Sunday, 25 September 2016

Britain is no country for old men looking for equality of dementia care

Terry Jones, who is 74 and directed Monty Python’s films 'Life of Brian' and 'The Meaning of Life', and co-directed 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' with Terry Gilliam, is the latest high profile celebrity suffering from dementia. Terry has primary progressive aphasia, which affects his ability to communicate. He has joined the 850,000, mostly old men and women in Britain who live with dementia related conditions. A number which is predicted to soar to one million by 2025 and two million by 2050.

Terry's, no doubt, private health care, picked up his condition quickly, ensuring that treatment and strategies are in place for him and his friends and family to deal with his situation as it progresses. This is not always the case for those who rely on the National Health Service for their dementia treatment as revealed by the 'Dementia Atlas' published earlier this year. https://shapeatlas.net/dementia/#6/52.945/-2.147/l-p65

It shows how regions are doing on things like 'dementia check-ups' with dark blue indicating greater activity in dementia-friendly communities. The lighter areas indicate the black spots where elderly sufferers can go a year without their needs being assessed. The new atlas has five different categories for how good an area is for dementia patients, including 'prevention', 'diagnosis' and 'support' as well as 'living well' and 'dying well'.

Caroline Abrahams, of 'Age UK', said it revealed that care was "patchy to say the least". "This is an unacceptable postcode lottery of care." She added  : "We must continue efforts to improve access and quality of care for the growing number of us living with dementia. In some areas help is really good, but elsewhere services are frankly not up to scratch, with only a few people receiving at least an annual review of their care following diagnosis."

National Health Service guidelines say every patient should have a face-to-face meeting at least once a year to have their care plan reviewed which is extremely important given that dementia is a progressive condition and a person’s needs become more severe over time. The Atlas shows that fewer than 50% of dementia patients in Somerset receive this, whereas in North East Lincolnshire 86% of patients are seen within the time frame.

George McNamara, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said : "Everyone with a dementia diagnosis must have a meaningful care plan that specifically meets their needs. Far too often people with dementia are being let down by a system that doesn’t provide for them, denying them access to vital care and support that could significantly improve quality of life. The atlas exposes varied care, with some areas reporting much higher numbers of emergency hospital admissions. Hospitals are frightening and unsettling places for people with dementia, so we need to do all we can do reduce unnecessary and potentially harmful admissions."

In the East London borough of Newham, however, only 34% of dementia suffers spend their final days in hospital, compared with 83% in Central Cheshire. The Atlas also shows that Cornwall and Devon, Cumbria and coastal areas of East Anglia score highly when it comes to allowing patients to be treated in care homes rather than in hospitals.


Dementia is certainly a big worry for older men and women in Britain. According to a survey of over-50s conducted last year by Saga, 68% of them fear that they will develop dementia, surpassing the 9% who are frightened about getting cancer. At the moment Britain's post-code lottery in dementia care means that some of those who succumb to the condition can expect to receive services which are three times as bad as others.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Britain is no longer country for and says "Farewell" to an old Welsh painter called Wilf Roberts who haled from Anglesey and responded to its 'hiraeth'

Wilf was born in 1941 and raised in the village of Llanfaelog and grew up mostly on Mynydd Bodafon, an ancient quartzite outcrop on the highest point on the Isle of Anglesey, Wales, from which he could see to the Mountains of Mourne and the Isle of Man.

As a boy he loved the business of 'art' and his grandmother gave him his first box of paints. He said : “My interest in drawing and painting is something I have been brought up with - it has always been there as an integral part of my life. The privilege of growing up in one of the most beautiful and picturesque parts of Anglesey probably had a considerable influence in my early development as a person and as a budding artist.”

From the age of 11, he was initially a pupil at Llangefni Grammar School, which in 1953 became a mixed comprehensive in 1953 and recalled : “One of the people who encouraged me when I was in school was a chap called Harry Hughes Williams. He was an extremely competent painter, but he was also extremely poor – there weren’t any outlets for artists in Wales, so I never thought of pursuing painting professionally.”

