Sunday Reading: The Magical Maps of Me

words: Stephanie Victoire image: Lauren Maccabee

I have always wanted to heal all the way through, right from fractured bones in my adolescence to a sad mind in my teens – bruises inflicted on the heart by anything too dear to me. The doctors mended the frame of me but they never spotted the stains left on my organs, or looked closer to find an angry kidney that was storing lifetimes of fears, or the trapdoor to loneliness in my throat.

I’ve always known meditation helps with calming the mind, relieving the body of stress. We paint beautiful places in our heads, don’t we? We search to find our own oceans and meadows. In those places there is peace, euphoria even – our own magic. Like the storyteller I am, I seek the story of me, as a soul inhabiting this body. What has the protagonist been learning along the way? What is the magical world she lives in, that exists invisibly to the external one? What realms are encased in her ribs?

Driven by the moon of Pisces under which I was born on a gentle Taurus day, I was destined to look to dreams to tell me things, to read my worries and fears in my spirit. In ancient medicine, each troubled part of the body represents an aspect of the mental, emotional and even the ancestral self. In our back pains we are storing some sort of guilt; in our high blood pressure we are bottling up our emotions, our deep-rooted anger fights us in fevers. We must change our negative thoughts into positive ones, and if we can map out our minds then why not our bodies?

I decided to journey within and work through every area in my body that had ever caused me tension or pain, which were actually indicated by my emotions. I had come to notice that whenever I self-criticised, my right shoulder seized up. My stomach burned whenever I was afraid. One evening, I created my ceremony: I laid out crystals, lit candles and incense, as if preparing a funeral for myself, setting up for my death. And in a way it was, the death of an old me, an old body.

I closed my eyes and brought my awareness to my right shoulder. As if shrinking down to walk through it, I set off to explore what was there. I was standing in dense brown fog, the ground was arid, cracked and uneven – a place I couldn’t see my way through clearly. I thought: How do I change this and make it positive and beautiful? I broke the fog with the colours of a Nordic sky and sent stars up to twinkle above me. The cracked ground softened into fresh powdered snow. And with this energetic clearing, my right shoulder loosened; I instantly felt lighter. I had released the stagnant energy, set the intention to let go of self-criticism. I wanted to continue. I was feeling the quest of it now, healing myself on this inner-level was liberating. Down I went into my kidney: a dark cave where creatures lurked. The air was cold and I felt frightened. Feelings from where I had been fearful in my life rose to the surface. I wanted them gone. I knew I could use whatever magic I wished to cast them out so I produced my very own Excalibur sword and dealt with each horrid jackal-like being, lancing my way through my anxiety. When the cave was empty, I transformed it into a warm, midnight garden of night-blooming flowers, decorated with fairy lights. I also turned the murky pond of my stomach into a crystalline lake and conjured enchanting water nymphs that sang sweetly to soothe my painful memories.

My body was becoming a vast and wonderful world. I can’t say for certain whether or not the change in my thoughts about myself was the result of this inner enchantment, or the fact that I soon after ended a toxic relationship and travelled the world. But I am a voyager as much as I am a storyteller, in the outer world and the one within, and I choose to navigate through both in perfect harmony.  


Stephanie Victoire is the author of the fairy and folk tale collection, The Other World, It Whispers, out 15 November from Salt Publishing. She is currently working on her novel, The Heart Note and is soon to be travelling around the world in search of more inspiration, folklore and magic. Follow her on Twitter: @StephySunkisser and visit her website.

For more tales of magic, pick up a copy of Oh Comely issue 33

Recipe Friday: Bump-in-the-Night Biscuits

Our collection of Halloween recipes from The Hoxton Street Monster Supplies Cookbook continues with these delightfully frightening Bump-in-the-Night Biscuits. We'll let them introduce the philosophy behind this bake...

"Everyone assumes that monsters are genetically programmed to go ‘bump in the night’. In reality, we all know that it takes years of extracurricular classes and daily practice to perfect the skill. These biscuits will help those of you struggling to pass your ‘Quiet Entrance’ and ‘Art of Surprise’ exams, or nocturnal humans with a malevolent streak."

You will need (makes 10–12 biscuits)

250 g self-raising flour

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger

125 g unsalted butter, softened

100 g  demerara sugar, plus extra for sprinkling (optional)

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

100 g sultanas

75 g currants

50 g mixed peel or chopped glacé cherries

1 large egg, lightly beaten

3–4 tablespoons milk

1 Line a large baking sheet with nonstick baking paper. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in with the fingertips until the mixture resembles ne breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar, orange zest, sultanas, currants and mixed peel or cherries. Pour in the egg and add enough of the milk to form a soft, slightly sticky dough.

2 Drop 10–12 mounds of the mixture on to the prepared baking sheet so that they resemble rocks and sprinkle with a little extra sugar, if using.

