Shipping News: A Cut Up Approach

I was on the second ship leading the north Atlantic convoy, which was one of six in total.  My head was screaming with the cold, my fingers numb and becoming number as the minutes passed.  We had to transfer mid ocean from our small liners to the bigger ones, the ones that could break the ice of the north, the ones that could pass by and crunch the icebergs that would otherwise soon sink these tropical ships that we had come this far on.

Morning medicine, my mourning drink.  I was sick of the air, sick of my mouth tasting of salt, my cracked lips and shaggy dog appearance.  I was becoming a wreck, like the Titanic in her grave slowly rusting, slowly breaking down to her elemental beginnings.

I was home, verdant fields of tall grass framed by never-ending blue skies and cradled by deep pleasant dreams.  The wooden door creaked as I opened it, I announced I was home and I heard the movement of my lover in our shared bed.  I imagined the sheets cascading off her body, the soft smooth silk of her skin and the comely shape of her buttocks, the two small welcoming dimples at the base of her spine.  The curls of her hair resting on her shoulders, her sumptuous breasts that were full of milk, nipples pert and erect.

Home smelt like home.  This was salt, this was corrosion.  The transfer was awful, I saw their pale and emaciated bodies silent in the bunks, numerous across the whole range of decks.  We could not go on like this, we must not go on like this.  Moving the bodies was horrendous, a horrible job.  I had thrown my younger brother around as a child and had remembered how heavy he was even when young, how I could feel the weight of his happy soul.  This was something else, the bodies far lighter than they had any right to be.  Glassy deep blue eyes set silent in paper thin crevices for faces.

I loved her then and I loved her still.  There was something wonderful about the moment between coming home from work and announcing my entry to the wooden house.  This was the liminal zone, I was neither away nor settled on the prairie.  When I remembered this moment consciously I tried to slow it down, to breathe in deeply, to try and enjoy the moment when I’d open the door and see her gorgeous brown eyes, the flicker of the smile that would start to spread across her face as she spied me coming in.

I could almost taste that moment, but the foghorn soon reminded me that I was a thousand miles away, surely more, from my beloved.

The bodies had been swiftly moved from the ice breakers to the tropic liners without any difficultly.  I was convinced that our skeletal crew would break down at this task but we kept quiet and professional, we carried out our task with ease and left the liners floating in peace in warmer climes, buffeted by only the smallest of oceanic waves.

Silently our breakers made the way north, the ocean becoming day by day peppered with more chunks of frozen sea than I could count.  Chunks that could rip and tear steel, that could doom whole convoys and destroy even the hardest of souls.

I craved her touch more than ever at this point.  My cracked lips had become something beyond sore, something that I knew hurt but was pushed deeper into my sub-consciousness.

I missed her hips the most, how my hand would follow the contour of her outer hip bone and glide slowly into the girdle where the delicate touch of my lips would meet her soft warm skin.  Where I knew that when she arched her back she was that much more relaxed, ready to give in to the carnal sin of our shared passion.

The bow of the ship cuts the ice, the sea underneath, and our dreams as clean as any knife I have ever known.  Our hopes are cleaved into two.  The ocean is our life, the seabed our grave.


Photograph by author using a Pentax S1a and cheap film.


Short Scenes

I love delving into new authors without really having much or any knowledge of their work or style.  Recently, on a trip to Newcastle, I had a bit of time to kill so I popped into a bookstore and browsed the shelves.  On one of the shelves I found When I Was Mortal, a recently published short story collection by Javier Marías.  I had heard of his name, indeed had looked at his novels before, but I had never read any of his work.  The front cover grabbed my attention with the beautiful photograph of the crow, elegant yet not too understated.


I am fast becoming a fan of short story collections and folk tales.  Vonnegut showed me the way and Márquez taught me the value of them, Marías is now enticing me to know more.  The short story is a wonderful form, one that is much maligned in the modern printing world.  Of course how could it not be?  Where once it was a mainstay in helping the author to produce work and maintain an income whilst working on novels, it is now rare for authors to be able to earn a living from short stories as a sole main income.  Only stable authors have collections of short stories out in the shops.

