Posts

Extra Large Turkey

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Let's talk about Christmas. Come on. Let's just do it. It's lurking there in our peripheral vision, drooping and thirsty, like an end-of-the-line tree losing all its needles and baubles. I was in an ASDA yesterday for the big shop, and while Halloween was still the headline, Christmas was there in its mass-produced shadow, desperate to burst out and flounce around on centre stage, like it does. There were selection boxes, cut-price mega bottles of spirits, bags of chocolate sprouts. I spotted a couple of reindeer, a few santas, a twinkle of tinsel. And there, in the frozen aisle, the depressing sight of engorged turkey carcasses piled on top of each other, straining against their shrink-wrap. It's beginning to look a lot like the holidays are coming and the weather outside is frightful. The problem is, its not just the weather that looks bad.It's going to be a tough festive season. Tomorrow is Halloween and I've already seen multiple houses in the neighborhood …

Gabriel Hounds

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A dearth of animal encounters yesterday, largely because I have started a new job and so am chained to my computer and confined to my study. I considered squeezing out a blog-post about the computer mouse (why is it a mouse? What's up with that?), but I doubt anyone really wanted that, least of all me. So, instead, I used Microsoft Excel to help me generate a random number and turned to page 227 of the Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, as featured in a former post. I landed upon 'Gabriel Hounds', who are deadly cryptids from British mythology who visit the houses of sick people as a sign of imminent death. I therefore present to you this prose-poem thing about the work ethic of these death-beasts and their boss. Views entirely my own.
Gabriel Hounds
They say hell hath truly arrived when the hounds need a spreadsheet. When they lope up to Gabriel, tails between legs, and implore him to download Excel.Hell hath truly arrived when Gabriel, normally so supercilious, concedes to…

The Toad's Leg Will Keep You Safe

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A rare outing last night to have a substantial meal with some alcohol and a bit of time among some art. We took ourselves down to HOME, Manchester's latest arts hub success story, the evolution of the legendary Cornerhouse cinema. Usually a place buzzing like the proverbial Manchester bee, now just doing the best it can in spite of everything. They've managed to get their theatre and cinema programmes up and running again, and they have the luxury of a spacious restaurant and bar for their lockdown-approved food provision. We were there, predominantly, to scoot around their art gallery, which has reopened with a new exhibition this weekend. It is a triptych of three solo exhibitions united by their use of illustration and their themes relevant to the current situation: Mike S Redmond and Faye Coral Johnson's Bubbling Pitch - a series of feverish and lively dream-like sketches, Joy Yamusangie's Blue Glass Fortunes - a striking exploration of the Congolese diaspora in mo…

Storytelling Animals

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Last night I concluded a series of Creative Writing workshops designed for autistic adults. It's something I had planned to get going in the Spring and was originally supposed to take place at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. I had Funding, I had Plans, I had Dreams. And then, whoops, someone coughed and everyone caught a Pandemic. Such is life. With a PhD to finish, I put the series on the back-burner for a while and then resurrected it online-wise for October. What a total joy it was. I had a contingent of nine participants who threw themselves into the exercises I set with great enthusiasm and focus. I was worried that my instructions would be too confusing or too neurotypical (whatever that means, eh?), but we all seemed to gel really well. I always set aside time at the end of each session for the writers to share what they'd written if they wanted to. MY GOD, they are a talented bunch. I was frequently delighted and astonished at their beautiful words and their p…

Cemetery Squirrels and Graveside Jays

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Half an hour's run away from our house lies the UK's largest municipal cemetery, the Southern Cemetery in Chorlton. It is a vast place, with graves and tombs as far as the eye can see, ranging from your fanciest granite obelisks and mausoleums guarded by stone angels, to unmarked paupers plots. There are a few famous folks buried here, including Manchester's favourite artist LS Lowry, Manchester's favourite record producer Tony Wilson, and Manchester's favourite football manager Sir Matt Busby. Basically, anyone who Manchester claims as their own tends to end up in Southern Cemetery and, to be fair, its not a bad place to wait out one's deathly eternity. It is also an excellent spot for an autumnal stroll given the abundance of trees, so we met a friend there yesterday and crunched our way through the carpet of leaves.Hannah and I have a bit of thing for cemeteries. We often include a visit to interesting ones on trips abroad and my desktop background is still …

Afraid of a Rabbit

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Frozen, shoulders pressed together, they stared, watching the spot of hillside across the brook where the grass moved, watching something unseen move slowly across the bright green hill, chilling the sunlight and the dancing little brook. "What is it?" Eleanor said in a breath, and Theodora put a strong hand on her wrist."It's gone," Theodora said clearly, and the sun came back and it was warm again. "It was a rabbit," Theodora said.~ The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson, p. 54This is, perhaps, the first apparition in The Haunting of Hill House; a rabbit, according to the rash and bohemian Theodora, although we don't see the creature, just its wake as it moves the grass. The two women shake it off, but the moment lingers, their first taste of the weird thrill-fear that this lopsided house will continue to bring down upon them. I read page 54, and most of the other pages of the novel, in breathless thrill yesterday, while my own rabbit Finch…

Viral Animals

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Sometimes I wonder if animals were invented to save us from the Internet. Or, more gloomily, to entice us to stay on the Internet. Because, whatever else this trickster demon of world wide interconnectivity brings us, we'll always have cute pics and vids of creatures to ease the pains. My Twitter feed is a doomscroll of angry political opinions, desperate good-hearted folks raging against various dying lights, men being absolute dicks to women, natural and unnatural disasters, and lots and lots of talented people publishing amazing books while my own effort languishes somewhere in an ambiguous void. But, like jewels, out pop various wholesome images of adorable animals doing adorable things. I added one such to Instagram this morning, catching Marble and Finch in a pleasingly photogenic pose. And on the whole this is amazing and lovely and wonderful, and rarely fails to raise a smile. But sometimes I wonder. What is this abundance of animal cutesyness doing to our psyche in relati…