Old Spitalfields Market is a brilliant place to be every day of the week. We were back there specifically to buy a piece of jewellery from Lelong Designs, who create pieces inspired by the 20s and 30s, Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles - my favourites!
I am not usually big on jewellery, but their stall is simply wonderful and I had to try and concentrate on the task at hand: purchase something to add to the back cover of The Book of Thoth - the cover itself is very minimalist, and we thought adding something completely different at the back would work well.
Matt ArtPix, the Arcane Publishing designer, helped me choose between some Egyptian-inspired pieces or some insect jewellery.
In the book, one item in particular plays an important role in the story: a dragonfly pendant. As Egyptian imagery is already well represented throughout the book - on the cover and inside - we decided to go for the wonderful dragonfly brooch above, which looks very, very close to the jewel I had in mind. And it is very, very wearable, isn't it? I had a little chat with the stallholder and was thrilled he agreed to have his work on the back cover of my book... Of course, credit will be given where it's due!
I also HAD to make a detour and buy some tea on the Yumchaa Tea stall. Honestly, they are the best teas around. I knew I was going to a gig in the evening, and yet, I still bought three bags of tea and carried them around the whole day and night. How Rock'n'Roll is that?
OK, I admit it: I can be a terrible snob from time to time, and I refuse to set foot in your average cinema like the Odeon, for example, ever again. People eat, talk, check their phones, fidget; their attention span doesn't exceed two minutes... It just spoils it for me. So we've decided to only go and see films in "civilised" surroundings, like the Curzon cinemas and the Barbican Centre. Below is a picture of Cromwell Tower opposite the cinema at the Barbican, pure Brutalist style!
Talking about Brutalism... There's a great programme on at the moment about Brutalist architecture: Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness, presented by the impossibly cool Jonathan Meades. It is absolutely bonkers, with Mr Meades's very, er, original presentation style. I'd love to get the script; it's wonderfully written in a rich, kaleidoscopic vocabulary... And it's very inspiring for me, with visuals close to what I'd like to achieve with my fourth book.
We went to see the not-very-critically-acclaimed The Monuments Men. I've never seen any movie with George Clooney or Matt Damon, so I have now. Clooney has some kind of Cary Grant, twinkle-in-the-eye thing going on, and Matt Damon is... err... a bit bland, perhaps?
I liked the movie because it had a sort of old-fashioned charm you don't really find in modern movies - I have always been a lover of classic cinema me, from the 20s to the late 50s. Also, it is rare in a mainstream movie to have references to art and its importance in our society. True, the movie doesn't go very deep into any of its topics, but I never go to the cinema to see movies making deep and serious social/political points - I leave that to pseudo-intellectuals.
I haven't been to the cinema for ages, and then bang, several films turn up all at the same time! I also want to see Only Lovers Left Alive, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Under The Skin, and they are all out in the forthcoming weeks!
When we stepped into the Lexington on Sunday, we entered a parallel, beautiful, lyrical world.
I have already written a little bit about cellist and "looper" Jo Quail - when she supported Rasputina in November. It was a pleasure to see her play again - and it was even better the second time! Not only is her music truly mesmerising, but watching her play is fascinating. Music inspires me and has always played an important role in my life, but the process of creating music and playing it is a complete mystery to me. To witness the alchemy practised on stage by Jo was simply awesome. And her music is definitely otherworldly.
On Sunday night, we were treated to a brand new, not quite finished piece - temporarily called "DD" - the music note I hasten to add - a "baby" track that still has quite a lot of growing up to do according to its creator, although it sounded pretty grown up to me already!
We continued our journey into a realm of magic and shadowy beings with the excellent Seventh Harmonic (for some reason, my computer refuses to open the website on either Chrome or Explorer, which is a real shame!). Sunday was their new singer Liza Graham's first gig with the band, and if she looked slightly uncomfortable at the beginning, this changed pretty quickly as she literally beamed as the set went on... Jo Quail joined the band for their track "Winter" and added a layer of cords to the already rich ensemble.
Experimental, dark and seductive stuff indeed...
Daemonia Nymphe do know how to put on a show. Costumes, masks, ancient Greek instruments - made especially for them by craftsman Nikolaos Brass, and a dancer. On Sunday, they were presenting their new album, "Psychostasia".
