Waking the witch

It’s been a time of great personal upheaval and change.

The last six weeks or so have been utterly exhausting: I have ended the longest relationship of my life, moved house once and am preparing to do so again at the end of the week and realised that it’s likely that I have Asperger’s. Writing fiction has been next to impossible in this time, but my work for Dead Unicorn Ventures has continued, along with a doing a couple of interviews. My new abode is – for the first time – my own flat, in central Penzance. I have no idea what living on my own will be like, or even whether I can actually afford to do so, but an opportunity arose that I couldn’t turn down. It will mean that I will be able to write at any time, day or night, that I feel the urge/need. It will also mean that I’ll be able to try to work out what having a diagnosis for Asperger’s – which won’t happen for a year or so – will mean for me. It certainly makes sense of my moods and behaviour over my entire life. Every therapist I’ve ever come into contact with has tried to find a way to ‘fix’ how I am, has told me I have to be able to face crowds of people and big social situations.

I don’t need fixing because I’m not broken. I’m just wired differently to most people.

Not one therapist or doctor has ever suggested I might be on the Autistic spectrum.

As a result of what’s happened recently, I brought forward a decision I’d planned to happen after my death; after talks with Simon Costain of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, in Boscastle, I will be donating Jhonn Balance’s wand to the museum at the beginning of April. The wand was given to me by Ian Johnstone, but I knew I was only its guardian for a short space of time. This way, people will be able to see it and it will be cared for for generations to come. Obviously, as with all Coil collectables, the wand would probably fetch a large amount of money if I sold it. Money would be extremely useful, of course, but I promised Ian I’d never sell it. I feel happier having made this decision and am very much looking forward to visiting the museum again, and meeting Simon – a big fan of Coil – in a couple of weeks’ time. Photos and a report will be posted here.

Meanwhile, test pages of Dykes Ink have been printed. There have been some technical issues with riso print and DUV is discussing how to resolve these, but we’re still on course to get the first issue out in the Spring. We have been lucky enough to obtain contributions from some excellent female artistes and have enough material to fill a fair part of issue 2. More here as it happens.

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And dead unicorns will scatter the land

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Photo: Julie Travis

I’m delighted to announce the formation of Dead Unicorn Ventures. This is a group of three – Cat Astley, Teresa Knight and myself – who have become tired of nothing of substance happening for the Queer community in Cornwall, and nothing at all happening in Penzance! As will be obvious from our name, we want to make a point without being po-faced about it and I’m hoping people will get the spirit of what we’re trying to achieve. We have spent the last month or so working on our first event, Swallow Your Pride, which will take place at the Acorn Arts Centre in Penzance on 26 July 2019. This event showcases a real diversity of Queer talent and I cannot express how excited I am at the line-up we’ve managed to book: The Tribunes are from Penzance and play punky rock with a Socialist agenda, Jim Causley is one of the country’s brightest folk singers and musicians and Joelle Taylor is an extraordinary performance poet who’s toured many countries but has not, as yet, ever appeared in Penzance. I’ve worked with Joelle twice before – at the inaugural Queeruption festival in 1998 and at The Poetry Society Cafe in 2002 and I’m finally making good on my promise to get her a gig in West Cornwall! There may also be some comedy and a performance/reading of one of my stories and hopefully an art exhibition elsewhere in the town to run alongside the event, as well as the possibility of a programme/fanzine to be made available on the night. A Facebook page is in the process of being constructed to give details of what we’re doing. It feels like the right time to be doing this and I’m happy to bring my punk sensibilities and experiences to this project. May it lead to many wonderful things.

All text and images © Julie Travis

Nostalgia for an age yet to come

Photo: watchmaker’s tombstone, Lydford, Devon by Julie Travis

Last week’s trip to London – to catch up with much missed friends – left me with a fresh perspective on the city I left nearly 15 years ago. The relentless nature of the place hasn’t changed, of course; I knew that however far I walked, the city would still stretch out around me, unlike Penzance, where you can stand at the top of the main road and see buildings give way to green fields and the sea. But what I was surprised at was the cleanliness of the streets in comparison with Cornwall, which looks as if its residents just don’t care about their environment and the politeness and patience of city people, despite the stress of everywhere being constantly busy. I couldn’t connect to the magickal elements of the city when I lived there, but I’m more knowledgable now, so perhaps it would be possible to do so on my next trip there. A visit to Treadwell’s Occult bookshop proved wonderfully overwhelming and will provide the setting to new story Beautiful Silver Spacesuits. I could have spent days there.

