Honey π

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.

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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.

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So maybe Big Dog, Little Dog will be a book, and maybe Ivy will stop growling at Honey π, the dog with the longest name in the world ( 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582097494459230781640628620899862803482534211706798214808651328230664709384460955058223172535940812848111745028410270193852110555964462294895493038196442881097566593344612847564823378678316527120190914564856692346034861045432664821339360726024914127372458700660631558817488152092096282925409171536436789259036001133053054882046652138414695194151160943305727036575959195309218611738193261179310511854807446237996274956735188575272489122793818301194912983367336244065664308602139494639522473719070217986094370277053921717629317675238467481846766940513200056812714526356082778577134275778960917363717872146844090122495343014654958537105079227968925892354201995611212902196086403441815981362977477130996051870721134999999837297804995105973173281609631859502445945534690830264252230825334468503526193118817101000313783875288658753320838142061717766914730359825349042875546873115956286388235378759375195778185778053217122680661300192787661119590921642019…) π for short.

I guess that’s what happens when you do a book about numbers.

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Bella, who was kind to kittens. Elmo, who is pictured above ignoring the π

 

 

 

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Heartwood

I wrote a short story to go with an image I had painted for The Woodland Trust.

The story is set in a real place, a beautiful place, near Dulverton.

You can find the story here,

download the eBook of the story here.

Please feel free to share.

Most of the illustrations used with the story are from The Wild Swans.

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A rock and a hard place

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Footpath, flowers, tea and small acts of kindness

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.

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CILIP run a wonderful website and you can see films of all the shortlisted illustrators talking about their books. It’s worth looking back over previous years too. In a world where there are so many books published you can build a library for your child by gathering together past winners and also shortlisted books and be assured that there is a level of excellence in all of the books.

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.

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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.

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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.

CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2016 – Sydney Smith talks about Footpath Flowers from CILIP CKG Children’s Book Awards on Vimeo.

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There is also a film of the book:

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.

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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.

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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.

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Pronghorned eelhounds

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.

pronghornedFavourite 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.

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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.

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(Artwork for sale at The House of Golden Dreams)

To purchase leave a comment or send me an email.

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Yesterday, the sea. Today, the land.

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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.

pathway 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.

greenheart foxglvery foxgloves maesym northwards ivine 2dogs  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.

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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.

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Falcon Boats

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.

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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.

grasholm grasholm2 grasholm3 grasholm6 seabirdcity grasholm61 seacliffs 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.

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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.

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One Thursday morning at Hay Festival

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The flowers at Hay Festival are always beautiful.

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This year there were banners with words from Shakespeare dotted around the site, made by students from Hereford College of Art.

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We had gone to watch King of the Sky, written by Nicola Davies and soon to be a book. A wonderful production.

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Afterwards Nicola signed books in the book tent.

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I found a copy of Jonathan Unleashed by Meg Rosoff and it seems to have made its way home with me.

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I love the colour at Hay, flags billowing in sunshine and wind.

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Lunch with the caste and crew was good, then home, via Fire and Ice in Narberth and Druidstone Hotel for supper. Now. Back to reality. Time to finish The White Fox, and the final design and layouts for The Quiet Music.

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Land, sea, sky….

beautiful landsea howblue dogstick…and a dog with a stick.

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Just Giving: Time, money, love.

If you are lucky  you meet some remarkable people in your life. I met Robin in 2002. He just walked in to my friend’s house. Sarah and I were having a cup of tea while our children were at an after school class. There was a knock on the door and she jokingly said, ” That’ll be a man for me.”  “You’ve already got one, I think you will find that one is mine,” I replied. Many a word spoken in jest…. 14 years later he’s still here in my life and I am glad.

It is not uncommon for a remarkable man to have remarkable parents also. And children. Some months ago Robin’s mother died. She had achieved a ripe old age. Her passing was peaceful. More peaceful than her early life. Some weeks ago I sat with Clare, his daughter, and we read through some of her papers together. Letters. Letters from an ‘agent’ she had commissioned to discover whether her parents were still alive, and, if not, what had happened to them. You see, Lottie was a Jew, and she was born in Germany, and at some time I will write a book about her.

So, imagine. You are 14 years old and have been sent to school in a foreign country by parents with foresight and financial resources to get you to a safe place. Letters from home stop. You speak English a little, but have to leave school because your sponsor seems to have disappeared and you are alone. Aged 14. No money. You can’t get help from the Jewish Refugee board because you aren’t classified as being a refugee. And all around you are people, some who would help, others who find a pretty young  girl alone to be a very attractive thing. Lottie survived, but then imagine. What we were reading were the letters from her agent that told her how her parent’s house was empty, how they had been moved to a ghetto, to Minsk, how there were a few survivors, but her parents were not amongst them and how they had died a terrible death. How she stayed sane and grew up to raise two children and grandchildren and then great grandchildren is a feat of heroism.

People ask why Syrian children are sent off alone, unaccompanied. Sometimes it is because they have no one left. Sometimes it is a desperate attempt to get them to a place of safety.

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Clare is one of Lottie’s grandchildren. Jordan is her partner and they are two wonderful people. They are collecting money to take to Calais to help the refugees in the camp there. Last time they went they took food, bags of carrots and onions and potatoes and the kitchens were opened for the first time in three days because of this.

They have a just giving page.  They are donating their time to work in the camp, to help. One of their number is a teacher and he is training so that in his summer holiday he can spend two weeks working in the camp. If you can, send them a little to help. You can buy a good many carrots with £10.

I have decided to auction a piece of work in order to help them raise some money.

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The piece I have chosen is Nighteyes, from Robin Hobb’s books. This is an unpublished painting. Why Nighteyes? Because Bee dreams of her Wolf Father who watches over her and everyone needs a Wolf Father. Not because there are so many human wolves out there ready to prey on the vulnerable. Because there are also many people out there like Jordan, like Clare, desperate to help as they watch the inhumanity of our governments actions.

To bid, leave a comment in the comments box on this blog. Bidding starts at £50. PLEASE increase your bids by at least £5 a time. Please share. The bidding will close on June 1st, and please remember this isn’t eBay, don’t wait to the last minute to get a bargain, this is an attempt to raise money to help people who have nothing. All bids must be in £ sterling so if the bid is from abroad please use a currency converter before making your bidAll comments have to be approved by me and I will try and do this regularly, but I will also be painting, so please be patient with me.

Please share, tweet, link, blog.

I will contact the winner and their payment must be made direct to the Just Giving page, ONLY once I confirm that they are the winner of the auction. I will then send them the painting, and happy to send anywhere in the world.

If you can’t bid on the painting but want to  give, even  a little bit please do. Here’s the link again to the Just Giving page. If you can’t, and let’s face it, these days not many people have money to spare, draw a chair for the #3000chairs campaign with The Guardian. Although the government have said they will allow children into the UK they have now erected a massive fence of bureaucracy, by placing the problem with individual councils to come up with plans for where the children will be placed. As a result it may be Christmas before a single unaccompanied child enters the UK. We can do better than this in the 21st Century.

If it wasn’t for the kindness of strangers Lottie wouldn’t have survived the holocaust, Robin wouldn’t have been born, Clare wouldn’t be. It’s a matter of live, and death.

 

Image size 24cms x 34cms

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