An Illustrated Letter From Ziggy with Love

I read a very interesting post by Erin on her blog For The Love of Bookshops. It was about Nina Sankovitch who, in order to combat depression brought about by the death of her sister,  read a book a day for a year. You can read the post here. Erin also mentioned that she shared Nina’s support of endangered things such as books, independent book shops, libraries and the written letter. I practically live in book shops, read copiously, and hang around my local library. And I used to love writing letters. But who does that now? It’s so easy to text and email that very few of us put pen to paper.

So I have decided to write a letter a day throughout 2013. But more than words, it will be an illustrated letter in a Ziggy style. I could just restrict this to family and friends, but my family is small and I have no friends. Would you like to help me in this challenge? If you would like to receive an illustrated hand written letter, email me your address to ziggy dot shortcrust at gmail dot com. It would be great to see just how far around the world a Ziggy drawing could go. Of course if you would like to return a letter to me that would be fantastic. I’ll post it up on the blog.

Of course, if only I had thought of this sooner I would be prepared with writing paper and envelopes, and possibly a fountain pen….or quill. All I could find was some Wizardology paper, which actually is quite fun.

These are letters 1 and 2 to my Mum and brother. It’ll be a shock as I haven’t written in years. Mum and I are on the phone all the time and my brother and I email each other.

Illustrated letter 1

Illustrated letter 2

I do hope you can help me with this challenge. Lets revive the art of letter writing.

A Mini Saga; Toys R Stuffed

Earlier on in the 29 Faces in September challenge I introduced Derwent, my Guardian of the Desk. When I was a child I had a Guardian of the Bed, and that was Donkey. He was lovingly knitted by my Grandma using scraps of wool and stuffed with nylon hosiery. Apparently it was very important that he accompanied me to bed, and I could be heard chatting to him before I drifted off to sleep. With Donkey cradled in my arms I was assured of a good nights sleep.

I still have him to this day, although he no longer shares my bed.

Protecting children from night-time terrors is a very important task, but what if it goes wrong?

A Mini Saga; Toys R Stuffed

Three toys dedicate themselves to keeping the imagined night terrors of a four-year old child at bay. One night the three guardians doze off. The Monster in the Wardrobe, no longer under observation, springs from its lair and devours the child. The toys suffer guilt for eternity.


Donkey; My hero



Why Name Your Campervan?

When I first started exploring the idea of owning a campervan I scoured classic car magazines, checked out club forums and chatted to other campervan owners. It didn’t take long to notice that owners referred to their much beloved mode of transport not as “it” or “the van” but by a given  name. This is not usual among modern car owners. I’ve never been introduced to Freddie the Ford Focus or Albert the Astra. Perhaps it is because a name suggests character, something that is missing from most Euro Boxes. On the other hand an old campervan is personality plus.

Driving a campervan is so unlike driving a modern vehicle. There’s the added frisson at the outset of a journey; will she start, will she get you from A to B and back again? Once on the road your senses come alive and you can actually hear the engine; taste the air as it rushes in through all those little gaps you’ve yet to seal; feel your biceps tightening as you tussle with non-power assisted steering; see all those envious faces as you hurtle by at 45 miles per hour; smell burning engine oil. Come on, your faculties won’t be assailed like that in a poncy Picasso!

A campervan is so much more than just a vehicle; you’re driving with a pal and as with all best friends not always reliable. Why only the other day on a trip with my buddy, the door handle came off in my hand, the front number plate dropped down and the windscreen wipers packed in. But we laughed. Yes, you’ve gone and bought yourself a living breathing companion and that companion deserves a name.

But how to choose one?

Native Americans watch the personality and quirkiness emerge in their children, and then choose a name that reflects this. However, that way could lead to your campervan being referred to by a string of expletives. You could use your number plate as inspiration. My first car was a mini whose reg was POG; so endearing. The second, a highly unpredictable mini Clubman estate, had an equally influential number plate; FKU suited it down to the ground. Some owners loiter around homes for the elderly in order to stimulate their imagination resulting in a lot of Maud’s, Ethel’s and Olives. Admittedly these are elderly vehicles so a pre-war moniker (or should that be Monica?) are quite apt.

What name has been given to my chum? He’s a VW Splitscreen and the previous owners had dubbed him Harvey however,  inspired by the pale yellow paintwork and cheery faces of passers-by we christened him Sunny. The perfect name for a bright, radiant and downright brilliant old friend.

If you own a campervan or old classic vehicle what name have you given yours?

Iron Lady; still crazy after all these years?

The film, The Iron Lady is released here in Britain today and for the past couple of weeks I’ve seen images of Meryl Thatcher glide before me on the sides of buses. It is being screened at the fabulous Tyneside Cinema an independent theatre housed in a beautiful Art Deco building. I must admit it is my cinema of choice because surroundings are important to me and I abhor soulless Multiplexes. The Tyneside screen a high proportion of world cinema films as well as a variety of well-chosen commercial offerings. Their choice to screen The Iron Lady has, however, caused great consternation amongst its visitors if their Facebook page is anything to go on. There is no doubt that during Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister she decimated the North East of England and it would appear that Tynesiders have neither forgiven nor forgotten. Nevertheless I was still surprised at the undiluted hatred that even a fictionalised version of the woman can create.

The film apparently concentrates on the present day eighty six year old Thatcher. Frail and dementing we view her life through flashbacks. Is this woman doddery and befuddled? I wonder.

My lasting memory of the now Baroness Thatcher, is her leaving Number 10 Downing Street for the final time. It was the first time she showed any emotion; she was in tears. The following is a piece of creative scribbling inspired by that moment.

They didn’t want to leave her alone. Why? What were they afraid she might do? Finally she had had to raise her voice until at last, no more phone calls. No more interruptions from simpering, shuffling members of staff. She was alone. Alone in an office that had been home for eleven years. It was to be so for just fifteen minutes more.

