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‘Love your neighbor as yourself; but don’t take down the fence.’ Carl Sandburg.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

Fighting spouses, other people’s children running all over your front garden, loud music lovers, screaming mothers, people who let their pets run wild, late-night partiers, someone who trims all the boundary trees and hedges—and throws all the debris into your yard . . .   Does any of that sound familiar?  Anyone who has lived next to nasty neighbours will know how stressful and unpleasant it can be—and how it can be enough to drive even the sanest and most peaceful person to the brink . . .

Happily, I have been very lucky with my neighbours over the years.  Although there have been one or two I was not overly sorry to see the back of, for the most part all my neigbours have been friendly and supportive, kept their children and animals under control, their domestic affairs to themselves and only gone slightly overboard on the noise levels on high-days and holidays—which, quite frankly, is fair enough.

Consequently I have had very little to complain about . . . and I would hope that any of my neighbours, if asked, would be able to say the same of me.

Even so, no matter how friendly with, or fond of, my neighbours I am I can’t really see how a good sturdy fence between us can do much harm.   Just to be on the safe side, you understand . . .

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘If bad decorating was a hanging offense, there’d be bodies hanging from every tree.’ Sylvester Stallone.

I think I have a bit of a problem.  I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time rearranging decor and furniture.  Not my own decor and furniture you understand (well, not often) but other people’s.  And not physically rearranging it (that would be just rude!)—but in my head.  Seriously.  I am catching myself doing it all the time—vizualising redecorating a new friend’s house . . . or my favourite coffee shop . . . or a local business window display.  Just last weekend, while sitting in the foyer of the local Plaza Theatre, I got so involved in mentally rearranging all the lovely posters and art deco statues and reorganising the whole flow of the place that I nearly missed the start of the movie!

I blame it on all those home improvement shows that abound on our tvs at the moment.  I can’t resist them.  There is something about these shows I find utterly fascinating . . . which is kind of weird as I don’t own my own home and am therefore unlikely to be undertaking any major home improvement projects in the near future, but there you go . . .

I should make a point of clarification here.  I do not enjoy what I call the ‘reality tv’ renovation shows which seem to me to be more about competition and personalities and drama (and winning money) than about renovation. I honestly can’t bear all the histrionics (although, I admit, I do sometimes tune into the ‘reveals’ after all the drama and tears are over.)

No—the shows I like at those where someone buys an old run-down-seen-better-days (preferably historic) home and then hands it over to someone who actually knows what they are doing to restore it to its former glory (albeit with modern conveniences and plumbing of course!)  And I’m not completely silly.  I do realise I am being ‘had’ when I watch these shows—at least to a certain degree.  If a one-week turnaround on a kitchen and bathroom remodel sounds too good to be true, I am pretty sure it probably is.  The ‘magic of television’ pretty much guarantees that we only see what they want us to see.  Nevertheless . . .

The best part of these shows though, for me at least, is the ‘dressing’ after all the renovations are complete.  I love to see the finished product—the colours that were chosen, the furniture and furnishings, the art work, the linen.  And although many of these end products are not to my own style or taste, I can (usually) see where the designer was coming from and how it all works together.  

I do always wonder though—if we went back to any of these beautifully renovated and decorated homes 3 months, 6 months, or a year later—how many of them would still look the way the designer left them?  How long would it be before the owner’s secret passion for purple plush started to creep back into that perfectly designed latte-toned bedroom?  Or the dozens of ceramic frogs collected over the years (and carefully boxed away by the designer and hidden away under the stairs) start to find their way back on to windowsills and benchtops?

Because no matter how much we appreciate what these incredibly talented and creative designers and decorators can do with our homes, style and taste are still very much individual traits so who, really, is to say what it good and what is bad?  As with our clothes, we express our self-identity through our belongings.  What strongly appeals to me might leave someone else absolutely stone cold . . .  and what someone else might perceive as the crowning centrepiece of their living room might just be enough to send me screaming from the building . . .

But you know,  I really wouldn’t have it any other way.  How boring would it be if we all liked the same things anyway?  Our likes and dislikes, our individual quirks, passions and peculiarities are what make us all  individuals and so much more interesting.

Besides, I actually like rearranging everyone else’s belongings—even if it is only in my head ( . . . that picture over there is so in the wrong place and that . . . what is that?  Is that a vase?  An urn? . . . ) and I think I’d really kind of miss it if I had no reason to do it any more . . .

