Cheer Up Luv – a photo project documenting women who have been harassed

CHRISTINA

CHRISTINA

You’re lost in your own world, until some stranger decides to interupt your thoughts, with the command to “Cheer Up”. And that’s at the lesser end of things we’ve had shouted at us. Cheer Up Luv is an online project set up by photojournalist Eliza Hatch to document women who have experienced sexual harassment in public.

KORANTEMA

KORANTEMA

"I was 19 and had just moved to Paris. I was on a crowded train and this guy put his hands on my hips and started grinding on me. I stepped on his toes as hard as I could and he finally let go. I stormed out of the train straight after." JULIETTE

"I was 19 and had just moved to Paris. I was on a crowded train and this guy put his hands on my hips and started grinding on me. I stepped on his toes as hard as I could and he finally let go. I stormed out of the train straight after." JULIETTE

 

As Eliza explains, “We toughen up from such a young age and learn to brush off and shut out unwanted comments you get from men. By the time you are 23 you are used to mild sexual harassment, and most of the time women rarely talk about it. So I think it is extremely important to photograph women in their daily surroundings, and give them a chance to say something back.

KRUPA

KRUPA

Women from around the world have shared their stories (including our writer Marta) to help flip a story of victimisation into one of empowerment.

MARTA

MARTA

Head to the website to view more cheerupluv.com, and follow the project on Instagram @cheerupluv

#ohcobookclub Dana Spiotta's Innocents and Others

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We're reading Dana Spiotta's Innocents and Others for the next #OhCoBookClub – join us in London on the 8 November for cocktails and book chat!

Meadow Mori and Carrie Wexler grew up together in Los Angeles, and both became film-makers. 

Meadow makes challenging documentaries; Carrie makes successful feature films with a feminist slant. The two friends have everything in common – except their views on sex, power, movie-making and morality. And yet their loyalty trumps their different approaches to film and to life. 

Until, one day, a mysterious woman with a unique ability to cold-call and seduce powerful men over the phone – not through sex, but through listening – becomes the subject of one of Meadow's documentaries. Her downfall, and what makes her so extraordinarily moving, is that she pretends to be someone she is not.

We're utterly gripped and can't wait to discuss it with you! 

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Buy the book herehere, or here (links aren't affiliated), or from your favourite local bookshop.

If you're not in London, and you'd like to host an #OhCoBookClub group, get in touch with our Book Club Editor, Terri-Jane, on twitter @terrijane or by email terri-jane@icebergpress.co.uk. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the book, so don’t forget to tag @ohcomelymag and #OhCoBookClub on instagramtwitter, and facebook

Sunday Reading: What I tasted

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words: olivia potts

photo: deborah dewbury-langley

When my mother died, I lost a recipe.

Her death was sudden and unexpected. The day before, we talked normally, knowing nothing of what lay ahead. We talked about her library books, my job, Emmerdale

If I’d known she was going to die, I might have asked the important questions: what do I need to know about childbirth? How do you get curry stains out of a white shirt? How do you make your chilli con carne?

But I never asked those questions. I found myself – 25, motherless, heartbroken – not knowing things I never knew I wanted to know. Amongst those were her dishes. Losing her meant losing her food; I had never once asked for a recipe, and now it was too late.

Until it ended, I hadn’t realised how important food was to our relationship. Now, I can see it was her main way of conveying sympathy and care. She was not obsessive about food, like I am; she didn’t derive any joy from standing over a stove, or hosting a dinner party. The food she made was just for her family, for us. But every mouthful was carefully and meticulously prepared.

Whenever I was poorly – I was a sickly child, and an even sicklier teenager – my mother made minestrone soup. She would sit opposite me at the kitchen table, watching quietly as slowly, spoonful by spoonful, I ate it, and then she would walk me slowly, quietly around the garden. All soups are nourishing, but this soup was special. It was made with care in both senses. It was full of love, patience and effort. But it was also careful; everything chopped meticulously, placed in neat piles, and then one by one, dropped in a big pot in a preordained order. I needed to recreate this soup. The entirety of my mother’s cooking and love seemed bound up in minestrone. So I began trying to make it from memory. I knew it involved tiny pasta, and bacon and a lot of vegetables. 

I knew that those vegetables were diced precisely. I bought pasta and bacon, and I diced vegetables precisely. I threw them in a pot and thought good thoughts.

