Where do I even begin describing an afternoon with Dolores Fitchie?
An impulsive train-hop from Manchester to London, I arrived wondering what on earth we would talk about. Three and a half hours later and I felt like I’d known Dodo all my life. As did Billie, the dog.
To begin at the beginning.
It was May 2011, I had hadn’t been blogging long. I did an image search for the Four of Wands for a post I was writing, and up came this deck – this black-and-white, super-stylish, circular, beautiful card and I wanted to use it. I traced the image back to Dolores’ blog, dropped her a line…and we’ve been in intermittent but very enjoyable contact ever since.
And this year, The Gorgon’s Tarot was finally published
Schiffer realised how brilliant this deck is (not before it was featured in A Guide to Tarot and Relationships by Andria K. Molina), agreed to publish it, and The Gorgon’s Tarot hit the shelves earlier this year.
You have a few options for buying it…
And Dolores sent me a copy! I am delighted that I have a total collector’s edition mega-sized deck (it’s 5 inches diameter and impossible to shuffle!) as Schiffer have now realised that that first batch was a mistake and issued a new, smaller edition. As Dolores says, mine is the coffee table version (of only I had space for a coffee table on the boat I’m sure I would be the envy of tarot-town…)
You want to know about the deck? You’ll find an interview/review over here. Right now, I just wanna talk about Dolores.
Brought up in a big family in Spain (one of five siblings), she arrived in London in the 70s and has been here ever since. In her own words:
When I first arrived in London 33 years ago I had a little bit of money. When that ran out my friend and I tried to keep a period rags stall in an antiques mall of sorts in the Kings Rd. When that flopped, I waited tables, cleaned toilets and eventually I landed a massively hated job in a travel agency. I kept that up for about a year. Then I reverted to waitressing, in a wine bar across the road from the Russian embassy called Russkies (what else?).
After three year of this things got…complicated. Long hiatus. I re-emerged from this as Ta-dah! a social worker of sorts in 1986/7 (I think it was). Mental health speciality. This I mostly loved. I retired (forcibly, courtesy of ME) in 2001. Been a “scrounger” ever since; first on IB and since my 60th b-day on a state pension. Voilà. Potted bios don’t come much more exciting, do they?
Dolores is a brilliantly talkative woman who (hilariously) describes herself as antisocial – it was hard to believe but she assured me I was a special case. She admitted to feeling starved of stimulating, political conversation, and the company of women, a lot of the time – quietly, I wondered if I might disappoint her.
Before I could even ask where the shoggoths and gorgons came from Dolores had waxed lyrical about her love for the works of HP Lovecraft (‘a terrible man, racist, xenophobic and very unpleasant’ – but an amazing writer of horror stories), who had inspired the whole shabang.
Aside from Lovecraft, Dolores’ work is heavily inspired by an ongoing collection of fantasy/horror/sci-fi writers including:
Poe (first love), Saki, Ambrose Bierce, MR James, Jean Ray, Algernon Blackwood (to some extent) and Arthur Machen. Part of the native tradition: some of the stories by Gustavo Afdolfo Becquer. A few years ago I “discovered” Thomas Ligotti (recommended!) who takes not merely the biscuit but the whole bloody tin. Right now I’m keeping a sharp eye on the heiresses of Lovecraftian fiction: Nicole Cushing, Silvia Moreno Garcia and Caitlin R. Kiernan.
Dolores’ online world, Gorgs Graphics Souk (aka Dolores’ Bolthole) is a fantasy-world of mythical creatures, shoggoths, who were ‘cut from sundry cosmic cloths’ in order to provide entertainment for their dictatorial ‘elders’.
Once Upon a Time in the East-End of London.
I met the Shoggoths a few years gone, one stormy evening when my car broke down in the environs of the southern maws of the Blackwall Tunnel. […] Ensuing from that encounter I decided to devote my plentiful time and erratic energies to rescuing the protoplasmic dears from their ghastly Lovecraftian heritage and reputation and instating them in their Rightful Place in the Grand Disorder of Things.
You can read the full story here – in verse, no less!
There’s also Spikky, a Spaniard with strong views on the evils of modern life, Penguins who don’t much like the cold, Gusanitos (small worms!), hedgehogs and a whole menagerie of friendly (and not-so-friendly) beasties created using various drawing apps (starting many moons ago with MS Paint. Remember Paint?!)
Oh gosh, what else did we talk about?
The meaning of femininity and how it’s expressed in the world today. Books that meant so much once, but embarrass you when re-read a decade later. And books that endure. Social media – I’m not the only one struggling with overwhelm it turns out.
And art, creative processes, illness, the moors of England, deserts, Scotland. Animals – Dolores loves animals – and why she can never have a cat again, although if you sit in a room with her for more than five minutes you almost start seeing cats out of the corners of your eyes, so obvious does it feel that there should be several sharing her home.
Homosexuality, alcoholism, right-wingers, selfies. Photography, illustration, mindless TV, gentrification. Love, marriage and personal space. Yachts and narrowboat dreams.
She showed me round her small Hackney flat which smelled of rose oil and had that cluttered-yet-clean atmosphere of a home filled with selected, much-loved mementoes from a lifetime of adventure. Small, framed illustrations from dear friends. Postcards. Spanish fabrics and crockery. There was also a small collection of soft toys which made me smile, and an impressive bookcase filled with tattered Penguin Classics.
And later, after so much talk, Dolores requested that I read her cards.
Now there’s a challenge. A woman you admire so much who has god damn created a tarot deck is handing you those very cards and asking you for a reading. We cracked open a couple of beers and I pretended to seem confident as I laid out a classic Celtic cross to answer her question.
It was a great reading…and I mean that from a reader’s point of view. I read the cards my way and Dolores listened patiently, but went on to describe the idea behind each card, sometimes complementing, sometimes expanding and sometimes contradicting my own interpretations. I learned new ways of reading every card in that spread, and Dolores said she found new layers and details she hadn’t noticed before, despite having created the cards.
It was uniquely brilliant to do tarot with the creator of the cards I was reading – intimidating to start, but so richly interesting, a wonderful way to get to know a deck I’ve not yet read with much. It would be even more amazing if I’d known the deck intimately. Maybe we’ll do it again in a few years’ time, when The Gorgon’s Tarot is a cult classic.
By the time I left I think we were both exhausted from all the tumbling conversation and tarot. I wandered off into the evening with Billie beside me and a thousand thoughts in my head.
And next time I come down, we’re going to the wolf park. Oh yes.
Meanwhile – get yourself a copy of The Gorgon’s Tarot – a unique deck by an amazing person. Or if you want to know more about the cards themselves, read my deck review here.
Also – here’s a self-reading I did with these cards back in September after a particularly change-y time in my life.