Wednesday 30 March 2022

Is Britain still a country for a disgraced old Prince called Andrew, given centre stage by his Mother, the Queen, at his Father's Memorial Service ?

Sixty-two year old Andrew Windsor, aka 'Prince Andrew' and the 'Duke of York', prompted controversy yesterday, after being given an unexpectedly prominent role escorting the Queen in the Memorial Service for his father, Prince Philip. It was his first public appearance since settling the sexual assault case filed against him by Virginia Giuffre in which he paid her £12 million, but continued to deny the allegation. He stepped down from public life, not over this, but rather his friendship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. 

Former BBC royal correspondent, Peter Hunt, said he was surprised to see the role Andrew was given at the service, noting that it would not have happened “by chance” and risked overshadowing the memorial and generating controversy around the world. He said that Andrew : “Could have sat in the congregation with others, with his relatives, but they actively decided that he would have this role of supporting her. So she has chosen, in essence, to remind people that he hasn’t admitted any wrongdoing, he’s not guilty of anything, he’s innocent. And she’s very clearly stating that he has a role at family occasions”.

However, a body language expert Judi James, put forward a different explanation when she said : 'Defiant but isolated', Andrew was 'shunned by the Royal Family and didn't interact warmly with them' and while the Queen appeared to have 'looked unequivocal' in her support of her second son, the rest of the family offered 'no signs of support or encouragement' and 'pretended to not even see him'. Andrew was given a front-row seat at the proceedings, next to his brother, Edward Windsor, the Earl of Wessex and across the aisle from his other siblings'. Judi said : 'Edward sat looking splayed in a rather incongruent display of nonchalance as he appeared to read his programme with interest rather than notice the lack of connection around him, but we can see Edward tilt his head away as though keen to create a larger spatial gap between them'.

She said : 'Edward and Sophie are often used as the buffers of the royal firm, famously chatting animatedly to avoid the frost between William and Harry on their last public outing, but there were no signs of warmth or connection between these brothers until the singing of the hymn. Andrew turned his head to speak to Edward and Sophie and they replied with the coolest of responses'.

After the service was over Andrew waved at photographers as he and the Queen returned to Windsor Castle and Judi said : 'Andrew's wave to the cameras is an upright, palm-flattened 'hail' gesture here. This is usually a greeting ritual from someone with higher status who is expecting a positive response, suggesting Andrew might actually be expecting some popularity by association, with his mother's public signals and non-verbal'.

Another Royal expert, Angela Levin, said of the Queen's eldest son, Charles and his son, William : 'They would have been very disappointed and uneasy about Andrew's presence but they would have known that this was the Queen's decision. I'm sure they were probably thinking something very different inside, but Charles and William have always known that the Queen has a soft spot for Andrew and if she wants her favourite son with her, she would be entitled to do that. It was one of those moments when the Queen exercised her position, both as a mother and the Queen. She obviously needed someone to help her on that small walk, but I noticed that when she got up to leave at the end of the service, Prince Charles got up too, as if to help her. But she ignored him and wanted Andrew to take her out instead. She turned to him, not Charles'.

Peter Hunt said of the family : 

'The key issue today for them is remembering Prince Philip. Instead of which people are remembering Prince Philip and commentating on the fact his son, Prince Andrew, had such a prominent role at his memorial service.'

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Ukraine : No country for old Holocaust survivor, Borys Romanchenko, slaughtered by a Russian missile

A week ago, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, wrote on Twitter : 'Borys Romanchenko, 96, survived four Nazi concentration camps: Buchenwald, Peenemünde, Mittelbau-Dora, Bergen-Belsen. He lived his quiet life in Kharkiv until recently. Last Friday a Russian bomb hit his house and killed him. Unspeakable crime. Survived Hitler, murdered by Putin'.

Borys was born in 1926 to a Jewish family in the village of Bondari outside the city of Sumy in north-eastern Ukraine. When he was fifteen years old he was taken as a prisoner of war after Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union in the Second World War in 1941. He later said : “The war had completely surprised us, I wasn’t able to flee”. 

In 1942, he was deported to Dortmund, in Germany’s industrial Ruhr valley, to work as forced labourer in a mine. After attempting to escape, he was seized just as he was about to board an east-bound train and was then deported to Buchenwald concentration camp in January 1943. Further moves saw him taken to Peenemünde on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom, where he was made to work on the V2 rocket programme, as well as Mittelbau-Dora and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. It was in the last camp that he was liberated by British and American allied forces on 14 April 1945, just before he and other survivors were due to be killed by being fed poisoned food.