Spyros Giasafakis and Evi Stergiou, the core members of Daemonia Nymphe, have worked for film and theatre (in particular The Theatre Lab Company), and it shows in their taste for the subtly dramatic; they also know how to surround themselves with talented musicians, and joining them on Sunday were among others Tanya Jackson (whom I had seen perform before with the Mediaeval Baebes) and ex-Dead Can Dance member Peter Ulrich - I still remember reviewing his fabulous album "Enter The Mysterium" years ago, so was particularly chuffed to see him there!
Also present was dancer/model/actress Denise Moreno.
Hypnotic, evocative and full of Ancient Greece's rhythms and flavours, Daemonia Nymphe's world is infused with myths and legends and carries the words and stories of Hellenic literature.
This is dark, ritualistic, spellbinding music, plucked from ancient times to speak to the soul of modern audiences.
To conclude, I would just add a word or two about the audience. Everyone should be proud of themselves: attentive and respectful of the silent/quiet bits in the sets, holding their breath at the end of each song before applauding enthusiastically. It was just a pleasure to be there.
I have heard so many negative things recently about acoustic/quiet sets being completely spoilt by drunken idiots, blasé crowds speaking over artists and heckling...
Well done, everyone.
During the Christmas holiday, I have acquired yet more amazing items for my vintage collection!
The seller who sold me the Film Weekly magazines had an absolutely amazing stock of fabulous stuff (also quite a few The Play, the theatre mag, which makes a brief appearance in The Book of Thoth!). I am not a big spender, but I could easily have bought their whole stock in one go... I will go back for more this year!
I am becoming rather obsessed with theatre people from the Edwardian era and, of course, the 1920s.
In The Book of Thoth, one of my characters is a former actress who was about to become a big star of the stage just before the First World War, but it is only mentioned as part of the background story.
What I'd like to do is to write a novel entirely set in the world of the theatre, but the amount of research would be staggering - and I would have to find an original angle as it has been done before, hasn't it?
The pictures below are not very good as they were taken minutes before my camera gave up for good.
In the next few weeks, I will be heading to the National Portrait Gallery to see their display Starring Vivien Leigh: A centenary celebration. They also have Jane Morris: Pre-Raphaelite muse which I will see at the same time!
Now back to The Book of Thoth.
Draft 1 will be completed next Tuesday, January 20th.
I was supposed to write this blog last Monday, but got caught up in stuff: ie freelance work and the preparations for yesterday's Christmas edition of The Secret Vintage Fair.
We started last weekend with the first (well, second really if, unlike us, you follow the chronology) of The Southend Shakespeare Company's marathon performances of The Romans: Antony and Cleopatra (We saw Julius Caesar this Thursday). The two plays were terrific; we love seeing productions by the SSC as their productions are so professionally done and the acting always excellent. We try to go to as many of them as possible, and their programme for 2014 is fantastic: some Shakespeare, of course, but also Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward, so hopefully we will get tickets for all of them!
Of course, going to the theatre in the West End is a wonderful, not-to-be-missed experience, and therefore, on the Saturday, we made our way to the Gielgud theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue and bought our tickets to see Strangers On a Train in early January. I can't wait!
The queue at the London Transport Museum was a bit too long for our taste and it was not particularly early - we always spend ages in exhibitions and thought that we'd like to see Poster Art 150 - London Underground's Greatest Designs without having to rush, so we opted for a tea at their lovely cafe instead and decided to go back to see the exhibition later in December.
Refreshed, we trotted off to The Cartoon Museum to see another of the exhibitions on our list: the utterly fabulous The Age of Glamour: R.S. Sherriffs's stars of stage and screen. We did spend ages in this gorgeous little exhibition, marvelling at the illustrator's skills and humourous depiction of the stars of the era. I did laugh out loud quite a few times! I have instantly become a fan of his work and would love to find out more about him - unfortunately, the museum didn't produce any book or postcards to go with the exhibition...
A bit (a lot) of browsing in Pleasures of Past Times in Cecil Court is in order...
The Guardian have a slide show of the exhibition HERE.
Read my partner in crime Matt ArtPix's blog about the exhibition HERE.
Then at the end of the day, there was some music...
Despite London's ridiculous transport system - the WHOLE of the Northern Line closed ON A SATURDAY EVENING, no comment...), we managed to make our way to The Forum to see one of our favourite bands, New Model Army.
Still going strong, as relevant as ever - especially in the current social and political climate - and with a brand new, absolutely fantastic new album (Between Dog and Wolf) just out, current sold out tour and a feature film being made about them, New Model Army is one of those bands whose work is essential to thousands of people around the world without the mainstream media being interested in the slightest. Which, thinking about it, is a bit of a mistake as they understand and chronicle the evolution of our society better than anyone else and translate them into powerful songs that have a thrillingly poetic and poignantly philosophical quality to them.
