Tuesday 29 November 2016

Interview with Illustrator Luis Peres

We are excited to share with our readers an interview with another talented illustrator. We invited you to meet Luis Peres

Hi Luis, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for our blog.

Q1) How did you decide to be an illustrator as a career?
Answer: Back in the mid 70s the TV show "Space 1999" (with Martin Landau) was something that shaped my imagination when I was 7 and from that moment on I started to create my own spaceship models in cardboard, foam etc. Because I was yet too young to think about illustration of course, I would do some spaceship sketches and tried to create my own worlds on paper.

But what really changed my life was the movie ( and book ) - "The Neverending Story" which I saw in theater back in 1984 when I was 14. That was the day were I decided that I really wanted to learn how to create landscapes like those in that movie.

The first image of "The Ivory Tower" that appears on that movie forever changed me.
That day when the movie ended, instead of going home, I bought another ticket and went back to see it again. Just to look once more at that - Ivory Tower- scenery. That image stuck in my mind and since then I knew that I wanted to create worlds like that one way or another. Because there´s no movie industry in Portugal, the only choice was to go into illustration and that was what I did. Self taught because there was no illustration schools here either...
Just bought a lot of books on painting, did a lot of drawings and watched a lot of cinema to learn everything I could.

Q2) That is very inspiring, thank you for sharing your story. I noticed on your website, that you have been an illustrator for 24 years. What change or development have you seen in the illustration process since you began illustrating?

The most important change was of course the introduction of Digital. I used to be really against digital stuff because I always have done everything traditional. I love to mess around with real paint, real watercolor and all that sticky stuff that can cause your house to explode if you´re not careful.

BUT... digital to me was the thing that totally changed the market.
Suddenly with digital, the creative process got faster, easier to experiment and less risky to try something new as I did not need to worry about wasting all my paint supplies just to create some test pics for clients. The digital opened a lot of creative doors and personally I think it helps people grow as artists because the risk in experimenting is almost non-existent.

I was totally against Digital a few years ago, because there was a time way back then, when the first digital image editing softwares appeared when the market was inundated with "pics" made by people using the obvious "filters", "plugins" and all that. This inundated the market with "automated" illustrations that looked the same no matter what artist was doing them and I didn´t want to be a part of that so I stayed away from digital when it comes to illustration; although I´ve been working with Photoshop since day zero when it first came out because I did a lot o graphic design back in the early 90s too.

I decided to get into digital when I noticed recent software almost scrapped that "automated" stuff out of their options and if you´re using a painting app now you really need to know how to paint from scratch, because if you go into illustration trying to use some filter to create an obvious "automated" image the clients reject your work because it will be similar to everyone else that´s doing the same. And so when I noticed I could finally paint "traditionally" but using digital just as a tool I dived into it and now I totally love it. So digital was the most important change ever in my view.

The creative process has always been the same. If you don´t have good foundations you cannot do good illustration and no magic computer will help you get good results no matter what you think.

Q3) Thank you for sharing, that is very interesting. What is your favourite project / book to illustrate and why?

A: I do a lot of children´s books and my favorites are the ones that need real fantasy. Dragons, castles, knights, spaceships, aliens; that is what I love to draw. Either in a more toon style or within a more realistic approach, although I´m not into realistic depictions of stuff, I´m not that type of illustrator at all and I hate to draw human characters in a realistic way because I find the human form boring to do.

Actually, what I truly love to do is create imaginary landscapes, like the concept paintings you see on my site and which were done for a lot of different clients and projects. If I could have my way, I would only do landscape and scenery illustration; sci-fi and fantasy scenery illustration.

As you might notice most of my landscapes don´t have character´s in them because I´m not really into characters at all. I get bored just painting clothes. What I love is scenery, environments and imaginary geographies; drawing characters is a necessary evil for me and I usually just use them to create scale if I can avoid doing pieces where they are the central theme.

