Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sometimes I look at Dara looking up at me with his big eyes and I think, "You're a smart kid, surly by now you've worked out that I'm just making this up as I go along!"
And it doesn't end with parenting, does it? It's like we're always just making it up as we go along.
I used to work in an office. Everyone appeared to be doing stuff but if you looked at them their eyes would say, "I have no idea what I'm doing here!"
It's like someone had said, "Pretend these people work in an office."
It's like we're in some kind of game and we're being played with by some children and they're saying things like, "Pretend this is a famous pop-star and he sings laa laa la and everyone loves him."
"Pretend this is a famous artist."
"Pretend there is a very clever man who can't move and sounds like a robot."
They say the main pretend and we fill in the gaps ourselves. It makes sense, doesn't it? How else can you explain the Iran Iraq war for example?
"Pretend they're fighting. Now pretend they're not fighting any more."
The one in charge of Oxfordshire is completely obsessed with building work. At any given time he must have at least ten building works going on. If there is absolutely nothing to do, he will send three vans and nine council workers to rebuild our bin shed. He has done this three times in the past twelve months. The workers have no idea why they keep doing this.
I'm pretty sure the one in charge of United Nations is a toddler. The other children didn't want her in the game but their parents said she had to be. So she got a room full of well dressed people that go, "blah blah blah" and an army of people with funny hats that do nothing and have no power.
The one in charge of Israel is another toddler and he doesn't listen to anyone.
The others say, "No you absolutely cannot put a wall there."
He says, "Yes I can. Look! There!"
The others run to their parents and complain. But their parents say, "Let little Joshie play too or we'll go home right this second."
So they let Joshie play. But the girl in charge of Iran is not happy.
"If he's doing that then I will make all my people grow beards and pretend we're making a big bomb and pretend we're making a big power station."
"Which is it then bomb or power station?"
"That's for me to pretend to know and for you to pretend to find out."
Every now and then the toddler insists that there is going to be a big meeting at the United Nations and everyone must attend to listen to blah blah-blah-blah.
And that in my opinion is how the world works.
"Pretend this person is talking nonsense."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Midbook Crisis
I met this shiny brand-new pencil in Costa. We doodled together. We doodled on napkins. We doodled on the back of receipts. We even doodled in the toilets on toilet paper. I knew it was wrong but it felt so right.
This was not the kind of pencil you would take to meet your agent or to an IBBY Conference. It had Hello Kitty on it. It was unpredictable and unruly. Not like my own pencil that practically draws itself. With this one, drawing every cat whisker, every penguin beak was a struggle but did I care.
We came out of the toilets to a sea of tut-tutting, eye-rolling customers, waiting to use the facilities. I dropped Hello Kitty off where I’d found it, next to a half empty or half full cup of latte on an unused table in a dark corner of the cafĂ©.
I went home and in an attempt to avoid my pencil I went straight to bed. I tossed and turned for hours. Was it the guilt that was not letting me sleep or the fact that it was only three o'clock in the afternoon? I’ll never know.
I spent the entire morning in G&D, casing the joint with a hot chocolate in front of me. Yesterday had been a spare of the moment thing. I had not planned it. Today was planned. I knew exactly what I was doing. I had even brought four sheets of gleaming white A4 paper in the anticipation of what was to come.
Word soon spread that the hot chocolate drinking black-haired person in the corner pays good gummy bear for a go on your crayon. Toddlers came to see me from all over. Soon I was swimming in drawing materials. And it was bliss even if I felt dirty. Many of the crayons were sticky with ice-cream and syrup.
When I got home I went straight into the shower. My pencil said nothing. We hardly ever speak any more.
As I came out of Broad Canvas, clutching tightly to my Where’s Wally bag heavy with Artist Quality Windsor and Newton watercolour sets, new paintbrushes and jewel encrusted sketchbooks, I bumped into a fellow illustrator. Our eyes met and he knew instantly something was not quite right.
‘What’s in the bag?’ he asked.
I shook my head, ‘Don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answer to.’
‘OK,’ he said backing off with his palms out towards me in front of his chest in an attempt to calm me down, ‘take it easy.’
I relaxed a little then and loosened my grip on the bag. That was when he went for it. He snatched it right out of my hands.
‘Just as I suspected,’ he said looking inside, ‘You’re having a midbook crisis.’
‘I'm not!’ I yelled, going for my bag but he pulled it away. ‘Give that back!’ I yelled, ‘Can’t an illustrator treat herself to a few luxury items without being accused of going through a “midbook crisis”?!’
‘Listen to me,’ he said, ‘I'm trying to help you.’ He pulled off a gummy bear from my collar and held it in front of me. How could I have been so careless?
‘I've been down this road before,’ he said, ‘it begins with nasty, sticky crayons in ice-cream parlours and it ends in your agent and editor breaking down the door of a seedy motel in Paris and finding you with a half empty bottle of masking fluid, wearing nothing but tissue paper.’
I sighed and shook my head. ‘Down the rabbit hole,’ I said.
‘It was actually Green Eggs and Ham,’ he sighed, ‘I’d storyboarded the entire book straight onto the walls in day-glow paint.’
I nodded.
‘Go home,’ he said, ‘go to your own pencils and paintbrushes. Don’t give into your midbook crisis for it will swallow you whole.’

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Do you ever think about how thoughts are connected? One minute you’re sitting on a bus, looking at traffic outside, the next minute you’re thinking about apples. How do we go from traffic to apples?! Trains of thought have always fascinated me. Problem is whenever I try to ride one, it stops. It’s like it only works if I'm unaware of it. Last night I was washing a spatula and I started seeing fish swimming around underwater. But amazingly this time I knew how I’d got there. I’d managed to sneak onto my train of thought, unnoticed!
I'm washing a spatula and it makes me think of the person who gave it to me, my grandma. As soon as I think of her I can see her pouring herself a cup of tea in her kitchen. I'm looking at her from the entrance to her kitchen. Now I'm thinking of oranges and I'm yanked back in time to when I'm tiny and I'm sitting on my grandparents’ bed, looking up at my grandma who is pealing oranges. Juice drips from the segments as she gives them to us. I can taste her hand cream. She has the satisfied smile of a grandmother who has managed to trick her grandchildren into eating something nutritious. I'm happy because it’s my turn to sleep in the middle next to my grandma. My grandfather has been banished from the room on account of his unbelievably loud snoring. My other cousin sleeps next to me and the other one on the floor next to the bed. Next weekend the floor sleeper will sleep in the middle and the other two will move down a space each. That’s how we do it, unless someone is sick or has had a particularly bad injury or a nose bleed that day. These are the kind of things that can instantly bump you up to a middle-sleeper. Now I'm sleeping on the floor in the space between the bed and the radiator and I'm looking into the dark under the bed and I see two gleaming eyes looking at me. The eyes belong to Poochie, my grandfather’s bad tempered black poodle who loves my grandfather but absolutely despises all other human beings. Now I'm thinking of cucumbers because Poochie loves cucumber skins. I see my grandfather holding a long piece of cucumber skin and Poochie jumping up in the air and snatching it from his hand. Now I'm thinking I wish I had cucumbers to put in Dara’s lunch box for tomorrow and so I'm picturing his lunch box which has lots of different fish on it. Now I'm thinking of fish swimming underwater.