I am chuffed to bits, today...
This afternoon, I got some more stock for my book stall.
Not only that, but I came across a copy of Shakespeare's As You Like It, but not just any copy...
On the cover, it features the initials "O.A & L.B". Inside, one can find two lovely pictures.
The title page tells us:
I have done a little bit of research and it looks like the initials refer to Oscar Asche, a Norwegian-Australian actor, producer and director who worked on the Australian and English stages, and his wife, English actress Lily Brayton. They are the people in the pictures, and they were very, very big indeed in the theatre world!
This copy refers to the time when Asche and his wife managed
His Majesty’s Theatre in Haymarket, London (they had become managers of The Adelphi in 1904).
I have only found one listing for this book on the internet: HERE. Does that mean that it is pretty rare?
I love it when this happens.
We had a fabulous evening at the theatre yesterday.
I have seen the classic 1935 Hitchcock movie The 39 Steps two to three times,
(I cannot even remember!) and was looking forward to this.
I wasn't disappointed; it is a hoot!
4 actors, 139 characters... How on earth do they do it, you ask?
Well... A fabulous use of the stage and props, and an awful lot of energy.
The show is incredibly inventive and clever; references to several Hitchcock movies are inserted here and there - as well as the now famous personal appearance by the movie director himself! - and it is genuinely hilarious.
The 39 Steps, the play, has its own website... Catch the national tour if you can!
Yesterday, on our way to the Baebes gig, we decided to go try and get tickets for The Judas Kiss at the Duke of York's theatre on St Martin's Lane. And we did get tickets! I am really excited, as it is about Oscar Wilde, one of my favourites!
It is 1895 and Oscar Wilde's masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest, is playing in the West End after a triumphant premiere, but already the wheels are in motion which will lead to his imprisonment, downfall and vilification.
Yesterday, we were off to the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre to see Meow Meow's Little Match Girl, a cabaret show inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's tale.
I personally loathe musicals (apart from the original movie of My Fair Lady) but I love cabaret (Meow Meow's own strand has been dubbed kamikaze and post-modern cabaret) and hope to be seeing more next year.
Meow Meow is incredibly glamorous and charismatic, with a natural grace and edge without equal. The show is clever, poetic, bawdy, seductive, naughty, poignant, hilarious, teasing and ambitious. It is also much richer and complex than first appears: social and gender issues are buried just under the surface, poking their stubborn heads here and there under a shower of glitter.
The show is full of references too:
Flaming in my head I've had Austrian artist Irene Andessner's works on the Edison light-bulb-covered dancer Milli Stubel, Loie Fuller's experiments with light and shadow, John Donne's A Nocturnal upon St Lucy's Day, Being the Shortest Day, the women of Bratislava that Andersen encountered screaming through the burnt city looking for their lost children, Joan of Arc and the Catherine Wheel, Annie Besant, the Bryant and May match girls who went on strike in 1888, Moira Shearer and The Red Shoes, Jean Renoir's tin soldier, witches at the stake, global warming, "ice" addiction, exploring planets, fragile and naughty pyromaniac children. ...
Meow Meow - real name Melissa Madden Gray, is an incredible individual. Read more about her background and experience in this excellent article HERE.
Southbank is spoiling us in 2013 with an amazing festival, The Rest is Noise, "The Soundtrack of the 20th Century" (SATURDAY 19 JANUARY 2013 - SUNDAY 9 JUNE 2013) The programme is packed-full with events - some of them free and a lot rather affordable. We hope to go to some of them!
As I have mentioned here before, this year is the centenary of the venerable Palace Theatre in Southend.
I have always been fascinated by theatres and theatre actors and am thinking about writing a novel set in a theatre in the Victorian or Edwardian era. But that's another story!
Last Sunday, it was the theatre open day, and the doors were thrown open to the public who were invited to wander around the building and discover what lies within the walls of the theatre.
We were extremely pleased to see that so many people had turned up for the occasion.
As keen theatre goers, it was lovely to be able to explore "the other side"...
Here are a few pictures.
There is going to be a lovely book published about the history of the Palace Theatre, "Tales From the Palace Theatre, 1912-2012" - published 1st November: it has been written by Charles Sharman-Cox and Rachel Lichtenstein and designed by graphic artist Ciaran O'Sea. We cannot wait to get our hands on it!
All pictures below by Matt ArtPix.
I think therefore I write.
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