Harry's 'Study of an Anglesey Farmhouse'                                                                   

Harry was a little more successful than the young Wilf imagined. Born at Clai Mawr Farm, Pentraeth, in 1892, he'd studied at the Liverpool City School of Art and in 1914 had won a scholarship to The Royal College, London. After the First World War he returned to his native Anglesey making a studio of one of the farm granaries at Mynydd Mwyn Farm. Harry exhibited his work to the Royal Cambrian Academy, where he became a full member in 1938, the year in which he became an art teacher at Harry's school. His influence over Wilf as his art teacher was considerable, but short lived. When Wilf was 12 in 1953, Harry died after falling from the steps of the granary, His forte as an artist had been the farms, agricultural landscapes and windmills of his native Anglesey.

Ernest's Penrhys, Rhondda. c1951

Harry's replacement at the school was another artist, the 27 year old Ernest Zobole His five years at the school proved a barren time for him as a painter: he found the island flat, featureless, desolate, "all wind and chapel" and he was homesick for the teeming valleys of South Wales and the town of Rhondda Fawr.    

Another young art teacher at the school and in his early twenties was Gwilym Prichardwho, like Wilf, was deeply influenced by the environment of his youth which, in his case, was based on his early experiences growing up among the foothills of Snowdonia and which shaped his attitude towards nature and art. He said : “I was brought up by the river, nature and landscape were part of my life; the river my bloodstream.”                                                                                                                      Gwilym's Lleiniog, Anglesey
                                                                 
Wilf would follow in the footsteps both Harry and Gwilym in that, like them he went into teaching, partly to financially sustain himself until that point when he could set himself up as a full time artist.
By the time he left school in 1959, he had been taught by three teachers, remarkable in that each of them was an artist in his own right.

Wilf left Anglesey at the age of 18, to study for three years at Bangor Normal College, an independent teacher training college and then took himself to his first teaching appointment as an art teacher in a secondary school in London in 1962, while at the same time maintained his professional interest by studying part time at Croydon College of Art. In the following years he successfully exhibited his work in solo and mixed shows in South London and the West End.

In 1974 at the age of 33 and after 12 years teaching in London, Wilf returned to Anglesey to live in the house that once belonged to his grandmother in Mynydd Bodafon and to work in Local Government and Education and, although not exhibiting for many years, he continued to paint, donating work, illustrating and designing posters for national charities. In 1996 at the age of 55 he retired to devote himself full- time to painting. He now worked harder than he'd worked before because : “I enjoy it, but more than anything it’s an obsession. I haven’t painted for two or three days I really think I’m missing something. I start waking up at night thinking about it.”

His inspiration came from the 1940s and '50s Anglesey of his childhood. He was answering to the call of  'hiraeth', that Welsh word for which there is no direct English translation. According to its definition by the University of Wales at Lampeter, Wilf was responding to a homesickness tinged with sadness over the departed and a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia and wistfulness for the Wales of the past. It was back to the whitewashed, slate-roofed, traditional dwellings of Anglesey before the days of pebbledash and red roof tiles, nestling amongst hills and fields. He once said that the only modern thing he put into his paintings was telegraph poles and : “Whether I’m right or not in doing that I don’t know, but that is what I want to do. I steer clear of modern scenery – cars, things that I don’t really recall from my youth.”

His home at Mynydd Bodafon, on a craggy hillside with views across the heart of the island, provided much inspiration for his work. His favoured method was to sketch outdoors before returning to his studio to paint, usually in oils. Sunset, when the contrasts of colour are stronger, was his favourite time of day. He often began with the sky, which set the tone for a piece and applied paint with anything that came to hand : brushes, fingers, toothbrushes and even plastic credit cards.

