1st August. This is the month when the seals gather to pup on the beaches. Walked in he early morning down to the cliffs. The water, still and clear. One bull seal, early, waits for the arrival of the females and swims casually. The path from the village through the heather and down to the sea is full of golden grass and the sunlight is muted by a layer of soft cloud. Last night the clouds in the moonlight were like writhing dappled silver serpents streaked across an ink blue sky.
Cover rough and the last endpaper are all that remain of Singing to the Sun to do. And then I should be able to rest. Except I have to paint for Starlight, Sarbright, and do three more covers for Robin Hobb ( the first three are published this month) and do roughs for Dragons and write a book about polar bears and do roughs to go with the words and do the illustrations for the Korean book about elephant ghosts, and paint for exhibitions. But apart from that I should be able to rest.
First cover rough went off to Egmont early this week. I had the bizarre notion of doing a cover without an image. They have come back very quickly with an amended design which I really like. Something very different. I like working for Egmont.
3rd Anugust. While waiting for Tom to finish fishing I looked up into the blue sky to see that it was patterned with clouds like the ghosts of fish. Working steadily today, after first going to look to see if there were seal pups yet I finished the endpaper for Singing to the Sun. Now all that remains is the cover.
6th August. Up and down the hill checking to see if there are pups yet, and feeling maybe a little fitter as the hill coming back up seems much steeper than it is going down. Something to do with physics I fear, or maybe gravity! Working on cover and glorious designer came up with a better idea, which, fingers crossed will bring about an elegant and speedy end to the book.
Listening to wonderful music from "Silk Road Journeys, When Strangers Meet " with Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. I heard "Blue as the Turquoise Night" on the radio and had to buy the cd, as well as Beyond the Horizon and The Silk Road, a Musical Caravan. Wonderful. In the sleeve notes Yo Yo Ma comments.
"It is said that when two people meet, within seconds an assessment is made on whether to trust one another. We all know how destructive it is when there is no trust. If there is some trust and exchange might take place. As this trust develops over time, the exchange may lead to the best of all possibilities- creativity and learning."
Maybe we would benefit if musicians instead of politicians were in charge of our governance.
Also looking at some beautiful work by a woman of many talents. Alice Wood, wonderful.
7th August. Maybe it is always like this when I finish a book. Feeling empty and restless and not at all sure of anything. Too much to do to stop work and rest but can't just get on with the next thing. Meanwhile the sun shines and butterflies dance in the garden. Leafed through a book on butterflies and the names are like poems, so many different kinds. There are speckled wood and lattice browns, skippers and fritillaries,cranberry blues and baton blues,clouded apollos and the eastern festoon. And in my garden today, a walll brown.
Later walked in the early evening. I had bought a step counter, feeling unfit and decided that I need to do something about it. I thought that probably I walked enough, though slowly, slowly when walking with cats. It is recommended that each person walks ten thousand steps a day and I assumed that I must do this and more easily so over the last few days have been surprised to find that I did not walk each day as much as I thought I did. Ten thousand steps is quite a longish walk.
The evening light was beautiful, the wind cold and from the north but everything clear. Gold barley against the blue sea, red tankers at anchor in the bay. In the lee of the wind it was warm. And we found the first seal pup of the year on a rocky beach under a steep steep cliff. It is quite old so must have been born a few weeks ago. I need a new camera, so that this year I can get close up clear shots of the seals swimming and teaching the young ones, moments of intimacy in a seal's life.
A sudden attack of vertigo meant that I wouldn't lean over the cliff for a better view. As the month goes on I will get braver. The pup is in the bottom left, the cow, cunningly disguised with beautiful markings in the top right.
8th August. On the airfield just outside St Davids it was hot and the butterflies danced along the hedges and through the grass and flowers, mostly brown but a bright flash of blue caught my eye. Leaning further over the cliff and tomorrow hopefully, getting a new camera.
11th August. Bought a new camera yesterday from Ivan at Celtic Vision. A couple of conversations on the phone, the odd email back and forth. I told him what I wanted to do with the camera and he sorted me out with a Nikon D40x and a big lens that hopefully is not too cumbersome and will get closer to seals and birds. My old camera had become like an extension of my hand and this one is like carrying a computer around, so much that is new to get used to, so much to learn. The older I get the harder it is to learn and the more I realize I don't know. Ivan told me lots of things about the camera and the main bit that I remember is to just go out and play with it, so........
.....more on the cat blog. Cats are posing even more than ever now that they have a big lens pointing at them.
Shopping in Narberth can be a nightmare, trying to find somewhere to park and pick your way through the dawdling people on holiday, but Celtic Vision is such a magic shop and so good to have someone who will take the time to work out what is best and show you how to use it. So now I just have to get to know it and bond with my camera! And remember to paint.
12th August. Tonight, all the time, while I sleep, stars will be falling.
