Zdzislaw Beksinski – A gothic artist of distopian tendencies.. To put it mildly!

This alarming and grim image is typical of the work of this artist from Poland who specialised in creating this sort of image.  I have to add at this point that I may seem to be attracted to dystopian and grim images, this is not so, I simply put them in this blog as I suspect that such images are more likely to spark some sort of creative surge in people.

Anyhow this is a very typical example of the work of this artist.  He grew up in war torn Poland, which obviously had a profound effect on his later life – so as a kid he played with war things, as you can see in this photo of him with a friend playing outside a damaged Block House with live shells…

If you saw him, you wouldn’t think for a minute that he would produce the sort of images he went on to create – as you can perhaps see in this photo of him, taken shortly before he was murdered by a teenager he wouldn’t lend a few hundred Zlotys to.

Anyhow, enough of this waffle, here are some typical images created by him, and he was prolific, so there are no end of other images (all essentially about the same thing though) which you can find easily enough online.

See?   Gruesome and horrid…  But they can produce some interesting thoughts I reckon…

 

 

Our lives on a couple of boats – Part One

Just before I left the Roundhouse Theatre in London in 1974 (in itself that is a story worth knowing!  Link to that story) , we decided that we would sail to Australia (as one does) and via a friend we found the ideal boat for this voyage, Mjojo, and lived on her for a couple of years and made various passages around the English coast and finally we set off to sail to Australia, but ran into incredible South Western storms, with waves taller than the mast of Mjojo, so rather than fight our way into this ridiculous storm, we gave in and turned around, and ended up in Amsterdam, where we lived on her (with occasional trips into the North Sea) for about 2 years until the birth of our son.

Mjojo was her name, and she was perhaps the most beautiful sailing boat you could imagine.   She had been designed by an English architect, Rod Pickering, based on a combination of ideas, the boat that Joshua Slocum used when he sailed around the world, the Spray, and the boats that were in use every day in the Indian Ocean, so he had her built on Lamu, an island off the coast of Kenya by the guys there who normally built Dhows for the local sailors.

The building off Mjojo is an epic tale in itself, and well worth reading, so here is a link to the website of Jojo, Rod’s daughter after whom the boat was named:

Mjojo=Little Jojo.       https://islandswift.blogspot.com/2014/08/mjojo.html

In passing I would like to point out that you will read in Jojo’s account, that Mjojo was kept in Amsterdam and started to rot.  This is true, but not while we had her.  We sold her to a local when our son was born (1976) when it became apparent that we would have to stay in Holland as we were told our son would need medication for his entire life – this turned out not to be true, by the way.

Anyhow, here are some photos of Mjojo in all her glory to show you what a beautiful vessel she was – and is.

Just for your information, she was 42 feet long (+bowsprit of 15 feet), beam was 15 feet, she drew 7 feet along her entire keel so she was incredibly stable and was a gaff rigged cutter.  Oh, and she weighed 24 tons, because of the incredibly heavy wood she was built from (72 pounds a cubic foot!).

Anyway, as I said, on the birth of our son we thought that we would have to stay in Holland for his entire childhood, and as I have pointed out earlier in this post, keeping an ocean going wooden sailboat in the fresh water of Amsterdam wasn’t a good idea for a wooden boat – also she was a bit small for us to actually live in if we were staying in Amsterdam.   So we sold her to a German guy who apparently had all manner of plans for her, none of which actually occurred, so she started to rot, poor boat.

We borrowed a flat from a friend in a small town near to Amsterdam and set about looking for a steel barge to live in (and to wander around Europe’s extensive network of inland water-ways in).   After some months, we found a likely barge, called Eerste Zorg (which means First Worry ) a 28 meter long steel barge, built in 1924, registered to carry 120 tons and we could afford her asking price.  So we negotiated with the owner, and reached agreement and then came to great day when we would have to take her over.

