The Barnes Children's Literature Festival is on in May 12-13. I'll be there on the Sunday at 10am speaking about my picture books and drawing with everyone. If you'd like to join in you can book a ticket here. Bring your thinking caps and a pencil. Otherwise, relax and enjoy the flight.
These old black and white pictures from my ©Filofax remind me of sitting in airports. Airports are places of strict rules and regulations, governed by signs and edicts from authorities about one thing or another. Then – just as you're leaving – as if to make up for all the bossiness and to adjust you to the outside world: duty free.
I found this eroded shell on a stony beach in Greece fifteen ears ago. I'd dearly love to find the matching one for my collection.
The one I have has a fine helix and scaphoid fossa, but the tragus is sadly no longer visible. I believe it to be a left ear.
I picked the shell up and put it in the pocket of my shorts and went swimming.
In Waiting for Chicken Smith, there's a lighthouse on the headland near where the boys' holiday cabins are. No one lives in the lighthouse but at one time there was probably someone living there ensuring the light went on and off when required.
The lighthouse I was thinking of when I wrote the story had an automatic light. There was a heavy wooden door that once opened every day to let the lighthouse keeper into the light and my friend carved his initials in this door. Even after years of fresh paint on the door, the initials were visible (if just barely). The last time I went up there, the initials were just a figment of my memory. The old wooden door had gone – with its initials – and a metal version stood in its place. But the view to the east hadn't changed one iota.
There's a headland with a lighthouse on top of it in Waiting for Chicken Smith. I would take summer holidays near a headland like this and would spend a lot of time just looking out at the Pacific and watching sharks and dolphins and big surf hitting the rocks. Judging the swell, we would jump into the water and ride it back up onto a ledge of rock, grabbing hold of any geological life preserver we could reach. We'd sit at the foot of the lighthouse until the sun set behind us, and the light came on above, then we'd go home for dinner. More about the book.
Sandcastles can be very time consuming constructions. I read an article about what makes the best sandcastles. I thought the answer would be 'sand', but it turns out that you need a thousand things happening simultaneously to create the most structurally sound sandcastle. This is absurd because the best thing about sandcastles is having the tide come in and rend them asunder before your very eyes. You don't need them to withstand a tsunami or king tide. Who's got time for that?
I would decorate sandcastles with arrays of small and colourful shells. Pipi shells worked well if I wanted to make a statement somewhere. Then a spray of seaweed or a sand crab shell would be the cherry on the top. Tiny jellyfish made fine windows and added a little sparkle.
My childhood friend Jeremy would make elaborate sand cities alongside my simple bungalow. They were replete with freeways and broad rivers and lakes, airport runways and stadia. He'd bring real shovels and trowels from his holiday house for the excavation, and once I even saw him spraying water from a bottle with an atomiser attachment onto the surface of a tower he'd built. Then he carefully patted the surface down with the palms of his hands.
While Jeremy was doing this, I was in the surf. Then I was drying off on a towel in the sun and then I was at the milk bar eating chips with sauce and playing pinball.
At dusk, I looked down at the beach and I could just make out Jeremy's angry father marching him home, and I could just about hear Jeremy crying in the dark.
The next morning, Jeremy's castle was still standing and a shadow was starting to extend from the tallest of his many structures along the yellow sand. My bungalow and all its shells was long gone. More about the new book.