Back in the Saddle

Spring is finally here so I’ve dusted down my bike and I’m commuting to work under pedal power. For my birthday Tall Man bought me a Brooks saddle and after two weeks I think I’ve broken it in.

Ziggy's Brooks Saddle

Ziggy’s Brooks Saddle

The route to work is lovely as it takes in crossing Newcastle’s Town Moor. A haven of peace to the north of the city. It’s about 350 acres which is bigger than Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath combined. If you’re talking football fields that’s around 299 of them. Of course if you add all the other moors; Nuns Moor, Dukes Moor, Little Moor, Hunters Moor and Castle Leazes Moor then you’re probably looking at, what, 600 football fields?

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You don’t see a lot of people on The Moor. They hurry along the tarmac paths that criss- cross it’s belly like a hot cross bun; on their bikes, with their dogs or just jogging. Kids don’t play on The Moor or picnic on it. Nobody lingers. Maybe it’s because it’s so exposed and desolate and wind-blown.

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But that’s what I love about The Moor, its wide open space, huge skies, and emptiness. I love listening to the skylarks singing their hearts out high above my head and even the beady eyed crows that swoop down and shout abuse at me and Mischa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m not a speed freak kind of cyclist. On the contrary I take things steadily and with what I hope is a modicum of style. You won’t catch me in skin tight Lycra going for the burn. Everybody overtakes me, even children on tricycles, but I don’t care. I like to arrive at work energised sans sweat. Unfortunately the wind plays havoc with my eyes and I roll in looking like this……

Should.ve worn waterproof mascara

Should’ve worn waterproof mascara

Do you ride a bike? If so how do you stay stylish?

And talking of being back in the saddle, it’s good to be back blogging. Hope you’re all doin’ fine.

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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.

Little Waif and Stray

I know you are all going to think this young elf sweet. Do not be deceived. She paid us a visit at the Small House on November 4th, commonly known as Mischief Night. In my home county of Yorkshire it’s known as Miggy Night and is time for pranks and practical jokes. She decided to play Knock Down Ginger and rang our doorbell then ran away…again and again and again. Finally we took her by surprise by letting the skinny dogs out. One of them appeared to catch her yet all the dog had in her mouth were rags very similar to those wrapped around the little elf child.

 

Fact or Fiction? You decide.

Glamorous Elf

So yesterday I introduced Sedgwick the baby dragon and I think you might be seeing a bit more of him in the future. He was “hatched” by my talented friend Gabi in response to my musing “I’d love a baby dragon of my own.” It was such a kind gesture and a total surprise. So what could I give in return? Obviously an elf. I wanted it to be something special to Gabi and, as she is a dab hand at face painting, among a million other creative things, I created a face painted elf.

This is Gabi at work last Christmas as The Grinch.

And this is her elf.

She was so much fun to draw that I think I’ll have a go at creating some more.

29 Faces in September; Young Girl and Dragon

This is a detail from a drawing I did of Imaginary Daughter on her twelfth birthday. It was a birthday treat to beat all birthday treats; a day training dragons. Deep in a forest on the Scottish Borders we watched on as our daughter was taught how to handle these magnificent creatures. But it was with this particular baby dragon that she built up a very strong bond during the course of the day. We were not allowed to take photos, but I was given permission to sketch. This watercolour pencil drawing is the result of those sketches.

Imaginary Daughter and the baby dragon are two more faces in the 29 Faces in September challenge.

 

Fact or fiction?

You decide.

29 Faces in September #4; Derwent the Desk Guardian

I would like to introduce you to Derwent. He’s a tiny ted with a huge responsibility. He guards my desk.

Derwent makes sure that everything I need, creatively speaking, is always at hand and that nothing goes missing. He sharpens pencils, throws out dud fine liners and occasionally answers the phone. Derwent is also good at thumbing through the dictionary and thesaurus when words fail me.

All this and he’s only 4″ tall.

Do you have a Guardian of the Desk?

 

He’s always on the move, so it had to be a quick sketch.

Fact or fiction?

You decide.

29 Faces in September #3; Mr Knobbly Head

Number 3 in the challenge 29 faces in September.

If you know what to look for, you can tell a lot about a person by reading the bumps on their head. It’s called phrenology. If you squeeze an elf’s head it’s called “asking for trouble.” I wonder what the psychological attributes of this creature would be?