Byron Bay and the Long Weekend Getaway

Last weekend, I took a Saturday off work and made the 3 hour journey south from Brisbane to Byron Bay. For those who’ve never been or never heard of it, it’s a famous beach side town in northern New South Wales held fondly in the hearts of surfers world over.

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Having never been before, I still had an expectation of what I’d find when I got there. You assume it’ll be laid back, pretty, and full of people with relaxed views of the world and tough views on people who care nothing for the planet or the environment. I think I can safely say I was right.

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The local community is a strong force in Byron. Everyone is concerned with the impact that tourists are having on the beautiful local beaches, the cleaniness and busyness of the town’s picturesque streets, and the unsavouryness of some of the people who holiday there. There have been arguments put forward about a bed tax, and then counter-arguments about the fact that the money never goes back into the local community and they see little to no benefit from it. It’s a quandary all areas high in tourist numbers face, and one we’re only going to hear more about in the future.

I think my favourite things about the area are the lighthouse and its extraordinary views, the adorable rock wallabies, the vegan restaurant called The Beet and it’s amazing menu, and the relaxed, surfy vibe that permeates the entire town. Who wouldn’t want to live there? And that’s 80% of Bryon’s problem.

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Retold Fairytales – For love of the genre

Retold fairytales are one of my absolute favourite genres when it comes to books (and what I write!). There is something innately special about the reworking of beloved old folktales like East of the Sun, West of the Moon or Sleeping Beauty, and the thousands of creatively expressed stories that result. It’s a very personal thing, I think, the way an author decides to retell a fairytale and the new worlds they design around familiar characters.

One of the key aspects of retold fairytales lies in originality. I know, it seems like a bit of an oxymoron, but if you are taking a story that has been an intrinsic part of storytelling and popular culture for centuries, you need to add a new twist, a shot of creative universe building, to make the story fresh, new, and interesting. You’ve got to have Cinderella fighting her own battles and standing up to her wicked stepmother; you’ve got to have Jasmine weaving her own magic carpets and becoming sultan in her own right; you’ve got to have a cyborg Belle downloading books into her brain direct from the source and travelling the countryside, reading to children. Breaking the mould and seeing characters you’ve adored your whole life in amazing new situations is what makes the trope so noteworthy. And I think it’s why we keep revisiting the old stories we’re so familiar with; there are just so many amazing possibilities.

Here are a few of my favourite retold fairytales and  their brilliant authors:

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier.

This story centres around the old Six Swan fairytale, where six men are turned into swans and their sister has to weave six shirts made of nettles in order to free them. Juliet Marillier sets her beautiful story in ancient Ireland, a land already doused in magic and the supernatural, and creates something truly stunning. Sorcha is brave and steadfast in her task, despite the awful circumstances that surround her, and the ending is well worth the pain and suffering she goes through. I have always thought that her brothers took what she went through for granted though.

Beauty by Robin McKinley

Robin McKinley is the Queen of the retold fairytale genre; Beauty is the best example of why she’d held the crown for so long. The beauty in this story is awkward and falls short of the looks her sisters have, but she does have personality. The decision she makes to travel to the castle is one of love and sacrifice, and the relationship she has with the Beast is one that grows and develops over time. It’s ultimately a beautiful story, with a likeable heroine and intelligent storytelling.

A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J Maas

Sarah J Maas is a YA author I’ve been enjoying a lot lately. Her books are massive, epic tomes with strong, kickass female protagonists. This series starts off with a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and they keep getting better from there.

Alice by Christina Henry

Alice in Wonderland isn’t technically a fairytale, but I couldn’t leave this little gem off the list. Alice is set in a dark, strange land, where people are cruel and merciless. You won’t find whimsy here; instead, you find Alice locked in an asylum, triggered by the brutal death of a friend after a trip to a forbidden part of town years before. Hatter  is a man with his own problems; imprisoned after losing his mind, Hatter falls for Alice and helps her on her journey through Wonderland. It’s disturbing and twisted, but also full of adventure, wonder, love, and heroism.

The Woodcutter by Kate Danley

The Woodcutter is a melting pot of fairytales. Set in a realm where the fairytales we’ve grown up with are all true, the Woodcutter is the keeper of the peace between the Twelve Kingdoms. When Cinderella is murdered, the Woodkeeper must find who killed her before others meet the same grisly end. The world is rich and vibrant, and full of amazing stories from around the world.