Walked up the hill at the end of the day. When we left the house the clouds were vibrant pink, but by the time we had made our way up the green lane to the top they were heavy gray, except for a small fire dragon of cloud hanging tight to the flames from the sun.
Home through the field of long rich grass, cats bouncing and running in the luxurious depth, wading through grass. A badger, startled by two dogs, two cats and me, ran across the field. Curious he peered from the safety of a gorse bush, black and white mask face bright in the gloaming light.
Later was startled by the stars. Have been going to bed too early, but tonight the heavens were full and the stars were falling. Shooting stars, the tears of St Lawrence, streaked across the sky. Some brief, some long and lingering.
So, all the while that I am sleeping the stars will be falling from the ink dark sky.
13th August. Awake early to walk before it gets busy, and playing with camera. There are harebells on the hills, threaded through the heather, and the air is scented by the heather's sweet smell.
14th August. Walking, painting, over-excited by new camera. Yesterday, writing and painting and we saw the new Harry Potter film at the cinema in Fishguard. Too cloudy to watch the stars fall, but somewhere above the cloud they were still burning their bright streaks across the sky for someone to wish on. Today I surprised myself by starting to read the last Harry Potter book.
15th August. Walking early, no camera, no note book. Saw harebells, holding cups of blue light in the heather, fifteen raucous choughs, a sea of heather rippled in shadow.
Later, the seal are back, four cows and a bull with many bull seals partoling off shore.
16th August. A lost day with no focus. Picked up 100 books yesterday for Cygnus books and am signing them all, which takes a lot of time. They will have the books for sale from their web site and next catalogue. To purchase a signed copy go to Cygnus Books.
Also the Musicians Benevolent Fund Christmas cards are now printed and ready for ordering ( I think). They can be bought with Christmas greetings and blank to use as notelets ( £4.95 for ten) and the MBF have produced a selection pack of the last seven years of designs. The selection packs have at least 5 of each of the designs though I think which 5 would be entirely random, which seems a bit of a shame. (£4.50, ten cards with envelopes). These are available only from the MBF. To see the last seven years worth of colouring in for the MBF click on the caravan of horses below.
To see more of the horses go to their blog at The Coloured Horse Farm.
And the Shalom House Trust card for the local hospice is also now available and can be ordered by using this address. They also have limited supply of the cards from the year before last available, with the polar bear and holly on.
18th August. Signing books in the St Davids bookshop all afternoon, folowing a short piece I wrote for the Western Mail on the difficulties of working in the book trade at the moment. Still finding it difficult to find my feet after finishing Singing to the Sun, and to move on to the next thing.
19th August. Midsummer. Sky dark gray, heavy with the weight of water and a north wind blowing hard. It is cold, and on the seal beach a life and death drama is taking place.
Yesterday the first of the seal pups was born on the beach. Small, yellow-white, in a skin too big for it, the pup has emerged from the tight warm womb of its mother into a wild world and a summer storm.
The cow, sleek, dark and pebble patterned, tucked her pup high up under the ragged cliff, but the storm winds grew in the night. Now the sea races in, all bright white with furious foam. Time and again it snatches at the small pup, pulling it away, rolling it down the rocky beach, smashing it through the rocks, soaking it so that the oversized white coat clings to the skin.
Bedraggled, it clings to the beach with all its small strength as the sea withdraws, fights its way back up the beach where its mother watches, helpless. Then another wave snatches it away again.
Too young to swim, the seal child is helpless. Only luck will save it. I watch as it struggles back over the uneven beach, and I hope that the tide is at its highest point, that it will escape further up the beach before the next wave comes, out of reach of the greedy sea, that its strength will not fail, that the storm will calm, that tomorrow it will still be there.
21st August. Early morning walking to Penberi. Hard cold wind and clouds. Spray and spindrift circle dance along the cliffs. A raven hangs on the edge of the wind and tumbles to fly upside down. Sunlight and shadow play over the land and the cliffs are thrown into soft focus by sea spray. The air is made thick by the force of the wind and walking is like swimming in an ocean of air. In the shelter of the garden small tortoiseshell butterflies are bright on the buddleia.
Painted a heron with a gold leaf background.
24th August. Wind has dropped and the sun come out. Yesterday there were six seal pups on the beach. They watch me, watching them. The pups fill their loose coats quickly and then begin to grow. Soon they will be learning to swim. Colours of the cow seals vary from pebble dappled to deep dark black. I wait to see if the ginger seal has made it through another winter. It is said that they usually come back to the same beach year on year. One pup plays and rolls in the tide line tangle of twisted kelp.
I paint, a hare listening to the moon which echoes the story from How the Whale Became by Ted Hughes. Inching closer to finding a publisher for East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
Went shopping for Hannah's birthday tomorrow and bought some pink wellies, for me, and some amazing doors that I hope to use as a frame for an odd piece of work. They are propped in my studio, waiting. And I also found a something or two for Hannah.