1st June. Sunshine. Cool wind. Early morning birds singing. Teenage rooks hunch on the field fences, dark black notes on wire. Flowers for the cats who have been ignored all week with only the odd short walk as the exhibition eats away at time when I should be painting or writing or reading. Show comes down on Thursday evening.
Behind with work, a head full of bears and moths and birds and the Terry Pratchett calendar piece should have been with the publishers by now and is languishing in my studio. Tomorrow I will paint.
2nd June. Painting all day and rowing in the evening so now I ache, but the water was beautiful and a seal came up to watch. Tom and Hannah rowed too.
Some time ago I heard an alarming article about the publishing industry thinking that it would be a good idea to put recommended ages on books to "guide" purchasers in their choice. The words "no brainer" sprang to mind. As a kids I struggled to read until I was about 11 and enough of my contempories poured scorn on me to put me off attempting to learn to read for life. Fortunately I loved stories and so persisted. Had their been recommended reading ages on the books I doubt I would have ever been able to go out in public! Kids can be cruel. All develop at different ages. Books can be enjoyed by people from aged 0 to 90 if the story is good. Thankfully others thought the same and there is an online push to change the minds of the industry. Click on this link for details and sign up. I now illustrate picture books and so many times when a child has chosen a book that they love in a shop my heart has sunk as they have been told they are too old for it. Never too old for a picture book!
3rd June. Left my book, The Storyteller by Anthony Minghella, in The Shed in Porthgain so parked at Abereiddi and walked over the cliffs to pick it up, then back in the warm sun past wind hovering kestrels through a field so rich with flowers. At Porthgain the sunshine made everything bright and beautiful. Late at night the night before had finished the Terry Pratchet painting and gone to bed weary.
4th June. Walking with Claire who wanted a foxglove picture, so the photo below is for you, Claire, foxglove with slanting sunlight. Home to paint and gild seven rooks.
8th June. What goes up must come down so on Thursday 5th I took down all the paintings from the exhibition. In the morning I met a man who asked if I did discounts as it was the end of the show. When I said no and laughed he asked if I made a living doing what I do, and then dismissed me with a wave of his hand. Later I met a lovely lady who brightened my day again. Hard work carrying paintings, but Cath's sculptures looked wonderful alone in the setting, very powerful and peaceful. And so I began a trip down memory lane, not escaping the irony of driving across Wales and England to reach a small cottage by the sea for a holiday. As a child we would come to Torcross for two weeks in June and I remember sunshine and blue skies.
I was fascinated by the story of Hallsands, a ruined village just along the coast, where I used to sit among the ruins and draw and listen to the whispered voices of ghosts from the stones, so it was disappointing to find the way down to the ruins blocked and only a viewing platform to see them by. There are so many stories here. The stories of the people who woke at night in a storm to find the sea breaking over their houses and their fight for compensation as their community was wrecked by casual greed. Amazing to see what the village once was through old photos on the web, for though the houses now perch like cormorants on the cliff edge there was once a beach where washing hung in the breeze and children played.
Also the story of Operation Tiger and the training for the landings in France where many American soldiers lost their lives. There are graves in the churchyard of unknown sailors, so many stories, so many lives.
9th June. Yesterday we walked by the side of the lea at Slapton, with yellow poppies and dragonflies and warm sunshine. In the afternoon I did nothing but sit on a shingle beach and run small pebbles through my fingers.
The cottage has wifi and today amidst the junk mail and occasional bits of emails from publishers the weekly poem from pass on a poem floated into my inbox in sunshine and splendour. Every week this is a small gift that slows down time, but this week more splendid.
