Rachel Kendall

Wet dreams!

I was expecting greatness last night: flashes of light sizzling down the pane, torrential torrents, bass notes rumbling across an iron ore sky. Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration. I was expecting a couple of thunder claps and a fizzle of lightening as per a usual British thunderstorm. But we didn’t even get that. We got rain though. It rained so much it dripped into my subconscious and entered my dreams…

It wasn’t my usual ‘dream-house’, the one I visit so often in my sleep, the one with such potential for both creative space and corner decay. This was somewhere else entirely and I’d come home to find it water-logged. The first thing I noticed was the sponginess of the carpet around the book case and the electrical wiring. Then I realised water was pouring from a pipe which was normally outside but for some reason had wormed its way in. My books were ruined. The water was rising over my shoes. Then I noticed the mouse. Half a white mouse, to be exact. The top half of a white mouse hollowed out and filled with water. Then the wolf, licking herself in a more feline than lupine manner, before her cubs joined her and they ran off into the night. It was dark outside by now. There was something else, too. Another animal but I don’t remember now what it was. I rang the landlord. He had more important things to do and said it wasn’t an emergency. I woke up to my daughter crying because she’d had a nightmare. It happens the cat had been jumping around on the noisy floorboards in her bedroom trying to catch a larger-than-I-like-in-my-house spider. The spider which ran into my bedroom after my zombienambulist staggering scared the cat. Daughter came into my bed after that and was soon snoring but I lay awake, too aware of the spider flexing its knuckled muscle.

The other house, the usual dream house, is always water-logged too. Rotting floor boards and blackened walls but only in one corner. Most of the house is beautiful, light, large. But this one corner… I know if I stand there the floor will collapse because the boards are so rotten. I wonder if this means something?

grinder

I have finally acquiesced and started wearing a mouth guard at night. Bloody horrible thing. I tried before with a lower jaw one and hated it. But I’m grinding too much and before I end up with bloody stubs I had to say ok, ok, I’ll try one on my top teeth. Nasty thing. It’s bad enough that the tablets I’m on make me gurn like a pro that I grind at night too. Anyway, I’m stick of feeling my fillings disintegrating, tasting their shiny worn-down surfaces. I’m a bit obsessed with mouths anyway. I mean, the eating, talking, spewing, masticating, expectorating, kissing… so much good and bad from the maw. So much easier, sometimes, is the writing than the talking.

I gave blood yesterday. I must admit I was a trifle nervous because last time I gave blood I fainted, two hours later, on the bus. I’ve been giving blood for around 20 years, with breaks for tattoos, piercings, pregnancy, breast-feeding etc and I have never had a problem. I don’t know what mix of elements caused the fainting but I was concerned that it would happen again, in a public place. The horror. Anyway, all was fine, and I shall continue to give blood until they tell me to stop, or until I actually getting around to having that new tattoo. It’s something very important to me after the number of times my mother has had transfusions for accidents and illnesses throughout her life. It’s great when you get that text to say your blood has been transported to such and such a hospital. You feel like you might actually be able to make a difference.

heat, birds, birds, birds

Sleeping with the window open is a new phenomena for me. I wouldn’t normally dare to even let a toe slip out from beneath the duvet, let alone practically invite a masked intruder into my bedroom in the dead of night (maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong?). But this heat (at the time of writing, the glass is half-full and most of that is rain water, but at the time of thinking up this post, the heat was filling the glass, the room, the house…) has me atop the covers, window open, naked as the day I was born and too zonked to care.

The birds, though. The dawn bloody chorus. How loud are they? Sparrows they mostly are with their shrill, impetuous chirping like the yapping of small dogs. It’s annoying like cutlery scraping on crockery, or glass beads rubbed together in the palms of sweaty hands.

Still, at least I have a dawn chorus to wake up to, a window to keep open, bed covers to lie on top of. Thinking right now of Grenfell Tower and how those who didn’t lose their lives or their loved ones lost their homes, their possessions (only things, but with emotional value), their sanctity and the pleasure in sleeping in one’s own sacred space.

Representations of horror

I’m writing a proposal at the moment for a book about my favourite horror film House of 1000 Corpses, so I’ve been doing some film-watching research on the effects of exploitation/splatterpunk/hard-gore horror (I think I just made up a new genre there!!). I wonder if my neighbours can hear the screams, the sound of broken bodies and terrified teens. Obviously I only watch these things when daughter isn’t here, when she’s at her dad’s or, sometimes, when she’s at school. The neighbours don’t necessarily know that, though!

Vi has a interesting relationship with scary films. Those kids films that are much scarier than the ones I watched at 8. Paranorman, Coraline, Monster House, Frankenweenie etc. She is really scared of the dark and always has been, yet takes an anxiety-fuelled delight in ghosts, ghouls, witches, monsters etc. Like me, she loves the horror tropes but can do without the scares. This is what House of 1000 Corpses is like for me. It’s a fun-filled mash-up of monsters, without spilling over into terror territory.

