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 Sweet treat: Cake often features when the mole is involved
Drawings taken from The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy (Ebury Press)
‘ screensavers and pinning them up in wards, while individuals from all walks of life stuck them on their noticeboards or fridge doors to help them get through the day.
“One of the greatest privileges I’ve ever had is getting an email from a staff nurse who said, ‘We’re using your drawings when the staff are feeling under pressure. We have them stuck on the walls where the nurses drink tea’,” he reveals. “And I just thought, that’s got to be a career highlight.”
He was also deeply touched by a heartbreaking message he received on Instagram. “A girl said, ‘I’m sitting in a hospital corridor and my dad’s just died. I’ve just looked at this drawing and I want to say thank you’. It was a really moving moment to see someone being able to say, ‘This is really tough, but your drawing has helped me’.”
Charlie put The Boy, the Fox, the Mole and the Horse together in London, but spent 2020 at his barn conversion on the edge of Suffolk, shielding his elderly mother. “I live in a little village where I’m permanently scruffy, so I don’t feel myself to be a great success.” It was from there that he created the audiobook version, released on Christmas Eve, and is now working on an animated film in conjunction with the production company owned by Mission Impossible and Star Wars director JJ Abrams. It is hoped to come out later this year.
In order to record the audiobook, which had to paint pictures with vivid descriptions instead of Charlie's usual brushes and ink, he had to build a studio that was as soundproof as possible inside the barn. He used whatever was to hand, so it was constructed from scaffolding poles, blankets and cushions.“It looked
like something out of Professor Branestawm,” he comments. The next obstacle was learning how to record the files, upload them and then send them. “Because I’m not a techie, that was the toughest bit for me. I’d never done it before and all kinds of outside noises, like lawnmowers, meant I had to keep starting again.”
He opted not to invent voices for the characters and just read the story without any gimmicks.”I tried to do it in a way that’s unaffected. In the introduction, I sort of say, ‘This is me, I’m doing it, and it may not be very good, but I’ll do my best’.”
Charlie, who’s a bachelor in his 50s, admits he has suffered anxiety and depression himself and says the four characters represent different facets of the average person: the boy is inquisitive, the mole is enthusiastic and a little greedy, the fox is withdrawn, and the horse is the wise one. He still struggles sometimes: “At night I wake up in a sweat, thinking, ‘Am I going to pick up Covid-19 in a shop and give it to my mum?’”
That is perfectly understandable as it’s a fear we all share. Perhaps that’s why Charlie’s work has chimed with so many. His characters give voice to the way we all feel in this “new normal”.
 “A girl said, ‘I’m sitting in a hospital
corridor and my dad’s just died. I’ve just looked at this drawing and I want to say thank you’.”
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is available from bookshops and online, RRP £16.99. The audio version is available in CD form or as a digital download, also online.

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