Pages: 'The Dolls Alphabet' by Camilla Grudova

Friday, 20 April 2018

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‘The Dolls Alphabet’ is a striking debut collection of short stories by Camilla Grudova that will haunt you.  This book was lent to me by a lovely colleague, friend and amazing graphic designer, Anna and I shall read anything else she puts in front of me after this after this amazing recommendation. 
Image of The Dolls Alphabet by Camilla Grudova blue book with book duvet background

There is a consistency to Camilla’s stories that makes me feel like they could all fit within this strange universe. Left in a fantastical nightmare landscape lending itself between a dystopian future and post war desperation. Although sincerely strange, themes run throughout all the stories and recurring imagery ties them together. 

Grudova’s writing commands all the senses and takes over as you take the pace of whichever story you find yourself reading. ‘Unstitching’ sees women learning to unstitch their own skin, hair and clothes. Peeling themselves to embrace their true forms in comfortable surrealism. This theme of sewing and women finds its way into nearly every story alongside birth and motherhood, identity and domesticity, possessions, mythology and gender. 

The sewing machine transforms in different stories, controlling women in some, freeing them in others and hypnotising men or driving them to deformity in what remains. In ‘Waxy’ we find the protagonist working in a factory painting sewing machines in order to fund a society where women must be partnered with a man. Whereas the men earn their money taking philosophy exams. The story forms this hazy, almost unnatural landscape where they survive on tinned foods, golden syrup and toast. The narrators male partner doesn’t fit into this system they should conform too, and they along with their deformed new born must do what they can to survive.  

As these themes bend into each other it becomes harder and harder to tell what or why the societies are structured by, with the sometimes naive tone of the narrators suggesting they are as in the dark about these social rules as us the reader. 

‘The Dolls Alphabet’  is it’s own cabinet of curiosities drawing on myth of mermaids and werewolves, fancy dress, the deformity of domestic life and in ‘The Moth Emporium’ the combination of these curiosities paves the way for sexual violence. With the narrators husband allowing an artist to install sculptures in their costume shop home depicting rape and murder. In every story it feels like women’s bodies are under threat, with every woman struggling with the corruption, the illogical and the mundane in extraordinary and surreal ways. Grudova is extremely talented in the way all of this is feels so naturally vivid whilst completely discomforting. 

Another oddity within ‘The Dolls Alphabet’ collection is that despite this strange futuristic feel about the stories everything seems old, outdated or abandoned like the landscape is recovering from something. As readers it feels like we were never meant to understand these landscapes but focus on the exquisite details that went into mundane objects and the way it reflected imbalances of power and privilege. Tinned meat and cans are a recurring object, showing for some life is always on the breadline but for others their possessions are sealed in tins for protection in ‘Hungarian Sprouts’ . A vast difference from living to the most basic human needs to the otherworldly materialistic. 

‘Notes From A Spider’ continues this materialism alongside privilege but with a introduction that references a brighter future for the people that inhabit ‘The Dolls Alphabet’. Half man, half spider becomes a muse for many with his unusual form and is placed on a pedestal as an advertisement for luxury products. But within all this attention he seeks an unreachable fulfilment. After countless women he falls in love with the inhuman thigh of a sewing machine leg, Florence. Again the motif is reinvented into this male obsession with seamstresses ordered to sew with Florence until their death. Loosing lives until he cuts his own leg and orders another seamstress to sew it closed, starting a new addiction of absurd love and agony. 

Grudova has this beautiful way with language, colliding beauty with the grotesque. Alluring us, the reader with stunning prose that builds into this sinister and seductive story until you are trapped within this visual discomfort formed from her imagination. ‘Agatas Machine’ conjures up a pierrot and an angel in a dank attic space and takes us and the young protagonist away like puppets are directing the stories. There is a consistency to all this surrealness and a vividness that makes it feel like these stories are not too far in our future. 

