Thursday, 23 June 2011

Living Daylights

This is Ellen – also known as one of my best friends, and a general co-conspirator when it comes to dressing up. When we were little, the first port of call at each other’s houses was the dressing up box (or in her case wardrobe), where we could rummage for clothes to create fantastical characters. Whether we were witches, orphans or runaways, there would always be a sense of excitement and magic in transforming from ‘Roz and Ellen’ into entirely different people. We may be sixteen now, but we still love assuming personas and making up tales. However now our impromptu sessions lean towards Ellen dressing up, while I take the photos. She might have dropped in after school for a cup of tea, or visited to watch a DVD – and an idea sparks. This is one such instance, where I styled Ellen in something faintly Helena Bonham-Carter-esque, (with matching pale make-up) – creating the narrative as we wandered around our village. I thought it might be an interesting exercise to turn it into a proper photo essay, complete with a short story to complement the ‘character’. Here it is:

Living Daylights: The Tale of Claudia Carter

Claudia Carter knew she had died at 11.17am on a Tuesday. She was on her way home from an early morning meeting. She had dawdled, buying a paper and peering at shop displays. Her heart stopped just as she had been contemplating the ‘Buy One Get One Free’ deal in the Undertaker’s window. She had woken up several hours later, feeling a little chilly and under the weather, to the great (and some said mentally damaging) surprise of the mortician who had been leaning over her. Oh of course she hadn’t been let out of the hospital for weeks after that unfortunate little incident, as she was subjected to the strangest of experiments, as though she were a lab-monkey. The conclusion of these tests? Her vital organs were clinically deceased, and so she should be too. But here Claudia was, still walking around and talking like a well-dressed rag doll. The doctors shook their heads in bafflement, and whispered behind their arms about a word beginning with ‘Z’.

They had to let her go eventually. Claudia insisted upon it – no civilised lady wanted to live a life that started every day with being woken up to have a temperature taken and coagulating blood measured. She was picked up by her husband, and was issued to him along with two cases of pills and promises to “keep an eye on her”. The drive back was not how Claudia had imagined it. Well, her husband couldn’t exactly ask how she was – “technically dead darling, but I’m bearing up”. He avoided her gaze, and instead feigned interest in the radio, listening intently to the news with a crease between his eyebrows. She mirrored his unease by fiddling with her hair. At home, his fingers briefly brushed hers as he opened the car door, but immediately retreated as though they had touched raw fish.
Claudia watched as he heaved her battered blue case into the house, and wrapped her arms around her waist in the cold. Or was it warm? She couldn’t quite tell. However she had grown used to yellow-ish grey tinge her skin had acquired, looking like she had been dipped in lemon juice and left out to dry in the sun.

The next few days were full of evasions. Claudia attempted to ring old friends and arrange lunch dates (which were always “bad timing” she was told), while her husband burrowed into tax returns and gardening. The occasional encounters in the hall were met with wan smiles and nodding as they edged around the corners of the room. They treated each other as Venus fly traps – generally benevolent organisms that bite if something moves too close.

Claudia went away for a few days. “Just escaping to the countryside sweetie, to see the family home and get some fresh air”.
But when she arrived, her sister did not want to see her – and asked firmly if she could come back another time. Claudia felt like she was haunting her childhood village - stumbling back along the path to the phone box, passing the busy shop and school. No-one replied to her smiles or called out to her, to ask how she had been since the accident. The place usually reserved for commiserations was plugged with unbearable silence. She reached the bright red box gratefully, and stepped inside to dial the number.

“Hello Arthur. How are you?”
“Please could you come and pick me up? There are no more trains today.”
“Oh hello, is that you Claudia? What a surprise. I’m afraid work is busier than ever, and anyway, I thought you were staying over at Emma’s.”
“They don’t want me.”
“Oh. Umm. Well maybe they’re right. We’re still not sure about the state you are in – could be very dangerous if you are indeed the first Z.. a Z...”
“Darling – I am not a zombie. I prefer the term ‘medical anomaly’. I have no desire to start killing and eating people. I’m not on the Dukan Diet! Also, I’m still human, not a living-dead psychopath.”
“Jolly good. Just looking at the diary dear – no space to do a pick up today... Or tomorrow... Or the day after now I think of it. Why don’t you find a nice little place to stay? Sure you understand.”
“Got to go – the dog’s.. err.. playing merry hell with the postman”

Claudia placed the receiver back in its cradle: it smelt of hair grease and grubby fingers. She wiped her own hands on her girlish white skirt and pressed her palms against pale cheekbones. Then she straightened and sniffed twice.
If she still had a sense of smell, then there must be a little life left in her yet...

'Claudia' (or should that be Ellen?) is wearing all vintage - from various sources, including flea markets, charity shops and gifts.


Julie Khuu said...

Love her edgy gritty glamour...So much more fun when you've got your partner in crime :D Would love to see a future post with both you beautiful gals in it!

Peace. Love. LOL!

Haute Khuuture Blog

alexandratherese said...

Roz - this is FANTASTIC! You are such a talented storyteller - it gives me such pleasure to see a fellow future-writer making such good use of her talents! The story itself is so well thought up - the description spot on, I particularly like the "as though they had touched raw fish"! Ellen plays the part beautifully too - and is excellently styled by yourself. If I were you I'd enter this in a few short story competitions along with the photos!

