Phil Cooper / Painting Chimera #14

Phil CooperInside The Auxillary acrylics on paper, 40 x 40 cm

After much squeezing through vents, climbing over pallets and navigating chambers filled with pulleys, chains and butchers’ hooks, they arrived in an emptier space dominated by a large u-shape of narrow railway track.

Chimera Book 1 / Chapter 18 – The Other Carousel Horse


“After Kyp manages to escape the full-on horror show of the Dismantlers, there’s a definite change of atmosphere as we emerge into Chapter 18; it’s more subdued, quieter, but still bristling with menace. I’ve tried to depict this sense of threat with an empty warehouse space, full of shadows and places for enemies to hide, adorned with chains and hooks, and with a labyrinth of interconnected passages to get lost in, or trapped. Aesthetically, the interior of the warehouse is pure 1920’s Fritz Lang, as the frenzied expressionism of those film sets perfectly conveys the brittle tension in this chapter. Against this backdrop, important conversations are had, before another horrible reveal in the final line of the chapter. Whatever’s coming in Chapter 19, I’m guessing it’s not good news!”

Phil Cooper, April 2021


Phil Cooper’s Inside The Auxillary painting on his art table in his Berlin studio, April 2021




Throwback Friday #51 Patience Kite / Excerpt (2019)


Back in September 2019, I finally finished Patience Kite – a novel I’d been fiddling about with for ten years or more. Owing much to Under Milkwood, in terms of its big cast of characters, and with nods to The Wicker Man and other examples of literary ‘folk horror’, I was very happy to complete it. I’d lived with these characters for an extended time and worked hard – off-and-on – to make the reading experience work engagingly. Sometimes, on good days, I’m certain I achieved just that, more or less. Other times, I think there is probably a very good reason why, having sent Patience Kite out to a number of literary agents and publishers upon completion, I’ve heard precisely nothing at all! I have a goodly number of rejection slips etc in my collection from my other finished works of ‘undiscovered literary greatness’, so I am largely inured to the rasp of disappointment.

That said, I sometimes think about all these lives I brought into being, these loyal phantoms of mine, and I wonder if I have a responsibility to them to go on trying. Today, I’m sufficing instead with putting the shortest of excerpts out on here, as this Friday’s archival entry. The character of Annie Crowther looks after the model village in Pengarth, the fictional setting of Patience Kite, a pretty fishing village somewhere in the wilds of North Cornwall. This short section comes very early in the novel and uses the device of the model village, and Annie’s omnipresence, to introduce readers to a few more of the book’s characters – and of course, there’s a hint of foreboding too…



Aquarius (2021)


So, this is what I learned during my hardly exhaustive research into the ‘age of Aquarius’ in preparation for this week’s Kick-About; that in addition to all the immediate water-based imagery that associates with it, some scholars of all things astrological identify electricity as one of the keenest indications of the Aquarian age.

Originally I had film in mind as my response to the prompt, something rather doomy and cynical juxtaposing the optimism given to the age of Aquarius with the lived reality of recent events and the rise of populism in politics… but, while good and worthwhile possibly, it was also going nowhere visually! Instead, I wondered how I might bring the Aquarian motifs of electricity and water together in a suitably cosmic way – without blowing myself up in the process!

So it was I returned to the site of the scrying mirror, that small body of water so fascinating to me in its blackness (but which also makes it quite smelly!), and cracked out a few techniques familiar to me from previous photographic adventures in other dark places. It is certainly the dawning of something going on here…



Chimera Book 1 / Chapter 18 – The Other Carousel Horse


Dan Snelgrove and I rather left things dangling on a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of Chapter 17, what with Kyp, Jamie, Bertram Fusby and Sir Regulus Ferric hurtling towards certain doom… so it’s with great pleasure I can announce the arrival of the next thrilling instalment of Chimera Book 1 – brought to you, as ever, courtesy of Dan’s vocal pyrotechnics. Enjoy!