3 Bake in a preheated oven, 200°C, for 18–20 minutes until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly, then serve warm. 

For more fiendish recipes, pick up a copy of The Hoxton Street Monster Supplies Cookbook is published by Mitchell Beazley, £12.99 ( Or for a bit of "bump-in-the-night" debunking, read our feature on urban legends in Oh Comely issue 33


Win! A personalised portrait by Roxwell Press

There's nothing as encouraging as fan art, so you can imagine our joy in the office when we were sent this beautiful watercolour in celebration of our Letters issue by Michelle Evans of Roxwell Press. So thrilled were we, that Michelle's painting went straight onto the pages of our latest issue, with the promise of a competition to win some of her work. So, here it is…

Illustration: Lady of Letters by Michelle Evans of Roxwell Press

Illustration: Lady of Letters by Michelle Evans of Roxwell Press

Continuing along the lines of the Lady of Letters, Michelle has offered the prize of a personalised portrait for one lucky reader. "I'd love to paint a woman in her element, doing something she loves to do," says Michelle. "Whether it's being absorbed in a book with her feet in the grass, riding through the city on her bike, or sitting in a coffee shop writing in her journal."

Alternatively, you could choose a loved one and give the prize as a gift. It'll be a one-off, unique painting (size approx 10 x 12")  in the full vibrant colours of opaque watercolour.

Simply click here and answer the question to enter. Closing date 18.11.16 at midnight GMT. Good luck! 

Culture Monday

Anna Meredith, who plays the Simple Things festival this week. Portrait: Lauren Maccabee for issue 33. 

Anna Meredith, who plays the Simple Things festival this week. Portrait: Lauren Maccabee for issue 33

Another week, another opportunity to throw yourself into our cultural picks. From photography to film, music to MADE, there's masses on this week - the problem will probably be deciding where to start! Do let us know what you get up to, and if there is anything you think we really should be checking out ourselves...


Unveil’d Photography @ various venues, Exeter (20 to 23 October)

Helen Marten: Drunk Brown House @ Serpentine, London (until 20 November) 

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories @ National Museum Cardiff (until 20 November 2016)



Cambridge Film Festival @ various venues, Cambridge (20 to 27 October)

Aberdeen Film Festival @ various venues, Aberdeen (17 to 26 October) 



James Vincent McMorrow @ The Roundhouse, London (17 October) 

The Duke Spirit @ Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol, London (17, 18, 19 & 20 October). Read our interview with Leila Moss in Oh Comely issue 31.

The Simple Things festival @ various venues, Bristol (22 and 23 October), featuring issue 33 interviewee Anna Meredith 

Slow Club @ Brighton, Bath, Leicester (20, 21, 22 October) 


Theatre & Comedy

Lost in the Stars @ Union Chapel, London (17 to 19 October) 

Bridget Christie: Because you demanded it @ Leicester Square Theatre, London (19 & 20 October)

Cathy Come Home @ Bristol, Southend, Luton (21, 22, 24 and 27 October) 



Undiscovered Islands @ Stanfords, London (19 October)

New Writing @ Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London (24 October) 



Bloomsbury Festival @ Bloomsbury, London (19 to 23 Oct)

MADE London Marylebone @ One Marylebone, London (20 to 23 October)

How To Hygge Festival @ The London EDITION, London (22 and 23 October) 

Battle of Ideas 2016 @ Barbican, London (22 & 23 October)


Show us where you've been and tell us what we should include in next week's round-up via our Twitter or Instagram.

There’s Magic In The Air (A Sunday afternoon in Amsterdam in the 90s)

Prince Glass Votive Candle, available from Flaming Idols at Etsy. Spot the reference to this candle in issue 33 of Oh Comely. 

Prince Glass Votive Candle, available from Flaming Idols at Etsy. Spot the reference to this candle in issue 33 of Oh Comely. 

words: Anniki Sommerville

I switched over to the local cable channel. It was Sunday. I hadn’t thought about what day it was. If you go out four nights out of seven it feels irrelevant. There was a Catholic mass on. Like many of my generation, I only believed in God in those desperate, dark moments when I needed serious help. Like the night I passed out outside the queue for The Roxy and woke up not knowing who I was. Or the time I ate hash and wanted to curl up and die. This priest looked familiar. I flipped the channel. An MTV VJ popped up - an inane grin plastered across her open, freckled face.

‘At number 9 we have Mr Big with ‘I’m the One,’ and at 8 we have a surprise newcomer!’

I flipped the channel again. CNN was supposed to be an American news channel but mainly showed weather and images of boring, business men rushing around trying to catch planes. It was an eerie kind of world that I’d never fit into. I thought about Mum who’d be making a giant vat of ratatouille and listening to Joni Mitchell. There was no food in the fridge except for a half-eaten ready meal lasagne. I flipped again and the VJ returned.

