09 April 2014


Louise, a friend of mine from Brighton recently set up a creative writing website. The idea is that everyone is given a monthly writing prompt, with all the submitted work posted the following month for comment. I decided to have a try following the first prompt- the theme was Aquamarine. I couldn't really think of any idea for a story, so I just wrote what came to mind. What they call a five finger excercise. I think I'll ramble less on the next one. Here is what I wrote . . 

04 April 2014

Tömeny romantika, imádlak 80s hungarian songs-ika

The other weekend I went to visit Erika and her partner at their beautiful house. I always have a nice time there. The worst thing that ever happened to me there was that I once ate too much Stilton and had to have a lengthy lie-down. If the worst thing about your day is that you ate too much blue cheese, then the day is going well.

(Jethro Tull-heavy selection of records my Hungarian landlord kindly left in my flat- they might have been more useful if he had also left a record player. The copy of the White Album was missing Back in the USSR. Censorship at its finest.)

We were going to watch a film while having our food and drink, but then a BBC4 four thing came on of synthpop performances from the TOTP archives, so we watched that instead. I then asked "What's that great 80s Hungarian song that goes 'Panther, lion, gorilla . . AFRICA!'". It's this:

It turns out the lyrics are about how going on a safari is a kind of colonialism. Who knew? (Well, Hungarian people, pretty much all of them know all the words). I had also thought the lyrics mentioned crocodiles, but it turned out to be something about baobabs and coconuts instead. The likelihood of anyone from Hungary getting to go on a safari in the early 80s were pretty low, to be honest. I've put this version with just a picture rather than the official video. What was acceptable in the early 80s behind the Iron Curtain is not quite the same as what is acceptable these days. I wish they'd just stuck to hanging out on a boat on Lake Balaton pretending to be Duran Duran. (The actual video is on Youtube too). 

I went to a karaoke party on a boat once in Budapest. The (Hungarian) friend who invited me forgot to tell me it was karaoke of the greatest Hungarian hits from the 70s and 80s. Everyone was really into it, and my really drunk friend kept trying to get me to have a go and then looking really surprised every time when I said "I've never heard this song before in my life, and I don't know what 80% of the lyrics mean". I'm not big on karaoke anyway, and to do it with a song you've never heard before, in a language you only speak in a very basic way (and that has lots of everyday words that sound very similar to something filthy/really long words to trip you up) in front of a boatload of total strangers was not ideal. It was a memorable and surreal experience anyway just being an observer. Everyone else knew absolutely every word. They played Afrika at least 3 times.

We then got on to other Hungarian bands and watched a load of videos on Youtube. I'm really interested in the social history of the Cold War anyway, and it's especially fascinating seeing how people went about creating artistic work living under strong censorship and limited access to outside material. Hungary was one of the more open Warsaw Pact countries, but people still had to toe the line.

This was Erika's favourite- Joy by Csokonai Vitéz Műhely. It's great. 80s art school kids let loose with a video camera. Also the one of the member's names is Zéno Kiss. The Hungarians know how to do names. Zoltán and Attila are very common men's names over there. Erika later sent me the lyrics with a translation- "Tébolyult magányom megosztanám Veled, kedves" - I'd like to share my deranged lonliness with you, my dear.

Itt van, pedig senki se hívta by Trabant. Apparently it means "he is here uninvited". It comes from this film, which apparently involves a love triangle with a zookeeper and a concert pianist. Marietta Méhes, top 80s Hungarian pinup.

(my old hallway in Budapest)

We looked at some pictures of various places in Hungary, and it's badly made me want to go back. The last time I was there was 2 years ago, and the last time in Budapest was in 2007.

02 April 2014

Illustrator & Photoshop tutorial

When I did my MA work, people asked me how I did the whole stained glass window/paper collage effect with the water. So here is a tutorial a good year or so later (I am nothing if not timely). The whole thing was originally based on some sketches I made in a place in Spain called Port D'Andratx. I can't find the sketchbook now, so I quickly redrew a scene. The actual image isn't that exciting,  especially as it's quite busy and is intended for print so looks a million times better printed than it does on a small screen here, it's just there to show you the process.

I'm using CS6 on the Mac here, with the cheapest model of Wacom graphics tablet. There is very little here that isn't applicable to older version of the Adobe stuff though, and nothing Mac specific, and the graphics tablet just makes things quicker, it's all possible just with a mouse.

(This was the introduction loop to encourage visitors to play with the exhibit and see the other animations.The video is basically artwork made in the same way, then added to After Effects and set with shadows, various light sources and movement)

Sea/instruction Loop from Emma Falconer on Vimeo.

31 March 2014


On the way from Niederösterreich to Vorarlberg I stopped off alone in Salzburg along the way. I had to change trains in Vienna, and after a week of hearty, dairy-laden alpine food I was very, very thankful to eat some dhal and chapattis at the station. I really, really liked Salzburg and would gladly return there. I don't know what it is about the city, but it just had a really nice atmosphere. I arrived at about 5pm, found the hotel really easily, and dumped my stuff and went for a wander. It's an old university town, with a castle perched on an outcrop of the mountain looking down. There is a stereotype in Austria that people in Salzburg are snobby, but I found them friendly enough.

aerial 1 

I wandered through the old town, and made my way up to the castle via the funicular. I love panoramic views, but I'm also terrified of heights, so I have a tendency to force myself to go up to these places with shaky knees, gripping onto something for dear life, but being glad I made myself do it. At the top I had an overpriced coffee and slice of cake, but again, it was worth it for this view. There is no point in going to Austria if you don't stuff yourself with cake at every opportunity. 

aerial 2 

I looked at these pennies and wondered if the urban myth about throwing pennies from high places being lethal was true or not.

  schloss 3

A great view for a guard's post.

  old town 

 A peaceful square at the top of the mountain.

  schloss 5 

 Working my way back down into the town.

  schloss 4

I like the wonkiness of the windows. It reminds me of the sets from the Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

square 1

At the bottom of the castle they had all these chairs and tables set up with a big screen. Not for football, however, but for opera. You know you're in Austria . . .


