Monday, February 17, 2014

Safety In Numbers: A Polyamory Primer

Tricity Vogue goes under the covers to find out how polyamorists share their love around

This article appeared in the March 2011 issue of Erotic Review  and was republished on on 25 October 2012.

I used to think having sex with more than one person at a time was just bad behaviour. Not that this stopped me doing it. But the good news is that it’s possible a slut and have ethics at the same time. There’s a whole movement dedicated to the belief that you can have more than one significant other without being a cheat, that ‘sex is nice and pleasure is good for you’, that satisfying your desires is not a sin, and that it can even make you a better person.

The movement is called polyamory, meaning “loving more than one”, and it started in San Francisco in the sixties thanks to pioneers such as sex-positive guru Dossie Easton, co-author of polyamorist bible The EthicalSlut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Adventures.  And it’s still alive and well, flourishing in the rain-soaked British Isles as well as on the sun-soaked Californian coast.

Having your cake and eating it?

Mae West famously said, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful”. Polyamorous relationships are uncategorisable by their very nature, coming in an infinite variety of combinations, but the one thing they all have in common is that they’re not monogamous.  This doesn’t mean that polyamorists are all commitment-phobes. Quite the reverse, in fact. In the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of alt.polyamory serial monogamy is referred to as “trading people in and out like baseball cards,” whereas polyamory means “not refusing commitments because something better might come loping down the path” - in other words, more commitment rather than less, because you’re committed to more than one relationship. 

Does that work in practice? Is it a utopian ideal, or a nightmare-in-the-making? I’ve seen Jules et Jim, I know that three-way relationships can result in at least one party driving themselves off a cliff, at least they can if you’re French. Reading the polyamorist manifesto was one thing, but to get an idea of what happens in the real world (ie the rain-soaked British Isles), I decided to talk to some real people.  Polly and Amy are partners, but they both have another girlfriend each, as well as several other lovers.  They’ve both been polyamorous for about two years. Richard Evans-Lacey is a sexual healer and co-founder of The Love Cult with his female partner Max. He’s also an established psychotherapist with a practice in Bethnal Green.

Amy told me one of the most galling misconceptions she’s encountered from friends and acquaintances – that it won’t matter if she gets dumped, because she’s got a spare.  She points out that having two girlfriends also means you can get dumped twice in one day.  Many polyamorous, or ‘poly’, people contend that they’re more romantic than monogamists, not less.  “It’s not like sharing a cake,” says Amy, “it’s like having more than one child. Your love expands.”

For Polly, it’s about identity and independence. She hates the idea that in a monogamous relationship a bit of you belongs to the other person. She doesn’t want anyone else to have rights over her. Polly knows about monogamy; she was married to a man for ten years before discovering women and polyamory in one go.  Even though she suffers far more from jealousy and insecurity in her multiple relationships with women than she ever did in her marriage to a man, she believes that’s a good thing, “Polyamoury is more appealing because you get to know people more thoroughly. You can’t avoid things as easily, you have to deal with them. And that’s revealing about yourself, and why you think the things you do.”

Richard always found it difficult to be monogamous. His pattern for many years was to try and find someone who was perfect, in the hope this would stop him wanting to wander. He would oscillate between being a tart, free but lonely, and finding companionship but feeling trapped. Neither state was satisfactory. What he really wanted was someone he could be with – a really good friend – so that together they could have sex with other people. His current partner told him it was okay for him to date other girls, but he still felt trapped and resentful. “Surprisingly, the freeing thing for me is for her to go off with other people. It makes her feel more attractive to me, because other people want her, and I’m happier with her.”

Does Your Mother Know?

Coming out as a polyamorist is not unlike coming out as gay.  In some ways, poly people are even more marginalised in society, since civil partnerships can only be made between two people, and you can only have one legal next-of-kin.  Social systems are set up for singles or couples, and polyamory is outside most people’s frame of reference.   “Office parties and weddings are difficult,” says Polly. “You get an invitation for you plus one, so you either have to get back to them and say, ‘Can I have a plus two?’ or go on your own.”

Amy decided to introduce her mother to both her girlfriends at once. Polly and Amy’s other partner were both terrified.  Amy’s mother was bemused, but mostly glad that all three of them seemed to be happy. She smiled sweetly, asked both girlfriends what they did, then they all went shopping.  Polly hasn’t told her own mother yet, partly because she has a closer relationship with her and speaks to her every day, which makes it harder.  She has told her sister: “It was hilarious. She said, ‘I know, I’ve been stalking you on facebook.’”

Polly explains that although she doesn’t know anyone whose parents have reacted badly, some friends are less accepting, often out of concern. “They’re worried about your welfare – they think you must be being taken for a ride.” Monogamous friends can be frightened by a more flexible alternative to their own relationship model, particularly those who are married with children, who only have one choice: divorce or stay together for life. Some friends’ partners feel threatened: “You’re going out with that polyamorist, she’s gonna brainwash you into sleeping with her.”

“That’s all very modern”

Polly tells me about the time her other partner was trying to explain her love life to her father, who’s a vicar: “I suppose Polly is my girlfriend, and Adam is my boyfriend.” “Oh, that’s all very modern,” replied her father, “you’ve got one of each.”

Is polyamory really very modern, though? This morning, coincidentally, I finished reading a novel by Colette, Claudine en Ménage, written in 1902, which tells the story of the 20-year-old heroine’s ménage a trois with her 45-year-old husband and her female lover. Claudine’s indulgent husband sets her up with a shag pad she can take her lady friend, then moves in on Claudine’s lover himself. Our feisty young heroine catches them at it and flounces off to her father’s country house, where she sulks a bit before realising that the problems between her and her husband are nothing to do with the other woman and everything to do with bad communication between them; basically, the archetypal polyamorous ethos that sexual experimentation can only work alongside openness and honesty.  Ah, but that’s fiction, you say. One look at the author’s own life will reassure you that, if anything, she was even more of an unapologetic polyamorist in life than she was in art.

100-year-old polyamory may seem impressive, but the recently published book Sex At Dawn ( ) goes even further back. A lot further back. It turns out prehistoric man lived in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care, and, yes, sexual partners. So polyamory came before monogamy, which is, in fact, the Johnny-come-lately of sexual mores, not the original model after all (sorry, Adam and Eve).

The Green Eyed Monster

Jealousy is the elephant in the corner of every polyamorous relationship. At least it would be the elephant in the corner if polyamorists behaved like most people and avoided talking about the aspects of their relationships that discomfited them.  But poly people are unafraid of tackling their relationship insecurities head on. Or rather, they might be afraid, but they do it anyway.  Some poly people don’t have a problem with jealousy, while others have to work at it – but there are a whole host of community support structures in place to help them, including conferences and away weekends such as OpenCon.  Amy explains the poly line on jealousy by quoting Dossie Easton, ‘the goddess of polyamory’, at a relationship workshop: “Treat jealousy like flu. Eat ice cream, wrap yourself up in a blanket, try and work out how you got it. Then work out how to make yourself stronger so you don’t catch it again.”