I also love to create comics, but comics in the European way. I´m not into the Marvel, U.S. style comics at all. I grew up with the classic European French, English, Italian and German "comics" and that is what I love to do. Although comics for me are more of an hobby because I don´t get to do much of that professionally. You might have seen my "Once Upon a Time on Mars" at my site:

My problem is that I got myself stuck on some niche. Because I do a lot of children´s book material and I illustrate a lot of school books for publishers, people tend to approach me with more projects like that when what I loved to be doing instead is creating more sci-fi and fantasy landscape and environment paintings (or fantasy and sci-fi/science/history children´s books); but my time is so much occupied with regular children´s book material (that just need day-to-day depictions of kids in school, at play, etc (boring)); that I rarely have spare time to work on my fantasy and sci-fi portfolio that would get me to do more of the work I really enjoy.

Fantasy and imaginary stuff is where I think my art really is!

Q4) That makes sense, I did notice some beautiful fantasy type images / illustrations on your website. I hope this interview will help you to get more jobs doing what you enjoy, fantasy and imaginary illustrations.
Where do you get inspiration from for your images or illustrations?  

A: Movies, books, music and talk radio. Cinema is one of the most important things in my life and where I learned a lot from too. All my illustrations are always planned as if I was doing them for the big screen; composition, lighting and all that, I always think of movies when I do that. Casablanca taught me how to use black and white; The Sound of Music how to use color and composition, Blade Runner how to light dark environments, The Neverending Story how to place real elements into a fantasy landscape... and so on... and so on...
Oriental Cinema is nowadays one of my big source of inspiration and I have a blog about those too: http://cinemasiatico.wordpress.com
Also I get a lot out of cult-scifi stuff and I have another blog about those movies too: https://universosesquecidos.wordpress.com/

Books to me are the most important thing ever if you want to become an illustrator. Simply because in books you need to use your imagination and because it´s your very own vision it helps your mind to think visually which is very useful when a client approaches you with a concept but needs you to come up with an original design from your imagination. So books (novels with no pics) have always been very important to me and one of the greatest sources for my imagination. A real fuel.

Music also is very important. And it does not need to be thematic at all. I can get an idea for a Fantasy setting or a sci-fi pic out of a Tom Waits, song , a Springsteen song or a Leonard Cohen poem for example. The songs I like best are the ones that immediately turn into a movie in my head when I listen to them and so I listen to all types of music (except Mtv pop stuff out of the charts or dance music which I hate ). Love singer-songwritter type of stuff, love Northern European Heavy Metal (Nightwish type of stuff ) and listen to a lot of Classic, Movie Soundtracks, Brazillian, Portuguese, Japanese stuff. Anyhting that brings images into my head I usually love it. Music is really a big part of my creativity.

Talk Radio, is what I listen mostly when I´m working. I love supernatural / UFO / mars / quantum-physics shows like the classic ones by - Art Bell - ; more recently love a British independent talk radio show called "The Unexplained" with Howard Hughes for example.
These types of shows fuel my imagination with concepts and are very important to me when it comes to creativity.

Q5) It is amazing to hear how many different mediums provide ideas for art. How do you determine if a book or project suits the type of illustrations that you are involved in or enjoy?
A: Usually when the client sends me the manuscript I can detect if it´s something that I will enjoy doing or not. I rarely work on a project that does not relate to what I like to create because I think I´m a terrible, terrible illustrator if I force myself to illustrate stuff I don´t care about. That is the reason why I do not accept commissions that involve a lot of realistic human figure or realistic character work; totally hate to do portraits for example or anything that is - fashion - related.  I tend to accept stuff that is more fantasy involved or children book material that gives me freedom to dream.
Freedom to dream is the key for me. My best work is when a client sends me a manuscript and leaves me completely loose to create what I dream.

I avoid illustrating projects with day-to-day depictions of mundane activities; kids in school, kids with parents at dinner table, kids with grandparents at the garden, little girls in shopping malls, and all that ordinary real life stuff. I immediately accept projects with; kids that dream of being knights, little girls that travel through fairy worlds, stories about distant planets, weird cool aliens, or anything that allows me to really put my dreams into my art.

