All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Charles de Lint, Writer of My Heart

“We’re all made of stories. When they finally put us underground, the stories are what will go on. Not forever, perhaps, but for a time. It’s a kind of immortality, I suppose, bounded by limits, it’s true, but then so’s everything.”

Over the last three weeks I’ve been highlighting the three authors who fill my heart with joy. Beginning with Roald Dahl, whom I was introduced to in my childhood, I moved onto George Mackay Brown, a poet whose words filled my backpacking years with wonder. Today, we have one of the founding figures (alongside Terri Windling and John Crowley) of my favourite genre: urban fantasy.

It was Deborah who introduced me to the world of wonder and magic that is Charles de Lint. During one of our many late night hostel conversations his name was dropped as an author I should look out for, and given our similar tastes, look out for him I did.

Late one afternoon I popped into a charity shop in Inverness and happened upon a copy of Memory and Dream for fifty pence. From the very beginning I was hooked, and have been ever since. For years I trawled second-hand bookstores, eBay and charity shops as I worked toward building a complete collection of his bibliography – and if it weren’t for the breakdown, I would have succeeded.

This event cost me this collection, along with everything else, but his words have remained in my soul ever since.

So today I present to you the magic of Charles de Lint; my favourite author of all time.


~ 8 ~
The Little Country

For some reason it took me months to read this book after picking it up in a second-hand bookstore in Flinders Street. A stand alone novel taking place in Cornwall and – along with several other de Lint books – starring a female character (Janey Little) that I fell head over heels for. I went into this book blind (there was no blurb on my copy) and, after a slow start, grew to absolutely cherish and adore the story, which combines two of my favourite things in the world; books and folk music.

“Why did men worship in churches, locking themselves away in the dark, when the world lay beyond its doors in all its real glory?”

~ 7 ~
The Onion Girl

One of the few de Lint books I love/hate in equal measure (and anyone who knows me, knows how much I cherish this reaction). For the first time de Lint told Jilly Copporcorn’s story – a character who had flitted in and out of almost all the Newford novels written to this point. A story involving child abuse, recovery, art, dreaming and the past coming back to haunt us.

Although filled with interesting ideas and beautiful imagery, there was something about this book that rubbed me the wrong way. I’ve read it four times now and each time the reaction is the same. No matter how much I love it (for Jilly is one of the great Newford characters) there is something off that I’ve never been able to put my finger on. Perhaps one day I will.

But don’t let my love/hate relationship with this book put you off. As with all de Lint, it is a magical read full of beautiful characters, interesting ideas and magical description.

“People who’ve never read fairy tales, the professor said, have a harder time coping in life than the people who have. They don’t have access to all the lessons that can be learned from the journeys through the dark woods and the kindness of strangers treated decently, the knowledge that can be gained from the company and example of Donkeyskins and cats wearing boots and steadfast tin soldiers. I’m not talking about in-your-face lessons, but more subtle ones. The kind that seep up from your subconscious and give you moral and humane structures for your life. That teach you how to prevail, and trust. And maybe even love.”

~ 6 ~
Someplace to be Flying

As with all de Lint books this is about the people and their strengths, rather than the underlying magic of the fantasy world the author has created. Combining crow girls, photojournalists, Animal People, imminent danger and an awkward romance this was the last de Lint book that I read, a few weeks before I became homeless in 2009.

“When we understand each other’s stories, we understand everything a little better–even ourselves.”

~ 5 ~
Widdershins

November 2006, my 28th birthday.

Wrapped in shiny paper and carried across the world by my parents was a first edition hardback copy of, at the time, de Lint’s most recent work. It was birthday present from my brother (thank you) and I guarded it with my life until the great sell off of Addy’s possessions, when it became resident of the Grub Street bookstore in Melbourne.

