Once upon a time there was a city called Sydney. 

I met Hoang back at Berkelouw’s two weeks later, to see the character drawings and the first of the scenes.  We had agreed to do this to check that we were on the right track.  

Hoang brought his wife, Cat, with him this time, and I brought Y (my fiance).  Cat was the girl with the beautiful hair whom I had met at the Paddington markets.  She and Hoang seemed a perfectly matched pair, complementing each other’s creative and business strengths and weaknesses, the type of couple you always hope will like you and, more importantly, that you will some day be like.

Hoang was excited.  I was excited.  Y and Cat were supportively boisterous.  

Hoang drew out from his satchel…

the perfect Mr Middleton.  He had the alcoholic red nose, the disconsolate slouch, and the round belly of middle-age that I had imagined without actually  imagining it quite as perfectly as this!

Mr Middleton was closely followed by Mr Richards.  Again, perfect.  Hoang had achieved his angularity, his moonish dissatisfaction, his quiet desperation, and made him look likeable at the same time.

The crowning glory…the first scene, to go with the opening words:

Once upon a time there was a city called Sydney, in a country called Australia, built like an old-fashioned beehive across a flurry of sprawling, sparkling, rudely alive water.  Tall buildings sprouted out of the city’s conical centre, around which clustered thousands of winding roads and terraced houses.  Homes jostled with offices and buildings inside of which people lifted weights squeezed next to places where they put them down again.  All around, streets spread like lines of hardened honey for hundreds of miles, people buzzing to and fro, some filled with music, others with rage, others with forgotten shopping lists that in turn concealed memories of loved ones, of regret; all of them keeping the veins of the city alive.  

It was glorious.  Hoang had given so many little details which revealed themselves only on closer inspection, and had taken the essence of the scene and the entire story and captured it.  He got it, and he had translated it into a look, feel and masterful illustration.

I almost wept into my LSD.

“So you like them?” Hoang asked, grinning.  

We spent the next twenty minutes being excited together, before agreeing to come and see him at his home and office in the Blue Mountains in two weeks time to see the final two drawings for the pitch package.  

Hoang had already made me see the possible wonder of the book.  Now we just had to show these pictures to the publisher and give them a moment of wistfulness in their days, and see how they responded.  

To be continued.