Now living in the Soviet Union he was enlisted to the Soviet army for five years service after the end of the War. In later years he began to play an active part in institutions that commemorate the Holocaust, acting for several years as Vice-President for Ukraine on the 'International Committee at the Buchenwald-Doramemorial Foundation'. He attended several commemorative events at the camp’s former site and had been invited to attend an event marking the Buchenwald liberation this year. In April 2015, on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald by the US Army, he read out, in Russian, the oath taken by the camp’s survivors which ends with the words : 

“ The construction of a new world of peace and liberty is our goal”.

Wednesday 16 March 2022

Britain is a country where old Post Second World War Baby Boomers become sexual survivors

The most recent 'National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles', published in 2021 revealed that : 

* 39% of men between the age of 65 and 74 who were the Second World War baby boomers born between 1948 and 1957, who were the oldest people the researchers surveyed, had been sexually active in the previous four weeks.

* For women of that age, it was 23%. 

A 2018 study of older adults, with an average age of 65, found those who had reported any kind of sexual activity within the last 12 months had : 'Better wellbeing and a higher enjoyment of life'.

Psychosexual therapist, Kate Moyle said : “We have, for a very long time, focused on sexuality as something to do with youth and it’s just not true and not helpful”.“Desire is something that we can have across the lifetime. What we might see is that there is an interruption in the way that arousal used to previously function, the body’s physical ability; but we can adapt”. Kate said : “The need for intimacy and connection doesn’t age”. 

Kate advises the sexual wellness brand, 'LELO', which, in a recent survey of 1,000 people, found that although most respondents over the age of 50 were having less sex than when they were younger, nearly a third said the sex they do have is better. However, she pointed out that : “Sex hormones decrease with age” and there are experiences associated with getting old that can make sex more challenging. For women, this can mean vaginal dryness, or reduced elasticity, which can make sex uncomfortable. For men, erectile dysfunction can be a symptom of issues such as : heart conditions or prostate problems, or a side-effect of medication. 

For some baby boomers this might mean an end to penetrative sex but, as Kate points out that : "Doesn’t mean that it’s less meaningful. There are plenty of ways to achieve sexual enjoyment. It’s about finding the ways that work for you and it might be about having to think about ways in which that could be achieved differently”

She suggests that lubricant would help some  couples and the support of cushions, others. She said : “With a reduction in sexual arousal, things like foreplay might take longer. You might find, for example, that someone who has difficulties with arthritis, or hip pain, simple things like positioning the body differently, or using cushions for support, can make sex more enjoyable”. She makes the point that because we don’t get to see representations of old people with an enjoyable sex life, it can, she says, make : “People feel like they shouldn’t”. 

As a therapist, Kate has seen people in their 70s and over who have anxiety around sex, particularly with a new partner after divorce or bereavement. She said : “They might have had sex with one person for a very long time and changed a lot during that time”. She advises them to talk openly about it, though she acknowledges this can feel awkward : “Because we don’t have a lot of conversations around how the want and need for intimacy and connection doesn’t age. But it’s likely that your new partner might have the same kind of anxieties that you do”.

Take the case of Ronald, 81 years old and born during the Second World War and not shown on the right. He married for the third time after the deaths of his two previous wives and being open to a new relationship he is now having the best sex of his life. He said : “After two bereavements, I could have given up at that point, but to have found a loving relationship at my age, and after a lifetime that was relatively humdrum, is a great bonus”.

In his first marriage, which lasted 48 years, there wasn't much sex. He said : “It was a different generation. I think my wife sort of thought : ‘Well, I’ve had children and that’s the end of that’. I would describe it as mutually unsuccessful”. In his second marriage he gained sexual confidence and experience, although, sadly, she became ill and also passed away.

Ronald's third wife enjoys sex, and so does he and said : “I’m accused now of being a bit like a teenager and I don’t think that’s unreasonable. I have somebody with whom I like making love and they like making love with me, and that’s tremendous, so you tend to do it quite often”. He did, however, hit a snag :“I don’t know what happened, whether it was psychological or physical, but getting an erection became a problem, which is more or less resolved”. Viagra now helps him but : “The only problem is it has taken the spontaneity out”. 

