Covidella: a LockDown Tale

“I want to bake a cake”

Covidella turned from the heaving sink of breakfast debris to face her stepsister, teetering warily on the top of the kitchen steps.  An unusual visitation this, and one that Ella was having difficulty processing. She paused the music and removed her headphones.

“Nigella’s dark and sumptuous chocolate fudge cake” the visitation continued in a querulous squeak, whilst flapping the torn page of a Sunday supplement food special.

It was Lockdown at the castle. Ella hadn’t thought of it as ‘home’ since her mum died.  Mum had always been accident-prone; walking into wardrobe doors, falling on the stairs. Funny really, ‘cos Ella never saw her trip, not even when wearing her old platforms for a laugh. They would skip and dance all around the house, making light of work and life. Until they heard her father coming.

The Stepmother appeared awfully quickly after that last fatal accident, dragging her two delightful daughters along for the ride. Stepmother promptly had a lift installed so she could avoid the stairs. Ugly thing.  The lift too….  Looked like a plastic Smart car someone had parked in the ancestral hall.  Still, for all its aesthetic lackings, Ella pretty soon loved it. She could chuck in all the laundry and the vacuum cleaner and mop and bucket and then sail off up through the floor like Willy Wonker in the glass elevator. Made life so much easier. Meant Ella could avoid those stairs too.

Ella missed her mum, and avoided attempts to play happy families, preferring instead to stay in the kitchen. She loved the peace down there, her mother’s presence was strong in the ping of the microwave and the sizzle of deep fat fryer. Dad had always been softened by a good plate of food. Well, not always, obviously.

Stepsister No.2 now appeared over Stepsister No.1’s shoulder. “It is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser that is super squidgy, the sort of cake you want to eat the whole of, and even the sight of it all chocolaty and gooey, comforts”.

Quite. Well, do you know what? That actually sounds like a damn fine idea.  Now she was out of her musical cocoon, Ella could hear familiar sounds storming around upstairs. Maybe Nigella’s chocolate comforter was exactly what this castle needed, right now.  She’d had a food delivery only that morning, and had ordered plenty of chocolate as her own special treat. So, she’ll be eating it in cake form instead, no matter.

 “Okay, I’ll make it” Ella announced, thinking it would save a lot of mess, wasted ingredients, and possibly a super pissed off Dad at the end of it all. The Stepsisters scooted across the room glued to each other, wild-eyed and eager, clearly without a clue but very determined. They wobbled their heads frantically from side to side, no no no.  “We want to make it. It’s very important. We want to make it and we want Him to eat it, and we want Him know that we have made it.”

Oh for goodness sake, who cares? She was getting sick of this lockdown baking mania. None of her friends had anything interesting to post on social media – it was all just bloody cake.  She sighed.  “Go on then….” She started to say. Then she looked at them, which she tended to avoid doing. Oh. “Is your mother alright?” The heads wobbled up and down, a little shaky, but generally affirmative.  

Ella whipped out her phone and googled the recipe. She wasn’t touching that torn and blood splattered cutting. No.1 was put on washing up duty, No.2 on … on …helping No.1. Actually, no, lets clean her up a bit, and, um, a bit more, and then just prop her in the corner with a large brandy. 

Plain flour, caster sugar, light brown Muscovado… hmmm, nope, damn, have to be Demerara and hope for the best. Not as moist, but it will have to do. Corn oil? Corn oil? Who the bloody hell has corn oil knocking around in the back of their Covid cupboard, sunflower shall have to do.  Yup, Nigella says that’s ok. We’ve got this!

Two hours later, rather longer than the recipe generally requires, the kitchen was clean (ish), and three satisfied and rather chocolaty faces were admiring the thing of beauty they had created.  The Stepsisters had mixed and stirred, and made a wish as they added their own special final ingredient.  They were sure Nigella would understand. For good measure, they added extra chocolate and a lot of Amaretto. Just in case he noticed any undertaste. He’d watched far too many Agatha Christies to let that go without hilarious comment and tapping of his little grey cells.

