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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: greenwich, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 37
1. still fighting back

Thanks so much to everyone who responded to my previous post, Fighting Back, about drawing and depression. I'm not very articulate with myself about my own state of mind, but I'm finding that I can sort of gauge how well I'm doing by my attitude to drawing. I've been doing some drawings this weekend that are a bit more realistic than my normal way of illustrating. Here's a pencil portrait of my neighbour, Susi:

This particular bout of being depressed and struggling to draw fluently has shown me a few things about myself that I want to hash through so I don't forget them next time. (Which means this might sound very self-indulgent, but I'll write it anyway, because I need to. Perhaps some people will be able to relate.)

* I get jealous when I'm depressed.

When I can draw playfully and I'm in the swing of things, I love seeing amazing work by other artists, and I find it inspiring and encouraging. Seeing exploratory drawings by the likes of Jontofski, Ian McQue and Alex T. Smith makes me happy. But while I've been down, I haven't been exactly angry at other artists, but I could feel the first twinges of not being exactly thrilled at seeing other good drawings. And I knew that was wrong, and pulled myself back from believing my own feelings, but I could understand better where people were coming from when they said that good artists annoyed them. I had one friend actually tell me that when he sees a good piece of illustration, his first feeling is murderous rage, which only then subsides into appreciation. I tend to hear this more from guys than other women, but I got a little glimpse into that world. And I know that if I start feeling it again, I need to stop and take stock of my mental state before it get totally debilitating.

* I'm not really angry at other artists, I'm lonely.

I realised what it was that was making me angry; these people were throwing themselves into new techniques and developing new skills, and seeing their work made me felt left out. Instead of feeling boosted up by them, like marching with fellow soldiers, they were leaving me behind. It wasn't anger I was feeling at all, it was loneliness. I'd been reading J.G. Ballard's Empire of the Sun, and Patrick Ness's More Than This, both stories which begin with solitary kids foraging in abandoned neighbourhoods, and I could totally relate to them.

Solitary hamster foraging through 'More than This'

* Realistic drawing helps simplify things and can be therapeutic.

Whenever I do realistic drawing, I get more compliments on my artistry than when I do more simplified, stylised illustration work, particularly from non-illustrators. But drawing simplified pictures, in many ways, is more difficult and requires more skill and constant decision making. I'm having to pare things down to their essences and add my own playful interpretation. And when I'm tired and feeling low, this is much harder to do. Sketching realistically still requires some amount of interpretation, but I don't have to make major changes to what's in front of me, I can use it completely as a guide, and get lost in the object I'm looking at, instead of in my drawing. It's more a study in looking than drawing, letting my eyes follow each bulge and bump.

Here's a drawing I made in Greenwich Park this morning, of one of the old chestnut trees. I notice so many things about the tree that I could never take in at a brief glance, and it feels good to appreciate the details of the tree; I can lose myself in that. I guess that's why it's therapeutic; stylised illustrations feel more about me, whereas these sorts of sketches feel more about what I'm looking at. And I want to get out of 'me' for awhile.

I wouldn't want to do this sort of drawing in a picture book, and I don't particularly like most picture books that have a sort of photo-realistic quality to them; I'd rather they be actual photos than tight, slavish copies of photos. I want to see people take things for a spin, not just show me their technical skill in copying. (Photo-realistic drawings of children laughing, in particular, make me cringe; they never look entirely natural.) Photo-realism does occasionally work for me, but it's when the characters are hugely simplified and only the backgrounds are realistic or semi-realistic.

Speaking of which, I read a fascinating interview by Simon Hattenstone of Grayson Perry in yesterday's Guardian Weekend magazine.

I could probably go off on at least ten essays responding to things he said - I can really relate to a lot of that stuff, and Perry says it very articulately - but one thing was relevant to this blog post, his attitude toward 'likenesses'.

I don't think Perry's being a snob, he just knows his art is more than making drawings that look like photos, or resemble a real-life subject. Anyone can do that, it's not that different from learning maths or geography, and you can achieve it with study and practice. But it takes a lot of playfulness, research and deliberate exploration to look at something and use it as a jumping-off point for something truly interesting, perhaps something that says something larger about our culture, or even something that just really grabs your eye. That's MUCH harder.

Not to say that learning how to draw realistically isn't a valuable tool! Drawing trees and portraits helps me develop skills that I can put into my more simplified work; it all filters down. But don't underestimate what goes into simplier drawings. To make zinging book illustrations, I need to be fighting fit. And I'm working on it. Taking time to draw this weekend - and write these blog posts - has helped a lot. ...Still fighting back.

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2. early morning in greenwich park

Today's tree drawing was a bit trickier than yesterday's picture. I thought I'd zoom in closer so I could draw the bark in more detail. But that didn't simplify things, it actually made it more complicated. That bark has SO MUCH detail.

On my first attempt, I tried that thing I did last time with the coloured markers, and when I went in with the black lines, I actually got lost. Each time I'd look up, I couldn't remember where in the complicated pattern I'd left off, and my pen was starting to scrabble about haphazardly. It didn't help that I was sitting on a slope looking uphill, that the sun kept dazzling me in the face, and that a fat snorty bull terrier named Pixie came and stuck her drooling mouth over my coffee cup.

So I ditched that picture, and started over, trying to draw a bit less, and doing it just in black ink. The unfinished-looking result wasn't too bad, but I wish I could do a better job of catching that cool diamond pattern. Hmm, next time.

Oh, if you're a grown-up, you might like to read the fabulous comic strip about roommates and odd relationships by Boulet called Darkness. (Thanks for tipping me off to it, Woodrow Phoenix!)

Also, tickets for my Cakes in Space Edinburgh Book Festival event with my co-author Philip Reeve have just gone live on the website! Bizarrely, instead of using a photo of both of us on the website, they've used an old art college photo of just me, from 2007. (So I have drawn a more realistic photo.)

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3. greenwich green man

This morning, I planned to go to the park and draw landscape, but it was so peaceful sitting in the courtyard at the Royal Naval College that I decided to draw something there. I assumed this carved keystone head would be Neptune, because it's a naval college, but as soon as I started sketching, I realised all the leaves meant it was a Green Man. Maybe that's because the college overlooks the park. He even has bows in his hair, he's really quite dolled up.

