Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Shane had noticed there was an exhibition on of Quentin Blake book cover illustrations. We have enjoyed many of the books he has illustrated and his quirky expressive drawings are a great addition to the often whimsical stories. It was our plan for today to make our way in to see that during the morning.

I was aware while still in bed, that the air was not full of birdsong but of the, roar of a mower. As we ate breakfast the mowing had stopped but then the strimming started. This was even louder, especially as it was the edge, where we were moored and the strimmer flicked along the boat and our window was sprayed all over with the strimmings. Bartimaeus was a sitting duck and getting as green as a mallard drake. I suggested that as we were near a water point we could go and give the port flank a hosing down. We needed water anyway so once the grass cutters had moved away Shane reversed back to the water point and we tied up. The combination of hose, cloth and squeegy wiper made a reasonable job. The boat drifted away as boat passed. The driver could tell by the coverage on the back deck what had happened. Once the tank was filled Shane cast off and I drove us past the boat moored ahead, to our original spot.

We headed off to the town to the gallery and also possibly get some knitting needles but I had already discovered the most likely place closed in December. As we headed off we passed a boat where we had seen a cat lounging in the window ensconced on a pillow and giving the world a good stare. He looked master of all he surveyed.

King Cat of the canal on his throne, yesterday

Today I noticed the cat was not on his pillow. In stead the side hatch was open and a man was standing there with the cat cradled in his arms being stroked. Perhaps the strimmer had frightened them and one of them (perhaps both) needed extra comfort.

The exhibition was on at a multi-purpose building that was the perfect venue for a book illustrator. It was an art gallery, a museum and a library. We were warmly greeted at reception with an explation of all different exhibitions that were available today and for the occasion of the Quentin Blake exhibition the water cooler had been decorated as Mr Magnolia. The receptionist enjoyed being creative too. It did have a practical purpose, as the receptionist explained, sunlight spoils the water and the area is surrounded in glass, so they cover it and change it with the seasons or topics. Mr Magnolia was dressed in green, like Bartimeus today.

Mr Magnolia wears a green suit

Before reaching Quentin Blake I was intrigued by another artist, Chris Orr, who did comical, confusing drawings. There was one based on Alice in Wonderland and a ‘guess the scientist’ puzzle.

Scientists hit the jackpot by Chris Orr

I hadn’t realised Quentin Blake began by illustrating book covers for adult books. Publishers were reluctant to move from black ink drawings to using colour, so he wrote his own children’s story with a main character who changed colours and they agreed to print his book with watercolour and ink, and he wrote many more.

A selection of Quentin Blake’s books

There was of course also and children’s area with a jigsaw of one of his illustrations and a seating corner with chairs and bags and his books available for reading. Nobody was there andI wished I had a child with me to sit and hear a story. In the absence of that activity we went round the museum.

In the next floor down was a textiles exhibition, with a variety of artists and some items for sale. I really enjoyed this little display, especially the nests which were exquisite, woven beautifully and looking soft and cosy, white satin eggs like tiny cushions.

Eggs and nests woven by hand not beak

I loved some of the embroidered animals, flowers and birds and bought some cards of them. We were asked how we heard of the exhibition and had we come specifically or were we passing through. 

We had been on our feet for a long time so we went in search of lunch. Shane spotted a statue in a small park and we saw it was Rupert Brooke, the poet, who was educated at Rugby school. In the same park it looked like there was a comfortable spot to sit and read. Shane looked like he might settle in and not bother with lunch.

Shane sitting ‘comfortably’ on the couch with a pile of books.

As there was no food there we moved on to our new favourite park cafe, where we were well fed and entertained by the group of men who had booked a table to do wood carving and settled next to us with chisels at the ready. You never know what you’ll see and hear.