Of course this is largely due to the internet and the relatively dying off of short story magazines in recent decades.  But where there is a will there is a way.  New independent magazines are appearing all the time online and in hard copy, and you can contribute to them, as I have done.  The Paperbook Collective is one such example: full of photography, poetry, reviews, short stories and short scenes.  I also got wind that another friend is looking to set up an interactive online magazine full of music, photography, poems, short pieces and essays.  It is something I look forward to contributing to.  Even now as I type ideas fizz and pop into my head, short scenes stolen from real life or dreamt up in fantasy.

In the meantime I heading back to the world of Mariás.  Keep on writing, keep on dreaming.  (But, perhaps most importantly for me, I must keep on editing!).


Here a few photographs taken with my Pentax S1a, using black and white film, framed.  I think they look pretty good in the relatively inexpensive frames, it certainly adds a certain subtle element of calmness to the photographs and slightly lifts them as well.

Okay the digital photograph was taken in a bit of a rush and there is a bit of smudge but here you go:

photographs in frames

I’ve got a few photographs that look pretty good in the frames, but the ones above highlight a quick peaceful scene of a teddy relaxing on the couch at home and the bottom photography represents some destruction near the house but it’s still a relatively peaceful scene.  I especially like the the detail of the trees and leaves that the film has managed to capture, although I perhaps have the camera set on too high a exposure as evidenced by the lack of detail on the left hand side brick post.

I’ve also been scouring the charity shops in the region to see what sort of photograph frames I can and I can happily report it is well worth the hunt!  Got some beautiful frames for photographs that I have given away as presents to family and friends.  It is always worth checking out charity shops as they have continually rolling stock and you never quite know what you are going to find!

I always think that there is no other feeling quite like when you are being creative and then, once you have finished either editing, painting or developing, standing back and scrutinizing the work that you have produced.  A lot of the paintings I’ve painted or photographs I’ve taken are often given away to family and friends for free.  I did once try to sell some artwork online but it just wasn’t happening, I felt almost curtailed by the fact that selling the artwork was forcing me to be creative instead of actually producing art just for it’s own creative sake (not that anyone ever actually bought anything, thank god!).  I feel the same way for any medium, whether it is writing here or my other more serious blog, or by doing anything creative.  I do it because I want to, I have the time to (when I can) and because I love just adding to the world in my own little way.

Who truly knows why we do what we do, or why we create what we create, whether it is some integral internal urge to express or whether it’s just to play, to feel truly at one with this planet and everything that lives, sometimes it is just daft, for fun, for shits and giggles, other times you just feel an urgent need to connect.  Ultimately of course that is what this blog is, it is a creative connection.  Not to anyone in particular, as I say in the about section its for no-one in particular but for everyone.  Just head out and create!


I won’t be posting here for a while as I’ve got to have some hospital surgery carried out, I head in tomorrow for blood tests and X-rays before the surgery on Wednesday.  However I have picked my reading wisely for the time I shall be bed bound, so here is a quick list of what I’m taking with me*:

  • Fracture: Adventures of  a Broken Body by Ann Oakley (a re-read).
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
  • The Foundation Pit by Andrey Platonov (a re-read).
  • Notes from the Underground and The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
  • The Human Bone Manual by Tim White and Pieter Folkens.
  • Disability in Medieval History by Irina Metzler (if I can!).

I can’t help but feel I am missing a good travelogue or another novel I can get my teeth in, but The Road and Notes from the Underground are two books I have been meaning to read for quite some time.  Although the reading list does look decided depressing, I shall relish the hours lying down in bed adsorbed in the comfort of a good writer and lost in a world that they have created.  It is perhaps no surprise to see that at least two Russian authors have made the list, but with a new Stephen King novel out I may be doing some asking for that as a cheeky gift!   I have included a few re-reads in the list above, but we shall see if I get those read again.

