Here be dragons

Illustration from Wayne Anderson's The Dragon Machine.
The Dragon Machine*

You're probably wondering about the image at the top of this post. That's young George and his dragon machine, from Helen Ward's wonderful re-imagining of the story of St. George and the dragon, my favourite small boy's favourite picture book. The "overlooked", solitary, and highly imaginative George must return the numerous stray dragons only he can see to the wilderness from whence they came. So, he builds himself a 'dragon machine' and leads them safely home.

My own children had a different favourite, Kenneth Grahame's 1898 short story The Reluctant Dragon, which delights in an erudite and irenic dragon, a St. George "who didn't really like killing", and a faux fight between the two, staged to appease an overly pugilistic townspeople. And they're hardcore, my lot, they took their dragon unabridged and with the original E.H. Shepard illustrations. We even acquired a word for the family lexicon from Grahame's tale ... where you might say someone was 'strutting their stuff' we say they were ramping.
Ramping, it should be explained, consists in running round and round in a wide circle, and sending waves and ripples of movement along the whole length of your spine, from your pointed ears right down to the spike at the end of your long tail. When you are covered with blue scales, the effect is particularly pleasing; and the Boy recollected the dragon's recently expressed wish to become a social success.
But the best bit, the very best bit, the bit where every listening child would chant along at the end, was this bit ...
"I'm a telling you!" said the shepherd. "He was sticking half-way out of the cave, and seemed to be enjoying of the cool of the evening in a poetical sort of way. He was as big as four cart-horses, and all covered with shiny scales - deep-blue scales at the top of him, shading off to a tender sort o' green below. As he breathed, there was that sort of flicker over his nostrils that you see over our chalk roads on a baking windless day in summer. He had his chin on his paws, and I should say he was meditating about things. Oh, yes, a peaceable sort o beast enough, and not carrying on or doing anything but what was quite right and proper. I admit all that. And yet, what am I to do? Scales, you know, and claws, and a tail for certain, though I didn't see that end of him - I ain't used to 'em, and I don't hold with 'em, and that's a fact!"
I can hear the four of them now, "Scales, you know, and claws, and a tail for certain", and then, almost shouting, "I ain't used to 'em, and I don't hold with 'em, and that's a fact!"

Do you know, I rather miss having littlies about the place!

If you'd like to read a little more about me and my plans for knitsofacto the lovely Wendy at Handmade Harbour recently interviewed me for her Designer series. Wendy's blog is packed with tips and hints for designer/makers and 'crafty' bloggers ... highly recommended.

* The Dragon Machine, 2003, written by Helen Ward, illustrated by (the incredible) Wayne Anderson.
  1. Hello Annie:
    This is all absolutely enchanting, transporting us back to childhood where dragons, with scales and claws, were so much part of everyday life and which we very much did 'hold' with.

    Ramping! Such a splendid word to be added to our personal dictionary, if we may?!!

  2. Our lane was once called Dragon Lane (because it ended by the pub rather than anything more exciting) so maybe I should rename it just for the day. Glad to see you're back on form.

  3. I'll have to remember 'ramping' that's a brilliant word. :)
    I have to say I do love the colour of that dragon, if I was going to be another colour I think that would be it!!
    I'm off to read all aboiut you now. :)
    Vivienne x

  4. Hi Annie. So pleased that your blogging mojo is coming back, and I dont believe it matters a bit that it is, as you put it, 'a [mere] trickle'. It's the quality of the words, rather than a quantity, which count so in your case we are lucky to have the trickle!

    I'm sure that after this coming Saturday, you'll have lots to write about. Only five more sleeps for you, and only four more for me as we're heading over to Builth on Friday :) , until the wooly wonder that is Wonder Wool Wales. I do not have the words to paint my excitement for you.

    Whenever I think of dragons, I always remember (with complete fondness) Idris (and not forgetting his wife Olwen or twins Gaian and Blodwyn), companion to Ivor teh Engine , chorister extraordinare and the best fish and chip fryer in Wales.

    Happy Monday Annie.


  5. Hi Annie,

    Glad you feel you have your blogging groove on again. Its always a happy day when it wanders nochantly through back door whistling a tune and trying hard to look unconcerned about its absence!

    Ah dragons have been featuring a little in our household as eldest girl loves her books and has been devouring the Eragon series. Love the sound of your littlies favourite story. I think I will feel that way about a fair few books that we own, just hearing them will bring back to when my two were young and full of mischief.

