A million fairies

'Wrong? Really? You know the word wrong?'

Everything isn't perfect? Everything isn't magical? Everything isn't aglow with the light of a million fairies? They were just break-lights, Parker!'

'Well excuse me for putting a good spin on a traffic jam!'

Sorry to those of you who aren't Friends fans. But I think of this scene every time I'm in a traffic jam, and it makes me smile.

I think it's possible for things to be not-perfect, but also magical at the same time.


Red tail lights.JPG

Magical mists

I sat in a colleague's car the other evening as she drove us home.

I listened as her windscreen wipers thrubbed steadily back and forth. Clouds of leaves scattered to the edges of the dark country lane in the glare of her headlights. I looked out of the window and saw heavy clouds of mist rolling in over the hills.

Misty Autumn mornings or evenings always seem to set the stage for some kind of magical entrance...

A figure, wrapped in heavy cloaks and walking with a six-foot tall, carved stick.

A stag, antlers aloft, pausing briefly to stare in your direction before bounding away.

A girl in a horned headdress leading a white horse.

Or in the early morning city streets, maybe a bent, elderly person pushing a wheelbarrow with a squeaky wheel and a pile of magical instruments inside it...


And then, I'm back in the car. 'Sorry, what?!'


White horse.JPG

All that glitters

Wondering through an antiques emporium, I looked up and saw a clutch of chandeliers hanging on thick, rusted chains from a beam.

I photographed them, but somehow I wasn't able to capture what it was that they provoked in my mind – a sense of opulent fantasy... glittering intrigue... decadent riches, eccentric dinner parties.

And now I have discovered that one of my favourite film directors, Baz Luhrmann, has just gone and done all this for me in his latest project, an advertisement for a high street fashion chain. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it's the clothes they are promoting that let this little film down, but otherwise I love what he was reaching for. What do you think?




The magic of practice

The legendary cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice at age 90. "Because I think I'm making progress," he replied.

Apparently, ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn once said, 'If you don't practice for one day, you notice the difference. Two days, and the other dancers notice. Three days, and the audience notices.'

Scary statistics, but it's probably true. It always takes me a little while to get back into the swing of things if I have been slack. Creative muscles need loosening and strengthening just like physical ones.

Daily practice, people – daily!



The magic of chocolate

I've had a bit of indulgent day.

I know that tiredness is no excuse, really – they say that exercise and water is what will do the trick if you need a bit of a wake-up.

But sometimes it's more fun to reach for some chocolate.

I was talking with a friend about the importance of keeping alive a sense of childlike wonder and exploration when it comes to creativity. And I was reminded of the absolute connoisseur of both childlike wonder and chocolate – the late children's author, Roald Dahl.

I've posted a link to a little video below that will show you what I mean!




Something from nothing

I was sorting out some laundry in the costume store at Glyndebourne.

I looked up and saw some of the Hamlet dresses hanging from their hangers, quietly minding their own business.

I stopped for a moment, because the previous day, I had seen these very same costumes on stage. Amazing, talented artistes were wearing them. They were looking spectacular and impressive under moody stage lighting. Arranged within the stage blocking, they had created a beautiful 'real-life painting'.

And now here they were - empty and needing a steam, their wrinkles lit up under bare strip lights.

It made me think about potential. About how something that seems ordinary can be transformed into something extraordinary, with a little bit of magic.



Anecdotes of spirit

I'd seen his work a thousand times in art books, but had never thought much of it.

But sitting in front of Mark Rothko's paintings in the Tate Modern was a profound experience. Definitely magical. I could feel some kind of power emanating from the huge, looming canvases in that specially darkened room. I could hear them. (Unless that was the air conditioning.)

I can't remember if I've spoken to you about Rothko before – apologies if I have – but I came across this wonderful quote from him and was reminded of his paintings:

Art to me is an anecdote of the spirit, and the only means of making concrete the purpose of its varied quickness and stillness.


 Mark Rothko,  Number 14

Mark Rothko, Number 14

Playing God?

Whatever your beliefs, it's no contest – Nature is the best artist ever.

But when you're creating something, you get to play God in a tiny way.

Take creating characters for a story, for example. I am imagining some kind of science lab with bubbling cauldrons and test tubes. The writer is mixing up some kind of potion... A few drops of inspiration from a school friend or an old teacher... perhaps a teaspoon of that guy on the bus... perhaps 300ml of a singer you saw in a concert... et voila.

A whole new person who has a thing about strawberry jelly and who has to always put their left shoe on first.



Gold sky

As I walked through a weirdly warm yet windy afternoon, I noticed the reflection of the sun in the river was a startling gold colour.

Looking up, I was intrigued and unsettled to see that orange skies were closing in, and the light was rapidly dimming. The sun was almost like a red candle flame, fluttering and lost amid swirling, sepia clouds. I wondered briefly if I had been transported to a film set – some kind of futuristic dystopian vision?

A quick search on Google enlightened me. Hurricane Ophelia had whipped up sands and debris from the Sahara, and was pulling it across UK skies.

I had to stop and look up.

I was looking at sand from the Sahara desert. In the sky. Over my town.

A reminder that this little corner of England is part of the bigger picture. That the Sahara, and other places, are real and are there even if I can't see them.

Well. It kind of blew me away.