Polyamorist ‘London Faerie’ says “A key thing for me about poly is the way it enables us to grow emotionally and become more conscious. For example dealing with jealousy helps many people to learn what is underneath these feelings ('not good enough', feeling left out etc).  Through this journey we often become stronger, get to know ourselves better and become more emotionally adept in a host of different situations - not just our love relationships but also work, with children and so on.”

Making up your own rules

The poly scene has co-opted a word for the obverse of jealousy – compersion. It means feeling happy that your lover is happy doing something without you.  For example, you might be sitting in watching TV, feeling glad that your lover is out on a date with someone else, especially if they’ve been a bit down lately, and being asked out has cheered them up. It’s not a word with an exclusively polyamorous meaning, as it can also apply to parents enjoying their children’s happiness, but it’s a concept that poly people find very useful to counteract the negativity of jealousy. But then, they’re a pretty positive bunch all round.

After reading and talking about polyamory, I’ve come away with the impression of a group of people who are thoughtful, fair-minded, diplomatic, and, most of all, honest.  Not all their relationships work out, but they think it’s worthwhile to keep trying, because they believe in what they’re doing.  Polyamorists are pioneers, explorers.  And whether or not we follow them down the path they’re taking, the things they’re finding out at the coalface of relationship experimentation can be applied to all bonds, whether sexual or not.  After all, if, as polyamorists do, you believe that intimate relationships are equally valid whether or not they include sex, then more or less all of us are polyamorous in one sense. Anyone who’s got a close friend who knows them inside out, and who they’d drop anything for, has already got a relationship just as important as the one with the person they happen to have sex with. That’s if you look at it from outside the monogamous romantic model that most of us have accepted without question from childhood.

Living outside of monogamy, whether in an open relationship or a full-on polyamorous concatenation, is neither better nor worse than choosing to be faithful to one partner, as far as the people I spoke to are concerned, it’s just what works for them best right now, and they don’t judge anyone else’s choices – not even those of the people they love. Especially not those of the people they love.  I’ve come a long way from thinking that having sex with lots of people is a form of bad behaviour – if you’re going to do it properly, you need integrity. And the one thing that strikes me about the poly people I’ve talked to is that I’d feel very safe getting into bed with all of them.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Room To Swing A Cat: A Fairy Tale


There was once a prince who was held captive in a tower by an enchantress for seven years, until he was rescued by a lady minstrel. It's a fine story, but this story begins where that one ends.

The prince was grateful to the minstrel, and loved to listen to her songs, so he asked her to return with him to his own kingdom. The minstrel agreed, in part because the prince was very beautiful and she loved to look upon him, and in part because she loved to journey to strange new lands, and she had never visited the prince's kingdom before on any of her travels.

The prince's kingdom was far away in the mountains, but the minstrel's songs made their journey pass quickly. At last they arrived at a harsh, cold land, where wolves roamed by night, and vagabonds by day. But the prince's castle had high walls of thick stone, and nothing could get inside once the door was barred.

The prince was welcomed back with much joy and feasting by the king and queen his parents, and by all their people. The minstrel was toasted for returning their beloved prince, and all listened with joy to her songs. Outside the snow fell, and the blizzard howled, but inside the fire in the great hearth never went out.

The prince asked the minstrel to be his bride, and the minstrel, who had travelld far and seen many things, but had never before had a hearth to call her own, accepted.  But on the night before her wedding, the minstrel remembered the cat imprisoned in a bag that her prince had brought back from his tower of captivity. The minstrel did not know the cat was an enchantress in shape shifting form, she only knew that the cat had once scratched her, and in her fury she had spun the cat around her head and flung it through the window of the prince's tower.

The minstrel was superstitious. She would not enter into marriage without putting right her past wrongs, so she went to the room at the top of the castle where the prince had left the cat in the bag, unlocked the door with the tool she kept in her instrument case for such purposes, and tried to untie the silver chain that held the bag fast.  But the silver chain was enchanted, and burned her hands. The minstrel dropped the bag with a cry.

A voice came from inside the bag. "Only the prince can untie the silver chain."

The minstrel was alarmed. "But you are a cat - how can you talk?"

"I may be a cat, but I am also an enchantress," the bag replied, "And I have been bound by my own enchantment."

So the minstrel went to the prince on the eve of their wedding, even though it is bad luck for the betrothed to see one another on that day, and asked him to release the cat.

"I will never let the cat out of the bag," he replied. "She is an enchantress, and she kept me prisoner for seven years."

"She may be an enchantress," replied the minstrel, "But she is also a cat." Like all musicians, the minstrel was fond of cats, for cats, like musicians, come and go as they please. But this cat could not go anywhere.

But the prince would not be moved, so the minstrel returned to the cat and told her that the prince refused to set her free.  The minstrel asked the cat, "Will you at least forgive me for throwing you through the tower window after you scratched my face?"

"I will not give you my forgiveness until I am free," replied the cat.  So the minstrel went to be wed with her past wrong unforgiven.

But after the wedding night she forgot all about her former misdeeds, and seven years went past while the minstrel enjoyed the warmth of her hearth, and the cat remained trapped in the bag.  The minstrel's instrument, too, lay neglected in a corner for seven years, until, one day, the minstrel came to dust the forgotten room at the top of the castle.

Picking up the instrument, she tuned it and began to play and sing her favourite song. But her voice was hollow and her playing was jarring on her ears. She had forgotten her art.

"A minstrel does not have a hearth," said a voice. "As soon as you acquired a hearth of your own, you ceased to be a minstrel."

"Who is there?" asked the minstrel, for having a hearth and a husband to tend had dulled her memory.

"I am the cat you threw through the window of a tower and abandoned for seven years trapped inside a bag. But I am also an enchantress, and if you help me escape my prison, I will return to you your minstrel's art."

"But I cannot unfasten the silver chain," said the minstrel. "Only the prince my husband can do that."

"Then you must find a way to make him release me," said the cat, "Are you not his wife?"

So the minstrel went away and thought. Then she remembered she had a second trade, and that was to open doors that people needed opening. Surely, then, she could also find a way to open a bag? Or had she lost that gift too?

Presently, she began to complain to her husband that her private chamber was too small. "There is not enough room in here to swing a cat," she protested. Day after day she repeated her complaint until the prince, in frustration, cried, "Bring me a cat, and I will show you that there is!"

Now it happened that in the prince's land there were no cats, only dogs and wolves, and the prince knew this.  But he had forgotten the bag in the high room of his castle. The minstrel went to fetch the bag, and whispered to the cat as she carried it downstairs to her private chamber, "Make your tail wet and slippery."

The minstrel presented the bag to the prince. "There is a cat in this bag. Very likely it is dead. But you can still swing it and show me."