‘Here at number seven we have Prince and his tribute to a very special girl. This is ‘Diamonds and Pearls,’ and……. Lola, we’re thinking about ya! Stay cool.’

She blew a kiss and the screen dissolved into Prince sitting astride a red, velvet piano stool. It was unfair that he had so much talent and drive and yet here I was lying on a Sunday afternoon, doing absolutely nothing, with absolutely nothing on the agenda for quite some time. How come some people were infused with so much talent? Was it just like nature where some animals were more powerful and the rest of us just cowered in the bushes, hoping we’d survive another day? Hang on - had she just mentioned my name? MY NAME?!

‘All I can do is offer you my love.’

Yes she had mentioned my name. It was clear! I felt a surge of emotion. It was obvious that Prince had penned this song JUST FOR ME, knowing full well what I’d been going through. He knew I’d been burning the candle at both ends -  in fact just burning the candle completely till it was a blackened, smoking stump. I’d always had this sneaking suspicion that our lives were connected in some way and here was the proof. He was E.T. reaching out his glowing red finger and telling me he loved me and to STAY COOL.

Lighting a cigarette, I thought about the possibility that we might actually have a relationship - not just a long distance relationship but one where we actually lived in the same house (he’d give me one of those great names like he did with all his muses and he’d dress me up in a violet basque. No in fact he wouldn’t MAKE me do anything because he was a feminist. He’d just steer me in the right direction). Something significant was happening in this moment. Okay I was tired and hadn’t slept properly for two days. Okay the blackened candle and all that but at the moment who cared?

I pulled the curtains shut with a bit too much vigour and one fell down. Two drawing pins tumbled to the floor.  Prince would be appalled at the state of the flat and the fact that there was a strand of dried spaghetti stuck to the wall. He would arrive soon. He’d track me down pretty easy. There weren’t many English girls living in this old, decrepit house with spaghetti stuck to the walls. Until his arrival, I just needed sleep.

Sometimes it’s hard to know when you’re asleep and when you’re awake. This is especially true if your thoughts are spiralling. My connection with Prince was weakening. The TV was on and maybe four hours had passed but there was no mention of Prince now. I was suspended in the midst of a rapture. The meaning of life would soon become apparent. Would I ever write a song as good as Prince? Would I even write a line? Or word?

We are all closely linked. All the songs that have ever been written are speaking to us. I was waiting for Prince. I was using my brain to attract him into my life. I would be his next muse. I would prove myself worthy of his attention.

Soon he would arrive and my life would finally begin. The mystery of life would reveal itself. I closed my eyes and waited. 


Anniki Sommerville is a freelance writer and Super Editor at Selfish Mother. She is in the middle of writing a book about her lost teenage years spent in Amsterdam. Follow her on Instagram @annikiselfishmother. Seek out more stories of magic in issue 33 of Oh Comely, on sale now

Meet our new music editor

Photo: Irene Baqué

In issue 33 we say a sad farewell to the wonderful Linnea Enstrom, who has left Oh Comely to start a creative writing course in Sweden. We're delighted to introduce you to Marta Bausells, who will be taking on the role of music editor. To get to know her a bit better, we sat her down for a little chat...

Hello Marta! Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
I'm a freelance writer, editor and curator. I was born and raised in Barcelona. I started out by writing about music and culture at the same time as I studied politics. At the time, I thought they were two separate things and that I'd have to choose, but I later realised that culture is intrinsically linked to society, politics and social action. I then worked for a newspaper there, where I was lucky to report on all sorts of topics – social issues, environment, foreign news – before I moved to London four years ago.

I love that my work has allowed me to learn and explore all sorts of subjects and ideas. I always wanted to go back to writing about culture, though, and I eventually landed a job on the Guardian’s books desk, where I hosted discussions about books, created a series about books set in American cities, chatted to book-lovers around the world daily, and discovered the wonders of the literary internet. Currently, I’m really enjoying working with Literary Hub on covering books from this side of the Atlantic. 

I also do lots of other little things, like a collaboration with Subway Book Review (check it out!), which means I stop book-carrying strangers on the tube and chat to them about what they’re reading! It’s magical. No matter the subject, what I love the most about my job is that I get to meet fascinating people and share their stories. I can't wait to go back to writing about music!

What was the first single you bought? 
The Spice Girls' 'Wannabe'!* It caught me at the exact target age, and everyone at my school was crazy about them for a year.

*If by bought you mean copied on a cassette tape and passed on among friends countless times (oops). But I'm sure I ended up buying it too! 

What was the last gig you went to? 
Well, this is a bit random – but it’s the truth! It was this Catalan guy called Ferran Palau. I had gone back to Barcelona for a few days, it was the end of the summer and it was starting to drizzle (that sticky, humid end-of-summer Mediterranean rain). One neighbourhood was celebrating its yearly festivities, which means the streets are beautifully decorated by neighbours and there are gigs in almost every little square. I had just discovered this guy’s music a few hours earlier in the car, with friends – and there he was. One of those serendipitous musical moments.