I went in this gallery and had a really nice chat with the artist/owner Peter Gerl and bought some postcards of his paintings. Obviously I would've liked a real painting, but the budget didn't stretch that far. I really liked the effect of the scratchy ink lines and gouache washes on the brown paper. It's given me some ideas.


Then I had a walk along the river, and bought some Sound of Music souvenirs for my sister, who was obsessed with the film when she was younger. The next morning I had to leave early to get to the Swiss border, but I would definitely like to go back to Salzburg. 

St Wolfgangskirche, Niederösterreich

outside 2

While in Kirchberg-am-Wechsel we were given a tour of a disused church perched up on the mountainside. It has suffered a lot of misfortune over the years (if you can read German there is a wikipedia article here), it burnt down and was rebuilt twice, and is furnished with all kinds of leftovers from other churches, which makes it more interesting.

  outside 1

Remains of the original painted exterior.

  plaster 2

Broken carvings around the door.

The interior.

  graffiti 1
Historical graffiti.

Stained glass window borrowed from another church and kind of shoe-horned in.

School project from the 50s, a scale model of the church. There were various kid's and teacher's names signed on some of the bricks.

21 March 2014



While in Kirchberg am Wechsel I also got to go on a tour of Hermannshöhle with another teacher. It's a series of caves inside one of the mountains, with lots of stalactites and a bat colony. Usually the tours are at set times and only in German, but we got a private tour in English, which was really nice.

Bat guano is some strong-smelling stuff. The owner of the cave went to great lengths to debunk various negative ideas about bats in the tour, and he seemed pretty pleased that we already liked bats.
The owner was particularly pleased with this rock formation that looks like a turtle.
The exit for the caves turned out to be halfway up the mountain (the entrance was at the foot). We then had to scramble down steep dirt paths with no fencing and a sheer fall down the mountain. It's probably nothing to the locals or people with proper hiking equipment, but we weren't expecting it, and it was a little terrifying.

Kirchberg am Wechsel

wooden house
Last Summer I spent a week working at the junior school in Kirchberg am Wechsel, a tiny mountain town on the eastern end of the Alps on the border between Lower Austria and Styria. It is essentially one long street between some mountains, with "Lower Austria's finest stalactite cave" (more on that later) and a yearly Wittgenstein festival. As mountains go, by Austrian standards they are pretty tame, mostly being below the tree-line. When I said something to the kids about the mountains they basically went "what mountains?" and when I pointed out of the window they went "oh yeah, those, there are much better mountains in other places". Still, I like any kind of mountains, and the Wechsel is still 1,743m high, so it's hardly a hill. Mountains/hills and water, that's what I like. I wouldn't do well somewhere like Kansas.

forest 2

There weren't many surnames to go round at the school, and a lot of the children were cousins. There's a game I play with the younger children called "change places if ..." which is essentially musical chairs, but they only change places if they match a condition someone shouts out. This is the first time I have ever had things like "change places if you have some cows" cause the majority of the kids to swap chairs. I also said "change places if you have blonde hair" and only the kid with white blonde hair moved, the other 10 or so blonde kids seemed to think they had brown hair. The Alps!

The landlady of the guesthouse cooked me loads of amazing vegetarian things with pumpkins, and mushrooms she'd picked herself in the mountains. The portions however were intended for people doing serious hiking rather than making sock puppets with junior school children, and I kept worrying her that the food was no good because I could never clear the enormous platters. I also drank a lot of Almdudler.

At one point I kept hearing what sounded like the Twin Peaks music through my bedroom wall, and I wondered if I was imagining it. There turned out to be some kind of "relaxation veranda" downstairs next to the little stream where they had a chillout cd on a loop which did sound a lot like the Twin Peaks music.


It was the kind of place where when you go to the supermarket, the cashier goes "oh, you must be the English teacher!". The local branch of Spar also sells lederhosen and dirndls. You know you are in rural Austria when you can buy lederhosen at the supermarket. And yes, people do honestly own them and wear them on special occasions. They are quite expensive actually, about €300 for an outfit, and made of really nice materials. This magazine also exists, with patterns to sew the various featured dirndls. Flicking through the magazine feels like living in some pleasant but odd Heidi alternate universe.


The local accent was pretty strong, kind of a cross between Vienna and Styria. The following week I was in Feldkirk on the Swiss/Liechtenstein border where they have a totally different accent (and which is in general a more cosmopolitan area) and I had to remember to change my pronunciation of kirk to not get laughed at. In Kirchberg it's like keeerrrrkbeeerrrrrk and people will not get you if you pronounce the town name any other way, in Feldkirk they pronounce it as you would in English.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...