Our cottage one of four formerly tied for the late Lord Tolly’s outdoorsmen, our neighbour (I discovered today) is something of a hero of mine. Our cottage once that of the Lord’s bee tempter it still boasts the open hives decorated by an expert hand to offer images seductive to bees. Lewd stamen mostly and in a hand (though faded) I recognised at once. I enquired and was told only to introduce myself to my neighbour, and he in what had been the Lord’s wormer invited me in for speckled tea and a rather dusty cake.
Mostly dead in 1968, my neighbour now only the head of Mervyn Peake has by such separation diluted and latterly defeated the Parkinson’s Disease that had robbed him of his abilities through the 60s. And what abilities they were. Poet, playwright, author and illustrator Mervyn Peake was ever someone whose talent and imagination had set me alight from a very early age. Long before indeed I even knew of the name, but knew the illustrations, the style. I draw for fun but just don’t have the ability to let go, to just scribble as it were - though indeed the scanner has allowed me to try, with pencil not then erased under the inks. Mr Peake had a natural ability to sketch what he saw, and in his head – he drew what was there and had the magnificence of mind to make sure that what was there, was very much worth the drawing.
It is doubtless for Gormenghast he is best known. Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone. Rightly loved by many, and wrongly lumped in with Tolkien, the series has ever influenced me from the sheer taste of the story to the best and chewiest of names. And here this lunchtime Mr Peake was kind enough to take me through Titus Awakes, that he has been working on for more than forty years. He is after all, just a head.
At the time of writing but weeks from his hundredth. Mr Peake is remarkably well preserved, albeit for a head. He manoeuvres about his cottage arranged for the purpose in a trolley of his own design and manufactured with clear love by Wilf Lunn.
I admire him greatly, though he makes a rotten cup of tea.