Saturday, 15 October 2011

Sleep walking






Our family affliction is insomnia. This comes from my dad’s side of the family tree though, so my mum really does sleep easy. However the other three of us are affected by anything from stormy nights to the looming full moon. My favourite phrase when I was younger was, “I can’t sleep!”

The one thing that has passed us by though is sleep-walking (and its subconscious cousin: sleep-talking). The very idea appeared quite extraordinary to my six year old self. There were the stories from childhood friends – a granddad who went downstairs, still fully asleep, to put on his galoshes “because there was a flood”; other people’s brothers who woke the house, shouting at 3am in the morning at "the nightmare-monster attacking me", and the sensationalist tales from newspapers, with people being found on motorways in their pyjamas as the red sky of dawn approached. All this behaviour being involuntary and uncontrollable sounds odd to we humans – so used we are to being in command of every action.
Of course, the intrinsic link to dreams makes it all the more fascinating. Dreams can be serene or scary, or to borrow Evelyn Waugh’s title, 'Beautiful and Damned'. But no matter what happens – whether we miss trains (my recurring theme), find ourselves inexplicably back at school with exams that have not been prepared for, or with marshmallows glued all over a favourite pair of shoes (yes, that was a recent dream – try analysing that) – we can always wake up again.

The idea of dreamy sleepwalking inspired these photos, and aptly my peaceful slumber was interrupted with an alarm at 6am so that it could be completed. While away on holiday in the early summer, mum and I rose at the hour known only to dog-walkers, commuters and parents of small children - to make our way down to the beautiful beach with a sixties two piece nightgown (from a charity shop) in hand. The nature of the outfit only complemented the theme, especially as I felt like a carefree Betty Draper wearing it. (The nylon blue 70s robe featured a while ago was also paraded the same morning). By the time we arrived at the sandy shore it was already warm – the only time we saw sun in the five days we were there. The wooden posts that poke up from the water are like attentive soldiers, ever-stationary as barnacles creep across the surface and the waves eat splinters. The same waves crashed over the back of my legs as I waded in.

Immersing dresses in water is perhaps a recurring theme on this blog – as a long time ago I featured both a silk river dress, and an Ophelia inspired shoot where I submersed myself completely. I wasn’t willing to be that devoted to the photos this time though, not least because post-surgery I get quite extreme itching radiating out across my back after swimming in very cold river or sea water.
I find this intensely frustrating, because it means that each time I want to go swimming outside, I have to carefully weigh up the pros and cons in the style of a complex maths equation. Is it worth the discomfort, or should I play it safe? During our stunning holiday to Spain several months ago, I went with the former. The consequences were always worth it to go snorkelling in the clear water, with a whole micro-system of multicoloured seaweed and shoals of fish like iron filings beneath my nose. Magical.
The cold Welsh sea before 7am though? No! Even though 'wild' swimming is to immerse oneself in the outside entirely, there are limits.
Standing in the water I watched the shapes made by the frothy layers of fabric and lace; snake-like. The sea crashed and seethed as gulls circled. By the time we walked back, photos finished, the sun had once again disappeared behind a cloud and coffee beckoned.

Back home a few days later, I pulled out my book on the Pre-Raphaelites to have another quick look at the famous Ophelia painting – which is both dreamy and sinister. It was painted by John Everett Millais in 1852, who asked his model Elizabeth Sidell to recline in a bath for the duration of its creation. I wanted to recreate that idea at some point, with a bathtub and armfuls of wild flowers, but I think that plenty have trod that path before me.
One of the things the painting does reflect though is the restless nature of water. It’s both a killer and a lifesaver. It’s quite understandable why the pre-Socratic philosopher Thales could think that water was 'the principle of all things in existence' (blame my ‘History of philosophy’ podcasts). We drink it, swim in it, boat on it, our body is 50% to 70% made up of it, and we sometimes drown in it. But statistically, that last one’s unlikely!

51 comments:

Irina Lakicevic said...

I love the pictures...I love how efortless they seem.

Lydia said...

Roslind!!!! I have that same exact nightgown and I wear it as a dress all the time!! I'm wearing it under a shrug in this blog post. I think it may have been my grandmother's, not sure. My mom gave it to me, but she might have just picked it up vintage-shopping.

http://www.andthisispeak.com/2011/08/chinese-lanterns.html

The Fancy Teacup said...

That dress is divine, but your writing is even more heavenly.

www.TheFancyTeacup.com

Sigrid said...

