Friday, 22 January 2021

The Mummy

Riccardo Stephens - The Mummy (Valancourt Books)
Riccardo Stephens
Valancourt Books

Dr. Armiston, middle-aged bachelor and general practitioner, has his quiet and routine life interrupted when he is called in to consult on the deaths of two young men. One case seems to be a tragic accident, the other the result of natural causes, but they have one strange thing in common: the presence of the same ancient Egyptian mummy case in both men's homes. When Armiston learns that the sarcophagus is inscribed with a terrible curse promising vengeance on anyone who disturbs the mummy's repose, and as the series of deaths continues, the doctor will risk his own life to unravel the mystery and find out whether the mummy - or something or someone else - is responsible.

I've never had much in the way of an interest for Egyptian history or mythology which goes some way to explaining why this was the last of the four Valancourt books I was kindly gifted that I read.

The blurb on the back made it all sound like an intriguing Hammer style romp with a mummy at it's core but the reality proved to be a more intriguing conundrum, a murder mystery with occult and near sci-fi elements. 

Dr Armiston, a crotchedy, middle-aged batchelor is drawn into a bet between the members of the Plain Speakers Club that has already resulted in the death of a member with a second to follow soon after.  The deaths all seem connected to the lots drawn to take custody of a supposedly cursed sarcophagus for a fortnight.  Armiston throws himself into the centre of the mystery and the lives of the eclectic group of characters that make up the faction of the Plain Speakers.

Armiston is a fairly unlikeable character being a right misery whilst the character I found most interesting doesn't make it far into the book which was a shame.  As a whodunnit it's fairly easy to spot the 'who' and the 'dunnit' isn't entirely relevant.  It's a pretty slow sort of read that I have to admit I struggled to get into for a while.  By the mid point though I'd found it's rhythm, was enjoying it and was intrigued by how it played out.

Buy it here - UK / US.

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Sunday, 17 January 2021

A Warning to the Curious

Originally published in 1925 as part of the collection of stories that bears it's name M.R. James' 'A Warning to the Curious' was the second adaptation made by director and screenwriter Lawrence Gordon Clark for the BBC's anual Ghost Story for Christmas strand.

Updating the story to the depression era 1930s Clark has newly unemployed clerk and  amateur archeologist Paxton (Peter Vaughan) arriving in the town of 'Seaburgh' on the Anglian coast in search of the the last remaining lost crowns of Anglia, buried in ye olde days and reputed to protect the county from invasion.  In the inn there he meets Dr Black (Clive Swift) - who had also appeared in the previous years apatation 'The Stalls of Barchester' - and the typical variety of local yokels that usually populate these sort of things.  He also keeps catching glimpses of a mysterious figure following and watching him from afar.

It's a wonderfully bleak affair with some nicely low key performances particularly from Vaughan and some fantastically intense sound work full of shrill tones and ominous drones along with Clark skillfull direction maintains a perpetual air of menace and certain doom that hangs over Paxton from the moment he arrives.

Buy it here - UK / US - or watch it below.




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Saturday, 16 January 2021

Peel Sessions 19

The music from week nineteen of our celebration of the 37 years worth of Peel Sessions.

This week...
The Jam (1977)
Fairport Convention (1969)
Clock DVA (1983)
The Adverts (1979)
Peter Hammill (1974)
New Model Army (1983)













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Friday, 15 January 2021

Hell! Said the Duchess: A Bedtime Story

Michael Arlen - Hell! Said the Duchess: A Bedtime Story (Valancourt Books)

Michael Arlen
Valancourt Books

A female killer stalks the streets of London, sleeping with young men before slashing their throats and mutilating their bodies. The crimes have baffled the police and enraged Londoners, who demand the murderer's arrest. Mary, Duchess of Dove, a gentle young widow who is beloved by all who know her, seems an unlikely suspect, but the clues all point to her. The police have a variety of theories - perhaps the Duchess has been hypnotized or drugged, maybe she has an evil double, or could it be a Communist plot to discredit the peerage? Inspector Basil Icelin is determined to solve the mystery, but the true explanation is far more shocking and terrifying than anyone could ever imagine.

