Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Time Thief

Yesterday I spent most of the day gathering together the lost hours from all of the beings that are in and around my house. ( In the UK we have a curious system of time, run by clocks, where once a year the hands of time are turned backwards at 2 am.)
There were four human hours, all different. Each of the hours I caught in a net and moulded into a solid small bead. There were four dog hours that looked a little lazy and ill formed and four cat hours, bright beads like amber. In corners, almost hidden, I found complicated, soft spider hours, fast and scuttling mouse hours and outside there were feathered, drowsy flicks of bird hours, huddled in bundles in warm places. The hours were all from two in the morning. The birds had been sleeping.
It was a warm night, so to add to my string there were aerymice hours from the fast furious hunters of the starlit sky. These were dark, almost so dark that you could not see them, only visible from eye corners. And there were owl hours, curved like claws with moonlight a crescent in their form, somewhere.
And because it was All Hallows Eve there were other hours around from people and creatures who had lived in the house far back to when the stones were gathered from the fields around and shaped into walls. These were the hardest to catch.
Each bright bead formed from stray hours was different in character from the next. Each I gathered to myself, greedy to capture more time for when I needed it. As I strung the hours together the weight of time grew heavy, the hours all lay, coiled around and upon each other, each more beautiful than the last.
By the end of the day I was tired but the moonjar was full and I had hopes of how to use all the time I had trapped. I have so much work to do. I have to finish A Rhyme In Time by the end of January so that it can go to press to be published in the autumn of next year. I have some other work that I must push forward on as my part of this is one of the building blocks of a major project and it cannot progress without some drawings, some paintings. There are paintings that I wish to do, friends who I want to spend my time with and I would like to get out and walk more. And above all I would like time to just sit and think, either at home in the silence of the house or on the hillside, above the sea.
So, I thought I would test my time machine. A mouse hour would be good. Small, and round, it flickered with a nervous energy as I popped it into my mouth and swallowed it down.
What happened next was hard to explain. Mice live in a different time zone from humans. I know that now. An hour was like a year, but I could not use it wisely. Instead I hurried fast around the house, nervously pulling at this and at that, jumping at every loud noise, a minute seeming to be an hour, heart beating faster than the ticking clock. A bird hour was more elegant, but no more use to a human. I just wanted to be out of the house and could almost feel the place where my wings should be, and I yearned for the sky. The hour of a bird trapped in a human throws itself against the cage of the body in its desire to be free.
It had been a good idea, had made a beautiful collection, but it would never work.
You just can't capture time, although, if you are lucky you can steal a little of someone else's with an elegant pattern of words.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Just when you think it is safe to go back to the house work.....

Tidying up my studio and astonished that what I thought were dust buffaloes were in fact dust diplodocusses, made from ancient prehistoric dust that has gathered since the dawn of time and layed dormant beneath my desk. Unfortunately I have woken it now with the hoover.
On a brighter note I discovered a solution to what I thought was a balance problem, decided that I like the pig, and found a cheetah with five cherries and some gold.



 Home now for two weeks and during that time I have been struggling with the cover for A Rhyme in Time. The first two attempts were complete failures. Ugly, stiff, static, badly drawn, wrong, wrong, frustratingly wrong. Hours of sitting and painting wasted. Evetually I went and walked through a couple of fields and caught a glimpse of something better.
Hours of painting and at last I think I have finished. Wrapped up in the cover are rhymes from inside: 

Hark hark, the dogs do bark.
Tom, Tom the piper's son.
Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross.
Cock-a-doodle do.
 Sing, sing, what shall I sing? 
Four and twenty tailors went to catch a snail.
I saw a ship a sailing.
Jack be nimble.
How many miles to Babylon.
All the pretty little horses.

The painting came from many places. A love of watches, a memory box, a carousel seen in Milton Keynes, the work of Terry Gilliam, keys, clocks and stars and the mad anarchic nature of nursery rhymes.

Now I am tidying up my studio, looking and thinking, and then I will move on to the next painting.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Weasels watch me while I work.

