A Visit to the Sime Gallery, Worplesdon

June 12, 2018 § Leave a comment

I’ve been a fan of Sidney Sime’s art for a long time, since having first seen his fantastical illustrations for Lord Dunsany’s ‘The Gods of Pegāna‘, but it wasn’t until I started research for my essay on three of Sime’s paintings, an article which was eventually published in Dead Reckonings 22, that I realised how hard it was to find any information on him beyond the scant biographical details on his Wikipedia page and the single easily-acquirable book about his life, Simon Heneage and Henry Ford’s ‘Sidney Sime, Master of the Mysterious‘.

What I did find, however, is that a small band of devotees keep Sime’s memory alive at the Sidney Sime Gallery in Worplesdon, Surrey. Worplesdon has a great connection to Sime – he lived there after buying the still-extant Crown Cottage in 1904 and, after his death in 1941, his remains were interred in the graveyard of Worplesdon’s St Mary’s church – so it is a more than fitting place for his memory to linger.

Still, Surrey is a long way from my own home in Edinburgh…

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Mercuspex Loci

February 4, 2014 § 1 Comment

Dyall Square. A great, tile-lined plaza shifting constantly with the snapping pennants and fluttering tent-fabric of a myriad market stalls and faux-mystic hawkers. Sellers of fruit and mandalas and spices and candles and forgetfulness and knowledge and themselves and others, all dot-dotted about haphazard like a mercantile motley. A single, constant litany of prices, offers and plea-bargains rises up through day and lamp-lit night whilst stalls suddenly break camp and scuttle to a better catchment area, a more fertile feeding ground.

And, in the centre, the great campanile rises high above the clouds of salesman’s patter as if unconcerned by the price of silken gloves or sesame. An ersatz gnomon – although built long after the square was named for a now-forgotten bureaucrat, giving it a perhaps not entirely subconscious homophone – whose even-paced shadow strolls from dawn to dusk, a dark-suited overseer marking out ungraded time against lamp-post and flagpole.


Myths and superstitions accrete pearl-like around its base, flowing out into the lyrics of the marketeers. Oaths are pinned on its solidity, boasts on its height. Shaded stalls are particularly favoured or cursed and make brief sales or losses commensurate with the owner’s outlook. A bore-wave of beggars, dragged by the shadow’s tidal pull, ebbs and flows against those certain, milk-and-honey shore-stalls where food is given as an offering to the momentary eclipse.

And behind even them come the cut-purses and minstrels, wassailers and fools who dance and stalk and caper through the crowds in unwitting complicity against the Dalliance, the square’s dedicated corps of peace-keepers and legate bouncers whose long service has seen even their name worn down into self-mockery by the grind of each day-noting sweep of shade.

Here, in this irregular blend of self-organised regularity, everything takes on meaning. Repetition drives paths and memories into the square itself. The shadow’s daily pass driving down tree-ring layers of a fractal, self-repeating tradition. Traders and browsers skirt around each other in daily, weekly orbits. The precision arrangement of wares, the fluid dispersion of stalls. The wax of cotton, the wane of linen, the weft and the heft and the warp of wood. All reflect in a higher arrangement. All are cogs within cogs within cogs.

A delicate dance of give and take and move and shake where small disturbances give up rippling interruptions through the whole. Prices rise despite a glut, stalls slide away from certain ill-favoured patches, boisterous haggling turns to murder, olive-sellers crack barrels filed to the brim with briny eyeballs, water into wine into blood. The mercuspex watches all this and learns of subtleties that birds or fire, unaware as they are of the human magnetism of greed, are oblivious to.

This is why, on the gargoyled edge of an overlooking roof, a rag-swaddled figure hunches and watches in the few minutes of tower-shadow with cog-eyes whirring and brass-gleaming fingers clicky-clicky nervous.