In 1924 Michael Arlen, a naturalised Brit born Dikran Kouyomdjian in Bulgaria in 1895, published 'The Green Hat' a novel about a "shameless, shameful" woman that launched Arlen to worldwide fame, riches and as a reputation as the foremost British chronicler of the 'lost generation' of the inter-war years.  'Hell! Said the Duchess' written some 10 years later is the story of a series of 'Jane the Ripper' crimes and the woman of impeccable reputation who is suspected of perpetuating them.

Arlen is a delight as a writer and had me laughing aloud on numerous occasions both from his deliciously barbed descriptions and his fabulously caustic asides.  The unfolding of the crime would, I think, drive many a whodunnit buff to despair as would the denoument but for the rest of us it's a delightfully twisted frollic of an investigation leading to a bonkers, bizarre and brilliant conclusion that almost entirely throws the atmosphere of the rest of the book straight out the window.

Wonderful stuff.

Buy it here - UK / US.

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Tuesday, 12 January 2021

England's Screaming

England's Screaming - PS Publishing
Sean Hogan
PS Publishing

What connects Duc de Richleau (The Devil Rides Out), Julian Karswell (Night Of The Demon), and Damien Thorn (The Omen)? Carol Ledoux (Repulsion) and Dr. Channard (Hellbound: Hellraiser II)? Jo Gilkes (Beasts) and Angel Blake (Blood On Satan's Claw)? How is Karswell linked to Hugo Fitch (Dead Of Night) and Emily Underwood (From Beyond The Grave)? What connects Dorothy Yates (Frightmare) to the deaths at Russell Square (Death Line)? How and why does Damien Thorn know Julia Cotton (Hellraiser)?
It s a common thread of Film Criticism to note the influences and precursors of one film to another, especially in relation to genre: by definition, genre films are connected by a frame. What then if the characters could see each other? What if they existed not only as fictional characters in our world, but in a single chronology of their own? What if they could talk to each other, know each other, love and hate each other?
Who would align with whom, and what might we discover about how influences breed? What might we then learn about the warp and weft of our beloved genre and the patterns that are woven through it?

It's such a neat idea it's a wonder it hasn't been done before.  Crossovers and shared worlds have obviously been a thing for a long while - Philip Jose Farmer's 'Wold Newton' books, Kim Newman's 'Anno Dracula' & ' Diogenes Club' books and Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' - but this is the first - at least that I've seen - to find a commonality between the various characters of the golden age of British horror movies.

Hogan here, using 'The Omen' series to provide a sort of underlying narrative, creates a timeline that stretches from 'The Night of the Demon's 'Julian Karswell' and Dennis Wheatley's 'The Duc de Richleau' ('The Devil Rides Out') to 'Philip' in the 2018 movie 'Possum' along the way plucking characters from 'Quatermass', 'The Wicker Man', 'Kill List', 'The Dead of Night', 'The Medusa Touch', 'Hellraiser', 'The Shout', 'Ghostwatch' and many, many more.

Now I'm a sucker for these sort of things, 'League...' is one of my very favourite books, and this is undeniably fun but it is desperately in need of a sturdier armature.  Hogan's loose appropriation and re-jig of 'The Omen' timeline just doesn't really have the narrative depth or the cultural weight to truly hold together what is essentially a series of vignettes.  As a fan of most of the movies and TV shows featured I enjoyed revisiting old favourites and seeing often peripheral characters given new or extra life within these pages and for that I am very happy to recommend it but I do think it would have benefitted from a more cohesive and comprehensive story to hang it's fun core conceit on.

Buy it here - UK / US.

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Sunday, 10 January 2021

The Medusa Touch

The Medusa Touch
Inspector Brunel (Lino Ventura), a French detective on a job swap in London, is called in to investigate the attempted murder of novelist John Morlar (Richard Burton) a man who, according to psychiatrist Dr Zonfeld (Lee Remick), had described himself as having "A gift for disaster."

Morlar, it transpires, is a powerful psychokinetic with a pathological hatred of humanity, a great line in wonderfully misanthropic and nihilistic dialogue, 

"And Mother was much like the hotels; a decade past her prime, a lot of paint covering the worst cracks, a pathetic pretence of being better than she was.

and a building desire to destroy the society he hates, 

"I’ve found a way to do God’s dirty work for him. The Royal Chieftain, the parasites, and the whole gang of international rabble rousers, are going to bleat to the Almighty Nothing in his great Temple, to give praise for three million pounds. I promise you, the moment they kneel to pray, I will bring the whole edifice down on their unworthy heads."

