The Kick-About #20 – The Ashley Book Of Knots


The Kick-About always casts its net very wide. Our last haul, inspired by Ernst Haeckel’s Art Forms In Nature, landed a shimmering catch of creativity. Our nets don’t always require knots, but this week’s edition of the Kick-About is all about the nip!


Francesca Maxwell

“Here I have a painting called ‘Unravel’. Not a knot supposed to hold or anchor, then it will not work, having lost the nip. But I see it as a knot of the heart, which is finally finding a way to disentangle and on its way to separate and free the separate bits and pieces.” Inks on paper 76 X 57 cm.


www.FBM.me.uk


Phil Cooper

“I was walking through a park near where we live in Berlin recently and I noticed that all the leaves of the hops and traveller’s joy had been stripped away, leaving a seething mass of twisted and knotted stems. Aha, I thought – the kick about! The writhing stems had all grown around each other, squirming over the shrubs and fences, they were rather lovely, wet and glistening after rain, and retaining a surprising amount of colour. I’ve drawn a study of the stems, with some dried, curled up dead leaves trapped in the nets.”


instagram.com/philcoops / hedgecrows.wordpress.com / phil-cooper.com


Vanessa Clegg

“‘Tying the knot’ brings up images of 1950’s bride magazines, bended knee, white net, sparkly bits… So that’s where I went, fossicking around in my studio, finding what I could to knit an image or two together. The nip, I think, could be the commitment made? This is the traditional engagement stage – maybe pressure exerted to get there, or even to stay there? It all hangs on this in order to get to stage two. Perhaps that’s the true tie, but I like the unpredictability of the promise, sealed with a reflecting star on a finge, .a doorway to respectability. Definitely (thank goodness) part of a time warp, not entirely obsolete, but so many other ways to get that ‘nip’.”


vanessaclegg.co.uk


Kerfe Roig

“It’s been a long time since I did any macrame, but I love to embroider, entranced by everything about it–the floss itself, the color and texture, the rhythmic and repetitive motions that are so like meditation, the gradual revelation of something new. I’ve done a lot of embroidery on paper, but I couldn’t remember ever trying French Knots, also called Seed Stitch. My mandala papers are fairly sturdy, so I painted one, inspired by Monet, and searched through my embroidery floss boxes for similar colors. Besides their practical and decorative uses, knots can symbolize many things, from the vows of marriage, to a puzzle to be solved. They are connected to threads of all kinds, and thus the interweavings that form and support all of life. The French Knot is a simple stitch–wind the floss 3 times around the needle and reinsert it into the hole made by bringing the thread to the surface–but like many simple things, it’s easy to become tangled up if you aren’t paying attention. Something that applies to all creative endeavors involving fibers. I’ve used the Badger’s Hexastitch form for my poem.”


I thread
the needle and
spirit passes into
matter returning to
the center of
the (w)hole

I twine
the floss around
the needle—one two three–
casting strands into knots
spelling rhythmic
patterns

I pause
to connect what
lies hidden below the
coiled surface—roots binding
up and down to
between


kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com


Gary Thorne

“I have a feeling I’ve not quite tightened the knot properly, and things have just quietly slipped away, making me no worthy seaman, but it’s a nice sunny day for having the boats off their mooring! Perhaps it suggests the up-coming summer-staycation on the North Kent coastline.” Oil on prepared paper 40cm x 50cm


linkedin.com/in/gary-thorne


Charly Skilling



Graeme Daly

“I had many options with this Kick-About, as Ireland’s heritage is teaming with Celtic knot and rope references in art jewellery and clothes. I decided to do a mash-up of different perspectives, one inspired by the picturesque Aran islands off Galway Bay, specifically the Aran sweater, knitted for the fishermen. The jumpers are made from the wool of the sheep that populate the fields in the islands, and retain their natural oils, meaning they are water repellent – ideal for Irish weather! Because the sweater is water repellent, the fishermen wouldn’t feel the chill from getting wet while out fishing. The stitches in an Aran sweater are used to signify different important factors, such as the diamond stitch representing the fields in the Aran Islands and which bestows health and success, while the cable stitch represents the fisherman’s ropes, and promise safety and good luck while out fishing. The combination of different stitches are divided into different clans for each family name of kinship in Ireland. Around the borders of my designs is the diamond stitch central to the specific Daly clan Aran sweater. The overall theme of these designs seeks to reflect Ancient Celtic artwork, including the triple spiral; the Irish believe everything happens in 3’s and can symbolise the mental, physical and spiritual self or birth, death and rebirth.”


