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  • Writer's pictureDeborah de Mornay Penny

Baby camels, shocking pink coats and day trips to Paradise.

Updated: 23 hours ago

So I thought why not try my hand at writing Blogs? Where to start? So what inspires me to draw the funny characters that I draw?

I have always found the idiosyncrasies of human beings and their pets so much fun. Pets do sometimes of course take on the appearance of their owners and vice versa. What is that all about? Does it really matter? No not really but it makes for some great resource material. I love to see a dog in a coat with an accompanying human in similar garment; I wonder and ask myself, could that be me one day? Probably!

Although I profess, I am very much of a cat lady, and no I’m not afraid to admit it. I grew up surrounded by cats, my auntie and grannie who lived a couple doors up when I was a child had many. Every cat has a character and I have had several myself. Basil, my beautiful grey and white moggy, weighing in at a stone, beat up every cat in the neighbourhood and cost me a fortune in vet bills. I lived in the English Riviera (Torquay) for a couple of years and Basil came too. My vet was quite amused by “Basil”, she would call out his name in a deep Sybil Faulty disapproving tone when it was his turn to be examined. Those in the waiting room would shriek with laughter. Then along came Sybil, another stray grey and white moggy, but just like the infamous Basil and Sybil from the TV series, they did not get on. Sybil would frequently whack Basil whilst he was trying to sleep in his chair.

So what of human’s? Someone once said to me “Miss Penny, you seem to collect unusual people”. I thought about this for a moment. Perhaps I do. Let me think…When I lived in Salcombe back in the nineties I met a rather eccentric lady who had sailed all around the world on tall ships. This lady had been an actress, knew many actors and actresses, lords and ladies and more. At the time my new acquaintance ran a lampshade making business a stone’s throw from my shop. When I asked her one day what she was like in her youth she replied “Mummy sent me to Malta when I was a teenager because I was so much trouble, daddy was stationed there. I was sent back home to mummy quite soon, because I was having too much fun!” This larger than life character had many outrageous outfits, for example a shocking pink designer coat with different coloured buttons was a favourite winter garment. She once went to a very famous department store in high street Kensington to have every toe nail painted a different colour! She would have her hair bleached blonde and styled regularly at the best salons and applied a bucket of very expensive cosmetics each day. The girls in the salons would laugh the minute she walked in the door, knowing they were in for a treat. In the summer she would wear her favourite lime green hot pants to the beach, from which she hung a variety of useful items, which included a plastic pink spade and a bright orange plastic thermos flask and of course a giant sun hat and the largest plastic sunglasses she could find. Woe betide anyone who dared to criticise her dress sense. Hats were her signature item and I think perhaps that my love of hats stems from my afternoons out with this very funny lady. If there was a local fete we were instructed to put on our best frocks, apply lipstick, grab a hat and a straw basket, if not we would be severely told off.

Another character from Salcombe was a weaver from Yorkshire. The weaver had a shop where he would weave and sell his wares to holiday makers, caps, travel rugs and lengths of fine worsted fabric. The weaver loved to grumble and wore an oily cloth cap.

One day, a customer not believing that the fabric was woven on site, questioned in a very abrupt way where he sourced his wool. The weaver took umbrage at that and I was right to anticipate a comedic response. “It is true that the baby camel wool fabric is woven here” he said. Which indeed it was. The customer looked on in disbelief which annoyed the weaver. The weaver gave me a sideward glance and one of those cheeky smiles. “Well madam, I obtain the wool from the baby camels that graze at Batson Creek. The baby camels are very shy and to see them you will have to get up really early in the morning”. To our surprise the customer came in the very next day with a look of annoyance on her face and shrieked at the weaver “They are not there!” apparently she had got up early and trotted off to the creek for a sneak peek. The baby camel wool was sourced from factories in Huddersfield.

Then there are the happy chance meetings. For example; I was a passenger on a bus in Torquay sitting waiting for take-off. A wonderful older lady hopped on the bus dressed in a very neat deep purple woollen suit with brass buttons. In her right hand she clutched her bus pass and in her left a hand bag. She wore matching purple eye shadow and bright red lipstick. The bus driver who obviously knew her said with a smile: “And where can I take you today madam?” “A day trip to paradise driver please”…it is these moments that I adore. This particular instance reminded me of one of my favourite poems: “Warning” by Jenny Joseph.

I could write reams about the characters that I have met along the way and perhaps one day I will, for now they remain inspiration for my drawings.

By Debbie de Mornay Penny

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