Widdershins is (allegedly) the last book to feature Newford regular Jilly Copporcorn in a central role. Following on from the events of The Onion Girl (so best read that first) it continues the story of Jilly & Geordie and throws in a potential war between Fairies and Cousins to boot. In all honesty, it is a spectacular piece of writing :)

“What do they say about meeting a bear in the woods? Oh right, you shouldn’t. And to make sure you don’t, you should make a lot of noise so that they will know where you are and keep their distance because, supposedly, they’re as nervous of us as we are of them. Which is all goo, except this bear doesn’t seem the least bit nervous. He’s giving me a look like I’m Goldilocks, ate his porridge, broke his chair, slept in his bed, and now it’s payback time.”

~ 4 ~
Moonheart

After lending this book to my would-be-abuser her only comments upon finishing it were:

(1) It was okay, though I preferred reading The Da Vinci Code (a book she knew I hated with a passion)

and

(2) So this is who you stole the phrase ‘home is where the heart is’ from. I knew you didn’t come up with it by yourself.

After reading one of the founding books of the urban fantasy genre all she could do was use it to attack me (seriously, isn’t ‘home is where the heart is’ one of the most famous quotes ever? How could anyone think I came up with it myself?) and then compare it to one of the most annoying books ever written.

For those who have never read Moonheart I heartily recommend you do. Set in Ottawa during the 1980s it combines antique stores, houses the size of city blocks, wizards, evil forces and a magnificent bikie names Blue. Full of love, mystery, action, and magic, this book has all the makings of modern fantasy that Charles de Lint is so well-known for; in fact, it would be the book I would recommend as an introduction to de Lint’s world.

Remember the quiet wonders. The world has more need of them than it has for warriors.”

~ 3 ~
Forest of the Heart

One of my favourite times to go shopping in Melbourne was Cup Day. On the first Tuesday of November the entire population of Melbourne crams into the Flemington Racecourse to watch some horses run around a semi-circle. Well, almost the entire population of Melbourne, for shops remain open and thus need to be staffed – so I, driven by social anxiety, can shop in absolute empty bliss.

In 2003, I did just this. I purchased some CDs from JB Hi-Fi, a couple of T-Shirts from Myer and a pair of shoes from Colorado. After buying my girlfriend a present (some boots) I perused Dymocks bookstore and happened upon a brand spanking new de Lint book that I had yet to read: Forest of the Heart.

Combining elements of the Green Man folklore this tightly plotted story may come apart slightly in the last act but I literally fell head over heels in love with one of the female characters that I fear I may never meet anyone so awesome in real life. Some people compare their dates to rom-com actors and Sex in the City one night stands, I compare them to de Lint’s female characters!

“But, even those of us with less extraordinary origins – aren’t we all pieces of those who came before us? We carry the bloodlines of our ancestors and we form our beliefs from what we learn from others as much as from what we experience ourselves. What is important is who we become – despite our origins as much as because of them.”

~ 2 ~
Tapping the Dream Tree

One of the finest short story collections of the 21st century. I cherish almost every syllable of this collection so much that it pains me to not have it at my fingertips. I adore the cover art. I adore the characters. I adore everything about this book. Urban fantasy at its best.

“We end up stumbling our way through the forest, never seeing all the unexpected and wonderful possibilities and potentials because we’re looking for the idea of a tree, instead of appreciating the actual trees in front of us.”

~ 1 ~
Memory and Dream

What can I say about this book that I haven’t already said? I’ve written about it here, and here, and so many times over the last five years that if I were to link to them all I’d be here night clearing the pingbacks from my notifications.

First read in 2001, and on countless times over the last eleven years I couldn’t even estimate a number. This is the benchmark I measure every urban fantasy book I read. It was a major inspiration – along with de Lint’s work in general – for the novel I had begun to plan and whenever any friend asked me to recommend them a de Lint I would never give them this one, because if they hadn’t liked it, our friendship would have ended instantaneously amidst the grandest literary centered argument Australia would ever have seen.

These days, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

“I finally figured out that I’m solitary by nature, but at the same time I know so many people; so many people think they own a piece of me. They shift and move under my skin, like a parade of memories that simply won’t go away. It doesn’t matter where I am, or how alone–I always have such a crowded head.”

