Saturday, April 30, 2011


I had been thinking about buying a typewriter since coming to the US, but without much income to play with didn't really want to pay the exhorbitant prices on e-bay. I had left my beloved, flawed Olevetti behind in NZ. Don't let me fool you, I am not a typist.

There is something gloriously physical and solid about a typewriter that you lose with laptops and PCs. With a typewriter you can trace a direct physical connectionfrom your finger through the key, the lever, the arm, to the hammered letter directly imprinting itself onto the paper. The computer is far more opaque in operation: a naive alien from another star could open a typewriter and quickly discover how it operates. That same alien would probably vapourise the planet when confronted by a PC case.

I found Leviathan in the Good Will and instantly fell under it's dreadful spell when I opened it's ugly tan-orange case. It is a beast of a typewriter, weighing close to 15 pounds in it's case. I almost wrenched my shoulder out when I picked it up for the first time. I could of sworn it were made from the bodies of dead stars and the tears of kittens.

I want a Leviathan for quite a few reasons. The biggie: it is solely a writing machine. No internet to parasitically suck time out of me, no distractions, no email, no fascinating Neverwinter Nights or Baldurs Gate or Diablo to play. Simply me, the blank page and my intermediary, Leviathan.

The second is a little symbolic. The typewriter is a twentieth century writers tool, one that birthed any number of beautiful worlds out of words. I am pretty much a 20th century boy, and while there are many advantages to the 21st century's digital age, the pervasive speed and conectivity leaves me a little cold.

A more practical third: it's black-out proof. Like a pen or pencil too, a typewriter can keep going even when the power generators falter. I guess it's possible I could run out of coffee.

And a selfish 4th: I like the sound.

A-Z blogger: Zoological Oddity


GR: Or maye he is a normal animal.

GR: Or a monster from beyond space and time?

GR: We simply do not know what he really is.

GR: Gef could be a magic mirror, hold him up and you'll see what you want to see. What you need to see.

GR: Price needed to see a fake. Captain X needed a little something to send back to Price. Jim could be said to want the centre of attention. People see ghosts, mongeese, rats, cats, poltergeists, aliens, ventriloquists, fakes, frauds and phonies.

GR: Gef said many things about what he was. "I am the fifth dimension. I am the eighth wonder of the world"


Gef really is becoming a position that people view.

Well, this is the end of the A-Z. Posting will continue.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A-Z challenge: Years/Yearning

VOIRREY: The years have not been kind. I thought distance would make it easier to bear, I fled to the mainland, to the anonymity of a city. Well, into the anonymity of Gloucester, at any rate.

VOIRREY: Do I regret it? Of course I bloody regret it. I regret ever crossing paths with Gef. He has tainted my life, poisoned the well of it. I could have-


VOIRREY: There are things I could have done. Places I could have gone. I could have been a mother. I could have been an engineer. And, well, I become the mental old lady who spoke to a figment.

VOIRREY: Try and explain that.

VOIRREY: It was like someone snuck into the rooms of my life and stole the furniture, and upon arriving home to discover the robbery, I stopped from ever leaving. Fearful, in case they came back.

VOIRREY: Gef stole a life with a family of my own from me. Aye, I feel a bitterness upon me over him. I wish I'd never met him.


Tomorrow: probably the obvious choice, Zoological Oddity.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A-Z Chellenge. Xenos, Xenoglossia, Xenobiology.

X is one of those awful letters that drive me spare, and force a shotgunning of stuff onto the blog.


Xenos is my Warhammer 40k gaming side showing. In that context, 'Xenos' is the other, the alien. Which given the nature of humanity in this particular wargame, simply means a "them and us" attitude and more shooting. The human race in the year 40000 is a xenophobic, racist, violent facist galactic empire that in the name of keeping itself safe, will destroy solar systems and commit genocide. That concept, coupled with my pacisim, made for some slightly strange self debate about fictional games.

But, anyway, Gef as some kind of alien is slightly too outlandish for this particular series of outlandish events.

Xenophobia doesn't quite fit.


Xenoglossia (you can tell I hit the dictionary, right?) is a phenomena where mediums claim to be able to speak a language that they're unfamiliar with. Which is another interesting piece of a puzzle from a different box. Perhaps for the story of Harry Price and his frequent run-ins with mediums and spirit talkers.


Xenobiology: the study of alien beings. The word that seems more suited to Gef is cryptozoology which is, very roughly, the study of odd terrestrial creatures.


Could these things be usefully included in the play? At the least the would be simple colour, part of the background. The Xenoglossia is probably the most appropriate idea to slap in there as part of the travelling Harry Price show- some weird citified circus barker offering to puncture the fiction of your friendly neighbourhood spirit medium.

Tomorrow: Y.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A-Z Challenge: Witchery & Wisewomen

For some reason, the 'witch urn' is what I'd been calling the urn two challenge posts ago. I'd somehow decided that the urn contained the remains of a witch buried under the rock in the hedgerow. Perhaps I read it in the research.

Margarey had been described by Price and Lambert as being a wisewoman, a witch at any other time, with some non-specific psychic foresight.

Some cliched, witchy words follow. These say more about how I imagine a manx witch to speak, and the stereotypes involved with both manx, farmers, and witches than it has to do with reality. I must cop that I like the idea of women gaining some magic from a connection to the land and the spirits that inhabit it. It's a very ethereal, wispy, Arthur Rakham sylph image of witches.

The Isle of Man seems full of thin spots where strangeness creeps across from someplace else. Perhaps this is where Gef came from?


MARGARET: Bring my daughter a protector to keep her safe from harm, to keep her whole. Let the moon kiss her brow, the hills her feet, the air her cheek.


And then Gef appears. As if by magic.


A passing idea for writing today's post: to use every letter other than 'W'.

i.e. "Gef loves the Irving family, in his unique manner. The murder of rabbits to fill their pot..."

Tomorrow: X. To the dictionary for help.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A-Z challenge: Voirrey, Ventriloquism, Vanish

VOIRREY stands centre stage.

