With the May blossom perfuming the air, and glowing creamy white on the surrounding hills, it is difficult to imagine that these prickly stunted hawthorns are the same that, in their leafless winter state, adorn so many of my pictures as stylised twiggy versions, but summer has hit the Peak District. The birds are madly nesting and singing and flit constantly with insect crammed beaks to the ivy and creepers that cling to the Dog and Dome Headquarters. Flora and I take turns to shoo Hamish and Edward, the D&D cats, away from the nesting sites, alerted by the male blackbird’s alarm calls or the strange repetitive bleeps of the female.
After years of no avian visitors to a pretty birdbath which I was going to relocate to another part of the garden, with a view to using it as a prop for my pictures and perhaps attracting more birds to actually use it or perch seductively and pose for a picture, the birdbath has suddenly been adopted by an enormous wood pigeon who comes daily to drink. So there is now a dilemma. Would the pigeon manage to find the birdbath if it was relocated? The thought of thirsty squabs is a worrying one, particularly to Flora’s younger sister who is a pigeon fancier extraordinaire and avidly feeds them on her Glasgow windowsill. She has recently attracted a duck to her fifth floor window and a heron tried to land but found it too narrow! All these subjects are great fodder for my paintings. I often paint herons and love to depict a good plump mallard.
One of my herons is soon to adorn a range of water bottles, together with a crane, hedgehogs and swallows. Dog & Dome are delighted to be collaborating with Pacific Ridley on this range which will be coming soon to both websites. Pacific Ridley is run by a great Mother/Daughter team, Rachael and Beth who sell a great range of colourful eco products. Both Flora and I bought their products when we were exhibiting together at Pop-Up of The North last September in pretty Malton in North Yorkshire, organised by the lovely Georgie Pridden.
At Pop-Up of the North, we also met the wonderful Jade of Tilda’s Tribe who makes the milk from her family’s goat herd into delicious smelling and very skin-kind soap. Dog & Dome are delighted with our recent collaboration in which a range of Tilda’s Tribe soaps are sold with our wash bags.
Under the lockdown, with design input and suggestions from Arthur Parkinson, we have been working on a range featuring his hens and flowers and hope very much to soon have samples, followed by the actual products. Arthur’s hens Kiera and Claudia, two beautiful pekin bantams, one millefleur and one lavender grey, feature with a range of flowerheads, notably Arthur’s beloved violas. We cannot wait to see the results. Flora has worked her magic on her laptop using her design skills to take all the different elements from the original picture and cleverly cut out particular images to try them in various differing sizes and positions, whilst I am a bit of a prima donna and just keep asking if we could try it left a bit, right a bit, up a bit, a bit smaller. I am amazed by Flora’s patience with me!
The D&D headquarters is looking better than it has done for ages. The gable end that gets a thorough buffeting by the wild weather that we have up here (we are very high in the hills and only just below the tree line) has been beautifully re-pointed with lime mortar in keeping with the house’s listed status and looks wonderful. The garden is looking smarter too as a locally fallen ash-tree’s-worth of wood chippings have been barrowed by us to all the weedy patches of the garden, making it look much better and us much fitter.
There have been several Lockdown Lino sessions at the weekends where a stint at the kitchen table whittling away has culminated in the magical process of inking and printing at Flora’s Grandfather’s old press in the barn studio. We have been regularly walking on the moors and the curlews are still calling, though less so now that their chicks are hatched. The sheep have moved into the Dog & Dome field and the antics of the lambs and throaty bleats of their mothers are a constant and charming background noise which help render the world’s sad and still serious situation a little less awful.