Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Islip Rebus

The Islip Rebus.

Yet another rebus. This time, my take on the famous one that exists in a carved stone lintel above the Islip Chapel within Westminster Abbey.

In 1464 a boy was born in Islip in Oxfordshire who later became Abbot John of Westminster, also known as Abbot Islip. He built the little Islip Chapel in the Abbey, and his rebus, or heraldic pun on his name, was an eye and a hand holding a small branch or graft of a tree, archaicly referred to a 'slip'. Just in case this was all too subtle the device also shows a figure slipping from a tree - literally 'I slip!'. I have shown the figure without footing with a bird's egg in his hand which he has stolen from the nest above him to his left(Bad boy!). The mother bird berates him for this outrage.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Another Rebus

Yet another Rebus (being a form of word game that uses pictures to represent words or parts of words. From Latin, meaning 'By Things').

This one represents the name of a small town in West Sussex. It was also the name of my House at Secondary School (although it wasn't really that sort of school!), St. Greg's in Kenton, north-east London (a Roman Catholic comprehensive). The town has a special significance to English Catholics, although what it is I cannot say!

The House colour was Yellow, and all five Bommer kids were in it!

Any guesses? Kudos and glory to the first person to get it!

A Rebus

A Rebus, being a form of word game that uses pictures to represent words or parts of words. From Latin, meaning 'By Things'.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Twitter Ye Not - Titanic

Twitter Ye Not - Titanic

A piece about how figures in history might have twittered or tweeted or whatever, had they the chance, inclination and technology.

On 10 April 1912, the SS Titanic set off from Southampton on her doomed maiden voyage to New York City. Four days into the crossing, at 23:40 on 14 April 1912, she struck an iceberg and sank at 2:20 the following morning. Maritime historians have recently discovered the Twitter feed from that fateful weekend.

This is the fifth of this series I have done so far (Coronation of Elizabeth I, Napoleon entering Paris, the Crimean War, the Suffragette movement and now this). Its a fun series, although I was disappointed that the author had not included 'The Unsinkable' Molly Brown in the Twitter feed - it seemed to be mostly concerned with the characters from James Cameron's film (including Celine Dion's grandmother!) than with actual real-life victims and survivors of the disaster.

I have shown Captain Edward J. Smith in authentic costume at the ship's wheel (also accurate!). The white dot you may be able to make out on the insignia on his hat is a white star on a wreathed and crowned flag, symbol of the White Star Line. Facing him is one of the ship's wealthier passengers lady Muck, complaining about the size of her suite onboard. She too is in authentic costume for Spring 1912, with broad hat, egret feathers and long-handled parasol! I have also shown a rat running at top-speed for the nearest gang-plank or rope by which to leave the vessel (possibly inaccurate!).

Museum Journal - Part 11

Museum Journal - Part 11 (April 2011)

Part 11 of theDirector of the National Museum of Britsh History's Diary, for regular client Museum Journal (MJ).

This month our man is grilled by his superior Sir N__ about fund-raising, and given advice on how to get sponsorship from American art dealers and Russian Mafia. I was asked to based Sir N__ on Aleksandr the Meerkat, off of the telly...

As always with MJ the final print size is minute (3 or 4 cm across tops) so its crucial to keep the design very simple and the detail to a minimum.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Illostribute - David Klein

Illostribute - David Klein

I was asked by the very talented Mr Toby Thane Neighbors to contribute to his blog Illostribute (, after he saw my work on the Drawn! website.

The idea behind the blog is to pay tribute to "master" illustrators from the past, by inviting cool,
contemporary illustrators (like me! hehe) to interpret their work.

Sadly I was too snowed under with other commitments to create a piece inspired by the last two masters - Earl Oliver Hurst and Al Hirschfeld. So this time around I was determined to make the time to produce an image based on the work of the next illustration maestro, no matter what.