VOIRREY: Apparently I was an accomplished ventriloquist, skilled at-

                    VOIRREY shuts her mouth completely
                    and a recording of her speaking emanates from stage left.

REC: -throwing my voice. There is one-

VOIRREY & REC (together): -problem with-

VOIRREY (on own): -this theory.

VOIRREY & REC (together): Let us demonstrate.

VOIRREY: Gef was heard-

REC (stage left):  - here.

REC (stage right): And here.

REC (overhead): Here too.

REC (behind audience): He was all over.

VOIRREY: Now me as a ventriloquist ties the mystery of Gef all up in a bow.


VOIRREY: But ignores a simple truth, as I will demonstrate.

                    A Gef Hand Puppet is thrown to her from offstage.

VOIRREY: Everyone, this is Gef.

VOIRREY: Say 'Hello' Gef.

                    Voirrey raises voice 2 octaves (or so) and speaks as Gef using hand puppet.
                    We can see her lips move when she speaks as Gef.

V-GEF: "Hello Gef."

VOIRREY: No, Gef. Say 'Hello' properly.

V-GEF: Shan't. I won't humour unbelievers.

VOIRREY: Oh Gef, you are so troublesome.

V-GEF: Shall we tell them how we do it?

VOIRREY: is that wise?

V-GEF: Harden up, butter cup.

VOIRREY: A ventriloquist doesn't literally throw her voice. She provides the sound, and the
                    misdirection and-

V-GEF: -it looks like I'm talking.

VOIRREY: It must be tape recorders.

                    Gef buries snout in paws.

V-GEF: Oh, no. Now you've done it.

VOIRREY: Enough, you.

V-GEF: Fine, vanish!

                    VOIRREY tosses Gef offstage.

                    VOIRREY crosses stage and pulls out a tape-recorder.


                    She crosses to the other side and picks up another tape-recorder.

VOIRREY: As you suspected.

VOIRREY: Well, that must explain it.

VOIRREY: Except, we were as poor as dirt, how could we afford a half dozen tape recorders.

VOIRREY: How could we run them without electricity?

VOIRREY (as GEF): Someone else did it.

VOIRREY: But how did they do this:

                    Sounds of scurrying from stage left to stage right
                    then scurrying from overhead to behind audience
                    and back again in quick succession.

VOIRREY (as Gef): Beats me!

VOIRREY: Me too.


Ah, that had been sitting percolating for a little while. I'm wondering if puppet Gef needs to be around earlier and for longer. It will be finessed.

Tomorrow: Witchery? Wise woman? What will it be?

Monday, April 25, 2011

A-Z challenge: Urns

A reference to a funerary urn buried on the same land as the farm (do a ctrl-f search under Cashen)


We tore out the hedge and we found it clutched in the gnarled arthritic roots. A simple sealed urn,  about the size of a bovril tin. I told Barry to leave it be, that we'd best rebury it but he was too full of treasures. Like he'd found the leprechaun's wee pot of gold. He eventually laid it to one side and we finished digging out the hedgerow. I thought no more on it, my thoughts looking forward to the pint waiting at the local. The next day, Billy, Barry's lad came early to the house and told me his Da wasn't feeling well, and that he wanted me to come and see him. We hiked back to their house, and Barry looked like death was upon him, and he complained bitterly about the chill. Beryl offered a cuppa, and when I went through to the kitchen that was when I saw the urn on the table. Beryl told me that Barry had opened it night before and spilled black ashes over the linen. I shuddered, and told her I would take care of it. I took it back to Cashen and buried it under a flat rock. I never spoke of it to Barry, who came right soon enough. He still gurns about the cold though.


Tomorrow: V, one I've been dying to write for a while.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

T bonus: tenacity

The one thing I must, absolutely must take away from the A-Z challenge is that I need to write every day.

The challenge has been excellent for this, with the added incentive of not wanting to disappoint people who have come to this blog (and thank you everyone who has) by not abiding by the challenge.

I have to write. Even if I'm utterly uninspired. Even when, on occasion, I wake up to it lurking in the corner like a hairball coughed up by the muse-cat overnight. Even when the policeman in my head is wearing riot gear and preparing a baton charge on my feelings of adequacy. To spite all of these things, words of some kind must be ejected from my head and recorded.

Regardless of their final form, the words must come out.

Tomorrow: Urns

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A-Z challenge: tyrant

VOIRREY: I don't recall exactly why he brought my bed into their room. I told him Gef was safe, but... well, Gef would go on.

REPORTER: Was he an angry man?


VOIRREY: sometimes.

REPORTER: Price and Lambert refer to there being a lock on the outside of your room.

VOIRREY(quickly): it used to be father's study. He would lock it when he wasn't using it.

REPORTER: How was your father's relationship with  your mother?

VOIRREY: He loved her.

REPORTER: Did he hit you?


REPORTER: Why did you spend so much time out of the house?


REPORTER: Ms. Irving?


Monday: U

Friday, April 22, 2011

A-Z challenge: Silence

My grandfather had had a stroke or two by the time I was old enough to remember. For me, my grandfather was a silence presence in the corner of their living room. Someone who quietly was there. I remember being mystified and a little concerned by this man, who I loved, who seemed selfcontained. I can't remember him talking to me the way my grandmother talked to me.

What I know now is that he was shy, and his stroke had robbed him of his faculty of reading. I also know, now, that he didn't know how to talk to me or my brother.

When he began to, he died. I was twelve.


When I had finished highschool, I had decided to work towards a theatre and film degree in university. Whitchols had a substantial selection of plays that I windowshopped through. As part of my graduation gift I was given a booktoken and I decided to spend it on plays. I picked out a Checkov collection, Hamlet, King Lear and then I came across the collected works of Samuel Beckett. I bought this book for one reason only: the portrait of Beckett reminded me so much of my grandfather that I had to have it. Something about the hair and the set of the mouth. The lines around the eyes.

(Looking at the picture now, I see Samuel Beckett. I know enough about both men to be able to see the multitudinous differences, rather than the few similarities).

I strugggled through the book but kept it because of the picture. I am glad for it now.


