Tag Archives: Photos

It’s The Great 2014 Round-Up!

Photo copyright of Gunnar Guðjónsson

Photo copyright of Gunnar Guðjónsson

This year has been an extraordinary one. A corker. There have been some ups and downs, some round-a-bouts, a see-saw, one of those wheel-of-death jobbies with the motorbikes. I may be getting carried away with myself a bit here, but trust me, it’s been that kind of year.

I’ve traveled more in 2014 than I think I have done in all the years leading up to it – Normandy and Iceland and Paris and New York – with friends where I could, alone if not, in love where possible.

I saw the northern lights with a group of strangers outside a porter-cabin hotel in the Icelandic highlands, and spent an hour under the dancing lights, smiling until the wind had chilled my teeth to a painful hum. The aurora borealis is the sort of thing that makes you want to hug the person next to you or tell someone you love them, and to see it alone was a bittersweet thing, but perhaps it was right. Was it eerie, my friends asked when I came home – was it weird? Gunnar, our guide, had explained earlier that day that the aurora, just like the volcanoes that loomed on every horizon, was a sign that the earth was healthy and alive. A planet without tectonics is a planet that is dead.

But even so, there was nothing remotely eerie about the lights. They were beautiful, and magnetic – they pulled us from our beds to stand in the frozen midnight air, miles from home. It felt….significant. It felt like a sign. Good things, dancing there in front of me. Good things, pole-to-pole. Maybe I’m naive, and hopeful, with a leaning towards sweeping spiritual statements, but I don’t think that matters. Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, maybe the act of hoping is as good as getting what you’re hoping for. Maybe.

2014 was also significant – for you all I’m sure – as my thirtieth year on this planet. I know, I know, my youthful face and collection of Doctor Who toys make me seem much younger. But it’s true: thirty bloody years old. I suppose I can concede that I feel more like an adult now than I ever have before, but, that’s not really saying that much, is it?

This year I dabbled in the mucky world of Tinder, briefly. Dating often made me feel like a lone lost astronaut in an alien world, where I understood neither the rules nor the reason for them (“So…okay…you might reply to my text messages – three days later, yep, okay – but we mustn’t speak on the phone? We can have sex with each other….but we mustn’t be facebook friends? O…okay….”). The whole thing ended not with a bang but with a whimper, like a sad little fart in a next-door room. But out from my slightly pathetic foray into the world of internet dating came the desire to keep the momentum going, after years of professional dust-gathering on the shelf. I’d been hammered into shape by this point: I understood that love was about feeling constantly afraid and unsure and unattractive, it was about compromise and hiding, little bits of yourself shoved down the back of the sofa and under the carpet, control underwear and pretence and omission.

Most of all, it was the finger-wagging voice in your ear telling you you can’t have everything, you know.

Until, of course it wasn’t.

This year I’ve learned that love can still be terrifying, but instead of the lost, confused wandering of before, it’s a joyfully overwhelming thing. It’s free-wheeling headlong down a hill on a bike, someone with you, sat on your handlebars – you hurtle along, neither of you ever really knowing how high this hill is or if you’ll crash horribly at the bottom or land safely in a life you’ve built together along the way. And that’s it, isn’t it? You can never really know, no one can, but it’s the trying, that’s the thing. That’s all any of us want, surely? Someone to say they’ll try with us.

And now I’m with someone I would never have expected. Who knows what will happen, and it’s not perfect (living 3000 miles apart is a little inconvenient) and neither are we, but sometimes I look at him and marvel, because it seems as though someone stuck a pipette in my ear and sucked him right out of my brain when I wasn’t looking, three-piece suit and fedora and all.

And of course I haven’t really learned anything about love, because this is the first time I’ve known it, and it comes in many guises, and I’m only thirty. Perhaps when I’m old and grey and eighty I’ll know, or perhaps I won’t.

