December 2013


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.

Part Two is here: Dartmoor.

Part Three is here: World Fantasy and Brighton.

Here is a picture of my grace and elegance demonstrated every time I went outside:

The Dance of the Seven Veils

In York, I crashed Lisa Hannett’s hotel room, and we wandered the town centre, the Shambles and snickleways, which look like something out of Harry Potter or Disney, only real. We also went to the National Railway Museum which was wonderful. I love the romance of all forms of transportation (my honours thesis was on the role of the railway in British children’s novels) while retaining a very tenuous grip on any technical knowledge.

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There are also some sketches from the train to York.

We went on a ghost tour, rambled round the Minster, climbed to the top of the tower, looked for the gargoyles from Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and I sketched an archaeologist.

When Lisa journeyed on, I spent another day walking the walls and visiting Clifford’s Tower.

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I also had lunch at a church café in a 16th century parish hall, went to choral evensong again, climbed many tilted staircases in secondhand bookstores (acquiring in the end only a tiny red-bound version of the Rubaiyat) and sketched stone masons at the Minster. The next day I caught the train to Scotland, to visit Elizabeth Wein and her family. That is their cat.

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It was an exceedingly pleasant visit, featuring (among many things) icy mornings, piles of books, Lion King conversations, WWII ATA and airforce memorabilia, a constant undertone of volcano-construction and a toy accordion. She took me bellringer-watching again (I did not getting any more used to those tiny twisted staircases).

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And again, on memorial day. She showed me the Birnam Oak (Macbeth-Birnam, that is), and Scone Palace with its thick-iced fountain in the maze and slightly shabby winter peacocks.

I spent one day in Edinburgh, sketching at the Camera Obscura museum and Edinburgh castle, where I met a guide who had – as a very young man – interviewed an Australian (R M Williams) who caught a taxi from London to Scotland to obtain some poetry manuscripts.

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That night, I took the train to London, where I stayed (due to a colourful review) at the Pavilion Fashion Rock’n’Roll Hotel, in the War and Peace room. As the reviews suggest, it is not a hotel to be chosen for luxury or comfort, but for price and relentless (and hilarious) charm it is not to be surpassed. I loved it. How can the creakiest, hardest bed I ever slept in counteract the wonder of this miniature panorama of utter thematic consistency? I’m not sure, but the bathroom bin might even have been a shell casing.

War and Peace at the Pavilion

I spent most of my first morning drawing ducks and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

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I sprinted through the V&A, due to it being sunny outside, and spent the afternoon dashing in and out of bookstores near Charing Cross Road before going to see the musical of Mathilda with a friend from Brisbane.

The next day I planned to see more of London but changed my mind and platforms at Paddington and went to Oxford instead. I loved Oxford. The museum and café patrons are all erudite and enthusiastic, like characters out of Sayers or Walsh (depending on their age).

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The next day I started with three books worth of tourism in one blow – walking to Baker Street, travelling to the end of the Lewisham line and walking back to Greenwich, thereby netting the first line of The Magician’s Nephew: When Sherlock Holmes was living in Baker Street and the Bastables were digging for treasure in Lewisham Road….

I almost vanished forever in a junk shop, visited the fan museum, then went to the Royal Observatory where I drew people standing on the prime meridian and got teary-eyed over chronometers thanks Kendall’s poem “Five Visions of Captain Cook”.

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Below is a glimpse of my room at the Pavilion, from my vantage point in the canopied bed (you can see one foot). The bed was not comfortable, but the decor more than compensated. I think the bathroom bin may have been a shell casing.

I went for coffee with Stella at Egmont Publishing, which was lovely and exciting – especially the tour of the publisher and their library! – then went to Portobello Road for the sake of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and bought a marching soldier, a lead tiger and a box of tiny riderless horses.

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Then to the airport and so, by degrees, home again.

Returning

Lunchtime frivolities. Angela Slatter gave me the word “hurple”, and commanded a 500 word story. I now present:

Hurple, with Variations

“The English do not have 75 terms for a sidle,” said John Chen. “Rather, they sidle in 75 different ways. There is probably a Ministry for it. See below.” He indicated with a bony forefinger a pedestrian – black coat, scarf, hat. Collar to his cheekbones.

“Strunching,” suggested Heather Pettifer. “Striding while hunching.”

“Do be serious.”

“I am rarely earnest, but always sincere.”

Chen’s articulate, articulated shrug rippled from one shoulder to the other and terminated in an irritated shake of his head. “I have made a study of ambulation.”

“I believe I read your monograph.”

“Class, education, formative climate – a biography written in the million modifications of a walk. I have uncovered spies, rescued those without confidence from conviction as con artists. For amusement, I passed a chimneysweep off as minor royalty. This man is hurpling”

“Oh,” said Pettifer, faintly.

“My dear, the application of the term is simplicity itself –his limbs and shoulders are contorted, indrawn, neck bent so barely a glint of bronzed complexion (or gingerous eyebrow?) shows between felt and fabric. He imitates, inexpertly, the action of the tortoise, the wind slowing his progress to the speed of that noble beast.”