@graemedalyart / vimeo.com/graemedaly / linkedin.com/in/graeme-daly / twitter.com/Graeme_Daly / gentlegiant.blog


Tom Beg

“I found the highly descriptive quote of tying a knot a little queasy and unnerving and I could feel it somehow more than I should have. It brought me to the idea of the knots and ropes imagined as gory body-horror, but retaining the intricacy and functionality of their original purpose. Quite how I made that leap I am not so sure, but it was certainly enjoyable making these as if I were some sort of mad artisan butcher.”


twitter.com/earthlystranger / vimeo.com/tombeg


Phill Hosking

“I guess, when seeing the rather charming front cover to one of the versions on the book of an old salty sea dog blissfully tying a knot, I couldn’t help but think in a nautical direction. Then, as a page of loosely tied knots started to emerge, so did pirates. Ropes and knots seemed symbolic in some way for how I draw and fill endless sketchbooks. Some loose ends, some ideas connected firmly, some pulling away into the meaningless unexplored abyss. I think to pursue the head honcho with his hands tied up would be the next step here, which I may well do.”


instagram.com/eclecto2d linkedin.com/in/phill-hosking


Marion Raper

“I can remember my dad showing me how to tie a Sheepshank knot and a Round turn with two half hitches.  I think I did manage to master them at the time but I’m knot so sure now! (Ouch). Anyway I have decided to stick to what I know best i.e:  the knots used in embroidery and crochet.  The rectangular brooch was made using an old buckle as a frame, the oval pendant a piece of shaped wire, while the coaster began life as a large circular earring.  All of these objects have various threads, wool and fabric knotted and looped on top. The bright pink wire was made in the manner of french knitting then flattened and sewn onto the design.   My other piece of work is an embroidered knot garden worked many years ago and getting a bit faded now, but I thought it was appropriate.” 



Jan Blake

“The tree won me over again this week, and this tree in particular, as it reminded me of Mexico.  I saw it from a very cranky bus travelling around an enormous canyon that seemed to be creating its own knots by winding round and round and up and up. I was astonished to see trees perpendicular to the rock face. The painting is just a memory and it reminds me of Chinese paintings of those trees on top of misty mountains that the Chinese love. I wanted to express the heat and dust of the Mexican canyons, rather than the cool misty hill tops of China. I think I have a way to go the grasp that sense. The other couple of drawings are of repeating patterns that knots can make, as in this netting. So graceful when they are hung out, so lethal in their use.”


janblake.co.uk


Phil Gomm

“The idea for this short story came quickly. Making it work on the page took much longer! In large part, I was responding to the idea of ‘the nip’, the idea of friction, abrasion and tensions tying people together in impossible knots – and the idea too that the security of a bond in certain circumstances might require a lot of nip.”


You can find a large-print PDF here


James Randall

“Knots – the topic had me all bound up – what will the world be like in the future – knots leave traces about the nip mark and there will be plenty of those to be revealed in the coming months. I began with a sketch of a garden knot as a starting point then did a couple of James knots – I feel like I need unknotting here in Sydney – can’t begin to imagine what you must feel like in the UK!” 



Many thanks to our regular Japan-based Kick-Abouter, Tom Beg, for our new prompt for the Kick-About 21, which casts us off in a completely new direction: the very mechanics of forming ideas and making them understandable by others no less! See you all on the other side.



Chimera Book 1 / Chapter 15 – Whirlitzer


Dim the lights, get comfy, it’s time for the next instalment of Kyp Finnegan’s continuing adventures in Chimera, the realm of lost things…


Last time in Chimera Book 1:

‘You’ve been very kind,’ Kyp told the members of the Souvenir Society after they’d eaten, ‘but Jamie and I can’t stay here. Madame Chartreuse has got Jamie’s brother. We need to find him.’

‘The whereabouts of her collection is a closely guarded secret,’ said Sir Regulus. He hesitated. ‘Even from her most trusted agents. Its location will be somewhere inaccessible, some remote, forbidding place.’

‘There is one who might be able to help,’ suggested Doctor Ossifer, his brain pulsing alarmingly. ‘An ancient metamorph by the name of the Sin King.’

