Never forget the dream element

UNIT Rock In Opposition Front

UNIT have just released a new album, Rock In Opposition Phase 5, and the booklet includes some more of my bird photography. I was not expecting this, so was very happy to get a copy at the weekend. Now the weather is a bit more settled, I am trying to get more photographs for the band’s future releases (and just this morning have had a photoshoot with a bold jackdaw just outside my window). I’m proud to be associated with UNIT.

The article on Ellyott Ben Ezzer is now finished and is with Curve magazine for consideration. Ellyott’s answers to my questions were well worth waiting for and make her album even more moving. She’s as much a force to be reckoned with as she ever was, and I’m hoping that a Western magazine will feature someone with such a high profile in a different culture. UPDATE: Curve are planning to run the article in their June issue.

Chapel Carn Brea House

The Man Who Builds The Ruins has now been drafted and I’m in the process of re-writing it. The end of the story, which I was having difficulty ‘seeing’, came to me after repeated plays of the Electric Sewer Age album. I found that there was, of course, only one ending for the story. It often feels to me that a story is not so much ‘made up’ as tuning in to something happening Elsewhere and it’s a matter of writing it down accurately. Thanks to Danny Hyde and the late Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson for inspiration.

Lyonnesse revealed

Tree From Above

Parts of the ancient forest that connected Mounts Bay with St Michael’s Mount were uncovered by the storms at the beginning of the year. Some of the 6,000 year old tree trunks and stumps, looking almost reptilian but beautifully smooth to the touch, are close to where I live and I’ve spent some time there, photographing them and just soaking up their atmosphere and energy. Something positive from the terrible events of January and February.

Tree In Sand

Storylandia 12 is being proofread and I shall be receiving galley-proofs soon, so hopefully the journal will be appearing fairly soon. I will be especially pleased to see this publication, as I’ve wondered if The Ferocious Night was jinxed and would never be seen by the outside world. The Julie Travis edition of Storylandia will appear in 2015. This gives me time to keep working and get at least one more story to the editor for consideration. A new story, The Man Who Builds The Ruins, is proceeding at quite a pace. There are several possible endings to this one (usually only one or two present themselves) so time will tell what is the most appropriate/natural conclusion.

I am a ghost in my own life: Balance, Ballard and Michell

Lands End Airport

Prompted by the sad death of ‘slipstream’/horror writer Joel Lane late last year, I’ve been determined to read more fiction. I was always aware of how well regarded Lane was, both as a writer of horror in realistic/urban/working-class settings and as a person but am not familiar with his work. I should be, as well as others who are in my peer group, but who all have a higher profile than myself. For the last decade or so, I’ve been very involved in non-fiction writings: local and national archaeology and sacred sites, reference books on demonology and suchlike… Should I be reading more fiction, if nothing else, to keep in touch, both with the writers and with the art form? Following my own path is fine, I think, but I don’t want to go so far down it that my writing becomes inaccessible and ceases to do what I want it to do. So, a couple of forays into local Oxfam bookshops have been useful: I hadn’t read High-Rise by J G Ballard for decades, so was glad of a chance to re-familiarise myself with it. I like Ballard. His characters all seem to have their own personal madness going on, often while they try to survive in the Hell of suburbia. [NB: the ICA in London once organised an event with Ballard being interviewed by the then fresh faced Clive Barker. It must have been in the mid 1980s. Unfortunately, the event was cancelled, with no explanation or rescheduling taking place. A bitter disappointment! It was around the same time that Kathy Acker interviewed William Gibson at the same venue, a fantastic and inspirational event.]  I’m several chapters in to High-Rise and I’ve had to stop reading it: perhaps it’s my frame of mind, but the story is just making me laugh. It feels odd to do so, a little disrespectful, but I was a very different person when I read the book first time round. Another time, perhaps. To complete the failure, I went into Oxfam a few days ago and found a copy of Michellany: A John Michell Reader. I don’t know nearly enough about Michell (to my shame: he was a real authority on sacred sites and Earth energies) and the book – hardcover, signed and numbered by the authors – has a number of previously unpublished essays in it, together with writings on Michell by a number of people. No fiction here! I need to be careful while I browse it: financial pressures mean I need to sell it on as soon as possible, which is a shame, as it’s a beautiful looking book, but such is life. I hope to learn something before I let it go.

