How doth the little dragon fly…

17 06 2015

How doth the little dragon fly
A-sparkle in the sun
And dance and shinmer in the sky
It looks like smashing fun!
And sometimes when he flies too low
The people stop and stare
To see him hover oh so slow
And get stuck in my hair!

If Lewis Carroll hadn’t thought of a crocodile first, he might have written something like this instead…


Meet Fizzy Goodwater…

16 06 2015

Afternoon all!

Finally had time to work on a character design that’s been rattling round my head for a while now. She’s called Fizzy Goodwater, and yesterday I did a quick doodle of her whilst travelling home by train from York after my work shift was cancelled:

She was still fizzing around in my head this morning, so instead of getting on with boring housework stuff, I took some time to sit down and have a proper go at drawing her:

I’m quite pleased with how she’s developing. 

I can’t take the credit for her name though – that was my other half, describing a rather nice bottle of cava – as soon as he said it, her image popped into my head!
Laters… x

Drama at Selby station…

15 06 2015

Sat at Selby Station,
Waiting for a train,
I see a little beetley-thing
Emerging from a drain.

It runs across the platform
On legs wildly erratic
And hurls itself right off the edge –
Disturbingly dramatic.

Leaving Selby station
I ponder on its fate:
Unlike the train to Staleybridge*
The beetley-thing is late.

*Except I was travelling to York.  Staleybridge sounded better though.

Musings on two Things…

4 06 2015

Good morrow, fair readers! Look out, this is a long one – accidentally long, not intentionally long in a vague attempt to make up for not posting for over a year.

Every now and then, my work travels put me in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. In the last couple of weeks this has happened not once, but twice. Cor! There was a certain amount of stress involved, in that my work roster is published a couple of months in advance and is Subject To Change (cue ominous flourishes from the brass section), and that I’d need to do some pretty intensive sucking-up to The Train Gods to make sure I didn’t get delayed on my travels and end up not in the right place at the right time, but I went ahead and bought tickets for Two Things anyway, and much to my hurrahment the shifts in question didn’t change, and The Train Gods were kind.

One shift involved a 3.45am start from London, finishing in Exeter and getting back to a hotel in London about 12 hours later on 28th May.

The other, on 1st June, involved a more sociable 9.15am start in Newcastle, finishing back in Newcastle at 5ish and travelling up to Edinburgh ready for a shift starting at lunchtime the next day

And the Two Things?

An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer at Hackney Empire in London on 28th May, and an Amanda Palmer solo gig at Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh on 1st June

So there I was on 28th May, back in my hotel room in Ealing, installing some serious matchsticks into my eyes and consuming large amounts of a caffeine based liquid before heading off to Hackney to meet one of my oldest and bestest of pals at the hostelry opposite Hackney Empire. This was an excellent added bonus – her work schedule is about as random and unpredictable as mine (actually, more so) so we don’t get the chance to get together very often. Just before 6.30pm we headed across the road, waved our tickets at the tickety people, and entered Hackney Empire.

Ooooh, it’s a grand old place! We were seated in the circle, slap bang in the middle, with an excellent view of the stage (and near the loos, which is always handy, because You Never Know). Much of the hour or so before the show started was spent admiring the ornateness of the theatre, wondering if those two big vaguely egg-shaped things high up either side of the stage opened up to reveal anything exciting* (like extra-special privileged seats, or a naked Neil and Amanda dancing to the Tales of the Unexpected theme tune) and realizing that we hadn’t really needed to go in when the doors opened because we had tickets so could have just arrived a few minutes before the show was due to start (my excitement was probably to blame for that). Also – and I can’t remember why now – we discussed heckling, and decided that shouting “Show us your willie!” to Neil Gaiman when he came on stage would be hilariously funny. In our defence, we’ve known each other since school so there’s always a certain amount of silly schoolgirlness involved when we meet up. And neither of us has really grown up properly yet.