Last time in Chimera Book 1:

The dismantler holding Kyp now targeted Bertram. With a hiss of pistons, it swung about, before descending speedily towards the skateboarding pig.  It discarded Kyp, who dropped from its open claw and fell heavily onto the conveyor belt. Jamie pulled him to his feet and shouted at him to keep moving. They ducked, rolled and dived their way past drill-bits, scythes and wrecking balls as more dismantlers sprang up to converge on Bertram.  

Bertram was enjoying himself. He out-smarted the machines, performing daring jumps and complicated stunts.  In their confusion, the dismantlers attacked each other, the hammer of one smashing the drill of another. More dismantlers clashed, their claws, hooks and hydraulics entangled. A chainsaw sliced through the arm of the dismantler wielding the circular saw.  Now severed, the whirling disc decapitated machines on both sides of the conveyor.  The fallen dismantlers collapsed into the pits below.  Pillars of flame erupted.  Rivets fell like hailstones.  Kyp, Jamie and Sir Regulus drew together protectively as more of the dismantlers tore into each other and fell to ruin.  Bertram wheeled towards them out of the smoke.    

‘Wow!’ he said, as more explosions boomed.  He hopped off the skateboard.  ‘That was amazing!’

‘What were you thinking?’ yelled Sir Regulus. ‘You could have been killed!’

‘Bertram saved us, Sir Regulus,’ said Jamie.  

An explosion shook the conveyor, an entire section falling into the burning pits below.

‘We’re not out of danger yet,’ said Sir Regulus.

They ran to the very end of the conveyor belt, looking down to see a large metal basket positioned below it.  At their backs, fires burned more fiercely.  Sparks fizzed.  Smoke thickened.  Another explosion set the conveyor quaking.

‘What now?’ panicked Jamie.

‘Into the basket,’ ordered Sir Regulus. ‘Quickly.’ The four of them leapt from the conveyor into the basket. For a moment nothing happened, then, with a violent jolt and revving of machinery, the basket rocketed towards the chamber roof.

Chapter 18 – The Other Carousel Horse

Listen to all previous chapters at anchor.fm/chimerabook1

Coming Soon to Red’s Kingdom: Chapter 19 – Thingopolis Under Attack!


The Kick-About #25 ‘The Age Of Aquarius’


With its associations with protest and freedom of expression, this week’s prompt, courtesy of Kerfe Roig, returns us somewhat to the untaming of our last Kick-About together, but just like everyone else, I suspect, I’ve had the song from Hair going around and around my brain these past two weeks!


Tom Beg

“I apologise in advance to any students of colour-theory who might be seeing these images. While it was made in the spirit of peace and love, it might in fact be the colour equivalent an atomic bomb. Really I just wanted to make the animated tye dye t-shirts while listening to the Broadway cast recording of Hair.”



twitter.com/earthlystranger / vimeo.com/tombeg


Judy Watson

“I did go briefly down a rabbit hole to look up the meaning of the expression in astrological terms. It’s complex but predictably vague and controversial. The Age of Aquarius may have begun in 2600 BCE, or may have begun in the 20th Century or may be yet to begin. Having grown out of what limited interest I had in astrology years ago, this was not a direction that inspired art. It did lead me to quite an interesting little reading session about hippies, beatniks and the New Age movement of the 1960s and 1970s, but the complexity of this material reminded me of why I was never very good at history in school and why I admire people who are good at history!

But visually, the culture of the ’60s and ’70s is interesting. In fact I already had a digital collage with a psychedelic flavour that I made in November last year after watching the progress of the US elections with horror and dread. I had a powerful craving for the dawn of a new era, and for women to play an important role in it.”