Looking back Ronald said : “I could say I’ve wasted a great many years, but I’m very happy with where I am. I’m also quite proud that, given two bereavements, I’m still functioning and able to relate to other people. I haven’t given up on life. I’m like a teenager. I have somebody with whom I like making love and they like making love with me, and that’s tremendous".

In his study in 2017, David Lee, a research fellow at Manchester University’s School of Social Sciences, called people like Ronald “sexual survivors” – people over the age of 80 who still enjoy an active sex life. In a report written with Professor Josie Tetley, using data from the 'English Longitudinal Study of Ageing', he noted that while physical challenges  like erectile difficulties, occurred more frequently with age, the emotional side of sex appeared more fulfilling for people over 80. Men and women in this age bracket reported more shared sexual compatibility and emotional closeness than those in their 50s, 60s and 70s which was good news for anyone going through a drought in middle age.

* * * * * * * * * * * 

In grateful acknowledgement to Emine Saner's excellent article in the 'Guardian' last week, titled : ' "We're having way better sex than our kids !" The seventy somethings hitting their kinky, blissed-out peak'.(link) 

It's publication produced some amusing responses in the letter page of the paper :

Jo Burdon from Marlow in Buckinghamshire wrote : 'My peaceful morning ruined. Having my quiet cuppa and shortbread biscuit in bed, himself shoves your article in front of me ('I'm having better sex than my kids!'). I barely escaped from under the duvet to run downstairs. And now you're suggesting morning and noon as well as night. God help me !'

Margaret Forrester wrote from Edinburgh : 'Re older people having sex, one woman doctor said sympathetically to a friend with arthritic knees : "That's the trouble with ageing men. They get stiff in all the wrong places" '.

Tuesday 15 March 2022

Britain is still a country where rich old Lords can shoot and kill ‘endangered animals’ abroad and bring their trophies back to Britain

It is still legal to hunt and kill wild animals in Britain but the 'Animals Abroad Bill' which had passed through the House of Commons, was due to become 'The Animals Abroad Law' after it passed through  the House of Lords. It contained measures, including banning adverts for holidays that include elephant rides. Most importantly, it was to be a flagship bill signalling to the world that post-Brexit Britain was a 'World Leader in Animal Rights', legislating against animal cruelty abroad and banning the import of trophies of endangered animals.

Unfortunately, both for the animals and Britain's reputation, over the weekend it emerged that the Bill was no longer likely to be implemented and the trophy hunting import ban would no longer take place in this parliament. Boris Johnson's Government has officially blamed a 'Lack of Parliamentary time' to implement the Bill, elements of which were promised in the 2019 Conservative Election Manifesto. In reality Government Ministers have blamed lobbying from the traditional wing of the party for No 10’s change of heart over the bill. A senior government source said : 

“A handful of crusties have managed to seize control. A handful of very wealthy peers are pressing for all the animal welfare measures to be dropped because they fear eventually it might mean their weekends could be affected”.

Britain in 2022 is a country where a group of rich old lords who want to hunt and shoot animals abroad are allowed to bring their trophies back to Britain. Some within the Conservative Party believe that trophy-hunting animal rights activists will say that it is hypocritical to legislate based on nature-depleting action abroad, when shooting weekends are still allowed in Britain.

Sir Roger Gale, a member of the 'Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation', which counts the prime Minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, as a patron, spoke out on Monday and said : “There is absolutely no place for trophy hunting in the civilised modern world. There is an infinitely better living for those in developing countries to be made out of photo tourism, the photographing of living wild animals, then there ever has been in murdering those animals simply to bring their body parts home and stick them on a wall. That is why trophy hunting has to be banned, and it has to be banned now”.

His position is bolstered by new polling from 'Survation', commissioned by the 'Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting', which found that 92% of Conservative supporters are in favour of : 'A ban on imports of endangered animal hunting trophies'. Eduardo Goncalves, of the Campaign said : “Dropping a bill backed by 92% of your party’s supporters is baffling, to say the least. Aside from it being a broken manifesto commitment, it doesn’t look good when the Prime Minister and the Queen tell MPs the ban is going ahead, only to mysteriously axe it for no good reason. One can only hope this is some terrible misunderstanding and that Boris Johnson will move quickly to clarify matters. If, as is expected, there is a new Queen’s Speech in May, then it is imperative that the trophy ban is included within it. The patience of many Tory voters is fraying. Animal welfare issues can be strong drivers of voting intention. If the Conservatives go back on this commitment, they can expect it to come back to haunt them”.