“Reptile.”

“You confuse poetic and forensic exactitudes. Major classification completed we turn to subtleties. His attitude is, I repeat, inexpert, his contortions overdrawn. Altogether, a caricature. His struggle, however, speaks less of dramatics than of unfamiliarity. The apparent disproportion of head and shoulders– a false perspective given by the collar – supports this.”

Pettifer tilted her head, an artist considering a composition.

Chen rushed onward.

“Hands in pockets, inhibiting the free swing of limbs. Not holding aloft the ubiquitous umbrella, suggesting the wisdom of the native, save that our man conceals no umbrella about him.”

“Of course,” murmured Pettifer, as if light dawned.

“Either he possesses none, or lost possession of it in the gale. He is therefore either unfamiliar with the device’s necessity or its principles of use. Then his stride – slowed by the ferocious breeze, yet straining to cover an open distance not found in these streets. The horseman’s easy roll rather than a sailor’s stagger, yet halting as if, though raised to certain footing, now unsettled by forced awareness of the hazards of gratings, leaf-drifts, ice and small dogs.”

“Taken together?” ventured Pettifer.

“At a hazard, an Australian stockman. Recently arrived, here against preference, nervous, and – as he vanishes from our view – on his way to this door to seek advice.”

“He is come to escort me,” said Pettifer, rising as the doorbell rang a beat too long. “You will like to meet him.”

Her bootheels tapped neatly on the stairs. In the hall, into which the housekeeper had admitted their subject, she lifted off their subject’s hat and ran her hand familiarly over the bald bronze pate.

“We shall have to get you an umbrella, old fellow,” she said, taking the guest’s metal hand from his pocket and examining the finger-joints. “And teach you to hold it. That nearly gave the game away.”

The End

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.

Part Two is here: Dartmoor.

After a last farewell to Dartmoor, a walk along the Cobb at Lyme Regis, an altercation with a lorry near the New Forest (huzzah for steady-nerved passengers and comprehensive insurance), and the GPS in a final effort to establish its supremacy taking us to Arundel Castle instead of the Metropole, Ellen, Delia and I arrived in Brighton for the World Fantasy Convention 2013.

That is Brian Aldiss with the tea.

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I don’t sketch at conventions as much as I used to, now that I know more people (one reason being Artist at Large at the Brisbane Writers Festival was so much fun was that I was officially meant to be drawing over talking). So I had a marvellous time at WFC, but did not draw many pictures. Most of my drawing was scribbling ideas during panels, e.g. this during the “Broads with Swords” discussion:

Swords

I did sit at the signing tables during the mass signing in order to draw everyone else – I learned last year that was a good vantage point. And one person did come up and ask me to sign a book I have a story in (ahem), so that was thrilling!

Here are two panels  of people you probably haven’t heard of: A YA discussion with Delia Sherman, Susan Cooper, Garth Nix, Neil Gaiman, Will Hill and Holly Black, and Nifty Shades of Fae with Tanith Lee, Joanne Harris, James Barclay, Angela Slatter, Lisa Hannett, Grahame Joyce and James Barclay. There are also a few Irene Gallo cameos in the pages, because I usually draw the people with cameras.

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Unfortunately, I was taken violently ill on Saturday evening and had to leave the art reception early to be miserable in my room. The hotel reception sent up Twinings Peppermint Tea as a sovereign remedy. Ellen also plied me with medicinal infusions the next day.

Taken Ill

As a consequence, I only have a tiny picture of my art at the show. I will post some better images of the pictures later!

Pictures at World Fantasy 2013

Absence of pictures aside, I had a wonderful convention – talked to a lot of people, mostly, which is the point. It is difficult to narrow down particular highlights, as I keep remembering things and people to mention – charming ladies’ literary dinners (after the ladies in question unpacked our car in a team while I sat trembling in the driver’s seat), operatic serenades over dinner with the Australian contingent, lunches where no-one simply shared common gripes or tried to curry favour but simply waved their hands and discussed shared enthusiasms (stories, Dianna Wynne Jones and Dorothy Sayers). And of course I wasn’t drawing during any of those conversations – I will try to draw you all next time!

Following the convention, Aimee (Aimee L, not Aimee-my-housemate) and I went touring Brighton. I drew Aimee photographing the giant seagulls. We also ate giant meringues. I bought this marvellous panorama history of Aviation (I want the Nobrow Press Leporello series to be longer and also all of them) and we visited the Royal Pavilion, where we both fervently wished for a coffee book on the subject of wallpaper restoration.

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The most touching moment was seeing the paintings of the music room when it was used as a hospital for Indian soldiers in WWI. It had the most beautiful ceiling, which Aimee is photographing here. We ate horrible hotdogs on the pier and collected Shelley to go to Thor II, and all the English people in the audience laughed at the scenes in Greenwich.

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The next morning, I caught the train to York, en route to Perth and London