    P x

  6. I hadn't thought about that book in years and yet you brought it hurtling right back. Wonderful!

  7. Thank you so much Annie. I'm tickled pink to be the lucky winner of those gorgeous booties. I know they will be well worn and loved :-D

    I loved reading your interview just now. Fantastic to learn more about what you do. The designing process is fascinating to me and I like the way you referred to the fine balance between calm and chaos. I definitely need to work on that!!

    Thanks again!
    Mel x

  8. Annie, it was fun to read this post of yours and also to hop over to read the interview post. Now I can imagine you knitting or sketching away in the sunlight on that squishy sofa. I also quite enjoy sketching, knitting or crocheting while sitting on my own rather squishy sofa (with a cushion or two behind me and the radio on, and my mind awandering!)


  9. It was so interesting to read your interview and I just can but marvel at your designing skills and motivation. Loved the post about the storybook dragons and it reminded me just how much little ones enjoy humour and joining in stories.

  10. Loved this post. My Grandson has recently borrowed a library book which is an updated Little Red Riding Hood. She becomes a he and the illustrations are fantastic. The best bit being when the Wolf burps Grandma back!
    I so love kids falling in love with books. Just off to view the interview.

  11. That's a great article about you, I am looking forward to seeing your prints and postcards for sale. I love your motto! Hope you have had a good St Georges Day.
    Sarah x

  12. I enjoyed your interview and agree with your motto :)

  13. You know, we all read that book as kids and I believe my mother passed it on to me so somewhere in the bookshelves should be a seventies edition of the 'Reluctant Dragon'. Thanks for reminding me to find it for this lot!

  14. PS So much for the block! That interview is fascinating. It is inspiring that out of an illness you developed a new vocation and direction which gives you such satisfaction. Respect!!

  15. What an absolutely riveting interview Annie, congratulations. Fascinating to learn much more about you. And thank you for the book recommendation, my boy reads a lot of dragon relating books so I shall have to add this to the list!
    Kate x

  16. Happy St.George's Day Annie and congratulations to your lucky winners!
    I love the illustration at the really is wonderful as is your post.
    I so enjoyed reading your interview too...and lovely to hear about all your future plans...
    Hope you have a happy week,
    Susan x

  17. What a lovely interview...wish you the very best with your new publishing!!! Hope you have a ball at your "stitches event"; can't wait to hear all about it.

    You always have the best (that is BEST!) book suggestions. Thanks again for sharing.....I knew there were too many words in you to be halted for too long! Glad the block is gone.

  18. Kenneth Grahame - what a writer. I admire him prodigiously. I've never read The Reluctant Dragon (only The Wind in the Willows) - will have to check it out.

    I love what you said in the interview about "the fine line between variety and chaos". That seems to describe my crochet life right now.

    Good luck with your publishing and I look forward to seeing a knitsofacto yarn line someday!

  19. Your knitting is beautiful and judging by the comment you left about the blossoms in the hedgerow so is your corner of the world.
    I wait patiently every month for my copy of the British edition of Country Living to arrive so I can covet the magical places with so much history it shares with its readers.
    Congrats too to the winners of your generous giveaway.

  20. Oh I loved The Reluctant Dragon. I still have my copy. We also had a favorite called "Faint George and the Dragon" which featured a line we all loved - "very fine apples, these, I don't know when I've tasted better" that each sibling still uses lo these many years later. Aren't books wonderful...must check out your interview.

  21. I will send my littlie over tomorrow if you are missing having them around - it has been one of those days ;). I love a dragon though!

  22. Thanks for your comment, Annie... (I bet you go to STASH? I love it there!) Don't miss the Giants!
    JoZarty x

  23. When I was smallish, I found a book in the deepest, darkest recesses of my school library's rummage sale called, My Father's Dragon. I loved it and lost it, found it again as an adult, then lost it again in a house flood. You have reminded me to look for it again. Tales of dragons are indeed wondrous!

    Lovely post.

  24. Your lane sounds a lot like my lane - more of a stream/baby estuary!!! guffaw!
    My favourite dragon appears in Harry Potter, Norbert no less! Burt I am also fond of Puff the magic dragon too - marvelous tune!

    Sarah -x-

    ps just snuck a dog walk in mizzle - now it's torrential again, phew that was close!

  25. I'm glad you've found your blogging mojo again! :-)

  26. Firstly, I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your family friend Annie. Hopefully life is slowly getting back on track for you.

    Congraulations to the winners of your delightful giveaway. How sweet are those teeny shoes!

    I'm popping over to Wendy's blog now.



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