What song will always get you up and dancing? 
Anything by Queen. I have a special weakness for 'Don’t Stop Me Now'.

Vinyl, CD or download?
The day I actually have space in the house and money to buy many of them, I’ll go back to vinyls – which is how I grew up listening to music. In the meantime, I’m a Spotify and downloads gal. 

Who, dead or alive, would you most like to interview? 
Frida Kahlo. I visited her house last year in Mexico and I was like “can I just move in here now?”. I would love to have been around her energy when she was alive, even if for five minutes. I am so inspired by how, despite being in horrific and crippling pain, she got up every morning, kicked ass and made the most amazing art – and lived her life in her own terms. 

And if I might cheat and add a couple from the realm of the alive, right now my musical dream interviewee would be Solange – what a queen! I’d love to interview Michelle Obama once she leaves the Oval Office and gets to talk more freely. And Tom Hanks, always. 

Outside of music, what else do you like to do?
Like I said, I love reading. My bedroom is ridiculously full of 'to-be-read piles' – it’s almost like I live around these book towers, and not the other way around. I also love film – I ran a film club with a friend for a while – good television and storytelling podcasts. I used to feel stressed-out or guilty about how little time there is to follow everything, but now I don’t mind being behind on TV shows or anything else. There’s this growing backlog of great culture waiting for me when I get home! What’s not to love?

Let us know a secret...
I don’t like chocolate… (!)


Find out more about Marta on her website, or follow her on Twitter

Recipe Friday: Crunching Bone Toffee

Yes, you read that right. In the run-up to Halloween, we're delighted to be sharing some of the recipes from the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies Cookbook. We're a big fan of Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, who sell "bespoke and everyday items for the living, dead and undead", and this is the first time their classic cookbook has been translated for humans. We'll let them introduce the recipe...

"In days gone by, Bone Toffee was a particular favourite of Werewolves and Giants, as the mouth-watering combination of lightly crushed human bones and sweet toffee was a rare treat. If you’re a stickler for the classics and can source human bones, you can ask your local human dismemberer to crunch them for you. If not, we’re confident you’ll find our 21st-century version of the recipe most agreeable."

You will need: 

Sufficient for 175g of toffee

about 50g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

50g firm toffees

4 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

75g popcorn kernels

1 Melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over a small saucepan of gently simmering water.

2 Meanwhile, unwrap the toffees and put them in a polythene bag. Place on a chopping board and tap firmly with a rolling pin until the toffees have broken into small pieces.

3 Tip the pieces into a small saucepan and add the milk. Cook over the lowest possible heat until the toffee has melted (this will take several minutes, depending on the firmness of the toffee). Remove from the heat.

4 Put the oil in a large saucepan with a tight- fitting lid and heat for 1 minute. Add the popcorn kernels and cover with the lid. Cook until the popping sound stops, then tip the corn out on to a large baking sheet or roasting tin and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

5 Using a teaspoon, drizzle lines of the toffee sauce over the corn until lightly coated. Drizzle with lines of the melted chocolate in the same way. 


For more fiendish recipes, The Hoxton Street Monster Supplies Cookbook is published by Mitchell Beazley, £12.99 ( And to add a bit more magic to your day, pick up a copy of Oh Comely issue 33



Issue 33, Magic, is out now!

Arriving in WHSmiths, independent newsagents and in our shop, Issue 33 - 'Magic' - is officially on sale! 

Photo: Lara Watson

Photo: Lara Watson

There's a little bit of magic - everybody has it. In Issue 33, we celebrate the magic of coincidence, superpowers and sisterhoods and encourage you to create your own urban myth. 

Highlights include: an interview with one of France's most-loved actors, Isabelle Huppert; we meet teenage actor Bebe Cave, chat to experimental musician Anna Meredith and genre-busting singer-songwriter Law Holt and explore the golden beauty of the magic hour. 

To buy our latest issue direct from us, click here

Want a taster of the magazine first? Have a flick through a sample of the issue first

More curious things: Magic

In issue 33 - out on 13 October - we pick out a selection of magic-inspired products, suitable for dressing your home and mortal form. We always find more treats than we can include in the magazine, so - abracadabra! - we've pulled a few extras out of our hats...

Who, with more than a passing interest in magic, could resist a book whose topics include: "Alchemy, Astrology, Chaos Magic, Love Magic, Necromancy, Phantasmagoria, Runes, Shamanism, Talismans, Tarot, Voodoo and Wicca"? Certainly not us. Over 400 pages and with plentiful illustrations, this authoritative book explores all of the above and even more, tracing them from Palaeolithic cages to the digital age. 