Pinter also appeared around this time, again in my trawls through bookstores. I found the first three volumes of the collected works and was taken with the words Pause and Silence throughout. These gaps signified something mysterious about human behaviour.

I began writing as a way to learn something that I didn't feel I had: the ability to talk. (My brother remarked a year or five ago "You always sound like you're narrating something in a novel"


I like to delude myself that my silence is meaningful and loaded with mysteriousness instead of simply being shyness.


I try and fit silence into my writing as a way of communicating something. Giving silence an intent or quality beyond  a simple absence of noise.

The silence of Gef is either that he's being quiet, or he isn't there. I wonder if he simply decided to shut up.


Tomorrow: T

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A-Z challenge: rituals

A bit of a short one today.

Now this is a full on ritual:

I'm surprised it doesn't start "First you catch your possessed..." because honestly, any demon worth it's salt would have buggered off before the litany of the saints.

PRIEST: ...It is He who commands you, He who once stilled the sea and the wind and the storm. Hearken, therefore, and tremble in fear, Satan, you enemy ofthe faith, you foe of the human race, you begetter of death, you robber of life, you corrupter of justice, you root of all evil and vice; seducer of men, betrayer of the nations, instigator of envy, font of avarice, fomentor of discord, author of pain and sorrow.
GEF somewhere overhead snorts, then begins to laugh uncontrollably.

GEF: I'm sorry, I can't go on. You forget render of chickens, protector of Voirrey, eater of porridge, teaser of dreary old men and stuffy vicars! You be gone, oh sir of little faith!

                    A book is tossed at the Priest, followed by a cowbell and a candle.


I don't know if Gef would be all that good humoured and I doubt he would wait until near the bitter end to interupt an exorcism.


Tomorrow: silence.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A-Z Challenge: Quilting and my sweet wife.

When I was roughing out my list my wife, Carmen, helped me out with suggestions for letters that had me stumped (evil, nightmares, obsession, yearning, and this one). A big thank you to her. My wife is a quilter and by osmosis (and ironing and cutting) I've discovered that quilting and the way I write have a lot in common.

When I write plays (and I've been trying it with a novel too) I generate lots and lots of material, hopefully more material than I need. I just write and write, and write some more (that's the intention).

And here is where I mangle the metaphor.

I start going through my fabric scraps and begin piecing everything together. I see what colours match, and what clashes. If the texture and shade fits. I cut the fabric to fit the space, I switch things around, I add pieces from elsewhere to fill gaps. I try and find a pattern that suits.

It's a very organic process, that kind of explodes all over the place and makes a mess. There is always bits left over that might be used later. Or that one beautiful scrap that doesn't fit this quilt but is perfect for another in the future.

The hardest part is fighting the temptaion to work on the next quilt, while putting the current one together.


Tomorrow: Rituals

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A-Z challenge: Plays

So a slight change: instead of writing about poltergeists, I will write about plays. It came down to what I knew a little more about and after the day I've had, going the easy route is pretty attractive.


I waver on the purpose of a play, on the purpose of theatre. A play is at it's base level  a communal, primal thing. We are engaging in an ages old ritual when we sit down as a group and are told a story. It's part of the cultural heritage of being human. Early playwrights were probably those around the campfire entertaining their family with shadows on the wall.

I think this ritualised story aspect is one of the things that attracts me to theatre. That when we enter a theatrical space we are engaging in a ritual. We find our seat, we sit down, we talk to our neighbours and then there is a change that catches our attention. The lights fade to black, the audience excitedly quietens and then the curtain opens, say or a performer takes the stage. That moment before the action starts when an audience is hushed is magical. We are preparing to enter another place, somewhere that triggers our imaginations.

Harvey Pekar, the comics writer, said a great thing about comics that can almost be applied to theatre, "Comics are words and pictures, you can do anything with words and pictures". Change the word 'pictures' to 'actions' and it becomes a pretty good fit.

You can go along way on a blank stage. Two kids in front of a GI Joe bedsheet can retell the star wars films to their friends and create exploding planets and great starships moving through the void using words and actions.

A thought I had was to do a Matrix stage show. That all of the miraculousness of the films could be conveyed in character's reportage. Making the audience come along.

The line

MORPHEUS: Don't look down, Neo.

creates a certain image, that even those few who haven't seen the film can immediately grasp.

You couldn't literally have the fight scenes, or the bullet time, or the jumping. The trick would be to somehow create the breathless belief that those things caused in the film. We don't need to see Neo jump the gap, we simply need to believe that he can.

Back to the Mongoose. I need to really think about what I want to convey on the stage. At the moment everything is a samey 'one or two people in the void expositioning a little'. I've not given much time to thinking about how the story (story?) will be told. Which I must do if I'm to move forward.


Tomorrow: Quilting, of all things.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A-Z challenge: obsession.

                    MARGARET sorting a mail sack at table

MARGARET: More food for thought. They can't get enough of other people's words.

                    Opens letter

MARGARET (reading): Dear Mr Irving. I represent a famous carnival owner and we are enquiring as to the availability of your mongoose. I am authorised to dispense the sum of fifty thousand US dollars. Please reply at earliest convenience, yours blah blah blah.

Margaret places to one side. Opens another.

MARGARET (reading): Dear Mr Mongoose.
I am eight years old and I am a big fan of yours. What is your favourite food? Do you like it on the Isle of Man? I live in Brighton so if you ever want a holiday, Brighton is very pretty.

                    She puts the letter to one side. She picks up a pile of opened mail, scans them and sorts them as she speaks.

MARGARET: Child. Promoter. Conman. Child. Child. Child. Ooh, scientist. Child. Child. Promoter. Reporter. Reporter. Reporter. Death threat. Child. Pitier. Child. Sceptic. Child. Reporter.

She bundles all the letters bar the scientist and the skeptic and places them in a basket.

MARGARET: Sometimes people send the odd banknote, but mainly it's chldren wanting to join the club and adults wanting to damn us to hell for witchcraft. Jim likes these letters and so do I. I find they get a good fire started. He keeps them.

                    Skittering overhead

MARGARET: Ah, Gef, if only you could read. Or be useful. Or be gone.


