Category Archives: Creative

Seasonal silliness

My idea, Tom’s art, my mangling of a poem. Whatever you’re doing today, I hope it goes well for you. It’s not my festival, it may not be yours either. It can be a tough day for people who are alone, missing someone or otherwise struggling. I can’t offer much, but I can bring silliness, so here we are.


The Feral Haus Spaus – a story

It isn’t real folklore. It isn’t even real language, but the feral haus spaus isn’t one to fret over conventions. You find them in the garden, wild birds are eating grain from their outstretched hand. At once, you are struck by their loveliness. So sweet a face, such bright eyes, a glow of health in their skin and a lively, playful quality in their demeanor.

Of course the haus spaus is in part what you wanted them to be. Husband or wife, or partner, according to your desires. They know that about you, and it is part of their innate magic. 

“It will rain soon,” says the haus spaus. Their voice is warm and soothing. “Best get the laundry in now.” You will be grateful to them in a few minutes, when the safe delivery of your laundry under your roof coincides with the first patter of rain. You do not remember hanging laundry out to dry, but perhaps that does not matter.

Mostly, they are in the garden. They plant flowers, and the weeds grow in profusion. Not only do they feed the wild birds, but also the badgers, who go on to dig up your lawn, but you don’t mind. It’s hard to resist the feral haus spaus.

They bring you dirty vegetables, fresh from the ground and nothing else has ever tasted so good. There is bounty in their open hands. Wild bees take up residence in your attic. Sometimes an owl stands on your roof to hoot. You find ivy growing on the inside of your home and you are not quite sure how this happened, but the feral haus spaus likes the ivy, so you leave it alone and soon there’s a robin living in it and it sings to you, early in the morning.

You forget to go to work. You forget even that you had a job. Trees grow in your garden. Your front door sprouts leaves. The postman no longer delivers anything. You forget about the postman. There’s not much reason to leave the house now, you have so much bounty from the garden. Where would you go, anyway? Why would you go?

The feral haus spaus patches your clothing with spider webs and dried grass stems. You are never too cold. Sometimes there are moths in your hair. You laugh a great deal, but you do not know why sometimes. The haus spaus smiles at you, and life is good.

By the time your home turns into a tree, your blood relations will not remember that you existed. Sometimes children come to play in the garden. Their clothes seem strange to you, their talk is full of words you do not know. The feral haus spaus smiles at you and tells you that everything is fine.

(Prompted by a meme about how the existence of the domestic housewife implies the existence of a feral one.)


Queen of the needle – poem

Prick me, and I will bleed

My wounds stay open

Skin bloodstained

The damage painted

For easy viewing.

Break open my skin

For my own good

Apparently.

Test me

Test me

Test me again.

What am I?

Why do I bleed

Still?

What is wrong

That I do not heal?

Stab me with your solutions

Solving nothing.

Investigate me 

Down to the bone

Under the microscope

You find no answers

I am still bleeding.

An illness with no name

No diagnosis

No reality.

A being without explanation

May as well be a fairy

For all the good it will do.

Stab me again

As though this time

It could be different.

(art by Dr Abbey. Text by me, and I don’t heal injuries made with steel easily, which causes me all kinds of difficulty around conventional medicine. )


The Winter Queen – fiction

Are we lucky?
The Winter Queen smiled at me.
We have time to pray for…
I cannot hear the last word.
Then she cried and cried.

I love this image by Dr Abbey, and the text that goes with it suggests so much. So, I’m sharing this one without additional content from me.


Half Human – fiction

It is a half human.
Half female.
Perfect prayer to make balance.
No bad, No good, JUST exist.

Do you see me? Do you see my otherness, my difference, or is what speaks to you the parts of me that are resonant, similar? Can you forgive my non-human half in recognition of the ways in which we are akin? Only half human, only half female, can you make that be enough?

How generous of you!

And you wonder why I do not rejoice.

Where is the being who can look at me and see wholeness, not fragments? Who is the person for whom I too would seem fully a person? Can you look at my many parts and see perfection? For I am whole in myself, I am true and real, and not a creature of pieces. My facets are not brokenness, this is not contradiction, it is a completeness that your apparent humanness cannot embrace.

I do not want your pity.

Don’t bring me kindness and tell me you understand how hard it must be for me.

Bring me the wild wonder of recognising my existence.

(First text piece and art by Dr Abbey)


Fiction in lockdown

On the whole I was not super-productive during lockdown. I was highly stressed and anxious and my concentration during those long bouts of not being allowed to see people, was dire. However, I’ve been self employed for most of my adult life, so I already know how to work from home and how to manage myself without any external input. Things like getting dressed and remembering to move about weren’t so hard for me, so in some ways I had a better time of it than many.

During the first lockdown, I accidentally wrote a book. I didn’t set out to write a book, not least because I never imagined we’d be locked down for so long. But, I wanted something to focus on and to share with friends, and so the Wherefore project was born. In the first few months of UK lockdown I recorded three episodes a week for youtube – with support and input from friends who both offered ideas and responded to what I’d put out.

As lockdown eased, I kept going, dropping from three episodes a week to one or two. By the summer there was a book’s worth of material, but I hadn’t run out of ideas. Which was as well as we went into winter lockdown and I needed to distract myself. 