I shall need to call upon my stoical strength again, but I look forward to writing back here once I am well enough.  Photography by author, taken with a Pentax S1a camera.

I shall need to call upon my stoical strength again, but I look forward to writing back here once I am well enough. Photography by author, taken with a Pentax S1a camera.

* I’ll also be taking a stack of CD’s with me because I am doggedly old fashioned, and, of course, a stack of paper to write letters to friends and to keep notes.

Sights Old

Travelling by train has always been a serene pleasure for me, as the wheels trundle gracefully along the gilded track and my body slowly rocks to gentle sway of the ride, I feel somehow at ease with both myself and the world.

A few days ago I took the carriage heading south, to the city wreathed in historic remains.  It is a city where I have spent many hours volunteering and meeting up with friends, playing the guitar in the minster grounds and doing the rounds of the pubs and bars.

I wonder if I can put it into a poem, the quick scene that we passed by quickly as the train headed south:


Speeding through, the land grew still,

ambulance responder, crew running to the terraced house,

next minute or two, the rubbish is collected and compacted,

like the refuse of life, recycled and born anew.


I’m not sure that works, but we’ll keep it in for now.

It was a beautiful scene eclipsing the beauty and frailty of life and of our material culmination as a species.  It made me think of our bodies as empty vessels once we have died, and how we are buried like so much of our rubbish, out of the way and out of sight.  The division of death by the division of material waste itself is an odd one.  Of course we sometimes used to be buried with material goods in the deep and ancient past, sometimes inside or near the house or dwelling, but not so much anymore.  There is a distinct modern liminality zone between the living and the dead, of how some would argue that we have forgotten how to look death in the face, to accept it as we accept life.

We want our world pristine, simultaneously emulating and reviling nature and her course.

‘We Are Improv’

Humans have expressed themselves for many thousands of years in the form of portable carvings, cave art, open air art and monumental structures, however what cannot be excavated or reconstructed is the pure visceral thrill of the performance, be it on the part of the actor or of the audience.  Whilst we today we have the wide choices of plays, films, games, and television to watch and entertain us, there is nothing quite like watching or partaking in the performance of improvisation, a free form expression in which the subject and responses can be as varied as you can imagine.

I am very happy to introduce my friend Katy Bateson, a Lancaster based performer, who has started her own improvisational group entitled ‘We Are Improv‘.  The group have been together for a number of years now, regularly meeting up to improvise and improve their skills and ideas.  They have attended workshops throughout the country, and very soon they themselves will start playing live in Lancaster and will start putting on shows further afield.  I recently had the chance to ask Katy, the founder of ‘We Are Improv‘, a few questions on the nature of improvisation, her influences and why we should all join in.


DBA (Don’t Bend, Ascend):  Katy, in your spare time you are a improvisational teacher and performer, but why did you decide on improvisation in the first place?  Who where your influences, and why did you feel like you wanted to set up your own group?

KB (Katy Bateson): Improvisation is acting without a script, where you respond to offers from the audience or your fellow improvisers.  There are a wide range of different styles from short form improvisational comedy like ‘Who’s Line Is It Anyway‘ and ‘Paul Merton and Chums‘ to the improvised staging of Jane Austen novels (‘Austentatious‘) and musicals (‘The Maydays‘).

I was given the gift of improvisation when I was 8 years old, and 16 years later improvisation still fills me with the same wonder and joy.  Most children reach an age where they stop playing, their barbies are packed away into the loft, they no longer pretend to be flying ponies or get married to each other in the playground.  In short we begin to grow up and begin to live more in reality and less in our imagination, but I am truly blessed that finding improvisation so young means I have never stopped playing.

