Celtic Farm

I’m very excited to reveal the next set of designs for my greetings cards! These illustrations were inspired by Butser Ancient Farm, the archeological farm near my home in Hampshire.

I chose four animals that would have been found on a British iron age farm:
– Eagle owl
– Moon-gazing hare
– Manx Laughton ram
– Massive pig

All my cards are available to buy directly from me! They are £5 for the set of four designs with envelopes, and all money is going towards my fundraising campaign! Follow the link to pay by PayPal, or you can email me at tiffany2.francis@gmail.com for more info. The postage is free and I am happy to send internationally too!

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 16.45.16

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 16.45.47

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 16.41.22

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 16.44.44

Memories of Jamaica Inn

Despite everyone grumbling about the muffled Cornish accents, I thoroughly enjoyed the latest BBC adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. I finished the novel last summer and I was pleased with the show’s loyalty to the book. And after Lady Sybil was so cruelly removed from Downton, I was happy to see Jessica Brown Findlay’s cool little face once more.

I’ve treasured an eerie obsession with Jamaica Inn ever since I visited the moors of Bodmin when I was about 8. I don’t remember much about the trip; most of it has merged into other childhood memories of travels through Cornwall.

Nevertheless, I do remember the secluded inn all alone in the west country wilderness. It’s said to be one of the most haunted locations in Britain, built in 1750 as a coaching house for changing horses. Du Maurier wrote the classic tale in 1930, after she got lost on the moors when out riding her horse. She became swamped in fog and sought refuge at the inn, where she was entertained by the local rector with tales of ghosts and smugglers.

When I visited the inn, it was home to Walter Potter’s Museum of Curious Taxidermy. He was a famous Victorian amateur taxidermist, and arranged his stuffed animals into ‘amusing’ tableaux, such as ‘Kitten Wedding’ and ‘Monkey Riding a Goat’. As a child this was terrifying, and of all my childhood memories, this remains one of the most vivid. Being an amateur, the dead creatures often looked contorted and the result was fascinatingly horrible. Luckily, I remember my Dad assuring me that all the animals had died of natural causes..

To my morbid delight, Kate Mosse, author of Labyrinth, is publishing a new novel this Autumn called The Taxidermist’s Daughterinspired by her own childhood visits to the dreary exhibition (it was originally situated in Sussex where Potter lived). It’s a Gothic psychological thriller and I’m jolly excited!

I am determined to return to Jamaica Inn in the near future and see if it’s as terrifying as I remember. I’m planning to complete a literary tour of Britain, and I recommend the original novel for anybody who likes a grisly adventure tale!

Jamaica Inn is available on iPlayer here, and The Taxidermist’s Daughter will be published by Orion books on 11th September 2014.

photo1 (1)Eight-year-old me!

Disney: Love at First Sight?

After lots of dillydallying, I finally got around to watching Frozen at the weekend, the latest Disney film based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale The Snow Queen. It is superbly funny with fabulous music and wonderfully crafted characters, and it has been praised for being one of the only Disney films where the heroine is not rescued by a man, but by the true love of her sister.

????????????????????????????????????????

Refreshingly, the film also acknowledges the stupidity of ‘falling in love’ with someone after knowing them for about five minutes, a plot point which has often featured in many Disney love stories. The Prince falls in love with Snow White after hearing her singing at a wishing well (I know from experience that a good singing voice does not guarantee sweetness of character). Even more disturbingly, Prince Eric falls in love with Ariel when she doesn’t even have a voice, and let’s just forget about the dancing scene in Sleeping Beauty..

So is there any hope for Disney-loving feminists? Yes there is! Here are four Disney heroines who aren’t immediately seduced by the first man they stumble upon:

Disney-Princess-Screencaps-Princess-Belle-disney-princess-32398654-5000-2813

Belle Beauty and the Beast

After her father is captured by the Beast and locked in his castle, Belle steps forward to take his place as prisoner. Needless to say, she is hardly mad about the Beast until he proves his human side to her, and she realises he’s actually a pretty nice guy. At this point she develops Stockholm Syndrome and it all gets a bit Freudian.

