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

 

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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.

Low Winter sun

Castlerigg Plaque

As 2014ce edges towards a close, it seems a good time to do a bit of an update on various writings and projects:

New Zealand based fantasy writer Lynne Jamneck is editing a collection of Lovecraftian stories written by women, to be published as Dreams From The Witch House by Dark Regions Press in 2015, with a clear emphasis on diversity as regards sexual orientation and ethnicity of the authors. This is the kind of thing I really want to be involved in, so I sent her The Man Who Builds The Ruins – probably the closest to ‘Lovecraftian’ writing I’ve done. This weekend I heard that the story passed the first reading round. Still a long way to go, I know, and a couple/few months of awaiting news, but I’m much cheered by this, and reading a bit about Jamneck, who has a huge interest in science and magick/the occult, has made me even more keen to be involved. Writing is solitary – which is partly why it suits me so much – but the isolation, the sense of operating in a complete vacuum, can become overwhelming at times. One shouldn’t write/create to please others, and I don’t, but if someone else is sympathetic or gets what I’m doing, it’s a huge bonus.

The running order for my short story collection in Storylandia #15 has now been set. Coincidentally (or not), the order I put them in turned out to be alphabetical, and also the same as editor Ginger Mayerson had listed them. At her request, I sent her some photographs I took many years ago, and it is quite possible that one of them will be used for the journal’s cover. If so, it’ll be the first photography I’ve had published since some shots (from Highgate Cemetery and a Swiss forest) appeared in Night Mail art fanzine in the early 1990s.

More stories are on the way: In Holes And Corners needs some more adjustments, more in the way of place names than anything else. The story is set in Camborne but I may invent a town name, one that’s a little more lyrical. Pig Iron has now been (very sketchily) sketched out and is progressing well and I have notes on two more stories to work on next year, which don’t have working titles yet, but both ideas are promising. Completion, a story began earlier this year, is on the back burner for now, until the way forward with it becomes more apparent. Ironically, it may never be completed!

Meanwhile, I look forward to the Montol celebration in Penzance on the Winter Solstice. As one of the masked participants gleefully said last year, “All the oddballs come out for this one.” I need to connect, even at a distance, with the more strange elements of the area. It’s reassuring.

And November brings starlings

Kirkstone Pass

These last few days have brought huge clouds of starlings; initially on the eastern side of Penzance, then perhaps 10,000 murmurating at Marazion Marshes last night and, just now, thousands of them whirling in a massive circle outside the back of the house. It’s been like a wonderful, waking dream.

As you can see from my previous post, the trip to Cumbria in September included a return to Jhonn Balance’s memorial. We spent some time at Bassenthwaite Lake, with only geese for company, near the hawthorn tree where Balance’s ashes were scattered, then made our way to the nearby woodland memorial. We had time here, too, to tidy up litter left by thoughtless visitors and to photograph the woodland. I was able to take in the surroundings more fully this time. The place is dearly important to me.

The trip was overwhelming for many reasons. We stayed in a house overlooked by Blencathra mountain on one side and the Helvellyn range on another and visited Castlerigg stone circle three times, such was its effect on us. On each visit the weather and light were radically different, the mountains surrounding the plateau on which the circle sits subtly changed as the sun came and went. On our first visit, we were lucky enough to have D, a local Pagan, quietly impart his extensive knowledge of the place. Thank you, D.

We also travelled east to Long Meg And Her Daughters, a stone circle so big that it contains several trees and a lane runs through it. Long Meg, outside the circle but seeming to keep a protective eye on it, has a beautiful spiral carved into her side. It is entirely different to Castlerigg but a fascinating place. On our last visit we were unable to meet up with Ian Johnstone (artist/farmer/Coil affiliate and Balance’s partner) but met with him twice this time. After several years of communicating with him, it was wonderful to meet face to face and we talked at length about many, many things.

JB Hawthorn & Dodd

Storylandia #15 – the issue devoted to my work – is now set for publication in January 2015. This means my deadline is two months’ shorter than I originally thought, but I’m happy that it’s going ahead so soon. Four short stories and one novella are now with the editor and I’m hoping that all of these will appear in the issue. I have one story that’s near to completion but won’t be ready in time and another with an anthology editor – this feels like a good momentum to have gained.