Most people think that improvisation is a terrifying concept with people always saying “I couldn’t do that” but everybody improvises every second of the day, you don’t wake up and plan the encounters and conversations you will during the day, we all improvise everyday and it comes very naturally.  The thought of having to learn a script fills me with terror after the freedom improvisation allows, in improvisation there is no wrong because there is no plan!  Improvisation is built on the idea of saying “Yes and…” where you accept the offer of your fellow improviser and add to it, you can’t fail if whatever you say is going to be accepted!

Improvisation is breathtakingly beautiful and exhilarating, every performance or workshop is shared between the actors and the audience only to ever be seen by the people in that room, as soon as the final bow is taken everything exists only as memories.  No film, book or television program has ever made me laugh as loud, smile as wide or cry as hard as improvisation has.

It is safe to say that Improvisation is an addiction, what starts as attending a few classes can quickly become travelling the length and breadth of the country to do courses, and before too long contemplating scaling the globe to attend improvisation festivals.

I decided to start-up my own group whilst on holiday in Turkey, my brain suddenly decided that I needed to start my own group so I did.  Although I loved doing improvisation courses around the country, I wanted to be able to improvise closer to home where I could focus on improvisation that interested me, and that didn’t break my bank balance with trips to London.  I love improvisation with a passion and teaching it and spreading some of my passion and joy seemed like the most natural thing to do.”

DBA:  It is clear to see that you are very passionate about the art form, however what do you personally hope to achieve?

KB:  “I hope to have an improvisation group that is performing regularly in Lancaster, we have currently performed once for friends and family and we’re working towards our second performance in April.

I want to help spread the word about improvisation and bring improvisation to the North as at the moment it is highly concentrated in the South of England, mainly in London and in Brighton, but small groups further North are helping to spread the improv joy.

I also want to encourage more people to get involved with improvisation by running courses.”

DBA:  How do you feel that improvisation has helped you develop as a person, and how have the people you have met and taught helped?

KB:  “Improvisation has helped me become the person I am today, if you can stand up in front of a room full of people with nothing but an audience suggestion and create something beautiful there is nothing that you can’t do.  I have the confidence to speak in public and laugh more in one improvisation class than most people probably do in a week.  I have met some incredible people through improvisation.  My fellow improvisers are the most inspiring, creative, encouraging, intelligent people I have ever met.  I have improv friends that span the globe who I have shared more laughter and honest moments with than most people have with friends they have had a lifetime.  Although the time I get to spend with these people is often brief, it is worth every glorious second.

I’ve also done a lot of improvisation with The Maydays who are an improvisation group from Brighton that specialise in musical improv.  I’ve done some wonderful workshops with them including going to their 5 day improv residential that they hold in Dorset each year.  I’ve also done some amazing workshops with Parallelogramophonograph from Austin Texas and Jason Chin from Chicago.”

DBA:  I think I know the answer, but finally why would you recommend improvisation to other people, especially to people who have never tried it before?

KB:  “Improvisation is life changing, if find the right teacher you can find a place where you are truly accepted for who you are, where you are surrounded by a group of people who are encouraging you and supporting you.  Improvisation will boost your confidence and your happiness.  You will meet wonderful new people and feel exhilarated and free.  With improvisation the possibilities are endless, it is very therapeutic.”

It is clear to see the passion and high esteem that the founder of ‘We Are Improv’, Katy Bateson, has for her art and the hopes that she has for her company.  It is an especially brave act to start your own improv group, at a time when the cultural cuts in the UK are affecting the access and funding of culture throughout the country.  However, where there is a will, there is a way, and Katy has demonstrated her steely determination to help bring laughter and smiles to audiences across the country, wherever her and her improv partners go.

For further information, or to register an interest and book a performance, please email Katy at  The website,, has recently been upgraded, and visitors can look forward to an introduction to the group, and be kept informed of upcoming shows and blog entries.  Currently ‘We Are Improv’ are based in Lancaster, but hope to provide shows to a wider region.