~ All quotes © Charles de Lint ~

Previous posts in this series:

Roald Dahl, Champion of the World
George Mackay Brown, A Poet’s Magic

Other posts you may enjoy:

My Life in Books
My Five Favourite Books of All Time

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Twenty of the Best: George Mackay Brown, A Poet’s Magic

Recently I began a series looking at the three authors who, no matter what my mood, can stir my soul to song. Last week saw me reflect on the magnificent Roald Dahl. This week, we have an author and poet many may not have heard of; George Mackay Brown.

My introduction to George Mackay Brown came when I visited the Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh during the early days of my backpacking odyssey. Although primarily featuring the work of famous authors from Scotland’s capital (such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) there was a special section set up to commemorate the life of Mackay Brown, who had died a few years earlier in 1996.

Commonly referred to as the Bard of Orkney, Mackay Brown wrote extensively of the islands and the Orcadian way of life. A poet, novelist and columnist his work has been described as categorized by “the absence of frills and decoration;the lean simplicity of description, colour shape and action reduced to essentials, which heightens the reality of the thing observed”, while his poetry “became informed by a unique voice that was his alone, controlled and dispassionate, which allowed every word to play its part in the narrative scheme of the unfolding poem”

My introduction to his work was Beside the Ocean of Time, for which he was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and although my initial reaction was that of ‘meh’ by the time I reached the final chapter I was completely and utterly hooked; a chapter that has become one of my favourite closing chapters of all time! After reading this book I dipped into Mackay Brown’s work whenever I could, eventually collecting a near-complete collection of his bibliography (I was missing only three titles!)

During the dark days of depression I turned to his poetry for inspiration and hope. I succumbed to the beauty of his prose for comfort and rejuvenation. I relished in the stark, simplistic beauty of his life, thoughts and talent. Always reminded of my love for the isles that sung in his heart.

In a time when we seem to have forgotten the power of poetry and literature (thanks EL James) perhaps the world needs to rediscover the magic of George Mackay Brown.

“Here is a work for poets-
Carve the runes
Then be content with silence”
(from Work for Poets)



~ 8 ~
Following a Lark

Until this book I had only ever invested in poetry collections (usually involving titles along the lines of A Compendium of Scottish Poetry) featuring work from a number of different writers. Following a Lark was the first poetry book from a single author I’d ever purchased, and I never once regretted it. No matter how hard I’ve tried in my life I’ve never been able to write poetry, ever, so there is always an element of jealously when I read poems as I wish I was able to summon such lyricism and rhythm in my own writing.

Wait a while, small voyager
On the shore, with seapinks and shells.
The boat
Will take a few summers to build
That you must make your voyage in.

You will learn the names.
That golden light is ‘sun ~ ‘moon’
The silver light
That grows and dwindles.
And the beautiful small splinters
That wet the stones, ‘rain’.
(from New Child)

~ 7 ~
Magnus

This was the fourth novel I read from George Mackay Brown after finding an ancient hardback edition on eBay in 2002. Originally written in 1973 it is a fictional account of the life and execution of the twelfth century Saint, Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney. Although at times a little too religious for my taste, it is hard to get past the meditative nature of Mackay Brown’s writing.

~ 6 ~
The Island of Woman and Other Stories

Between Scotland and Canada I spent an ill-fated period working as a waiter on the Isle of Mull. On one of the rare occasions I took a ferry to the mainland I found a dog-eared copy of this collection in a charity shop. Whilst reading it on the ferry back I lowered the book for a moment to allow my soul to breathe and right in front of me couldn’t believe my eyes; a school of dolphins was merrily frolicking before me. Although not the first time I’d seen dolphins in this stretch of water, seeing such a sight whilst spellbound by Mackay Brown’s words is a moment I have never forgotten, and doubtful ever will.

~ 5 ~
Six Lives of Fankle the Cat

Beautiful. Wonderful. Amazing.
I have read this book so many times I’ve lost count. I will tell you nothing about it other than it is about a cat called Fankle and the amazing lives he’s lived (pirates, ancient Egypt, China!) So get ye to a bookstore and grab yourself a copy of this magnificent children’s book.

~ 4 ~
Greenvoe

A love letter to his home of Stromness and a magnificent novel. It is best approached cold, so shall refrain from spoiling it’s beauty.