The Occult, Witchcraft & Magic: An Illustrated History by Christopher Dell, £24.95, Thames & Hudson 

And should you need something to keep your place in your new book, we think we've found the ideal thing. This bookmark, designed by Barcelona-based Octaveo, is inspired by a nazar, an eye-shaped amulet of Turkish Ottoman origin that’s believed to protect against the evil eye. Made from finely cut metal, with a black finish, you’ll never need to look for the right page again.

Nazar bookmark by Octaevo, £10, Unique & Unity

On the list of things you perhaps don't want to bump into on a dark night - a Belionota Prasina (or Jewel Beetle). That doesn't stop us marvelling at it in this beautiful shot by Goran Liljeberg. There's a whole host of prints to pick from including all kinds of bugs and beasts.

Goran Liljeberg's insect prints, £33, Natural History Direct

Empty Casket specialises in "witchy jewellery, crystals and treasures", meaning that they gave us plentiful inspiration for this Magic-themed issue. We don't really need another tote bag, but we really, really want to be part of their coven. 

Coven tote bag, £6, Empty Casket

We've also been eyeing up this laser cut perspex brooch by Jennifer Loiselle, with the glitter making it extra bewitching (if only we could get our eyeliner to look this good!). The brooch is sold by the British Library, meaning that every purchase helps a wonderful institution. 

Brooch eye blue, £28, British Library  


Ancient alchemists may have been concerned with turning base metals into gold but we'd be pretty pleased simply with keeping our skin soothed and happy over the winter. Hence this kit that harnesses the power of botanicals to leave facial skin, lips and hands feeling hydrated, soft and protected. Magic indeed! 

Grown Alchemist Amenity Kit Gift Set, £19, John Lewis


Order a copy of Oh Comely issue 33 to see more Magic-inspired picks. 

Culture Monday

Georgia O’Keeffe, Abstraction White Rose, 1927. Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 (91.4 x 76.2). Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Gift of TheBurnett Foundation and Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation ©Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Georgia O’Keeffe, Abstraction White Rose, 1927.

Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 (91.4 x 76.2). Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Gift of TheBurnett Foundation and Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation ©Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

The nights are getting longer and the days cooler so even more good reason to throw yourself into all things cultural. To inspire you, here are our pick of events happening this week, ranging across art, film, music and books. One strong piece of advice, if you can get yourself to London - don't forget to visit the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition before it closes at the end of the month - as the curator told us in issue 30, it's a once in a generation chance to see the artist's work in Britain. Enjoy! 



Georgia O’Keeffe @ Tate Modern, London (Until 30 October). Read our interview with the exhibition's curator in issue 30

Jeff Koons @ Newport Street Gallery, London (until 16 October)

Lie of the Land @ Gallery 40, Brighton (until 22 October)

Girl Town @ St Margaret’s House, Bethnal Green, London (until 1 November)



Wild Beasts @ The Junction, Cambridge (10 October)

Sussex Songfest @ Snape Maltings (15 October), featuring issue 33 interviewee Anna Meredith. 

Hackney Wonderland @ various venues, Hackney, London (15 & 16 October)

Mystery Jets @ Coventry, Cambridge, Bath, London (11 to 15 October)



London Film Festival @ various venues, London (until 16 October). Our associate editor, Jason, recommends: 

  • American Honey, directed by Andrea Arnold @ Odeon Leicester Square (11 October)
  • Certain Women, directed by Kelly Reichardt @ Embankment Garden Cinema and Hackney Picturehouse (12 & 13 October)
  • Prevenge, directed by Alice Lowe @ Haymarket and Picturehouse Central (13 & 16 October) 
  • A United Kingdom, directed by Amma Asante @ Curzon Mayfair (11 October)
  • Heal the Living, directed by Katell Quillévéré @ Prince Charles Cinema (14 October)

The Greasy Strangler @ general release (requires a strong stomach!)


London Literature Festival @ Southbank Centre, London (until 16 October)

Birmingham Literature Festival @ various venues, Birmingham (until 16 October)

Waterstones presents Vivienne Westwood @ St James’ Church, Piccadilly, London (14 October) 



Plant Life Drawing @ Ace Hotel, Shoreditch, London (11 October) 

Wool weaving workshop @ Wool BnB, De Beauvoir Town, London (12 October)


Show us where you've been and tell us what we should include in next week's round-up via our Twitter or Instagram.

Sunday Reading: Chasing Rainbows

words : Helen Duncan photo : Tom Eagar

It had rained in the night, but the sky showed signs of clearing. Newly arrived on the Isle of Skye we were ready for adventure and set off along the road to Broadford to explore. Colours danced alongside us on the moor above the Black Lochs. And as we drove Beinn NaCaillich began to shrug off the shawl of grey fog she had wrapped around herself in the night for protection from the mizzle.

The colours – a mere smudge of watery pink turning to orange merging into green and then blue – danced on, wavering above the tawny moor. It became a day of chasing rainbows.

