Love of the Second Hand

Arabian Night

The book was beautifully bound, in impeccable condition and filled with the love of being read and enjoyed. Modern publishing of the classic ‘Arabian Nights’ I had the audio version, or what you used to call tapes when I had been a child. My brother and I had been passed them on from our cousin and we had played them repeatedly from our flat one speaker cassette player common of the period.

My favourite story had been ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ because my name was Ali and I thought the story was fantastic. Now there are numerous companies who produce personalised storybook for children, but in the eighties, it was something special. Arabian Nights have been reproduced by many different publishers but this copy was really something special.

My fingertips run over the arches of the front cover I can hear the low volume singing of a tune I had never heard before. I was in one of the larger charity shops at the top of Liverpool famed Smithdown Road. All the books are displayed in the window and I can’t seem to walk on by and not have a look inside. I turn to see where the singing was coming from, before me I can see a man, the vision of cool but in personality much more than appearance. However, not bad looking in saying that, ginger hair and a very contemporary matching ‘Tash’. He was shorter than me but very broad in contrast.

As I had turned around he had stopped singing:

‘No don’t stop!’

I insist,

‘Sorry, I didn’t realise I was singing out loud, I was working through the lyrics for the band’s new track.’

‘So you sing in a band then?’

I try not to sound so very impressed.

‘Yes, lead vocals, among other things, engineering work and single parent of two teenagers.’

Pausing for a second, I look at the copy of Steven Gerrard’s biography in his hand:

‘Is that for you?’

‘No its for my son, I am picking up some books for them for now, then I will start getting in some real Christmas presents later in the week.’

He continues to explain that he is trying to encourage his son to read, but always ensures he gets his daughter a book as well as she actually reads more of his books than he does in addition to her own.

I look around to suggest something good for a teenage girl, I spot a hardback called ‘Feminist don’t wear pink’,

‘This is good for teenage girls, it’s actually new out and fresh in Waterstone at to moment, I am surprised it’s second hand already.’

He picks up the book with an accomplished look on his face. As he flicks through he stops and reads aloud;

‘The first time I looked at my Vulva in the mirror………………………………………..I am not sure I am ready for this as a parent yet.’

I take the book off him and take a look inside, after reading a few headings;

‘Yes, it’s a bit too much isn’t it, is this what teenage girls are reading now?’

‘I think I’ll go for this one.’

He answers in haste with a copy of ‘I am Malala’ in his hand.

‘Good, that’s a much better choice, I’ve read that myself and it’s really good, her life in Pakistan and the build-up to her getting shot by the Taliban.’

Again, he looks enthused and smiles back at me:

‘I might read it after her myself.’

I smile back wistfully.

‘I think I best get the pink feminist book and keep in touch with the younger generation are thinking. I might only read it in small section though.’

We pay separately but leave together, stopping by the exit we smile at each other, as he leaves he utters:

‘See you again some time.’

‘Yes..’

As I walk toward Allerton, passing the Sali Army playing Christmas carols, my smile brims ear to ear and I chuckly silently to myself.

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Ensigns make a mark at the Museum

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Last Saturday saw a line of children and adults, tots and basically those mortal getting involved with the fun of flag making. The last weekend of the Liverpool Irish Festival took the Rags Boutique workshop to the contemporary interior to the Museum of Liverpool.

A wonderful day spent with a colourful bag recycling project on the iconic waterfront. We saw identities being identified through the Greens of Ireland, the Red, White and Blue of Britain and the Purples of Feminism.

Flagpoles on the hole of the day and adults which showed us they still knew how to play dress up!

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Cardboard Castles

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Are you king of your cardboard castle?

Castles were strong fortresses built to withstand invasion. Saxon Castles were wooden structures, mounds of earth now, grassy peaks protruding from the ground level. Still standing up as always but no longer fit for purpose.

The middle ages saw the use of stone to create strongholds were the Lords ruled the battlements. Lines of arches were arrows could be fired from, surrounded by motes and drawbridges to hinder attack.

100 years ago the First World War saw the emergence of new-style fortresses. The underground variety located within the complex network systems of the trenches. Built-in below the surface to withstand the ongoing bombardment. Little mud cabin forms, mantelpiece like structures temporarily decorated with images of loved ones.

A century on what are today’s fortresses: cardboard.

Is this an example of vagrancy? King of the cardboard city. The temporary housing villages created by the nations homeless communities. Safety and security which can be found with others in parallel situations. Warmth and shelter created from communal fires and the cardboard which houses their inhabitants. Every city has a Major, so the underworld must have a King of the Cardboard Castle?

Are cardboard castles a new concept akin to that of the ‘Plastic Gangster’. The king-style leaders of gangland armed with the plastic imitation weapons of infancy. Is it a paradox similar to the new style treble glazing which costs a fortune but claims to pay for itself through savings in fuel bills and rises in property value. The audio version, that can be downloaded, of the book you don’t have to bother reading. A falsehood, a castle which is weather consumable where protection of extreme limitation is offered.

Could the Cardboard castle be a statement for the future: Recyclable. Was the vision created to make a temporary art form, to be consumed by the public, then recycled through the ease of our green processing plants. Is the new King of the Castle to be a leading eco-warrior? Will we be lead towards a sustainable future by environmentally friendly processes?

The King of the Cardboard Castle to be the leader of the cardboard city, the plastic gangster with the falsehood of might or the modern force of the eco-warrior?

You decide….

Beauty is Truth

Female Eunuch

Beauty is Truth is a flash fiction piece written in response to the famous line from John Keates’ Ode on a Grecian Urn. Explicit content to be expected.

The Sister in Law

I look at her and I see no beauty. I see a woman haggard, prematurely aged and sinful in her ways. Fat encases her body as she discards waste through her vocal chords. She slumps her ass down, she flops her misshaped bosom and she lets her fat thighs swamp her fanny flaps. The chin is twinned with an ugly counterpart hanging low, her voice echoes the disparities of her warped soul. Plus size clothes bandage her whale-like form holding in folds of the dishevelled figure.

Then, sickness levels increase, she speaks, dominating the room as she takes over the discourse allowing no option for others to fully engage. A choice of low-level subjects are introduced, as she begins to preach at her appointed Flock, none of whom have selected to attend her dictated sermon. Then out-pours her self-prescribed sensibility juxtaposed by her new age vision of her vile self. Follow rants of thick level feminist, overtly simplistic re-takes of the Female Eunuch, a text she has never read. Then when questioned on a higher level, no answers she can give, discussion over. The dictator cannot be outspoken, she must be listened to, her direction followed not view with subjectivity.

Beauty is truth, ugly is reality, the fat dripping vision encasing the evils of the soul.

Ugly is Death

Alison Little

More information about Ode on a Grecian Urn

A-Z of Amazing Women

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A-Z of Amazing Women is the new range of prints from Alison Little. The main print takes us through a range of iconic women alphabetically, these are combined with a range of prints of individual women with short statements. She Talks us through why she selected the women for the new range:

Anne Frank                                 The young girl whose diary gave us a real insight into the                                                      Holocaust.

Mary Berry                                  A national treasure, the cooking show host who                                                                      frequents our TV screens.

Cruella Devil                              The 101 Dalmatians leading lady that really kicked ass.

Diana, Princess                         She stole the heart of the nation, her legacy will live                                                               on for eternity.

Emmeline Pankhurst                Led the Suffrage Movement into women gaining the vote.

Florence Nightingale               The nurse who became a Victorian icon and through                                                             making her rounds became known as ‘The lady with the                                                       Lamp’

Ariana Grande                         The singing superstar who helped survivors after a suicide                                                     bomber detonated an explosion at the Manchester                                                               Arena during her performance.

Barbara Hepworth                   The sculptor who led the way for women to work with                                                             heavy materials such as bronze.

Laura Ingalls                              The pigtail parading young lady who inspired young girls                                                       during her appearances in ‘Little House on the Prairie’

Joan of Arc                               The 15th Century female warrior who led the French to                                                           victory, when finally capture she was executed.

Kelly Holmes                              Double Olympic Gold winning runner who was awarded                                                       a Dame hood.

Sarah Lucas                              Leading feminist artist who represented Britain in the                                                               Venice Biennial in 2015.

My Mum                                   The ladies which raise, support and cherish us throughout                                                      our lives.

The Nolan’s                               The seventies all Irish sisters who sung there way into the                                                        limelight in the seventies.

Oprah Winfrey                         The all loving talk show host who became America’s first                                                        multi-billionaire Black person.

Pocahontas                             The native American who stared in the folk tale by saving                                                      the life of an English man held captive when her own                                                            father tried to execute him.

The Queen                               Simply, the Monarch.

Eleanor Rathbone                   The Liverpool member of the Suffrage movement who                                                          helped get women the vote.

Sylvia Plath                               The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet acclaimed for her                                                                    collections.

Tracey Emin                              Turner prize-winning artist famed for ‘My Bed’, the                                                                     installation which caused controversy.

