Monday, 30 September 2013

GiGi and the Cat; The Rosebud Garden of Girls

Dear Emily,

A draft of Chapter 2 for you to look at...

'I am here at the gate, alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
and the musk of the roses blown' 
                                                                                                           Tennyson- Maud

THE SCENT filled GiGi's nostrils once more- and looking around at the many rose bushes, it now made some sense to attribute it as a musk. Yes, thought GiGi, a musk from the roses. But, surely there weren't so many roses usually? Again, she was unable to remember what things were like usually- or to begin to think about what 'usual' might be. It was as though if she had a thought that tried to remember, those thoughts were like a slippery fishes that jumped out of her brain, and straight through her fingers as she tried to catch them.
"Perhaps I should see the garden better" said GiGi to herself, "If I could get to the top of the Down, and- here's the path that leads straight to it- at least, no, it doesn't do that-" (after a few hundred yards down the path, and turning several sharp corners.) "Well, this turn must go to the Down I suppose- No! It doesn't- this goes straight back to the house. Well then, I shall try the other way." And so she did, wandering up and down, and trying turn after turn, but always coming back to the house, do whatever she would.
"It's no use talking about it," GiGi said, looking up at the house, and pretending it was arguing with her. 'I'm not going in again yet. Yes I know I should be straight in to the Bored Meeting, but that would put an end to all these misadventures!"
There was nothing to be done but start again- and there was the Down in full sight, and almost at once she came upon a large flower bed, filled it seemed with a border of daisies, and a tall Lily swaying gracefully in the breeze.
The Lily smiled and waved to her whilst continuing some work. She seemed to be putting all the daisies into little pots which were set up on tables- at least that's the best way GiGi could describe it- as she had by now ceased to try to make usual sense out of her thoughts. At which moment, a 'slippery-fish thought' regarding a black cat refused to be caught, and was interrupted by a voice as gentle as a whisper...
"Have you seen her?" It was the lovely Lily, turning to GiGi as she plucked and arranged the little daisies who seemed to chatter incessantly as she worked. "I rather think you have. She's up there again in the clouds, and she doesn't look well at all, poor dear. She is positively ghostly and pale and white. We all said so, didn't we girls?" Lily pointed to the sky back down the lane, and GiGi watched as the roses became girls- dancing up the lane, giggling and squabbling as they advanced. As she stood there, they circled her, but paid her no attention. GiGi tried to hear what was being said, it was all incomprehensible at first as they fluttered around her in their airy dresses, the breeze catching long floating hair, and skipping feet swirled around her. Presently she began to decipher some words from the giggling, bickering chatter.
"In my opinion, you never think at all!" said one Rose in a very severe tone.
" I never saw anyone that looked stupider" responded another.
GiGi decided there wasn't anything to be gained by listening to this, and turned back to Lily who was still waiting patiently for a response.
"Over there-up there- in the air- or at the gate, someone once said that they saw her there. We knew her once, we did you know! It was the exercise what did it, so now she's up there, and trying to get back in- poor thing!" Lily's voice trailed away, as the dancing roses surrounded them both and the chatter and giggling overcame the gentle tinkling voice. The rosebud girls all pointed with Lily, and the dancing circle then broke up and scattered across the Down, and GiGi looked at where Lily and the Roses had pointed to.
Above a large tree, the sky was returning the sunset. In the lilacs, mauves, pinks and blues, the clouds were transparent- and seemed to make pictures. GiGi made out a figure. She recognised it as a glimpse she had thought she had seen earlier. The woman was transparent,and dressed in white. GiGi was struck by her eyes, GiGi somehow felt they were friends, and had the strong impression that the woman  needed something from her.

In the next instant, it seemed she had disappeared. The tree and the sky and the house lay in front of her, and some kind of wilderness behind.

She started to wonder about the Cat's whereabouts...

Sleep tight my lovely,

Your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxx

Monday, 23 September 2013

GiGi and the Cat- Mrs Cameraman's House

Dearest Emily,

Chapter One

'My dust would hear her and beat;
Had I lain for a century dead,
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red'

"ONE thing was certain" said GiGi, half to herself, and half to the black cat, who was prowling around the garden perimeter for the umpteenth time that day. "That, my little Guard-Cat, is that we do, actually,
live here in 'Heaven on Earth'".