I thought the sketch was okay, but I really wanted to mess with it a bit more, so I drew this while I was having coffee at nearby Rhodes Bakery. If you look by the door, you can see one of my framed drawings hanging there.

Right now Greenwich is a great place if you want lovely and affordable bags and luggage. I popped in and said hello and had a natter about being self-employed with Sophia & Matt, who make their own beautiful bags. And I found this German guy, Guenter Werner, in Greenwich Market selling bags he'd made with London map-themed material. Got one of those red-bottomed backpack-sacks for a tenner. They should go down a storm with the Olympics crowd.

Oh, and Jurgen Wolff has posted some good tips about making a graphic novel sell, after listening to Karrie Fransmen's talk on the subject.

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4. seawigs part 8: inking, and also some fresh air

I like working on a light box on grey days. I can sort of hunker down over the cosy glow. Here's a peek at an illustration for Oliver and the Seawigs, my story with Philip Reeve (due to come out with Oxford University Press next autumn). Oh, have you seen Philip's response to being shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize? It's a cracker. And back to Seawigs, here's Iris the mermaid:

If I look up across the light boxes, there's Gary Northfield. And look, his colour proofs for his new book TEENYTINYSAURS have arrived! The book's coming out this spring with Walker Books, and people will be able to get it in several different languages. It's going to be awesome.

I wasn't going to type anything in this blog post and just have this bit of handwriting. But half the time I do a blog entry, I change tack half-way through posting it and write something totally different to what I set out to blog about.

Another peek:

I've done an interview with Jeremy Craddock over on Bookengine, which you can read here. And here's a lovely sight from this morning, when I went to get coffee in Greenwich. Very Seawiggish.

I have to be careful that I actually still get out while I'm doing inking. I've had days when all I've done is sit at my desk for ten hours or at the computer, answer e-mails, and only stand up to boil the kettle. It's totally unhealthy and I get a bit depressed, even though I love inking. So I'm going to try to get out more in the mornings, mostly to Greenwich Park. Last year I was doing daily tree drawings there, but I still wasn't getting enough exercise because it mostly involved standing or sitting for nearly an hour, while I drew. So I tried to solve this problem by taking up running, which I loathe. But gallumphing around my own neighbourhood doesn't require a membership fee, I can try to kid myself that I like it by pretending that I'm out there surveying my territory, and I don't have to sweat away next to some smug-faced whippet in a sports bra. At a gym, I feel like a hamster, especially that part when the hamster loses its footing and goes all the way around. This is pretty much what I look like on gym equipment. I don't really get it.

Running didn't really work either; I was always putting off the running, which meant I wasn't running OR drawing. Boo! So I'm going to attempt to do one morning of running (boo) and one morning of drawing (yay!). (Ha ha... because you really need to know this, reader.)

ANYWAY. Hey, check this out. This guy at La-Mian & Dim Sum in Greenwich Market today was doing this amazing dough ballet.

And these super-disturbing cat cushions at the market were made by Sam Morris of Wonderfully Weird.

I was surprised the people in charge of taking down the Olympics site in Greenwich Park hadn't made more progress. It still looks pretty much like it did during the Paralympics, and that entrance to the park is still closed off. (Come on, get with it, people!) I spent ten minutes sitting in the colonnade at the Queen's House, drinking my coffee, and supervising the operations.

Right. Back to inking.

Note: If one more person sees my ramblings around the park, photos of bananas and random silly things on the blog and tells me, 'You obviously don't have enough to do', I will throttle that person. Just saying. (Yes, I'm looking at you, John Dougherty.)

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5. les miz: my very subjective review

Stuart absolutely loves-loves-loves the soundtrack to the London Les Misérables musical, so we trotted off through the snow to the cinema to watch the new film version. He loved it so much that he came back and put the soundtrack back on, then played it again this morning and was swooning so romantically around the house that I ditched the work plan and went on a winter wonderland walk to Greenwich with him to run around the film set. SO much of the film was shot here at the Royal Naval College, it almost made me laugh how many different angles they used to make the same courtyard look like different locations. Here we are, demonstrating about where the barricade stood:

We had way too much fun taking these Les Miz photos. But what did I think of the film? I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to see it, and writer-illustrator Liz Pichon tweeted back, See my review if you want to save yourself TWO HOURS of your life! Here it is:

Some similar comments:

They were SO right about the crying; I didn't just cry once at the end, I cried about SIX TIMES, and I could hear people all around me sniffling and sobbing. But then, right at the end, the audience let out an almighty cheer.

**Warning: contains film spoilers if you don't know the story**

The cheer was rather moving, because they'd sounded like noisy yobs when the film started, and as soon as it began, they settled right down. In fact, no one could have heard ANYTHING over the booming opening music. I actually had to cover my ears as it was rather painful. But it was such a different experience to watching the musical at the theatre. I'd seen it twice: once at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in Seattle when I was a teenager, and about ten years ago in London. The Seattle version was energetic, but the London cast looked like they'd done it a thousand times (which they had) and they flopped tiredly about the stage. But the worst thing was that, both times, I had affordable tickets and was sitting high up in the nosebleed section, so the whole thing looked like a flea circus way down there below. This time it was SUCH a relief to be able to see people's faces, subtleties of expression, and man, that huge, listing ship coming into the dock was an impressive start.

(Oh, hold on, it was much bigger than this ship. They didn't film the dock parts in Greenwich; I think those were shot at Chatham Dockyard.