The prince did not want to untie the silver chain, but he did not want to lose an argument with his wife either.  "You will not dare," taunted the minstrel, "Because you know this room is too small to swing a cat in." And so she went on.

The prince could stand it no longer, so in fury he untied the silver chain and pulled the cat out of the bag by the scruff of its neck. He grabbed it by its tail and swung it around his head in a full circle. "See?" he said triumphantly, "There is room to swing a cat!"

But just then the cat's wet tail slipped through the prince's fingers, and the cat sailed through the window to freedom.  "Thank you, minstrel," called a voice from outside. "Your powers will be returned to you."

The prince looked at the minstrel and knew she had tricked him. "Leave," he said, "And take your instrument with you. You are no longer my wife."

So the minstrel was cast out of the castle with nothing but her instrument, and the door was barred against her. The hearth continued to burn inside, but now she was on the outside of the high walls of thick stone, with the vagabonds and the wolves.

The cat was waiting for her outside the door. "Let us travel together," said the cat, "For we are kindred spirits, you and I." And so the minstrel and the cat set off along the long road side by side.

Presently the minstrel asked the cat, "Did you know that I would be banished from my hearth for helping you?"

"It was what you wanted," said the cat.

"But I loved my hearth," protested the minstrel.

"You did," replied the cat, "But you loved your minstrel's art more, and longed for its return. Taking away your hearth was the only way to give you back your gift."

"You have used me to serve your own ends," said the minstrel to the cat, "But I forgive you. The hearth warmed me, but it burned with its own fire that did not belong to me.  I am glad to have my own gift returned."

"I know you are glad," said the cat, "For you are a minstrel and I am an enchantress, whatever other forms we may take on our travels, and we are kindred spirits, you and I."

"And now do you forgive me for throwing you through the window of the prince's tower, seven long years ago?" asked the minstrel.

"I will forgive you when you find me food and a warm place to sleep," said the cat.

And the minstrel smiled a wry smile. Now, finally, she knew the cat's nature, and knew that forgiveness would always be one more favour away, because they were kindred spirits, the cat and she.


The End.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Cat In The Bag: A Fairy Tale


A prince was held captive in a tower. His captor was an enchantress who wished to gaze on his beauty. The prince could never leave the tower, unless led by his captor on an enchanted sliver chain. To all the world, it looked as if the prince was leading his pet cat by a silver chain, but the cat was the enchantress's shape-shifting disguise, and in truth there was a manacle around the prince's wrist, that burned him if he pulled away.

One deep midwinter, a lady minstrel came to the village near to the prince's tower. From his window the prince heard the minstrel sing and play. He begged the enchantress to take him down to the village so he could see the minstrel. So the enchantress manacled the prince's wrist with the silver chain, and they descended the tower.

The prince became so rapt with the minstrel's song that he didn't feel the pain at his wrist when the enchantress tugged his silver chain. Blisters and burn marks covered his wrist before he reluctantly got up to leave. The enchantress saw this and was displeased.

The next morning, the prince watched the minstrel depart the village. She would not return until next midwinter. A twelvemonth went by, and the burns on the prince's wrist left a scar behind. The enchantress was angry that her captive's disobedience had marred his beauty.

Then one evening the prince heard the minstrel's song once more, and knew she had returned. He begged the enchantress to allow him to go down to the village to see her, but the enchantress refused. Instead, she shut the prince in his tower and went alone.

The minstrel saw a cat approaching, and did not know it was the enchantress in disguise. She moved to stroke the cat, and the cat clawed her face. The minstrel was furious, so she picked up the cat by its tail and swung it around her head. She let go, and the cat flew high into the air and straight through the window of the prince's tower.

All the villagers saw and reported all, and those they reported to reported it again, until all the land knew the story, and this was the origin of the name "cat fight" for a fight between women, and also of the saying "enough room to swing a cat."

Then the minstrel's anger left her, and she feared she had done a bad deed, for she had thrown the animal inside a tower from which it could not escape. So she resolved to go to the tower and release the cat.

The prince, meanwhile, acted swiftly when the enchantress, in cat form, came flying through his window. He leapt from his bed with his pillow case in his hand, and caught the cat inside. Then he bound the silver chain that had been his own leash around the top of the pillowcase, so the cat was trapped inside. If the cat tried to claw at the chain, the chain burned her.

The price carried his own captor down the stairs to the door, just as the minstrel picked the lock with a tool from her instrument case. The minstrel had this tool because all musicians must have at least one other trade if they are to survive from one midwinter to the next, and the minstrel's other trade was opening locked doors for people who wanted them opened. In this case, the prince wanted his door opened, but the minstrel didn't know that. She was only looking for the cat.

The prince and the minstrel met on the doorstep. "Thank you for letting me out of my prison," he said, "Will you play for me again? All year I have heard your songs inside my head."

"I will gladly play for a man so beautiful, if you will let me look upon you as I play," said the minstrel.

"So be it," said the prince, as he began to walk away from the tower where he had been imprisoned for seven years. The minstrel saw the bag he carried over his shoulder squirm and writhe, and she knew the cat was inside.

"Wait," said the minstrel, "Won't you release the cat from captivity first?"

"No," replied the prince, "I will never let the cat out of the bag."

The End

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Reviews for Calamitous Liaisons

Here's a collection of reviews and audience feedback for my solo ukulele show, Calamitous Liaisons:

Calamitous Liaisons at Wilton's Music Hall, London, 4 March 2014

"The opening song in Tricity’s performance was 'The Men I've Had Before', a fast paced, playful number about, well... the men she’d had before.  I’d listened to the song already, so my excitement was piqued well before she appeared from behind the red curtain; first came the eyelashes, then the woman herself!

Tricity seamlessly guided her audience through the trials and tribulations of a colourful love life, using only her ukulele, fabulous voice and downright charm. Her original songs feature stories that are easily relatable to anyone who’s ever had a few romantic woes of their own, but are told with far more candour than most of us dare. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Calamitous liaisons, and found it to be wickedly funny, full of energy and wholly enchanting....."
Nicola Grant, The Mahogany Bar, Wilton's Music Hall

"Loved last night. Still humming Ladylove for some strange reason. Very catchy."
R Sykes

"So very good it earns T.V. the forgiveness she'll need if it turns out she lied outrageously when she said it was the last outing for this show. So very glad I made it if she was, in fact, being as grippingly honest as her performance!"
Caroline Grannell

"The dark and atmospheric Mahogany Bar was a perfect setting for this deliciously naughty frolic with the ever delightful and glamorous Tricity Vogue.

Entering from her boudoir behind a red curtain Tricity began with a saucy tale of her various conquest’s Nebuchadnezzars and get-jiggy skills!  This prompted many a blush and nervous giggle but certainly broke the ice!  After a quick swig from the wine bottle she then led us sometimes gently, sometimes poignantly, often riotously but always with immense charm and wit through her many calamitous romantic capers.  The final song went a little off-piste with a tale of giving Lady Love a whirl!  I, for one, sincerely hope this is a path she chooses not to follow as it would surely limit material for an equally entertaining follow up album (or perhaps not ;) )!

