A letter arrived recently from Sam Cooke, who’s a big Mortal Engines fan (and already a very good writer himself). He included some of his drawings of Mortal Engines characters, and of some lego constructions. I haven’t had much cause to think about Mortal Engines recently, but it’s great to see that it’s still inspiring readers to make and draw things. Thanks, Sam!
A few weeks ago I visited Blackawton Primary School in South Devon, where Class 5 have been doing a lot of project work themed around Mortal Engines. In fact, they’ve even built their own Traction City, in an alcove outside the classroom. It comes complete with circling airships and working turd-tanks…
A tour of the Turd Tanks
Those Turd Tanks in full…
And here’s me, having a quiet nap beside a life-size model of Mr Shrike.
The class had also been asked to come up with brochures that would persuade Londoners to move to Batmunkh Gompa. This one is by Charlie Benns.
It was a great example of how a book can be used to inspire work across the whole curriculum. Huge thanks to all the children for such hard work, and to Mr Pether, Mrs Rodwell-Lynn and all the rest of the staff at Blackawton for inviting me along to see it.
After a week spent running around Manchester and London like a blue-lipsticked fly, it was nice to get back to Dartmoor. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the main reason I started illustrating and writing books was so that I could live here…
Back in the early ’90s when Sarah and I still lived in Brighton, we only used to get one week per year on the moor. It was usually the third or fourth week in September, and we always used to stay in the same place, at Wooder Manor, just outside Widecombe, where farmers William and Angela Bell have converted some of their outbuildings into cosy holiday lets. (If you ever think of exploring Dartmoor for yourself, Wooder is an excellent base.)
We were staying there when I started writing Mortal Engines, and when I needed a family name for my hero I just looked out of the window, and called him after nearby Natsworthy*, where a line of grand old beech trees comes down to the road.
But eventually we got tired of going home after our holidays, so I started illustrating full-time so that we could move here (I can’t drive, so if I was going to live in the country, I had to have a job that I could do from home)**. We’ve lived on the moor for almost sixteen years now, and for the past seven we’ve been William and Angela’s neighbours, just across the valley from Wooder.
Last night Sam was on a sleepover with some friends, so Sarah and I had the rare chance to go for an evening walk together. We left the car at Natsworthy and walked up over Hameldown to the ancient settlement at Grimspound. Here are a few pictures which I snapped on my phone…
Someone had pitched a tent in the circle of the old wall at Grimpsound, which must be a wonderful place to camp, but in this picture I’ve carefully positioned Sarah to block it out.
Hookney Tor catching some low evening sunbeams.
Not a menhir, I think, just an old gatepost in a fallen wall.
…and here’s a rather better one which Sarah took with her camera (she’s a proper photographer).
Photo: Sarah Reeve
*Actually, now I know the lie of the land a bit better, I don’t think you can see Natsworthy from Wooder Manor – it must have been some other line of trees that I was looking at. But I thought it was Natsworthy.
** Or I could have LEARNED TO DRIVE, I suppose – for some reason I never thought of that.