star-gazing frog

‘Just a few weeks back I noticed a little frog sitting under the really big apple tree in our garden. Nothing unusual in that beyond the fact that our population of frogs is normally active after dark, and this solitary one was sunning himself in the long grass at mid morning. I peered closely. He was sleek, bronze and glossy, a handsome little fellow. He sat upright with his head stretched up to bask in the early Spring warmth, and I tip-toed away so as not to disturb him. Two weeks later while I was filling the bird-feeders I bent down to pick up something and there was the little frog again, in exactly the same spot. Only this time he was darker and more… thin. And, as it turned out when I prodded him, dead. In fact, mummified. As dried-out as an over-baked biscuit. Heartrendingly what I had taken on that first encounter for his head raised in sun-worship, had in reality been the way he’d been caught in a ground-frost the night before, raising himself up on his front legs to catch onto life, but missing it. And ever since the juices had been evaporating out of him, leaving his little carcass skinny and black and hard-as-iron, yet in a death-throe that looked so life-affirmingly alive. I don’t deny that I shed a tear for the little chap, so calmly, so hopefully, so fatally raising his head to the stars as the sharp frost took him.’

I wrote the above piece this morning as a comment on my friend Rebecca Verity’s blog Kid in the Kyak. (Check it out. Her writing zips along with a wonderful, wit-fuelled vitality.) I was pleased… not to mention surprised… by the way the account turned out, so I decided to clean it up a little and post it here. And maybe make a print or collage too, for which the drawing at the top of the post is preparatory. Our garden is full of everyday triumphs and tragedies, often of the smallest sort, but the poignancy of this life lived and lost, rather caught me out.

However there are enchanting things too, one of which was a tiny mouse-burrow on the steep bank of an herbaceous border. It had a pile of excavated spoil next to it, on top of which was balanced an antique, tissue-thin mother-of-pearl button, barely the size of a toddler’s fingernail.


marly’s beautiful book-to-be

Yesterday Andrew Wakelin laboured all day over the lay-out of Marly Youman’s forthcoming book The Foliate Head. This has been a long-term project, discussed and dreamed about for well over a year. However it’s been one of those things that just had to wait its turn in the queue, delayed while I finished the cover image and the interior decorations, and while Andrew quarried a few free days to stay with us here at Ty Isaf and dedicate time to the book design and lay-out. Finally… and after a vote at the Artlog to select the image most favoured for the cover… all the visual elements were in place and Andrew pencilled in this Bank Holiday weekend for the big push to get the design laid down ready for Stanza Press, the poetry wing of PS Publishing.

Detail of one of the chapter-title pages. The font is ‘Minion’. Marly’s five-poem sequence ‘The Book of Ystwyth’ loaned its title to last years anthology of works by six poets. Here it’s included as short ‘chapter’ within ‘The Foliate Head’.

Andrew is a wizard typographic designer, though busy man that he is his work in that field these days is pretty much limited to the projects he’s undertaken for me and Peter. Last year he designed the Lund Humphries monograph Clive Hicks-Jenkins and The Book of Ystwyth for our own Grey Mare Press imprint. Before that he designed The Temptations of Solitude, with its beautifully laid-out interior and tipped-in plates in the style of early art-books. (A nod back to those days when ‘art paper’ was used sparingly, and the plates were printed separately before being trimmed  and  mounted where they were required in the text, often protected with the thinnest sheets of tissue-paper.) So, we are nearly there. Tomorrow we’ll be tweaking things and running them past Marly for her approval.

Jack keeps the graphic design Maestro company. The table is littered with detritus from my last session of finishing off the black and white page decorations.