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier

Another Beauty and the Beast retelling, beautifully rendered. Again, this one was set in ancient Ireland. Caitrin is a scribe, intelligent and skilled, and she’s on the run from deplorable family members when she seeks work at Anulan’s castle. He has spent years isolated from the outside world due to a physical deformity and some supernatural goings on, and Caitrin quickly forms a bond with him. The atmosphere is appropriately gloomy, and the love story powerful, yet understated.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Have you ever wondered what happens to the children who disappear into fairytale worlds and yet come back at the end? This deceptively short book delves into what those children have to deal with once they’re back home, with one of the main characters providing a boarding school to help them cope. It’s gorgeously written and imagined, with whole new worlds (both fantastically whimsical and terrifyingly dark) opened up. If you’ve ever wanted to fall into Wonderland, open a wardrobe into Narnia, or run through a brick wall to Platform 9 and 3/4, this is the book for you.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Based on Russian folktales, this glorious book is dark and magical. It evokes a wintery feel, where you feel the impulse to set in a comfy chair by the fireside, blanket in your lap, while you read into the wee hours. Vasilisa loves the tales her nurse tells her by the fire – particularly that of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon who appears in the night to steal souls. Vasilisa‘s father’s new wife is a devoutly Christian woman who refuses to adhere to the old ways, and so crops begin to fail and misfortune stalks the village. It’s up to Vasilisa to protect her home and her family, while everyone else turns away.

Do you have a favourite retold fairytale? I would love to find new recommendations!

 

 

The glorious freedom of travel

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this innate  burning desire to travel. To experience places I’ve never been, to do things I’ve never done. To go far outside what’s comfortable and familiar, and discover the new and the wonderful. It’s a joyous kind of freedom, the ability to travel, that’s only really a relatively new phenomenon when it comes to human beings.

But I think it’s about more than simply travelling to a new place – it’s a journey, and it involves learning so much about yourself that you’d otherwise never know. It’s about discovery, sure – the discovery of places, cities, history, and geography, but it’s also about self. You learn so much about who you are and what makes you you while travelling, since you’re put in different situations with different people and in places you’re unfamiliar with. You’re given the freedom to put the day to day bullshit aside and just learn to be you. To put it simply, to travel is to learn.

I think one of the most important lessons travel can teach you is to be true to yourself and the people you’re travelling with, and if you don’t think you can do that, you shouldn’t be travelling with them. You also have to adapt quickly and wear so many different hats. I’ve learned how to be a photographer, a cartographer, a budgeter, a planner, a life coach, a list maker, and so many other things. I’ve learned about compromise, about the value of honest, open discussion, and the beauty of simplicity.

On a recent trip to the UK, Ireland and Paris with my mum, I learned that generational gaps can be even more pronounced when travelling. I love to take a map and just walk a city, since it allows you to stumble upon tiny worlds known only by locals that are often overlooked by tour guides or pamphlets. You can get to the heart of a place, and discover what it is that makes people fall in love with it. This is made harder by taking your mother who has 30 years on you and tires much more easily. The lesson there? Next time I travel with mum, we’ll do a river cruise.

The healing power of books

If you’re a bibliophile, there’s no doubt that in times of stress or sadness, you’ve turned to books for solace.

Of course, there’s that obvious bit of reassurance you’ll get from reading about someone who’s been through what you’re going through, but it’s so much more than that.

When you’ve had an extremely shitty day and your life sucks beyond the telling of it, revisiting an old favourite and living awhile in that world you’ve loved for years is the ultimate form of escapism. For that short time, your problems are put to one side. You almost forget about finding that job, or that you’ve been single since the dawn of time. You can forget about your boss giving you a hard time, or that idiotic thing you said in a professional setting. Life gets a tiny bit easier; you’re with old friends now, who won’t judge you, who’ve known you all your life. Your problems might still be there when the book is finished, but you’re stronger for having read it, and maybe you’ll be better equipped to deal with them now.

Books are the ultimate refuge when other humans just won’t cut it.