Disney-Princess-image-disney-princess-36213628-5000-2707

Jasmine – Aladdin

Bored by the countless suitors her father forces upon her, Jasmine is by no means gagging for it. When she first meets Prince Ali, she is put off by his arrogance and nobility. Eventually, she realises he’s just a humble street-rat and falls in love with his mischievous ways.

hercules-disneyscreencaps.com-3731

Meg – Hercules

It’s only fair to point out that Meg has already had her heart broken by some tramp she sold her soul for, but the important thing is she learnt not to give in so easily again. It takes Hercules an awful lot of flattery and kindness to make her even speak to him, and eventually she realises he is worth endangering her life for. In the end he even sacrifices his own immortality just to be with her, which definitely shows commitment.

0

Lady – Lady and the Tramp

When Lady first meets the Tramp, she is far too preoccupied with family issues to give him much consideration. It is only when she finds herself lost on the street that she sees how kind and caring he is, and they soon begin to fall in love over Italian cuisine. At the end they have tiny puppies because ladies, just because you want to have children doesn’t mean you’re a bad feminist.

Time for teapigs

The weather is finally starting to brighten up! The trees are blossoming and all the birds are singing merrily, and we can finally say farewell to rain and misery.

To welcome in the Spring in style, I have kindly been sent a delicious array of teas from the lovely people at teapigs! Famous for their ‘tea temples’, their tea is served as whole leaves, herbs and flowers enshrined in a biodegradable mesh pyramid, which allows the tea to float around freely and release all its sumptuous flavours. It’s the perfect way to enjoy loose leaf without the hassle!

With warm, sunny afternoons in mind, I chose four light teas that will compliment perfectly the months ahead. I also have four boxes to give away to one of my lovely readers, so scroll down to enter!

photo2

One can never truly judge the quality of a tea brand without trying their basic breakfast. If you can’t get this right, there is little hope. Fortunately, the teapigs english breakfast is superb! It’s malty and rich without bitterness, and makes for the perfect morning cup. I like mine über milky with a hobnob.

photo3

Working in an office full of grey drinkers, I brought this in for a team taste-test, much to everybody’s delight! I find the reason people don’t like earl grey usually is because the fragrant bergamot scent can be overpowering. This hybrid tea is a perfect solution, as the musky taste of Darjeeling offsets the perfume.

photo5

Jasmine tea always reminds me of my first year at uni, living in halls next to the ‘oriental supermarket’, as it called itself. My friend and I used to drink it when we were feeling hideously hungover. These ‘pearls’ of tea unfurl into whole leaves when placed in water! Most pleasant.

photo4

This fruity tea is an olfactory feast. It’s made of actual chunks of fruit, and smells like purple jelly babies. It’s also a great caffeine-free tea for when you’ve had a few too many coffees and you’re getting a bit twitchy. An antioxidant super tea!

Finally, I have four boxes of tea to give away to one of my lovely readers!

If you would like to win them, simply comment on this post with your twitter handle, email address and your favourite thing about Spring!
For an extra entry, you can also follow me on Twitter here.

The giveaway ends on Wednesday 30th April at 6pm, and I’ll email the winner after that time. I’m afraid this giveaway is open to UK residents only, sorry!

In the meantime, you can also get 10% off all teapigs products online with the discount code tiffanyimogen until the end of April. Hooray!

photo1 (7)

Hoot hoot

I thought I’d share my latest illustration, which is a female Eurasian eagle owl.

If you like my illustrations, please consider donating to my MA fund and I will send you some of my greetings cards, even if you’re international! Hooray!

Click here for more info…

10256174_10152099412177252_7359604423003963479_n

Lambing

Last weekend I went home to Hampshire to see the brand new lambs that have been born! My bro-in-law is one of the directors of Butser Ancient Farm, a working farm that doubles as an iron-age educational facility and open-air archaeological laboratory. They have massive pigs and scraggly goats, and each spring lots of tiny lambs appear.

There are usually one or two ewes that have difficulties during the birth, and the lambs are left to fend for themselves. This means that most years there are a few lambs that need hand-feeding and extra care. This year one mama sheep developed mastitis and was unable to produce milk, and so it came to be that we spent the weekend watching ‘Kevin’ lollop around the garden. He was joined by another unfortunate pal ‘Paddy’, and together they had a lovely time hopping around and eating soil.