Wilf worked long hours at his craft and always in pursuit of perfection. For him the reward was "not finishing a piece of work but the making of the picture. There’s something really quite sublime about the whole thing. It’s a very private feeling; I don’t like being watched while I’m painting. I want to talk to myself, I may even swear at the painting."

“I’ve often gone to a painting the morning after and scraped it all off simply because I’m not sure about it or don’t like it. It happens to about a third of what I do.”

“You never achieve perfection, but you want to think you can get close to it. If a painting’s going well, somewhere towards the end, the whole thing comes together and makes some kind of sense. That’s when I feel, ‘Yes, I’ve achieved something now; onto the next one’.”

Since 1996 he contributed his work to many successful exhibitions in London and throughout Wales including the 'Attic Gallery', Swansea; 'Oriel Tegfryn', Menai Bridge; 'Oriel Ynys Mon' and 'Oriel Pen-y-Fan', Brecon; 'Oriel y Bont', Aberystwyth and the Kooywood Gallery in Cardiff.

His friend and gallery owner Martin Tinney said of Wilf : that he was "A gentleman"  whose "integrity shone through when preparing for a new exhibition. Not for him the churning out of numerous works to please an audience. He he released pictures from his studio only when he was happy that they were 'ready'"

Scenes of his beloved Anglesey are now in both public and private collections in The Hague, Amsterdam, as well as Paris, New York, Australia and Britain. In addition, he contributed to and took part in art related radio discussions and debates and his work has been referenced and included in art publications and tv programmes including 'Sioe Gelf.'

Wilf once said :
“If I go away on holiday I find it difficult to do any kind of work because it’s foreign to me. I think it would take quite a long time to get used to it and to be comfortable enough to start working, so I tend to stick to where I live and what I know best. I know the people too – to me that’s important, to know the characters who’ve lived in the houses.”



Sunday, 18 September 2016

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to the Grand Old Man of Myrmecology and the World of Ants, Cedric Collingwood


Ants are important. They are one of the great success stories in the history of life on Earth. Living ants are currently classified into 21 subfamilies and 283 genera and Cedric Alex Collingwood, who has died at the age of 97, studied them and extended our knowledge of them in many parts of the world over a period of least seventy years.

As an ant expert, Cedric recognised their importance occupying keystone positions in most terrestrial environments, but also that our understanding of their diversity patterns, evolution and ecology is far from complete, a state which undermined their potential utility in land management and conservation. It is estimated that only half of the world's ant species, currently numbering about 11,700, have been described. Cedric's discovery of new species added to that total and he played a major role in recognising that a more complete inventory of the world's ant fauna was essential. An example of this was his discovery of Lasius Balearicus on the Island of Majorca in 1982 and recognised new species in 2014.


Cedric's death has gone unreported apart from a notice in 'UK Wood Ants' which read : 'We are sad to report the death of Cedric Collingwood, renowned ant expert and entomologist. Cedric's work on the taxonomy and distribution of ants spanned more than sixty years and ranged from the Scottish Highlands to the Himalayas.'

I've been trying to find out more about Cedric, but he is proving to be elusive. I know he was born Cedric Alex Collingwood in Lewisham, South London, just after the end of the First World War,
in the first quarter of 1919. He must have served his country in the Armed Forces during the Second World War and I know he studied at University for a Bachelor of Science degree after the War. I've no idea either, where he first worked, or in what capacity, By the 1970s, when he was in his fifties, he was working for the Agricultural Development Service in Leeds and in the 1980s he was conducting his research at the City Museum, Leeds. By this time his reputation was such that he was receiving specimens from, for example, the Natural History Museum in Basel and Dr Baroni Urbani's expeditions to Bhutan, Nepal, Northern India and Pakistan.

