The Inevitable Parallel World of Outsects (according to the author anyway).
My father’s church (he was the vicar) was in the grounds of Portchester Castle. I understood that the church was haunted by a headless knight while the castle’s catalog of supernatural beings boasted many more assorted ghosts. These include the ubiquitous “Lady in White,” as well as a raging Roman centurion who runs around the battlements on nights lit by a gibbous moon.
I saw the church graveyard as an extension of my garden and the garden as an extension of the graveyard. I liked to dress up as a priestess to bury dead goldfish, hamsters and assorted wild birds killed by our three cats. Periodically, the past would reach into my ‘modern’ day. I once found a flint arrowhead in the garden (probably while digging a grave for a dead pet). On another occasion, I gazed at the skeleton of an Anglo-Saxon woman lying in her unearthed grave, her resting place exposed by archeologists digging through time in the castle grounds.
Now, I could easily have become dark and gothic (or at the very least an archaeologist) but another world ran in parallel to this environment heavy with its ghosts and history. This other place was a less portentous world of whimsy, comics and cartoons. My father drew crazy caterpillars for me, carefully adding lace-up shoes to every foot while waving off discussions about millipedes. I know my mother allied with the fairies agreeing to secret contracts to supply baby teeth for their ivory castles. Meanwhile, my younger brother and I believed “little people” lived under our pillows. When I was a bit older, and no one was around, I would attempt to enter Narnia. I would part the hanging coats and suits and step to the back of my parents’ wardrobe. My hands always met the horse hair padding of silk lined walls never the pine trees of Narnia’s forests.
When I was not digging small graves or attempting to enter parallel worlds, I would go to my father’s study and ask for “drawing paper.” He would hand over his old crematorium service lists (showing names and times of cremations). I penciled and colored pictures on the back of these Xeroxed lists. Naturally my drawings included castles, churches, and graveyards as well as a range of circus themes plus various real and imaginary creatures. I also had a phase of drawing “Mr. Chad” (known in the US as Kilroy). I was always careful to make sure that I added that question mark hair to the top of Mr. Chad’s head. Comics were important too, in particular, I liked the Numskulls – they portrayed yet another parallel world, this time it was a world of little people living inside our heads.
And perhaps the greatest influence upon the Outsects were the TV cartoons of the 60s. I was a fan of The Flintstones and Top Cat, and I was especially fascinated by the Pink Panther cartoon. I loved that Henry Mancini music and the Zen-like simplicity of Friz Freleng’s Pink Panther drawings.
Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention a strange obsession with layman interpretations of the “Alice in Wonderland” of Quantum physics! Blend fabulous scientific possibilities with parallel universes and Outsects are inevitable.