David and Alenka
The object is a set of . . . is it a set? It’s not a set is it . . . pack, yeah, pack of tarot cards, which belonged to my wife and I think she was given them by an old lady in a village they lived in England when they first came back from China.
I chose the object because it’s something that she left behind but none of us can actually know how to use because none of us knew how to read the tarot cards and they were extremely complex visual things to actually understand. I think it’s something you actually have to have a gift for or . . . I’m not sure you can actually learn it, and learn it well. So I think that’s why I chose it.
There’s many other objects but I think that one because it’s . . . those because it . . . I just don’t know how to, what to do with them really. Beautiful, but I don’t know what to do with them. Connor’s tried to start reading. Connor’s my son. He’s tried to have a go. And actually, Connor’s got it; he wrote it down at the last reading that she made for all of us about a week before she died . . . I think it was New Years Day that she got the cards out and read them. And actually funny enough, one of the cards was death. But it doesn’t always mean death when it’s in the pack, can mean something else. But she knew all these things. I don’t. Connor’s got it, Connor’s got the actual four cards which we all chose. And I think we thought the death was gonna be my Dad, cos he was quite old. But it didn’t, it didn’t turn out to be that.
It’s her laugher probably. Quite an infectious laugh. She was always happy and her students loved her.
They were very much of her, very complex . . . lots of many different sides to her. But the cards especially I think, because they are complex I think. And again that’s why I don’t, you know I can’t read them. Even if I laid them all out, I don’t know if I could make any sense of them. I mean because I don’t, you know, different combinations of cards mean different things. Like I said before, death doesn’t actually mean death, it can mean something else, cos you know, you’re asked to see what you see in the cards.
Her ability to be able to read into them. Not as I say, not in a spooky way. And she was a story teller and I think that’s the thing about the cards. It is about story telling as well. I think these were, this pack was by Alistair Crowley. I think he was a wizard, but he did these, he was supposedly a wizard, early part of the twentieth century. And he did these cards, these are his particular ones. No they definitely do remind me of, always will remind me of her really. I own the object, objects, well I don’t own them. I don’t think I actually own them actually. They’re ours I think, mine and my children’s, but I think they have more value than that they’re ours; they were definitely hers, you know? Years of her handling them; in a way her spirit must be in those. In fact we, at the last day of Dartington, we spread Alenka’s ashes in the courtyard and we spread all the cards out and everyone had to take a card and just split the pack and just have a think for a few minutes about what they chose and whether it was . . . I think everybody got a good card in the end.
Yeah so I’m not sure . . . we just have them. I think we, you know. . . I can’t say I own them. If anything they’ll probably go to Connor, cos Connor and his Mum were born on the same day. As was her mother, so there’s three of them all on Hallowe’en, so . . . witch children we call them. So yeah, three generations born on the same day. What are the chances? It is uncanny. In fact, when we lived in Amsterdam and he was born (cos
Connor was born in Amsterdam), we had a friend come round and he had a friend with him and the friend wouldn’t come in the house. Said, "No, I’ll stay outside". This was October, it’s freezing. "No, I’m not coming in!", cos once he found out it was three on the same day, "No, I’m staying outside." He did! He didn’t even come in the house cos he was so spooked.
I believe in spiritual things, but not, I don’t have a religious perspective on death. I think in a way it’s quite, you know it’s quite arbitrary I think. I mean it was so quick. When Alenka died, it was very quick. But it could be like being in a car crash in a sense because it, that’s it. You go out of the house one day and you come back and you don’t come back. And I think when when we celebrated her life, for the sort of memorial we had in Hungary, it was good that, you know, there was many, many different people, ways people celebrated the lives - with either music or Malvern did a Buddhist prayer. Especially with the cards, because I mean they’re none religious. People might say they are in a way, but they’re not. Some people might think it’s black magic or . . . but the way she read them, it’s very truthful. And she always respected other people’s faith. And I think actually her mother was a lapsed Catholic, but never ever forced any sort of faith on any of her children really.
