Jhonn Balance memorial: touching from a distance

JB Memorial

On Monday, May 13th, exactly eight and a half years after his passing, I visited Jhonn Balance’s memorial in Cumbria. A fund was set up a couple of years back, via The Woodland Trust, for an acre of woodland to be dedicated to Balance. Coincidentally, one of their plantations was very close to where Jhonn’s ashes were scattered in 2005, so this was chosen by Ian Johnstone (Balance’s partner) as the site, which has a post with a plaque on it for Jhonn. The site is next to Bassenthwaite Lake, a few miles out of Keswick and very close to St Bega’s church. As we (my partner T and myself, Ian being out of the country and unfortunately unable to join us) made our way across the first field towards the church we were hit by a fierce hailstorm that disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. St Bega’s church is dwarfed by massive yew trees and, as a backdrop, the mighty Great Dodd mountain behind it. The church faces the lake and at the lake’s edge stands the hawthorn where Jhonn’s ashes were scattered. It is a beautiful place, desolate but not bleak, the only sound of songbirds. We stood by the tree for a while, bearing the icy, ferocious wind coming off the lake, then made our way – with difficulty, due to some of the area being an absolute quagmire – through one patch of woodland, across another field and into The Woodland Trust’s Church Plantation. Jhonn’s plaque lies near the path, amongst the peace of the trees. To be there, after months of planning and saving, a 450 mile drive and all the years of inspiration and guidance that Balance’s work has given me, was intensely emotional. Check Ian’s website for details of how to find the memorial (and for his wonderful art).

Back home now in Cornwall, I have submitted The Ferocious Night to Ellen Datlow for the short open reading period for her new horror anthology, Fearful Symmetries. The story is longer than her preferred length, due to shortage of space, but I thought it was worth a go. And writer Rob Harkess has reviewed Urban Occult, with some kind words for my contribution: “The anthology covers everything from creepy golem-children, through a people eating house, to moving tattoo jigsaw. In fact, Pieces by Julie Travis, for which the latter is the subject, is one of the outstanding stories of the collection.”. Thanks, Rob!

I have been dreaming of Saturn again. Strange, since I haven’t knowingly seen the planet during my waking life. The dream occurred several weeks ago but it is still very clear in my mind – of looking out of a window during the late afternoon and seeing the moon. Turning to the window on the opposite wall, I looked out and saw two Saturns, both low and huge in the light sky. One was made of solid silver, the other glowed red. Have I been travelling without moving again?

6 thoughts on “Jhonn Balance memorial: touching from a distance

  1. Must agree with Rob Harkess that yours is definitely one of the best stories in the Urban Occult comp. I’m not just saying that because I’m your friend; it’s a cracking good piece (no pun intended) of work!

    Also: so glad you made it up to Cumbria, as you’ve been working towards that goal for so long.

    • Thanks, Utherben. I’ve not read all the stories in the anthology, but I agree mine is certainly quite different, although ‘Spider Daughter Spider’ stood out as being fantasically wierd.

      Yes, the trip was extremely important for both of us, on many levels. A couple of reels of film are being processed as I write! And you’ll get a proper email soon.

  2. Beautiful posting – I now want to find out more about Jhonn. I enjoyed the posting especially after spending two weeks in Keswick last year.
    I have a 10,300ish word story (edited down from slightly longer) I was thinking of sending to Ellen, wondering if it would be cheeky. 🙂

    • Glad you liked it. Check out http://www.brainwashed.com/coil for lots of reading on Balance and Coil, or better still, listen to some of the musick: difficult to know what to recommend, but perhaps try ‘Batwings (A Limnal Hymn)’, Ostia, A White Rainbow; all found on YouTube.

      Keswick is a lovely town. I felt very centred there – one day was enough to convince me I could live in the place. To be able to walk through the park and to the edge of Derwent water was fantastic.

      As for the submission: go for it! You’ve nothing to lose and there’s nothing wrong with being cheeky : )

  3. What a beautiful place, a beautiful way to memorialize someone. So glad you got to go. It also sounds like a very important, healing place for you to be. Congrats on the good word about Urban Occult!

    • I’ve become a big fan of The Woodland Trust since I first heard about the memorial fund. I would certainly recommend the place to anyone with any Pagan or magickal leanings, and of course any interest in Coil. Much the same thing, really!

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