A Virtual Heart


Today I digress from my usual core business of alchemico-surrealist psychonautical beachcombing (try getting that on a business card) in order to thank fellow blogger Aubrey for nominating the Shoreline for the Liebster Blog Award.

Since entering the blogosphere I have discovered some terrific writing, art, music, photography, and other good things perpetrated by other bloggers, a few of whom are known to me personally, but most of whom are not. I have never met Aubrey in the realm often referred to as real life– for one thing she lives in California, whereas I am, of course, plumbing the depths on the south coast of England– but her blog has become one of my regular online stop-offs. It specialises in stories woven around curious old objects, postcards, pictures, and events. While it is hard to single out one post of hers to which to direct you, this is one of my favourites (and those familiar with strange sites in southern England might recognise the place she has used as the basis for this tale). Aubrey is not actually called Aubrey- her nom de blog (maybe that should be bloggue) is a homage to Aubrey Beardsley- and in my imagination she combines elegance and decadence, dripping with jewels in her periwig.

"Venus Between Terminal Gods", Aubrey Beardsley, 1895

“Venus Between Terminal Gods”, Aubrey Beardsley, 1895

The Liebster is not, in fact, any kind of ‘official’ award- rather it is simply something that a fellow blogger may bestow upon you on a whim, simply because they like what you’re doing and want to encourage you to waste yet more of your precious time tending that little blog of yours. “Little” is the operative word- the award is supposed to be for blogs with less than 300 followers (I can confirm that the Shoreline satisfies this criterion with (ahem) plenty of room to spare- it’s a small-but-discerning type of crowd here). Accepting the award requires one to answer questions chosen by the person who nominated you- see below. The precise format seems not to be all that fixed- see here for more information on the Liebster Award and the variations through which it has passed during the years it has travelled around the ‘net.

The ‘award’ itself is simply an image one can display on one’s blog, thus…


.. and at the risk of sounding incredibly ungrateful and churlish, it’s not an image that suits the Shoreline terribly well, which is why I’ve taken the extreme liberty of utilising my own approximation of it at the top of this post- the image you see there is an alchemical emblem from the mysterious French esoteric manuscript, La Tres Sainte Trinosophie.

Now for Aubrey’s questions:

1                Why did you start blogging?

A full answer to this would entail writing my autobiography. In summary: in 2009, at the age of 40, I moved to the south coast after 22 years of living in London. My personal life was in turmoil; the details need not detain us here. I had always liked the idea of living by the sea, and once there soon got into the habit of going for long walks along the beach. I found a number of strange things washed ashore, including the flint “head of Anubis” which eventually became the jumping-off point for the blog. (The symbolism of Anubis is very relevant to the whole project; I may write more about that in a future post). The basic idea of the blog- which is that the Shoreline is both an actual place and a metaphor for liminal thresholds, in particular a metaphor for the threshold of consciousness (read more here)- started to take shape. This idea gradually coalesced into form over a period of about 6 months, my interest in Surrealism being slowly stirred into the mix along with the alchemico-occult strands, before I actually wrote any of it down. By the time I started writing it, I had some idea of the overall concept, the authorial voice (the persona of the Shoreline Wanderer), and the kinds of things I wanted to explore, and was spending so much time plotting all this that I felt I had to actually start writing it, simply to make it real. Otherwise it would have stayed as another of those intriguing but never actualised ideas, and I’ve had too many of those.

2        Do you find that you usually prefer the book or movie version?

The book, and I struggle to think of any exceptions. Even true for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a great film. I do remember being disappointed when I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being after loving the film version, but I’ve since re-read it, and got a lot more out of the book second time around.

3        Are you wearing jewellery now?  Bonus points if a parure is involved.

Should I admit that I had to Google to find out what a parure is? I very much like (tasteful) jewellery on women, and have often bought it as a gift. I don’t wear any myself.

4        Name five places you would never want to visit again.

I have spent much of my adult life working in hospitals, so could easily rattle off a list of ones I would not wish to revisit, but I’ll restrict myself to just one: I devoutly hope that I never again have cause to venture inside Mayday Hospital, Croydon  (a flavour of the Mayday may be gleaned through its nicknames, which include “May-die” and “Mayhem”).

Four other places I wouldn’t want to see again are:

i. The James Clerk Maxwell Building near Waterloo, London.

Part of the JCMB. The rest looks like this too.

Part of the JCMB. The rest of it looks like this too.


I had to go here on occasion during my academic studies, and always found it a baffling place: labyrinths of identical–looking corridors, the perfect exterior manifestation of the byzantine university regulations which pertained to my work at that time. In fact the experience of going there had a Kafka-esque quality even before entering the building: although the JCMB is clearly visible as you exit Waterloo station- in fact it’s almost directly opposite – it would still take me a good ten minutes to navigate the confusing pedestrian subways that lead across (i.e. under) the road to get to it. I don’t think I ever went there without surfacing in the wrong place at least twice.

ii. A (literally) nameless hotel in Tatvan, eastern Turkey, at which I stayed for a night in the summer of 1989, when a university friend and I spent six weeks hitch-hiking through Turkey. We slept in all sorts of strange places and accumulated the usual fund of road-dirt backpacker stories. I think it’s fair to say that we were largely indifferent to creature comforts and our standards were very low- but even in that context there was something uniquely grim and threatening about the place in Tatvan. It appeared to be a large house under construction, with the foreman of the work gang having hit on the idea of allowing (for a fee, obviously) student traveller types to put down their sleeping bags in the rooms that already had a roof- all highly illegal, no doubt. The place was totally bare and filled with choking dust. In the morning, as we left, we noticed two members of the “staff” dangling from scaffolding outside, taking it in turns to press their faces against a hole in the wall. They were spying on women using the showers inside.

iii. Benidorm, Spain. This was another hitch-hiking trip, with the same friend the following year- we were headed to Morocco, but to get there we had to go through France and Spain. We got dropped off in Benidorm one evening and stayed there overnight.