Together, they made tea, gathered plates and cutlery onto trays, and lifting the gooey chocolaty comforter, headed for the tv room.

Dad loved it. He gorged on it, taking great drunken handfuls. His chocolate fudgy hands trying to grab the Stepsisters or their mother, any one, he didn’t care. Oh he was a happy man as he fell asleep in front of Tiger King.

The women were gutted and regrouped in the kitchen with the gin and the rest of the chocolate stash.  “Well, it’s for the best really.  I mean, you didn’t really want to kill him, did you?” said Ella cheerily as she broke out another bottle.  Stepsister No.2 was rereading her ceramic glaze book.  “But it says here it’s terribly poisonous. He should have been in agony by now. Maybe we just didn’t use enough.” She took one of her own brightly coloured earthenware bowls, poured it half full of gin, and went in face first. Ella looked on her quite lovingly. Really this Stepfamily wasn’t half bad.  

After the Lockdown, the women opened the castle as a hotel. Nothing boutique or fancy, more a bed and breakfast with dinner sort of a place. Occasionally some guest would mention the whole Covid thing, mention the loss of a loved one before their time. The women would agree, and tell of their own experience – that awful coughing and long long weeks of waiting.

Mostly people just wanted to move on and forget about it though, and have another slice of that delicious, comforting chocolate cake of Nigella’s that featured on every single review.

……………………..

This short tale popped into my head last week, when Nigella’s chocolate fudge cake was filling my social media feed as I read a Guardian report on the femicide numbers under Covid lockdown. Always like for my Cinders variations to have their revenge.

The picture was obviously inspired by Aubrey Beardsley – the exhibition is in lockdown, but there is a short Tate film of the curators talking which is better than nowt.

A Russian Doll, who was probably Greek

two vintage fabric dolls heads on a tiled background. They are felt heads, with immaculate hair and hats, very French looking
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/RomanticLovelyOldies

For those who know me, or my work, I am quite sure it shall come as no surprise that there always was a Doll.  Not just any old doll.  Dolls of great importance.  Lately I have been thinking about The Russian Doll, as my family called her, but was not strictly accurate. Like many of my family’s naming and explaining, there was always more to it than fact. By which I am not saying things were total untruths, just detours for the sake of a story, and to link to a time and a place.

The Russian Doll wasn’t a doll.  By which I mean I was not allowed to play with her. From when I can remember, she stood on my bedroom window sill, until later when I had a dressing table, and she stood on there, leaning against the mirror.  Tall, elegant, a little haughty.  On top of her head, she balanced a basket.  She had one hand up as though to steady it, I think, but her gaze made it clear that she didn’t need to hold it.  She just looked good that way.

Dressed in faded rose silks, full long skirt in layers, shawls and aprons, everything was edged with tiny silver coins. She was exquisitely made up – pale pink cheeks, rosebud lips, finely drawn soaring eyebrows.  Her expression backed up Mum’s command. Don’t touch. She is not a toy.

Not being a toy meant she was handled with care and fascination.  Not being a toy meant she was confiscated if she was found to be in amongst the rough and tumble of the rest of the dolls and rabbits.  Yes, rabbits.  I still have two of them. One Mum made that was supposed to be a nightdress case, with a big flowery skirt and matching ears, called Rosey. I didn’t like her flat, un-nightdressed, so she was stuffed instead, to maintain maximum cuddleability.  The zip along the size of her lower round half, the now not necessary nightdress access, served as a very good hiding place for contraband.  But I digress.

When I finally left home (as in took more than just the paratrooper boots I wore come rain or shine, and leather jacket that was usually on my back), she stayed on the dressing table. She was not for the great unwashed of the shared houses and patchouli oil.

As I moved around, she grew older, and was disinclined to move.  She stayed on the dressing table, which was now in my Mum’s room. I’d talk to her every Christmas, pop in and say ‘hello’ when I visited.

