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Posts tagged ‘Halloween’

Discovering Mallorca: The Caves of Drach

The Caves of Drach, just outside Porto Cristo in Mallorca, sound like something out of a Count Dracula horror film. And in so far as they take the visitor far into the murky depths of Mallorca’s geological bedrock, they wouldn’t make for an inappropriate halloween backdrop. But the horror of visiting these sprawling caves on the East coast of the island was, for me, the fear of the tourist commercialisation which tends to haunt such sights. After all, the caves are widely publicised across Mallorca with a typically crass theme-park style poster of a westernised white-teethed family gasping in delight at the caves around them. My response to this vulgarity was consequently avoidance, and my preference, instead, was always to retreat to the idyllic solitude of the mountains. But when my mother came to Mallorca, and wished to relive the nostalgia of her 1970s holidays on the island, I was persuaded at last to visit the caves, tourists, tat ‘n all.

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As it turned out, those gaudy promotional posters were where the last of the horror ended, for once we left the autumn sunshine behind and made our decent into these extensive underground chambers, there was nothing but a visual sensation to be enjoyed. Words cannot express the utmost wonder I experienced when I entered the Caves of Drach, and nor indeed can these somewhat amateurish photos come close to capturing the most incredible sights with which we were met. For in these incredible caves, believed to have been formed over millions of years by the sea forcing its way into Mallorca’s harsh rocky coastline, we were treated to visions which ranged from the brilliantly magnificent to the utmost surreal, as sinister twisting forms grew from the floor and dripped from the ceiling, rocks appeared to grow like a thousand interwound trees or like wafer-thin starched material, and turquoise waters glowed like precious gems amongst velvet black shadows.

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And at the heart of it all, the Martel lake, which at 115m in length is believed to be one of the largest under-ground lakes in the world, provided the most touching spectacle of all. With the caves plunged into pitch blackness, we were treated to a floating classical concert of musicians floating on lit-boats, gliding along the water like a vision straight out of baroque Venice (sadly, photos at this point were banned). For an artist like me, obsessed as I am with ripples and the effect of light on water, this experience was truly startling, and with the tears of inspiration pricking at my eyes, those ripples seemed to refract and multiply as I entered a whole new level of multi-sensorial experience.

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So out of this experience, I emerge into the light of day an artist truly inspired, with a lesson learnt for the future: don’t judge an attraction by its promotional cover… the most visited attractions are visited for a reason!

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Will this make you Screeeeeam for Halloween?!

Halloween may be about sinister faces carved into pumpkins, the witches costumes and gruesome face-paint, the unsightly shaped jellies and the horror films on TV, but at the end of the day, it’s all manufactured, largely for a bit of fun. But there remains one thing which exists, not just on 31st October, but every day of the year which, even at a distance, could make me scream enough for a lifetime of halloweens: the SPIDER!!

I’ve been saving these gruesome ghastly shots for a few weeks now. Taken on the day when I enjoyed the first sunshine of autumn, inspiring a whole load of autumn photos to boot, this spider was one little beastie of nature who I was not so pleased to meet that day. Leaving the spine-tingling task of applying my camera zoom close enough to the spider to capture this shot to my far braver partner, the photos which result are stunningly detailed, but all the more hideous as a result.

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As I type this post, my fingers quiver ever so slightly – for even though these are two dimensional photos, the mere devilish detail of this creepy crawly has me all in a sweat. It’s bulbous brown back is sinisterly marked like a skull, while on its tummy, a complex cluster of furry leg muscles are grouped together, ready to allow the dormant spider to pounce into action, to move its menacing little pincers and strike!

Ooooh, ok, I’m getting carried away. For the rare arachnophiles out there, these photos show the pretty spectacular and surprisingly complex forms of these most feared of little creatures – there is something almost beautiful about the striped brown and beige legs, and the patterning upon its hairy back, reminding me of the workmanship on a tribal mask, with its perfect symmetry. And then of course there’s the web – another wonder of symmetrical perfection, a creation which continues to be a mystery to me, but which, for all its beauty has its own murderous intent.

But before I go getting carried on down that road again, I’m off to settle myself with a cup of tea, and perhaps a few of those gruesome halloween sweets that are practically spilling out of the supermarket this week. Jellied witches finger anyone?

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

The Daily Sketch: Prepare to Scream… It’s Normaween!!

