Monday, April 11, 2016

Diving Belles

Was glancing through olduvai's list of books-to-read. One caught my eye- Lucy Wood's 'Diving Belles'. A collection of short stories. Cornish folklore. Tales of the strange and the wondrous along Cornwall's spectacular coast. Yup. I'm in. (Reviews here, here and here.)

'The Wishing Tree' is full of the bonds between daughter Tessa and her mother June. It's more heartwarming than supernatural. One story is titled 'Wisht'. Ooh the legends of the Wild Hunt and the stories surrounding Wistman's Wood in Dartmoor and Devonshire's hellhounds. Buccas (hobgoblins), piskies (pixies) and such.

The book opens with its eponymous title story of how wives in this little seaside town go to Demelza, who operates an ancient diving bell. These wives go deep down in the diving bell to seek and retrieve their fishermen-husbands who have been lured away by mermaids. Apparently the retrieval might be temporary. The unfortunate ones become mermen permanently and retain their youth deep below, appearing not to age even after decades. Iris is one such woman. Oddly she doesn't go to Demelza until her husband has been gone for 50 years.

Then she relived the morning when she had woken to the smell of salt and damp and found a tiny fish in its death throes on the pillow next to her. There was only a lukewarm indent in the mattress where her husband should have been. She swung her legs out of bed and followed a trail of sand down the stairs, through the kitchen, and here and there, on the fridge, on the kettle, anemones bloomed, fat and dark as hearts. It took her all day to scrub and bleach and mop the house back into shape. By the time she'd finished he could have been anywhere. She didn't phone the police; no one ever phoned the police. No one was reported missing. 

'Blue Moon' refers to Blue Moon Nursing Home where temperamental human residents regularly transform into animals and turn tea into blood or oil. The residents have familiars with them too. Housekeeping is a challenge. The story focus on the relationship between a staff and a Mrs Tivoli and her familiar Maria the catfish who lives in a tank. Eventually, we hear Mrs Tivoli's story.

It's policy for staff to log all transformations, noting events leading up to the change, possible causes, length of time in metamorphosis—the extra admin is a drag but what job isn't swamped in bureaucracy these days? This was the first time I'd seen Mrs Tivoli change into a hare, though, and the logbook doesn't have any entires for her. Some of the other residents do it if the kitchen runs out of ketchup or they miss their favorite program on the telly, but Mrs Tivoli wasn't like that. She was usually so composed, so self-contained, as if nothing could faze her at all. 

It's such a beautiful read. Fun, humorous and full of magic stardust. 'Notes from the House Spirits' is brilliant! It comes from the perspectives of the gentle house spirits observing the incumbent human occupants through the years. Kinda morbidly funny. Hahaha.

Dust drifts across the room and settles on skirting and curtain rails. We can see it, every single piece, as it piles up and no one brushes it away. Dust is static and lazy; it lands on the first thing it sees. It fills the house bit by bit and no one brushes it away. It is not our job to brush it away.

No comments: