November is not my favourite month of the year; being plunged into an hour’s extra darkness at the end of October makes me miss the sunlit days of spring and summer (well the ones that actually are sunlit).
On dark, dismal and dank November days, I very much envy the dormice who snuggle themselves away in the comparative warmth of nests, freshly lined with straw, soft grass, moss and downy bird feathers. I feel to sleep away the darker months would be a jolly good reason to become a dormouse, IF I had the chance that is.The line illustration, above, was drawn by me as a very young student at Cumbria Institute of the Arts, in Carlisle, for a book that someone was producing. They required a small picture of a dormouse or dormice for a nature book and they required it very quickly. I was very pleased to be the one that was chosen to illustrate it. Although the book and the client are now long forgotten in my memory, I do remember drawing the dormice amidst the bramble leaves and dead oak leaves that create the roof of their straw nest. I’m not quite sure why one of the dormice is cosy and warm in the nest – snuggled in the leaves – whilst the other seems to be fiddling around with a nut, but maybe he is bringing the other one a gift after a quarrel.
I suppose if I were to hibernate for the winter, I would not be awake for Christmas and for the usual hustle and bustle of one of the busiest times of the year; I WOULD miss the queues and the crowds and my bank balance would stay healthy. Oh, the more I think of it, the more I WANT to be a dormouse – the lucky wee things 🙂 .
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…
Whilst my role as a teacher allows me to meet some great learners, it also gives me the opportunity to meet some really nice people who support the learners to achieve the best results they can. I have worked with many support workers, but the ones that I have worked with over the last two terms have been some of the best. These have included (in alphabetical order): Amanda, Danielle, Jess, Nathan, Neil, Ronnie and Tom. Working closely with learners and their support workers in the classroom give you a real insight into the kindness and patience people have for those that they care for and in time you get to know these people and find out about their families and their interests.
One of the above named support workers, Nathan, was telling me about his family on one occasion: about his wife Tracey, their four-year-old daughter named Annabelle and their young son, named Max. Annabelle is a fan of My Little Pony and also likes unicorns (but then who doesn’t?). He requested me to do an illustration for Annabelle, which he and Tracey would present to her on her fifth birthday this month.
Inline with his daughter’s interests, Nathan requested ponies, flying horses, unicorns – things of a fairytale theme, with the main colours of pink and blue, which are Annabelle’s favourite colours. I made a suggestion of trying to include Annabelle in the illustration and bearing in mind the size of the illustration this was easier said than done, as I was illustrating a face that was so small on paper! I had to use my finest pencils and a magnifying glass to see what I was doing. I took a deep breath and whilst biting my tongue did the drawing, trying not to overdo it. It was white-knuckle time!
I got a message from Nathan to say that the illustration is fantastic and his colleagues have also given me such great feedback about the drawing. I hope the illustration was a highlight of Annabelle’s birthday and that when she is older it will bring back the most special memories of a wonderful birthday and a personalised gift from her loving father and mother.