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Bean Gone

Saturday, 7th June 2003, West Yorkshire

rabbitslugI'd been so pleased with the way our dwarf French beans had come up successfully that I'm horrified to find this morning that half a dozen of them have been nipped off overnight.

So who's the culprit? A slug or a young rabbit? We've put garden fleece over them, held down by bricks at the edge which should keep the rabbit at bay but it won't make any difference to the slugs.

Barbecue Sketches

sketchbook'You haven't got a pencil in your hand again!', exclaims one of the guests at the family barbecue.

'Hang on! I haven't done a drawing for three days!'

When I haven't been printing, packing or publicising my booklets this week I've been working in the garden. There's so much to do at this time of year.


I like to pop a little sketchbook and a couple of pens into my pocket when we're setting out for one of these family gatherings. Not that I'm unsociable of course.

I make up A6 pocket-sized booklets of ordinary 80 gsm copier paper in the same way I make up my printed booklets about local villages and parks.

There are some sumptuous sketchbooks - both hardback and spiral bound - available in the art shops these days but they're too bulky to slip into a shirt pocket.

sycamoreBesides, I realise that there's always the chance that one of my young relatives might ask me if they can draw in my sketchbook (as does indeed happen: here's a sea view and a very flattering message from my great neice, aged 7, thank you Emily).
beach by Emily, 7
While I wouldn't want to let them loose on my acid-free 120 gsm cartridge even my proverbial Yorkshire meanness can't object to them drawing on copy paper. In fact I find ordinary copy paper a pleasant surface to work on. The only problem of course is that it is very limited for washes and watercolour: it soon curls up.

I find a garden chair with a view of this sycamore which is growing between a garden shed and a joinery workshop. Its trunk is scared where boughs have been lopped. Its fresh green leafy canopy gives a sense of maturity and permanence to these back gardens behind terraced houses on Avondale Street, a stone's throw from Wakefield's Ings Road and Cathedral retail parks. It's a perfect day for a barbecue; sunny but not oppressively warm and it's hard to believe in this leafy backwater, with a blackbird singing and a small flock of starlings flying over, that we're hemmed in, within a few hundred yards, by a dual carriageway and two mainline railway embankments. The odd rumble of a train is the only reminder.

chimniesChimney Pots

What else to draw? Chimney pots, especially the older kind that have developed a bit of character over the years make a good architectural detail to focus on when you haven't got the time for a wider view.

I'm reminded of Carollee, a lady from Maine, who wrote to me about about a gruelling coach tour of Britain she made last year. As well as taking photographs and collecting a few choice souvenirs she'd kept a journal: 'In it I pasted memorabilia and pressed flowers. My own memories as the tour guides droned on, but sketched chimney pots, gargoyles, impedimenta (is this a word?), coots, gateways and gardens.'

I love that subversive image of the tour guide droning on about what you should see and Carollee suruptiously sketching a chimney pot. If you're on a tour of Britain and you take the trouble to sketch a chimney pot then you've really seen a little bit of the character of the country that you won't find in the average guide book. next page

Richard Bell