1st November. Early morning searching again for curlew calls. Solitary curlew flew from the Ram's Nose, low over the sea, searching for the flock. Oystercatcher piping echoed round Porth Melgan. Two hawks shot to the sky in a battle of wings. Rocks like a lichen covered doorway framed Ramsey Island in the distance. The sun made everything sharp with shadows and the sea drew patterns on the beach. Each day different patterns, changing and shifting, redrawing, perfecting.
Good start to the day, but some days go down hill fast.
Today is my wedding anniversary. Soon it will be my divorce anniversary. My book Little One, We Knew You'd Come has been having lots of problems in the UK. The US edition is lovely, the UK edition is a very poor relative. After many an email to the publisher and having sent back some of the worse culprits for their inspection, lest I was being your archetypal neurotic artist, it has been confirmed that they are indeed substandard and so are off to be pulped and hopefully reprinted. How does this make me feel? Well, I have a book to finish for the same publisher and can't seem to summon up the enthusiasm to paint those last couple of pages. I have an exhibition of the artwork for Little One hanging until 23rd November and then moving to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales for two months, and no books to sell. The fact that I not only have to paint the images but also quality check the finished product and sell the books because the reps can't make it this far into Wales makes me feel like giving up and just painting. I was feeling blue, now I feel frustrated and blue, fed up and confused. Hopefully by tomorrow I will have an idea whether, if at all, the book will be reprinted, maybe even on paper that you can't see through to the previous and following page. So my advice is if you have a copy of the book, hang on to it, it may be very rare very soon, and if you haven't, get the one from Little Brown via Amazon.com which has a dust jacket and won't fall apart in your hands.
Off to paint hares.
The moon rose early and was blue-white in the darkening sky of evening. Now it paints the sea silver and burns out the star light from the sky. The surf whispers on the edge of hearing.
2nd November. Woke up with a feeling of optimism and a desire to run away to the hills. In the studio a snow leopard is drumming his claws impatiently on one of my drawing boards. Have decided to face up to a few things.
1. There are no trolls that live in my house and make a mess when I am not looking. The mess is my mess. I am the troll.
2. Whilst it is true that Van Gogh never had to do his own house work I am not Van Gogh
3. If I do decide to head for the hills it will be lovely to come back to a tidy and clean house.
4. Time is running short and I am fed up with compromise in my work so I need to work on ideas and books that I have a real passion for.
The fear of finishing the Snow Leopard is that I then have to hand it over to the publishers, and at the moment that feels a bit like giving a child over into the care of someone you don't trust.
Later, the warm house is full of draping, sleeping creatures, sleeping. Outside the moon flies in a sky like a mackerel's belly. Dappled. Through the something is flying, making sharp noises. Surely it is too cold for bats, and my ears are too old to hear them.
Hares run around in a never ending circle, each with the moon in its eye.
3rd November. The day started well enough, walking in the bright early morning light and the cats all came too. The landscape stretched out in layers, the light was sharp and bright, but distance soft with haze. It has become cold very quickly, and smells of autumn.
Frances Lincoln got back to me with the latest news on the Little One. It is going to be pulped and reprinted and there should be copies in time for Christmas. Whether there will be room in the bookshops for the Little One by then is another matter. Maybe he could find a little stable somewhere.
5th November. At long last have pulled myself out of The Slough of Despond, stopped wallowing about piteously and started painting the last two pieces for the Snowleopard. My work was picked up in a blog and John Griffiths commented on the honesty of saying that I was at home trying to finish my book. Thing is, I wasn't at home, I was in the cathedral taking them some new stock and giving someone unsolicited advise on where to get a decent ice cream in St Davids. (Ironically that someone was John Griffiths) I haven't been at home painting the Snow Leopard all week, though I have been trying. Anyway, hopefully have broken through with this now. Much other work waits on the other side of finishing this.
10th November. Time races on and tomorrow is Tom's birthday and he will be fourteen years old. Taller than me. Lovely.