 Well, Margaret isn't an obsessive sort. The Irvings could probably have made a small wage selling memberships to the Gef the mongoose club.

Jim is the obsessed one in the story, Voirrey is the opposite of obsessed. As the years pass, she spends more and more time further and further away from the house.

Tomorrow: P

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Beckett's Directing on Paper

Samuel Beckett was a man who cared about his writing. He was adamant that not a line be changed, not a stage direction be ignored, not a prop added that he hadn't specified in the script.

I have the impression from reading about his problems with interpretive productions that he did not expect the widespread success of his plays. He denied permission to a number of productions because he believed that their staging undermined or moved to far away from his intent as the author, the creator, of the play (Infamously, he denied permission for an all female cast of Godot because it would add a huge layer of meaning that he had never intended.)

You can see his attitude towards this constant battle in how he wrote his plays. The stage directions become tightly choreographed and timed to the second. He makes copious notes on lighting, staging and how the characters move (For example: 'Footfalls' has a pacing diagram, 'What Where' a lighting diagram, 'That Time' has tightly timed pauses and silences).

Examples are in order! Not in terms of content, but in terms of presentation.

In the style of 'Waiting for Godot'


                                                   ACT ONE
                                     An office. A desk. Morning.

LAWYER, sitting at desk sorting papers. He strightens them. Reaches for a pen, knocks them askew. Restraightens them, knocking the pen away. He stands, collects pen. Sees audience.

LAWYER: Ah, good morning. [He returns to desk, straightens tie, picks up top sheet of paper.] I'll cut straight to the chase. Miss Voirrey Clucas Irving had no heirs. [He coughs politely.] So sorry. None.


In the style of 'That Time', 'Ohio Impromptu' and others. I exaggerate a lot with this: nothing Beckett does is frivolous. Not like these directions.


Stage is dark. Lights fade up over 3 seconds to LAWYER standing behind desk set centre of the stage. He wears gray suit. His hair is black, slicked back over skull. His eyes sunken. His hands rest on the desk on either side of paper.

He does not move from behind the desk.

LAWYER stares unblinking at audience. Silence 10 seconds.

LAWYER claps his hands. Smiles. Lays his hands back on table.

LAWYER: Good morning. Though Voirrey may disagree were she here. No. In the matter of Voirrey
          Clucas Irving, deceased,there are no heirs. No descendants.

Pause 3 seconds. The light intensifies on the LAWYER's face and fades on the rest of the stage over 10 seconds.
LAWYER: I'm sorry. None. Were you close?


With Beckett's plays the script is, quite literally, the blueprint for executing Beckett's vision. The director is not an interpreter but an engineer following the plan. Their job to keep the production within the limits set out for them, with very little room for deviation.

It can make the plays hard going to read and it must take a certain level of professional control to direct and act in them. But that would be the exciting challenge to Beckett's later plays, to force yourself not to deviate, to submit to the author's vision and control. You are, by following Beckett's directions exactly, only one step removed from Beckett himself. You could allow yourself the fantasy that you would be doing what Beckett would be doing if he were directing his own play.
(which isn't exactly true, Beckett tinkered with his plays as he directed finding new ways to do his old things. But that is the privilege of being the author: you can change your own script.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Some nifty wikipedia pages:

I suffer from hypnogogia, and have disconcerted family, friends, flatmates and my spouse by walking around chasing or fleeing creatures that have appeared before me.

(One of the spookiest lines for me of any song is "Dream walking in broad daylight" from talking heads 'Burning Down the House.')

My most frequent visions are malign: large spiders crawling across my chest, or snakes being dropped from the ceiling onto the bed, large fluttery slowmotion moths,  cartoon-like devils with pitchforks. In my last flat, I was constantly hearing voices and certain that people were watching me continuously through the large windows in my bedroom.

My flatmate walked in on me one night shaking my duvet cover out of the second story window. I'd caught a bundle of mothcreatures in it, had punched them to into senslessness and was getting rid of the bodies

The benign ones: people and mice sitting watching me, an angel face in the ceiling, an angel fish, lights on that aren't in reality on. Once I saw my grandfather sitting in the chair in my room.

I discovered that listening to the Headless Chicken's 'Body Blow' album would give me the most amazing waking dreams- I don't know if it was the beats per minute or the 'snap' of the tape stopping and waking me up that caused it. Radio Head's Kid A caused a similar effect. I investigated shamanism and drumming rituals- certain areas combined with rhythmic sound cause visions.

Floating back to the surface of reality sometimes reveals that the dream was a chimera of real objects. My grandfather being a shirt over a chair, the mice a collection of socks and so on. The best example I can use to illustrate this effect is a portrait I saw at a Philip Treacy exhibition: when you looked at the object itself, it was a mess of feathers and mangled stuffed birds on it, but the sihilloeutte was of the profile of Isabella Blow wearing a Philip Treacy hat. 

But more often than not, I get the malignant visions. They're caused by stress, by the light filtering through the blinds, by being unsettled by the animals climbing over the bed.

I hate them. I hate the paranoia and the fear, the loss of control and the unanchoring of reality. I worry that I'll hurt someone inadvertantly in my efforts to remove creatures from the house. Even moreso, now that I'm married with assorted animals in the house.

I love them. I love that my brain produces such augmented reality. I would miss the benign visits. The drift from the dream to reality can be spectacular.


Now, what has this to do with Gef? I had the idea that Gef was a mare, sent to torture the family. The idea doesn't hold much weight given the narrative of events, Gef isn't as ephemeral as a dream. However, if I could find a way to translate the weight that the dreams hold to Gef as a reality, I may be onto something. Playing with light states so that characters drift in and out of scenes, as they move through them.

The other thing that I need to consider: just how messed up would my dreams be if I had a creature, like Gef, living in the walls of my house, making odd noises all the time, disrupting my sleep? Pretty horrific, I would probably have ended up destroying the house, making it inhospitable to little creatures.

Tomorrow is the break day, Monday is Obsession!