Grudova’s debut collection is one of the best things I have read this year and I cannot wait to see what else she has to come. Although I still cannot say what these stories are completely about they have haunted me and this is a testament to their worth.

Get yours here: The Doll's Alphabet  
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Pin Collection Part Two

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

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pin collection, enamel pin,

For the second part of my pin collection I thought I would share some of the pins I have picked up at craft fairs.

pin collection, enamel pin, northern craft

I thought we'd start off with the pins I got Northern Craft held at the Northern Monk Refectory.

pin collection, enamel pin, northern craft

Driving the craft revolution with the 'Make Craft Great Again' pin designed by Sean Mort (one of the co-founders of Northern Craft).

In 2017 they commissioned 25 enamel pins to be designed by some of their favourite crafters inspired by the north and creative process. The pins were exhibited in the Northern Monk Refectory and were available to buy throughout the fair.

Check out the Pin Drop designs here or get your own 'Make Craft Great Again' pin here. 

pin collection, enamel pin, northern craft

Clearly, I struggled to just pick one and also ended up picking up 'It'll be Reet' pin by Finest Imaginary, as long with a few other things!

This pin was limited edition for the 'Pin Drop' but a stunning copper coloured one (which I desperately need) is available to buy here.

Mark Newton Beer Yorkshire Exhibition at Northern Monk
[Mark Newton Beer Yorkshire Exhibition at Northern Monk]

Their next fair is on May 12th in Leeds and I can 100% guarantee you will love it. RSVP here. 

The Hepworth Wakefield

Next up is a pin I got when we went to The Hepworth Wakefield's Christmas Market and spent ALL my money. People are so talented!

enamel pin, geoheaven

This beautiful pin is from the creative babes Sarah and Monty behind Geo Heaven. They create incredible 3D printed jewellery from beautiful geometric structures.

I treated myself to this pin because I can never ever choose from their stunning selection, although I think my heart is setting on their conjoined cosmic ball with stunning rose gold chain (here).

Grab yourself a mint icosahedron here.

handmade nottingham
[Christmas Window of Handmade Nottingham]

The final two pins I picked up at Handmade Nottingham Christmas Fair at Malt Cross after lusting at them online for so long.

enamel pin, thread famous

enamel pin, thread famous

The pair are from the amazing Thread Famous and as you can imagine, I wanted to buy everything! I finally decided on going with the Sylvia Plath pin (here), the Plath bookmark (here) and the very me - Existential Crisis pin (here)

Also I highly recommend following them on Instagram here for beautiful pictures and book recommendations.

Their next fair is on May 13th in Nottingham, you can RSVP here.

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Pages: 'Talking with Psychopaths and Savages' by Christopher Berry - Dee

Sunday, 25 March 2018

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To begin with I felt like ‘Talking with Psychopaths and Savages’ was going to take me, the reader deep inside the minds of some of the most dangerous people known to us. But what drove me to pick this book up was that rather than just focusing on their crimes, it would pick up on what drove them to that violent point and their thinking behind it. Unfortunately that was only a little of what we got. 

The author Christopher Berry - Dee appeared more concerned about massaging his ego, wasting time and pages repeating stories, discussing word count and selling his other books than he did focusing on the content of this book. Rather than doing the thing that would sell more books, writing a great book. 

'Talking with Psychopaths and Savages' by Christopher Berry - Dee  book review

Christopher Berry - Dee is a criminologist who has spent years interviewing imprisoned criminals and serial killers, whose lack of remorse was as terrifying as the crimes they committed. Through the course of these conversations he also got to interview some of their psychiatrists, or gained access to their psychiatrist reports and through both of these he began to uncover the evils that can behind a friendly face.  

As much as this focus was included it was always interjected with too much of the author as if he was trying to taunt those he had interviewed. But what also added disappointment to ‘Talking with Psychopaths and Savages’ is its lack of editing. Poor proofreading and editing meant their were countless mistakes, an unusual amount of repetition and constant reference to the word count, as if Berry - Dee was just trying to make it to his goal rather than create an outstanding book, which he had the ability and resources to do.