‘Sin King?’ Jamie said unhappily.

‘Rumour has it he’s made his home out in the Badlands beyond Thingopolis.’

‘The Badlands,’ said Jamie. ‘Great.’

‘We’ll find him,’ said Kyp confidently. ‘But first we have to find our way out of here.’

‘Find your way out?’ snorted Whirlitzer, as he entered the Museum Room. ‘There is no way out of Oddznbodz.’

Chapter 15 – Whirlitzer

Listen to all previous chapters at anchor.fm/chimerabook1


Coming soon to Red’s Kingdom: Chapter 16 – Return To The Plummet Pit


Chimera Book 1 / Chapter 13 – The Plummet Pit


I’m very excited to announce we’re back after our short season break – and before we pick up where we left off with Chapter 12’s cliffhanger, a short recap of the story so far…


Previously in Chimera Book 1

Kyp Finnegan’s parents are not who they appear to be. How can they be? They made Kyp leave his home for a new house, and his old school for a new one. Worse, they made him leave Sprat behind too – his best friend.

Kyp’s suspicions about his mum and dad are confirmed when the three of them visit an old junk shop, Open Sesames, where he overhears his dad plotting with the junk shop’s rather mysterious shopkeeper to replace him. Kyp runs away into the junk shop, where, quickly lost, he is pursued by some monstrous tentacled thing. Kyp has no choice but to go deeper into the strange labyrinth of the junk shop, where he encounters three mysterious figures. At first, Kyp mistakes them for his parents and the shopkeeper – they’re not! – and Kyp soon realises he is in terrible danger.

Fortunately, Kyp is rescued by Atticus Weft, a giant talking snake, who tells Kyp all about the strange world of Chimera. Chimera is the realm of lost things, but there is a way for lost properties to return home; first, they have to travel to the city of Thingopolis and join all the other lost properties at the Temple of Miscellany in the great Cavalcade of the Lost. Next, the cavalcade must travel together to the sanctuary of Saint Anthony, from where they can be returned to their previous homes and owners. In the strange and dangerous world of Chimera, there is only safety in numbers for lost properties trying to get back to their owners, and Atticus explains why.

The three figures Kyp encountered were the Oblivion Three; the Berserker, a giant marauding toddler that loves to smash things; the Tealeaf, a mosquito-like creature that feeds on a lost property’s elsewhere light, and Madame Chartreuse, who covets lost children because they shine most powerfully. Elsewhere light is the light being cherished imparts to an item of lost property. Atticus also reveals Kyp has been infected by the fugue, a forgetting infection the tealeaf carries on its long horrible fingers. Slowly but surely, the fugue will rob Kyp of his memories until he can’t remember who he is or where he came from. He’ll need to get home before that. He’ll need to get home and fast.

En route to Thingopolis, Kyp and Atticus encounter the broken remains of other lost properties that had been travelling to assemble at the Temple of Miscellany. Atticus explains the Berserker attacked them, their Elsewhere lights snuffed out. Lost properties without an Elsewhere Light are fated to remain in Chimera forever. Upset, Kyp runs away from Atticus and quickly gets lost in the fog. Kyp is upset because he has no Elsewhere light – and little wonder considering his mum and dad wanted to replace him! Kyp meets a shop-window mannequin, who is also lost in the fog. The mannequin warns Kyp about Atticus’s intentions, before revealing herself to be an agent of Madame Chartreuse sent to apprehend him. In the nick of time, Atticus rescues Kyp from the mannequin’s clutches, and together again, they arrive at the foot of Perdu Peak, a great mountain, where Atticus disappears suddenly. Alone again, Kyp is cornered by the Oblivion Three. Madame Chartreuse tells Kyp that Atticus is actually working for her; he is a ‘moppet-drover’, his job being to shepherd lost children into her clutches as soon as they arrive in Chimera. Madame Chartreuse, whose green eyes have mesmeric powers, is just seconds away from ensnaring Kyp, when he falls down a hole into the Bedrock Catacombs beneath Perdu Peak.

