Month: December 2011

Not Here, Not There, Not Anywhere: Liminal Spaces

You will, I hope, forgive me, as in spite of our being in the midst of Christmas celebration, I will entirely ignore Christmas in  this my blog update. It’s not that I dislike Christmas – much to the contrary, in fact – but I won’t just blog about it because it’s “the season”. Instead, I’ll talk a little about something that’s strangely near my heart: liminal spaces. I really, really like those spaces of transition. They give me a sort of giddiness, especially places like airports, train stations or coach stations. Simply feeling the buzz, getting immersed in the atmosphere of comings and goings, the continuous flux of people – all of these give me, more or less, a feeling of “belonging”. Which is, I’ll admit, most weird, as this seldom happens when I’m at home,  or at uni, or anywhere else. At the same time, this love of mine for liminality might also be one of the many reasons behind my taphophilia. And I’m also attracted to quiet, abandoned places that look almost as if they were caught in an eternal state of limbo. It’s like they’re waiting to be populated, to throb with life, but at the same time they reject anything but dust and silence.

Well, anyway, I’ll take this opportunity to share some more photos of the city and some of those liminal spaces with the world. Please excuse the poor quality, they are all little frankenphotos taken with my mobile camera.

Here, I would have added a fabulous quotation about liminal spaces and cities, but I find myself too tired, for once, to look it up. Maybe some other time.


Productive Insomnia Is the Best Way to Celebrate Christmas

That’s the thing with the winter holidays: I never seem to be in the mood for “merry-making” when Christmas is just around the corner. Of course, that’s explainable, as I’m mostly up half the night every single night doing random stuff. Mostly, I’m supposed to be “working” (whatever that means), but what I end up dong is take random photos…

The lights of the city…

… reread passages from books that I’ve loved…

She had that cajoling voice, the voice of temptation that all women have at certain moments, a voice like a crystal glass ringing in an ever-widening, swirling nimbus of sound in which the man is caught up, yields and lets himself go.

~ Georges Rodenbach, Bruges-la-Morte

… and then write poems based on the shape and feel of words levitating in my foggy brain…

The Voice of Temptation. The Attic
by me, of course

The voice of temptation,
Caught listening at the door,
Is now hung in the attic
But it doesn’t mind:
The view is nice
And you can hear
All the rattling bones
From up there.
You can even see
All the houses of the city
Lined in broken rows
And filled to the brim with people –
They all look thin and black
From up there –
You can almost taste
The melt and decay
Riding high on the midnight breeze,
Feel the sun burning the moon
Little by little.

“I’m not even locked up here”,
Thinks the voice of temptation,
“And not reaching the floor
With the soles of my feet
Is almost, though not exactly like,
Flying”, it murmurs to itself.
“I’ll give this place a chance”,
It decides, but just then
The house of cards collapses,
Crushing the voice of temptation
Under a heap of spades.

… and then maybe doodle a little (no, I’m not going to show you those, sorry) and finally decide that it’s close to dawn so I’d better go to sleep. It’s a tiring and frustrating habit. But then again, maybe that’s just my way of celebrating. What’s yours?

Please Define “Procrastination” Before Pointing the Finger

John Leech, "Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come" (1843)

I would like to start by assuring anyone who cares enough about the topic at hand that the following – rather random – blog update doesn’t count as procrastination, it counts as inspiration. In fact, has it never happened to any of you to become so obsessed with linger so much on one subject that you just have to do something completely different to simply regain your creative energy? Hopefully, then, this little “breathing pause” that I created for myself will help me get back on track with what might be called “real work”. I give you, therefore, yet another one of my written-on-the-spur-of-the-moment, self-reinvigorating-though-monstrously-bleak poems. (Also: yes, of course I am aware that the “Christmas Carol” illustration has absolutely nothing to do with anything.  It just so happened that I had a copy of that illustration in front of me for the whole time that I was writing the poem, so it just seemed appropriate to insert it in here, as well.)

Overheard in a Drawer

You don’t know me –
Except for the scrawny name
Scrawled in black on that
Lonesome scrap of unrecycled paper;
You don’t see me –
Except for those times when
We both go to hell and accidentally
Share an anecdote or two
About our limpid lives;
You forget my face –
And that’s in spite
Of all my efforts to slip under
Your office door unsigned
Passport photos of me from time
To time…
So what am I to you?
Am I a speck of dust in your eye
That you don’t even feel?
Am I that shadow by your desk
At night that’s barely even real?
Am I the least annoying problem
That yet lingers in a corner of your mind?
Am I the first stray breeze
That ever crossed your path
And you don’t know what
To begin with when I’m there?
And who are you to me?
Sure, I’ve played games with other players
But you seem to know my hand
Before my turn and so I throw
Away my cards, I never look
Over my shoulder;
But who are you to me?
Wrapped tightly in your silences,
Protected by the heavy ghosts
Of lovers from your fairground
Far away – who are you?


Against all odds, this turned out to be a curiously productive day. So I’ve decided (although, admittedly, a bit half-heartedly) to share my newest poem with the world. For what it’s worth. And look, I’ve even added a (not very creative) photo-illustration of my own devising!

by yours truly

Behind a maze of smiles
Our selves, cryptically, bleedingly
Intertwined – though farther apart
Than ever.
Smiles are nothing.
What does it matter that we pave
Bridges with shining teeth
And searching tongues?
Cities collapse under those bridges
Our minds collapse.
There’s nothing you and I
Will sacrifice for the sake
Of a frail and wishful approach.
Our smiles mean nothing.
Your smile is nothing.
Bridges are nothing but holes.