A week or two before I went on the first date with him, and began the slow, tentative process of falling in love, I wrote a piece about what I wanted in a man and published it on this blog. If I was going to be picky I had a long list of qualities, ending in his looking exactly like the actor Kit Harrington. But I wasn’t being picky, I didn’t want to be picky. I just wanted someone kind. Well, I think I’ve found that. And as he recently told me after coming back with our drinks in a soho pub. “I just stood next to him at the bar. That guy from Game of Thrones. You know, your boyfriend. And I’m taller than him.”

So, suck it, Kit Harrington. I’m off the market.



2013! Keep the change, ya filthy animal!

I can’t really complain. 2013 wasn’t too bad: I wasn’t admitted to hospital once, I didn’t lose my job or get framed for a crime I didn’t commit. However, I also didn’t win the lottery, become the lifetime face of Galaxy chocolate thereby furnishing me with a lifetime supply of Galaxy chocolate, or marry Michael Fassbender, so in summary, 2013 was a total bust.

Nothing much happened to me, but I did make a lot of stuff happen, which is probably better. I went on my first proper grown up holiday all by myself. I sang blues in a band.  I bleached my hair and lost a bit of weight, purely to see if I could, and I liked it, and I felt good. Being blonde is strange – people behave in a different way towards you, which makes you behave differently, and on and one, which is all just a bit strange. Builders and weird men are a lot more shouty, people look at you more, though I’m not sure if that’s something that people assume about blondes or the fact that a girl with short blonde hair and black eyebrows stands out a bit more, and also looks a tiny bit more like Miley Cyrus. And no, it’s not annoying at all when people point that out.

New York was a short but incredible experience. Sick of waiting around for someone to go on holiday with, either amongst my dwindling pool of single friends or one of those mythical  “boy-friend” creatures everyone keeps banging on about, I decided to just do it myself. What’s the worst that could happen? Many things, my compulsively anxious, pteromerhanophobic brain supplied. But none of them actually happened, thank jeebus.

Traveling alone is a funny thing, equal parts soaring pride and bitter-sweetness. New York is amazing, as I’m sure you all know, but every time I saw or did something amazing I wanted to turn to the person next to me and say “Wasn’t that amazing?! But there was no one there. Well, there were thousands of people there, but I was too scared and British to speak to them.

Work has been a funny old thing this year too: it was pretty heartbreaking to leave the studio building I’d worked in for the past 5 and a half years, and even more so to leave the people I’ve worked with for that time too. But our studio went on hiatus, and I was installed in an attic office for one, like Miss Haversham surrounded by mouldering Peppa Pig merchandise. Saying that, I actually love my little office, and my job, and even all the Peppa Pig merchandise which is not in the slightest bit mouldy. Working alone has its low points: the most human contact I usually have in a day is with the night security guard on the desk downstairs, whose name I don’t know but have decided is probably called Marcel, and who sometimes tells me to have a nice evening in a lovely, avuncular security guard sort of way. But on the plus side, I get to sing along to questionable music choices without fear of mockery, and generally just get on with shit. I am master of my domain. Unless my bosses pop in or shit gets heavy, in which case I am merely the caretaker of my domain.

I’ve drawn a lot more this year, developing my style and the sort of things I want to draw. I’ve met some great people on Twitter (another result of minimal human contact on any given day) and some cool people in real life too. I’ve been commissioned for some great little jobs (which reminds me I’ve got to do my buggering tax return) and got to work on some pretty cool projects in my day job too (Peppa Pig Big Egg Hunt egg! Peppa Pig stamp!)

2014 is shaping up too: in an attempt to see me through the post-Christmas slump I’m planning a trip to Iceland (can’t decided between summer or later in the year, to hopefully catch the Northern Lights). I’ve got a couple of projects in the pipe-line, fingers crossed. And who knows what else?

If anyone knows Michael Fassbender, give him my number, yeah?

Normandy sing-song


Click for larger image

This image began as a quick doodle of a GI with an accordion based on the photograph below, and quickly escalated into a full-blown musical interlude. I particularly like the guy drumming on his buddy’s helmeted-head, he looks like such a yokel, with his bullet-hole-pinked helmet.

