My Arctic Library : Children Of The North

I was feeling so fucking sad the other day. Sad because of cruel people. Sad because of the dishonesty and lack of respect in the world. Sad because my head has been a difficult place to be recently. I wanted to scream until my heart burst.

But then the postman came with a package, and in a moment, I became gentle and soft and curious.  Inside was a bubble wrapped book, Children Of The North by Fred Bruemmer.

636309717653656718_Afterlight_Edit636309718392777200_Afterlight_Edit636309719027153196_Afterlight_Edit

It had been sent by Mia, a reader of my blogs, and the second person to answer the call I put out to help collect all the books written in England about the Arctic. For a while I was able to forget about the hurt and focus instead of this beautiful act of kindness.

There’s something about books published in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Something special which is rarely there nowadays. It feels like more attention was paid to the little details back then, details like tiny illustrations running across the page borders. Details which help to bring a book to life.

636309719771224770_Afterlight_Edit636309721063289813_Afterlight_Edit636309721775162278_Afterlight_Edit

Children Of The North was published in 1979 and features the exquisite photography and writing of Fred Bruemmer, a Latvian/Canadian researcher and photographer. He is the one behind that harp seal pup photo.

636309726452424592_Afterlight_Edit636309723464300797_Afterlight_Edit636309722768172894_Afterlight_Edit

This book is a ‘compelling portrait’ of the offspring of the north, who are born and grow up in the harsh and unforgiving climate of the Arctic. I didn’t already own a book all about the children of the far north – yet I’m deeply fascinated by the little souls who thrive in the cold. So this book really is a blessing. I can’t wait to get my read on!

If you think you might be able to contribute to my Arctic Library and be a part of this ambitious dream, let me know in the comments or you can send a note to katiemariemetcalfe@hotmail.co.uk I would be ever so grateful!

Review : The Ghastling Book One

Now, where did I first see The Ghastling…I think it was over on Instagram but I can’t exactly be sure. All I know is that suddenly it was in my life, and I burnt my fingers typing in my bank account details to purchase the first book in the five book series. I had a feeling that it would give me the same satisfaction as Misty Annuals had done back in the early 90’s. I HAD TO HAVE IT. The Ghastling is one of those print publications where I find myself thinking ‘How the fuck did I only JUST NOW find out about this?’ It’s been on the scene of the weird since 2014 and I feel somewhat embarrassed that it’s taken until 2017 for it to come across my radar. But it’s here now, and that’s what really matters.

636288267567721944_Afterlight_Edit

Founder and editor Rebecca Parfitt has been working in publishing since 2006 and it was in 2014 that she founded The Ghastling, a literary magazine devoted to ghost stories, the macabre and the oh-so strange…

As I dug a little bit deeper – I have the tendency to want to know almost too much about people. I’m English, it’s what we do – I discovered that Rebecca – talented woman that she is – is also a writer of fiction and poetry. Her debut collection The Days After is published by Listen Softly London and it’s on going on my ‘to buy list’ IMMEDIATELY.

636288269245506219_Afterlight_Edit636288274179706678_Afterlight_Edit

But back to The Ghastling. I bought the first issue for about £14 plus P&P from Amazon and it arrived pretty swiftly. Could have been a bit quicker, but it’s just because I’m an impatient bitch wanting her dose of 1st class horror yesterday.

First impression when I tugged the slim but gorgeously printed publications out of his cardboard sleeve was ‘yes, wow, love it, yes, freaky as shit front cover illustration…kind of reminds me of myself when I get out of bed in the morning, fucking yes I’m glad I bought this.’ And then I opened it up. And I nearly died.

636288275477051042_Afterlight_Edit

636288276463102780_Afterlight_Edit.jpg

Memories from my childhood, from the Misty Annuals, from all the beautifully illustrated ghost story books, from all the Enchanted World Series volumes…they all came flooding back as I carefully leafed through the pages.

I was bowled over by the gorgeousness of each page’s layout, of the vintage illustrations peppered throughout, of the contemporary artwork that periodically appeared including two haunting paintings ‘Jane’ and ‘Sarah’ by Anthony Ryes.

