March 27, 2015

#FridayFlash – Doll’s House

Image: Lee Cannon, cc-sa-4.0

There’s a house at the bottom of my street, a really ramshackle old place. The doors and shutters hang from crooked hinges, and paint peels from the battered old boards like it can’t wait to jump ship and find another house to cling to. It’s the kind of house that everyone avoids, except on Halloween, when fifth graders dare each other to knock on the door. They’ve given up for the last couple of years, but mostly since there’s not much of a door left to knock on.

Every six months or so, a realtor arrives and a ‘for sale’ board appears in the yard. I never see the realtor actually go inside, they just stand in the yard and tut. The board is only up about a week before it goes down again. My mother laughs and shakes her head whenever it happens.

“They’ll never sell that old place. She won’t let them,” she’ll say.

“Who? Won’t let them?” I ask, even though I know she’s going to give me the same answer that she always does.

“Why, it’s Doll’s house, muffin. Ol’ Doll won’t let that place go.”

“Who is this Doll? Does she still live there?”

My mother just smiles and wanders off to do something else. My father knows less than I do, and cares even less, and no one on my street seems to know anything. They’re all soccer moms who are too wrapped up in following Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest fad, or men in suits who work in the city and keep their head in the clouds.

The board is in the yard for two days before I work up the courage to go and check out the house myself. I’ve always kept away from it, worried it’ll fall down if I get too close, but I can’t stop wondering who Doll is, and who owns it now. Part of me wonders if she’s a crazy old lady who won’t let her grandkids sell her house from under her, the kind of woman who has an army of cats trained to attack on command. Then I worry about her, and wonder if something’s happened to her. The rest of me wonders how she died, and where her family are now.

It’s a sunny Saturday morning when I creep out of the house so as not to disturb my mother, and I head down the street. The lady who lives four doors down is doing yoga in the front yard so we can all see how health-conscious she is, and the guy who lives opposite is watching from his window while trying to pretend he’s fixing a broken set of blinds. These people are nuts.

A thick cloud the colour of gun smoke drifts in front of the sun when I reach Doll’s house. A sudden burst of cool air gusts up the street and I shiver when it makes contact with my bare arms. I stand in the shade and look up at the house, with its crooked window shutters and cracked porch.

“Hey, Doll,” I say, without really knowing why.

There’s movement inside, and a shadow moves towards the downstairs window. I can’t make out any features, but in my mind’s eye I see a tall woman with shining hair cut like Lucille Ball. She wears a checkered dress of red and white, with an apron around her waist. She frowns at me.

“My mom says hi.” I speak aloud, and raise a hand in greeting. I even manage a small wave. I notice the mailbox is leaning to one side, and I nudge it upright with my knee.

I look up at the window. The shadow breaks into a smile, and for a flash, the silhouette and the woman in my mind are one and the same. My hands start miming an action before I know what I’m doing, but I realise I’m asking her if she wants me to mow her lawn. The shadow nods.

“I’ll be back soon. I’ll get some of my dad’s tools to sort out the hinges too,” I tell her.

She waves and I turn away. I think my dad keeps the mower in the garage these days. It doesn’t matter, I’ll find it. I have to take care of Doll’s house now.

This flash was inspired by a story which can be found here!

March 20, 2015

#FridayFlash – The Trunk

The story starts, as stories often do, with the opening of a box. Or in the case of Katy’s new purchase, a trunk. It caught her eye in the antique shop on Stowell Street, all pale leather and metal clasps. She didn’t particularly need an antique trunk when she had a perfectly serviceable suitcase in the cupboard, and Katy didn’t think she’d ever actually use it for travelling, but the impulse to buy was too strong to ignore.

The shop owner seemed particularly keen to sell the trunk, and he even let her haggle the price down from £300 to £150. It was a large trunk, and at the time, Katy reasoned that he needed the space for something else that languished in the stock room instead of on the shop floor. Now she was alone in her living room with the trunk, Katy decided to inspect it again. Perhaps there was a reason he’d let her have it for half price.

