Coffee with Barb and a Gargoyle
Once upon a time (July 9, 1890 to be exact), a Captain of Industry decided to build an ‘ancient’ seat of learning—from scratch. Since the Captain was named John D. Rockefeller and he put up an initial grant of $600,000 (about $16-million in today’s money), he got to build it the way he wanted. And what he wanted was gargoyles. By the time I arrived at the University of Chicago as an undergrad, they were everywhere. Smiling down as I walked to class, peering out at me as I ‘studied’ on the quadrangle, frowning as I headed for the gym, sneaking cheeky peeks into my dorm room as I dressed.
So to me, gargoyles are a wonderful, snarky, attitude-filled reminder of a time filled with learning and laughter and adventure. A small one overlooks my desk. His big brothers are the fabulous surprise that awaits as you make it to the top of Notre Dame and join them in looking out over Paris.
And they are the fabulous avatar and introduction to my guest today. Lynn Gerrard has all the attitude and dark humor of the gargoyles she gives voice to. She’s a writer and blogger and poet, but also one of the web’s true treasures as she effortlessly and unceasingly spotlights the achievements of so many around her.
So this is our lucky day! Lynn is joining us for coffee and to chat about her writing and her life. Okay, I know it’s really dark in here. But Lynn brought a bunch of candles, and I’ll start the fire while she lights them all. Please pull up a comfy chair, have some of this iced coffee or hot chocolate I brought all the way from Angelina’s in Paris, along with these fabulous little chocolate mousse cakes. Gargoyles love them.
NOTE FROM BARB: PLEASE JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR MY REVIEW OF LYNN’S NEW BOOK OF POETRY AND STORIES, MUSINGS & MISCHIEF
A Gargoyle Muses…Guest post by Lynn Gerrard
I’d just like to begin by thanking you for kindly allowing a Gargoyle to perch its stony self within the cushioned splendour of your gracious domain…(sorry about the pigeons, they tend to follow me everywhere…I’ll clean up before I go).
Now then, what would you like to know? OoOOo coffee! Excellent! I’ll try not to dribble as I reply.
What was your first car?
Ah, well, despite my having endured 20 lessons in my youth, I never quite mastered the art of driving. Yes, I know, quite shameful really but I found the entire process tedious and staying focused wasn’t one of my strong points. Oo look a squirrell!
My mind would drift off at tangents as I trundled along, which, oddly, seemed to directly correlate with the varying shades of pale my instructor displayed on such occasions. He once threatened to send me the invoice for his therapy sessions.
In later years I finally managed to fulfill my ambition to own a motorbike. She was a beautiful, black (of course) Cagiva. Oh, the fun me and my bike NEVER had! You see, the problem was I bought it in haste. I saw it, fell in love with it, straddled it and proceeded to topple from it every time I came to a standstill.
Apparently my legs were considerably shorter than I imagined and, as a result, were unable to maintain contact between boot and road when in a static position. Someone with longer legs than I took it back to the shop for me where the owner was kind enough to refund all monies…once he’d stopped sniggering!
Star Wars, Star Trek or Firefly?
Hm…I’m not familiar with Firefly and I loathed Star Wars (awaits flood of hate mail) so, my choice is a firm Star Trek. Back in the day I quite fancied Captain Kirk but such feelings easily transferred to the delicious Captain Jean-Luc Picard when his manly gait graced the Bridge of the Starship Enterprise, in the late eighties.
To be honest, it was Patrick Stewart’s resonant tone that provided most of the appeal. Oh, that man could unfurrow the forehead of a Klingon, such was the command his voice possessed. Sadly, for me, his attractiveness dissipated following a conversation I’d had with my hairdresser, one day.
We shared a passion for Picard’s dulcet tones and she agreed when I suggested that had he spoken with a broad northern accent, not dissimilar to my own, we wouldn’t have found him quite so captivating. Subsequently, I was unable to get that thought out of my head and every time I watched an episode of Star Trek all I could hear was “Aye lad, make it ‘t so Number ‘t One…an’ while yer at it….stick ‘t kettle on an’ bring me a plate o’ tripe.”
Worst movie ever?
Anything featuring Sylvester Stallone! I’d rather drink a bucket of seawater filtered through the sweaty sock of a stranger than sit through one of his films! Either experience would cause me to be violently sick but the former option would be far more palatable and leave a less unfavourable taste in my mouth.
And yes, I am aware that for all I know Mr Stallone could be the nicest, most benevolent person on the planet but reasoning such as that does not manage to suppress the utter repulsion this man generates within me. I have no idea as to why my feelings are so resolutely placed.
Essentially, I think I’m mostly affected by the nauseating, over the top, he man image he attempts to emulate through the characters he plays. Then again, for me, his acting ability is so limited that no matter which film he’s in he’s only ever capable of playing the same character…that of a tired neanderthal grunting its way back to the cave after a failed hunting trip.Who would you most like to sit next to on an airplane?