LOVELY!!!! <3 and tell me about it! my dad has such a problem with insomnia! Luckily i don't have it as bad as he does! But it is a big problem for alot of people! <3
hope you are doing great! :)

Love Sigrid

dancingsinginganddreaming.blogspot.com

San said...

As always grand pictures and post. Love it.

I actually do talk in my sleep and sometimes sleepwalk including a sleepdispute. The story? Well, way back when I was little I was on holiday with my parents where we all shared one bedroom. One of those nights me and my father must have gotten up and walked to opposing corners of the room. From there we had a dispute, yelling at each other. The fun part: neither he nor I remember. But my mom told us about it the next morning.

Enjoy your Sunday and the new week.

Lydia said...

Sorry, I totally left the "a" out of your name!!! Apologies!

daisychain said...

Fellow insomniac here. Oh my.


You look utterly serene in these photos, they are stunning.

x

witch hare said...

Very beautiful photographs. You've certainly captured the listless float of the sleep-walker.
I'm terrible for either insomnia or sleepwalking/talking when I do fall asleep. The last time I went for a 'sleep slide' across the bedroom floor and ended up with carpet burns.

witchhare.blogspot.com/

sacramento said...

Your photos are what beautiful dreams are made of.
I couldn´t choose one...
About your writing magnificent as ever.
Thank you for your inspiration on a Saturday evening.
Besos.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Polka Princess said...

Aaah! Those transparent layers seem to be having a life of their own......or maybe I'm "dreaming"??? :)

Sleep, or rather the lack of it, can play tricks on one's mind......but then so can your wonderful pictures....quite magical in a way!

Gabriella said...

Beautiful pictures, looks like a dream! I love the way you write by the way, lovely insights! :)

♥ Check out my blog: Principessa Gabriella

Ellie Jane said...

These pictures are so stunning and serene, the third is my favourite I think.
I was a frequent sleepwalker up until a few years ago, it was strange because my parents would relate to me what exactly I had done the following morning and the most I ever remembered was sometimes a conversation with them trying to coax me back into my room! More often than not however I would be able to recall the dream, be it running from something for example, and only find out the following morning that I had in fact been running down our hallway!

I love the Ophelia painting, there's a large print of it in my school's art department it was one of the first things I saw when joined. Although I must say that The Lady of Shallott has been my phone wallpaper for quite some time now!

Henry said...

"The Cool Woman"

styleeast said...

I've always thought you had a very pre-Raphaelite look about you, so it's funny you mention it now! These shots are just so pretty, that last one looks straight from the pages of Vogue or something. Hope to see you again soon, much love and to your mum too xx

LandGirl1980 said...

I adore this shoot and the atmosphere you have recreated with your writing. You look like a transitioned mermaid to me. Beautiful!

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

Gorgeous photos! Your mom rocks for getting up early with you to take them!
I have a lot of trouble sleeping, too. Not always but sometimes I just can't go to sleep...so much stuff to think about!
That painting is wonderful. One of my favorites. It sometimes went to the Tate just to look at that painting.

Autumn said...

Gorgeous! The photos look so peaceful, serene is the word I think.

~
Autum

Autumn said...

Very serene photos , Rosalind. It looks very magical and mysterious.
~
Autumn

Fashion, Art and other fancies said...

I adore the Pre-Raphaelites. And I agree that water is restless in nature - and man too by the way.

adrielleroyale said...

Beautiful pictures!! I do not usually have trouble sleeping, but I have been known to sleep talk - I have loads funny stories about that! I have yet to sleepwalk though... Anyway, that nightgown looks like it must be wonderfully comfy!! Have a great week!! :)

Uliana said...

Love the pictures! Sea and white colour is one of the best combinations, in my opinion :)

http://ulianashalaeva.blogspot.com/

Lacee Swan said...

these photos are stunning!!

Page said...

so gorgeous!!
page

Lucia said...

i absolutely love the 'sleepy dreamwalker' idea behind these photos. absolutely stunning as usual.

Vix said...

Beautiful writing and images, as always. I have the opposite problem, I've been known to fall asleep standing up but Jon is a dreadful insomniac. x

Jessica said...

I sleep-talk and sleepwalk! I love this I don't know why but it reminds me of Florence Nightingale! Lovely!

http://chicgeekblogger.blogspot.com/

Please take a minute to look at my trunkshow;

http://iouproject.com/tsh/jessica-karen/

The Foolish Aesthete said...

I don't know why but the words "somnambulist raptures" came to mind when I saw your photos. You could easily slip into the world and paintings of the pre-Raphaelites. (My mother had glorious, pre-Raphaelite curls like yours which I didn't inherit. I just seemed to have gotten an unruly mop that I chemically straighten into a semblance of order!).