For the forthcoming tribute post, Toby has chosen the amazing mid-century illustrator David Klein, most famous for his beautiful travel posters. The following website has the largest collection of his work on the web:

I was particularly inspired by the posters and window cards he created for a local theatre company, the Heights Players, from the mid 50s until the late 60s. You can see a handful of examples by following this link:

I have chosen to illustrate a poster for a production (by a fictitious theatre company!) of Dylan Thomas' masterpiece Under Milk Wood, written in 1954, in which an all-seeing narrator invites the audience to listen to the dreams and innermost thoughts of the inhabitants of an imaginary small Welsh fishing village, Llareggub (which is bugger all spelt backwards).

I have shown a few of the play's characters - Mrs Ogmore Pritchard and her two dead husbands, Polly Garter, Waldo, Dai Bread, &c., &c. set against the hillside. Only the blind old sea-captain, Captain Cat, 'sees' the town go through its day, as he sits in his window on the quayside and remembers his drowned shipmates and his long dead love Rosie Probert. In the 1972 film Captain Cat was played by Peter O'Toole and Rosie Probert by the late great Elizabeth Taylor (RIP).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Restaurant Magazine - April 2011

Restaurant Magazine - April 2011

A piece for regular client Restaurant magazine, just finished this morning.

This was for a piece about Mergers & Acquisitions (M & A) - how everyone in Business imagines growth and accumulation is always a good thing but how there can also be many casualties of such take-overs and expansion and that it doesn't always turn out to be the right course of action.

Their idea was a Wild West saloon bar with unsuccessful businesses being lobbed out through the swing doors.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

King o' the Cats

The King o' the Cats

A quick dip pen and watercolour sketch, inspired by one of my favourite folk legends.

On his way to his friend's house a lonesome traveller becomes lost in the gathering darkness. Seeing a light ahead he walks on until he comes to a hollow tree from which the light is emanating. Inside he witnesses hundreds of cats, each holding a candle, singing around the ornately carved sarcophagus of one of their kind.

Spooked by this unworldly sight the man fled the scene and ran as fast as he could, until at last he stumbled by chance upon the house of his friend. Sitting down by the fire with a drink and a bowl of stew the man recounted his bizarre encounter to his incredulous friend and his wife.

When at last he mentions the funeral procession and coffin the friend's ginger tom, sitting at his owner's feet until this point, stood up suddenly upon his hind legs and exclaimed "What? Tim Toldrum is dead? Then I am the King o' the Cats!" and with that, flew up the chimney, never to be seen again!

There are many versions of this story from all across the country. This particular version, with that particular name for the deceased feline, is from Oxford-shire.

Twitter Ye Not - Suffragettes

Twitter Ye Not - Suffragettes

A piece about how figures in history might have twittered or tweeted or whatever, had they the chance, inclination and technology.

In April 1913 suffragette leader Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst was sentenced to three years in Holloway Prison for procuring and inciting women to commit acts of violence. Now, the Twitter feed for that period has been unearthed by archaeologists working on the dustier corners of the internet.

I have shown Mrs Pankhurst (with her perpetually surprised face) on the left, placard downed as she tweets. On the other side of the railings (to which one of the suffragettes was no doubt chained) stands King George V, furious and ready with his shotgun. Horrible man.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Notebook Sketches - Pagan London & Rain

Another page of sketches from my notebook - this one in done yester-day as I sheltered in Shore-ditch cafés from the icy and persistant downpour.

Themes here touched upon include said Precipitation, a Numberella curved elegently like a fancy bracket bought as Protection, the Calendar points of the Ancient Year, Noses, Fishing and the Pagan Landscape of London, including the Discovery of a Tooth of the Giant Bran the Blessed found by the Sacred Landscape Society beneath the easternmost Turret of the White Tower at Tower Hill, left behind accidentally by Kind Arthur!

Also, that Vincent is the perfect name for a Vigneron!

