What I Did on My Holidays: Part the Second – Dartmoor

Note: If you click on a picture, that should take you through to its Flickr page, where you will have an option to view a larger version.

Part One is here: Brisbane Airport and Oslo.

Then I flew to Heathrow, hired a car and drove across England to the middle of Dartmoor. This was not as simple as it sounds. Reverse was in an unfamiliar location, I’d never used a GPS before, the lanes when I reached them were as wide as the car, I kept forgetting which side the indicators were on and for a while I didn’t think I’d ever escape the gravitational pull of Heathrow.

Scattered impressions:  Driving

But I made it to Dartmoor, unscathed. After a day I was scampering happily around the lanes, and did not have an altercation with a lorry until after Dartmoor was behind – but I am getting ahead of myself.

That week was enchanted. Art and music, poetry and puppetry, commedia dell’arte and rosehips, cream teas and rambling.

Page 04

Paths lined with blackberries, evenings with lady writers.

Page 05

Bells and pubs and bushy-eyebrowed lurchers.

Page 06

Driving over moors and meeting black dogs.

Scattered impressions: Black Dog

Dashing outdoors with my pockets full of pens whenever the sun shone.

Scattered impressions: Sunshine

Bell ringing and Jacobean manor house hotels.

Page 07

Musical evenings, with dogs and hearth pipes, violins and accordions.

Page 08

The haunting beauty of Wistman’s wood, like the garden at the heart of an emerald.

Page 09

Moor ponies and honour boxes.

Page 10

Endless kindness and hospitality, conversations, walks. The swift familiarity of a tiny town, the constant astonishment of finding oneself in any of a dozen fairytale landscapes. Quiet hours in the cottage with Ellen and Delia, writing and reading, brisk walks across town to visit everyone. Walls of art, Terri’s poem-lined walls, lives lived as art, indistinguishable from their retellings, sunlit studios, studios reached by a ladder through a trapdoor. Puppets and harps, masks and puppetrymusic, songs and bells. Painted worlds bleeding from the spaces of one house to the next. People and objects from movies which have shaped my life – from my Narnia, the goblin worlds. Trees and faces which I knew from illustrations in my favourite books – Middle Earth in a stand of oaks, the mists and tors of The Hound of the Baskervilles,  Virginia Lee‘s strong sweet fairytales, Rima Staines‘ crabbed and earthy myths. Houses through which the civil war was fought. Birch and alder gardens haunted by sculptures and geese. Words and books, stairs steep and twisted as a screw. Stiles.

I do not know how long would be enough, whether that week was a world which can be returned to. I hope it is.

Too soon, it was time to leave for Brighton.

What I Did on My Holidays: Part the First – Brisbane Airport and Oslo

Note: If you click on a picture, that should take you through to its Flickr page, where you will have an option to view a larger version

This is a record of the slow-moving things I saw on my trip to Oslo and England for (among other things) the World Fantasy Convention 2013.

My flight out of Brisbane was delayed by 6 hours. Parts had to be flown up from Sydney twice.

Page 01

Raced through Changi airport (which is very long) and still made the connection! This is my confused impression of the flight. The part where I’m holding the blanket over my face is when I was watching Tarantino movies on too little sleep.

Scattered impressions: Flight

More sketches of the delay. But I and my luggage reached Oslo, via Helsinki (Helsinki airport is full of Moomins), as planned! I arrived in Norway as a blank slate, only having a few days and planning on spending that visiting an old friend. We had a lovely visit but Oslo, as it turns out, is also wonderful! We went to the Vigeland sculpture park, famous from lists of unintentionally terrifying statues. The inclusion on that list is unjust (also the least alarming of the statues). It is unsettling and beautiful – vast, weighty, humanist, nebulously meaningful and Giger-esque in the sense not of darkness but of belonging to a visual language which is almost but not-quite intelligible.

Also: Viking ships! A spare, dignified museum, with lines and artistic language utterly intelligible, but astonishing for scale and fluidity.

Page 02

It was getting cold and late, so my sketches from the Norse folk museum are merely “remember-to-come-back-here” sketches. But oh, that museum! It is acres of outdoor paths – a museum of buildings and streets, relocated entire. It was like walking through an Eyewitness Guide in the 20th century part, and back into East of the Sun, West of the Moon everywhere else.

The next day we went to the city hall. In my experience, civic buildings are usually either ancient and weighty or modern and utilitarian. This was 20th century and pregnant with meaning and detail – norse myths, World War II, vikings, mid-century art, painted ceilings, murals, mosaics. It reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones’ technologically developed fantasy worlds – deep, foreign and familiar.

Then some photography students asked us to pose for an assignment.

Page 03

It was too short a stay, (although quite a long time to have “To Noroway, to Noroway, to Noroway o’er the foam” stuck in my head) but I had to fly again – this time to England.

Next stop: Dartmoor.

I have returned!


I am back, I am dealing with jet lag which I never adequately believed in before, the sketchbook is scanned and I will begin posting it shortly.

However, to begin with, many congratulations to all the nominees and winners of the World Fantasy Award, and of course particular to Vincent Chong, winner of the Artist category with his sepia-soaked, textured worlds, and to my fellow nominees Didier Graffet and Dave Senior, with their clean effective design, J.K. Potter‘s dark collections and Chris Roberts‘ bright nightmares.