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500 years of Hebden Bridge

Five hundred words in verse to celebrate Hebden Bridge’s 500 year old bridge.


There’s to be a parade,
I know it’s true,
Read it in the Bridge Times,

So I go into town
To see what’s going on,
Lots of people on the bridge,
Buskers doing songs.

Children running wild
On a road pedestrianised,
A parade of crazy costumes
That somebody has organised.

A giant squid, a horse’s head,
A traffic warden ten-foot-tall,
Children feeding ducks with bread,
Cardboard cars and that’s not all.

A hippo goes along on wheels,
A drowning dog saved by the bell,
A pair of disembodied feet,
And Café Cali’s doing well.

Men on stilts, men in tights,
Flouncy frocks, a samba band,
Painted faces, noisy drums,
Everything is made by hand.

Butchers, builders, boys on bikes,
Fishermen, samosa-sellers,
Vegetarians, teachers, painters,
Girls out strolling with their fellas.

Hippies, farmers, bikers, druggies,
Straight and gay and undecided,
Artists, bankers, writers, dancers,
Diverse bridgeniks have collided.

Wading in to Hebden Water,
Shrieking, shouting, getting wet,
Dogs are swimming, children paddle,
Parents wait on wavy steps.

Watch a heron overhead
Looking for a baby chick,
The river’s running very slowly,
Predators can have their pick.

Over the bridge to Hole In t’Wall,
Grab an armchair in t’saloon,
Muso’s playing in the corner,
Lazing on a sunny afternoon.

Full of real ale, feeling sleepy,
Rouse myself and take a walk,
Up the buttress, puffing slightly,
Glad to stop a while and talk.

Yes, house prices slowly falling.
Yes, graduate children coming back.
No, Chris McCafferty can’t help us,
We’re Tories now no going back.

Pushing onwards up the cobbles,
Ending up by Hell-Hole-Rocks,
Clamber downwards through the woods,
Smokers stand outside the Fox.

Join the towpath by the Co-op,
Pass ATC at Hebble End,
Dodge the dogs and bikes and geese,
I love it here, I can’t pretend.

Pass the Trades Club on my left,
Cross the bridge to Calder Holmes Park,
Dribs and drabs of handmade flummery,
Face-painted fairies run amok.

Up the steps back into town,
Call for Hu-Man Chinese chips,
Chinese curry sauce to dip in,
Mmm, slap yer thighs and lick yer lips.

Outside the Shoulder on the benches,
Some I know and some I don’t,
On the square by the fustian needle,
Some that’ll like it some that won’t.

Take a walk down Market Street,
Getting late the crowd is thinning,
Have iced-coffee outside Mooch,
Feel the night is just beginning.

Trades Club, Marshalls, where to go?
Moyles or maybe Nelson’s Wine Bar,
Or sit with neighbours on our street
So going home is not too far.

Back at home I check my emails,
See Chris Ratcliffe on the web then,
Asking us to get our pens out,
And do 500 words on Hebden.

500 years there’s been a bridge,
500 sample faces know it,
500 words about this town,
Not a chance that I’ll outgrow it.

So here they are I did my best
To put 500 words in verse,
But I’m not Sylvia and I’m not Ted,
It really couldn’t get much worse!…/case-study…/cheapfood…/Shoulder_of_Mutton/Hebden_Bridge

Otley Street Nursery, Skipton.

I enjoyed a day at Otley Street Nursery last month and the children here are listening quietly to a story. Later they sang some nursery rhymes very loudly!

Rackham, Dulac and Robinson

Looking forward to seeing this exhibition at the V&A this month! (Illustration by Charles Robinson)

From idea to illustration

Where does a book start?
It starts with an idea.

Where does the idea come from?
Anywhere! Sometimes you just have to look around you and the ordinary bits of your life can suddenly seem interesting or funny or surprising when you turn them into a story.

What comes first, the words or the pictures?
It can be either. Often they seem to come at the same time.

Here are the first sketches I made for my Pickle and the Blanket board book. The first drawing is little more than a scribble. The next one is a bit more detailed. Both these drawings are called pencil roughs… because they are quite rough and in pencil! At the third stage you can see that the final shape of the picture has been decided, and I have drawn over the pencil marks with a fine pen. When that is finished, the pencil can be rubbed out leaving only the pen drawing.

Once the pencil has been rubbed out, you can see on the drawing below that I have tried out a thicker pen line. Finally, the painting begins. I use a mixture of liquid watercolours and gouache.

The finished artwork! Apart from the background colours, which in this case were done separately, you can see here the finished cover artwork.

When the artwork for all the pages is complete, I pack it all carefully, send it off to the publisher and breathe a sigh of relief! The publisher then puts all my words and pictures together in a book, which then goes on sale in a shop. You can see the completed book below.

If you’d like to have a go at colouring in my illustration yourself, you can download a colouring-in sheet here.

The nativity play.

Merry Christmas!


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