Bad moon rising

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

I’m close to completing a first draft of new story Dark Fire. I’ve decided to stick with this title; it’s an alchemical term that describes an intense fire which consumes itself. The title of a painting by Ithell Colquhoun, I thought it perfect for the story. Or, perhaps, for the way I’m feeling at the moment. Either way, it works. David Bowie’s Blackstar and Coil’s Astral Disaster have been played repeatedly while I’ve been writing this story. Both albums have an otherworldly air to them and have induced some profoundly altered states of mind, which will be clear to anyone reading the story! It did at one point become too strange/frightening to continue with, but I want to explore this kind of thing further.

It’s possible I’ll finish the draft before I head off to Cumbria in around ten days – it’d be a good place to leave the work for the time I’m away. The trip is in part a sad pilgrimage in memory of Ian Johnstone, to visit some of the places he loved, including of course, Jhonn Balance’s memorial at Bassenthwaite Lake. There is still a lot of storm damage in the county, but hopefully life is getting back to normal for most of the residents there. For me, the whole world has changed since I was last there eighteen months ago but I still hope to find some beauty there.

 

All images and text ©Julie Travis unless otherwise stated.

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Five planets in a rising arc

Photo: T Knight

Photo: T Knight

A beautiful and moving sight in the pre-dawn sky this week: Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter, in an arc from the south-east to the south-west. A week of amazing things, then. The Ithell Colquhoun exhibition has opened in Penlee Gallery. I’ve had a look around, noting how Death of a Vampire in a Magic Mirror resembled in part a dream I’d had the previous night, and will return to take it in more fully.

My thanks to Whollybooks, who published a piece on Surrealist writer Anna Kavan recently, which stirred me to get hold of Sleep Has His House. How is it possible to be so influenced by a writer I’d never heard of until a few months ago? What I’ve read of her work feels like a continuance of the influence of Colquhoun and Dion Fortune on my writing, despite my not having knowledge of them for so much of my life. Kavan’s belief in dream-life echoes my own lifelong thoughts and experiences.

I’ve started work on a new, as yet untitled, short story, after finishing all the preliminary work and research on the Rebel Dykes article. Two recent apocalyptic dreams are perfect for this story and will be included.

All images and text ©Julie Travis unless otherwise stated.

A ‘God’ grave

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

2016 begins in interesting fashion – Penlee Gallery in Penzance is about to host a new exhibition – Ithell Colquhoun: Image and Imagination, the first in a public gallery since the Occultist/Surrealist’s death in 1988. Colquhoun lived locally, in Lamorna Valley, but little seems to be spoken about her. Having read one of her books (The Goose of Hermogenes) and seen some of her art, I’m extremely keen to see the exhibition. The café’s a friendly place, too!

Andy Martin has accepted A Fairy Ring for his (as yet untitled) anthology with much enthusiasm, which is some relief. And I’ve begun work on a feature about a forthcoming film, Rebel Dykes, (about the lesbian punk/activist squat scene in London in the 1980s) which will hopefully appear in print somewhat later in the year. As usual, these things can never be guaranteed, but I had a very inspiring phone conversation with one of the producers yesterday and I’m hopeful about it all working out.

The title of this piece is something which appeared in a recent dream. It’ll be worked into a story, no doubt, and describes an ancient burial ground in the side of a huge mountain, possibly the Himalayas.

 

All images and text ©Julie Travis unless otherwise stated.

She calls to the king of fishes

Lindisfarne by T Knight

Lindisfarne by T Knight

To begin, a distinctly Lovecraftian dream from a few weeks ago that I can’t forget, even though I can only remember it in flashes: set at night in a large room with a bay window in a grand house, the gentleman sitting opposite me – white, well-groomed hair, big sideburns, 19th Century dress – widens his eyes and says in a sinister voice, “Dark forces!”. Whether he has conjured something up himself or is warning me, I can’t tell, but there is a terrifying but unseen Thing in the room.

As you can see, just a section remains, and this might be for the best. I certainly woke up – not sitting up, in a sweat, like they do in films – too afraid to move. Given its style and setting I can’t even use this one in a story. However, Widdershins is making decent progress. Over 3,000 words in, which is good going, bearing in mind I began with virtually nothing other than a saying of my partner’s, which she uses when she’s busy but which has always made me shiver slightly: I’ll meet myself coming back in a minute. The story, as the title would suggest, involves the supernatural and folklore. I’ve just finished reading Goose of Hermogenes by Ithell Colquhoun, artist, writer, occultist (with thanks to Matthew Shaw for pointing me in her direction and providing the music, via Fougou’s Further From The Centre of Disturbance, that has accompanied much of the writing and note-making so far) and no doubt the surreal, dream-like nature of the novel will influence the story in some way, even though Widdershins bears no relation to the book. And perhaps this is all an escape from a life that right now is more about dire poverty, illness and bereavement than the things that I would prefer to connect with. Saying that, I don’t intend the story to be either escapist or irrelevant.

The picture above is one of the few available from my trip around the north of England; due to two cameras becoming faulty simultaneously, I found that instead of having a detailed document of the trip, I have two reels of blank negatives and a digital camera that’s now completely useless. The 35mm SLR may be fixable but that just isn’t an option at this point in time. All I have is one shot of Jhonn Balance’s memorial; the close-ups I took of the plaque, the shots around the woodland and by Bassenthwaite Lake, the magical island of Lindisfarne – all have been lost.