Journey to Avebury

Photo: Julie Travis

My first trip to Avebury and the surrounding area was even more powerful than I thought it would be. The huge stone circle, which I’d first seen forty years ago in the excellent children’s tv drama Children Of The Stones, really has to be seen to be appreciated. The stones are colossal. I felt swamped by them, but not threatened. My first view of them – in sunshine, above me, as I walked along a lane through the village – was intensely emotional. As it was at the end of the week, when, in the rain, we visited them again and said goodbye. The site was quiet and there was plenty of time to spend, undisturbed, with the ancient giants. I stood in the main circle and looked up at the henge. I could visualise a line of people all along it, observers to the ceremonies taking place. I haven’t read anything to say that’s what happened, but that’s certainly what I felt. The stone avenue, leading down towards The Sanctuary, is quite majestic despite having many stones missing. Back in the village, I tried to get a sense of the multiple circles. I wasn’t aware that there were circles within the main circle, that is, until I dreamt of taking part in a ritual in such a place. The next day I saw a book which included an illustration of Avebury in its complete state and I was amazed – it was the place I had dreamt about the previous night.

Photo: West Kennet Long Barrow by Julie Travis

Nearby Silbury Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow were equally deserted, apart from a pair of swallows who flew in and out of the barrow, their calls echoing around the chamber. I was pleased to find the chamber open and freely accessible. We cleared away a few tealights left by a previous, thoughtless visitor and enjoyed the cool silence. At each of these places the overriding feeling was of peace.

Photo by Julie Travis

A day was also spent in Glastonbury, climbing the daunting Tor and recovering afterwards in the Rainbow’s End cafe. The town, which I hadn’t visited for decades, is as powerful and spiritual a place as Avebury. The trip will inevitably have an effect on my fiction – for once I didn’t take any work with me, but it’s something I never stop thinking about, and I made a few notes during the week. I was doing my best to take a quick break from writing, as it’s been so draining recently, but, a few days after my return, I’ve redrafted The Spoiler and it’s very close to being complete.

All images and text © Julie Travis, apart from the title, taken from Derek Jarman’s film.

 

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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 (Rebecca 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.

Hallucinatory Queer British Paganism

On the haunted bridleway at Minions, Cornwall

This year’s Meltdown Festival, curated by Antony Hegarty, is going to be incredible. And very, very queer. Not only does it feature Diamanda Galas and Vaginal Davis (a drag performance artist I did the stage lighting for at San Francisco’s Dirtybird Queercore Festival in 1996) but Cyclobe, doing only their second live performance. Cyclobe are ex-Coil members Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown. (One of their credits is providing music to The Dark Monarch, the Tate St Ives’ late 2009 exhibition on the occult in art, which was probably the best thing the gallery has ever done.) The Derek Jarman short film Journey To Avebury will be shown (amongst others), with a new soundtrack (the original was done by Coil). (I spent many, many hours in the Scala Cinema a couple of decades ago watching Jarman’s films and was lucky enough to see his house at Dungeness. Jarman was very ill from AIDS at the time and I have no idea if he was there, but it felt like sacred ground.) Plus countless other events. It’ll be hugely inspiring: one of the very few things that could tempt me back to the ‘vortex of bad energy’ that is London.

Meanwhile, back in the real world of fiction: Pieces is finally finished and I’m wondering where to send it to. I really want to start picking magazines that are are a bit more ‘out there’. Obscurity is something I’m happy with; invisibility is not. And, despite one of the golden rules of not having long story titles my new story is now renamed Darkworlds Pt. 2: Everything You Dream Is Real.