The film takes its cue from the plethora of 1970s American horror so these are the films I’ve been watching. The usual suspects – Texas Chainsaw, The Hills Have Eyes, Last House on the Left etc. But I’ve also strayed into (ex)banned territory, with Cannibal Holocaust being last night’s fodder and I Spit on Your Grave next on my list. Yes, CH was able to provoke a reaction from me. It probably had its intended effect. But actually I was quite impressed. I was expecting a narrative-free shindig around as much gore as possible but I think it had quite a lot to say on the trauma of war, the Cambodia and Vietnam spoils with its torture, rape and murder of civilians by US troops etc. In fact, the most horrific elements were in the animal killings. The slaying of the turtle and monkey are truly awful and I think this lies simply in the fact that the animals were actually killed. One can find a way to emotionally cope with representations of evil, of torture etc, but when you know it’s real it’s almost too much to bear. But the film itself I consider to be a very clever social commentary on the so-called civilised society and it’s torture of those who are different to us.

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As an aside, I would like to point out that my daughter has absolutely no way of seeing these films, or the DVD cases (most are electronic anyway) and will never have access to my account on-line. Nothing visible in this house is horror-related. All that stuff is stashed away, hidden from view like body parts in the basement freezer.

Reflection

Being in Manchester on Saturday was a sobering experience. I wouldn’t normally go into town alone at the weekend – too busy, too chaotic. I sometimes take Vi though. As annoying as I find it, she loves the buzzing atmosphere, the religious fervour of the bible-reading folk, the buskers including bonkers Manc legends The Piccadilly Rats…

 
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This Saturday was different though. It was really hot and I almost didn’t trek in on the stuffy 192 bus, wade through the swathes of shoppers, past the kids playing in the fountain. But a thunderstorm had been forecast later in the afternoon and I wanted to see the flowers before they were flattened by the elements.

It was busy, as usual, but different too, because of the armed police dotted around. It was noisy and bright and sweltering, but when I got to St. Anne’s Square the atmosphere changed. Armed police on every corner, with their toy-like guns and big smiles. Press tents and vans and recordings taking place. People queuing to lay flowers in the square for those killed and injured by the suicide bomber on Monday.

The scent of those floral tributes was overwhelming. As soon as I leaned over the barrier to take a photo I was hit by the perfume. The beauty of the torture garden, the living memory of children, teens, adults who aren’t going home. By the time I left the sky had begun to darken and the wind had started to bat the balloons around. The first few drops of rain fell as I got on the bus. And then stopped. The thunderstorm didn’t come after all. A shame; the day called for thunder, for noisy, bright, rain-splattered weather instead of more of the same stagnant heat.

Bio

I totally need to update my bio on this blog. Aside from being old news (not that much has happened since then but hey) that whole 3rd person shit riles me a little now. Anyway, I’ll do it later. I have important business to attend to first: coffee.

Lethal Weapons

I’ve forgotten how to write. Suddenly. Spontaneously. I swear it used to just bleed out of me, breathe out. I used to belt it out in operatic high coo coos. When I say suddenly I mean the words, of course, the suddenness of words. The ability, well, that’s been dribbling out of me over the last 8 years. Since the bairn and my head became full of worry over her and she’s worth every moment but sometimes I wonder, how did Anne Sexton do it? Oh, she didn’t. How about Plath? Same. Blyton? She was a tyrant to her own, right? How about that Harry Potter woman? She blurted in a bedsit when baby was sleeping. Sleeping? I don’t recall my baby ever sleeping. At least, that’s how it felt at the time. Still, I should have no excuse, now that she’s 8 and she spends part of her week at her dad’s. Still, though, again. Suddenly, still, it’s quiet and I still find I can’t compose myself. I started studying again just so that I would have some discipline but struggle to write a 6k word essay on a couple of Lars von Trier films. How do I expect to get back into the novel? No, not the one I started in 2005 in Prague. The other one, the one I’ve been mentally writing since the toddler years.

Oh, the TV is on and my peripheral vision has just singled out such a tiny, skinny woman on… what is this shit? Oh, Lethal Weapon. I shall go and turn it off and tune out. Before I do though, I am, right now, so proud to be a Mancunian. The way strangers have rallied and spoken out and pulled through and offered support. It’s the great Manchester 10k run on Sunday. Runners will be wearing a yellow ribbon to respect those affected by Monday’s attack. This is the glue. Everything else is unimportant.

The long road home

It took me an hour and a half to get home today, instead of the usual 20-30 minutes. There was shouting and swearing and honking of horns and cars trying to push in front and u-turn and block the road. But the sun was shining, the breeze was blowing through the open windows in my car, Lana del Rey was singing to me and all I could think was – I’m not involved in the accident that’s cause all this chaos. I’m not going to stress and shout and swear because I am alive. I am on my way home. I’m not the one lying on the floor or having to be cut from my car. I want to get home as much as the next person; I want to eat my tea and plonk myself down in front of the TV and avoid the news because it’s all shit and I’d had a shitty day at work. But thank god I wasn’t going to have the police come round to tell me someone I loved had been run over. Thank god I hadn’t knocked over a cyclist or injured a pedestrian. It’s everywhere, the chaos. One might almost be afraid to leave the house in the morning for fear of being obliterated.

