Friday, December 21, 2007

Working dog

Border collies don't have the same loutish reputation as Dobermanns or Staffordshire bull terriers, but they can still be pretty intimidating when they want to be. Once they assume the position, that head-down arse-up thing they do, then it's time to make your excuses and leave. They give you the old 'come by' look, and you suddenly remember you're supposed to be somewhere else entirely.

I get attacked by a Welsh Border collie about once every three weeks on average. Same dog, same place. I've kind of gotten used to it, and nowadays I barely flinch. The mad beast hurls itself at me, teeth snapping, but I've just learned to look straight ahead and ignore it. Cool under fire, that's me.

Being in a car helps of course. I don't drive anything very swanky - in fact it's a battered old wreck, in keeping with its owner - but it does at least have the merit of being dog-proof. The critter in question patrols a stretch of pavement outside a pub on the road to Huddersfield. It likes to hide beneath one of the outside tables, waiting for some unsuspecting motorist like me to come tootling along. Then at the last possible second it shoots out from its lair and makes like it's going to bite your wheels off.

The first time this happened to me I damn near had a heart attack. I thought that I'd run the thing over, and swerved out into the middle of the road to try and avoid carnage. But it was just having a little joke with me. I saw it in my rear view mirror, sauntering back to its table and having a good laugh. I didn't find it particularly amusing at the time.

However, I've since begun to see the humour of it all and joined in the fun. Yes, I've had many a chuckle watching some other poor sap bang his skull on the sidescreen in alarm as the dog comes springing out of nowhere. And I suppose the dog's behaviour is understandable. In the absence of any Welsh valleys or sheep to chase around said valleys, it makes do with what it can get. Quite appropriate, in a way. Here we all are, commuting backwards and forwards to Huddersfield like armour-plated sheep, and the dog's just making sure we stay in line, keeping us moving smartly along. It's only doing its job after all.

A Winter's tale

This is actually my brother-in-law Jeff's story, but it has an appropriately wintry theme, and anyway deserves a wider audience.

Come the Apocalypse, Jeff will be a very handy guy to have living just up the street from you because he's got All The Gear. He has a ten-man bivouac, complete with camping stove, wine-rack, pemmican and many other luxuries, all of which folds down into a tobacco tin. I believe he keeps a full team of huskies on standby, tucked away in a leather pouch in his sock drawer. He's well prepared.

So one winter's day Jeff goes walking up on the Yorkshire Moors with his young son Jack, and you'll believe me when I say that they are properly kitted out for the expedition. They have the required maps and compasses, rations, crampons, emergency flares, Bowie knives, anti-wolf spray - the lot. Plus they have the coats, of course, the ones with the metre long hoods that make you look like Kenny from South Park, except these are made of some special kind of micro-fibre and have been tested at sub-cartoon temperatures. All of this is necessary and sensible, because you don't mess around on The Moors in winter. The snow is waist deep in places, and although the weather might be bright and sunny when you start out, it can very quickly change. The black blizzards that sweep across the Russian steppes are actually born here in the Pennines. Oh yus. It's a fact. Even the notoriously tough Marsden sheep admit that it can get damn chilly up there at times.
Serious stuff, then, and Jeff is explaining as much to young Jack, as they set up their own miniature version of Ice Station Zebra in case they should need an emergency stop off point on the way home.
And then this very surreal thing happens. A group of men appear over the brow of a distant hill. They are dressed in nothing but shorts and singlets, and they are running bare-legged through the deep snow. On they come, steam rising from their half naked bodies, arms going like pistons, frozen snot streaking their faces, beards and moustaches white with frost. Fell runners.
Very few people have seen fell runners, those legendary creatures, and so their reputation is akin to that of Sasquatch or the Flying Dutchman - not everybody is convinced that such things exist. But Jeff and Jack witnessed the whole thing, swivelling their tunnelled hoods like SteadyCams to gaze upon these mythic moors-men, far from anywhere, pounding their way forever across the frozen wastes. A once in a lifetime experience, and something I wouldn't mind seeing myself some day, although I'd prefer it to be from a helicopter. They must be a different breed, these guys, some kind of Iron Age throwback. I like to think that they were running barefoot, but Jeff says he believes they were wearing daps.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Here's a partial list of titles that I've had a hand in...