I love the idea that this soldiers in the photo below found an accordion in the rubble in some bombed-out Normandy town, and hey, don’t LeBeau play accordion, he’s from down Louisiana way ain’t he?


I don’t know that he’s from Louisiana and I don’t know that his name is LeBeau, that’s just my guess at a Cajun name (that’s what Gambit from X-Men is called, right?). But I DO know that’s a diatonic button accordion (or melodeon) because I have one quite similar that I can barely play. Still, I have a huge affection for accordions of all kinds – I’ve actually collected quite a collection of WW2 Soldiers Playing Accordions images, which I might post someday.

“You want to live in this lousy world? Play it cool.”

Coloured version of a quick doodle, your average crummy JDs

Coloured version of a quick doodle, your average crummy JDs

Recently I stumbled across this photo by Bruce Davidson, from a collection on 1950s Brooklyn teenage gangs that I first saw a couple of years ago:


And it got me doodling some 50s teenage hoodlums, which in turn made me want to dig out my West Side Story dvd.


I love West Side Story. I mean, I really really love it. People who don’t like musicals tend to get this eyes-glossing-over thing when I mention it, which is sad because, seriously guys, this aint no normal musical. Yes, it takes a while to get used to the fighting-via-dance format of a lot of the film (Quick! He’s using jazz-hands!), but when you do you start to notice, shit, that dancing is pretty physical, and the music is gorgeous, and the lyrics are so, so sad. That chirpy song the kids sing about Officer Krupke is fun, right? It’s also about a bunch of teenagers -when “teenagers” were an entirely new concept- with junkie parents who beat them, a society that’s failing them, and a hopelessly bleak future. Tony and Maria’s Romeo & Juliet love-story isn’t the only tragic thing about the film.

But this is me talking – I love the ’50s and ’60s, I love New York, and I’m hopelessly soppy – so I was always going to love it. But if you get the chance to watch this film, before your eyes gloss over, admire the acrobatic, incredibly physical dancing, listen for the beautifully tremulous strings behind the vocals in “One Hand, One Heart”, try and catch the brilliantly sharp lyrics about the way 1950s USA treated immigrants in “America”, and the heartbreakingly sad little lines: “Why do you kids live like there’s a war on?”

Also, you know that finger-clicking is cool.


West Side doodles

Here’s a collection of images I’ve got stuck in a file on my desktop, some from West Side Story, some by the brilliant Bruce Davidson, a couple of gorgeous illustrations of New York in the ’50s by M.Sasek (one of my favourite illustrators), and a few others thrown in for good measure:

And here, the West Side Story prologue in full, because I love you:


Found at Auction: The Unseen Photographs of a Legend that Never Was






Clever girl….

My new flatmate Colette is a very very clever girl – an incredible makeup artist, hairstylist and wigmaker currently working for the English National Opera (she’s also a wizard with prosthetics, she did our awesome zombie makeup for Halloween 2011 and turned me into a syphilitic Edwardian zombie. Now that’s a real pal for you.)

Anyway: she wanted a face to paint, I’ll happily submit to being dressed up like a doll, our fabulous photographer friend Claire Bilyard of Scarab Pictures was enlisted to shoot the whole shebang, and what pretty pretty pictures she made. I will never tire of this: I’ve always been obsessed with dressing up and pretending to be someone else, and I love how utterly unlike me the person in these photos looks. Claire and Colette are incredibly talented artists, and I’m a very very lucky girl. FUN!




BAFTA – ode to a little piggy.

So some of the posts here are for me to get my thoughts down, or because there’s something I feel like writing about, while others are more straightforward journal-type entries so that I can record an event to look back on in the future.

This is definitely one of those posts – not particularly well thought-out or written, but recorded for posterity. Last sunday night I was lucky enough to go to the Children’s BAFTAs. Peppa Pig was nominated for Best Preschool Animation, but also the voice of Peppa, Harley Bird, was nominated for Best Performer. This was a real achievement in itself, bearing in mind that Harley is only 9 years old.