636288285123211789_Afterlight_Edit

Then I started proper. The editorial letter was spot the fuck on. I love a good, strong editorial that leaves me chomping at the bit. That’s exactly what Rebecca’s did. Here’s an extract:

‘Our fears take on many shapes and forms: from the intangible – the lurking shadows in the periphery of the mind; to our own mortality and fear of what comes after and will it come back for us…? Whether they occupy our real or imaginary space, they manifest and structure our everyday lives – this is what it feels like to exist.’ – Editorial

Opposite the editorial was what’s probably one of my most adored darkly inspired illustrations in recent years by the writer and graphic artist Paul O’ Connell. 

636288290673787779_Afterlight_Edit

636288287902822845_Afterlight_Edit

Then followed the ghosts and the oddballs and I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into the couch with each page turned. The writing of every story was exquisite – Rebecca makes for a solid editor – suitably tingling my spine. I get weak at the knees at the sight of a good ghost story and I was left so freakingly satisfied. Now, while I didn’t relish each and every one, several of them will be re-read and re-read and re-read. The stories I’ll be thumbing again include A Cold Calling by the brilliant Fay Franklin which I wish had been a few pages longer.

636288280304135950_Afterlight_Edit

636288279312807186_Afterlight_Edit

‘Have you ever met a ghoul? Well, no, of course you haven’t. But it’s a term we use so loosely these days that we think we should know what it means. Those faces, the ones in the cars crawling past a recent road accident, peering out, goggle-eyed, at the scene of death and devastation on the other side of the road. They’re the ghouls of our modern world.’ – A Cold Calling

Another couple I’ll be visiting again are Knock Knock by Storm Jones, Stitch In Time by Marged Parry and Confession by Christina Thatcher.

636288283298140836_Afterlight_Edit

636288277855866929_Afterlight_Edit

“He had a knack for discovering things,” my mother said to everyone throughout my childhood. When I was 8, I brought her a dead robin that had started decomposing beneath one of our pine trees in the yard; it had some needles stuck to its eyes, chest, and feet and it looked like it had bled out all of its blood.’ – Confession

I always really appreciate it when a magazine features a page of info on the contributors – bloody fascinating stuff that nearly always leads me onto wanting to discover yet more about who I’ve just encountered.

636288291637451674_Afterlight_Edit

All in all in all, The Ghastling was a magnificent little publication and it’s inspired me, massively so in fact, to really push HARD with the press I’m going to be establishing. As soon as I’m able, I’ll be swooping over to The Ghastling to pick myself up the other four issues.

636288292867171002_Afterlight_Edit

More On The Ghastling

Website

Facebook

Goodreads

Calling On The Moon In My Time Of Need

I captured this photo over a week ago. I was feeling creatively dead, and of 300 or so photos taken during a three hour walk in the woods, this was the only one I kept.  The others were so freaking bad I felt embarrassed to keep them on my memory card and deleted them fast.

636296046009218031_Afterlight_Edit

I’ve always thought it to be beautifully eerie to be able to sight the moon during daylight hours. After I captured this shot, I stood and watched her for about ten minutes. She made me feel kind of alright and had me shrug off my low mood.

I soon found myself thinking about a book my mother used to own when I was growing up. She might still have it tucked away in a dusty cardboard box somewhere where the ghouls gather at the back of the attic. (Seen as though I’m here, I might as well have a look and see if I can unearth it.)

It was called Moon Moon. Written by Anne Kent Rush and published in 1976 it was a magnificently heavy, passionately researched book all about the moon and the relationship women have with her. While it might be a bit outdated, if you’re interested in moon worship it’s a must-have.

When I got home – I could still see her from the kitchen window – my curiosity was ignited and I went in search of moon quotes. Here’s some of what I found…

“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls. ”
— George Carlin

 

“If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.
You leave the same impression
Of something beautiful, but annihilating.”
— Sylvia Plath

 

“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
— Mary Anne Radmacher

 

“She didn’t quite know what the relationship was between lunatics and the moon, but it must be a strong one, if they used a word like that to describe the insane.”
— Paulo Coelho

Reading Myself Better

I am in England at the moment, visiting my folks and the first thing on the agenda today was to visit my old thrifting grounds.

It was my every intention to overhaul my wardrobe. So convinced was I that I would stagger back to my parents house with my body weight in second-hand threads, that I very nearly bunged all the clothes I’d brought with me – and which I’m sick of the sight of – into a black bag ready to be given away.

