Friday, 31 December 2010

Making Due

I am working on two scripts at the moment for MY Production Company. Well, seven really, if you count the ones I’m not actually working on at the moment but plan to work on eventually – and two of these are in serious development. Veddy serious development.  Which means I take my computer out to cafes and stare at the screen for 2.5 hours a day.

I’m sure you appreciate what this exacts from a person and it explains why every single other creative gesture I have made in the past six weeks has been like opening a vein. 

I dug myself a huge hole three Christmases ago by drawing cards for my family that I sent off to Canada. I did it again last year.

This year they were anticipated.

You see what happened there? Serendipitous gesture, a breezy second attempt then – OBLIGATION.

I would like to share with you the cards I came up with. Please bear in mind that, even though I am right-handed, I make cartoons with my left hand. I stopped drawing at the age of five and this hand still remembers how to do it. But as a five year-old.

Here is a card for my niece, who began to play hockey this year:

She’s a great reader, so in this illustration she’s left her copy of Harry Potter and The Chalice of Death -  or whatever - in order to make a game-saving defensive move. Note the Christmas-themed strip.

Her sister also started hockey and is a natural. This could mean she elbows people into the boards and high-sticks centre ice, sending younger, weaker girls sprawling, but I think she’s just fast and strong:

Inside I said she was playing for a ‘speciality team’.

So far so good. Two cards for two girls I love, very satisfying and inspiring to draw.


I HAD TO DO SEVEN MORE. And paint each of the fuckers.

I began to hate my stupid cards. I hated myself for thinking of making them, I hated my family for existing and thereby necessitating this time-consuming, life-draining effort. I envied the mass produced good wishes extended by Ross And Belinda Shuttleworth – Estate Agents Who Care, and who cared with a big, fat, photocopied stamp of their signatures.

Labouring under this oppression I asked my hostess what she wanted for Christmas.  She was quick and very clear. Usually commendable in a gift-giving situation.

‘I would like a plastic case, with internal dividers, in which to keep cough syrup and plasters. Medicines. It can be as cheap as you like.’

I felt a thrill rush through me. A cheap present that she wanted! I could spend £5.00 and make her happy. How much better a result than spending £50 on something she wouldn’t want!

‘And maybe – decorate it,’ she finished ‘I don’t care how.’  She smiled.

The gift stopped being cheap.

I knew what she meant. She meant ‘Don’t put out the big bucks, it can be ugly if you just spruce it up’. She didn’t mean to be casting me into the seventh circle of hell.

And I spent what felt like a prison sentence ripping up magazines, finding appropriate images, words and sentiments for a plastic tub and gluing the horrid little things on. I felt faint from the fumes and I bent over the project the way the enslaved of Georgia curled their spines over low stalks of cotton. A strange insanity took over, where I found more words, more pictures and glued more on, in spite of the nausea. I felt body-snatched, as though I was in some weird experiment to determine my own fortitude in the face of what I was now coming to think of as overcreativitis.

I was still painting:

The girls’ dad had just recovered from hip surgery. I suggested he was giving extreme sport a whole new meaning.

In the midst of all the drawing, painting and ripping a good friend in London was celebrating his first birthday. I felt far, far away (well, an hour on EasyJet) and, even in my depleted state, I wanted to be with him. Somehow. Some way. So I roped an unsuspecting (and talented ) friend into --  what? What? Into doing what?



With me.

With one rehearsal and in one take, on his sofa, we sang and recorded a song. My hostess filmed it. Very casual.


At this point I needed an IV.

But I couldn’t stop.  I cut and shoved scraps of newsprint onto the medicine chest. Bits of my skin were being yanked off with the Immediate Adhesive Glue and getting smeared into images of tapestry birds and an 18th century manse. In a semi-blind haze, I put words between the dividers – ‘love’ ‘life’ ‘passion’ -  knowing someday I would feel all of these things again.

Finally, in the wee hours of Christmas Morning, I finished. It looked like this:

'There is something inside truly irresistible
 for pampered souls in pursuit of cures and health' 
(I thought this made sense.)

I know all you see is a mess of colours and some chick glancing through an arched doorway (notice the tapestry birds behind?) and my fingers, inadvertently indicating where bits of them had ended up. But this blur is an accurate representation of my own vision of reality (if you look closely you will see I’m in my pyjamas – I hadn’t left the bedroom in 36 hours).

Just as I began to consider the virtues of the anchorite’s life – hermits don’t make presents for nobody, no how – my niece skyped me. I skyped back. It was Wednesday.

 Stephanie Young: I just finished drawing and painting all the family Christmas cards. I started on Sunday!!

(I think you can sense my tone. This, however, was her response:)

[08/12/2010 01:15:06] LN: YAY!
[08/12/2010 01:15:07] LN:: YAY!
[08/12/2010 01:15:09] LN:: YAY!
[08/12/2010 01:15:12] LN:: YAY!
[08/12/2010 01:15:24] LN:: YAY!YAY!YAY!
[08/12/2010 01:15:26] LN:: YAY!

[08/12/2010 01:15:37] LN:: i cant wait to see mine

Christmas morning and my friend opened her plastic tub under the tree. She squealed, yes, squealed – she oo’ed, she ah’ed – and the sight of her sweet and happy countenance, even if she was lying through her well-bred teeth and thought it the greatest monstrosity of a collage ever to impose itself on human sight – began the thaw. I was warming up.

I heard from my niece:

We got your cards today! We love them. I especially like mine!! Hei hei! And Dad's!

Then my mother:

Your lovingly-created Christmas cards are getting much attention - we all are very impressed with your artistic ability - I  think of you when I look at them - and feel very blessed to have you as part of our family.

And I heard from the mother of my one-year old friend:

That was so beautiful. What a lovely lovely gift. The birthday boy was transfixed as soon as he heard your voices. I almost heard him say 'angels' to himself.

All losses are restored. I’m the fullest woman on the planet. I’m awash in gratitude.  I beg to decorate boxes, I’m beginning next year’s cards. I can’t believe I have the honour of being able to sing with someone I love for someone I love:

(And I’m still writing the  *!%* plays…)

1 comment:

  1. I loved the medicine chest the minute I saw it. And immediately realised where the missing Observer Review section had gone. And the cards are adorable. TOP TIP: Now you have the digital images, print them directly onto the cards and give them to different members of the family next Christmas. A complicated algebraic equation with x being family members and y being images (as a multiple of z as number of Christmases) will confirm for you how many times you can get away with this.