25 August 2012


An image that lurks forever in the murky depths of my head is that of Sycorax breast-feeding her son Caliban. I watched Derek Jarman's dark imagining of The Tempest in my second year of university and it was the oddest, most grotesque, most dream-like film I had seen. Punk Miranda played by Toyah Wilcox - need I say more. However, after last weekend, I will associate new images with Jarman.

On the hottest Saturday of the year, we visited Dungeness. A flat shingle beach, the shore lined with fishing rods and put-you-up chairs, home to a simple stark lighthouse, and shadowed by the humming nuclear power station. Dotted about are wooden fishing boats, seeming as though they had unexpectedly beached, then dried and aged. And neatly spaced out along this flatness are cottages. They look like old railway carriages and are apparently hot property. The homes of poets, one would presume, if only they could afford them. On such a sunny day, they are idyllic living spots, but in winter and in storms they must be bleak. Beautifully bleak.

Prospect Cottage
Derek Jarman lived in Prospect Cottage. It is tar-black timber, with the window and door frames picked out in yolky-sun yellow. A Donne poem graces one side of the cottage, words made from raised wood, lines from the first and last stanza of The Sun Rising. Jarman created a curious shingle garden, all bizarre beach plants and found objects. Artworks of rusted metal and driftwood surround the cottage. Stone toads, craggy and puckered, sit with fixed painted eyes. The pebbles, rocks, and shells shift and crunch as endless visiting feet step unsteadily. Jarman, dead eighteen years, no longer lives here, but jazz filters out through the windows, and bright canvases hang over cream sofas. So someone calls it home.

fotos taken by F
Dungeness is other-worldly. As if to prove this, a little further along the shingle, a sign points to 'The Fifth Quarter Mystical Gift Shop'. A shirtless man sits outside its bead-curtained entrance, little furry dogs hump happily in welcome, and incense sticks burn with their sickening perfume. The tiny shop is filled with precious stones, mood rings, scented candles, dream catchers, glass lanterns, and a witch whose eyes light up as she cackles at those beach-combers lured in by the absurdity of it all. Perhaps a different kind of magic to that of Prospero or Ariel, yet Dungeness does invoke those famous lines of (the usually silly and insufferable) Miranda:

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!

Jarman and his garden are two such wonders.

11 August 2012

Garden of Forking Paths

The Southbank is sunny and busy and smells of hot dogs and donuts and sounds like applause and laughter at the moment. I was walking from the Millennium Bridge along to the Southbank Centre this week and was constantly distracted by street performers, ice-cream stands, music, silent movie-style outdoor theatre, and throngs of people (both tourists and locals). It was a colourful warm walk. When I reached my destination, an entirely different atmosphere settled around me. A quieter one. I had come to see if aMAZEme really is amazing.

From Juxtapoz Magazine
Inspired by Jorge Luis Borges, two Brazilian artists - Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo - have created a book maze. A labyrinth of 250 000 books. The books have all been provided by Oxfam and supportive donors who wanted to make 'getting lost in a good book' a reality. Any visitor can pick up a book and begin reading - as long as the book is returned to the maze before the visitor leaves. The piles grow as the maze spirals in to the centre, starting low then gradually becoming far taller than me so I could see so many book spines before my eyes. Such variety! Mills & Boon (Modern Heat) lies side by side Margaret Atwood. 'The Complete Kama Sutra' sits next to 'Insects in Britain'. There are picture books, annuals, cookery books, celebrity 'autobiographies', and many many novels all packed together to form walls of stories and histories. Ring-binded sheets of braille lie open on a low wall, looking like wide-winged embroidered birds flying atop book-scapes.

A little girl was settled down on the floor, bright cardboard pop-up pages spread all around her as people stepped over her small absorbed form. Words and quotes are projected in a blinding light onto the books, distorting them as they wash over the titles. They are also projected onto a crinkled curtain behind the maze - the quotes of Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Muhammad Ali, Jean Luc Godard, Shakespeare...(not a lot of women I note, but there are certainly many women writers represented in the maze walls). Along with words, there are moving images projected in colour: fields, trees, sky, a man wearing a sculpted head of a bull as we follow him through different outdoor environments. Surrounded by stories. I was heartened to see that the maze was drawing people in. Browsing readers were picking up books, flicking through pages, occasionally taking them to the sofas on the maze outskirts. Encouragement to build up my walls of books as I travel forward. It's perfectly lovely to get lost every so often.

6 August 2012

Blume 4eva

A friend of mine who also grew up obsessively reading Noel Streatfield then Jacqueline Wilson then Judy Blume now works at a well-known children's book publishing company. This doesn't just mean picture books and pop-up bed-time stories. There is also the pre-teen/young adult market to consider. Knowing my love for the likes of 'Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret', she sent me the blurb of a new book she had come across at work. There were a great many capital letters and exclamation marks alongside the actual text of the blurb. This is because the American teen novel she was shouting about is pretty much perfection, and makes my life. Well, it would have made my life when I was thirteen. No, no, the blurb alone makes my life right now, and I must read the entire book ASAP. The back of Abby McDonald's 'Getting over Garrett Delaney' reads as follows:

Sadie is in love - with her best friend, Garrett Delaney. But Garrett has been oblivious to Sadie's feelings for him ever since he sauntered into her life and wowed her with his passion for Proust, not to mention his deep blue eyes. For two long, painful years, Sadie has been Garrett's constant companion, sharing his taste in everything from tragic Russian literature to art films to '80s indie rock. When Garrett leaves for a summer literary retreat, Sadie is sure that the absence will make his heart grow fonder - until he calls to say that he's fallen in love with another girl! Heartbroken, Sadie realizes she's finally had enough and that it's time for a total Garrett detox. Aided by a barista job, an eclectic crew of new friends (including hunky chef Josh) and a customized self-help guide, Sadie embarks on a summer of personal reinvention full of laughter, meltdowns ... and a double shot of love.

Garrett sounds like the kind of douche I would have thought was an absolute dreamboat. Things in the young adult world may have changed since the Blume years, but it can't be denied that there is definitely some teen-targeting genius at work here. Passion for Proust! Magic.