The Bedrock Catacombs teem with lots of nasty critters, including ankle-snatchers, which grab anything unfortunate enough to come their way. When Kyp discovers Atticus has been captured by the ankle-snatchers, he tries to save the sock-snake. Now imprisoned together in one of the ankle-snatchers’ hoarding cells, Kyp and Atticus are forced to confront the secrets they’ve been keeping from each other. Atticus did work for Madame Chartreuse as a moppet-drover, and Kyp is responsible for everything that happened with his mum and dad. It’s Kyp’s fault they had to move house because he took the old silver locket from his mum’s drawer – which he was forbidden to touch – and lost it. Kyp concludes the old silver locket must have been very valuable, because after he lost it, his mum and dad couldn’t pay the bills anymore. Kyp tells Atticus he has been wasting his time trying to get Kyp to Thingopolis to join the Cavalacade; after all, he doesn’t have an elsewhere light. Atticus is confused, informing Kyp he has one of the brightest Elsewhere Lights the sock-snake has ever seen. Everyone else can see it, including Madame Chartreuse, who is coming for Kyp and will not stop! Knowing his mum and dad don’t love him anymore, Kyp realises it must be Sprat who is missing him so badly.

Kyp and Atticus are finally able to escape the ankle-snatcher’s hoarding cell when another creature imprisoned with them cuts a hole in the cavern roof. When Kyp and Atticus make it out of the Bedrock Catacombs, they encounter another lost child – Timothy Bean. Atticus accuses the boy of working for Madame Chartruse, recalling how he saw Madame Chartreuse apprehend him. Kyp explains Timothy has an identical twin, Jamie, and that it must have been Timothy’s brother Atticus saw captured. Kyp tells Timothy he recognises him from the news, as back in the Elsewhere World, everyone is out looking for the missing twins. Kyp vows to find Timothy’s brother and return them both to the Elsewhere World. At first, Atticus refuses to help, but then they are attacked by the concrete menagerie, a horde of murderous garden ornaments, and Atticus orders the boys to make for safety while he holds off the menagerie. Kyp just has time to see Atticus being mauled by a vicious concrete lion, before he and Timothy are themselves attacked, the two boys rolling down a steep hillside and banging their heads together.

When the boys awaken, they find themselves being transported on walking sofas towards the great city of Thingopolis. The sofa carrying Kyp informs him that Atticus Weft is certainly dead. Moments later, Kyp and Timothy are arrested by a squad of armchair apes and escorted through the chaotic city. Kyp sees the Cavalcade of the Lost gathering in readiness at the Temple of Miscellany, but he and Timothy are under arrest and unable to join in it. Instead, they are brought before the Phawt-Gnoks Oligarchy, the three mayors of Thingopolis – Czar Samovar, Polly Honeydew, and the Bijou Cabal. While the Phawt-Gnoks Oligarchy bicker with each other over who among them is the most important, Kyp and Timothy await to be interrogated. When finally, they do get the chance to speak, the two boys are found guilty of spying for Madame Chartreuse in an effort to steal ‘the clavis’ – whatever that might be! – and they are sentenced at once, the floor opening up beneath their unsuspecting feet, the two boys falling away into darkness below…


Chapter 13 – The Plummet Pit

Listen to all previous chapters at anchor.fm/chimerabook1


Watch out for the next instalment – coming soon!

Chapter 14 – The Souvenir Society


Chimera Book 1 – Compendium #1


As actor, Dan Snelgrove rests his vocal chords and artist, Phil Cooper puts his paint brushes down for a well-deserved break, I wanted to bring everything Chimera-related together in one celebratory compendium.

All in one place then, for your convenience and listening pleasure, we have all first twelve chapters of Chimera Book 1, a rip-roaring romp into an alternate universe of anthropomorphic lost property, populated by sock-snakes, shock-poppies, walking sofas, vanity sparrows, armchair apes, shop window mannequins, and talking teapots! Enjoy the ride.














Dan Snelgrove: Performing Chimera

But it’s one thing to write a children’s book imagining the secret physical and emotional lives of formerly inanimate lost properties, and quite another to bring all those outlandish characters to life. Fortunately, Dan Snelgrove is on hand, a one-man-band of vocal special effects and emotive storytelling, whose energy and imagination brings colour and dynamism to every word of the novel. One of my great pleasures of this collaboration has been catching up with Dan to discuss all the different ways he’s approached developing the book’s various characters and capturing them accordingly in his home-based recording studio. I’ve gathered together our various chats, and also asked Dan for a few words of his own…


Dan Snelgrove recording Chimera Book 1 in his home recording studio.