After years of missing local record fairs, I went to one last Saturday. I had a feeling there was something there for me, so I went in as soon as it opened, looked around the roomful of cds and records and let my instinct take me to one of the boxes of albums. There, about halfway through, was a copy of the first pressing of Current 93/Sickness of Snakes’ mini-album, Murder Culture (1985). On the back was a dedication, signature and date (1986) by John (as he was known then) Balance. It was the real deal, so I got it – £28 well spent, I think. This one I’m not selling on, unless times get absolutely desperate. I have an item that belonged to Balance, and perhaps it’s his writing on the Zos Kia test pressing I have, but the album’s another connection which I could not walk away from.

Music has always been more of an inspiration/springboard for my writing than other people’s fiction (which may be another reason that I don’t feel the need to read that much), and that continues, with the acquisition, finally, of the first Electric Sewer Age album, Peter Christopherson’s final musical work. It has not been a disappointment, indeed, it has the feel, perhaps the magick, of Coil, something I thought would not be possible without Balance’s (physical) presence.

And as for writing, the two stories I had been working on have had to be put on hold again. For good reason: in the space of a day or so, I’ve sketched out a whole new short story. It’s one of those that has just dropped on to my notebook and I had to get the general idea down as quickly as it appeared. A bit of research and it’ll be all systems go. I would say it’s a subtle, psychological horror story, with a (probably male) Spanish architect as its centre.

Harmonic Sanctuary

Pz Churchyard Headstone Detail

Life in West Cornwall has recently become about planning for storms, hiding from storms and hoping they’ll pass before the windows are blown in or the roof comes off. Like many places, Mounts Bay has taken a battering, with the last two Spring tides and storm force winds combining to smash much of the front between Newlyn and Penzance and hurl huge paving slabs and granite blocks across the Promenade and into the road.

Somehow, no one here has been injured. Many places are faring worse (we still
have power and for that I’m grateful) but it’s a frightening time and some of us are having to adapt our lives somewhat – including the fact that our links with the rest of the UK are now tenuous to say the least. Perhaps one day it will make for some (cathartic) fiction but for now it’s too dreadful to contemplate in that way.

Pz Churchyard Smallpox 2014
Despite all this and the endless disturbed nights hearing the wind thundering
against the building, I’ve been managing to get a fair amount of writing done.
All the stories I wrote last year have been edited and re-written where
necessary and are now with Storylandia. I’ve also massively re-worked Rebecca Shadow and it’s now in a coherent state to continue with, although I suspect it won’t be a quick one to finish, having taken the difficult route and based it in a modern house; atmosphere is far harder to work into this setting rather than a rambling old mansion. Although I’m bearing in mind that one of the more famous alleged poltergeist/hauntings of recent times occurred in a Council house in Enfield, Middlesex, during the 1970s; spirits, malevolent or otherwise, can appear anywhere. I’m enjoying the difficulty, actually, the opportunity to push myself, and the whole point of the story is about how the fantastique can be part of ordinary, even deprived, lives. Seth Lakeman’s new album, Word of Mouth, has provided much of the backdrop to my current work, along with the sounds made by Wind Harps – amazing structures that can be part of a door or window frame or sometimes placed at sacred sites to see what musick they create.

Darker skies over Penzance

Zennor Road landscape

2014CE has begun in the most positive of ways: the literary journal Storylandia (which published The Falling Man a while back and which includes The Ferocious Night in its Spring 2014 issue) is moving to single author issues later this year and seems keen to do one featuring my work. The plan would possibly be to publish the novelette Theophany plus a selection of short stories. I wrote a lot last year and have a couple of stories that I’ve been holding back for… Something. Perhaps this is what I was waiting for. This project is immensely exciting but it’s not a done deal – but whatever the outcome, thanks to editor Ginger Mayerson for having such faith in what I do.