I know he made his first recorded appearance in the entomological world at the age of 31 in 1950 with the publication  of his 'Ants in N. Scotland' in the Entomologist's Record and Journal of Variation, a bimonthly, peer-reviewed entomological journal. In 1954 it was 'Rare ants in Dorset' for the 'Entomologist's Monthly Magazine' followed by 'Ants in the South Midlands'. Then, working with J.E.Satchell, came 'The wood ants of the English Lake District' published in 'North Western Naturalist' before he crossed the Channel for 'Ant hunting in France' and 'A rare parasitic ant in France' in 1956.

As an entomologist, Cedric probably lamented what he called the 'paucity of ant species in Britain north of an approximate line from the Wash to the Mersey' which was 'at least partly attributable to the low summer sunshine and temperature'. He was more than rewarded by the sun when his 'Survey of Iberian Fomicidae' was conducted on a journey across the Central Pyrenees in 1957,

In 1958, he crossed the Irish Sea to 'A survey of Irish Formicidae' published in the 'Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy' and in which he thanked the Academy for a grant from the 'Lloyd Praeger Fund' towards the expenses of his three week survey. It was then north to the Baltic states and 'Scandinavian ants' and 'Ants in Finland.'

The 1960s brought  'Ants in the Scottish Highlands' and 'Some ants from North-East Asia',  'Notes on some South European and Mediterranean ants' and 1963 brought 'Three ant species new to Norway.'

In 1964 he spoke at the XIIth International Congress of Entomology in London and in 1970 the first European Regional Congress of Myrmecology, the year in which he published 'Formicidae of Nepal.'


1974 saw his 'A revised list of Norwegian ants' and the  following year saw his 'Handbooks for the identification of British Insects' with Barry Bolton and then his work in Spain produced 'A provisional list of Iberian Formicidae with a key to the worker caste' two years after that, 1976 and 1981 had seen him produce 'Ants from Korea' while 1982 had seen 'Himalayan ants of the genus Lasius.'

We catch glimpse of Cedric in the early 1980s when he had a big influence on the ten year old Jonathan Hughes, the future Scotland Wildlife Trust, Director of Conservation. He still remembers the exact moment when, standing in a stretch of ancient woodland by the River Lyon in Highland Perthshire he decided what he wanted to do in life.“Being shown how to identify different species of ants was a little like learning a language. As I learned the words for individual species I found I could start to construct sentences about the ecology and history of habitats and even entire landscapes.”
 He was with Cedric, a family friend and at their feet was a mound of earth and pine needles, crawling with industrious ants. Cedric explained how special these ants were to the woodland ecology and showed Jonny how they spray formic acid at any threat, including a hand held over the nest. He picked up one of the ants and showed him how to note the subtle differences between the Northern Wood Ant and the Scottish Wood Ant. A whole new world of  the study of ants,myrmecology, opened up to Jonny as he stared through Cedric's hand lens. He recalled :

In addition, Cedric gave Jonny also remembered "him explaining that what remained of the Caledonian pine forest was dying on its feet because it was being neglected. It was almost as though the penny dropped in my mind. I thought about how tragic this was and decided to actually try and do something about it.”

The 1980s brought publications on ants ranging from Yorkshire to Malta, Saudi Arabia, 'The ants of the Wahiba Sands,Oman' and the 1990s the Greek Islands, Cape Verde Islands, Yemen, Israel, Sweden, Yugoslavia and in 1998, 'A guide to ants of continental Portugal.'

The millenium saw 'Ants from Northwestern China' which he visited with American reaercher, Harold Heatwole.. Their funding came from Chinese, Australian and North Carolinan research sources and they were provided by living and research facilities by the Xinjiang Institute of Biology, Pedology and Desert Research in Urumqi and the Fulang and Muosuowan Biological Stations.

The millenium saw 'Ants from Northwestern China' and 'The ants of Niue, south west Pacific' which identified 28 species, 14 of which had not been recorded before and in 2004 at the age of 85 'The ants of the Socotra Archipelago.'

