilometres-a-minute

obsolete. The once and maybe again future king of Asian cities.

now, the mile being no longer useful to me. My soul was all over


the shop. London still had my heart, though.

a tiny tear. I was a mess coming down and hanging over some awful precipice, even though I had no name for it. I had to run

We had started to fall out about a fortnight before my


to the bridge’s other side just to make it over. It wasn’t me saying jump, jump, it would be easier, it was another. An other. And it

The capital had been angry at my absence for a

was persistent. I had absolutely no control over this feeling and

weekend. It didn’t care that I had friends being laid to rest and

that’s what made it so horrific. I had a new job, a new life, a new

others announcing their vows. The wedding in Cornwall hadn’t

land waiting expectantly for me.

been far from Land’s End and I think if someone had dared me to

Why this sudden urge to leap?

jump, I may have just done that to see what beginning followed

Things had reached this impasse because the escapist

the end of the land.

drinking to escape the wrench of saying goodbye had come to a

A word about the wedding. Fifi and Margate were

head. There was a way out (East). I just had to take it before the

bringing their lives together. I agree with my Dad on this one.

door, and the opportunity it held beyond, closed on me. Every

It is possible to miss a friend’s wedding without too many

time I said another adios, I had a cocktail chaser to deal with it.

repercussions, but not this one. Fifi had been the rock I’d at

The door was closing fast. I could feel a mind being changed and

first swam to and then clung onto with both hands whilst living

then where would I have been? Years later still in London, floating

in London. She’d given me a roof over my head, money when

not-so-merrily down the river perhaps. Not winning.

I needed it, love when the diagnosis came, a glass of deep red

when the times were not being coped with. I don’t believe in

Sarah, two of my closest, I was an empty vessel. A sudden rip of

the concept of best friends, as it demeans the others, but Fifi

the heartache plaster would have been better. Get it over with.

certainly played the role of guardian angel (and at times devil) to

All I could do was hold on to them, whilst wanting to escape at


the same time. I would have made a great advertisement for

London couldn’t have cared less about any of this: a

Johnson & Johnsons, as there wasn’t a single tear left to make an

wedding or a funeral of a friend. Three more of the former and I

appearance. If eyeducts had muscles, mine were pumped up and

had a movie on my hands. Then the city might have pricked up

pumped out. I must have resembled a dried-up piece of fruit. An

its concrete ears.

emotionally-sapped currant.

I may not have jumped off Land’s End, but the idea

By the time saying goodbye arrived to Maya and

The only person I purposefully didn’t say goodbye to

was still trampolining around. On one of my last days there,

was Suede, who I was of course a little in love with. He was a

there was a passing terror as I crossed the Hungerford Bridge.

strange mix of younger sibling and protégé. Hard to imagine me

The pedestrian part of this structure over the Thames is actually

as a mentor. A laughable proposition, really. The rabbit-eyes he

called the Golden Jubilee Bridges, but the name given to the

wore in the first few weeks of coping with the city’s lights had

railtracks’ industrial catwalk appeals to me more. Fording the

brought out the teacher in me. Our humurous senses had clicked

hunger. I could barely do that. I’d been the owner of a hunger

and this had led to the position where I was happy to dish out

for as long as I could remember, but it wasn’t being sated.

advice to him. To encourage him to be anything he wanted. In

Getting over its structural counterpart, here on a grey, typical,

getting close to him, I had unwisely fallen and didn’t want to spoil

misty English morning, was almost an impossibility in itself. My

any friendship that was beginning. I had spent weeks thinking

struggling heart was causing my nerves to quake, which were

of how a letter to him would be constructed. I’d send it from

causing my skin to tighten, which in turn made every pore weep

the safety of Tokyo’s distance. I was obsessing over this really,


so it’s true when I tell you I wasn’t on the hunt for a new love

bloody sleep.

interest. The mind was preoccupied with an impossible previous candidate.

* A mind that hardly noticed when I did finally slip out of

London quietly.

“... I always think that the chances of finding out what

really is going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to

“A clickety-clack is echoing back the blues in the night.”

do is say hang the sense of it and keep yourself occupied.” [The

Peggy Lee is singing it to me. Dirging it really, if my

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy].

verbs are to be exact. They had to be exact, for I was off to teach them.