I have a rotation of refuge books that help me, right across a spectrum of emotions.  They live on the bookshelf closest to my bed, right near where I lay my head at night. I have no idea if I thought I’d absorb the goodness by osmosis as I slept, or if I just wanted them within easy reach, but they’re all there, nice and tidy. Going into all of them would take probably a full decade, so here’s just a tiny snippet of them, in no particular order.

The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling.

I’m betting this one is on a lot of lists of books people read when they’re undergoing some kind of emotional issue. The world of Harry Potter is just pure escapism. The drudgery of everyday life can really wear a person down, especially when you’re the type who loves a bit of magic, and has been searching for a source of it their whole life. Hogwarts was there for me as a teenager, which on its own is difficult enough. It’s been there through breakups, the end of friendships, problems with uni or job seeking, and just plain awful days. It’s also been responsible for the development of some of the best friendships I’ve ever had. I know I’m going to continue to revisit Harry and his wonderful, beautiful world well into my dotage.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

The Book Thief never fails to make me cry. It’s such a beautifully written book, full of gorgeous imagery and wonderful similes involving colour. Cloud-spat blue, for example, or the lemon of Rudy’s hair, or the silver-grey of Liesel’s papa’s eyes. You can lose yourself in the language, the unique perspective, or you can marvel at the bravery and resilience of a young girl who loves books and lives in Nazi Germany. That, or you can feel your heart break for the umpteenth time for Rudy, the best friend a girl could have. Plus, having a good cry sometimes can just be cathartic!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will forever hold the title of funniest book ever written for me. Douglas Adams had a truly wonderful sense of humour – his writing was whimsical and ridiculous, but also incredibly intelligent. If ever I needed a laugh, the Hitchhiker’s Guide was there to provide smiles or just a witty, hilarious escape.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

The ultimate old favourite, about a plain girl who works hard and does actually get her happy ending. It’s a comforting book – there’s a lot of injustice to relate to and rile against, and a lot of insight into the life of a poor female in Victorian times. Jane herself is a wonderful character – despite her upbringing and her circumstances, she’s strong in the face of people of higher social standing who want to bring her down. She knows her own mind, and she has worked hard to better herself and put her mind to use. She knows her limitations and her strengths – she’s not beautiful, but she is smart, and she is willing to put in the work to make a decent life for herself. It’s admirable, and it definitely helps when inner strength is something you’re striving for yourself.

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier.

Juliet Marillier is a writer of retold fairytales, and this version of Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourites. Caitrin is flawed but strong and smart, and running from her recent past when she meets Anulan, the supposed beast. He’s been isolated for so long due to a physical deformity and some supernatural goings on that he has no idea how to act around her, but the two form a friendship based on honesty and books, and eventually something more. It’s a powerful tale when you need to feel hope.

Which books do you feel the need to revisit when you’re sad, angry, or depressed? I’d love to know – I’m always after new recommendations!

Synesthesia: A New World of Colour

What colour appears in your mind when you think of the word mandible?

For most people, such a question has probably never occurred to them. Why would a word have a colour? Couldn’t mandible be any colour I wanted it to be?

The simple answer is no.

For 1 in 2000 people, this is just one of the many ways they process information and the world around them in general. It’s called Synesthesia, and it’s really quite fascinating.

What is it?

People who experience Synesthesia associate one type of stimulus (such as a number, a letter, a word, a musical note, or even a person) with something that may seem unrelated to everyone else (like a colour, a taste, or a scent).  They can’t explain why something has a certain colour or taste; it just does.

Interestingly, I’ve always noticed that I tend to associate people I know well with certain colours. That colour just appears in my mind when I think of them – my closest friend is a vivid purple, while another is a bright aqua blue. I’ve also done the same with my favourite words. For me, mandible is always red. Chocolate is purple. Magic is silver. Wonderful is a lime green. It’s not something I have to think about – whenever those words pop into my mind, the colour is there as well.

Why does this happen?

According to the University of California, Synesthesia is a result of cross-activitation between parallel centres of the brain that are involved with processing sensory information. Basically, two areas of the brain that lie closely together and that both work with sensory information get their wires crossed, producing a whole world of colour, scent, sound and taste. If, for example, a person with Synesthesia looks at the letter F and sees the colour green, it’s because the green colour perception area of their brain is being stimulated at the same time as their letter recognition area. They literally process one type of stimulus two ways. I think it’s amazing, since there are so many ways that people with Synesthesia experience the world around them.