~ 3 ~
Beside the Ocean of Time

This was the first George Mackay Brown book I read and as such will forever live in my heart. Based in the 1930s, it follows the life of Thorfinn Ragnarson from Norday as he regularly daydreams about key moments in Scottish history, eventually beginning to see a correlation between his daydreaming, history and his own future.

This book, quite rightly, won the Saltire Society award for Book of the Year and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Unfortunately, I can’t complain too much about Mackay Brown’s loss as he missed out to James Kelman’s How Late It Was, How Late – an exceptional book.

~ 2 ~
An Orkney Tapestry

Forget the Lonely Planet, forget Rough Guides, should you ever visit the Orkney Isles this is the book to take as your guide. Mingling folklore, legend, poetry and prose, Mackay Brown weaves a spellbinding tapestry of the life and history of these great Islands. Perfectly illustrated by Sylvia Wishart An Orkney Tapestry captures a sense of place better than any book I’ve ever encountered.

If you’ve never wanted to visit the Orkney Islands, I guarantee you will after reading this definitive work.

~ 1 ~
Northern Lights: A Poet’s Sources

For many, many years this book was nestled in my top five books of all time. Published posthumously this is a collection of previously published and unseen material ranging from poetry, diary extracts, short fiction, observation and folklore. It is one of the finest collections of writing I have ever encountered and gives a unique insight into the mind and inspiration of this literary genius.

~All quotes © George Mackay Brown~

My Life in Books
Twenty of the Best: Roald Dahl, Champion of the World
The unnoticed bias of the Booker prize (guardian.co.uk)
Exploring Orkney: Scotland’s Rugged Northern Isles (gadling.com)


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Twenty of the Best: Roald Dahl, Champion of the World

There are only three authors I can think of who’ve always had a consistent positive effect on my mental health. Three writers, across three genres, who fill my heart with warmth and joy whenever I crack open one of their books.

Today, in the first of a three part series, I look at an author who defined my childhood. Whose books introduced me to the magical world of writing, provided me with endless memories and taught me vital life lessons we should all live by.

Given today is Roald Dahl Day, it shouldn’t take much to work out which author I am focussing on today. So, here are my twenty favourite books from his magnificent body of work:


 ~ 12 ~
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More

I hated this book when I first read it. At eight years old I wanted odd Chocolate Factory owners, gigantic stone fruits and wily foxes; not farmers finding Roman Treasure, hitch-hikers and captured sea turtles. However, when I returned to this collection later in life, I found my younger self to have been somewhat hasty, as it is a beautiful collection of inspirational writing.

~ 11 ~
George’s Marvellous Medicine

One of my strongest memories of non-Enid Blyton bedtime stories is my mother reading this book to me. At six years old it was always so wonderful being cuddled up in her arms as she read this masterpiece to me night after night.

~ 10 ~
Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories

Between ‘Matilda’ and ‘Esio Trot’ I was suffering from Dahl withdrawal. After re-reading several of his books I came across this in the local library and checked it out – duly scaring the crap out of my young self and causing several sleepless nights! Monumental in that it these were the first ghost stories I ever read.

~ 9 ~
My Year

This is a little known gem that should be much wider read. A charming collection based on the diary entries from the final year of Dahl’s life. Inspiring, beautifully illustrated by long-time collaborator Quentin Blake and essential reading for all Dahl aficionados. When I think of this book I think of Scotland, in particularly the Isle of Skye, where I read this whilst sitting overlooking Portree Harbor.

~ 8 ~
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Yes, I love the Gene Wilder starring movie. Yes, I hate the Johnny Depp starring movie. Yes, I adore this book as it was the first Dahl I can remember reading on my own, followed swiftly by its underrated sequel.

~ 7 ~
Going Solo

Although not holding the same appeal as ‘Boy’ – most likely because at the young age I read it I couldn’t relate to it as much as the former – this is a wonderful book for all Dahl fans, as well as anyone with an interest in the lives of inspiring, great individuals.