Eunice Huthart                         The contestant that beat the Gladiators then went to                                                            Hollywood to become a stunt double.

Vera Lynn                                 ‘The Forces Sweetheart’ who entertained the troops during                                                    World War Two.

Amy Winehouse                       Legendary for hit such as ‘Back to Black’ and ‘Rehab’ her                                                       music will live on forever.

Beatrix Potter                            The writer and illustrator who brought us books such as                                                           Peter Rabbit.

Malala Yousafzai                     The once school girl who survived being shot by the                                                              Taliban for going to school.

Renee Zellweger                     The Texas-born artist who became Bridget Jones.

All prints are A4 in size and available from Arts Hub.

Arts Hub

 

 

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Virginia Woolf and the Hours

Hours

The Hours

Three Women, One day.

Michael Cunningham’ novel, The Hours and the movie version, Directed by Stephen Daldry, gives a very accurate portrayal of Virginia Woolf beginning with her final act: suicide. The narrative intertwines the lives of three women: Virginia Woolf, Laura Brown an unhappy housewife in 1950’s Loss Angeles and Clarissa Vaughan a bisexual woman living at the end of the twentieth century in New York City. In this, we explore mortality, social roles, lesbianism and artistic endeavour throughout both the novel and the film.

The prologue begins with Virginia Woolf walking, almost marching towards the River Ouse to ultimately drown herself. On her way she stops to pick up a large stone, admiring its form as she does so. She then proceeds to enter the water, the actual death scene in the film echoing the great painting Ophelia by John Everett Millais of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood. Virginia takes in every detail of everything around her until the life has gone from her. We then switch back to 1923 when she is not so unwell, a happier time, the day when she begins to write one of her most successful novels ‘Mrs Dalloway’. Throughout the day she adds details to the novel from events which occur. After the embrace with her sister, she decides that Mrs Dalloway will have been in love with another woman when she was younger. After observing a dying bird she decides that Mrs Dalloway will commit suicide over something very trivial, a domestic choir. She later changes her mind, lets the character live but replaces the act with the suicide of a soldier. After handling her servant, Nelly badly she decides that Mrs Dalloway will be remarkably good at handling servants and writes this into the dialogue. Her sister is in fact very good with servants and her presence in the novel provides a contrast to Virginia. The production also gives a strong insight into her mental health the penultimate climax of her narrative being her journey to the train station where Leonard her devoted husband finds her and takes her home to keep her from harm’s way.

Laura Brown is living in Los Angela’s in mid-twentieth Century America. In this she is living the American Dream, she has a beautiful house, a loving husband, a war hero, a son and is expecting a second baby. However, ultimately, she is deeply unhappy with her life and the domestic role which she has been handed. This is symbolised by the Cake which she bakes for her husbands Birthday: Although the cake is perfectly adequate she wants it to be a work of art to reflect how perfect she is at domestic life, so she throws it out and starts again. Later in the novel, she becomes enraged when Dan, her husband, spits slightly when he blows out the candles. Her neighbour, Kitty, presents a contrasting character to Laura. She is loud, glamorous and was very popular at High School, where she was more interested in reading. Kitty character introduces the theme of fertility to the hours, Woolf never having children herself. Laura and Kitty embrace in a similar way the sisters earlier in the novel. Laura’ activities link to Virginia Woolf through the reading of Mrs Dalloway, taking time to ensure she reads more of the works. Her narrative climax’ in a hotel room where she seriously contemplates committing suicide. Outside of the context of the book, she fails in an attempt to commit suicide in recovery she leaves her family and moves to Canada.

Clarissa Vaughan is a bisexual woman living at the end of the twentieth century in New York City. Her character embodies the character of Mrs Dalloway in the Woolf’ novel. Her close friend and former lover, Richard is in-fact the grown-up child of Laura Brown who she abandoned. He calls Clarissa ‘Mrs Dalloway’ or ‘Mrs D’ for short. Clarissa has some doubts over her domestic set up, she is living with Sally her lover, however, it is not an exciting relationship it is mundane. Clarissa is pre-occupied with morality throughout the novel, in glimpsing a movie star she ponders over when they have died they will live on through screenings of the film. The climax of Clarissa’ narrative is the suicide of Richard, in losing his battle with Aids he decides to jump from the window of his apartment saying good buy to Clarissa before the ultimate plunge. After Richards death Laura Brown, now an elderly lady comes to meet Clarissa in New York. Clarissa does not blame Laura for leaving her family, although she witnessed Richards torture from this act she shows understanding of her actions as a mother.