November 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

…knew abart no rules did i never knew never knew carnt blame me for not knowin fings I dont know if I dont know I dont know em speshly if I dont get tol I dont know em makes sense dunnit but you tryn tell it to a gang o tins and yerll get a rap on the napper for yer troubles and no mistake right darn in the gutter with yer gear all filched and no sight o gettin it back not from tins the barstards not wi them all swaggrin and hollerin like they owns the place which they damn near do at least darn ere as far as anyone cares where an ol tick jus mindin is bisness gets a whallop an more jus for walkin the street all quiet like when e dint even know e wernt sposed to be walkin it cos e dunt know no better and no buggr tol im even tho e fort inna war an got a meddle for killin ooever it was we sposed to be killin back then and dun is job wi no complaynin even when there was boms and worse flyin abart or some militry tin was carryin on and a-hollerin just cos o some jonnies boots or summat I don’t recall proper no more lotta water under the bridge yer might say lotta water aye that an more besides jus to keep the chill orf y’see which is why they never believes us when I tells em I was followin a burgler or summat up in them eeves e was but they carnt see im even when I tells em you afta kinda look outta the side o yer eye a bit and not strayt at im or yerl see nowt but they jus larfs and sez eres summink for the side o yer eye and gis me the rap like I sez an this geezers up there on the roof all shifty like an creepin alon but I gets the rap again an im darn like an ol bag o spuds and probly not worf as much for all that not that any o em gis a penny for us at the best o times least of all when a gang o tins is all abart an shakin theyr sticks like they was avin a fair ol dance wi some sweet gel an not an ol tick oo fort inna war an all that besides but I keeps tellin em even when theys layin on the ol boot that I never even seen no poster or no sine or whatever they was sayin an i was just an ol tick lookin for some place to keep outta the chill and tryna keep shifty folks orf peepls roofs when they don’t deserve no feller wandrin abart all over ther ouses even less than some ol tick deserves the rap when ee never knew abart no rools cos no bugr done never tell im abart em an you cant blame im if he never knew can ye makes sense an i never done red no poster never red it did i an i never…


October 24, 2013 § 1 Comment

Man lies on bed. Stares. Wall. Plaster peels, partly. Echo of rain on tin, on wood, on tin again. Always noise yet not-noise persistence of indefinite sound. Hand moves, retreats. Wind on glass, glass on frame. Creak of elsewhere. Rafter. Laughter, perhaps. Old dust and webs. Thin blanket of age. Left, lost life. Guttering.

Blood Hand

Man lies on bed. Stares. Ceiling. Plaster peels, moreso. Shadows sit, soft. Rust rhythm, removed. Grasp of light, gasp of lightness. Twilight. Darkness. Warmth fades, cooling.

Man lies on bed. Stares. Nowhere.

Plaster peels. Crumbles. Collapses.

Hobbledy-Ghost! Oh, Hobbledy-Ghost!

July 1, 2013 § 1 Comment


Oh, Hobbledy-Ghost,
I am not scared
of the Hobbledy-Ghost.

Oh, Hobbledy-Ghost,
We are not scared
of the Hobbledy-Ghost.

We have candle
And we have a book
We have a bell
And a bird on a hook
We will not falter
And we will not sway
We’ll make the Hobbledy-Ghost
Go away

Oh, Hobbledy-Ghost,
I am so scared
of the Hobbledy-Ghost.

Trouble/No Trouble

July 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

///Hidden// thinks the Bat. //Hidden worlds, hidden words/Lost and found/Lost/And Found//

The Bat’s head jitters quickly. Thin fingers click against each other nervously.

///Found// thinks the Bat. //Stolen?/Difficult/Difficult thought//

The Bat walks slowly back and forth, hunkered over under the weight of brazen wings folded backwards. Quiet mutterings come from beneath its ragged cowl.

///Bat didn’t know// thinks the Bat. //Bat asked for secrets/Bat gives secrets/Bat gets coin/Always the same/Always/No trouble/ No trouble for Bat//

The Bat rubs its hands together, shakes its head.

///Bat not look for trouble// thinks the Bat. //Only lost secrets/Need home from sky colours/Bat gives/No trouble/No trouble//

Tick Cant

March 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

Tick Cant

“Bad place. No welcome here. Move on.”

On a doorpost, or nearby tree.

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