Thankfully though, I didn’t, because I found NOTHING worthy of buying and wearing. Which is shocking because Stockton, the town where I wander, is the charity shop capital of England.

I also found that one of my favourite second-hand hangouts has increased the price of their threads by £1. (Pretty much everything in store used to be £1.50…now, thanks to the conservatives no doubt, they’ve have to up their prices to £2.50.) Pleased I was not. £1 is a lot of money.

However the tides turned when it came to book hunting. While I wasn’t able to find anything Arctic related that I wasn’t already in possession of (FUCKING DAMMIT!), I did actually find two books which I’d gone out with the intention of finding. And what was the likelihood of that happening!?

The two books I was out hunting are actually in my mother’s possession already, but if I were to take them back to Sweden, it would be over her dead body. The two books I’m rambling about are The Nature Doctor by Dr H.C.A. Vogel (which I paid £1.50 for) and Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal by Reader’s Digest (which I paid £2 for) – two of the best tomes you can own if you’re interested in safe, healthy eating and complementary medicine.

IMG_0536

Over the past several years I’ve always turned to these two books when I’ve needed health advice of the natural kind. (Fuck you Google, you got nothing on these!) I’ve always felt better turning to books for advice on my body and what I’m putting inside it. When I was suffering from hypochondria several years ago, I stupidly lived on Google, believing all it told me – that I was, in fact, dying from everything.

IMG_0558IMG_0562

What I LOVE about Food That Harm, Foods That Heal is that, like all Reader’s Digest books, it’s a sturdy tome that could survive a world war. It’s gorgeously illustrated, all of the topics have been thoroughly researched and the writing is SOLID. It’s laid out in a useful A-Z format and before (nearly every) entry there’s a bullet pointed list telling you about the benefits and drawbacks of each food stuff. I’ve read this book from cover to cover – it’s really that interesting – and I’ve dipped in and out of it when I’ve needed advice on a certain something.

IMG_0544IMG_0548

What I LOVE about The Nature Doctor is that it’s exhaustive, sublimely written and, while it’s quite an old book now – this edition, the 50th was published in 1989, the original in 1952 – much of the advice trumps the majority of advice about traditional and contemporary medicine today. Though you have to take some of Vogel’s opinions with a pinch of salt and remember he was writing in a different time.

As a pagan witch, if I can heal myself naturally – mentally, physically and emotionally – I’m going to do it…and this book provides much the guidance I need to be able to do so. Tonight I will be consulting both books for an insight into the lymphatic system – mine is sluggish and I need to devise a plan to remedy that.

If you’re interested in natural healing or are even heavily experienced in healing yourself with the help of mother nature, I highly highly recommend you track these down post haste.

My Arctic Library : Men Of The Frozen North

I had a thought a couple of months ago…’I wonder if I could collect all the books ever published in English about the Arctic?’ The thought made my blood tingle and my heart get all over excited.

Within moments of having the thought, a new dream was born. I decided that, no matter how long it would take me, I WOULD, one day, own every work of Arctic literature published in my native tongue.

I own probably around 60 books about The Arctic – though the number I’ve read reaches into the hundreds. Thank fuck for libraries is all I have to say. I have no idea where I’d be if it wasn’t for libraries. When I say libraries save lives, I really mean it.

Anyway…once I’d had the idea of building up an ultimate Arctic library, I jettisoned myself over to Facebook and Instagram where I put my idea out into the open, and asked if anyone would be willing to part with their own Arctic literature to help me establish my library proper.

I wasn’t too surprised when nobody joined the conversation…I mean, not everyone is so into the Arctic that they have a collection of books dedicated to the northern most part of earth.

But then…then I received a lovely message from one FB friend, Iris, from America. She sent a photo of Men of the Frozen North by Peter Freuchen and said ‘would you like it?’ I was a bit overcome and nearly burst into tears before replying I’d love it! When I asked about the postage to Sweden she said not to worry. My heart wanted to pop out and give her a bloody, juicy hug.

Hardly a week later and there was a package for me. A heavy package. A package that definitely contained more than a book. After breaking through the dense sellotape seal and thick cardboard I found a treasury of gifts.

I pulled them out, one by one. Each was wrapped in black tissue paper and exquisite silver ribbon. There was even a tiny handmade coffin box holding two of the gifts. A handmade coffin box! For me! 

