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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Castle Hamster Box

OK, so it doesn't look much ....

... does it? Just a big shiny black box.

But it's taken several days, lots of paper and paste, and a big sticky space in the office, to complete.

Now it's hopefully drying in the balmy breeze, which occasionally gusts rather alarmingly so I've put 2 bricks inside. I've also moved it away from the fence where a tree kept shedding its leaves onto it. And have fingers crossed that the starlings steer well clear because I'd rather it wasn't black and white.

Incidentally, I've spent the last 15 minutes removing black gloss from my right eye with white spirit ...

When it dries - WHEN??? ... I am hoping Castle Hamster will fit snugly inside without too many problems, and that I can invent a closing mechanism using Velcro.

Yes, it doesn't look much. Just a big shiny black ..... BOX

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Birth of the Kelpie ...

Work on the Kelpie mask goes on.

I tried it on Allan on Thursday night before the rehearsal and it was just as well I did, because even the little overlapping I'd done had caused the inside to feel quite a lot tighter.

I was particularly concerned about how much of the eye-holes I could get rid of and still allow Allan to see, and although he said I could block in the inner third, I'm still a bit unwilling to do this. Peripheral vision's OK for horses, but I'm not sure about actors!

Anyway, yesterday I got a photo of a horse, and some stuff called Wireform and began the task of elongating the face to - roughly - horse-like proportions ....









Is it me, or are there echoes of the Elephant Man?

Oh well ... maybe that's OK to be going on with ...

And then there's the mane to find.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

NOT Castle Hamster!

Yes, amazingly, this blog post is not about Castle Hamster - though it easily could be, for the Trials and Tribulations continue and it's still not finished ...

It's about The Kelpie's Song which is the pantomime I've written for Calder Drama - the local drama group here in Lochwinnoch. Last March I wrote them the community play The Spirit of Lochwinnoch and they still seem to be speaking to me after that - so this latest production is due to be performed on the 24th and 25th of November and rehearsals are well under way.


Now, one of the challenges in The Kelpie's Song is that part of it is set in the underwater kingdom of the King of the Kelpies - there's a local legend that says a wicked kelpie lives under one of our lochs but in the pantomime he lives under the River Calder - and so a set has to be created that looks magical and watery. The other challenge is that The Kelpie's Song being about a kelpie, which is a kind of water-horse, usually white, the actor playing the part has to wear a mask. And it was to the creation of said mask that yesterday I turned my attentions.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of young Allan last night as we swathed his face in plaster-of-paris bandages, but think Revenge of the Mummies mixed in with Phantom of the Opera. After allowing the plaster to dry out we removed it, and I for one was mightily relieved not to find Allan's eyebrows, ears, or other vital parts of him, adhering to the inside ...

So this was what was sitting on my desk this morning when I came downstairs ... and the problem of how to morph it into something resembling a mystical horse - the problem with which I had finally (with difficulty) got myself off to sleep last night - was the order of the day.

If I've ever done anything like this before it's long disappeared into the deepest chasms of my memory, so basically today I was making it up as I went along.

First I patched up some bits that looked a bit threadbare. Then I had a Long Think, and I thought that what I really needed to do was get rid of Allan's understandably 'human' features. So I rolled bits of moist loo paper into little sausages and bound them into place with more bandage ...


.... and this is how it looked at Close of Play this afternoon.

Goodness knows how I stick the ears on. More bandages, I suppose? And since horses have eyes on the sides of their heads, I need to move the location of the eyes away from Allan's own eye-holes NOT FORGETTING that Allan does need to be able to SEE ...

So there we are. Almost makes Castle Hamster look like child's play ...?

What am I saying????

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Official Launch of Castle Hamster!

Today Lochwinnoch (well, my little part of it) was bathed in a pink glow as we celebrated the Official Launch of Castle Hamster and played the Toffee 'n Caramel Game for the very first time.

Here I am with Leah, my next-door neighbour, cutting the Castle Hamster cake (which my friend Moira and I made yesterday and which was trickier than Castle Hamster to make except it didn't take so long ...).

Leah was the overall winner of the First Toffee 'n Caramel Game, correctly predicting which hamster would emerge onto which drawbridge more often than anyone else.

As well as this remarkable achievement, Leah also won Special Commendation for bringing her own hamster (Pinky) with her, and for being generally the PINKEST party participant of all.

Castle Hamster is still not finished though. Its garden needs landscaped, and a way of protecting the whole outfit in transit still needs to be worked out. But, thanks to my patient party guests, I'm pretty happy with the way the game is working. Next stop - the Wigtown Book Festival!

And many many thanks to Moira (my Tower of Strength!), Linda, David (my trusty Technical Adviser and Right Hand Man), Aaron, Ellie, Katie, Leah, Kiera, Lewis, Tracey, Laura-Rose, Leslie, Christine, Amy, Scott and Tom for being brilliant guinea-pigs!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Rise and Fall of Castle Hamster

Yes, there has been Big Trouble in Castle Hamster Land. Why is nothing ever simple?
The last time I blogged about the castle, things were going well. We were, dare I say it, in the pink.
But things were about to change.
The point of Castle Hamster is to play the Toffee 'n Caramel Game which is a betting game. You have to bet on which hamster will come out of which exit archway and down a tunnel into a plastic cup baited with sunflower seeds. That's what Yosser and Kylie do in the book.
And that's where the problems began, because getting Toffee 'n Caramel to run out the exit archways and into transparent tunnels was well-night impossible. I have no photos. It all happened late on Saturday night and was too dispiriting for words.

So, on the advice of partner Adam (an expert on Robotic Hamsters and their Use in Cardboard Castles) I have now begun the Shoring-Up of the Exit Archways. I've also made them a bit bigger. It's sticky work and I'm not sure that it WILL work.

On Saturday, it's the Grand Opening Ceremony of Castle Hamster, when a few selected children will paly the Toffee 'n Caramel Game for the very first time. No pressure then ...

And as for Toffee 'n Caramel, whose royal retreat is now filled with the heaviest objects I could find so that its bottom bonds with the 'garden' (imagination ... imagination ...) ... well, they've had to find alternative accommodation:


Well - it IS Royal Danish ...!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Scottish Children's Book Awards shortlist

Yes - it's official today! There's a Hamster in my Pocket has been shortlisted for a Scottish Children's Book Award. The ceremony was held today in the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh, and you can see photos - and a video of me with my cat The Woozle - by clicking here.
It was lovely to meet the other authors and the Book Trust staff and there were, of course, lots of photos taken!

Me,
looking suitably pleased!
I'm really glad the shortlist has been announced, and very honoured indeed to be part of it.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Toffee 'n Caramel have arrived - Ta ra!!!!

After much searching, I've found Toffee 'n Caramel - and today they saw Castle Hamster for the first time. You'll need to excuse their pretty bad behaviour. The grandeur of the place kind of went to their heads ...

video

Cute, aren't they!


Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Painting, and Decorating, of Castle Hamster

The paper-mache-ing is finally over, and today the painting began. I used white masonry paint tinted with red acrylic and it went on like a pink-blancmange dream!


After 2 coats - inside and out - the decoration began. The 'windowsills' and turrets were painted a darker pink and then red heart stickers and silver stars added. 


It's also got a fake wood floor, and once the flags are added, it will be more or less ready for occupation. And the occupiers are going to be VERY INTERESTING INDEED! Watch this pink space ...