Today my challenge nearly brought me down. It’s all sorts of days today. It’s St George’s Day, it’s Shakespeare’s birth and death day, it’s World Book Day, and 21 Years Since I Moved Back To Brighton Day. Having worked for the RSC on and off for more years than I care to remember, I really didn’t need to revisit anything Shakespearean (but if you’re desperate, pop over to my Gallery, you’ll see Dominic Cooper as Puck, and over on My Celebrity Boyfriend, Matthew Rhys and I in a bush, in a car park opposite the RSC Clapham rehearsal rooms where he was rehearsing Romeo). And as much as I like reading, it felt a bit of a cop out. So my attention was drawn back to George.
I know it’s mean spirited, but one of my favourite St George’s Day traditions is pointing out to those seeking to exploit him for some sort of patriotic, nationalistic, dog-whistling nonsense that he was born in modern day Turkey, of Middle Eastern descent, who supposedly slew his dragon in Libya, and never set foot in Merrie Old England. But I didn’t think that was suitable for the project, so I started thinking about dragons instead.
The Book of English Magic describes dragons as killing with their ‘poisonous breath’ (p.93), which immediately made me think of trying out some halitosis cures. While I searched my books, I also put this to Twitter:
But none of my books had much to say beyond Culpeper’s Complete Herbal recommending ribwort boiled in red wine for ‘extreme heat of the mouth’ (p.587), and from my foraging on Tuesday, I knew I wasn’t going to find any ribwort near me. And then my mind wandered away from bad breath to finger puppets, obviously, and I thought about stitching a St George for one hand and a dragon for the other. But as I’ve always had a softer spot for the trophy rather than the hunter, my attention wander back to just dragons, this time to paper dragons.
The only paper folding I’ve ever done really is paper planes, and in hindsight that should have given me a clue as I was pretty shit at that too. But I found a YouTube tutorial, a piece of blue paper (blue is St George’s traditional colour) and started folding.
I can safely say that I found origami with the wrong paper tantamount to torture. I was lost even before the first minute of the tutorial was over and despaired at the thought of another twelve to go. The guy demonstrating was completely silent so I had to rely on often out of focus pointing to try and work out what was happening (like I can talk, most of my photos and videos are hardly sharp).
At first I loved watching a video that didn’t keen electro elevator music, there was something quite lovely only listening to the occasion rustle. But as I squinted at his fingers, I began feeling like there was a sensuality to the way he was handling the paper. While I was wrestling with it, he was positively stroking the creases. With every whispered fold, and every creak of the table I felt like I wasn’t witnessing just origami any more. Anyhow, by the time I’d got to halfway all my creases had lost any pretence of crispness and any seemingly easy manoeuvre felt like folding a brick. I had got to the stage where I was pausing the video after every turn as I just couldn’t figure out any of the sequences and had to repeat sections multiple times.
I have never wanted more to give up a craft project in my entire life. Probably. So I had a pause, read the Popbitch newsletter, then returned for the big finish. But I didn’t care anymore, I just wanted it over. By the time I was trying to work out how the feet went, I was just squeezing folded wedges. The perfectionist in me wanted my dragon to look like his dragon. Desperately. The tired old woman who’d been writing a script all day, just wanted to go to bed. Desperately.
So this is his St George’s Dragon:
And this is mine:
And my takeaway? Stroke those creases flat. Stroke those creases like you’ve never stroked a crease before. And yes, I’m still talking about origami.
Carr-Gomm, P. and Heygate, R. (2014) The Book of English Magic, London, Hodder
Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Culpeper (1995) Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, Ware, Wordsworth Editions Ltd
Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books