“In Australia, that thirst for a change of culture, and a redistribution of power is even stronger now. If you’re interested, journalist Leigh Sales talks about it here, or there’s a briefer version on her Instagram page here. But what the heck. I had to make something new just for this prompt. So I decided that peace, love and harmony were the go, but sticking with the a secondary theme of female solidarity and friendship. And here’s the dawning of the Age of Aquarius being celebrated in a small way between two friends. The moon is definitely in the Seventh House. Need you even ask?” 


judywatson.net / Instagram.com/judywatsonart / facebook.com/judywatsonart


Phil Gomm

“So this is what I learned during my research into the ‘age of Aquarius’ – that in addition to all the immediate water-based imagery that associates with it, some scholars of all things astrological identify electricity as one of the keenest indications of the Aquarian age. Originally I had film in mind as my response to the prompt, something rather doomy and cynical juxtaposing the optimism given to the age of Aquarius with the lived reality of recent events and the rise of populism in politics… but, while good and worthwhile possibly, it was also going nowhere visually! Instead, I wondered how I might bring the Aquarian motifs of electricity and water together in a suitably cosmic way – without blowing myself up in the process! So it was I returned to the site of the scrying mirror, that small body of water so fascinating to me in its blackness (but which also makes it quite smelly!), and cracked out a few techniques familiar to me from previous photographic adventures in other dark places. It is certainly the dawning of something going on here…”



James Randall

I love Hair – it was one of the last shows before covid that we saw that I really enjoyed – just a small production that ran for a few nights at the Sydney Opera House. Yep our poor youngsters will have the same old concerns but worse, I suppose. After a few painted kick-about responses I went back to the computer for some clean lines. I hope it feels like there is some energy in it – it started off feeling that way to me but it always amazes me how much time you spend on a computer to get an image off the ground.



Charly Skilling

“This constellation was identified as “The Water Carrier” in the records of the Babylonians, some 6000 years BCE, and has been recognised as such by civilisations ever since. Different ideologies have ascribed different myths, but the common feature throughout has been the urn pouring water from the heavens. Regardless of the meanings ascribed to the constellation, the constellation itself is real and eternal, and humanity has gazed upon it since the first humanoid turned its face to the stars and wondered.

It is about 27,500 years since our solar system last moved through this sector of the sky, and will remain within this sector for approximately 2,150 years. When thinking about these vast periods of time, it is tempting to take comfort in the fact, that whatever the ups and downs of our own little lives, there is a never-changing constancy about the world and its place in the universe. But perhaps the true meaning of the constellation of Aquarius is not that water will always be available, but that all life needs water to survive. Maybe “The Age of Aquarius” is the time to recognize if we continue to use water, consume water, play with water, waste water and pollute water, as we have done over the last couple of centuries, we may have witnessed the “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius”, but there may be no one much around to witness the twilight.”




Kerfe Roig

“When Phil asked me to choose this week’s Kick-About prompt, I thought immediately of The Age of Aquarius, because I’ve been turning over in my mind the hope that it might be real, that humanity can change. I always loved the music posters of the “Hair” era, and used them as inspiration for my neon colored paintings… Back when the musical “Hair” came out, some astrologers grumbled that it wasn’t really the Age of Aquarius yet.  But what did we care?  We were tired of the world as it was, ready for Peace, Love and Understanding. Well…maybe not. During 2020 there were rumblings once again online about the REAL Age of Aquarius finally showing up.  I was skeptical to say the least.It seems we had the Age of Aquarius skewed, not only in time.  Yes, it’s a total tearing down and rebuilding.  But it’s going to require hard work.  Taking a lot of drugs and wearing tie-dye and listening to songs about love won’t do it. Can we change our entire approach to living together, not only with each other, but with the earth, its creatures, its landscape, its elements?  We need to if we want to survive.”


chaotic stillness
watching from the whorled center
for new beginnings

all those lost patterns –
I collect them in my mind,
in new rotations

all impermanence –
no matter which way you turn
the path continues

giving myself hope
inside my dark wanderings–
a world of wonder


kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com


Graeme Daly

“Firstly, I was gobsmacked by the age of Aquarius song from the musical Hair. It left the hairs standing on my arms with the booming lead singer’s voice being absolutely phenomenal. If this show ever returns to live audiences I would love to see it! The “hippie” people of this era wanted to show their respect and love for the earth and focus on the world around them, while doing it as a group effort to show a sense of community and togetherness. Aquarius is an air sign, and as a fellow air sign myself, they are known to be creative, free spirited, and always seek clarity.

