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.

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