Who has it?

There are actually a number of famous people, both living and dead, who have Synesthesia. A famous case is Franz Linszt, who would tell members of his orchestra to play notes ‘bluer’, or ‘deep violet, please!’ Geoffrey Rush, the Australian actor, sees numbers and days of the week as colours, while Billy Joel, Tori Amos, and Mary J. Blige see musical notes as colours just like Linszt did. Marilyn Monroe had a unique kind of Synesthesia, where she saw vibrations whenever she heard a sound. Finally, (and my favourite!) Vincent Van Gogh had a type of Synesthesia called Technique-timbre, where he associated the timbre of an instrument with colour or shape. He wrote letters to his brother Theo about this ability, and other artists with Synesthesia have been able to notice these shapes in his work.

It’s all wonderfully fascinating, especially since so many creative people seem to experience this, albeit in different ways. According to researcher Vilayanur Ramachandran, Synesthesia is 8 times more likely to occur among artists and other creative types of people than in other members of the population. Processes similar to blended sensory output might even underlie our general capacity for metaphor and creativity.

I’d love to hear more about other people who have Synesthesia, or at least think they might. How does it present itself for you?

 

 

Doctor Who Series 10 – A Review

Amidst all the insanity that surrounded the announcement that Jodie Whittaker would be the 13th Doctor (a woman! Shock! Horror!), I think a lot of people have forgotten about the astonishing Peter Capaldi and how amazing he was in his last series as the Doctor.

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When he first regenerated, Peter’s Doctor was harsh, grumpy, uncaring, and seemingly cold-hearted. After the energy, warmth, humour and fun of the previous two Doctors, 12 was a bitter pill to swallow. I found the 8th series of Doctor Who pretty uninspiring – there was the odd shining star (Flatline and Mummy on the Orient Express) but the overwhelming feeling was one of apathy, disconnect, and a lack of the awe that the other incarnations of the Doctor all seemed to have for time and space travel. I definitely missed it.

Thankfully, this feeling improved in the 9th, and subsequently 10th series. No where is it more obvious than in Pilot and the next episode Thin Ice, where the Doctor actually has a reason to stay put on Earth, but he just can’t resist the call of his brilliant blue box and the adventures that await him in time and space. The awe was back, and so was the fun.

I think also this sense of fun had a lot to do with the new companion. Bill Potts was clever, intelligent, independent, and she didn’t let the Doctor pull one over on her. She was tough but she also knew her limitations. She reminded me so much of Donna Noble, my favourite companion. I also think Pearl Mackie and Peter had great chemistry together – they certainly felt like friends, which I think was missing with Peter and Jenna Coleman. Jenna’s character always felt more like a plot device than a fully fleshed person.

I think also the writing improved so much since the 8th series. Peter was finally given scripts that were worthy of his talent, and stories that allowed his Doctor to shine. He could make grand speeches and save the world from epic alien incursions without massive plot holes or magical sonic screwdriver waving.

Finally, the series finale two parter is definitely Stephen Moffat’s best. World Enough and Time was beautifully written sci fi; a supposedly deserted spaceship held in place by a black hole, with Bill stuck at the slow end, and the Doctor at the other. The ending was heartbreaking and perfectly set up the final episode.

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The Doctor Falls was exactly what it promised, and Peter Capaldi was magnificent. From a character I had initially thought was cold and unfeeling, he was all heart. He stood tall amongst an army of cybermen and in the face of insurmountable odds. He cared about doing the right thing, about saving people, about fixing what Missy/The Master had broken. My Doctor was back!

All in all, I’m pretty happy to say that it was my favourite series since Matt Smith’s first series way back in 2010. I cannot wait to see how the 1st and 12th Doctors are going to be together in the Christmas episode – what an episode for a regeneration!

Irish Fairy Trees and the Art of Storytelling

Ireland is a land nourished by stories.

Whether those stories were Gaelic myths or Christian bible stories, the Ireland we know today has been carved and shaped from storytelling, and they’re still prevalent to this day.

On a recent trip to Ireland, I heard first hand one of these brilliant stories, and how their meaning still holds true.