Finally I had my own home, and with great glee, my parents loaded a large van of everything that was mine, and promptly set about filling the space with more books, videos and computer parts.

And this is where it gets hazy.  I can only picture the Russian Doll on the dressing table.  And then one day, many years later, she just wasn’t there.

Mum said ‘oh she was so old – she fell apart’.

Mum said….  but is that another of my family’s stories.  Did she come to live with me, and did I break the rules, play with her.  Did she start dancing all night, ditch her basket, and then, did she leave home? Trade in her silver coins and head off, back to the Balkans and down to Greece?  I do hope so.

So why now am I thinking of her, you ask?  Well,  she just appeared in my head as I was painting one of my mermaids. The  colour palette and her face.  I suddenly recognised her in what I was doing. Of course, I do not have a picture of the Russian Doll, but we have the World Wide Web.  And I’ve found her sisters.

And now I really must get on as I do have other things that I’d better be doing.  I am taking part in the Etsy Made Local Christmas market at Canterbury’s Westgate Hall this weekend, and have mer-angels to finish. And I have a dog to walk, who is waiting not so patiently for me to finish this, sort out the washing, light the fire – he has just fixed me with a look. We walk now.

 

 

 

 

Avocado’s Fork and Bind-Weed’s Sting

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“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Avocado’s fork and bind-weed’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble”
Shakespeare’s Song of the Witches bubbled unbidden into my brain whilst stirring this dark tale, albeit slightly altered.  This stitched story belongs to the Fairy GM, that Big Bad Fairy that still is not finished, and will form the binds that tie the poor little Lost Children of the F1 Hybrid That Never Grow True.
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As a gardener, you might be forgiven for thinking I spend quite enough time fighting Bindweed, without making more, but I am as ever, contrary.  This year has not been such a good one for Calystegia sepium. Its smothering progress has been slower than usual, as has just about everything that I actually did want to grow. The Fairy GM meanwhile has been drumming her fingers impatiently, waiting for attention.  I was going to say she had been tapping her toes impatiently, but she doesn’t have any yet.  To be honest, they don’t really feature in her overall design. Neither do feet. Or legs. Only Bindweed.
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The brew is made from avocado pits, and produces a wonderful pink dye. I foresee a week of mostly eating avocados, whilst I continue with the Fairy GM’s “charm of powerful trouble”.
East Kent Artists Open Houses continue 26th and 27th October, and 3rd and 4th November.
Come and visit, or the Lost Children of the F1 Hybrids will visit you.

Down the Rabbit Hole again!

Blinkers on! here we go….

down the rabbit hole

 

East Kent Artists’ Open Houses open in three weekends, and I need to shut myself away in the studio and draw and stitch and create.

I am House No.27 this year. A rather good sounding number, which has led me to the spectacularly time wasting pursuit of Googling; a terrific displacement activity for such a busy time.

It is indeed a satisfying number, and is a perfect cube. According to Wikipedia, “there are exactly 27 straight lines on a smooth cubic surface, which give a basis of the fundamental representation of the E6 Lie algebra, being 33 = 3 × 3 × 3. 27 is also 23 (see tetration). 27 is also a decagonal number. ”

I did look up decagonal number, but my brain caved in, and has gone off chasing dragons. 

Back to the loveliness of 27.  It is the first composite number not divisible by any of its digits, and is the only positive integer that is 3 times the sum of its digits.  27 contains the decimal digits 2 and 7, and is the result of adding together the integers from 2 to 7 (2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 = 27). See, how satisfying is that? and did you know that? Bet you didn’t.

The next chunk of Wikipedia’s bullet points are strangely attractive to look at, with all sorts of wonderful words, of which I have achieved no useful understanding.

