Skeletons & hearts dancing, cavorting, waving

Ace cards bulls eyed with hearts and circles. Nature’s indifference to the individual, so these skeletons dance, play, relax against such darkening skies.

The ace of hearts again. Another pop bulls eye.

Skeleton form morphs.


Time can lose or flatten our histories. Time also dissolves distance when we look straight at our ancestors.

A pantomime horse head? A puppet? Perhaps. Lockdown has been a protracted Absurdist play. The pantomime horse head just about sums it up.

The virus was now classified a ‘pandemic’ by the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) and we all shivered, recalling stories of historic pestilence – the ‘Spanish’ Flu in particular.

The Queen of Hearts

This painting interacts with the actual card beneath. Made famous in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts is portrayed as a tyrannical dictator. She encapsulates characteristics of too many of our democratically elected leaders today – poorly informed, indifferent to knowledge, law and justice, quick to judge, intolerant of opposition, extreme in punishment. Any bells ringing? She is the shame of us all.

However, she must also be canny to survive; she must feign care. Hence my choice of her card to document the huge medical recruitment undertaken by the government just before Lockdown.

Skull and Crossbones / Calvary / Bald Head / Golgotha

A skull plus two crossbones placed below or behind the skull became a common symbol and reminder of death (memento mori) from about the Middle Ages, but its use globally dates back far earlier. Look about and its everywhere: on medicines, chemicals, plant labels, the Jolly Roger pirate flag etc. I came across a Devonshire church in my teens that contained within it an astonishing medieval oak carved Golgotha of tremendous pathos. Raw, visceral, penetrating, it was unforgettable. I have been fascinated by these early ‘Golgotha’ that stare Death in the eye ever since. With Covid, the subject of Death was quickly accepted in the media as a key topic for daily discussion, not shunned. Unsurprisingly, this symbol recurs throughout Book of Hours I.