Dan: He’d asked the wrong guy, but I wasn’t going to tell him.

I first met Phil a year or so after Chimera had been unleashed, Xenomorph-like, from whichever fantastic recess it had burst. I’d been brought in to run acting workshops for the Computer Animation Uni course he headed up, which involved convincing often technically-minded individuals that waving their limbs around and physicalising a slice of bacon in a full-English breakfast was indeed a productive use of their university time. Exploiting a despicable array of tricks I’d picked up in the acting game, I managed this with some degree of success. For some reason, Phil interpreted this skulduggery as evidence I might be the right person to bring his masterwork to the listening masses. I said yes.

Now, never* during this time had any vocal versatility on my part been demonstrated to him, and I would caution you all that simply because someone can cook a good spag bol does not mean they can serve up an edible Baked Alaska Flambé. It is true that the acting classes were barrels of fun, and I do believe that everyone involved got a lot out of the experiences (I certainly did). However, that is an entirely different beast to bringing to life the overwhelmingly (intentionally so) vibrant and all-too-non-humanly populated world that is Chimera; with the power of the voice alone. For me, this presented an unrivalled challenge and opportunity to grow, to focus on an area of my skill-set that had long needed my attention. Phil would have certainly been better off with someone that could actually just do the job.

It is possible I am overplaying the task. My tendency towards a debilitating level of perfectionism undoubtedly acts as a multiplier, and dear reader, I shall leave the judgment in your hands. But as I first read the trilogy (that’s right kids, this is just the beginning!) I quickly realised I would have to employ the merits of a spreadsheet to organise my thoughts on the myriad characters involved. Looking at it now, I can see I got to 49 before abandoning the process. Having now recorded half of the first book, I realise the sheet failed to capture some of the voices needed along the way. To my count, we’re up to 23.

Some actors are naturals when it comes to accents (their resumés claim a ‘good ear’). Others have uploaded them to their internal databases through hard work and professional training with vocal coaches at drama schools and the like. I am neither. To be kind to myself, I could characterise myself as more of a ‘physical’ performer (I was a keen Irish dancer and clown in a cabaret-punk band), and could claim to have historically approached roles from an ‘emotional-truth’ perspective rather than a more ‘technical’ one. However, just as a carpenter needs a toolkit, so does the actor, and it is all our responsibilities to keep our chisels (and tongues) sharp.

So with a bit of forethought and decent run up, an actor with the particular set of skills (Liam Neeson perhaps?) could simply read the chapter out, switching to the appropriate voice as they went, and with the odd retake for mistakes, job’s a good’n.

Enter Dan.

Each and every character requires a good deal of Google and YouTube research time, as I cram like some ill-prepared student on the night before the exam. My search history, amongst other things, includes buffalos, apes, Ben Fogle, a Russian taxi driver, the Secret Lives of 5-Year Olds and Audrey Tautou. Then, to further cheat and allow listeners to imagine distinct characters, I give each of them their own track, often more than one each, and separate them in the stereo field. The last chapter I recorded, for example, comprises 19 different tracks, along with four out-take tracks replete with fierce swearing and self-rebuke. There are lots of outtakes. Lots. What may sound like a seamless track of narrative is in fact a secret patchwork of cross-faded single-word overdubs and inserted silences, with surgically removed accent errors and poorly expressed emotions falling into the track below; into a world of lost words and sounds. A Chimera, if you will. As a further consequence of these nigh on endless repeats, local sales of honey, ginger and lemon have skyrocketed as I try to squeeze out one more soffalo grunt or Atticus rasp between sips of this hot elixir.

My ‘producer’ credit hence rather grandly veils my continuing struggle to obfuscate my vocal shortcomings.

Doing all of this in various states of lockdown and isolation, and living alone in the first place, adds a level of intensity to the quality-control loop, stood as I am in my homemade vocal-booth with nout but my own voice, in its various forms, going around and around in my headphones. Phil has often sensed the danger and sent over emergency packages of chocolate… And then, when it’s finally done (often late) I tap the trackpad and it’s gone, into the void. Phil then has to step in again at that stage to mentally soothe and massage my broken remains, in order to start the process again for the next week.

