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Monthly Archives: July 2016

‘If I ever had twins, I’d use one for parts.’ Steven Wright.

dead fishNot long ago I bought my girls new collars.  Their old ones were getting very old and faded and (due in no small part to Mabel’s penchant for finding scummy dead fish to roll in) a tad smelly too.  Besides, every little girl deserves something new and pretty from time to time—although, with my girls, how long it will stay new and pretty, is anybody’s guess . . .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I mentioned their new collars to my friend Pam, her first reaction was to gasp, ‘I hope you got them the same colours as last time!’  Pam has known Mabel and Maude since they were babies but even after six years she still has trouble telling them apart, especially when they are moving at speed (which, granted, is most of the time.)  Personally, I can’t quite see where the confusion lies.  As you can see from this photo—the girls are nothing alike . . .

Seriously though, Mabel and Maude are not twins, nor are they even from the same litter, but if you do not take into account their personalities (in which they are almost polar opposites) I admit they are similar enough that if you saw them separately you might easily assume you had seen the same dog twice.  I wonder if the term ‘doppelgänger‘ can be applied to dogs?

MollyJuly2016Molly, on the other hand, really does have a twin, Holly, who now lives on the other side of town.  Molly and Holly (I know, I know—but they already had their names when they came to us) lived together for the first 5 years of their lives before coming to their new homes.  They have only met once in the last four years, and although they showed very little interest in each other, Holly’s mum and I were very much struck again by how alike they still are, not only in their looks, but also in their temperaments, habits and funny little quirks.  (They both do the same funny little ‘ballerina’ stretches, one leg at a time.)

thing1I have always been a little bit fascinated by twins, although I am not really sure why.  Perhaps because I don’t actually know any.  (Human ones that is.  At least I don’t think I do.  Perhaps I do and am just not aware of it.)  Anyway, there is a good chance that in the future that may change, as it appears there are more twins being born into the world now than ever before.  But while I find the idea of twins really interesting, doppelgängers are a whole different story. Mythology and folklore from almost every nation on earth going back thousands of years assures us that everyone on earth has a doppelgänger. This means that somewhere else in the world there is a perfect duplicate of me, with my mum’s eyes, my dad’s nose (yeah, thanks for that Dad) and that funny little piece of hair that sticks up in the front and will never do exactly what I want it to do . . .

(Some people believe we have at least seven doubles. Go to ‘twin strangers‘ and check it out—seriously freaky.)

As yet I have never come face to face with my own doppelgänger, which is probably just as well as I am not entirely sure how I would react.  Would I like me if I met me?  (More importantly, would I like what I was wearing?)  Would I even recognise myself if I knew it wasn’t really me?  And if I did recognise myself, would I stop and say helloor would I just turn and run screaming from the building?  (The latter is actually entirely possible.   Invasion of the Body Snatchers springs immediately to mind.)

In my defence, there is real precedent for being slightly trepidatious about meeting your own doppelgänger.  (Apart from watching too many science fiction movies I mean.  But what am I saying—there can be no such thing as watching too many sci-fi movies . . .)

 kermits evil twin1Although nowadays we tend to think of a doppelgänger as simply someone who looks very like someone else, originally it referred to a wraith that cast no shadow, had no reflection and was a exact replica of a living person.   These apparitions were exceedingly malicious and haunted their innocent counterparts while causing dismay and confusion among their friends and relatives. (Does the term ‘evil twin’ ring any bells?  Perhaps this was the twin Steven Wright was willing to use for ‘parts’.)  

Anyway, twins, doppelgängers, clones, spirit doubles—call them what you will, I don’t think I will be going in search of my own any time soon and if I come across her by accident—well, I’ll deal with that when it happens.

purple collarI have been thinking thoughjust to be on the safe sideperhaps I should buy myself something new (and pretty) to carry on me or wear all the time (like Maudie’s purple collar—yes, of course I got her the same colour as last time—she is still ‘Mauve Maude’).  Something that uniquely identifies me as me, so that if the ‘other me’ appears unexpectedly and starts behaving badly my friends will immediately know it is not the ‘real’ me.  (There’s logic in there somewhere.)  Besides, any excuse to shop, right?

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘It is easily overlooked that what is now called vintage was once brand new.’ Tony Visconti.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

One of our homework assignments from Sketchbook Skool this term was to do some research on vintage photos as inspiration for our own sketches and artworks.  It was a really fun assignment, and that was before I even put pen to paper.  I spent hours trawling sites filled with fabulous old photos of people, places, clothes, shoes, machinery, dogs (of course), furniture, advertisements—you name it, it was out there.  It was absolutely fascinating.  What was also really interesting was that everyone who did the assignment chose such wildly differing topics to copy.  There were none two even nearly the same.  (I especially liked the sketches someone did from old gangster mugshots—they were hilarious.)

I am not really sure why I decided to copy a photo of this old truck.  I have very little interest in cars, or trucks, or anything mechanical for that matter, but I just liked the look of this old truck.  It looked like it came right off an old movie set, although its real history was probably very different.