Anyone other than Sylvester Stallone! Sorry, I’ll let go of that now *twitch*.
Erm, well, I don’t like flying or, more accurately, I don’t like the notion of crashing so I tend to close my eyes and vanish into my own world of silence. There, I can inwardly sob undetected whilst desperately trying to erase all graphic images of post-crash carnage from my mind. This being the case, I’d prefer to sit next to someone who wouldn’t feel obliged to talk to me. Maybe a mime artist…but only if he/she could keep their hands still.
Best guilty pleasure ever?
Okay, whilst it’s you, I’ll let you into a secret. From being a very young girl I have wrestled with a virtually uncontrollable urge to peel things from things. “Huh?” I feel you query through a quizzical brow. Allow me to elaborate.
My addiction began in the early 60’s when, as a little ‘un, I noticed a tiny fleck of paint had partially removed itself from the ancient, well used and much loved metal ironing board belonging to my feisty, old Irish granny. When I say paint, it was more of an enamel coating but regardless, that renegade sliver of yellow drew me towards it like a beckoning finger dangling a Sherbet Dab.
At first I just tickled it, you know, tentatively testing its attachment to the surface but it fell away so easily I felt the need to explore further, and so I did. The next piece struggled, initially, but was soon to succumb to my tiny, teasing fingers, eventually giving way to a lengthy strip of yellow wonderfulness which spread half way up the board!
I was having so much fun….right up to my granny finding me partially buried beneath the enamelled ribbons of my sin. She asked if I was responsible for the damage. I replied with a dodgy sounding ‘nope’. She said that it must have been the fairies then. I nodded briskly in agreement. My granny just smiled, took my hand and led me into the kitchen for a glass of milk before, as she said, the fairies saw fit to attack that too.
As it happened, the fairies were to visit that ironing board on several other occasions. Eventually, they progressed to stripping my mother’s imitation pearls of their pearlescent coating and the wallpaper from the wall at the side of my bed before finally graduating, in much later years, towards the rapture inducing peeling properties of a heat gun on painted wood! Tsk! Fairies, eh! Look, if they’re unhinged enough to sneak into your room whilst you’re asleep and steal your teeth….who knows what else they’re capable of!
Who would play you in the movie?
The female equivelant of Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers. No, I do not own a seaside hotel but my life does seem to consist of an ongoing medley of confusing circumstances where I am largely misunderstood and, as a consequence, haplessly frustrated whilst forever battling to contain the sarcastic, angry demon who dwells within. Hm, I may ring Spielberg later!
What is the one thing you can’t live without?
Yes, I know that reply could be considered rather staid and somewhat syrupy but it’s the one that sits with me best. Some say that love makes the world go around, well, I beg to differ. Without hope all those who would dream of finding love may never do so, their desire to discover such quashed by the futility of embarking upon the exercise.
Indeed, it could be argued that it is hope which drags us from our beds, to face another day, as we seek to make sense of our existence. Good ol’ hope, preventing us from succumbing to the pointlessness of everything and thus thrusting ourselves into the abyss of eternal despondency.
Oh yeah, and chocolate! Who could live without that?
As a child (or now) what did you want to be when you grew up?
My mother once told me that I came out of her womb writing! Whilst I have reason to doubt this claim were it to be the case, given my claustrophobic tendencies, I would imagine my first offering was a letter of complaint regarding the accommodation!
Other than that, nothing inspired me as much as the concept of sitting in my own little den, writing stories that would frighten the hell out of people. That’s still my aim today.
When and why did you start writing poetry?
Ahh now then, here’s the thing! I became a poet quite by accident.
From as far back as I can remember I have always enjoyed writing short stories, horror mostly. Indeed, as a child, my favourite ‘toy’ was the new notepad I would quickly fill each week. And I may have been an only child but not once did I feel alone in the glorious company of my characters who would skip merrily across the page before being heinously butchered in one diabolical manner or another. Oh the joy of simple pleasures!
I had written the occasional poem but it was upon discovering twitter in 2012, that my inner poet really began to emerge. I found the challenge of fitting a story into 140 characters to be quite exciting and the micro-poem was the perfect way to fulfill that quest.
From there I went on to concentrate on lengthier pieces, in more depth, by tapping into the sights, sounds, and general textures of life which surround us, including certain aspects of my own life’s experiences.
Somehow, I find it easier and more natural to express the strange nuances of daily life and the quirks of our very existence through the medium of poetry, through the flow and rhythm of the universe, that pulsing repository for poems just waiting to be written!
I just hope my life’s ink holds out long enough for me to write a lot more!