Katy popped the catches, unbuckled the straps holding the lid closed, and lifted the lid. She screamed. Curled inside the trunk was a body, its dark brown skin taut and shiny with age. Tufts of hair clung to the skull, its lips pulled back in a snarl to reveal uneven teeth. Its hands were clasped beneath its head, like a child at bedtime. Images of preserved peat bodies from late night documentaries flashed in her mind. Katy dropped the lid and scrambled backwards away from the trunk.

Moments passed, but they felt like hours. She stared at the lid, willing her pulse to slow down and her mind to stop racing. When did the shop keeper slip a body into the trunk? And why? Where did it come from? Why did it look like it had been pried out of a bog?

Her voice of reason, which always sounded like her Aunt June, told her to take the trunk back for a refund.

Katy inched towards the trunk. She tried to push it off the coffee table, and found it slid across the wood with ease. She lifted one end, and found the trunk no heavier than when she first hauled it up the stairs. Surely the body must weigh something? She lifted the lid.

The body was gone, replaced by a mound of beautiful silk dresses in every shade of beige she could imagine. One was trimmed with pearls, another with lace, and another with feathers. A costume designer on a show set in the 1920s would have a field day. Katy picked up the first dress and lifted it out of the trunk. In daylight, it was tired and shabby, the sheen gone from the silk. The feathers hung in ragged strips, dust clinging to their tips.

“What the hell?” Katy dropped the dress, and picked up another. It also looked patchy and worn in daylight, with holes in its lace trim and a cigarette burn near the hem.

She put the second dress back and closed the lid. There was no way a trunk could contain nothing, then a body, then dresses. Perhaps it once held some kind of plant, one of the psychotropic ones she’d seen on TV, and she’d inhaled the spores. This could all be a hallucination.

Or the shop keeper did it to you, to get you to buy it, said Aunt June.

Katy’s phone lay on the sofa behind her, and she picked it up, dialling the number of the antiques shop. The owner answered on the third ring.

“What is with this trunk you sold me?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“This is going to sound crazy, but I opened it when I got home and there was a peat bog body curled up in it. Now it’s full of flapper dresses. What have you done to it? Or to me?”

“I haven’t done anything to it, or to you. Is it closed now?” asked the owner.

“Yes.”

“Open it again.”

“Why?”

“Just open it.”

Katy did as instructed. The dresses were gone, replaced by three rows of books. They were hardbacks, with old-fashioned dust covers. By the looks of them, most of them were classic novels. She recognised the Penguin logo on the spines.

“It’s full of bloody books now!”

“And if you take one out?”

Katy lifted out a copy of James Joyce’s Dubliners. On closer inspection, the dust cover was torn in places, the once-bright colours now subdued and faded.

“They look better in the trunk.”

“I think they’re ghosts.”

“What?”

“I think what I saw, and what you’re seeing now, are ghosts of things that have been kept in the trunk before. I opened it when I first acquired it and it was full of vintage whiskey, but it was completely undrinkable. Next time I opened it, it was old letters and diaries that faded when I tried to read them. Then a uniform from the Boer War that crumbled before I could get it appraised.”

“Where did you get it from?”

“A house clearance from an old lady that died without any family.”

“Well I don’t want it any more. I can’t believe you sold it knowing what it did.”

“I had to do something with it, and I didn’t want it in my house any more after I found the dead baby in it,” replied the shop owner, his tone coloured by indignation and sadness.

“Oh wow.”

“Yes, wow. Tell you what, I’ll give you your £150 back, but please, keep the trunk. I’ll send my nephew round with your money now.”

The line went dead. Katy stood up, and she heard a muffled knock.

“That was quick,” she said, moving toward the door.

The knock came again, only it didn’t come from the front door.

It came from inside the trunk.

March 16, 2015

New Craft Skills for a New Year

Teaching myself to use watercolours

I’m a firm believer in trying new things, and expanding any hobbies to include new techniques or approaches so they don’t become stale, so this month’s #Craftblogclub creative challenge, “A New Craft for the New Year”, was right up my alley. It centered around doing exactly that – either trying a new craft, or trying something new within one we already did.