The full moon is out, and gliding past, the menacing silhouette of a Witch Norm casting a midnight spell. Beneath the moon, the creepy dilapidated outline of a once glorious house, now abandoned, boarded up and left to decay and ruin comes into view. Within the dark echoes of its now empty chambers, something is stirring. A momentary white flash, a flutter in the breeze, the creak of a lone shutter moving in the wind. In the overgrown gardens, the century old tombs of the long dead previous occupants are starting to move. At the strike of midnight something quivers through the ground. The large, rusty Victorian gates swing open, the stone demon gargoyles upon the plinths come to life, the heavy tomb lid begins slowly to shift and at the window of the house, the previously dark interior is replaced by the screaming wide eyes of a Norm devastated by fear. All around the old mansion, Norm ghosts begin to waver and whir in the wind, moaning and howling at this witching hour, and amongst the graves below, the Vampire Norms awaken, eager in their hunt for their fresh intake of sickly sweet blood.

Norms at the Halloween House of Horrors (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Are you scared? You should be. For tonight is Normaween, the night when the Norm dead come back to life, when no Norm is safe from the razor sharp teeth of the roaming Vampire Norms, and every little Norm will cower under his or her bedsheets as the screams of the Norm dead pierce their ears and bring the horrors of the underworld to life.

Keep your lights on, don’t dare go to sleep. Just prepare to scream – for tonight is Normaween!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Halloween Party Continued…

Further to yesterday’s post, I’ve been preparing further for Halloween. Lying around yesterday, feeling appropriately close to death with bronchitis coursing through my chest, I decided enough was enough. I forced myself full of paracetamol, took out some cake basics from the fridge, and set about baking. Illness will not stop me, and with regular breaks, perching upon a stool to save my energy, with my Partner as chief taster (I can’t taste anything!) and in fully sanitised conditions (naturally!) I have made some chocolate orange cup cakes for a chic Halloween gathering.

My cakes follow the same simple chocolate sponge as described on yesterday’s post with a delicious white chocolate-orange frosting. This is simple to make. Simply take 300g of icing sugar and whisk up with 100g unsalted butter and 40ml of milk. The longer you whisk this icing mixture, the fluffier and lighter it will become. Then in a metal bowl over a pan of water (making sure the water never touches the bowl) I melted approximately 150ml of orange flavoured (and coloured) white chocolate beads, before adding to the whisked icing mixture and folding in well. I then transferred the icing into a piping bag and placed in the fridge for a good 30 minutes or so while the cakes cooled down.

The wonderful orange icing was easy to pipe (I had to warm the bag up a bit with my hands since the chocolate and butter in the icing sets pretty quickly) and once done, I sprinkled with some dark chocolate drops to achieve the halloween contrast of orange and black.

So there you have it. Hopefully, unlike me, you will actually be able to taste the wonderful fusion of chocolate and orange – my Partner tells me it’s good! I leave you with some photos of my halloween party all set up and ready to go. Ok, so I’m way too ill to have any guests round, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make the effort right? Happy Halloween everybody!

Halloween Party!

I won’t be having a halloween party this year. Sadly after daily encounters with people sneezing in my face on the tube, I have come down with something which progressed from a cold to flu to bronchitis. Fortuitously however, I won’t be needing a halloween costume – my face looks green enough on its own!

In times past however I have indulged in halloween to the full, and even this year I have managed to stem the tide of my all-encompassing malaise to carve a pumpkin or so. For this time of year, when the days are short and the dark evenings long, it’s all about candles and lanterns, baking and the homely smell of sweet cinnamon and warming winter broths. So in this short exploration of all things halloween, I thought I’d share with you some ideas for a halloween shindig, for baking, and for your requisite seasonal pumpkin.

First up the cakes – no Halloween is complete without them, and when I bake for Halloween, it’s more about the decoration than the sponge. I could go gingery and spiced (I’ll save those for another day), but for these little spooky treats, I stuck with the age-old chocolate sponge recipe my grandmother taught me when I was young. 200g of caster sugar, self-raising flower and butter respectively, two eggs, a dash of milk, a heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder and a heaped teaspoon of baking powder – the ingredients are foolproof. I start by creaming the sugar and egg yolks, and tend to whip up the egg whites for extra air in the sponge. To the egg/sugar mixture I add the sifted dry ingredients, mixing well before folding in the egg whites. Then – and this is my mother’s baking tip – I add a little milk. Enough to make the mixture run off the spoon. This guarantees the lightest of sponges. I pour into fairy cake cases and bake for around 15-20 minutes at 180 degrees, and ice with a butter cream and some shop bought icing tubes. Easy.

For something more adventurous, check out these marzipan and gingerbread beauties sold in Betty’s tearooms in York.

For decorations, I tend to go with candles aplenty, like this ghoulish ghost-shaped floating candles scattered with pumpkin-shaped confetti and other ghosty shapes. I also have a few sparkly skeletons dotted around to bring some Damien Hirst bling to the event. Nats.

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