Irish Fairy Trees or Hawthorn trees rise out of the brilliant emerald landscape, like lone hands reaching for the sky. The white colouring of their flowers is stark in comparison with the green of the vegetation and the soft rolling hills in the distance. And yet, even when farmland has been cleared of all other trees, the Fairy Tree remains. This is because Fairy Trees are protected, and to cut one down is extremely bad luck. This belief is held so strongly that a recent upgrade of one of Ireland’s airports was halted so that a road could be built around a Fairy Tree, costing the Irish government an extra few million euros.

Their importance lies with a myth dating back to the original inhabitants of Ireland, who believed that these trees were gateways between the world of human beings, and the world of the Tuatha Dé Danann, or the fairy folk. Such portals were often protected by magic, or supernatural beings like Leprechauns or Pookas. Today, you might even find them with a stone circle around the base of the trunk. Due to the fantastical nature of the trees and the gateways they protect, a host of superstitution surrounds them. It’s still a commonly held belief that if you happened to chop down one of these trees, you’d be in for a world of bad luck.

So, it stands to reason that cutting down one of these trees would be taken incredibly seriously. The airport story is just one of thousands of instances of Irish workers refusing to remove a Fairy Tree in case they invoke some kind of fairy wrath. There’s another famous story about the car manufacturer DeLorean, who chopped down a Fairy Tree in Belfast when they were building their factory in the 80s. Many Irish people believe that DeLorean failed to become a success because they refused to heed warnings about saving the tree.

No matter what you believe, it’s a fascinating story. Ireland is still a very Catholic country, but they also hold fast to the old beliefs, evoking magic and fairies to explain the inexplicable. It’s beautiful and one of those amazing parts of the human story that stays with you long after you’ve returned home.

200 Years of Jane Austen

200 Years of Popularity

Last Tuesday (18th July 2017) marked the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. In that time, she’s become a beloved figure of English literature, known not only for the beautiful romance that occurs between the pages, but for her sparkling wit and tongue-in-cheek commentary on Regency society. Her characters have become synonymous with romance and what it means to be romantic in all its forms – whether you prefer Mr Darcy, Captain Wenthworth, Mr Knightly, or Mr Tilney is still hotly debated amongst Janeites the world over. Indeed, there are no signs whatsoever of the passion for Austen’s novels abating, despite the 200 year gap since her last book was published.

So what is it that makes Jane Austen so fascinating to people, and why does she continue to be so popular?

In my opinion, it has less to do with Mr Darcy and his fellow male characters, and more to do with Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, Elinor Dashwood and Catherine Moreland (I’ll leave out Emma Woodhouse and Fanny Price here, because they’re really two of the most annoying female protagonists ever created. More on that later). Jane Austen’s female characters truly shine on the page – you feel yourself stepping into their shoes, feeling what they feel, and becoming a part of the story in a way that was very unique at the time. They aren’t just characters – they feel like real women, who very well might have existed in Regency England, with real problems faced by women of their class at that time. How glorious for women to suddenly have starring roles in their own lives, rather than playing bit parts in the lives of men. Jane Austen showed that women are capable of more than marrying well and providing children – her characters take action and have have intellectual conversations about social conventions and local politics, as well as expressing strong opinions on issues of the day like slavery. In short, Jane Austen’s women are what ensures her enduring popularity.

Austen and Me

I came late to the Austen party. Most people seem to discover her in their early teens. I first read Pride and Prejudice when I was nearly 19 and just finishing my first year of uni. The 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightly and Matthew McFaddyn was due for release and I was curious. Once I grew used to the language I was hooked – Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey quickly followed. They remain among my favourite books today, and among my favourite movies and TV series. They’ve even been responsible for spawning some of my favourite books and movies – Bridget Jones’ Diary is a hilarious re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice, and Austenland plays with the idea of super fans who can’t get enough of Jane Austen’s characters. I love that J J Field (who played Henry Tilney in the ITV adaption of Northanger Abbey) plays a Darcy-like character in the film. It’s such wonderful escapism, and I think that is definitely a part of Jane Austen’s charm in the 21st century.

Just like any Austen fan, I have my obvious favourites. Emma and Mansfield Park are definitely not that. Emma as a character reads very awkwardly, almost cringeworthy – she comes across as grating, like fingernails on a blackboard, using her wit and her privilege to cower Harriet Smith into submitting to the ‘fact’ that Emma knows better. After a series of mishaps where her actions hurt the people around her, she learns her lesson in the end, but too late to save her for me. I never understood what Mr Knightly saw in her.

