Wild West Yorkshire, Sunday 3 October 2010
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WE WERE surprised to see three house martins flying over the rooftops last weekend. They weren't necessarily the birds that had nested here; last week, on the Tuesday at Leaplish, Kielder Water, swallows, house and sand martins - perhaps a hundred in total - were gathering on one of the jetties, like chattering holidaymakers waiting for their scheduled flight, but a couple of days later they had all gone, giving the impression that autumn really was here. The birds we saw last Sunday morning might have been some of the stragglers from further north making their way south, using our valley as a local services to top up on insect food.
On Friday we took Barbara's mum for her first meal out since she was discharged from hospital, hence this drawing of the shelf and the wine bottle (above left) from the Bella Italia at Birstall. This might have been too much for her because the next morning at 7.15 she called us out because she didn't feel too good (she's doing OK now, so hope we can take her out again for a change of scene before too long). We quickly got dressed and as we drove over Horbury bridge mist was rising amongst the riverbank willows, ashes and sycamores. They looked - to use the inevitable cliche - breathtakingly beautiful in the morning light, like one of the paintings of fog over the Thames that Monet painted from a hotel on the Strand.
We drop everything and turn out, morning, noon and on odd occasions night, for a mum errand or for the errands associated with our everyday work of book distribution but it never occurs to us to get up and go out simply to see how beautiful the countryside can be at that time.
In snatched moments I draw a burnt out candle or an old brown shoe but I fear that I'm working without full force. Like most of us, I find that, when it comes down to it, my real priorities lie with the well-being of my family. I increasingly grudgingly accept that the beautiful, endlessly fascinating world of nature is something that I'm going to see only in odd glimpses in my everyday life. Like I was saying the other day, holidays are soon over and the indulgence of a 'license to sketch' day has to be an occasional special event. But I realise from my recent contact with animators, designers and fellow illustrators that some artistic projects require joined-up time to complete. For some of those creative types these projects even require flitting off abroad, like the martins, for intensive weeks of creative work on film sets or in animation studios. Sounds like bliss!
I'm aware that I'm being pretty hard on myself. I published two booklets and revised a third this year but that still doesn't stop me dwelling on the fact that since then I've written - and this is literally true - just one sentence of my new book!
I really enjoy my work and to be engaged in something creative is essential to my well-being so I need to find some joined-up time . . . and I need to make contact with the natural world part of my everyday routine . . . and I want to do the right thing re. the family . . .
The brief candle quotation is from Shakespeare's Scottish play:
"Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Richard Bell, illustrator
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