I couldn’t make up my mind between trying Fair Isle knitting, or Tunisian crochet, and because I started early enough, I actually ended up trying my hand at both! I’ve done mug cosies (aka ‘mug hugs’) for both of my attempts since they’re quite quick to make, and they use very little yarn, so if it doesn’t work out, you haven’t lost much.

Fair Isle knitting is a specific type of knitting that involves alternating between two or more colours as you go. I’d tried intarsia knitting, which is another form of colourwork, but never Fair Isle – it always struck me as being a bit fiddly, and I preferred to add interest to my knits through texture, as opposed to colour work.

Bats

However I figured I’d give it a try, and as luck would have it, I came across a two-colour pattern for a bat-themed candle cosy in a Halloween download. It was just the right length to turn into a mug cosy, which is what I’ve done. I knitted the bats and edging in black, and the background in white, adding two crochet loops and two small white buttons so I can fasten it around my mug.

Bats

Bats

Bats

If you were wondering, I used Bonus DK in White and Black – it’s acrylic and washable, and I had plenty left over from knitting toys! Being me, it naturally had to be a bit batty…

Tunisian

The other mug cosy made using Tunisian crochet, which differs from traditional crochet in that you work backwards and forwards without turning your work, and your forward row involves picking up and holding more that one stitch on your book. It’s like a cross between knitting and crochet, and there’s a very good tutorial on it here. It’s actually easier than it sounds, and gives a lovely fabric that feels more like knitted stocking stitch than crochet.

Tunisian

Again I added two buttons and two loops so I could fasten it around my mug. This one ended up being narrower than the bat one, and if I made it again, I’d definitely add a few more stitches to my cast on chain to make the cosy wider, but I didn’t have a Tunisian crochet hook and was trying to make do with a regular one!

Tunisian

Tunisian

I’m very pleased with how they both turned out, although I don’t think I’ll be trying Fair Isle again! I found it too fiddly to try and keep track of the two colours of yarn, although I’m pretty pleased with the results, and I can see why the double-layer of fabric that is created is so useful for hats and gloves.

I’m more pleased with the Tunisian crochet, and I found it very easy to pick up the basics. The yarn, Sirdar Softspun Chunky, is easy to work with, although Tunisian crochet curls at the ends so it does require blocking before you can do anything with it. There’s a lovely pattern using the technique in Simply Crochet so I’ll definitely be having a go at that with my newfound skills!

Have you ever tried Fair Isle knitting or Tunisian crochet? If so, how did it go?

March 13, 2015

#FridayFlash – Telephone

Dana edged around the side of a gargantuan oak wardrobe to squeeze into the next aisle of the antiques shop. She trailed her fingers across the smooth wood, marvelling that the wardrobe was around the same size as her old bedsit in London. To her right, a bird cage hung from the ceiling, and a pair of canaries watched her progress along the aisle. Voices spoke in hushed whispers in the next aisle, and a Mozart concerto burbled from the piano near the front door, its melody faint at this end of the shop.

She examined the contents of each shelf, hoping to find a collection of objects for her next still life piece. Dana only took up art two years previously after losing her job, but her paintings earned a level of respect and admiration from the local critics. When a new gallery and craft space opened in the old steelworks, a steady stream of commissions kept her busy. Her only problem now lay in finding subjects.

A wireframe mannequin caught her eye, but was rejected for its £200 price tag. She found a sun dial marked with astrological signs instead of numbers, but couldn’t justify £350. She passed over the stuffed deer head on the wall, a butterfly display case and an umbrella stand made of ivory for similar reasons. The prices were higher than she’d expected – and she couldn’t believe how many of the antiques were violent or macabre. So much death lingered in the aisles, stored in taxidermied animals and horn ornaments.

A moment longer and Dana would have given up, heading instead to the charity shop on the next street, but she caught sight of something black and charred on a display table. Examining it closer, she realised it was an old rotary dial telephone. The plastic was melted in places, erupting in swells, its surface pitted and pocked. A brown tag hung from its receiver.

“Burned in a fire. £55. Work of art!”