Outside the wind is soaring across the roof, the sky is a low ceiling of darkness, heavy with the weight of water. As each day passes my studio gets messier, but also the cover inches towards being done. I hope to finish today, then tidy and blog and begin again with something new on Monday. And I am daunted by the amount of work I have to do to get this book finished by January's end.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Of Cakes and Covers

Early morning painting as the sun came up. The front cover is almost finished now. Almost, not quite and still the back cover to do.

Meanwhile the scent of chocolate cake lingers from yesterday as the cake was left to cool in my studio, safe from the teeth of hungry dogs.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Morning Song.

Things that are beautiful:
First light, as the sun rises over the horizon. An every day miracle.
The song of birds that greets the coming of the light.
Stars, still shining in the early morning sky.
The sound of wings brushing the air.
Time, stretched ahead. A whole new day, perfect. Each hour may hold the promise of an unexpected surprise. 
The bone moon in the twilight sky, fading as the sun begins to rule the day, an eternal dance.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Music and movement

 Back cover for A Rhyme in Time

Woke this morning to see the stars of Orion striding across the sky outside my window. Above the garden only constellations and the bone moon shone in the dark. This week will be better than last and I now have something that is working. So this week is just one for colouring in. And I will have music to distract me. Yesterday I listened to the life's work of Seth Lakeman so far. Love listening to the developement of his sound. I almost didn't buy the new cd and am so glad that I ignored the reviews which were sometimes negative. So good, strong, vibrant. My favorite is still the original pressing of Freedom Fields.
Today I will listen to Karine Polwart.
This week musicians will keep me painting.


Sunday, October 24, 2010


This year's MBF card is now for sale, but they are experiencing 'some difficulties ' with their website. The shop is impossible to find but you can get to it through this link. I would advise calling them by phone to place an order though as all is not well with the website. Their phone number is 020 7239 9100. Email address for them is Mugs are also still available, but selling fast I am told.
As for the book cover, I am getting there. Slowly. 
Signing books later today in The Shed in Porthgain ( if the sea is calm enough for rowing to be on).

Friday, October 22, 2010

There is no way to spell how this makes me feel inside.

Finally found a way to make it work but the painting is still not sitting right. So have sent another rough to my publishers, much lighter, much more movement and much more representative of what is between the covers.

And you can play 'spot the nursery rhyme' with this one. 

Outside the window clouds fly over the green land, sun slants long shadows.

The problem with book covers is that I have a few years of difficult ones behind me. And there are so many books of nursery rhymes that I have to make mine stand out. So, time to start again and maybe third time lucky.
Outside there are flocks of small songbirds, chaffinches that are here for winter. I am waiting for fieldfare and redwing. Listening to David Hughes. Being a Poet is wonderful as is An Ordinary Life. Wonderful guitar and lyrics. And when I was away he gave me a cd of a new song about Venice and romance and a handsome man. And I do love his Song For England, such a beautiful love song.
Time to face the blank page again.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Two days of drawing and painting and what was coming out was ugly. So, this morning started again and now I am sure that what is coming out is too tight. Self doubt and the monster of self loathing are working hand in hand. 

In the post today, a copy of The Well, sent by Jennifer Warnes. Wonderful. Particularly loved her version of Tom Wait's Invitation to the Blues. So lovely of her to send it to me. She keeps me painting and gives me courage. And right now I need all the courage I can get.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Home again home again, jiggerty jig.

Two weeks away, lots of exciting adventures, a camera full of photographs, tigers, dragons and bears, but........ I have only three months to finish Nursery Rhymes and work on another project so blogging time will be pushed to the edges of painting time. I have two weeks to get the cover for A Rhyme in Time painted so that my publishers can get a 'blad' together for the sales teams to use both here and in the USA.