If the abandoned lambs are found within two hours of their birth, they have a relatively good chance of survival. If not, their fate will be decided when the first round of infections hit later in the year. Kevin and Paddy seemed very perky, so I have high hopes!

If you’d like to see the lambs, the farm is now open 7 days a week! I highly recommend visiting for Beltain on May 3rd. They burn a huge wicker man to welcome in the warmer months, and you can enjoy live music, real ale and cider, hog roast and falconry. I’ll be selling my greetings cards and illustrations, so see you there!

Note: Apologies for the quality of some of these photos. My camera lens is broken so I have to manually focus everything, and with wriggly lambs it is really hard to get good shots..

edit 4

edit 7

edit 3

edit 2

edit 1

edit 6

1981957_10152077499827252_536636500_n

Welcome to my Campaign!

Hello lovely readers!

As many of you may know, I have been accepted onto a very cool MA English course at University College London. It’s the top university in the country for English and I am so excited to start in September!

The course is a crucial part of my life masterplan, which also involves completing a PhD, writing my own fiction and becoming a freelance illustrator. I am determined to get there with lots of jolly hard work.

The one very, very small problem is that I don’t quite have enough pennies to fund my tuition… The course costs £8,500 full-time and although I am planning on studying part-time, this means I have to find £4,250 before September. What a pickle!

This week I started my own crowdfunding campaign to try and raise the money from all my friends, family, readers and networking contacts. The campaign means that when people kindly donate me some money, they receive little rewards from me as a thank you, like greetings cards, illustrations and blog posts.

So far I have raised £562 which is fabulous! I even received a donation from Hugh Bonneville (aka Downton Abbey’s the Earl of Grantham) – what a lovely man!

downton

I would be so unbelievably grateful to any of my wonderful followers if you could spare a few pennies or pounds. The Arts don’t get much help these days, and after a lot of Googling I found there are no postgraduate funding opportunities available this year.

In exchange I will send you nice greetings cards and personalised wildlife illustrations! Please take a look at my crowdfunding website here and see if anything takes your fancy. You can even pay with PayPal, although a cheque is preferable as the greedy banks pay the fees! If you would like to send a cheque, please email me at tiffany2.francis@gmail.com for my address.

Thank you so much for reading! Here are my first range of greetings cards..!

cards

Sunflowers

This weekend Toby and I visited our friends in London because we’re moving there in three months and it’s all rather exciting. We decided to visit the National Gallery for no other reason than it was free, we are poor and Toby hadn’t been before. We both like our arty tarty and do a bit ourselves, so after clambering around on the lions by Nelson’s Column for a while (I couldn’t get down), we stepped inside.

To our great delight, we stumbled upon the latest exhibition on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers paintings. Aside from the usual version belonging to the National, they have borrowed the one from Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum and placed them alongside each other. What a lovely opportunity! It’s common knowledge that artists have often created multiple versions of the same painting, but to be able to compare them and identify the differences was really fascinating.

vg1

The painting above is the National Gallery’s own, acquired in 1924 with assistance from the Courtauld Fund. The painting below belongs to Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, which I visited in 2011 when I went interrailing! I’m definitely no stranger to squiggly sunflowers. The National’s version was painted a few months before Amsterdam’s, but Toby thought it was interesting that the earlier painting actually appears to be an older, wilted version of the later one, almost as if the flowers had been left to wither for five months.

The colours are undoubtedly brighter and bolder in Amsterdam’s, and the deep red pigment seen in the heart of one of the flower heads below is unique to this version alone. The shades of Viridian green, Emerald green and French ultramarine were all new additions to artists’ palettes in the nineteenth century. Van Gogh had his tubes of oils sent to him in Provence from his brother in Paris.

sunflowers

If you can get to the National Gallery before the end of April, it is well worth a trip. The exhibition is running until 27th April and if you’re still not convinced, you can literally buy anything sunflower-themed in the gift shop. Visit the website here!