Comments welcome!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day - Limerick #2

St. Patrick's Day - Limerick #2

In honour of Saint Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland, whose Feast Day is to-day, I have penned 5 or 6 Limericks with an Irish theme.

Here is the Second! Please be kind - I'm well aware I'm no Seamus Heaney or Yeats. Hell, I'm not even a Pam Ayres. Or worse still, an Andrew Motion!

A pig farmer's son from Dundalk
Was addicted to all forms of pork
Whe he ate all the bacon
His poor Da was makin'
He was forced to move down to Cork.

Dundalk (from Irish: Dún Dealgan meaning "Dalgan's stronghold, or fortress") is the County Town of County Louth in the Irish Republic. It is situated where the Castletown River flows into Dundalk Bay. The town is close to the border with Northern Ireland and equi-distant from Dublin and Belfast. The town's name, which was historically written as Dundalgan, has associations with the mythical warrior Cú Chulainn, known as the Hound of Ulster . The town's crest reads Mé do rug Cú Chulainn Cróga, meaning "I gave birth to brave Cú Chulainn". It was granted its charter in 1189.

Our poor farmer's son is here on the Rocky Road to Dublin, and beyond that Cork. The Irish name for Cork, Corcaigh, is derived from the Gaelic word for swamp. There's a touch of swamp-grass at the signpost's foot to show our man is setting off in the right direction. His Da loves him, but times are tough and the sorry gentleman cannot survive with his big fat son eating him out of house and home. I think the farmer's son's name is Ralph Cummings.

St. Patrick's Day - Limerick #1

St. Patrick's Day - Limerick #1

In honour of Saint Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland, whose Feast Day is to-day, I have penned 5 or 6 Limericks with an Irish theme.

So here's the first! Please be kind - I'm well aware I'm no Seamus Heaney or Yeats. Hell, I'm not even a Pam Ayres. Or worse still, an Andrew Motion!

A pungent old man from Clontarf
Refused to take a hot bath
"'Tis cold sure, but free
To bathe in the sea!"
Said that briney old man with a laugh.

Clontarf (Irish: Cluain Tarbh) is a coastal suburb on the northside of Dublin, where I went to Art College (NCAD) in the early 90s. It is most famous for giving the name to the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, in which Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, defeated the invading Norsemen, the Viking invaders. This battle, which extended to districts over several miles, is seen as marking an end to the Irish-Viking Wars.

My Mum told me that when she visited Ireland in the 50s she was shown a pair of human skulls, one adult and one much smaller. She was told the larger of the two was the skull of none other than King Brian Boru. When she pointed to the small one and inquired who that was she was told that that was the skull of Kind Brian Boru as a boy!

My auld fella here (showing his auld fella) is bathing in the sea nearby, probably Dollymount Strand. To his right is Howth Head where Molly and Leopold made out, to his left the Poolbeg Chimneys (which I always knew as the 'winky men' because of the red flashing light at the top of each stack, the first thing I'd see when returning on the ferry). Ah happy days!

Nude swimming would probably be frowned upon at 'Dollier' but is quite accepted at other places on Dublin Bay, most notably the Forty Foot and the Vico in Dalkey, where I myself would brave the rocks and the waves wearing nothing but a nervous smile!.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Twitter Ye Not - Crimean War

Twitter Ye Not - Crimean War

A piece about how figures in history might have twittered or tweeted or whatever, had they the chance, inclination and technology.

The Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856) was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire with an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining Ottoman Empire. Most of the conflict took place on the Crimean Peninsula, but there were smaller campaigns in western Anatolia, the Baltic Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the White Sea.

I have shown Florence Nightingale wondering how many lamps to pack with her, and opposition statesman Benjamin Disraeli (later Prime Minister and Lord Beaconsfield) considering what colour cravat to wear for the conflict.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beware the Ides of March! (15th March)

Beware the Ides of March!

