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Happy birthday, Pa

Today is Pa’s birthday, was he still with us he would be 102 and no doubt, still receiving his fans, showing them round his hangar and regaling them with his many stories. In return they filled the collection boxes for his beloved museum at Flixton and the RAF Benevolent Fund. Well, sadly he is not with us any longer but he has left us many wonderful memories.

Pa’s attitude to his birthdays was always rather negative. He didn’t like them, or at least he said he didn’t. His seventieth was no exception. He was very miserable at breakfast. He didn’t want any fuss he said, and he would rather forget all about it. This did not bode well. Ma had arranged a surprise party (always an extremely dangerous thing to do).  A large number of friends had been invited and with his persistent and all pervasive gloom she was getting nervous.

Pa waltzing with the Great Dane

At 7.30 he was still in his oily old work clothes and very reluctant to change into something cleaner. Why bother?  What he really wanted was a glass of wine and his dinner and just as he sat down, glass in hand, a car came up the drive.  “Visitors.”, he grumbled. Ma shot to answer the door before he could but then another car came up and another. “Ma!”, he said. “There’s more of them. What the hell’s going on?” He strode to the front door most put out, then the truth dawned, it was a PARTY. He turned round, his face like thunder and without another word disappeared upstairs.

Ma was really worried, what if he was so annoyed he stayed in his room all evening? But to our relief moments later he was back, dressed in full mess kit, the very life and soul. He had a wonderful time and was still enjoying himself the next morning. I caught sight of him, still in his mess kit, waltzing the Great Dane round the lawn. Happy birthday, Pa.

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Foxes’ Masks

Pa fox drawing. Copyright Diz Wallis

Welcome to Wallis World. Not only is this my first blog but it is also the day our website goes live. Anyone looking at Filthy Beasts could not help but notice that foxes appear quite frequently in my work, so I thought this might be a suitable moment to introduce a couple of them to you properly.

Fox number one was my father. Pa loved the early Disney cartoons and I think it gave him a feeling for exaggerating the facial expressions and mannerisms of animals. Dogs, I suppose, were actually his particular favourites to impersonate (for example, if my mother scratched his back for him he’d start kicking out a hind leg just like a dog would) but when he arched an eyebrow in a scheming, cunning manner he became all fox. I loved to watch him do that. I can promise you many funny little stories about him to come.

Fox mask painting. Copyright Diz Wallis
Fox mask painting. © Diz Wallis

My second fox is my good friend Rufus of Cambridge and by coincidence, today is his birthday. Owing to his inspirationally disreputable urban nature he makes a marvellous subject. I once gave him a handsome, tooled leather fox mask for Christmas. He was most appreciative of his present and told me later that it was great for going through bushes as it protected his face from scratches and kept water off his nose. A neighbour soon reported to me that they had been walking along the tow path, late one foggy afternoon and probably in a slightly foggy state too, when they were startled by someone emerging from the mist wearing a purple velvet frock coat and a fox mask. Well, I think I know who that was. Happy Birthday, Rufus.