I love to illustrate board games, create sci-fi and fantasy concept art, children's books that don´t involve day to day life. Anything that requires something away from reality is my field. No matter what the illustrations are for.

Q6: Thank you for sharing the type of illustrations that you prefer and accept. What would you recommend to someone interested in getting into illustrating?

A: That would take a looooong answer. But mainly right now the most important things you can do is to build a solid portfolio, and then start posting it anywhere you can; also more than a website get a blog because blogs attract a lot of visitors more than portfolio websites. Get a portfolio website but don´t worry if you don´t get many visitors (websites are more like bussiness cards right now); spread your art everywhere and make sure your contact is visible. 
Don´t bother about rejections if you knock on publishers doors. Sometimes rejection is a filter process that companies use just to see if you give up easily; come back later with better stuff than what you sent earlier. Use twitter A LOT. Forget about Facebook; FB is no more than a club for friends to hang out and even the illustration groups only attract people that are doing illustration and not much else. Twitter is the best tool because people really get to see what you publish contrary to FB where getting likes does not even mean that someone has seen what you did. Get a FB page for your art, but connect it to Twitter so that everything you post there Twitter will publish, saving you some time. Participate in online competitions and even enter some crowdfunding sites if you see someone looking to buy original work out of those. Contrary to popular belief don´t be afraid to work for free once or twice if a project can really, really give you some exposure, just don´t make that an habit.

Don´t bother about rejections.
Keep building your portfolio.
Don´t bother about rejections.
Keep showing your work around.
It does not matter if 1000 people hate your art. There´s another 1000 that will love it. And what it takes is 1 person that loves it with the right connections to get you started.
Keep building and spreading your portfolio around. ;)

Thank you Luis. It has been wonderful and very interesting getting to know you and your work. One last question, if someone is interested in hiring you for illustrations, what is the process and what is the best way to contact you?

If anyone wants to contact me with a project, the best way is through the contact form in my website at www.icreateworlds.net.
Just fill that in with info on a project  or send me a message there and it will  reach me.
Other than that there´s the FB page for my illustration work at:

This interview was carried out and compiled by 
Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer and co-author of "Tuvia Finds His Freedom" and author of "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story"

Thursday 24 November 2016

Book Review by Lynette Hampton of Teenage Novel: Relationships

It is so wonderful to receive a new book review. Just about a month ago we shared a new review. Now we have another to share:

"Relationships" by R. A. Kahn

"An easy read that shows a real understanding of the issues teenagers face, particularly at school among their peers. Through Bella's interactions with her friends and adults around her, it becomes apparent that there are constructive ways of dealing with these problems.
The emphasis on positivity and being able to truly listen to others sets the tone throughout the book. Leading us to feel sympathy for Deidre, the troublemaker, adds a deeper dimension to the story. This book will leave teenagers waiting for the next one."

~ Lynette Hampton (art teacher)

If you have enjoyed reading this book, please do write a review. You can post a review onto Amazon or any of the other online retails bookstores or send it in to the Author.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Interview with Laura Camby McCaskill

Hi Laura,

Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for our blog(s). I particularly enjoy the fact that you promote your mother's book. Please tell us about your mother. What was her profession before she wrote her book?

Laura: "Mom has had many different jobs, housekeeper, fast food, clothing store, she even worked on a production line that made parts for machines. She raised three children while working. I am the youngest of all the children, my mother lost two children before my sister, brother, and myself came along."

I love the fact that you are helping to continue your mother's work. Can you share more about where the books go to?

