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TheJacketsmlResonating Stones by Bill Macfarlane.

The narrator, art critic for a Cypriot magazine, interviews an Irish sculptress who expresses the power of stone to store and re-transmit resonances of emotionally charged events. He sneers at this but, at the ensuing exhibition of the woman’s work, he and his partner experience unsettling effects. Soon after he is plunged into a serial nightmare about sinister events in his own past that he is obliged to record in the form of stories that become progressively more disturbing. These stories are linked by a thread that tells of growing obsession, and of a paranoia that threatens his sanity, and the safety of his partner. Originally published in paper back in 2000, Resonating Stones now appears under a new cover designed by Ngaio Macfarlane.

Resonating Stones is a collection of ghost stories, that mines the rich vein of Cyprus history and folk-lore. Places, such as the Venetian Bridges, the Royal Oak and the Brengaria at Prodromos exist, but the events are invention. Old Churches, caves dating back to antiquity, and especially the mysterious Tripimenes Petres (pierced monoliths) are authentic. You can still experience the tangibility of their ‘presence’ in the Cyprus countryside.

These stories are not part of traditional Cyprus lore, though. For that, you must wait for the re-publication of Cyprus Land of Miracles by the same author, which is currently in progress.

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Walking yesterday with friends in Limassol Forest, which is not so different from in the days of the Hassamboulia, We looked across at the abandoned village of Mathikoloni and, I remembered that, beyond the skyline, one of the Hassamboulias’ most callous murders took place just a few kilometers away on the road to Fasoula. This was well out of their usual territory, and they ran unto  trouble on their way back to home ground, in the form a of a gang of burly Greeks, and had to resort to gunplay to extricate themselves
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Yes it’s now on Kindle and under the new cover by Ngaio. Already it has had a favorable review, not this time by the author! What follows is the blurb that accompanies it for Amazon:

Coversml

 

The Kindle version of the ‘Hunt for the Hassamboulia’ appears under a new cover designed by Ngaio Macfarlane. On it three of the gang appear on the faded copy of an old map of the Great Valleys of Western Cyprus: the ‘Wild West’ that the outlaws ranged over, ‘ free as birds’. The shadow cast by the taller of the three is the yatagan (knife) that appeared on the original cover. That yatagan was the weapon used in the murder that brought the younger brothers into the story.

The map fades into a skyline of mountainous terrain that still exists today. This is the country that sheltered Dighenis (Col Grivas) in the late 1950s against all the best efforts of a modern army. Is it surprising that the recently arrived British should have had such difficulty in bringing the Hassamboulia to justice in the late 19C?

The Hassamboulia were Turkish Cypriots. Three brothers of contrasting character, fated to embark on a career of crime, over what should have been an insignificant local quarrel. Their exploits became progressively more and more outrageous, so that they became living legends. The story of the Hassamboulia still resonates in the folk lore of the region. When the print version of the book was published in 2007, copies sold like hot cakes, especially in Northern Cyprus.

This version of their exploits is based on a police report from the 1930s, forty years after they were finally caught. Their crimes, form the backdrop to a fictionalized account of their career, their personalities, their relationships and motivations.

As the new cover demonstrates, the geography still exists in which these legendary outlaws have been hunted down three times already: by the Brits, by the old policeman who wrote the 1930s report, and by the author. If you decide to join the Hunt for the Hassamboulia, the reward is to be enjoyed in savouring the places that echo with their history. Financial rewards? Sorry! The hundred pounds on offer for the Hassamboulia, was shared long ago between three informers. Grivas, with Stg 10,000 on his head, managed to evade capture in hiding, not in the mountains, but in Limassol. His EOKA organisation could not have survived, however, without their hideouts, some of which can still be visited in the mountains.

 

Algolagnia, now: lust for pain. Sexual pleasure derived from inflicting or suffering pain. (Google Medical Dictionary.) Apart from his several real and professed peculiarities, Swinbourne is reputed to have ‘enjoyed’ a bit of a spanking. More of a sufferer than an inflictor, he also claimed bestiality, among his tastes and was addicted to the effects of mind-blowing preparations including, naturally, alcohol in excessive amounts. Always uninhibited, old Swinbers gave good measure at every social gathering. Many members of the artistic fraternity had their foibles. Rossetti himself, especially after the death of Lizzie Siddal, became progressively more eccentric, with his menagerie of exotic animals, his guilt-ridden séances and his obsessions. Others, like Christina Rossetti, Ruskin and William Morris devoted themselves to matters of Morality and Taste. Robert William Buchanan stirred up a hornet’s nest in his anonymous attack on the Fleshly School of Poetry. Meanwhile Oscar Finegal O Flaherty Wills Wilde was gaining a head of flamboyant steam as the century moved towards its end. Not for Oscar, your algolagnia: I dare say,he could ‘withstand anything but pain’ but, in the end 19C morality brought him down.