Calamitous Liaisons, another triumph from the original, beautiful and most talented Ms Tricity Vogue!  Do buy the album and enjoy the rest of her romantic escapades."
Tim Jefford

Calamitous Liaisons at the Coach & Horses Dining Room, Soho, 16 February 2014

"This was such great fun - the intimate setting upstairs at the Coach and Horses added to the atmosphere of the show, and Tricity's Calamitous Liaisons were by turns risque, laugh out loud funny and painfully familiar to anyone who ever felt unlucky in love. As the show ended with stunning new song "Ladylove," I felt we had been steered through troubled waters back to port in steady and capable hands. Can't wait for the next instalment!"
Gill Wilkinson & Chris Westwood

"Witty, honest, elegantly refined and sometimes exceptionally rude, like being flashed by the Queen during the amuse bouche. Warning: Not suitable for first dates."
Ahmed, Flaneur & Engineer

"We had a wonderful night out at Tricity's one woman show "Calamitous Liaisons". Great songs and entertaing anecdotes ensure a very amusing journey through the life of Tricity Vogue."
Steven Tagg-Randall, Video Archivist

"Intimate surroundings in a fab little pub in Soho, with Peter O'Toole's stool - would have happily paid extra if I'd known I was going to be in the same room as celebrity furniture!  Intelligently crafted songs beautifully sung. Tricity plucked and strummed the ukulele creating a wave of audible honey over the assembled punters. Fun frivolous and frolicking in all the right places, it could have only been an evening with the fabulous one and only Tricity Vogue."
Zoe Denham 

"Charming, sharp, witty and fun!"
Michael Barry 

"This was a wonderful evening - charming, witty, and moving. I smiled and laughed throughout and was left wanting more..."
Charlotte Ginsborg  

Calamitous Liaisons at the Coach & Horses Dining Room, Soho, 20 October 2013
"Beautifully naughty, disarming and funny, and the songs stayed with me for a week. (Ok it hasn't been a week but I'm confident. Ladylove was in my head as I cycled around today and I was itching to listen to it. I haven't had that about any tune at all for years to the point where I was wondering if I'd ever feel like that again, so thanks)." 

Rosa Conrad, musician

"I raise my glass to Tricity Vogue for charming, alarming, sustaining and entertaining me! What a lovely night with a fabulously talented and beguiling sassy, strumming songbird. This liaison, for me, was far from calamitous xxx" 
Lana Shelley, musician

"Loved the doodahs tonight. Let me know when you do them again because, dear me, it all works."
@mister_meredith via twitter

"Lovely night! @tricityvogue was fabulous sans mic & on great form! Great venue at coach & horses- All Veggie Pub!"
@AlexCarter001 via twitter

"Refreshing, cheeky, fun, and utterly original, the glamorous Tricity Vogue delivers a fabulous night's entertainment."
Alex Carter, singer

Calamitous Liaisons at the Coach & Horses Dining Room, Soho, 13 October 2013 

"I accepted Tricity Vogue's invitation to come into her boudoir, and I did not regret it. With delightful tunes and soulful voice, she took us all on a beguiling ride of heartbreak and ecstasy."
Audience member 

"Hilarious and intimate, like my insides are being tickled"
Sahar, milliner

 "I loved the show: a scintillating and captivating performance with very memorable songs." 
Richard Link, composer 

"Just wanted to say thank you for a lovely time. You touched us. We laughed and we cried. You are one talented lady." 
Audience member 

"As much fun as you could hope to have on a Sunday evening with your clothes on or off or with a ukelele and not get arrested. Music and passion always in fashion with Tricity Vogue's heart warming lust for life and love reminiscences."
Pete Saunders, pianist

"Great way to be amused early Sunday Evening. Tricity's infectious humour works perfectly in this intimate dining room and her calamitous liaisons seem to ring a bell with most of the audience. Raucous applause was well deserved," 
Coach and Horses Landlord 

"Thank you so much for a brilliantly entertaining night, such funny & charming songs & stories. We went home humming & happy!"
@em_threadneedle via twitter 

"It was really special. I don't think you could have picked a more perfect venue to debut your show. When I saw it was unmic'd, I was worried how it would come across, but it couldn't have been any more suitable. Your voice is exceptional - it was such a great experience to hear your voice live, especially as I already know most of the songs. The show felt very intimate, you had everyone so spellbound, my mind didn't wander at any point. I actually forgot I was holding a wee in for over an hour haah..."
Audience member 

"How wonderful to see the delectable Tricity Vogue in an intimate show with riotously witty songs that also include true soulfulness and poignancy." 
Audience member 

"Charming and warm, Tricity Vogue puts humour and hilarity into heartache."
Audience member
"A really warm and uplifiting show. Stopped me mithering over my own stupid relationship for 5 minutes! Hope there are plenty more West End outings for C.L."
Audience member

Calamitous Liaisons at Bom-Bane's Cafe, Brighton, on Thursday 12 September 2013
"Far from a calamitous liaison. Our evening with you was a sweet delight. Lovely to meet you in such a fabulous setting"
@clivejholland via twitter 

"Thank you for a fantastic evening, I am still smiling & singing about pineapples! Hope our paths cross again soon."
@emmiebobo via twitter 

"Oh what a delightful evening I had. I'm off to work now with a smile on my face singing the pineapple song. @tricityvogue #unmissable"
@clivejholland  via twitter 

"Great performance. Your lyrics are poignant, funny, profound, and rhyme in unexpected witty ways. Congratulations."
Audience member 

Calamitous Liaisons at Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 1-18 August 2013

“Sporting boudoir chic, swigging from a bottle of white and exuding conversational warmth, Tricity makes a virtuoso virtue out of the ukulele’s simplicity. Charming, accomplished and thoroughly loveable. ‘Calamitous Liaisons’ soars.” ****
Ben Walters, Time Out London  Read the full review here

“We’ve all had our share of love stories gone bad, but not all of us have the talent to turn those heartbreaks into a delightful cabaret show.” ****  
Delphine Dallison, SGFringe  Read the full review here  

After seeing the show, I did feel as though maybe you'd gone through my diaries and written songs about me!
audience member 

"Calamitous Liaisons - sly and saucy, melodically inventive, emotionally supple. Her best show yet?" 
@not_television via twitter 

"Charming, sexy, blithe and smart. And plays a ukulele. Go!"
@TimBenzie via twitter 

"TRICITY VOGUE'S kick ass show about her delicious love life. 'Calamitous Liaisons' #hotticket @edfringe" 
@RusseLucas via twitter 

"MUST SEE SHOW - @tricityvogue's Calamitous Liaisons 6pm The Counting House. Marvelous songs, fast paced, funny AND poignant. FREE! #edfringe"
@heidibangtidy via twitter 