It's lovely you live close to the sea (in the West?). I was born into a country divided into more than 7,000 tropical islands, and so love the sea and its treasures. Luckily, I've lived close to the water -- with its different flavors -- here in the US too (by the Potomac River, by the Hudson River, now by Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean.) It is both beautiful and terrifying. xxx

EIGHT LONDON said...

In the sea at 6amin October! You're a brave one!

My favourite sleep story is of two boy twins I know from back home in Scotland. When they slept in the same dormitory at boarding school, they would have completely incoherent nonsense conversation with each other in their sleep. After the initial entertainment for their peers, they had to separated for the rest of school to avoid disturbance.

Imogen

EIGHT LONDON

awishisarainbow said...

These photos are truly beautiful :) Good old Wales :P haha I love taking pictures by the sea...especially on such a 'blue' day!!

Michelle Lee said...

beautiful post!

www.pinklemonincrystal.blogspot.com

janettaylor said...

Amazing dress!

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janettaylor said...

Of course, secret dress. :) Beautiful camisole!

the nyanzi report said...

love the second shot.

Rosa Fay said...

Ah yes, the sleepwalking times. Haven't sleepwalked since you left by the way (Hehe!)

That night-gown is beautiful - even more so with you wearing it!

Fabulous post, wonderful shots!

Not Just A Pretty Dress said...

Rosalind, you write your stories in such a beautiful way that I wish they wouldn't end. I love Pre-Raphaelites and I remember visiting a stunning Millais exhibition at the Victoria & Albet museum few years ago...the atmosphere of his paintings are so dreamy.

Fashionistable said...

The last shot is my favourite here. The light is marvelous and you look like sea foam. Perfect shots to go with your sleep walking post. I was a walker and talker when I was young. Think i stopped it in my teenage years. I think the fear of saying something I wanted to stay hidden (not that I had much to hide)made me stop. Xxxx

Pearl Westwood said...

I am a total insomniac too, always have been which drove my parents mad when I was a baby!

SabinePsynopsis said...

Betty Draper would take you as her idol, Rosalind! Wonderful photos. The itchy water reaction sounds extremely annoying - hope it gets better with time. I come from a family of sleep-walkers and talkers (so much so that windows had to be bolted to stop certain family members to climb on the roof). And a life without melatonin is hard for me to imagine :)

xo

The life after said...

So nice! Your pics are always so artistic and original!

http://missbobino.blogspot.com

Kate said...

Those photos are incredible, the nightgown/ dress looks beautiful, especially as the colour is reflected in the water, and the light is perfect! It must have been freezing though! If it was, the pictures are well worth it!
www.styleisalwaysfashionable.blogspot.com

100%soie said...

oh my god, I just discovered your blog, it's such a beatiful one !!! you are really pretty and your clothes ... everything is perfect !! I can't believe I didn't kow your blog before !!

http://100pour100soie.blogspot.com/

berry said...

your dress is beautfiul ! :)

Izzy/Bella said...

I immensely enjoyed your writing as always! Evelyn Waugh is one of my favorite writers. I've only read "Brideshead revisited" though.

And these are lovely photos! I love your idea of working with a character. I do that in my work, but not in my street style photos. I don't know why I thought I had to divorce the concepts.

Anyway this is a wonderful and special blog!

xx
Izzy
www.misadventuresofme.com

Fashion Tales.... said...

Elegant and like a dream this dress is... I also love the concept of an Ophelia inspired shoot.
Lovely as always dear. -xx

Zorian said...

La Sonnambula, at its best! :)
Love the post.

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

i enjoyed this post immensely! your writing is a fitting accompaniment to the dreamy images- or, is it the other way around? :)

my favorite style shoots on your blog are most often the seaside ones.

Natalie Suarez said...

i cannot believe a year has went by already! you look better than ever!! and i love reading what you write, you're fantastic! xoxooxoxoox

natalie

isa telaraña said...

it is a very lovely dress! I love swimming but I prefer to do it in warm water... I recomend you the "warm swimmingpools" that exist in some thermal springs... for example, Archena y Fortuna in Murcia.
...and please, change the coffee for some lime blossom tea!!!

Eloise said...

absolutely love your blog!! stunning photography too!

following!

Style Sud-Est said...

Beautiful pictures Rosalind!

Ariane

Old Cow said...

Hauntingly beautiful photos! Was it terribly cold?

Insomnia is a dangerous thing for my fragile mind. It breeds unreasonable thoughts and weakens my resolve. Dangerous dangerous territory!