In any case the stunners are worth a paragraph of their own any day. Okay, more to Victorian than to modern tastes, as represented by the full bodied and fully clothed, ‘Gentle Spring’ or by the palely interesting portraits of Lizzie Siddle that Rossetti produced. The stunners ranged from modest and retiring, to erotically charged, enigmatic and brooding. Take a look at the little numbers pasted below. The erotic Danae, locked away in her brazen chamber, dreaming of the lover her father forbade her, acts her part with total lack of inhibition. Collier’s Lilith, I bet, could find her way onto the pin-up wall of any present-day works office, while the pencil sketch of Sands’s 14 year old gypsy girl shows an assured worldliness well beyond her years.

In their diverse ways, those artists and their literary friends couldn’t have functioned without their models, their muses, their erotic illusions. In their Victorian manner, they were prey to the twisted morality and spiritualism of the day. More than one had ideas of playing the modern-day Pygmalion.

Did Ruskin, have such plans for Effie Gray before she left him for Millais? In today’s world, surely, the famed critic would merit investigation for historical indiscretions committed at the home of his protégée, the young Rose la Touche. Not all the stunners were as innocent as that pale young thing. Who is to say that some of the’ stunners’ didn’t aspire to ‘cash-in on their artists’ arrogance? Jane Burdon/Morris, was by no means alone in achieving the aura of gentility. Annie Miller, did well out of her laison with Holman Hunt and Fanny Cornforth became ‘housekeeper’ for Rossetti after Siddal’s death.

Bearing all this in mind, Rosetti’s guilt-ridden reaction to Siddall’s death, and the scenes I invented between Sands and Kiomi must dwell at least in the realm of possibility.

 

 

Lilith John Collier Girl3 copy Danae01 copy

There’s no truth in the accusation that I write ‘soft porn. I don’t even own a pornograph. You can search my house if you like.

 

However, I do sometimes wonder if some of my purple passages might qualify me for the annual literary Bad Sex Award. There are a few scenes in the Gypsy Model that I wonder about, and I did get a commendation in the Maroni Parish news as ‘perhaps going a bit too far.’ I fear my pallid efforts would pale even further into insignificance, though, against the excesses of former winners and nominees. In any case, I was constantly aware of trying to avoid twitching the sensibilities of Robert Buchanan who took great exception to the writings of Gabriel Rossetti and others of the ‘Fleshly School of Poetry’. Invention in the Bad Sex field is unbridled. The Winners list in Wikipedia, will surprise you. Unfortunate past runners-up include both Amises and, I seem to recall, Philip Roth.

How does one get nominated? I wonder. It would be an honour to be up there with Tony Blair, who was in the running in 2013. Of course his work was not of a high enough standard to win. It must be said however that the concept of steamy encounters with Cherie, must rank high in the realms of invention if not fantasy.

The Gypsies in The Gypsy Model

So, what about the Roma? One of my readers told me that, when I got on to all that stuff about the travellers and the gypsies, ‘I lost’ him. I suppose there have always been conflicting views on the travelling community, with romanticism and hostile prejudices tugging this way and that. The conversation I imagined taking place between Kiomi and John Ruskin, proposed that, in a time of social, turmoil their life-style made them a reservoir of culture in a class that was chained to the demands of industrial development. Perhaps they were the folk musicians, the craftsmen, the artistes of their day. Their connection to the circus, to sport and especially their expertise with horses, gave them a level of professional dedication beyond that of most contemporaries. If nothing else, their semi-nomadic lives must have exposed them to a high level of contemplative thinking well beyond the scope even of those who were smugly spreading the benefits of the British Empire round the world.

Not surprisingly, then, the gypsies were popular with artists and writers of the day. Apart from Sandys and Rossetti, Watts- Dunton, and Munnings are recorded as having special interest in the Roma in general and in Keomi in particular.

Don’t sneer. I’ve tried to express something of this in the following verses, which you will recognize as being heavily dependent of the work of John Masefield.

 On the Road

I must take to the road again, to the eternal whims of Fate,

And all I ask is my bow-top, and my patient vanner’s gait,

And the wheel’s kick and the bird song and the harnesses a shakin’,

And a chill mist on the barley, and a cool pink dawn a breakin’.

§

I must take to the road again, for the wanderlust of the Roma

Is a wild call and a clear call that never will be over.

And all I ask is a new day to bring its random treasures,

The pinto’s might, and the blown dust, and morning’s early pleasures.

§

I must take to the road again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the raven’s way and the pilgrim’s way, far from worldly strife.

And all I ask is a sweet song from my loving fellow-rover,

And a quiet sleep, and a sweet dream, when my final day is over.

With apologies to John Masefield.