Christopher Graffius, 'Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs' at the 'British Association of Shooting and Conservation', said : “There is much good in the animals abroad bill that everyone who cares for animals and the countryside will support, but there are areas of the Bill such as banning the importation of trophies from sustainable and regulated hunting which are not evidence based and will damage conservation. With limited parliamentary time produced by a heavy legislative agenda and war in Ukraine, the withdrawal of the Bill allows for further consideration and improvement before its resubmitted to Parliament ”.

Thursday 10 March 2022

Britain says "Farewell" to Shirley Hughes, much loved Illustrator and Author, who captivated successive generations of children with her books

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Shirley, who has did at the age of 94, was born in the summer of 1927, the youngest of three daughters to Kathleen and Thomas Hughes and grew up in West Kirby on the Wirral, Merseyside. Hers was a wealthy middle class family, with its income generated from the store, 'T J Hughes', in Audley House owned by her father which towered above Liverpool’s London Road and employed a staff of 200. 

They lived in a large detached house with two 'domestics', one of whom lived in, cooked and supervised the household and the other, Nellie Morris, who came in daily and was a 'mothers help' with the housework and looking after the children. She also read the children stories of her choice and with dramatic effect every evening before she went home and always adventure stories for boys.

Commensurate with their position in society, the girls had 'elocution', as well as dancing  lessons, as Shirley said : 'It was very important in refined West Kirby to eradicate the flat northern vowels if possible'. Her father, Thomas, (seen here, as she sits on her Mum's lap), had a natural flair for fashion and as a result, as well as one of the cheapest shops also had one of the most attractive shops in Liverpool. A workaholic, he rarely took a holiday and was forced by ill heath to retire from the company, sold his share for £35,000 in 1932 and died the following year at the age of 43. Shirley was five years old. 

When asked if she remembered him, Shirley said : "Only vaguely. But all good things. TJ was a very driven man. He made sure you could buy things at 'TJ Hughes' at a very low cost. The children of dockers would get a place at the grammar school and then be unable to go because they couldn’t afford the little blazer and cap. My father made sure they could buy them at 'TJ Hughes' and he built up his customers like that. His profit margins were tiny, but he did well. He was from a Welsh Methodist family. Lots of severe women in black dresses".

Shirley began her book, 'A life Drawing', which was published in 2002 with the words : 'I have to begin with comics. They were the great excitement of my early childhood, arriving twice a week with the newspaper. This was the age of innocence, long before we laid eyes on the American funnies or the anarchic goings on of the Beano and the Dandy. They had titles like Rainbow. Bubbles and Chick's Own. We lolled about reading and rereading them, scrutinising a complete world peopled by families of strange animals. They were a far cry from 'Superman', though the plots were equally predictable'. 

She confessed that her father's death cast a shadow over the family and said : "My mother became very shy, I think. But the one great thing was she took us to the theatre. There were three in Liverpool : 'The Playhouse', which did classic drama, 'The Royal Court', which did touring plays, and 'The Empire', which did variety. I loved all of it. I thought I would go into theatre, do set design or costumes". 

Liverpool theatre in the 1930s was a diet of classical drama, music hall and West End try-outs when the likes of Noel Coward and Michael Redgrave would appear. Inspired by the theatre trips, Shirley and her sisters used to make up games and act plays, pressing people to go and watch them and said : "We were always bursting out from behind the curtains". 

When she reflected on her childhood she said : "I read a lot of annuals and I loved 'Winnie the Pooh' Later I adored 'Just William' by Richmal Crompton. I thought he was a marvelous character and I still do".  Of Thomas Henry, the book's illustrator, she said he : "Depicted William throughout the 30s and 40s in unchanging attire : a suit with waistcoat and short trousers, a school cap and wrinkled knee socks which looked as though they had been carved in concrete. I found these drawings enormously attractive". 

Always a 'drawer', as a child, she was also thrilled by visits to Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery and its 
collection of Victorian art where she learned how to read : "Paintings that told stories. I loved those and 'When Did You Last See your Father?' sort of paintings. And I knew my Bible and classics so would get the references". 