And it reminded me too of the lyrics of an old Tom. T. Hall song—at least the lyrics of the only verse that I ever seem to remember . . .

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Posted by on July 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Silence is golden. Unless you own a parrot. Then it is highly suspicious.’ Anon.

birdfeedI’ve started feeding the local birds again, now that the winter has properly kicked in.  I know I don’t really need to.  Even in the very depths of winter here on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, it could never be considered a harsh environment and there’s still plenty of greenery about and food aplenty for all the birds and little critters.  But my magnolia tree has dropped all its leaves now and the bird feeders I hung there last winter (and promptly forgot about all spring and summer when the leaves grew out around them) have miraculously reappeared, and it seems such a shame to waste them.  The ceramic feeders are shaped like big shiny apples (one red and one green) and I like the way they look (from a distance at least) like real fruit hanging from the bare skeleton of the tree.

easternrosellaSo I filled up the feeders for the first time last Saturday.  It took just about half an hour for a pair of brightly coloured little parrots to lay claim to their new-found treasure.  I could see them from my kitchen window—one sitting proudly atop one ‘apple’ looking for all the world like he was planting a flag on Everest, while his mate hung perilously upside down from an overhanging branch, peering in at all the delicious delicacies on display inside the other.  “How sweet”, I thought.

black cockatooWell it was not quite so sweet the next day.  Word had obviously got out that there was free food for the taking and by mid morning there was a flock—an honest-to-God flock—of about fifty rosellas, rainbow lorikeets, and a single black cockatoo all screaming furiously at each other as they jostled for position on the magnolia tree.  I admit, the cockatoo was a surprise.  I see groups of them over at the park regularly but I have never seen one in my garden before.  As gorgeous as he was, quite honestly I’d prefer him to stay in the park—his earsplitting screeches were enough to make your eyes water.  (And your ears bleed.  I read somewhere that a cockatoo screech can reach 135 decibels.  I believe it.)

And my poor pretty little pair of treasure-finders had really no chance of protecting their claim against the hordes of interloping cousinsbut, bless them, they were giving it a good go. The shrieking, screaming and frantic wing-flapping (not to mention lots of pushing and shoving) went on for hours—or perhaps it just seemed that way to me . . .

birds(I did discover, quite by accident and, unfortunately, very late in the day, that if I said “Hey Maudie, where is your ball?  Go fetch me your ball” she would rocket out into the garden in search of it, which would send the whole birdie flock soaring skyward (howling their displeasure as they went).  Within moments peaceful silence would prevail once more.  It didn’t last of course.  As soon as Maudie was back inside the birds would start to regroup and the squabbling would start all over again, but a brief respite was better than none.  I wonder if I could hire her out as some sort of doggie-scarecrow?  She has no interest in the birds, but as long as you’re willing to play ball . . )

Anyway, after what seemed like a very long day, things eventually started to quieten down of their own accord as the birds (presumably all now fat and fed) began to wander off home to their nests and hidey-holes to rest their lungs and have a bit of a lie down. Phew.  If they didn’t need a lie-down, I sure did.  dog earsMy head was splitting and my ears were ringing.  (I can only imagine how the dogs felt.  Perhaps this is why I kept finding my bed in such disarray when I came home from work early this week. I have visions of the girls all trying to burrow deeply down into my pillows in an effort to block out the din.)

parrot-and-catI wonder if pet parrots are as loud as their wild counterparts?   I have never owned a parrot (actually I have never owned a bird at all)  but if their antics are anything like the ones I have been watching from my kitchen window they would not only be hilariously entertaining (and, as the quote above seems to suggest, quite mischievous)—but also extremely loud.  I am not sure I could handle it. (Although, perhaps if your parrot don’t have parroty-friends around to egg him on he is happy to live a quieter life?  Or will he just find something else to scream at instead—like the cat?)  I am sure they make fabulous pets for some, but perhaps not for us.  The girls and I like our peace and quiet.

Working towards the restoration of our quiet lives, we now seem to have hit on a plan which seems (so far) to be working for everyone.  I now only fill up the birdfeeders just before I leave for work. That way the feeding frenzy happens when I (and hopefully my neighbours) are all away for the day and well out of earshot.  I have piled extra blankets and pillows on my bed for the girls to hide under (and hopefully act as insulation) should the noise become too much for them.  And my first two sweet little birdy friends, who were so unceremoniously thrust aside by their big bully cousins, have now started appearing, just the two of them, late in the afternoon after everyone else has gone home, to pick quietly at the days leftoversand the tasty little bit of something special that I now put out just for them.spotty dog running

So, it’s all good.  And, if something does go slightly awry and I do happen to be home during the next ‘feeding time’, I also now have a sure-fire, no-fail, back-up plan
“Hey Maudie, Maudie, Maudie.  Where is your ball?  Go fetch me your ball . . . . “

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘There are no mistakes. Just happy accidents.’ Bob Ross.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I’ve been practicing perspective again—what I see is definitely not what I get on paper.  (Or perhaps it is. Perhaps it is my eyesight that is off?)  Anyway, I liked the quintessential ‘English-ness’ of the photo below, so decided to copy it.

rippingIt turned out to be quite a challenge—but not because of the perspective (I’ll keep practicing.)  The challenge came because I seriously stuffed-up the water-colour version of the window-box flowers—and it all turned into a horrible muddy mess.  Sigh. Watercolour is hard.  Bearing in mind that I had promised myself that I would no longer rip pages willy-nilly out of my sketchbook whenever I got the huff with whatever I was working on, I decided to play around in my ‘toy box’ of artist materials to see if I could remedy the situation.

