WTC Spring ’15 Six of the Best


The prompts:

Freewrite: coin – value – worth – minted – cost of living – to coin a phrase

Look inside your purse/wallet – what story do the contents tell?

Tell the story of your day so far in terms of what it has cost.

Remember what was the first thing you bought with your first wages?

What did you save up for with your pocket money?

Think of the role of money in plots you know and love – Mme. Bovary, Cherry Orchard, Doll’s House…

 Pat at October Gallery


i.m. Valerie Steptoe

Bury her with silver – the change

in her pockets, her spoons

and sugar tongs, a lover’s ring;

light her way with fire

– build a pyre with birch

and send her blazing to Valhalla;

burn cedar, burn sage,

light a sweetgrass braid;

invoke the spirits of earth and stone;

mix her bones with tsampa,

give alms to the birds

chanting om mani padme hum;

bring gold coins – two for her eyes

and one for her tongue, to buy

safe passage to the Isles of the Blessed.

Jacqueline Smith

The Price of Everything & the Value of Nothing: Wen Is Enough Enough?

In today’s Metro there was a quiz about the Secret of Happiness, and for most people it was “earning more money.

Also today! One of the MP’s caught in a newspaper ‘sting’, Malcolm Rifkind, declared, “I can’t be expected to live on £67,000 a year.” This is an MP’s salary, meaning he was entitled to use his position in Parliament to increase his own personal wealth in any way he chose. He has since been forced to resign, as his behavior was judged as unethical, only because he had been caught out.

As a teenager I worked in Woolworth’s in West Norwood on Saturdays for nine shillings & thrupence, and later in Morley’s in Brixton I had a pay increase to fifteen shillings. All of my adult life I’ve worked full-time sometimes doing extra evenings to pay my household bills & mortgage. As a child in a family of five children I’ve never been hungry, homeless or without clothes. I consider myself to be rich & lucky to have born in the West.

Daily I witness on TV & in the newspapers the desperate plight of millions of people around the world who suffer war, disease & starvation, who risk their lives trying to escape to the West for the chance of a better life. Both of my parents were immigrants.

It’s a paradox of our time when potentially the rich West has at its fingertips the technology, wealth & power to ‘progress’ this cruel situation – but where’s the willpower & action from our politicians?

Phyllis Lane 24.03.15

WTC #2 Who Do You Think You Are? National Portrait Gallery


The medium and the message – why did Grayson Perry use the materials and forms that he did for the various groups and individuals? 

Take one of the Perry portraits, and imagine their story as your own – write a monologue in their voice.

Use the language of the various media (make notes whilst looking at the work) to create your own portrait (someone you know or a self-portrait)

Think about writing styles to reflect personality (minimal or chatty? Colourful, florid words, or short simple language?)


Dust Rises

Did you want to see me broken? Still I rise.


Alzheimers – Alzy to nearest and dearest – the demonic figure snipping up all the family snaps.


The Lib Dems. The Mister Nice Guys. The Chris Huhnes. Broken.

Cliff. The Christian. The Bachelor Boy. The clean-living guy. Image broken.

The Comfort, or Conflict, Blanket.

Maggie Thatcher knitted together with Barbara Castle.

The Mother of Parliaments – alias The Bear Pit.

The Archers with a nice cuppa tea. (N.B. Has anyone noticed war has broken out in The Archers?)

Who are you?

Who am I?

I’m a 2-3-4-faced fraud.

I’m as many different selves in one day as the number of people I encounter.

I’m a wonderful warm human being one minute, I’m an angry, scathing monster the next.

My self splits, multiplies, flies out of control, dust everywhere, beyond the reach of sticky tape.

But I remember, dust rises.

Frances Walton


The Memory Plate

“Yes, I’ve been working on this piece for some time. I’d hoped to have it finished by now, but never mind. I wanted to exhibit it as this time of the year, obviously.

But I’d be happy to take you through my designs and sketches for the work?

The basic premise is for an enormous platter. It’ll be sgraffito, of course, but highly glazed. So initially there’ll be a large ceramic body with slip and scratching.