"Cannot sufficiently recommend @tricityvogue Calamitous Liaisons. Wry, wistful, funny and warm and musically exquisite. Go see!"
@DustyLimits via twitter 

"Me and my girlfriend loved your acts at the fringe, really fantastic; every one should see them!!"
@heloisewithanh via twitter 

"Today I see and enjoy very much @tricityvogue at The Counting House, she plays and sing so well and also she wear amazing red shoes"
@La_Harlotta via twitter 

"The new show from ‪@tricityvogue 'Calamitous Liaisons' at the ‪#edfringe is a joy. Terrific songs - funny, clever & sometimes touching. See it" 
@KeithJ_gmb via twitter 

"You'd be batty to not spend a portion of your #EdFringe weekend in the company of @tricityvogue and her Calamitous Liaisons show. Go go go!"
@JohnnySetlist via twitter 

"Delightful show from @tricityvogue Calamitous Liaisons, The Counting House 5pm. Mae West meets a ukulele!"
@Liberty_Sweet via twitter 

"Very jolly, very friendly, and just a little bit rude. Can't ask more than that."
Catherine Monelle via 

"We really loved @tricityvogue's Calamitous Liaisons. Fantastic songs from a fantastically witty and talented woman."  
@madelinedances via twitter


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bad Girls At The Ball: Debutantes Gone Wrong

Bad Girls at the Ball

First published in Erotic Review in November 2011

As the Blue Stocking Society prepare for their Bad DebutanteBall on 23 November 2011, co-founder Tricity Vogue hunts down some real-life bad debs.

A debutante is a young lady coming out into society for the first time. Until the 1950s, the female offspring of the British social elite were kept under wraps at home or in all-girl schools until it was time to unleash them on the marriage market, like prize heifers. And then they were dolled up in white dresses and paraded for the duration of the Season, by the end of which, hopefully, they’d be snapped up by a husband.  The social season ran from April to July (so as not to clash with the hunting season), and smart families would take a house in London to attend a round of luncheons, tea parties, and, of course, balls.

The Debutante Season kicked off with the presentation of the young ladies at court. Only a lady who’d been previously presented herself could present a debutante to the monarch (to keep out the riff-raff), and the dress code was rigorous. Strictly white dresses only, or, at a push, ivory or pale pink, with three feathers in the hair, to represent the crest of the Prince of Wales. Young ladies took punishing lessons in the court curtsey, a particularly convoluted manoeuvre, which also had to be conducted at the same time as walking backwards out of the royal presence.  In Victoria’s reign, the heyday of the debutante, the girls and their escorts had to wait for hours in drafty corridors without food or water, or access to the lavatory, for the privilege of kneeling before the queen and kissing her hand. The ordeal sounds uncannily similar to today’s Britain’s Got Talent auditions.

The Decline And Fall Of The Debutante Ball

It was the current queen who ended court presentations in 1958, claiming the practice was undemocratic. Her less tactful sister Princess Margaret was said to remark "We had to put a stop to it - every tart in London was getting in." Undaunted, the society mothers came up with an alternative ritual. At the annual Queen Charlotte’s ball, which traditionally kicked off the season, a bevy of debutantes, pulling on ribbons, towed a lavish tiered cake into the room. An obscure European royal was installed next to the cake on the dais, and the rest of the debutantes approached the platform and dropped their curtseys. The presence of the token royal was of course to deflect the all-too-obvious pagan implications of virginal girls paying obeisance before a huge phallic object, which they would later eat.

Coming-out pageantry corralled high society young ladies down the track their elders had decreed for them: straight out of finishing school and into marriage, after one brief summer of shopping for partners. The eligible young men lined up for them were known as ‘debs’ delights’; although girls approached the romantic possibilities of the season with their eyes open. In her book Last Curtsey  ( debutante-turned-literary biographer Fiona MacCarthy records the secret acronyms debs devised between themselves for their various beaux: MSC (“Makes Skin Creep”), NSIT (“Not Safe In Taxis”) and VVSITPQ ("Very, Very Safe In Taxis, Probably Queer"). At some point, a deb would have to decide which of the acronyms she was prepared to settle for, because the season wasn’t about romance so much as family business: make a good match, become a society hostess and beget the next generation of social elite. But of course, there have always been women too wilful, or too nonconformist, to accept their fate. And when debutantes went bad, they really went bad.

Debutantes Gone Bad
The most spectacularly bad debutante has to be Rose Dugdale. After attending Miss Ironside's School for Girls in Kensington, and a finishing school abroad, the millionaire’s daughter was presented at court in 1958, then given a debutante ball in 1959, which she described as "one of those pornographic affairs which cost about what 60 old-age pensioners receive in six months." By the 70s she’d become a revolutionary socialist, donating her share of the family fortune to the poor. But she didn’t stop there. In 1973 she and her lover were arrested for robbing her own family home, and stealing paintings and silverware worth £82,000, to raise the money for the IRA. Dugdale received a suspended sentence, as the judge thought it was unlikely she’d re-offend, but she immediately set off for Ireland to join the IRA.  In 1974 she went on a helicopter bombing raid, dropping bombs in milk churns, and appeared on “Wanted” posters across Britain and Ireland.

Dugdale then turned her hand to art theft once more, this time with a violent twist. She and three other IRA members broke into Sir Alfred Beit’s home, Russborough House in County Wicklow, pistol-whipped, bound and gagged him and his wife, and stole IR£8 million worth of old masters, including works by Gainsborough, Rubens, Vermeer and Goya. Their ransom note demanded IR£500,000 and the release of two convicted IRA bombers on hunger strike in Brixton Prison. The paintings were recovered in a car boot in County Cork and Dugdale was arrested and charged with both the helicopter bombing and the robbery. Dugdale pleaded "proudly and incorruptibly guilty", and was sentenced to nine years imprisonment. Dugdale was pregnant at the time of her trial, and gave birth to a son in Limerick prison in 1974. The father was Eddie Gallagher, an IRA member later jailed for twenty years for kidnapping. In 1978 Dugdale and Gallagher married inside Limerick Prison. It was a far cry from the match her parents hoped for when they orchestrated her coming-out season twenty years earlier.

A dangerous liaison with a freedom-fighter is not every girl’s cup of tea, but other debutantes’ rebellions against the sexual mores of their times seem quite mild today, even if they once rocked the boat dangerously. Fiona MacCarthy, biographer of Lord Byron, appalled her family by working as a journalist (becoming a 60s poster-girl for The Guardian’s female writers campaign: ‘Should women have teeth?’) then marrying ‘working class hero’ and master metal worker David Mellor and moving to Sheffield, a debutante desert. Their disapproval was ironic, considering that MacCarthy is the great-granddaughter of bricklayer-made-good “Concrete Bob”, the founder of construction company Robert McAlpine & Sons. But by the 1950s two generations was all it took to acquire social respectability. MacCarthy was among the last debutantes presented at court in 1958, and remembers that she wasn’t the only rebel: many of her contemporaries were boat-rockers too.  "A few fast girls were quite notorious. People were scared of getting pregnant then because it was a terrible scandal, but a couple of girls in my year did.” Fellow debutante Nicolette Powell married pop star Georgie Fame, and Sally Croker-Poole married the Aga Khan, while MacCarthy’s “docile” friend Teresa Hayter became an outspoken International Marxist, penning in 1971 her book Hayter of the Bourgeoisie.

