Right back to my first fiction book – Of Other Times and Spaces – I’ve illustrated my stories whenever possible, with something highly descriptive, or amusing, or just quirky. Come to think of it, I used to do it when writing about volcanoes and dinosaurs for publication in journals and magazines (Try “Deposits” Geology Magazine,; only on-line nowadays, but still an excellent publication. It was featured on “Have I got News for you” once. The quirkier ones were often cut out by stuffy editors.
Thinking about it a bit more, I used to doodle little pics in my exercise books; only in the boring lessons, though. A teacher took my notebook off me once, and a different teacher returned it, saying, ‘We all enjoyed the pictures, Watts. Better to use white paper, not lined.’ One of those pics was a really complex one of six island volcanoes with ocean currents speeding between them. In black, red and blue biro, it was how I imagined Krakatoa to be.
Pretty accurate, actually: I climbed that volcano about ten years ago, and even walked down inside the crater, where the rocks were steaming and too hot to touch. There were frequent rock falls from the walls into the central pit where I stood.
My guide – Donny the volcanologist, if anyone knows him (he’s been on TV) – wouldn’t come down with me, but assured me it was safe. He also said the whole volcano was “breathing” – the flanks rising and falling by a couple of metres every few days. ‘It’s getting ready to erupt,’ he told me.
Twelve days later, up it went, in Krakatoa’s biggest eruption for seventy years. The whole crater vanished in an instant, and so did half the southern flank of the mountain – right where the footpath to the peak criss-crossed several times. All gone.
Anyway, I like drawing, and the little pics help me to find some slightly enhanced satisfaction.