As a result I now have three books worth of material – silly and speculative fiction set around the Stroud area. I’ve just finished the third series. I may well do more episodes here and there but I’m not going to continue doing them regularly as there’s just too much else I need to be working on.

You can find all 3 series on youtube, and I’ve got pdf versions of series one and two – the third pdf will be along as soon as I can get it sorted.

Series 1 https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLd-6bmI3UuPDjEp1YqIYY6GkVTmG-1qux

https://ko-fi.com/s/2241a51430

Series 2 https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLd-6bmI3UuPAxwnLOB4MzVJwba0wavMYG

https://ko-fi.com/s/1eb07c4561

Series 3 https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLd-6bmI3UuPDMpi5gY_L1KRrzTQDnQMhp


Art with my ancestors

One of the things I do is to colour comics pages for the Hopeless Maine graphic novel series I do with Tom. Above is a work in progress – we start each chapter with a two page spread. Until now I’ve been doing them with pencils, but am now exploring a mix of pencils and oil pastels.

Pastels are better for colour intensity and covering large areas of paper – especially for land, sea and sky. Pencils are better for details. I can mix the two and get away with it. The oil pastels I’m using belonged to my grandmother. As I was working on this piece I realised that my sea and rocks look very much like her sea and rocks.

For the first twenty years of my life, I regularly spent time watching my grandmother creating art. She mostly did landscapes, seascapes and skyscapes. She was obsessed with tall ships, which I’m not. However, it clearly isn’t a coincidence that I feel most comfortable using oil pastels, and most confident when I’m doing images of land, sea and sky. My grandmother avoided architecture and technology, she tended to avoid people and still life as well. Of necessity, I’ve had to learn how to colour people – I like fabric but honestly faces still scare me. I’ve learned a lot from Dr Abbey about how to handle skin tones and that’s really helped.

We all learn from our families, we all have things passed down to us from our ancestors. Sometimes it’s obvious – but not always. It’s only this week that I’ve thought about the impact it had on me watching my grandmother make art, and just how much I learned from that experience.


Beauty or death – fiction

Beauty or dead.

Doll or human.

Her face is marble smooth. No traces of those imperfections that speak of life and humanity. She could well be a doll. She might be loaded with botox and carved to lifelessness by the cosmetic surgeon’s blade. Equally, that waxy perfection might speak of death and careful preservation.

Life, after all, is messy. Her dress is vibrant, but anyone can put clothes on a doll. Fashion is not proof of life. Look closer and you will see five hundred feathers, each carefully attached to give colour to her costume. It does not seem likely that this bounty came from living birds. You wonder how much of a market there is, killing beauty to profit from the plumage.

You think about the softness of skin that wrinkles with time and use. The way pores open and close in a living face, and changing patterns of blood flow give away mood and emotion. Her pallid features will not flush with desire or embarrassment. She will not sweat in a hot room, or become flushed and undignified from too much alcohol. You will not find a stray hair growing from her chin, or a childhood scar on her forehead.

Still you cannot tell, is she a doll, or is she alive? You try to read her eyes, which are too large and too bright. But even so, you think there is something in her gaze that speaks of longing.

Does she envy your marked flesh? Can those perfect, glassy eyes see the marks that time has left on you? Does she know that your humanity is written in those countless tiny signs? And you, in your living skin with every story time has etched upon you, are more beautiful by far than she could ever be.

(Art and prompt by Dr Abbey.)


How to become a hero

In the beginning you were just like everyone else. Your sorrow was not remarkable, your setbacks were not the things of legends.  Your hopes were no more ambitious than those of other people. Not at first. It is, after all, very much in the nature of the young to dream and aspire and determine to remake the world in their own image. Even though most do no such thing.

To become a hero is to become the person to whom others attach their longings and hopes. You become the one who can triumph in their place. They imagine that your glory will, in part also be their glory. Sometimes it means they help you. Sometimes they become angry instead and seek to tear you down for being what they longed for but never dared to try.

Always, they bring their own stories and paint them on to you. Over and over. Each new thing you do becomes exaggerated, distorted, sometimes entirely re-written. Your life is no longer the thing of your making – you are what they say you are. Slowly, all sense of yourself is lost to the layers of other people’s hopes and expectations. Other people’s bitterness and resentment.

You are no longer a person like them.

You do not recognise your own face any more when you see it in reflections. Your face frightens you, and you try not to look at it too often.

In the beginning, you wanted to be the hero of the story. You were young, and hopeful. You are carrying so much now that it is heavy and hard. Now and then, you see how the young people look at you, as though you are the system they must overthrow. You are the monstrous tyrant they must take down to remake the world in their image.

(Collaboration with Dr Abbey, who provided the art.)


The crane wife – a poem

The crane wife

Knows herself perfectly, 

Cannot tell if she is human

Or crane.

Transcends these ways of being

Entirely and only herself.

Knows her feminine soul,

Desirous of egg and man,

Not crane or baby.

Walks between worlds

Loves without compromise

Kills when she must.

She is not here

To help you make sense

Of the world.

She is not a parable to guide you

These are not answers

To your unvoiced question.

You are not a crane wife

And must find your own truth.


(Based on a true story about a crane – you can find that over here https://kottke.org/18/08/my-crane-wife )