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‘Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try. No hell below us, Above us only sky . . . ‘ John Lennon.

John Lennon was right.  It is easy to imagine—once someone has already put the idea into your head . . .

I started a new course at Sketchbook Skool three weeks ago—‘Imagining‘.  A couple of days into it and I was already struggling.  What I long feared to be the case was actually proving to be true—I have no imagination.  Put something in front of me and I can draw it.  Give me a topic to research and I can write about it.  Put a picture in my head and I can see it.  But ask me to come up with something all of my own . . . that’s a whole other story . . .

I have always admired people with vivid imaginations.  People who can visualise something in their mind and reproduce it in the real world.  William Blake said, “What is now proved was once only imagined” and he was right.  All the books, music, movies, art, buildings, science, technology and medical advances we have today—all dreamt up first in someone’s imagination.  At only 16 years old Albert Einstein imagined himself riding alongside beam of light to “see” what the effects would be.  It’s just as well no-one was relying on me to come up with that notion . . .

Imagine a life without imagination though.  That’s not so easy, even for me.  What would it be like I wonder, to live without any trace of visual imagination?  To be unable to see daydreams. To be unable to conjure up the faces of your friends or family, or visualize scenes and characters in books you are reading?  I recently discovered that there are certain people for whom this is the norm.  These people have what is known as Aphantasia. They cannot—are physically unable—to summon up mental images—at all  It’s as if their mind’s eye is completely blind.  Mmmmm.  Perhaps I need to rethink my own self-diagnosis.

As you may have guessed I have never been an airy-fairy, day-dreaming, head-in-the-clouds kind of girl but perhaps that is because I have never really given myself the time or space (or permission) to be so.  Maybe I have spent too much time dealing with what is and not enough time thinking about the what could be.  I rarely just ‘play’ with my pencils and paints just for the fun of it (it seems a little bit wasteful when there was no end product in sight) and I don’t recall the last time I ever tried to write anything creative like a poem or a short story (possibly not since I was in school—way back in the dark ages.)  Perhaps imagination is like a muscle and if it doesn’t get exercised (like a number of my other bits I could name right now, but won’t) it gets flabby and discouraged and refuses to cooperate.  Sigh.

Okay then.  I have talked about it and thought about it and it doesn’t seem like there is going to be any kind of quick fix (and even I can’t convince myself I suffer from aphantasia—believe me, I’ve tried!) so I guess it is something I am just going to have to work at.  So I am going to go back into my SBS classroom now and hunker down and do some of the homework I have been studiously avoiding for the last couple of weeks.  (Draw a feeling?  How the hell do I draw a feeling? . . . )  

I have to start believing that somewhere deep (deep, deep) inside me there must be some little kernel of imagination that I can tap into and begin to draw out little by little.

Wish me luck . . .

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.’ Stephen King.

I have just had a trailer pop up on my computer screen for a remake of the movie based on the Stephen King novel ‘It’.  Now I love Stephen King’s books (although the man is obviously seriously strange) and I read this book many years ago.  I remember it as being very long (over 1000 pages), descriptive, convoluted, and, as you would expect, incredibly creepy.  I also remember that the villain of the book liked to show up dressed as a clown . . .

Stephen King obviously knows his business.  Clowns are weird—that’s a given.  I don’t remember ever being actually full-on freaked out by a clown (not even in the book—sorry Stephen) but I do understand why some people might be.  I mean, they really are a bit ‘off’ aren’t they?  Familiar maybe—but not quite right.  And it’s not just me that thinks so—a quick conversation in the college this morning today confirmed it.  A lot of people think clowns are down-right disturbing.  And it starts early.  Various studies over the years have found that many children really don’t like clowns either.  One study went as far as to say they were ‘universally disliked’.  (Whoever came up with ‘Ronald MacDonald’ possibly never read this study.)

