I was back in London on Saturday to see the mighty Killing Joke play at The Roundhouse in Camden.
We had a few hours to kill beforehand and went to check whether Portobello market was still standing - I am very pleased to say that yes, indeed, the stalls and second-hand shops are still there and the area still looks beautiful and buzzing!
While there, I was chuffed to find a copy of Cathi Unsworth's first novel The Not Knowing (the main character, like the author, lives in Ladbroke Grove, so entirely relevant to our day... And I urge you to read it, I do find it hard to put it down; Cathi captures the atmosphere of a certain 90s London (music, art, alternative cultures...) perfectly.)
Incidentally, 40 years ago, Ladbroke Grove was also the haunt of the future members of Killing Joke and the backdrop to the band's genesis, and therefore, it felt kind of special to spend a few hours there before seeing the band live.
Matt ArtPix has written a blog himself about our trip to London, read it HERE.
Things are going extremely slowly for The Right Place and its publication date has proved to be near on impossible to firm up... My creative process has been rather stunted of late.
Go and have a look over at the Arcane Publishing website where my book selling venture is still going strong!
I hope to be able to post a few updates about my plans for next year on here soon.
This Saturday 10th November, Matt ArtPix and Arcane Publishing will be back at the rather fab Vintage Somerset fair at Wells' Town Hall!
This time, instead of sharing a stall as we usually do, Arcane and ArtPix will have their own stall and Arcane will have a table full of great books: second-hand, vintage, ephemera and of course our special bundles containing copies of I Am a Muse and The Book of Thoth!
Here's a preview of the stock I will bring to the fair on Saturday!
Early autumn has been a bit of a challenge at ArtPix and Arcane towers, and in the midst of it all, we seem to have forgotten to pause and look around us: we moved to Dorset to explore the countryside and find inspiration, but the pull of "real life" has been stronger than anything else lately and we have not spent as much time as we'd wished walking around the stunning countryside of our newly adopted county.
Yesterday marked our return to "nature proper" and we have promised ourselves that we would allow more time to discover the landscape and history of Dorset this autumn and winter. There is still so much to see!
Dorset is a county like no other, and its landscape bears the marks (or scars?) of its history. Everywhere you go, and provided you possess a modicum of imagination and curiosity, you will stumble across something that will take you back hundreds (if not thousands) of years, will stimulate your imagination and creativity - sometimes, these will be man-made - at other times, it will be Nature itself, with all its beauty, danger and mystery...
So yesterday, we made our way to Black Down - a treeless, moody view point dominated by the austere Hardy Monument, a local landmark erected in 1844 in memory of Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy (he participated in the Battle of Trafalgar, and Nelson died in his arms...). Up there, the views are stunning - although yesterday, unfortunately, the sky was dreadfully overcast... A warning for today's rain...
A lot of work had been happening on Black Down and it was really good to see how the landscape is being managed in order to maintain a healthy wildlife.
One way to manage the heathland on the Down has been the introduction of a stunning herd of Belted Galloway cattle. I call them the "Art Deco" cows: look at them! Aren't they amazing? The "Beltie" really is a gorgeous breed: their coat is thick and fluffy with extremely distinctive markings. They are growing in popularity and have their very own website HERE!
A new feature on Black Down is a new visitor car park and picnic area, complete with a fantastic work of art inspired by the ancient history of the place (more of which later).
For me, anything that celebrates ancient rituals and beliefs, strange natural phenomenons and "the eeriness of the English countryside" can only be a welcome asset to an area literally covered in reminders of dark and ancient times... Indeed, the South Dorset Ridgeway is called "The Land of Bone and Stone" (a fantastic title for a novel or an album, it hasn't escaped me, believe me!), due to the sheer number of Bronze age burial mounds, Iron age hill forts and other remnants of ancient history. It is very easy there to feel removed form the modern world and find oneself walking an ancestral landscape seemingly untouched by the ravages of so-called civilisation. What a place to be a writer...
Dorset seems to have acquired a new stone circle... A contemporary work of art by artist and architect Amanda Moore, the Black Down Stone Circle: five "totems" made of local Forest Marble stone with a Portland stone in the middle. One of the totems is aligned with the north and the other four with the midwinter/midsummer solstice sunrises and sunsets.
There is a multitude of paths to explore, taking in the stunning views of stretching to the sea... I will probably need to go back on a sunny, clear day to take pictures of the 360 degree views as yesterday was not a clear day!
The video below shows you the breathtaking beauty of the area.
Personally, I would have chosen a much darker, haunting and epic soundtrack...
Enjoy those very Halloween-ey videos by two of my favourite bands!
We often go to Lulworth Cove out of season as it is so close to our house; we have quite a few favourite places around there - including the range walks which are only opened at weekends, and yesterday, we discovered yet another one: Britwell Drive. We had often wondered about the big houses half-hidden behind their thick hedges on the bit of land jutting out into the sea (Dungy Head)... One of them, "Weston", is the only house in Dorset designed by Sir Edward Lutyens. And if, like me, you are into classic cinema, you will love the fact that apparently, Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh spent the first night of their honeymoon there in 1940...
As I am currently looking for inspiration for my third and fourth novels, I absorb small details like a sponge, and Britwell Drive provided me with a few ideas...
We will most certainly go back there over the autumn/winter as Dungy Head is the ideal vantage point from which to admire an angry sea...
