Glittering white frost coated the lawn this beautiful, cold, blue-sky morning as Jackie drove us to West Totton’s Tesco Express to buy a few essentials, like bread and potatoes. I had intended to walk back from the Minstead turn off on the A337. However, where the sun had not reached the road surfaces they were so slippery that I thought better of it.
Leaving Flo and Scooby behind, Jackie drove Becky, Ian and me to Downton to gaze at the outside of The Old Post House and have a drink in The Royal Oak. Then leaving the rest of us in the pub car park to ‘get a round in’ she went off to New Milton to make a purchase. As I didn’t expect to be outside for too long on this still rather cold, albeit glorious, day I hadn’t worn a coat. It was then I realised that this was an error. The pub was closed. And Jackie had left before we realised it. Oh well, she had resisted the temptation to investigate all the half-price meats in Tesco’s and therefore wasn’t gone too long. Ian was particularly pleased because we had driven past his mother’s old home, just a few hundred yards from the house we hope to buy. It had brought back many fond memories for him.
We didn’t search out another pub, and returned via Bolderwood, a magnificent forest route that looked splendid this early sunny Sunday afternoon. What we noticed was that here again many large trees that seemed to have incongruously shallow roots had fallen recently.
We had a late, filling, lunch of turkey and vegetable stoup, before Becky and Ian returned to Emsworth in the early evening. Flo and Scooby stayed with Jackie and me.
During the late 1950s, as I have mentioned before, I used to sit and draw and paint alongside Kenneth Lovell an artist who, among other works, illustrated Hulme Beaman’s Toytown series of children’s books. It is Ken who, having been perfectly happy to patronise a man with an impressive camera and two equally striking parrots, stands beside me outside Hampton Court in about 1958 in ‘through the ages’ photograph number 39. My drawing with the artist was a weekly event that had come into being as a result of Mum, through a mutual friend, having been introduced to Ken and showing him my nascent cartoon work ‘Toad in the Wild West’. I never did progress beyond my first display board of this tale, but I spent many happy and fruitful hours with my friend from whom I learned all I ever did directly from anyone about drawing.
For several years we would spend Sunday afternoons working and then have tea consisting of delicious sandwiches and a fruit salad. We were occasionally joined for the meal by Ken’s live-in friend George Edwards, an opera singer.
The assistance I gave Ken on one of the Toytown books was a tracing exercise. Nothing to do with ancestry, this was a method of transferring draft drawings onto display boards for the production of the finished work for publication. Ken would illustrate the stories of Larry the Lamb, Mr Grouser, and many others in bold colour with firm outlines in pen. The final drafts of those in which I had a hand were handed to me drawn on good quality fashion plate board. I would trace these onto fresh tracing paper. Taking a soft pencil, I would cover the backs of these sheets with graphite, then place the paper face up on the finishing board fixing it firmly in position with a tape something like Sellotape. I then took a sharp, harder, pencil and traced over my work, leaving a print on the board. The artist would ink over the prints and then apply the colour. I felt very proud to have been entrusted with this task.
When Helen and Bill unearthed my 1965 drawing of Jackie, I decided that the very small frame consisting of a piece of board fixed to glass by passe-partout could do with being replaced. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found, on the ‘smooth surface’ of a George Rowney & Co. Ltd “Diana” Fashion Plate Board behind the drawing,
some of my own efforts at reproducing Ken’s characters. I had done these to satisfy us both that I was up to making adequate tracings.
Sandwiches were all we desired for our evening meal. Mine were one of delicious ham and mustard and another of tasty pate.