I assume people aren’t born having a clown-phobia (or are they?) so you would think that some sort of traumatic event in childhood concerning a clown would have to occur to bring on such dislike or a fear of them, but that can’t always be the case, can it?  (Everyone in our college who doesn’t like clowns was traumatised by one as a child??  I doubt it.)  I certainly don’t recall any such clown-trauma happening to me, but I still don’t like them.  I wonder why that is?  Maybe it’s as simple as just not being able to ‘read’ them like we can other people.  Clowns’ facial expressions are fixed (and exaggerated) so it’s near impossible to gauge their true feelings.

(And, on a personal note, I worry about people who smile too much.  Honestly, can you ever really trust anyone who smiles all the time?  (Tom Cruise are you listening?)) 

The history of clowns is long and fascinating, but here is a quick snapshot.  Court ‘jesters’ may not have worn the floppy shoes and a red noses of today but they were often the only ones around who could laugh at and ridicule the monarch and his court without fear of losing their heads (literally).  Over the years these jesters evolved into harlequins.  The harlequins were more theatrical—morally bankrupt pranksters who travelled extensively and wore strange costumes and masks.  Many also became mimes as this meant they had no need to learn the languages of the countries they visited.  (Silent, masked and freakishly dressed—nothing to worry about here folks . . . )

It was during the 19th century that the colourful, friendly, white-faced clowns we recognise today started to gain popularity.  These clowns performed mainly for children and were meant to make us laugh.  And for the most part they did.  Until, somewhere along the line someone said, “You know, clowns kind of freak me out” and lo-and-behold movies like ‘Funland’, ‘Poltergeist’ and ‘Killer Clowns from Outer Space’ (and of course the original ‘It’) were born.  If ever you had the tiniest reservation about how you felt about clowns any of these movies would have been enough to send you into full blown coulrophobia.

So, now I have you all thinking about killer clowns—how many of you are going to watch the new ‘It’ movie?

Me?  No way.  Not at the cinema anyway.  I am much braver reading horror books than I am watching horror movies.  I will probably wait until it (ha . . . ‘It’ . . .  see what I did there?) comes on the telly.  Even then it will probably be on very late at night and I’ll actually have to record it so I can watch it in the full light of the next day . . . along with a big glass (or three) of wine, the ‘pause’ button of the remote at the ready, and my own little killer dogs close by to protect me . . .

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Come cuddle close in daddy’s coat Beside the fire so bright, And hear about the fairy folk That wander in the night.’ Robert Bird.

Earlier this week I was at the park with the girls and had let them off their leads for a while so they could go exploring.  While they were pottering happily about I stood in a sunny patch of late afternoon sun, looking at the water, not thinking much about anything, until I gradually became aware that someone was standing in front of me, laughing and waving their hands in front of my face.  “Sorry,”  I said, “I didn’t see you there.  I was away with the fairies . . . ”

This is an expression I have long used when (rudely) brought back to reality from some internal mental wandering.  I am not sure when I first heard the phrase or even when I started saying it myself, and I am also sure I never thought much about where the saying came from either—until I recently came across a book which gave me a whole new insight into the mythology, and superstition, of fairies.

fairy1Fairies have never really been on my radar.  I have always loved fantasy books and films but even as a young girl (when young girls are supposed to like these things) I don’t remember being particularly fond of fairies. At least not the type that were around when I was growing up. Those fairies were all delicate gossamer wings and flowers in their hair and danced about mushrooms at the bottom of your garden.  Not really my thing.  (I prefer my fantasy Middle Earth style—with warrior elves and dragons and goblins.  I am a LOTR tragic and make no apologies for it . . . )

But then I read ‘The Good People‘  by Hannah Kent.  This book, based on a true story from 19th century Ireland, tells of three women, a disabled child and a village steeped in folklore and superstition. The fairies (‘the good people’) of this story were as unlike J.M. Barrie’s ‘Tinkerbell’ as anyone could imagine.  They were respected, revered—and feared.  The local villagers believed, beyond doubt, about a nether world populated by all manner of other-worldly creatures, and fairy abduction—the snatching of a healthy infant from its cradle and leaving a ‘changeling’ in its place—was a thing to be feared and protected against at all costs.  Those poor stolen babies were remembered by their kin as being ‘away with the fairies’ . . .