In an article about the blood-red robber ant found in Wyre in the Midlands, Mike Bloxham reported that Cedric 'doyen of today's British scholars in the field still makes occasional visits' 


This photo of Cedric at the age of 86 in 2005 clearly shows that he was still active in the field under a hot sun and in 2010 along with Aldawood nd Sharaf he had a claim in identifying a new species of ant in the Yemen which was distinguished from its closest relative by : 'Eyes oval, relatively large with eleven ommatidia in the longest row; Petiole node high and pointed in profile; Head, mesosoma and waist distinctly shagreenate granulate. Gaster finely shagreenate. Head dorsum, mesosoma, petiole, postpetiole and gastral tergites without hairs.'  A good example of the poetry of  Myrmecology


In 2010 he worked with H. Ghahari on 'A study on the ants of Southern Iran' and his last publication, 'New synonyms of two Arabian ants of the genus Monomorium Mayr' was in a collaboration last year.

In 2011 Jonathan Hughes visited his old mentor Cedric and was delighted to find him still looking at ants through his microscope: “As ever, he was at the kitchen table with ants from Saudi Arabia preserved in endless tubes of alcohol, mounting them on bits of card to identify them for researchers around the world. He is still working at the age of 93!”

P.S
Cedric's middle name was Alex. Only one Cedric A. Collingwood had a birth registered in 1919 and that was Cedric Alexei Collingwood, the son of Lawrance Arthur and his wife Anna who had been born Anja Koenig. If this was Cedric's father he had started his musical career as a choirboy at Westminster Abbey from 1897-1902 and went on to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Exeter College, Oxford from 1907–1911.

In 1911 the 24 year old Lawrance went to Russia and enrolled for study at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory and worked there until 1919 as a conductor but also served as interpreter for Winston Churchill's expedition in support of White Russian forces in Northern Russia. Was it while he was in Russia that he met and married Anja Koenig and returned to Britain where Cedric was born in 1919 ?

Either way Lawrance's career in music prospered. He built his reputation, at first as a composer : his Symphonic Poem was presented by the Royal College of Music and he himself conducted its professional premiere at the Queen's Hall in 1922. He went on to conduct opera at the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells Theatre, becoming principal conductor in 1931 when Cedric would have been twelve.

When Cedric would have been fifteen he conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in a recording of the Triumphal March from Caractacus and the Woodland Interlude by Sir Edward Elgar, supervised by the composer himself by telephone from his sickbed before his death a month later.

Like Cedric, Lawrance lived a long life and died at the age of 95 in 1983 and Anna died at the age of 91 in 1987.


Thursday, 15 September 2016

Britain is a country and no country for two old BBC Commentators called Henry Blofeld and Jeremy Paxman

Henry Blofeld, who is 76 years old and has worked as a cricket commentator for the BBC Radio programme, 'Test Match Special' for the last 44 years, is not a happy man. The told the 'Radio Times' magazine that he would head to India to commentate on England’s winter tour of the subcontinent, but was sad about not being given the chance to work on one-day games. He said : “I always rather wish I was there, but I think they feel perhaps that I’m a bit too old, don’t you? They don’t ask me now and they’ve got so many newcomers, they don’t want an old fart like me.” The BBC confirmed this when on source said : “We pick the team that is best suited to the type of cricket that is being covered.” At the same time they were quick to point out that : “Henry absolutely remains an important part of our cricket coverage and is a much-loved member of the Test Match Special team.”

Twenty-20 cricket, played over one day, was introduced by the England and Wales Cricket Board in 2003 for inter-county competition and its success has seen its spread around the cricket world.  A typical game is completed in about three hours, with each innings lasting around 75–90 minutes and a 10–20-minute interval. This is much shorter than previously-existing forms of the game and is closer to the time span of other popular team sports. It was introduced to create a fast-paced form of the game which would be attractive to spectators at the ground and viewers on television. It was introduced at the international level in 2007 and Henry has made it clear he doesn't like it and has disparagingly described it as “showbiz, pure and simple…its only worthwhile job is to raise money” and told The Telegraph in 2014 that a dominance of the short form of the game would lead to "standards falling alarmingly".