Dana frowned. She wasn’t sure that a melted telephone merited the title ‘art’ but £55 wasn’t bad, and it was such an unusual object. She had four other telephones at home, from a variety of eras and in a variety of styles. Maybe she could create a piece on the changing face of communication, in which the disembodied voice was replaced by the faceless text of instant messaging.

The harsh tones of a telephone jangled and Dana started. It rang a second time, and Dana looked around. Surely the assistant would answer the phone – it might be a prospective customer. The telephone rang a third time, and Dana realised it was not the telephone on the front desk. It was the telephone in front of her.

She stared at it, looking for the wires that might connect it to a phone line. Perhaps the owners wanted customers to see that it still worked. Dana ran her hands across the table but there were no wires at all. Her hand moved to the receiver, poised to pick it up.

The telephone rang a fourth time, its voice more shrill and insistent than before. Dana snatched up the receiver and lifted it to her ear.

“Hello?”

No voice responded. She could only hear a dull roar in the background, like the ocean at night. It reminded her of the time her mother accidentally phoned her from inside a supermarket, and all she could hear was the background noise of a shopping trip.

“Hello? Is there anyone there?”

“Help…..us…..”

A broken whisper rasped in her ear, and something crackled and popped. Her mind finally connected the violent snapping sounds with the bass roar. Fire.

“Hello? Hello? Do you need me to call someone?” Dana panicked, unsure what to do.

“Help….us….”

The line went dead, severing the sounds of flames slowly consuming a room. No dial tone sounded, only silence.

Dana dropped the receiver, and the distorted plastic thumped onto the table. She looked at her hand, her fingers slightly blackened from contact with the telephone. She wiped them against her jeans, and backed away.

She made her way back through the shop, dodging around antique trunks and wrought iron coat stands to the main aisle. A young woman played the piano while a couple in their forties examined the jewellery cabinet. Dana glanced at the Art Nouveau mirror behind the counter. Instead of a redhead of average height, dressed in a white shirt and jeans, she saw a corpse, dead eyes staring out of scorched skin, its lips drawn back from its teeth in agony. Dana fled, ignoring the calls of the assistant behind the counter.

Somewhere in the shop, a telephone rang.

March 6, 2015

#FridayFlash – The Empty Seat

“You can’t sit there, that’s your granddad’s seat.”

Every visit, without fail, my grandmother would usher me out of the comfy armchair by the window, and direct me to a hard wooden chair by the bookcase. Mealtimes were the same – the padded seat at the head of the table remained vacant, its place set with cutlery and an unused mug, and I couldn’t stop myself staring at the empty place. If I squinted hard, I sometimes thought I could see a figure sitting there.

I couldn’t remember my grandfather, but my mum always told me he’d have found my grandmother’s behaviour “quirky”. “We all know he’s gone, love, but she can’t quite let him go yet,” she’d say. My dad sometimes teased Gran about it, and she’d threaten to withhold pudding after dinner, but there was always sadness behind her good-natured smile.

I was fifteen when my grandmother left us to join my grandfather. As their only child, it fell to my mother to sort out their house. Mum did most of it herself, but eventually she took me with her to help pick up the last few things that were ready to go into storage. We arrived at the house in the morning, and it felt strange walking into the front hall without my grandmother greeting us, or reminding me to take my shoes off. The house felt hollow. Mum squeezed my shoulder and directed me into the living room while she put the kettle on.

Most of the furniture had gone, donated to the local council or sold on to the students in the area, except for one thing. Granddad’s chair still sat beside the window, the only thing Mum couldn’t really bear to part with. Without thinking, I eased into the armchair, feeling the comforting hollow that once held my grandfather. He’d drunk tea, eaten snacks, watched television, and slept in this chair. In a way, it was as much a part of him as anything else in the house.

“I wish I’d known you, Granddad. I bet you’d have had some brilliant stories about Gran,” I said, patting the arm of the chair.

A faint chuckle at the door made me start, and I looked up, expecting to see my grandmother ready to scold me for sitting in the wrong seat. Instead, I saw a shadow move across the wall and out into the hallway. A giggle replied to the chuckle, so quiet it was as if I heard it from miles away.

