I’ve not been so chatty…

I know I’ve not been very chatty recently, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m ignoring them, or not interested in blogging anymore. Like I’ve said before, I’m working on an all-consuming project at the moment and it’s difficult to drag myself out of that and focus on something else. Also, I just realised a big flaw in the book I wrote, so I’m trying to rework that too. Give it a few weeks, and it should all be back to normal.

It’s probably a bit daft to write a post like this, but while I’ve not met any of the posters whose blogs I follow, some of you I feel I know well enough to think of as friends, and I don’t want you to feel ignored or unappreciated.

Anyway, I will try and keep up reading and posting, but if I get a bit slack please be patient.

And here is a picture of a praying mantis.

 

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Praying Mantis

 

Almost More Mystery Than You Can Handle

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Siddiebowtie is running a competition way more exciting than all those ‘nominate a hundred blogs and get them all to write an essay about what they did on their holidays’ competitions.

This competition has unknown rules!

– you have to make up your own and whoever gets it right wins.

It has unknown prizes!

possible prizes include a wooden testicle, an egg and an evil book.

You may never know if you’ve actually won it or not…

Although you might win a crafty object of delight!

And the post is really funny in the kind of delightful and ridiculous way that can only brighten your day.

Now I appreciate you’re busy, you have commitments, you just remembered you have to feed the goldfish and cut your toenails and put the Roomba out for the night. However, the significance of those things pale into comparison with this competition.

So, time to play

Siddiebowtie’s Mysterious Competition

I mean seriously, when was the last time you had some proper mystery in your life? Now’s the time folks, now’s the time…

Precious Books: Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book

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Created by Terry Jones (yes, that one) and Brian Froud, I discovered this book back when I worked in a pokey remainder bookshop on Charing Cross Road (I’m being dismissive, but I loved that shop). It is as the title suggests, a book of fairies, their images preserved like pressed flowers, squashed between the pages. It’s based loosely on the Cottingley fairies, which were photographs of fairies taken by two young children in the early nineteen hundreds, although in contrast to Lady Cottington’s fairies, those photos eventually turned out to be fake.

The text that accompanies the squashed fairies, is the handwritten diary entries of Lady Cottington, starting in childhood as she squashes the poor fairies between the pages of her notebook. The fairies (and goblins too) get their own back occasionally by taunting her, but sometimes it seems they actually want to be caught. The notes continue into her adulthood as the fairies continue to visit her and she struggles with being disbelieved by her family.

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I wanted to write a post about this book, even though it was published over twenty years ago, because there really isn’t anything else like it. The paintings of the fairies are delicate and bizarre; the writing is entertaining, and although it is difficult to like Lady Cottington, we get caught up in her adventures.

A brilliant idea executed in a perfect way.

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The Castle

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The castle was all he had known. Confined by a wicked uncle to stay in the tower, everyday he looked down on the enchanted forest and saw only thorns. Then one day he heard a loud rustling and swearing, looking out he saw a sword flashing and slashing its way through the thicket. Although he didn’t know it yet, his princess had come and soon he would be free.

Inside the House of Dreams: an adventure

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Yesterday I explored the House of Dreams, the museum/home/art installation of artist Stephen Wright. A tangled delight of junk, jumble, thoughts and images hiding behind a blue gate in Dulwich, London. The museum is only open a few days a year and photos can only be taken of the front garden, so what you see here is a fragment. I think that’s for the best though, photos could never give you the experience: the chance to explore, touch and be surrounded by the contents of the house.

A colourful jungle, absolutely crammed full of ephemera and words, the house contains powerful messages about love and loss, but also about acceptance of the self. Stephen has woven his thoughts and experiences into a visual adventure that others can share, telling a tale of love, grief and defiance.

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Part of what makes this house special is that the artist and his partner, Michael, both spend time talking to visitors one to one. I think I was my usual nosy, odd self and asked lots of questions, but both were patient and I learned first hand about how the house came into being and a little of what it means. I was also able to ask about why it was called the House of Dreams. For Stephen and his previous partner Donald the name was arrived at organically. It grew, like the house did, out of a random idea coming to life. For me, the name has real significance, tied into my understanding of what dreams are.

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When I had the brain injury (gone on about here) I had many dreams, and in a few ways they were like this house: vivid, crowded and stayed lodged in my thoughts throughout the day. I decided then that dreams are the brain’s way of frantically sorting through information in order to make sense of it and learn from it. From tiny irrelevant details of a TV show to complex emotions, the unconscious brain spends the quiet time at night filing and connecting at random each nugget of your life, testing one against another until each is finally slotted into place. My dreams were my brain’s way of sorting through my own experience of death and illness. This house seems like Stephen’s more external way of doing the same, it enabled him to process intense grief (he lost his partner and both parents in a very short space of time). It uses the same random juxtaposition of dreams: putting a sculpture showing his feelings about his father’s death next to a collection of brightly coloured bleach bottles; hair curlers next to diary entries. Walking through the house was a little like walking through someone else’s dreams.

One of the most powerful messages I got from the house was to be fearless with who you are. To boldly be who no one can else can be. There is  a lot of pressure to hide our oddities, and as someone who can weird people out quite easily, I tend to tuck the messy edges of my personality out of sight. That’s an easier way to interact in society, but art is not about behaving and being normal; art should be the explosion of the self, the unfeterred release of who we are. Mostly I write fiction and I’m always adamant that I don’t write about me in my stories; but it’s important also that I don’t distance myself from what I write, that I don’t sketch half-hearted thoughts, but instead throw myself into the eye of the storm. That is certainly the inspiration I’ll take from this house.

More info, videos and pictures here. If you ever have the chance to visit the house on one of the open days then you really should. We live in mass produced, largely blank and repetitive world, the chance to see something unique and as inspiring as this is well worth the effort.

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