A weekend away

I spent the weekend with my friends Katharine, Rob and Caroline in Canterbury. We booked an Airbnb place, which worked out pretty well. We had our own space rather than rooms in some grubby guest house. Canterbury is full of medieval charm and noisy drunks. The Canterbury Tales Experience was actually pretty good and the cathedral was impressive.

Katharine and I ate Saturday breakfast in Herne Bay, which was beautiful – I want to go back there in Summer. We also visited Margate on Sunday to see the Shell Grotto and the Turner Gallery. I was pretty excited to learn there was a Jeremy Deller show on at the Turner, English Magic. That was an impressive way to end the holiday.

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This incredible origami artwork was by Esther Dreher
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Herne Bay 

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This panel from the Shell Grotto is said to be an image of Ganesh

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Signs to the Jeremy Deller exhibition 

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The Internet is Haunted

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On Friday night I gave a talk at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne as part of their Ghost Worlds event. The night was inspired by both Mexican Day of the Dead and Halloween, featuring performance, music, crafts and a spoken word area.

The original talk, was part of a digital festival event and leant heavily on Ian Vincent’s research on Slenderman. This version was longer, and had more emphasis on Slenderman as a meme, and the way in which memes could be dangerous. I looked at examples of images and art that have harmed people, including fictional examples like Basilisks and The King in Yellow; and real ones like Slenderman and Gloomy Sunday. Or, possibly, the dangers of researching Statistical Mechanics:

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The best real-life example that I learned about was the McCullough Effect – which I find too disturbing to try for myself.

I enjoyed being in a gallery after hours as well as catching up with some old friends; Tara Gould read a creepy ghost story, which ended just as you realised what awful things were about to happen; and Umi Sinha did a great telling of WW Jacob’s The Monkey’s Paw

I enjoyed giving the talk and wish I had more opportunity to do things like this, but I’m not sure where the audience is for such things. I could certainly have talked for much longer about the subject.

Where to publish your stories?

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On Thursday 25th I was involved in Flash-Fiction cinema with my friends Amy and Chris. The main feature of the night was a series of filmed short stories that had been sent in; and Chris and I each gave a talk about new types of fiction.

I spoke about Creepypasta, Slenderman, and the way truth and fiction merge. Writing the talk was interesting, provoking nightmares and night-terrors for several nights. Chris’s talk was about online hoaxes as storytelling, something he has quite a reputation for.

We learned about the Bicholim Conflict, an entire conflict that was faked on wikipedia, lasting five years before being discovered. Chris also revealed a hoax of his that I hadn’t heard about. Check out the wikitravel article for Shoreham-on-Sea, archived from November 2012. Notice anything strange? This lay unaltered for about 18 months. At one point, the Lovely Brothers excitedly showed Chris this strange thing they’d found.

At the end of his talk, Chris urged the audience, “Leave your stories lying around in unorthodox, unethical locations,” pointing out that his quick hoaxes had gained larger audiences than his self-published collections. Maybe people should embrace this new genre, flinging stories into the world to see which take root.

 

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Glastonbury 2014 Photos

Glastonbury 2014 was a mud year, but I had more fun there than any time since the 90s’. I caught up with some friends and failed to find others. I danced in a bar run by skeletons. I was overcharged for mediocre food. I saw excellent gigs by the Alabama 3, Manic Street Preachers and Kate Tempest. I watched Michael Portillo dancing in the Glade area on Sunday afternoon.

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The weekend also sparked all sort of pretentious thoughts about psychogeography, Guy Debord and Unitary Urbanism. Not sure when I’ll get chance, but I’ll write them up one day.

Jet-lag and transitions

In William Gibson’s novel, Pattern Recognition, the main character says that jet-lag is waiting for the soul to catch up after a flight. I could check, but my copy of Pattern Recognition (if I still have one) is in a box somewhere. I could look online, but I don’t have broadband.

I set off from the hotel in Kochi, South India, at 1:30am on Saturday – 8pm on Friday GMT. I only slept a little on the flight to Dubai then had a dash through the airport to make the connection, led through corridors and on buses to the gate. It was my eighth visit to Dubai and the first time I’ve stepped outside. The flight to Gatwick was seven or so hours that dragged on and on. I watched Day of the Doctor and the combination of tiredness and travel left me teary. England provided a disappointing welcome, aggressive police greeting the plane and an expensive train ticket home.

After nineteen-hours’ travel I arrived at my flat about three; it would’ve been sooner if I’d not walked via the West Pier. I was jetlagged and useless, pottering through the rooms. I moved in less than 48-hours before my flight to India and had only spent a single night here. I’ve been living in single rooms and have few pieces of furniture. Boxes of books take up very little space.

I have no idea how I will fill this space. I quickly realised I needed a thing by the door to put things on – keys, bike lights and so on. And I have so many places to hide odds-and-ends – a cupboard with travel items, a drawer of cables. My possessions have been squeezed into such small spaces and I can feel myself expand.

But jet-lag. I roamed the house, unpacked my rucksack, unpacked a box, took a bath, watched Donnie Darko, fell asleep about six. Woke at one. I might have some adjusting to do. So I’ve tidied a few things up, unpacked the boxes of ‘useful things’. My sprits were lifted by the Indelicates Podcast with Michael James Parker. I remember seeing Julia and Simon Indelicate and MJP perform together years ago at the Komedia, all under different names. Back then, I didn’t even get that the night’s name was a reference to Howl.

This is the first home I’ve had to myself since Coventry, and the first place I’ve lived with the expectation of staying for years. Everything feels different. Having a stable base, even one without little furniture, makes me feel calmer. A lot of worries have vanished and I’m looking forward to seeing what other worries turn up in their place. I have more space in my head and my life now and I wonder what will fill it.

2010: pretty good year

There’s a danger of end-of-year blog posts turning into a litany of achievements, like a CV or a nightmare round-robin letter, so I’ll try to be brief. 2010 was an amazing year and one which saw a lot of changes.

The biggest event was my holiday in India. I saw some stunning places but even more valuable was having space to think outside of my normal environment. The other night I was re-reading my travel journals and I could see myself changing throughout the course of the trip. For many reasons, my time in India was one of the highlights of my life and I am planning another trip early next year.

After India I spent about 4 months living in Derbyshire, working on my novel. Swansong was hard work but I am very pleased with the results. The themes of the book touched on some difficult aspects of my childhood and it was good to reconsider those.

Other than the novel I worked on lots of short stories. Two highlights were having a 25 word story Rapunzel published in Hint Fiction and In the Night Supermarket… published in Black Static as part of the Campaign for Real Fear.

In July I came back to Brighton. I love this city and the magical things that happen here: zombie walks, tea parties in the pavilion gardens, White Night, crazy drunk clownsBoxing Day swims and so on. I’m feeling very settled here, more than I have in a long time.

One thing that hasn’t gone so well is the running. I ran 600 miles in 2009, but last year I managed about 400. Injuries dogged me, stopping me from entering the Brighton marathon. Thanks to a great physio I am now back in training and have my sights set on the 2011 Brighton Marathon. I also entered the Santa Dash for the 4th time.

2010 has been an amazing year and one that has seen many positive changes. Part of that has been due to twitter which has led to me meeting some wonderful people in real life. I am now very excited about what 2011 will bring.