1st January. Early rise to paint as the sun comes up and the birds serenade with a dawn chorus outside the window. Gradually the silhouette of the tangled winter branches appears and more an more birds, blackbirds and wrens and bluetits and robins, gather while I paint the twisted tangled echo of the outside winter trees into the dreaming bear. The house is still sleeping as I struggle to work out how to organize my website to move the journal into a new year whilst keeping the old pages, and it makes my head hurt.
2nd January. Early morning painting followed by wild walking on the cliffs at Ramsey Sound, where the wind and the current whipped the sea so that it looked like a herd of wild white horses flowing through the channel. Great slate backed peregrines flew from the cliffs and raven. Out in the Sound tiny white terns dipped in and out of the waves and were chased by a seal.
6th January. Wind in the early evening runs across the roof and throws rain like stones at the windows. A day of birds, a hawk in the road, another on the Dowrog and a kestrel over the moor. All day taking down the exhibition and by the end of the day my back aches and my arms are sore. Guardian bear hangs in the bedroom. The paintings wait for their next trip away. Ice Bear text inches closer to getting a publisher.
7th January. All night the wind raged and roared around the house. The ferocity of the storm woke me more than once . The wind spun around the house and shook the widows and pushed its fingers under the roof tiles and rattled the bones of the house until it felt like a storm tossed ship at sea. I gathered the dogs to lie beside me and read for a while as the storm raged.
In the day I cleared the last of the exhibition away. The walls at the refectory looked bear but will soon be covered again with other work. I lit three candles in the cathedral, for a brave and beautiful friend, and their light filled up the vast space and the flames were warm. Sat for a while in The Lady Chapel and thought. Early morning, the cathedral is empty and the space so huge. So many people have prayed here and worshipped, but I feel more at home on the top of a hill or under a tree, by a stream or beside the sea than caged in these stone walls. Still, a moment of peace in a busy week, the candles dance.
Late in the evening I watched "The Snow Leopard, Beyond the Myth" by Nisar Malik and Mark Smith. Together they captured this beautiful animal on film to show not only to the world but to the people who share the space with her. The leopard was so wild a creature. She moved over the face of the mountains and not one rock fell beneath her massive paws. Her strength was immense, her beauty beyond words and their respect and awe so good to see. The landscape was stunning. What was not good was the scientists who came and caught and collared the leopard in the name of scientific research, so that they could better understand the animal, so that they could protect her. I fail to understand the attitude that feels it has the right to even touch such a creature, let alone put a collar and blue ear tags on it so that we can measure and track and trace her movements. Surely this is the attitude that has pushed many animals to the brink, this sure and certain feeling that we have the right to invade the life of a wild thing in such an intrusive way.
For an interview with Nisar Malik, by Rina Saeed Khan, and for more on the filming of the wild leopard and the markhor rut, which was also remarkable, click here.
19th January. It rained on the day that I drove to Robin's. Great sheets of rain fell from the sky. It would seem that it rained all the time we were away too as the land is awash with water. The streams have filled and fed the rivers and they are now full and fast, overflowing across the landscape. Trees rise out of lakes. At Tewkesbury the river has swollen fat and burst its seams again. The Wye too is fat with water.
At home the moonlight silvers the path from the car to the house and now it is a stream not a path! The cats are pleased to see me. In the post a copy of The Ultimate First Book Guide by Leonie Flynn, Daniel Hahn and Susan Reuben. I knew that How the Whale Became was in there, but also there is Mariana and the Merchild, Can You See a Little Bear and The Seal Children.
America seems like a distant dream already. So scared of going, of flying, of just being there, but such a good time. Too many photographs so it has to have a page of its own, so to see American images click here. Time has flown by and when I left the moon was a cat-claw in the sky. Now it is swelling towards full.
22nd January. Bright white egret dances by the water's edge in Solva. Two days of being back to painting and the quiet of the studio, not answering the phone.
Meanwhile I wrote an article for Worcestershire Life Magazine in January. They used big images of paintings to illustrate the piece, mostly memories of growing up in Worcestershire.
28th January. Walking along the shore before dawn while curlews cry across the waves. Phosphorescent creatures shine at the tide's edge, stars fallen from the deep. Driving to Tenby to work in St Florence school, reading and painting and talking about stories.
29th January. Early morning dog walking, curlew music and a fox jumps infront of the car on the way home. All brushed up with fear he flows down from the hedgebank, twists and swift foots it back up again. An instant, a flash of russet wildness in the gloaming.
30th January. Peace and painting for the first time in ages and I try to ignore the growing chaos of mess around me and draw sketches of twisting hares, praising to the moon and paint the snow dragon, pulling more of him out of the page. But the house weeps and cries to be cleaned. Front cover for The Mad Ship looks good and looking forward to seeing the others while working on roughs for The Soldier Son books and the cover for for Singing to the Sun still needs to be done, it seems by the 15th January, so I decide that now I have to tidy the house, if only to discover where I left the time machine.
31st January. Still haven't found the time machine. Walking dogs by the edge of the sea in a lull in the storm. Splinters of seaweed, wave polished stones, a barred feather, fishing float with goose barnacles, a shrimp as fragile and translucent as sea glass. The sea roils and boils and throws up spindrift like a snowstorm and the wind so cold it burns your ears. Almost finished first dragon for book.