When I was young I had few books. The Orchard Book of British Folk Tales was one. This book of birds was another.
I loved this book so much, the illustrations which I would slavishly copy, learning the shape of a bird, the words. And now I wonder, is this one of the things that influence me towards the idea of having no title on the cover of a book? Perhaps. It’s so old now that the rich brown tawny owl colour has faded leaving only black and white. The spine is broken, pages falling from it. And I wonder if in 50 years time a grown up child will look back at The Lost Words in the way I look back at this, with love and that link to my child self that still lives so strongly inside me.
Published in 1967 this book links to The Lost Words. When I was a child there were more birds. Pesticides, pollution, cars, cats, hunting, trapping, all have taken their toll. But these small, wild creature survive around us and some even prosper despite us.
Soon The Lost Words will be released into the wild and I am going on tour for the book, to London, Cornwall, Compton Verney, through South Wales. I’m taking a painting to Dulverton. Last year it was seven rooks. This year it’s a charm that connects with the spells and the gold of The Lost Words.
I started painting it a few days ago, tweeting a bird here, there, building it slowly, drawing out the design as I went, with only the idea of teasels, finch and seven in mind.
Part way through the piece Chris from Storywalks sent me some words. The Seven Rooks had been an answer to something he had left in my studio. The original was long ago sold, but Number Seven have prints of them, will have prints of this.
Seven quick finches go teasel threading
Carding their quivers at the weavers wedding
Widdershins working before loom-ward tending
Seven quick finches come teasel threading.
I will be in the shop in Dulverton on Friday 27th October, painting, reading, talking. Do come if you can. It’s the most beautiful emporium of delights, and Dulverton in autumn is just gorgeous. The finches will have flown before me, and will be for sale in Number Seven, and prints will also be available.
Now, time to paint more birds.