~ 6 ~
James and the Giant Peach

This book used to scare the bejesus out of me. When I was five we had a giant spider living in our house, an arachnid easily as big as a Yorkshire terrier. On one occasion it trapped me on the toilet, on another in the bath, in fact it seemed to have a disturbing fetish for attacking me when I was most vulnerable! The giant insects in this book brought back many memories of this traumatizing period of my life, but fortunately not enough to make me dislike the book which, in all honesty, is impossible.

~ 5 ~
Danny the Champion of the World

One of several celebrities I’ve met in my life is Jeremy Irons, who played the father of the titular character in the 1989 film adaptation of this book. When I met him it I mumbled something about loving this film as I served him coffee. As film adaptations go it’s one of the better ones – but nowhere near as good as the source material.

~ 4 ~
Switch Bitch

If you’re not familiar with this book, I recommend not reading it to your little ‘uns, as it’s a collection of short stories originally written for Playboy magazine in the 1960s. When I first read this book I wasn’t aware of this – not that my thirteen year old self complained all that much!

~ 3 ~
The BFG

Another memory of bedtime stories are my parents reading this in tag-team fashion over the course of a week. One night, mum would whip off a couple of chapters; the next night would be dad’s turn. I also have very fond memories of the animated film that was made of this book, but again, it was nowhere near as good as the source material, which is easily one of the best children’s books of all time.

~ 2 ~
Boy

This was the first biography I ever read and at eleven years old, one of the most compelling and frightening books I’d ever read. Although I’ve read it many times since, the chapters which stand out in my memory are those detailing the corporal punishment Dahl received as a child. Being of similar age to when Dahl first received the cane, I was left quite glad I lived in an era when corporal punishment was no longer used in schools for I would surely have been on the receiving end of it more than once!

This is one of the most wonderful books ever written and an essential read for any literature lover. it would easily have scored my number one slot if it weren’t for the fact that he also wrote one of the greatest books of all time…

~ 1 ~
Matilda

For those who know me, and for a large number of those who don’t, this will come as no surprise. To this day I can still remember the utter excitement that coursed through my body as I tentatively held the heavy hardback version of this book on the day of its release, my parents only too aware of my love for Dahl’s work and how much I would enjoy it. When they gifted me that book all those years ago did they know it would become one of my favourite books of all time? That I would fall in love with Matilda and make birthday wishes that one day I would have a teacher as lovely as Miss Honey?

I guarded my first edition copy of Matilda for many, many years until the great sell-off of my possessions following my breakdown. Listing it on Ebay was one of the hardest things I’d ever done, but I have no memory of what happened to it. For my soul, I hope it found its way to a home that will love it as much as I do.

Upcoming Posts in this Series
George Mackay Brown, A Poet’s Magic (Thursday, 20 September 2012)
Charles De Lint, Writer of my Heart (Thursday, 27 September 2012)

 

To honor Roald Dahl Day, do you have any personal favourites or memories of his books? I’d love to know :)


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Twenty life lessons I learnt whilst homeless

Some are poignant, some are personal. Some are important, some are silly. For today’s Top Twenty Thursday I share some of the life lessons I learnt during my years living on the street.

Twenty Life Lessons I Learnt Whilst Homeless

20. Discrimination is still prevalent in today’s society.
However accepting our society has become in certain areas, discrimination against the homeless is still rife and we need to do everything we can to stop it. After all, homeless people are just like you; human.

19. No matter how waterproof you think your backpack/jacket/shoes etc. are. They’re not!
Something I learnt the hard way after losing important paperwork, notepads of writing and clothing.

18. When ‘showering’ in a public toilet – always remember to lock the door!
Otherwise you may find yourself inadvertently flashing an unsuspecting jogger at five in the morning.

17. Ducks may look cute – but they’re naughty little tykes.
As proven when one duckling ‘distracted’ me with its cuteness whilst its mother stole my sandwich.

16. Never underestimate the importance of clean socks.
You’ll know what I mean when you try to remove the pair you’ve been wearing for three months straight and they’ve become attached to your skin. Ouchie!

Lesson 16. Never underestimate the importance of clean socks.

