The London Invisibles Salon is collecting submissions for a zine responding to The Invisibles. In the 25 years since Grant Morrison’s comic was first published, it’s inspired and influenced people. We’re looking for personal responses to the book:
How has the book inspired you and changed your life?
What adventures and interesting people has it led you to?
How you feel about the comic now? Has it stood the test of time?
If someone discovers the book now, what should they do next?
We are looking for pieces of 100-500 words, on “How I became invisible” for a print zine that will be published in the Autumn. We will also be publishing a PDF/Kindle version that will be sent to all contributors.
We don’t want this zine to be simply an exercise in nostalgia. It’s an opportunity to show how some present day counter-cultures that connect back to the book.
Deadline – We need your submissions at email@example.com by midnight UK time on Monday August 31st 2020. We are open to longer contributions too, but please get in touch with us first.
The zine will be published on November 23rd. Keep an eye on invisibles.orbific.com for the latest information. It is being produced by the Invisibles re-reading forum, and the London Invisibles Salon.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve helped out with a project called Rhymewave, which finally launched a few weeks back. Rhymewave is an online rhyming dictionary, the brainchild of rapper Jon Clarke. It takes a different angle to a lot of rhyming dictionaries, helping to craft interesting multi-syllabic lines.
I’ve known Jon for a few years via Poets vs MCs, as well as seeing some stunning performances from him at Slipjam B and with his current band Sombras. He’s one of the most creative and surprising rappers I’ve seen. He also appeared with Professor Elemental and Dizraeli on one of my favourite hip-hop tracks, Graveyard Shifts, about the Bear Road Cemetery:
Jon first approached me as he was looking to put his rhyming dictionary into an app. I suggested that he take a different approach – apps are expensive and frustrating and it’s hard to get people to spend time with them. We decided to focus on the original aim of producing a website.
One of the reasons I thought Jon should put this up quickly and for free was to give lots of people the chance to use it. Looking at the site’s analytics, there are clusters of users in countries I’d never thought about in relation to hip-hop. Some of them are using the tool to help with pronunciation, but I hope they are also inspired to start writing lyrics.
The best thing about the project is that it is a true labour of love. Jon has been collecting words over years. The dictionary includes specifically local terms too (North Laine, Lewes Road), reflecting bits of Jon’s own life. As Jon said in an interview, ”A word can be a signpost to a world you never knew.”
One of the things I love about hip-hop is the connections it builds. An artwork from out of New York has spread across the world, mutating and shifting. I’m excited about what new, unexpected turns this project will take in the future.
I’ve always been a little jealous of people with the time and location to collect Munros and Wainwrights. All the interesting climbs in Britain are some distance from the south coast. The chalk geology of Sussex does not lead to exciting peaks – the highest point is a mere 280m, at Blackdown. I mean, it’s better than Essex (highest point 147m) or Norfolk (103m), but it’s not much.
In November 2017, the Brighton Urban Ramblers did a City Three Peaks, but they went for steepest streets rather than highest points, picking Dyke Road, Preston Drove, and Southover Street. Still, there are high points in Sussex, which means they can be collected.