Some appeared in much the same way: broad blocks of colour that painted the mountainside in damp hues, barely there. Others took shape as graceful arches, rising high into the sky, as if to defy the very dampness that had helped to create them.

We drove on, transfixed by the alchemy of light and water. Elements transformed into arcs of colour. Magic happening before us, and all around us, in the air.

We counted seven in all as we traversed an enchanted landscape of druid groves and marshes, moorland and reed beds – at times climbing high on winding mountain roads, at times skirting the sea edge where the glowing amber, deep carnelian, and yellow ochre of the seaweed lay bright against a black shoreline.

The rainbows appeared and disappeared, illuminating Viking past and warrior heritage; places steeped in myth and historical fact in equal measure. And all the while the vibrant colours of autumn, of scarlet rowan berries, russet bracken, and turning leaves, paraded against changing skies that moved from charcoal, slate, and dove, to reveal glimpses of the clearest blue.

At Elgol where empty lobster pots were piled high against the sea wall, we breathed in the view of the Cuillin, its distinctive ridges and peaks still shrouded in cloud.

Weather improving, we took the road back and made our way over to Ord. Stunted birch, warped ash, and gnarled oak cast shadows that belied their stature, stretching out across the green grass as the road made its way down to the sea.

There, the warm light of the late afternoon picked out mussel shells on the beach and fronds of green-grey lichen on the rocks. And as it shifted, past and present merged and parted, like the tide gently lapping at the shore.

Standing alone on the ground-down fragments of sea-life as the sun claimed at last what was left of the day, it felt possible to understand why our ancestors believed the veil between our world and the realm of spirits is at its most diaphanous at this time of year.

I wondered how many others have stood looking out across the water in that very same spot. The retreating waves, like lives that have been lived, returned to the ocean, as more came forth to make their imprint on the sand.

That night, as we stood gazing into the ever-expanding depths of a sky unspoilt by light pollution, we remembered how insignificant we are, how transient our lives. And then – right there! A shooting star struck across the blackness. It was so close.

So close.

To this day I am sure I heard it fizz.


Helen spent the last 12 years as a grantseeker for Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum: her words brought in over £14 million for projects including a major redevelopment. As a writer, she covers the natural world, folkore and fairytale, and special places. She is currently investigating the Welsh concept “Hiraeth” - a longing for one’s homeland.

Discover more stories of everyday magic in issue 33 of Oh Comely, on sale 13 October. 

Celebrate World Post Day

Not-Another-Bill celebrating World Post Day

Not-Another-Bill celebrating World Post Day

Today is World Post Day. As keen letter writers, we don't really need the excuse to put pent to paper, but we were interested to discover the history behind the day. The first World Post Day actually took place in the 1960s to mark the anniversary of the creation of the Universal Postal Union back in 1874. The Union was a way of getting different country's postal systems to work together. Today, with 192 member countries, it means that the stamp you put on the letter to your friend in Australia will be accepted and delivered once it arrives down under.

So let's get posting to celebrating this wonderful achievement! Should you need inspiration, we've got an entire issue of Oh Comely devoted to the joy of Letters.  Or we've got ten ideas for letters to write here. And we love this initiative from our friends at Not-Another-Bill

As a company whose aim to make letterboxes a more magical place they want to give everyone the chance to receive something good. 

To celebrate World Post Day, their pop-up post box will be appearing at various London locations (accompanied by helpful postmen) offering you the chance to send a free postcard. They'll be at The Other Art Fair at Truman Brewery today, 9 October, or you can send one from anywhere in the UK through their website. Check out their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for more information and postal fun. 

Oh Comely issue 32 celebrates Letters. Order your copy (with free postage in the UK) here.



Issue 33 playlist: Dark Magic

Jinnwoo, featured on this issue's playlist, created this exclusive illustration for us. Read the story of how he sees his music before it's written in issue 33, out on 13 October 2016.

Jinnwoo, featured on this issue's playlist, created this exclusive illustration for us. Read the story of how he sees his music before it's written in issue 33, out on 13 October 2016.

Sounds seem louder, more eerie, in the dark. The crackling footsteps against a dirt track, a rustle in the leaves. Lullabies. Creaking doors. But darkness brings out the stars too. Milky pools of moonlight filtered through a forest.

The songs chosen for this playlist have grown out of darkly magical places. Like watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer with your friends, hoping to get a glimpse of Spike. Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child’ hasn’t earned the epithet “supernatural brag song” for no reason, whereas the beautifully creepy ‘Willow’s Song’ from The Wickerman stirs images of cult-like disappearances, orgies and fire. ‘Silent Shout’ by electro duo The Knife is simply what darkness would sound like if it had a sound. Bassy and brooding.

So get your freak on with our issue 33 playlist and plug into Spotify here.

