From my diary for Monday, 9 June, 1997:
I had a reputation as a naturalist amongst the local children; once I was presented with a specimen of a dragonfly that had been trapped in a conservatory and on another occasion a neighbour’s son reported seeing a large black cat near the quarry in the wood, at a time when ‘The Black Beast of Ossett’ was roaming the nearby countryside.
Children assumed that I’d know what to do with orphaned or injured birds. In fact the only birds that I ever kept, two Bengalese finches that I bought, hoping to breed, when I worked on the illustrations for Ways of Drawing Birds, died when I allowed them to feast on too much lettuce. The best I could do was to phone a friend, a headmaster who lived in Horbury, who kept silver pheasants and owls in an aviary. I didn’t record in my diary what became of the hapless nestling.
Walking along the road in April that year, I was recognised by two skateboarding children. The girl pointed me out to her companion:
“It’s Richard Bell, he’s an artist.”
The boy must have confused me with another artist, perhaps the only one he’d so far learnt about at school . . .