Anyway. The lights dimmed, and look – there’s that brilliant writer bloke and his musical wife! The show nearly didn’t go on when an innocent looking comfy chair on stage turned nasty and tried to swallow Amanda whole, but she’s a fighter and managed to escape. And that turned out for the best, as it meant they got to snuggle up together on the chaise longue, which was rather sweet.

The evening consisted of Neil reading stuff, Amanda playing stuff (on piano and ukulele), them nattering, and some special guests popping in to do stuff too. And it rather felt like we were all just hanging out at their house with their friends popping in to say hi every now and then. It was hugely cosy. Mitch Benn popped in to borrow a cup of sugar and sang a song. Roz Kaveney dropped in twice (once by mistake) to return the lawnmower and read a poem. Hayley Campbell turned up to have a root around in the attic and told a story, and Andrew O’Neill blew in on the wind to borrow a pint of (vegan) milk and made us laugh lots. Finally, because Neil and Amanda are such pleasant hosts, they all came back together for a general natter, and did actions whilst Amanda played her Ukulele Anthem (which even their imminent baby got involved in by causing an acid reflux moment). I wonder if the vibrations of the uke resting on the baby set if off? Will it be born holding a teeny uke? Will it pick one up at a year old and delight its parents with renditions of all Amanda’s songs, learned by heart after having been to so many gigs and having the songs vibrate their way into its musical nodes?

It was a delightful and extraordinary evening, based around the theme of “Saying the Unsayable”, which also happened to be the theme of that month’s issue of The New Statesman which Neil and Amanda had guest-edited. So there were some pretty powerful subjects discussed. Neil’s “Credo” was beautiful and right. Amanda’s performance of “Bigger on the Inside” made our eyes leak. Andrew O’Neill’s timing was spot on (neither of us had heard of him before, but we’ll be keeping our eyes open for him now). Hayley Campbell’s story was delightfully dark and amusing. And hey, guess what – you can read them all in that issue of the New Statesman! But not Amanda songs, because no-one’s worked out yet how to print songs in a magazine so you can hear them properly. And oh, how could I forget! Neil sang a delightfully-dark (I’ve used those words before but I’ll use them again because I can because I’m writing this so there) song about googling, accompanied by Amanda, which was funny and sad and he sounded a bit like Leonard Cohen would sound if he was Neil Gaiman. Which was nice.

So that was about the size of it. A lovely evening, and we both managed to catch our last trains home/hotelward, which was a relief. Oh, and the next day I realized the copy of the New Statesman I bought was signed by them both, so that was a nice little added bonus.

And now I’ll move on to the 1st June, and once again the Train Gods smiled on me and I got to Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh by about 7pm, having had just enough time to change out of my orange hi-visibility railway gear and into something a little less ridiculous and, er, orange. Once inside and after finding my seat, I went to say hello to Claire, who I don’t know. But I do. If you see what I mean. Let me explain. When the tickets went on pre-sale, you had to be with a certain mobile phone network to get them. Handily, I was so I got one. Then I noticed a tweet from Claire asking nicely if anyone could help because she wasn’t with that certain mobile phone network and desperately wanted a ticket before all the good seats went. Seeing as the event was based around Amanda’s book, “The Art of Asking”, there was only one thing I could do when I saw someone ask, which was to help. So I bought a ticket for Claire and posted it to her when it arrived. We had a little natter and a hug (she has gorgeous hair, by the way!), then I settled back into my seat

Oh wait – I forgot something! I had no idea really on the size of the venue, and thought that a seat near the middle on row C might not be too bad. It was actually the second row (row A either didn’t exist, or it was an invisible row for magical fairy folk, or Frodos with their rings on) and if I’d been much closer to the stage I’d have been on it. So that was good!

And oh! Suddenly there was a real live Amanda Palmer, just a few feet away, sporting her baby proudly under her frock, standing at the front of the stage, singing “The Wind That Shakes The Barley” a capella, un-miked and lovelyly

Let me just stop the review a moment and tell you a few reasons why I like Amanda Palmer

1. Her voice. It’s low, rough, sweet, imperfect (I mean that in the nicest possible way. I prefer voices that have a bit of roughness – and oddness – to them). I also like the way it quite often breaks – be it because she giggles, or because of the emotion of the song.