My first attempt was wrong. So was my hundredth. I drowned in soups, unable to replicate the taste. I could get close, but it was never quite right. It was never my mother’s soup. I turned to the internet, and spent nights gazing at search results for soup recipes, eliminating possibilities: no, no, no. Of all dishes, minestrone must be one of the hardest to recreate. There is no such thing as an authentic recipe; it has as many variations as it has cooks. 

Years passed, measured in failed soups. The grief eased, or at least changed: it became quieter. A looming adversary became a stolid, bitter companion. I could see past it, but it was always there.

A few months ago, when my father decided to move out of our old house, he offloaded most of my mother’s books on me. Among them were her cookbooks. In truth, I could never remember her actually using a cookbook. But here they were.

I flicked idly through them. I almost didn’t spot the minestrone soup. But as soon as I began reading, I realised: this was the recipe. This was my mother’s minestrone soup. I studied the method, line by line, and pictured my mum dicing, frying, stirring, the intricate ballet of her perfect soup. I closed the book and looked at the front cover. 

It was Delia’s Complete Cookery Course. My mother’s minestrone soup was Delia’s minestrone soup. I had been searching for this recipe, experimenting, testing this recipe for three years only for it to be in one of the most famous cookery books ever published.

But now I have it. I make this soup in the pot that my mother used – and finally, I make it as she did. And it tastes like home.

 

This story originally appeared as one of our 'stories of the senses' in issue 33 of Oh Comely. We were delighted to hear that Olivia won the category of Fresh Voices in Food Writing at this year's The YBFs with an edited version of this piece. You can see read more of Olivia's writing on her blog and follow her on Twitter

Oh Comely loves... The Other Art Fair | 5-8 October | Old Truman Brewery | London

Female Artists take the lead at The Other Art Fair 

The Other Art Fair is a platform for emerging artists. And this year, we're loving the fact that over half of the 130 participating artists in The Other Art Fair are women. In an industry widely considered 'pale, male and stale' - this is your chance to meet the new female stars of the art world. Here's a peek at some of our faves:

Nina Brook - 'Parasol Paradise

Nina Brook - 'Parasol Paradise

Carolina Mizhrai - Avatar Collection

Carolina Mizhrai - Avatar Collection

Fei Alexeli - 'No Bad Days'

Fei Alexeli - 'No Bad Days'

Michelle Heron - 'Jones Dairy'

Michelle Heron - 'Jones Dairy'

On display at Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QR, from Friday 6 October until Sunday 8 October, ticket info at theotherartfair.com

Sunday Reading: Eight Eight Eight

words: jess morgan

photo: katie silvester

 

 

The best thing about the CD player was the punching in and skipping straight to the best songs without all the clumsy rewinding and tape-turning to cue up. The clever machine knew exactly where to find it. Our silver separates hi-fi had glossy dials for the volume which twisted silently and weightlessly and were always cold to the touch. The horizontal sliver in the tuner was gently backlit. A red needle would slide back and across the number line with the turn of another beautiful dial. Dad still talks about those dials.

That morning, I made a plan to get up early. I was going to get my Cher album from where it was in the rack, press the first clicky button and watch as the faithful little motor offered up a wobbly looking tray from the front of the unit. Nose to nose with the grid of numbered buttons, I’d punch in track eight and just listen to it.

The lights were still off in the living room, curtains still drawn, no scuffs of footsteps from the floor above and no bedside radio. I wanted to go straight for track eight – every word, every bass thump and every scrunch of the straggling guitar solo. It’d always feel like an exercise in restraint when there were people around – a fight to hold the corners of my mouth steady. I was up and dressed now though, secretly supercharged with all those complicated little electrons ricocheting against each other, while everyone else was asleep.

The sound wasn’t coming out. Anxious little fingers started pressing eight and hitting play, on, off, carefully inviting another increment of volume with the cool dials. Eight... eight... eight... eight, but still nothing came. Nothing. For an age, nothing. Then, the percussive clack of a dozen curtain rings smacking together as light burst into the room. Dad, surprised to see me up and dressed so early, wandered curiously over. It was lucky he’d not been a minute or so earlier and seen me pummelling the buttons with an eight year old’s untamed frustration.

“It’s a bit early," Dad said.

He reached to the back under the tuner and pulled out a set of headphones. They weren’t like the flimsy ones we had for our Walkmans that we’d always get our hair caught in. These ones were heavy and felt as if they’d slide off at any minute without a careful balancing act to keep them in place. The ear pads covered my ears entirely and Dad adjusted the headband from the sides, making them as small as they would go ­ though they’d never get quite small enough. They came with a string cable attached that was ruffled with wear and soft. At the very end, there was a quarter inch jack –­ the kind reserved for something more serious than our homemade radio shows.