In Mansfield Park, Fanny Price gets the opposite treatment. She is sent away to live with wealthy relatives as a young child, who never let her forget her origins. She is cowered into submission by people who believe that their wealth somehow means they know better, and she never really stands up for herself. I have never found novels where the characters in the wrong escape any kind of consequence for their actions satisfying; Mansfield Park is definitely one of those. Edmund, the cousin Fanny grows up with and ends up falling for, is completely unsatisfying as a hero as well. He has no idea what he wants or who he is, and takes his cues from his incredibly flawed older brother and father. He shows no spine when he fails to stand up for himself or his cousin, and a lack of judgement in character when he falls for Mary Crawford. Ultimately, it feels like poor Fanny would have been much better off looking outside the family for affection; and definitely with someone who has strength of character and mind.

That novels written over 200 years ago can still inspire so much emotion and debate would surely be immensely satisfying to the author. I wonder what she’d make of all the Regency-themed balls she’s inspired, or the wonderful Jane Austen Centre in Bath?

Art and Mental Illness

I’ve always had a fascination with Vincent Van Gogh.

I know, it’s a little obvious – everyone loves his paintings, and his tragically short life makes for a moving story. Self-harming at 36, ending his own life at 37 – all the while creating an amazing body of work that amounted to nothing during his lifetime. It’s incredibly sad, and it’s been the inspiration for countless artists and writers.

What fascinates me most about Vincent though is his bravery.

Vincent spent his entire life moving from one occupation to another, from one woman to another, never finding whatever it was he was searching for. He came by painting honestly – his mother was a painter of watercolours based on nature – but he never obtained any sort of fame or acknowledgment of his talent. He suffered his entire life from depression and what we now know as Bi-Polar disorder, so any professional or personal set back hit him harder than most.

Despite all of this, despite never receiving anything remotely like positive feedback or celebration of his immeasurable talent, he continued to create.

To me, that’s incredibly brave. It takes a lot of heart to continue to pour so much of your soul, and so much effort, into something and receiving almost nothing in return. It takes a lot of bravery to continue to pursue art when so many have told you that what you’re producing isn’t good enough. When you’ve been told that you aren’t good enough. That definitely resonates with me.

As ever, his art seems like a compulsion.  He had all of these turbulent, violent emotions inside him and instead of raging at the unfairness of it all, he used them to create astounding works of beauty and colour. As a coping mechanism, it’s probably one of the best.

Recently I visited the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. There was a wonderful landscape exhibition near the entrance where a few of Vincent’s paintings were displayed alongside pieces from other artists like Paul Gauguin, Maurice Denis, Ferdinand Hodler, and Wenzel Hablik. Wandering around amongst the art, you couldn’t help but wonder what Vincent would make of it. His art had been belittled his whole life – would he be thrilled to finally have the recognition he deserved, or would he feel that his work wasn’t good enough to be presented alongside artworks from his more successful peers?

Whatever he might have thought, his Starry Night Over the River Rhone had pride of place in the centre of the exhibition, with every visitor stopping for as long as they could to take in what was, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful paintings in the entire building.

There’s a beautiful episode of Doctor Who entitled Vincent and the Doctor, where Amy and the Eleventh Doctor travel to rural France a year before Vincent’s death, to meet him. They find a brilliantly creative man prone to fits of violent emotion and deep despair, and take him into the future, to the Musee d’Orsay in the 21st Century, to show him how he’ll be remembered. It never fails to make me cry, but it also fills me with hope. It’s such a hopeful episode, and it’s everything that makes Doctor Who wonderful. What’s more, it’s a tiny window into what Vincent might have been like had his talent been celebrated like he deserved. It might not have changed anything for him. It might have made him a tad happier, or maybe a little braver in his choices.

In the end, Vincent was mentally ill. His mental illness was a huge part of him, and might have had a big impact on his art, or the way he created. Whether mental illness and creativity are linked is something often argued – in my experience, a creative person with a mental illness often uses their creativity as a coping mechanism and their illness as a motivator. With Vincent, the two are inexplicably linked.