A week on Dartmoor has proved restful and inspiring in equal measure. The first draft of Pieces is now finished. And it’s going to be a two-parter. Most of my stories end in a certain place and there’s no need to return, but Pieces has turned out to be different, (Darkworlds will eventually have at least another part to it, but that has only become necessary long after the story was written). It started as a simple horror story but has become far more complex, although it still has the gruesome elements I began with. And the setting is back in London and the tattoo/piercing/body modification counter-culture that still exists despite the current fashion for meaningless tattoos.
Merrivale stone rows
Most inspiring in my week away was being in close proximity to Brentor and my first visit to Wistman’s Wood. Brentor is on the major ley line that appears near Land’s End and cuts through much of Southern Britain and Wistman’s Wood is a bizarre area of gnarled, skinny oak trees surrounded by moss covered boulders. It sounds like the kind of place that could be quite frightening, and it has legends of Hell hounds bounding around it at night, but I found it beautiful and peaceful. Brentor pushed my energy levels up, as it, and other places like it always do and hopefully this will all be reflected in the story. Dowser Hamish Millergot me interested in Brentor and I thought of him as T and I walked around the church. The lava tor sits on the far Western edge of Dartmoor and we could see back into Cornwall and out across Dartmoor on the clear, cold morning. Earthworks in the fields below are also visible from the top. I don’t know how old they are or what their purpose was, but the spirit of the place is almost touchable.
Wistman's Wood. Photo: Teresa Knight
Now home, I’m continuing to look for a female actor to do a reading for me; Rosanne Rabinowitz is possibly organising an event for the 2012 Penzance Literary Festival on the subject of women and weird/speculative fiction and has asked if I want to be involved. It’s a great idea and I’m excited about it, but I know that me reading one of my stories would not work. When Katy Darby (of Eine Kleine Theatre) read Perpetual Motion at the Poetry Café in London, it really showed the story at its best, so I’m emailing local drama groups and companies in the hope that someone will go for it.
Music: I’ve been hearing some excellent modern dark ambient/experimental music, namely Matthew Shaw, Fougou and Susan Matthews. Shaw’s latest cd, Lanreath, was recorded in the Cornish village of the same name, which is close to Duloe stone circle. It brings on the right frame of mind for writing.
One of the best discoveries I made on moving to Cornwall was the Cornish Earth Mysteries Group, a bunch of local Pagans who spent the summer hanging around at sacred sites, dowsing and suchlike, and the winter holding fascinating talks in Penzance. The talks sadly ended a couple of years back due to increased venue rental costs, but the few I went to opened my head – literally – to The Way Things Are, and I’m eternally grateful to them for it. As a lifelong believer in the paranormal, it was perhaps appropriate that the first talk I went to was by ghost-hunter Ian Addicoat. It was a long time ago and he seemed very nervous, but there were plenty of ghosts in Penwith for him to tell us about. I met him a while later at Pengersick Castle, where I was lucky enough to have him give me a tour of the building and gardens, then a look at some photos taken outside the house of orbs. He still does ghost walks in Penzance and St Ives and I must go along to one. I’ve not experienced anything in town that feels like a haunting although I’ve had experiences elsewhere, most recently in Minions. Near to The Hurlers stone circle is a bridleway that goes past an abandoned house and down towards Darite. It is an uneasy place to walk. The house (occupied at the time by an affable squatter) feels ‘dark’ and continuing along the path was extremely uncomfortable. I kept looking behind me, expecting to see something there. A definite feeling of being watched by something unpleasant accompanied us (T didn’t like the place either) and I’ll not go there again. Ian’s talk didn’t tell me a lot I didn’t know, but it made me realise I’d made the right decision to leave London.
A while later I was back at a talk by Jude Currivan about Cosmic Geomancy. I will try to explain the theory simply: every Thing in the universe is connected. All are part of a Life energy. This hit me for six and made perfect sense. And it was refreshing to hear someone talking about all life as being equal and from the same source of energy. It made me realise that this life is just one phase of being. We change at death. This doesn’t alter the huge loss of bereavement, but I certainly feel a loved one’s death is worse for those left behind than for the deceased. I’ve linked to Jude’s site. It looks ‘wafty’ but the woman has plenty of substance. Oh, and have a look at Ian Johnstone’s piece on Jhonn Balance’s memorial and the sign Balance left him of his presence.
The third mind-altering CEMG talk was by Pam Masterson, who owns a shop in Penzance called The Healing Star. It was about chakras and at the end she did a short meditation with the audience. All we did was relax and focus on various parts of the body but when we got to the forehead things got weird. The best way I can describe it is like having the front of my head opened and a brilliant light streaming out. I’d always been sensitive in the ‘third eye’ area but had thought nothing of it. Now – several years after that short meditation – that area still constantly tingles. It’s not a great feeling but I know it’s incredibly important and something I should explore, preferably with Pam in more meditation. Lack of money is holding this back but at some stage it will be done.
There are many talks I missed – Paul Broadbent, Hamish Miller (now departed) and Craig Weatherhill all spoke at meetings over the years and I would have loved to have been there, but what I did hear has changed my worldview. It’s also affected what I write about – it’s all still very dark stuff, I suppose, but I certainly feel some of the bleakness has gone. Someone dying at the end of a story is not necessarily an unhappy ending.
I don’t actually believe that at all, but there seems to be a lot of folk rubbishing the theory these days. Of course, there’s tons of writing on the subject, some of which I’ve been dipping in to, as well as getting through The Old Straight Track, Alfred Watkins’ 1920s book on ley lines. I agreed with the principle of energy lines, but it only really made sense to me when I read some of Hamish Miller’s guide, The Sun and the Serpent. He followed the biggest line in Britain, which starts near here just off the Land’s End and ends in East Anglia. He found a curved line of energy like a serpent that linked the same places as the ‘straight track’ does. I’ve got no evidence to support my faith in this except having been to a few of the areas mentioned (St Michael’s Mount, The Cheesewring, The Hurlers, Lydford) and feeling the energy there. A local dowser has talked recently of being on the Mount and finding lots and lots of ley energy there. There, like many of these places, are uphill – I don’t do uphill very well, but walking up to the top of the Mount, like walking up to The Cheesewring, fills me with a great sense of more. And the energy to smile while I’m doing it. Angela Evans, who owned Pengersick Castle for many years until her death, spoke of walking down the great (stone) circular staircase there, with her arms outstretched to touch the walls as she went. It always cured her aches and pains. I’m not sure I’d write directly about ley lines – how to do it without sounding like a New Age cliche? – but I certainly use them to help me write. After the experiences I’ve had it’s something I want to look into more.