I had thought to walk to the top of the hill, in the evening sunshine, still warm. And the dogs came too, and larry and Robin. The grass is so green from rainfall at night and the clover scents the air.
Ivy ran fast and π ran too, bounding through the green and full of the wonder of smells all new.
And Ivy let her sit close, just for a moment. And the sky was big and dappled with cloud.
At the top of the hill more scents, and then…. oh no…. Ivy caught wind, of a young red fox and was off.
Off and away and over the hill and would she come back? No. Not Ivy. I didn’t know what it was at first, but whistled and called and then heard a barking, excited, yipping. And there in the bracken the tip of Ivy’s tail and something gone to ground. Wading through the bracken I thought of the irony of snake bite as I was painting adders. And then I saw it. Almost grown, a young fox. And away they shot again, through the undergrowth, out onto the path and away and away and as fast as could be, leaving me, standing.
Robin took Larry and The π puppy home while I followed slowly on my two legs. But they were long gone and I could only hope that she would stop and come back, not get bitten by adders, not run into and through the sheep fields. I whistled and called and remembered the time she had chased deer and came back, had chased hare and come back. Get up high, to get a better view. Whistled and called. And then I heard her collar, and then I saw her, limping and walking like someone so shattered, she fell to the ground, panting, panting. Unbloodied. Good. The fox had won.
I let her rest a short while then walked to the hill top to get signal, call Robin, let him know she was safe, then we walked home and Ivy so shattered she sat a few times. Elmo met us at Glyn’s house.
Such a beautiful fox. Such a beautiful walk, apart from the worry.
I’d gone out to find something for a piece of work I am working on, for The Lost Words. I’d found something else, and an idea for a painting.
And now I have two tired dogs, one big, one small, sleeping closer together each day. Ivy and the π.
This was what I saw first. Max Porter’s words of welcome. They are part of a project called #WordsofWelcome run by Reg Meuross.
It made me think.
How would I welcome someone? I hope it would be with an open heart.
As a child I was taught to fear strangers, including people from other lands. As a teenager I learned curiosity, about the lives of others.
As an adult I have learned there are no ‘others’, we are all just people, and that I have so much to learn from people from this land, from other lands, from all cultures.
And now what I fear is hatred.
What would I say? What would my words of welcome be?
I hope I would say, welcome, would you like a drink? Are you thirsty? Hungry? Can I get you something to drink, something to eat?
I hope I would not be too curious to know their story, for fear of what retelling it, reliving it, might bring back to mind. And yet I would want to hear, because I am curious.
And I hope that if they did not know English, the only verbal language I am able to speak, I could find a way to communicate through images, gestures, and maybe I could learn some of their words as they too learn mine. And maybe we could share food, and I could cook for them and they in turn could cook for me and I could learn new tastes.
And stories, always stories. For I have so much to learn.
And maybe one day, when there is peace, I could travel to the land where they were born, if they chose to return, and receive a welcome from them there. For as Warsan Shire says, “No one leaves home, unless home is the mouth of a shark”.
I would like to register my displeasure at the way the new leadership election was first forced and then the method with which those who can vote has been decided.
The suggestion that only those who became party members before Jan 12th suggests there is fear in the ranks of the party. When I joinedthe party, 17th January, it was given to me to understand that as a party member I had the right to vote in any forthcoming elections when Jeremy Corbyn chose to stand down. I wonder at the legality of altering this contract at a later date.
Surely ALL members have the right to vote?
Also, before I registered to vote I paid £3 in order to be eligible. You see, for years I had seen the Labour party led away from the direction that sang to my heart, away from a socialist and just society. I had watched the party that I had grown up to respect drag my country into an unjust, possibly illegal war. I had seen election promises like bringing an end to factory farming, improving animal welfare fade like mist on a hot day. For years I felt disenfranchised. I could not vote Tory, nor Liberal. The Green Party had some policies that appealed but Labour had been where my heart lay, until Tony Blair led that party in a direction that was against so much I believed in.
Jeremy Corbyn gave me hope that I could be included once again in the democratic system of government by which we run our country. The first time I heard him speak it was astonishing. He spoke from the heart, not in sound bites. Now I had someone I could vote for. I think many ordinary people like me felt the same, hence the groundswell of support and people signing up to the party.
By doing what you have done to our choice of leadership you turn against us all.
I cannot begin to tell you how disappointed I am in how the Party have behaved. As to the accusations of bullying, it feels as if we are suffering from passive aggressive tantrums from people too juvenile to engage in debate.
You’ve let your party leader down, you’ve let your supporters down, and you have most of all let your country down at a time of chaos.
