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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If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

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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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Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Hawkwind: Days of the Underground: Radical Escapism in the Age Of Paranoia

Joe Banks - Hawkwind Days of the Underground - Strange Attractor Press
Joe Banks
Strange Attractor Press

Fifty years on the English rock band Hawkwind continues to inspire devotion from fans around the world. Their influence reaches across the spectrum of alternative music, from psychedelia, prog, and punk, through industrial, electronica, and stoner rock. Hawkwind has been variously, if erroneously, positioned as the heir to both Pink Floyd and the Velvet Underground, and as Britain's answer to the Grateful Dead and Krautrock. They have defined a genre—space rock—while operating on a frequency that's uniquely their own.

I've been a Hawkwind fan since my teens - it's just occurred to me that I'm wearing a Space Ritual T-shirt as I write this review - and, like I suspect many other Hawkwind fan, have long grown inured to the sniggers and the jokes that are often aimed at a band that has followed its own singular path and who, I maintain, had they been German would be lauded as musical pioneers rather than laughed at as sci-fi obsessed hippies. So with that in mind you can perhaps imagine my joy at the arrival of this big, beautiful tome that sets out to re-evaluate and reposition the band at the centre of the innovative and revolutionary musical underground where they belong.

There have been a few Hawkwind biogs in the past the only one of which I've read - 'This is Hawkwind: Do Not Panic' by Kris Tait - was one I picked up at a Hawks gig back in the late 80s.  Tait is married to Dave Brock and has performed with (as a fire eater) and manages the band and her book was a slim but engaging volume that was repeatedly devoured by younger me desperate for more info on this venerable warhorse of a band in those halcyon pre-internet days.  Published some 36 years later Banks' book covers much of the same ground but in substantially greater detail.

As seems par for the course with any indirect Hawkwind product there seems to have been no actual participation by Brock which does leave a fairly large hole in the narrative. I do though get the feeling that it isn't something that Banks was overly bothered by and indeed is often quite brutal in his treatment of Brock's temperament and later his lyric writing.

Many of the other familiar faces - Michael Moorcock, Nik Turner, Terry Ollis, Stacia and more - contribute short interviews that dot the book and provide interesting titbits that colour the chronology. Further to these Banks also litters the book with occasional essays discussing the band in relation to things like their relevance to science fiction, their wide ranging influence and their own mythology.

It's a fascinating read with its focus entirely on the 70s heyday from formation to the release of Levitation at which point it comes to a jarring and abrupt halt.  It's a book that is intentionally written for (and by) the devotee.  Banks' eye for detail of the various takes, versions and releases makes for an obsessive's delight and crammed with previously unseen photos and ephemera - not to mention the size of the thing - it proved to be a complete joy.  Here's hoping we get a follow up.

Buy it here - UK / US.

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If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

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Saturday, 19 December 2020

Peel Sessions 15

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

This week...
T Rex (1970)
23 Skidoo (1981)
Stereolab (1996)
The Sisters of Mercy (1984)
Head of David (1996)
The Pop Group (1978)













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If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

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Tuesday, 15 December 2020

He Arrived At Dusk

R.C. Ashby - He Arrived At Dusk - Valancourt Books
R.C. Ashby
Valancourt Books

From the moment William Mertoun arrives to catalogue the library at Colonel Barr's old mansion on the desolate Northumbrian moors, he senses something is terribly wrong. Barr's brother Ian has just died, mysteriously and violently, and the Colonel himself is hidden away in a locked room, to which his sinister nurse denies all access. As strange and supernatural events begin to unfold, Mertoun learns the local legend of a ghostly Roman centurion, slain on the site sixteen centuries earlier, who is said to haunt the estate. Mertoun is sceptical at first, but after another murder, a harrowing seance, and an actual sighting of the spirit one lonely night on the moor, he realizes that he and everyone at Barr's mansion are in mortal danger. What does the ghost want, and can it be stopped?

William Mertoun is summoned to the wilds of Northumberland by the reclusive Colonel Barr to provide a valuation of the estate but once there he is drawn into the mystery of the family and their travails at the spectral hands of a ghostly Roman centurion.

Ashby's novel originally published in 1933 is a darkly immersive page turner that takes its rather daft premise and turns it into a neat and compelling narrative.  At its heart lie the menacing, desolate moors and coast of the Northumbrian landscape and an isolated mansion overlooked by the ancient monument from which it takes its name, 'The Broch'.

Ashby populates her novel with a cast of characters reflecting the highs and lows of society from our noble, if a little a little dim, auctioneer to a mad doctor via an American psychologist, a Marxist shepherd and a frivolous teen girl straight out of a P.G. Wodehouse novel who gets all the best lines.

I have to admit I struggled a little at the beginning of the book as I found the prospect of a ghostly Roman soldier a little, well, naff but once I began to pick up an inkling as to where Ashby was leading me and also once the quality of her prose had gotten it's teeth into me this became a joy to read from beginning-ish to end. 