At 66, Jeremy Paxaman is Henry's Junior by ten years and unlike Henry, his career has mainly been as a commentator on BBC TV. Unlike Henry, his gripe is not with their employer, but with, 'Mature Times', which apparently is the largest free publication targeting the 50+ demographic in Britain with 200,000 copies published monthly and over 600,000 readers across the online and digital editions.

Jeremy recently checked into a hotel and found 'a pile of free copies of the paper, which calls itself  'The voice of our generation' 'Oh God', I thought, the cheeky bastards are including me. Back off. For this must be the most unfashionable publication in Britain. Who wants to be "mature", like an old cheese ? We all know that "mature" means on the verge of incontinence, idiocy and peevish valetudinarianism. They might as well have name it the Surgical Stocking Sentinel or Winceyette Weekly.'

Jeremy's use of  'valetudinarianism' , the state of 'constantly and morbidly concerned with one's health' is befitting someone who still chairs the BBC's 'University Challenge'. He went on : 'The paper is adorned with advertisements for hearing aids, recliner chairs, copper insoles, stair lifts, devices to help you in and out of the bath and Your Life After Death, a book written by someone called 'Joseph' who apparently, is dead. I should rather be keeping company with Joseph than looking forward to any of these products : Why do the people who run these dreary publications assume that, apart from a cruise somewhere in the company of other virtual corpses, this sort of stuff is all we want ?'

Its publisher, Andrew Silk, hit back at Jeremy with : 'He is 66, so he obviously does not see himself as one of the people he wants to poke fun at, which is irrational.' He wrote :  'I suspect that with the high media profile enjoyed by Mr Paxman, comes a massive ego as well - but perhaps it's time for that ego to contemplate a little. 'Mr Paxman, you have just insulted over 21 million people (yes that's how many over 50s there are in the UK), you have called them 'cheesy and on the verge of incontinence' and I'm sure, on reflection you may regret such a statement.'

Methinks Jeremy has no regrets.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Britain is a country which says "Farewell" to an old son of Yorkshire, author-illustrator of children's books and magician of colours, Brian Wildsmith

Brian, has died in Grasse in France at the age of 86, after a life which saw him produce over 80 illustrated children's books which have sold worldwide in their millions and have been translated into more than 30 languages.

Brian was born in the town of Hoyland, South Yorkshire in 1930, the son of a miner who worked at the local Elsecar Main Colliery and into a Christian household and was, in his words, brought up as ‘a cradle catholic’ on Bible stories which, in his opinion, were 'some of the best in the world.’ He maintained that the people, surrounding landscape and climate of Hoyland left an indelible mark on his later art. He remembered that "Everything was grey. There wasn't any colour. It was all up to my imagination. I had to draw in my head,"

He had first encounter with St. Francis of Assisi when, as a young boy, taking his first communion in St. Helen's Catholic Church in Hoyland, he recalled kneeling at the edge of the altar rails, feeling more embarrassed that the holes in his shoes could be seen by the congregation, than terrified at receiving the Host for the first time, when, looking to his right, he saw a statue of St. Francis, a lamb in his arms and a squirrel perched on his shoulder. He had a look of kindness on his face and although his clothes were shabby and drab, he didn't seem to mind, It forced Brian to say : "Why should I worry about the soles of my shoes?" and consider that St. Francis seemed be saying : "It's not the soles of your shoes but the soul within your body that I am looking at." The statue inspired Brian so much that he would later research the life of the Saint and undertake visits to Assisi.