Her other fascination, as a child, was the cinema where she enjoyed strip cartoons and was obsessed with the American silent screen star, Buster Keaton "Far more so than Chaplin, who was too sentimental". Shirley said : 'The cinema was a momentous influence in our over-protected, uneventful, pre-television childhood. It was a great source of inspiration, of dreams, of vaguely forming aspirations towards adulthood'. 

Shirley said
: 'Films have their own powerful aesthetic, but it is not the painterly kind. All my best remembered images are in black and white'. In addition, she recalled that in the War : 'Twice a week we fought our way through the windy blackout to the local cinema. It was an added bonus if the air raid siren went while we were there. We had strict instructions to stay put and the projectionist showed the film round again'.

At the age of 11 in 1938, just before the outbreak of the Second World War she gained a place at West Kirby Grammar School for Girls but said : "
I didn’t like school much. I wasn’t very good academically. I swanned along and I was passionately keen on art. In the wartime it was absolutely freezing at school, we huddled along together. 
When at home, she recalled : "During the war a lot of American comics came over in the wash of American servicemen. They were for adults and started in America as being for immigrants who couldn't yet read English. I loved the fact, even then, that you had to tell everything through gesture and drawing. Looking back, that period has been extraordinarily important to all my later work". (link)

With the outbreak of War in 1939, when she was twelve years old, Shirley's family was allocated five very young evacuees from Liverpool and gave her some insight into the lives of working class children. She remembered that : 'Utterly disorientated, miserably homesick and sewn into their vests, they cried a lot, especially at night and copiously wet their beds'. The following year, one by one, they were collected by their mothers and taken home. 

She had seen the other side of Liverpool and remembered being distressed seeing young women who, through vitamin D deficiency, had lost all their teeth from rickets. She also recalled Saturday nights in the city and : "A man with a barrow selling bricks for people to hurl through the windows of Irish people. Most of our neighbours thought that getting to the Wirral was the definition of making it - although my mother hated it because it was so snobby - but most of them still had family back in the city, so that also bred a certain social awkwardness".

Shirley said : "I left as soon as I could and went to Liverpool Art School when I was 16, to study 'History of Costume' ". Her only comment on school was that she did remember Mrs Scrimgeour, her History teacher, for  introducing her to the world of the Tudors. She joined the Art School with a view to a career in the theatre designing outfits for the stage. However, a summer working as a "dogsbody" at Birmingham Rep persuaded her that theatrical life was not for her.

She now enrolled at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford.(link) 
There was a little bit more to it than that and she said :  "The main concern for girls on the Wirral then was to get that engagement ring on your finger. My eldest sister married quite young. I went down to the tennis club in my beautiful white shorts, but somehow it didn’t work out. I told myself it was because of my weak backhand. And then it was getting a bit claustrophobic at home so I thought I’d better get away".

In 1946, when she was nineteen. She said : "It was not long after the War. And I really thought it was the most beautiful city, but it still had the scars of war. The blown-up bridges had not been rebuilt across the Arno and there were tremendous food scarcities. The tourists were just beginning to trickle back. I kept a sketchbook and it was just a wonderful, inspiring place. The Partisans would gather on Sunday mornings in the Piazza Goldoni wearing their red neckerchiefs and sing their marching songs, such as “Bella Ciao” and “Avanti Populo.” It was then that I got to know a family just a bit like the family in this book. They had an English mother and were anti-Fascist and they really did this extraordinarily brave resistance work during the War". Her experience would inform her first novel for older children, 'Hero on a Bicycle', set in Wartime Italy, which she would write sixty-six years later in 2012 when she was 85 years old. 

She said : "The course at Ruskin was marvelous. We did acres of life drawing". One of the models was the 18-year-old Hilly Bardwell, later Mrs Kingsley Amis and mother of Martin. Future politicians Tony Benn and Alan Clark - "driving round in a brand-new Jaguar" - were around, as was Kenneth Tynan, "who arrived wearing a purple suit, and nothing in the theatre was ever the same again. 
I didn't quite live 'la vie bohème', but I had a good time". She captured Kenneth, satirically, in the Oxford Playhouse bar over coffee with 'the theatrical set' in her first picture in print, published in 'The Cherwell' student magazine. 