Over time 'The Medusa Touch' has been derided for some patchy effects particularly during the climactic set piece but such things are mostly irrelevant to me especially when they are surrounded by a tightly plotted and solid story and strong performances which director Jack Gold (The Naked Civil Servant (UK / US)) teases out of a uniformly excellent cast.

Burton, whose star was in terminal decline by 1977, is almost a peripheral figure in a movie that has his name at the top of the billing and revolves around his character but he still dominates the screen whenever he appears.  Ventura has a lovely light touch and a shabby Columbo like air in what is essentially the starring role, Remick is as rock solid and reliable a presence as ever and the rest of the cast is littered with familiar faces like Gordon Jackson, Harry Andrews, Jeremy Brett, Derek Jacobi, Michael Hordern and James Hazeldine

I first saw 'The Medusa Touch' as a young lad and the ending was one of the few things that ever freaked me out and as such it has remained in my head ever since but it wasn't a film I ever had the opportunity to return to so it was a wonderful surprise when writing this to discover that my memory hadn't rose tinted it and I enjoyed it just as much some 40 years later.

Buy it here - UK / US.



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Saturday, 9 January 2021

Peel Sessions 18

The music from week eighteen of our celebration of the 37 years worth of Peel Sessions.

This week...
The Incredible String Band (1973)
Killing Joke (1979)
The Slits (1981)
Cranes (1989)
The Specials (1979)
David Bowie and the Spiders From Mars (1972)













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Thursday, 7 January 2021

Flower Phantoms

Ronald Fraser - Flower Phantoms (Valancourt Books)
Ronald Fraser
Valancourt Books

A fey art-deco girl who works in Kew Gardens finds that her spiritual yearnings lead to a passionate mystic communion with an orchid.

Sir Arthur Ronald Fraser (1888 - 1974) was a diplomat and as author with 27 novels and ownership of a New Age healing and meditation centre to his name and an author photo that makes the last fact all the more improbable sounding but Fraser had a lifelong interest in Buddhism which is eminently apparent in this short novel, the story of a young woman engaged in a passionate and deeply spiritual love affair with an orchid in Kew Gardens.

The story opens tentatively as we are introduced to Judy and her pompous, stuffy and overbearing businessman brother Hubert and Roland, her ardent but ineffectual suitor but as Judy's world becomes subsumed within her growing fever for the plants she tends and the horizons opening up to her it becomes ever more expansive and florid.

With echoes of other early works of female empowerment such as Sylvia Townsend Warner's fabulous 'Lolly Willowes' Fraser weaves a wonderfully strange and psychedelic tale that explores notions of cosmic harmony and interconnectivity alongside more prosaic issues as personal expressions and independence into a story that is as witty as it is poetic and as delicate as it is bold.

Buy it here - UK / US.

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Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Waiting for the End of the World

R.B. Russell - Waiting for the End of the World (PS Publishing)
R.B. Russell
PS Publishing

Elliot Barton is haunted by a tragic mistake. At the time it seemed like the end of his world, but somehow he has managed to rebuild his life, and now lives happily with his partner, Lana, in their house on Sapphire Street. But Elliot’s good fortune threatens to implode when his old school friend, Vincent, reappears. He has become a Christian, and wants to tell the authorities what happened so many years before. Rather than simply following the teachings of Christ, however, Vincent also claims to have met him. Elliot becomes involved with Vincent’s millennialist church, which prophesied that the world would end in the year 2000. But what happens to the Messiah and his church when that prophesy does not come to pass? And can Elliot navigate his way through the chaos of incredible experiences back to his happy existence on Sapphire Street?

Elliot has two things; an almost perfect life and a secret, a secret that he's carried with him like a cross and which is about to come back and burst the bubble of his contentment.

From their home in 1 Sapphire Street, Saltburn Elliot and Lana live a life of comfortable routine, Lana has her ghosts and Elliot has the secret that fills his nights with dreams but by mutual agreement neither pries into the others corners.  At least that is until Elliot's childhood friend, Vince, enters the picture with an announcement that threatens to destroy their idyll.