That would do the trick for the next day or two. I

It is June 2nd. The day before the Queen’s jubilee

never found the respite I was looking for on that airplane. I was

and the blues are occurring in the bright, rainy sunshine. I sit

occupied by sight, sound, smell and a number of other senses.

in Marylebone station, expecting a train with its accompanying

Just a look out the window and there, far below me, the Swiss

doleful click, that bluesy clack. People mill around, in a sort of

Alps stretched below like marble cake, until a spoilsport blanket

slowed-down, sped-up manner. There have been all-sorts this

of cloud took them away.

afternoon. A Morris dancer jangled past me, closely followed by

For now, it is I, a fluffy view, the sun’s glare and a Boeing-load

a frightening, tankard-wielding vagrant. They may have been in

of humans I am going to struggle communicating with. I said

the same repertory. With this celebratory feel that has come over

arigato to the stewardess and she smiled, nodded and replied in

London, who knows? It is too much celebrating for the way I feel.

English. I was almost disappointed. This is not how I’m going to


Two Oriental girls titter away to my left. I am trying to

discern their native tongue, but Ms. Lee’s voice is too deep, too

strong and too close to my eardrum. People holding flowers,

the letter to Suede I had mentally penned a dozen times. It was

fighting with the ticket-machines, evading each other whilst

very unnatural of me, the concept of drafting a letter, but this

seeking out loved-ones. Here I sit, alone. Not lonely, as I have

subject warranted it. I wanted to make myself completely clear,

been saying “...see ya later!” for about a fortnight now. The

no room for misunderstanding.

exclamation mark was rarely heard.

concerns far more pragmatic.

The train moved and London, and my six years in it,

crawled inexorably away from me. Home for a few days.

Half of the time I mused over the emotional, such as

The other fifty-per-cent of my musings was with In London, the yen had been 134 to the pound. It was

When it came to embracing Mum at silly o’clock on the

from page 134 of my copy of ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ that I lifted the

morning of the 5th, I think I came across as somewhat unbothered.

above quote. It’s always good to look out for the signs. Checking

It was shellshock. She offered a quick, quiet ‘I love you’ and I was

the day before my flight, it seemed there were only 122 yen

out of the door. Too sleepy to get a good look at where I’d grown

now, but that’s the number of my family home, so it can pass.

up and still retreated to for safety. People say life is what happens

The numbers don’t lie. Unfortunately, they were diminishing.

when you’re not looking. I knew what was happening, I was just

The exchange rate, on getting to Birmingham International, was

a walking golem and could barely react. Dad (“...g’luck, son...”) got

down to 107. The yen was protecting itself. It must be preparing

a similar send-off at Birmingham International airport. All I could

for my arrival, afraid of how I might burn a hole in it, or it may

think of was ensconcing myself on that plane just to get some

burn a hole in my pocket. Concentrating on practicalities took


my mind off the deeper thoughts. It’s amongst the deepest

They are unbreakable.

thoughts and in the depths of the night that your anxieties

emerge. Or when the cabin crew turn the lights down and

trailing a crescent past Siberia and flirting with Novya Zemlya.

you’re unable to sleep. A soft, persistent kick kicks-in, one that is

It was a new land underneath us. I risked alienating the entire

impossible to ignore. All these people calling you brave and that

complement of the plane by opening my shutter and letting

you’re an inspiration. It only adds to the background feeling of

heavenly daylight flood where I was sat. It was difficult to

what the heck am I doing?! Going with your instincts is all very

ascertain exactly what I was looking at. There was minimal cloud

well, but how do you know your instincts aren’t playing tricks

cover; a few hardy clumps of dry ice. The landscape was a muted

on you? Were there chances in London I missed, didn’t have the

conglomeration of brown, green and blue, all similarly lacking

balls to take, didn’t have the clarity of vision to see?

vibrancy. It could have been forest, marsh, tundra or steppe. I

simply couldn’t work it out from 35,000ft up. Great scars were

Turbulence is never welcomed, but at least it was a

The pilot took a Northern curve over the top of Asia,


rent across the landscape, in straight lines, as if the Siberians

I’m not religious, but at bumpy times like this I can’t

worshipped a giant feline and he wasn’t happy. They were too big

help but grip onto the St Christopher’s cross my parents bought

to be roads or railtracks. A lighter patch of sandy beige - huge, the

me all those years ago for my inaugural solo trip to Washington

size of a county - appeared, looking uncannily like a ghost doing a

DC. The hallowed one and I will exchange words over the next

somersault. Its mouth was a lake, and it was laughing. There was

few hours. I may even offer him a hymn. Talking of all things

a river twirling away from a small settlement, meandering like an

musical, I wondered how I would locate the hotel I’d booked

earthworm on ecstasy. It seemed coiled-up, a spring waiting to

on the other side. It’s the Sakura Hotel in Hatagaya. Only after

be sprung onto the thirsty terrain. Everything was monotonous

sacrificing some of my budget for a weekend of (hoped-for)

and hypnotic.

