Friday, 25 January 2013

The Too-Crowded House

I wrote 'The Too-Crowded House' about two years ago. 
The formal writing came after I had illustrated it, and for a long time I had a lot of strange characters saying silly things to each other in my head. The troll made me laugh most of all, and I still get a bit of a giggle when I think about him clutching stinking socks.
Mr Spottles remains the archetype for all of my cat characters, and I have popped heart markings on almost all of my animals since as a little tribute to him. 
The stars were particularly special to me too; the first picture I ever put on my shop was 'The Grumpy Star' and she is, of course, what inspired me to name my shop Grumpy Star Studio.  

For one reason or another, I never did manage to get it published (and no, I am not at all interested in self-publishing). All the same, it is a story that was very dear to me when I wrote it and I thought it time I shared it somewhere. 
The pictures are just four of my favourites from the story, and you can find them on my Etsy and market shops. 

Enjoy x

“The Too-Crowded House” by Mel Macklin

It started as an ordinary morning. The moon, the stars, Mr Spottles and Camille were all sound asleep. Most mornings did start like this. Of course, this particular morning was Camille’s birthday. But for now, her bed was warm and snuggly and the perfect place to dream about the wonderful things she would do to celebrate.
Mr Spottles would have preferred to continue his catnap. Still, he thought Camille would want to know about the nasty burning smell coming from the kitchen.

Camille and Mr Spottles blinked their eyes. They did not often find witches in their kitchen.

“What are you doing?” asked Camille.

“We’re practicing our baking and potion-making,” said one witch, peering into a bowl she was holding over her head. “Our exams are tomorrow.”

“But it’s my kitchen,” said Camille.

“Never said it wasn’t,” replied another witch as she stirred something in Camille’s best bowl.

“It’s burnt!” cried the smallest witch, pulling a batch of blackened cupcakes from the oven. “I can’t concentrate! I’ll never pass my exams! It’s too crowded in here!”

For several good reasons, Camille thought it was time to leave the kitchen.
Camille padded to the bathroom to rinse her eyes. She was seeing odd things this morning and must not be well. Healthy people did not see witches in their kitchen. They especially did not see octopuses brushing their teeth in the bathroom sink.

“Go away!” wailed the mermaid in the bathtub. “I have a horrible squishy spot and you’re crowding it!”

Worse than the mermaid’s spot was the smell coming from the laundry. The troll jumped when he sensed Camille standing in the doorway.

“Um,” said the troll, looking very embarrassed.

“Yes?” said Camille, looking quite annoyed.

“I’m washing my socks . . .” said the troll.

“And?” asked Camille.

“It’s feeling very crowded with you standing there wrinkling your nose.”

“Humph!” said Camille as she stomped off, her nose in the air.

There was a glow in the sunroom, not just from the light streaming through the windows, but from the seven sleeping stars curled up in armchairs and snoring softly. They were very beautiful.

Camille stood in the doorway and stared until one of the stars woke up:

“What are you looking at?” she asked in a voice like silver.

“We fell in a star-shower and need to recharge our solar batteries to get back home.”

“Oh” said Camille, still dazzled.

“Now, if you don’t mind,” continued the star with a pretty little frown, “I’d rather you didn’t crowd us so.”

Camille took a deep breath at the top of her garden stairs. None of her other birthdays had been quite this mad. She gave up hoping things might return to normal when she saw a giant snail looking up at her.

“Hullo?” called a tinkly voice, belonging, Camille noticed, to a girl with very large goggles on her head. “Lots of snail stair-racing practice to do before the world final next week. Makes it a bit crowded with you just standing around gawping.”

Camille hurried down the steps into what used to be her garden. Little gnomes here and there were painting and planting red mushrooms. Camille’s garden had become a miniature mushroom city.

Camille realised there was no room left for her anywhere.

“It’s too crowded here!”

Everything was very quiet. Tears trickled down Camille’s cheeks in the evening sunshine. She wished her birthday had been as wonderful as she had dreamed only that morning. At the very least, she wished she had someone to share a bit of cake with. But everyone had forgotten it was Camille’s birthday.