Nerve wracking to say the least, as I had never tried to sail such a large vessel, and one that only had an engine as well.    So I went to Papendrecht (just to the south of Rotterdam) to take her over, and the owner agreed to sail with me up to Rotterdam so that I had a chance to see how it all worked.

So that is what happened.

Together we sailed, well, I say sailed, actually it was a question of driving her, up to Rotterdam and once there, the previous owner tied us up to a jetty and went on his merry way, leaving me with the job of getting her from Rotterdam to Amsterdam on my own.  Lotty, my wife, had driven me down to meet the previous owner, and then driven back to Amsterdam.

Gulp!

Anyhow, taking my courage in my hands…  I set off up the river Lek, which leads from Rotterdam to the start of the Amsterdam-Rijn canal, which as its name would suggest, connects the Rijn (Rhine) to Amsterdam.   At this point in its journey to the North Sea the Rhine is called the Lek.

The Lek is a very wide river, and much used by all manner of cargo barges of all sizes, and I quickly realised that my 120 ton 28 meter Luxe Motor (that is the name of its type of barge) is a really small vessel.   I was surrounded by barges of 500 tons to huge combinations of 3000 ton lighters connected up in threes to a sort of super pushing boat hurtling along at upwards of 30 kilometers per hour – to put this in context, my little barge could only manage about 11 kilometers per hour.

Altogether alarming to put it mildly!

After about an hour of this nerve wracking stuff, there was suddenly an explosion below me, in the engine room of my barge, and the motor stopped.   So there I was, effectively in the fast lane of an aquatic motorway with a barge without an engine.

I rushed to the bows, and managed to drop the anchor, which was huge!  Luckily it gripped the river bottom, and I swung around so my stern was pointing down river to Rotterdam, and there I was, stuck.

Various barges honked at me as basically I was blocking the “fast Lane” but there was nothing I could do about it.

After a while, a police boat appeared and came alongside to demand to know what the hell I thought I was playing at, anchoring in the middle of a hugely busy river and holding every one up.

Once one of these cops came on board, and I was able to show him what had happened (peering into my engine room at an obviously destroyed engine), he said to me that I should crank up the anchor and they would tow me to a repair yard to get things looked at.

This caused the next embarrassment for me…  How the hell do you bring up an anchor on such a boat?   I had no idea how to do that, and feeling idiotic, I told the cop this.   So, with the patience of Job, he showed me how it worked, and clambered back onto his boat and gave me a tow rope to secure to my bows, and we hauled up the anchor, see photo below for the size of it, and off we went.

Anyhow, to cut a very long story short, it turned out that the motor was totally destroyed, and it would be necessary to replace it, and as I had bought the barge “as is” I had no claim on the previous owner.  So, I gritted my teeth and told the ship yard to go ahead and bung another – more modern – engine into her.

So, after this exciting start to our ownership of what became the Water Rat (chosen because it is the same in Dutch and English) began.

And for the following 24 years we lived in her traveled around Holland in her and generally had a great life on her.

So, in a following installment I shall tell all about how that all went….

In the mean time, here is a photo of her in all her glory at a later mooring in Amsterdam, along side the Maritime Museum for whom I made models somewhat later…….

If you have any thoughts on any of the above, or sailed on Mjojo or the Water Rat please drop me a line to tell me about how it all went.

Jonathan Wolstenholme, an artist with a very curious approach to his work

I have just come across the work of a British contemporary artist  -Jonathan Wolstenholme – who is besotted with the idea of books.   Not simply a book lover, but a real fanatic about books, so his art is almost exclusively about or around books in one way or another.

As you will see from the following examples of his work, the work he does for himself is exclusively based on the idea of books in a sort of anthropomorphic form, so basically books that are alive and busy with various activities.

So, here is the first example of his work to whet your appetite.

He studied at one of the two art schools I also studied at, Croydon Art College, from 1969 till 1972 and then went on to be a successful illustrator and painter, working for numberless magazines and exhibiting his work in various galleries in London and the USA – in other words, a very successful artist.