Sitting still didn’t come naturally to this woman. The high back of the leather desk chair had seldom felt the warmth of her body. But it felt right to settle in to its embrace, to slip off her stiffly moulded navy blue court shoes, and curl her legs up under her. This was time for the Iron Lady to reflect.

Her thin lips curled upward in a rare genuine smile and she breathed out in a calm measured sigh. As she rested her head against the wing of the chair her hair, so thickly coated in lacquer, crackled in protest. She gazed out of the window at the darkening November sky.” What a difference to this country I have made” she thought and the almost naked limbs of the horse chestnut tree nodded in agreement. Breathing in deeply yet again she filled her very soul with self satisfaction. Geoffrey Howe; who will remember that name in fifty years? Breaking cricket bats indeed! She would have happily broken one over the bumbling mans head.  And Michael Heseltine; what a buffoon. How she’d love to take some scissors to that fringe. She would live on and they would perish. She had taught the people of this country to stand on their own two feet, to not rely on handouts from its government. Single handedly she had sold off and closed down almost all state owned companies. And if that hadn’t been possible, withdrawn subsidies from the rest thus reversing a National decline. This was once more a great Nation, if only they realised it. Like a God she had risen from the rubble of The Grand Hotel, led them to victory in war and enriched the English language with a new word; Thatcherism.

A solitary, inky black crow landed in the branches of the tree and flapped its wings as it sought a perfect balance. Both woman and bird stared beady eye to beady eye. The creature regained composure, uncurled her legs from beneath herself and eased her feet back into her shoes. Time to leave. She rose from the chair, bent to retrieve a smart neat leather handbag from the floor then, just before leaving the room, paused in front of a large gilt framed mirror. Taking a Yardley lipstick from the bag she applied a smear of rose pink to her lips. She then stared intently at her reflection. Tears welled up within those hooded eyes quicker than she could have hoped. Practice definitely made perfect.

Perhaps just a quiver of the lower lip?


She was ready to face the people of her country one last time.

Christmas Ghost Story

I was directed from a tweet by @GothicHeroine to this article by Muriel Grey. The demise of the Christmas ghost story is saddening so I thought I would redress the issue.

The following scribble is inspired by a ghostly encounter experienced by Dr Anne Ross. It appears in one of my favourite books; Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain published in 1973 by Readers Digest.

A courier appears at the door of my house with a crate that should have been delivered to the museum where I work. A draught of cold, early morning December air snakes past my pyjama clad legs. I attempt to persuade him to redirect the box, but, a jobsworth to the core he declines. I scrawl my signature on his etch-a-sketch pad as he unceremoniously dumps the container into the hall and almost runs down my drive to his van. Closing the door I crouch down next to the box. Measuring around 20 inches square by about 10 deep I slide my fingers under the base to test the weight; heavy, but no more than I expect.

Can I move it? Desperate to view the contents I figure I can cradle it in my arms and carry it as far as my study without breaking my back. I stagger down the hall and with a twist of my hips whack open the unlatched door to my room and drop the box on my desk.

Straightening up I push my hands through my hair and sigh deeply. Inexplicably I feel nervous and agitated. I should be opening this alongside my assistant in the sterile environment of the lab at the museum. Not in my home, in my jim jams. Oh for gods sake, woman, open the box. I fumble around in the drawer for a pair of scissors and as I open them wide to score the parcel tape a gust of wind howls around the house. So sudden is the sound that I pause to listen.  Glancing out the window I watch the leafless limbs of the silver birch bend in the wintery blast. I shiver and lay down the scissors. I decide to shower and dress.

Thirty minutes later, with the comforting banter from the radio, I enter my study once more. Leaving the door open to allow warm air to permeate the unusual chill of the room I resume the task of opening the box. The blade of the scissors cuts through the taped package with ease and I pull open the flaps of the crate. I push my hands into the dozens of Wotsit shaped polystyrene packing pieces and ease them, squeaking, out of the container onto the desk. Lifting a layer of paper dockets reveals corrugated card and acid free tissue.  Beneath that there they are.

Two carved stone heads, excavated from a garden close toHadrian’s Wall. They are both quite weather worn, the one on the right in particular, but even so I see coils of hair or horn artfully etched into the sides of each head. Perhaps they represent Cernunnos, the Celtic hunting god. I can’t resist and I trace my fingers along the features. There is nothing unpleasant about the faces and yet they disturb me.

Without warning an appalling howl from the room above almost causes my bladder to release its contents. I grip my arms tightly about myself and stare at the ceiling. I am dimly aware that the radio has fallen silent.  Leaving my study I proceed to climb the stairs fascinated by the fact that I can’t stop myself from doing so.

I walk along the landing and into the spare room from which I thought the scream had come from. Nobody is there.


The door slams shut behind me. I spin round letting out a stream of expletives and lunge for the door handle. There is no means of locking the door yet it holds fast. Horrifyingly I hear grunts and bovine like breathing coming from the other side. What the hell is in the house with me?

The door is released and I stagger backward. Recovering my balance I run out onto the landing and see a tall figure dark and indistinct making for the stairs. Bellowing like a beast it rushes down the stair case and vaults over the banisters. For all its size it lands in the corridor with a soft thud and turns down the hall to the kitchen. I almost slide off the treads as I race down after the creature listening to its claws clattering on the tiled floor. I am too terrified to venture any further and cling to the final stair post. All at once the radio bursts into life and I sense the intruder has fled.

The Celts believe that the severed heads of their enemies hold magical properties and bestow the same powers upon carved stone heads just like the ones sitting in my study.  Perhaps their job was to act as guardians outside a shrine to some god long since abandoned and now departed.


I think not.