Dad plugged the headphones into the amp, put the volume down low and flicked the one switch that I’d omitted to find in the grand plan. The opening bars to track one blared out of the cans. I returned Dad’s thumbs up and let it play. Piano keys pounding, a string section rising and crunching electric guitar signalled, as with many plays before, the unfolding of my favourite record and same mission to appear aloof ­– between euphoria and bewildering self-consciousness. It’s tight grip, and the precarious positioning of the headphones seemed to keep me from skipping forward or dialling in that later part of the record that I so wanted to hear.

As soon as Dad was gone with the tray of tea and toast, I slid the smooth fake leather ear-pads backwards off my ears. The sound of the radio had kicked in upstairs – footsteps and running water would soon follow. I put the headphones back where they had been and returned the CD back to its plastic case and its space in the rack. I never tried that again.

Twenty-two years on, I still play that album – on the same system of separates that was handed down to me – speakers, cables and the units with all of those complicated buttons. Track one still gives me the jitters but I rarely make it as far as track eight. When Dad comes round, we enthuse over those dials. They still twist and turn as silkily as ever, even though I keep the volume low, in a terraced house with its walls as thin as Bible paper. I can stand there any day, in front of the display, heart beating, burning up with the memories of growing up with so much music in our house. Somehow the metal always stays so cool. 

Jess Morgan is a singer-songwriter living in Norwich. Her first love will always be Cher in the film Moonstruck. Listen to ‘Come To The Opera With Me, Loretta’ and follow Jess on instagram.

 

 

 

Contribute your personal stories to issue 40

Photo by Cathy McKinnon

Issue 40 is out in December and we're looking for your contributions.

For this issue, we're especially interested in your first person stories about rituals. Whether they be daily or yearly, done alone or with someone else, as long as they are meaningful to you.

To be considered, email a 100-word outline of your idea to ohcomely@icebergpress.co.uk, along with two samples of your work by Friday 29 September. Please state 'Issue 40 contributions' in the subject header. 

Unfortunately we don't accept fiction or poetry samples. We do try and get back to everyone but we're a really small team so we're sorry if we don't get a chance. 

We look forward to hearing your ideas! 

September story: 15 September 2004

 illustration maggie chiang

 illustration maggie chiang

 words aimee-lee abraham

 

You were a child this morning. This morning is a world away.

You’re ten, and you’re in the cloakroom when it happens. Of course you’re in the cloakroom when it happens. I’m sorry to tell you that this kind of twisted inconvenience will become a hallmark. Better get used to it, kid.

Right now, though, you’re not used to it. Not one bit. That’s okay. How could you be? You’re ten, and you’re not even sure if you’ve crossed the line. No one else has crossed the line in your class, not that you know of.

All you have is an instinct, an inkling founded upon the sun-stained leaflets you’ve seen stacked up in the GP’s office, their pages full of clip-art girls, all of them clutching hot water bottles and chocolate bars. All you know is that you just felt a hot trickle, followed closely by cold shock. All you know is that you want your Mum. What now?

There’s excitement, dread, the kind of adrenaline you’ll experience only a handful of times since. It feels like a requited glance. It feels like the delicious unravelling that comes when you’re getting to truly know another person. It feels like jumping off a cliff. More of that later. Let’s deal with this one step at a time.

The walk home from school that day is no different to any other, not really. Except this time it’s less of a stroll, more of a casual run. There’s no time to stop for penny sweets.

As you half-jog, you try to be sympathetic about whatever melodrama unfolded at lunch, to fill all the right spaces with sighs, but every syllable that runs from Jennifer’s mouth is unintelligible, like she’s dribbling hot glue down her uniform. What does she know, anyway? She’s just a child. You were a child this morning. This morning is a world away.

Suddenly, you’re something else, something grey and in-between. A little woman. All you can hear is the rush of blood – to your head, and perhaps to the other place, too. You are melting, and so is Jennifer, and so is the pavement. Your soles are sinking like quicksand. Your limbs are dead weights. Your skirt is too tight; your collar is a Boa constrictor.

When you wave goodbye, you crumble and stumble up the garden path as fast as you can. You’ll see Jennifer tomorrow, if the sky can hold up until then, if you make it. Double maths and a spelling test, first thing. You’ll later call this pathetic fallacy. Right now you call it lame.