After attending St.Helen's Catholic Junior School in Hoyland (right), at the age of eleven in 1941 and in the second year of the Second World War, he went on to study at the catholic De La Salle College for Boys in Sheffield where his talents pointed to a future career either in music or science.  He hadn't intended to be an artist since "The art at school was a disaster. All we did was sit in a circle around cubes and triangles and draw them in different positions. It was during the War, so paper was scarce and it was difficult to get paints, but I used to spend my time drawing battle scenes between airplanes and warships." 

It was, however, a last-minute calling which prompted him to drop his plans to be a scientist : "One morning I was going into a physics class and I remember thinking 'Is this really what I want to do with my life?' and the answer was : 'No. I want to create.'"  As a result, from the age 16 to 19 he studied at the Barnsley School of Art.

It was also while he was a seventeen year old that he met Aurélie Ithurbide, the fourteen year old daughter of the French chef at the 'great house', Wentworth Woodhouse, He was sketching some ancient statues in the grounds, when her freckled face peered over his shoulder to glimpse his work. When he allowed her to flip through his sketchbook, she smiled with approval. They were to marry eight years later, when he was 25 and remained together for 60 years until her death last year.

In 1949 he won a scholarship to study at the Slade School of Fine Art where Sir William Coldstream was among his teachers and where, as its Principal, he led it on the path to achieve an international reputation. As a working class lad from Yorkshire, however, Brian felt he didn’t fit in with the ‘public school types’ at the School where even a shared interest in cricket failed to break the ice. In addition, canvases and paints were expensive so initially he concentrated on drawing and spent a lot of time in the print rooms of the British Museum and the National Gallery, familiarizing himself with the works of the old masters.

He completed his studies at the Slade in 1952, graduated with a fine arts degree and then spent his two years National Service teaching maths with the Royal Army Education Corps followed by a posting teaching at the Royal School of Music in Twickenham. Then in 1955, he married Aurélie and began teaching at Selhurst Secondary High School for Boys in Croydon, South London. In his spare time he began designing book jackets, the first of which was 'Daffodil Sky' by H.E.Bates. He produced work for the publisher John Murray and honed his graphic skills on black and white line drawings for children's books published by Faber and Faber, Penguin Books and Oxford University Press.

Brian's first love was for painting and he was eager to illustrate books in colour. Mabel George of Oxford University Press, whom he first met in 1957, gave him his first opportunity when she commissioned from him, as an experiment, 12 colour plates for 'Arabian Nights' in 1961.The publisher was pleased, but the luminosity of his paintings and his loose graphic style failed to impress the reviewer in the TLS who dismissed them as ‘pointless scribbles’. Brian was dismayed, but Mabel George wasn’t bothered and later said : ‘I knew we had something interesting on our handsand that review has convinced me’ and commissioned Brian to create his 'ABC'. At the time and now supporting a young family, he was still teaching for one day a week at Maidstone College of Art to supplement his income.

In Brian's opinion : "The logical function of an ABC is to teach. To teach how? Through basic shapes, colours and textures. It was a new concept: to produce pictures of value in their own right which would stimulate and excite children. And I wanted a new design. Most ABCs say 'A is for Apple.' A is not for apple. A is for A. I wanted this book to say that."

Brian would maintain that this was his best book : "It was the time of Carnaby Street and The Beatles. There was a new era of creativity in England, and that book was the beginning for a creative expanse of children's books." In addition, he admitted that because he was new to making picture books and knew nothing about the process he was ‘unaware of the constraints – I wasn’t bound by convention, I just went my own,
admittedly somewhat arrogant way. This was the 1960s remember! Liberation! The age of freedom and self expression!’ His book won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal in 1962, the year after it came out. The award had been established by the British Library Association in 1955 for 'The Most Distinguished Illustration of a Book for Children.'

Now, Mabel George, encouraged Brian to turn his hand to writing, as well as illustrating stories. He recalled : "I said, 'But Mabel, my English is terrible. I always got terrible marks at school.' But she said, "Brian, I have editors with inkpots full of full stops and commas. It's ideas that count and you've got them." And it took off from there."