The cat stopped, and eyed the ball of knitting thread which had dropped from GiGi's lap, which she promptly caught up and resumed her train of thought along with the clicking of her needles...

"You see, Storm my prettiness, quite simply, I know that this is true."

Storm did not display any physical sign of attitude towards anything that had been said.

"Two years ago Storm, I was walking along the Causeway at sunset. The sky was all Halloween Orange and Chimney Red- yes Storm I do know that is a Tom Wait lyric, so what? It fits."

The cat proceeded to walk across her lap, making knitting progress somewhat difficult. 

"As I said" she stroked the cat's chin " It was then barely a month from the Move, and I was struck, Storm, quite simply struck, by the beauty around me. The magnificence of the sunset over the Mill-pond, and the diamond-like sparkles dancing across the water quite took my breath away, and I just had to ring Grumpa and tell him."

Storm flicked his left ear, and took leave of GiGi's lap.

"I said that it was quite possible that I had in fact died, and gone to heaven!"

Grumpa hadn't disagreed, or challenged this notion, therefore GiGi had concluded that she was in fact, on the right track. It could be said, that even if he had disagreed, she may have believed that she was on the right track. But there we have it; GiGi thinks she is right, and that is that.

The cat merely flicked an ear, and set off for a bit of a prowl.

"And" she went on "What is more- ALL of my Paying Guests- without exception, say that with such a view to behold, and such a lovely spot, that I 'must think I've died and gone to heaven'. See, Storm, so there you are. It simply must be so".

Satisfied with her theory, she dropped her work, and settled back against the wall, closing her eyes in the warmth of the late afternoon September sunshine. It had been a busy day, and now all the Museum visitors had gone and she was waiting for the Bored Meeting that evening. Really, she should have been doing some cleaning, but a little rest could not do any harm.

"Do you know the name for this rather lovely weather, Storm? It is called an 'Indian Summer'."

The cat approached her, and then spied a dog- and abruptly turned tail to quite deliberately cross its path, and with an arched back and hissing sounds- saw both dog and owner return back from whence they came.

"Leave the poor dogs alone Storm- it really is NOT a very nice way to behave. Do you realise that your attitude has meant that several local dog-owners now get into their cars, just to drive their lovelies to the beach, rather than cross your rather cantankerous path? It would really be so much more agreeable Storm, if you didn't deliberately wind them up don't you think? Anyway, as I was saying, this is what is called an Indian Summer- Mr Guard-Cat, and with luck if it is like the last two years, it might continue until Halloween."

At this point, Storm jumped up onto the wall behind where GiGi sat, and promptly chased after a spider who was engaged in the process of letting himself down to the ground behind GiGi's left ear.

"And please, Mr Cat, leave the poor spider alone. He has been around a lot longer than you, and really done nothing whatsoever that you should be bothered about!"

She caught hold of the cat, who, in a fit of defiance, leapt out of her arms and through the middle of a rather magnificent spiders web.

"Now look at what you've done. Not content with harassing the poor spider, you have rendered him homeless as well. You really are the limit sometimes Storm, look at you all covered in web. Come here, and let me clean you up a bit".

Storm acquiesced, and even began to purr a bit. They sat together for quite some time, GiGi with her eyes half closed, and the cat purring as she stroked his back and tail. The sun still shone pleasantly as an early autumn breeze started to ruffle the leaves of the trees and bushes nearby.

      *              *             *               *              *              *                *              *             *           *

It seemed, thinking about it later, that twilight fell all in an instant, accompanied by the strange smell of something like bitter almonds- GiGi couldn't think of how to describe it better. She opened her eyes, and looking up at the sky, now all lilacs, pinks and blues- and she blinked as she saw what she took first to be a cloud, and then looked like a woman, wrapped in a shawl, and wearing a long billowing skirt. GiGi blinked again, and it was gone.
A sudden gust of wind blew open the shop door- and Storm disappeared inside.