“In a prime reciprocal magic square of the multiples of 1/7, the magic constant is 27. In the Collatz conjecture (aka the “3n + 1 conjecture”) a starting value of 27 requires 111 steps to reach 1, many more than any lower number. The unique simple formally real Jordan algebra, the exceptional Jordan algebra of self-adjoint 3 by 3 matrices of quaternions, is 27-dimensional.[2] In base 10, it is a Smith number[3] and a Harshad number.[4] It is the twenty-eighth (and twenty-ninth) digit in π. (3.141592653589793238462643383279…). If you start counting with 0 it is one of few known self-locating strings in pi. There are 27 sporadic groups, if the Tits group is included.”

I rather like the sound of the quaternions, which from a very swift superficial glance, appear to be quite naughty and not play by the rules. I wonder if the Fairy GM has an army of quaternions to do her bidding.

Alice, I like to think, would have very much enjoyed testing out all these words and numbers while tumbling down the rabbit hole.  I can hear her in my head repeating them aloud, and changing them as she falls, whilst Dina, (her cat, surely you knew that?) puts her paws over her ears in disbelief at such random disrespect for learning.

However, Alice may not have been quite so amused as I am by the existence of the Tits Group.  Being the co-founder of the Profanity Embroidery Group I am very happy to see tits in algebra, even if it is the name of a mathematician.

We must of course not ignore the Stupid Club. All those wonderful musicians who messily end their careers aged 27.  So my listening shall be made up mostly of Gram Parsons, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. There will be some Nirvana thrown in (it was after all Kurt Cobain’s mum who said ‘he’s gone and joined the stupid club’ on hearing of his fate). What else? well, Sex Pistols for Sid, the Stones for Brian Jones, even some Hole for Kristen Pfaff, topped off with Amy Winehouse.  I shall be watched whilst doing so with my collection of Stupid Club prints by  Sadie Hennessy.  Editions of 27, for £27, obvs.

A blue phase will colour my work these next few weeks – cobalt blue – which has the atomic number of, you guessed, 27.

Best fact of all: 27% of the Universe is thought to be made up of Dark Matter.

And now I have to go, because it turns out I do not have 27 days until Open House. And that is rather worrying. Wonder if the Dark Matter will help.

 

East Kent Open Houses takes place on 20th and 21st October, 27th and 28th October, and 3rd and 4th November 2018.  Houses open 11am to 5pm.

dolly was lost

 

 

A Whitstable Tail

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So here we are, back at the beginning.  Why am I called Whistable Tail? I was asked the other day.  Well, it all began with a story, about the Street. “I didn’t know that” was the reply, and I thought, yes, I haven’t told the story for a long, long time, and so I shall now tell you the Whitstable Tail.

 

Yesterday as the rain almost concealed the sea from view, The Street began to appear.  Some people say this is a naturally occurring shingle spit, and some have said it could be the remains of a Roman harbour. I can tell you it is neither. The truth was whispered to me one day by the sea, when I was watching for mermaids; but I cannot tell you who by.  You wouldn’t believe me anyway.

The Street, that winding magical path that leads you out into the sea for a good quarter of a mile, tides lapping at either side, waves crossing in front of you as you walk, was built by a Boy.

Once upon a time you see, there was a boy with rather large feet.  He lived in Whitstable, and all his family worked on the sea.  His father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather, great-great-great-grandfather, all way way back across hundreds of years, were all fishermen. His mother, her sisters, and their aunts, could all dive and swim and pick up oysters – knowing those that were good to eat and those that would have a nice fat pearl.  The family was at one with the water. They lived in and on the sea as though they were part of it. All of them, except for the Boy with the big feet.

Its not that he didn’t try. He just couldn’t swim. His feet stayed firmly on the ground. He could feel the tree roots grow, knew when the bulbs were starting to wake up, when the soil was ready to push the seeds into sprouting. But he didn’t understand the sea.

He spent hours and hours watching the sea. Sitting there, just round the corner from all the boats and fishing and swimming.  He often felt as though he was being watched back,  which surprisingly didn’t bother him.  In the same way he knew the ground was alive, he knew the sea was alive.  He loved the sea, and had no fear.  But he couldn’t so much as dip in a toe.