Recipe Friday: Savoury Cheesecake with Roasted Pickled Shallots

We've had a fair few healthy options lately for Recipe Friday and now that our polo necks and opaque black tights are back out of the wardrobe, it's time for something truly hearty, extra tasty and somehow warming whether you eat it hot or cold. 

Everyone loves cheesecake. But do you know what's even better? Cheese-y cheesecake. A really herby, cheddar-y, savoury version with an oatcake crust. Essentially, a cheese pie. You'll want those roasted pickled shallots, or a spicy chutney, to cut through the creaminess. It's also worth making this a few hours in advance as it will set and let the flavours develop nicely if you leave time to chill it after baking. This keeps for a good four days in the fridge if it isn't gobbled up in the first sitting. 

savoury cheesecake.jpg

You will need:

200g fine-milled oatcakes, crushed up
125g butter, melted
350g cream cheese
150g double cream
2 eggs
100g cheddar cheese, cut into tiny squares
a handful of finely chopped chives
a sprinkling of thyme
a few pickled shallots
olive oil

1 Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees C.

2 Give the oatcakes a good whack in a freezer bag with a rolling pin until they're finely crushed, pop them in a bowl and then pour over your melted butter. Give it a good stir.

3 Press the oatcake mixture into a small non-stick bread tin and shape it up the sides with a teaspoon. Chill for 30 minutes.

4 While that's chilling, make your filling. Whisk the cream cheese, double cream and eggs together until silky and add a third of your diced cheese and chives, a sprinkle of thyme and a good twist of salt and pepper.

5 Scatter your remaining cheese cubes on top and place in the oven for 40 minutes.

6 Take the savoury cheesecake out of the oven when it's still a bit wobbly in the middle, but browned on top.

7 Leave to cool. Once cool, chill in the fridge.

8 When you're ready to eat a slice, roast some pickled shallots in the oven first for around half an hour. Place them in a greaseproof tin with olive oil and remove when they've started to caramelise and go crisp at the edges.

9 Serve a generous slab of cheesecake hot or cold with the roasted shallots and a green salad with traffic-light tomatoes. 

Contribute to our 'Return' issue

Photo: Liz Seabrook

Photo: Liz Seabrook

Winter - a time to re-read your favourite books, head home and review the year's hopes. Take stock of how far you've come and go back to bed. Dream deep before starting afresh. 

Issue 34 - out in December - will be themed on 'Return' and we're looking for your contributions. 

To be considered, email a 100-word outline of your idea to, along with two samples of your work by Monday 10 October. Please state 'Issue 34 contributions' in the subject header. 

Unfortunately we don't accept fiction or poetry samples. 

Look forward to hearing your ideas! 


Culture Monday

Duwa a and Shahd Sarshan, Forty Out of One Million, Syrian Collateral, Kai Wiedenhöfer, 2015. Part of Childhoods @ Side Gallery

Duwa a and Shahd Sarshan, Forty Out of One Million, Syrian Collateral, Kai Wiedenhöfer, 2015. Part of Childhoods @ Side Gallery

And suddenly we're in October. We can hardly believe that we've been compiling these cultural tips for a couple of months now! Anything you'd like to see more or less of? Let us know. And we always love to hear your tips too. 



Childhoods @ Side Gallery, Newcastle (until 27 November)

Ai Weiwei: Cubes and Trees @ Downing College Cambridge (until 9 October)

Frieze @ Regent's Park, London (6 to 9 October)

The Other Art Fair @ Truman Brewery, London (6 to 9 October) 



Campfire Club @ London, E3 (7 October) 

Eastern Promise @ Platform, Glasgow (7 & 8 October) 



London Film Festival @ various venues, London (5 to 16 October)

Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival @ various venues, Edinburgh (6 to 20 October) 

The Philadelphia Story @ Kinema & Kocktails, Cellar Door, London (9 October)

Backyard Cinema Lost World @ London, SE1 (until 22 October) 


Theatre and Comedy

Epic Sundays @ British Museum, London (9 October) 

Josie Long @ Soho Theatre, London (until 16 October) 



London Literature Festival @ Southbank Centre, London (5 to 16 October) 

Daunt Books Autumn Festival @ Daunt Books, Marylebone, London (6 & 7 October)

Birmingham Literature Festival @ various venues, Birmingham (6 to 16 October) 

Explorer’s Sketchbooks @Stanfords, London (6 October) 



Letters Live @ Freemasons Hall, London (4 to 8 October) (And for even more letters, don't forget to check out Oh Comely, issue 32)

Cookbook Confidential: How to Break Into the Restaurant Industry @ Foyles, Charing Cross Road (5 October) 

Crafty Fox Market @ Bussey Building, Peckham, London (8 and 9 October)

Norwich Does Vintage @ OPEN, Norwich (8 October) 


Show us where you've been and tell us what we should include in next week's round-up via our Twitter or Instagram.