My own favourite bad debutante dates from further back. Leonora Carrington was presented at court to George V and subjected to a debutante ball at the Ritz. Exactly how much she detested the ritual is evident from her surrealist short story The Debutante, in which the heroine persuades a hyena to take her place at her coming-out ball. Despite several school expulsions, Carrington seemed on course for a respectable future until she went to London’s first surrealist exhibition in 1936 and fell in love with Max Ernst on the canvas. She met the (married) artist in person at a dinner party and promptly eloped with him. Carrington family gossip recalled that “she went to Paris to become an artist’s model” but this belittles the truth. Leonora Carrington ran away to paint, and to become a surrealist in her own right.

Carrington and Ernst hung out in Paris with Picasso ("A typical Spaniard - he thought all women were in love with him,") Dali (“He certainly wasn't extraordinary then: he looked like everyone else. It was only when he went to America that he started looking extraordinary,") and Miro (“He gave me some money one day and told me to get him some cigarettes. I gave it back and said if he wanted cigarettes, he could bloody well get them himself.“) The couple then moved to Provence, where photographer Lee Miller captured their mutual creative idyll as they painted each other in the sunshine. Until the Nazis turned up. Then Ernst was interned as an enemy alien, Carrington ran away to Spain, had a mental breakdown, and ended up in an asylum. Her family sent her old nanny to fetch her, but Carrington gave them the slip a second time, by marrying a Mexican diplomat friend to secure a visa to the States. Dissolving her marriage of convenience in New York, Carrington headed down to Mexico, where she found the perfect environment to paint. She also met new artistic inspirations: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera (“I liked her better than him”), and her close friend Remedios Varo. Her family remained ignorant of her international reputation as a leading surrealist painter until four years before her death in May 2011.

Modern-Day Debutantes

Leonora Carrington went to the other side of the world to escape her own debutante fate, but ironically, while the coming-out ritual is long gone in England, it’s thriving on her adoptive continent. The British debutante tradition struggled on through the swinging 60s and female emancipation, becoming less to do with match-making and more to do with charity fundraising, until it petered out in the UK in the 80s. Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico the debutante is still oppressively alive and well, as I discovered at a dinner party a few months ago, when my Puerto Rican dinner companion regaled me with stories of her absurdly lavish ball gown, and ceremonial grand entrance over an ornamental bridge, into the arms of her appointed male escorts. She may have looked like a princess on her big day, but the ritual was anathema to my lesbian friend.

Nor is the tradition extinct in Australia. Chatting to burlesque performer Tallulah Mockingbird at the book launch of The Domestic Burlesque, I heard about her debutante experience down under. “I remember feeling like a very awkward teenager rather than a beautiful young woman being released into society. But my mum did make me a beautiful frock, and I seem to recall that was the most important bit for me. Still is.” Tallulah Mockingbird continues to love dressing up, as her photo in Elsa Quarsell”s book The Domestic Burlesque reveals. Not that she could have attended her debutante ball in the risqué outfits she masterminds for her burlesque routines. Fortunately there is a ball coming up next week at which Ms Mockingbird can wear exactly what she likes.

When I set out to research real-life bad debutantes, I never thought I’d find one among my own cabaret and burlesque circle. I bet a burlesque dancer is just about the worst sort of bad girl those stuffy society mothers of the ‘good old days’ could have imagined. But to me it’s the best sort of bad girl. Exactly the sort of bad girl that Wednesday’s Bad Debutante Ball is intended for. I can’t wait to see what Tallulah wears to it.

The Night of the Blue Stockings: Bad Debutante Ball. Wednesday, 23 November, 20:30. Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, 42-46 Pollard Row, London E2 6NB. £9 (£7 advance).

Special thanks to novelist Josa Young, author of One Apple Tasted ( for sharing two chapters of her new, currently unpublished novel charting the debutante experience over several generations.


Tricity Vogue's Ukulele Cabaret - Edinburgh Fringe 2013

TRICITY VOGUE'S UKULELE CABARET returns to the Edinburgh Fringe for its fourth year in 2013 - 9-10pm nightly in the Ballroom of Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, from 1st to 18th August (except 12 August). A star-studded line-up of special guests battle to win the coveted Uke of Edinburgh Award.


Thursday 1 August
Desmond O'Connor, Joby Mageean, Shit Theatre
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: DESMOND O'CONNOR

Friday 2 August
Vicky Arlidge, Bob and Jim, Oliver Meech
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: VICKY ARLIDGE

Saturday 3 August
Owen Niblock, Liberty Hodes, Jo Stephenson
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: JO STEPHENSON

Sunday 4 August
Johnny Setlist, Tom Harlow, St Andrews Review
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: JOHNNY SETLIST

Monday 5 August
Melissa and Tnee, Eleanor Morton, MJ Hibbett
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: MELISSA AND TNEE

Tuesday 6 August
Katrina Smith, Tomas Ford, Luc Valvona
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: KATRINA SMITH

Wednesday 7 August
Emily Scott, Doug Segal, Myra Dubois
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: EMILY SCOTT

Thursday 8 August
Helen Arney, Calum MacAskill, Paul Gannon
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: HELEN ARNEY

Friday 9 August
Vanessa Knight, Stan Skinny, Colin McLeod
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: STAN SKINNY

Saturday 10 August
Laurence Owen, Ellis and Rose, Mat Ricardo
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: MAT RICARDO

Sunday 11 August
Alistair Greaves, Stuart Bowden, Lady Carol
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: LADY CAROL

Tuesday 13 August
The Frukes, David Pickering, Steve Bennett
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: THE FRUKES

Wednesday 14 August
Emily SneE, Sharnema Nougar, Uke Hoot - Edinburgh's ukulele jam and singalong
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: SHARNEMA NOUGAR

Thursday 15 August
Catharine Rogers, Dusty Limits, Champagne Charlie
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: CATHARINE ROGERS

Friday 16 August
Ria Lina, Lord Hicks, Sarah-Louise Young
Uke Of Edinburgh Award Winner: RIA LINA

Saturday 17 August
The Great Aziz, Ukegnome, Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra

Sunday 18 August
Ria Lina, Johnny Setlist, Helen Arney, Eleanor Morton, Steve Bennett
Uke Of Edinburgh Champion Of Champions: STEVE BENNETT

Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, Ballroom, 38 West Nicolson Street Edinburgh EH8 9DD
AUG 1-18 (not 12), 2012 at 9-10pm

Here's the show on the Fringe website.

