First sentences when awake 1: “Where is Alan Road?”

I dream a lot. And I capture dreams. In contrast with many people I can recall my dreams for some time. That allows me to get inspired by the most wonderous stories that happen in my dreams. Most of my dreams have to do with traveling. Well actually almost all of my dreams. The explanation for that is that life for me is one big continuous process of change. Change I welcome and never am afraid of. It even drives me to write the way I do about the topics I choose. It makes me follow those dreams and makes me travel. As such my dreams are often the seed where new experiences and friendships derive from.

Being a dreamer is nothing like being unrealistic or a being out of reality. It merely is a mirror of my life combined with imagination, inspiration and experiences. My dreams tell me things I do not easily recognize when fully awake. They do change the coarse of my life and even the most important decisions in my life have been triggered by the subcontious reality of my dreams.

So I learned to value my dreams and to sometimes chase them. For me my dreams define me as a person and as an artist. As a writer.

Because of that I’ve been capturing the first sentence that pops in my mind as soon as I am waking up. I pen them down, for reference. It’s a way of capturing those dreams. Sometimes these sentences do not telle me that much, sometimes they explain themselves later. Sometimes much later. The moment I am really awake I try to spend half an hour writing down the dream I had based on that one sentence. And that way of handling my dreams sometimes brings me stories or poetry. Or the need to change someting in my way of life. I also log the time with that sentence that I pen down in those early hours. Somehow that seems important although I do not (yet) know why.

This morning’s sentence at 6.54 AM was: “Where is Alan Road?”.

Alan Road could of course be a road. But Alan Road wasn’t a road in my dream, it was a person. This Alan Road is someone I’m  searching for. I met him on a trainride from The Hague to London. He was a young man, a performer. A poet. He was on his way to perform in London in an old pub where they have poetry evenings where writers and poets come to listen to each other and enjoy each others company. Alan was a quiet man, I think around his thirties. With an unshaven face, like some guys think is looking cool. He was sitting there in the fast moving train quietly on his mental island. So was I. We didn’t talk at first.

It took us an hour before we exchanged words. He started first, I answered. We talked about how the landscape changes colour while traveling in a fast train. And how that seems like a film, a fast changing decor. Something that is not really out there but that’s projected. Alan started this game of imagining a world outside the train that was not real even though we were looking at it. I went along with him and we had a lot of fun thinking of all kind of situations and people inside that moving landscape. And what they did to each other, how the loved and cheated, what businesses they had and who killed who, where a little boy was about to be born and what that boy would later become. We envisioned people walking in the fields in northern France, hand in hand being romantic. And about a cyclist who tried to follow the train for a while abviously unable to keep up with us. Within mental minutes we were in Calais riding into to Channel Tunnel and quickly after that on our way on the English main land. We laughed a lot. Alan was a nice guy.

By the time we arrived at the trains destination we had exchanged phone numbers and plans for the coming days. I promised to come to his performance, somewhere in the Wimbledon area. So, a few days later I went there. There was indeed a poetry night going on in the Alexandra, the pub he told me to go to. He described the place accurately so I had no doubts. But Alan wasn’t on the program. I waited, searched, but didn’t find him. No Alan. Halfway the evening I asked a barkeeper wether he knew where Alan Road was. His answer was simply “Just around the corner miss, two blocks away.”

alan road

Only then I realized I had been in Alan Road years ago, to visit a friend who lived there. It must have been more than 30 years since, and I wonder why this place came back to me. I guess I’ll have to check it out someday or maybe another dream will explain this.

© Alice Anna Verheij

A postcard from Jane.

Today, to my surprise, I received a postcard from Jane. Jane Morris. She lived in England between 1839 and 1914. She was a model. In those Victorian times she was one of the three grand ladies of painting next to Elisabeth Siddal who was portrayed as Ophelia by the great painter John Everett Millais and Dorothy Dene, one of the three muses I am writing about in my new novel. Dorothy was no doubt the most beautiful of the three but she was a kind of Marilyn Monroe and died at a too early age of 39 presumably of laudanum overdose but probably due to an abortion that went wrong.

Anyway, Jane Morris was as a model rather surprisingly probably the most successful of the three women. She was married to a known and respected painter and by that was wealthy compared to others. And she was the lover of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, the prince charming of the pre Raphaelites. Jane is the most portrayed and Jane was no doubt the least talented of the three models in those days. Dorothy was an actress and Elisabeth Siddal a very talented paintress. Jane however was a model of vry humble working class descent, her talent being a mystifying beauty and an enduring inspiration to both Rosetti as her husband William Morris.

So, Jane wrote me a few days ago from London. Having lunch on a boat not far from the Tate where her portraits hang, in between writing her lifestory. A couple of months ago we’ve met in a café just around the corner where I live. She told me about her life and I told her about mine. You see, I identify as much with Lena Dene as my table partner identifies with Jane. Lena is, as you might already know from my other writings, the younger and unknown sister of the fore mentioned Dorothy and in real life was named Isabell Helena Pullen, a cockney girl by birth. Anyway I talked to Jane, or her reincarnation, that day and was struck by the amazing resemblence of her with the Jane from way back then. During the following months I researched for my book and in the process thought of this Jane many times. I saw her portraits hundreds of times. And now I received this wonderful postcard. Seems she’d been thinking of me too in the past time and as she wrote followed my advice, went back to London and started writing. I wonder what will come of that.

Hopefully we’ll meet again soon.

© 2012 Alice (Lena) Anna Verheij

The Story of Mary Lloyd.

She was a beautiful and praised model at the end of the 19th century. Then she was forgotten.
Until 1933 when a newspaper article told her sad story to it’s readers. The she was forgotten again.
Until 1996 when Dr. Martin Postle, a British art historian discovered photographs of Lord Frederic Leighton’s atelier just after he died showing multiple paintings for which Mary posed. Just like she posed for Frederic Brock when he made the Victoria Memorial years later. Then she was forgotten again.
Until I saw the painting by Frederic Leighton titled ‘Flaming June’ and learned about the dispute regarding the model who sat for Leighton when he painted this painting. That triggered and puzzled me. And when I found out about Mary’s story there was no way back for me.

Mary Lloyd, the forgotten model is the main character in my upcoming Dutch language novel (hopefully to be translated into English later) De Engel van Kensington (The Angel from Kensington). Although large parts of Mary’s life are unknown and impossible to retrieve from the past the story of Mary Lloyd, the upper middle class girl who became a painters model and lived a rather quiet life, is a beautiful story full of 19th century fin de siècle atmosphere, 20th century interbellum excitement and love.

Mary Lloyd who at seventy was still a beautiful woman leading a poor life as a seamstress and housekeeper but looking back at a wonderful modelling career, deep friendships, beautiful art a two loves of her life. So, what really happened in Mary’s life?

The Angel from Kensington is planned for publication before Christmas 2012. The story of Mary Lloyd starts again today.

Alice Anna © 2012