The amazing milliner Philip Treacy
Isabella Blow was his patron and muse, and she wore the hats fearlessly as extensions of her own body. Photos of her inthe hats are down the left side of this page.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A-Z challenge: Margaret

Margaret is the one that nobody writes about. Almost incidental to the trio of Gef, Voirrey and James. Her silence is only matched by the photos of her: an austere looking woman wearing what looks like her best dress. Would she have chosen to live her life on an isolated farm?

Newspaper reports mention her annoyance at the troupes of sight-seers making a nuisance of themselves. She has the appearance, which may simply be how the materials present her, of being private.

Or perhaps I should say that's how I've interpreted the materials.


Margaret, married to James, mother of three. Younger than her husband. Feeds Gef. Born on Isle of Man.

Feels that she has to dress up for photos. Is irritated by the intrusion of others into the families life and property. Price refers to the meticulousness of the house interior being down to her.

She is proud and wishes to make an impression. She supports her husband, or, maybe, she humours him or turns a suffering eye to his shenanigans.

Price writes in his book (The Haunting of Cashen's Gap)
"Mrs. Irving belongs to a type that you would guess at first glance to be 'psychic'; she herself believes firmly in her own powers of intuition, and has gifts of seeing more than ordinary mortals see with the outward eye."


I think that my first impulse to have Margaret have a silent presence is one worth exploring. In many ways this story has been reduced to a three-hander with Margaret on the outside looking in. The further back we go, the more she is reported as saying.

Am I writing a play about actual events or about the reported events?


Some days I am simply unable to think much about what I am going to write. The urgency of writing for a daily post, does tend to to produce writing fit to the time available.

The more I read, the more I think, the more I write. Or, more likely: garbage in, garbage out.

Tomorrow: Nightmares.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A-Z challenge: Love

Voirrey, in her early 20s. A fictional young man named John.

JOHN: Mary, we've been seeing each other for quite a while now.

VOIRREY: Yes, we have.

JOHN: I was wondering...

                    He goes down on one knee.

JOHN: Mary Irving, will you marry me?


VOIRREY: John...

JOHN: What's wrong?

JOHN: Do you not want to me married?

VOIRREY: I do... but-

JOHN: -I'll ask your Dad if I can marry you.

                    Voirrey laughs bitterly.

JOHN: And then you can meet my folks. They're always on at me to settle down now I have a job.


JOHN: Mary, what is it?

VOIRREY: I have to tell you something.


VOIRREY: There are some things that you shoud know. Before... John, I'm not crazy.

JOHN: I know you're not.

VOIRREY: I come from the Isle of Man.


JOHN: Oh thank god!


JOHN: I thought you were going to tell me you'd accepted someone else.

VOIRREY: That's not it. My real name is Voirrey.


JOHN: I don't understand. Mary, Voirrey, what difference does it make.

VOIRREY: Do you remember the mongoose? The speaking one?

JOHN: Yes, but what- oh.


JOHN: That was you?


                    John laughs.

                    Voirrey covers face with hands.

VOIRREY: Stop it!

                    She pushes him.

JOHN: What is the matter?

VOIRREY: You think I'm mental!

JOHN: No, I-

VOIRREY: It doesn't matter. Our parents won't allow it.

JOHN: It happened so long ago.

VOIRREY: It happened to me. I can't explain it. I'm sorry.

JOHN (trying to hold her): Mary.

                    Voirrey pulls away.

VOIRREY: No. It won't work. Just go. Just vanish.

JOHN: Mary.

                    Voirrey slaps him

VOIRREY: That isn't my name!

                    Lights out on John.

VOIRREY: That isn't my name.


VOIRREY: You always ruin everything.


Hmm, not sure if it works- it's a little goofy and melodramatic- but something like this.

Tomorrow: Margaret.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A-Z challenge: Keepsakes

Tomika Te Mutu's picture, similar to these ones, hung in the Irving's living room at Cashen. Price mentions it in his book. James Irving admired the man, and in the limited time today all I can find are the paintings and very little else. There is now an incredibly tenuous connective link between one image on one side of the globe and another image of the same man resting not a half hour drive from where I was. The connection is exciting. But is it usable?

Tomika Te Mutu chief of the Ngaiterangi tribe Bay of Plenty New Zealand, painted by Gottfried Lindaur

This one by Frank Barnes is even more personal: it was owned by the Riddiford Family and hung at their Orongorongo home, which is 30 minutes past where I used to live in Wainuiomata, NZ.

Story from here:,-a-noted-east-coast-1-c-f8b162c15e

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A-Z blogging challenge: James Irving

A distillation from sources, corrupted no doubt by misreading and insertion of conjecture (both mine and others). I feel like I should be placing a disclaimer about resemblances to persons living or dead.


James Irving is in his 60, married father of 3. Youngest child still at home. Retired from Dominion Organ and Piano Co, now farmer. Well travelled, educated, liked learning. A mason. Does not talk to son.

Liked to be called Jim

A friend of James Irving wrote the letter to Harry Price which eventually brought Price to the island and led to the publication of the book written with friend R. Lambert, "Haunting at Cashen's Gap."

He did not believe that the voices came from the spirit world. That Gef was an animal that could speak and think as a human could.

Described by fellow IoMers as not being a crank and not an idiot.

From my notebook dated 2/24/2011(referring to newspaper articles)
JTI is insistant that he isn't crazy. Goes out of his way to ensure so. Makes a point of telling the reporter that the have gained nothing, indeed lost, financially.
Described as a domestic tyrant - I believe by Fodor, another paranormalist, who also described a possessiveness towards Voirrey
Didn't talk to his son.
Kept a lock on the outside of Voirrey's door.

Has many conversations with Gef.
Kept diary of Gef's antics which he sent to Harry Price. Price likened it's marvels to Arabian Nights.


probable, improbable and downright silly:
  • James created Gef as a fiction. The voice was Voirrey on a microphone or a tape recorder (Gef has outbursts). James craved attention and the outside while trapped on the Isle.
  • Gef was a manifestation of James' subconscious. A poltergeist created out of frustration at his circumstances. Gef and James share a love of languages, telling jokes and talk to each other.
  • James was a warlock and Gef was a spirit bound into an animal. Gef collects information for James ranging far and wide. Gef begs James for release.
  • Gef was an actual, true-life extra special little critter who could speak.
  • Gef is Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck/Roadrunner/Le Cat, James is Elmer Fudd/Wile E/Pepe Le Pew.
The fatal flaw in my plan is that I can't make up my mind. I kinda want my cake to eat, and suggest all of these positions. A schrodingers mongoose, say.

Tomorrow: Keepsakes.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A-Z challenge:is also for Influences.

Influences is the cheeky one for today. It has everything and nothing to do with Gef the mongoose.

The big influence on my writing is Harold Pinter. Imitations of his penstrokes are everywhere in my writing: the marked pauses and silences, the lyrical turn of phrase, my attempts to convey the unspoken behind the spoken. Thematically, Pinter and I don't share a lot in common. Which isn't as disappointing as I first thought- Pinter 's plays to one degree or another revolve around characters manipulating and jockeying for power of various kinds (see the recent film version of Sleuth for a fine example). I find the this fascinating, but it's a concept totally foreign to my headspace.

The biggest lesson that Pinter taught me was to trust the script. I learnt this in a directing paper at university when I directed his "A Kind of Alaska". Me and another student had just over two 2 weeks to cast, plan, rehearse and run the show for 4 performances. Added fun was that we were first up and when our shows ran they were at the end of the first 3 weeks of the course before we'd really learnt a thing. 

I had a half hour timeslot to run the play and no matter how many times I read it, it was always running nearer 50 minutes. So I began making cuts to a photocopy using a big black marker (I think of this now and I shake my head) and it hurt. It hurt the play everytime I ran a black line over words. I began muttering 'sorry Mr Pinter' everytime I brought my hand to the page. I got through, looked at the cuts I though might possibly worked, read it, timed it. 40 minutes. Looked for more cuts. Questioned my integrity.

In the end, I said to my tutor something along the lines of "Time be damned. I can't cut anything without hurting the play."

I learnt two things, one about Pinter and one about playwrighting.

The thing I learnt about Pinter, is that he knows what he is doing. Nothing is in the script my chance. Nothing is there unnecessarily. I watched the actors take the script and it was beautiful. I discovered my job as the director was to make suggestions like "perhaps on this line move downstage" and "I can't hear you" and "You guys rock". Generally, just get out of the way of the play. Everything that I needed as a director was in the script. Everything important. In fact my one regret was that I left a specified window off the set. I look at the performance and it was fantastic, but I always think "Why did I leave it out?"

And this was what I learnt about playwrighting: everything essential needs to be in the script, and everything in the script is essential (whether meant as such or not).

It did take another year for that lesson to sink in. I had a play produced and while it was good, I wished that I had put more clarity into the script I'd written. I'd had visions of the director taking the script and using it as a launch pad for their vision, but because I'd not written it to be used like that and the director was wonderfully literal I got exactly what I'd written, only not what I'd wanted.

A-Z challenge: Isolation

Possible scenes to illustrate the various isolations:
  • Discussion of ascent to and inaccessibility of Doarlish Cashen (700 odd feet up a mountain)
  • Voirrey having a lock on her door (Why?)
  • James losing his lucrative job that allowed him to travel.
  • Voirrey being teased at school.
  • James talking to Voirrey's teacher about the mongoose.
  • The silent Margaret Irving on the sidelines in the Voirrey and Gef show with James as ticket tout.
  • The older Voirrey discussing her lack of marriage with a journalist.
Gef alleviates and makes more acute the isolation. If Gef is a creation of Voirrey to not feel so lonely, the mongoose ends up ensuring her lonlieness.

The whereabouts of Voirrey's brother and sister (this came as a bit of a surprise to me, because the two elder siblings are absent from the popular literature).


How can I include isolation in the script (without directing from the page)?
  • Indicate no or limited physical contact between any of the characters.
  • Have scenes where there are set barriers between characters (tables, walls)
  • Characters ignored, talked over and run down in dialogue
  • Characters present but silent. (i.e. Margaret could simply be a silent presence throughout the entire thing!)
  • Frequent character monologues, but with the proviso that Gef could be present.


Tomorrow: James

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Odds 'n Sods on a Sunday.

Added the A-Z challenge link and a blogger award to the right. The award makes me chuckle, I am in the middle of a long list of creative blogs. But, having said that, the thought that I have a creative blog worthy of recognition warms me.

I'm quite pleased that I have managed to post every day of the challenge (even if some days it is a near thing). This challenge is a great motivator and having people comment has a nice feedback effect.

I 'm going to spend some time looking at other challenge blogs and making some link lists for this blog. There are a number of roleplaying blogs taking part that I already follow, and I would like to find some good writing blogs too.


Tomorrow I'm goign to write around isolation, but I'm thinking I will also add a post about influences. Influence is a big part of our creative DNA and it's always fun to chuck names out.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A-Z blogging challenge: Harry Price

Harry Price is the redoubtable investigator into the unknown.

His entry into the story of Gef is when James Irving wrote to him about the phenomenon. Perhaps a little leery, Price asked his friend Captain MacDonald (Captian X) to look into it. Eventually he visited the farm and the Irvings accompanied by another friend, Lambert.

I get the feeling that Price does not believe the Irvings, but can't quite find the lever to crack the story open as a hoax.


PRICE: No, at first I was not interested.


PRICE: I get more than the lion's share of gloryseekers and frauds. I didn't credit your initial letter.

JAMES: I assure you that Gef is as real as you are.


PRICE: Well, of that I am not certain.

JAMES: You can talk to anybody here. They will vouch-

PRICE: -they have. The Captain reported back to me, and I'm here to see or hear for myself as a result.

JAMES: Well, there are no garauntees.

PRICE: Your diary was most helpful in that respect. Now, I have some questions. Let's see if we can draw out the beast.

JAMES: You're welcome to try. I haven't been able to trap, shoot or posion the little bugger.

                    Thump overhead.

PRICE: Was that..?

JAMES: No, just my daughter.
                    Shouting upstairs.
              Voirrey, keep it down!

