Book review – The Yet Unknowing World by Fiona J Mackintosh

The Yet Unknowing WorldLayered like skeins of vivid ribbons, the stories in Fiona J. Mackintosh’s flash fiction collection The Yet Unknowing World strew colours through their readers’ minds.

Each tethers a moment in time, offering a sense of eavesdropping on stranger’s secrets. Many are portraits of love, others a sidewise glance at grief or betrayal. Woven by Mackintosh’s deft fingers, even the deepest losses are shared as exquisite parcels to be marvelled over. In ‘Hindsight’, the author opens with an image of cartwheels and trailing silk, before revealing that it’s these slippery fabrics that led to our narrator waking with his “heart fractured.”

There’s poetry whirled into these tales, and imagery rich enough to leave your senses tingling. Though most of the stories are only a paragraph or so long, they’re packed with details that evoke more than the sum of their words, and yet lie lightly on the page.

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The clues in a character’s handwriting

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Every wondered what you can read into a person’s handwriting? In today’s guestpost, Hana Rehman examines the loops and curves of graphology and shares her findings on assorted renowned artists. Can you use the insights to invent your own believably brilliant but flawed creative character?

The act of putting pen to paper is something special for most writers—we untangle thoughts, pour out memories, and make art out of words. But do these etchings on paper reveal more about ourselves than we might think?

Leonardo da Vinci

It has been debated whether or not the analysis of handwriting, or graphology, can be considered an actual science. But there might be something to it if we can uncover unique and unexpected traits by examining the characteristics of our letters.

Below are some emotions and personality traits that graphology claims our handwriting can reveal about us. Whether or not it’s entirely true is for us to decide, but it can always make for a fun, and perhaps insightful, exercise, to analyse handwritten pages.

Confidence

Supposedly, we can gauge one’s level of confidence by the size of their letters. Large letters indicate an upbeat, larger-than-life personality. Medium-sized letters show modesty and a good self-image. Small letters display focus and introspection.

Miro

Generosity and Openness

In graphology, letter spacing indicates a person’s openness and level of generosity. For example, large spaces between letters supposedly mean one is happy and generous, and when there are no spaces between letters, it is indicative of intelligence. No spacing can also mean one is closed off from others.

Emotions

The angle of one’s handwriting is believed to show off their inner feelings. For example, straight letters apparently show feelings of stability, calm, and even pride. According to graphologists, right-slanting letters show affection and tendency to opposition, while left-slanting letters demonstrate frustration, and that someone may be having a hard time with decision-making.

Frida Kahlo

Pen pressure is also thought to exhibit emotions. Heavy pen pressure, indicated by dark letters, shows determination and strong-mindedness. Mixed pressure, where the handwriting alternates between dark and light letters, shows the writer is sensitive, and may have trouble concentrating. Finally, very light letters show that the writer may be feeling ungrounded.

Graphology goes far deeper and gets very detailed, all the way down to the millimeter of letter width. However, using the general principles above, this method of analysis might be able to reveal something interesting about your mindset when you’re writing.

For more interesting handwriting analysis, take a look at this historical infographic created by the editors at 1stDibs. They analysed the signatures of twelve famous artists from history to see what they could uncover.

Bristol Festival of Literature goes digital

Bristol waterways cr Judy DarleyFor its grand ten-year anniversary, Bristol Festival of Literature is taking its celebration of the written words and going digital by hosting the entire festival via Zoom.

An array of literary events, all of which are free to attend this year (although donations are encouraged), will take place between 10th and 25th October 25th, entirely accessible from your living room.

“The festival has a policy of using unusual places and going out into the community,” says Jari Moate, one of the founders. “So we have a lot of experience of working with venues, but doing everything on Zoom is entirely new to us. I’m sure we will have a few adventures along the way!”

As always, the grassroots festival is offering opportunities for local authors to show off their stories, but is taking advantage of the online element by casting its net further afield. On Saturday 24th October, authors from Georgia will be joining the Festival to discuss the evolving literary scene in their country and to share experiences with British authors.

Events kick off on Saturday 10th October with the Bristol Short Story Prize Awards, offering your the chance to writers, agents, publishers and literature lovers from around the world as the Bristol Short Story Prize reveals the winner of its 13th annual competition.

The Book Of EchoesA week later the festival proper begins on ​Friday 16th October with highlights including Rosana Amaka in Conversation with novelist Dr Sanjida O’Connell as they discuss Amaka’s powerful debut novel The Book Of Echoes.