'Talking with Psychopaths and Savages' by Christopher Berry - Dee  book review

In a book that could show us how little we could know about someone who is so close to us I feel I know a lot more about Christopher Berry - Dee than I should.  I feel like everything I learnt from this book cannot be trusted, like there must be a better source out there. 

So if you have some recommendations give me a shout or if you fancy finding out for yourself, buy 'Talking with Psychopaths and Savages' here
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Pin Collection Part One

Sunday, 18 March 2018

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I've finally got my shit together and started putting together this pin post, but what I didn't think about was how many I actually have. So i've split them up, enjoy post one of many of my pin collection...

enamel pin, gin,

First up combines my love of gin and pins from the incredible Jo at Hello Sunshine (website here). 

A few weeks ago I thought i'd lost this amazing pin after a few too many gins but it miraculously appeared in a tote bag and my lapels were saved! 

enamel pin, gin,

Treat yourself to one here. 

My pin collection isn't just enamel pins, a friend bought me this beautiful illustrated wooden Book Worm from Kate Rowland after I was lusting after it at Renegade Craft fair a few years ago. 

enamel pin, bookworm, brooch

This is no longer available on Kate's site but I highly recommend her beautiful work, check it out here.

enamel pin, books, tea

Then there is this beaut 'Drink Tea and Read Books' from Fable and Black that I picked up, alongside a number of their pins, mirrors and coasters for Christmas gifts from Handmade Nottingham.  

A haven for bookish lovers, spend all your money here. 

enamel pin, eliminate girl hate

This amazing glittery pin is from Bloody Nora Pam, and this beautiful pair are spreading empowering messages via merch and clothing.  This pin was an amazing gift from a friend and it's been on my jacket ever since. 

Get yours here.

enamel pin, dillinger escape plan

The final pin i'm sharing in this post is The Dillinger Escape Plan pin I got during their final tour in the UK.  I couldn't find this anywhere online to buy now so if you see one around give me a shout. 

What pins do you want to know more about next? 

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Harry Potter Pudding Club at Birdhouse Tea Bar & Kitchen

Sunday, 4 March 2018

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We headed to Birdhouse Tea Bar & Kitchen in Sheffield this afternoon for their Harry Potter Pudding Club. 

Yep thats right Harry Potter Pudding Club.

harry potter pudding club, birdhouse tea, sheffield

After warming up with a Sheffield Fog it wasn't long before our Polyjuice Potions were brought over, queue 'Urgh - essence of Millicent Bulstrode'. It was a yummy lemon iced tea that changed colour (video here) as you poured in the secret ingredient. 

harry potter pudding club, birdhouse tea, sheffield

harry potter pudding club, birdhouse tea, sheffield

Followed by the sharing pudding platter...

harry potter pudding club, birdhouse tea, sheffield

We started with Butterbeer Blondies, layered in a half pint glass and topped with a soft coconut cream that cut through the butterscotch drizzle so you never wanted it to end. 

harry potter pudding club, birdhouse tea, sheffield

We then attempted the Golden Snitch Truffles, and I say attempted as they were biggest white chocolate truffles I have ever tried to eat in one go... and it didn't go well.  

Not sure if Harry Potter was lucky enough to get such zesty lemon flavour when he nearly swallowed the snitch. 

harry potter pudding club, birdhouse tea, sheffield

Finally we tucked into the Chocolate Mandrake pots with a root beer surprise! 

These pots may look so delicious you think they are edible, but believe me they aren't.  And who knew root beer popping candy existed?! 

harry potter pudding club, birdhouse tea, sheffield

And just to top it off there were wee pots of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans and dragon eggs on the platter too. 

harry potter pudding club, birdhouse tea, sheffield

This afternoon was incredible and I cannot wait to see what the next pudding club is! Keep an eye on Birdhouse Tea Bar & Kitchens Facebook here for upcoming events. 

Accio Pudding!  

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