A Haunted Halloween

It’s that time of year again when the door to the Otherworld opens a fraction to let who knows what into our midst. Pumpkins are carved, kids faces smeared with grease-paint and dogs are being made to dress in ridiculous costumes.

It’s also the time for a good ghost story and a bit of Author Elfing.

Earlier this month author William Hussey visited Seven Stories for an evening of chilling tales in our Artist’s Attic. With the lights down low the Attic was the perfect place for William to frighten the living daylights out of us. First he read Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You by M.R James, just to get us in a spooked out mood and then went on to tell his own short story Turn Her Face to the Wall, that had a brilliant twist in the tale. Finally William read an abridged version of the prologue from his latest novel, Haunted. That really had everyone leaping out of their chairs because….well I can’t say, you’re just going to have to read the book which is spooktastic. Of course this isn’t a book blog but my literary hound just loves to have a bit of book banter so check out Mischa’s review here.

After the readings it was Q and A time.

William told us he got his inspiration from everywhere and that we should carry a notebook with us at all times…just in case. The spark of the idea for Haunted came from a true story based on an incident in the life of Thomas Edison. In 1920 Edison claimed to the press he was on the verge of inventing a machine for speaking with the dead. After his own death, a search was made of his lab notes but no such machine was found. Everyone assumed it was a practical joke. But William thought, “What if it did exist and someone got their hands on it? What would happen then?”

About writing William said he covers 2 sides of A4 for ideas and plotting and that character is “the God of story”. Funnily enough the original story had a boy as the main character. It was later on that William changed this to Emma Rhodes, the feisty, ghost busting heroine.

Even though it was dark and gloomy in The Artist’s Attic and I was shaking with fear I managed to sketch William entertaining the audience while he sat in our massive story tellers chair.

Lomogram_2013-10-03_08-45-45-PMHe was kind enough to post this up on his website and referred to me as “Seven Stories own artistic genius.” So I thought I should repay such kind words by elfing Mr Hussey. He asked if he could be a dark elf, which given that today is All Hallows Eve, seems highly appropriate.

William Hussey Elfed

He may not be truly dark but his “elfter-ego” certainly has an air of mystery about him. Check out William’s photo here to see what he really looks like.

Happy Halloween everybody.

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Whippet Dave

When out on walks Mischa Skinny Dog always attracts attention. Ask anyone owned by sight-hounds and they’ll say the same; it’s like walking with a celebrity. People wander over and want to stroke her, ask questions about her or exchange tales about the skinny dogs they have been owned by. If their dogs come over for a play the owner always says “No chance of catching that one son” as Mischa hares away with a rotund Labrador in futile hot pursuit. Ah, she loves to tease does Mischa.

But today we met a different kind of admirer.

Mischa and I had bided our time this morning waiting for the storm to ease, ( A true sight-hound will never get her fur rain-sodden) and as the sun emerged so did we. Our journey took us across Nun’s Moor, through the copse and over the hills onto Town Moor. Apart from the cows we met not a soul. Until, seemingly out of nowhere, a figure ambled toward us. He was a little under- dressed for the weather in a baggy t-shirt and sweat pants, but hey, Geordies are a hard race of folk. Once he was up close I noticed the ears and realised we were in the presence of a particularly friendly elf.

He was impressed with Mischa’s shiny coat and clean white teeth and ran an expert hand along her back. He then counted the whiskers under her chin announcing that was a sure fire way of telling which number pup she was in the litter.

“Three” he declared with quiet confidence. I thought it best to agree. “Bin wi skinny dogs all me life” he said “Put a leash in me hand before I cud walk. That’s why they call me Whippet Dave”

And then he vanished.

Whippet Dave

Digital Doodle; Whippet Dave

Fact or Fiction? You decide.

Knights in Black Leather

A couple of months ago, when England was still enjoying a glorious hot summer, author Kate O’Hearn swept into Seven Stories. She was not alone. Hot on her heels were an amazing crew carrying the most incredible set of props and costumes I’ve ever seen. All at once the office was filling up with the delicious aroma of animal hide as these people eased themselves into intricately detailed leather armour. I watched from behind my computer, mesmerised, as they transformed themselves from ordinary mortals into warriors of myth and legend.

Kate and her entourage were visiting as part of the tour to promote her latest novel Valkyrie. It’s a story that mixes Norse mythology with a contemporary tale that ends up releasing the Midgard Serpent into Chicago! It’s a great book and if this was a book blog I’d tell you  more. But it just so happens that my faithful hound, Mischa SkinnyDog, DOES have a book blog so check out her review here.