​On Saturday 17th October, you can take part in The Bristol Festival of Literature 2020 Writers’ Retreat and book a sessions with an industry expert to help you pursue dreams of publication.

​Also on Saturday 17th October, Poets 4 The Planet will perform thought-provoking poetry responding to the climate crisis.

​On Sunday 18th October you can carry on the climate crisis theme in a more proactive way with Imagine: Writing Bristol’s Future. Bristol Climate Writers will guide you through using creative techniques to explore and interpret issues based around climate changed seeking solutions for a sustainable Bristol.

​On Monday 19th October, find out more about the abolitionist movement in Bristol with Colston: Fact And Fiction with Roger Ball, Mark Steeds and Ros Martin.

On​ Thursday 22nd October, discover Landscapes: A showcase of work by The Diverse Creative Writing Group when  members of the Diverse Creative Writing Group for adults with Autistic Spectrum Condition.

​Also on Thursday, learn to craft short poems in response to your dreams with Dream Haiku with Asha Sahni and gain an insight into challenging the status quo with Novel Nights: Taking Risks As A Writer with Julie Cohen, hosted by David Lloyd.

Friday 23rd October brings Stories of Strong Women – Inspirational Female Authors, in which Jane Duffus, Elle Spellman and Heather Child with discuss trailblazing women writers, and a chance to see the UK’s hottest spoken word/performance/slam/stand up poets at Burning Eye Presents.

​​Finally, Story Sunday – The Great Escape with Just Write Bristol will offer showcase of original fiction written and performed by local writers.

For the full programme and to book your spots before they all disappear, visit https://www.bristolliteraturefestival.org/2020-festival-programme.

Got an event, challenge, competition, new venture or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley (at) iCloud (dot) com.

Book review – Families and Other Natural Disasters by Anita Goveas

Families and Other Natural Disasters by Anita Goveas coverAt first glance, the five sections of Anita Goveas’ collection appear elemental. A closer look rewards with the dawning understanding that the categories are types of natural disaster, with the final two a little more tongue in cheek. Fire, Water, Wind, Love and Families each warn of the emotions contained within, or, more, likely, poised to spill over.

The opening sentence of a collection is crucial in setting the tone for what’s to come. Goveas does this fearlessly, dropping into our laps the unflinching line: “There’s an ancient prophesy that you’ll die by volcano.” What Really Gets You Is the Rising Heat is a story that speaks of the expectations we fight against to forge our own path, even if that does turn out to be directly to the same volcano’s mouth our parents marked for us.

The titles form a poetry of their own, with the second tale warning us from the off that A Pilgrimage Can Be One Way, before enfolding us in ‘packing’ and ‘to do’ lists that contain humour, love and heartache within deftly rendered brevity. It’s the kind of hermit crab flash that hints at tireless hours of crafting.

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Porto in five senses – touch

São Bento Railway Station by James Hainsworth

There’s more to see (and touch) at São Bento Railway Station than trains. By James Hainsworth

In February 2020, my hub and I spent a long weekend in Porto, little knowing that the coronavirus pandemic was about confine us for the most part to our own homes.

In this time, I believe it’s vital to recall the beautiful, wide and varied world that exists beyond our immediate locality, and with this in mind I’ve been sharing a five-part travel guide to Portugal’s second largest city.

Each Tuesday in lockdown I’ve posted a new travel guide to Porto focusing on a different sense, beginning with the most evocative – the sense of smell. Last week was all about the sounds that knit this city together.

Today I’ll guide you through this characterful town via the sense of touch.

Touch – the city walls

Porto is famed of its tiled edifices, one of the finest examples of which is the foyer of São Bento Railway Station (Praça de Almeida Garrett, 4000-069 Porto, Portugal).

Porto tiled boulder by Judy Darley

Even some of the boulders are tiled in Porto. By Judy Darley

I couldn’t help reaching out to run my fingers over the city’s ancient walls. This was before touching became a risk-seeker’s adrenalin sport, don’t forget. The moist atmosphere, which is part of the reason why so many buildings are tiled way and beyond our own bathroom tiling at home, ensures that any uncovered stones tend to sport lichen or lovely moss.

Porto craggy walls by Judy Darley

Stepping inside buildings such as Chocolateria Ecuador (Rua de Sá da Bandeira 637, 4000-437 Porto, Portugal) reveals the textural riches within, as well, in this case, the scent and flavour sensations.

Chocolateria Ecuador by James Hainsworth

Treat your sense of touch, taste and smell at Chocolateria Ecuador. By James Hainsworth

Plus, quite a few shops we visited have their own shop cat mewing out for a consensual stroke.

