Summer of '96

Saturday, 16th July 2005

newtsAs the deadline approaches for my garden book, I take advantage of a free weekend to finish scanning images from the eleven A4 sized Brilliance 'superwhite smooth cartridge paper' sketchbooks that I used during the first 3 years of compiling this diary (then Daler-Rowney discontinued the Brilliance sketchbooks).

I then start going through other sketchbooks to round up some of the images that tell the story of the garden. Or perhaps that should be the story of me looking at the garden.

The Prehistory of Wild West Yorkshire

Before I started this online diary I had been keeping a nature diary on-and-off for years. For example, nine years ago today Barbara's dad was helping me clear out the pond, which had shrunk to 'a black puddle in the sump'. There was a hosepipe ban at the time so we had to top up the pond with 'what felt like 50 buckets' of water.

Yorkshire Rockflesh flyAt the time I was waiting for my book Yorkshire Rock to appear in print. I'd put so much work into it, part of an obsession I'd developed with geology since taking an intensive A-level course in 1990.

As an antidote to the hundreds of small drawings I'd completed for the book, mainly in watercolour or in pen and ink and watercolour, I'd started a series of large (up to 3ft x 2ft) acrylic on canvas paintings in the wood early in the spring of 1996. Because of the dire financial straits Barbara and I found ourselves in, thanks to me focusing on the rock book for so long, I hadn't been able to draw much of Yorkshire Rock on location; I'd usually made day trips then worked from photographs I'd taken.

Getting back out on location with my canvases was like being given my freedom again and my diary soon started filling up with little natural history observations - very much the kind of thing that I record in this diary, but at that time with no thought of publication. I had a computer at the time but no scanner and no internet connection.

Dog Daisies

daisiesThe day previously, Monday 15th July, 1996, I'd spent two and a half hours painting an A4-sized acrylic on canvas of dog daisies in the meadow area and the next day I wrote:

'Finished, as far as it is a finished painting, 'Dog Daisies' 3 hours.'

I can barely remember the painting now; I must have sold it fairly soon after.

'Char-grill with the Sampsons'

BarbecueTwo days later, on Friday the 19th, we were entertaining our friends Kathy and Chris, and their frog-friendly daughters.

Chris should currently be well on with his canoe trip down the Thames. I phoned him the other day, the day after the London bombings, and he was just about to set off to Lechlade, about 25 miles upstream from Oxford, to paddle the 110 miles down the river to the sea. The Thames winds around a lot, but at least it's all downhill and downstream.

He's the one who should be keeping an online dairy. He was taking Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat with him as holiday reading. Next Page

Richard Bell,