At Least One Thing You Should Never Do With A Harpoon Gun

Ben performs live

At Least One Thing You Should Never Do With A Harpoon Gun

at the inaugural launch of London’s new Perfect Liars Club, held at The Book Club, on February 20th, 2018.

[Note: Video dark-lit due to low stage lighting. Audio may need to be turned up.]

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Merry Christmas!

Best wishes

to you and yours for the holidays!

– from Ben

London Landmarks: The Museum of London

A perfect Sunday afternoon

This was my first visit to the Museum of London that nestles against a section of preserved Roman wall, a short walk from St Paul’s Cathedral. Innovative in its design, the museum’s nine (free) galleries—that span from pre-history to the modern era—are laid out such that the visitor must follow them chronologically.

A time of mammoths and lions

The pre-history gallery (450,000 AD to 50 AD) informed me of the mammoths and lion that once roamed the marshland that was later transformed into the great city. There were plenty of bones (some carved) and skulls. Though the artefacts were crude (great cutting flints, rusted axes, battered knives), they were poignant too, as I imagined the early people that lived here. Was it a better time? A worse time? A reconstruction of a woman’s head that oozed humanity, caught my attention.

Julius Caesar

The arrival of the Romans changed everything. Astonishing delicacy of metalwork that included combes, knives, spoons and jewellery vied with sympathetically carved statues. A Roman room looked both familiar (chairs, sofa, hearth, wall decorations) and inviting. Who needs carpet when you can have an extraordinarily ornate mosaic floor?

Medieval London

Then came the medieval galleries that started with the Anglo-Saxons. They named their town “Lundenwic” (London-port), where busy merchants could beach their vessels on the riverbank and haul their fare to one of several markets. I marvelled again at the shields, spears and axes, the pottery and exquisite metalwork displayed in the jewellery cabinets.

Within the old Roman city wall, the first St Paul’s cathedral was built of timber. When the Vikings attacked in 842 and 851, the new city was abandoned.

Death, death and rebirth

The 1550s to 1650s was a period of war, plague (1665)–that may have accounted for 200 million deaths across Eurasia—and the Great Fire (1666) that started at Thomas Farriner’s bakery in Pudding Lane. Though the death toll was considered small, the fire consumed 13,200 homes, 87 churches and St Paul’s Cathedral. It was the end of the wooden city as the rebuild comprised much brick and stone. There was a model of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre that brought back memories of the plays (Othello, Hamlet) I studied at school.

1670s – 1850s

The next two centuries saw a massive expanse in the city’s size and culture. I loved the reconstructed “Pleasure Gardens”—where residents would dress up in their finest to enjoy fresh air and flirting. London was now the world’s largest city and the country’s main manufacturing centre. Great fortunes were made and lost with those on the losing end finding themselves locked up in the forbidding Debtors’ Prison, to be observed via the tiny window in the thick iron-reinforced oak door. Carvings in the salvaged cell timbers recorded many names and dates. Fortunately, there wasn’t a “Starling” amongst the prisoners.

Approaching modernity

The next gallery took us up to the modern era, and the Second World War. An impressive display detailed the 50-year struggle of women suffragettes until they were granted the vote in 1918. I understand a full gallery dedicated to this important period in history is due to open next year, to mark the centenary.

A beautifully reconstructed street, including a toy shop, a barbers and pub had me spellbound as did a 1908 taxi, resplendent in its black livery and white-walled tyres. There was Art Deco too—with a homage to that great hotel, the Savoy. It opened in 1889 and was funded from the profits of Richard D’Oyly Carte’s Gilbert and Sullivan operas.

Leaving something for next time

And then it was time to leave. But no matter as the 1950s to today, and the 2012 Gallery will be awaiting me on my next visit. As will the suffragette gallery in which I’ll learn about the struggles of extraordinary women like Winifred Rix, Kitty Marshall, Emily Wilding and the mother and daughters Pankhurst.

Tourist or townie, I strongly recommend the Museum of London.