'Waiting for the End of the World' is a gentle and absorbing book that tells of an accident and a friendship, of beliefs and of love.  To do this Ray tells of a search, several in fact, for meaning, for purpose and for a place to call home in whatever form that takes.  Through its pages we find numerous discussions of religion, of relationships and families and of conflicts.

Elliot is a middle class everyman, a beige coloured personality forged through 18 years of blending into the background as a result of living with the secret.  He's a likeable sort of chap if maybe a little devious although an early scene of him and Lana singing along to Kula Shaker did almost cost them any and all sympathy I had. It's the reappearance of Vince that's the catalyst for strangeness in Elliot's existence as he's introduced to the millenarian cult to which Vince belongs and their reluctant Messiah, Phillip, at which point things take a turn for the weird as the couple are forced to reckon with the secret and unpick the enigma behind Vince's unwelcome intrusion into their lives.

Driving down a similar road to Andrew Michael Hurley although of perhaps a more cosmic and less earthy bent it is, as I said, an absorbing read and one that I devoured over two afternoons.  I have to admit to finding some of the dialogue, particularly between younger Elliot and Vince a little clunky and I would have liked more to have been made of the stranger elements but these are small quibbles amongst the enjoyment I took from reading this rather lovely book.

Buy it here - UK.

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Sunday, 3 January 2021

House of the Long Shadows

House of the Long Shadows
Brash, materialistic American writer Kenneth Magee (Desi Arnaz, Jr.) accepts a bet from his publisher Sam Allyson (Richard Todd) that he can write a gothic classic of the calibre of Wuthering Heights in 24 hours given the right atmosphere.  Relocating to a supposedly deserted manor house in Wales named, 'Bllyddpaetwr Manor' where in its gloomy corridors he meets the eccentric Grisbane family and learns their terrible secret.

Made seemingly with the sole purpose of finally getting four horror icons Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine onto the big screen together which is an absolute pleasure to see with each playing very much to type - Price in particular letting rip with his customary OTT style - with each making a memorable entrance from the shadows but unfortunately there is little else to recommend here.  

Director Pete Walker ('The Flesh and Blood Show' (UKUS)) and screenwriter Michael Armstrong's 'comedy' horror is a wasted opportunity all round with a paper thin plot and unfunny jokes cobbled together within an adaptation of the novel / play / movies Seven Keys to Baldpate.

Arnaz and Julie Peasgood (as Allyson's secretary Mary) have neither the chops nor the presence to carry the film and the presence of the four greats cannot make up for some very poor acting and the woeful script that inflicts on us an ending that will make you want to kick your TV screen in.  It is though the one time that we got to see Cushing, Price, Lee and Carradine together on screen and for that reason and pretty much only that reason it's worth at least a watch.

Buy it here - UK / US.



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Saturday, 2 January 2021

Peel Sessions 17

This is the music from week seventeen of our celebration of the 37 years worth of Peel Sessions.

This week...
Man (1974)
The Human League (1978)
Robert Wyatt (1974)
Cockney Rebel (1974)
Bauhaus (1982)
Swell Maps (1978)













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Friday, 1 January 2021

Powers and Presences

John Howard! Mark Valentine- Powers and Presences (Sarob Press)
John Howard & Mark Valentine
Sarob Press

Charles Walter Stansby Williams (1886-1945) wrote seven mystical/supernatural novels between 1930 (War in Heaven) and 1945 (All Hallows’ Eve). He was also a poet and theological writer, and a member of The Inklings, the Oxford-based group of literary titans that included, amongst others, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

In this all new shared volume, John Howard and Mark Valentine pay affectionate tribute to Williams’ writings with a long novella, “The Dance of Gold” by John and two novelettes, “Kraken Tide” and “Seek for the Pomegranate” by Mark. Both authors have also provided illuminating afterwords to their stories.

I've had three of Charles Williams' novels on my shelves for a couple of years now but have yet to find the opportunity or the urge to dip into them so the ways in which John & Mark have reflected his work in this collection is to an extent a mystery to me.  What isn't beyond me though is just how good their stories are.