I know how this sounds, and so please know that I am immensely proud of what has been produced so far. Going for a 10k run means pain, exhaustion and a mental battle, but also a sense relief and achievement. For an actor, this project is the complete challenge involving story-telling, epic-scale character-creation and emotional journeys that deserve digging into the soul for. Just don’t tell Phil he got the wrong bloke…

*save for my limited involvement in a beautiful animation by Jordan Buckner, which Phil produced.



Dan & Phil in conversation, September 21st, 2020

Dan & Phil in conversation, October 13th, 2020

Dan & Phil in conversation, November 2nd, 2020


Phil Cooper: Painting Chimera

Not content with roping Dan Snelgrove into this epic undertaking, I also approached Berlin-based artist, Phil Cooper, asking him if he fancied using the various chapters as jumping-off points for a series of new paintings. Very fortunately for me, Phil agreed, beginning by producing the Chimera podcast cover art, that has since gone on to pepper Red’s Kingdom on a weekly basis. Phil had this to say about his involvement so far:


Phil Cooper hard at work at the art table back in September 2020


Phil Cooper: I found the prospect of making illustrations for Book 1 of Chimera both enormously exciting and rather daunting at the same time. Exciting because I’d loved the book since it was first published as an e-book several years ago, and daunting because I knew that choosing exactly what to depict out of the plethora of imagery and ideas that pour out of every page was going to be a challenge. But then, at the beginning of October, we were off, and with a tight schedule to keep to, there was little time for feelings either way, it just had to get done. The weekly schedule has been a good solid framework to work around, though, even if it’s felt pressurised at times. Now, towards the tail-end of November, I look back and feel a sense of satisfaction at what we’ve achieved in such a short space of time.

The characters and the environments Phil has conjured in Chimera are vivid and imaginative; the main challenge I’ve faced so far is choosing what exactly to depict each week. I’ve decided to steer away from painting the characters and the creatures that inhabit Chimera so far. Most weeks, I’ve chosen an object from the story, usually an important object like the silver locket or the conker on a string that Kyp keeps in his pocket. These objects are sometimes important elements of the story and I wanted to use them in images to contemplate whilst listening to Dan’s tour de force narration. I knew I didn’t want to describe visually what was being described in the words of the book as the writing and Dan’s expressive narration did that very well. And I also knew, I didn’t want the images to somehow be fighting for attention with the experience of listening to the podcast, I wanted them to work in harmony with it; a background to the action going on in the audiobook foreground.

At this halfway point in Book 1, and looking ahead at the chapters coming up, I can see that the approach I’ve taken may well evolve. Things are going to expand very soon in Chimera, in terms of the characters we meet and spend time with, and in terms of our knowledge of how things work in this universe, and who is really working with who. So, with so much about to go off, I think I might start to move away from depicting objects, as totems of the action, and start to explore the characters themselves as we get to know them more deeply. It’s going to be another challenge!

As well as the extraordinary words from Phil’s writing, I’ve also had the benefit of hearing Dan’s awesome narration for extra inspiration each week. The podcasts really do sound terrific. I’ve been listening to fiction podcasts for years now and Chimera is right up there with the very best of what I’ve heard, so a massive hats off to Dan and Phil for doing such a great job. It’s a real pleasure to be part of the adventure!



Andrew Fisher: Scoring Chimera

One of my little pleasures is listening to the thirty seconds or so of theme music beginning each episode of the audio book, composed especially by Andrew Fisher, into which the composer manages to cram a potent mix of magic, mystery, weirdness and melancholy – capturing the world of Chimera perfectly.

Andrew started composing from a young age, developing an interest in musical story-telling, especially musical theatre and film music. Andrew’s most recent musical Girl In a Crisis, starring Olivier winner Lorna Want, was performed to rave reviews in London in 2018. Other composition credits include music for the video games Guardians of Ancora  (which has been translated into five languages and been downloaded 2 million times worldwide), the horror film, Nine Miles Down and the animated comedy-drama short, Lily White.  His additional composition credits for television include the natural history series, Great Barrier Reef (BBC),  and How the Universe Works  (Discovery).


Kyp Finnegan’s adventures in Chimera will resume on Monday, December 14th, with Chapter 13 – The Plummet Pit


Of Service (2020)


I responded very strongly to the visual prompts for the Kick-About #15, particularly Eric Ravilious’ image of the high-end interiors shop, A Pollard. It says more about me, I suppose, that I detected some shadow at work in these nostalgic images of these well-to-do shops.