The Ides of March (Latin: Idus Martii) is the name of 15 March (to-day!) in the Roman calendar, probably referring to the day of the full moon. The term ides was used for the 15th day of the months of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th day of the other months. The Ides of March was a festive day dedicated to the god Mars (God of War) and a military parade was usually held.

In modern times, the term Ides of March is best known as the date that Julius Caesar was killed in 44 B.C. Julius Caesar was stabbed (23 times) to death in the Theatre of Pompey led by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus and 60 other conspirators.

On his way to the Theatre of Pompey (where he would be assassinated), Caesar saw a seer who had foretold that harm would come to him not later than the Ides of March. Caesar joked, "Well, the Ides of March have come", to which the seer replied "Ay, they have come, but they are not gone." This meeting is famously dramatized in William Skakespeare's play Julius Caesar, when Caesar is warned to "beware the Ides of March".

'Et tu, Brute?' is a Latin phrase often used poetically to represent Caesar's last words to his friend Marcus Brutus at the moment of his murder by stabbing. It can be variously translated as 'Even you, Brutus?','"And you, Brutus?', 'You too, Brutus?', 'Thou too, Brutus?' or 'And thou, Brutus?'. Immortalized by Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (1599), the quotation is widely used in Western culture to signify the utmost betrayal.

Wanted to try my hand at cross-hatching with this image. Click on the image to Enlarge.

Monday, March 14, 2011



Lent, in the Christian tradition, is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Christ's Resurrection.

According to the Canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent forty days fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by Satan. Thus, Lent is described as being forty days long, though different demoninations calculate the forty days differently. Many Christians do not include the Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter as part of Lent. And most Irish Catholics believe they have special papal dispensation to celebrate St. Patrick's Day (17th March)!

It was traditional to avoid meat (meaning the flesh of livestock and poultry) during Lent - hence one possible derivation of the word Carnival (Farewell to meat), celebrated on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the commencement of lenten observances. However, medieval scholars believed that certain geese came not from eggs but from Goose Barnacles in the sea. They were consequently classified by Catholics at the time as fish and not meat and so could be eaten during that time! Very handy!

In the late Middle Ages, as sermons began to be given in the vernacular instead of Latin, the English word lent was adopted for the period instead the latin name Quadrgesima. This word initially simply meant spring (as in the German language Lenz and Dutch lente) and derives from the Germanic root for long because in the spring the days visibly lengthen.

I am not religious, but still like to observe Lent. Easter without Lent, like Christmas without Advent, is somehow hollow - all reward and glutting without any of the work or restraint that make the feasting mean something. I'm trying to cut down on the sugar and sticky buns...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Yesterday's Notebook Sketches

This is one of yesterday's notebook sketch pages.
Mostly done in Leila's Café on Arnold Circus.

Shewing divers dark workings of the mind and the acting-out of numerous idées fixes.

There is a certain paschal theme running through some of the imagery the observant will note.

Comments welcome!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Satan's Coat-of-Arms

Satan's Coat-of-Arms

Attributed arms are coats-of-arms given to legendary figures, or to notable persons from times before the rise of heraldry . Beginning in the 12th century, imaginary arms were assigned to the Knights of the Round Table, and soon arms were given to biblical figures, to Roman and Greek heroes, and to kings and popes who had not historically borne arms. The specific arms could vary, but the arms for major figures soon became fixed.

Notable arms attributed to biblical figures include the arms of Jesus based on the instruments of the Passion, and the shield of the Trinity . Medieval literature attributed coats of arms to the Nine Worthies, including Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Kind Arthur.

This is the coat-of-arms traditionally attributed to Satan in European heraldry. Blazoned "Gules, a fess Or between three frogs proper" (or with effectively equivalent blazons, such as "Gules, a fess Or between three frogs Vert", "Gules, a fess Gold between three frogs proper", etc.).