Recipe Friday: Chickpea Dip

Colourful chickpea-based dips. Photos Andy Sewell

Colourful chickpea-based dips. Photos Andy Sewell

We're big fans of the book The Kitchen Shelf by Eve O'Sullivan and Rosie Reynolds (Phaidon), all about how to use the basics in your food cupboard to whip up a range of treats. 

Today we're sharing their ultra simple chickpea dip recipe - it's tasty by itself but also a great base for flavoursome additions. In issue 32 you can find out how to use it to stir up a trio of nibble accompaniments - beet and cumin dip; smokey red pepper dip; and pea and mint dip - or have fun inventing your own! 

Chickpea Dip

Serves 4

You'll need:

400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 clove garlic, crushed

4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve

salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 Put all the ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth, then check the seasoning.

2 Serve immediately, drizzled with extra oil, or cover and chill until ready to use. 


Order issue 32 to see more delicious recipes from The Kitchen Shelf, or pick up a copy of the book here.


Culture Monday

Natasha Khan photographed for Oh Comely issue 32 by Clare Hewitt 

Natasha Khan photographed for Oh Comely issue 32 by Clare Hewitt 

What's happening this week? As usual, we're bringing you a selection of the best cultural offerings going on around the UK. Seen anything we really should know about? Then get in touch and let us know


- By the Sea Festival @ Margate (30 September & 1 October), featuring Oh Comely issue 32 star, Natasha Khan, aka Bat For Lashes. 

- Pictish Trail @ Leith Theatre, Edinburgh (1 October) 


Art and exhibitions

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize (until 2 October) @ Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

Jukebox, Jewkbox! @ The Jewish Museum, London (until 16 October)

- Hand Craft Manchester @ Manchester Craft & Design Centre (until 30 October) 



- Prize Winning Authors: Discover a Future Classic @ Waterstones Bath (26 September) and Liverpool (27 September) 

- Meet Maria Semple @ Waterstones Islington, London (28 September). Read our review of Maria’s Where’d You Go Bernadette? in issue 32

- Wales Book of the Year Showcase event @ Waterstones, Cardiff (29 September) 

- Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor @ The Institute of Light, Hackney, London (30 September) 



- Raindance Film Festival @ London (until 2 October)

- The Girl With All The Gifts screening and Q&A with MR Carey @ Picturehouse Liverpool at Fact (30 September) 



- Conflict Cafe @ Waterloo, London (29 to 2 October) 

- Riposte Presents Ways of Looking @ Patriot Square, London (30 September) 

- Aberdeen Minstry of Crafts @ Methodist Church, Crown Terrace, Aberdeen (2 October) 

- Sunday Papers Live @ Cambridge Union (2 October)


Show us where you've been and tell us what we should include in next week's round-up via our Twitter or Instagram.

Recipe Friday: Quinoa, Plum and Cardamom Frangipane Pudding

In our final instalment of delicious wholesome recipes from Alex Hely-Hutchinson of London's 26 Grains restaurant is this very autumnal dessert. Alex says, "I could tell when the summer holidays were coming to an end when my mum starting baking her buttery plum pie slices. She made little sponge pillows for the fruits – when baked, the sponge grows sweeter while the plums caramelise on top and become tart in the middle. This is my version of her pie. I adore the earthiness of the quinoa set against the plums and the maple syrup. I like to bake it in a rectangular tin so everyone can get a little half-plum square of their own."

Serves 12–15

You will need:

300g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the tin
150g quinoa flakes
150g ground almonds
Seeds from 20 cardamom pods, ground in a mortar and pestle
1½ teaspoons sea salt
200ml maple syrup
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
3 medium eggs, beaten
6 plums, halved and pitted
Crème fraîche, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Grease and line a small brownie tin, about 25 × 20cm.

Beat together the butter, quinoa, almonds, cardamom seeds, salt, maple syrup and vanilla until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until nicely incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and top with the plums, cut sides up, gently pushing them into the frangipane. Bake for 45–50 minutes, or until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Leave to cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares and serve with a good dollop of crème fraîche.

Alex Hely-Hutchinson's Quinoa Plum Pudding.

Alex Hely-Hutchinson's Quinoa Plum Pudding.

26 Grains by Alex Hely-Hutchinson is published by Square Peg at £20, out now.

26 Grains by Alex Hely-Hutchinson is published by Square Peg at £20, out now.

Brighton Art Fair / MADE BRIGHTON 2016

Fancy some creative inspiration this weekend? Brighton Art Fair / MADE BRIGHTON is happening from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 September at Corn Exchange at the Dome, Church Street, Brighton.

Tutton and Young are hosting a joint art, craft and design fair, featuring fifty each of the best contemporary artists and designer/makers from the UK and abroad. Showing and selling their work directly to the public, they promise an inspiring balance between established and emerging artists and makers. 

Tickets are £7.50. Find out more and buy your tickets here