Laura: "In 2014 I started a mission to get Mr. Book's Story into the hands of children that could benefit from it or needed a little something to cheer them up. Without the worry of having to pay for it. Why? Because that's what my mom would have wanted. Yes, she did want to become a famous author like most of us, but her number one goal was to help children. I have donated copies to the local libraries and elementary schools around town. Mr. Book can also be found in the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Erie PA and Salt Lake City Utah.
In 2015, I joined with Americare Pharmacy to donate book bags filled with school supplies to elementary school children who needed them but couldn't afford them. Inside each book bag was a copy of Mr. Book's Story.
Just this weekend I visited a local orphanage, Black Mountain Home for Children, and I read Mr. Book's Story to them (which they loved). Afterwards, I donated a copy to their library. I'm also going to meet with another home this year to do the same."

How do you raise funds? Do you have an NGO?

Laura: "I have taken up collections in the past to support my cause. My sponsors have also played a big part in getting copies to children in need. Sometimes the money comes out of my own pocket."

Do you know what inspired your mother to write Mr Book's Story?

Laura: "My mother LOVED children. She wanted nothing more than to see them succeed in anything they put their heart into. She wanted to help teach through her stories. Mr. Book's Story for example, teaches children that no one is more important than the other, and if you work together you can do great things."

Can you share something about Mr Book's Story? Who published and illustrated the book?

Laura: "Synopsis: "I bet everyone wishes they were like me. I´m the most important letter!" Bragged Mr. S. Join Mr. Book as he tells the story of the alphabet and their fight to see who was the best. Children will learn the importance of working together and learn their own worth.
Recommended age group: Kindergarten - Second Grade.
Mr. Book's Story was the first story my mother wrote. It was her baby. I can remember watching her at the kitchen table, drawing characters for the story.
Xlibris published Mr. Book's Story but my mother was the writer and illustrator."

Can you share something about the children who receive this book?

Laura: "80 percent of the children that have received copies of Mr. Book's Story I have never met. Some I probably never will, the children at the Shriners Hospitals for children go in for different types of surgeries to better their lives. There are some local children I know that have read Mr. Book, either at the library or in school. For most of the children, I don't know much about their lives. The only thing I know, they have one thing in common; at some point in time they needed a little extra help or something to brighten their scary circumstance. For the children I have met, I have been blessed by them. They've made my life a little brighter."

What is the main way that you promote Mr Book's Story?

Laura: "Mom (Mr. Book's Story) goes with me everywhere I go. I promote Mr. Book's Story by taking it with me. Whether it's my own book signing, or working with communities, libraries, homes for children. I also promote Mr. Book alongside my own work through my website, Facebook, Twitter, etc."

In addition to promoting your mothers book, you have also written two novels. Can you share something about how you came to write these books?

Laura: "My mother had a key role in everything that I do (writing wise). She was the first one to encourage me to write, the first to edit my work, and coach me on what to do next. Just last night I found an old story I had written very early on (maybe middle school or below) she had gone through it doing edits. She gave me direction on anything I needed. It all started with her. Her Keepers (a paranormal thriller) was published in 2012, the inspiration for that story came from the loss of my own brothers. I never met them but I still think about them daily. My second work, Fallow (a romance thriller) was something I did for fun. Something new, thrilling, and hopefully something that inspires others to love."

Thank you for your time and for sharing something about your work. 

