November 25, 2006


Since I've been working from home for a long time rather than in places where you must arrive at an early hour after a long journey by sardine-packed train or traffic-jammed bus, and since the dawn is usually the time I go to bed rather than when I wake up, early morning work experience is something I've nearly forgotten about. But this week I was reminded of how most normal people start and end their day because I was teaching a two-day printmaking workshop at a boy's school in London's outer suburbs (same school where I taught and took some photos last December .

Morning rush-hour by public transport is when you see people at their most stressed, most determined, and most wishing they were somewhere else - back in bed or on a beach. Some actually doze through their journeys but most eyes are fixed unswervingly on newspapers. I observe my fellow passengers on the underground and then join those staring up at the train announcement-panel at Victoria Station and try to work out (or invent) from their demeanor and clothes, what jobs they're going to and what their lives are like. I purposely don't buy a newspaper so that I can look at the November morning London sky through the train window. Pink clouds, would you believe, brightening up the grey/black/brown/rust cityscape.

Morning London from the train

I love printmaking and love showing its endless possibilities to those who may never have explored them. The challenge of improvisation, along with the need to follow certain fixed procedures (most of which involve cleaning up), invariably brings out the most amazingly creative results. I wish I had a photographic record of all the work produced by my students during the many years I taught in adult education but unfortunately I don't. In these past couple of days I also failed to take pictures because:

A) on the first day my camera's batteries were flat and there was no time and B) on the second day, the batteries were OK but there was no time. I only got these few shots of some of the students just as we were finishing up. So in case any of the boys on my two-day workshop are reading this: Sorry only a few of you appear here and even more sorry I don't have pictures of the prints you all produced during the two sessions. They were all terrific and so were you all. Sincerely meant.

We worked on collagraph techniques, building up plates from various materials and textures then printing and overprinting them in sequence. Subject matter was decided individually, using their ideas-packed sketchbooks for reference. Soon these boys will be going off into the world beyond school walls, forging whatever career and lifestyle their temperaments and backgrounds and opportunities predispose them for. But right now is a privileged, protected time, future not yet fixed, identity still open to suggestion - a wonderful time for art exploration, mind and tool sharpening.

Printmaking workshop1,   boy's school

Printmaking workshop3

(The painting on the easel was done in another art class. It's a self-portrait by a boy who was in my earlier workshop).

Printmaking workshop2

Printmaking workshop4

(one of the art teachers is just visible, framed like a Vermeer in the background).


November 19, 2006


This month's theme in the excellent online literary magazine  qarrtsiluni is: The First Time , which spurred me to dig further back into my memory. I came up with "The Effect" - another chapter for the autobiography, I suppose, but one I hadn't thought of writing down before. Knowing that your stuff will be read by someone somewhere certainly acts as a stimulus - why not send them your own experience of a first anything in your life?


November 15, 2006


Anybody would think this was a world-shaking event, the way I go on about it but anyway, just in case you want to put this in your diary, like, today:

Tuesday, December 5, 2006: BBC 1, 10:35 pm, "IMAGINE" (featuring approx. two and half minutes of me and Augustine somewhere within the 50 minutes of the whole excellent programme. So don't go to the bathroom or make a cup of tea because you will miss my bit).

For those sadly unable to access the wonderful BBC, fear not. They will give me a DVD of the programme and techno types will tell me how to get it up on a computer screen so that it will be viewable anywhere in the known virtual universe. I may be sorry for making such a big deal out of this after I've seen myself onscreen but, like I always say, better be sorry than safe.

Today I had a home visit from my people at the Beeb - okay, technicians for the Beeb - who recorded my voice speaking the speech balloons of Augustine and Tony Blair in the first Tony Blair comic strip (May 2003), which has been selected to appear, instead of God. I would have preferred to enact the part of God but at least He gets a mention. Unfortunately I can't do impressions so I wasn't able to reproduce the Blair-sound but I did give a perfect imitation of the Augustine high-pitched squeak. First time I realised what she actually sounds like.

Augustine online


November 11, 2006


November 8, 2006


Smiley USA



If you've missed me, and I hope so, you can actually hear me, being interviewed ,or podcasted over transatlantic pod tonight by Chris Rittke of 49sparks.

I didn't realise that I say "you know" quite so often or that I've got a frog up my nose and sound like an especially irksome adolescent but I was aware of my habit of butting in before the person I'm talking with has finished their sentence. Ay ay ay! Sorry, Chris, and thanks for being polite and not telling me off. My excuse is that in my family everybody talked all at once and everyone had strong views and you didn't stand a chance of being heard unless you interrupted.

This interview came about because the talented Lucy Pepper (formerly known as Vitriolica, currently wowing audiences at Blogzira ) was recently interviewed at 49sparks (listen to her lilting English voice there). She it was who told Chris how wondrous Augustine and I are and so it came to pass.      

Now you have been warned, go and listen but don't hold it against me. When that BBC programme comes out (due on November 28 but they'll let me know ahead of time and you can bet I'm not going to let anyone forget it) I hope I'm not going to come across as so bolshy. I don't know if that's the right term. Ay ay ay.

This week - yes this week - I'm going to post another episode of the autobiography. Stick around.