(WARNING: this is not a gig review!)
London! Our former home! We were back there for the first time in ages on Thursday for a very special gig.
It felt very, very strange indeed to walk around the West End - as if we had never left, as if those years in Dorset had never happened... It was slightly trippy!
But also, looking around at all the people surrounding us, we thought "this is their London now, not ours", although most of the people we saw on Thursday were tourists. And, as we spent quite a bit of time not far from Whitehall, we came across loads of civil servants... Funny how you can just spot them among the crowds...
It was all a bit bittersweet.
London has changed. It has morphed, as it's always done.
Only I'm not sure it's changing for the better, but who am I to say?
It's becoming more and more all glass and steel, sanitised. And then, when you step outside of the main roads, you catch glimpses of the old London, full of stories and character...
I keep hearing and reading about venues disappearing, people on good salaries not being able to afford to live there (it was already like that when I was there... Thinking about the living conditions I had to endure all these years make me shudder...) But we do not live there anymore and we don't know what's happening under the surface...
So London is not my home anymore but...
Yet, it did feel like home, strangely.
I don't think I could stand to be surrounded by so many people anymore. And I'd miss the open sea...
We tried to stick to the green (VERY yellow at the moment) spaces. We wandered around and observed people coming and going. My writer's imagination was stimulated every single minute - I'm used to observing people and making up stories about them in my head.
My fifth novel will be set in the capital and I couldn't help thinking about it as I sat there, surrounded by office workers and tourists from all around the world. So much material! I can't wait to get started... But I have two novels to write and publish before I get to this one!
We walked past the brilliant actor Bill Nighy on a pedestrian crossing - he was coming out of Green Park with a book in his hand... I love his work in movies and radio, so this was a extra special treat.
We took refuge for a few minutes in Duck Island Cottage in St James' Park- it was like being back in Dorset in the middle of London!
When we first moved to Dorset five and a half years ago, it was relatively easy to get into London for gigs (we had found a cheeky little free parking area in zone 1 for weekend gigs). But then things got a bit more complicated and it's no longer that convenient or cheap to drive into the capital (and no, not going to go by train, the line is incredibly unreliable).
Add to this the pandemic and the cost of living crisis... Sadly, going to London for a gig is not really something we can do very often... BUT this was such a special occasion that we bought the tickets and decided not to look too closely at the expenses.
And it was all worth it.
I've been in a bit of a creative lurch recently - struggling to find the motivation to complete the first draft of my third novel. And when I'm stuck, I look for inspiration in other writers' books and in music.
For some reason, I had never seen Miranda Sex Garden live before. They disbanded in 2000, which is the year I started writing for music magazines, but I was aware of various bands associated with them. I've seen Katharine Blake's Mediaeval Baebes many times on stage over the years and have been following her career quite closely - she is a true musical genius and force of nature. More recently, I have been very interested in the project she has started with her partner Michael J. York, The Witching Tale. My hope is for them to do a gig in Glastonbury where they are based - it wouldn't be too far for us to drive and would be the perfect environment for their unique songs to be played.
When I saw the announcement for the gig, I didn't hesitate and I pounced on the tickets. I was not going to miss this opportunity!
A big sense of anticipation built up online ahead of the event, and now I feel immensely privileged to have been at the venue to witness this reunion gig. It was very, very special.
It was a very intense performance: dramatic, filmic, loud, eerie, unsettling, seductive, lustful, joyful and obviously emotional for all involved.
The evening started with Timo C. Engel's Bleedingblackwood project: beautifully dark, intriguing and unique, the set was very short (about 20 minutes) and he left us wanting more! Goosebumps all around. Here are two half-decent pictures of Bleedingblackwood.
When I started writing reviews for magazines, I bought myself a good camera worthy of all the press passes I accumulated over the years. I've taken hundreds of pictures to go with my articles...