Because of this, I found the film so much more of an involving, enjoyable experience than going to the theatre. And while I know it was long - 158 minutes - I liked not having the story broken up by an interval. (I realise this appreciation may change as I age and grow weak-bladdered.) At the theatre, it's so tedious having the lights come up, then deal with mundane little thoughts such as, Can I leave my scarf on the seat? Are they going to have plastic spoons or those horrible little wooden paddles that feel like they'll leave splinters on my tongue? And if the show's any good, I don't feel like making pointless chit-chat for twenty minutes, I want to KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

The actors' voices weren't perfect. I missed Javert's booming bass; Russell Crowe can sing low, but he can't do that trick where the singer holds the note and then lets it grow richer with a bit of vibrato at the end. His notes just end. (And as my studio mate mentioned, he's always standing on a ledge when he delivers them, which I couldn't help but constantly notice after she pointed it out.) But I found being able to see him up close and relate to his character made up for him not being a top-notch singer. Even better, the singers were able to act and sing together, they weren't bound to miming something they'd had to record months earlier in the studio. That gave them freedom to give their singing lots of nuances, and boy, could that Jean Valjean be INTENSE. At the moment he's ripped up his parole papers and he's coming straight at you with Rasputin-like bloodshot eyes and a scraggly beard, singing for all he's worth, it's quite terrifying, in a good way. I'd never seen the guy who plays him - Hugh Jackman - which I really liked, because he came to me purely as Jean Valjean, no one else. (I recently saw Cloud Atlas and loved it, but having Tom Hanks play the lead was very distracting for awhile.) And Jackman could sing very well. He was all-around brilliant, actually.

One of the courtyard angles you'll have seen A LOT of in the film

It's funny, when I was a teenager and transfixed by seemingly endless unrequited love, I liked those forlorn songs by Fantine and Eponine. I'm not so wild about them now, and I find Cosette's love songs even more syrupy. But they have their place. My favourite song now is The Confrontation, just after Fantine dies and Javert thinks he's captured Valjean. I love the intensity of it, and the way both blokes are arguing hard for their cases but totally not listening to each other. Javert's part is unrelenting, the voice of law and justice, and Valjean provides a great counterpoint with his passionate protestations for mercy, so he can find Fantine's child and prevent her from dying in a gutter somewhere. I just listened to a recording of the film soundtrack, and to be honest, it doesn't sound that great, not half as good as the Original London Cast musical recording. But I thought it sounded good during the film because I was so caught up in the drama of the confrontation. So I guess the film tricked me a bit, but I don't mind that.

Stuart's confrontation with the stern face of the law

Even though I was slightly distracted by Anne Hathaway playing Fantine, she did a great job, and it was unusual to hear a song done in one take. In the musical, the Lovely Ladies prostitute scene is quite comedic, whereas in the film, it's so gritty that it actually does make you think about how few choices people had back then.

I loved Eddie Redmayne playing Marius; he had an appropriately Toby-Stephens-style public schoolboy look, and while he and Cosette (played by Amanda Seyfried) were both young and silly, it was rather charming on him. Some rather nasty reviewer called Seyfried 'a hankerchief with eyes', which was unfortunately rather true, but I guess that's her role; she's supposed to be a completely sheltered, naive girl. But I liked Redmayne's version of Empty Chairs and Empty Tables, I really did get the sense of someone who's suddenly forced to become an adult by having tragedy thrust on him. The bit I liked with Éponine (played by Samantha Barks) was when she knew she'd lost any chance with Marius and had deciced to go, suicidally, into battle. Watching her bind her chest to look like a boy was quite moving, saying goodbye to her femininity.

The Thénardiers were funny, I didn't mind recognising them as actors because they're the pantomime dames, the farcical elements. I got a giggle from watching Sacha Baron Cohen be very silly, and Helena Bonham-Carter was the obvious choice for the Sweeney Todd role. (They even had a tribute meat grinder! And was there a Fargo reference in there, too?) Oh, and I loved Aaron Tveit playing Enjolras, the lead student in the uprising. Partly because he looked an awful lot like my writer-illustrator friend Alex Milway, even his way of talking and cajoling people into getting excited about something. So I couldn't help but being agitated, knowing that he'd be soon shot, thinking Please don't die, Alex! Please don't die!

But my absolute favourite part of the film was getting to see Greenwich ('my' Greenwich) used as the set piece. The place where I take my coffee and draw. (In fact, I notice I've tagged Greenwich in 69 blog posts and I don't always remember to tag.) It's like seeing a friend in a big Hollywood film, you can't help but squee.

I can see why a lot of people wouldn't like the film, or be bored by it; it's terribly earnest, and full of Christian ideals, and very traditional as a musical. If you're looking for highbrow, postmodern sophistication, don't bother. But if you can sit back and just go with it, I'd say it's three hours well spent. The final scene is wonderfully moving, it's hard not to get caught up in watching Valjean leave behind his body and step out into the new light of day. Go ahead, have a good therapeutic sob.

Oh gosh, Stuart's playing the soundtrack AGAIN. And he's announced that he's going to go back to the cinema and see it a second time this week. There are very few films I see twice at the cinema, and I don't think I would have made two trips to this one my own... but I don't mind going along with him. It's nice when he gets excited about stuff.

Here's a video if you want to find out more about how the film was made:

Direct YouTube link

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6. drawing in the park

In my earlier blog post, I said I really needed to get over to the park to do some drawing and clear my head. And I DID go to the park, and drew a tree. And yes, I'm behind on work as ever, but it was good therapy.

The next photo's where you can decide if the drawing looks anything like the actual tree in Greenwich Park. I always think trees make the best life models. That's because:

1. Trees do a pretty good job holding still.
2. It's never awkward, even though the trees are standing there stark naked.
3. Trees don't complain about the cold.
4. They don't charge you money.
5. The don't complain if you draw them in an unflattering way.

Usually I start drawings with ink lines (sometimes with a few light pencil lines to get going), but this time I had these new Letraset markers and thought I'd play around with them. I skipped using pencil and put down the blue and grey first. Leaves can be tricky, they get in the way of the interesting lines of the tree. So I drew the leave first this time, on top of the colour tone. Then I went in and drew all the black lines. It was a good experiment. I wish I'd added some elements of the background, but my bum was getting sore from sitting on the ground. Also, I find it's harder to make backgrounds look good without cluttering the page, and I chickened out.

Here's a drawing I did a couple weeks ago, using just black ink. I haven't drawn trees for awhile, and I've kind of forgotten how I used to do it. Which is frustrating at first, but also kind of good, because it makes me come up with new techniques. I think I used to focus more on the overall shape of the tree, but right now I'm paying more attention to the textures of the bark. Hmm, I might do another bark close-up for the next one.

So did going out to draw trees today clear all the cobwebs from my mind and make my work on my picture book pencil roughs go smoothly? ...Nope. It was another difficult day. Am I cross about that? Yup.


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7. greenwich goodies + lewisham literary festival

This weekend's drawing in Greenwich Park. I loved how, when people passed me drawing, most of them would turn around to look at the tree. Some even stopped to take photos of it, a most magnificent tourist attraction.

I wish I could draw the leaves, too, but they're awfully fiddly, it would've taken me at least another half hour, and standing on a slope drawing was doing my back in. I didn't notice that while I was drawing - I was totally in the Zone - but then I tried to put my pens back in my bag on the ground and it took me ten seconds to stretch out so I could bend over. I think this is what getting old must feel like.

Here are a few stages in the drawing. Have you been keeping an eye on Philip Reeve's sketch blog? He's been drawing some beautiful trees lately.

After packing my pencil case, I treated myself to a coffee and bun at Rhodes Bakery, but just before I went in, I had a look through the window of Lush Designs, got sucked in by all the pretty pictures and ended up buying this gorgeous cushion. Here it is on our sofa. I thought Stuart might be a bit annoyed about how much I'd spent on something we don't strictly need (£29), but he looked rather pleased when I showed it to him, and said, 'That's great, you never spend money on anything for the flat'. I think he's hoping it might be a sign that I have a tiny bit of nesting instinct in me. (The lama cushion behind it was designed by Meg Hunt.)

Oh, and I WAS a Squander Bug today! I also bought a fancy frock at Sika, a shop on the edge of Greenwich Market. It's my favourite dress shop, they combine Ghanaian fabric with western retro dress designs. I am keeping it hidden until my next festival (one where I'm not dressed as a pirate. But you can see a bit of the petticoat sticking out of the bag.)

And another event! Last night I took part in the Lewisham Literary Festival with my studio mate Ellen Lindner, writer Karen McLeod and moderator and For Books' Sake coordinator Jane Bradley. Thanks so much to Jonathan Main from Bookseller Crow for helping out with book sales!

Jonathan Main, Jane Bradley, Karen McLeod, Sarah McIntyre, Ellen Lindner

Ellen and I talked about our work, published and self-published, and Karen read part of her short story Never Can Say Goodbye in an anthology called Men & Women that had me hooked and I had to buy a copy. (It's not a children's book, I should add.)

I was really grateful, our whole studio showed up, including partners, and I talked a bit about what we get up to at the

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8. tree roots, unfinished

This tree in Greenwich Park had so many complicated twists and turns that I knew I wouldn't have time to draw the whole thing, so I focused on its roots. But they were so complex in themselves that I still didn't have long enough to finish my picture. I sometimes say to people that drawing trees is like life drawing, all the same interesting curves and bulges, except that the model is much better at holding still. This is not true when it comes to the light, however. I was trying to capture the lovely dappling effect of the sunshine on the tree and it was dancing all over the place, so I came away frustrated but glad for the outing.

It probably would be much easier to draw this tree from the photo, but that would defeat the purpose of going to the park, so hey ho.

Over on Dartmoor, Philip Reeve's landscape drawings continue apace... Oh, and wait, there's a portrait of a lama in there.

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9. knitted squid on telly + audrey niffenegger + a greenwich treasure + kidnapping philip reeve...

Phew, a lot's happened in the past few days. Today I am going to do some real work.

To start off, my lovely studio mate, Lauren O'Farrell went on from her Stitch London book launch to appear on the Alan Titchmarsh Show with Perri Lewis (my Guardian editor for Vern and Lettuce) and Plarchie the squid. Look, that's the phone box they graffiti knitted! You can see more pics over on the Fleece Station blog and, if you're in the UK, watch it again on ITV Player (they're the very first guests).

Last night I met up for dinner in Soho with two lovely writers: Hayley Campbell (whom you may recognise if you ever shop in Gosh! London) and Audrey Niffenegger. (You can read my fangirl goings on in an earlier post here.)

I first came to Audrey's work through her novels, but she started her career as a visual artist, and I've come to admire her graphic novels, drawings, paintings and prints (mostly etchings), which you can see on her website. It's such fun having a good gab with people who love the smell of ink.

I'm going to be doing a piratey event at the Cheltenham lit fest on Saturday (which was where i first met Audrey), which is great, but it means I'm absolutely gutted to be missing her event that evening at the French Institute in London. I don't know if there are any tickets left, but if you can get one, GO! She'll be showing work by the magnificent Aubrey Beardsley and a lot of her own work that's been influenced by his. If you go and do a blog write-up, please send me a link, I'd love to read about it and link your post. (Details here.)

Another good thing that happened yesterday! I was doing my sketch in Greenwich Park, but I sort of lost concentration after about ten minutes and went for what I thought was going to be a quick wander through the antiques market. But I discovered the most wonderful new shop, full of original screen printed gig posters, movie posters and art prints. It's called The Flood Gallery and I'm so glad it's moved here! There's some great stuff in there.

Here's the owner, Chris Marksberry and employee Michael Cowell, who turns out not only to be a printmaker and illustrator himself, but a big comics fan. Hurrah!

The first print that s

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10. greenwich morning and a surly rabbit

I was going to draw in the park this morning, but I was running late and ended up just having coffee in Greenwich. I doodled this rabbit while I was sitting on the bench. He looks a bit tired, but he's about to get on his scooter and set off. Which is just what I need to do today.

I popped into Waterstone's just before heading back and – happy happy! – they had my studio mate Lauren O'Farrell's books in the front shelf! Look, both of them! I think that's one of the best feelings ever, seeing my friends' books prominently on display, because I know how much hard work they've put into them. (These two fab books are Stitch London and Knit the City.)

And another happy Lauren-related thing, when she arrived in the studio this morning, she'd just bought herself this excellent Totoro bag.

I love Greenwich mornings. Here's the view toward Rhodes Bakery, which does a most excellent coffee and Chelsea bun.

If you take your coffee and bun and sit in the courtyard of Trinity College London, a music school, you can take in the abstract concert of students practicing. Usually the different strands of music clash against each other - jazz saxophone, classical piano, opera singing, violin scales - but occasionally the sounds merge and, for a few seconds, make a wonderful sound together. This video isn't the most exciting footage ever shot, but it gives you a feel for what it's like to sit there and listen.

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11. Conference setting international time begins

This Day in World History - Why does most every country in the world agree on how to determine what time it is? You can thank the International Prime Meridian Conference, which began on October 13, 1884, and lasted nearly ten days. The twenty-five countries that gathered in Washington , D.C., agreed to accept the line of longitude that passed through Britain’s Royal Observatory as the prime meridian—the line of 0° longitude (just as the Equator is 0° latitude). The nations also agreed that the time at Greenwich would be the standard time against which all other times would be compared—Greenwich Mean Time.

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12. morning greenwich coffee run and brainstorm

Just a few things from earlier today... Here are some notes I made for a story I'm co-writing with a friend.

This is one of my favourite views in London, looking up Deptford Creek. I love the colours and the patterns of boxy shapes.

I always smile when I pass this plaque, it's nice to think a very fine dairyman once lived there.

Back in the coffee shop, they have lovely metal bean dispensers.

And here's the view across the street. Nice window, someone's put a bird on it!

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13. ink + paper + greenwich

So who's joining us in London on Friday night (tomorrow!) for the launch of ink+PAPER? Editor David O'Connell and loads of the comics brigade are launching a new comic magazine, 96 pages of full-colour comics in a handy A5 size publication. See you at Orbital Comics (near Leicester Square) from 7pm! Here's Dave's lovely first cover design, and you can find out more about ink+PAPER on its Facebook page.

And, of course, don't forget this Saturday's Comica Comiket festival! One of my all-time favourite comic artists, Posy Simmonds, will be signing and drawing from 11am-noon, and I'll be drawing at 1pm and signing from 1:30-2.

Here's the whole Drawing Parade line-up, it's pretty amazing! I'll have Vern and Lettuce, the new Nelson anthology, and TEN copies of my brand-new 70-page comic, Please Be Moral Do Not Spit. It's not a limited edition in the numbered sense, I just suspect I won't get time to make very many of them, so if you really want it, do stop by my table first thing.

I really need to get back into drawing, but I've been a bit distracted lately by all the possibilities unleashed by my new camera phone. I'm sure it will pass, but I've been taking lots of photos. Here's a morning view of the Royal Naval College in Greenwich.

By any chance, do you remember that blog post I did about the park full of fallen-down gravestones, by St Alfege church? Well, it turns out the gravestones weren't supposed to be down, someone had knocked them down, and there's been controversy about when and why it happened. And bizarrely, one of my photos turns out to be a player in the argument, which I found out when journalist Rob Powell got in touch with me to ask if they could attach my name to the photo on their news site. All very intriguing!

So moving on, come along with me to Greenwich market, full of all sorts of weird and wonderful treasures on a Thursday morning:

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14. greenwich market goodies and olympic faffing in the park

Hello! Would you like to meet some of the fabulous characters at Greenwich Market? Let's start with this little fella here. *Quack*

And here's Amy Lee: she runs a stall, The Fluffy Cosmo, and sells lots of lovely little handmade critters. I've seen her there often and I just bought one for my studio mate for her birthday this weekend (but shhh, don't tell her). Amy will happily make dolls to order, if you have anything specific in mind.

And just next to the market entrance, there's a great new shop selling bags, handmade by this guy, Matt, and his partner Sophia. I've been carrying around everywhere a bag I bought in Greenwich (rather bizarrely, at a surfing shop, which has gone out of business). But it's getting pretty grey and tatty. So it was time to invest in something new. You can read about how Sophia & Matt started up their business over on their website, in the 'About Us' section.

And here's Lush Designs, two women who make amazing screen printed items: cushions, lampshades, tea towels, cards, aprons. I have their fox pillow sitting in pride of place at home on my sofa.

Okay, now some fun tidbits from the market. Here are some old clay pipes, the kind you find along the shoreline at low tide. (I blogged about them once here.)

Lovely old tins:

Oo, gosh. Does 'boys' fun' include getting a thrashing from the housemaster?

I was sorely tempted to buy this 1971 Ladybird book about how computers work, but I managed to resist.

I was awfully curious about how the Olympic setup was affecting Greenwich Park, and yup, there's a lot going on there.

Here's a massive arena on the front lawn, between the Royal Observatory and the Colonnade where old merchant seamen like to smoke their pipes and have their lunches. (I had a long chat with one once, named Norman.)

For all the upheaval, the park actually looked okay. I don't think they've removed any trees, or at least not any major trees, and the grass may take a bit of time to recover, but that's not such a big deal.

Right at the beginning, there was talk that they were

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15. greenwich park sketch

This morning's dull grey haze made the trees almost lumps of black shadow. But I tried my best to pick out something interesting. The tree itself couldn't be better, I must go back and draw it when I can figure out which way the shadows are going.

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16. greenwich park tree

My landscape drawings are sliding back into being portraits of individual trees. But with trees like these, they really deserve their own drawings.

Again, a grey, damp dawn, totally lacking in inspiring light, but as I was approaching the chestnut avenue, I was tickled to no end when a dog-walker came racing toward me with a wild look in her eye, calling out, "Beware the conker trees!" as she rushed by. As I sat beaneath this one, I did fear slightly that it might eat me or something, but all it did was hurl sodden conkers (perilously close to my head). The past couple times I've been in the park, I've noticed a lot of Chinese people gathering big bags of chestnuts off the ground. This time, when I asked a lady about it, she said she boils them to eat. I thought they were horse chestnuts, I didn't realise they were edible. Then I got a lot of Chinese people gathering around and telling me in stilted English about the people in their family who also like to draw. It was a nice, sociable kind of morning.

I met up with Philip Reeve last night at the House of Illustration party (more about that soon but a quick pic here), and afterward we chatted more about drawing and writing and such. For his drawings, he's been using a 2H mechanical pencil on fairly ordinary A4 paper, which at first surprised me, but then made me understand how he could get such sharp lines (such as the lichen on this tree branch).

Back at the Fleece Station, we're gearing up for the Alexandra Palace Knitting & Stitching Show! It runs Thursday to Sunday, and this'll be a new one for me. If you're there do stop by our booth to say hi to Gary Northfield, Stitch London coordinator Lauren O'Farrell and me, and to Derek the Sheep and Vern and Lettuce.

Edit: I helped make some of these badges! (Here's a list of what we'll be selling, plus Gary and I might do a few on-the-spot watercolour paintings.)

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17. today's greenwich park tree + makings of morris video

Today the Chinese chestnut collectors gave me a lot of smiles and 'good morning' wishes, which was rather lovely. And it kept me from getting grumpy about wind blowing huge splodges of rainwater onto my paper, which kept turning the pencil line to greasy clay.

Hey, everyone, the British branch of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators has a blog now! It's an excellent organisation, where I've met lots of people and learn a great deal about making books, so join it if you haven't already. A big thanks to amazing writer Candy Gourlay for editing and posting this video she took at my talk with David Fickling on 'The Makings of Morris the Mankiest Monster'. I'd forgotten a lot of what we'd said, and I was a bit flustered at the time because the pub didn't have a connector cable for the Powerpoint, so I had to show everyone the slides on a laptop screen. But it's the only time David and I have really hashed through the process of what it was like to come up with the character, and talk about the editorial process. (Please look past the fact that the rather terrible camera angle makes me look suspiciously like a beached whale, hehe.) David is a fab publisher, he really pushed me on this book. Although I must add, it's not even near as hard as he's pushing me on the book Dave O'Connell and I are making with him now. (Morris website and downloadable activity sheets here.)

The Makings of Morris YouTube link

And have you read Candy's book, Tall Story
? If not, why not? It will knock your socks off, such a brilliant read! I'm really looking forward to sharing a room with Candy at the SCBWI Winter Conference in Winchester. She's my best roomie, we'll be up all night talking if we're not careful. And if I drift off to sleep, I can almost guarantee that if I suddenly wake up at 3am, it will be to the clack of her keyboard as she sitting up against the headboard, writing her next novel. Come to the conference! It's 13-14 Nov, featuring fab speakers such as Mini Grey, Marcus Sedgwick, David Fickling, Lucy Coats, and loads others. Candy and I are both on a couple panels, mine are How to sell your book and Social Networking: a blessing or a curse?.

Have you seen that Viviane Schwarz has posted an open invite to her launch of The are No Cats in this Book? Meeting Viv is a real treat, be sure to pop along and get a signed copy. Even better, get her to draw cats in it. Review Bookshop, Peckham, 15 Oct, 6:30pm, more details here. It's a brilliant follow-up to There are Cats in this Book, which I think was by far the most cleverly designed and illustrated book of the year, and which was nominated for a Kate Greenaway award.

Derek the Sheep and Vern star in this month's Stitch London newsletter! Subscribe here to keep an eye on what my fab studio mate and her mind-bending, yarn-loving gang get up to.

A great review of When Titus Took the Train by The Book

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18. back to greenwich park

Today I had so much to do, but I had to clear out my brain with a lope through the park to check on the trees. I passed by the Chinese chestnut gatherers this time and went on to a tree beside the Planetarium, where three huge gaggles of schoolchildren - two French and one English - nearly ploughed me over on the path before stopping to look at what I was drawing.

I took photos of a few stages in the drawing, just in case anyone wants to see how it looks in progress. I didn't get to finish the picture, but I think I could easily spend a whole year drawing this tree, it has so much detail.

I noticed last night that The Daily Crosshatch is interviewing amazing comics creator Drew Weing ([info]drewweing) about his latest book, Set to Sea. I'm the proud owner of one of the original drawings and I think Drew's work is phenomenal. The interview's in three parts, I've only seen two online so far, but they start here.

Are you going to London's Comica Comiket Independent Comics Fair
 on Sun, 7 Nov, noon-5pm? I'm going to do my best to go along, perhaps I'll see you there!

And thanks to the Forbidden Planet International blog for posting Maeve Clancy's quick run through a history of comics, ending with what's happening now in comics in Ireland.

Vimeo link

I'm a bit of an addict of Maeve's cut-paper work for singer Lisa Hannigan, I watch them when I need a bit of a boost. You can watch them here: I Don't Know and Lille.

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19. tree by the planetarium

Greenwich Park looked magic this morning, with fiery-bright leaves and a weird pink light that made you think aliens were going to land any minute. Here's the tree next to the one I drew last week, a marvelous row leading up to the shell-pocked statue of General Wolfe, 'Victor of Quebec'.

Have you been following Philip Reeve's landscape drawing series? It's fun to think we're doing it at the same time, even if he is based way out on Dartmoor. (Anyone else out there making tree drawings?) He just blogged about a class who made the most splendid construction, a model of London from his Mortal Engines books. In Philip's world, a multi-tiered London roams around on caterpillar tracks, chasing and eating up smaller cities, it's very impressive.

Edit: Oh wow, word just in that it's public: Morris the Mankiest Monster made the long list for the Kate Greenaway Medal! It's a very long list (see here), with some STIFF competition, but I'll keep my fingers crossed until the short list is announced in January. (Photos from this year's ceremony.)

Edit 2: Even better! Some lovely friends nominated for the Carnegie Medal, including Candy Gourlay for Tall Story and Philip Reeve for No Such Thing As Dragons! And Tabitha Suzuma from SCBWI, Geraldine McCaughrean, David Almond, Ian Beck... so many fab people on the list. Hurrah!

I got a nice e-mail from a guy named Paul Atherton, who brought his son, Charles, along to my Monster event last week at Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road. He made a video which includes a little snippet of me about half-way through (a very quiet snippet, as I had lost my voice). Lucky Charles, that really was a most excellent half-term break! His trip includes a visit to the Roahl Dahl Museum in Great Missenden. (I've sat in that same chair!)

YouTube video link

Don't forget, Comica Comiket happens this Sunday! Come buy fab indie comics and meet the creators at the Royal National Hotel in Bloomsbury. I won't be there for the whole day, but I'm going to try to pop in near the end, and afterward for drinks at The Lamb. Details here.

Back to sketching: I missed the trees, it felt good to get back. I've been getting a bit stressed out lately with the huge stack of things I'm supposed to have done and haven't. Last night at dinner, Stuart asked me what we were going to do for Christmas cards this year (we've prided ourselves on always sending out our own design). But it was just one more thing for the list, and all of a sudden I got hot and sweaty, my heart started hammering, and I realised I was about to have a panic attack. Then I felt VERY silly, that I was having a panic attack about Christmas cards, of all things. Durr.

We had dinner a few nights ago with a visiting friend who used to work for a relief charity where, if something went wrong, her people could die. That reall

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20. soggy cedar refuge

Possibly my worst tree drawing so far, but I'm determinedly posting it anyway. When I went out in the rain this morning, I knew a certain cedar in the flower garden section of Greenwich Park where I could shelter, and I thought it would be fun to make a sketch sitting inside the tree.

It didn't really work. I didn't feel wet, but the occasional Big Drops falling on my sketchpad started to add up after awhile, and I had to quit when my pencil stopped making marks and was actually lifting off bits of paper. So the picture didn't capture the tree's snug darkness, I'll have to try again when the weather's a bit drier.

The cedar wood smelled nice and homey. I come from the Pacific Northwest where cedar played a huge part in the daily lives of the Coastal Native Americans, providing everything from dugout canoes to longhouses to clothing. But the carved cedar masks used to scare me senseless, I've only been able to appreciate them in the last fifteen years or so.

Today I went to Highgate to meet up with writers Candy Gourlay and Keren David (both longlisted for next year's Carnegie medal, hurrah!). We're speaking together on a panel called Social Networking: a blessing or a curse? at the Winter Conference of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators this weekend, so we pooled our knowledge of blogs, Facebook, Twitter and all that. Candy and Keren love Facebook, Keren's really into Twitter, and I'm still a LiveJournal homebody; it's my comfortable Internet base, while the other bits are more of what I do to make sure my blog doesn't go totally unread.

Keren David, me, Candy Gourlay

On the way back, Candy and I spotted a little painted piece of chewing gum on the pavement, possibly made by artist Ben Wilson or someone who's doing the same thing:

And I snapped a couple photos of The Shard, a newly emerging massive building next to London Bridge Station. If a building can be said to look fierce, The Shard looks mighty fierce.

Paired with Guys' Hospital, the buildings look like a strange, robotic Sphinx and pyramid of sorts.

Hey, and guess what! Neill Cameron turned up at Philip Reeve's son's school on Dartmoor last week, and the first Philip heard of it when Sam came home very excited about Mo-Bots. Here's Philip's entry about it, and Neill's blog post.

More soon about last weekend in Oxford, but I left my notebook at home.

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21. frosty morning in greenwich

My tree drawing this morning was pretty half-baked, so I'm going to start by showing you the lovely book I finished this morning with my Chelsea bun and coffee, Dance by the Light of the Moon by Belgian creator Judith Vanistendael. I first found out about this book from Richard Bruton's review on Forbidden Planet International, which has pretty much become my main online source of comics recommendations these days.

It's a fascinating story about the relationship between a Belgian university student, her refugee lover from Togo and her parents. I loved the way she showed everyone trying their hardest to do what's best, often getting it wrong, but still trying to hang together as a family and a couple.

And the brushwork is lovely, so loose and nicely textured, so unlike the kind of work I do. Really beautiful.

See several more spreads over on the FPI blog which, I just notice, has posted a whole lots more things about Dance by the Light of the Moon, including an interview with the creator: bookmarking here to explore later.

Speaking of the FPI blog, there's a great interview over on Geek Native with its main blogger (based under a bridge in Edinburgh), Joe Gordon. He mentions me as one of his three top bloggers, along with Neil Gaiman and Jeff VanderMeer, which made me incredibly chuffed. I need to go explore Jeff's blog, and I know I don't have anything like Neil's readership, but it's great to know Joe likes it. (Hi, Joe!)

Okay, today's sketch. I had a very complicated kind of day yesterday, and I really needed to get out and clear my head a bit. But it was so very cold. I made myself draw for 45 minutes, but I couldn't capture the looping, sweeping look of this trees beautiful lattice of branches, dotted with shrivelled chestnuts like musical notes. My hands kept cramping, all my lines came out stiff, and I didn't come anywhere near to finishing the drawing.

The other frustrating thing (well, frustrating later, marvelous at the time) was that the morning was all about colour, huge sweeping streaks of pink across the sky and glowing buildings, broken up by the dark lines of the dock pilings. I forgot to take photos until the light had all but faded, and it wouldn't have shown up in my pencil drawing anyway. Here's just a last glimpse of it, and a way-too-complicated-to-draw tree. Such a shame, that when I can finally see all the tree branches, it's too cold to spend the hours it would take to draw them all. And drawing from a photo would miss the point of getting out in the morning.

One of the best things about being an adult is that no gym coach or anyone forces me to run anymore. But this morning, if you saw a bright yellow jacket hurtling across the grass, that would've been me. Today's weather meant run or die.

Speaking of cold landscapes, go have a look at amazing photos of Dartmoor yesterday in ice and fog, taken by Sarah Reeve. It's like another world there, very haunting. I f

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22. remembering the fallen in greenwich

Today wasn't as bitterly cold as yesterday, and I went down into one of the valleys of Greenwich Park in hopes it might be a bit more sheltered from the cold. The paths around Queen Elizabeth's Oak were treacherously icy, and as I drew, I could hear early morning dog walkers calling warnings to each other, broken by disconcerting yelps and WHUMPS as they hit the ground.

(copied from the plaque in front of the other side of the tree)

I got a bit of critique on my drawings a couple days ago, when I met up for lunch at Panda Panda with friend and DFC colleague Woodrow Phoenix. He said that I still hadn't found my mark-making vocabulary, that my lines still looked a bit randomly placed, and as though three different people had done it. Which, to me, was unsurprising, because my figure drawing tutor way back in Pennsylvania said almost exactly the same thing. I don't think there's any way to build up a mark-making vocabulary other than keeping on with the drawings. They're not bad, but they could be much better. And as I said to Woodrow, the more I work on one area of image making, the more the other areas of my drawing improve, even if they seem totally unrelated. He said sometime he'd show me his tree drawings that he makes in Hilly Fields Park.

There's a great interview with Woodrow over at The Comics Bureau here, do go have a look! If you read my book When Titus Took the Train and saw the dedication, he's listed (along with Viviane Schwarz & Gary Northfield) for giving me some very helpful advice and lent me a bunch of his Western comics when I was waffling a bit at the beginning.

And don't forget, next Monday, the amazing Posy Simmonds is giving a talk near Brick Lane in East London for the monthly Laydeez Do Comics event. See you there!

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23. advent song doodle

A bunch of different things today! Here's an interview I did for Dan Berry at The Comics Bureau, do go over and have a look! The Comics Bureau have been running a whole host of interviews with people in the comics community, including one with my studio mate Gary Northfield.

Congratulations to Darryl Cunningham for finishing his comic strip about climate change! You may have read his book about mental health issues, Psychiatric Tales; go over to his blog and read his strip. I'm sure, as always, it will garner loads of debate, and Darryl looks very fetching in his red snowsuit.

Here's an extended doodle I did of an advent song I rather like. That is, I love the rousing first two lines of every verse, then after that, I think the tune wanders a bit. Charles Oakley wrote it in 1870, and it's the sort of thing I bet gave Tolkien a buzz. I could have spent days putting together my little island. If I ever go to prison, designing islands and continents is one of the ways I will while away the time.

I finally managed to write and pencil my contribution to the Birdsong/Songbird comics anthology. (Find out about the first edition here.) I thought I wasn't going to have time to do it, but I had a sudden burst of energy late last night and did it all at once, then finished it up in Greenwich Park this morning, using one of the trees as reference. It's about a tree with passive-aggressive issues, and when I showed it to Gary just now, he burst out laughing, then told me I was totally mental.

One of the views I needed for the comic was looking toward the Royal Observatory, but the fog obscured it completely. Lovely morning, though. In places, the fog was so thick, I felt rather excitingly lost.

A bunch of the DFC crew and mates met up on Friday, and I got to see a folder of Rob Davis's work on his graphic novel adapation of Don Quixote. So amazing! Here's some original artwork he brought along. You can find out about his work-in-progress over on the SelfMadeHero website, read an interview with Rob over at The Comics Bureau and his Best of the Year Picks over on the FPI blog.

Keep an eye on the Super Comics Adventure Squad blog to see what the DFC gang get up to!

James Turner, Rob Davis, Gary Northfield

Not just stuff like this.

Faz Choudhury, Rob, Rian Hughes, Viviane Schwarz

Alex Milway, Gary, Rob's friend Geraint

Just a few more foggy pictures from the park.

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24. oh, bother

First, the good stuff! Morris the Mankiest Monster is Scholastic Book Club's Pick of the Week! (Which is rather spiffing of them as Scholastic don't even publish it.) You can get it through them for the amazing price of £3.99.

And for my tea break, I'm bookmarking Matt Badham's interview with Jim Campbell about the art of lettering in comics.

Now the not-so-good stuff. My landscape sketches have been going a bit badly lately. I was getting up a bit later because Stuart had two weeks off work and wasn't booting me out of bed at 6:30, so I didn't do my early-morning dashes to Greenwich Park. Here's a sketch I made on a cycle ride we took around the Thames Path. I rushed it quite badly because my fingers went numb with cold and I was feeling guilty because Stuart wouldn't park himself in the nearby warm coffee shop and insisted on standing 20 feet away, reading the newspaper and freezing. Cycling is a great activity to do with someone else, but sketching's a bit dodgy that way.

You can catch a glimpse of Java Wharf and loads of other places where we ride our bikes along the river in the boat chase sequence in the Bond film, The World is Not Enough. Java Wharf appears at the 1:33 mark on this extended version clip. In real life, it's a dead end - the river doesn't go through - but the film editors did this nifty trick of joining up all these unconnected waterways and making it look like one good, long stretch. Stuart had several friends working in the MI6 building at the time the film was being made, and they were specifically told not to stand out on the balconies to watch the filming. (But, of course, they all did anyway.)

The World is Not Enough boat chase scene YouTube link

Here's a sketch I had to abandon this morning on top of One Tree Hill when the rain got too heavy. The raindrops kept causing my pencil to make unexpected dark marks or stop marking altogether, not much fun. I've ordered my electric eraser pen, I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with that.

Right now there's a film crew downstairs filming a reconstruction of a violent rape in a police station and I've been warned not to do anything if I hear horrible screaming. Sounds like another day for music and headphones.

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25. tricky tricky tree

I've been drawing a lot of chestnut trees this year, but I thought I'd tackle a different sort of tree in Greenwich Park, and gosh, it was hard going. How can I capture the overall shape of the tree, the lights and darks, and the texture of the branches that makes it unique, all in a very limited time period? This tree rather eluded me, but hopefully I learned a few things while drawing it.

Here's the actual tree:

And I took a few snapshots while I was drawing it. I didn't really know where to start, after coming up with a basic shape, so I thought I'd try whittling away at some of the negative spaces. But it left the branches on top of the dark bits too light, and it almost looked like they had snow on them, which wasn't what I was trying to do. I started to get a bit cartoonish with the outlines of the branches right at the end, to try to capture the clumps of needles, and I'm not sure that was a good thing. *scratches head in puzzlement*

Drawing can be very frustrating. So after I finished, I treated myself to coffee at a new cafe called Heap's Sausages (I didn't have sausages but I did cave in and buy a raisin swirl pastry, heh.) That's the cafe on the right.

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