Anyway, back to Kate and her gang. They were so much fun and delighted both staff and visitors as they brought the story of Freya the Valkyrie to life.

Scary knight

Kate O'Hearn at Seven stories2

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The attention to detail on the costumes were incredible, in particular the dreaded Dark Searcher who took great delight in frightening me at every opportunity.

dark searcher 1

dark searcher 2

Kate O’Hearn herself was not adverse to a spot of dressing up either and was sporting the most fabulous red velvet Steam Punk coat complete with an ostrich feather festooned top hat.

Kate O'Hearne at Seven Stories

Kate being entertained by a young fan

It was probably one of the most fun days I had at Seven Stories this summer. They were such a delightful bunch of people with a great sense of humour. I was so sad when they left and when I returned to the empty office all that remained was the intoxicating scent of leather armour.

However, Kate being the crazy person she is, agreed to being elfed. She is the second author to undergo such a transformation. The first being Gareth P Jones who funnily enough was also wearing a top hat.

Kate O'Hearn elfed 2

Ok, I wimped out of drawing the feathers but Kate still makes an impressive elf.

I would recommend Valkyrie to confident readers and teens…..or any adult that’s still in touch with their inner child.

Return to Sender

My very first Ziggy Letter Elf has been returned to sender…address unknown…..no such number….no such zone. ( I hope you are singing along?)

Return to sender

This little elf has been all the way to New York and back all because I omitted a number one in the address. Silly Ziggy. So, I shall try again. The unopened envelope has gone into another envelope, because, well, now it’s got a story to tell. And in light of the post title here is Elvis Elf from last summers Celebrity Elves in July.

Elfvis

If you would like to get involved in my illustrated letter challenge take a look here. I’ll do my best to address your letter correctly.

 

When is it Okay to Stare at Someone?

Answer; when you are trying to “elf” them.

I haven’t elfed anyone up for ages but I got a request a little while ago from Elle Bewsell who is the creator of the blog Our Beauty Philosophy. Like George Clooney eyeballing a goat I stared and stared at Elle’s photo and tried to elf her. But the results were very poor. So I went away, had a pork and apple sausage sandwich (with extra apple sauce) came back and hey presto! Why it was so difficult I don’t know. Maybe because Elle is already elfin like? Although I couldn’t see her ears in the photo I’m willing to bet they are just a little bit pointy. She also has the most delightful Mona Lisa smile going on which, although real elves don’t smile, Elle’s “elfter ego” certainly had to.

Not only has Elle been elfed she also conducted an online interview with me for her blog. What an honour. You can read it here.

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Did I capture Elle’s inner elf? The real Elle is here.

Elves Like Trucking and They Like to Truck

Last week Tall Man and I were waiting our turn in a queue of vehicles at a roundabout when an articulated lorry approached from the right. It was a driver training truck with the driver under instruction. The roundabout in question is notorious as an accident black spot and it always makes me anxious. But the driver manoeuvred his gigantic vehicle around the lanes with ease. We were both very impressed and I wondered what it would be like to drive an HGV. “Probably easier than the campervan”, was Tall Man’s reply. Then, just yesterday, I was walking home with the Skinny Dogs and we had to wait on the pavement while a trucker reversed his petrol tanker across the path and into the station forecourt. It was such a tight spot and he had to avoid parked cars and pedestrians. But he completed the task without a scratch or a bump. On closer inspection of the driver I was surprised to see it was in fact an elf in the cab. I had no idea that they enjoyed life on the road. I also noted that he enjoyed chomping on a Yorkie.

 

trucker elf

I fear the Elf Trucker may have been a little confused as to which kind of Yorkie he should pop in his mouth.

A fine example of trucking life can be found courtesy of Not the Nine O’ Clock News

(Please note, no Yorkshire Terriers were harmed in the making of this post)

Illustrated Letters 5 & 6; Heading to Bath and Ohio

Well, I did write a letter yesterday, I just didn’t get time to post it up. Too deep in reflection. So here are both letters 5 and 6.

Letter 5 is wending its way to the south of England to the very beautiful spa town of Bath. The little elf contained within has to remain a secret until, Becky, takes ownership. But the envelope has a couple of cheeky Puffins.