His work is not only based around anthropomorphic books, but he also has produced all manner of other types of work, such as this illustration for Alice…….

But his chief pleasure seems to be those human-like books, which he paints in a huge variety of situations – fighting, happy, playing chess and so on, just about any activity that humans get up to, but using books with arms instead of people.    Odd really, but so beautifully painted.

So, here are a selection of some more of his work for your pleasure……

So, if his work interests you, there is no end of it online for your pleasure.

 

More strange and disturbing images to fire your imagination

Once again I have found an intriguing collection of images that I hope will be of use to you guys as sparks to your ideas.   In other words, I hope that the images below will give you ideas for stories as opposed to using them in stories.

So, lets get started on them……………

Now this is a restaurant with a difference!  A weirdly odd and somewhat Edwardian effect.  Many years ago whilst on a winter tour of Scotland with the Little Angel Puppet Theatre we found ourselves at John O’Groats which has a truly odd restaurant as well – and when we arrived there, a totally empty place (it was January after all) we were greeted by this odd building and Hawaiian guitar music blaring out of a public address system…   All very odd.

One or other of these two odd images should give you ideas for a story…..  Though certainly with a Gothic feel I would imagine.

From the sublime to the ridiculous now.

I would imagine that this silly photo could be the basis for a Sci-Fi story at the very least…….  Whilst it is a simple bit of image jiggery-poky and is also mildly funny, it could be the basis of a story about a world in which people’s bodies are manipulated for some reason…..   What do you think?

This is simply silly……………   But it is a new look at an old legend perhaps?

Now I have selected three more odd or curious images that give me  pause for thought, each one of which seem to me to be ripe with an internal story.

What is happening in them and could one perhaps use all three of them in one story?

Well, perhaps one might use the first two in one story, but I am damned if I can see how one might use the third image in the same story as the first two.

And to finish with, here is a collection of creatures that one would not like to come up against on a dark and stormy night – or even on a sunny day come to think of it!   I have no idea what or who they are, I suspect it is some sort of Swiss (or Scandinavian) religious ceremony that has been stolen (as is the case with just about all Christian festivals) from a pre-Christian festival.    But whatever it actually is all about, it seems to me to be begging for a story to use it as a central feature of the story.   So, lets see what you can do with this one!

If any of these images have been a help for you in any way, please do let me know what you used them for.

Thoughts on, or about, being self-isolated during Corona Virus outbreak

Like almost everyone in the first world just now, both my wife (Lotty) and I, as we are both well over 70 years old, are in voluntary isolation, which is a very odd situation for us both in different ways.

For my part it has meant that I no longer lead the life of a Professional Volunteer as I am in the habit of doing (see several other posts on this aspect of my life) and as a result I am feeling more than a little discombobulated to say the least.  For Lotty it has meant the end of her regular walks with our pooch, Gizmo, and a number of friends, followed by a happy hour or two sitting in one or other of Samford’s many cafes solving the many problems of the world or taking several Alpacas for their daily walks at a local riding school.

On the other hand it has meant that she has almost unlimited time for her garden, which is great, as her garden is a self-created jungle in a near vertical slope.

All of that is is pretty normal I suppose.  If one is suddenly unable to pursue one’s normal activities for whatever reason.  But given that we are healthy enough (for our ages) and at peace with the world, it is an odd feeling that it is unimportant to know what day of the week it is, the almost total silence on the nearby roads (we live in the country about 35 km outside Brisbane) and our normally well filled calendar (Literally, that is how we keep track of our various activities) is now empty – apart from a dental appointment I made this morning for the 1st October to make sure that I beat the rush when this isolation finishes – assuming it ever does of course.

