And so in the long hot summer of '76, after both my grandparents had passed away, we left my beloved Shropshire and moved to Anglesey, having had a holiday home there for many years. My family sold my grandparents home in Rhydycroesau, and moved there permanently. I was devastated, it was all I had ever known.
I do remember quite a lot from my early years but they are just snap shots, moments. I was raised by wolves ... just kidding, but I had two German Shepherd dogs for my best friends, one was ours ... Jason, and the other was my grandfather's ... Cindy. Jason was extremely protective as I recall, but a gentle soul, and good as gold with me. He put up with a lot, and allowed me to sit on him .... he even pulled the sledge in the winter when we were snowed in, and needed to go to the village shop for provisions.
There was also Joey, the parrot, loud and badly behaved with a real distaste for my father. I remember vividly one morning, sitting down for breakfast, and then Dad going to answer the door. Seizing the opportunity, Joey left his cage and hopped onto the back of Dad's chair, leant over and one by one, placed all of his toasted soldiers into his mug of coffee. Joey went to live in Chester Zoo not long after that.
I lived with my parents for the first five years of my life, in a cottage in Cefn Canol, near Rhydycroesau, we then moved in with my grandmother when my grandfather passed away, in the big Georgian Old Rectory, now Pendyffryn Hall Hotel where my mother ran a riding school. With many rooms and expansive gardens to explore, ponies, chickens and dogs, it was an idyllic childhood, I didn't need babysitting or entertaining ... there was plenty to keep me occupied.
A few years later after my grandmother passed away, it was decided we would sell up and move to Anglesey. On the day the removal firm packed us up, I can clearly recall John Denver's Windsong album was playing continuously as they emptied the house, I can still hear it now, eerily echoing round the emptying rooms. Whenever I hear any of those songs now I'm instantly transported back to that moment. I was absolutely furious to leave, and as we drove down the lane, leaving my home, and my grandparents, I silently vowed with solemn fury, that I would one day save up enough money and buy the place back. A childish promise maybe, and I'm still a long way off that ever happening, but I think it illustrates that spark, that inbuilt resilience that has gotten me through the inevitable tough times of this, my personal journey.
I drew on this experience and my memories of loss and resentment in my painting 'My First Home', where I am pictured as the child, hugging my soft toy cat in the attic room, where my grandad built a toy railway for me, his presence is in the room, depicted by the solitary piece of railway track and a solitary Geranium stem (I recall that he always smelled of Geraniums).
As a book illustrator by trade, I am a natural narrative artist, a visual storyteller. I work with stories every day, creating imagery to engage and delight the child, engineering the tale by page turns, until the cover is closed.
My life echoes this; it has not been one long story, more a series of short stories. Pieced together they tell my journey, tales of sadness, love, loss, achievement, despair and hope, and I try to reflect this in my personal work.
This poignant piece explores my fragmented childhood memories, my story, my early years,….and just as all favourite stories do, it ends too soon. Memories of precious objects, a voice, a fragrance … The rest of the room lies bare, the occupants moved on a long time ago, yet this remains the only place I have ever felt a sense of belonging.
Only with maturity have I learnt to challenge this unhelpful perspective, and discover that how one remembers things as a child is indeed down to personal interpretation. Understanding this has helped me see things differently, brought me closure and I hope, positive lasting change.