Review: Dirty Dancing at Bristol Hippodrome

Dirty Dancing has always been one of my favourite films. Set in the 60s and made in the 80s? That’s a recipe for success. To my great delight, I was offered tickets to see the fabulous new stage production at the Bristol Hippodrome. After first visiting a Caribbean restaurant and dosing my boyfriend up on rum-based cocktails I managed to drag him into the theatre, and we sat down in an audience made up of around 97% women. I gazed sympathetically at the bald little heads of husbands and fathers who had been pressured into such a glamorously pink affair. Such sympathy was soon forgotten, however, as my vision became flooded with fabulous fabulous fabulous dancing.

unnamed (2)

If you like the film and you don’t like change, this show is perfect. It manages to stay true to the original whilst providing an extra injection of funky dancing. Johnny Castle was played by Lewis Kirk (above), and although at first I was reluctant to be seduced by anyone other than Patrick, I eventually fell in love with him. Especially when he was dancing. Oh my, he can dance.

Baby was played by Roseanna Frascona, and she played it fabulously. I thought her on-stage relationship with her father was very convincing and her dancing was also superb, although not so superb that it was unbelievable. After all, she only learns how to dance in one week. She isn’t going to dance like Penny (played by Claire Rogers, above), who was simply mesmerising. Strangely enough, having watched myriads of dancers flashing their lovely legs all over the stage, I felt the sudden urge to visit the gym the next day.. Squats galore.

Lovely legs aside, the show also provided some excellent musical numbers and plenty of crooning. Wayne Smith’s solos were particularly atmospheric and really mellowed the show out during a couple of intimate moments. The crowd was rather rowdy, and we all died when Johnny came down the aisle, jumped on the stage and delivered that super line: ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a little frightened by the crowd of hooting females jeering and cheering, but it was jolly fun.

If you love singing, dancing, pink lights, jazzy tunes and pretty people, Dirty Dancing is playing at the Bristol Hippodrome until 5th April 2014.

Writing Ukraine

I’m not routin’ for Putin. As the leader of a country that persecutes homosexuals, suppresses free speech and generally has far too much power, I just don’t like him. The situation in Crimea has recently encouraged me to do a little research into Ukrainian culture. Seeing as I don’t have any armies, money or land, there is sadly little I can do to support Ukraine at the moment. Instead, I’ve been reading about their literary history, and I hope that by engaging with some of the best works of Ukrainian authors we can very indirectly support their independence. Of course, if you believe Putin’s coup d’etat theory and you don’t much care for Ukraine, here’s a picture of an elephant instead. Otherwise, here are four intriguing writers who have influenced the Ukrainian literary canon..

Леся Українка

Lesya Ukrainka
(1871-1913)

Aside from being a poet and playwright, Lesya Ukrainka was also a political, social and feminist activist. Her family were devoted to the advancement of Ukrainian culture, and she was educated at home to avoid public schools teaching Russian as the first language. An active opponent of tsarism, she was also the first to translate the Communist Manifesto into her native language. Among her most remembered works is The Forest Song, a mythical play and folkloric love story.

Mykola_Kulish

Mykola Kulish
(1892-1937)

Possibly the most famous Ukrainian playwright of the 20th century, Mykola Kulish was also a veteran of the First World War and the Red Army. He wrote political plays about his impoverished nation whilst touring Southern Ukraine and helping the starving. In 1934 he was arrested by agents of the NKVD and died three years later in Solovki prison camp. His most famous works include Commune in Steppes97 and Farewell, Village

pic_V_I_Vilde Iryna (at table)

Iryna Vilde
(1907-1982)

Writing before, during and after WWI, Iryna Vilde wrote a number of short stories and novels about the life of Western Ukrainian intelligentsia and the petty bourgeoisie. She wrote about the clergy, workers, peasantry and students, as well as documenting the activities of various political parties and organisations, the economy, education and culture. In 1943 her husband was shot by the Gestapo, and she died after a long illness in 1982.

0,,17418942_303,00

Yuri Andrukhovych
(1960-)

A prose writer, poet, essayist and translator, Andrukhovych is known for his pro-Ukrainian and pro-European views. However, he rejects the idea of Ukrainian nationalism, and respects both the languages of Ukraine and Russia. His works include The Sky and SquaresExotic Birds and PlantsTwelve Rings and The Devil’s Hiding in the Cheese.