This Novel and film created over half a century after Virginia Woolf’ death explore her and the writings in the greatest artist sense. Many themes are embrace throughout the three different days of three different women. On a surface level through Clarissa we see how attitudes towards sexuality have changed, acceptance being shown through her rather unremarkable same-sex relationship.

However, the suicide of Richard shows how times have not changed since Virginia’s generation. Again we have a frustrated writer, unhappy with his work mental health problems brought on by Aids who takes his own life. Could Virginia Woolf been happy in a modern climate, would she have escaped her demon’s, or would the same fate be waiting? Who knows but we certainly have a stunning novel and film which is a tribute to the Virginia Woolf we have presented here.

Alison Little

Consequential

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Consequential is the final chapter of Casual Nexus, the novel being written by Alison Little, this is an extract from the chapter. The characters and events are not based on real people or occurrences.

Bea Richards has also heard about the exhibition which Sal had got work into earlier in the week. Like Kate, she had also remained in the area. Not amongst the student though, as minor aristocracy her Father had decided that she should remain in the parental home throughout her University years and his long-term vision was she should continue to live there even after she married someone suitable. After all his parents who had been first cousins had not got married to ensure that the finances stayed within the family for his daughter to go and reside in some student hovel!

Bea thought over the degree show, she had done well from sales, much better than everyone including Sal. After a year everything seemed to have dribbled off, she needed new designs and without the help of the Art Lecturers, she didn’t know what to make. She was owed money from several small handmade shops but was too scared to phone up and inquire about cheques being processed. She thought about how Sal wouldn’t have these problems, she would probably go to her exhibition opening, talk to everyone, sell her work and all the galleries would want her and her artwork. Remembering Sal’s confidence, her ability to talk to everyone and anyone of all ages and all different backgrounds. Her Father, as a Senior Officer had used the Police’s computer system to look to look into Sal’s family background and concluded that she was, in fact, working class and related to many undesirables and even one prostitute. Bea knew the reality of their year at Uni, everyone had looked at Sal as the classy number and despite being aristocracy she had come off as some kind of number two. Sal was the one everyone had wanted to be friends with, she was at the centre of all the student parties while Bea made polite conversation over dinner with extended family members who seemed to be related to both her Parents on an equal footing. Reminiscing over how streetwise Sal was, how she had known about Bea’s boyfriend had been sleeping with prostitutes all along when she had no idea about what was going on.

Bea thinks back to the meeting she had been asked in for at the Police Station last month. As Sal had moved away her Police file had gone to a new Force and different Officers were investigating the open crimes. They had wanted details on what Sal had been subjected to as a child, she had not realised that Sal had been sexually abused. The Officers asked her further details about where Sal had been in the States and when she had no information they had stated that it was important because it was in regards to a serious rape case. It wasn’t her fault she didn’t know anything. Next, they inquired over the report Bea had written where she had been abrupt with herself, asking if that could have been a reaction to the pressure she was under due to the stalker who was following her around? In response she had said she didn’t know, she was then questioned over why she had not given a more detailed Police report in regards to the stalker coming into the degree show. At that point, Bea started to cry and left the room.

On leaving the room she overheard one of the Officers ask the other:

‘Why didn’t they send in someone more attractive and much classier?’

Bea then began to sob loudly and went on route to find her Father in the office he had frequented for many years. She explained to him what had happened and that she didn’t know anything about the rape case and went through again who Sal was going to copy her after the degree show. Her Father then shot out of his seat so abruptly that he almost fell over,

‘I will speak to them.’

He directed, as he marches off Bea follows him and listens by the door. He began by insisting that his daughter was not expected to know anything about a rape case and that this ‘Sal’ brought trouble on herself. He progressed to ask what would have happened if the stalker had started following Bea around and that his daughter was there to be protected. The subject of Bea being vulnerable was raised and the matter of Sal being abrupt with her an absolute atrocity. Finishing off the discussion with how upset Bea had been after the degree show because Sal was going to copy her work. The two Officers were then subjected to a long rant about how Sal had been so jealous of his daughter. They decided not to answer any of his accusations, it was clearly another Senior Officer unable to acknowledge the failings of his offspring.

Later at the Police Station Bea files a report raising the mater of Sal’s exhibition and suggested that she had probably submitted work similar to her as she had been intending to copy her after the degree show. Tears flow down her face and smudge the ink she has been writing with, she thinks nothing of Sal’s brother who abuse her, nothing of the man who had raped her or the stalker who followed her constant for a year. Bea cries in pity for herself, the tears on the Police report acknowledge the inadequacies of the Policewomen and the failings of the Organisation.