When you finally put the key in the door, you pretend not to hear your mother when she asks how your day has been, even though you want nothing more than to collapse into her, and plead for a bedtime story.

You retreat, run to the bathroom, lock the door. You see the stain, a suspicion confirmed in cloth. You recoil at the suddenness, at the sadness. This is a loss, as well as a gain.

No one told you about how complex this act would be, how loaded a bodily function could feel. It will represent so much over the years. You will bleed relief. You will bleed grief. You will panic when you bleed, and panic even harder when you don’t. Your ovaries will torment you, and cause you extreme pain. You’ll love them anyway, thank them for doing their job. It’s funny because nothing has changed yet, not really, but these four walls feel less solid, somehow. The ground: gelatinous. The relics of childhood are suddenly stark, inappropriate, out of context.

You thought you’d be happy about this transition, or at least less bothered. You’ve seen the moment play out countless times, in vanilla-scented advertisements where the women laugh over salad and cartwheel because they can. You’ve had 'The Talk'. You’ve read about it by torchlight, in Sugar and Mizz, in Danielle Steel novels stolen from your aunt’s shelf. You’re prepped, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready.

And so you steady yourself, lean against the cold plastic panelling of the tub your mother bathed you in, back when we were shiny and new. What use do you have for rubber ducks now, what use for the mermaid Barbie with her kaleidoscopic tail and Rapunzel hair, what use for the no-more-tears shampoo? They’re all designed for screaming children, not for you.

Tomorrow you’ll feign a different sickness, take three steps at once. When you borrow your mother’s razor without asking, you’ll seek out legs smooth as silk, and plan to go without tights. Instead, you’ll bleed even more. You’ll immediately take out a whole chunk of your ankle, and your skin will become effervescent, the wound fizzing like a soluble vitamin you’ll later drop into water when you’re hungover. It’ll scar, and you’ll look at it and laugh when you’re 23. It marks how far you've come. 

Aimee-lee Abraham is a London-based writer and editor who dreams of running back to the Welsh hills. Instagram @aimlee.abraham

Discover three more 'September stories' in issue 38 of Oh Comely, out now. 

Oh Comely loves... Erin M Riley's tapestry

 Erin M. Riley, Self Portrait 1

 Erin M. Riley, Self Portrait 1

 

Tapestry: Here & Now on display now at The Holburne Museum, Bath until 1 October 2017.  This exhibition features innovative and contemporary approaches to tapestry.

"My practice is informed by imagery that is shared and transferred online, through text, email and temporary mediums. Flirtations and intimate dialogues are informed by candid moments of deep intimacy and trust via the shared image. I use my own body as a commitment to my work to stay vulnerable and open. Self Portrait 1 is from a series of imagery that was sent via text in the beginnings of a courtship, this series is woven differently than my typical works as it combines tapestry techniques and "skill" to delineate hierarchy of content," says Erin of her work.

You can view Erin's work as part of Tapestry: Here & Now, an ambitious survey of contemporary tapestry. It's on show at the Holburne Museum, Bath until 1 October 2017. 

Exhibited artists: Valerie Kirk, Barbara Heller, Aino Kajaniemi, Akayo Matsumura, Misao Watanabe, Yasuko Fujino, Ai Ito, Saori Sakai, Rolands Krutovs, Kristin Sæterdal, Tonje Høydahl Sørli, Caron Penney, Fiona Rutherford, Sara Brennan, Jilly Edwards, Fiona Hutchinson, Joan Baxter, Pat Taylor, Philip Sanderson and Erin M Riley. 

 

 

Mollie Clothier's 'Perplexity' Photography Project

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We're delighted to share Mollie Clothier's 'Perplexity' photography project... Mollie is a fashion and fine art photographer whose work explores psychological matters. She's 22 and currently living in Dorset, having graduated from Falmouth University in July.

Describe what this photo series is about... "Perplexity proposes to tackle the apprehension that surrounds mental health, normalising its impulses to the viewer through the use of recognisable movements and objects. This physicality attempts to represent the intuitive gestures and sensory responses that occur as a result of an anxiety disorder." 

How was the idea for this project born? Was it down to personal experience? What do you hope others will gain from seeing these images? "My projects always seem to be focused around psychological themes surrounding mental health, interested by the way we not only perceive ourselves, but how we acknowledge each other. This project in particular has been based on my own experience with anxiety, due to the frustration that I so often felt when seeing very typical black and white moody images that are supposedly representing anxiety and depression. This isn't how I feel when experiencing a particularly bad patch of anxiety, so I was interested in averting this stigma into something that would catch people's attention and raise awareness about mental health at the same time." 