Shirley said : "In my final year in Oxford I concentrated on graphic work, using pen and ink, watercolour and gouache. I made a tiny amount of cash drawing adverts of ladies’ underwear for a department store on the High Street". 
It was now at the College that Barnet Freedman, a revered illustrator, tutor and war artist who taught lithography, changed her life. She said : “He didn’t think much of us, he thought we were a lot of flighty girls who were there to get engaged. But on the very last day he turned to me and said : "You. You could be an illustrator if you really work at it"Even before that, she said she had already : "Realised that a book could be a little theatre" and when he said : “What about illustration?” Suddenly I clicked into place". 

pantheon of heroes included E.H. Shepard and his drawings for 'Wind in the Willows'' and 'Winnie-the-Pooh' which were : "Beautifully designed with those little drawings so felicitously dropped into the texts". 
Also, Edward Ardizzone, of whom she said : 'His dumpy little figure, so touching in back view, are immediately  recognisable. He had a perfect sense of tone, and with a few sketched lines of his pen could tell you the exact distance from the foreground to background that he wanted you to see'. "That sense of entering the picture has stayed with me ever since" and his 'Tim and Charlotte', published in 1951, was the book which influenced her the most. 

She had now moved to a freezing cold bedsit in London and hawked her portfolio round the City's publishers : "Assuming they would give me work. How wrong I was. But I was determined that I wasn't going back to West Kirby, so I stuck at it and produced some pretty terrible work for some pretty terrible books". including some rather boring education books along the ones of ‘Mick is a dog, I see Mick’ ". 

Her big break came in 1950, when Patsy Cohen at William Collins commissioned her to illustrate 'The Hill War' by Olivia Fitz Roy. Shirley said : 'It was an open-air story set on the Scottish moors with children playing in the bracken, featuring the inevitable tomboy heroine. At this time, to save money on production costs, the artist was often required to design the book cover in limited colour, one of which was black. I pretended to Collins that I was completely on top of the process and hurried away to bone up on it'. 

In 1951, she visited a friend in a basement flat in Holland Park, only to find the baby crying and the flat flooded with water from a blocked drain. They struggled in vain when a young man from the flat upstairs appeared in his office suit. She recalled : 'He joined us at once, stripped off his jacket, rolled up his beautiful clean shirt sleeve to above the elbow and plunged his arm in the drain. In a moment it was unblocked. The dirty water glugged away. The baby stopped crying and, I am almost sure, the sun came out. Not exactly at that moment, but pretty soon after, I knew I had met the person with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life'. The next year she married John Sebastian Papendiek Vulliamy, an architect and etcher and they subsequently had three children together.

That marriage year was also good professionally for Shirley because she : "Was spotted by a very good author, Dorothy Edwards. She saw my work and said she would like me to illustrate for her. That was my breakthrough". 'My Naughty Little Sister' quickly became a classic, thanks in no small way to Shirley's skill at capturing the body language of a grumpy little girl. When she had graduated she said Barnet had : "Told me he’d consider introducing me to some publishers in London (Collins) if I was serious about trying to make my way as an illustrator. This he kindly did". Her first commission was to illustrate 'The Bell Family' by Noel Streatfield, her new novel which was published in 1954. 

n 1960, as the mother of two small sons, she “plucked up the courage” to propose her own picture book, 'Lucy and Tom’s Day'. (link) 
Her publisher, however, still cautioned : “Oh Shirley, you are so middle class, so English, you will never sell abroad”, but still rewarded her with her first solo series. 

However, it was still some years before her breakthrough came in 1977 with 'Dogger',(link) the story of a little boy who lost and then regained his favourite soft toy. It sold all over the world. Shirley said : “It is the most English book I’ve done set in that most English of places : the school sports day, but it worked because everyone can relate to that heart-stopping moment when you realise that the child’s vital security blanket, in this case a toy, goes missing”.(link)
It was recognised by the Library Association's 'Kate Greenaway Medal' as the year's 'Best Children's Book Illustration' by a British subject and went on to be translated into 13 languages. (link)
Shirley's son, Ed lost his teddy in the park which was never found and she herself was also parted from her koala bear, 'Oscar', on a car trip to Wales at the age of four or five. She recalled : "I thought, now I'll just throw, I loved him, Oscar out of the window and I was so appalled that I said nothing for quite a long time. So of course, miles further on, I suddenly said, "I've thrown Oscar out of the window". He was never found either. Needless to say, we went back. My poor mother". Dogger had a happier fate and was returned to Dave after he turned up on a stall at the school fete and ultimately reunited with the heartbroken little boy. (link) 

