Tuesday, 29 January 2019
Turner was a cockney, the son of a barber,a smart man of the hard streets, part poet, all painter. on a daily basis he would have seen the hardships endured by his fellow citizens of Olde Londone Towne. I wonder if Turner was able to see the sky from those windy crowded alleyways? To see through to the sky high above while the dirty business of man continued all about him. I was thinking about the painting he did in later life; The Slave Ship.it shows a stormy sea and sky when stolen men and women go to a watery grave. Condemned there by the merciless hand of human commerce, something not found in brutal nature even. This is the floating Satanic Mill William Blake warned off, where abduction and murder were justified in pursuit of an insurance claim. The dirty business of man conducted beneath a roiling tumbling heavens, the mute non judgemental canopy of clouds. It is a remarkable painting by the standards of any century. Yet by all accounts it was not well received, with those who previously praised heaping scorn. Described by one critic as looking " ..like the contents of a spitoon.."
How startling this painting must have looked upon being revealed to a waiting public. What could they have goggled at in the National Gallery that would have prepared them for this assault on their feathery sensibilities? Was the proximity of an Edward Landseer comforting to them? Was it like being at a crowded family gathering and gravitating to the side of the uncle who does not insist on speaking his mind no matter how uncomfortable he makes you feel?
What would I know, its all new to me and I try not to project modernism into situations where no such spelling existed. I am relying on the instincts and phenomenal insights of writers such as Peter Ackroyd to act as tour guide through the haunted galleries of history. There are precedents, he has created a body of work which suggests no finer company on such a journey. This is a short book, a slight guide of sorts but it has pushed open a door for me through which I see a daisy chain dangled above a blazing home hearth, a fragile thing off beauty suspended above coppery cinders.
...Combined with an irresistible urge to look up.
It was all swarthy stuff, with the smugglers being the rascally good guys. it had a particularly rousing theme song: Scarecrow! Scarecrow!
On The Southern Coast Of England Theres A Legend People Tell
Of Days Long Ago When The Great Scarecrow Would Ride From
The Gates Of Hell!
And Laugh With A Fiendish Yell,
With His Clothes Torn And Tattered Through The Black Night He'd Ride
From The Marsh To The Coast Like A Demon Ghost
He'd Rob The Rich Then Hide
And He'd Laugh Til He Split His Side!
(Doctor Syn The Scarecrow Of Romney Marsh/Walt Disney.)
What a great theme. It makes one wish to swash one's buckle. So to speak.
In 1860 a widow land lady and land owner , Mary Emsley, was slain by a blow to the head, which caved her skull in, such was the ferocity. The details of the murder and the events which followed seemed to capture the collective imaginings of a gripped national capital as as al of London speculated the identity of the killer. Mary Emsley as a rent collector was not well liked, her ruthless streak manifest as she would not hesitate to throw a family into the street if they fell behind in a weeks rent. To many she got no more than her well deserved kharmic comeuppance for her continued heartlessness regarding her tenants.Thus, there were any number of suspects, but the one eventually convicted and punished for the crime was one who went out of their way to put themselves in the frame, while trying to do the very same to some one else. An action which put him firmly at the eye of the storm, or rather the target for a series of circumstantial evidence which collectively slipped a noose about his neck.
Sinclair Mc kay details the events with a forensic eye to detail, chronicling not only the events of the case but recording the harsh grind of daily life in Victoria's London of the early Eighteen hundreds. He builds a picture about the life and times of a group of disparate folk, drawn together by a web of misfortune, frustrated ambition and hard times. It is a very compelling glimpse into an era of tough men and women, the times that shaped them, and the rough justice that honed them. Sinclair Mc Kay goes beyond recorded events and takes us down a path not taken, forwarding a possible and sadly highly plausible solution to this crime once thought solved.
Yet it is a sobering thought that almost as soon as a a man was dispatched from this world in payment for a crime he may not have committed, whole new unexplored areas of suspicion were considered.
I call her The None..
Saint Mary In The Marsh is a great location for this story. Think Henry Fielding, think Doctor Syn and his band of night riders, think misty marshlands by moonlight, with the eerie sound of the wind stirring the skeletal branches of trees framing a smuggler's moon. the little hamlet is filled with interesting and well rounded characters. With the Reverend Hardcastle being the strongest. He is well liked but equally written off as an old duffer with an over fondness for brandy and port, legal or nay. In that small coastal town the inhabitants making their living from the sea, it is the primary source of sustenance and all they own they derive from it. It is also the source of their greatest dread; invasion by the French.