The collection consists of two prose pieces relating each authors experience of Williams' work, a novella from John and two short stories from Mark.  The prose pieces are interesting and illuminating but not what I came here for so onward ever onward.

John opens the book with 'The Dance of Gold' where a gold coin of rare historic and mythic provenance is found in the donations box of a remote parish church.  Soon mystery and intrigue begins to accumulate around the coin as it's presence and it's absence exerts a very real effect on those around it and the country at large.

I've been a fan of John's writing for a while now (since first reading him in another Sarob publication) and getting to read him in a longer form than is usually the case was a real treat.  The story he weaves is one of delicate poise, a metaphysical thriller wherein the mythic past holds the fate of the country in the balance through the intermediaries of a small rural village.

Mark's two stories proved to be a real surprise as both proved to be far more playful than I've come to expect.  'The Kraken Tide' reads like a John Wyndham romp through a flooded Lincolnshire before taking a sudden shift into Lovecraft or Wheatley territory.  It would have made for a great Hammer movie and was fantastic fun to read.

The second story proved equally so with the introduction of two, or perhaps more accurately three, characters that I really hope Mark returns to for further adventures; the mildly eccentric and magnificently dry Rachel Verulay, her introverted almost paramour Thomas Mulberry or 'Marmoset' as she soon christens him and not forgetting Lepus the straw hare.

With shades of Agatha Christie and Michael Arlen it's an absolute joy that had me chuckling aloud on several occasions before the story is wrapped up far too soon in a mythic finale.

With two of my favourite modern writers of the supernatural I knew I was going to be in for an enjoyable ride here but what I got far surpassed all my hopes.

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Monday, 28 December 2020

The Green Child

Herbert Read - The Green Child
Herbert Read
Capuchin Classics

First published in 1935, The Green Child is Herbert Read's only novel. But if he had written nothing else, this one inspired book would insure his fame. It is a Utopian novel, a unique blend of reality and fantasy which moves from the English countryside to the South American pampas and then to a mysterious and eternal underground of caves.

Taking as its starting point the legend of the two green children of Woolpit this, the only novel by the English anarchist and poet Herbert Read is a strange and fascinating reflection on the search for meaning in life.

Presented in three parts each concluding with the seeming death of the narrator, Olivero, that allow us a glimpse of the demise of various aspects of his personality.

The opening part tells of Olivero's return to the English village of his birth and his discovery of the green child - now a grown woman - who had arrived in the village on the day of his departure.  Here we see the man who would become Olivero as a noble and somewhat impetuously passionate character following his impulses and leaping both to the defence of the woman and also into the unknown.

The second part, told in flashback, tells of his time travelling and of his life as the benevolent dictator of the South American country of Roncador.  Here his thoughtful nature allows him to design and govern a utopian society that he eventually abandons with the realisation that he has also caused its stagnation.

The third part is set within the subterranean world of the green child, another utopian society in stark contrast to the entirely agrarian, non-intellectual Roncador.  This literally stratified world melds work, leisure and conteplation and it is here he finds peace as all the competing aspects of his personality find fulfilment in their own time and in harmony with those around him.

Throughout the novel Read's political leanings are evident and this novel is as much an exloration of those beliefs and the worlds they could create as it is a fantasy of worlds beyond.  It's utopianism is readily apparent and explored in ways that make for interesting contrasting reads across the various parts of the book and has the cumulative effect of producing a thorougly and oddly engrossing novel.

Buy it here - UK / US.

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Saturday, 26 December 2020

Peel Sessions 16

This is the music from week sixteen of our celebration of the 37 years worth of Peel Sessions.

This week...
The Ruts (1980)
Unseen Terror (1989)
Spizzenergi (1979)
Queen (1973)
Rosa Mundi (not a Peel Session)
My Bloody Valentine (1988)









We gave John the day off for Xmas and went with something wrongly festive instead...





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Wednesday, 23 December 2020

3 Wyrd Things: Matthew Shaw

For '3 Wyrd Things' I ask various creative people whose work I admire to tell us about three oddly, wonderfully, weirdly British things that have been an influence on them and their work - a book or author, a film or TV show and a song, album or musician.

Matthew Shaw
This month: Matthew Shaw

Matthew Shaw is a Dorset based composer, author and artist who has been releasing music since 2000 under his own name, as Tex La Homa, and with a variety of collaborators.