Eric Ravilious, 1938


I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the flicker of immediate associations included the animated series, Mr Ben, the production art for Disney’s 101 Dalmations and H. G. Wells’ The Magic Shop. I was struck too by the inter-war period, and it got me thinking about ideas of luxury and leisure time, and how doomed it all was, given what was looming on the horizon, but also about how wonderful it would be to discover a shop like Pollard’s on your high street, and the sorts of people it would attract, and the tensions in a small community it might produce.

It doesn’t always happen – and it rarely happens when a clock is ticking – but the resulting story just wanted out – and out it came. In Kenneth, the story’s protagonist, I find shades of Eleanor Vance, from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (1959), a character I’ve always found to be incredibly moving in her neediness to be needed.


You can find a ‘large print’ PDF version here.


Phil Cooper / Painting Chimera #8

Phil CooperThe Temple Of Miscellany 40cm x 40cm, acrylic on paper

They now arrived in a large, open square surrounded on three of its sides by formal rows of orange feather dusters. In the middle of the square was a large crystalline structure made entirely of glass display cases, some square, some cylindrical, with bell jars on its roof. Lit from within, the building sparkled in hues of ice-green and frosty blue.  Thousands of objects surrounded the building, their Elsewhere Lights combining to create a dazzling display.  Kyp stopped and stared.

Chimera Book 1 / Chapter 12 – The Phawt-Gnoks Oligarchy


Things move quickly in Chapter 12; we meet several new important characters and discover new important places. It’s a rather dizzying experience and I can only image that Kyp’s head was spinning by the end of this chapter! For the illustration this week, I’ve gone for the Temple of Miscellany, mainly because it’s really quite different to anything we’ve encountered before. The crystalline glass structure, glowing from within, has a bit of a sci-fi quality to it in my mind’s eye and it made me think of early 20th Century paintings, like Lyonel Feininger, the Italian Futurists and the constructivists, exploring shiny new materials and clean, geometric shapes. As the new characters we meet will be around for a while, I thought I could explore them in later chapters, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to paint the Temple of Miscellany when Kyp first encounters it…

Phil Cooper, November, 2020


Phil Cooper’s The Temple of Miscellany painting on his art table in his Berlin studio, November 2020




Chimera Book 1 / Chapter 12 – The Phawt-Gnoks Oligarchy


Welcome to Chapter 12 of Chimera Book 1. Apologies, loyal listener, yes, we’re running late again, but I think when you listen to this chapter, which is a tour de force of voice talent, you may appreciate why a bit more time was needed in the recording studio!

We’re at the halfway point in Kyp Finnegan’s adventures in the realm of lost things, and so as to give Dan Snelgrove’s vocal chords a bit of a rest, we’re taking a short ‘mid-season’ break, with the next instalment going out on Sunday, December 13th. Put the date in your diary! Until then, settle back and enjoy!


Last time in Chimera Book 1:

‘Run,’ said Atticus, and the two boys did, sprinting towards the edge of the plateau.  Kyp looked back to see the lion pounce, pinning Atticus to the ground.  He saw white lint fly up into the air and blow away like snowflakes. 

‘No!’ Kyp screamed, looking around for a weapon.

A dark shape swooped suddenly from above, a concrete eagle, its beak lethal, and its talons out-stretched.  With a sudden sharp squeeze, it picked up Kyp by his shoulders and carried him into the air.  Kyp struggled furiously, the material of his jumper tearing, and then he was falling back towards the ground. He slammed into Jamie and both boys staggered backwards in a tangle of limbs. The eagle screeched, plunging towards them, but they were rolling down the embankment, their descent throwing up clouds of dust.  

On and on they tumbled, until finally, the boys’ descent came to an end, their bodies crashing into a gaudy sprout of feather dusters.  Jamie cried out as their heads banged together with a nasty crunch.  In the moments before passing out, Kyp was aware of an exciting murmur. 

‘Just look at their Elsewhere Lights!’ 

‘Are they dolls?’ 

‘No.  Look, they’re not even chipped.’

‘Puppets then? Are they puppets?’

‘No strings.’

‘Statues?’

No.’

‘What then?’

‘I don’t believe it.’ 

Something touched Kyp’s face.  There was a gasp of amazement. 

‘They’re children.’