"Stair House" (or the little bits I could see of it) has really caught my eye and will most certainly end up in my fourth novel, the Rural Noir novel Hell Lane. I am already using the OId Vicarage in Chaldon Herring as one of the main locations of the book, but it's always good to have a few extra options...
As fans of art deco, we couldn't help but drool over this fantastic property (called "Oswald", I guess after St Oswald's Bay which it overlooks...)
Imagine writing your novels in this conservatory, whatever the weather... There's nothing else but the sea in front of you... And no risk of any dreadful estate being built and spoiling your view!
I'll certainly be reporting from Britwell Drive again soon!
I will be back soon!
In the meantime, do check out the next ArtPix/Arcane Publishing events HERE.
I really need to find inspiration these days, and nothing beats going to my favourite places around Dorset (see previous blog).
Yesterday, I spent the day "researching" in Dorchester and therefore paid a visit to the venerable Maiden Castle, one of the most iconic Iron Age forts in the country.
The light of late afternoon was gorgeous and did add a bit of magic to an already unique and inspiring place.
As our world becomes less and less hospitable by the day, I find the peace of the Dorset countryside incredibly welcoming. I will be seeking refuge in its autumnal embrace over the next few weeks...
More photos will be forthcoming...
I do find it easier to face what life throws at me in Dorset than in London.
The ancient landscape inspires and soothes me.
Yesterday, we made a visit to Chideock and Symondsbury - we climbed the iconic Colmer's Hill again.
I feel really privileged to live in such a beautiful county.
As I try to escape the worry created at Arcane HQ by the crazy Brexit situation, climbing up Colmer's Hill and other heights in Dorset always reminds me of the wise words in New Model Army's beautiful song "High"...
The movers move, the shakers shake, the winners write their history
Over the past few days, I have been very lucky to find some wonderful treasures in vintage/antique centres and car boot sales.
Some of those finds will be on sale on the Arcane Publishing stall at the various events we will attend.
But some, like the subject of this blog, will find its place in my personal collection of vintage/antique illustrated books.
I have a passion for illustrated books and if I bought all the volumes that have caught my eye, I would probably need my very own warehouse. I have seen a lot of books which were out of my reach because of the price. One day...
But this wonderful little volume, found in the gorgeous little antiques shop in Abbotsbury, was very cheap and I just couldn't put it back...
This is a very short story written in Danish, published by V. Pios Boghandel and dated 1920. This seems to be quite a rare little volume (only one listing found online HERE) but as I do not understand Danish, I cannot really tell you anything about it, other than it is utterly charming.
I haven't posted many "progress blogs" about my third novel The Right Place since February 2016. I do mention it from time to time on here, especially as I moved to Dorset, the county where the novel is set, in early 2017.
The truth of it is, a lot of things have been happening in "Real Life", including the whole selling/buying process, moving to the new house located 3 minutes' walk from the sea, going back to (supply) teaching after over 17 years away from the profession I had trained for in London all those years ago (and yes, it is ridiculously challenging!)...
I also got distracted by the landscape, the development of the Arcane bookselling venture (more on this in another blog), the organisation of the Winter Tales events, the books I have been reading, etc., etc.
And yes, I have basically been making excuses to avoid sitting down and resuming writing.
This summer, with the long holidays upon us, I have found the time to reflect on it and have come to the conclusion that I have been suffering from a curiously inflexible strain of the dreaded Writer's Block.
Whilst working on my two novels I Am a Muse and The Book of Thoth between 2010 and 2015, my discipline was second to none. I got the two books written, edited and published on my own newly created imprint, altogether a steep learning curve and exhilarating time.
In November 2015 and January 2016, I spent two months at Norburton Hall in Burton Bradstock planning and researching The Right Place and did a tremendous amount of work. It all came to a halt in February 2016 and this will of mine, that tremendous compulsion to write and bring a story to life all but disappeared...
but not quite...
I have been thinking about it, I have been dreaming about it. I have been worrying about how I would bring some characters together, how I would describe crucial scenes; how I would make the book atmospheric enough and express the peculiar sense of ancient history you get whilst walking around the Dorset landscape.
I have to admit that I have been gripped by the fear of not being able to write anymore, ever.
Then yesterday, I went and spent a couple of hours walking around Abbotsbury, firmly intent on only looking at the place through my fiction writer's gaze. I absorbed the landscape, let it talk to me. I opened my heart and mind to the stories told by the stones used to build St Catherine's chapel, and as I entered this very special place, the residual smell of incense reminded me of that scene early in The Right Place - and the last one I have written before becoming incapable to write - in which Kat wonders about the prayers and offerings left in the niches.
Yesterday, they were both full.
You can read an extract from the scene set in the chapel HERE.
"[...]What did ‘they’ – whoever they were – do with the messages? Was there a special cupboard in some dusty parish office where all those pieces of people’s hearts were deposited and locked away forever? Kat had imagined row after row of shelves on which were piled up hundreds, maybe even thousands of sad little boxes containing all the wishes and tokens received by St Catherine: some kind of archive of the heartache people had confided in the saint in the hope that the stones would take their wishes all the way to her divine ears. [...]"
My writer's block is no more and work has resumed on The Right Place, at long last!
Provisional pub date: (very) late 2020.
A few pictures taken yesterday, on the last day of August 2018.
I think therefore I write.
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