The symbol for Aquarius being the ‘water bearer’, who eternally gives life and spiritual food to the world, while also washing away the past and making room for a fresh start is usually depicted as a mighty figure pouring water from a vessel onto the earth. When seeing the image of the water bearer, I wanted to focus on a previous experience surrounding water that ignited the Pools film from the Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez prompt, which gave me more respect for the earth and the little wonders that happen sporadically, if you are open enough to find them.

These photos show a snapshot of a spectacle that was for my eyes only, where a trickling of snow was melting and forming a mirage of colours in a shallow lagoon of water. It was a joyous occasion to just sit and watch this natural occurrence, and with its dancing display, it allowed me to stop worrying about everything and what the future holds and just be here in this moment. I think experiences like that are important for grounding you and bringing you back to your present reality, where worry has no place, as the hippies in Hair embodied this physicality here and now by dancing and moving their bodies like water…”


@graemedalyart / vimeo.com/graemedaly / linkedin.com/in/graeme-daly / twitter.com/Graeme_Daly / gentlegiant.blog


Marion Raper

“I was very lucky to be ‘sweet sixteen at the tail end of the 60s. Having worked hard to get my exams, it was time to enjoy myself and ‘let the sunshine in’, so I started a job in London.  It was alive and buzzing!  I worked in a large open plan office and every day was such fun – more often than not I just managed to catch the last train home!  It was all parties, pubs and shopping, and frankly one of the best times of my life!   Everyone was so happy!  Perhaps it was due to the great music of the time or the wonderful crazy clothes. I still have my beautiful purple velvet kaftan.   Unfortunately, I never got to see Hair the Musical as it was always booked solid but how I enjoyed the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”



Phil Cooper

When I read the prompt for this week’s Kick-About, my first port of call was that clip from the film Hair where the hippie kids are dancing in the park singing ‘let the sunshine in’. My research did go a bit deeper than watching 1960s musicals, into the realms of astrology and vernal equinoxes and suchlike, but I kept coming back to that catchy song. I was struck by how the song linked all the positive attributes of the new age of Aquarius to sunshine, relating feelings to the weather, as so many songs do. When the age of Aquarius does arrive, we’ll all be dancing under sunny skies, apparently. The film version looks very dated now, of course, and has a very American feel. If it’d been made in Britain it’d be less ‘let the sunshine in’ and more ‘take your washing in’. I’m not complaining, though, I really do like the gentle climate of the British Isles. It’s what helps make our landscapes and gardens so beautiful. It’s also become rather de rigueur to challenge such simple binaries as; sunny weather, good – rainy weather, bad. Nature writers seem to be falling over themselves in their enthusiasm to tell us about their new books where they did things like walk in the rain for a whole year, and how they found such experiences deeply revelatory and healing. Back in the 19th century, John Ruskin told us ‘there’s really no such things as bad weather, just different kinds of weather’. I do get it, I can enjoy rain, and storms, and snow, but given the choice, I’d rather be outside under a clear blue sky. I’ve made a little film about it for the Kick-About this week, splicing together two videos, taken exactly six months apart; one in high summer, one in midwinter. By making the film so binary, I hope it allows for the nuances to emerge and for this to generate more complex feelings about sun/rain, summer/winter, light/dark and life/death, ultimately, I suppose. Or maybe it just makes the sunny part of the film look all the more enticing and the winter part even more ‘ugh!’.