Laura: "My mother has several other stories for children not published. She passed away before she could publish them. Last year my sponsors from Americare Pharmacy, agreed to work with me to begin publishing more of her work. I have been working all year putting together different stories and finding illustrators to finish her work. I'm excited to share that several of her stories will be coming out in 2017, in a book entitled A Collection of Love. I would also like to share with you the post I shared with my followers at the beginning of this year, to announce the news.
My mother had one dream and that was to become a published author.  She wrote children's stories, which she read to me when I was small. I remember her sending out letters to publishers and receiving rejection letters from them, I remember seeing the disappointment on her face each time. At that time, I was small and did not fully understand her pain but I do now. She worked hard on her stories, she loved writing and even if the world thought they were not good enough; they were to me.  
One year for her birthday I decided that the best present we could give her, was something she had always wanted but had never gotten. I rallied my sister, brother-n-law, and my husband together and bought a small publishing package. We took great care in hiding what was happening from her. I explained to the publisher it was a surprise and they worked with me to keep it that way. The book was already finished along with the artwork she had done herself, so it was not very long before the book was ready. I was very happy how the publisher was able to bring the cover to life; I never could have imagined a cover like that.  
Her birthday was in July but the book was live several weeks before that, I spoke with my sister and we both agreed we couldn't wait anymore. We had to give it to her early. The publisher had sent a "Congratulations New Author" letter that I had hidden away, so I grabbed it along with my camera. I remember it very well, my sister and I (along with my father, who had known about it and was bursting at the seams to say something) gathered with her in the kitchen.
She realized something was up when I handed her the manila envelope and then took a picture. She opened it and started to read, her facial expressions were priceless. There was confusion at first and then it slowly dawned on her. She had already started to tear up before she gave us the 'What does this mean' look. My sister then pulled the book out from behind her back and presented it to her. She cried. Years of hard work, rejection letters, and worry faded away. We got plenty of pictures of her as she looked through her first published work for the very first time. Anyone could easily tell it was the best present she had received in a long time. If I could do it all over again at triple the publishing package I would, just to see that look of happiness on her face. My father cried because she cried and my sister and I knew then, we would never be able to top this gift.
My mom thanked us and immediately started calling everyone she knew to tell them about it. Everyone was excited to hear the news and wanted to know where they could get the book. Sales and book signings followed. My mother had already begun to get sick then. I think deep down I knew I needed to do this before it was too late.  Mom's book was published in 2008, she passed away shortly after (2010). My only regret is that we could not publish more of her work. That is about to change."

Laura and her mother's books can be seen on http://www.lauracambymccaskill.com/

This interview was carried out and compiled by 
Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer and co-author of "Tuvia Finds His Freedom" and author of "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story"

Monday 21 November 2016

Interview with John P Curtin Jr

It is always a pleasure to find a parent working with his / her child. In this case we have a father and son team. Join us for an interview with John P Curtin Jr of Brick Yard Publishing.

1) When did you decide to write and illustrate children's books together?
Back in high school, in order to graduate, I needed to complete a senior project. I have always loved art and business, but I did not know what to do. So, I asked my dad for some help. He suggested starting a publishing business and creating my own children’s books. He said he would help set up the business and be my partner. I was surprised at first, but then I thought about it some more and said why not?  I always liked writing stories and drawing characters. My dad is an accountant and lawyer. He also likes to write stories as well. So, we did it.

How did this come about or what inspired you to join forces and work on writing and illustrating children's books?
After the project was over, we decided that we really enjoyed working together. We were also very proud of the book we created, Rhio Saves the Big Day! We have since published a second book, Rhio Saves the Big Project!. We are currently working on a third book. 

What inspired you to write a series of adventure stories with your four characters? 
Once I started drawing different characters and thinking about a rough story, Rhio, Liam, Joey, and Carrot began to come to life for me. I drew many different characters, but really came to like these four best. I am drawn to each one of them. I hope we can continue to write stories in depth about all of them.          

Can you tell us about how you decided to begin your own publishing company?

As I mentioned earlier, my dad is an accountant and lawyer. He thought it would be the prudent thing to do.  We formed an LLC, which provides us with greater flexibility, if we decide to expand down the road. It also affords us certain legal protections.

Do you have thoughts of writing other books or is this series your focus?

Right now the Rhio and Friend’s™ series is our main focus, but we plan to offer a variety of books in the future.

Where are your books available for sale?

Our books are available on Amazon, in both print and kindle format. 

What kind of venues do you read the story to and what response are you receiving?

As of right now, I have read to over two thousand students, teachers, and parents at over thirty-five schools and public libraries. The response has been excellent, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I have a number of readings planned in the upcoming days and weeks.

The stories written and illustrated by John Curtin and his son John P Curtin Jr can be found on:

If you have enjoyed this interview, do post a comment in the comments section below. 

Sunday 20 November 2016

Interview with Illustrator / Designer Kat Uno

When one writes books that require illustrations, usually but not only for children, finding a good illustrator is not easy. In the interview that follows, we give you, the reader, the opportunity to meet a wonderful illustrator. Her website is full of cute, fun images.

