A band called The Jane Austen Argument... How cool is that?
Makes me think that I have a dozen CDs to buy on my list...
Personally, I don't need for it to be Halloween to indulge in ghost stories. I have a particular fondness for abbeys, castles – ruined or not – bleak urban landscapes and the tormented shores of the wintery seaside. I like the colour black, I enjoy exploring the dark side of the psyche and, as a lifelong student of English literature, I have always harboured a passion for gothic novels. Hell, I am even attempting to write one as we speak!
Ghost stories are more than just spooky tales created to scare the masses: it delves in the human race’ s most irrational, visceral fears; it reveals the hidden side of life and takes us back to the history of a person, a place, a country, a people. It speaks of superstitions and passions.
On my book shelves, I have several books of illustrated short stories by infamous writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Saki, M.R. James, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc.
I also have to admit that much like writer, actor and director Mark Gatiss – I love that guy, don’t you? – I actually don’t believe in any of it. I am a cold, stubborn down to earth non-believer.
You just need imagination, a love for history and stories, a weakness for mystery and creativity…
And a tendency to be able to suspend disbelief at will…
But Halloween is great because then we can go to events like this one!
Our evening was hosted by the Chalkwell Pop Up team as well as writers Rachel Lichtenstein –who regularly hosts the excellent “Salon” events at the same venue – and Syd Moore, whose first novel, "The Drowning Pool", will be reviewed in a forthcoming blog.
Attending any event at the wonderful Chalkwell Hall is always a pleasure, even more so on that evening as some of the events were taking place not only on the vast ground floor but also in the attic of the house…
The lights were fittingly dimed and some carved pumpkins were lurking on window sills, some animal parts were floating in jars and some printed ghost stories were awaiting us on the tables.
We were first taken all the way to the attic of the house where Rachel told us about the Grey Lady who supposedly haunts Chalkwell Hall – even a tough a resident artist from New York got spooked a few months ago while sleeping at the Hall! –and read us a gripping extract of the report she had written after having spent a whole night at the Palace Theatre in Westcliff with a team of paranormal investigators. As a regular visitor to the Palace, I was really interested by this side of the building – which Rachel told us, is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in the country. This was followed with a personal story from Rachel related to her sojourn on board of
one of the estuary barges – “Beware of The Voices in the Estuary”, she warned us.
The first part of the evening concluded with a reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Oval Portrait” – one of his shortest stories that reminded me in some way of my first novel, "I Am A Muse".
We made our way downstairs for a break – a “food break” during which the guests could sample the pop up’s homemade food. But before that, a lady called Chrissie - I hope I have spelt her name right - told us about a terrible "haunting" that had supposedly recently occurred in some very contemporary flats not far from the Hall. Strange and disturbing, it was another take on the "normal" "suburban" haunting like "The Amityville Horror".
Myself and my boyfriend made our way to the second room where a shortened version of the 1968 movie “Whistle And I’ll Come To You” based on M.R. James’ story “Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad”. Another – not bad at all, actually – version of this story, starring James Hurt, was shown on the BBC last winter – with quite a lot of alterations to the story and to the ultimate explanation for the supernatural manifestations.
After the break, it was time for Syd Moore to do her bit.
I really like the fact that Ms Moore has taken to doing her readings and signings wearing great outfits made with wonderfully colourful material sporting some lovely little witches illustrations, a clever promo trick for her excellent first novel “The Drowning Pool”, whose central character is Sarah Moore, the Leigh sea-witch. She talked to us about her research and read a passage from her book, as well as one from her second book which will once again deal with witchy goings-on in Essex, this time tackling the Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins. This promises to be a great read as well… Watch this space!
On our way out, we were given some wonderfully put together goodie bags full of nice little touches: a pine cone and some cockle shells accompanied by quotes out of Syd’s book – you will have to read “The Drowning Pool” to know what they represent!– some pumpkins and ginger bites and a headless gingerbread man!
Also in the bag was a small plastic bottle with a sticker warning “Ghost in a bottle, open at your own risk”…
… I haven’t yet mustered the courage to open it!
I am working quite a lot these days on some quite detailed stuff, and Thomas Hardy seemed a little bit too heavy to read in the evening after a whole day at my desk. So I've put it aside and will go back to it later, and instead have picked up Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies (Penguin 1953 edition).
It is positively, roaringly delicious!
For some more stunning pictures of Dorset, head to the gorgeous Matt ArtPix's blog (both the artist and the blog are gorgeous if you ask me, but then I might be biased!)
DOTTY ABOUT DORSET PART 2
There will be more news about Matt's events very soon... It's going to be a very busy December!
As a keen "student" of silent movies and early Hollywood, I am really looking forward to seeing this movie, although I will probably need to go to London to find a cinema that will show it.
I have always been fascinated by the story of Hollywood and have been brought up watching old movies, which I always find much better than more contemporary ones. And the stars were REAL stars. I have read the biographies of Lillian Gish, Louise Brooks, Mary Pickford and Roscoe Arbuckle and I have countless books about Hollywood from the very beginnings of cinema - indeed, the transition from stage to screen - to the early 60s.
The Artist looks exactly like what I'd like to see...
Well, not exactly a "wage slave"...
"The Book of Thoth" is now on hold for a while as I need to earn some money... Ahh, to be a full-time published writer... Wouldn't it be nice? It is a bit of a shame as I had come back refreshed and inspired from my holidays in Dorset. I was in the right frame of mind to take my story further...
I can't complain as I am a freelancer and therefore have the best working conditions... My own little flat!