The soundtrack to the film is from a beautiful piece of music called Waterland (part IV) by The Rain Dogs. Check out their amazing work at the-rain-dogs.bandcamp.com

Ok, I’m looking out of the window as I write this and the sky is a delicate pale grey with a soft drizzle coming down; where are those hippie kids when you need them!?”



instagram.com/philcoops / hedgecrows.wordpress.com / phil-cooper.com


Vanessa Clegg

“This is my 1960s “Dolly Dress” – another treasure from a charity shop. It hangs on my wall as a reminder of all the good times and never fails to trigger a smile. Years ago. when working in Australia, friends at the studio invited me to a 60/70s party. Myself and another dressed accordingly. She was a dancer and had hoarded all original clothes from that ‘crossroad time’. We arrived clutching the soundtrack to “Hair” and more than ready to party, but sadly no one else had dressed up (chic black only), so we put on the music, revived the old moves, and soon were all swirling back to a time when change was the buzzword, freedom and fashion a shock, and art school the perfect place to explore this “New World”. May we all ‘ let the sun shine in’ when we gather once more to dance, drink and laugh with our friends….how fab will that be?!”


vanessaclegg.co.uk


Just a reminder then, that the Kick-About No.26 ‘52.1429’ is our anniversary edition to mark one year of shared creative endeavours. I think we’ve all earned a little break from fizzing fortnightly with new things to try and do, so I’m asking kick-abouters to get in touch and choose one of their own previous submissions for including in a ‘greatest hits’ edition. All you need do is point me at the piece of work you’d like me to include, but also send me a few lines on why you’ve chosen it; it might be because it represented some crazy creative detour into the unknown, or it might just be because you really really like it – and anything else you’d like to talk about too. I look forward to hearing from you in due course.



Throwback Friday #50 Euphorbias Anonymous


I don’t know when these photographs were taken, or which particular type of euphorbia it might be, but I was inspired to share them for this week’s Throwback Friday on account of the great lime green clouds of Euphorbia characias growing in wild profusion outside some of the beach-facing houses here in Whitstable. We pass them on our routine late-afternoon loop, a bit otherworldly with their spires of acid-yellow suckers (I always think of the Zygons), and yet naturalistic and ‘just right’ too.



MFT #12 Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers (1956)


Don Siegel’s 1956 science-fiction film, Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers is one of my favourite things. Here’s why.

I can’t recall when I first saw Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers – most likely on BBC2, opposite the six o clock news, when I was nine or ten, which was where, and when, they always scheduled science-fiction b-movies, as a welcome refuge for boys like me; from the Falklands War, the miners’ strike, the spectre of nuclear annihilation, and Margaret fucking Thatcher.  

I wonder if, to begin with, I was a bit underwhelmed by Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, in that it lacked the giant slugs of It Came From Outer Space, the big-brained mutant of This Island Earth, and the tentacled-head-in-a-fishbowl from Invaders From Mars.  I’m going to say it probably did. I can also say with confidence that, unlike those showier movies, Invasion of the Body-Snatchers changed my relationship to cinema forever.

But it wasn’t the experience of watching Invasion of the Body-Snatchers that catalysed my transformation from consumer of images to avid cryptographist. It was the experience of reading about it.  As my interest in horror and science fiction films intensified, I started to spend my pocket money on books about them, principally because I could seek out glimpses of the many and various films I was otherwise too young to actually watch.  And while Invasion of the Body-Snatchers certainly lacked the rubbery bug-eyed delights and flying saucers I thought sure were the canonical stuff of all the most entertaining science-fiction movies, it was a film the people in my books liked to write about a lot.

This was what I learned: in addition to Invasion of the Body-Snatchers being a low budget black and white film about hive-minded pod people from another planet and their sinister bid for world domination, it was also a commentary on the anxiety felt by Americans in the face of communist ideology. Okay, so, I didn’t know what communism was, even less so ideology, except that it had to something to with Russian spies and the colour red. 