1) Hi Kat, thank you again for agreeing to be interviewed for this blog. When / how did you get involved in art? Is it something you have always loved or was there someone or something that introduced you to art in general and illustrations in particular.

I have loved drawing from a young age. I was really shy as a child and spent a lot of my free time drawing or reading. Having lived in Hawaii my whole life I've found that there were many challenges regarding artistic opportunities. I didn't have many art museums I could visit or classes I could take so my first sources of inspiration were my Saturday morning cartoons, comic strips in the newspaper and regular trips to our local store that sold Sanrio merchandise. Although I discovered my love of drawing on my own, my mom is very talented. She was a stay at home mom always doing something; sewing, crafts, painting t-shirts, doll making, beading etc.

2) What medium(s) do you use?

I'm classically trained and have a college degree in Art (my focus was traditional media) but currently the majority of my work is digital. I work off of an iMac and Wacom tablet using Photoshop and Illustrator. Funny story is that I sort of "fell into" using Illustrator (which I love and start all my illustrations with nowadays). I was fresh out of college and was hired to illustrate and design a whole suite of educational materials for a small local company. Originally I was planning on hand drawing everything but then I realized the task would be enormous so I turned to learning Illustrator (which I previously had very little experience working in). With Illustrator you can create one object/drawing and then re-position/scale/edit and reuse that same drawing in countless ways. For example I had to design 6 characters. Those characters were going to be in different poses and scenes in over 400 pages. I created a library of the characters in different poses, costumes and with different expressions that I could pull from and pop into the pages. Although still a lot of work, you can probably tell this would have been much more time consuming if every page was hand drawn, scanned in and digitally painted separately. Suffice to say I learned to use the software very rapidly within the 3 years I worked for that company! That was around 2003-2006, before YouTube had taken off so I relied mainly on reading tutorials online, books and just discovering what the tools could do while I was working.
3) Do you draw / paint by hand or via computer or a combination?

I would say my process is a combination of both hand and computer work. I almost exclusively start by sketching with good old paper and pencil. I then scan in all of my ideas and then I trace them over in Illustrator. I add digital painting, textures and finishing touches in Photoshop.
4) What gives you inspiration for your art and designs?

I'm not sure if it's obvious, but I love to create cute characters and designs! When I was little cartoons, comics and Sanrio provided most of my inspiration but nowadays I love looking at kids clothes, Instagram and Pinterest. Children's books and Mid Century design and animation also lend a lot of inspiration. I draw a lot of inspiration from my kids. My kids passions influence me a great deal (notice the number of cats in my designs? My daughter's favorite animal!)

5) What are your favourite themes or topics?

I love drawing animals and putting them in funny situations. Whether it's cats wearing glasses or a bear wearing a rustic woodsman outfit I always find joy creating fun illustrations. Although I don't do a lot of florals, I really love pretty, highly detailed floral designs as well! Pattern design is a recent passion of mine. I've really only started creating patterns in repeat a couple years ago. 

6) Do you use a specific range of colour or can you alter them if the client needs something different?

I think that I tend to use a lot of bright, saturated colors. It's more of an unconscious thing than something I plan out. I am not ashamed to admit that I don't have the best sense of color and I struggle using color to create different moods in my illustrations. I find it's something I am constantly observing and learning to develop. Clients are usually good at specifying what they want regarding color but I've found they do like my bright use of colors.

7) If an author is interested in your illustrations, what is the process in order to determine if their story / work will suit the type of illustrations that you are comfortable with or enjoy producing?

I have been fortunate to be represented by the Astound Agency (astound.us). They handle all of my publishing/illustration projects. I started with them last year and since then I've landed some really great jobs! Working with an agency is wonderful because they have experience matching their artists to possible clients. So far, I've always felt that my work "matched" the job that I was hired to do. Publishers usually know what "style" they are looking for in an illustrator so when they hire you they sort of expect you to produce in the style you promote in your portfolio (which is why it's important to only show your best work in the style you usually or like to illustrate in).