It’s still very much work in progress. Here we see the central wording. It’s

Mother’s Day, heavily crossed out. She didn’t approve of it, you see.

The rest of the large middle ovoid suggests a serving platter because she adored her food. As a tribute to her language skills I’ve added “Bon Appetite” and “Gute Essen”.

The sections of text are divided up. I owe so much to Grayson Perry. He’s my absolute inspiration….

Then we’ve got a chocolate area – all script. We’ve Lindt, Toblerone and Fortnum and Mason. And that area tells her story in food. Fray Bentos for sandwiches. Munchmallows and Penguin biscuits. Libby’s Fruit Cocktail. Express Dairies Double Cream.

And her specialities: shepherd pie, roast beef. scotch eggs. Maybe that side is getting a little cluttered? I’ll have to see how it lays out.

The right side is more aspirational. Hmm. Perhaps I should move Fortnum’s to that side? We’ve got her favourite restaurant “A L’Ecu de France.” Favourite foods: lobster and chocolate. The lobster will be an illustration, naturally. Oh, and then I’ve a lovely old logo of Dubonnet and a glass. It’s like the posters they used to paint on the side of buildings in France.

It’s quite a busy design isn’t it? The edge and rim are quite wide. I’m trying to show that food was perhaps central to her life, though some people might interpret that as her life revolving around food. But that’s up to them. It’s in the eye of the beholder, really.

There’s a blue wash running over most of the rim. That’s to signify a lifelong devotion to matters Tory. See also text and lettering: Harold MacMillan, Lady Thatcher. Oh, and The Daily Mail.

This part is the music section. Fats Waller, Flanagan and Allen. And The Beatles.

I might put a few painted quavers. Should I add Chopin? She liked a bit of classical music sometimes. But then I’d also want Mario Lanza. We’ll see. I might have to sketch it out again.

Scattered about, I’ve added other random items of importance. Stilletto heels. Berlei corsets. Hairdressing by Hext. And a bottle of scent – Ma Griffe. That fits in well with the technique I’m using. What else have we got? Oh yes, “advanced motorist.” That was quite a badge of honour on her car.

At the top there’s her favourite put down. “Silly bitch.” It works rather well, she’d like it.

The white dots at the edge? Yes, those are to signify memory loss.

We’ll, that’s it really. Those are the basics although there may be more – or less – on the finished piece. I’d love to show it to you again later, if you’re interested. As you can see, I’m not such a fast worker as Grayson. Or as talented. But I keep trying.

I hope I haven’t talked too much? “

Astrid Sutton Sharkey


A Nice Cuppa Tea

A Nice Cuppa Tea

Who Do They Think I Am?

After watching the BBC program Who Do You Think You Are? David wondered what his two grown-up children really know about him.

As a foreigner living in England, David knows that his daughters Marie and Corine would have difficulty in finding any information from the public records here. He went to bed thinking about finding a way of telling his daughters about his younger self.

The following morning, David embarked on a cultural journey to find inspiration. He decided to go to an exhibition. It wasn’t long before David found himself in a crowded room full of people of all ages coming from all over the world. Teachers accompanying students from different schools in uniforms made a multicoloured canopy. Everyone congregated in front of their particular exhibit, and David felt as if he was invisible there.

Suddenly, David found himself in front of an exhibit that grabbed his attention- a map on the wall full of images of people taken from different period of their lives. Some are famous and ordinary people who are no longer alive. Old and new places he did not recognize. “Eureka”! He shouted. David opened his rucksack and reached for his notebook and pen. He felt as if he was in a race trying to write his thought down while the memories of his young life came back flashing like thunder.

Instantly, David knew that a map of his life story- the places he has been in and talking about the people he left behind would make an original present for Marie and Corine. He left the exhibition feeling extremely satisfied and contented at the thought that from then on his children would see him in a different light. Not just a Dad.

Eveline Lavoile

Astrid and Marie at NPG

Astrid and Marie at NPG

WTC #3 FORENSICS at the Wellcome Collection

The Crime Scene

In this gallery, you will see ‘The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death’. Using this, and any other supporting material available, you are invited to solve the crime that is presented.

