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Loitering Without Tent

A couple of Thursdays ago, I achieved a long-held ambition: I attended a writers' group. I'd known of its existence for ages, but living in my castle on the hill, far from the city, and being a stubborn non-driver, I wasn't in a position to do anything about it. But having gained the city's bounds, there's no excuse now to ignore the opportunity to meet other writers, with the aim of getting and giving useful feedback, moral support, or at the very least a drink and a nice conversation.

First impression: positive. The group welcomed young Cosmé generously. Several people read things out (we got a variety of different types of writing, ranging from a one-minute play to the latest episode of an unfolding epic with maps. …I love maps). As for me, I was v. brave indeed and introduced the assembled company to the Archduke. He was, I am gratified to say, received most favourably! My approach to writing (to all things creative) includes the proviso that you must always be honest with yourself - including this constant truth: you know, you always know, if something you've done has turned out well, and I have always had that feeling with the Archduke. But it is something of a relief to share your creation with (hopefully unbiased) others and have them reassure you that yes, this is something worth pursuing. Don't worry, I'm not going to feel too smug (for a start, I am sure that they would deal leniently with anyone visiting them for the first time!). Instead, there's this: the realisation that - eek! - incisive minds will have opinions about this stuff… I'd better make it V. Good. I'm not sure how I shall feel about reading out some of the wilder, sexier Archducal exploits, but you know what, I can be very brazen when pressed, especially when I know it will surprise people. (One of the things I like least about other humans is their tendency to think me incapable of venality; confounding that expectation is a pleasure as well as a necessity!)

However, I'm not going to get to that at the next meeting. There is a solemn duty that I must prosecute: that is to say, the sublime (?) Meredith shall make his entrance. The thing is, it'll be the week of his birthday (yes, he has a birthday; don't your characters have birthdays…?), and this year is our twentieth anniversary (or Jubilee, as I have taken to calling it). To leave the occasion unmarked would be personal sacrilege. I might even bring cake and get a chorus of 'Happy Birthday' going. Because… well, because, reely. Let's just say I have no problem performing to the room… I only wish I were better at making light conversation. >.< (Ambivert Problems…)


Last week at the bookshop, on the Big Table of Interesting Things, the display included a book with the intriguing title 'Princes of Victorian Bohemia'. Hmm, thinks Cosmé; instructive? The cover shows this photograph:


Yes, definitely instructive! (This gentleman, by the way, is apparently William Swinden Barber, an architect.)

The book collects a series of portraits by one David Wilkie Wynfield. They record the likenesses of his close company, which included not a few literary and artistic luminaries. DWW, who was a painter by training, approached his photography in a painterly manner, attempting to emulate the feeling of Renaissance portraits. To this end, he costumed his subjects accordingly. Result: heaps of gorgeous brooding talent, now in armour (really love this one of George du Maurier; he looks adorably cheeky!), now in fabulous collars (you don't wanna mess with this guy or his beard)

...c'est mon milieu, absolument, n'est-ce pas?!

Though tempted, I didn't buy the book, in order to feel that I had resisted the temptation. (Don't worry, I failed absolutely to resist several other sorts of temptation later on, as you will see presently.)

Most of the subjects are well-known nineteenth century personages, but the identity of some has been lost to history. For example, this Unknown, whose steadily-confident demeanour makes him seem wonderfully alive and real, despite the fantasy scenario:

Unidentified Man, looking quietly smug just after he slayed a really stroppy dragon. (I'm guessing.)

You know what I'm going to say…

…Time Machine Please! :-)

Wynfield is cited as an important inspiration to the likes of Julia Margaret Cameron, and you can very much sense that in these portraits. We often think of Victorian photography as stiff, awkward, formal and claustrophobic, with the sitters having to remain rigid and stifled during uncomfortably long exposures - almost tensing themselves against the temptation to flail and spoil the shot. We think of a Victorian photograph pinning down a moment rather cruelly, like an entomological specimen, stretching a split second to its tautened limit, forcing it to inhabit an artificially-elongated duration. Under these circumstances, we suspect, much that is real, that we would like to know about the subjects, is repressed, constrained. But in the photography of artists like Wynfield and Cameron, there is a sense of restfulness, of the body breathing comfortably, the inner self kindled to a flame by... patience.

