Christmas is the best time; all the office people in the book industry stop sending e-mails and it all goes quiet. And I get some time to draw things for fun near a crackling fire (and poodle, who is rather miffed at me for sitting in his place on the sofa). Photo by Sarah Reeve (@moorland on Instagram):
Lots of lovely jumpers, all about:
And landscape that looks like stepping into a Tolkien book...
...or that Rien Poortvliet and Wil Huygen book on gnomes (who make freshly brewed coffee under ledges of the tors, if only you look very carefully for the puffs of steam).
Of course, you always have to beware the sharks of the open moor:
Speaking of Tolkien, I was thrilled to get a chance to meet the illustrator Alan Lee, whose work I'd admired for decades and whom I'd seen featured in lots of featurettes when I was geeking out about the production of the Lord of the Ring films. Philip and Sarah Reeve invited him over with Larklight illustrator David Wyatt, whom I'd met before, and we had a good natter about drawing, studio spaces, what kind of paper we use, and living on Dartmoor.
Here's some video footage about Alan's role in the LOTR films, and he was also involved in the Hobbit films, spending six years working on the films in New Zealand. Edit: That film's been taken down from YouTube; here's another simply showing some of his artwork.
We also got to catch up with the Daleks! Nicholas Pegg and Barnaby Edwards play the invading aliens on Doctor Who, among many other things, and Barnaby does amazing audio records of Philip's books...
...as well as coming up with some top-notch baked goods!
We also stopped by the beautifully quirky 17th-century cottage of writers Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel (whom we'd originally met at the Dubai Lit Fest). They collaborate on the Romney Marsh murder mysteries under the name of AJ Mackenzie.
And back out into the wilds of Middle Earth:
Where there were roly-poly ponies to cuddle! Here are a few we found by the famous Dartmoor Christmas Tree:
Dartmoor really is the stuff of legend.
Oh, hey, how about that?!
Philip even let me look through some of his illustrations from when he drew for the Dead Famous series with Alan MacDonald, and Murderous Maths with Kjartan Poskitt. They're amazing!
My official holiday job was coming up with a different cocktail each night. The mince pie martinis were a repeat request from last year, and they taste much nicer than they sound.
Frodo got very tipsy with all the excitement of ravaging discarded gift wrap.
A nice ending to the day for a tired and emotional poodle. (Photo by Sarah Reeve.)
Big thanks to the Reeve family for being wonderful hosts!