Tricity Vogue also has a solo show:
Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, Lounge,  38 West Nicolson Street Edinburgh EH8 9DD
AUG 1-18 (not 12), 2013 at 5-6pm
More details on the Fringe website.

And Tricity also hosts a FREE UKULELE WORKSHOP on Saturday 3 and Saturday 10 August between 12pm and 2pm at The Third Man and Rae Macintosh Music shop. More details on the Fringe website.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Casting Call for Heels Of Glory, A Drag Action Musical


'Heels Of Glory': A Drag Action Musical by Tricity Vogue & Richard Link

Heels of Glory is an original musical with an action movie plot, a ’60s comic book aesthetic, and the kind of tunes that would have graced a vintage James Bond movie — if they’d ever made one with song-and-dance numbers and a drag queen spy.

The Artistic Team:

The show is written by composer Richard Link (Two Blondes With A Passion, Watch Me Shine, A Little Princess) and cabaret performer Tricity Vogue AKA award-winning screenwriter Heather Tyrrell (Byker Grove, My Family, Totally Frank).

Direction & Choreography will be by Russell Lucas (Julie Madly Deeply, Goldsmiths New Musical Festival)

Heels Of Glory will be staged at The Albany Theatre, Deptford on Friday 5 July 2013. We have secured research and development space at the theatre for six days prior to the scratch performance which is when we will explore, direct and choreograph the show. An intense few days - not for the faint-hearted!

This is the third version of the musical, following a rehearsed reading in April 2012 and a sold out work-in-progress performance at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in January 2013. Please note that at this stage everyone will be working for free but a professional approach to the work is paramount. This will be an incredible opportunity for networking though, building experience and being part of an exciting fast paced week, plus the chance to add to the genesis of an innovative piece of musical theatre.

Cast requirements:

We are looking for three “triple threat” drag queens, a “triple threat” diva plus two “triple threat” drag kings.

You do not have to have been a drag queen/king at any point. We are seeking confident performers who will be versatile enough to play anything we throw at them.

Character names and minimum requirements:

- Splendorella. International drag queen superstar (and spy). High baritone singer with star quality. A first class bitch.
- Allura. Creative Director of Supreme Cosmetics, every drag queen’s go-to brand (and evil villainess plotting the annihilation of all drag queens). Singer with strong belt and a heart of pure evil.
- Honey. A drag queen wannabe and Splendorella super-fan. A baritone singer, and a baby bitch with upstart attitude.
- Jay. Honey’s best friend. A vintage James Bond geek and reluctant drag queen. A tenor singer and an innocent with hidden talents.
- Albertina. Allura’s henchman, hit man, barman, backing dancer, bodyguard, and thwarted showgirl.
- Bertilda. Allura’s henchman, hit man, barman, backing dancer, bodyguard, and thwarted showgirl.


Auditions will be held on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 May, at a pre-allocated time between 10am and 5.30pm. Venue TBC. These will be workshop style auditions.

When you have sent through your details we will contact you to let you know if you have got through to a workshop audition.

Call backs will be held on Sunday 12 May - time TBC.

Please note that your audition will last 90 minutes and you will be in groups of eight. Although you will perform solo, sometimes other actors will be in the room. We are looking to create a company of artists that are open and supportive and wish to encourage a safe, risk-free environment from the outset. The artistic team will also be leading exercises, games and giving you specific direction.


We ask that actresses bring a song from the 60's and actors bring a song for a female voice from the 60s.

Please also bring a prepared piece of text that you may need to use in the workshop. This can be from theatre, films, poems, books - anything that you love!

Rehearsal dates:

Thu 27 June, Fri 28 June, Mon 1 July, Tue 2 July, Wed 3 July.

Time: 10am to 6pm

Performance is 5th July

The whole company will be needed from 10am to 9pm.

All rehearsals and the performance will take place at The Albany Theatre, Deptford (Deptford or New Cross station, zone 2)

If this sounds like you then we would love to hear from you. Please send a Headshot of yourself a CV or Spotlight number and a one-page covering letter telling us all about you to

Application deadline is Monday 6 May by 12 noon.

Poster art by Steve May

Friday, December 07, 2012

How The Blue Lady Became - A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time a princess lived in a castle in a cold mountain land. The castle was very warm inside, but the princess longed to explore the beautiful mountains, even though everyone in the castle told her she would freeze to death if she went outside, as her mother the queen had done when she left the castle with a mysterious traveller one night so many years before. Yet every day, the princess would sit in the window of her tower and look at the long empty road that led away through the mountains into the lands beyond, and sing a song of longing.

One day as the princess was gazing out at the long road through the mountains, and singing her song of longing, she saw a traveller walking towards the castle. He sat under her window and listened to her song. Then, when she stopped singing, he went away. The princess was sad. The next day when she came to her window and began to sing her song of longing again, the traveller returned, and sat listening to her song. On the third day the same thing happened. But on the fourth day when the princess sang nobody came. Sad, she went down to the banqueting hall for the feast, only to find the traveller warming his hands by the hearth. Her father the king told her that he had found the traveller outside the castle walls while out hunting, and offered him a meal and a warm bed for the night.

The princess sat beside the traveller all night, listening to his tales of the lands over the mountains. The traveller was on his way to a magical island in a deep blue ocean, where it was always warm and where beautiful flowers grew, and every tree was heavy with fruit. The princess had never seen flowers or trees, or the ocean, and she longed to go with him. “Why don’t you?” asked the traveller. But the princess told him sadly that if she ever went outside the castle, she would freeze to death. “Oh no you won’t,” said the traveller, and told her he had a gift for her that would stop her from freezing. He showed her a beautiful fur coat. The princess tried it on and felt warm from head to toe. “What can I give you in exchange?” she asked the traveller. “Sing me a song,” he said. So she did. And that night, when everyone in the castle was fast asleep, she put on her new fur coat, and followed the traveller out of the castle and onto the long empty road. But in her fur coat she didn’t freeze. She didn’t feel the cold at all.

The princess and the traveller walked for many days and many nights, all the way through the mountains to the other side. Every day the princess saw marvellous things she never new existed, and every night she sang to the traveller as he built them a fire and cooked the food he had foraged and hunted along the road. Eventually they reached a deep dark forest and the princess was frightened, but the traveller held her hand and promised to keep her safe. As they walked through the forest they heard the crackle of branches as something came towards them. The traveller unsheathed his knife, but it was only an old lady in a long travelling cloak and hood. “I am all alone and the forest is a dangerous place,” she said. “Please may I travel with you?” But the traveller told the old lady to keep away and leave them alone. The princess was sad, but the traveller said he could only look after one other person, and the old lady would slow them down. He wanted to get to the magical island as quickly as he could.

