Books


Big OakYes, the Royal Oak was bigger. Not all that much bigger, but the spread of its massive boughs, the weight of which eventually tore it apart, was greater. I doubt whether its girth was much more than that of its surviving cousin (8.60m). In any case, understanding how that measurement was done, defeats me, such is the tortured structure that supports this leathery 800 year old leviathan. Leviathan, yes – leviathan hints at the animation that seems to lurk in its elephantine limbs. This massive organism, does have a presence, a kind of benign animal watchfulness. It seems a hoary receptacle for the centuries of wisdom it has accumulated. Fanciful, I know, but try a picnic in the shade of its massive boughs. Take a snapshot, or sketch the wrinkled mass of its trunk. Its magic will reach out to you, reviving the times, the people and the events it has seen. It was a mature tree long before Lala Mustafa Pasha ruthlessly ousted the Venetians from Cyprus in 1571.

When I last paid my respects, someone had removed the sign that used to be on the main Troodos Road, second right after the Laneia Police Station, coming from Limassol.  A few metres up the lane, though, the signpost indicating left onto an even rougher road was still there. This is oak country. High up on the mountain above Laneia is Agia Valana (of the Acorn). Oaks of all ages inhabit field boundaries and, under the giant dris her infant progeny struggle to survive in the shade of her massive crown.

It’s not too difficult to devise a stroll from here to the shaded streets of Laneia, home of artists and good food, just a kilometre away. The lane you turned off to reach the oak, leads directly to the village and alternative routes back to the main road can easily be discovered. The adventurous might even take to exploring the vineyards and farm track surrounding the giant tree, but this is best done after the pruning.

Kyrenia HarbourI seem to have discovered meditation. The transcendental kind? Maybe not, but at least it gets me off to sleep at the drop of a hat.

Not down on Dasoudi today, however. I was having a lazy stroll in late afternoon sunshine (cool day — max 15 degrees and snow on the Troodos) and was tempted by one of the benches facing the setting sun. The sea, both sight and sound, hypnotic and, having counted the ships in the bay, I started to let my mind follow its head (can you say that?) Next thing, ‘The Purple Headed Mountain’ was buzzing through my head like a pop song. Then it was, ‘He made their glowing colours…’ Half forgotten snatches of school assemblies. No, I haven’t got religion, but I did feel good (and maybe a bit philosophical, if not even assailed by feelings of awe. Dasoudi seems to bring this out in me — especially when the Russian goddesses are around. (No. I haven’t got religion!) Today the beach was sparsely populated: the odd jogger (one naked but for bathing trunks) the usual dog-walkers, baby-pushers, power-walkers and old women feeding sleek cats. Oh, and an ancient lady who could only manage two or three shuffling steps at a time, supported by her poor old husband and his oriental helper.

It said a lot; earth and ocean vast, but insignificant in Cosmic terms. Human beings, transient time-worms in the awful eternity of existence. But this one, sitting, sketching on a bench, looking into the setting sun, seems, in some way, able to encompass it all if only in his imagination.  I know, I know…megalomania, but it was a magic moment. I was almost tempted to a small KEO at the beach bar, but the sun was not yet over the yard-arm.

Oh what the hell! If Oscar Wilde was incapable of  saying no, why should I not succumb?

(From “Magic Moments in Cyprus”, coming out soon!)

Cyprus: Land of Miracles has been published by Gitano Press on iBook and Kindle !

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Perhaps it was fate. Perhaps this project has always existed somewhere in the permanence of Time and Space. All I can say is that my prize-winning entry for a ghost story competition led me into producing a collection of stories, Resonating Stones, set in Cyprus.
At presentations, people would ask me if these tales were authentic Cyprus ghost stories, and I had to admit that they were not. Perhaps they were not even ghost stories, but psychological thrillers, stories of obsession, dealing with the phantasmagoria that spawn in the mind of man. My fate was sealed though; the seed had been planted for Cyprus: Land of Miracles, and my own obsession for the past two years has been to follow the logic of my stories into the real world of an island that has been a nexus of psychic forces from the time man first made landfall, some 12,000 years ago. Ever since then, Cyprus has been the home of  a multitude of gods. It has been the scene of terrifying battles sieges and massacres, and it has seen conflicting faiths come head to head and develop in uneasy coexistence. Surely, if psychic forces are anything more that illusions with which we delude ourselves, there must echo in the land of Cyprus temporal traces of the people who lived through these events.