636288174311377869_Afterlight_Edit

My tattoo written in Elder Futhark reads ‘Proceed from the dream outward.’ (Carl Jung)

636285781118531146_Afterlight_Edit

The parrot feather is my book mark for this journey.

I stood there for about ten minutes, looking at this beautiful bounty. I could feel the salt water gathering on my eyeballs. The kindness, the mother freaking kindness was just so much! The package was so exquisitely prepared, the gifts – which included a water buffalo tooth, a parrot feather, several bars of handmade chocolate, a hand made witch patch and several packets of jerky – so lovingly considered.

636285782317683932_Afterlight_Edit636285783413450715_Afterlight_Edit

When I’d gathered myself, I explored Men of the Frozen North. I smelt it. It hummed deliciously of old bookshop and was in immaculate condition for a book that’s older than my mother. (It was published in 1962.) I examined the contents page while squealing excitedly about what I was going to discover. (I was particularly excited about Part IV The Lapps as my knowledge there is a little weak.) I fanned through the pages, my eyes darting over words, illustrations and photographs. You’d have thought I’d never seen a book before.

636285785633683803_Afterlight_Edit

636288188615591849_Afterlight_Edit

Men of the Frozen North was written by Peter Freuchen – his life-worn portrait on the back cover of the book is deeply humbling – a Danish explorer, author and anthropologist. He’s renowned for his role in Arctic exploration, in particular the Thule Expeditions. He was also a serious badass, the sort of badass we rarely see in today’s world.

636285784469259391_Afterlight_Edit636288177885899028_Afterlight_Edit

The 6ft 7 Dane wore a coat made from the skin of a polar bear he’d killed himself, he amputated his own toes with no anesthesia and once, when trapped in a tomb of ice after being caught in a blizzard, made a knife out of his own shit and carved his way out to safety. Needless to say, I’m pretty fucking excited about what’s going to unfold when I start powering my way through Men of the Frozen North.

If you think you might be able to contribute to my Arctic Library and be a part of this ambitious dream, let me know in the comments or you can send a note to katiemariemetcalfe@hotmail.co.uk I would be ever so grateful!

 

Every Day Should Be A Day For Books & Reading

There’s not much that makes me happier than a really good book. I started reading when I was three and never stopped.

We didn’t have the money for new books – we got most of our stock from family, car boot sales and charity shops – so my Mum, who looked after four kids while my Dad was away at work – would troop across town with four under fives and we would take full advantage of everything the libraries in our local vicinity had the offer. Some of my best memories were forged among the bookshelves. (Thank you Mum.)

I can remember finishing all the Puddle Lane books – published by Penguin in the late 80’s – and hungering for something else, something darker. I needed to stand on tip toes to reach for My Babysitter’s A Vampire which it was on the hard-to-reach third shelf up.

The older I got, the more valuable libraries and reading became for me. I was one of those kids who would read while crossing a busy road. One summer school night, my sister and I were in bed and it wasn’t yet dark, so I pulled back the blind so I could read for a bit longer. My sister screamed for our mum and told on me. I was fucking furious. I think I even cried myself to sleep.

One year, some kids burned down our local library, and it broke my heart. It felt like the end of the world. When the library was re-built, there was a huge cardboard advertisement near the front desk featuring my then Eco-warrior mother clutching my wide eyed baby brother. Proud doesn’t even come close.

The same library granted me my teenage card a year early, opening up the rest of the universe to me. One of the first books I took out was The Satanic Bible. It was all gobbledygook to me – and still is – but I felt so fucking cool and made sure everyone could see just what I was carrying when I strode out of there.

****

I have a vivid memory of my first World Book Day in 1995. We received £1 vouchers at school, and I can remember clutching it like Charlie Bucket clutched his Golden Ticket.

I thought I’d been given the key to the bookstore, which at the time was an independent shop of epic proportions (for an eight year old) in the small market town of Guisbrough in England.

Sadly, the £1 books that had been released especially for World Book Day were so terrible that even at eight years old I knew I’d been had. I left the store with a book I didn’t really want, thinking of all the other things I could have bought with £1 – 100 penny sweets, 10 Chomp bars or at least ten books from a carboot sale.

Disappointment aside, here are some books which have played big roles during my 30 years on earth.