Confusingly, as I read more about Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, I learned the film might also have something to say, not about communism, but about McCarthyism, which was another word I didn’t know, but learned about soon after. Further readings, in different books, suggested the threat against mankind in Invasion of the Body-Snatchers wasn’t coming from the furthest flung regions of space, but from within the magazine pages of Homes & Garden; that the awful sameness spreading from person-to-person wasn’t communism, or the chilling effect on expressions of difference produced by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s pernicious witchhunts, but the homogenising effect on the human condition of jolly, post-war consumerism.

I’m reminded of the old joke: when is a door not a door? When it is a jar.  When is a film not a series of images projected at twenty-four frames a second onto a flat surface? When it is an expansive, dimensional vessel encompassing competing strains of sociological meaning.

Though I didn’t really understand everything I was reading about in relationship to Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, a lesson was learned, and it was two-fold; not only could black and white movies about imperialistic alien vegetables tell us something truthful about the emotional realities of individuals living in the real world, but also that interpretation was not the intellectual project of fixing meaning in place, but the art of enjoying competing truths.

As improbable as it sounds pretentious, I really can trace my intellectual awakening to Invasion of the Body-Snatchers; from here, the early beginnings of my understanding of politics, the scaffolding of our lived realities, largely invisible to children, but very far from irrelevant to them; from here, the beginning of an understanding about the various different ways our freedoms might be imperilled – from within and from without; from here, the idea a person’s difference could be considered precious, a characteristic to be protected; from here, the tingle of unease for any large group of people laying definitive claims to a single mode of existence. 

Invasion of the Body-Snatchers also taught me films were unavoidably articles of social history, that however future-looking or historical or interplanetary, movies are marinaded in the times of their production; that the surface of a film is a mirror, in which we find the values of the people who made it.

In this way, Invasion of the Body-Snatchers gave me the confidence and conviction to spit in the eye of various teachers and later, academics, who would have me and others believe there was no value in something as popular as genre, no truth-telling power, no insight; that the only culture with the power to cast light on the matrices of human behaviour are those within the realm of finer things.  


A boy runs from his mother, who is ‘not’ his mother.

Wilma is convinced Uncle Ira is ‘not’ Uncle Ira.

A doppelgänger is discovered as it assumes the form of its victim.

A doppelgänger transforms in the darkness of the cellar.


Invasion of the Body-Snatchers begins at the end; with our hero, Dr Miles Bennell, in custody in the emergency room of a hospital; wild-eyed, Bennell is trying to convince a psychiatrist he is not a lunatic, and so recounts the events leading up to his arrest.

And events begin simply enough: a boy running in mortal fear of his own mother. Soon after, we meet Wilma, cousin of Dr Bennell’s love interest, Becky Driscoll, who is convinced her Uncle Ira is ‘not’ her Uncle Ira.  Meanwhile, the sun shines, and Uncle Ira cuts the grass on his neat front lawn, and the town of Santa Mira looks as pretty-as-picture, with its neat, white wooden houses, neat, white picket fences, and neat, white families. Oh, how these first small pangs of wrongness delight me, the chiming of these minor chords in an otherwise happy-clappy melody; the way they say, ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’, like watching the filter on someone’s #Livingmybestlife Instagram feed glitch-out for a second to reveal a stray dog turd.

Maybe cinema has conditioned me to regard small, pretty towns inhabited by smiling people as inherently dishonest and keepers of secrets? Maybe I only think this way because Invasion of the Body-Snatchers taught me to think this way, or maybe Invasion of the Body-Snatchers is the just outward expression of something I’ve always known to be true? We think of myths as stories, but I wonder if myths are the stories we recognise as truth? Santa Mira is but one of many small towns whose inhabitants are actually conspirators or monsters or both.  I’m thinking of the leafy streets of Stepford, and the painted streets of Summerisle. I’m thinking about Seahaven Island, and the Village from The Prisoner, the ice-cream-coloured neighbourhood of Edward Scissorhands, and every other dystopic conurbation.

