Alice in Wonderland, in Liverpool

As a girl I found Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass frightening. I preferred Enid Blyton. But on reflection, I guess the Land of Dame Slap and the like appearing at the top of the Far Away Tree isn’t a million miles away. And don’t even get me started on Dame Washalot.

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I mentioned my Alice wariness to another writer at the press launch of walk-through theatrical production The Alice Experience at St George’s Hall in Liverpool last week. She lowered her head in embarrassment and whispered, “Me too! It freaked me out! Still does.”

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As I’ve got older I’ve read the books with a new eye and enjoy the weirdness of Wonderland. I even took part in a day-long reading of the first Alice novel at The Bluecoat a couple of years ago, people reading a handful of pages at a time in front of an audience. Having rows of people mouthing the words back at you in a silent echo is other worldly in itself.

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The Alice Experience, quite a trip. The White Rabbit was my favourite. He looked like furry eared Bill Oddie. We had cake at the Mad Hatter’s tea party; so much cake. (The Alice Experience is on until  9th February.)

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In other news, Get Into This who I now write about music for, was this week included in this rather prestigious list. We are at number eight!

@cathbore

 

 

Sad writing, happy writing

Back in December, I was offered an interview with Paul Gascoigne, aka Geordie former footballer Gazza. He’s not someone I’ve given much thought to up until now. I don’t follow football or read celebrity magazines or tabloids so for the most of it, he’s passed me by. I know about his football achievements, his personal problems, mental health and alcoholism, and of course that infamous Raoul Moat incident, but not much more than that.

I was in two minds about whether to do the interview. For one, I wasn’t sure who’d take an article about Gazza from me; most of my non-fiction is feminist based or music related, and he’s no hero to either sector.  (I don’t know of any music editor who upon hearing Gascoigne’s version of Fog On the Tyne doesn’t want to die, for example). But then I mentioned the offer on Facebook and to my surprise an editor friend DMd me. I’m launching a magazine for the drug and alcohol recovery sector, she said. Would I be interested in placing the Gascoigne interview there…?

Of course I was. Work is work.

But some feminist friends – quite rightly – raised reservations with me, privately and politely.

Why Gazza? After his record of domestic violence?

Well, this is why.

Because no one will pay me for an interview with a member of the public who happens to be a victim or survivor of domestic violence.

Because in order to get shut of domestic violence, we have to understand why it happens. To understand is not to condone it; we can’t confuse the two.

Because sometimes good people do bad things, I suppose. And mental health issues don’t go away by sharing a Facebook meme pic of Robin Williams looking all serene with bland motivational quote attached. They are much more complicated.

Anyway, my write up of the interview which I’m doing this week is quite heart breaking, in many ways. Upsetting to write, in some places. And I didn’t expect that. But it doesn’t mean there’s any less sympathy from me for victims of domestic violence. On the contrary, in fact.

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On a brighter note, a short prose piece written by me as a tribute to the stupendous Katharine Hepburn was published by Silver Birch Press as part of their Same Name series last week, and you can read it here.

@cathbore

Men who bark at women, woof woof

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Jess Phillips, saying what she thinks, how dare she. On Question Time on Thursday evening the MP for Birmingham Yardley remarked that the UK was in no position to talk when it comes to the abuse and harassment of women by men, citing the stubborn statistic that two women are killed each week by their male partners, and that women are routinely baited and heckled at night. People were upset by this. Twitter is horrified and appalled, as per. Hmmm. I’m guessing those having a fit of the vapours at Phillips’comments  aren’t females who walk through our towns and cities of a night on their own.

The truth is, Jess Phillips’ observations don’t even go near the reality.

On the way home from the gym in the last fortnight alone, I’ve been barked at by a group of men smoking outside a pub – yes, actual adult males, making woofing noises, like dogs; young lads on bikes bellowed “shitty arse! shitty arse!” across the street (my bottom was perfectly clean, I’ll have you know). One man made a pervy comment then when I ignored him he started following, shouting his proposal louder just in case I hadn’t heard him the first time.

