Friday, 14 April 2017

A Childhood Dream, Fulfilled.

Last week, whilst scouring antique shops for vintage walking canes and silver cutlery, I was overcome with a sense that something creative was just around the corner, and said as much to my wife as we drove home. I was getting a sense of temporal dislocation, remembering long gone Sheffield buildings and times spent with good friends.

I can sort of read Sheffield's recent past like a tarot, divining how I should live my life from those echoes. I know that sounds weird, but I can and it works.

Anyway, I was right...

Firstly, out of the blue came the offer of a Citadel Giant.

Then came something much better (yes, there is something even better)

Cue tinkling harp and shimmering scenery as we go back to 43 years ago...

I was 6 and ensconced in a cold and somewhat drab school of Victorian vintage. I was, even then a strong reader and devoured books. Janet and John books were great when you had to 'be like the other kids' but I was into the outre, even at 6, with a sordid habit for Richard Scarry and Charles Schultz.

Then, one morning we received a new batch of books for the reading corner, and amongst the usual mundane tat, I spied a copy of a book titled 'The Church Cat Abroad' and another 'The Church Mice And The Moon'.

Back at my desk, I read them, and lost myself in the awesome illustrations which accompanied Graham Oakley's wry tales of s collection of mice who lived in a crumbling vestry with a reformed cat by the name of Sampson.

This is where I am certain I first found enlightenment and an awakening of the world artistic.  yes, even at that tender age I was acutely aware of what the hallmarks of a bloody good illustration were. Over the years, I read and re-read the books, understanding the mature and wry wit, hidden in the glorious paintings and in the stories themselves.

My daughter was given the books and I read them to her. She in turn is doing the same with her own sons. The power of those books is still voodoo-like more than 4 decades later.

And so, you may imagine my shock to find that an original piece of artwork from 'The Church Cat Abroad' was up for auction, along with a signed copy of the very book. I chatted with my good lady, and threw in a massive advance bid, and waited for the auction. Today, I was informed that I had won that piece, and in what I consider to be a miracle, it cost me a mere fraction of my top end bid, to the point that I had to rub my eyes.

You may be suffering from a sense of deja vu...

To be able to own some of the artwork which changed how I looked at the world around me, has me soaring on an adrenalin high.

But, what made it even better was when I received my receipt about an hour ago, and I saw that the seller was not another collector but none other than Graham Oakley, himself.

Words escape me to describe my joy in a meaningful way.

I am as you may imagine, sipping a sherry, and celebrating another dream fulfilled.



  1. Long may it continue! I hold two primary school head teachers, who happened to be married, in very high esteem for a number of reasons. When I'd left secondary school, I'd heard that they'd travelled to Africa for charitable work, but that the husband had died. Fast forward another twenty years, I'm a fairly newly qualified teacher running an errand in school one afternoon when I leave one of the buildings to cross the yard and in front of me is an elderly couple in tweed. As a teacher, we have an obligation to check on the identity of unfamiliar people, and as the words, 'Excuse me, can I help you?' tumble from my lips they turn around and I finish my sentence with, 'Mr and Mrs Jones.'
    It was the two people who had had a massive impact upon who I am today because they fostered creativity within a withdrawn young boy. My point being that I sometimes think that life has a habit of being - words may fail me here - just what you need it to be, just when you need it. That sounds trite, but sometimes coincidence is too impersonal a phenomena to describe the things that happen to us.

    Hang it somewhere you look often!

  2. Thank you. I concur with you, 100% if you let life lead sometimes, it takes you where you need to go, even if you don't realise it at the time.


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