A few things to mention in passing, there will be pictures and more detail later.
1. Tell Me a Dragon is shortlisted for the Norfolk Childrens Book Award.
2. I did go to London Zoo and I did feed tigers, and met a man who knows a great deal about big cats.
3. Frances Lincoln are considering publishing my novel. 
4. Norfolk is beautiful.
5. It is very difficult to ravel on the trains in the UK these days. Feels very Alice in Wonderland. Strange.
6. Evelyn Williams is as elegan now as she was when I met her 20 years ago.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The week in brief.

In the past week I have read to over a thousand children. I have set dragons flying and free in Hackney and Stockport and Brabraham and Norwich. I have read The Ice Bear through a few times, and I have rediscovered a very insistent small hatchling dragon who very much wants his own story. I have met very lovely children and teachers and booksellers. My evening event with the North Norfolk Children's Book Group was astonishing. So many people turned out on a warm October evening to a small motel in Aylesham. The room was full and children sat at my feet and looked and listened as I read.
Now I have much to think about and a busy week next week before I can go home to work. But for today all I have to do is play.
One of the things I discovered last week was that The Ice Bear was a book of the month on Love Reading last month, which is good. And Tell Me a Dragon is shortlisted for the Norfolk Children's Book Award. Last year's winner was a fantastic book, There Are Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwarz, a brilliant page turning picture book for young children. I watched her reading this at The Starlit Festival and she was fantastic.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It is raining soft rain on fallen golden leaves in England.

Walking with Robin and his dog, Larry, around the water meadows of Stony Stratford and on the banks a family of swans sit, preening. They have done well this year. Six gray signets. The river moves slowly past weeping willows still heavy with leaves that are beginning to glow golden. Those that have fallen beneath the trees hold the light and throw it back up into your face.
Yesterday's journey was long as I stopped in St Davids where Hannah made me  sandwich, then in Haverfordwest to pick up a horse and a tiger in a teacup, and on to Whitland where a sudden urge to knit sent me into Colourways. Hoping to sit and knit, on the train, in hotel rooms in between sessions. I have yarn and bamboo needles, though they had the most beautiful wooden needles in the shop. I will be working from pattern for the 'drifter' sweater from the Rowan catalogue, but love the scarves too, especially the traveler scarf and Alisa. Then on to Raglan Castle where I ate Hannah's sandwich. All along the way the trees were just turning towards autumn.
I found it hard to leave Pembrokeshire on such a beautiful day. At Newgale a line of horses was strung out across the beach again, reminding me of Epona's necklace, so I hope I get time and space to doodle in sketchbooks.
I have my camera, have learned how to upload photos from my iPhone to Facebook, so I am hoping to find time to blog.

So, tomorrow I will be at The Starlit Festival in Hackney then off to Stockport on the train.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Where the streets are paved with gold and oysters can be found.

I have to pack to go away for two whole weeks and I have never been away for two weeks in all the 20 years I have lived here. Two weeks of traveling around England working in schools, meeting children, booksellers, staying in hotels.

1. Dragons, bears, cats and the snowleopard.
2. Silver, amber and the coat of a pirate.
3. Tools. Brushes, paper, sketchbooks, pencils and pencil case, colours, camera, computer ( small one) dummy books.
4. Script and sketchbook for doodling ideas.
5. Clothes. Goodness me. Enough for two weeks. Expect to look a little ragged by the end.
6. A book to read. Just one. Am going to The Book Hive in Norwich on Friday 8th, in the afternoon and before that to The Norfolk Children's Book Centre, so expect to pick up a book or two. And will be singing the praise of Gillian Philip's wonderful book, Firebrand as I go, just because I love selling other people's work and this book is a star!
7. POWERPOINT. Makes it very easy to read the book to children, but am beginning to think that these days they have enough of screnes. I can show sketches easier though, and the whole process of how a book comes to be.
8. Itinerary, so I know where I am going.
9. Train tickets.
10. Oyster. I am told that you need to have an oyster to travel in London these days. That you have to 'swipe' your oyster. Strange place, but hey, have oyster, will travel! Oh, and you can get your oyster topped up in a newsagents. ( Is it just me, or does that sound a little odd. Funny place, London. Streets are paved with gold, or so I am told).