Or, using this format – a doll’s house-style interior representing a crime scene – you can invent your own scenario: What would your crime scene show in each of the rooms? This can be as fantastical as you like.

The Search

The work of forensic anthropologists and archaeologists is reflected in this gallery. You are invited to consider ‘Facial reconstruction of Isabella Ruxton’ and the commissioned artwork exploring facial reconstruction by Christine Borland.

  • – Do these two exhibits share a commonality that you can explore?
  • – Could you write something addressed to one of these characters?

Crime as Metaphor

Use this material – the vocabulary, and all the paraphernalia of crime – and apply it to something completely ‘other’ – something you are interested in, that has nothing whatsoever to do with crime. Sex and love and interpersonal relations are obvious and good options. Explore being as technical and visceral as you are able. 



 For Mrs Ruxton

I love you, Isabella. I love you passionately.

I love every fibre of your being, from the tips of your hair follicles to your chiseled collarbones that jut so proudly. I love your teeth, so large that they’re caught forever in a spectral smile. I love your torso, your ribs, your slender waist, your fragility. I love your slender little arms, with their tiny ribs. Your strangely long and skinny legs, descending from that ‘v’ of your pubic bone. The shape of those bones, so tantalizingly close, so ready to burst like buds from the translucence of your skin. I love that little flower concealed from my view, that tiny piece of fleshy tenderness. I love your hands so delicious and delicate they might snap like twigs.

I can buy you diamonds and pluck that little flower of yours at last. I can look into those eyes and see the mirror of our life. Do not resist me Isabella, it was meant to be. For, Isabella, I will love you forensically. I will kiss your delicious bruises and lick the blood from your wounds. I love every line and fork on the archipelago of your fingertips. Every spur, loop and crevice of your body. I know every sum of the parts of your being.

I loved you, Isabella. I loved you violently, viscerally. I loved you to pieces.

The blowflies came to take you from me. I gave you the gift of their life, their eggs for diamonds.

Astrid Sutton Sharkey

From Soundscape by Thersen Margolin 2006 


Small female corpse

laid out on cold

white Daulton slab,


pouring, splashing,

splashing, hard brush

scubbing,metal buckets

banging ringing through

hollow space,traffic

drones outside, spanish

quietly spoken,high

pitched screeches,



loops,whirls & arcs

on fingertips,medicine

& law collide, accidental

drowning,found face

down in bath,verdict

wilful premeditative

murder,married bigamously,

drowned in bathtub

like the two others,

motive – money!

Phyllis Lane

WTC #4 Dissenters, Law Breakers, Manifestos and Song

Display Gallery

This week’s WTC takes in a church, an art gallery, and a hall.

You are invited to think about protest in all its forms. Because the church is closely associated with musicians, perhaps your writing may take the form of a protest song.

In the gallery think about what is outside the establishment nowadays, and what you stand for, and what are you against?

Writing could take the form of text for a billboard or a manifesto (check out examples of both included in the gallery)

Maybe write your own manifesto in the form of a list – imperative tense is a must!

Heading back to Mary Ward, check out Red Lion Square and its history of ethical humanism. I have arranged for the use of the library here, on the first floor (no food and drink) to write up your manifesto or protest song or hymn….



If I put a lemon on top of a piece of wood and exhibit it in a gallery, would anybody be impressed?

If I place a painting on a piece of old and dirty carpet, would that old piece of carpet that has been trampled on add to it beauty?

And if I hide behind a singer, could I pretend that his voice is mine? The lemon, the carpet and the voice belong to three different artists. Each artist deserves to be recognized for his creation.

I am an art lover not a connoisseur. I am confused. Help! How can I define it? What happen to artists who have natural abilities, but don’t an opportunity to exhibit their work? Will their talents remain invisible?

Eveline Lavoile


The Changing

The bell toll for Newgate’s all done with, all over

Condemnation a sinner, no ringer for death

Executioner extinguished, forgiveness forthcoming

The bellman of sentence brings life everlasting.