This changes my plans for the next while at least: I want to make sure I’m completely happy with the stories I’ll be submitting and so the two stories I’m currently working on (Rachel Shadow and another new one, Completion) will have to be put aside for now. The interview with Ellyott Ben Ezzer has been delayed while she organises a house move, but I’ll continue and complete the article as soon as Ellyott’s back in touch.

Stargazing in my part of town is now a little easier: the huge lights that the local supermarket were flooding the area with, all night every night, have now been switched off after the shop closes each evening. After a long while of inertia and assuming that no one ever listens to complaints, I emailed the supermarket’s head office and asked if the lights could be dimmed or, preferably, switched off. Light pollution and wasted energy are two issues this particular supermarket would probably claim to be interested in, ethically speaking, so it’s great to see them backing up their slogans. Such actions are tiny steps but nevertheless worthwhile.

And, inspired by events taking place at the BFI,  I’ve also asked the Penwith Film Society if they’ve any plans to mark the 20th anniversary of Derek Jarman’s death with some of his films. They’re keen to do so, if some are available in digital format – apparently many cinemas no longer own film projectors. I’d love to see a selection of Jarman’s stuff – both full-length and shorts – again. He’s been a huge influence on me over the years and, for the wider world, events like this should not be confined to London.

At the death of 2013CE

UNIT cd cover

As 2013 – a year where utter disaster has rocked myself and almost everyone around me – shudders its last, a few plans are showing progress. First of all, as the photo above shows, UNIT’s new album, The Colours of Life, has just been released. It includes the reworked version of The Wasteland mentioned here a while back, a track which appeared on The Apostles/The Joy of Living e.p. Death To Wacky Pop, which appeared back in 1986, plus the bird photographs that I have recently taken for the band.

I am currently in the process of conducting an interview by email of Ellyott Ben Ezzer, which may appear in Curve magazine. The feature will focus on Ellyott’s impressive solo album, 5772, released in May 2013. The article is already part-written, as I have been familiar with Ellyott’s work for many years, and I’m looking forward to completing it. As far as fiction is concerned, Rachel Shadow is being extensively re-written in order to base it closer to home (in every respect) – fantastique things happening in the deprived ex-industrial heartland of Cornwall is more exciting and relevant to me than having them happen a step away from the world (or this one, at any rate).

Penzance at 4.51 pm, Winter Solstice 2013

Penzance at 4.51 pm, Winter Solstice 2013

Back in 2002, I attended an event by most of the anarchist punk band Crass at
the South Bank, London. For the sake of completion, I have included a link to Barbelith Webzine, which published the review I wrote just after the event.

All the things we’ve lost

Bellevor Cist Sunshine 2

I spent a week of November on Dartmoor, a place I cannot stop returning to. Each time I visit, I make tiny inroads to the vast wildness – this time I visited Bellever Forest/Lakehead Hill. I’d been to the outskirts of the place before but had been defeated by the quagmire of the forest. This time, I found the stony forest road and walked up through the middle of the trees. Like other parts of Dartmoor, it’s a conifer plantation that’s slowly being restored to native species. Unlike the other forest I’d explored (Fernworthy, near Chagford), Bellever has a benevolent atmosphere. We turned off the forest track, onto the Lych route, where the dead were transported years ago, and then up onto Lakehead Hill. Over the top of the rise, past the charcoal bog that threatened to suck one of my boots from my foot, lay a cist and a stone row. I saw a few walkers in the distance, making their way to Bellever Tor, but no one came near us and we sat by the cist in soulful peace for some time.

Cist Stone Row 6

Our pilgrimage earlier in the year (Jhonn Balance’s memorial/Horsley village/Lindisfarne), to places of great personal and spiritual importance, were everything both myself and T had hoped they’d be, but our visits to various parts of Hadrian’s Wall failed to connect with either of us. On reflection, and after being on Dartmoor and at various local sacred sites in west Cornwall, it occurred to me that the energy at Hadrian’s Wall was essentially very male, whereas the prehistoric sites I usually go to have a female energy. Ironically, the only part of the Wall I did connect with was the Temple of Mithras, set amongst the moors and the curlews, apparently a place exclusively for men to worship at.