A Brontë Pilgrimage

These are the Yorkshire moors where the ghosts of Catherine and Heathcliff roam; You hear their laments on the wind and you feel their icy breaths on your cheek as they creep under your coat to nestle against your skin, to steal all of your life-giving warmth. The wildness of Catherine and Heathcliff is the moor’s wildness. This wildness and the isolation so oppressively present in every single one of the Brontë sisters’ novels are not themes they imagined, they are what they lived and they were all they knew.


The old town of Haworth, where the Brontë family resided, is now a sort of shrine in honour of the three sister’s lives and work. The Old Apothecary is still there, all original features intact. The church is there and in use, the school house they founded stands where it was built and, of course, the parsonage where they lived, and died far too young, is now a museum.


By photographing the sign below back to front, black against blue sky, I’ve tried to emulate the gothic and tragic end to the six siblings’ lives. First the early death of their mother less than a year after the family moved into the parsonage and then the demise of two siblings to tuberculosis caught in school, the death of the wayward brother Branwell and then Anne and Emily within just 1 1/2 years of each other. Finally Charlotte died in the early stages of pregnancy just before the age of 39 and less than a year after her marriage, leaving just their father and her widower.


At this table is where Emily wrote Wuthering Heights, Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre and Anne wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The Brontë Society at Haworth bought it back with a grant of £580,000. Standing in front of it is awe-inspiring for anybody with literary aspirations.


The bed below is an artwork and a book written by New York artist Tamar Stone using quotes from the letters and novels of the Brontë sisters. In order to read it, the reader has to unmake the bed and then make it again, in imitation of the domestic duties of women through the ages.


Attached to the parsonage is, of course, the church and a graveyard. The Brontë family are buried in the crypt, which is not open to visitors. But standing here, and looking through the graveyard, out towards the moors, with the chickens roaming free, I got an even deeper understanding of what inspired them to write the novels that holds us captivated still today.


Arachne’s lullaby


Enter, enter, dearest friend,
rest your weary wings,
leave behind your sorrows.

Fly closer, closer,
for me
to kiss your harrowed face ‒
closer, even closer,
for me
to sweep you in my finest lace.

Sleep tight now, dearest friend ‒
wrapped in webs of wistful warmth ‒
as I crouch here by your dozing self,
spinning sticky tricks for travellers tomorrow.


Fraughtfully turns Disturbing

Fraughtfully turns Disturbing this Spring with a Book drop at Café and Salvage in Hove, UK. The theme is Dystopia. Drop in and get yourself something chilling to read in the sunshine, courtesy of Fraughtfully. These cards will also be left in books around town. If you find one, let us know what you’re reading.

On the pripyat OnThePripyat_text

On the Pripyat

Beneath Still waters small

Dima sat, watching the fish in its final throes at the bottom of the boat. A monstrous catfish that had taken all his strength to haul out, gasping for air, clinging onto life for as long as possible. Now there they were, not so different from each other.

The river was teeming with these fish. He’d heard them called mutants by adventurous fishermen who crossed into the zone, but Dima didn’t believe any of that. After the town was evacuated, the fish had been left to grow, and he saw the daily advance of plants over the contaminated soil, moving to invade and encroach, to make abandoned concrete and brickwork their own.

The fish had stilled. Dima sighed and picked up his knife, squatted down and brought the point to its soft belly, then he washed the insides with the clear river water, aware of the silent killer permeating the flesh he touched, mingling with the water he was using, soaking into the fabric of the boat he was sitting in, lurking within his own body.

He washed the final remnants of gut from his hands by rubbing them in the cool water. He would take the fish home and cook it, keep a small portion for himself and leave the rest in the old grocery store on the corner, where the selfsettlers had agreed to leave surplus food; they roamed this ghost town that had once been so full of promise.

Memories flittered by, of children running barefoot outside, of military men appearing in protective gear and the streets being washed with cleaning fluid. Until they were given two hours to pack important papers and essentials, enough to last them three days. What must have been thousands of buses appeared and the town was emptied in just two hours. The time he spent sharing a flat with other evacuees outside Kyiv were the darkest cloud in his mind. Why had he survived?

Dima raised himself up in the boat and grabbed the oars. He paused for a moment. Against the horizon loomed the ill-fated plant with its dying reactor entombed in a concrete and steal sarcophagus. It was meant to limit radiation. Dima thought that the view from the boat on the river, must be just as good as the view was that night on the bridge, where the people of the town came out to watch the fireworks. And how spectacular the rainbow-coloured flames of the burning graphite nuclear core must have looked – the flames higher than the towering smoke stack.

Rowing back to shore was heavier with the fish in the boat. As he rowed he thought that perhaps it had been worth it for those people. Perhaps the beauty of the display was such that they died happy. He liked to think that way, of his wife and daughter, that night, in the crowd on the bridge.

When Dima reached the river bank, he continued sitting for a while. The sickness he played host to was sapping his strength. He rested his head in his hands, closed his eyes and listened to the clucking of the water against the boat. So soothing! A familiar sound, as if nothing had really changed.

Dima dragged the boat up on the beach until it was positioned by the diamond-shaped warning sign where the water never reached. He bent down to haul his catch out and place it over his shoulder. The cold eyes of the fish stared back at him.

The authorities had tried to make them all leave. They said it was dangerous to stay. But Dima refused to become another victim, when to stay meant a few more weeks living in the lightest place of his heart.