Buy it here - UK / US.

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If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Peel Sessions 14

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

This week...
Curve (1991)
The Damned (1980)
Soft Machine (1969-71)
Section 25 (1981)
Bow Wow Wow (1980)
Siouxsie & the Banshees (1981)













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If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

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Wednesday, 9 December 2020

The Nightfarers

Mark Valentine
Tartarus Press

In The Nightfarers, you will discover the secret of a remote Lincolnshire island, visit the last official of a seventeenth century company of explorers, and watch for the light from a Moorish heliograph tower.
You’ll encounter a book that speaks for itself, books that aren’t quite books, and a rare book that really draws you in. There’s also the reincarnation of a decadent occult detective and another, reluctant sleuth who investigates an unusual printing press.
Other stories are set in the afterglow of old Empires in interwar Europe, in the same milieu as the author’s work in Secret Europe and Inner Europe (shared volumes with John Howard). They depict apocalyptic dawns, strange faiths, the stare of stone masks, a Prague actuary, an astrologer in Trieste, a scholar of lost languages.
This new edition of The Nightfarers, the first for over ten years, includes twelve of the original stories and adds two more from the same period.

Over the last few years I've come to regard Mark as one of my absolute favourite authors both for his fiction - 'The Collected Connoisseur' - and non - 'A Country Still All Mystery'.  As such whenever something new to me appears I jump at it.

'The Nightfarers' was originally published in 2009 be Ex-Occidente Press but with copies now selling on the second hand market for eye-watering prices I had long written it off as ome I'd never get to read until that is the lovely folks at Tartarus Press reprinted it.

The fourteen stories presented here all display Mark's customary elegance of both prose and concept with stories of lost lives and secret places and of liminal lands and unsettled people. Alongside these are gently poignant tributes to those who have gone before either inthe form of a namecheck - Hubert Crackanthorpe - homage - William Hope Hodgson - or pastiche - M.P. Shiel.

It's a stunning collection of stories that once again displays the scope of the gentleman's imagination and is, as ever, hugely recommended.

Available from the publisher at the link above.

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If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

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Sunday, 6 December 2020

The Signalman

The Signalman - Charles Dickens - A Ghost Story for Christmas
Originally written by Charles Dickens and published in the 1866 Christmas edition of his own weekly literary journal 'All the Year Round', 'The Signal-Man' is the story of the three appearances of ghostly figure to the solitary occupant of a signal box situated on a deep cut railway line at the mouth of a tunnel.  Each manifestation of the figure with its call of "Halloa! Below there!" has preceded an accident on that particular stretch of the railway line.

The Signalman - Charles Dickens - A Ghost Story for Christmas
This adaptation was made in 1976 for the BBC's A Ghost Story for Christmas strand and features Denholm Elliott as the haunted signal-man and Bernard Lloyd as the visitor to whom he relates his story.  As with many of the other stories it was directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark who maintains an intimate sense of encroaching danger ably assisted by powerful performances from the two men, Elliott in particular.

Buy it here - UKUS - or watch it below.


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 If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain 

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Saturday, 5 December 2020

Peel Sessions 13

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

This week...
The Wedding Present (1988)
Buzzcocks (1978)
Here & Now (1978)
Aswad (1976)
The Beat (1979)
Pale Saints (1989)











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If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Thursday, 3 December 2020

The English Heretic Collection: Ritual Histories, Magickal Geography

Andy Sharp
Repeater Books

Andy Sharp delivers a visionary field report based on fifteen years of deep vein creative research expeditions to England's strangest landscapes with a host of tragic players.
From its inaugural Black Plaque in honour of Witchfinder General director Michael Reeves, this unique collection follows a veridical trajectory to the frontiers of belief. Reeves' film becomes a conspiratorial cauldron drawing in a host of tragic players in the end game of the Sixties. The Cornwall of Du Maurier's The Birds is ploughed to reveal the hidden psychic codes of our Blitz spirit.
In a powerfully relevant occult rendering of a bruised Island, the myth of Churchill is dissected and re-animalised. New maps of hell are drawn by colliding the forensic vision of JG Ballard and Lovecraftian magic. Actors, witches and psychopaths maraud across a nightmare terrain of murderous henges and abandoned military bases; conflating creative research into a surreal documentary, history as hallucination. Geography becomes an alchemical alembic, a vale of soul-making distilled by the lysergic psychobiology of Stanislav Grof, the alcoholic lyricism of Malcolm Lowry, and the convulsive travelogues of the Marquis de Sade.
If history is revealed as paranoid ritual, how do we escape its time traps to wild new imaginative geographies? The English Heretic collection is a darkly comical, urgently lyrical, mental escape hatch from the hells of our own making.

Andy Sharp's English Heretic was an audio / textual project that over the course of some 15 years engaged in a series of psychogeographical, magickal investigations into the various physical, metphysical and fictional characteristics and characters of that notional vision of Britain that we celebrate on Wyrd Britain.