Mum came in with two cups of tea. She perched on the arm of the chair beside me.

“It’s funny, you know. I could have sworn I heard your gran laughing in the hall about something.”

“I heard something too.”

Mum smiled and put her arm around me.

“I think they’ve found each other again. But come on, drink up, and let’s get the last of this into the car. We’ve got to find a space for this old thing in the living room, though God knows how we’ll convince the cat it can’t sit here.”

February 27, 2015

#FridayFlash – The Moor

Skipton Moor, by Steve Partridge

There wasn’t always a moor to the north of Little Howling. Local tales told of an ancient forest, stretching for miles across the land now occupied by the moor, and Great Howling. Angela loved the stories of witches in the woods, and thickets so dense that villagers became lost in them, their cries for help giving rise to the names of the twin villages.

“But the greed of the villages was too great,” her grandmother would say as she recounted the stories in her cottage on the edge of the moor. “They cut more and more trees down to build houses, until there were none left. Just a great big scar in the land between here and there.”

Angela liked to walk on the moor during the day, sometimes even venturing across to Great Howling to visit their shops. If she stayed too late she got the bus home instead of walking across the moor at night. The vast open space became threatening after dark, a place of endless night and mysterious rustlings. Once or twice she even fancied she heard wind through branches that were felled long ago.

Angela left Little Howling for London, swapping the village for university. The moor faded from her mind, though she sometimes dreamed of the gales that whipped across the grass, or the plaintive cries of the sheep in autumn. One nightmare cast her as a nightdress-clad Gothic heroine, running across the moor with a masked rider in hot pursuit, though she woke when she tripped over a rock.

Her mother’s second marriage drew her back to the village, and she spent an evening trading memories with her grandmother.

“If you believe the stories, the last tree was felled three hundred years ago this very evening.”

“Do you believe the stories?” asked Angela.

“Some of them.” Her grandmother gave that quiet, knowing smile that drove Angela mad with curiosity, and would say no more.

That night, Angela couldn’t sleep for the screaming that came from the moor. At three minutes to midnight, she found herself standing in the living room, gazing at the mirror that faced the window. The view outside revealed a barren, desolate landscape, dotted with the tiny pin pricks of light from Great Howling. The view in the mirror showed a mighty forest, the trees pointing their largest branches in the direction of the village.

“I knew some day they’d be back,” said Angela’s grandmother from the doorway.

“What’s going on?”

“The trees are back.”

“How? They were cut down.”

“Yes, but their spirits remained. And they’re very, very angry.”

Howls erupted outside. Black shapes rippled like wind through the leaves, passing along the streets and tearing through houses. The screams of the trees merged with the screams of the villagers. Angela dashed toward the door, but her grandmother blocked her path.

“Don’t worry, child. You’ll be safe enough in here.”

“But Mum and Gerry-”

“She’ll be safe too. So will he. You’ve both got enough of my blood in you, and he’s an outsider.”

“Your blood?”

Angela’s grandmother moved towards her, suddenly stronger and taller than she’d been that morning. Her eyes shone with a strange light, and she smiled. Angela backed away, her hip connecting with the sofa.

“Who exactly are you?” asked Angela.

“The last witch of the woods.”

Her grandmother laid her hand on Angela’s face, the skin of her palm cold and smooth as glass. The world went black and Angela’s last thoughts were filled with screaming trees.

* * *

She woke up twelve hours later to find her mother and Gerry making a makeshift lunch in the kitchen. The whole village was cordoned off and the quarantine meant the wedding would be on hold until the authorities could discover what caused the deaths of half of the village, leaving the other half untouched. Angela didn’t need to ask how long the survivors had lived in the village. She knew none of their families were in Little Howling three centuries ago.

“Where’s Gran?” asked Angela.

“I don’t know, love. We came round to check on you both, and we found you passed out in the living room. The front door was wide open,” replied her mother. “Did she say anything to you last night?”

“No, nothing. She just told me some ghost stories before I went to bed.”

Angela looked out of the living room window. Somehow the moor didn’t look so desolate any more.

