Al presented himself early one evening, whilst we were sitting on the terrace of our renovated house in Portugal. The house had taken Kit and I three years to complete, and had began it's life as a goat shed. It was a terrifically romantic setting, overlooking a beautiful valley filled with vineyards, olive trees, tiny shepherd’s huts, and smatterings of white houses whose gardens swelled with ripe fruits of all kinds. The valley was surrounded by the vast and majestic mountain range, The Serra da Estrela, off which the sun was reflected, turning the day’s colours of azure and pale turquoise, to bright, gilded copper… a gift to any artist.
Soon the whole valley started to come alive, with the movement of people and animals scurrying about, as the heat of the day subsided to a more sympathetic temperature. Little lights lit up, twinkling here and there all over the valley. It was whilst taking in the sights and sounds of the evening that something caught my eye…. a rather portly little Gecko appeared cautiously on the wall of the house opposite.
The ancient street lamp shone on him, and we could see him clearly. He sat absolutely motionless, until suddenly a moth landed on the white wall, and faster than you could see it happen, he had caught and devoured it. He smacked his lips for a while, and I was not entirely sure he had enjoyed it, and thought he looked a little bored.
We sat as still as we possibly could as we didn’t want to frighten him, and had a wonderful time watching his antics.
Every evening after that we would look out for him, even if we returned late, waiting and watching for some sign. Sometimes his visits were very quick and fleeting, and sometimes he would entertain us for hours. We soon found we were making up names, voices and stories about him. We called him Al.
I thought of him smacking his lips after eating the moth, and how bored he seemed with the contents. So…what else did geckos eat I wondered. Well they love grapes apparently.
There were other geckos, different colours, some faster, some smaller, but it was Al who captured my imagination. Then I saw, because of his special Gecko feet, he could walk over shiny glass windows with no trouble at all. What would Al see when he looked through our windows, and what would he think? Lots of paintings would be the first thing surely.
Now, could a little Gecko paint pictures? Of course he could.
Al the Gecko had ambitions to be an artist, he related to human artists etc, so it may seem strange to say that I didn’t want to overly anthropomorphise his character, but whilst I gave him an Acorn hat and an understanding of paintings, I never wanted him to have paint brushes or tubes of paint. Al had to make do with fruit and materials readily available to him naturally, and apply the colours with his feet, and tail… I don’t think this held him back at all.
Oh yes, a little help from Mr. Filbert, the art collector, didn’t go amiss either. So that's how 'Al's Biggest Brightest Painting of All' came to life.
Do keep a look out for this, and the many more adventures waiting for Al !
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