In the book The Heraldic Imagination by Rodney Dennys (1975), this is traced back to the late 13th-century Douce Apocalypse manuscript (housed in the Bodlean Library, Oxford), in an illustration to Revelations 20:7-10. The design is based on the "three unclean spirits like frogs" of verse 16:13.

No crest is ascribed to the Devil's arms but I have added a non-Christian royal crown (as he is Prince of Darkness & Prince of the Underworld) and a crest of a bat with spread wings. For the Blazon's motto I have taken the inscription over the gates of Hell described in Dante's Inferno - Abandon All Hope (You Who Enter).

Twitter Ye Not - Napoleon in Paris

Twitter Ye Not - Napoleon in Paris

A piece about how figures in history might have twittered or tweeted or whatever, had they the chance, inclination and technology.

On the 31 March 1815, after escaping from exile in Elba and mustering an army of more than 200,000 volunteers, Napoleon Bonaparte entered Paris in triumph. It was the start of what would become known as the Hundred Days. Now, archeologists excavating the dustier corners of the internet have unearthed the Twitter feed of that fateful day.

I have shown the little Emperor wondering what to call the Arch of Triumph he plans to have built to mark this momentous occasion. And on the other side Mad King George III tweets astride a child's hobby horse. George, known as Farmer George for Kew Botanical Gardens and his love of horticulture, may have been talking to the small tree (possibly a standard laurel), which naturally I have shown in a typical Regency-style of plant pot!

It is printed only about 11 cm across and so the design had to be kept sufficiently simple.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Mardi Gras

Happy Mardi Gras!

To-day is Shrove Tuesday or as the French call it Mardi Gras (literally Fat Tuesday). It is a day of festivity and feasting before the austerity of Lent, which starts to-morrow, Ash Wednesday.

Across the world the day is marked by excess, merriment and jollity. Many cities have their Mardi Gras celebrations to-day, whilst Rio has its famously flamboyant Carnaval and ancient crimbling Venice its opulently baroque masked Carnevale.

The origin of the name "carnival" is disputed. Variants in Italian dialects suggest that the name comes from the Italian carne levare or similar, meaning "to remove meat", since meat is prohibited during Lent.

A different explanation states that the word comes from the Late Latin expression carne vale, which means "farewell to meat", signifying that those were the last days when one could eat meat before the fasting of Lent. Yet another translation depicts carne vale as "a farewell to the flesh", a phrase embraced by certain carnival celebrations that encourage letting go of your former (or everyday) self and embracing the carefree nature of the festival. However, explanations proceeding from carne vale seem to be folk etymologies and are not supported by philological evidence.

Another possible explanation comes from the term "Carrus Navalis" (ship cart), the name of the Roman festival of the goddess Isis, where her image was carried to the sea-shore to bless the start of the sailing season. The festival consisted in a parade of masks following an adorned wooden boat, that would reflect the floats of modern carnivals.

In Britain we have Pancake Day, where households used up their fats and sugars before the lean month of Lenten abstinance by making pancakes, usually served with lemon juice and sugar. This evening, more than any other night, Britain should be filled from coast-to-coast with tossers!

The word shrove is the past participle of the English verb to shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by way of confession and doing penance. During the week before Lent, sometimes called Shrovetide in English, Christians were expected to go to confession in preparation for the penitential season of turning to God.

I have shown Harlequin tossing a pancake in a marriage of English and Italian traditions. Harlequin, or Arlecchino in Italian, is the most popular of the 'zanni' or comic servant characters from the Italian Commedia dell'Arte tradition and its descendant, the Harlequinade. The Commedia dell'arte is the common ancestor of both modern-day circus clowns and Punch & Judy puppet theatre. He is often associated with Carnevale. Never malicious but always good-humoured he uses his wits and cunning to turn difficult situations on their heads, though he will sometimes use his Batte or slap-stick (from which we get the term!) to bring down the pompous.

Happy Mardi Gras/ Pancake Day!