PRICE: I would like to speak with Voirrey and your wife at some point.

JAMES: You would, would you?

PRICE: They have their own observations I'm sure.

JAMES: They may.

PRICE: Mr Irving, is Gef real?

JAMES: You have my word.

PRICE: I have a colleague, Lambert, that will come with me on my next visit. I also will need to bring some equipment.

JAMES: we have no electricity.

PRICE: Rest assured, this equipment is simple in it's operation and requires batteries only. Which we will bring.
PRICE: Our presence will not be an inconvenience.

JAMES: Aye, well, stranger things have happened around here. And strangers will cause things to happen. I'll show you around.


This challenge has made for an interesting entry back into writing. I do need to get reacquainted with all of the background documents I've scavenged from around the web. It is irkesome to be writing and not really have a grasp of the real people before turning them into characters. Price loves magic, but how will I make that an effective part of the stage character? More reading. More research. More writing.

Monday: Isolation.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A-Z blogging challenge: Gef

Ah, Gef, the entity without whom I would not be doing this. The temptation is simply to copy and paste all of the Gef quotes and let them lie.




GEF (mimicing V): Hello?

VOIRREY: Let us begin.

                    Voirrey draws the letter 'A' on a slate
                    (Voirrey will repeat this for each letter from here)

VOIRREY: A is for Apple.

GEF (mimics): Apple.


GEF (mimics): A


GEF (mimics): B


VOIRREY: C. D. E. F. and G.

GEF (mimics): G.

VOIRREY: good.

GEF: G. G. G.

VOIRREY: What other letters.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A-Z Challenge: Farms and Farmers

Charles Morrison or is it Northwood (I keep finding both names) was a lifelong friend of James Irving and was Voirrey’s godfather. He was one of those vouching for James Irving’s integrity and also heard Gef speak.


CHARLES: When I read in the paper about all this fuss, Jim, well… I came as fast as I could.

JAMES: You always were curious, Charles. What would you have me do?

CHARLES: well, reassure me that you haven’t taken leave of your senses. Buying this farm was bad enough. Goats and chickens in the arse end of Man.

JAMES: It was nice of you to come this far to pass compliments.

CHARLES: It gets worse. Voirrey looks a mess. Is she going to school?

                    GEF growls from nearby.

CHARLES: Jesus, Mary and Joseph! What was that?

JAMES: That is our guest. Gef meet Charles, Charles meet Gef.


GEF: Charlie-Boy, I don’t like you. You smell different. Like a city threw up on you.

JAMES: Gef, he is a guest in my house.

GEF: So? He has come to do you harm. He is casting aspersions. He sneaks in, a doubting Thomas, and tries to get you to question yourself.

CHARLES: That isn’t true.

GEF: Is it not? “Voirrey looks sick. The farm looks sick. Are you sure you’re well Jimbo?”

CHARLES: Voirrey is my goddaughter. Jim and Margaret have charged her protection to me.

GEF: Voirrey doesn’t need your protection. She has me! I will bite you if you touch her. My fangs carry disease and my claws filth. I will mark your face if you even look funny at her.

CHARLES: Seriously, Jim. How is the farm doing?

GEF: None of your business. We’re doing fine without you.

JAMES: To be honest, the sightseers have caused more harm than good. I’ve had to fix the main gate a half dozen times since this all began.

GEF: I will see them off.

JAMES: Gef, why don’t you sod off. I can’t think with your shrieking like a washerwoman.

GEF: What! Why, the nerve… fine. Vanish.


JAMES: We’ll have a night of his singing and thumping, I’m sure. Little bastard can be vindictive.

CHARLES: How can you live like this?

CHARLES: My god, I was speaking to a spook, wasn’t I?

JAMES: We don’t know what he is. Spook? Talking animal? All I know is that he a royal pain in the arse.


JAMES: Did I make the right decision?


The trap I want to avoid, is to make this a drama about abuse. There is a tonne of circumstantial evidence pointing to some kind of emotional abuse as beautifully distilled by Anna 'Asbo' Hinton in this discussion here:
(it's in the bottom half of the page).

It would be incredibly easy to make James a total control freak, if not worse and at the end of the day this may be what will happen when the blueprint, the script, is interpreted by actors and director.

I'm still finding my way into all of this. Exploring it by writing. What I like about doing this kind of scripting is that different ideas come up all the time. It is hideously shallow- I'm not digging all too far into the research material- though depth comes as I read more.

Tomorrow: Gef. Though, for the purposes of the challenge I do wish the mongoose was named Zach. It'd be more fitting.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A-Z Blogging challenge: Evil?

This one I had difficulty with pinpointing as a prompt and as a concept. Evil? Really does it apply?

Gef, the mongoose isn't evil, of course. He is unsettling, in the same way that a ticking bomb on the dining room table is unsettling. From the first encounter I had with Gef in the pages of Usborne's Ghosts there is a tug between Gef's cheerful antics and his more sinister intentions. He cajoles, he threatens, he throws objects and vandalises. On the other hand, he jokes with Jim and is fiercely protective of Voirrey. He brings the family rabbits to supplement their diet.

There will be no bad guys in this play. It could be too simple to say "James/Harry/Gef' is the 'bad guy'". I hope the character's behaviours come across as complex, or hint at complex motivations.

In terms of the theatre, the actors bring so much to a role. I like to think of characters as fiction-suits (to steal an idea from Grant Morrison's Invisibles) that actors put on. The human underneath the role brings with them texture. My goal, my hope, is to provide them with a suit that intrigues them, that clothes them well, that doesn't turn out to be garish and ill-fitting.

Well this meandered a little.

Tomorrow: Farms and Farmers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A-Z blogging: Dog Hair.

Today's topic/prompt/script is the hair of the mongoose.

There is not much physical evidence for Gef, and of the evidence I've scrounged from the interwub there isn't any that can't be disputed on one level or another.

The hair becomes the object in a game of pass the parcel where Gef gives it to Captain X who gives it to Harry Price who gives it to Reputable Expert who declares it to be most likely dog hair from the family dog, Mona. Says Gef: I was kidding with you! I gave you her fur you doubting doubters. Which strikes me as an imminently sensible thing to do if you wanted to muddy the waters.