Matthew has recently worked with Shirley Collins on her new album Heart’s Ease for Domino Recordings. With Shaun Ryder and John Robb as Spectral & with Richard Norris composing the score to ‘The Filmmakers House’ a film by Marc Isaacs.

In 2019 Matthew worked with Mark Stewart and Gareth Sager on #BloodMoney as The Pop Group x Matthew Shaw, featuring a reworking of songs from the ‘Y’ album.

Atmosphere of Mona, a book of prose poetry and photography was published by Annwyn House in 2020 and is available here.

I first ecountered Matthew about a decade ago when he submitted some of his music for review in my old Wonderful Wooden Reasons music zine, later I released one of his albums on my Quiet World label and today I'm very pleased to present his choices in this months 3 Wyrd Things. 

You can find Matthew in all the usual places and via his website at -  https://www.matthewshaw.org/

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Album
Anthems in Eden 
Buy It Here - UK / US

Folk Roots, New Routes and Anthems in Eden have both occupied a central position in my listening of Shirley Collins for many years. It is Anthems in Eden, probably more than any other record featuring Shirley, that continues to surprise and delight and to always sound fresh and unique.

I was a teenager when I first heard Anthems in Eden, and on first listening everything about the lp seemed strange and yet familiar to me. The cover art, the inside of the gatefold cover of Shirley and Dolly, the instrumentation and arrangements. This was an album that somehow combined the folk music I was discovering at this time, along with the hymns and choral pieces my dad would come home singing after his concerts with the Crewe male voice choir, and the classical LPs he would play at home.

The first side of the LP contained a suite of songs that are still unlike any other record I own. The combination of Shirley’s pure unparalleled singing voice lifts the emotion, emphasising the heartbreak and hope within each word. Dolly playing the partitive organ, cutting through with her unique style of playing, alongside David Munrow’s direction and early music orchestra of Crumhorn, Rackett, Sordum, Recorder, Sackbut and so on. This album is musical time travel, the alchemy of a narrative set after the first world war, pared with early music instrumentation and timeless vocals. It is as if the people in these songs are able to step through the music and into the present moment. A Dream, Lowlands is the one song that I love more than most. A ghost song about a dream of a dead lover returned, a tale of shipwreck, are we off the English East Coast towards The Netherlands, or even further back in the remnants of Doggerland?

Listening to this album on cassette walking around the Saxon crosses in Sandbach, and up around the ancient carved faces and patterns outside St Marys Church left a deep impression. The album has no connection that I am aware of with the town I grew up in, and yet it fits a walk by the ancient crosses, the churchyard, the Tudor houses and then out into the country perfectly. Maybe this just emphasises the point that this album reveals layers of time within England. The stories within the music are remembered by the earth, the stones, the trees and the bricks and mortar.

We have seen such a triumphant return from Shirley in recent years and with Lodestar (UK / US) and Heart’s Ease (UK / US) we have an artist as vital as ever. I hope we see a greater appreciation of Dolly as a result, as these albums the Collins sisters made together are all magical objects. Not to mention Dolly’s orchestral arrangements for Peter Bellamy on the fantastic The Transports folk opera. If you can find a copy of the original double album you are in for a treat.

Whitsun Dance has recently been reworked from the version on Anthems in Eden into a new version on Heart’s Ease. Here is a clear example of the songs adapting to new times through the same singer, recorded many years apart. Both versions are essential listening. On Heart’s Ease I worked with Shirley to recreate Crowlink, bringing this place to people’s ears and imaginations ,so that the listener may stand with us a while at Crowlink and look out to the sea. 


 
 
Book
Ithell Colquhoun
The Living Stones
Buy It Here - UK / US

I first discovered Ithell Colquhoun from an issue of the poetry journal Ore. It contained two of her poems, The Tree-Month Ruis and Here. Without The Living Stones by Ithell Colquhoun, I would never have written Atmosphere of Mona. In fact my work would be very different, as Ithell has informed a way of seeing and experiencing. I’ll explain more as we go.