This week’s poem is a prose poem by Robert Byron (English 1905-1941)
ALL THESE I LEARNT
If I have a son, he shall salute the lords and ladies who unfurl green hoods to the March rains, and shall know them afterwards by their scarlet fruit. He shall know the celandine, and the frigid, sightless flowers of the woods, spurge and spurge laurel, dogs' mercury, wood-sorrel and queer four-leaved herb-paris fit to trim a bonnet with its purple dot. He shall see the marshes gold with flags and kingcups and find shepherd's purse on a slag-heap. He shall know the tree-flowers, scented lime-tassels, blood-pink larch-tufts, white strands of the Spanish chestnut and tattered oak-plumes. He shall know orchids, mauve-winged bees and claret-coloured flies climbing up from mottled leaves. He shall see June red and white with ragged robin and cow parsley and the two campions. He shall tell a dandelion from sow thistle or goat's beard. He shall know the field flowers, lady's bedstraw and lady's slipper, purple mallow, blue chicory and the cranesbills - dusky, bloody, and blue as heaven. In the cool summer wind he shall listen to the rattle of harebells against the whistle of a distant train, shall watch clover blush and scabious nod, pinch the ample veitches, and savour the virgin turf. He shall know grasses, timothy and wag-wanton, and dust his finger-tips in Yorkshire fog. By the river he shall know pink willow-herb and purple spikes of loosestrife, and the sweetshop smell of water-mint where the rat dives silently from its hole. He shall know the velvet leaves and yellow spike of the old dowager, mullein, recognise the whole company of thistles, and greet the relatives of the nettle, wound-wort and hore-hound, yellow rattle, betony, bugle and archangel. In autumn, he shall know the hedge lanterns, hips and haws and bryony. At Christmas he shall climb an old apple-tree for mistletoe, and know whom to kiss and how.
He shall know the butterflies that suck the brambles, common whites and marbled white, orange-tip, brimstone, and the carnivorous clouded yellows. He shall watch fritillaries, pearl-bordered and silver-washed, flit like fireballs across the sunlit rides. He shall see that family of capitalists, peacock, painted lady, red admiral and the tortoiseshells, uncurl their trunks to suck blood from bruised plums, whilethe purple emperor and white admiral glut themselves on the bowels of a rabbit. He shall know the jagged comma, printed with a white c, the manx-tailed iridescent hair-streaks, and the skippers demure as charwomen on Monday morning. He shall run to the glint of silver on a chalk-hill blue - glint of a breeze on water beneath an open sky - and shall follow the brown explorers, meadow brown, brown argus, speckled wood and ringlet. He shall see death and revolution in the burnet moth, black and red, crawling from a house of yellow talc tied half-way up a tall grass. He shall know more rational moths, who like the night, the gaudy tigers, cream-spot and scarlet, and the red and yellow underwings. He shall hear the humming-bird hawk moth arrive like an air-raid on the garden at dusk, and know the other hawks, pink sleek-bodied elephant, poplar, lime, and death's head. He shall count the pinions of the plume moths, and find the large emerald waiting in the rain-dewed grass.
All these I learnt when I was a child and each recalls a place or occasion that might otherwise be lost. They were my own discoveries. They taught me to look at the world with my own eyes and with attention. They gave me a first content with the universe. Town-dwellers lack this intimate content, but my son shall have it!
pass on a poem | www.passonapoem.com
10th June. Photos of holiday so far, red poppies, yellow poppies, sunshine and doorways.
11th June. A drive across Dartmoor to Princetown to visit Karen and Gordon at Greensvanes. Dartmoor was stunning in sunshine and bluesky, and it was wonderful to meet both Karen and Gordon and see their studio and the copper that echoed the colours of the golden river we had walked by earlier.
We left them and drove to Two Bridges, where an early piece by Karen danced in the wind on top of the roof of the hotel, raising a tankard to the half moon, and we walked to Wistmans Wood, ancient oak forest of twisted trees like a small version of TyCanol, but more inaccessible. On the edge of the wood butterflies danced, and dragonflies, and on a tor on the high moor above, a woman in a dress like the yellow petalled poppies danced and twirled in the warm wind.
For photos click through to a page that grows each day.
On Dartmoor for two days we stayed at The Forest Inn and The Two Bridges, and met a huge hound like something from a story book.
And for Dartmoor page click here.