comfort, did I realise that Sakura was a traditional Japanese song I

used to be able to play on the guitar at the tender age of thirteen.

lady next to me had begun to shift in her sleep. Amalie was sat

Forgotten now.

on the floor, starting to whimper. Turning my attention to the

I felt criminal pulling the blind down, but the elderly

pamphlets in front of me, I stumbled across one that tickled me

I am sitting in kindergarten.

magenta. Is it admirable thoroughness or ludicrous absurdity

Yes, I have plenty of legroom, but I have also acquired

that the first item on the crew’s Emergency Equipment Checklist

a two-year old called Amalie.

is 1 x Emergency Equipment Checklist? There is some deep,

In trying to escape her sisters, she made a beeline for the pen I

philosophical conundrum waiting to be explored here, methinks.

was writing with and then refused to give it back. I had to learn

That, or the altitude has affected me.

how-are-you? from her mother - o genki desu-ka? - before she

gave it back. The mother was overflowing with questions.

approaching reality.

The elderly lady next to me could only smile and watch the conversation unfold, but her smiles were warm, gracious and fascinated by the exchange going on in front of her. Both mother and child wanted to know about my treasured collection of wristwear. My Arm Band (more on them later, as I’m sure you’re asking questions). Amalie had her chubby infant hands all over them.



Or touched by the enormity of my

razzle dazzle ships “ Dazzle painted ships were used extensively in World War I. I was interested how British marine artist Norman Wilkinson was influenced by the patterns of insects and animals, and how he used particular camouflage techniques to dazzle and mislead the enemy ships ” HAMISH COVENTRY - ILLUSTRATOR




exploring the backcountry of Colorado. I’m sitting in the cabin of a 10-ton snowcat as it climbs into the extreme skiing backcountry of Keystone Mountain. Trudging along a narrow forested pathway, the machine’s tank-like treads grip the abundant snow. What I’ve come for is a freeing dose of waist-deep powder, and the type of backcountry skiing that only the Rocky Mountains can provide. Around me are 11 strangers who have come for the same. Our childlike grins and excitable chatter prove infectious, even to the three guides who spend their days out here, living the rush that we’ll only borrow for a day. James, our hulking, heavily bearded, and exceptionally friendly guide mentally prepares our group as the cat continues its march toward the mountain’s upper bowls. He tosses out references to the “north facing runs” that we’ll start off with on Bergman Bowl. He says that we’ll let “the solar work its magic” on Erikson Bowl before skiing it in the afternoon, and uses words like “crunch” and “bounce” to describe the snow. His compatriots – Nobu, a fearless snowboarder and an impressive heavymachinery driver from Japan, and Jeff, a snow patroller and member of the mountain’s avalanche-blasting team – chime in with more of the same. I nod along like I have the slightest idea what they’re talking about. But I don’t have to, and that’s the point. It’s a Keystone KAT Skiing Tour. The only prerequisite is expert skiing ability (and a few hundred dollars to spare). For the most part, the members of our group have little knowledge of the backcountry, and live far away from the Rocky Mountain’s endless succession of snowstorms. So we’ve found an opportunity to get carted and guided into premier terrain during our brief visit, and without the risks – or the hours – it would take to hike our way in. This tour, which is offered in similar incarnations at a handful of other Colorado resorts including Vail and Steamboat, allows us to pack a year’s worth of powder skiing into a day, and live to tell the tale. What makes it all possible is the snowcat: a critically important machine to the modern day ski resort. Snowcats typically spend each night grooming their mountain’s most popular runs at the control of skilled operators. But a select and lucky few, like the bright red behemoth I’m riding in, have been specially outfitted for passenger carrying. Our plush 12-seater edges along the forested path until we sneak out, suddenly above the altitude where the pines will grow. The windows now reveal gargantuan space, populated with undulating peaks and valleys. The cat follows the ridge and then Nobu throws it into whatever its version of park is, running around to the back to open our door. One by one, we lower our goggles and emerge into the bright morning. Around us are three eggshell-white bowls, sculpted-smooth beneath their respective summits. These are Independence, Bergman, and Erikson. We have arrived. The steps to the snowcat hang two feet above the ground and I launch myself off them into thick, cushiony snow, poles in hand. James, Jeff, and Nobu unstrap the fat Solomon powder skis that were included with the tour from the cat’s carrying rack, along with the snowboarders’ boards, which they had to bring for themselves. I quickly strap on my gear, treating this like any other run, but I’m riddled with excitement. We follow James and Jeff to the edge of the bowl – which has a gentle entrance for this first run – and they explain that if we stagger our routes, we can ski