Friday, March 4, 2011

City of Nantes

La Cité de Nantes (blason)

These are my take on the coat-of-arms of Nantes, in Brittany (Bretagne), France.

I have never been but the place has long had a fascination and draw for me. Home of the imcomparable Jacques Demy, giant mechanised elephants, the LU Petit Buerre bisket... et la plupart de mes amis de FessesBouc français!

I hope very much that this year I will visit it at last!

The arms show a ship upon the waves. The band of ermine at the top indicates that the City is in Brittany, and lies on the mouth of the great river Loire at the regions southernmost tip. The sails of the ship should also be of ermine but I've swapped them for the town's famous biscuit/ bisket!

The motto, Favet Neptunus Eunti, is Latin and means Neptune Favours the Sailors. I am not at all sure of the ship's friggin' rigging but then I'm no sailor. But like King Neptune I favour them! (Favet Paulus Eunti)

Bonjour mes potos nantais!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lost In Music

Lost in Music

I listen to a lot of Classical Music these days. Mostly because our noisy next door neighbours have become just that little bit more noisy and irritating of late with the addition of two perpetually screaching children to add to the Beyoncé impressions, arguments and religious wailings. Radio 3 of a morning has saved my mind.

This man is literally 'Lost in Music', in this case Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G. Easily done.

Joseph Grimaldi, clown

Joey Grimaldi, clown

Joseph Grimaldi (18 December 1778 – 31 May 1837), was the most celebrated of English clowns, and is credited with being "the first whiteface clown".

Grimaldi was born in Clare Market, London, the son of an Italian, Signor Giuseppe or Joseph 'Iron Legs' Grimaldi, pantomimist, circensian artist and ballet-master at the Drury Lane and Rebecca Brooker, a dancer in the theatre's corps de ballet. Grimaldi's father died in 1788, when Joseph was nine, and plunged the family into debt. When less than two years old, Joseph was introduced to the stage at Drury Lane; at the age of three, he began to appear at the Sadler's Wells theatre.

As a young man, Grimaldi fell in love and married the daughter of the principal proprietor of Sadler's Wells. Maria Grimaldi died in childbirth 18 months after their marriage. He found solace in performance, and eventually married again, to Mary. A son, Joseph Samuel Grimaldi was born and entered the profession, but drank himself to death by the age of thirty.

As a pantomime clown Grimaldi was considered unsurpassable, his greatest success occurring in Harlequin and Mother Goose; or the Golden Egg at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden (1806 and often revived).

Joseph Grimaldi was an innovator, his performance as Joey introduced the modern clown to the world, building on the existing role of Clown as a country bumpkin and fool, derived from the Commedia dell'arte; and making the clown the central character in the Harlequinade. His physical comedy was extraordinary, as was his ability to invent visual tricks and buffoonery, and his ability to poke fun at the audience. As Music Hall became popular, he introduced the pantomime dame to the theatre and was responsible for the tradition of audience participation. His most famous song was Hot Codlins - some historians say these are toffee apples, but I think it was simply a hot and spiced baked apple, sold on the street (incidentally the word Codlin or Codling for a cooking apple is a corruption of the french Coeur de Lion, literally Lion-Heart. Whether this was named in honour of its shape, an hommage to great Richard I or simply that you needed to be brave to eat one I cannot tell!).

A little old woman,
her living she got
by selling hot codlins,
hot, hot, hot.
And this little old woman,
who codlins sold,
tho' her codlins were hot,
she felt herself cold.
So to keep herself warm,
she thought it no sin
to fetch for herself
a quartern of ........

The audience would shout Gin, with some glee, and Grimaldi would fix them with a stare and say Oh! For shame!, in mock disappointment.

A famous 'sad clown' anecdote was first told of Grimaldi: A young man goes to see his doctor. He is overcome by a terrible sadness and doesn't think anything will make him feel better. The doctor says, "Why not do something happy, like going to see Grimaldi the clown?". The young man answers, with a knowing look, "Ah, but Doctor", he says, "I am Grimaldi."