Be teased here:

Click here to buy on iBook!    Click here to buy on Kindle 

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A second paperback edition to follow soon!

Probably as long as I can remember I have been a keen admirer of pulchritude. So too were the pre-Raphaelites, but if their paintings are any indication, their concept of female beauty was, except in certain aspects, the product of their time. The 21st century man can still appreciate the skin tones of neck and decolletage, the luxurious hair and fullness of thighs pressing through draped fabrics of voluminous gowns depicted in colourful settings; the Cupid’s bow lips, the artificiality of posture and composition, less so.
Well, we all know where beauty lies; and that it so often does. We know that it is ephemeral, but that it may be preserved in paintings, photographs and best of all in poignant images, ‘photo shopped’ by memory’ of past loves; obsessions that can almost amount to worship.
Yes, folks, this is Old Bill talking. Has the fellow taken leave of his senses?
All this is triggered by my recent forays into the world of the Pre-Raphaelites and their muses.
When researching Sandys for ‘The Gypsy Model’, I couldn’t resist following the idea that he was obsessed by models who played their parts so well that they really became for him the seductive witch-like creatures of his masterpieces: Morgan le Fey, Vivien, Helen of Troy, Danae, Judith and Medea. That was one of the themes I developed in the book, along with the professional and romantic relationships between the artist and his models
It wasn’t just Sandys either. There are plenty of indications that others of the artists were prone to similar illusions. Take Burne-Jones for example: besotted by his Greek models, Mary Zambaco and her cousin Maria Stillman, his fascinations gave rise to masterpieces that produced waves of disapproval in Victorian society; besides, there was that explicit letter to him from Mary Zambaco, that his wife Georgie discovered in his pocket.
There are many examples of this strange fascination, but let’s restrict ourselves to Burne-Jones:

Cupid Delivering Psyche. 

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Here Cupid modelled by Marie Spartali embraces Psyche (Mary Zambaco), rescuing her from the Stygian sleep to which Proserpine’s fiendish casket has condemned her.

‘The sexual ambivalence is both lovely and disturbing and must have been more so for Burne-Jones’ contemporaries ‘(Henrietta Garnett).

That Ned Burne-Jones was well able to capture the likeness of his models must have produced a frisson of general disapproval. Victorian morality, remember.

Demophoon and Phyllis

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Our hero rescues his lover from her fate (she was turned into a tree). Ned goes one better in this, picture, using Mary Zamboco as model for the heads of both protagonists, a circumstance that led to trouble, and not only at the Old Water Colour Society for which it was commissioned. Again the faces were recognizable. You can make what you will of the male appendage Ned provided for Mary as Demophoon. Suffice it to say that The OWCSociety didn’t much like it. I leave it to my sharp eyed reader to spot the difference between the painted renditions of our almost naked hero…

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The Beguiling of Merlin

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For me this picture summarizes Ned’s obsession. Nimue (Mary Zambaco) is voluptuous and Merlin’s hopeless expression perhaps mirrors the artist’c hopeless bewitchment.

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Kirkby Lonsdale

Many thanks to the team from Out The Nest for so eloquently capturing my birth town, Kirkby Lonsdale, on film. This beautiful market town has inspired so many artists over the centuries, including me!

 

Kirkby Lonsdale (video by outthenest)

Kirkby Lonsdale is mentioned several times in my book The Gypsy Model (now available on Kindle)

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Readers and locals may also be interested in a family magazine The MacMag which we completed last year for a family reunion in Kirkby Lonsdale. The magazine is a collection of local family history, short stories and recollections about our traveller connections and activities with our beloved trotting horses.

 

I hope you enjoy my journeys down memory lane even if some of them are made up!

#billmacfarlanebooks #thegypsymodel #kirkbylonsdale #cumbria #theMacMag #outthenest #rt