No doubt there's a lesson in there somewhere, though of course I am far too discreet to drag it out.


Oh Well. I don't have Mr Wynfield at my disposal, but I do have a camera of my own. Also, I wasn't in Renaissance Prince Mode on Thursday; it was more of a Listlessly-Awkard Edwardian Creature moment. Imagine Cosmé, wistfully adrift at some dully-genteel seaside resort, sulkily solitary but very much wanting a cup of tea… if only a kind person would take pity on the poor thing.

In the absence of kind strangers, one takes pity on oneself. (How very sad! And yet: occasional self-indulgence works wonders, I find. Don't you?)


Disdaining even the wardrobe mirror: how wan and weary the creature is!


"How very awkward I feel! Quite ungainly... is the spirit of a Victorian photographer present?"

The constantly-churning enigma of the Anachronautick Wanderer's True Identity seems ever to the fore.


"Mercury... always Mercury... one's soul is nauseatingly unstill. Unlabelled, uncollected... the last lonely valise on the carousel, circuiting in vain, filled with crumpled personal effects rendered, by their indefinability, quite unpersoned!"



But there is only one answer worth a bean.


"I have no idea what I am - not at all."


"But I do know that I like being it, very much."


"Then be it, with all your might. Think sunlit thoughts, Cosmé! Away with shade! Give that lens your best side, dear heart!"


Outbreak of Tentative Optimism. "Not an absolutely 'orrible baggage, after all; perchance quite claimable, in certain lights!"

Bonus shot:


Perhaps my most excellent shoes. Oxblood 'n' plaid co-respondent brogues!!

Very Personal Effects:
Soft-textured cotton shirt, coral and offwhite stripe: M&S.
Linen trews, dusty-brown with pinstripe: M&S. (I bought these in a hurry once to wear to a sudden job interview. I did not get the job, but the trousers were sufficient consolation. Odd thing: they are very well made, with a metal zip and rather nice buttons, but they came with the cheapest vinyl belt in history. Why?!)
White and blue linen scarf: bought at the Bristol Guild on Park Street, probably as a reward to myself for going to the dentist.
Striped socks: I haven't a clue, but aren't they marvellous?
Shoes: Clarks.
Bangles: one oxidised and textured silver one, which I made at a silversmithing class. Two vintage ones (one blue-black, one clear red), made of 1930s plastic, via my mother. (I seem to remember they were given to her by a tenant of her Uncle's?)

Point of fashion: Unclaimed Baggage.


( 4 confidences — Confide in me... )
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 17th, 2014 10:21 am (UTC)
You are most kind, thank you! :-) At some point I ought to post more of that story I began sharing - if only for the sake of completeness. >.<

There is always a certain awkwardness in taking pictures of oneself. And yet they usually come out better than the pictures other people take! I hate smiling for the camera, it makes my face look... strange. But it is possible to put across gladness in other (more genuine) ways! For the close up, I adjusted the colours a little to try and get them a little closer to reality. Everything else is unedited except for cropping.

Hooray for style and spirit, I say. :-D
Jun. 16th, 2014 01:41 am (UTC)
Great trousers! I couldn't believe when I read on that they were M&S!

I also like that dragon-slayer. Very handsome :)
Jun. 17th, 2014 10:25 am (UTC)
More unbelievably, they're from the usually-horrid 'Per Una' range, that mostly seems to be disgusting colours, synthetic fabrics and annoying styles! Must be the law of averages, sometimes there'll be something wearable there...

Yes, and what a shame that pest-controllers (?) these days tend to wear boiler-suits!
Jun. 22nd, 2014 09:52 pm (UTC)
And what seems to be missing as well is those cover-alls men used to wear over their "good clothes" when doing housework or small time DIY. I am not sure if you remember Ronnie Barker in "Open All Hours" but he used to wear a fawn one every episode when he worked at his shop.
( 4 confidences — Confide in me... )

Eavesdrop, snoop, and sigh with yearning...

This journal is not a private diary, it is more like an occasional, imaginary column. Therefore, much of it is on public display. However, if you want to read my occasional attempts at creative writing, my Caution Elf tells me I should only show that stuff to my friends. You know what to do. :-)

NB: If you add me in an unsolicited fashion, please introduce yourself. Otherwise I will probably ignore you.

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