Friday, September 19, 2014

Four drowned sisters: accident or sinister arrangement?

A uniquely high tide and severe gales caused the River Thames to burst its banks in the early hours of January 7th 1928. Some areas were flooded, and 14 people drowned in their beds. Four of these were the young Harding sisters, who were trapped in their basement bedroom in central London.

These and many other subsequent deaths caused the Thames Barrier to be proposed and eventually built to help prevent such disasters from happening again. I am wondering whether the deaths of the sisters could have been prevented at the time.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The second golden rule: be very careful what you dwell on

I have written here about the possible link between Charlotte Brontë’s youthful obsession with Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, and her eventual marriage to a dark man called Arthur. I have also mentioned the possible connection I noticed between Mr Rochester’s fall from his horse in Jane Eyre and Charlotte’s fall the first time she ever got up on a horse.

An incident in the life of the Spanish Surrealist artist Remedios Varo, whose strange and wonderful pictures deserve to be more widely known, provides another example of such possible connections. I found it in Unexpected Journeys, The Art and Life of Remedios Varo by Janet A. Kaplan.

It happened in Paris in 1938, when she was with a group of other members of the inner circle of Surrealists. They had been drinking, when one man, Esteban Francés, made a remark criticising her personal life. An artist called Oscar Dominguez rose to defend Varo’s honour. An ugly fight broke out; people tried to separate the two men but Dominguez managed to free one arm and hurl a glass at Francés. Unfortunately, it completely missed and hit someone else, an artist called Victor Brauner. It tore one of his eyes out.

The strange coincidence here is that Brauner had painted many one-eyed creatures earlier, including a self-portrait of himself with one eye missing in 1931.  Another picture, painted in 1932, shows a man with his eye being punctured by a shaft with the letter D attached to it.

Did Brauner have a premonition that this loss would happen? Did he subconsciously will it to happen? Could it be yet another example of something manifesting in the life of a creative person just because he had been dwelling on it? Did he get caught in his own psychic trap?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Watership Down: a sinister scenario

There is an episode in Richard Adams’s Watership Down that made me feel very uncomfortable when I first read the book and still affects me negatively some decades later. I now see this book is much more than an entertaining story about the adventures of some fictional rabbits: it has many relevancies to real life.

The nomads meet a settlement of eerie, unnatural rabbits
A band of wandering rabbits is seeking a new home because of a predicted disaster. They find a promising looking field then discover that it is already inhabited by other rabbits. The existing occupants are large, sleek and healthy and seem very prosperous. They are not hostile: they are unexpectedly welcoming and invite the newcomers to join them, saying that there is plenty of spare room in the warren.

Fiver, a member of the travelling band who is psychically gifted, advises his companions to have nothing to do with the place and its inhabitants. He says they should all leave at once. The rabbits are under the unofficial leadership of Fiver’s brother Hazel, who despite the warning decides to accept the strangers’ hospitality and leads his band down into the warren. The others start to mingle and settle in, but Fiver sits alone and apart, apparently ill or very much depressed. The new rabbits avoid him instinctively.