The Living Stones explains Ithells experiences in words and line drawings, travels and thoughts of Cornwall. In particular the Lamorna valley and cove. It is this area that draws me back time and again. The Living Stones for me is the perfect guidebook to this area. I found my favourite walk there, from the sea and Lamorna cove, up the lane past the site of Vow Cave, Ithell’s home for a time. Then across the road and through the woods to Boleigh Fogou, then to The Pipers and the Merry Maidens, Tregiffian, Gun Rith, and up to the old stone cross with the figure with outstretched arms, the horizon and rising sun. The cross was illustrated by Ithell in the book, and I photographed it for Atmosphere of Mona. From here a walk across the fields to Boscawen-Un. Most of these sites are written about in The Living Stones. I find the combination of literature, walking and art fascinating, here all three are effortless to appreciate, the art in this case is the painting Landscape with Antiquities by Ithell herself, providing our map for this walk.

Reading The Living Stones reveals as much about Ithell’s interests and thoughts as it does about the physical world. It contains a whole worldview expressed through a place.

The sounds of Lamorna became something of an obsession over the years. Firstly with the band Fougou, underground music made with sound artist Brian Lavelle. Our albums made literally underground in a Fogou, and also at many of the places that Ithell writes about in The Living Stones. The name of our band came from the spelling of Fogou by T.C. Lethbridge which is ‘Fougou’. Then I went further into the footsteps of Ithell directly with the album Lamorna, recorded outside Vow Cave, at The Merry Maidens, Lamorna Cove as well as back inside the Fogou.

That first issue of Ore that I picked up also connects Ithell with The Druid Order, An Druidh Uileach Braithreachas. Ore was published and written in part by Eric Ratcliffe, poet, author, publisher and sword bearer for the order. Both Eric and Ithell often draw on imagery from ritual within their poetry, as Ithell also does on many of her pieces of art. Eric continues to publish poems by Ithell and went on to write a biography of Ithell, and there are some wonderful photos of them both in robes together from the late 50s and early 60s. All part of the quest beautifully captured in the pages of The Living Stones. The atmosphere and spirit of Lamorna and Cornwall more widely, a snapshot of a time long gone. Yet much of what you will read in The Living Stones is still there if you look in the right places, especially outside of the holiday season, and if you take in the area on foot, so let the book be your guide.




TV
Doctor Who: Logopolis (Part Four) 
Buy It Here - UK / US

At the age of seven the world changed for me through the BBC transmission of the fourth episode of Logopolis
 
Doctor Who had become a regular treat, one that captured my young imagination and was often as hilarious as it was deeply terrifying. It was in this final episode for Tom Baker though, that things took on a new meaning. The Master and his pantomime attempt to blackmail the universe was one thing, enjoyable as it was, the Watcher though was something else entirely. A ghost-like vision, not dissimilar to the kind of thing I would later see in Ghost Stories for Christmas was an unquieting presence on the screen. Who or what was this apparition? A spirit, a lost soul, an alien or a ghost? Then there was the telescope, or Jodrell Bank as I knew it to be. I could see Jodrell Bank from my childhood bedroom window, and just a few weeks before had visited and gone inside the centre for the first time. Now I was sat watching Doctor Who hanging off that very same telescope. I ran upstairs to look out of the window before remembering it was already dark. Back in front of the TV, I watched the combining of the real world outside my window and the invented world and characters in the story combine, like the acetate sheets on the projectors in every classroom of the time. So grown ups too could invent stories and characters in the real world, reimagining them as sci-fi temples, connecting the earth, outer space and the imaginal. And then it happened, the Fourth Doctor fell. The Watcher appeared and combined with the Doctor before regenerating as the Fifth Doctor. The death and resurrection show. 
 
Peter Davison was ok but he wasn’t Tom Baker, although I did continue to watch each week and got used to this regeneration idea. There were still great adventures to come and through the time travelling ability of broadcasting I could travel through time as well, to watch those earlier episodes where Tom Baker was still out there, as well as the previous Doctors.

My younger siblings around this time discovered Button Moon, another space drama, the theme tune was composed and performed by Peter Davison and Sandra Dickinson.  This show turning infants on to the idea of transforming household objects and waste for the purposes of space travel.. Not dissimilar to the alchemical process in the later years of Ithell Colhoun’s art collages and sculptural forms, using household waste and bright colour to striking and magical effect.



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