One day as he sat watching the sea, keeping his feet out of the way of his working family, the sense of being watched back made he toes curl. His hat sprung up from the back of his head where his hair stood shock upright. He waited, expecting a touch at any moment. None came, but something had changed. He knew now it wasn’t the sea watching him, it was someone.

The family, always working though they were, noticed a change in the Boy.  He spent even more time down at the shore, just around the corner. He walked with more of a bounce, and his feet did not seem anywhere near so heavy.  He’d always been the most lovely of lads, amiable and helpful, but nowadays, well, he just shone with a happy glow.  Funnily enough though, he wasn’t anywhere near so helpful.  He was suddenly very very busy.

His brothers called to him to help launch their boat, but he didn’t come.  His father called for him to help land the catch, but he didn’t come.  They were not cross, just surprised.  He said he was ‘building something’. And certainly he was covered in sand and mud, and barnacles – which was quite odd. They were attaching themselves to the edges of his prodigious extremities in little clusters. He was often followed around by a bunch of crabs and lobsters too. Equally muddy and sandy, they were dragging large swathes of seaweed about as though moving it from one place to another. The family saw all this, and thought how wonderful that the Boy was making friends, although it might lead to problems at dinner time.

Years passed, and life on the Whitstable coast continued as it had for the past hundred years or so, with little or no change.  The Boy grew, and his feet stayed pretty much in the same proportion to his body they always had.  The family saw less and less of him, but he was clearly very happy, and they were just so busy. He was no longer followed around by a raggle taggle band of sea creatures, they had all gone back to minding their own business, scrabbling around on their pereopods, and the family thought this was probably for the best.

A visitor to the town, in search of fine oysters, asked the busy family one day who were the people standing so far out in the sea, and what was that rocky road that had led them there.  The family stopped working and exchanged the most fleeting of glances. The sound of pennies falling from great heights was a cheerful tinkle all along the beach. “Ahem, hurrumph, ahhhh  – well”, said the Grand-Father, “its a naturally occurring shingle spit, which some people think could be the remains of a Roman harbour”.

The visitor commented on the fact that he’d never noticed it before. “Its only visible at low tide” said the Father. “Here, have these oysters for your tea, lovely fat ones, have them, as a gift”.  The visitor, greedy for his tea and not quite believing his luck, scadaddled pretty damn quick.

The family put down the tools of their trade, and walked around the corner.  Sure enough, there was the Boy, far out to sea, at the end of a huge winding stone and sand and seaweed street. And he was not alone. He was sitting talking to a girl. And they were holding hands, and looking into each others eyes.  And he had his feet in the water, and she was resting her scaly green tail across them, tickling his toes with her fins.

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Well, well, said the family.  They all waved and cheered to the Boy and his Mermaid, and all smiled and hugged Great-Great-Grandfather, who had just arrived on the shore pushing Great-Great-Grandmother in a heavy old bathchair, just a whisp of aged fin showing from beneath her blanket wraps.

History has a funny old way of repeating itself.

A4 tail to print 72

 

 

Beware the Slump

Larger than life soft sculpture based on Alice in Wonderland, wearing a pink dress and flamingo, photographed during the Made in Whitstable Arts Crafts & Vintage Trail for the Oyster Festival 2018, with Annie Taylor and another large doll visible in the next room

The Slump is a large dark sludgy green seven legged and nine armed creature, with three eyes on the end of stalks rather like a snail’s.  It has a large spiny tail, which is leaves straggling out all over the place – it just cannot be bothered with tucking it out of the way. You’ll only fall over it anyway, so why bother.

Hugging itself tightly in the corner,  the Slump looks big and scary and slimy. Its not. Not if you don’t let it be so…

The Slump is a miserable old friend that visits immediately after an exhibition. After a deadline has been worked towards, and all stops pulled out.  After the ‘phew, we did it’ and the momentary self congratulation; then comes the Slump.  And here it is, fully formed, hogging my studio, with several of its legs and its tail flopping down the wobbly ladder right into the rest of the house. There is no avoiding it.