2. Her songs. Just go listen.

3. Her performances. She’s cracking live. You kind of have to be there, although you can get an idea from watching the numerous clips on t’internet. But nothing, NOTHING prepares you for actually seeing her live.

4. She says what she thinks. And does what she thinks. Sometimes, probably, without thinking, which is hugely endearing. Yes, this sometimes gets her into bother, but I admire her all the more for that.

4. Her general disheveledness. And her penchant for big boots and long coats.

There’s more, but that’ll do for starters! And back to the gig…

I hadn’t seen her play piano live before until Hackney, and the couple of songs she did there on it blew me away a bit. Foot-stampingly, delicately, poundingly ecstatic and heartbreakingly sad (I’m talking about her piano playing). So it was a proper treat in Edinburgh to have a whole evening of her piano playing (with some ukulele thrown in). Add a number 5 to the above list – her piano playing. Love it

The gig continued (for nearly three hours), during which she made us laugh lots with inter-song banter, cry to some songs, laugh during others, and generally just love her to bits. Janey Godley appeared for a short comedy interlude, and Amanda’s doula and right-hand-tour-person, Whitney Moses, came on stage and sang two songs with her – the hilarious “Pregnant Women Are Smug” (by Garfunkel and Oates) which was hilarious, and Delilah (the Dresden Dolls one, not the Tom Jones one) which was heartbreakingly beautiful and made even better by their voices being perfectly matched.

Just before the gig, Amanda had worked out a piano arrangement for a new song in her repertoire, the fabulous “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” by Richard Thompson. If you haven’t heard of him (shame on you!), he’s a stunningly brilliant acoustic guitar player and singer/songwriter. He’s won awards for his guitar playing. He’s Proper good. So translating such incredible, intricate guitar playing to piano – and doing it just before your gig – is no mean feat. And it was a stunning arrangement too. Eeeeeh, she’s a clever lass is that Amanda Palmer

Other covers were by Momus (who I’d never heard of), a delicious, bitter-sweet waltz called “I Want You, But I Don’t Need You”, Kimya Dawson’s “All I Could Do”, and in honour of Morrissey (who she’s supporting in the US in July), The Smiths’ “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”.

Not sure if there was a dry eye in the house when she picked up her ukulele and played her achingly sad yet comforting “Bigger On The Inside”, or a chuckle-free face when she closed the evening with the cannily clockwork “Coin Operated Boy”.

For those interested in what else she played, I could pretend that my memory is amazing, or admit that a fellow concert-goer had the presence of mind to make a note of the set list and tweet it after the gig. Thank you @JP2796, whoever you may be! We were also treated to Astronaut, Ampersand, Vegemite, The Bed Song, Map of Tasmania, The Thing About Things, and a couple of readings from her book, “The Art of Asking”, chosen at random by a member of the audience.

Obviously, I bought a t-shirt. And a pen, which I forgot about until I opened my pencil case on the train on the way home and was confronted by a tiny naked Amanda Palmer, which made me giggle

And then I went back to my hotel.

And now, because I couldn’t go to the book signing in Edinburgh the next day as I was working, I’m on a train to Manchester where she’s doing a signing at Waterstones. Haven’t quite worked out yet how she’ll sign my audiobook, but I’m sure she’ll manage – as I said before, she’s a clever lass is that Amanda Palmer.
* They didn’t. Which was a bit of a shame.

Sketchbook doodles…

25 04 2014


Thought I’d put a few recent doodles up here, just so’s they’re all in the same place, like.

Most of my scribbles are done whilst travelling on trains to and from work, so sometimes they get a bit wobbly. I use a Blackwing pencil (the best pencil in THE WORLD! Try it!), and any colouring-in is usually done when I get home using Caran d’Ache coloured pencils.

