Whilst I was continuing my perpetual cleaning spree of my study, I unearthed this picture from my college days’ archive. It is a coloured pencil illustration that was given to me circa 1997 by a friend and fellow student, Hazel Joy Shields, known to her friends as Joy. I got to know Joy in my second year at College and what made the biggest connection between us was the fact that she was from the North East, (Blyth, Northumberland to be exact) and I was from Durham.
My nickname from my friends at Cumbria University of Arts was ‘Quiffer’ due to the wave-like quiff I had in those days and in this illustration Joy has drawn me with my distinctive hairstyle. I am rather pleased that she has drawn my caricature as the wizard, (with the obvious power over the smoke-breathing dragon) and not one of the helpless knights quaking at the sight of it. The knight in pink armour is my friend, Paul Drury, who hails from Huddersfield and the green-clad knave with the blonde hair is my friend, Andrew ‘Andy’ Smith from Wakefield. I don’t know if either of the two Yorkshire lads will have seen this illustration or not before or whether it will be a surprise for them…
It was wonderful finding this illustration, still in perfect condition, amongst my papers, as it has brought back so many happy memories of my days of yore in Carlisle. This cartoon illustration was done before the adventures of Harry Potter came into being, but maybe Joy had a bit of the foresight to see the potential in wizards, castles and knights in shining armour…
I am very patriotic and I’m proud to be an Englishman, so St. George’s Day for me is a day of annual celebration. So much so, that I think it should be an annual English bank holiday.
So, with that in mind, when I was producing my Bear-a-thought calendar for 2007 I thought I would include St. George (in teddy bear format) as the illustration for the month of April. I chose one of my favourite bears, Augustus, to represent the patron saint of England and my friend, Jennifer A. Stephenson, dressed him appropriately with a helmet (with scarlet plume), a chainmail vest (emblazoned with St. George’s Cross) and a rather fiercesome looking wooden sword and shiny protective shield.
Once Augustus was ‘suited and booted’ I had to find a ferocious dragon for him to vanquish. I wanted to make the fierce dragon look as fierce as a baby with a marshmallow (not quite sure where that expression came from, but it was the first thing that came to mind), so found a rather cute and endearing green-and-yellow dragon on the Internet.
I set the picture up in my garden, using rocks from when I had the house renovated and created a dragon’s cave, set against the backdrop of a beech hedge. It was mid-April when I set this scene up, so I incorporated some of the flowers in the garden to create some ambience: daisies (the traditional flower of the month of April) and forget-me-nots which always flower in my garden at this time of year. The Forget-me-not is rather appropriate in this illustration in more ways than one, as there is a mediaeveal legend as to how the flower got its name. It goes that a strong and handsome knight, after returning from some war or crusade, was reunited with his fair maiden. On meeting her again, beside a riverbank, he stooped to pick some of the delicate blue flowers that grew on the riverbank. Unfortunately, the weight of his armour and his semi-recumbent position made him topple into the river and to his death. But before he succumbed to the swirling water, he threw the blue flowers to his distressed maiden, with his last words “forget me not!”.
The St. George and the Dragon illustration was popular in the calendar and also as a greeting card, with the original illustration being purchased by an English customer, living in Spain, who has a small and select collection of my teddy bear illustrations.
I hope this illustration stirs the heart of any Englishman and woman reading this post and I also hope that it sends a message out there to any unwanted and ferocious dragons that England is a country that is both proud and fearless. ;0)