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The images are so striking, did you pick the vibrant colours on purpose? Are the colour choices significant?  "Thank you! Yes, the choice of vibrant colours, with the fashion, props and borders were all chosen based on  information gained from art therapists and colour tests, combined with SS17 fashion at the time." 

Who is the model? How did you pick them? Did they gain something from the shoot too? "The model in this series was a close friend who has also suffered with anxiety. I made this decision as it meant that when trying to communicate such personal and sensory feelings, my intent could be achieved more accurately. Using somebody who understands these afflictions helped to create an honest and emotive portrayal without having to capture somebody curled up in a ball."  

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What other projects do you have in the pipeline? "Having focused specifically on anxiety disorder here, I am interested in exploring other areas of mental health through the same fashion context, always interested in finding and listening to other people's stories." 

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You can view Mollie's work on her website

Women Who Changed the World: Annette Kellerman

words: frances ambler

illustration: maria martini

 

Our cover girl for issue 38 is Annette Kellerman – the swimming star who challenged Victorian perceptions about women’s bodies by ditching pantaloons and skirts and daring to bare her flesh while swimming. It’s Annette who is responsible for the swimming costume as we know it today

Record-breaking swimmer, the highest paid women in vaudeville, a health and fitness pioneer, the first major actress to both appear nude and to wear a moveable mermaid costume on film – out of all of Annette Kellerman’s notable achievements, it was her own line of one piece costumes, the foundation of modern swimwear, of which she was most proud,for it helped liberate women, allowing them – for the first time – to really swim.

Born in Australia in 1887, Annette wore steel braces as a child and took swimming lessons to strengthen her weak legs. She took to the sport like the proverbial duck to water. To help her family's finances, she became a professional swimmer. As a record breaker, Annette travelled the world raising publicity, in London swimming in the polluted Thames; in Paris, racing men in the Seine. She was one of the first women to attempt to swim the Channel.

While for most of the western world, pantaloons, skirts, even corsets, were still the norm for women’s ‘bathing’, Annette wore a short legged, non-skirted costume to compete for Australia. Invited to perform for British royalty in 1905, she sewed a pair of black stockings onto her men's swimsuit, creating a full-length one-piece “figure suit”. “I can’t swim wearing more stuff than you hang on a clothesline,” she sniffed. Such an ensemble saw her being arrested on a beach in Massachusetts for indecency. From the subsequent publicity, she designed and sold her suits worldwide, one step towards liberating the female body.

Annette also challenged Victorian perceptions of women’s physicality. Her performances combined a kind of underwater ballet with high dives, her choreographed moves with her ‘Kellerman girls’ an early form of synchronised swimming. She starred in highly successful films too, appearing unashamedly nude in the 1916 film, A Daughter of the Gods.

“I insist that swimming is not only a splendid sport for women, but that it is the sport for women,” Annette said, benefits ranging from the physical to the psychological. “If more girls would swim and dance, instead of rushing into matrimony as the only joy in the world, there would be fewer divorces.” She encouraged women to throw aside their corsets and penned books on health and fitness. A lifelong vegetarian, she even opened her own health food shop.

Annette died in 1975, at 89, having swum well into her eighties. Her swimwear got a generation of women into the water for the first time, allowing them to experience what she described as this “clean, cool, beautiful, cheap thing we all from cats to kings can enjoy". 

Order a copy of issue 38 from our shop

Introducing our sparkly new editor Alice Snape

Editor Alice Snape outside her London front door 

Editor Alice Snape outside her London front door 

Our latest issue is inspired by the idea of 'Passages', and it is also the issue in which we welcome our brand new editor, Alice Snape, to the team. 

Our photographer Liz Seabrook went to her south London home to have a chat and take some snaps, you can read more in issue 38. Here's a little snapshot about Alice's journey to her new home at Oh Comely.

What’s been your path to Oh Comely? "Growing up, I always had my head in a book – Judy Blume and Margaret Atwood had a profound influence on my life. As a teenager, my love for words turned into a passion for magazines. Over the years, I’ve written for lots of magazines and newspapers; until I launched my own tattoo magazine, Things & Ink, about five years ago, to provide a platform for female voices in a male dominated industry. Getting a tattoo is hugely empowering – you’re permanently altering your body – and I hate that tattooed females have historically been painted as sluts. Things & Ink, in its print form, came to a natural end a year ago, but it helped in changing how tattooed females are portrayed in the media. Things & Ink and Oh Comely have much in common, both seek to tell the stories of unknown people, stories that otherwise might be left untold..."

