How easy and how pleasant it has been to slide into doing nothing. Sleep, usually such a stranger to me, moved in and as if to make up for years of being shut out in the cold refused to leave my side. We snuggled up together, our slumbers interrupted only by visits from the toe stabbing demons.
Now I am more awake but the days are slow and remind me of childhood illness when in the recuperation phase, after the hubbub of breakfast and family preparations for work and school, the house returned to a blissful quiet and I was left with my books, my pencils and my toy farm.
Back then my waking hours were lost in the realms of Narnia, hoping for the stories never to end. Now the need to sleep has gone I am in that ‘other’ world of the 16th century, shadowing Thomas Cromwell as he picks his way through the snakes and vipers of the Tudor Court in “Wolf Hall”.
Then and now….
The first edition cover of the magical tales illustrated by one of my all time favourite illustrators Pauline Baynes and the portrait attributed to Holbein (one of 3) of the scheming Thomas Cromwell. Images thanks to Wikipedia
Reading: a guilty pleasure
It’s always been easy for me to take myself to other places, walk in others shoes and see through their eyes. Not in any hocus pocus way you understand but put me in an ancient place and, even on a sunny day with a chattering hoard of visitors I can feel the ghosts in my bones. Put me in a good book and I am transported. In this busy and disorganised year I had almost forgotten the joy of reading. There have always seemed to be other more important things to do.
But how wonderful it is just to let go and give in this guilty pleasure. Give me a vivid description told in beautiful prose, lay out a cast of fully rounded characters, hold out a hand and whisper that magic word ” imagine…..” and I will follow willingly.
When I was young I walked through Kipling’s steaming jungles with Riki Tiki Tavi by my side. Rode like the wind across the savage Mongolian steppes with Barbara Bartos-Höppner, leapt bulls in Knossos with Mary Renault and outwitted smugglers on the Romney Marsh with Malcolm Seville. I was the Little Match Girl, I climbed the Glass Mountain, I hesitated on the threshold of the Gingerbread House, fought bravely alongside King Arthur and stood on Mount Olympus with the Gods.
More recently I have travelled to India, South America and back to Africa through the letters of my grandfather but in this hectic year it all got a little lost.
Flay and Pew:
So I am grateful for this short slothful interlude and it wont be too onerous now I have succumbed to the luxury of reading. There isn’t actually much guilt because I really can’t do much except hobble slowly around the Ugly Bungalow. Even here literary figures have crept in and at night, when it’s quiet, there is a sinister feel to the place, as Chris with his cracking arthritic knees clicks from room to room, like Flay in the gloomy corridors of Gormenghast, whose..
“…passage across the room – in fact his passage through life – was accompanied by these cracking sounds, one per step, which might be likened to the breaking of twigs. “ from Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
Meanwhile I tap my way around with the doom filled menace of Blind Pew seeking to hand on the dreaded Black Spot.
Me thinks it has left my hand, fluttered out of the window and landed in the field just down the road because today I realised I could no longer hear the turkeys.
Mervyn Peake was of course an outstanding artist and another favourite of mine, whose depictions of his own characters have never been surpassed.. he also, coincidently, illustrated Treasure Island.. Here are his darkly beautiful drawings, firstly of Flay.. striding along with his wrapped knees,
and his heart rendingly sympathetic portrayal of Blind Pew.
Compare with the work of NC Wyeth
It’s always fascinating to see how different illustrators interpret a character. I admire them both immensely and they do different things. The Wyeth has fabulous drama, composition and painterly skill but Peake’s ability to engage our sympathy for even the darkest characters in both his writing and his drawing was, I think, quite profound .
And a huge and heartfelt thanks to you all for your many many kind and supportive emails, messages and communications. It is very VERY nice to know you are all there. Bear with me….sketches returning soon …unless I do find THE book. Then I might just slip in between its seductive pages and never re emerge. 🙂