What is the relationship between your (dark/funny) poetry, your (very dark/just as funny) Facebook posts, and your (scariest /darkest/funniest of all) menstruation blog? (And can I say, somehow nobody ever pointed out the similarities between the female reproductive system and the Satanic rams head before! I know…weird!).
Yes, the similarities are uncanny and the analogy most fitting given the demonic agonies we females have to suffer in our bid to assure continuity of the species! Frankly, I think we’re quite marvelous and there should be a bank holiday designated, in our honour, to celebrate that fact!
Now then, in answer to your question, I think the relationship between my poetry, posts and blogs lies with my obsession with all things dark and all things humorous. As with any artist, I enjoy evoking a reaction through my work, wanting to both tease and terrify my audience. However, as much as the two work well together I also particularly delight in exploring and exposing the power of darkness and light in their own right.
My poetry and other writings fluctuate from the serious, as in social commentary, poignant, dark etc, to the more jocular and whimsical. It’s no secret that I do adore examining the dark and depraved side of man’s psyche, consequently, much of my writing reflects this.
Regarding posts on social media, well, mostly they’re just flippant offerings designed to provide a bit of a giggle or, better still, to shock! Oh, I do so love to shock.
Not in a vulgar or unwholesome manner, of course, but via a something that will cause a little intake of breath. A something innocuous and entertaining but provocative enough to twang the nerves of that special breed of individual who spends their day scrolling through social media just waiting to be offended so they can complain.
Regarding my blog ‘No Womb In The Lynn’, I want to forcefully cast the taboos attached to the subject of all things menstrual to one side! I want to bring to light the horrors we ladies are forced to endure when our pre-pubescence is cruelly replaced by the volcanic eruption of the active uterus!!
Through this blog I want the ever suffering female to find sanctuary, succour, sympathy and all things sanitary. Indeed, I want to provide a place where she can glean comfort from the company of similar souls, helpless victims of womb domination and what better way to do that than through the medium of humour!
Don’t misunderstand, this blog isn’t a dreary, pseudo-clinical account of the menstruating female, it’s more an honest, tongue in cheek, tale-telling, unfolding story of events revolving around the evolving female.
Oh, and it’s important to note that this blog isn’t just for the female reader, oh, no!, you’ll find no misandry here! The male is more than welcome to visit and comment. Actually, he may even view the experience as something of a survival course.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard?
That would be “Not to overthink the first draft”.
Popular advice, I imagine, and it appeals to me the most. It makes sense to get everything out of your head and onto the page just as it comes. The key is to resist the temptation to stop the flow of writing by tweaking as you go along.
The trouble with pausing to tweak is that it’s time consuming, interrupts the flow of creativity and the more you tweak as you write the more crucial elements of your idea are in danger of slipping from memory never to be recovered. So, no matter how badly written the first draft may be, so what? Just let the words spill, unchecked, from your mind onto the page. There’ll be plenty of tweaking opportunities further along as the piece develops.
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I’m working on the second draft of my play, ‘I’m Not All There’.
The play came about due to my being involved in the ‘Stand Up To Stigma’ project last year, a campaign which used comedy to encourage an awareness and a better understanding of mental health issues with the ultimate aim of reducing discrimination and stigma in society.
Essentially, the whole purpose of my writing this play is to help perpetuate the aims of that project and I’m attempting to do so by combining the reality of mental health issues with dark humour.
Unfortunately, my other writing commitments, such as the novel I’m working on, have had to be put on hold to allow me to concentrate on the play. After saying that, I do confess to being a slave to the poem so, when one pops into my head I have to press snooze on the playwriting until my odes are out!
I frequently add poems to my other blog, The Grumbling Gargoyle, alongside other grumblings of mine which reside there. Published pieces can be found in my first poetry book, Darkness & Decadence and in my second, recently published poetry book Musings & Mischief. The latter includes three flash fiction stories as a little extra.
Also, my one woman show will be given an airing again this summer when I perform in the Gillygate Shed at the Great Yorkshire Fringe on the 20th July and then again at the Wirral Festival of Firsts on the 23rd.
The show is a mixture of spoken word poetry with slices of dark humour chucked in for good measure ‘cos I can’t help myself! And if I’m lucky, at some point during all of this, I may even pause for a quick shower…who knows?
Well, it’s been lovely visiting you here but methinks ‘tis time to fly. You’re such a generous, obliging host, Barb. I genuinely never expected the Indian head massage but how kind and thank you once again for inviting my grumbles into your wonderful world. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your company.
Thank you so much for joining us here today, and please come back tomorrow for my review of Lynn’s new book of poetry and stories, Musings & Mischief.
Contact & Buy Links:
Amazon: Darkness & Decadence
Amazon: Musings & Mischief
Wallace Publishing Author Page: Lynn Gerrard
Blog: The Grumbling Gargoyle
Blog: No Womb In The Lynn