Of Ghosts, Dandies and Little Sailors…

So. I promised some comments on the recently posted photo-postcards. I’ve chosen to have a closer look at some that particularly picked my curiosity. The first would be the photograph showing the phantomatic silhouette of a woman, pasted onto a black carton “frame” with a postcard-style verso:

The look of it – the silhouette fading into the white background, the black frame – made me ask myself whether this particular photo-postcard wasn’t made to commemorate a relative that had passed away. Of course, this might or might not be the case, but the sheer surrealism of the whole montage indicates a sort of artificiality, a little something put together after the right time of putting things together had already passed. I would certainly like to take this to someone who actually knows the first thing about old photos, to get a more informed opinion. It is an “udivided back” type photo-postcard, which started being produced in the early 1900’s, meaning the whole back was left blank with only the typed prompt: “the address to be written on this side”. So normally, for “undivided back” postcards, the message would be written on the front, over and under and surrounding the central image.

Now this, the image of the old man in the forest, as I like to think of it, is just plain odd. It’s a “divided back” type photo-postcard, which makes it of a slightly later date than the previous one. On the back, there is a violet ink stamp saying: “J. WILLIAMS, 5, Round Hill Crescent, BRIGHTON. PHOTOGRAPHER”. Which only goes to show that someone actually took the pains of commissioning a professional photographer to take a picture of this old man in this old forest. Why? Who was the old man? Why was he so important? And why in the forest? Was it his forest?

Apart from that, I have also followed my passion of looking up these ghostly addresses on Google Maps. Well, once more I have been successful, managing to track down the abode of this photographer from the past. Here’s a screen capture of the actual house at No 5 as shown on Google Street View:

The following one I just love. It’s quite as simple as that:

Another “undivided back” type photo-postcard. This young dandy simply fascinates me. I could stare at his photo for hours on end. Not only is he particularly attractive, but his elegant style, the way he confidently looks at the camera, half-smiling, his cultivated air – all of this just makes me wish I’d met him.

This one is another “divided back”. It was most obviously printed at the photographers’, as well, as their professional handle is subtly incoroporated into the postcard layout: “Starr & Rignall, Photographers, Cambridge & Ely.” At a quick Google search of their firm, interestingly enough, you can find them mentioned on quite a few vintage photography websites. They are mentioned here, here, here and here (where you can also find some more photos taken by their studio), as well as on some other webpages (well, just Google them and you’ll see). Also, by the range of different prices jotted in pencil on the back of the photo-postcard, you can tell it’s been sold and bought at least twice before though probably more times than that. Once more, it makes me sad to think how these old memories are thrust into the world…

Now, the appearance of the man in the photo is slightly awkward: he looks like he might have had an unusually large and long head, as well as unusually large hands. This made me wonder whether he could have been suffering of some sort of disorder, such as the Sotos syndrome or Macrocephaly. I guess this is where I should ask a doctor’s opinion.

These three girls (probably sisters?) seem distinctly unhappy. Maybe they found it especially tedious to be interrupted in their play only to pose in prim white frocks holding ridiculous flower baskets. Again, a “divided back” photo-postcard; it looks much more recent than most of the other photos. Ironically, it is imprinted on a photo sheet of poorer quality and the portrait is, itself, not as well preserved. Just goes to show that other things were already beginning to preside over quality, I suppose?

And this I’m just going to post again, because it’s so lovely that I even decided to make it the new emblem of my blog:

The small boy in the sailor suit, looking quite amused. And the way he holds his little lordly cane in imitation of those funny adults is simply precious. He’s the king of the castle!

Of New Beginnings…

After complaining about LiveJournal’s incompetency for about half a year,  I’ve finally decided to switch to a more – hopefully – professional blogging website. I was getting too tired of all the spam comments, the compulsory flashing ads and, most of all, the all-powerful ddos attacks under which it regularly succumbed. I have successfully managed to move all of my blog posts from there to here, although there are still some slight changes that remain to be done (such as saving all the relevant pictures onto the WordPress server, or updating my blog URL on tons of different websites). It’s quite sad, as I’d been on LJ for some good years now, but there you go. There’s nothing like a healthily functioning server, after all.

Well, I suppose I should just let the dead lie now… More importantly, today has been a good flea market day. I’ve managed to rescue as many as 14 abandoned memories from the local market and I would like, as always, to share them with the whole wide world. This time round I’ve scanned rather than rephotographed them, so, hopefully, they should be of a slightly increased quality.

Please, consider this a preview of sorts, as I intend to comment on at least some of the pictures in the near future. There will be an extended photo-postcards post. But I am currently quite tired (as well as, oddly enough, fidgety), so you’ll just have to make do with this hurried update for the moment.

As a side note, if we were to take today, the 2nd of December, as the new and improved birthday of  Encyclopaedia Vanitatum, then my beloved blog would be, after the equivocal Western tradition, a Saggitarius, ” idealistic in vision but tactless in expression”, according to the Mother Goddess Wikipedia. Sounds quite true to me! Happy New Birthday, Encyclopaedia Vanitatum! 🙂

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