15. Libraries are the earth-bound equivalent of heaven.
Proof, for those who don’t believe me: Power points for recharging; comfy chairs for snoozing; books for personal growth; newspapers for education; free internet for socializing (see lesson 6); hot librarians for fantasizing; warmth for health. Libraries must continue to be supported and funded under all circumstances.

14. Never go to sleep using a backpack containing a Vegemite and cheese sandwich as a pillow.
A slightly odd life lesson, I’ll grant you, but one you should heed unless you want to wake up with a possum sleeping on your head! Note: this is not as fun as it sounds for they can be a bit cranky if woken.

13. Plastic shopping bags are not the pure evil they’re made out to be.
See lesson 19 and make the all too obvious connection.

12. Homeless people really are invisible. They shouldn’t be, but they are.
A lesson I learnt in a rather uncomfortable fashion when, on three separate occasions, three individual couple decided to copulate only meters from where I was all-too-obviously sleeping.

11. Drunken [insert sporting team of choice] fans should be avoided at all costs.
A lesson I learnt the hard way following a physical assault after their team lost a match. So be careful.

Lesson 11. Drunken {insert sporting team of choice} fans should be avoided at all costs.

10. Always listen to your gut (aka. You’re allowed to say ‘no’)
There were times I went to organisations for help with crisis accommodation and/or housing where they gave me the choice of “it’s either this boarding house in the middle of nowhere populated with drug addicted ex-cons or the streets”. In spite of my gut I felt guilt tripped into taking the boarding house. Another lesson I learnt the hard way.

9. Never eat the soup van sausage rolls. There is a reason why no-else does!
This was learnt after a six-hour vomiting session. Given no-one wanted to eat them, I fear I wasn’t alone.

8. Even though it should be, homelessness isn’t a priority for politicians.
During the 2010 Australian Federal Election there was no mention of homelessness. Why? Because for the only voters who counted, homelessness is something that will never affect them. They obviously haven’t learnt lesson 5 yet.

7. Never be afraid to ask for help.
It’s hard to fight your way out of homelessness by yourself but the humiliation of asking for help can be just as bad. The latter option, however difficult, is always the best avenue to take. You may not believe it, but there are always people out there who care, who will help you find ways you can get back onto your feet.

6. Social networks are vital.
Isolation can be devastating. Few can understand the psychological impact of spending every minute of your life by yourself, nor would I ever recommend it. For a homeless person, social opportunities are few and far between, which leaves social networking sites their only option. If you can forge past the occasional abuse you will find a supportive community that will welcome you with their arms wide open. For any homeless people reading this, may I suggest We Are Visible as a starting point.

Lesson 6. Social networks are vital.

5. Never take your life for granted. Ever!
I never expected to become homeless. And I’m willing to bet that you don’t think it’ll ever happen to you either. But let me tell you – all it will take is one or two sudden events and you too could find yourself sleeping in a park with a possum on your head. Unless you learnt from lesson 14, that is.

4. Homeless people are decent, kind and compassionate human beings.
Not the violent, drug abusing, alcoholic psychopaths middle-class liberal commentators would have you believe. From my time on the street the homeless individuals I came across were always helpful, generous people who would go out of their way to assist you. Hell, one even saved my life once!

3. There is always someone worse off than you.
Have you had your daily moan about the cost of your coffee or the fact your train was seven minutes late? Have you taken to Twitter to have a wee vent about how your local bookstore has sold out of Fifty Shade of Grey or your partner farting under the covers again? Let me assure you, your life could be so much worse!

2. Don’t stop believing!
The one thing you never want to lose is hope. So find something – anything – to keep you warm during those long cold winter’s nights. Even if that means gathering together a posse of homeless people to perform your very own Glee style rendition of this classic song!

1. A smile is the greatest gift you can give.
If you take the time out of your life to have a chat and a smile with a homeless person, you’ll not only be making their day a little better, but your own as well.

Lesson 1. A smile is the greatest gift you can give.


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My top twenty animated films of all time!

This is the first entry in my Top Twenty Thursdays. Every week I (or you, should you wish to offer a suggestion) will nominate a category and present to you my definitive top twenty.

Some of my choices may be arguable, some spot on, others down right laughable, but they’re my choices. What are yours?