It’s fascinating stuff, and the book is a step back to a time and place few of us can now imagine.  So, if you are looking for a good read—a serious, haunting, bleak, compelling read—this might be well worth your time.

But be warned—you may never think of ‘faerie folk’ the same way again.  I shall certainly think twice about describing myself as sometimes being ‘away with the fairies’.

I now find myself a little more anxious now about what I might meet on the other side . . .

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.’ Brad Paisley.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I like this idea—that every day we are all writing another page of our very own book (although we are three days into this new year already and my own book is looking pretty empty so far.  I might have to get off my bum and do something about that . . . )

What kind of book will you write for yourself this year?

A drama?  A comedy?  A romance?  An adventure?  All of the above?   . . .

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Posted by on January 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.’ (Groucho Marx)

I have always loved books.  As a child I don’t remember spending a lot of time playing with dolls or toys (or other kids for that matter) but I do remember always being able to put my hands on a book.  Mum and Dad weren’t great readers themselves but once they realized they had bred a brood of readers they always made sure there were books available to us.  Books were standard fare for birthdays and Christmas and ‘just because’ presents.

I loved the feel of books and the smell of books, as well as the words they carried. So much so that I didn’t just borrow books, read them and pass them on—oh no—I bought my own, treasured copies of them.  Hundreds of them.  Over the years I stacked them on shelves, on tables, behind doors and under beds.  I built towers of them leaning up against walls (my dogs soon learned to give these leaning towers a wide berth!).  When I was younger and constantly travelling my suitcases were most likely to be carrying more books than were necessary and less clothes than I actually needed.  When I moved house crates and crates of books went with me.  I admit it—I was personally responsible for the doom of thousands and thousands of trees.  And then a couple of years ago I decided enough was enough—I was drowning in books.

I am not quite sure what brought it on (possibly one of those mad ideas we get occasionally about downsizing or simplifying our lives) but I psyched myself up, clenched my teeth and set to culling, and, after a week or so of feverish packing in boxes, I eventually gave away the vast bulk of my beloved books to the local Rotary sale.

As the poor man who had come to collect them staggered out of the door with the last load I remember feeling very relieved and really proud of myself—for about an hour.  Then I went into what can only be called ‘withdrawal’.  I was in a cold sweat for days wondering whether I should have given away this book or that book and constantly asking myself ‘What on earth was I thinking?’  I even had to take an alternative route to work so I wouldn’t see the sign for the book sale and break down and go in and buy more books—probably even buy back some of the books I had just given away!

But I held fast.  It took a while but gradually I started to enjoy the extra space I had in the house.  I had room to rearrange my other things, move furniture around—and, an unforeseen perk—there was suddenly much less dusting to do!

But it wasn’t all that easy.  I swear my palms would actually itch as I put my head down and forced myself to walk past bookshops because I knew I just couldn’t go in and browse—I would have to buy something.  Just one small book couldn’t hurt—oh, this one looks really good—heard this one is great.  Nope.  Just couldn’t risk it.

And I managed to keep that up for a long, long time. And then one day my friend showed me her ‘Kindle’.

Being a rabid book lover, I do get it when people say reading from an e-reader is ‘just not the same’.  They don’t have that special unique physicality of a book; the dog-eared pages and scribbles in the margins, the booky smell, the creaky spines and loose raggedy pages of a much loved favorite read, but (and here is me finally stepping into the 21st century) honestly—what’s not to like about a small, lightweight device that will fit in my handbag; that I can shop for directly online (while sitting at home in a favourite chair with a nice glass of red beside me) and have my choice of books (or samples of them) downloaded directly to me within minutes of buying.

AND—this was the clincher for me—my kindle (yes, of course I bought one!) can hold up to 3,000 books!  If they were real books I would have to move to a larger house.  Oh oh—I can feel my palms starting to itch again . . .

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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