By 1828, he was broke, and benefit performances were held at both Sadler's Wells (17 March) and Covent Garden (28 June). A pension of £100 per annum was instituted by the Drury Lane Theatrical Fund. He could barely walk, but spent his last years at the Cornwallis Tavern, in Pentonville, the landlord, George Cook carrying him back to his nearby lodgings at the end of the evening. On the night of 31 May 1837, he died, owing to the years of extreme physical exertion his clowning had involved. The London Illustrated News wrote Grimaldi is dead and hath left no peer. We fear with him the spirit of pantomime has disappeared. His death was less than three weeks before Queen Victoria ascended the Throne.

Joseph Grimaldi's grave is in Joseph Grimaldi Park (formerly, the courtyard of St. James's Chapel), Pentonville Road in Islington. To this day, on every first Sunday in February, a memorial service is held for Grimaldi at All Saints' Church, Haggerston, Hackney. At this service, hundreds of clowns flock from all over the world in full 'garb', and the service is followed by a show for the children.

My image is based on a very famous print of Joseph Grimaldi, which you can see here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Saffron Walden

This is the badge and arms of Saffron Walden, a small and beautiful market town in North Essex.

In the 16th century and 17th century the saffron crocus (crocus sativus) became widely grown in the area. The flower was precious, as extract from the stigmas, the saffron, was used in medicines, as a condiment, as a perfume, as an aphrodisiac, and as an expensive yellow dye. This industry gave its name to the town and what was originally Chipping Walden became Saffron Walden.

These arms show the Saffron Crocus within the walls of the castle. They are intended as an heraldic pun (known as canting arms) or rebus - "Saffron walled-in".

Artist and illustrator Edward Bawden (a big hero of mine) lived in the town during the 70s and 80s and the town's Fry Art Gallery houses a good collection of his work and that of his circle.

Ordering Plants Online

Ordering Plants Online

A job I just finished yesterday for an article about buying plants online and getting them delivered to your door!

Wanted to keep a limited colour palette, and to clearing delineate the inside (the ordering) and the out-of-doors (the delivery). Sir Plants-a-lot was my terrible idea - I had to check first to see it wasn't an actual company already! The fish-shaped 'gurgle vase' on the window-sil was added because I saw one on Antiques Roadshow on Sunday night!

Happy St David's Day!

Happy St. David's Day! Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant!

Saint David, or Dewi Sant, as he is known in the Welsh language, is the patron saint of Wales. He was a Celtic monk, abbot and bishop, who lived in the sixth century. During his life, he was the archbishop of Wales, and he was one of many early saints who helped to spread Christianity among the pagan Celtic tribes of western Britain.

For details of the life of Dewi, we depend mainly on his biographer, Rhigyfarch. He wrote Buchedd Dewi (the life of David) in the 11th century. Gerallt Gymro (Giraldus Cambrensis), who wrote a book about his travels through Wales in the 12th century, also gives some information about Dewi's early life. Dewi died in the sixth century, so nearly five hundred years elapsed between his death and the first manuscripts recording his life. As a result, it isn't clear how much of the history of Dewi's life is legend rather than fact.

However, both sources say, so we can be relatively certain, that Dewi was a very gentle person who lived a frugal life. It is claimed that he ate mostly bread and herbs - probably watercress, which was widely used at the time. Despite this supposedly meagre diet, it is reported that he was tall and physically strong.

Dewi is said to have been of royal lineage. His father, Sant, was the son of Ceredig, who was prince of Ceredigion, a region in South-West Wales. His mother, Non, was the daughter of a local chieftain. Legend has it that Non was also a niece of King Arthur.

Dewi was born near Capel Non (Non's chapel) on the South-West Wales coast near the present city of Saint David. We know a little about his early life - he was educated in a monastery called Hen Fynyw, his teacher being Paulinus, a blind monk. Dewi stayed there for some years before going forth with a party of followers on his missionary travels.