through our very own swaths of powder, all day long. That was all they were giving as far as a lesson, and it was all we needed. I take off down the hill and three turns into the first trip I already realize I’ve found what I was looking for in this tour. And I’m not alone. Hooting and hollering fills the air as the other skiers in my group spot their own lines and bank their turns behind me. This ragtag group of boarders and skiers – including two German veterinarians, one British yacht skipper, a girl celebrating her 40th birthday, and an aging pair of ski buddies who hold more than three decades of shared mountain memories – are absolutely loving it. By the time we ski through a narrow tree passage and reach the bottom of the bowl, Nobu is already waiting for us with the snowcat. We unclip our bindings, strap our skis and boards back onto the rack, and take off for a new drop-in point. This was a process we repeated throughout the morning as we moved in a thrilling top-bottom-top loop. Each time we bounded out of the cat, taking in views of the towering 14,000-foot Grays Peak and the trails at Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin in the distance, the group grew stronger and more appreciatively entrenched in the experience. I spent my college years stoking a pedal-to-the-metal mentality as a ski racer on the east coast. Sometime after graduating, however, my love for speed was subsumed by an enchantment with pure powder and fresh tracks. I was seduced by the mentality of the West, where being in solitude and bounding down a stretch of untouched, cloud soft snow is the ultimate skier’s rush. The feeling of skiing powder is entirely different from tearing up moguls or carving groomed runs. When the snow is right, it’s akin to floating. The skis find a rhythm entirely of their own, and you control your movement with flicks of the tails as you bounce down the mountain. The event is spiritual, and like a surfer on the


waves, you feel as though you’re embracing a heaven-sent gift offered by the mountain, not aggressively conquering a menacing foe. When I looked up at the hypnotically arcing lines I had been drawing into hillside during my first few runs in Keystone’s backcountry, an enveloping sensation of harmony infused the heavy breaths I released back into the thin air. Around noon, after completing seven runs, we were told it was time for lunch. Acting like children being separated from a new toy, we reluctantly skied down to a yurt that exclusively serves the snowcat groups. A hearty and hot meal of soup, pasta, fresh vegetables, and make-your-own sandwiches, followed by dessert, and mixed with boisterous recaps of our joy-filled morning runs, however, quickly lifted our spirits. 45 minutes later, James asked us if we were ready for more skiing, and we rushed headlong back into the snow. Our group, though in each other’s company purely by chance, turned out to be surprisingly well matched, and we managed to make five more runs in the afternoon. We took the tour right up until 3 p.m., half an hour past the time it was supposed to end, but our guides didn’t seem to mind a bit. They weren’t shy about affirming that they had the greatest jobs in the world. Jeff and Nobu, we learned, were actually on their days off. But this was far from a burden, they told us: they had used lobbying power to get onto today’s tour. In a perfect exhibition of the friendly and giving nature of those who make their lives on the mountain, they took turns driving the snowcat and skiing throughout the day. Our repeated exclamations that this was the “best day ever” were met with knowing smiles and grins that weren’t a tad worn down by repetition. I really felt that I could do this every day. They actually do it. “Have you ever had too much snow?” a lawyer in his young 30’s from Chicago asked James. After a smirk, he called up a recent memory. “We did get 32 inches in 36 hours this year…that was almost too much.” These guys talk about the snow like it’s their life. And really, it is.









APRIL 2016


Profile for Tales Journal

Tales Magazine: Explorer  

Issue 2

Tales Magazine: Explorer  

Issue 2