As they travelled on, the forest got warmer and warmer, and became a jungle, and the princess became very hot in her fur coat. But the traveller wouldn’t let her leave it behind, because it was too precious, and one day she would want to return to her mountain homeland, and then she would need the coat again. So the princess struggled on, carrying the coat under her arm, but it became a heavier and heavier burden. One night as the traveller slept, the princess was woken by the sound of weeping. She followed the sound and found the old lady sitting crying in a small clearing nearby. The princess thought the old lady was crying because she had no food, so brought her some of the stew from their own stewpot. But the old lady said the real reason she was crying was because she was lonely. The princess felt ashamed that the traveller had turned the old lady away, and told her to travel with them to the magic warm island. But the old lady said she did not want to go to the magic warm island, she was tired of the heat. She wanted to go back to the beautiful icy mountains where she came from, but she was so old and so frail that she would freeze to death on the road before she ever reached the castle. So the princess gave the old lady her fur coat. The old lady thanked her for her kindness, with tears in her eyes. The princess slept soundly that night. The next morning she told the traveller nothing of what had happened the night before.

The next day the traveller and the princess reached the edge of the jungle and walked out onto a beach of golden sand. In front of them was a deep blue ocean, and rising out of the ocean was the magic island. They could just see tiny people waving to them on the shore. Eagerly the traveller threw off his clothes and waded into the water, ready to swim across. He held out his hand to the princess. But the princess would not follow him into the water. She had never seen water before and she was afraid. She could not swim. The traveller was impatient to reach the magic island, but he offered to teach the princess how to swim so she could come with him. The princess was afraid, but she followed the traveller into the water, because she had followed him all the way from her frozen homeland and he had kept her safe until then. The traveller held the princess up in the water and showed her how to move her arms and legs, but as soon as she let go she would sink under the water, again and again, and the traveller would have to pull her back to the surface, choking and gasping. All day he tried to teach her, until the princess was so tired and afraid of the water that she could bear no more. So the traveller helped her back to the shore, where she sat shivering on the beach, despite the heat. “Put on your fur coat and warm yourself,” said the traveller. But the princess told him she no longer had the fur coat, because she had given it to the old lady. Then the traveller was very angry. This is why he had sent the old lady away, because she was a trickster and a thief. The princess had concealed from the traveller that the old lady was following them, and the old lady had taken the most precious possession that the foolish, trusting princess owned. If the princess did not trust the traveller to look after her, and did not follow his lead, then he would not help her to reach the magic island. With that, the traveller dived into the sea, swimming to the magic island and leaving the princess behind.

The princess sat on the beach alone, watching the traveller swim away from her, while the tears ran down her cheeks. She sang again the song of longing she had sung before from the window of her castle room as she looked out over the long empty road into the mountains. Then the old lady came to her again, and wrapped the fur coat around the princess’s shoulders to stop her shivering. “Do you really want to reach the magic island?” asked the old lady. “More than anything in the world,” replied the princess. “Then,” said the old lady, “because you have given me a gift, I will give you a gift.” And the old lady gave the princess a jar of blue paste. “This paste is made from the shells of the creatures that live on the ocean floor,” she said. “I have been collecting them for many years, and for many years I have been crushing the shells to paste with my pestle and mortar, but now I have enough, I no longer want to reach the magic island.” “But what does the paste do?” asked the princess. “Cover your whole body with the paste,” said the old lady, “every inch of it. And the blue will protect you, so that you can walk right under the waves and into the water, without drowning.” “Oh thank you!” said the princess, reaching for the paste. But before the old lady would give the paste to the princess she had one more warning. “Once you have covered yourself with this paste, it will never wash off again. You will always be blue.” “What do I care what colour I am,” said the princess, “as long as I can get to the place I long to be more than anywhere else in the world?” So the old lady gave the princess the blue paste, and the princess gave the old lady back her fur coat once more, because now she was filled with hope again she had stopped shivering, and the two women said goodbye.

The princess covered herself in the blue paste from head to toe, and then she walked into the water. Sure enough, as soon as the waves closed over her head, the princess discovered she could still breathe, and she could see everything under the water too. The princess walked along the seabed towards the magic island, and along the way she travelled through the most beautiful world she had ever seen, full of sea anemones and brightly coloured fish. When she reached the island she walked out of the ocean onto the beach, and there, sitting on the shore, was the traveller. He was staring across the ocean to the beach where he had left her, and there were tears pouring down his cheeks. The princess walked over to the traveller. “It’s all right, I’m here,” she said. But when the traveller saw her he leapt away from her in horror. “It’s me,” she said, “the princess!” But the traveller said, “Get away from me, monster!” He did not recognise the princess. The princess thought of a way to show the traveller it was her, so she began to sing. But the traveller put his fingers in his ears. “Stop that ugly sound!” he shouted. “And get away from me!”

Heartbroken, the blue princess walked away from the traveller, through the flowers and the fruit trees of the magic island. But she didn’t see them, because her eyes were full of tears. The blue princess climbed to the top of a rock by the water and she sang her song of longing, as the tears fell down her face. But although the tears trickled down her skin, they didn’t wash off the blue, because the blue was there forever. The blue princess didn’t even try to rub the blue away, because she knew the old lady had been telling the truth. She would always be blue now. It was only when the sun had set and the princess climbed down from her rock that she discovered a crowd of island people gathered at the foot of the rock, all on their knees before her, and offering up trays laden with fruit and garlands of flowers. As she walked among them they lifted her up on their shoulders and hailed her as their blue goddess, who came to them from the ocean and healed their pain with her song.

The island people carried the princess to a beautiful garden palace full of flowers and fountains, music and joy, where everyone danced and laughed and feasted, and where she lived happily among them for many years. But sometimes the princess would dream about the frozen mountain land of her childhood, and as the years went by she began to long to return there. So sometimes the blue goddess would walk alone into the waves and gather tiny blue sea creatures from the ocean floor, then she would carry them back to her palace and crush the shells into a paste, until, after many years, she had a whole jar full of blue paste. Then she said goodbye to her people and walked into the waves, never to return.

When she reached the other shore, the blue princess concealed the colour of her skin beneath a cloak and hood, and walked into the forest. After a few days travel she met a man and a young woman travelling together. The man did not trust her and sent her away, but the woman was kind to her and offered her food, so the blue princess followed them, keeping out of sight. One night the blue princess found the woman crying by herself in a clearing. She asked her what was wrong and the young woman said that she wanted to reach the magic island, but she couldn’t swim. The blue princess offered the woman her jar of blue paste, and the young woman accepted it gratefully. In exchange she offered the blue princess her fur coat, so the blue princess could travel to the frozen mountains. Before the blue princess left the young woman she warned her that once she had covered herself in the blue paste, although she would be able to walk under water without drowning, she would be blue forever, and her companion might reject her. But the young woman smiled. “When you are a traveller,” she said, “everywhere you go and everyone you meet is strange and foreign. So you must accept them all. Or you will always be alone.”

So the blue princess put on the young woman’s fur coat and walked towards her frozen mountain home, knowing that her island people would soon meet their new blue goddess from the waves, and that waiting for her in a warm mountain castle far away was the old lady who had helped her so many years before, and who was also the blue queen, her mother.