Rita & David
I've been wanting to write something about my mum, who died without warning in June (a fortnight after the boy's arrival), but I figured a gift illustrator's blog wasn't the best forum for unchecked grief and the raw pain of loss. Profoundly felt emotions may seem vulgar when expressed and I worried that, once begun, I'd not want to to stop. Healthy for me perhaps, but awkward for everybody else.

So, more simply, I'd post a few photos of her antics and more outrĂ© outfits over the decades (especially the 1980s, my mum's middle age was an absolute renaissance) but I suspect —as an awe-struck son— I'd make a too subjective selection right now. Maybe next year.

Then, last week I noticed 'August Bank Holiday 1957' written on the back of a b/w snap of the folks. 55 years ago today. At the end of her eighteenth summer, believe me, this girl was just getting started.

• Rita Joyce Underwood, 1938-2012


50 Years

No need for anniversaries, back at our yard we celebrate Jamaican independence constantly; like this, this, this, this, this, this or even this.


The Well-Tempered Garden

With the UK seasons seeming to switch daily, we were grateful for a clement couple of hours in a Sussex garden. Great Dixter is pretty much the life's work of the hugely influential horticulturist, Christopher Lloyd, whose riotous and ramshackle ethic is aptly illustrated in mixed herbaceous borders.

Sausage Dog mosaic garden path

Nothing at Dixter is planned on paper but rather intuited annually by Lloyd's successor Fergus Garrett and a team of eager gardeners (with a few languorous cats)... none of whom seemed to mind my ploughing a pram through the place. There's a bit of a doggy theme with a wonderful mosaic of two top-to-toe dachshunds in the walled garden, continuing inside with a collection of sausage dogs; from one-off sculptures to the Slinky tie-in from Toy Story. While the medieval house also holds a fair few ceramics and heap of great rugs, it was the proportions of the vegetable beds outside that truly earned my envy.


Un/fortunately, Great Dixter has an exemplary nursery too, meaning a trip may cost more dearly than entrance fee alone. Binomial Latin usually sounds a bit rude to me, but —for those of you who understand this stuff— here's my shopping list:

Cyperus vegetus
Seslaria nitida
Erigeron karvinskianus
Euphorbia stygiana
Cynara cardunculus (dwarf)
Forniculum vulgare Purpureu

Macleaya m. Kelways Coral Plume

N.B. Post title taken from Lloyd's 1970 book, itself a skit on J.S.Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier, the preludes and fugues that eccentric pianist, Glenn Gould, so famously interpreted. Even if you hate Baroque music, it's always good to watch him in action... I swear he thought in algebra and algorithms!


olympic mascot 1992
Since its unveiling a few years back, designers have done such a good job of shoehorning 2012's awkward logo into layouts that I've actually grown to like it. I also like the idea behind the Olympic mascots, it's just that Wenlock & Mandeville have a shared look of shame in their one big eye; as though they know they're next month's charity shop stock.

Post Modern Children's Furniture

That brand of in-built obsolescence puts me in mind of a million other misfired advertising opportunities, designed by committee and deeply patronising, from graffiti logos to 'totally wicked' Weetabix characters. I'm old enough to remember too many Olympic mascots, some cute and others so-so, but my favourite's still 1992's Cobi, the cubist sheepdog from playful post-modern designer Javier Mariscal.