“It’s lonely here,” she sniffled very softly, so only Mr Spottles could hear.

“SURPRISE!” cried the stars.

“SURPRISE!” cheered the gnomes.

“SURPRISE!” laughed the witches.

“SURPRISE!” smiled the troll.

“SURPRISE!” burbled the octopus.

“SURPRISE!” tootled the snail.

“SURPRISE!” tinkled his rider.

“SURPRISE!” neighed the unicorn.

“SURPRISE!” giggled the mermaid.

“Surprise Camille,” purred Mr Spottles.

“I thought for a while you might have guessed what was going on. The problem was that I’d invited so many people and I’m afraid our little house did get a bit crowded!”

Under the moon and the stars, her belly full of cake and tea, Camille fell asleep.

And her heart, like her house, was crowded- with love.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Number 33 for Cloud Park Corner

It occurred to me the other day that I have been thinking about heaven a lot lately. 

Don't worry; I'm not about to go all Natalie Portman and sprout wings and go all cray-cray at Mila Kunis. Nor, sadly, have I transformed into a statuesque blonde with the ability to intimidate loan-sharks a-la 'Angela'. I should also point out I remain staunchly agnostic about religious matters, and I am not questioning my mortality or seeking existential answers any more than usual. But still, there is this recurring fascination with a child-like interpretation of that fluffy place above us. 

My notion of the Hereafter is probably more like a sort of metropolis-come-funfair. I like the idea of angels with less-than angelic behaviours (not unlike Neil Gaiman's character Islington in 'Neverwhere', though perhaps not quite so malicious). Mine would have vices aplenty, and you'd find them doing all sorts of unseemly things, like scoffing whole bratwursts behind the moon, or relieving themselves as their cloud passed over Tom Cruise, or using their friends' halo as a basketball hoop. 

Very probably, Heaven would be a bit like London. It wouldn't just be angels that lived there, but all sorts of other characters too (though of course, I would love to see a Cockney chimney-sweep angel, that would be fabulous). There'd be bridges made out of rainbows, and mice on the moon, and cows mooching about in the Milky Way. Mary Poppins would be up there too, a pleasantly dotty old biddy with no teeth, carrying on about cough-syrup and her diabetes. Everything would be edible too: the clouds would taste of marshmallow, and each colour of the rainbow would taste of something different (the orange would be marmalade, and you'd think the red would taste of strawberry, but, FYI, it's chilli).

I always imagined my character the Cloud Princess lived in Heaven, or somewhere very like it; maybe a few thousand feet below in Cloud Land, or Fluffy Town, or Fairyflosstopolis. I had a lot of fun creating her character and, though I am long sold out of the small edition of 20 prints I made of her two years ago, I am still asked about her all the time. And so, I thought it was high-time to revist her.

As some of you might know if you follow my adventures on Facebook and Instagram, I am a relatively new slave to two Beaglier puppies, Sandro and Lily. At 5 months old they are quite the handful, and of course, I couldn't imagine what life would be like without them, and their sweet droopy faces. I have affectionately named these characters Princess Lily and Sandro Spottydog in honour of them, and I hope that I have conveyed just a little of the love and warmth between these two friends. 

The Cloud Princess, as I imagine her, loves to bake all sorts of cakes, but macarons are her absolute favourite (and not, incidentally, mine too!). She and Sandro have nipped up the shops for a few foodie supplies, and now are waiting for the Starbus to take them back home to Cloud Park Corner. The sun is just about to set, and Princess Lily always cooks her best macarons by the light of the moon!

I learned so many new things creating this piece, and I am particularly pleased with the slightly eighties, acid-wash look of the light on the clouds. All the best characters came out of the eighties for me: Lady Lovelylocks, Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake, and these were just a few of the inspirations behind Princess Lily's look. As always too- piles and piles of hair. And why not? Heaven hath no need of hairspray!

I hope you like this heavenly duo as much as I did making them.

Have a gorgeous day,
Mel x
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