Thanks for the opportunity to get to know you and your beautiful artwork. Kat Uno's work can be viewed on her website: www.katuno.com

This interview was carried out and compiled by 
Shoshanah Shear
Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer and co-author of "Tuvia Finds His Freedom" and author of "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story

Thursday 17 November 2016

My Dad

I have been thinking a great deal about my Dad this month - he passed away at the age of 96 on the 8th November, 2013. I still miss him so very much.

Because of the war, he was an "absent" father for the first three years of my life but thankfully, he and his two brothers returned to us safely, all having seen active front line service. My best friend Anne, was not so lucky.  Her handsome much loved father did not return and even though I was so young, I understood and felt her family's pain.  I still feel it now, when I think of her. She was devastated, yet she tried hard to comfort her heartbroken mother, who was my own mother's best friend at the time and we were very much involved in the tragedy.

My own Dad was a stranger to me on his return but he tried so hard to bond with me, taking me on outings, just the two of us, down to the beach at Muizenberg, playing in rock pools; building sand castles and swimming in the gentle waves there.  Sometimes we went to  a park near our home, where he would push me on a swing, which was a favourite of mine.  Whilst he was away in North Africa and Italy, I had shared a bedroom with my mother, in my grandparents' house.  On his return of course, things changed.  We moved into our own home and I had my own room, which I resented very much!  I was lonely and wanted to be with my mother.  However, the day after my 4th birthday, I was given the best present ever, my brother John David! He was a delight and adored by all.

My Dad was a Civil Engineer and went back into the Cape Town City Council on his return from the war.  He also went back to his old University, to study for his PhD. He worked very hard and very long hours but he still made time for fun, and fun we had.  Every weekend there were visits to the beaches; the botanical gardens; walks on the mountain; Sunday drives up the coast; picnics and family get togethers with grandparents, uncles, aunts, all recorded for posterity on hundreds of photographs taken by and developed by my Dad.  Photography remained his hobby for the rest of his life, leaving me with 52 large photo albums, all carefully arranged and annotated and hundreds of slides and cine films which all had to be sorted and I thank my brother David for his help with that. It was a huge task and was often very amusing but nevertheless very time consuming.

Dad bought me my first dog, to replace my beloved ginger cat, which had to be re-homed because it had become the cause of my allergies, apparently.  The black scottie, aptly named Sandy Mc Phearson, quickly became a firm family favourite, but unfortunately, he barked a lot and furthermore, had a tendency to bite the postman, the milkman and any other delivery men who happened to come to the door and so he too, had to be re-homed.  He went to friends who had a small holding out of Town, with no delivery people coming anywhere near! It nearly broke my heart, but Dad promised me another puppy, as soon as possible.

We moved from South Africa to Southern Rhodesia, Salisbury, as it was then, and true to his word, as soon as we were settled in our new home, Dad came home with a beautiful Irish terrier puppy, whom we named Paddy. He was highly pedigreed and his kennel name was in fact, Paddy Minor of Weymouth. We had many years of fun and laughter with him.  He was gentle natured and had a great sense of humour for a dog.  He quickly became very much part of the family.