After Dartmoor, the Cotswolds. Honey coloured cottages with roses and lavender, shop windows with Staffordshire pottery.
Then off to Birmingham to fly to Scotland for The Highland Schools Book Award.
Inverness has the most beautiful bookshop called Leakey's, a second hand bookshop full of treasures where I bought Tarka the Otter, which I read a teenager. I never realized how beautiful the writing is, like a prose poem about wildness. Inverness also has a Waterstones where I went to sign the five copies of The Snow Leopard that they had grudgingly taken. A long way to go to sign five books, from the West coast of Wales to the Highlands of Scotland, but at least the staff could find the books. So I signed them and then left them on the desk as the staff had all disappeared. The welcome to the shop was frosty, not a sniff of a tea bag and I slunk away having despoiled their stock with my signature. Little wonder that when offered the chance to support Waterstones Super Saturday Storytime by driving to Carmarthen and working for an hour reading stories so that they could take my books at a 60% discount on sale or return basis, for no fee, I decided that maybe I would just stay home and paint and walk instead. Bookshop signings can be soul destroying at times and I cheered myself up by fantasizing about signing all the books in the shop, wondering how many I would get through before someone stopped me! And what a shame that there was not even a mention of the Highland Schools Book awards in the store, no table with the shortlisted books on it, none of the children's reviews of the books, nothing, despite the fact that the Inverness branch supplied all the books for the awards. Thank goodness for the enthusiasm of the children the next day at the book awards.
Scotland was beautiful and tantalizing as I couldn't get out to the hills but the children I met were wonderful and they listened to stories and drew beautiful pictures. At the book awards I was more nervous than I thought I would be and so surprised when the Snow Leopard won the award for the picture book section. So pleased. All I could say was "Thank you".
Back at home a parcel was waiting all wrapped in tissue paper, the first advance copies of Singing to the Sun. Also waiting and tapping their claws in an irritated fashion were six cats, none too pleased that I had been away for such a long time.
23rd June. Feeling a little like I have lost a month and glad now to be home. Yesterday saw six magpies and today I can hear them chittering outside. Sunshine after a fierce storm and all washed clean. Sent off a deposit to Greensvanes and am looking forward to seeing what Karen does for me. Wandering around her website found another beautiful piece by her. Hoping that we can show work together in a year or two. Still amazed by the beautiful writing in Tarka, which was first published in 1927.
25th June. Over the last few days I have seen snakes and slow worms, and speckled brown butterflies dance in courtship. Magpies are storming the birdfeeders with raucous calls outside the kitchen, pied and beautiful with midnight blue feather flashes. I have walked on the cliff tops where wild carrot and the richest red clover are full of flowers and emerald beetles adorn the flowers. Stonechat chicks chip away at the wind. I have dreamed of dark rivers and otters and kingfishers. Words and stories are scrambling for attention. I have started the rough drawings for The Ice Bear and now I need very much to work so hard on the Dragons and Starlight.
27th June. Walking, working, on Starlight and The Ice Bear. The longest walk with Kiffer so far, over the hill in the water soft air and the lane that runs through Maes Y Mynydd is purple with campion and foxglove.
In the post today "How The Whale Became" arrived, reprinted by Frances Lincoln in paperback and out in August, so good to see it back in print.
29th June. It would seem that I have done few paintings this month, though have been working on Starlight and this work can be seen at the Starlight Journey blog, roughs for The Ice Bear and thinking of other things. Reading Tarka the Otter and drawn to rivers on Saturday walked by the river at Nevern, a village with a church built on ancient pagan ground where a standing stone remains in an ancient yew tree enclave, and inside a twisted cross is imbedded in the Christian architecture. On the footpath by the river,an old path of pilgrimage, the footsteps of many have worn deep into the stone and crosses mark the pilgrim's way. The path wanders as winding as the shallow river where salmon ar swimming, and secret otters. Bought a map to trace the river and its names. There are cottages so close to the river that you could sleep with the river's lullaby singing all night. Most seem to be holiday homes.