Letter 6 is travelling further afield to Ohio, USA . This little elf is going to Susan, creator of Chez Lilly; a chilled out art blog. On Susan’s “About” page is a quote from Alice in Wonderland so her envelope is adorned with the Mad Hatter, and the White Rabbit. Earlier last year I created an elf especially for Susan. You can see it here. If you would like an elf of your own or would like to be elfed take a look here.

Thank you so much to everybody who has offered to help me in my quest to revive the art of the hand written letter by writing one a day for the next 12 months. But I really need more of you to be recipients if I am to write 365!

 

Illustrated letter5

Illustrated letter 6

If you would like to take part in the challenge and receive a Ziggy Illustrated Letter all the details are here.

 

 

Here Comes the Mirror Man

The other morning Tall Man was getting ready to go out and was checking himself in front of the mirror. As he smoothed back his hair and fiddled on with straightening his collar I stood next to him facing the mirror. I chatted away, not directly to him, but to his reflection. And it was quite a shock. He didn’t quite look like himself; his mouth moved differently, his hair was parted to the wrong side and his smile was lopsided. Presumably, I looked off kilter to him although he never mentioned it.

Today I had my hair cut and while chatting to my hair dresser’s reflection in the mirror it dawned on me. He’s the only other person who sees me as I do. He sees my mirror image. Everyone else sees the reverse. And try to look at each other outside of the mirror and, well, it all seems wrong.

While deep in conversation I turned in my chair to talk to him directly. He was stooped down somewhere near my left ear, and could have turned to face me. But no, he kept his eye trained on my reflection in the mirror. Which was a little off-putting quite frankly, so I turned back to talk to “Mirror Man” instead. And we both relaxed.

Would you like to see my hair dresser? Here he is.

 

My hairdresser

Here Comes the Mirror Man. Says he’s a Ziggy Fan.

Fact or Fiction? You decide.

Would You Turn Away a Giraffe?

You have Sharon at A Number of Things and Katherine at Photobooth Journal to thank for today’s post. They really wanted evidence of my weekend at work dressed as a giraffe in honour of the thirtieth anniversary of Dear Zoo. However, much like an elf a Ziggy is tricky to capture on film. But it did get me thinking about the Giraffe so here are some factoids;

  • Its favourite food is Acacia leaves which it eats with an 18 inch purple/black prehensile tongue
  • They are born with horns called Ossicones
  • The poor females have to endure 15 months of pregnancy and the baby or calf is born head first and has a terrifying fall of six feet before hitting the ground. This wakes him up! He’s wandering around unaided after an hour.
  • It was believed that giraffes were mute but in fact they grunt and snort at each other, presumably very quietly. Interestingly they also communicate on an ultrasound level
  • Their latin name, Giraffa camelopardalis, roughly translated means  ‘one who walks swiftly, a camel marked like a leopard’.
  • They are only found naturally in Africa
  • They generally sleep standing up as it would be too difficult for the poor things to get up quickly should a predator happen to amble along. Consequently they snooze for a mere 5 or 10 minutes at a time.
  • Little birds called Oxpickers hitch a ride on the back of giraffes and keep their coat free of bugs and ticks
  • Their hearts are 2 feet long
  • They have no tear ducts and yet have been seen to cry
  •  Their necks, although incredibly long, have only have 7 vertebrae…..the same as us.
  • And just as no two humans have the same finger prints, so no two giraffes have the same pattern

In the book, Dear Zoo, the little boy doesn’t want the giraffe as a pet as “he was too tall”. So he sends him back to the zoo. Ungrateful child. But if he’d been in full possession of the facts would he have been so churlish? How could you turn away a big-hearted creature that has been dropped on his head as a baby, makes barely a sound, has simple food requirements and is desperate for a solid nights kip? So I ask you dear reader; would you send the giraffe back?

But enough of this fantasy. Here is a creature I saw wandering around the neighbourhood the other night. A Giraffelf.

 

 

Fact or fiction? You decide.

 

Dear Elf Children

Goodness me, but what a busy weekend it has been at work. We had well over a thousand visitors to the museum and I think I spoke to all of them. Our theme was animals as we were celebrating 30 years of the picture book Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell. We had animal inspired crafts and story times and the front of house team dressed up. I was a giraffe. I’ll leave you to ponder on that one.

Of course with so many visitors it’s very easy for elves to slip through reception without being noticed. But they can’t get past Ziggy. I took a few minutes rest to sketch a couple of elf children that were in the Attic.  Nice to see elves taking an interest in reading though.

 

 

Fact or fiction? You decide.