Dad continued to work very hard but he made sure that there was plenty of family time.  There  was much to explore.  Family farms to visit and new friends to be made. Dad still read to us at night when he got home from work, no matter how tired he was. He taught me to ride a bicycle; care for our chickens; to help in the garden, picking the vegetables like beans and peas, which we seemed to grow in abundance.  He became stricter with me, I suppose for my own good, but there were more rules and regulations creeping in, almost unnoticed.  To him, discipline was very important and perhaps I was becoming a wilful child! Yet every Friday evening he would arrive home with a brown paper bag full of sweets and chocolates for the family and any friends who might turn up over the weekend.  He would bring comics for us too, and an English Woman's Journal magazine for our mother.  Later, when I was in my teens, he would bring me the magazine "Seventeen", each month and how I treasured those.  My friends were always envious and anxious to get their hands on them as soon as possible.  We poured over the fashions and hairstyles, but there were also excellent articles on all sorts of subjects of interest to teenage girls at the time.  However, I was not allowed to wear makeup, except for a little pink lipstick; I was not allowed to wear denim jeans or high heeled shoes, (these he said, were bad for one's feet and ruined good wooden floors, which I'll admit they did!); or shoes with pointed toes, as these were also bad for the feet. No swearing was ever permitted; no "pop" music was to be played in our house, especially the music of Elvis Presley, whom he greatly disliked; and we were never to forget our good manners, this included the writing of thank you letters, for everything, which sadly does not seem to exist today amongst the younger people.  One is seldom thanked for anything.

Dad taught us Archery and pellet gun shooting at targets only and never birds.  He taught us to play miniature golf on a course he built in our garden, which included water hazards.  Adequate pocket money was given regularly, which we could use as we wished but certainly not for cigarettes or alcohol. Extra chocolate was supplied at exam time, as he considered it essential to have whilst studying!  He obviously adored us, and if I rebelled a bit then, I later realised that his rules were indeed for my own good.

I could write on and on but dear reader, I am sure you get the picture!  My Dad was the best ever; fair; strong; deeply honest and always polite, a man of great integrity, who rose to the top of his career and yet remained humble. He has been a hard act to follow and I will miss his wisdom; laughter and kindness forever.  
Rosemary Kahn

Monday 7 November 2016

Oh, how did I Become so Boring?

At the age of seven and a bit, my parents sent me to spend a  rather long holiday with my  mother's sister and her family and my great Aunt and Uncle, away from the coast, where they hoped my health would improve.  I had a whale of a time! No school, (which at the time, I disliked and found very dull) and in it's place, music lessons with my great aunt, who was a concert pianist!  This great aunt was the family's "character". She was very eccentric... a laugh a minute when she was in a good mood, but get her on a bad day and you could do nothing right. 

However, she loved to entertain and had many "famous" friends.   So there I was one wonderful evening, in my smartest dress, a pale peach coloured satin and organza party frock, which looked good with my curly auburn hair, my black patent leather shoes and little white ankle socks, sitting on the knee of none other than the very well known and greatly admired Noel Coward, whilst he sang and played risque songs, on great aunt's Steinway Grand.  I remember that many of the words sounded weird to me, but all the adults were rolling about with laughter, so I considered it quite proper to laugh too! 

Then he put me down and made me sing a song which I think was called "Rum and Coca Cola", which had the audience laughing even more.  As an encore, I sang "Take good care of yourself",( I think that was the title),  taught to me by my aunt.  I could sing very well in those days, I am told. Unfortunately, there was no such thing as "South Africa's got Talent", or I might not be where I am today!

Later, my aunt took to the piano stool and sang some of her own compositions.  I remember listening in awe, as I had no idea she could compose, croon and play like that! Of course these songs were quite unsuitable for a child's ears in 1949/50, having titles like "I'm still so in love with you" and "Pretending".  We were so innocent in those days, perhaps as children ought to be.  But I had a ball!

Those evenings with my great aunt gave me a glimpse of what life could be, and then I was whisked away back to my parents and brother and the relocation of our family to Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, as it was then. Back to being a little girl again, I suppose, and later after attending seven schools in my short little life, I was sent to boarding school in Johannesburg.  That was an exciting time, so I ask myself why, after all years, and quite a bit of travel, do I think of myself as boring? Where have all my stories gone?  We all have them, I know, but is anyone else really interested?  Why did I spend 25 years of my life teaching, when all I really wanted was adventure and fun.  Not that I was a "bad" teacher and I did love the children, but deep down, if I let myself think about it, I knew there was "more".  Perhaps that is why I am a bookworm. My love of reading is a wonderful escape into so many other worlds - none of them boring, so why am I?
R.A. Kahn


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