It is all very well to make promises, keeping them is altogether another matter. Somehow I have to remember who I am, where I am, and what I am supposed to be writing about. This might be easy for most people, but it isn’t for me.
During the long hot/cold/windy/rainy British summer/winter of 2007 I was involved in a dramatic incident that left me with a fatal head injury and a not unattractive limp. Since this incident I have been trying to piece together fragments of a cherished project that I had been working on prior to this life changing event.
Sometimes I am haunted by black and white images featuring bottles. Sometimes I feel a compulsive urge to address grey envelopes, with white calligraphy, to long lost strangers who lurk in the smutted crevices of my memory. Sometimes I have completely lucid moments when I can recall the names of characters who are relevant to the plot… such as Sebastian, Moonchild, Rupert Etherington-Smythe… and there is another indistinct character I see, a character who digs up a car park next to a scout hut in a place called Mogwash… yes, I remember — a German archaeologist called Mago. Lovely Mago! And he is searching for something! After reading a series of nonsensical ramblings on a disused WordPress blog he came to believe that a great fortune was buried within the vicinity of a small English village called Luddley-cum-Mogwash. I see him with a map which, after a scuffle and some energetic Morris dancing, was taken from him, confiscated before he was deported.
Oh what a fuss that old blog caused!
In my darkest hour I remember that it is I who is responsible for creating this pother; this tumult; this pandemonium. In my darkest hour I remember that it was I who created, and buried, the Bottle of Greed….
I winced as I read the comments on my previous post. How could I have made such a glaring error? No, not the one about the lion feasting on caribou… but the one that alluded to time travel. Thanks to the wonders of modern day technology I could, and would, rectify my omission. But this was not the same as getting it right the first time and my legion of readers, followers, trolls, pixies, and people who regularly clicked onto my website looking for a crossword solution [please see Calligraphy Tip No. 1 – Thickening Downstrokes], had been left bemused, baffled, perplexed and perhaps even a little befuddled. This was not what they had come to expect from me.
My head hurt a little as I fiddled around in my WordPress dashboard, I was still recovering from my Easter over indulgence and felt a bit sick, but a post had to be written, mistakes had to be corrected, relevant quotations had to be found, a Pot Noodle had to be photographed, a used teabag had to be ironed, the sound of a vacuum cleaner had to be recorded, and invitations had to be delivered…
Taramind Dewhurst, the immaculately groomed curator of The Onion Gallery, held the envelope in her grubby little hands. She had always had small hands, even as a child, they were delicate but had a firm grasp on her paperwork. She turned the envelope over and caressed her name and address, which felt raised, as if embossed.
Not printed then, she purred, knitting her brows into a double constrictor knot, which is unflattering on anyone of any age. Taramind was familiar with the craft of calligraphy and it was not a craft that she particularly cared for, she preferred the clean lines and balanced features of printed fonts, but she had to concede that this calligraphy had an awkward, yet modern charm. She hesitated before ripping the envelope open, as a lion would do before feasting on a caribou, and tried to guess the nature of the invitation, because surely this had to be an invitation?
She reached across her desk for her letter opener. Taking the antique bronze dagger from its sheath she made an opening incision, thus removing precisely 2mm from the top of the envelope. Within the envelope were two pieces of brown cardboard that were taped together to protect the inner content. With a concentration that caused her brows to knit once more, this time into a pair of socks, Taramind picked at the tape with her manicured nails. Two hours and one broken nail later, Taramind placed the contents on her blotter. What sort of game is this? She wondered in italics. Why would anyone send her a photograph of a Pot Noodle? She turned the photograph over. There was a date, 21st November 2045, and an address for a village hall in a place called Mogwash….
Iwoke this morning with a heavy head, remembering that at some point in the distant past I had made a well intentioned, over enthusiastic, yet irrational declaration of intent – apparently I had promised to publish a post every Wednesday on my Wonky Words blog. How had this happened? I sighed and dragged myself out of bed, what the hell was I going to write about? There was Charmaine, of course, and her inky dabblings with italic calligraphy, and I could make mention of Harold, the Spanish flamenco dancer who was also locked in my attic fiddling with his self styled pointed nib….
On Tuesday evening before last Sunday, Harold and I argued ferociously, in an equally determined fashion, with regard to his refusal to learn any broad pen lettering. He believed a copperplate style would befit his passion for all things flamboyant and flouncy. In the end I let him have his way as I wanted to watch Eastenders and Holby City, but I refused to give him access to my extensive supply of pointed nibs and I made a note not to give him a bowl with his gruel the following morning, I also considered withholding the spoon.
So anyway, here we are, it is Wednesday and I am posting Charmaine’s first attempts at italic, and Harold’s first calligraphic marks with a pointed piece of wire that he picked out from an old electricity cable, which he found protruding from the attic wall.
Charmaine, bless her, is learning some lettering history as she practices, which I think is a rather noble endeavour, although I doubt very much that she will remember anything worthwhile – she may be a sphinx like beauty but she has the memory of a fish. Harold, on the other hand, being the artistic sensitive type, is writing any old random phrase that pops into his head, and claims to prefer using an expressive stream of consciousness for his practice material… personally, I think he is spending far too much time staring at Charmaine’s chest.
Imust apologise for my absence, I have been overwhelmed by requests for my calligraphy mentoring service and I now have a wide variety of people trapped in my attic eating gruel and sucking on nibs. To be honest I am fed up with the whole thing. They are making an inordinate amount of noise and I suspect that one of these various people is a dance teacher, such is the thumping. Or perhaps they are trying to escape, who knows?
I am writing this post to pledge a promise in response to those who have sent me emails pleading for an update on Charmaine’s calligraphy progress [you know who you are], and I hereby promise to show up at this screen every Wednesday and publish something… anything. Even if I am away on my yacht in the middle of the Med, or up to my elbows in hospital grade rubber sheeting, I promise to provide a discourse of some description. Next week I will publish Charmaine’s first marks with a Mitchell nib; I will ponder the Eurovision Song Contest, and I will have clean toilets throughout the house – yes, some of those calligraphy students need to learn some basic cleaning skills.
Because I have yet to figure out how to upload pictures on my new laptop, which I received on my 100th birthday the Monday before last, here is a Youtube featuring a tune wot I quite like….
Until next Wednesday, may all your pickles be edible.
I have been contacted by my niece, Charmaine, and she is desperate to learn calligraphy for her upcoming nuptials in 2020. I offered her my services but she is adamant that she wants to address the wedding invitations herself, mostly because she considers me to be so addled and ancient that she fears I may be dead before I am needed. Charmed, I’m sure. Anyhow, with a heavy heart I have agreed to help her. Obviously she has been pouting over Pinterest and is determined to learn a modern calligraphy style, in return I have said that if she wants my instruction then she will learn my way, and that she would do well to learn several styles… I mean, who is to know what will be fashionable and slapped all over Pinterest in 2020??
She has now been here for several hours. I have locked her in the attic. It is furnished simply with a wooden desk and chair, upon the desk is a rudimentary lined notepad from Tesco’s, a straight plastic holder, a no.2 1/2 William Mitchell nib, a bottle of Higgins Eternal ink, a small paintbrush, and an old Sheaffer instruction pamphlet that includes a basic italic examplar. Before leaving her, and locking the door, I demonstrated how to insert the nib into the holder i.e. this is the nib and you shove it in the holder. I also disgusted her by sticking the new nib in my mouth and giving it a good slosh round with saliva. I did explain that this is my way of getting the protective factory coating off the nib, but she is welcome to spend time messing around with flames, toothpaste, alcohol, vinegar, etc, if she finds the saliva method too repugnant. My gob is like acid and never fails to strip a nib. Any nib. I then fitted the reservoir for her, checked the nib was writing okay, locked her in and then went up the pub.
I am back now and fixing her a bowl of gruel, which I will take up to her after I’ve finished my fag. I am excited to see how she has progressed after my in depth instruction. If all goes well then I may think about taking on a paying student as there is something comforting in having someone locked in the attic whilst I potter about. I will upload pictures of her work in my next post.
Amazeballs!! I have reached day 23 of the 365 lettering project, and am so drunk on my success that I have started using corrupted superlatives. Anyhow, here are some highlights of the last 23 days…. apologies for the rough photos, they look better on my Flickr feed, which is Here.
In some respects I am very pleased with myself… BUT, in relation to calligraphy, lettering, decorative writing…whatever… I NEED A BREAK!!!! Yep, I am questioning why I am doing calligraphy, again. I am not really enjoying doing it for the 365 project. I mostly enjoy writing calligraphy when it surprises me… when I sit down and mess around with a pen, and a flourish or an unplanned squiggle jumps out and makes me smile. This diligent pursuit of calligraphy every day is perhaps too workmanlike to be enjoyable for me. We shall see.