Trees, walls and bulbous rocks were an opportunity for climbing when I was growing up. Craving new heights, I scrambled up castle turrets and spiralling monument stairs, bursting out at the top, eager to be near the whirling clouds. I watched as they broke apart innumerable times, coagulating into ships that rose out of gullies, riding a darkening sea-sky as the clouds became heavy with water. Skulls yawned at me, engulfing the ships, sucking them into their eye sockets, collapsing them into a homogenous grey. I dreamt of exploring those mysterious realms.
One day I stopped dreaming and said to Cinn, “For our tenth anniversary, would you like to float? But first we would fall, like Alice down the rabbit hole, and we’d have a stranger strapped to our back.”
That’s how we came to be packed into a tincan plane, sitting in the laps of our strangers, wearing conehead hats and sexy jumpsuits with straps where straps should never be. As we made the journey into the sky Cinn’s stranger fooled around, cracking unfunny jokes. At four thousand feet I looked down at the Scottish coastline, the beaches burnt white with heat, the calm sea a deep blue. The fear came at nine thousand feet as our strangers finished strapping us together. Ten thousand feet, and Cinn and his stranger were the first to go.
I watched my partner fall and felt the urge to pull him back, but instead I followed. In a second we were gone, tumbling through the sky like roiling storm clouds, lost in a mixture of exhilaration and shock. I felt the jerk of the parachute pulling us out of our freefall. Directly below us was a smudge of grey cloud, and we were swallowed up, just as the skulls had swallowed the ships. Cradled in the cold grey, I felt like I had disappeared. I stared at my feet, my toes pointing as if reaching for a foothold in the cloud. The world below emerged in glimmers of colour; green patchwork fields and the yellow insect-figure of Cinn walking back to base. I helped steer the canopy, feinting left towards the airfield. We continued our journey to the earth, dropping out of paradise, drifting on azure and eddies of cotton-white. “I still believe in my childhood dreams,” I said, as little wisps of cloud snaked around us like a cartoon spell.
The wonderful creatures over at Scottish Book Trust have launched a project called Treasures. They are asking for stories about your most treasured object, and there are already many lovely, funny, and moving stories on the site. One of my favourites is the beautiful piece by Richard Holloway about a painting, Garden of Birds.
My piece, Heart In a Box, is about love, loss, and squidgy hearts.
“Niffenegger’s stories have such charm and sweet melancholy, and her illustrations are so wonderful, that you are drawn into her mysterious world. Raven Girl is no different. It tells the story of a postman and a raven who fall in love and have a child who is born human but has a raven’s voice. She longs to be fully raven, and it’s here that this fable takes a modern twist through means more medical than magical.”
“Part science-fiction, part horror, Matt Hill’s debut depicts a war-torn near-future Britain poisoned by nationalism and racism. Using current anxieties over riots, terrorism and the recession as a springboard for clever satire, Hill makes weighty topics accessible through a Palahniukian minimalist staccato style and the odd charm of anti-hero, Brian Meredith.”
Blipfoto and Creative Scotland coordinated the production of ‘See Us’, an exhibition and book celebrating creativity in Scotland. The exhibition is on at Creative Scotland headquarters in Edinburgh until the end of May and moves to Streetlevel in Glasgow at the beginning of June – pop along and be inspired by the creative delights!
My entry in the book includes a piece on my inspiration behind the photograph:
“Scotland is a vibrant and creative country, and I have the privilege of being friends with many immensely talented and creative people. One of these people is fashion designer Rachael Forbes. I gave Rachael the nickname ‘Ms Dream’ because of her dreamy quality. She’s a walking work of art, always dressed flamboyantly, gliding through the streets of Edinburgh like a glittering apparition. As well as being one of the loveliest people I know, Rachael is extremely talented and a hard worker. When I’m procrastinating, just thinking about her industriousness inspires and encourages me.
She set up a successful business, The Imaginarium Apparel, after graduating with a First in Costume Design at Edinburgh College of Art. Her exquisite designs delight my senses, sending my imagination into overdrive. Rachael, and her Anisoptera creation, contributed to the character of the mysterious Lizard Queen in ‘Goblin’, the novel I’m writing. Her own inspirations can be found in the world of insects and amphibians, and I chose to photograph Dream nestled amongst the natural beauty of leaves to highlight the influence the Scottish landscape has on her creativity.”
Are you in need of some lickable words? ‘Lick My Words‘, my shortlisted piece on Angela Carter’s short story The Erl King has now been published on the Thresholds website.
A kindly creature who enjoyed my piece had this to say:
This is a truly interesting essay on the talents of Carter. Dundas discusses issues that could be written in a tired manner, but she writes it in a fresh way that has caused me to re-visit Carter and appreciate her talents even more.
I hope you enjoy it too, and that it will lead you into the wondrous world of Angela Carter.