Up early to take Hannah to the railway station so she could travel to the north of Scotland Ivy and I made a slow journey to Hay on Wye. We travelled by chapters of Barkskin, escaping in time to the forests of Canada with the help and transportive words of Annie Proulx.
Early, we drove, out from Hay and up a steep narrow road to a place where the road ran through a farm and past a chapel. Here we parked, Ivy and me and we went for a walk to the high hill top and the world stretched away from our feet with a beautiful view. We walked, past lime, and hazel, holly and ivy, willow, ash, mountain ash and oak. Down below a beautiful house sat on the hillside. This was where we were going.
Bella died at the beginning of this year. We had been together for 16 years. I will write about that when I can, not now. I don’t want to face that now, don’t have to face that. But a few weeks ago, having decided not to get another dog I saw that some pups had been born. I asked if one could be mine. The answer was yes.
So we went to the house on the hill, where the boys let the dogs run out into the garden and I watched for a while, and ate cake and drank tea in the sunshine, then left with a small and golden bundle of beauty.
She doesn’t fill a hole that Bella left. Nothing can. It’s ok to grieve, for as long as it takes, for as long as you want, for as long as you do. And life does go on and the past becomes a bundle of memories.
It’s a big world out there for a small puppy.
I guess that’s what happens when you do a book about numbers.
Bella, who was kind to kittens. Elmo, who is pictured above ignoring the π
When you feel that you are stuck between a rock and a hard place, when you feel out of step with how many in your country think and feel, because even though you know that the EU wasn’t perfect it is a work in progress, and being in may well have been better than being out, and you feel your heart sinking, what do you do? Take to the water, step outside, spend time in the other world, look at the rock, the hard place, and see beauty.
The human world is so wrapped up in itself. Out in the wild world this becomes obvious. Politics seems to be about money these days, not about democracy, and the EU referendum, well…..it seems to have done nothing but reveal that politicians lie and there are massive divisions in our many cultures, between young and old, between colours and creeds, religion and class. I can’t help but feel this leaves our young people dancing between a rock and a hard place.
Out on the water, away from the land there are other cultures. Seals and auks, and rivers of sheerwaters skimming the sea. The life out here is rich and true and this is the best anti-depressant I know of. And the arrogance of humans who think they rule the world, have ownership of all of this becomes real.
Politics is a sham, money is an abstract concept which has become a god for many. We need a new way of being, and living. It’s a small world. I don’t think it is safe in the hands of these men, for we are sailing in a ship of fools if we allow them control.
Time to rest my head in paint. I have work to do. Hoping to inspire a new generation to understand that we are a part of nature, nature is a part of us, all life is equal.
Thanks Falcon Boats, for another great trip. You are awesome.
On Sunday I will travel to London, stay in a hotel, sleep in the city. On Monday I will go to The British Library for the Greenaway and Carnegie awards. The Greenaway and Carnegie are two of the top awards for children’s books in the UK. The Greenaway is awarded solely for the illustration, named after Kate Greenaway. The winner receives a beautiful gold medal. I have been nominated for the award many times, longlisted now and again, but this is the first time a book of mine has achieved a position on the shortlist and I cannot begin to say what an honour it is to be on the shortlist and in such good company.
Watching the films is great too, especially for anyone who wishes to work in the industry. I learned so much more about Sam and Dave Dig a Hole from watching the film.
In previous years I have tried to pick my favourite, which is always difficult when friends have books on the list. This year it was easy. Even before the list was announced one book had come to my attention. Footpath Flowers by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith.
I can’t remember how or where this book found me. I do remember getting to the end of it and not having realised there were no words. One of the criteria for the award is that it is a marriage of words and pictures. You can have the best illustrations in the world but if the text isn’t up to it then the book won’t get through to the shortlist. So, no words. And yet, and yet and yet, somehow the book slides into the mind and the story is so beautifully drawn that the text was there, but not cluttering up the page, but giving such space to these wonderful, simple lines.
It’s an urban picture book and there is a sadness in the long walk home where dad’s too busy on the phone to take notice but the child, a young girl, sees the beauty in the flowers that grow in the small spaces in between, and gifts them along the way to people and animals. Black and white, with colour used to perfection, it is a story of love and small and simple acts of kindness.
The film of Sydney Smith talking about how he designed and drew the book is wonderful and I love the progression from the very ‘real’ drawing of the girl to a much more fluid style. I love also hearing how others struggle. His words about trying to draw and having to go outside and just draw what was there is balm to the soul. Now the book is finished it looks so easy, elegant. But it’s hard hard work and so much thought goes into each page. I love that they are all done as panels then put together later. So much to learn. These films should be watched in all art colleges.