 

And, what about the artists, their stunners, their muses and their eccentric literary friends? Not everyone’s pot of paint, but whole tomes have been written about the Pre-Raphaelites. So, fat chance of anything very meaningful emerging from the following paragraph, but I’m arrogant enough to give it a go.

For a start, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) was, itself, short-lived. The seven original members (Hunt, Rossetti, Millais, Woolner, Collinson, Michael Rossetti and George Stephens) met in George Millais’s studio in Sept 1848. Out of their rambling discussions, there seems to have emerged an agreement that their aim was to escape the fetters of the Royal Academy, and to paint more naturalistically and vividly than was fashionable. This, they started to do, producing paintings signed alongside the mysterious (and ridicule provoking) initials, PRB. Can it be true that Rossetti’s reputation gave birth to the ‘Penis Rather Better’, tag that started to be bandied about? John Ruskin, however, supported the PRB and was rewarded for his pains with Sandys’s brilliant satire of Millais’s Sir Isumbras at the Ford.

They published a journal, Germ, which failed after a run of only four editions and, until Ruskin gave them some support, their exhibited work came in for a lot of stick. As a group they were disbanded in the early 1850s, but from then to the end of the century, diverse artists came to be seen as Pre-Raphaelites. Included in their number, was Frederick Sandys, alter ego of Sands in the Gypsy Model. Their work and their foibles were diverse. Their ranks included libertines, drunkards, moralists and social reformers. Their models ranged from the lady-like Jane Morris to the whorish Annie Miller and the young gypsy, Keomi Gray. Rather more to Victorian tastes, than to modern ones, they were considered stunners. But let’s leave the stunners and the hangers on for another day. This is already starting to ramble.

 

But let it ramble on. Below is a review I did at Amazo n’s invitation, so I don’t suppose I was cheating (even though I did give it a top rating!

Review of The Gypsy Model for Amazon.

I love it. Well, I would, wouldn’t I, since I wrote it. Amazon invited me to review it though, probably because I bought a copy when it came out on Kindle, to see how the illustrations by Ngaio and my grand-daughter, Fiona, had come out. I have to say, I was delighted. In modesty, I can only leave my readers to draw their own conclusions about the 19C of the Pre-Raphaelites that I tried to convey. Whatever the the limitations of the finished work, it was for me a true labour of love. The three years from conception to publication took me on an odyssey into my family’s history. It took me back to gypsy roots which seemed to touch the world of that Brotherhood of artists, their stunning models and their eccentric literary friends. My researches took me on a journey round the art galleries of the UK, from Bristol, to Birmingham to Liverpool, Port Sunlight and, of course, to Frederick Sandys’s native Norwich. In Cumbria I rubbed shoulders with Ruskin and the Arts and Crafts Movement who’s stained glass graces churches in Staveley, Troutbeck, Ireby and especially in Brampton. In the course of all this a visit to William Morris’s Kelmscott Manor was unforgettable.

The Pre-Raphaelites, and particularly Frederick Sandys, came alive for me through their pictures., I came to believe that, in his painting, ‘Fred Sands’ expressed a growing obsession with his gypsy model. In the end though, it was a Burne-Jones masterpiece ‘The Beguiling of Merlin’ that encapsulated the sort of hopeless spell he fell under.

 

 

 

Yes, the Gypsy Model now exists as an e-book and can be downloaded on Kindle. The pictures have come out well, but there are still glitches in detail and formatting that need twitching. A couple of bits of text have managed to ‘migrate’ and some of the italicized quotes have appeared as normal type. Overall, I’m pleased with the general effect, but would be grateful for comments  on:

bill@bill-macfarlane.co.uk

Reading it again I think it’s a bit like the parson’s egg – not (at) (all) bad. I feel moved to publish a paragraph about it from time to time. The first is already on face book, but, in case you missed it there…

 

There’s no truth in the suggestion that I write ‘soft porn. I don’t even own a pornograph. You can search my house if you like.

However, I do sometimes wonder if some of my purple passages might qualify me for the annual literary Bad Sex Award. There are a few scenes in the Gypsy Model that I wonder about, and I did get a commendation in the Maroni Parish News as ‘perhaps going a bit too far.’ This must be worth something, but I fear my vanilla prose would pale  into even more pallid insignificance, against the excesses of former winners and nominees. In any case, I was constantly aware of trying to avoid twitching the sensibilities of Robert Buchanan who took great exception to the writings of Gabriel Rossetti and others of the ‘Fleshly School of Poetry’. Invention in the Bad Sex field is unbridled. The Winners list in Wikipedia, will surprise you. Unfortunate past runners-up include both Amises and, I seem to recall, Philip Roth.

It would be an honour to be up there with Tony Blair, who was in the running in 2013. Of course his work was not of a sufficient calibre to win. It must be said, however, that the concept of steamy encounters with Cherie, must rank high in the realms of invention if not fantasy.

How does one get nominated? I wonder.

 

 

 

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