Porto shop cat by Judy Darley

Come on in to meet today’s special purr-chase. By Judy Darley

Explore Porto’s other sensory offerings

Porto in five senses – smell
Porto in five senses – taste
Porto in five senses – sight
Porto in five senses – hearing

Porto in five senses – hearing

Seagulls above Porto Cathedral1 by James Hainsworth

Seagulls above Porto Cathedral by James Hainsworth

Late in February 2020, my hub and I flitted off for a long weekend in Porto. We had no way of guessing that within a couple of weeks we’d be in lockdown, confined to our homes.

Porto’s attractions may be closed for the foreseeable future, but I believe it’s more important now than ever to remember that a whole world exists beyond our immediate surroundings.

Each Tuesday in lockdown I’ve posted a new travel guide to Porto focusing on a different sense, beginning with the most evocative – the sense of smell. This week is all about the sounds that knit this city together.

Porto busker on Rua das Flores by Judy Darley

Busker on Rua das Flores, Porto, by Judy Darley

Hearing – Porto’s street musicians

While Fado, the Portuguese songs of lament, rolls out from a number of bars as well as part of a Cálem port tasting package, you can’t go wrong with a bit of busker-appreciation in Porto. The streets are peppered with musicians and singers; the more tourist-heavy the route, the more performers you’ll encounter. Even on a breezy day in very early March, people paused to listen to this musician on Rua das Flores.

Porto tram by Judy Darley

Porto tram by Judy Darley

There’s also plenty of ambient noise here – the whirr of approaching trams and the cry of seagulls choosing which monument to settle on are two that seem to sum up Porto’s romantic character.

Explore Porto’s other sensory offerings

Porto in five senses – smell
Porto in five senses – taste
Porto in five senses – sight
Porto in five senses – touch

Porto in five senses – sight

Torre Clerigos views by James HainsworthIn February 2020, my hub and I flew to Porto for a city-break. It’s difficult to imagine how easily we took that freedom for granted before the coronavirus spread into a global pandemic.

For a long time, I thought I’d wait until life goes ‘back to normal’ to publish my impressions of Porto, but I’ve realised how important it is to remember what an extraordinary world exists beyond the homes we’re now confined to.

Each Tuesday over the coming weeks I’ll post a new travel guide to Porto focusing on a different sense,

Two weeks ago I began our five-part journey with the sense of smell.

Last week we tucked into the sense of taste.

This week we’ll explore the sense of sight.

Torre Clerigos by James Hainsworth

Torre Clerigos by James Hainsworth

Sight – climbing high for panoramic views

You can’t beat a tower for views. Torre Clérigos’ lovely, spindly structure has been standing for more than 250 years, but only opened to the public in 2014 following a full renovation. The baroque tower is more than 75m high, with 225 steep winding steps that open up into narrow viewing platforms offering a 360° panorama of the city.

Torre Clerigos church by Judy Darley

Your entrance ticket includes a visit to the church, Igreja dos Clérigos, which is circled by walkways that take you up and up, with openings at all sides and levels to offer views of the church and all its treasures from every possible vantage point. There’s also a museum that includes the exhibition Passion, Journey of Shapes and Images of the Christ.

Torre Clerigos Christs exhibit by Judy Darley

A wall of Christ. Photo by Judy Darley

Reaching the top of the tower takes patience and persistence as there’s only room for one way traffic, which means everything comes to a halt whenever a tourist wants to go down. The steps are winding and uneven, so do be careful, and take your time.

Torre Clerigos by Judy Darley5

On the way up the winding stairs, narrow slits offer glimpses of Porto. Photo by Judy Darley

It’s well worth the spiralling pilgrimage, however. From the highest level you can view everything from the bridges and port houses to the nearby Livraria Lello bookshop (Livraria Lello, S.A. Rua das Carmelitas, 144 4050-161 Porto Portugal), credited with inspiring JK Rowling while she was writing Harry Potter. We decided to pop in (which required more patience and persistence than the tower!), after we’d drunk our fill of the sights from Torre Clérigos.

Torre Clerigos by Judy Darley1

The serpentine queues waiting to enter Livraria Lello are nothing compared to the crush within, where people edge toe to heel with one another through the glorious space where books look on in wonder (I assume). Think the exact opposite of social distancing and you might be able to envision the intensity of the crowds.