But the white dove’s not ready to sleep in the sand

She saw that black branch with blood that kept dripping

She saw the black mask on the man who was grinning

No girl with a rainbow and no blue eyed son

The blade is a-sharpening and the war will go on.

With apologies to Bob Dylan

Astrid Sutton Sharkey

Phyllis at Display Gallery

We are gathered together, not on a Sunday in the Park, but a Tuesday afternoon at Mary Ward, to give praise.

Praise for the great and the small.

I praise this morning’s sunshine over the City

I give praise to St Cecilia for the blessing of music – with the exception of happy clappy and heavy metal.

I give praise for the cappuccino that enables me to face the day.

I give praise for choice – between Starbucks and Costa.

It’s good to give praise. We must all ‘think positive’, mustn’t we?

But no, I wouldn’t say we were just a docile clique of obedient students.

We’re also gathered together to rant.

I shall rant about the Still Life With Pig’s Head.

It’s not still life for that poor creature on a plate, awaiting a second knife.

I shall clang my bell at midnight, for all the condemned pigs, cows, lambs, chickens and fish, on the eve of their execution. I rant against hunting and shooting and eating dead birds in the sky.

But let us give praise, and drink a toast to Nellie Melba.

Frances Walton

Dame Nelly Melba

Praise & Rants 

Praise for heartwarming ‘Good Morning” shining smiles from the Flower Lady & guard at Herne Hill Station – and the sun shone!

I dislike folk who sit on the outside aisle seat on the bus, refuse to move over or make a huge song & dance about it often they’re the same people who shout on their phones.

Wonderful, magnificent, saintly, stately, stained glass windows in St-Sepulchre-without-Newgate church where the ‘Fulisliers’ brave soldiers who had given their lives during many wars are recognised & honoured.The scale & architecture of churches deflates egos reminding us of different values & history.

I abhor Employment Agencies who give zero-hour contracts; refuse to pay the minimum wage, or travel costs to young people who are like “fish in a barrel” & have to accept these unlawful conditions.

Charming Julianne the receptionist at the Display Gallery explained the wierd art stuff & I loved “The Bollocks Box” & Martha Parsey’s print ‘Rip her to Shreds’ ed of 1. Rather than depicting women as “passive, reclining, easy to please” as in Manet’s “Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe” she shows them “in action, aggressive, raw in combat with one another.”

So “Balls & Bollocks” to the b/bankers with massive egos who profited from the recession and the politicians who allowed them to.

B/B to the multinational companies & multimillionaires who evade paying taxes anywhere.

Thanks to Sue in Conway Hall library where displays & books were great reminders of socialists & humanists a different kinder politics.

I enjoyed the deliciously vicious original cartoons about our current politicians by Martin Rowson “with a rottweiller’s bite” -great ! But they’ll all be back again after the General Election!

Phyllis Lane.20.3.15

St sepulchre without Newgate

Many artists now considered masters had their work rejected. Rejected paintings had a red R stamped on the back for refusé (rejected).


Conway Hall

Rant written on the 341 route on the way home

Equal nudity for men and women

We demand equal nudity for men and women.

Dejeuner sur l’herbe is a fine example of unequal nudity. Why is it that only the fragile, doe-eyed woman is stark naked, staring at us out of the picture frame? If, as the original title suggests, it is a picture of Le Bain (the Bath), well, where are the male nudes in this painting? Let them have grass up their arses, and goose pimples on their naked torsos. Let them look quizzically, enchantingly, demurely at all their voyeurs.

We demand equal nudity for men and women.

No more lingerie clad females selling perfumes and make-up. Beckham in pants is a good start, but let it all hang out. Men should also pout and grimace, make eyes at us, and flaunt their attributes.

We demand the Advertising Standards Authority ensures distribution of male and female flesh in equal measure. Page Three would have to alternate daily, one day male, one day female – something for everyone.

Nudity is overused, but undervalued. No wars could start if armies lined up in the nude. They’d see the folly of it. Dancing could be problematic, but equal nudity is the first step to full equality. Q.E.D.