First off is “Girl With Pet Monster”, done for the most excellent Daily Doodle. Here’s the rough:


And here’s the coloured-in version:


Here’s a girl on a toadstool. She could be some kind of flightfless fairy. Or maybe she’s elvish. Or a Thumbellina. Or just a very, very tiny person. Or a normal-sized person on a massive toadstool…


This is another Daily Doodle one – it was for National Pig-in-a-Blanket day. I couldn’t bear to draw pigs wrapped in bacon, so went for the European/US version, wrapped in pastry. Here’s the rough:


And the coloured-in version:


Most recent is today’s Daily Doodle challenge: Detective Hedgehog:


And here’s a little late-night doodle based on my gorgeous wee nephew:


Finally, here’s “Henry’s Amazing Hat” – another Daily Doodle challenge (Small Boy Big Hat) which sparked off a story idea… Maybe you’ll see more of this at a later date!


Bye for now!

A doodle a day…

3 04 2014

There’s a new doodley thing going on. It’s on Twitter, and goes by the cunning name of Daily Doodle. Every day a theme is tweeted, and folk submit a doodle. It’s great fun!

This week, the themes are all related to classic children’s books, and yesterday’s was “Room on the Broom”, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

I managed to grab a few minutes to submit a wee doodle, then later in bed was kept awake by a rhyme to go with it. So here it is, along with the offending doodle:

Room on the Broom

Megan was a witch
She wore a witchy hat
She ran a taxi service
But found business rather flat.

The reason for her troubles
Was her mouldy, ancient broom
It only went ‘phut-phut-phut-phut’
Whilst modern ones went ‘ZOOOOOOM!’

Poor Megan felt so very sad
As by her broom she sat,
If no-one used her service soon
She’d have to sell the cat.

So if you need a taxi
And have some time to spare
Please take a trip with Megan –
She’s slow, but gets you there.


All the faces, all the voices blur…

28 03 2014

I’m a huge Cure fan.

As a wee young thing, I was so in love with Robert Smith that I dyed my hair black (and also part of the bathroom carpet) and had a collection of suitably-Smithish clothes. I was in the Official Fan Club, and still wear the enamel badge with pride. I collected every snippet of information about The Cure and Mr Smith that I could find – and back in those days, they were proper snippets. Snippets that had to be snipped out of music mags because in those days there was no such thing as the internet. I knew all the words to all the songs. I spent hours in my bedroom with its red light bulb, playing Cure albums on my dodgy old record player (or if I couldn’t afford the album yet, playing cassettes that I’d recorded from borrowed records by positioning a little tape recorder carefully between the speakers for optimum sound quality). I perfected the art of singing in his voice (well, I thought i did!), and could do every little squeak and oooh and ow and knew all the really quiet almost-hidden words that most people didn’t notice. I was once mortally wounded by a silly girl at school who rubbished the lyrics to “In between days”. I’ve seen them live loads of times, the last time being a few years back at Wembley, when I dyed my hair black again, spiked it up, donned Smith-ish garb, then sang and cried and screamed my way through the gig, totally oblivious to the shame of my other half and his mate who I’d practically forgotten were sitting next to me.

One of my favourite Cure songs is “Charlotte Sometimes”. It was a while before I discovered that there was also a book called Charlotte Sometimes, and as soon as I could I hit the local library to search for it. I found a copy, and can still remember the shiver of delightful spookyness I felt when I read the first line of the book and it was the same as the first line of the song! And it didn’t end there, lots of lines kept popping up that were in the song too…

Anyway, back to the point of this post.

A few years ago, I stumbled across Penelope Farmer’s blog, and in doing so came across a couple of posts she’d written about “Charlotte Sometimes” and The Cure. I was reminded of them today after my auto-pilot reply to a Tweet:


So I thought I’d share them with you here. Part 2 brings a tear to my eye – and probably will to anyone who’s as big a fan of Mr Smith as I am. It’s a lovely, lovely story – enjoy!

Penelope Farmer on The Cure – Part 1

Penelope Farmer on The Cure – Part 2

Now go away and PLAY THE CURE!