In her work, Shirley drew on her intense understanding of small children and said, in 2016, when she was eighty-nine : I still love watching kids and drawing out here. Sports day is good value. I love how they stand when they look uncertain or when they all suddenly become engaged in peering at something and all crouch down intently and then fly off like a flock of birds"

Fifty years before it was : “I took my sketchbook everywhere: you go out, hang around playgrounds, get an eye for the way children look, cluster together, run off. You draw very fast, train your memory, then go back to the studio and make it all up. They are learning more at this stage than at any other, grappling with these big things : 'Are my boots on the right feet?' 'Can I safely put my security blanket down?' You have to tap into the way they feel about these things”.(link)

Illustrator Posy Simmonds a long-time admirer of Shirley's draughtsmanship has said : "She notices things such as the tiny differences in the way very young children sit compared to slightly older ones. And she's also psychologically accurate. I remember one passage about a child in a buggy who could only see adult feet. She really conveyed how frightening that would be. And she captures well children's hierarchies and the different ways boys and girls show off. Even young readers recognise that sort of reality".(link)

With hindsight, Shirley saw that her timing in terms of entering the illustrated book for children industry was fortuitous : "I was on the cusp of a change. From the 1920s right up to the end of the Second World War, most children's books were for and about middle-class children because they were the only people who could afford them". 
"But after the war the Children's Library Service got going, and that opened up a whole world of books to children whose parents couldn't afford to buy them. And a whole generation of writers and illustrators, including me, had a much wider public to write for". Even so, it was still tough to make a living and she said : "In reality my husband had to support me for at least a decade. It sounds terrible, but getting a partner who can support you isn't such bad career advice".

Her 'Alfie' series began with 'Alfie Gets in First' (link) in 1981 with the story of four-year-old Alfie accidentally locking himself in his house after a shopping trip with his mum and his little sister. (link)
Shirley said : "Characters come alive for me as I start to draw them. I didn’t know he was called 'Alfie' until I drew him and I certainly didn’t know there would be another Alfie story, and another and another”. (link) 
"I've always loved film and theatre, and stories usually come to me visually, running like a movie in my head. In the first 'Alfie' story he locked himself inside the house and the gutter became a section-view of the door. It's an old silent movie trick and the Marx brothers used it.(link) You get two scenes, the anxious child one side and the anxious mother the other. They can't see each other but the reader sees both sides. Perfect for the story and for the form of a picture book and enormously satisfying".(link)

When it came to the 'Lion and the Unicorn', published in 1999 Shirley said : "I was inspired by visiting a big country house full of beautiful paintings. In it there was a side passage for the servants and on display there were all the photographs of the little evacuees that were there during the Second World war. It came to me what it would have been like to be a little boy suddenly finding himself away from home. People try to be kind, but he wets the bed and really can’t cope". 

"He’s helped by a marvelous girl who is a servant there. His refuge is a garden with a statue of unicorn in it and one day he meets a man there there who’s only got one leg and of course he’s a wounded war hero. The two of them are heroically battling about what life hands out to them. I know my books make people cry, but I say make them laugh, make them cry and keep them guessing". The ultra-confident girl waving in one of her studies of evacuees from the photographs gave Shirley the idea of the 'Joyce' character in the book.

In 2015 when asked : "D
o you have a favourite illustration that you have done?" She answered :Oh that’s a difficult one. I couldn’t choose one. You give the best you can to all the illustrations. When it comes to colour work, I love a book 'Out and About' (1988). This is for very young children, pre-Dogger age and I had a marvelous time with it, all the tactile things, the sand, seaside and playing with hosepipe'.(link)

The Walker Art Gallery in her hometown of Liverpool hosted an 
exhibition of her work in 2003, which then moved to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and in the same year 
 'Ella's Big Chance' was published which earned her her second Greenaway Medal. She said that she : "W
anted to set the book, with all of its dancing scenes, ballrooms and splendour, in the 1920s when dancing was coming into vogue, with dancers shimmying about, with the quick step, the two step, the Charleston. I learned so much about how fabric drapes, how it covers and moves with the figure from my time at Liverpool Art School. The dresses are all my designs, inspired by the great French couturiers of the 1920s such as Doucet, Poiret and Patou; and the ballroom scenes inspired by the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies".