Livraria Lello by Judy Darley

Livraria Lello – one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops, even without the Harry Potter fame. Photo by Judy Darley

Explore Porto’s sensory offerings

Porto in five senses – smell
Porto in five senses – taste
Porto in five senses – hearing
Porto in five senses – touch

Porto in five senses – taste

Porto Calem tasting by James Hainsworth

Fortify yourself with a sip of the elixir named after this fair city. Photo by James Hainsworth

Little over a month ago, my hub and I travelled to Porto for a long weekend away. We had no idea how extreme the global coronavirus pandemic was about to become, or that by this time we’d be growing accustomed to life in lockdown.

I considered waiting until this is over to publish my experiences of Porto, but believe a little armchair travel is more important now than ever.

Each Tuesday over the coming weeks I’ll post a new travel guide to Portugal’s second city, one of my favourite places in the world, focusing on a different sense. Last week I guided you through Porto via the sense of smell.

This week I’ll show you around via the sense of taste.

Dom Luis I Bridge by james Hainsworth

The Eiffel-inspired Dom Luis I Bridge. By James Hainsworth

Taste – the port houses

Porto is famed for its port houses, and the rich, sweet fortified wine you might pull out on winter evenings is actually named after the city. To reach it, you can amble down the alleyways from Porto Cathedral to the Ribeira district. The river is crossed by six bridges, the most famous and photographed of which is Dom Luis I Bridge, built in 1886 and designed (you might have guessed this from its familiar structure) by a student of Gustave Eiffel.

The lower level of this one (the road-traffic and pedestrian level) is the one you want, Stroll across to Vila Nova de Gaia, pausing to admire views over the water and the cable cars swooping over Vila Nova de Gaia.

Cable cars over Gaia by Judy Darley

Founded António Alves Cálem in 1859, Porto Cálem (Avenida de Diogo Leite, 344, Vila Nova de Gaia) exported across the Atlantic to Brazil rather than the UK like everyone else. It clearly paid off – within a few years, the business had its own fleet of ships. Today Cálem,along with Kopke, Burmester and Barros, is part of the Sogevinus group, and boasts an interactive museum and atmospheric tours culminating at the tasting room.

Porto Calem museum by James Hainsworth

The museum is a fun starting point, with information on the Douro region where wines are produced before being brought to Gaia to further deepen their flavours with time and patience. My favourite part of the exhibition was a table of smells, where you could take a sniff, try to identify the smell, and then reveal your accuracy by pulling out a drawer. Hazelnut, it appears, has a more recognisable and pleasing aroma than chocolate, which is unexpectedly bitter in scent.

There’s also a chance to watch a curiously relaxing film of skilled artisans crafting a gigantic oak and stainless steel port barrel.

Porto Calem tour by James Hainsworth

The informative tour includes in eerie insight into flooding in the Gaia district, with water heights on marked on a gigantic barrel.

But the highlight, of course, is the tasting, where you can sip the silken white, tawny, ruby and even rosé port, with flavours encompassing plums, sultanas and hints of honey.

Time your visit with care, and you might emerge into the riverside’s glimmering dusk with the sweetness of port still on your tongue.

Rio Douro after nightfall by Judy Darley

Explore Porto’s sensory offerings

Porto in five senses – smell
Porto in five senses – sight
Porto in five senses – hearing
Porto in five senses – touch

Porto in five senses – smell

Claus Porto exterior by James Hainsworth

Claus Porto, Rua das Flores. By James Hainsworth

On the last day of February 2020, my hub and I flitted off for a long weekend in Porto. It was in the week that separates our birthdays, and 29th February is a rare date that in itself made us want to make it memorable.

We had no idea how extreme the global coronavirus pandemic was about to become, or that just weeks later we’d be in lockdown, confined for the most part to our own homes for our safety and the safety of others.

For a long time, I thought I’d wait until this is over to publish my travel piece about Porto, and that there was no point in sharing it until people can roam again. But now I realise how important it is to remember what a beautiful, wide and varied world exists beyond the views we see from our windows.

Portugal’s second city is a vivid tangle of streets bisected by the River Douro, with the banks linked by gorgeous bridges and flanked by steep streets lined with colourful buildings housing residents, bars and museums aplenty. It’s the perfect place for a 48-hour escape, with uncommon attractions to feed each of your five senses.

Each Tuesday over the coming weeks I’ll post a new travel guide to Porto focusing on a different sense, beginning with the most evocative – the sense of smell.