Today we have my top twenty animated films of all time; CGI, stop motion, cel…as long as it’s animated and feature-length, it’s allowed to be included.


The Top Twenty…

20. Basil the Great Mouse Detective; a wonderful take on the Sherlock Holmes legend, Disney style.
19. Bolt; a surprisingly brilliant movie, fantastic fun for the whole family.
18. When the Wind Blows; an animated film depicting a nuclear attack, a must see.
17. Monster House; an under-rated, darkly comic masterpiece – complete with an animated Maggie Gyllenhaal. Woo hoo!
16. Toy Story; a modern classic.
15. The Iron Giant; an often forgotten gem, based on the Ted Hughes poem.
14. Up; a beautiful, haunting and intelligent family friendly animation.
13. Paprika; an eye-opening, sophisticated, challenging, disturbing Japanese animation.
12. Pinocchio; a classic Disney film that should need no introduction.
11. Toy Story 2; in my mind, one of the few sequels that betters the original.

The Top Ten…

10. The Land Before Time

It may have spawned dozens of un-necessary sequels but the original The Land Before Time is one of the animated classics of my childhood. Since first watching it in a cinema in Aberdeen I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it since.

9. Monster’s Inc

I infamously (and somewhat embarrassingly) wept whilst watching this film with Louise. She never let me forget it – and I don’t want to – just thinking about that emotional farewell is setting the tears welling.

8. Sleeping Beauty

Just as I’ll always be a fan of the original fairytale. Just as I’ll always be a fan of Anne Rice’s adult interpretation. I will always be a fan of this stylised, beautiful Disney film.

7. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

A relatively recent film, I’ll grant you, but when a film possesses the originality, verve and energy that this does it’s a worthy addition. Until a few months ago I’d never seen it; I’ve now watched it dozens of times and never grown tired of it.

6. Grave of the Fireflies

If you thought When the Wind Blows was dark, wait until you see this remarkable offering from Studio Ghibli. The less you know before entering into it the better, but it’s based in Japan during WWII – and you’ll need lots of tissues.

5. Tangled

Perhaps it’s because the magnificent Zachary Levi provides one of the voices. Perhaps because, in comparison to other Disney Princesses, Rapunzel kicks serious ass! Whatever it is, I adored every second of Disney 50th animated feature. Especially the closing animated titles.

4. Whisper of the Heart

When people think of Studio Ghibli they think of Nausicaa, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and numerous other animated classics from this highly regarded studio. Alas, Whisper of the Heart is not one that comes to the minds of most, but it should be. Simple, engaging, touching and funny. I dare you not to sing along with country classic Country Road.

3. Beauty and the Beast

For over a decade this film rested at the top of my list but over the last several years has been notched down to third place. Regardless, it remains one of the most beautiful animated films of all time, easily deserving its Oscar nod for Best Picture. However, when I watch the film these days, I can’t help but look at it from a more adult perspective. And with Stockholm Syndrome coupled with the abusive behavior of the Beast, I find it unnerves me somewhat. What exactly are we teaching our children?

2. How To Train Your Dragon

The film that drop kicked Beauty and the Beast into second place! I cherished everything about this film; from the wonderful character design, to the inspired realisation of the dragons, to the stirring John Powell score, to the fantastic voice cast, to the ‘Spot David Tennant’ mini-game. If you haven’t seen it, go NOW! If you have seen it, watch it again. And then track down all the spin-off short films and prepare yourself for the Hammerhead Yak!

1. My Neighbour Totoro

Whilst sharing a tub of mint-choc-chip in a hotel room in Glasgow, Sammi and I were nattering away when she nonchalantly stated although she’d heard of it, she’d never seen this movie. On such stunning news, I found myself unable to prevent throwing a spoonful of ice-cream at her! How could anyone not have seen this film? In the few moments of silence that followed I thought I may have pissed her off, until a rather amusing ice-cream fight fed into a viewing of this masterpiece.

To put it bluntly, it is flawless.

To put it not so bluntly, it spanks the ass of all animated films and sends them to bed to think about what they’ve done wrong.