Getting away from it all in Benidorm

Getting away from it all in Benidorm

Benidorm is the original cheap, booze-fuelled “package holiday” destination, favoured by young Brits looking to drink, fight, drink, copulate, and drink. I can’t deny that there was a certain morbid interest in seeing it once, but once was definitely enough.

iv. Any rock festival toilet cubicle. This is probably self-explanatory without the need for further description, justification, or illustration.

5        Ocean or lake?


6        What is the first book you couldn’t live without?

I don’t know about “couldn’t live without” but the first book that really bewitched me was The Nightwatchmen by Helen Cresswell.


I was probably about 10 when I first read it, and I then re-read it so much that I can still remember passages verbatim. It has a focus on atmospheres and details, a rarity in children’s books, and a simmering sense of mystery- a mystery that is never quite solved (which is rather how I think of life itself, now that I am – allegedly- grown up). I’m looking forward to introducing my daughter to it.

7        Are you one of those bloggers that believe that people resemble their icons?  

My answer to this is embedded in the preamble above.

8        If you were alive in 1902 would you be tempted to ride in one of those new car-things or would you prefer to continue driving your four-in-hand?

I dislike cars and have never learned to drive (I tried, a long time ago, but was hopeless at it, and my antipathy towards cars means I cannot muster any enthusiasm for trying again). So unquestionably the four-in-hand, although it’s fair to note that my dislike of cars also extends to most other wheeled conveyances, so I probably wouldn’t have been crazy about that either.

9        Which actor has provided you with your favorite rendition of Sherlock Holmes?

Basil Rathbone, of course. For me he *was* Holmes. None of the others I’ve seen are even worth mentioning.

10    You’re getting dressed for work.  You open your closet and find your clothes are not from this decade.  Are you happy about this?  What decade do you hope is represented?

I think it plausible that clothes manufacturers will eventually incorporate pheromones into their fabrics, in order that the wearer will become more sexually alluring. There will presumably come a decade during which the biotechnology of this will reach its zenith. I would like my clothes to come from that decade.

11    Have you ever mixed a cocktail – for either yourself or others?

When I was a student one of my housemates won a cocktail-making set in a raffle. We duly held a series of parties to which attendees were asked to bring bottles of spirits and items of fresh fruit. Predictable carnage ensued, but along the way I acquired a liking for whisky sours and bloody Marys. That was a long time ago. I rarely drink these days.

OK. I think that’s it- I have discharged the duties of a Liebster nominee and can now sit back and bask in the glory of it all. It only remains to nominate some other bloggers for their share of the excitement. Aubrey has asked me to nominate 11, which, although a significant number in Shoreline numerology, seems like rather a lot to me- I only follow a few blogs and I’m not sure there are as many as 11 I read regularly. The one I visit most often is probably Andy Sharp’s Heuristic England, the online nerve centre of the English Heretic occult organisation and extended family, but that is probably too well established for a Liebster,  while one of my other favourites, Fife Psychogeography, has already been nominated by Aubrey. So I’m going to restrict myself to just three (the sacred number of alchemy):

The Antonine Itineraries


Maximal Space

As is standard practice, I’m also going to specify some questions for the recipients to answer should they choose to do so. They can then nominate some other award recipients, again should they choose to do so.

My three questions are:

  1. What’s the point?
  2. Describe, waxing as lyrical as you like, a ‘peak experience’ you have had that involved listening to music.
  3. You are allowed to travel to any time and place in human history and ask one person one question. You may assume that they will answer truthfully, as best they can. Who would you meet, and what would you ask them? (on reflection that might be two questions in one, but I’m going to stick with it).

Should you choose not to accept the award- if time is simply too tight to compose a response, or if the whole thing strikes you as a little gloopy, that’s fine with me. It’s really just a way of acknowledging some blogs I find informative, stimulating and enjoyable.

Digression over. I’ll be back on the beach soon – until then, keep watching  the Shoreline.


Some Heretical Particulars

Greetings and thanks to all who attended and participated in the English Heretic 2012 AGM at Bath Masonic Hall on Saturday October 13th- and particular thanks to EH presiding guru Andy Sharp for all his hard work organising the event, at which a small but highly engaged band of attendees enjoyed a superb day of talks, performances and discussion.

Andy will, I suspect, be putting up some documentation of the event elsewhere (update: you can read his report of the day here), and I will not attempt any in-depth review. Instead I thought I’d share a slightly different kind of documentation: some pictures (grainy cameraphone ones, albeit) showing details of the decor and fittings inside the tremendously atmospheric Masonic Hall where the day’s events unfolded. You can see further such details (and better quality photos) on Ken Hollings’ blog, here.

Because, as everyone knows, the devil is in the details.

The Day of Heresy

I was delighted to be invited to participate in the English Heretic “2012 Annual General Meeting”, a day of talks and performances taking place on October 13th, in Bath’s rather remarkable Masonic Hall:

Some of the UK’s finest minds- and your correspondent- will be delving into all things esoteric, marginal and arcane for your delectation, stimulation, and enchantment. It promises to be a day of marvels: more details and tickets available here.

Arcane Sounds/Ritual Performance

Some of you might fancy this:


Read more here, where there is also a link to buy tickets.

The Shoreline’s showbiz reporter- that is, the Shoreline’s only reporter, the Shoreline Wanderer, i.e me- will be there. I’ll be the bloke encrusted in seaweed and barnacles, with the kind of demeanour that comes from living here at the threshold between land and sea, Consciousness and the Unconscious, Reason and the Irrational.