Over a year later…

It’s all about beginnings. Right? Re-animations. I was all a-go-go about starting a new blog back in 2014. Then got all wa-hay about getting it going again in 2015. Suddenly it’s 2017 and thanks to Driving in the Dark‘s blog, I feel inspired to write again. When I say write, I mean e-scribble a few words a day. A DAY, you hear?

Things have happened since 2015. Two days ago a suicide bomber in my home town of Manchester killed 22 and injured over 50 more, most were teenage girls. The youngest was 8, the same age as my daughter. In a few minutes I’m accompanying my child’s class on a trip to the local mosque. We will not put up barriers.

In the last 3 weeks three people I know have passed away – my step-dad (though I always called him this, he was technically my dad as I was 2 when my mum got together with him) after years of fighting various ailments; the mother of a good friend who died in her sleep; and the mother of a friend of my daughter’s from the nursery days, who died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage. She was in her mid-40s. So long Barry, Sadie and Fiona. You will be missed.

A couple of months ago I was mugged. My car keys were in my bag. They stole my car.

Got a new car.

Started a part-time Film Studies MA. Thoroughly enjoyable but really, am I mad?

Put the zine Sein und Werden on hiatus for a while.

Discovered Caravan Palace.

Got some pet stick insects.

Continue to have a cat and yes, it turns out I can keep a pet alive.

Let’s have some visuals – Lexi cat/Lexicon/Lexipants:

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Art a-go-go

It’s been a busy and culturally inspiring start to 2015 thanks to Andy Warhol at Tate Liverpool, Witches and Wicked Bodies at the British Museum and Terror and Wonder: the Gothic imagination at the British Library.

There was a time when every day would be cause to seek out an artistic treat, be it in the form of film, theatre production¬†or exhibition. Sometimes there were gigs, but a growing discomfort in being close to strangers in dark places means it’s been a while since I entertained that notion. If I wasn’t seeing/reading/analysing art, I was making it myself. I’d go off with my camera and forage for that perfect piece of life to capture in two dimensions. I’d scribble poetry and fiction (always writing, taking snippets found in others’ conversations, observations of life on the outside), daub paper with paint, spend hours cutting and sticking to make collages, zines…

Having a child obviously means you do things differently. You can take a baby to some places but as they grow the possibilities for a ‘grown-up’ art thing diminish. You find yourself in the museum of Science and Industry, watching as the kids run riot through the ‘interactive’ section. You sit cross-legged at rhyme time, singing Dingle Dangle Scarecrow at the top of your voice along with the other parents while the kids invade the toy box, looking for more interesting things to do. You sit and watch while your daughter finger-paints, nervous and ready with the wipes for the moment the paint pot gets knocked over. Because it will. You compliment on colours kept within boundaries and ‘oh what a beautiful flower’. Oh, it’s not a flower? Ah, it’s mummy. Well done! And you proudly display the pictures, sculptures and ‘found objects’ around the house until it begins to look like a nursery and/or the seaside.

It’s all art. It’s all that creative stuff. It’s just that you’re supervising someone else, or colouring in alongside them. It is no less important just because it is private and will probably never see the inside of an art gallery. Having said that, my daughter did sell her first short story last week. The two page story she wrote about heroes and villains (it’s not a short story mummy, it’s 2 pages long) on the train on the way back from Liverpool was sold to a friend for 20p. Her first sale. Ker-ching.

There are some artists whose work could be of interest to children. The kids enjoyed Warhol’s bright cartoonish images at the recent exhibition, and some of Grayson Perry’s tapestries are big and bold and the messages go way over the head of a four foot child!

warhol

One thing the kids loved most at that exhibition was the room of Warhol films. With different films playing on each of the four walls, and a Velvet Underground soundtrack, it felt like one was actually inside Warhol’s head. People sat and soaked it up. Others scrutinised the space, the black and white images floating larger than life. The kids watched the moving pictures, touched the walls to let themselves become a part of the film, and shone the torches (provided as part of a pack to keep kids entertained) onto the walls to make their own changes to the medium.

But other exhibitions are a definite no no, such as Paper Cuts, the collection of beautiful and fragile dissections of paper exhibited over wall and floor space, or the recent British Library collection – Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination.

Terror and Wonder

This was a fantastic exhibition whose timeline ran from the first ‘Gothic’ novel, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, to Martin Parr’s recent photographs of Whitby’s annual Gothic weekend. I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer volume of books, images, artwork and film excerpts intrinsically caught up in the genre, from Frankenstein to The Wicker Man to the recent spate of horror parodies (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies etc)

parr

Photograph by Martin Parr

I love to surround myself in art, and one day my daughter will be old enough to appreciate much more of it with me.