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

‘Time flies like an arrow—but fruit flies like a banana.’ Terry Wogan.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

I’ve never really been that much of a fan of eating fresh fruit (except maybe berries—I do love berries) but I have always eaten it, even when I didn’t particularly want to, because I was told it was good for me.  It seemed entirely the wrong thing to say that I always preferred a good slice of apple pie (or apple crumble) to just eating a plain old apple  . . . and I would have much preferred a great big fat slice of banana bread to just any old banana . . .

Since last October I have been following a low-carb-high-fat (LCHF) lifestyle and that has also meant eating little to no fruit (and especially not in pies or crumbles) although I have still managed to sneak in a few strawberries underneath my dollop cream!   But you know what?  I haven’t missed it.  At all.  (I have probably just alienated every fruit-growing person on the planet, but there you go.  I am sure there are still enough people out there devouring the world’s fruits in such quantities that my no longer partaking will hardly be missed.)

Having said all that, no longer eating fruit does not make me totally immune to its charms.  The myriad colours, textures and shapes are all pretty fabulous . . . and a lot of fun to sketch . . .

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘But no matter how far or how wide I roam, I still call Australia home.’ Peter Allen.

Today is Australia Day.   It’s national public holiday (yay) and the population will be out and about in force.  Barbies will be fired up, snags and prawns (and no doubt many a pav) will stand ready for consumption, slabs will be cracked and the cricket will be on nearly every TV in the nation.  (Fortunately you don’t have to actually watch the cricket, you just have to have it on the telly.  I think it’s a law  . . . )

Here’s hoping it’s a fun, friendly and peaceful day for everyone.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘What do dogs do on their day off? Can’t lie around—that’s their job.’ George Carlin.

I have just finished my first full week back at work after 3 week’s holiday.  I rocked up to the office on Monday morning all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed feeling well rested and ready for the start of a whole new year . . .

By 10.30am the glow was seriously starting to wear off.  The phone lines kept dropping in and out.  I discovered that although I was receiving emails into the office, the emails I had been sending out since 7.30 that morning had, in fact, not left the building.  My printer wouldn’t connect.  I was beginning to wish I was back at home spending just one more slow lazy summer day with my girls . . .

In one of my last posts of 2017 I said I was going to spend my Christmas holidays doing as little as humanely possible.  I joked that I might even take lessons from my dogs as they seemed to have taken the notion of rest and relaxation and developed it to high art.  Well, one particularly lazy daywhen I had no particular plans and even less inclination to make any, I decided it might be fun to catalogue their comings and goings, and see what they really did do all day . . .

5:00am
Rise and shine.  Leg stretches (preferably one leg at a time), back stretches (complete with the ‘oh-that’s-so-good’ face), tail wags (just to make sure they are all still working), fitful grumbles, quick kiss and a cuddle with mum and then all rush outside for a pee.  Before I have even boiled the kettle they are all back inside and lined up in the kitchen waiting for breakfast (a half a chicken neck each for them and a cup of tea for me.)

5:15am
All settle down for a post-breakfast nap while mum watches the early morning news.

5:45am
Walkies!!  Morning walks have been a bit of a lottery lately.  This time only Maudie was interested.  Maudie can be relied upon to go for a walk at any time of day, in any weather.  Mabel prefers to choose her days and times.  She is more likely to go if the wind is not blowing . . . or it is not too hot . . . or too cold . . . or the scary magpies are not already out and about.  Molly hardly ever goes on a morning walk.   She’s really not a morning person . . .

6:30am
All worn out.  (Even the two who didn’t go for a walk.)  Time for another nap.

8.00am
Molly roused herself and went to get a drink of water—and then went straight outside to pee the water away again.  Mabel stood up, shook herself, turned around three times and lay back down to sleep.  Molly quickly returned to her favourite spot and immediately fell unconscious.  Maudie never stirred.

9.15am
The next door neighbour’s dog Harry barked, which brought all my girls immediately to their feet and hurtling out into the back yard to see what he was barking at.  A couple of minutes of (loud) conversation, followed by a might-just-have-a-quick-wander-around-the-garden-and-a-pee-while-I’m-out-here and they were all back inside, on the couch and dozing again.

(Sometimes it seriously pisses me off that I can spend hours trying to get to sleep and the girls can go spark-out as soon as they close their eyes . . . )

10.30am
Still sleeping.

11.52am
OMG!  Was that the postman???  They all lift from a dead sleep as one in a frantic dash to the front window to bark maniacally at him until he’s out of sight. (While they do that I wash off the cup of tea I just threw all over myself after being thoroughly startled by the sudden avalanche of noise and movement. )  Once they have successfully seen the postman out of their street they huff and puff and jostle each other for a couple of minutes, and then, you guessed it, time for another nap.