Alexandra xx

p.s. if you want me to forward you the Oxfam email just tweet me x

M & Em said...

It's OVER??? But, but.... Surely there's more to it! Gosh, I was so into that story. I have been obsessed with zombies since eighth grade. I used to write about them in essays and poems; my eighth grade English teacher must have thought I was a freak. You're an incredibly talented writer. And your friend is quite the model! These photographs are amazing; they really go with the story. I just want to know what happens next! **pout**


Lydia said...

This is a really unique and fun idea for a post. Beautiful pictures.

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

Claudia (or should I say Ellen?) looks great! Very Helena Bonham Carter. I hope she dumps Arthur and gets a new lover...maybe someone who understands to her..uhhm...condition!

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

Oh and by the way, I visit your blog all the time but just realized that I hadn't been following you. I immediately rectified that mistake :)

Rachel said...

I really enjoyed your story.. twould be lovely for there to be a follow up, hopefully with Claudia become a stylish independent zombie with no need for drippy husbands or siblings? Me and one of my best friends used to similarly dress up and invent stories to go with- often we were little orphan Russian girls competing in a dance competition.

Closet Fashionista said...

Oooh I love these shots!! I used to make up stories with my sister too, but we wouldn't do the dress up part...haha...though I did love playing dress up! :D

Lacee Swan said...

such a cute post!! love the minty green in this!

K said...

That was hilarious. You have the perfect unimpressed-and-not-a-zombie model. Please do more!

K xx

The Foolish Aesthete said...

Brilliant! I love these dark stories and you have a gift with words. (Hoffman and Kafka have an heir!) Helena Bonham Carter is a perfect muse and adds wonderful depth to all those Tim Burton films. Loved your styling and photos!

Maria E. said...

Ahh, I got super into that story! There has to be more! :)

Lovely photos! ♥

First Impressions
Flying Ships Vintage

bonita said...

~ * ♥ * ~

Perfectly fascinating Roz; I love the story & your 'illustrations'. It's a fantastic idea and beautifully executed. Brava!

bonita of Depict This!
~ * ♥ * ~

Jessica said...

Love her hair, great post!!

Please take a minute to look at my vintage boutique;

the nyanzi report said...

Can I just say that your creativity knows no bounds. This is simply the best post I have read all day!

Penny Dreadful said...

I agree with the others, I want more of the story! I want to know what happens next.

Thank you so much for your lovely comments recently by the way, they have put a huge smile on my face :) x

awishisarainbow said...

Love the story, and love the outfit :)

Syrious said...

i'm speechless...but i can only say an huge WOOOOW!!! this is one of the most amazing post i have ever read!!!
love it
great post!
i'm following you by google friends, hope you'll do the same if you'll like mine!!
sweet italian kisses

Syriously in Fashion

Meena Dhuga said...

such an interesting story!! I really want to know more!! you are such a talented writer, and the photos are great as well :)

Meena xxx

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

great story, excellent writing. i was must add more to the tale, don't leave us in suspense, lol!
beautiful images to compliment the story- or perhaps it's the other way around (the story compliments the images...)
you ought to do more of these story posts- it's fun stuff. :)
- Style Odyssey

SomeoneLikeYou said...

Beautiful,beautiful, beatuiful inspiring pictures... I love how they help add visual to your wonderful story. Brilliant!

songbird said...

not just great photos
amazing writing!

CC said...

love the look of the photos!

FashionFreak/Mihaela said...

Stunning pictures.

My blog♥mfashionfreak

AvaPilar said...

Brilliant! Your friend is lovely, those eyes give her the look of a porcelain doll.

Ruta, Look Ugly in a Photograph said...

Your posts are always incredibly creative, and this one is no exception! I love that you told a story with the photos. I love everything! And your friend is very pretty!

Sigrid said...

I love it so much !!

1. I love the way you write!
2. I love your pictures.
the only thing that saddens me is that you werent in any pictures roz!
you are gorgeous so next time i want to see you be the star of the story! but ellen was beautiful :)

love Sigrid

thankyou for you beautiful comment on my blog by the way! I am always so happy when i see you have commented! :)

Soccer Mom Style said...

Ellen is so beautiful. Love the shots of her in a phone booth. Fantastic!

PinkBow said...

your friend looks stunning and the styling & photography are perfection. i esp love the telephone box shots.

Kate said...

That first photo looks so professional, like something you'd see in a magazine! Beautiful story, your writing makes you feel as though you are in the story, and makes you want to carry on reading to find out what happens!

styleeast said...

Roz, have you written all this, styled it and photographed it too?! You're so talented. Ellen looks great, she's definitely got the Helena B-C vibe going, but also a touch of the Kristen Stewart xx

polka dot said...

Oh Roz... these are such gorgeous photos, I've seen you shoot her before right? Trying to look fast thru this and other posts... it's hard to catch up, you've done such great shoots/posts since I've been here last.. you know Mr. Dot so you can imagine.. it is so Fifties Housewife, he's calling from the living room, while watching Wimbledon, asking where 'his' dinner is! Must run - I'll be back- love love love these shots. Hi to your family! xxx

Fashion Me Chic said...

I love your hat.

Joelle said...

I really liked that story! So glad I found your blog :)

Autumn said...

That was awesome!!!!!!
Great story and great photos.