Stomach cramps. It’s nearly two weeks since they started, and despite a couple of trips to the doctor, I still don’t know what it is… No, I’m not going into detail. But I’m fed up, and I’m going to stay in bed today. With the sun slanting across the wall, I reach for my well-thumbed Bleak House. And start thinking: ” Am I staying in bed because of the stomach? or is it to read Bleak House?” Work’s quiet at the moment, so there’s no pressure to be in the studio, but there’s still a sub-stratum of guilt, which is easily buried by the next twinge. Just how self-indulgent am I being? This is the omni-present question for the free-lance designer/illustrator, in more ways then one.

Young Smallweed sidles off the page, in imitation of his role model, Mr Guppy. They’re practically in the room with me, these two strange characters: Small-,  or ‘Chick’ Weed – fifteen going on fifty, his little weazen features protruding from under the tallest of hats, walks at the same angle as his hero. The tender chords of Guppy’s heart vibrate in yearning for Esther, the narrator, (though they may be also stirred by the possibility of a noble family connection). Grandfather Smallweed, grasping loanshark, sits in his box-chair, his little legs hanging uselessly over a drawer of reputedly fabulous property. From time to time he violently throws his cushion at his wife opposite, and slumps down, ‘like a broken puppet’. Judy, his wizened granddaughter, has to punch and shake him back up. The Smallweed family “has no child born to it, and that the complete little men and women whom it has produced, have been observed to bear a likeness to old monkeys with something depressing on their minds”.

I love Dickens’ characters (though Esther, unloved and abused as a child, lets you know just how wonderful she is thought by those around her). I’m living in a world of shocking inequality, hypocrisy, greed, and fear. I’ll need a cup of tea in a minute.

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