Find out more about Alice – including her most memorable journey and her favourite passage from literature – in the latest issue, available from our website.

#OhCoBookClub Eli Goldstone’s Strange Heart Beating

 

Did you know we have an #ohcobookclub? Each issue, we pick a novel and invite you to read along with us. Our current choice is Eli Goldstone's debut novel Strange Heart Beating. Why don't you read along with us?

Seb's beautiful, beloved wife Leda has been killed by a swan. With a name like that, with a bizarre family history like hers, it isn't really surprising. Seb has a grip on her story and its aesthetics; he knows how it should go. Except that he doesn't. Sorting through her belongings after her death, he comes across a packet of unopened letters from a man whom Leda has never mentioned. It is a loose detail in the thread of his narrative that, when pulled, unravels the whole story of his marriage. Who is this stranger who knew her so well? Why did she flee her home village in Latvia? What happened to her as a young woman in London? Who, Seb wonders, was his wife? Floundering professionally and sunk by grief, he decides to travel to Latvia to find her. He is met, instead, with the living ghosts of her past, all of whom knew a fragment of Leda - but none of whom are willing to share their secrets with him. A darkly funny and seductive novel that confronts the black undercurrent of possession inherent in love, and the impossibility of ever truly knowing even those dearest to us, Strange Heart Beating is a breathtaking debut from an author whose vision is both acerbic and tender.

 

Read an excerpt here.

In London, we’re also hosting a real-life bookclub, so pick up the novel, and come and chat to us about it on Wednesday 13th September. You can find all of the details here.

If you’re heading to the Good Life Festival, we’ll be hosting a mini-bookclub there too, and if you’re outside of London, email us if you’d like to set up your own #OhCoBookClub group.  As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the book, so don’t forget to tag @ohcomelymag and #OhCoBookClub on instagram, twitter, and facebook.

Falling cat problem

words: polly dickson

illustration: maggie chiang

 

A black cat traces the passage from balcony to ground. We hear her yowls before we see her. A cat, in German, is always she, die Katze. The word for a tomcat, Kater, is also the word for a hangover — a lexical coincidence, an accidental collision, but one that sticks. Her yowls throb. A cat falling from a height of greater than six stories is less likely to sustain serious injuries than a cat falling from a height of less than six stories. At the greater height, the cat, having righted herself by virtue of her lack of collarbone and flexible spine, reaches terminal velocity, after which she stops accelerating, spreads and relaxes her body. This means that there is an optimal height range from which a cat can fall and survive. A brief passage of time and air, bookended by balcony and ground.

The black cat in front of us lopes to a low window ledge, keeling, and curls herself onto it like a comma.

When I run, no matter what else I think about, I think, too, about the passing of time. Bookending the exertion with a start and finish — knowing how far or how long I have to go — can make the difference between finishing and turning back. Once, when running up a hill with C, feeling my legs giving out, he started counting down from ten and as he counted, in brief, half-conscious thoughts, I counted with him and felt the passage of time shorten, felt its horizon curve and dip to slowly let me over. I think of races, fasts, other travails of the mind and body made bearable by the knowledge of their limited duration, the knowledge of their ending. I think of books, too, the piquancy of the short story, the slow engulfment of the novel — narratives that make sense only when they’re over, and how any pleasure I feel in reading is tied together with my feeling that it will come, inevitably, to an end. I mark my way through books, leaving a path of folded corners, examining how many volumes, chapters, pages I have left. I note the bakery at one kilometre, smelling of butter, the bridge at the third, the water fountain at the sixth, then the turning point, then the fountain, the bridge, and the rich smell of butter again, on the home stretch.

A woman emerges flushed from the ground-floor apartment door and scoops a pile of black cat into her arms. Landing on her feet, of course, doesn’t mean she goes uninjured, and with her guttural yowls circling through my head, I can’t help but think she might be dying.

Something that never fails to astound me is the range of wild and lucid thoughts I can have when reading a paper aloud to an audience. Reading aloud, for a limited portion of time, things feel unendurable. My voice, unsteady, sounds like it could be someone else’s, my face flushes, my eyes barely register the blank faces in the audience as I dutifully read one word after another. But that’s the thing: one word inevitably folds into the next, and then into a stream of others, one paragraph into another paragraph as the writing propels itself forward into an inevitable conclusion. I’ll move on, in any case. Pick myself up. From passage to passage, thinking of falling cats and hangovers and running, I read, and wait for the ending, the conclusion, the final sentence, final clause, final words, and the unknown white space that comes afterward.