February 20, 2015

#FridayFlash – The Bell

The road stretched away across the moor, disappearing and reappearing with every undulation of untamed land. Edward Fenwick peered into the distance in both directions. The view yielded only miles of lonely heather. He fished in his horse’s saddlebag for the creased square of parchment.

“Well this is a fine business. Digby’s map surely shows Cransland House, yet there is not even a cow shed to be seen!” Edward looked down at the horse. The mare whinnied, and bent her head to nibble at the grass verge.

Edward took his pocketwatch from his waistcoat. Only 3pm, and yet the shadowy fingers of dusk already felt their way across the moor. A cloud crossed the face of the low sun, and Edward shivered. The crammed dwellings and clamour of London could never prepare him for this.

“I am late! Thirty minutes, no less. I should have taken the cart that was offered,” said Edward.

He gazed across the moor, as if expecting the dilapidated old hall to materialise before him. Nothing. Not even a sheep or cow to break the monotony of the view.

A gust of wind danced around Edward, carrying a faint ringing. The mare lifted her head and pricked up her ears; Edward leaned forward in the saddle, straining to make out the sound. Regular yet insistent, Edward recognised the call of a small bell. He flicked the mare’s reins, but the horse refused the budge. Unable to urge her forward, but keen to discover the location of the bell, Edward clambered down out of the saddle and set off down the road.

Hidden by a swell of moorland, another road crossed the empty landscape. A wooden post gave directions where the two roads met, and a mound of earth lay heaped at the foot of the sign. Edward ignored the westward arm pointing toward Cransland House, focussed instead upon the mound. A narrow wooden contraption protruded from the ground, topped by a small copper bell. Sheltered from the sudden gusts of wind by the ground’s swell, the bell continued to ring.

Edward snatched his hat from his head and turned it in his hands. He spun around, casting wild glances in all directions. As before, he was alone on the moor. He crossed to the loose mound, searching the ground for clues as to the grave’s occupant. Stories tumbled through his mind unbidden, tales told by his old nanny about the witches and vampires buried at crossroads. Even at the age of 43, he found himself unable to pass through London’s many crossroads without wondering about the ground beneath his feet.

Edward mopped his brow, his teeth chewing his lip in time to the bell’s call. Leaping devils pranced before his mind’s eye. His feet tried to direct him back to the mare. He shook his head, trying to dislodge his thoughts.

“Come along now, this will not do. You cannot believe in such superstitious nonsense,” he chided himself. “You have heard the stories of premature burial – some fellow could be gasping his last down there while you dither up here.”

The bell’s ringing grew louder, as if in reply. Edward forced himself towards the mound. Nestling his gloves inside his hat, his fingers got to work on the soft earth. The soil broke apart and fell aside as he scooped handfuls to his left and right. His red face shone with a halo of sweat when his fingertips finally brushed the splinters of untreated wood.

“Hallo there, I am here! I shall have you free in a moment!” called Edward. He hauled the last of the clods behind him, laying bare a rough wooden box, some six feet tall and three feet wide. Edward worked his fingers into the crack between the lid and the box, pulling upwards with all the strength his accounts clerk arms possessed. His mare neighed somewhere in the deepening twilight behind him, a call filled with panic.

“I shall be back, dearest horse!” shouted Edward, looking back over his shoulder as his hands finally pulled the lid free.

Edward looked down into the coffin, expecting to see a grateful face gasping for air. The box was empty, lined with rough sackcloth. He looked up to see if the trapped victim had hauled themselves to freedom when he called to his mare. Nothing but shadows surrounded him. He turned back to the coffin.

Something hit Edward square between the shoulderblades and he tumbled forwards. The last thing he felt was sackcloth against his face.

February 13, 2015

#FridayFlash – Silhouette

I’ve not been well this week so this is a repost! Enjoy!

Green digits flash in the darkness, proclaiming the hour to be 2am. The bathroom door opens, throwing a rectangle of harsh light across the filthy carpet. Bare feet avoid the sticky patches near the dresser. Serena’s shadow looms large on the wall, the sickly glow from the muted TV turning the silhouette into a twisted monster.