Mirror Twin

Ben performs On Being a Mirror Twin

 live at The Ritzy, UK on November 20th, 2017.  A London SPARK event.

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For more videos from Ben, subscribe to his Channel at

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For more about Ben’s books, check them out here.

And don’t forget to connect with Ben – join him at
 Twitter  Facebook  Twitter  Goodreads Facebook Pinterest Instagram Google+ YouTube Email

He looks forward to seeing you soon!

 

A Spooky Tale from Ben

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Trick or TREAT:

Ben tells a spooky tale live at the

East Dulwich Literary Festival 2017.

 

Ben’s Art Book 1 – Progress Report!

A project that I thought would take a week has taken several months – what with so many other distractions in my life – but we are nearly there! And the book is looking goooooood! I’m optimistically estimating that I’m 85% of the way to the yearned for (by me) release day.

A fascinating few specs…

My 94 illustrations have been split into ocean- and land-themed images (some pictures could have landed in either pile). Book One will be about the ocean.

I’ve checked the scans (300 dpi), and cleaned, resized and optimized the images. Half the scans for Book One (title reveal coming soon!) are now in the Word document that will soon become a…book. The portrait:landscape ratio is about 70:30. The text that accompanies the pictures (text on left, image opposite) just needs final editing and is comprised of (hopefully) interesting facts and personal experiences.

Most of the illustrations are traditional dark(er) images on white paper but (what I like to call my) Twilight Worlds series are white/grey images on black paper for a powerful and spooky effect.

How long does one drawing take?

I’m often asked how long a picture takes me. When I started this project, it’s fair to say I couldn’t draw – at all. Any skills I’d developed in my youth had long since evaporated through decades of non-use. But I didn’t realise this..

I embarked enthusiastically on the first picture and was horrified when, after a few hours, it bore no relationship to the image I had in my head. So, I tried again…and again… Some of the earlier pictures took many attempts before I was reasonably satisfied. Dozens of completed illustrations were discarded when finished and typically, each iteration would represent twenty or thirty hours work.

The reason they took so long is I work very, very slowly: planning, visualising, sketching, outlining, amending, filling, contrasting, completing. Revisiting short-term. Revisiting medium-term. Then, over the coming months and even years, I’d look again and find myself dissatisfied with this or that detail – and go back to work on it.

A 100 hours work per picture

I think it’s fair to say that many of the more complex pictures each represent maybe 100 hours of work…and the entire collection required several years of my time. More than a decade. But it’s nearly done! I’m looking forward to your thoughts on the collection when it is released.

Sign up to be the first to know when it’s released. Or keep an eye on the blog for updates. It’ll be announced here soon…

Turns out I’m British too…

Although I’m American, by birth and by blood, I’m also something else too: my mother was English.

I recently applied for a British passport – and was approved! Joint citizenship for Americans is now allowed, so I can carry both. It means, in a few weeks, a second passport will be winging it’s way to me. I’ll be the bearer of not one passport, but two!

How did this happen? After filling in many forms and providing much data to show 1) I am me, and 2) I am related to my mother, I was granted approval to ‘naturalise’ as a British citizen. Yesterday, I attended the all-important naturalisation ceremony to receive a shiny new paper, confirming the same.

It was a lovely event, with a prominent citizen from my locality addressing and welcoming us all, cups of tea and biscuits afterwards, and a view over a verdant park. A quiet day to reflect.

Has this changed me at all? In a bureaucratic sense, possibly. Both halves of me are now recognised by relevant bureaucratic powers.

And yet fundamentally, there is no change. I am who I am, one man from two sides of a very large pond. I savour cool Jack Daniels as deeply as a room-temperature Glenmorangie. I drift away to Hotel California as effortlessly as I do to Stairway to Heaven.  And I enjoy Hemingway and Proulx, as much as I admire Austen and Conan Doyle.

These halves of me – they’ve been here all along.

Receiving my British Citizenship Certificate from Lady Arnold