 

Polly Dickson is a writer and researcher based in Berlin. She tweets at @pollyletitia.

Falling cat problem was inspired by the theme of the latest issue – Passages. Order your copy here

Issue 38 playlist: Passages

illustration: ellie walker

words: marta bausells

It takes skill to accept the passage of time with grace. Perhaps it takes a lifetime. That invisible, abstract force we hear of but don’t fully grasp as kids. "Time” seems so elastic, huge and slow during childhood, but suddenly speeds up like a slingshot that’s suddenly let go, and it can and will catch you off guard.

The passage of time can mean ageing, or regret, wisdom or wonderment. It means Angel Olsen singing about memories, upon a love ending, wondering whether it was real at all or just a wildcard in waiting for something better. And it means the literal – but for that no less sublime – coming of age depicted in Boyhood, soundtracked so memorably by Family of the Year. The sitting inside, paralysed by your own thoughts, of Youth Lagoon. The existential Let the Mystery Be from the title credits for post-apocalyptic show The Leftovers (which we strongly recommend). The watching of someone's death, like in Death Cab’s classic I Will Follow You Into The Dark. Or, yet, asking a new city, or country, to be kind to us as we make changes and life shifts under our feet getting us ready for the new.

The playlist for issue 38 compiles artists talking about time passing in their own ways; and it is a good soundtrack, we hope, for time-passing on many a rosé-tinted summer evening.

Take your time over the playlist here.

Issue 38 of Oh Comely is on sale now! 

Sunday Reading: The Birthday

words: aimee keeble

photo: katie silvester

What an odd thing time is. Going through boxes in my parents’ garage in North Carolina the other day I found the pictures from our family holiday in Norfolk when I was 12. It’s my birthday and I am on a rise of dune, bent at the waist, grinning with eyes squinted shut, my dad’s mustard windbreaker draped over my small frame like a cloak. No trousers, no shoes. My face and body is thin with youth. My hair is patterned with thick, yellow tiger stripe highlights. There is a sign behind me alerting beachgoers to watch out for seals.

Nearly 20 years later and I am at the same beach for my 31st birthday, with friends who I’ve met in the three years I’ve spent living in Norwich. Two girls, three boys. I’m in love with one of them but he won’t know. It’s August and preciously hot for England. We pull at the tight stretch of our swimsuits, laughing when our bottom cheeks spring back from the fabric when we move, we blame chips and beer. We take photos of the boys doing handstands by the water. A group of seals pop their heads from the shallows, following us as we toss a ball back and forth. Further along the beach we come across the perfect dead body of a baby seal. Dappled and round it gently rolls with each push of the tide. The smell is shocking. That’s what they wanted! Not our ball. We debate pushing the body back into the water, to deliver it back to the sea, to the seal family. We are nervous and hot and someone suggests building sandcastles. Other people start to wander over to see what we are looking at.

Back by the towels, everyone tosses a ball except me. I lie on my back and nudge myself further into a gritty embrace of sand, scrunching it through my fingers and toes. And she didn’t know, the little me, that she would be here in the future, in love and lost, laughing at the skateboard and cheese she unwrapped earlier in her friend’s house before they all drove to the coast. If I had told her, she couldn’t have imagined it. She wouldn’t have wanted it. She wanted big hot pink lights of the West End and an urban walk and a voice hoarse from projecting Shakespeare on the banks of the Thames. Now all is quiet, country yellow and green and cobbled medieval grey. We’re drunk most nights, we hold each other’s hands a lot. And dance in kitchens, knocking over plastic chairs to get to each other’s waists. I roll cigarettes badly and shoot whiskey and worry about the length of my hair.

We go to a country pub after the beach and drank clear gold shandies that chase out the tang of salt and share bowls of chips and prawns. In the evening, back in the city, we dance at the top of a roof bar until 3am. The luminosity of strobe lights and voodoo blues songs turns us whirling as dervishes, as raging and as surefooted as mustangs. In the dark, outside in the cold that pricks my bare skin, I kiss him and laugh at him, slap his face gently and tell him never again and hold his chin and kiss him harder. The drunk bold of me; the soft tired exhaustion that booze can choke you slowly with show his eyes half blue, half there. Goodnight! We all say as we part to walk home in the electric black of pre-dawn. I support my friend, him stronger and smaller than me. We stumble over wet cobbles the size of watermelons, past graffiti loud tunnels and the slim greasy back roads to our house. Did you have a good birthday? I think of the strong taste of sea, always dark blue in my mouth, the slippery hard rush of sand against skin, my eyes closed to the wind that skitters off the North Sea. I’ll never forget it, is my reply, always. 