Also the lack of having to be anywhere or do anything special at a given time is an odd feeling.  We are able to wander around in our garden so we don’t feel that we are in prison, which I can well imagine those who live in flats in cities can do, so apart from not having used either of our two cars for days now we are living in a reasonably “normal” fashion by and large I suppose.

So basically, we are living in a more or less normal way but with a feeling of isolation at all times, as if the outside world has ceased to exist – which is very odd to say the least.  We are sort of living in a small bubble, just our garden and a small section of the road outside our house.

The other main change is that we see none of our friends any more – occasionally one passes on the road and we shout greetings at each other and then they go on their way, so apart from via Facebook and the phone, we have really no contact with anyone else in the whole world and it is now several weeks since I was away from our house – not even in the local village to shop as our son is dealing with all of that.

So we are living in more or less complete isolation in the middle of thousands of other people doing the same – really an odd thing.

Oh well, assuming it will ever be open ( and humanity still exists), I assume it will all return to what we consider to be normal, which is really a pity I feel.

More Strange And Weird Images To Fire Your Imagination

Once more I look into the weird world of other people’s imagination, this time via the photographs of Erik Johansson who manipulates his photos to create a totally different and obviously impossible vision, also a collection of simply weird photos of real people – which defy the imagination I confess, but which could be the starting point of some very odd stories, so this is possibly useful for teachers to stir the imagination of their students.

So, here is the first of Erik Johansson’s odd world………………..

He seems to be fascinated by this sort of idea, he has a lot of images that have a landscape pouring over a huge drop, for example this one…..

A different take on essentially the same story are a series of photos he has produced that show water pouring from paintings or similar, as in this one….

He also seems to love creating images that are totally impossible in one way or another, and one of his favourite methods of achieving this is to combine reality with an impossible action, as in this one, which shows both an ice-cream melting, but a cut off arm also melting… Odd…………

And as a last look into his strange world, we have his mania for altering perspective, a bit like Escher in this respect, so here we have a totally impossible room to ponder upon……..

And now, to open a real can of worms, a totally extraordinary view of the real world, real people in very strange situations, some of which I am totally at a loss to explain, such as this one… What on earth is that little person?

Or this one…..  Another strange and essentially wrong set of people.   What on earth are they doing?

And this one simply defies explanation.  These people seem to be totally ignoring that very strange little being, though one of them seems to be feeding it… Hmmmmmmmmmm………..

And as the last image, I am totally bemused by this one.   The guy dressed in Arabic clothing seems to be signing a serious contract, but why oh why are there three enormous “things” wearing Arabic woman’s clothing?   Damned if I know………..

Anyhow, I hope that one or more of these strange images will spark off an idea in your mind and help you to write the Great Novel that you have been struggling to create for some years already.

More On The Positive And Negative Effects Of The Dreaded Corona Virus

As I remarked in yesterday’s blog, there are numerous very positive aspects to the current dreadful virus attack, not only the up-welling of creativity that has occurred and which gives me so much hope for humanity (with a number of reservations of course) but also numerous side effects – the beautiful lack of huge environmentally dangerous airplanes roaring along overhead – yesterday I heard on the news that three (3!!!) international flights would be arriving at Brisbane International Airport. Isn’t this wonderful?

The road outside our house is superbly quiet all day, no large groups of overweight men on ridiculously huge motor-bikes roaring past our front gate all weekend or huge gaggles of people on racing bikes all chatting away at full volume disturbing our peace on a Sunday and during the week it is also so much quieter than normal – a sort of absence of sound that is hard to describe, but has a sort of empty quality and is totally delightful.

Harley-rider-stereotype

Also those webcam views of the centre of normally bustling cities, showing empty streets with only occasional lonely policemen to be seen – not only spooky and weird, but pleasing as well.  To be honest I am enjoying the whole experience, but then, I am not sick, nor do I live in a small flat on the 10th floor of a sky-scraper so I can wander around in our 5 acres of land without any worries.