There is a list of Brighton Hills in Tim Carder’s Encylopedia of Brighton which is reproduced on My Brighton and Hove, although the heights are given in feet. Taking an arbitrary cut-off at 100m, the ‘peaks’ within the borough are:
645 Bullock Hill, Woodingdean
584 Hollingbury, Patcham
580 Holt Hill, Patcham
534 Falmer Hill, off Falmer Road
531 near Pudding Bag Wood, StanmerPark
510 Varncombe Hill, Patcham
509 The Bostle, Woodingdean
503 Heath Hill, Woodingdean
485 Tegdown Hill, Patcham
476 on Ditchling Road south of Old Boat Corner
463 Race Hill, by Bear Road
435 Scare Hill, Patcham
430 in Stanmer Great Wood
430 Red Hill, Westdene
427 Sweet Hill, Patcham
417 Race Hill, by the Race Stands
417 Telscombe Tye, Saltdean
411 at Balsdean Reservoir
410 Ewebottom Hill, Patcham
398 High Hill, Balsdean
396 Whitehawk Hill, Brighton
387 Coney Hill, Westdene
367 Mount Pleasant, Woodingdean
355 on Dyke Road Avenue, near Dyke Road Place
352 Red Hill, Roedean
334 Tenant Hill, Saltdean
That is a lot of hills. I decided that a better starting point would be the trig pillars, since they should have good views and account for Topographic prominence. There is an excellent database of trigpoints at trigpointing.uk, which includes all the trig points around Brighton. Some of these are listed as destroyed, but are still useful target locations. Their catalogue of Brighton trig points includes 6 pillars:
I’m going to take this as the starting point for my ‘Brighton Peak bagging’, although it makes sense to expand this into the wider Brighton Downs – using the arbitrary definition of the area covered by Dave Bang’s book A Freedom to Roam Guide to the Brighton Downs. This would expand the area to cover Beeding Hill through to Lewes, also including the north slope of Clayton Hill and Ditchling Beacon. So far, I’ve done one of the trig points, now I just need to divide the others into a few sensible routes.
Anyone interested in joining me for a session of Brighton peak-bagging?
This is my 100th day of social distancing, and the 93rd day since the government placed the country under full lockdown.
Back at the start of 2020, I couldn’t imagine something like this lockdown happening. I remember January, driving down the M1 and listening to the news from China, with no thought that it would ever affect me. Now, one in a thousand people have died in Britain, and the economy has been placed under massive pressure. We look to be facing a harder recession than after the financial crash of 2008, the effects of which are still being felt, particularly by people in their twenties.
The number of coronavirus infections has finally fallen to pre-lockdown levels, but it’s a disquieting time. The country can’t sustain further lockdowns without devastating economic effects; but the contradiction between the sternness of late May’s rules and the current anything-goes feel is confusing and stressful.
Yesterday, the government annouced that it was opening the country up and ending the daily briefings. It’s hard not to see the end of the briefings as a way of evading scrutiny. The daily statistics will still be released but government ministers will no longer respond to them. In some ways, the briefing were a problem for the government – it was a place for grand announcements, but also one where they could be held to account. So many of the early causes for optimism has turned out to have little behind them – there was no plan to use the massive numbers of NHS volunteers, the Nightingale hospitals were not needed, and the much-vaunted ventilator schemes were quietly forgotten.
Coronavirus is no less frightening than it was in March. In fact, given what we know about the long-term effects, it’s probably worse. A friend of mine came down with the virus in April. They are still incredibly ill, as they described in an article for the Huffington post. Reading about the effects on a significant numbers of sufferers is terrifying, and we have no idea if these people will ever recover. About 30,000 people might be suffering “long-tail” effects, as well as others whose lungs are permanently scarred. I am certainly very cautious about being exposed to the virus.
As scared as I am, I personally can’t sustain lockdown indefinitely. Being in a social bubble with my friends Rosy and Olive has massively improved my quality of life. I’ve not taken advantage of all the freedoms I have now, but I need to start socialising more (although it won’t be in pubs, as the pub of the future does not sound much fun). The question is how to socialise safely. I’m trying to be cautious rather than scared – there was a lot of talk of how the Cummings incident would lead to a second spike, but none of the pessimistic scenarios of the last few months have occurred – so far.
I’m very lucky, in that lockdown has been far less stressful for me than it has been for most people. Even so, it’s been hard, and I dread a Winter lockdown. But, while the weather is good, I need to get outside, and start doing more socially distant walks. It’s too easy to take the excuse to sit indoors. It’s time to rejoin the world, carefully, and get out of the lockdown mindset.
The birdsong seems so loud these days. I’m particularly noticing it in zoom calls. Zoom does some fairly clever things with audio, and I wonder if this is a side-effect?
The world continues to be strange. This week I received a £25 rebate on my car insurance as so few people are claiming. It’s very welcome, but it’s odd.
This month, the price of oil turned negative. Vice had a couple of good articles on this: a good explainer, and a discussion of whether buying an oil tanker to take advantage of this would work. It’s a fascinating story, showing how the futures market does indeed involve actual real things – which traders came very close to taking possession of.