Janet Evans

Display Gallery


Our mission: the right to protest but not the need.

We demand the right to house Nigel Farage and Russell Brand together in a secure place.

We insist that travelling by train be made an enjoyable experience.

We demand the imprisonment of bankers who steal tax payers’ money and that the John Lewis model of pay is applied to all.

Restrictions are to be imposed on synthetic smelling candles in shops, and smelly food on all public transport

Management-speak shall be banned in all public places and punishable in the workplace.

We demand that the Archer family be drowned in the great Ambridge flood.

Diverse beauty will be celebrated but perfection will not be a qualification.

All people will understand that women’s rights must be embraced, not fondled.

Companies must be required to provide human contacts for their customers and they will not use the phrase “bear with me”.

Meat may be consumed, but once weekly.

Overheard in Waitrose shall be banned from the Internet.

Bankers bonuses will be used to fund education.

Pie in the sky will become a reality.

Astrid Sutton Sharkey

WTC #5 Back to the Fields



Back to the Fields





1988 & 2008 in Haiku form

Sea Monster Joe Brand

at Harrow Railway Hotel

like a grafting knife.

Lottery numbers

to win: fourteen, sixteen, six

ten and twenty four.

Spelt all over the floor

Young Vic Richard at seven

button mushroom gone.

I feel very sad

I should live where the sun shines

and eat blackberries.

I felt a nugget

of optimism this morning:

the otter e-mail came.

Valerian to watch

Oily cart at special school

not the show, the kids.

In spite of colour

I feel quite depressed. Not sure:

worries, myrtle or neck.

Raving Beauties and

Common Lore. Wild mustard and

nightmare with bugloss.

Nelly Salas and

Embassy. Chives, ACG

BB and cotton.

Rocío Vázquez-Landázuri


She was born on the day of fennel and married the man born on hops day. The wedding took place on turnip. Maybe that’s why it didn’t last.

My elder sister was the harvest of the day of wheat. No doubt bread was broken and perhaps by way of celebration a guinea fowl cooked with sage and garlic. My turn came in the season of floreal but maybe not to the sound of nightingales – not in Woolwich anyway. It was on hyacinth, a few hours away from the day of rake and a progress that I might have enjoyed.

Me, I married a chestnut chap on the day of butcher’s broom in the season of rain. Was that auspicious?

From the times of germination the firstborn turned out on Jerusalem artichoke. A goose was roasted with beetroot and that’s how we celebrated.

Three cycles past of grape harvest, fog, frost and snow. And of rain, wind and germination.

A twin pregnancy in the season of thermidor! So heavy and huge through those days from ram to watering can. The girls were born early on the day of switchgrass. We celebrated with a fresh salad of melon, basil and myrtle and I was given a bunch of lupins.

 Astrid Sutton Sharkey



‘Tell me about your dreams,’ the therapist said to the young man in a variation on the usual question which was ‘tell me about your childhood.’

The young man’s life was not happy. He suffered from bad feelings and on Monday and Thursday afternoons visited a psychotherapist. This was in the time of American mistakes, of Saigon falling and terror in Cambodia.

Because at this stage life was such a frightening business the young man lived much of his time in dreams. His greatest dream was that he was going to succeed as a writer of fiction. He was as certain of this as it’s possible to be. He was sure he was going to be very famous; he was sure that scores of beautiful women would be his. So it was in a fever of impatience that he waited for his future to arrive. At night he had other sorts of dreams mostly about Madeleine Ramsay, the frail, dowdily dressed maths teacher whose thin arms and timid demeanour aroused a frenzy of lust in him.

When his sleep was not filled with dreams of Madeleine Ramsay, it was of his childhood that the young man dreamed and of the holidays he had spent thirty years before at a Victorian rectory – a dreary mansion in Lincolnshire that stood in rambling gardens that he explored with his Lone Ranger six-shooter. There was a river and bridges in the garden, glasshouses, beds of vegetables and flowers among which he could identify tulips, chard, asparagus and rosemary.