'I thought I had locked that' she mused and followed the cat, picking up a book that had fallen onto the floor- intending to put it back on display. At first glance, everything seemed the same, but actually it was completely different. There was no shop display for a start, and rather disconcertingly, she found it hard to remember what it was like before.

"Oh" she said, clutching the book and looking around her. She could hear voices from the Tearoom- which led her to conclude that the Bored Meeting had started gathering, and so she must just have gotten confused. So, she sat down on a chair she couldn't remember seeing before, to try and figure things out a bit, but unable to do so- looked at the book at the page it fell open to...

'Twasn't brillig, as the Slithey Toves,
All growled and gambled and were grave,
All whimsy were her Borogoves,
And the Home-Rath's dismayed'

Just then, a shout distracted her, and she clapped the book shut, whilst thinking that something sounded rather familiar somehow, but she couldn't say why.

"I really should get myself to the Bored Meeting" and she found herself floating towards the hallway- well sort of floating- just moving somehow- she thought later on. She could see the door to the Tearoom open, and a cacophany of chatter and dissent emitting from within.

However, what with all this floating around, she felt a little giddy and decided that a proper walk in the natural way, perhaps around the garden, might just be a good idea.

Nuff for tonight Em, do you think your new Sister might like it one day? I shall send you the drafts of each chapter, so you can decide...

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi xxxx

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

True Colours

Dear Emily,

Summer is over rather abruptly today. The flip-flops were swapped for Converses, and a sigh as I set off on my bike for the rush-hour ride along the old railway-line to the Bookroom this morning.

I was thinking about your sister's book as I cycled along, and about how Mrs Cameraman is all pale and ghostly, until some things happen, and they breathe colour into her face.

I looked around me, at the beginnings of the autumnal sepias, as the damp leaves on the track began to turn brown. As it's so early in the season though Em, the contrast with the green hedgerows, with blackberries a-plenty, and the beautiful pinks and greens of the rushes- struck me as a photograph that's half-sepia and half in colour.

It's something I've been mulling over recently Em, from our point of view, looking back at history.

Our Julia Margaret Cameron for example- is an embodiment of this particular train of thought.

Here's a lady described as exhuberant, a force of nature, comic, with an 'extraordinary ability to enjoy herself and make others do the same'. Sociable, benevolent, romantic and above all- colouful Em.
Colourful in character, colourful in dress, and a lover of colour around her.

And yet, this lady in particular- makes us think in monochrome, and all too often too seriously...

By the fact that she left us with her voluminous works- all un-edited, and we splash around her images in a way that would make living photographers squirm. How many of their images did they throw away, for the one shot that worked? Yet Mrs Cameron's throw-outs are all up there on the web, on the wall- all her failures amongst her successes.

What is more Em, the serious gazes are there because the aperture took so long. The serious faces, the sepia tones, often give us a sense of her drama, but never what she was all about Em, never her 'colour!'

When you start to think of this lot in that way- it's a whole different view of the previously considered somewhat 'stuffy' Victorians.

Certainly this Bohemian crew. Edward Lear and his singing, and precious nonsense. Tennyson striding around the Down in his wideawake hat and cloak. The Thackeray girls, Tennyson's noisy boys, Ellen Terry et al- whooping, running around- holding dances on the Down. And our Julia, bustling about throwing Balls, photographing or rather 'arresting' beauty as she called it. Dodgson plotting Alices, Darwin pouring scorn on religion- you name it- it wasn't the quiet life!

  • So, lets try and imagine our Julia, from first of all a drawing that G.F.Watts did of her in 1852 when she was in her mid-thirties.

    He has made her look rather mournful I think. Also, she looks very much like her sister Sara, who Watts lived with along with her husband at Little Holland House at the time. Julia was not considered to be a beauty, though her sisters were renowned for theirs.

    I think a combination of the two photographs below, show us a bit more about who she was;

This one is Rejlander, and in her early fifties. Then, one by her son several years later...

Not a traditional beauty perhaps, but a strong and individual character for sure.

For fun Em, let's play with Julia, and draw her in monochrome;

A little bit 'Watts-esque', a bit mournful a touch wan.

