Therefore, as we made our way from Woolsery to Killarney all sorts of thoughts were racing through my head. Was the ex-Wizard of the Western World going to be like Saruman, or like Gandalf? He was neither really I guess (well how could he be? They are fictional characters – aren’t they?) – just a normal, kindly gentleman of senior years who is a father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Something of a cliché, but, yes, it was as if I had known him all my life. He has a brain like a sponge, which soaks up and remembers all sorts of things, he is an extremely talented artist and is as sharp as a needle. His perception holds no bounds - he picks up on things that you thought were well hidden in the deepest recesses of your memory – and comes out with statements here and there about things personal to you that make you think “how on earth did you know that?” In short, he is an outstanding character and one for whom you cannot but develop a great fondness.
It is well documented in books and articles that Tony Shiels and his family have been known in the circles of wizardry and witchcraft, and photos of his daughter, Kate, skyclad have been in some of these publications. Now, many of you will have gathered by now that I verge on the side of feminism and regard females who, as Jon would say, ‘get their kit off for photos’, as ‘letting the side down’. However, Tony has sent me some pictures from his scrapbook to post on my blog and also asked that I add one or two others of his specific choice with full permission of those concerned, namely the magnificent Kate and Jools. Perhaps the old bugger is suggesting that I re-examine my feminism, I don’t know, but as Tony has asked me to do it, then I shall do as he asks, with pleasure and without question.
So, OK, I think that I can get round the feministic quandary in which he has placed me relatively easily – after all there is a difference between art and ancient ritual, and page 3 titillation. Yes, photography is an art form, but when used with regard to the ubiquitous page 3 and the like, to me, it is not. Pictures of women, from a ritual point of view - that is, photographed or painted skyclad - again is not for titillation purposes. These show woman as a basic, primal symbol of power and strength.
Tony has introduced me to the surrealist artwork of Leonora Carrington, for example, whose early feminist paintings ‘interpreted woman as the centre of creativity and nature’, and there is of course the famous Botticelli’s Venus, although she does use her flowing auburn hair to guard much of her sensibilities. To me, the strength of motherhood is depicted in all her glory with the famous ‘Botticelli belly’, these are not women with glamorous, botox-filled, computer-enhanced looks and hourglass figures – they are a vision of real women.
When you think about it in very basic terms, I suppose you could say that we human beings only really started wearing clothing to protect our bodies and to keep warm after we lost our thick body hair. Perhaps that was the mistake –perhaps we should all go around naked (well in the warm months at any rate – perhaps in the winter we should be allowed at least a modicum of material to save the goosepimples), then perhaps there would be a diminishing chance for the money-spinning titillation that goes on today. It would be a pretty weird sight to see cities and towns full of jiggling flesh on a day to day basis, though, I do admit, and tube trains full to bursting on a busy Monday morning commute do not really bear (or should that be bare) thinking about.
Below are pictures of Tony and Kate, Tony outside Lytham Hall (May 2005) and his photo of, as he puts it himself, ‘something in the Ribble estuary’ (April 2006) :
And here are Kate and Jools doing some magick:
After our lake adventures in Ireland a lot of things were said on a certain website about Tony and our (the CFZ’s) relationship with him. I cannot comment on the Tony Shiels of the past, only the one of the present whom I have come to know. I regard all those who seemed to enjoy insulting him as ignorant bullies that hide underneath their cloaks of anonymity, stained with the yellow streak of cowardice. However, the more they are worn, the more threadbare they become and soon even cloaks become transparent. I have held back my response to their malevolence purely because I was away without internet connection for five days helping my eldest daughter and her fiancé move house. Upon my return, I notice that the rats have returned to their holes for the time being, and all has gone quiet. Therefore, I shall let it rest for now. Mind you, I am girding my loins for another bout after I post this blog, but I do have a pair of very sharp scissors that cut through material as cleanly as a hot knife does through butter.
But then I am the female of the species, and I have power and strength beyond the capabilities of man and I even have the Botticelli belly to prove it.