Thursday, July 03, 2008

Unnerved by Hammershoi, unwell at Bristol

Back from the Screenwriters’ Festival at Cheltenham. It all started so well, and ended with me being violently ill in the toilets at Bristol airport with a diamond-splitter migraine that made me want to gouge out my eyeballs. Not pretty. I’ll post a report on the festival later, but here’s a few random thoughts from several days in transit.

I headed south on Sunday, spending two nights with friends in London. Discovered there are people even more obsessed with US presidential politics than me. Enjoyed staying in the capital, even if too many corners smell of stale urine [bleurgh]. Went to the National Portrait Gallery and saw Simon Davis’s painting in the BP Portrait Awards. Nice.

Had a spooky moment involving a painting at the Royal Academy. I’m developing a supernatural suspense screenplay at the moment, and happened to see an article in the Guardian about a new exhibition. Two of the paintings pictured caught exactly the mood of my putative feature – disturbing, unnerving, perturbing.

So I made a pilgrimage to the Royal Academy to see the first British exhibition of works by Danish painter Hammershoi. Some stunning works, the muted colours and recurrent imagery seem to worm their way under your skin. But most freaky of all was one particular painting, and the coincidence of its title.

Just before heading south I wrote a two-page list of statements – images, moods, plot points and moments – for my feature; half tone document, half plot synopsis. One of the statements was ‘Dust drifts in shafts of sunlight’. What is one of Hammershoi’s paintings called? ‘Dust Motes dancing in the Sunbeams’. Uncanny.

Apparently there’s an early filmmaker who was much inspired by Hammershoi, so I’ll have to search out some of his work. The other odd thing about the Hammershoi show was seeing an actor from Torchwood visiting the exhibition. He played a very creepy character in the TV show’s first series. All in all, a most unnerving visit.

Got up at dawn on Tuesday and travelled to Cheltenham for the festival. Saw lots of people I knew, met lots of others for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The Thistle Hotel left a lot to be desired, but I was a guest of the festival and not paying for my accommodation, so complaining seemed churlish at best.

Think I caught the sun on Tuesday, and woke up with a creeping headache on Wednesday. Alas, this wasn’t a hangover as I first thought [I didn’t drink enough Tuesday night to get one]. My hangovers start bad and ease off. My migraines creep up on me during a day, getting ever more debilitating.

By the time I got in a taxi bound for Bristol airport, my head was caught in the vice-like grip of doom. By the time I reached the airport, I was ready for death. Two painkillers and water got me through security, but I spent the next hour trying not to vomit and failing. It was touch and go whether I made it on the plane home.

I forced myself to board and felt better by the time we arrived at Edinburgh. Drove home, and collapsed in a gibbering heap. Doubt I’ll get much work done today, just need to recover. Don’t know if it was dodgy food or migraine that made me throw up, but vomiting was the turning point. After that I only got better.

I’ll type up my Cheltenham report and post that later but, in the meantime, here’s a picture of something coming from Mattel in October. Yes, it’s the toy you’ve always wanted, an Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds Barbie Doll – just forty-four dollars and ninety-nine cents. This may actually be real. Enjoy…


Elinor said...

Hi, I hope you're feeling much better. I used to be a martyr to migraines too. Now I keep them at bay with lots of water. Looking forward to your posts about SWF.

Lara said...

Oooh dear, hope you're much better now! Nothing worse than flying with a migraine. Ouch. A good bit of home fresh air probably did you the world of good too (as opposed to eau de urine)! Looking forward to hearing all about the festival.

Good Dog said...

Barbie may not have a bird in the hand but it looks like one is going for the bush!

...I thank you...

h said...

my friend dan calls that hypermetaphoria, that feeling when things all just click into place coincidentally, as with the painting. i always liked it as a word.

Brendan O'Neill said...

Hi David
I'm sorry to hear you had such an unpleasant experience on the way back. It was good to meet and chat with you.



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Annaliese said...

Funny how a good instance of "reverse peristalsis" makes a migraine take a chill pill - it works for me every time. xxx