Smell – Claus Porto’s fragrance emporium

Claus Porto staircase by Judy Darley

Claus Porto’s M.C. Escher-esque staircase. By Judy Darley

Claus Porto (Rua das Flores, 22 Porto 4050-262) is a fantastic soap and perfume company founded by German businessmen Ferdinand Claus and Georges Schweder in 1887 in the Portuguese city they loved. Using ingredients sourced from the Portuguese countryside and eventually opening its own lithography company to produce the art gallery-quality packaging, Claus Porto has survived two World Wars, plus dictatorships and revolutions.

Claus Porto soaps by Judy Darley

Claus Porto soaps, not artisan bakery macaroons… By Judy Darley

The flagship store occupies a typical 19th-century Porto townhouse that used to be a marionette museum and now sports an eye-boggling tiled floor and an exhibition space on the first floor showing off their packaging and historical titbits, including a gold medal awarded at the 1904 World’s Fair in St Louis, USA.

Claus Porto notebooks by Judy Darley

Claus Porto notebooks accessorise their soap wrappings beautifully. By Judy Darley

Their packaging is so exquisite that you can now buy matching notebooks – ideal for those moments of bathroom inspiration!

Claus Porto soap wall by James Hainsworth

Claus Porto shows off its lithography from floor to ceiling. By James Hainsworth

Don’t miss the ‘soap wall’ exhibit mid-way up the staircase.

The ground floor includes an artful array of luxurious soaps, lotions and other products we could only afford to sniff, plus a barber’s station. Natural ingredients range from wild pansy to parma violets to figs to cedar to tobacco blossom. During our brief visit, we grew rather fond of the barber’s dog.

Claus Porto barber's dog by Judy Darley

Meet the barber’s dog. By Judy Darley

Next week, I’ll introduce you to Porto’s tastiest attraction – port!

Explore Porto’s sensory offerings

Porto in five senses – taste
Porto in five senses – sight
Porto in five senses – hearing 
Porto in five senses – touch

The Turner Prize 2019 invites you to Margate NOW

Margate Festival 2018. Photography by Heather Tait (4)

Margate Festival 2018. Photography by Heather Tait

Margate NOW, an ambitious and dynamic festival of art, events and performances, will unfold across Margate from 28th September to celebrate the Turner Prize coming to Turner Contemporary for its 2019 exhibition.

Developed by a consortium of partners and artists, the town-wide programme will be bigger than ever before. Its goal is to spread a little magic throughout the town by placing artworks in unexpected places.

Margate Festival NOW 2018_Artists Moving Memory_photo by Heather Tait

As part of an open call, led by Margate Festival, artists were invited to respond to the theme ‘NOW’. 500 artists and performers will create 60 music, dance, exhibitions and installations as part of the programme guest-curated by Russell Tovey.

“I’ve always had a close relationship with art and began collecting art in my mid 20s whilst acting in The History Boys,” says guest curator Russell Tovey. “Initially, I was excited by the buzz of investing in art and buying something that would outlive me. As my collection has grown my interest has developed into supporting emerging and mid-career artists as well as becoming a patron for a number of not-for-profit public art institutions.”

Tovey adds: “Margate NOW is such an exciting programme. Art can be powerful and engaging and I am looking forward to seeing the town brought to life in unusual, surprising and entertaining ways. I’ve really enjoyed helping to curate and select artists for the festival. It’s great to be able to support and encourage the creation of new art and new ideas.”

Margate Festival NOW 2018. Artists Moving Memory photo by Heather Tait

In addition to the open call programme, of co-commissions include international sound artist and electronic musician Yuri Suzuki, who will to create a new work for Turner Contemporary’s South Terrace, in partnership with Kent Libraries, inspired by people from across the county. A new work, ‘Printed Whispers’, is being developed by Yemi Awosile in collaboration with Open School East. Awosile is collaborating with local groups and organisations to make use of natural resources and reconditioned objects, sourced from the local area.

Sands Hotel Margate 2019

Sands Hotel Margate (the second building from the right)

Running alongside the programme, Sands Hotel Margate is offering a special ‘Turner Seaside Snap’ package aimed at boosting your creativity. Costing from £175pp, the package includes two nights B&B, a cream tea, a bottle of wine and a three-hour lesson with a local professional photographer on how to capture the best seaside pictures. Find details here.

Margate NOW is on until 13th October 2019. Select events and exhibitions will continue until the Turner Prize 2019 exhibition leaves Margate on 12th January 2020.

The festival has been enabled by a successful bid to the Arts Council England for £219,000 of National Lottery funding as well as contributions from Kent County Council, Thanet District Council and Dreamland Margate.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at JudyDarley(@)ICloud(dot)com.