Sharp's literary conjourings present an exhaustive and occasionally exhausting survey that encompasses everyone and everything from J.G. Ballard to Kenneth Grant via Angel Blake and from Orford Ness to the Manchester Morgue via The House on the Borderland.

It makes for a fascinating read but not a particularly straightforward one.  Andy is exploring the magickal connections between his subjects whereas my inerests in such matters are minimal.  At best it could be said that me and occultism / magick met up in a pub once had a nice chat over a couple of beers and then happily went our separate ways.  I find that there's too much of a stylistic link between psychogeography and conspiracy theories in the rolling logic of their construction albeit with the former relying on an obsessive attention to history and literature whilst the latter just requiring gullibility but it's this link that I often find equally fascinating, frustrating and sometimes, it must be said, a little silly.

Like I said though what Andy has done with English Heretic makes for a captivating read that, even for those with a passing interest in all the various flavours of wyrdness this country has manifested, is well worth your time and money and beyond that if you are a devotee of the more occult flavoured history of the country then it is heartily recommended.

Buy it here - UK / US

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If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Monday, 30 November 2020

3 Wyrd Things: Rosalie Parker

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.

This month: Rosalie Parker

Rosalie Parker co-runs Tartarus Press with R.B. Russell. She has written four collections of weird short stories, The Old Knowledge (2010), Damage (2016), Sparks from the Fire (2018) and Through the Storm (2020), out now from PS Publishing. Her stories have appeared in various anthologies, including Supernatural Tales, Uncertainties II, Shadows and Tall Trees, Best New Horror 21 and 30, and Best British Horror. 

It is our pleasure to present her selections for this month's 3 Wyrd Things.

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Film
Frank (2014)
Buy it here - UK / US

Frank is an extraordinary black comedy Directed by Lenny Abrahamson. It’s a British/Irish production inspired by papier-mache head wearing Timperley comic and pop star Frank Sidebottom, about an experimental band called soronprfbs, led by Frank (Michael Fassbender). Frank is not seen out of his aforementioned outsized head until the end of the film. The band go to Ireland to record their debut album in a remote cabin, which ends up taking more than a year. They are invited to play in Texas, where they continue to experience personal and creative differences and gradually implode. The final scene may or may not be a surprise. The themes of mental illness and creativity are handled with insight, integrity and delicacy. It’s moving, weird and very funny.



Music
David Bowie
Space Oddity (1969)
Buy It Here - UK / US

I first heard this single at my friend Nina’s house in the small Buckinghamshire village where I grew up. We played it over and over again until I knew every note and nuance. It has an indefinable longing and infiniteness about it which I found myself able to slip into, aged nine. I can still recapture that feeling whenever I hear the song. I’ve always been fascinated by exploration, and although I have done some adventuring into the unknown, I’m a slightly nervous traveller. I’ve never wanted to be an astronaut.



Book
Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights
Buy It Here - UK / US

Bronte’s tale of mixed-race Heathcliff after he is brought to live, an abandoned orphan, on an isolated Yorkshire farm had a certain resonance for me. I read it first aged about 13 in my cold bedroom in the old, haunted farmhouse in which I grew up. It’s a tale of adolescent love and hate, class, rejection and vengeance, and the supernatural and horror elements are fundamental to the story. Heathcliff is the archetypal outsider (cf Frankenstein) and although Bronte’s portrayal of him as he seeks revenge for ill treatment is utterly unsentimental, her skill in the telling means that he retains some of our sympathy. His drawn out death as he seeks to be haunted by and reunited with his dead love Cathy is a Gothic tour de force. Aged 13, the book was like nothing else I’d read. For the last 20 years I’ve lived in North Yorkshire, not too many miles from the Bronte’s Haworth, so the book has gained a new resonance for me. When I re read it last I was struck by how well it stands the test of time.

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If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain


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Sunday, 29 November 2020

The Asphyx

Sir Hugo Cunningham (Robert Stephens - 'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes') is a parapsychologist who, whilst photographing people on the brink of death, discovers a smudge on the film that he comes to see as evidence of the existence of an 'asphyx', a spirit attracted to those about to die.  After the deaths of his son Clive (Ralph Arliss - 'Kickalong' in Quatermass (UK / US)) and his fiancĂ©e Anna (Fiona Walker) he determines, with the help of adopted son Giles (Robert Powell), to learn how to trap these spirits and achieve immortality for himself and his family.

With it's Victorian setting, anachronistic machinery and blurred line between science and the occult 'The Asphyx' occupies the same sort of proto-steampunk area as William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki stories (UK / US).  Its an improbable and fairly plodding affair that is somewhat lacking in wit and takes itself far too seriously by which I'm not asking for jokes or pratfalls I just wished it would have enjoyed it's absurdities and fully invested in them.  As it is it's a stilted mixture of the outrageous and the staid which makes it a fun and watchable curio but, for me at least, not much more than that.

Buy it here - UKUS - or watch it below.



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If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.