And so the day progressed.  There was more napping.  The odd raised head, cocked ear, tail wag, a bit of scratch and yawn—and then more sleep.  I won’t bore you with the details.  If ‘lying around’ is actually their day job they’re damn good at it.

But I’m not buying it.  They think I actually believe this is how they spend all their days.  They think they’ve got me fooled.  They’re wrong.  I’ve seen videos of the shenanigans some people’s pets get up to when they’re not around.   Knowing the cheeky personalities of my three little girls perhaps ignorance is bliss . . .

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘If our mushrooms make you hallucinate, please inform us immediately so we can overcharge you.’ Scott Adams.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I would never describe myself as a mushroom aficianado (although, for some inexplicable reason, I do seem to think the word ‘fungi’ is a pretty cool word . . . )

In fact, now that I think about it, I know very little about the different types of mushrooms at all.  I rarely cook with them (well, of course if you have followed my blog for any length of time you will know that I rarely ‘cook’ anything at all) but my interest was piqued recently when I read an article that stated that the species of mushrooms we do know about is probably only a third to a fifth of what is actually out there still waiting to be discovered.  That’s an awful lot of undiscovered mushrooms!

Apart from being an interesting tidbit, this snippet of information would normally have little impact on my life (still not planning on doing much cooking) . . . . except that alongside that article were photos of some of the most spectacular looking growths of fungi (such a cool word!) I have ever seen.

Suffice to say that, although I may not be enticed to do much cooking with them in the future, they may just be well on their way to becoming one of my new favourite things to draw . . .

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I listened to them fade away till all I could hear was my memory of the sound.’ Ken Kesey.

I was fifteen when my mum and dad decided that the family should move back to England to live.  (When I say ‘back’,  I mean that mum and dad were going back, my sisters and I were born in either Australia or New Zealand and had never been to England.)  That was nearly 45 years ago (gulp—that’s a bit scary when you say it out loud) and the world was a different place then.  England was all the way over on the other side of the world (well—it still is, technically) and, although many English people had relatives in Australia, if was so far flung that the average person didn’t really seem to know all that much about it.  (These was the dark ages remember—no internet, no social media, no skype.)  All they knew about Australia was from old movies or reruns of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.  As you might imagine, my sisters and I attracted a lot of attention . . .

I remember being ‘the new kid’ at school and forever being asked to talk about Australia.  Tell us what it’s like . . . (Er, well . . .)  Is it always hot?  (Well, yes, in the summer.)   Have you ever seen rain?  (Me—lost for words.)  Did you have a kangaroo in your back yard?  (We lived in the city—so no.)  Are the spiders really all that big? (Bigger.)  Does everyone talk funny? (Excuse me, could you repeat that please.  I can’t understand a word you just said.)  Do you know my Auntie Ethel?she lives in Australia . . .  (sigh.)

I never really got comfortable in England (or any other country I lived in really).  I missed Australia.  I missed all sorts of things about it—the warmth (damn it gets cold in England), the people, the colours, the trees, the tim-tams—but when I really thought about it, I mean really thought about it, what I missed most were the sounds.  The inevitable dawn chorus (the magpies, the cockatoos, the kookaburras—which, by the way, can often start their songs long before dawn!), the sound of motorboats and jetskis on the water, the interminable drone of lawnmowers (not quite sure why I missed that, but I did)—and the cicadas . . .

OMG the cicadas!!  Why on earth did I miss the cicadas??   Somewhere along the line my ‘memory of the sound’ must have muted their continuous ear-slitting roar to a gentle hum—it’s the only explanation!  Well I am certainly not missing them now.  All the planets must have recently aligned because we certainly have had a ‘bumper crop’ of them this year.

Cicadas are the loudest insects in the world and there are more than 200 species in Australia. And (wouldn’t you know it) Australian cicadas (specifically the ‘green grocer’ and the ‘double drummer’) are amongst the loudest species on earth.  (BTW, I had no idea cicadas has such cool names—Black Princes, Floury Bakers, Yellow Mondays  . . . )  At close range these cicadas are noisier than any lawnmower chainsaw or jackhammer (in excess of 120 decibels, which is approaching the pain threshold of the human ear.  Don’t I know it!)  Apparently it is only the males who ‘sing’, which is probably just as well because if all the females were singing as well all of humankind would be deaf within days . . .

But, you know, I’ve decided I’m not going to be too hard on them.  Most of their lives are spent underground and for some species this can be for a period of up to several years.  And then, once above ground, many of them only live five or six weeks.

When I look at it that way, if I had dragged myself up out from under the cold dark earth into the bright sun and clear air, I’m pretty sure I would want to sing my little heart out too . . .

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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