All this happens in the street, in the dark. And before anyone suggests amendments to my own behaviour, I don’t drive and I’m not sure why I should require a male escort to walk the ten minutes to my house. This isn’t the Victorian era, you know.  Men, if you’re walking down a deserted road and there’s a woman ahead of you on her own, have the good manners to cross the bloody road instead of shadowing her footsteps. If you’re driving past a lone woman, don’t honk your horn at her or slow down beside her, just because you can. Common sense, all this; or so you’d think.

And it’s not just outdoors. In a venue in Liverpool city centre in December, the security guys on the door were loudly judging all the women customers A to F as we walked to the toilets (I’m a C minus, apparently. Must do better.). Twelve months earlier, watching the same artist at a different venue, a man in front of us was watching a pornographic film on his phone, holding it up so myself and other women behind him could get a good view. And by the way – no, I’m not going to stop seeing the artist in question, it’s not his fault other people are dicks. I’ve got a ticket for his next show in March, so I look forward to reporting back on that. Third time lucky, ay?

So yeah, all told, I think Philips might have a point. A starting point, that is.

@cathbore

Liverpudlian Bowie fans speak

When news of David Bowie’s death was released on Monday, I wasn’t sure what to write. Some journalists recalled personal “how I met him” stories, one penned a piece about how she wasn’t going to write about him at all, whilst others wisely concentrated on the music. Me, I decided to speak to some local fans here on Merseyside.

Bowie has always been popular in Liverpool, he appeals to our sense of show and glamour – and the celebration of differences. The things I got from most fans, some of whom loved him from the onset, was how they identified with him. Bowie on the telly, broadcast into living rooms in 1970s Britain, strutting about like a peacock gave permission to those who don’t always feel they fitted in, in conventional ways – the LGBT community, the garish, the plain, the lonely, the unconventional beauties amongst us – to carry on doing what makes them happy.

In Liverpool we have a lengthy history and reputation as a radical city, but those who don’t slot comfortably into the world are everywhere. The teenage girl who wears spectacles with lenses as thick as Murray Mints and would rather stumble along in a quiet blur and begs the other kids at school not to notice her; the teenage boy with a face full of angry red acne. There’s a feeling of not fitting in within all of us, at some point.

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Local fan Wendy Brown said, “I don’t know how he did it but when he sang it felt like he was speaking directly to me. Whenever I have a problem I listen to Bowie and there is always a lyric somewhere that helps me figure out the solution that I need.”  She told me about the second time she saw him perform. “(It was) in Paris, my 21st birthday present from my parents. A Liverpool Echo organised affair. This gig had an interval during which the French left the auditorium. Not wanting to miss the opportunity of getting right to the front, I ignored my bladder’s cries for respite and stood firm. I expected the French fans to ask me to move but they were a very genteel bunch and nobody mentioned my gate crashing.  When he came back on he was stood directly in front of me, he looked into my eyes and I thought I was going to collapse on the spot but I remained composed and smiled at him. He smiled back and winked at me and at that moment I knew that he knew I existed. Just one of many Bowie devotees on the planet but he knew I was one of them.”

David Bowie himself was not afraid to be a fan, a devotee. Upon meeting him, artists invariably tell of a genned up Bowie, full of praise for their work. Never mind me, let’s talk about you. Most disconcerting, I expect. When his hero Scott Walker recorded a 50th birthday message it silenced him, Bowie managing to croak out just barely, “I’ve just seen God in the window”.

One fan observed, “When I went to see him as a kid, I didn’t want to know him. I don’t think I even wanted to meet him. I liked the way he was remote, up on stage, this alien. To know he was there was enough.” I’m wondering now what Bowie felt about that, being seen as a god, otherworldly. It might seem strange for us to think of David Bowie as human, with all the frailties that carries. But he was, as it turns out. Human, just like the rest of us. In some ways, anyway.

This article was originally published in Liverpool’s The Guide, January 2015.

 

Flash Fiction Sunday Edition

Sundays are nothing days, put a wash on and cook a roast days. January Sundays have me staying at home by the fire, too cold for any other malarkey, they’re even more like a nothing Sunday than those in the rest of the year. But today bucks the trend for me because my flash fiction short story Opposites Detract is chosen as one of four stories in this week’s Flash Fiction Sunday Edition; you can read it here.