Written and/or illustrated for younger children:
· A Lazy Day, Fabbri & Partners (London, England), 1974.
· The River That Disappeared, Fabbri & Partners (London, England), 1974.
· The Willow Tree, Fabbri & Partners (London, England), 1974.
· Pig, Deutsch (London, England), 1976, Bradbury (New York, NY), 1977.
· Barnaby Shrew Goes to Sea, Deutsch (London, England), 1978.
· Barnaby Shrew, Black Dan, and the Mighty Wedgwood, Deutsch (London, England), 1979.
· Mr Mick, Deutsch (London, England), 1980.
· January Jo and Friends, Deutsch (London, England), 1981
· Bill Graham, Septimus Fry, F.R.S.; or, How Mrs Fry Had the Cleverest Baby in the World, Deutsch (London, England), 1980.
· Eric Charles, Bertha and the Windmills, Deutsch (London, England), 1986.
· Eric Charles, Bertha and a Mouse in the Works, Deutsch (London, England), 1986.
· Eric Charles, Bertha and the Best Machine Competition, Deutsch (London, England), 1986.
· Eric Charles, Bertha and the Great Painting Job, Deutsch (London, England), 1986.
· Eric Charles, Bertha and the Lost Tom, Deutsch (London, England), 1986.
· Eric Charles, Bertha and the Flying Bear, Deutsch (London, England), 1986.
· Eric Charles, Bertha Annual, Polystyle Publications Ltd. (London, England), 1986.
· Illustrator of weekly "Bertha" comic strip, Kingsborn Ltd.,

Illustrated and/or paper engineered.
· (With Elinor Bagenal) Tractor Factory (pop-up book), Golden Books (New York, NY), 1994.
· (Paper Engineer) Humpty Dumpty, Lodestar Books (New York, NY), 1996.
· Tractor Trouble (pop-up book), Lodestar Books (New York, NY), 1996.
· Five Speckled Frogs: And Other Counting Rhymes, Cartwheel Books (New York, NY), 1997.
· The Hokey Pokey: And Other Party Rhymes, Cartwheel Books (New York, NY), 1997.
· The Itsy Bitsy Spider: And Other Hand Rhymes, Cartwheel Books (New York, NY), 1997.
· Row, Row, Row Your Boat: And Other Play Rhymes, Cartwheel Books (New York, NY), 1997.
· Fire Engine to the Rescue (pop-up book), Tupelo Books (New York, NY), 1998.
· Here Comes the Lifeboat!, Orion Children's (London, England), 2000.
· When I Grow Up, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2000.
· Vroom! Vroom!: A Pop-up Race to the Finish!, David & Charles Children's (London, England), 2000, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2001.
· Big Nose, Small Nose: A Book of Opposites, Mathew Price (Sherborne, England), 2001.
· Garage (pop-up book), Mathew Price (Sherborne, England), 2001, Charlesbridge Pub. (Watertown, MA), 2002.
· Mathew Price, Little Red Car Gets into Trouble, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 2000.
· Mathew Price, Little Red Car Has an Accident, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 2000.
· Mathew Price, Little Red Car in the Snow, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 2000.
· Mathew Price, Little Red Car Plays Taxi, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 2000.
· Mathew Price, Patch and the Rabbits, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2000.
· Mathew Price, Patch Finds a Friend, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2000.
· (Paper engineer) Juan Wijngaard Buzz! Buzz!, Lodestar Books (New York, NY), 1995.
· Mathew Price, Don't Worry Alfie, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1999.
· Mathew Price, Where's Alfie, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1999.

TV credits.
Artwork and music for the BBC children’s TV series ‘Bump’.
Illustrator of many ‘Bump’ books.
Work for older children
· The Various, David Fickling Books (Oxford, England), 2003, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.
· Celandine, David Fickling Books (Oxford, England), 2005, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.
· Winter Wood, David Fickling Books (Oxford, England), 2008.

Forthcoming titles/work in progress
X Isle, a novel for older children. Publication date April ’09. (David Fickling Books)
The Boy Aviators. A novel in progress. (for David Fickling Books.)

Monday, December 03, 2007

A note to collectors.

Many collectors prefer to buy their copies of my books direct from me, signed and dated. Information has been sent out recently with a misquote of the retail cover price for Winter Wood. It should have read £12.99 and not £13.99. Discounted price for signed copies direct from me should therefore have been £10.99. Apologies.