Aimée Keeble is currently completing her MLitt in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow. Take a look at her website to read more of her work.

Win! Abel & Cole recipe boxes

We’ve teamed up with Abel & Cole to offer you the chance to win a delicious box of goodness delivered to your door every week for three months. Abel & Cole recipe boxes come with seasonal organic ingredients along with a handy step-by-step recipe card. Easy, seasonal and yummy.

Click here to enter

Find the recipe for this delicious Pork Steaks with Plum Barbecue Sauce & Roast Spuds at abelandcole.co.uk

Find the recipe for this delicious Pork Steaks with Plum Barbecue Sauce & Roast Spuds at abelandcole.co.uk

Contribute your personal stories to issue 39

illustration: Jisun Lee for issue 37

illustration: Jisun Lee for issue 37

We're looking for your contributions for issue 39, out in October.  

Writers, we have a challenge for you this issue. We're looking for original first person stories that take place within one room. 

We're intrigued by the possibilities and hope that you will be too. 

To be considered, email a 100-word outline of your idea to ohcomely@icebergpress.co.uk, along with two samples of your work by Friday 14 July. Please state 'Issue 39 contributions' in the subject header. 

Unfortunately we don't accept fiction or poetry samples. We do try and get back to everyone but we're a really small team so it might take us a while. 

We look forward to hearing your ideas! 

We're always interested in your personal writing. If you have a story that you'd like to share with us, regardless of theme, email us at the address above with your outline and samples. 

What life models think about

Portrait: Liz Seabrook

Portrait: Liz Seabrook

Throughout art history, the figure of the model has been a consistent but anonymous presence – both a visual reference and an inspiration for the artist. For our latest issue, we photographed four women who work as life models in their favourite poses and spoke to them about their career, motivations and what they’re really thinking when they’re nude. This is Sophie Cleaver, 27, from Glasgow: 

"I walk into a room with strangers and take my clothes off, but I’m not body confident at all. People aren’t drawing me, they’re drawing some shapes. It’s performative, like dancing or acting. I’d slouch on a couch but when I’m posing, I sit up straight. There are thousands of images of me out there but I don’t see them as me.

My mum was a life model. When I turned 16 and needed to get a job, it seemed a good option. I’d grown up around it – when mum couldn’t get childcare, I’d sit in the corner with my crayons – so I wasn’t nervous. I joke that I’ve had 11 years of art classes – I find myself repeating bits back to people. I used to do it around lots of other things, but now I can’t. I have MS and it’s completely draining. Modelling is good for that – you can recline and have a rest! But I couldn’t do it every day.

One advantage is the thinking time. In other jobs, you wouldn’t get to sit and think for 45 minutes. When I was doing my A levels, I would do my coursework in my head while I was posing and write it all down when I got home – now it’s shopping lists or knitting.

If I’m posing for shorter periods of time, like a few seconds, I do things I couldn’t hold for longer, like going right onto the tips of my toes. I always try new poses. Even if it’s similar to one you’ve done 50 times, every pose is always slightly different.

Every situation is different too. When you’re modelling for A level students, there’s always one who’s nudging his mates. I’ll make eye contact with him for the entire class – it’s a sure-fire way of dealing with it. Quite often you’re in spaces that aren’t set up for modelling. There’s a lot of changing in toilets. I had this weird situation recently with a drone with a camera hovering outside the studio where I’d been posing. That was unique, but I sometimes swap notes with my mum – you know, like, “oh, I had one of those…”

Life modelling comes and goes with fashion. At the Glasgow School of Art, where I model, only 20 years ago they had about 18 full-time models with their own staff room. We’re all part-time now. But there are groups like All the Young Nudes in Scotland, putting on evenings set to music in clubs, making it cool again.

I’ve recently become much more proud of what I do. I’ve made it work as a viable job. I couldn’t support a house on it, but it’s enough for me, with the help of my boyfriend. I want to keep on doing it for as long as I can – to become Britain’s longest serving life model."

Pick up a copy of Oh Comely issue 37 to see our other three life models and to read about their experiences.