One of the best things about writing stories is that you get to leave things in other people’s heads – things that might last them a lifetime, and that they will imagine in ways quite different from the way you did when you actually wrote the story. When Gary Blythe illustrated The Toymaker, one of the first things he said to me was that he could draw a thousand pictures and never come up with the identical one I’d had in my head. Then he drew the most wonderful pictures. My favourite of his is still the portrait he made of Marguerite. There is such a cruel glint in her eye, and unless you are looking for them, you don’t straight away see her rows of needle sharp teeth. Ever since I first saw Gary’s roughs I’ve always been thrilled to see pictures people have drawn after reading something I’ve written.
Having read The Toymaker Jim Kay produced his own portrait of Anna-Maria and Lutsmann – it’s on my stairs – and though it’s all framed now, one of my favourite things about it is that if I take it out of the frame and turn the paper over I can see on the back where Jim started to draw Anna-Maria, changed his mind and started again on the other side. I see the picture each time I pass. I love the way that Anna-Maria and Lutsmann are looking in opposite directions and are just so shifty.
But over last weekend I had another picture treat. A graduate artist, Shelley Higham, wrote to me to tell me that she’d just finished her degree and had in part based her final project on The Toymaker. She’d drawn views of Felissehaven during the carnival and I asked if I could post one of them here. So, this picture comes courtesy of Shelley. I’ve always liked those carnival masks, and the Venetian plague doctors with their long beaked masks are particularly creepy. Maybe one day I’ll have to write a story that has them in – dark Venetian alleyways, canals and gondolas – and something very bad in the palace of the Doge.
This last ten days saw Bea’s – my youngest daughter’s – birthday. We got a load of balloons from Wells and brought them home in a black dustbin sack to stop them blowing everywhere. But it did mean that when we got them home early they had to hang around for a day like a small dark cloud against the dining room ceiling.
The trouble with balloons is that they do linger for a long time after a party, especially if you haven’t the heart to stomp around bursting them all. They just slowly loose all their enthusiasm. We’ve got a whole floor full now of balloons that have lost their enthusiasm. Believe me, there are few sadder sights.