The BBC ran a competition which invited people to write a script about their experiences during lockdown, involving internet collaboration.
I had sent illustration student Dorothy Flint and other members of her Happening group the construct I had made following my ‘archaeological analysis of the potato that would not burn’. (See my previous blog on it: “Post-Happening Developments”).
Dorothy wanted to do some doodles of the parts of the inside of the ‘potato’ and I would write a story from them.
Sadly, I was too late to enter the work for the competition,
An online collaboration between Anna Goodchild and Dorothy Flint in a time and on the theme of self-isolation.
Anna and Dorothy met at a study day organized by and for students in the South West of England studying in various pathways via distance learning through the Open College of the Arts (OCA).
Dorothy lives in Bristol and is a 95-year-old retired nurse and midwife who worked mostly in the West Country. She is a very kind and lively person, and is a highly gifted illustrator who has, regrettably, recently given up on her degree in illustration because her hands shake too much.
Anna lives in Torbay and is a 69 year old retired teacher of modern languages who has just completed her degree in photography.
No longer able to attend group study days with their ex-student friends because of the national shutdown, and keen to keep up their friendship, Dorothy and Anna decide to collaborate on an illustrated story, and so meet up online via Facebook, emails and on the phone.
The collaboration is rooted in a day in January when 12 artists, including Anna and Dorothy, tried different ways of working together on a random theme. Anna took apart one of the artifacts of the day and arranged and photographed the component pieces. The outcome was ‘Archeological Analysis of a potato that would not burn’, and sent a photo of it to Dorothy.
Dorothy replied saying that she would be making doodles of the elements of the photograph, and, from these, they developed a story.
Anna: Dorothy, I love your doodles! Please have a look at the story so far and tell
me what you think.
Dorothy: I shall develop the dog doodles, and I had seen some wild herbs in
the pieces you photographed so I was going to draw them and link
them to the characters: a woman who looks like a witch is actually
very kind; the one with a bonnet is very young and the third one can
be anything we want her to be.
Anna: OK, we’ll regroup same time tomorrow afternoon and see where we
go from there & I’ll work on the story tonight – we only have 4 days
Dorothy: It takes me a long time to get going in the morning – I’ll work on
the herb doodles tonight and I’ll send them to you tomorrow. I get so
many emails and phone calls these days – which is really lovely – but
it leaves me very little time to get my house in order. The people
across the road are really kind and do my shopping for me, & the
shop around the corner has free deliveries for orders over £20, of
course I don’t always have that much , you know, and then I get my
fruit and veg delivered weekly anyway so, of course, I’m carrying on
with that. They do frozen meals too so I occasionally order one of
those. I’ll get on to the herb doodles straight away.
Anna: Same time tomorrow.
Dorothy: I’ve done some research on what dwarf birches look like and
have done a sketch of Julie picking bilberries from their base. Is the
colouring in ok?
I was going to paint in water colours but they would bleed onto the
doodles on the back of the page so I just used coloured pencils. I was
going to do some others but I decided against it.
Anna: No, it is absolutely fine as it is. Love the trees! And the herbs are
perfect – just what you would expect to find on moorland.
Anna: How are things going, Dorothy?
Dorothy: Technology! My mouse has just stopped working so I can’t do
anything on my computer. It’s so exasperating! And the art software on
the iPad is not doing what it should!
Anna: Try switching everything off for 10 minutes & give your mouse time
to recover. We’ll speak same time tomorrow. I’ll send you the
story so far via email – you can pick that up on your iPad can’t you?
Dorothy: Ah, yes! It worked! It’s all working now, super! The mouse must
have been exhausted! Of course, now that we are in lockdown, I can’t get
Sam to come and help me with my computer things .
Anna: You said you were having problems with printing photos in a Word
document? I’ll send you some screengrabs of how to shrink a
picture before you print it so that it fits on the page.
Anna: Here’s the final draft, Dorothy, with all the changes we discussed – let me
know if I have left anything out.
Three characters and a dog in search of a story.
Set in a valley in an unspecified place, the three self-isolating characters live a very quiet life with a lively dog they had found wandering along the river at the bottom of the valley. He had made himself appealing by rolling around in the mud and, wagging his wet & muddy tail, left some interesting patterns on the path.
They would take him home, he thought, wash him and give him some food. He was right.
Young Julie, a recent plant science graduate recovering from a celebration-induced hangover, decides she is going to go back to the woods by the river below their house to find some bilberries growing under the dwarf birch trees, before the Blue Tits get to them. She wants to make another batch of liquore di mirtilli to replace the batch that she has just polished off. She wears her new age bonnet to shield her suffering eyes from the glare – any glare.
The kind old witch, Julie’s mum Paula, had kept the recipe from her early twenties spent in Benevento, near Naples, and which she had beguiled from a worker in the Strega* factory nearby. The worker, Amalia, the mathematically precise praying mantis of the factory, was the only female allowed in the copper and glass distillery room – a sterile, monastic space devoted to the process in which only the purest elements were used: distilled water from the Appennini formed the base; 19 aromatic herbs from the region – and only from the region – were added to the bilberries and distilled initially to 82 proof, then watered down minimally, again with the purest mountain water.
Black Moon, the resultant smooth, inspirational spirit, has led fine minds to making many new discoveries.
Julie’s distilled purity, Moorland Blue, on the other hand, was going to have its own local flavour. The moorland water was purified and kept in locally made rosewood vats with shiny copper rims mined over a century previously in those same moorland hills.
While Julie was gathering her bilberries and herbs, Isla, Paula’s adopted foundling and the third person self-isolating, was grooming the crafty dog of indeterminate breed.
“Who’s a lovely boy?” she asks over and over again but never gives an answer so that the poor animal, to this day, does not know if he is the lovely one or not. He still wags his tail excitedly in the hope that he is.
Isla takes care of her new best friend in between messaging her school mates, making land art with driftwood she found with the dog, and her maths and Italian lessons with Paula.
Julie applies her plant science knowledge to develop not just new spirits, but, with fellow scientists all over the world, collaborates to modify and create new strains of bilberries which are Blue Tit repellent.
Paula, on the other hand, before applying her teacher skills in the mornings, is conducting her own Internet research project on the effects of rehabilitative and therapeutic practices on prisoners in Italy. She wants to do a historical comparison between those offered today with those offered in Capodimonte, the prison near Benevento, when she was there in her late twenties.
What causes Paula to be concerned is that her very elderly but very independent mother who lives on her own and whom she can’t meet, is frantic about not being able to have her hair or her toe nails cut. “I’ll look like the wild woman of Borneo!” she shouts down the phone.
Anna: I think we’ve got enough here, Dorothy.
Dorothy: I think so too. Gill has just sent me quite a few poems she wants me to
illustrate so I’ll get going with those! Although they are going to
keep me busy for a while, let’s do more collaborations – it’s been lovely!.
The characters are figments of a fertile present, a time in which
Pandemonium has created an eerie stillness and a superficial
silence, often experienced in a desert where nothing appears to live,
where the occasional person appears some distance away.
With non-essential businesses closed, time loosens its grip on us long enough for us to take in an unfamiliar nature around us, and to re-evaluate our relationships with others.
* Strega, the name of the famous liqueur, is the Italian word for ‘witch’ .