Creative Global Network for the Visual Arts

Black & white photograph.


We've been performing in the heart of an ancient wood. It's a tangle of dry and gnarly branches. The ground is thick with vines and difficult to traverse. No light can reach the heart of the woods and the branches are musty. There is no greenery.

I return to this place with a group of people on a bus. We get off the bus and look around. A woman tells us that this is a very dangerous place and, on second thoughts, that we should not be here at all. The wood is poisonous and detrimental to our health. The canopy is so dense that no air can circulate. She says it's acidic, which sends the people into a panic and makes them want to get out as quickly as possible.

We arrive in a room near the woods, safe now. Everyone is relieved to have been given this information by the woman. I doubt that what the woman says is actually true because recently I was performing in the woods and didn't suffer any ill effects. I challenge her. She concedes that the acidic quality of the environment may not be as poisonous to us as she first thought. Still, there is doubt there and no one wants to return.

I leave my bag in the pub while I go on the excursion into the heart of the ancient wood. I know that it could easily be stolen from there but I'm not anxious about this; anything I have in my bag can be replaced, although it would be very inconvenient. When I find my bag, I see that it's open and that my purse is missing. Estelle is there and I ask her if she saw someone going into my bag. Yes, she says, she just saw Michael doing something with it. I don't know who Michael is.

She takes me into another bar and points Michael out to me. He's sitting on his own. He seems very young. I ask him if he has taken my purse. He denies it, but it's easy to tell that he's hiding something. I ask him to stand up and find that he's sitting on some of the things that he took from my bag, some jewellery and beads. I can't even remember having these things but recognise them as my own. I ask him if he has also taken my money. I assume he has. I can't remember how much money I had in my purse. The purse itself is nowhere to be seen. I take his purse from him and get out a bundle of money which I think must be mine. He doesn't object. It is easy to take this from him. I need this money for a taxi home, I tell him. I wonder if there is enough there. I rummage around in his purse and find one last £5. In truth, I don't know whether this belongs to me or not but I take it off him anyway as he has inconvenienced me. He is left with no money.

I take a closer look at the £5 and discover it is not real – it has been cut out of a magazine.

(extract from How Shall I Get Elephants To Stay – a book of dreams).

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