Dewi travelled far on his missionary journeys through Wales, where he established several churches. He also travelled to the south and west of England and Cornwall as well as Brittany. It is also possible that he visited Ireland. Two friends of his, Saints Padarn and Teilo, are said to have often accompanied him on his journeys, and they once went together on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to meet the Patriarch.

Dewi is sometimes known, in Welsh, as 'Dewi Ddyfrwr' (David the Water Drinker) and, indeed, water was an important part of his life - he is said to have drunk nothing else. Sometimes, as a self-imposed penance, he would stand up to his neck in a lake of cold water, reciting Scripture. Little wonder, then, that some authors have seen Dewi as an early Puritan!

He founded a monastery at Glyn Rhosyn (Rose Vale) on the banks of the small river Alun where the cathedral city of St. David stands today. The monastic brotherhood that Dewi founded was very strict, the brothers having to work very hard besides praying and celebrating masses. They had to get up very early in the morning for prayers and afterwards work very hard to help maintain life at the monastery, cultivating the land and even pulling the plough. Many crafts were followed - beekeeping, in particular, was very important. The monks had to keep themselves fed as well as the many pilgrims and travellers who needed lodgings. They also had to feed and clothe the poor and needy in their neighbourhood.

There are many stories regarding Dewi's life. It is said that he once rose a youth from death, and milestones during his life were marked by the appearance of springs of water. These events are arguably more apocryphal than factual, but are so well known to Welsh-speaking schoolchildren that it is worth mentioning them here.

Perhaps the most well-known story regarding Dewi's life is said to have taken place at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi. They were to decide whether Dewi was to be Archbishop. A great crowd gathered at the synod, and when Dewi stood up to speak, one of the congregation shouted, 'We won't be able to see or hear him'. At that instant the ground rose till everyone could see and hear Dewi. Unsurprisingly, it was decided, very shortly afterwards, that Dewi would be the Archbishop...

It is claimed that Dewi lived for over 100 years, and it is generally accepted that he died in 589. His last words to his followers were in a sermon on the previous Sunday. Rhigyfarch transcribes these as 'Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.' 'Do the little things' ('Gwnewch y pethau bychain') is today a very well-known phrase in Welsh, and has proved an inspiration to many. On a Tuesday, the first of March, in the year 589, the monastery is said to have been 'filled with angels as Christ received his soul'.

Dewi's body was buried in the grounds of his own monastery, where the Cathedral of St. David now stands. After his death, his influence spread far and wide - first through Britain, along what was left of the Roman roads, and by sea to Cornwall and Brittany.

St David's Day, as celebrated today, dates back to 1120, when Dewi was canonised by Pope Callactus the Second, and March 1st was included in the Church calendar. After Dewi's canonisation, many pilgrimages were made to St. David's, and it was reported that two pilgrimages there equalled one to Rome, and three pilgrimages one to Jerusalem. March 1st was celebrated until the Reformation as a holy day. Many churches are dedicated to Dewi, and some to his mother Non.

I have shown three generations of one Welsh family - mother, grandmother & two daughters - dressed in trditional costume. Their remarkable tall hats are thought to be the origin of the pointed witch's hat - an early form of racist slur! Two of the family hold umbrellas - this is Wales after all! Their names, from right to left, are Gwenyth (my great-aunt's name), Buddug, Blodwyn and little Winifred (my mum's name) at the end. There's a traditional Welsh song 'We'll keep a welcome in the hillside', but judging by the expressions on their faces it sure isn't this hillside!

Saint David is the only one of the United Kingdom's four patron saints to have come from the country he is now saint of!
The image is based on an early Victorian print showing Welsh farm women.

If you are Welsh you should wear a daffodil or leek on your lapel or in your hat to-day. Or at the very least a scallion!

Happy Saint David's Day!