I was very lucky to fall into working at Astley Baker Davies a little after graduating from university. I’d reached a point where I thought I’d never get out of my small home town, and then suddenly in a whirlwind so fast I’m not quite sure to this day how it happened, I was deposited in a flat in Stockwell S.London, with a job in an animation studio on Regent St. And not just any animation studio, but one making funny, quality shows that people seem to love.

When I started work at the studio I was a Runner, which meant I got to try a bit of everything. One of my jobs was to go along to voice records and take notes to be used later when the editor was looking for the chosen take. As such I was there on a summer afternoon, not long after I’d moved to London and started the job, when five year old Harley came along for an audition.

We’d been looking for a new voice of Peppa as, starting the 3rd series, the previous voice artist was now unfortunately too grown-up to really work as the voice of a 4 year old. Looking through the suggestions sent by the voice agencies we use, we were immediately drawn to Harley’s mischievous smile, freckles and bright red hair tied in big bunches on top of her head. She certainly seemed to embody the cheeky but sweet attitude of the Peppa character. Listening to her voice reel we were surprised by how much she sounded like the original Peppa, with a husky quality to her voice that was so unusual in a child.

She aced the audition of course – confident and mature enough to get through the lines while bringing a real child-like quality to the takes. (Bear in mind that a lot of children’s cartoons are voiced by adults). And after a few months, and no longer a Runner but a Production Assistant, I was asked to go in the booth with the kids to help them with their lines. A lot of the older children were happy by themselves, so I was only really needed for Harley and the other younger children.

And now, although not technically falling under my job description as Assistant Designer, I still go to Harley’s voice records and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Truth is Harley is now such a pro she doesn’t need me in there any more (gone were the days of helping her read the script, or literally having to pin her to the chair to get her to sit still, or go for a run around the block in a break in recording to get out excess bouncy energy) – but I still enjoy going. So it was especially wonderful to get to be there when Harley won her BAFTA – none of us were expecting her to win, being that it’s rare for a voice artist to be recognised in such a way, but hearing her name get called out was such an exciting moment for everyone involved with Peppa there at the BAFTAs that night. She is more than a voice – she is  Peppa. But more than that, she is an accomplished, hard-working, funny and natural actress, and she completely deserved that award.

In the long run-up to the announcement I could see that Harley was getting more and more nervous, so I went over to see if she was okay and her mum Gill asked me to go up with her to accept the award if she won. As it was Harley raced onto the stage with excitement when her name was called, so I barely caught up with her in time – and then backstage for interviews and photographs, me trying not to blub like a baby (I’m surprised I didn’t come back to the table afterwards face smudged with tear-streaked mascara).

Then, as we made our way back to the table bouncing with excitement, Peppa was announced as winner in the Preschool Animation category, which was just the icing on the cake. We’ve won this before but it’s still so nice to win, and on that night with Harley recognised also it felt like everything was going our way!

In truth the rest of the night passed in a bit of a blur of champagne, dancing till my feet hurt and smiling till my face hurt. Harley kept getting stopped by people wanting to congratulate her, or have their photos taken with her, or have her record a message to their children on their phones. Everyone was so lovely and it felt like people were really pleased that she’d won. Harley was desperate to speak to the Horrible Histories table, so, not needing that much persuading, I took her over to chat with them. Of course they were all very lovely and kind of Harley, and we got a chance to tell Martha Howe-Douglas (who was up against Harley in the Best Performer category) that we were huge fans and that we’ve spent many idle moments in the voice recording booth singing her Boudicca song. I hope it didn’t sound false but I wanted to tell Martha that, if Harley hadn’t won, we would have wanted to lose to her! She’s definitely deserving of it, so here’s hoping she’s nominated next year – the funny girls need to be recognised!

All in all it was a fantastic night, and I felt so so lucky to be able to share in it, and to be there to celebrate Harley’s win. But also I feel lucky to have been allowed to work with her- from that first day she came in for her audition, through all the many many voice records, jokes, drawing sessions, and songs sung. She’s made me laugh till tears streamed down my face more times than I can count. This little piggy has worked hard indeed – and I’m sure there’s a bright bright future in store for her.

