Bonjour! Here are a couple of videos I worked my little socks off for. The first is an expedition to find the places in A Curious Guide To London by Simon Leyland, including the possible real life inspiration for Miss Havisham.
I have returned!
I’ll just give a little personal update before looking up weird arty things to share. The first video is a vlog of my two weeks spent at home with Bill in Southend, Essex. The second is a reading (not live) of my occult science fiction horror short story.
If you ever wanted to learn how to make a Sidecar cocktail…ask Bill, not me. I’m also still reading my favourite stories each week here.
The fear countdown continues! Commence terrified screaming and running about in 5…4…3…
Or…do something fun for Halloween like go on a horror bus tour of London, mwa ha haaa
OK, I don’t personally believe in ghosts, but I do suspend disbelief for entertainment purposes, especially around this time of year. Also the tour focused on gruesome events more than haunting ones, so you’re fine either way.
Instead of pointing out pretty buildings (although there was some of that too) we were shown the spot where the largest gallows stood and the place where people were boiled in oil. I won’t give away too many stories else there’ll be no reason to go but I must share one in particular.
We stopped at an unassuming side street called Cock Lane. In 1762 one of the houses was the site of a reported haunting. Apparently the ‘ghost,’ named Fanny, was given to odd scratching sounds in the night, thus a number of newspapers gleefully reported on Scratching Fanny of Cock Lane. Bear in mind that in the UK fanny means a lady’s front parts and not someone’s bottom.
Incidentally the group who exposed the case as a fraud (sorry) included Samuel Johnson, writer of the first English Dictionary.
And inside there are spooky lamps dotted about and curtains awfully reminiscent of a hearse. I was certainly nervous:
The video below gives you a good idea of what it looks like inside, plus the tour guide from our particular trip:
The guide had to fight against a number of things including slow traffic and rain obscuring the windows, but he was very good at incorporating things around us and making everyone laugh. The tour itself included some spooky theatrics which were enjoyable, campy, Gothic fun. All in all we had a very good evening and I think you should go.
Good day my little falafel fillings! How is life treating you? No outbreaks of hysterical dancing I hope?
On Tuesday I went to London with Bill’s camera and was excited to see this shop for monsters. You might wonder how it makes any money? Well, there are either a surprising amount of monsters on Hoxton Street or it’s a cover for a children and young adult’s writing group. We’ll say it’s both.
The children are mentored to bring out their creativity and there was actually a group meeting in the next room while I took pictures of the front (see below), and all the while music from the 20s and early 30s played on an old style radio. I was in my own personal heaven!
Here’s a little video explaining it in further detail, then have a peek at their ghoulish and grizzly offerings. Here’s the address if you’d like to see it for yourself:
159 Hoxton St
Greetings! As everyone around me knows, I went to Florence in Italy in September. I have one more thing to share with you though, the spectacularly macabre La Specola, the oldest science museum in Europe. There’s taxidermy, fossils and general oogly booglies, but the best bit by far are the wax anatomical models.
Dry your eyes and stash the kleenex at the back of the cupboard, I have returned! I didn’t bring you any presents, no. Is that all our friendship is to you? Well, I did kind of bring presents, this amazingly beautiful and helpful blog post. Next time I shall share with you the morbid delights of the anatomy museum but, for now, Florence’s (mostly) light side.
As our walking tour guide said, Florence is like a living history museum with buildings from the medieval period, the Renaissance and much more. This is true, but to me it also feels like the scene in a fantasy novel or film where the hero is taken through an alleyway in a city and emerges in a fantastical market. All pictures taken by Bill Purnell.
Aqua Flor is a perfumery operating the same way since the Renaissance. Not only is the inside beautiful but the back opens onto a large room with statues, paintings and columns. Plus there’s a poison cabinet, what more could you ask?
The Uffizi Gallery is in the Piazza Della Signoria surrounded by public statues. The inside is a mix of statues and paintings and, when you’re in Florence, always look at the ceilings – you don’t want to miss the frescoes which are almost everywhere. Make sure you reserve a specific time slot, it’s a very popular place and you won’t want to spend hours queuing.
The Boboli Gardens is another place worth a visit. Again you can reserve which means you don’t have to queue. Unlike us, who reserved AND queued. Oh dear!
For any book lovers who can’t speak Italian, ie. me, there’s the Paperback Exchange. As well as a big range of new books including comics and graphic novels, students bring books back after lessons, so head for a room at the back and you’ll get them for around 5 euros. Hooray!
Our hotel, the Bernini Palace (beautiful, recommended definitely), was in Piazza di San Firenze and every morning I would step out in front of the building where Leonardo De Vinci began the Mona Lisa. Art is everywhere, from street art like Clet Abraham’s hacked road signs to statues or painting on almost every corner.
Warnings: Along with the joy, however, are a few important things to remember. The street sellers by the Cathedral are not licensed to sell. As they’re desperate people from war torn countries it’s tolerated but if you’re caught buying from them you’ll be fined. It’s often knock-off goods and if you want a nice leather wallet it’s best to get it from a shop.
Also, Gelatarias (gelato ice cream shops) with high mountains of the stuff aren’t as good as those with tubs. Basically, if you see very tall mounds of gelato, avoid it and go for something with flatter piles.
Bene! We are almost at an end, but before you whisk yourself off into the night have a peek at a very short video of beautiful things I saw on my travels. In it are the Piazza Della Signoria, Aqua Flor, Santa Maria Novella Pharmacia (another stunning perfumery, this time started by Monks) and the carousel among others. Farewell!
All pictures courtesy of the website.
Last weekend my friends and I decided to go look at a house. “Why?” You ask, “there’s houses everywhere. Look, I can see one now.” Well, yes, but this one “there’s one with a red door, and a green door, and…” Shush! As I was saying, this one is really special.
Talliston House and Gardens in Dunmow, Essex, has been a project of the owner, John Trevillion, for 25 years. It started as a regular ex council house and has become an art piece where every room exists in a different era, from a New Orleans voodoo kitchen to a late Victorian front room.
My favourites, however, were upstairs: a study from 1929 New York filled with occult books and props, a ‘haunted bedroom’ and 1960s Cambodia in the attic.
They’ve still not quite finished but there’s lots of things upcoming. They hold murder mystery nights, people can stay over on special occasions, plus there’s viewings, poetry and music nights (you can watch the videos on their youtube channel) and an event in October with actors occupying the rooms. Honestly, we thought it was wonderful. Visit if you can, and finally here’s a video showing how it was made (note: they had help completing it so don’t worry, they’re almost done):