Now though, I have to make do with my (old) phone which cannot take low light or movement. I will probably have to change it at some point soon and will make it my mission to find the cheapest deal for a phone with a good camera - I'll need it when I open my online bookshop to take professional-looking stock photos!
Miranda Sex Garden's set was simply mesmerising. I didn't manage to take great pictures of the whole band but I've added my best photos of the evening, mostly of Katharine Blake.
You can see the fantastic band members - original members Trevor Sharpe on drums, Teresa Casella on bass and Mike Servent on keyboards, with the great addition of the superb Kavus Torabi and Bev Lee Harding (who was terrific on the violin) - in action in some brilliant videos which have now been posted online by other punters. Enjoy...
I finally managed to spend some time in Abbotsbury again yesterday to research my third novel The Right Place - the usually verdant landscape seen from the top of Chapel Hill is now scorched to yellow hay!
I have been struggling to write/find my writing mojo over the past few months but a visit to Abbotsbury always helps. As I walked around, I retraced the steps of my characters and I reminded myself that fighting to complete the novel would always be worth it!
I am happy with the scenes I have written so far in and around the chapel, and I am planning a big important scene at night on top of the hill!
Only 6 months left on my schedule to complete draft 1!
Back in 2015, we went to see the Eric Ravilious exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery and it is one of my favourite exhibitions of all time (and I have been to many!). To think that his name and his art had been forgotten for several decades is outrageous. He definitely is one of the great English artists (painter, designer, engraver and war artist) and his work deserves to be rediscovered. I love his paintings but I also adore his Black and white wood engraving images. When I first heard about Margy Kinmonth's movie Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War, I know I had to go and see it, but I was doubtful that it would be shown close to where we live on the Dorset coast. Thankfully, The Rex Cinema in Wareham appeared on the list! Obviously, to have been able to go to one of the Q&As would have been even better (especially one with one of my favourite writers, Robert Mcfarlane, as one of the guest speakers).
The film, retracing his steps from Eastbourne to Finland, is incredibly poignant and thought-provoking; one cannot help thinking about what amazing art Eric Ravilious could have contributed if he hadn't died at 39...
We moved to Dorset a little over 5 years ago and hadn't gone to The Rex before - what a discovery! The Rex cinema Wareham is one of the oldest cinemas in the country and has been lovingly restored to its 1920s glory. So many classic films posters, ephemera, classic stars... And the best loos ever, with lifesize pictures of Hollywood stars Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart, Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe (apologies for the bad picture, I was hurrying up!).
My passion for classic Hollywood movies started in my early childhood (I knew all the stars' names by the age of 10!) and I have never stopped studying it (the studios, the stars, the early cinema industry and, of course, the movies, which I still watch regularly - there are so many I still haven't seen!). Classic cinema books take a big section of my stock of pre-loved, vintage and rare books!
Here are the gorgeous lobby card displays... Oh, to be able to take them home!!!
We finally made it to the wonderful Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum in Bournemouth yesterday five years after having moved to Dorset! No rush! It is an extraordinary place with fascinating pieces of art everywhere, and a Sir Henry Irving room which was a bonus (I based the character of Dimitri's dad in my second novel The Book of Thoth on Henry Irving, and in the book, the former actress Sophia Chronos is a hybrid of several people including Ellen Terry!) To think that a large part of the collection is in storage as there is not enough space to display everything is staggering. Another extra bonus was that the museum also hosts The Lost Words exhibition until September, an enthralling experience with words by Robert Macfarlane (he is one of my favourite writers and therefore I was thrilled to see his notebooks!) and the stupendously gorgeous paintings by Jackie Morris. I am a big admirer of both so was in heaven. What a place! I now need to find the time to read more about Merton and Annie Russell-Cotes, the incredible owners of the house.
An inspiring day!
There is a blog up on the Arcane Publishing website with pictures from our day yesterday in Exeter for Word Play!
Watch out for more event announcements soon!
I think therefore I write.
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