I love that there are no words. That a poet knew that the words aren’t required in this case so he stepped back and let the pictures tell his story, and I would love to hear him talking about it.
Everything about this book is perfect from the size, the reproduction, the paper quality, design. And the message. Small acts of kindness. And finding beauty. At the end she looks to the sky, to the flight of birds. I think when she grows up she will not live in a city, but in the countryside, where she will have a small house with a garden filled with flowers and wild things and she will feed the birds.
So, the award is held at the British Library and that in itself is exciting. Such a place of learning. There can be only one winner, and whilst I would love it to be Something About a Bear, being on the shortlist is incredible enough. Footpath Flowers is my favourite. It will always be a winner for me.
Tidying up my desk I found a letter and small package from a lovely woman called Keiko in Japan. She had sent me some Japanese green tea to say thank you for something I had sent to her. It had become buried under things on my desk, but came to light today. A small act of kindness from a friend far away.
So, today I will continue to tidy my desk. ( I have even hovered the floor which had become something of a dog hair felted carpet) And I will make time to sit in the sunshine and read, and think. And I will drinking green tea sent to me by Keiko ( thank you Keiko. I have one o fthe cat stickers on my sketchbook now) from beautiful cups made by Euan Craig in Japan.
The leaves will take 3 lots of hot water. The colour is beautiful. And I am looking forward to settling into my next book.
In medieval times there was a rare species of eelhound, bred for its hunting instinct, swift running, keen sight. Indeed they were a member of what is now known as ‘sight-hounds’. The breed came from two hounds found living wild in an old stone quarry in Wales. No one knew where they had come from. From these two hounds a pack was bred.
Favourite hunting dog of Robin of the Greenwood, the pronghorned eelhound excelled in the hunting of jackalope, but fell from favour owing to its curious disposition of loving to sleep in the beds of fine ladies, preferably beneath the covers.
Few now remain, but if you are lucky, deep in the twilight greenwood, you may see some of the last few, living wild. Approach with caution, because the pronghorn is a shy creature.
Yesterday I escaped my studio for the sea. Today, while I waited for paint to dry, I walked to the top of the hill with Rosie and Ivy. And the green lane is overgrown with flowers and stonecrop clings to the walls.
The light made a green heart in the lane. I love this place, where foxgloves grow so tall and campion and buttercups and blackthorn live. A dragonfly, huge as a sparrow coursed the lane, up and down, up and down. Hot. So hot.
Walking to fox rocks to rest for a while and watch I stepped over a coil of bright golden rope, almost on it. It slipped away too fast to focus, into the bracken. So we rested a while and then came back, carefully to see if she had come back out to bask again. So fresh, each scale looked new.
And on the way back I carried the memory of the bright golden coil, thought about foxes and books and was more careful where I placed my feet.
I’ve worked hard this week, my goal being to complete two books and take the morning off this morning. I’d booked a boat trip with Falcon Boats, off shore, out to where the Celtic Deep begins, in the hope of seeing whales. No whales today, but no disappointment either.
Grey sky, bright. Sea like a mirror, calm.
We hoped for dolphins as the boat moved out towards Grassholm, and it wasn’t long before Hannah spotted a small pod, hunting. They came over to us, so close, gliding through the water and my camera decided it was time to jam, but I got a few photos and after a while just stopped to watch.
So close, so close, they came to us, then after a while moved off fast, hunting the water for fish. Perfect.
All the while I was watching Hannah was hanging over the side of the boat with a Go-Pro and she captured this beautiful footage of them:
We moved on to Grassholm. A rock in an ocean. A rock that is dotted with white. And as you get closer you see that what is white is gannets. Thousands of them. Beautiful, saffron headed seabirds with huge wingspans, constant movement, bird upon bird and a sky filled with wings.
Away from Grassholm we headed for The Smalls and saw it looming out of a sea fog. From my house at night I can see the lights from 3 lighthouses, the Smalls, The South Bishop and Strumble Head. We came back past the Bishop Lighthouse and I realised that this was my ideal home.
Gorgeous. And now I want to go again, out to the dolphin’s world where there are puffins and shearwaters. We even saw a beautiful storm petrel, sea swallow, delicate and small in the sky, low over the sea.
Bliss. And the light and the water, and the light on the water, and the wealth of beauty in the world makes such a nonsense of politics and politicians and their clamour. They have nothing of the glamour of a colony of gannets and talk about as much sense, if not less.