It was a perfect opportunity. Brian believed that : ‘Art is food for the soul and a picture book represents a child’s very first encounter with art, so I felt this was a way I could make a contribution to the world. A drop in the ocean maybe, but this work offered a chance to communicate to children the importance of such things as kindness, compassion, friendship, beauty.’'

His retelling of five fables by Jean de la Fontaine included 'The Lion and the Rat', which received a Greenaway Medal Commendation in 1963. His books 'Birds', 'Wild Animals' and 'Fishes' all appeared in 1967, with the former gaining another Greenaway Commendation and also the New York Times award as 'Best Illustrated Book of the Year.'

1971 was a turning point for Brian. He published 'The Owl and the Woodpecker' in which, for the first time he illustrated a story he had written. It gained another Commendation. In addition, at the age of 41 he bade "Adieu" to Britain and moved to the South of France where he lived at Castellaras, a hill village near Cannes and Grasse, with Aurélie and their four children and where he hoped to gain fresh inspiration for his art and writing.

Brian also thought that in Britain "there is a dividing line between artists and illustrators, who are thought inferior to painters. Well, that's absolute rubbish. Some of the most creative work is being done in children's books. In Japan, everything is art. They don't say painting is better than ceramics or dress design."

His 'Little Wood Duck' came in 1972 and in 1974 he received a telegram, out of the blue, from the American film director, George Cukor, inviting him to design sets and costumes for a film of Maeterlinck’s 'The Bluebird'. It was irresistible; he met the stars including Jane Fonda, Elizabeth Taylor and an eight-year-old Patsy Kensit. It was filmed in Leningrad but although it provided Brian with some conversational anecdotes, the film was not a success. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwc4QvATcnU&t=11m54s

Then it was 17 years before he returned to the stories of his youth when he was a 'cradle catholic' : 'A Christmas Story', a retelling of the Nativity from a child's perspective in 1989 followed by 'The Easter Story' in 1993, 'Saint Francis' in 1997, 'Exodus' in 1998, 'Jesus' in 2000, 'Mary' and 'Moses' at the age of 77 in 2007.

Brian's work was popular in Japan and in 1994 a 'Brian Wildsmith Art Museum' was opened in Izu-kogen, south of Tokyo, Japan and in 2003, the exhibition : 'Fantasia from a Fairyland: Brian Wildsmith and His World of Illustrations and Picture Books' opened at the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum in Hachioji to celebrate 40 years of his author-illustrator career. In a message written for the exhibition opening, he said :
'My life has been dedicated to producing picture books for children that I hope reflect this love, helping them observe, comprehend and appreciate the wondrous world that they have been born into. I want to help them climb the mountain of life and reach the peak of enlightenment and fulfilment. This is the basic right of every child born on our Earth.'

It was not until 2010, when Brian was 80, that there was the first serious exhibition of his work at a London gallery and the first time his original illustrations were on sale in Britain followed by another show at Seven Stories, Newcastle's 'Museum of Children's Books' (left).

At the time he said : "I've never been invited to do an exhibition or do a talk in England, except once, about 10 years ago. I've given talks all across Canada, many in the United States, South Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan – but not England. There, people want me out of the way because I'm a threat to their Comic Cuts attitude to children's books. Not that there's anything wrong with comic books or Mickey Mouse, but it just another different side to producing works for children. I mean, I don't dislike those, I like Mickey Mouse, but there's another side. It's like food. I mean, do you just let your kids eat lollipops and ice cream or do you give them nourriture?"

Ultimately it is Brian's beautiful illustrations, imbued with 'inner soul', his 'nourriture' for children which will survive him. He believed :

"The stories in my paintings are about the world in which we live. Everything is living : animals, birds, bees, people, flowers and each has its own soul. I try to express that inner soul. I believe that beautiful picture books of the right kind are vitally important in subconsciously forming a child's visual appreciation, which will bear fruit in later life."