My Homework and Other Animals

Mrs Durrell's dandy dinmont, Indian ink and dip pen, 1967 (when I was aged 16).
Mrs Durrell’s Dandy Dinmont, Indian ink and dip pen, drawn in 1967 (when I was 16).

yaniscorpionThe Sunday evening ITV series The Durrells prompted me to take another look at a comic strip of My Family and Other Animals that I drew in my school days. I was so lucky to have Gerald Durrell’s account of a naturalist’s childhood in Corfu as the set book for my O-level English Literature exam.

Theo

meeting TheoFrom my drawings, it seems that the highlight of the story for me was the meeting with Theo. I would have loved to have spent a childhood in Corfu, like Gerry, and, as an adult, to be a naturalist like Theodore Stephanides would suit me down the ground too.

In my drawing of Theo’s study I’ve included books by Fabre, Darwin and Le Fanu on the shelves, plus a book on astronomy (Theo had a crater on the Moon named after him, so Gerry tells us) and a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories.

Theo's study

The Strawberry Pink Villa

The Strawberry Pink Villa

I made some progress with my drawing during the time that I compiled the comic strip. When I started, I was working in a cheap exercise book, with pages that look like newsprint. The ballpoint pen that I used made greasy marks that showed through the paper onto the next page.

Gerald Durrell described the Strawberry Pink Villa, the family’s first house in Corfu, as being ‘small and square, standing in its tiny garden with an air of pink-faced determination’.

The Daffodil Yellow Villa

The Daffodil Yellow villaI abandoned my budget priced exercise book and continued in a better quality unlined exercise book from the Eagle Press stationers in Wakefield, drawing with the fountain pen and the blue Quink ink that I used for school work.

The Snow White Villa

Snow White VillaBy the time that I got to the section of the story where the family move in to the Snow White Villa I was starting to anticipate moving on to art college in the autumn and I started using a fine-nibbed dip pen and Indian ink.

I learnt so much from that project – and passed my English Literature exam – and I wasn’t disappointed when we finally got to visit Corfu thirty years after reading the book.

Leslie, the middle brother in the Durrell family, returns from hunting wild boar in Albania.
Leslie, the middle brother in the Durrell family, returns from hunting wild boar in Albania.

3 Replies to “My Homework and Other Animals”

    1. I often think that I’ve hardly advanced since age 14 but you could say the same about Gerald Durrell and he didn’t do too badly for himself, and for the natural world.

  1. Hello Richard,
    Thank you for a great post that I can readily identify with. When I was about 13 years old my English teacher at Liversedge Secondary Modern started a book club where you could order paper back books at a discounted price. The very first book I ordered was “My Family and Other Animals”. Reading it was a bit of an epiphany for me, I was not the only child to feel the way I did about the natural world. It was definitely not “cool” to have such interests at my school and I was very much a closet naturalist. On reading “My Family” I could hardly believe such a wonderful place as Corfu existed, and to have spent your childhood there would have been my idea of heaven. I did not travel abroad until I was 25 years old but the first overseas destination I chose was Corfu and I found it lived up to my every expectation. While there I saw my first lizard, snake, and turtle, not to mention the many “first” bird species. I have re-read the book several times over the years and it still works its magic on me.
    Best regards,
    Roman

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