But I have so much coming in that it is merely a choice between sleeping and working on the book, and I just need to sleep, in my case 8 hours a night.
So... Some sacrifices have to be made!
My first novel "I Am a Muse" is currently with two literary agents, two publishing companies and has been entered in one competition. I hope this will be enough to keep things ticking nicely while I earn some much needed dosh!
And then, in January, it will be time to decide if I throw myself into the scary world of self-publishing...
Note: all the pictures on this blog are © Matt ArtPix
I am now back to my very crowded little corner of the country and if I am being honest, it feels a bit grim.
I have just returned from a week in Dorset where we have been out and about for between 8 to 10 hours each day, and therefore sitting down in front of a computer for hours on end represents a bit of a challenge. It is going to take me a lot of will power not to run back screaming to the beautiful hills of Wessex.
I have come back incredibly inspired and even more convinced that the path I have chosen is the right one. This is what Dorset does to you. There is a quiet creative energy running through the county and a seductive mystery in the atmosphere of this ancient landscape.
Yes, Dorset is worth a pint indeed… or a very good pot of tea in my case.
Talking about ancient landscape, there is a new book just out that will give you a good idea of how rich in natural beauty, history and folklore West Dorset is.
It is The Secret Places of West Dorset, by Louise Hodgson – artist, writer and founder of SECRET LANDSCAPE TOURS. I have just started it and it is really inspiring, guiding you on the paths that criss-cross the county and in the process telling you wondrous stories - Louise's delightful paintings illustrate the text wonderfully. Louise’s writing is simple yet inspired.
The book is published by a local independent publisher, ROVING PRESS.
We went back to some of our favourite places…
Lyme Regis, where we paid a visit to the wonderful Sanctuary Bookshop (see my previous blog HERE). I have acquired some Evelyn Waugh and PG Woodhouse… I am happy!
On the Lyme Regis seafront that leads to the infamous Cobb, we were stunned to see that the house we had so admired in June was up for sale… The details are not up on the estate agent’s website, though, for some reason… But imagine living in this… The amount of books I would write there!
We also went back to Abbotsbury and St Catherine's chapel (I wrote about it and PJ Harvey's song "The Wind" HERE). This is my favourite place among my favourite places!
Near Worth Matravers, just before the evocative Winspit quarry and on our way to St Alban’s Head, we came across what we think might just be a very big ammonite.
Our path has crossed that of numerous animals, some rare wild birds, some very happy dogs and some luscious cats, much like this one spotted on the stairs of an old rectory on Portland.
Talking of happy dogs, what about these two little friends enjoying their day in Britport’s Art and Vintage Quarter?
I have mentioned the threat to this essential part of the town in previous blogs. In my June blog, you will find a few more details about the quarter and the St Michael’s Estate.
We were lucky enough to have a chat with the studios founder and spokesperson, the artist Kit Glaisyer, who very nicely invited us to have a look around his studio and discussed his work with us a little bit. He is very busy with some commissions (you can see the progress he is making on his canvases on his video blogs HERE).
We stopped off at the lovely Red Brick Café for a restorative tea before exploring the treasure trove that is Les Allées.
To keep yourself informed about the campaign to save the Bridport antique, vintage and artist quarter, go HERE.
I have posted quite a few website addresses in my previous blog about the estate, but I will add this one HERE (Bridport Antiques) to the list.
By the way, Bridport is a thriving literary place too, and they will have an excellent literary festival in November – I wish I could be there!
BRIDPORT LITERARY FESTIVAL WEBSITE
Somewhere else in the county, film buffs can enjoy the PURBECK FILM FESTIVAL (and what a great programme!). Just look at this one!
Lucky people we are! Our holidays started on the day one of our favourite bands, New Model Army, were playing a gig in Bridport. Of course, we had bought tickets!
It was wonderful to see them there after so many gigs in London. The atmosphere was great and the set fab as always! The Dorset air seemed to have been beneficial to Justin Sullivan who was on “chatty” mode. See the end of this blog for a taste of the evening...
The venue, the ELECTRIC PALACE, is a wonderful multi-function building which was built in the 1920s as a cinema…
We ended our stay with a visit to Dorchester, the administrative capital of Dorset. I was slightly disappointed by the town itself, quite sedate and sleepy despite its huge history. But I am quite certain that there is more to it than meets the eye...
We came across the excellent Dorchester Curiosity Centre, an antiques centre absolutely full of very interesting items at amazing prices… Another visit is required!
I will leave you with a picture of the ancient, mysterious and awe-inspiring Maiden Castle located just outside of Dorchester...
And the perfect tribute song to Dorset: New Model Army, "High", in Bridport on Saturday, 15th October 2011...
"A portrait of the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen and magazine editor Isabella Blow has been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery (NPG).
Burning Down by surrealist photographer David LaChapelle was originally published in Vanity Fair in 1997.
The shot was accompanied by an article branding McQueen and his mentor "The Provocateurs".
NPG director Sandy Nairne said he was "delighted" to receive the work, which is now on display in the gallery.
The portrait was shot at Hedingham Castle in Essex in 1996 and shows McQueen dressed as a woman, brandishing a flaming torch."
It is great to see this fab "local"-ish landmark make it to the BBC website (and the National Portrait Gallery).
Snow permitting, I will be at Hedingham Castle with Matt ArtPix, who will be having a stall at the "Made in Essex" Xmas art, craft and food fair on December 3rd and 4th. We will be staying in nearby Sudbury in a little B&B which promises to be quite fab...
I think therefore I write.
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