Pushing past it this morning to grab items for an ‘activity bag’ as I’m looking after my friend’s studio/gallery, I stood there and huffed at my half made creations. The urgency has gone.  Maybe I’ll just eat all day and jab at Instagram, and look at all the wonderful things other people are making, and feel even more miserable: this is how the Slump works.

So instead, I’m naming and shaming the Slump.  Ok, so I’m on my third bag of crisps, but I’m keeping the Slump at bay. I’m sharing my snacks with it, and offering it a part in one of my stories.  Its not so bad really, its actually quite cuddly.  Maybe it can keep an eye on the gallery while I forage for some more food.

 

Never mind the saved nine, one stitch would be a good start

And that’s it in a nutshell. That sort of a week.  Here there and everywhere, apart from in my studio.  A few stitches were managed last night whilst glued to Black Mirror, but it is not ideal viewing for stitching as you do really need to pay attention, and I’m stitching the words on the Sleepy Princess’s story, so I have to pay attention to that too. And yes I know I should have been up in the studio focusing, not watching the box, but the focus just wasn’t there.  It isn’t here either. Too much time on the laptop doing admin; too much thinking about what needs to be done; no free space in the mind.

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Which makes it sound as though I have been doing nothing – I haven’t, honest.  I have been very busy. And that is the problem, right there.  But hey, we have to eat.

Talking of eating, The Engineer has just volunteered to go out for chocolate biscuits. Can’t sew with chocolatey fingers either.  It really is just one of those weeks. Oh yes, my printed fabric arrived, and it looks great.  Just rather a lot of other stitching before I can start on that… and definitely not with biscuity fingers.

Time & Tails

Ten past six and finally I am sitting down in my studio to ‘get on with it’.  In my head, by now, I would have done the washing, shopping, dog walking, cleaning, hours ago, and made several large dolls and embroidered a mermaid. In reality, I have managed just enough shopping so we can eat tonight; started the washing but need to hang it out and not leave it crumpled in the laundry basket; and walked 2 dogs: both very opinionated and of a Greta Garbo persuasion, ie “I vant to be alone”. One of these caused me to pretend to be a commando and hide below the cow parsley whilst calling to her sotto voice to come back from Hole No.11 on the golf course, where she was busy doing that round and round sniffing which usually leads to something else.

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The ‘to do’ list has no ticks.  It was supposed to be an admin day.  No wonder nothing is ticked off.

Instead, I’ve had an idea.  It is prompted by conversations with two friends, and in encouraging them in their endeavours, I decided to remind myself that two years ago, or whenever it was, that I started this blog, it has hardly become a habit.

Instagram has.  I try to post something each day, more or less.  So why not try to do a slightly bigger post, here. It is exactly the sort of advice I would give to one of my friends, but when I tell myself such things, do I listen? Of course not.  So I am putting it in writing. For the next thirty days, I am going to try and post something every day. There I’ve said it.

Call it ‘artists pages’, call it a load of woffle, call it displacement activity….. doesn’t matter. I shall do it and see where I end up.  Whether it helps me focus, and capture ideas before they float off out the window, or indeed whether I spent time staring at a blank screen and achieve even less.

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And I need to stop now, as I have to be somewhere in eight minutes.  So let me cogitate: the one constructive thing about today was the thinking and looking during the dog walks. I loved the delicate flowers of the cow parsley against the grey sky.  Round here it can get pretty big. New buildings are being cultivated where the cow parsley grew biggest of all, Giant Hogweed size, and I like to think of this Dead-Man’s Flourish pushing up through the new house floors.