After John her husband died in 2007, she turned to writing novels for older children and said : "I was OK during the week. I’d go in the workroom. But the weekends hung really heavy, so I started writing a novel at the kitchen table to make them bearable". The first, 'Hero on a Bicycle' was published in 2012 when she was 84 and was set in the Second World War in occupied Florence, where she had spent time as a 19-year-old just after the War. (link) 

Her career came full circle in 2015, when she teamed up with her illustrator daughter, Clara Vulliamy, as the writer on a series of chapter books about a daredevil dog Dixie O’Day and his sidekick Percy. (link) 
It was the same year as her second novel, '
Whistling in the Dark', was published. It was set in the Wartime Liverpool, which suffered a devastating blitz when she was thirteen and the same age as the girl in the story. She said : "None of the dramatic things that happened in this book happened to me, but I was doing the normal stuff that Joan and her family did in the book, queuing for rations and sweets, that kind of thing. The actual events of the book are all my imagination. It’s strange to think that as Liverpool was being blitzed, we wondering if the seams on our stockings were straight, if anyone was going to ask us to dance, and if our hair was all right. It was actually utterly boring and dreary in the War".(link) (link)

In 2016 'Alfie and His Very Best Friend' was published. The best friend was Bernard and she said : "I will reveal that in it that there is a scooter race and scooters are very, very hard to draw! Someone said : "When they are 16, Bernard is going to get the girl". But I want to assure everybody that Alfie and Bernard are never going to grow up and be teenagers. They are always going to be at pre-school".(link)

In 2015 she said she thought that her greatest achievement was : "Getting children, including very little children, to read. Reading isn’t a competition. It isn’t how many words you can read. What even tiny children can do with a book is make their own personal exploration of a story. I think books are a wonderful piece of technology, I hope they survive. There’s never been a time for an ideal childhood, mine certainly wasn’t, but I do think that if there’s anything wrong with childhood today is that there’s too much on offer and everything moves at great speed. What I want children to do is linger, turn the page, see themselves as readers long before they can read".(link) (link)

Shirley said : "I've been working with children who are learning how to look. Learning how to look is a skill . It's not really taught in schools but looking at a picture is a skill. You need to longer over it. you need to enjoy the detail".

Shirley said, at various times : 

“It’s the most wonderful job. I can’t believe my luck that anyone would pay me to do what I love”.

"I was interested in trying to open up the page to create a three dimensional, recognisable world which invites the reader to enter and linger in at leisure, perhaps fantasize about what isn't in the picture".

"I am an artist. I always draw and paint – that’s what I’m programmed to do".

"If you draw you remember. It’s just terrific memory training. It can be tremendously difficult, but boy, when it’s good it’s like flying to the moon"..

* * * * * * * * * * 

And making it all worthwhile : my tweet :

And your replies :

Imogen Russell Williams : So much depth in this lovely long piece about the incomparable Shirley Hughes and her influences, preoccupations and work 

Clare Hall-Craggs : What a wonderful appreciation.

Randy Little : I LOVED it ! Sent it to my kids. Fascinating.

Becci French : How lovely.

Ann : It's a beautiful tribute.

Marion : That's a lovely read.

emma d dryden : Lovely !

Edwina Mulcahy : Beautiful article. "She notices things such as the tiny differences in the way very young children sit compared to slightly older ones. And she's also psychologically accurate". "The world of a child expressed passionately with real talent giving joy to the child".

PopUp Painting : A great article on Shirley Hughes here. Fun facts and wonderful illustration additions to the text.

Agnes Stevenson : This is lovely and very informative.

KLovesbooks : Shirley Hughes lived in Liverpool at the same time as my parents so her reminiscences remind me of their stories.

The Constant Gardener : This is a really wonderful tribute to Shirley Hughes and a great introduction for anyone who doesn't know much about her life.

Nikki Brice : Wonderful ! Thank you ! That was so lovely to read ....

David Gilmour : That was wonderful. I spent a lot of time reading these books to our children years ago. You've helped me understand why they had such appeal to them, and lodged so firmly in my mind.

Do-Gooder : It's a lovely tribute and I'm glad to have learned so much more about Shirley Hughes from her life story am quotes. Well put together !

Camberwell Hattie is running out of patience : I was waiting for this !  I knew you'd do her proud.

Catherine Hawley : I did enjoy that, thankyou. I grew up near Liverpool, so her early years were particularly interesting. 

Jenny Linford : Lovely tribute.

Ethel Crimble : A very enjoyable piece.