She sits on the edge of the bed, pulling her knees up to her chin. The shadow shakes itself free from her bare feet and stretches. Its talons rake across the stains and tears of the carpet. Serena watches the shadow slide across the room and under the motel room door.

It will return before dawn and she will wake with blood on her hands.

 

February 11, 2015

Icy Handmade On Display!

I work at a local college among lots of other lovely creative people, and we recently had a staff exhibition to display all of the work that goes on outside of everyone’s normal day jobs. It ranged from illustration and textile design to photography, animation, fine art and ceramics. I hadn’t originally intended to put anything in for it, but eventually I decided I’d display some of my jewellery and knitwear.

staff_exhibition

The boards feature a mixture between work that is for sale, and work that I’ve done for myself. In a way, they also demonstrate what I do digitally due to the strict grid system that I adhered to when putting the boards together. The collar/scarf on the left is one of my own, while the hat and scarf on the right are for sale on Etsy. They’re made from Women’s Institute yarn, which is surprisingly soft and an absolute delight to work with (so it’s a shame it’s only available at Hobbycraft…)

WI hatIt was interesting because while those with whom I share an office know that I knit, crochet and make my own jewellery, a lot of people that I see on a daily basis didn’t! It was also cool to see what everyone else does – we often get quite caught up in the ‘day job’ and don’t always have time to ask what people do as freelance practitioners. A lot of the staff are also bad at self promoting, and don’t like to blow their own trumpets, so it’s been a good experience to really enjoy what everyone can do.

The exhibition also showed that what you expect someone to do isn’t necessarily how they spend their time. I teach graphic design and illustration, particularly the Adobe Creative Suite software, and while it’s true that I do produce book covers outside of work (most notably Lost Children and The Guardian’s Wyrd, both by Nerine Dorman – in each case, I did the layout and typography while others produced the artwork), my main non-academic interest is my Icy Handmade sideline. People expressed surprise that I’m known for teaching digital skills, particularly Photoshop, yet I was displaying textiles!

I’m immensely proud of what I make, and how far I’ve come in a relatively short space of time. I’ve been knitting since around 2008, and I took up crochet seriously some time last year, and I’ve been making jewellery since mid-2013 – but there are lots of future plans that I’d like to see come to fruition. I also managed to sneak a photo of Mummy into my textiles board, so her #mummyselfie from the British Library appeared! She does love promoting The Necromancer’s Apprentice wherever she can, and I suppose in a lot of ways she likes promoting herself. Look at that smile!

If you’re a crafter, have you ever displayed your work?

February 6, 2015

#FridayFlash – Pestilence

Die Pest, Arnold Böcklin (1898)

The figure stretches, ancient joints popping as it shakes free the sleep of decades. It emerges into the nocturnal world of the city, neon light sparking in puddles outside 24 hour cafes and quiet laundromats. Laughter pours from the bars, and the figure turns away in irritation. The moan of the sickroom is its favourite song, not this outpouring of mirth.

It stalks through the city, claws clicking on the rain-slicked pavements, and heads towards the suburbs. The shades are drawn here, houses silent as their occupants sleep. The figure can smell the modern plagues of depression and anxiety, the long fingers of stress worming their way into even the most carefree of minds. It smiles.

Glowing wards bar several doorways, and the figure sulks in the street, glowering at its inability to cross these thresholds. It will return in a few more nights with some new illness to strike down these families. Yet more doorways remain as yet unbarred, and into these houses it skips with gleeful abandon. Its twin stalks the continent across the ocean, but it hasn’t had such free reign in this land for many years.

The figure probes bedrooms, visiting the young and old alike. It sprinkles its menace wherever it can, sneaking through windows and disappearing through air vents whenever an occupant stirs. They will wake in the morning, unaware of the danger in which they find themselves. They will carry the seeds of their own destruction far and wide, taking the figure’s dark message out into their community. Before long the first rashes will appear, accompanied by condemnation and panic.

The first fingers of dawn claw at the sky, and the figure disappears into the fabric of time and space. It has spread its perverse joy for now, an affliction it long thought defeated on these shores, and will return with more dark tidings before long.