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The dog roses are opening and dropping their petals all in one move, which mean’s it is time for Sleeping Beauty to find the old woman with the spindle. One of the nearby properties is wrapped in scaffolding and plastic, maybe up there the wicked fairy sits. Maybe it isn’t a spindle this time, but a nail gun. Or maybe she catches herself on the barbed wire, whilst going, as is ever the way in a fairy tale, where she been forbidden.

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The bindweed is slithering around the nettles, and the Russian Vine is snaking around itself for now, gathering strength.  Soon both will be engaged in a race for total hedgerow domination.  What happens when they meet? Or have they already agreed a boundary line, for I can see neither one in each other’s patch.  The suffocating Fairy GM of Convolvulus in still unfinished in my studio and now I realise she is waiting for her the strangulating Fairy Fallopia Baldschuanica to catch her up.  Also known as mile-a-minute, we shall not be waiting long.

So what do I do with these latest stories. I’ve recorded them here, and that will have to do. Enough for Day 1 at any rate.

 

 

 

Books of Wonder

around swam a host of tiny mermaids, illustration by alice e newby from 1920s

Now, once upon a time there was a little girl – who lots of people thought was a little boy because she didn’t have much hair and was always dressed in her brother’s cast-off clothes, and in fact, the only reason the family were lucky enough to live in their lovely home was because the old witch who owned it had wanted a family with two boys to live there after her. She came back to visit most bossily and was very cross to discover this was not the case; fortunately by then her powers had grown weak and she couldn’t do anything about it apart from insist the little girl gave her thick powdered face a kiss. Which was terrifying. Afterward the little girl flew down the garden being as loud and fast an aeroplane as she could imagine. But I digress…

Wonder Book, image of cover of vintage book

The little girl’s mother had all these wonderful books when she was a child, and having an inherent hoarder gene (not too big a one to constitute a real problem mind you) she had kept them, even after they got soaking wet in Great Aunt Vera’s loft. These books lived happily in a rather Gothic sideboard with glass doors locked with a very tiny special key. Inside the cupboard were little figurines, and a silver shoe and a tiny horseshoe (from a wedding cake) and a really monstrous china water lilly and a  small chipped blue and white china teaset.  If the little girl was VERY good, or rather poorly, the little key was turned, and out came the magical contents.

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The pictures in the books were of fairies and mermaids, of umbrellas turning into turkeys, and rabbits that were princes. Later, when the little girl finally mastered the art of reading – and lets face it, she’s never really got the hang of spelling – she was able to read the stories that matched the pictures.  And such good stories they were. Some were rather long, it must be said, but over the next half century, she eventually read them all.
Really it is no wonder at all that instead of algebraic formulas and logical mathematical models or an understanding of the laws of physics, for example, my head is full of fairytales.  ‘Cos yes, of course, the little girl was me.
photo of two little girls
So much of my head is ‘elsewhere’ that when indulging in online displacement activity the other day,  I shared the most delightful little picture by Alice E Newby.  My brain obviously was trying to get my attention, but it was not until I was asleep that it succeeded in telling me to look in Mum’s Wonder Books.  For when I acquired my own home, with proper book shelves (built by my Dad), I was given guardianship of the Books.
The shelves in which I now delve are the offspring of those built by Dad, in another home, in another town, put up by The Engineer. For no apparent reason other than nostalgia, I pick up the Favourite Wonder Book, and that is the morning gone.  Then I turn to the Wonder Book, and sure enough, there is my picture. The Story is Far-Away and Far-Beyond.  Two Kingdoms separated by a long stretch of sea.  In the past, the islands had been friendly, but times changed.  In the time of telling, King Longbeard of Far-Away was very old and short-tempered with everyone apart from his granddaughter.  The King of Far-Beyond was long since dead, and two bad uncles had been trying to get rid of the little prince, take control and seize Far-Away.  Fortunately the fish (and the mermaids) intervened, and once again, everyone Lived Happily Ever After.  Apart from the uncles, who never did find tails to fit.

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Isn’t the brain a wonderful thing?

ps. the colouring in was done by my mum as a little girl