Sadly people living in Luanda or any other city in Africa or pretty well any third world part of the earth will have another experience – I have plenty of water to wash endlessly and space to wander around easily without coming closer than the limit of 1.5 meters to another human.  Those poor souls have no water to spare for endless washing of hands, nor do they have the space to indulge in “Social Distancing” so I presume that the illness associated with this virus will wipe out thousands of such people.   This gives me considerable pause to put it mildly!   I have no idea how to help ameliorate their situation, sadly.   So in my more depressed moments I assume that places such as Africa, Pakistan, India and such-like will come out of this experience almost empty.

One thing that is certain, once all of this is over and we set about reconstructing our “normal” world again, things will likely be very different from how they were – I hope in a positive way, but we shall see………………………………………….

One Of The Positive Results Of The Corona Virus Plague

One of the more surprising and pleasing aspects of the current Corona Virus plague is the increasing amount of wildly funny or simply beautiful videos that people are creating in order to deal with their boredom of being effectively in prison.

It started simply with musicians standing on their balconies in Italy and playing with other musicians who happened to live near them in a version of open-air concerts and someone videoing the whole thing.  It developed from there to encompass a wide range of public and informal performances – singing, juggling, shouting jokes, dancing and so on.   An up whelming of performances of all sorts and types, and a joy to see!

It has now gone one step further, and people are now making their own videos of all manner of visual jokes, multiple takes of them performing with themselves, in the manner of those 1000 voice videos we have all seen in the past.    Some of them incredibly beautiful, such as this one.

Woman singing 4 part song with herself.

Apart from having a superb voice, she also has one hell of a great smile!

We also have other videos in which people make fun of the whole situation of being in”Lock-down” some of which are surprisingly sophisticated – which I suppose shouldn’t really surprise me, as all manner of professional performers, video makers and similar are also in “Lock-down” of course.

A good example of these silly ones is the following one, which takes straightforward film of people crossing a road and similar activities and gives it a sports program type of commentary, I really enjoyed this one!

Crossing road as a race

As you will see if you follow this link, there are a whole set of these silly “sports commentary” videos on his Twitter page to amuse you.

I have also seen no end of performances by people who are trapped in their houses by the events of the last few weeks (as am I) and who have dealt with the boredom by means of silly videos – as I am sure you know.  If you are a user of Facebook, Twitter or any of those sort of things on your phone/computer, you will have seen endless such photos, videos and so on..

All a highly creative way of dealing with the problems we are all facing and a very happy result of the situation.   I have noticed that all over the world such things are being created and enjoyed.   In the horrible plague we are all enduring some very good things are happening, and I hope that they will continue to happen once this is all over – not that I am particular optimistic about that in fact – after the plague of 1918 the world very rapidly descended into its normal horrible way of doing things, so I assume this will happen once this one is over – assuming there is any humanity left of course.

Ah well.

 

 

The Life Of A Professional Volunteer

Having settled in Australia as a thoroughly retired old man, I had to find something to do which would interest me and make a good change from the house building I was doing and would keep my brain alive.

So, I discovered the life of a volunteer………

Since about 2011 I have been a very active volunteer in a very wide range of enjoyable activities, ranging from doing all the computer work for a local farming group to working on a wide range of festivals in Brisbane, such as the French Festival, the Writers Festival, the World Science Fair and a number of that sort of event.

I have also worked (as a lavatory cleaner) on the Woodford Folk Festival, which was not as bad as it sounds.   We didn’t have to deal with blocked lavatories or similar horrible things, but simply make sure that the lavatories and showers were equipped with paper and so on, and clean.

Since this work entailed starting at about 5 am and finishing at about midnight, we in our team divided the days up between ourselves, which meant that we were able to attend any concerts, talks or demonstrations we particularly wanted to, which was pleasant and rewarding…  We were part of a team of people doing the same work all around the Festival and its huge camping grounds – up to 100 000 people attend this festival, and there are about 3000 volunteers who make it all happen.   Our group were officially called The Intergalactic S-bend Warriors, and we had T-shirts that proclaimed that name.