The Dead Walk….

Since moving to London I’ve finally found the excuse I’d always been looking for that allowed me to go all-out for Halloween: my good friend Rob’s birthday is the 31st of October, and he, lucky for me, fully encourages the fancy-dress. I’ve mentioned before on this blog how much I love to dress up and look stupid, so it’s fun to have friends who throw themselves into it and fully commit to the stupidity of it all!

Last year was a marvellous party above a Soho pub where I was finally able to fulfill my long-held dream of dressing as zombie Marie Antoinette. I spent the night swishing around, pawing at restaurant windows scaring the customers inside, and generally finding it difficult to get through doors in my costume – constructed from customised eBay wig and corset, skirt made from a Primark curtain and two pillows strapped around my waist for the authentic (looking) 18th century silhouette. And of course, lots and lots of fake blood.

Or at least, what I thought was a lot of fake blood – but that was before Collette, and her makeup kit (“I’ve got old, new, clotted and dribbley bloody, which one do you want?”)

This summer I met the wonderful Colette while she was working as the one-woman hair and makeup team on the Cyprus production of Wizard of Oz that I worked on. This girl is a genius. So this year’s birthday-halloween-zombie pub crawl around Soho on the saturday before Halloween was made all the better by the addition of Colette providing amazingly disgusting makeup and prosthetic wounds. I was the first to sit in Colette’s makeup chair and rather unwisely used the words “Do what you want.”….

Twenty minutes later (twenty minutes of watching the horror and disgust – in between fits of giggles -grow on the face of Claire, who was photographing the whole thing) and I looked in the mirror to discover that, with the addition of my cobbled together Edwardian costume (dead Downton Abbey: charity shop blouse, cropped H&M tuxedo jacket, black velvet fabric pinned into a high-waisted skirt, victorian ankle-boots, top-hat and veil) I looked…well, rather as though I’d recently died of syphyllis.

“You won’t pull tonight,” was the reaction of most of the others when they arrived. Along with, “Urgh, you’re rank!” from birthday-boy Rob as he got a close-up view of my putrid face when I squeezed past him in the packed studio. No slutty halloween nurses and sexy witches for us – we were doing this properly. For extra authenticity, every now and then a soft plop on my arm was a fallen scrap of my decomposing face, the odd globule hanging from a stray strand of hair worked loose from my wig. Lovely.

 Claire, as a zombie pirate, got a wonderful weeping bullet hole in the gullet, a rather water-logged blue looking face and a fantastic stitched up gash across the nose (Colette pulled a loose thread from her top to glue on as fake stitches -genius). Now would be a good time to mention the Mortician’s Putty that, normally used to cover up gaping wounds on dead bodies, was tonight used to create and blend huge, angry welts and bloody gashes across the faces of ten or so of Rob’s friends. I helped as much as I could, appointed myself Colette’s assistant, but stuck mainly to the colouring and shading as opposed to moulding the tricky putty into shape.

Colette didn’t escape unscathed though – that big wound down her cheek, that was me, that was…

Before the others arrived we had some fun taking pictures on the roof and in the alley-way behind the studio…

Pretty soon the others arrived, including birthday-boy Rob as a demonic 118 runner…

Much putty, fake blood and beer later, we trekked out to the first of many Soho pubs – or those that would let a hoard of the undead in.. (when I pointed out the Halloween decorations inside the pub to the bouncer who wouldn’t let us in his empty bar, he told me “Yes, but Halloween was friday…”). It was a great night all round and a fantastic chance to dress up, though the day proved a bit long for Colette on I, who were tucked up in bed by 1 am like good little dead-girls.

All makeup by the brilliant Colette Williams – thanks for letting me be your assistant for the day, lovely! All photos by the wonderful Claire Bilyard of Scarab Pictures, used with permission.

If you pinch any of them we’ll come round your house and eat your brains. Consider yourself warned.