A beautiful quote from a recent Rebecca Solnit article: The philosopher-mystic Simone Weil once wrote to a faraway friend: “Let us love this distance, which is thoroughly woven with friendship, since those who do not love each other are not separated.”
“Remember the banana bread era? An age of innocence, when we still thought lockdown was going to be like a wet half-term in an Enid Blyton book” – Jess Cartner-Morley
One of the local hairdressers seems to have transformed into a greengrocers. A sign of the times, but I welcome having more options for fresh food.
Another sign of ingenuity – on a conference call this week, a colleague showed us their system of mirrors, placed in the garden to angle sunlight into their office.
Nick Caves transformation into spiritual leader continues with this lovely recent piece of writing on prayer: A Prayer to Who?
Busy day today, including running a workshop. Off to bed now to get a good night’s sleep, ready for tomorrow’s virtual session with Slow Yoga Club.
There is a stunning sequence in the middle of M. Night Shyamalan’s otherwise disappointing film, The Happening. A family are fleeing an horrific end-of-the-world scenario and seek shelter at a remote farmhouse. The owner says she is happy to offer hospitality, but refuses to be told anything about what is taking place. It’s strange and disturbing to see the urgency of the film paused by the interlude, and this has stuck with me ever since.
Last night, I stayed in a remote shepherd’s hut. I’d told the hosts I was social distancing, which they were fine with, and I have avoided being too close to anyone while hiking. I’ve skipped the news, and will catch up on Monday night (although I asked a friend to tell me if there was anything I needed to know). It’s been good to have this interlude.
My walk home was lovely, and far more relaxed than yesterday’s stomp across the downs. Walking on the promenade, it seemed like a normal summer’s day, lots of people out strolling. I guess a lot of people are not so into social distancing.
I arrived home, had a bath, and have been relaxing otherwise. I followed Ben Graham’s recommendation and watched the first couple of episodes of Britannia. I’ve done some writing, and mostly been disconnected from the networks. I now have a good list of activities planned, including learning Mill’s Mess. I originally took up juggling 26 years ago so I could do that trick, but never got round to it.
It’s been good not to think too much about events, but there are still shocks when I think of the enormity of what’s happening. I guess the coronavirus is one of Timothy Morton’s hyperobjects, impossible to hold in mind in its entirety. As overwhelming as this is, I want to maintain focus on my life, and to make that as rich as possible.
Today was, of course, Mother’s Day, and it’s been bittersweer. We’d originally planned to take my Mum for a pub lunch. This was downgraded to a dinner at my sister’s. On Monday, I asked my sister if she thought I should cancel given the current situation, but we decided to hold off a decision. By Tuesday it was obvious that my parents are in strict isolation for the foreseeable future. They’re taking their seclusion very well, but it must be difficult. Sorry I couldn’t be there today, Mum.
No plank today, again, because I walked 90,000 steps this weekend. Back to planks tomorrow though.
On March 15th 2018, I’m holding a Brighton launch for my ebook, Famous for 15 People. It takes place at Brighton’s Regency Town House, and features performances from me, Rosy Carrick and Chris Parkinson. Tickets are available online and cost a mere £4. There’s even a bar at the venue.
Many of the stories had their origin on the Sussex university creative writing MA, where I first met Chris and Rosy. I’ll perform a couple of regular pieces, as well as some multi-media performances that I’ve only done once before. There will also be some microfictions; and I’m going to talk a little about why ebooks are so exciting as a way for people to share their writing.
I describe Famous… as a ‘mixtape’. It contains short stories (some very short!) and non-fiction written over the last ten years. The title comes from a quote from the artist Momus that I love. I’m pleased to have made a home for all these stories.
The book actually came out in May last year, but I got distracted by work and other events, so the launch never happened. I am the worst self-promoter ever – as you can also tell by the fact I’ve got multimedia performances I loved that have only been performed once.