We have also worked on The Planting, which is a much smaller Festival in the same place, but more about planting trees, vegetables and similar, but it also has lots of talks, so there both Lotty and I were working as Stage Managers, in separate venues.

One of my favourite “jobs” was at the Brisbane Jazz Club, where I worked for about 4 years setting the club up for the night’s show, looking after the patrons and tidying up after the show was finished.    This one I worked on about 2 nights a week, and absolutely loved the huge range of jazz that came our way.. everything from Big Band Jazz, Gypsy Jazz, dixieland and every sort of jazz you could imagine, and all of a very high standard…  Good folk to work with too.

However, after those years, I became a bit tired of the work, so I stopped and started working at La Boite instead.   This is a moderately experimental theatre attached to the Technical University Of Queensland, where shows are put on at, curiously enough, a theatre called The Roundhouse, so I have sort of come full circle and am ending my life and starting my life working in a theatre called The Roundhouse.

Here we have all manner of shows, ranging from wildly experimental shows to relatively low key productions, as well as regular student performances..  All good fun though.

The Joys (and otherwise) Of Scuba Diving Off Australia

While I was living in the Philippines (Cebu to be precise) I took up scuba diving in a very serious fashion, and ended up becoming what is rather dramatically called a Rescue Diver.  This simply meant that I was supposed to be master of a number of techniques to help other divers should they get into difficulties underwater – panic attacks, running out of air, getting stuck under water and so on – and I had a number of moments when I had to put my training into action, but always as a result of an accident, as the various Dive Masters I dived with took their work very seriously and avoidable mistakes were……. avoided.

However, during this period in my life, I also had to come to Australia reasonably often, to just outside Brisbane to be exact, and I thought it would be pleasing to dive here as well.   So I hunted around for affordable ways to dive in and around Brisbane.

As a result of this, I found a club attached to one of the Universities in Brisbane as well as a couple of straightforwardly commercial operations, and I signed up with them and went on a number of dives with them.

I had already discovered that Australia is the Land Of Health And Safety Rules, so I wasn’t surprised to be confronted with a number of forms that I had to fill in every dive I went on, listing my diving qualifications and so on.  All perfectly reasonable stuff, if slightly over the top and unheard of in the Philippines where all one had to do was to show the Dive Master one’s log book which listed all one’s dives and level of qualifications.

This paper work cheerfully filled the time one was on the way to where we were going to dive, about several hours out of Bribie Island to an artificial reef just off Morton Island – also, of course, we got our gear on during this trip.

Being an experienced Paddi Rescue diver, and having dived hundreds of times off Cebu, I was expecting that we would divide ourselves up into buddy pairs before leaping into the water – a very basic safety rule for scuba divers, but nope. these people simply arrived at the diving site, and leaped into the sea regardless.  And then swam off in various directions on their own or with several other divers, but in a completely random fashion.

Another daunting experience was on one of these dives a fellow diver simply leaped into the sea without bothering to turn on his air-tank – added to which, he had not bothered to put any air into his BCD ( a sort of life jacket divers wear to sort out their buoyancy underwater) so he of course simply sank like a stone.   This was a problem for him as it is very tricky to turn on your tank while you are wearing it.  Luckily I had noticed him disappearing under water, so I was able to follow him down to the (luckily) not very deep sea-bottom, and turn on his air, so all was well.

But no one else had noticed him sinking, and as no one was his “Buddy”, he would have simply drowned if I hadn’t happened to see him.  Nasty….

But the paperwork was all correct happily, so all would have been well if he had drowned.

The other problem I had here was the temperature of the sea…  It was cold!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyhow, after several of these experiences, I decided that scuba diving in Australia was not for me, and went back to the Philippines for my diving, and since living in this otherwise admirable and enjoyable country I have not bothered with scuba diving.