One of the friends I met up with was Andy Martin, who has been mentioned here many times. The last time I’d seen him was around 1985/86, when we recorded the 7th Apostles’ e.p. (with the Joy of Living). It was an emotional meeting for me. We spent a couple of hours talking about everything from Nazi skinheads and the Neo-folk movement to musical time signatures to childrens’ tv drama Grange Hill and listening to Unit tracks, and I bought a couple of Apostles’ LPs from the late 1980s off him. My extensive vinyl collection – including at least one of those albums – has mostly been sold over the years, but a few gems remain and to add two mint condition albums to it was very gratifying. A few days after I got home, I had an email from Andy, asking me to contribute a third story to his anthology Fast-Clean-Cheap, scheduled for publication later this year. I didn’t want to take a story from the second Wapshott Press collection, so I dug through my files and found a story that was written about ten years ago, but never submitted for publication because the content – domestic abuse – was based on my own experiences and too painful to share. It’s still a difficult read, but I thought the story was good enough that, with a bit of spit and polish, I can give it to Andy for consideration. He, of course, will make the final decision as to whether it sees the light of day. If it does, however, it’s one story I won’t be saying much about. Hopefully it will speak for itself.

I’m working on two stories simultaneously again for the Wapshott Press collection – The Spoiler is nearing completion of its first draft, and is currently 6500 words long, so may easily get to 8000 by the time it’s finished. And I’ve just begun the aforementioned Beautiful Silver Spacesuits, as well as working on the Foreword and story notes for the book. I’m beginning to feel a bit burned out now, so perhaps once these two stories are completed, it will be time to hand the thing over to Wapshott Press.

But on the other hand, if I push myself just a bit further, who knows what I could come up with…?

All images and text © Julie Travis, apart from the title, by Pauline Murray/Penetration

 

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.

Twenty-three and a half degrees

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

The Winter Solstice is upon us again and yesterday’s Montol celebration in Penzance was overflowing with wonderful weirdness. We walked up Chapel Street to the sound of the darkest Samba drumming I’ve ever heard and were face to face with fire dancers. I laughed at the complete failure of the powers that be who have done their damnedest to sanitise this festival and purge it of any Pagan elements – the crowd were wearing antlers, goat horns, fox masks, ivy. Best of all was the massive female energy of the dancers and much of the audience. It was incredibly powerful, emotional and positive. Once again I don’t recollect seeing any children sacrificed during the proceedings.

A Fairy Ring is finished now, I think – or, rather, it’s in a place where I can’t add any more to it; it’s been emotionally gruelling to write. I hope it will be similar to read. I’m about to send it to Andy Martin, who as editor has the final say as to whether he includes it in the anthology.

In a statement of the blindingly obvious – but it must be said due to a recent incident where someone chose to use a photograph of mine on their blog without crediting it to me or even bothering to ask if it was okay to do so – please assume that ALL photographs are taken by myself unless credited otherwise and are NOT available to use without permission. Drop me an email if you want to use something and as long as it’s credited to me and your site isn’t objectionable, then I’m very likely to say ‘yes’. Had this person done so, all would have been well. As it was, he refused to either apologise or take any responsibility, instead stating it was my own fault that he stole a photograph because I hadn’t expressly credited it as my own work. It should also go without saying that any written material cannot be used without permission but sadly I need to make this clear. I had hoped never to have to write this kind of thing – having credited anyone who reads blog this with the intelligence to have worked all this out for themselves. Such is the world we live in.

I shall look into the Eye of the storm

Wistman Spiral 1

A week staying on a smallholding on the western fringes of Dartmoor has done me good; I’m currently over 1100 words into a new story. A Fairy Ring contains neither fairies nor mushroom rings but is, inevitably, about the process of grieving, although that’s hopefully not obvious at first read. The subject matter, of course, is something everyone has to experience many times through their lives, so perhaps this is the most mainstream piece of fiction I’ve ever written. After three months of being incapable of working on anything new, it’s a relief to have such a full story just appear in my head in the way it has done. I have three finished stories sitting on the chair next to me, and I have no inclination to send them anywhere. That’s how it is for now, who knows how I’ll feel in the future?

Haytor 1

UNIT has recorded a cover of Regime Of Kindness, a song I wrote the music for around thirty years ago and which appeared on the Death To Wacky Pop e.p. Andy Martin kindly sent me a copy. It’s a fairly different arrangement, far more prog-rock than the original, and I think it’s excellent. It’ll appear on an album of theirs set for release next year. Many thanks to the band for digging this song up and doing their own version.

Tattoo 2 Swarming Shapes

Last week I had a new tattoo done – a detail from Ian Johnstone’s 23 Swarming Shapes. It’s my first new tattoo in around thirteen years. The whole process is hugely ritualistic for me. There are a couple of tattoo studios in Penzance, but I tried one of them and the vibe wasn’t right, so I went back to Shoreline in St Ives, where I had my last ink done. I knew it was the right place as soon as I stepped through the door, so I made an appointment and had a week of getting into the right frame of mind for it, hoping that Ian would have approved: he knew I thought the work was perfect for tattoos and he had one of the shapes tattooed onto his leg, so I think he’d be okay with it. The healing process is as much a ritual as choosing/designing the ink, and it’s healing incredibly quickly. Which is useful, as I can’t dress properly until it’s done so! The money to pay for it wasn’t easy to find, but I don’t think such permanent body modification should be effortless. Thanks to Cherry at Shoreline for an excellent job.