Anyway, we soon learn the boy’s teacher and Uncle Ira have been hollowed out by extra-terrestrials, who are making a tremendous effort to keep up appearances. I suppose this is what I’m talking about when I think about all those towns and villages that so inspire distrust in me, or the way another person’s exquisite manners give me reason to be wary of them; I think to myself ‘so much effort’ and then, ‘for what?’ and then, ‘why?’, and then ‘I think they doth protest too much’. I do know of people who ‘just want everything to be nice’ and they’re always the bloody worst of us, because in my experience ‘by nice’ what they really mean is ‘repressed’ and ‘silent’ and ‘servile’.


Dr Bennell and Becky look out at the ‘normal’ streets of Santa Mira.


Whenever I re-watch the unfolding horror of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, I’m reminded of a warm evening spent with old friends around a table on the scruffy candle-lit terrace of an old French house. We were playing a hypothetical game of Room 101, nominating our least favourite things to be cast into Orwell’s oubliette.  The conversation began lightly enough, and my suggestion for banishment was John Lennon’s Imagine. I loathe Imagine musically because it is a dirge, and also because, lyrically it is about as profound as a souvenir tea towel, as profound as The New Seeker’s I’d Like to Teach the World To Sing, only markedly less catchy.  My choice confused my companions, and as we wrestled with it, the tone darkened.  I railed against the glib utopianism Lennon offers, finding in it only the nascent trappings of fascism – and not Orwell’s dystopian hell hole of conspicuous boots brought down conspicuously on faces, but Huxley’s Brave New World of insensate, perfected bliss. Imagine is every pod person’s sing-a-long, a love-song to frontal lobotomies.


The discovery of the seed pods in the greenhouse.


I likewise relish Invasion of the Body-Snatchers for its hokier trappings, principally, its central premise that the human race might be victimised, then vanquished, by plants. Maybe like all small boys at one time or another, I had a venus-fly trap, having begged my mum to buy me one.  I was instantly disappointed by the diminutive size of my fly-trap, and also disappointed when I killed mine after feeding it a single strand of frozen mince. The idea of carnivorous plants fascinated me – still do, and while the alien pods in Invasion of the Body-Snatchers do not predate on the flesh of their victims, they feed on us nonetheless, absorbing the likenesses of their subjects while their subjects sleep. 

The film’s scenes in the greenhouse, in which our heroes witness the birthing of their dopplegangers from rubbery seed pods, remain gruesome all these years later, evoking a horrid fascination for prodigiousity familiar to any gardener.  Recently, I’ve been propogating spider plants by cutting off the scintillas of baby plants and poking them into water, where now there are white, worming roots, as these decapitated little off-shoots strive busily to survive; like the time, I was re-potting a large podophyllum, which, when at last liberated from its pot, trailed with it what looked like masses of white spaghetti.  Consider too the bamboo roots once growing under our garden path, resembling exactly the mad result of an experiment to splice a giant millipede with a human spine.  Let’s call this category of horticultural unease the ‘vegetal uncanny’. Anyone who has opened a kitchen cupboard, to find at the back of it a long-since forgotten potato, bristling with roots the translucent milky-yellow of an overly long toenail, knows what this is.  In Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, the bodies of the soon-to-be-replaced are found in darkness in the self-same way; down in cellars, secreted in the boots of cars, and inside them, the horribly busy pods.


The pods begin to hatch in the greenhouse.