Now, let's give her some colour- Daddy's favourite- Modigliani stylee!

That's better.

I think I would have rather liked our husky voiced, excitable, kind and generous Julia. Tennyson adored her, as did most that knew her (the exception was the fussy Mr Lear, who preferred things a little quieter- with the attention mostly upon himself.) As the White Queen in 'Through the Looking Glass' she is a dishevelled, absent-minded 'grotesque'. But, she's a little closer to the colourful character she clearly was, than her legacy allows us to imagine.

The rather vivid Mr Garibaldi, mistook a chemical stained shawl wrapped Mrs C for a beggar, as she flung herself at his feet, pleading for a photographic opportunity.

Not a monochromatic character Em, if ever there wasn't.

Bonne nuit ma petite,

Your ever-loving Grand-mere,

GiGi xxxx

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Woman in White

Dear Emily,

Let's start today buy looking at our 'Woman in White'. You met her in your book, as The White Queen, who GiGi believes was inspired by Julia Margaret Cameron.

In 'GiGi and the Cat', our Woman in White is called Mrs Cameraman

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins' was written in 1859. It is considered to be among the first mystery novels and is widely regarded as one of the first (and finest) in the genre of "sensation novels".
The story is sometimes considered an early example of detective fiction with the hero, Walter Hartright, employing many of the sleuthing techniques of later private detectives. (Wikipedia)

Interestingly to us Emily- she was inspired by Rumour has it- Caroline Graves- when she ran screaming up to Collins in 1850 one dark north London night, having fled from a gentleman-fiend who supposedly had enslaved her with only the might of a kitchen poker and the power of hypnosis. Graves then became Collins Mistress for the rest of his life.

The character, is a good allegory for how society- and particularly the Law, viewed married Women, and how their position was weak in this area.

Our Julia, blue-stocking that she was, and her ailing disabled husband, contributed to her need to 'work' (surrepticiously) and try to create her own income to the household. I think that dear Dodgson had her in mind as a 'type' as well as herself when he cast her as 'The White Queen'.

And so, she begins her journey in our little novel, as this character. GiGi's reasoning here though is different.

Mrs Cameraman loves colour. Her muse Julia Margaret Cameron photographed in sepia, so that's a rather two-tone view of our Lady's world. Julia dressed in what was considered outlandish garb, bright emeralds, purples and reds are mentioned in letters relating to her appearance. Dimbola was awash with inlaid mother of pearl furniture blues and whites, and must have had quite a colonial feel at the time. Julia's last recorded words were about the colourful view from her bedroom in Ceylon. It is part of my thesis for my research degree to try and investigate the colours, clothing, vibe and influence that this particular woman had on Virginia Woolf her great-niece, and therefore on Bloomsbury as a whole.

So, back to mrs Cameraman...

In our story, Mrs C is outside. She wants to come back in. But there's some cleaning to do, there's some muddy waters, funghi, and the in's and out's of The Purga Tree to negotiate first.

Then, Mrs C can slowly come back to full-colour life, and return home to her house in Heaven on Earth.

So, let's give her an Angel, Emily. Our little Alice from the last post. That should help!

Good, so that's that then.

Moving on as it's nearly your bed-time. It's Daddy's birthday tomorrow. Don't forget to wake him up by sitting on his head- preferably in a wet nappy (just as he used to bring Uncle Eddie into my room in the mornings when he was your age!) Tell him, Happy Birthday Daddy, give him a kiss, and then show him this picture of you and him walking in the sunrise.

Say- 'Wake up Daddy, and take me to GiGi's house and we can go for a walk in the sunrise together!'
He won't Em, because he's got lots of work to do, and you both need to look after Mummy as she grows your new little sister for November.
But, it's a lovely thought. So, Em, a very happy un-birthday to you, and a very happy birthday to Daddy. Tell him GiGi loves him very much.
Oh, and of course, there'll be a happy birthday to ME on Sunday, so let's do some face-time before then.
Maybe Daddy, and maybe GiGi might celebrate their birthdays' with a bottle of this?

Enough for now- I shall introduce you to this character properly in our next post!

Night night my little one!

Your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxx