Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Friday, 10 September 2010
When I called my blog Granny's Tale I had in mind my father, Paul Coltman's poem, Granny's Tale. Here's an extract from the first issue of Words-the New Literary Forum by Phillip Vine about Granny's Tale:
'In 1980 four of the United Kingdom's foremost poets met together under the auspices of the Arvon Poetry Foundation to decide upon that year's prizewinning poems in one of the most prestigious of the national poetry competitions. This foursome, who in 1984 might have formed the final shortlist for the vacant Poet Laureateship, were struggling for agreement upon a poem called GRANNY'S TALE. Seamus Heaney did not like it much and talked of its whimsicality; Ted Hughes was explaining that when he started reading it he thought it was mere whimsy but that it had got a hold on him and he now thought it "strong"; Charles Causley, however, was the poem's strongest advocate, talking of its brilliance and of the "real invention of its language" and describing it as a "tour de force. In the final analysis, all four judges, including Philip Larkin, agreed that it was one of the most original poems in the competition and awarded it a fourth prize of £250'.
In 1985 Granny's Tale was published by Andre Deutsch and Farrar Strauss and Giroux with my illustrations as a sort of cross-over book for both adults and children. This proved a bit innovative at that time and, despite being highly Commended in the Kate Greenaway Award, it didn't take off.
The granny I painted was inspired by two old sisters living in a remote part of Southern Ireland - the Miss Collins. I'd visited them once with my father-in-law, a man of the cloth. He warned me not to accept any food or drink unless it was pure spirits on account of the filthy state of their cottage. The old ladies, in sack cloth aprons, were delighted with our visit and were not at all put out when I refused a raw egg to suck. They enjoyed being sketched.
As I'll shortly be changing the name and URL of this blog, I'd like to make this post an epitaph to both Granny's Tales.
Sunday, 5 September 2010
I find August a relaxing month even when I work right through it - something to do with everyone around me going away and leaving behind a quiet absence - or recollections of all those long gone August seaside holidays which cast a pleasant atmosphere over my working day. I recall it rained a lot on those holidays confining three energetic boys and a very large dog to a small cottage for hours on end. It was John Verney's books that always saved the day - each holiday he leant us a new one for reading aloud - Friday's Tunnel, February's Road, Seven Sunflower Seeds, Samson's Hoard were the ones I remember.
They were humorous and had rip roaring adventures and everyone became absorbed and listened quietly until the sun came out again.
Later, I read Going to the Wars, a story of Verney's time with the North Somerset Yeomanry and then the Royal Armoured Corps after war broke out in 1939. It was a wonderful book crying out for a sequel about his escape from an Italian POW camp, but nobody could persuade him to revisit that time of his life and he settled down to humorous painting. I still have his Dodo-pad and one of his Culpepper Cushions and my last memory of him was in his studio, painting chests of drawers with naughty knobs.