Its a tough old life in Saint Mary's In The Marsh. There is hard work for little pay with side helpings of bribery, murder, secrets which threaten violence at every turn, and the unseen but always present gang of ruthless smugglers The Twelve Apostles. To those looking in from outside or afar the village of Saint Mary In The Marsh is little more than a wretched hive of scum and villany.
I, for one, cannot wait to go back there.
Wednesday, 9 January 2019
Girls in surfboards,
Twistin' round the fire,
Bakin' in the sun."
..In the bleak mid winter I thought we could use a reminder of what
sunny days look like.
Thank you mister Herge and The B-52s.
Off course nowhere on the cover of this collection did I see these words but I fear they are now indelibly inscribed on my mind, the bumpier parts of it anyway. Its a weird tale to be sure, this gateway to a Machenesque world of elder gods magics and dangerous folklore. Through him we read things we are not meant to read which in turn makes us see things we are surely not meant to see. Stories delivered in a wordy poetic prose style that those with shorter attention spans may find trying but which lends itself beautifully to a more traditional aural form of storytelling, as in fireside tales of terror. Although Arthur Machen was Welsh he shares much in common with Irish storytellers, whose powers of storytelling were developed in a golden age of magic words, before the power of the storyteller was forever diminished by the arrival of the printed word, one of the great steps forward in the enlightenment and the age of reason. For sure the good endowed far outweighs that which was lost but things were lost for sure, such as the special powers which came with an aural tradition.
The best place to encounter these stories is most definately the hearthside, with hungry flame and crackling wood shifting as it sparkily releases its locked in energies. I read it on a train, on Christmas Eve, traveling on the Enterprise Train between Belfast and Dublin. some one further down the nearly empty carriage was listening to folk music on some portable device and was forlornly singing along to it. I glimpsed a grey haired dark eyed face observing me impassively from across the aisle. It was my own reflection mirrored against the dark countryside which sped by barely glimpsed. Was I watching myself to observe my own reactions to what I was reading and having seen none lost interest?
Just how reliable are our own reflections anymore?
The other stories in this dover Thrift collection were The White People, The Inmost Light and The Shining Pyramid. Great stories birthed in the mystical bracken of more ancient times that feel more real to me than any of the desert religions and faiths which ursurped their position in the lives of the misty past we are rooted in. from a time before magic went to sleep bedded down in mossy imaginings in the true grey havens of our shared subconscious.
Elegant and yet suitably scary. Rather
defines an era.
It is true that readers and collectors of Sherlock Holmes and all things consulting detective-like love the notion of puzzles and their solutions. Just such a compulsion also exists at the very heart of the Cennobite mythos. Although in their case their solutions bring nothing but disaster upon the solver. Given this perhaps such an unusual cross over is not as unlikely as it sounds...
Nope.. actually it is. I am perhaps overcompensating because I enjoyed the book so much. Especially the first two thirds of the book before it escalates, or should I say degenerates to a War In Hell ( I use the word degenerate in a repulsively playful manner, by virtue of where it ends up things have to get oh so much worse before they get..even more worse.) The scale of the book becomes quite epic in scope, so much more epic than say the scale of the Holmes short stories. It has to be pointed out though the gory quality of some of the events does not always sit comfortably with the Holmes and Watson we know. Imagine Holmes and Watson waking up aboard the Nostromo and finding themselves being pursued by a Xenomorph through maintenance ducts or using flame throwers, it just feels so off at times. Yet perversely, in every sense of the word, it is this very aspect which so appeals to Clive Barker readers. in a strange way the novel mirrors the progress of the Hellraiser movies and their reinvention of Cennobite lore as they went along. There was also the notion of the very real sexual repression of the Victorian era and the growth of the Decadence movement towards the end of that period. Human sexuality is wont to blossom in myriad forms when under the pressure of a heartless thumb or boot. Fetishism and decadence bloom by the light of strange moons, so to speak. There were societies and special clubs that catered to all manner of tastes, then and now. one merely required the material wealth and an invitation to partake. In the instance of The Cennobites it was the puzzle box which served as the invitation to the court of the hell priests,The Order Of The Gash, although as Pin Head himself once gothically intoned it is all about the player not the game.
To have Holmes and Watson as prime movers in a War In Hell may seem to some a bit like having Ms Marple leading armies of men and elves in Middle Earth but to a large degree Paul Kane pulls it off. Mostly down to his umbrella knowledge of both franchises. From events in Holmes movies such as Young Sherlock right through to the Indiana Holmes advs (The Robert Downey Jnr Holmes movies.) to the various lurid chapters in the Hellraiser saga. In the end the whole novel involves a descent into hell which no one escapes without scars.
War is hell with war in Hell being the very worst.