In an infinite multiverse, there are an infinite number of ways for the world to end. Some are tragic – and some are silly. On one sad earth, it was sentient bathtubs that did it; a world reduced to a charnel house by plumbing that came to life. News anchors wept as much from the indignity as from the doom. The last human was glad when it was all over.
(For over ten years, Ellen de Vries and I have run Not for the Faint-Hearted, a workshop where people have three minutes to write a story prompted by a picture. This is a story I wrote in a recent session, lightly edited)
The Cheeky Walk ‘Walking with Werewolves’ has an exciting premise. It’s intended as a night-time stroll, best carried out at full moon. Since full moon only happens once a month, this required planning ahead. By the time Friday arrived the weather wasn’t looking good, but we’d made an arrangement and we would stick to it.
Lela and I met up with Romi and Katharine in Firle’s Ram Inn. With darkening, gloomy skies, the place had a slight Slaughtered Lamb feel. This ambience was worsened by the creepy sticker in one of the parked vehicles. Who thinks that sort of thing is funny rather than disturbing?
After a quick drink, we set off through Firle’s deserted high street and were soon in the countryside. A narrow path went up onto the ridge of the Downs, joining the South Downs way. Climbing up to the hilltop, rain whipping and bitter wind, it occurred that this walk is another that might be improved by waiting until later in the year. It was still fun to be wandering about in the countryside by torchlight. It reminded me of the days when I’d sneak out of school at night to explore.
Given that it was raining, the moon was hidden behind clouds. Apparently the effect of moonlight on chalky downland paths is quite something, but we will have to take the guidebook’s word for it. The views were still pretty good, with the night-time world moving below us. And, of course, the i360 back in Brighton, for the first time a welcome sight, pin-pointing where we’d come from.
The walk was pretty tiring – a few points we weren’t sure if we had overshot the route and needed to check it on google maps. We did find the two stony humps said to be bishops who lost an argument with some witches.
We didn’t see any werewolves, but there was a creepy moment when a car approached us on the muddy coach lane. We stepped to the sides and waited, and the car stopped and reversed away once more.
Another fun walk, and actually pretty tiring. I want to do more night-hiking!
Ernest Journal is one of my favourite magazines. It describes itself as being “for curious and adventurous people”. Recent issues have featured ghost villages, numbers stations, some amazing travel features, and Queen’s Brian May writing on Victorian Diableries. The most recent issue, number four, includes writing by me about the Antarctic explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard. The magazine also smells truly excellent, which is an important consideration for paper-based goods.
The piece came about through meeting the editor, Jo Keeling, when I was speaking at Wilderness Festival last August. Jo was running the Odditorium, the venue where I spoke. Nervous before my performance, rather than have an actual conversation, I told Jo at great length about Cherry-Garrard. Instead of making excuses to get away, Jo invited me to write an article about it. I sent her a slightly strange outline and she said she I should go ahead with it.
I first heard about Cherry-Garrard through a friend’s recommendation. I ended up reading his book, TheWorst Journey in the World, among a lot of Antarctic literature for my MA dissertation (I read about a dozen books for this, which ended up as a mere 2 pages of the final text). The Worst Journey refers, not to Scott’s fatal mission, but to the miserable trek that Cherry-Garrard engaged in with two companions.
It’s strange to think that most of Cherry-Garrard’s reputation rests upon a single section of his work, where he describes the stubborn fortitude with which he and his companions faced the grim, unrelenting cold – just to collect a couple of penguin’s eggs, needed to support an evolutionary theory that was dismissed without needing his sacrifice.
My article was particularly inspired by the work of Sara Wheeler. As well as writing a biography of Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Wheeler has written an account of her own time in Antarctica, Terra Incognito. It’s a powerful, emotional book, as well as being incredibly funny in places.
I’m currently working on my next article which will be about… something odd and unrelated. And I love that there are places like Ernest with spaces for this sort of writing. My piece sits alongside an article on modern reproductions of Shackleton’s clothing (featuring a rather grisly fact) and a guide to wild butchery (“Remove skin and store away – you can use it to make a rug later”).
Ernest 4 is amazing and is available here – and if you’re in Brighton, the magazine shop on Trafalgar Street should have copies.