Among the outhouses was a shed which contained old gardening implements and croquet hoops. It was here the child who was to become the young man, his psychology already well set for his future, played solitary games and dreamed of shoot-outs with red Indians, captaining England at Lords and spotting the numbers of steam-locomotives.

‘Tell me about your dreams,’ the therapist said.

Michael Stirling

WTC#6 Moore is More at Gagosian London

We met in Berkeley Square. A nightingale sang. We shared our own pocket size treasures, and explained what made them precious. We looked at how objects contain memories – and how writing about the object could take the place of writing directly about the memory.

Moore at Gagosian

Memories+Henry Moore’s Maquettes

I’ve a small, brown, smooth, flat pebble given to me thirty years ago by my friend Kay after “The Dreamers” broke up.We used to meet above a shop in Peckham Rye called

“The Rainbow Net” during the “Eighties & Women’s Lib.”

The group lasted for three years until Eleanor the counsellor & her partner moved to The Isle of Sky. We shared our dreams & had a picnic nurturing our souls & bodies.

This experience helped me to write & under stand myself better until then although I’d kept a diary I’d never shared my writing.

Moore’s maquettes are reminders of how we project onto objects, associations & attachments,memories & feelings which is explained by Wonnacotts’s “Transitional Object.”

As children we become attached to smelly soft toys & blankets which we imbue with symbolic worth these objects become substitutes for an absent carer which is I suppose what we do with “words” as writers.
One of my sons is always telling me to “have a clear-out muffer – get rid of all your junk!” Old chairs, no longer comfortable for him to sit in, were given by a kind friend when we had no furniture moving into our first house fifty years ago I just can’t throw them out – but sadly I think he really means me!

And the clutter & junk IS my life!

Phyllis Lane


Hollow Bump no 3

I peered at the masked man through a yellow square of plastic. He was talking about the plans for his daughter’s wedding.

“Two hundred guests blah blah….”

“Food tasting next week blah blah….”

He adjusted the clamp on my tooth.

“Does it hurt?” he asked.

Reply was impossible. My mouth tasted of burnt tooth mixed with turquoise mouthwash. I noted the change from pink mouthwash on my last visit and this pleased me briefly.

“Got plans for this evening?”

I gurgled.

Inwardly I was clocking the probable difficulties of kissing the artist, my mouth now numbed by four injections, but I was unable to convey this. Turquoise mouthwash may have dribbled from the side of my mouth.

Once the dentist’s work was over I hauled myself vertical. My face felt like a flaccid slab of steak. As I made to leave, I noticed my gold crown in a small plastic package near the washbasin. He saw me looking.

“Do you want it?” He asked.

“Yes,” I replied. Thoughts of Nazi gold came into my mind.

I went to meet the artist in his studio at 5pm. We couldn’t kiss. He didn’t laugh. I gave him the gold crown for his cabinet of curiosities.

“How beautiful,” he said. “Such an organic shape.” He started sketching.

The piece he made from that maquette stood 6’ high, fashioned in mirrored brass. Hollow Bump no 3, it’s called. You could see the resemblance. It stands by the Regent’s Canal. Lost root, found tooth.

Lost artist soon after.

Astrid Sutton Sharkey

Astrid at Moore

Helmet no 6

 I remember those days when we’d meet at the spit head and stay until the afternoon melted into sunset.

We’d search for found objects. Sift through the shingle. Pick up pebbles that had been turned and aged by the waves.

In the scrub behind the beach we once found a fossilised skull, shot through by the elements. “Mythical Beast Standing”, that’s what it became. And sometimes we’d take away discarded branches that had been paralysed by storms.

And we’d see those two figures seated, never talking.

We collected clam shells. I’d imagined a “Venus Rising” from one of those, but he saw a giant vagina in a public park. There’s one of those nearby. “Vagina no 3”, I think.

He’d work silently but he liked me to be there. I’d tidy the studio; polish the bones and shells to an ivory sheen. Perhaps that was annoying?

I became “Helmet Head no 1” before our affair ended. My maquette still sits in his cabinet of curiosities.

Astrid Sutton Sharkey

Moore at Gagosian



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