In 2009, my *elder son’s wife, Megan, had their first child - Oliver. She also wished to train for midwifery and required a child-minder. My wife, Avril, & I stepped in to fill that void and from the time Oliver was around a year old, he would spend the days with us before Megan picked him up on her way home.
Not surprisingly Oliver became an important and integral part of our home life and whilst Avril spent more time than me in caring for him, I did grow increasingly fond of this little chap.
He was a very handsome young boy and inspired me to wish to draw him and capture some of his moods (which were of a child who was quite undemanding actually).
The longer we spent together in the nursery/bedroom we had put aside for this purpose, the more engaging I found him.
From observing him grew the ‘seed’ of an idea for a book.
* William is the elder son and is a twin born 2 minutes prior to his brother, Edward.
Oliver seemed to be incredibly imaginative both with his play and speech.
The room in which he spent time had been deliberately visually stimulating – for example one wall was a full-wall mural of Rupert the Bear which I painted knowing grand-children were imminent.
Oh yes and we have 7 now incidentally!
My imagination began to run away with me and I began to visualize this little boy with an imaginary friend (I had one called Pendalinda when I was very young).
As in all decent children’s nurseries, among the multitude of toys, dinosaurs prevailed and the ‘seed’ germinated.
The sketchy idea was for an introductory book, followed by a series of further stories of Oliver’s Dinosaur as he began to introduce his new friend to his human world. With this clearly in mind, I wanted Oliver Doliver’s Dinosaur to run and run.
It was not difficult to find a name for this new friend, since Oliver’s own vocabulary was, though limited, highly inventive and he loved to play with the sounds. His particular favourite sounded like ‘Aya Buddn’ (though we never quite knew what he actually meant), but that was irrelevant since he loved the sound. Thus it was natural for me to name the dinosaur ‘Aya Buddn’ which is now an integral part of the family’s vocabulary.
Another little phrase he frequently used was ‘Bah-diddle’ – again ????
This will be another dinosaur friend in future books...
I have written the sequel to this book and only now need to produce the illustrations for it. That is something I am anxious to do very soon if your children enjoy this book.
The biggest question is where it should take place. Initially it had to be Oliver’s bedroom; the illustrations are quite representative of the home they lived in at the time (though they have a new home now). A picture of Darwin their German Shepherd dog appears in the illustration in which Aya Buddn falls against the cupboard. The little cat, Dolly, is their Burmilla cat who is in several pictures and lives with them still, sleeping on their beds.
When Oliver is about to get ready for bed, a little box turtle is crawling over the floor. This is Bashful, my son Willam has looked after her for 25 years and she, too, actually lives in Oliver’s brother Max’s bedroom.
Originally I printed a single copy of the book for Oliver on his 4th Birthday and made it into a hard-bound copy.
It is only by the insistence of my dear wife, Avril, that I have been encouraged to see Oliver Doliver and Aya Buddn make it to the bookstore!
Oh and …why Papa Perkins?
Well, again this is down to Oliver; as a very young toddler he soon began to call me Papa and the name just stuck. The family now still refer to me as Papa.
Aka Mark Perkins
Papa Perkins was born in 1951 and spent his career in art. He is married and lives in Poole with his wife, Avril. They have 3 children and 7 grand-children.
He and Avril bred Burmilla cats for 20 years and they still have 6 for company, along with two miniature dachshunds, two snakes, bantams and a few rather lovely pond fish.
Following schooling near Poole and in Wimborne Minster in Dorset, he attended Bournemouth College of Art for four years and followed this by gaining a teaching certificate from Bretton Hall College in Yorkshire where he met Avril.
Returning to Dorset, Mark took up a post in an advertising studio in Bournemouth and remained there as creative director until 1991 at which time he found teaching art more rewarding and began teaching art to students from ages 12-18.
As well as being a teacher he was elected to full membership of the CSD Chartered Society of Designers in 1983 after 10 years in professional practice.
He produced designs for advertising, print and all forms of graphic communication. He specialized latterly in the design and production of large exhibition stands for national and international clients.
Ill-health forced Mark into retirement in 2000, which gave him the chance of pursuing his own interest in drawing and painting for his pleasure; much of which was contained in many sketchbooks, avoiding the necessity of explaining his thoughts to others in a public arena.
Throughout the past few years he has moved from abstract concepts into the more satisfying world of the printed book for children. His printed works include Alphabetcats, A Nature Diary, several volumes of the work of Lesley Anne Ivory and latterly ‘Words, Works & Worlds’ – a compendium of pages from his sketchbooks.
However of all of these, it is writing for children which inspires him most, and even now as he considers the thought of being 70, he reckons it’s not too late to discover what he perhaps should have begun 20 years ago.