Chapter 12 – The Phawt-Gnocks Oligarchy

Listen to all previous chapters at anchor.fm/chimerabook1


Tune in on Sunday, December 13th, when Chimera Book 1 resumes with…


Chimera Book 1 / Chapter 11 – The Boy In The School Uniform


Apologies! A little later than advertised… but certainly worth the wait!


Last time in Chimera Book 1:

‘Last one out is a toe-biter!’ announced Kyp.

Atticus hushed him.  He pointed with his tail to the body of the shear-shrike lying on the floor nearby.  The creature was covered in a crust of dirt, inches thick, its beak clogged with muck. 

‘We’re not alone,’ whispered Atticus.

Only now did Kyp see the cavern’s walls, floor and ceiling were crawling with large brown beetles.  There was a loud popping noise, as one launched its fat, drab body into the air, trailing grey powder from its backside. 

‘Dust-bugs,’ cautioned Atticus. ‘Try not to -.’  

His warning came too late; erupting like firecrackers, the beetles took off in unison, the air turning black and unbreathable with the dirt sprayed from their bottoms.  Kyp staggered towards what he hoped was the exit from the cave, dustbugs ricocheting off the walls all about him like artillery shells.  He managed to crawl his way out of the cave and stand up, a dust-cloud surrounding him.

Atticus?’ 

Over here!’  

Kyp froze.  

If Atticus was ‘over there’ then who, or what, had touched him on the shoulder?  

Chapter 11 – The Boy In The School Uniform

Listen to all previous chapters at anchor.fm/chimerabook1


Tune in next Sunday at 4pm for the next instalment

Chapter 12 – The Phawt-Gnoks Oligarchy


Chimera Book 1 / Chapter 10 – Caramels & Coconut Cracknell



It’s 4 o’clock, there’s a nip in the air, and with a little bit of luck there’s a slice of cake nearby. Time then to rejoin Kyp Finnegan and Atticus Weft in their continuing adventures in the fantastical realm of Chimera, the realm of lost things.


Last time in Chimera Book 1:

The freshly-hatched metamorph surveyed its surroundings, its feet scratching amongst the sediment. It ruffled its stubby plume of tail feathers and turned in a circle. It put its head between its legs and blinked. It began pecking at the remains of is cocoon, picking up the husks in its beak and arranging them about its body as if making a nest. The shear-shrike sought to nestle within in it, resting its head on its chest. Agitated suddenly, it kicked the remains of its cocoon. It cawed and flapped its wings, sending the dust of long-dead detritums whirling around it. The blades of its beak snapped open and closed. It made another sound, a scream that set Kyp’s teeth on edge.

‘What’s wrong with it?’ Kyp whispered.

The shear-shrike launched itself into the air. It struck the cave roof and fell back to the ground. Enraged, it took flight again. This time when it met with the ceiling, it emitted a shrill scream of frustration and began to half-fly, half-throw itself at the cave walls. The scissor-snap of its beak made Kyp queasy with dread. At any moment, he expected to be cut into bloody strips or find Atticus sliced into snake rings. The shear-strike began attacking the walls again, slashing at the mattresses. Kyp thought the creature would never tire of its tantrum.

When finally the beating of wings and tearing sounds subsided, Kyp peered up through the white whirl of wadding and saw the shear-shrike had managed what other metamorphs had not; using the formidable tool of its beak, it had cut a way out through the roof.

Kyp and Atticus were free.

Chapter 10 – Caramels & Coconut Cracknell

Listen to all previous chapters at anchor.fm/chimerabook1


Tune in next Sunday at 4pm for the next instalment:

Chapter 11 – The Boy In The School Uniform


Spotlight #3 Dan Snelgrove


Last Friday, I was excited to announce the first in my series of children’s books is being produced as an audio book to be shared here at Red’s Kingdom, starting next month! I have the pleasure of collaborating with a number of talented individuals on this project, including actor, Dan Snelgrove, who is lending Chimera Book One (and its many characters!) his vocal dexterity and flair for rich characterisation.

I caught up with Dan between his recording sessions for Chimera, largely because I couldn’t wait to find out how he was getting on, and to learn more about his approach to giving voice to the book’s array of fantastical characters.

Some of the highlights of our conversation include, ‘the omelette of acting’, and A Dungeons and Dragons Guide To Characterisation…


Actor and voice artist, Dan Snelgrove at work in his studio performing and recording Chimera Book One