From where I sit as I write this, I can see out of the window of our spare room and down into the narrow street below.  A few weeks ago, I was looking out and I saw a lone woman walking rather aimlessly in the street. I noticed her trainers and heavy brown coat.  She looked tired in an unremarkable way.   She’d just left one of the houses on the street and didn’t look like she knew what to do next.  I recognised the woman, having sat across from her in pubs on various occasions pre-pandemic, and then talking with her directly one day outside another pub in the summer of 2020, just after lock-down restrictions had been eased.  On this occasion, the woman wanted to talk about COVID. Specifically, she wanted myself and anyone else in earshot to join the ‘march against masks’ being organised in London.  Fascinated, I talked with the woman further, and it soon became clear the woman was ‘anti-mask’ because she was of the firm belief that COVID was an elaborate, precision-engineered Trojan horse, its insides crammed tightly with illustrious conspirators; Bill Gates, naturally, but also ‘the Rothchilds’, various media tycoons, including the chieftains of the BBC, and the World Health Organisation, and many more. I remained kind and curious during our exchange and continued to ask for clarifications on the specific goal of the beautiful conspiracy and what ‘success might look like’ for the sinister elite.  The woman couldn’t tell me. She just knew the end of the world was nigh, and like some Cassandra, all she could do was move from stranger to stranger, asking them to take a leaflet. 

Days later, another friend in the town told a story about meeting the same woman in the supermarket, their conversation largely mundane until she informed him the vaccine was part of plot to murder the human race. 

One of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers most chilling moments is when Dr Bennell returns to his hideout, after leaving Becky alone for a short time, to discover she too has succumbed to the alien conspiracy, and is now a replacement. The woman he once knew is gone, hollowed out by an alternate societal paradigm.


Dr Bennell’s moment of realisation, after kissing Becky Driscoll’s doppelgänger.

The seed pods are harvested and distributed.


This cuts to the knotty horror of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.  There I was, looking out of my window, watching the woman in the heavy brown coat walking down the middle of the street, and thinking to myself, ‘The pod people have got her.’ I even started wondering what she’d been doing in this other person’s house just moments before. I had a very clear image of the woman stowing big green seed pods under beds, in the shed, in the greenhouse, just as, in the film, the alien menace is seen growing, harvesting and distributing more pods throughout the land. The problem is, the woman in the heavy brown coat thinks the same about me. 

Let’s compare dehumanisations for a moment. I pity this individual because, it seems crystal clear to me, she’s surrendered her autonomy of thought and action to some injurious hive-mind existent between the nodes of social media. The woman pities me because it seems as clear to her I have surrendered my autonomy of thought and action to some injurious hive-mind broadcast by ‘the establishment’ and its media. 

In the final moments of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, just as it seems likely the psychiatrist is going to consign Dr Bennell to the nearest institution, another patient arrives at the hospital, who was involved in a collision with a truck – a truck carrying giant seed pods! Hurrah! In the nick of time, Bennell’s outlandish tale of alien conspiracy is authenticated by a third party and his sanity vouchsafed. Phew! This was not, however, the intended ending for the film, which instead concluded more grimly with the existing scene of Dr Bennell running into a road busy with traffic, screaming like a mad person, screaming, ‘They’re already here! You’re next! You’re next!’ The producers felt this ending was too dark, too depressing, too downbeat, not least because it first destabilises the world as we know it, and next withdraws the comfort of a happily definitive ending.

When I think about the woman in the old brown coat, I also see her running against the traffic, shrilling, ‘They’re already here!’ and everyone driving past, ignoring the crazy person.  But there have been many times this past year, when I’ve felt like running into the streets, gripped by fear and frustration, railing against the decadence of the COVID-is-a-Hoax brigade, against the baroque fantasy of the QAnoners and their tribes; against the likes of Trump and Johnson, against the maddening populism of the UK and elsewhere, against the hollowing out of facts over the primacy of people’s feelings‘The end of the world is nigh!’

And there it is, the creeping, perfect terror of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers – not alien invasions, not sentient vegetables from beyond the stars, but the more prosaic personal dread of being thought of as mad when you’re 100% certain you’re not.


‘They’re already here! You’re next! You’re next!’