Transcript from opening remarks by our keynote speaker, Professor Juniper Thrust
And now the question will always be – where to start – you see, you see? Never easy is it. Like sponge cakes, homemade aphrodisiacs and garden furniture, it looks a doddle.
But let’s take garden furniture. Where would you start? No, nothing in front of you. No blueprint, no manual. You’d know you’d need to arrive at a table and chairs but the proportions and dimensions and the joints and the adhesives don’t come quick, do they? No, what I mean is the difference with garden furniture and homemade aphrodisiacs and whatever else I said, was it an egg sandwich? No with these things, you start with the base materials and a recipe, or an idea of a recipe at the very least to get you where you are going.
But man is the double bluff. We think we know everything but we start with nothing. And we know nothing. So really, the process is about how we deal with the experience of nothing or the realisation at the start of knowing nothing when we thought we knew everything. And that is what proves the undoing of an erstwhile creative force. It overwhelms. Belittles. Taunts. Denies.
We’re not in egg sandwich territory anymore!
It was Tribbet who made a first attempt to delineate all the qualities of a man and the concomitant methodology for his creation.
I see you have your Tribbet with you. Nice and new. An unbent spine. Good! An unbent spine is how it should be with Tribbet. Do not read. Tribbet makes a valiant attempt to control and objectify what we are doing here but we, we are straddling the line between art and science and we will not be textbooked!
So I’m sorry if you got it for the course. The Tribbet. Do you have the receipt still?
Please do not buy the textbooks. For there is no methodology when making a man, there is only instinct and trust and perseverance. Write that down instead, if you must.
While Tribbet arguably excelled at proportion and mental dimension (the garden furniture again), she utterly failed in the consideration and inclusion of the one of the principles of my pedagogy – you must have quirks in the organic material.
Show of hands – does your man have blue eyes? Dark brown hair, a Celtic brogue – a good 12 of you, fans of a certain Irish Romance Writer, I presume. Lovely stuff. But how about wrinkles? Acne scars? Triangulated moles? A birthmark that comes out in the sun? I implore you to think beyond the obvious, the perfect in your incantations. Perfection is bland.
Quirks in the organic material. The last time I made a man, I gave him three fingers on one hand and we had a wild time coming up with the reason why, he and me together.
Which brings me to synchronicity. The first time I made a man was when I found a driver’s licence in the back garden of my little crofter’s cottage in Devon. My son immediately assumed it was an intruder – how else could it be there – and demanded that I call the police. I nodded, promised to do as he suggested and scurried that little card away from his purview into my private place, a turn of the century jewellery box that I’d hidden beneath the floorboards.
The man in question – and I shall protect his identity for he is now a mixologist of some note in the province of Bolton – rather the licence of the man in question was a provisional licence. Immediately a brain honed in book clubs and writer’s groups sprang into action. A man – from the photo in his forties – intense and expressive with a side cocked nose and one continuous eyebrow – why would he only have a provisional license? I grew up in a nuclear family which went well, nuclear – but I hold onto a lot of those conditioned beliefs. The woman cooks. The man drives. So what caused the anomaly here?
New to this country? Perhaps in reality an accomplished motorist at home but thwarted by his provisionality here – or riches to rags? Always previously had a driver? I would spend hours, speculating on this with the peonies, or in bed, my fat feet in the air and my throat in my ears just singing of him.
Never once did I think of investigating his whereabouts. Yes, I have the internet, but no. To jump into my imagination felt like diving into a deep blue infinity pool, untarnished by the turds and tourists of fact and obligation.
Regarding the licence my son asked but once, and then muttered and shuttered himself in his bedroom with the bluelight; just so I began to sequester myself. Regarding my sanity, he commented but once that I had ‘lost my mind’. Work had called about my absence and he didn’t see why he had to make excuses. ‘After all’ he said. ‘I’m not dad, am I?’. Thank god I thought to myself. ‘Thank God’ I said aloud and he shuttered and muttered himself into the blue light again.
I first noticed the milk – his milk – curdled in the fridge, untouched. No note.
And it was while I was looking at the curdled milk in the fridge that I began to think about turning and changing and about the man on the driver’s licence and how to make him mine or real or both. I looked around my kitchen – the large oak table, the aga, the pantry that I kept stocked with all the chemicals and biological components specific to my profession. And I thought – now is the time to make him, the man on the licence, mine and real and both.
Ad this is where synchronicity led me – the discovery of the driver’s licence when I was at what my sister called my ‘lowest ebb’, my general malaise with the industry’s refusal to embrace my views on the potential of science, art and witchcraft, plus the abandonment of my adult son, these conditions gave up the terrain and desire for my experimentation.
Does that sound callous about my son? Well you’re here and you wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t made the choice to be societally a ‘terrible mother’. So how do you feel about yourself now?
Right. So we have quirks in the organic material, synchronicity and lastly and briefly, mystery. As you will know, there is a fairly sizeable chunk in all of my collected works which is just blank pages. Deliberate – you need to accept the unknowable. Granted, you need to have a very clear backstory for your man as gaps are terribly embarrassing later when you are attempting to pass at a party. Please ladies – decide in advance if he understands Scrabble! But beyond that – I cannot teach you – you have to trust in the alchemy, be of university standard across all three academic sciences and have an openness to the fourth science, a woman’s wisdom.
And access to fresh meat. Lots of it. More than you think. Befriend your butcher.
I thank you for your time and interest and open the floor to questions.