GEF: What will it take for you to leave Corporal?

CAPTAIN X: Well, venerable sir, let me think.

GEF: We don't have that kind of time. Spit it out.


CAPTAIN X: A lock of your fair hair will ensure that I retire.

GEF:  Is that all? Really?

CAPTAIN X: That is my price.

GEF: Humph. Very well. Leave this room and await my instruction.


GEF: Captain, you will find all that you require upon the mantle.

CAPTAIN X: This beauteous lock?

GEF: If it is the one alongside the toby jug, under the gaze of the chief.

CAPTAIN: It is. I am indebted to you fair sir.

GEF: You are a still a doubter, but I exist separate to faith.


Oh dear. I get the feeling that I have a new darling to kill: Dashing Captain X, a suitor attempting to woo Gef like some Austen romantic hero.

Tomorrow: Evil?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Blogging A-Z: Chicken houses.

"If you are kind to me, I will bring you good luck. If you are not kind, I shall kill all your poultry. I can get them wherever you put them!"

I have a half memory of Harry Price discussing James Irving's education and well-travelledness by referring to a Jewish symbol on a chicken coop. I'm a little frustrated that I can't find this reference right this second. Should it matter given that I'm writing a fiction, albeit one based on factual recollections? Possibly. If I find the reference I'll add to comments.

Now: scripty bits.


                    James with ruins of chicken.

JAMES: Gef! Where are you, you wee bastard?

                    Skittering overhead.

                    A thump.

JAMES: I know you're there. Say something.


GEF: Hullo Jimbo.

JAMES: Gef, what is this?


GEF: A chicken?


GEF: And?

JAMES: What happened to it?

GEF: It looks like it had an accident.

JAMES: 'like it had an accident'. Well, that's just dandy. That's peachy. Is that what we're to call you these days? An accident?

GEF: I don't know what you're talking about.

JAMES: Right. Listen here you spooky little rat. You will not touch our chickens again.

GEF: What will stop me?  I can get them wherever you put them. You'd best be kind to me.

JAMES: Ha! Is that so? 

GEF: It is so. I've travelled a long ways to get here. I've learnt many things.

JAMES: Well, my ratty little friend. I've learnt a little something in my travels too.

GEF: I have seen things that you have never dreamed of. I am truthsaying that way. 

JAMES: Have you seen what's on the chicken house now?

GEF: tell me Jimbo. Be a friend.

JAMES: It's a gift to myself. Best you see on your lonesome.



GEF (from distance): Bastard! Flaming, bloody bastard!

                    Skittering closer.

                    A thump by James' head.

JAMES: Do you like it?

GEF: How dare you! The living cheek. The unspeakable, utmost living cheek.

JAMES: Do not touch our chooks.

GEF: I'll get them. Somehow.

JAMES: You can try.

GEF: You need to look out for more than just your chooks Jimmy.

JAMES: Oh, and what would that be?

GEF: Guess.


JAMES: You touch one hair on her head and...

GEF: You'll what, Jimmy? Lock everyone in their rooms? Hide them behind your chickens?

                    Gef laughs.

GEF: You'll do nought of the sort. Vanish.


JAMES: Bastard.


The danger that I spy is that having characters interact with a disembodied voice can become tedious. But that is the beauty of a first draft. All of the tedium can be explored, overcome and excised.

Tomorrow: Dog Hair.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Blogging A-Z challenge: Buggane

The buggane is a creature unique to the Isle of Man.

Initial reports of Gef referred to him as a buggane
(this site gives a very good overview and pdfs of press clippings from Feb 1932)

And now, some actual scripting direct from my head to blogger to you.


                    Voirrey's room.

VOIRREY: Who's there?


VOIRREY: I can hear you breathing.

                    Voirrey sits up in bed.

                    A skittering sound above her.

VOIRREY: I'm not afraid of you.

                    A thump from the wall beside her.

                    Voirrey screams then slaps a hand over her mouth.

VOIRREY: Please be quiet. Please.



                    A door slams off.


                    Enter James with lantern.

JAMES: What the bloody hell is all this noise?

VOIRREY: It's a buggane!

JAMES: What? For god's sake Voirrey we're trying to sleep.

                    A thump overhead.


JAMES: Silly girl, that isn't any buggane. Its a bloody rat in the wall.


JAMES: I'll deal with it in the morning. You had best get to sleep, and not a peep out of you or it'll be blue murder. You hear?


JAMES: Do you hear?

VOIRREY: Yes, Dad.

                    James exits.


VOIRREY: I am NOT afraid of you.

GEF (muffled off, mimicing James): Silly girl...

VOIRREY: Can you speak?

GEF (mimicing Voirrey): Speak.

VOIRREY: Do you have big teeth?

GEF (mimicing): Teeth.

VOIRREY: You're just copying me.


GEF (mimicing James from earlier): Blue murder.


Monday's subject is 'C' for Chickens. Unless different inspiration strikes.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A-Z challenge: Archives

Archives, libraries are the locations of all sorts of hidden knowledge. Borges wrote of people lost in infinite libraries. Lovecraft of reality cracking secrets being encoded in books.

For myself, libraries are a place of comfort. Nothing makes me feel more peaceful than shelves with books. But I do love stories where books are vastly more sinister and informationally dense than their reality.

Archives are where the core information of Gef appear to lie. Harry Price's archives were gifted by his widow to the University of London. A whole collection of books about magic (both stage and supernatural) that Price had collected over the years.

There is another archive: the Psychical Research Society's collection held in the University of Cambridge library. In it is apparently where the account that James Irving, the father of the family central to the mongoose story, wrote is kept.

I wonder vaguely how easy it is to access these collections, and if doing so would destroy the mystery that they currently contain. Is the desire to learn a certainty worth the loss of a multitude of fantastical possibilities?

Fictionally speaking: Harry Price may have had a copy of Lovecraft's Necronomicon in his collection. This isn't true, of course, but the possibility of this kind of connection is delicious.