I love the object because obviously it reminds me of my wife, my friend, but also . . . of college and the friends I made there. Lifelong friends . . . all the people that we knew there and the four years we shared and sort of grew up together. And all the other people who sat through these cards I think. So I don’t dislike them. I don’t dislike them at all actually cos those people who did have their cards read were part of a shared experience I think, which was very, erm yeah, it was important. I mean because it wasn’t sort of like hocus-pocus at all. It was you know, it was . . . a place where people went to listen really. So no, I think I’ve always, always liked them. Fascinated by them ever since she first started reading to people. I don’t think she read very early on. She didn’t want people to know it cos I mean some people, some people would frown upon it cos it’s you know . . . if you’re highly religious then would probably think it’s something to do with the devil, which a lot of people did. Some people wouldn’t go near it, I know that. But then some people really sort of swore by it and would have them done too regularly. In the end Alenka said, "Well I’m not gonna read anymore" You know, "I can’t give you any more . . .now. You know, you can’t have it done twice a week, y’know just because you’re searching for something". And I think she could tell that too. So I think that they have huge memories, in fact probably now I’m talking, probably far more than I actually remember. Cos she did read for quite a diverse amount of people, you know from the college cleaner to people in the art department, music department.
It does bring me back to you know college and lots of things that we all did together, cos before we were lovers and got married, we were friends. So you know, we were all friends then. So it’s just not, it’s about quite a long, very long period of my life really. So it was about twenty seven, twenty eight years, of being friends and having children and travelling together - living in Paris, we lived in Amsterdam and lived in Budapest. So highly, very interwoven. And I think, and again, that’s why the cards are quite important because they were always, although in later years she felt she’d lost a bit with the magic, mainly through I think work and family life. Became less, what’s the word? Can’t think of the word. I think . . . she lost a bit of stillness because of the intensity of school life and I think you have to be in a good place to read them. Relaxed, I think. Whereas towards the end of her life she wasn’t relaxed really. She worked too hard. Especially having children, you know I think you have a time to focus on them and a time to focus on this. Reading the cards didn’t happen for a long time, although she was talking about beginning to learn to read again so . . . Hmm, now that I’ve said that I’ve just got a negative memory. But that was erm . . . but definitely an object, I don’t even know if it’s an object. It’s erm, it’s a pile of history really. Not just mine. It’s you know, as I said before, many, many people.
You know when she was alive I never would have touched them. I wouldn’t have touched the cards. They were always wrapped up in, that’s the second cover, cos she used to read on that. So she’d open it and the reading would be on the chiffon, or whatever it was. But you would never look through them. That was what you never did. I don’t think I ever went through them individually. And I’ve never laid them out, all of them to look at them. It was definitely hers. You didn’t interfere with them. So as an object now it’s quite erm, it’s very much, it was very much part of her.
They weren’t to be messed with. And I think you know I always respected that as much as you know we didn’t read each other’s diaries. You know, just leave them around but we always respected that that was, you didn’t open it. And especially with these, you didn’t. I must ask Connor what the last reading was. See I remember now I found that comical, when they got it out I thought it was funny. I thought it was you know, it was a bit like a joke skeleton. So looking back that was a weird . . . "What do you see?" I just said, "Makes me laugh cos of the way it’s leaping about."”
It’s the sides of the cards and the top of the cards have had the use, and its obviously the dirt of, and the grease of her hands and other people’s hands who’ve handled these, this object. It’s not just her now I’m thinking about it, it is just her, but it’s also the other people. You know, that’s people’s sweat and grease who’ve actually held these cards. And it’s funny cos the edges are clean aren’t they? The round corners are clean, but where they’ve been handled . . . And if you hold the pack, really substantial. It’s not like juggling, it’s not like playing cards, they’re too big to be playing cards. You know, if you try and erm cut them, no, no you can’t. And I think that’s the sign. That’s the sign, the edge of the cards. Like a tool they’ve been used. And when you feel the weight of that pack, it’s substantial. You know, it’s not flimsy and that’s why it’s dirty, cos you really have to work on it to cut them two or three times, and then cut them again. So yeah, I think . . . there’s a lot of history, I think in the handling and the storytelling.