Little One is being pulped and reprinted and air-freighted back to the UK and Frances Lincoln have been very apologetic. The book should be here by 5th December. New computer arrived and is beautiful. An imac with a built in camera but the first thing I had to do was unscrew things and add additional memory and then when I pressed the power button........nothing! Just the back screen of death and me swearing and frustrated with too much to do, firing off emails to Them Digital, who supplied it, then remembering it wasn't yet paid for, breathing sigh of relief. A little later, with cup of tea in hand and children at school, read the little book that came with it, switched on again with relevant p's, r's and other buttons held down and lo, it all came to life and is a thing of beauty and power.
All that remains to do is to load the software, finish the Snow Leopard by the end of next week, write a column for Times Ed Cymru, sort out the new exhibition and the current exhibition, read the contract from the Korean publisher and send back with amendments, do roughs and develop a character for a new picture book, do covers for Robin Hobb books, work up some finished pieces from roughs for Singing to the Sun, get laptop sent back to the Apple Careless people for fixing after copying across useful things to new machine, wash up from last night, walk dogs, hoover and tidy and set up modem etc.... And somewhere in there make a birthday cake and take a few deep breathes and relax, read poetry.
11th November. Walked in the woods around Nevern for Tom's birthday, and the leaves on the trees were still green but falling and blowing, golden in the wind. The river rushed by and it was beautiful. In the churchyard at Nevern the yew trees darkened the space around the church and the standing stone brought an echo of centuries long past.
Inside the church, built in to the windowsill, an ancient Celtic goddess stone carved by a priest, by an artist, whispered and waited for its story to sung again.
13th November. A day of painting and domesticity. Bizarre. In the evening the cats chased a mouse around the house. Five cats, one mouse. Very small. Then Hannah and I chased the mouse around the house and the traumatized creature went to ground in the bathroom. Shocked by the state of the bathroom it then tried to drown itself in the toilet, but was pulled out at the last minute by me, summoned by Tom's timely trip to the bathroom. Drawing the line at giving the gasping mouselet mouth to mouth I released it outside and the children began to worry that it was cold, and wet and would get hypothermia. Then went back to work.
Unable to settle to the snowstorm of leopards painting decided the only way forward was to throw myself into the last page and then come back to the other paintings to finish them off together. Meanwhile as the radio turned dire I put on The Mighty Boosh cd only to find myself listening to Howard Moon searching for snowleopards in the Arctic Tundra, which made it very difficult to paint. Hope the mouse is ok.
15th November. Finished Snow Leopard. Saw great series of reviews for the hotel in Manchester that I didn't stay in. If only I had read that first!
Walking in the morning twelve curlew flew, calling, overhead. The sky was heavy and full of water and the sea reflected a slate surface. I met a beautiful entomologist later in the day as I wandered around, not quite sure what to do with myself.
Earlier in the week I had a problem with my new computer and all my emails disappeared. If Andrew, from Russia, reads this, could you please email me again as I have lost your emails and your address.
16th November. Should have spent the day packing and posting the snow leopard and then tidying the house. Instead read, walked the dogs along the cliffs in search of curlew and then painted.
22nd November. Long day driving after signing books in London and Devizes. Rain. Slow moving cars. Tired.Went to a gallery where a dog had cocked his leg up one of my prints, which didn't make me feel very special. More driving, six hours from Bristol to home through rain and wind and at home the rain fell heavier still. Car full of paintings and the boot wouldn't open, but the warmest welcome from the children made the cold cold house seem warmer. No fire, no energy to gather up and make one. Outside the sky awash with rain.
23rd November. Tonight the sky is awash with stars. House full of sleeping paintings, wrapped up and waiting to be looked at, whispering colours. Inside head full of gold leaf and rooks, house full of ginger cats and chaos. Need to restore order and paint.
24th November. The morning is heavy and gray and a storm is coming. The fire is lit and the house warm again and full of melting ginger cats. Hired a van to drive all the paintings to Carmarthen on Tuesday.
26th November. Morning walking with Tom to St Davids Head and the sun shone and the wind blew.