This week’s Sunday Edition is curated by the very wonderful and talented Amanda Saint (her debut novel, As If I Were A River, will be published by Urbane Publications in the Spring). She selected Opposites Detract, to be featured, alongside stories by Jane Roberts, Tracy Fells and Freya Morris.

Amanda says of my story, published by The Fem last year, “Sensuous, beautiful use of language that really evoked the sultriness of summer and bleakness of winter and used them to great effect to mirror the personalities of the characters.”

So here’s to unusual Sundays, for 2016. Between you and me, nothing Sundays never worked for me too well anyway. And many thanks to Amanda Saint for her kind words and support.

@cathbore

Luck and Goats and Sheep.

I started entering competitions last year, a bit of a departure for me. I use the more you enter the more likely you are to win approach, because luck is an unreliable concept at best. Amongst other prizes, in early summer I won a balloon flight. It was worth quite a bit, moneywise. A stroke of luck for sure, but after the initial euphoria wore off, the prospect of floating hundreds of miles in the air lost its charm very quickly, even though everyone kept telling me how fantastic it would be. I don’t even like flying in a normal aeroplane so flaoting about in an air balloon with no roof or real walls to cling onto was never going to work for me. So I sold the tickets to a friend and went for a delicious weekend in Glasgow with the cash instead; much preferable.

In November, I won a proof copy of the debut novel everyone in the publishing world is talking about – The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, by Joanna Cannon. This time, I have to say that all who raved to me about it were perfectly right. I loved this book, and its ten year old girl narrator. Set in the hot summer of 1976, when we lived with water shortages and stifling heat but didn’t complain too much about it (imagine, if that happened now, everyone would “take to Twitter” in an offended outrage). 1976, a quieter and much less anxious time, and the year before Elvis died; for that reason itself it seems so long ago.

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The Trouble with Goats and Sheep throws a light on people who don’t fit. They are the goats, if you will; the unlucky ones who don’t win competitions not matter how many times they put their name down. There are more goats about than we care to admit, and although we all declare a rebellion of sorts, let’s face it – it’s typically a benign and temporary one. Most of us conform and muddle along sheepishly within the rules, but there are those who don’t slot comfortably into the world, and luck plays a significant role in how that plays out for them. The fine fortune of good health and a nice family who look after you sound simple enough but luck decides if you get either. The goats, the ones who find life more difficult, are often so unlucky with the hand they are dealt. They might be that neighbour who nobody talks to so he keeps himself to himself more and more; the woman who fills her house with cats because she prefers their company to that of the cruel humans she’s met in the past; the teenage girl who wears spectacles with lenses as thick as Murray Mints and would rather stumble along in a quiet blur and begs the other kids at school not to notice her; the youth who can’t get a job no matter how much he wants one.  There are so many goats about; far too many.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is a kind and funny book. We live in very harsh times and the goats amongst us feel that more, so I think we need a book such as this. It’s hopeful and comforting, a lucky book hug for goats and sheep alike, and out at the end of January.   (A free sampler can be found here)

@cathbore

The Long Christmas, story by Cath Bore (ME, DURING THE HOLIDAYS Poetry and Prose Series)

Silver Birch Press

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The Long Christmas
by Cath Bore

I was in the supermarket shortly after New Year 2015, earwigging to customers while I was picking up some bits. I like to listen. I’m a writer, it’s what I do. Say something spicy in front of me and it’s going in my notebook, no exceptions. Anyway, two women were next to me in the queue talking about one of their young daughters, whose birthday happened to fall that week. “She understands why she can’t have a birthday party like her brother and sister do,” said one to the other, sounding sad (but not quite sorry enough for my liking). “Their birthdays are earlier in the year, but hers is just too soon after Christmas.” Her friend nodded and agreed the January daughter was indeed good girl for being so gracious.

Me, I felt like turning around and bellowing NO, YOUR JANUARY DAUGHTER DOES…

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