Gesso is my now new best friend.  I had a large pot of it in a drawer (which had never been opened and had probably been there for years) and as I really had no idea how to use it, I just started experimenting.  The picture was stuffed anyway—what harm could it do?  I discovered (after a couple of less-than-stellar attempts) that using the gesso allowed me to literally ‘paint over’ my muddy mess, and if I added colour to it as well I not only got great texture but also an end result that kinda-sorta resembled a mass of flowers.  Who’da thunk?

(I also discovered that one of the drawbacks of using gesso in a sketchbook was that these two pages stuck together every time I shut my sketchbook for the next two weeks—but we seem to have got past that small hindrance now, so it’s all good.)

All hail the ‘happy accident’.  Thank you Bob Ross.  🙂

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Posted by on July 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.’ Mahatma Gandhi.

greyhoundsBefore this week I really knew nothing about greyhound racing.  I have no personal experience of it at all.  I have never met anyone in the industry, have never been ‘to the dogs’ or even watched greyhound racing on the telly.  I only know what I have read and, sadly, that has mostly been horrific accounts of corruption and cruelty, the doping and mass killing of dogs, or live baiting. But as awful as these reports were I think I also honestly believed that the accusations had to have been grossly exaggerated or sensationalised—otherwise how was it that these dreadful things were allowed to go on?

Then last week the Government decided to shut down greyhound racing in NSW following the report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry—(‘The Special Commission of Inquiry found overwhelming evidence of systemic animal cruelty, including mass greyhound killings and live baiting. The inquiry’s report concluded that the NSW Greyhound Racing Industry has fundamental animal welfare issues, integrity and governance failings that can not be remedied.’)

greyhound groupWow.  I admit that the announcement pulled me up short because, in my mind, that meant that there was much more truth to those horrifying reports than I had ever wanted to believe.  It made me feel sick to my stomach.  While I obviously have strong opinions of my own on the issue I am not going to debate the rights, wrongs, political or financial ramifications of the Government’s decision here. (Since I began writing this post the appeals against the decision have already started (sigh) so the debate will rage on with or without my input anyway.) Besides, I would much rather just talk about the dogs.

I have personally only known one greyhound—’Gandalf’ (Gandalf the Grey 🙂 )—and that was years ago. Gandalf, his mum, and his best mate (a tiny little white ‘potscrubber’ of a dog whose name now completely eludes me) would meet up with a group of us every Sunday morning to walk all our dogs along a local beach.

While most of the dogs would immediately ‘go silly’ as soon as they got on the beach, running in circles, barking and chasing each other in and out of the water, Gandalf would initially ignore everyone else, putting all his focus on the straight flat beach laid out in front of him. GreyhoundAnimatedClipArtHe would then take off at full speed (followed at ever-increasing-distance by his little friend, tiny legs going ten-to-the-dozen trying to keep up with him).  When Gandalf reached the end of the beach he would wheel around, with barely a pause, and race back towards us (his pal doing a somersaulting full stop followed by a mad u-turn in an effort to stay with him).  He was beautiful to watch. (Gandalf, I mean.  His little mate, not so much—he was just hilarious.)

greyhound3As Gandalf was my only reference point when it came to greyhounds, and not knowing much about the breed otherwise, I did a quick ‘google’ and found nary a bad word said against them.  They were mostly described as affectionate, cheerful, friendly, gentle, independent, intelligent, loving, quiet, responsive, and sweet—which is probably just as well as the RSPCA is now bracing itself for an influx of no-longer-racing greyhounds in need of furever homes (see article).

But before you all go madly rushing out to adopt or foster a needy greyhound (I am so tempted but, although my own three girls might eventually forgive me for bringing yet another dog into the house (I can just see Mabel rolling her eyes already) I don’t think my landlord would be as accommodating) please do read up on whether a rescue greyhound would actually be a good fit for you and your family.

Here are a few quick reasons why you should consider adopting a greyhound—

They’re quiet, clean, gentle and mild mannered.greyhound

They love to lounge around in their favorite comfy spot (they’re professional ‘couch potatoes’).  They will be happy to lay around all day while you are at work
(some will sleep 16-18 hours).

doggie pyjamas
They are very affectionate and love cuddles.

Their coats are easy to maintain but because of their lack of body fat
they are inside-dogs only and need to have a warm place to sleep.
(And you also get to dress them up in snazzy pajamas for a real reason
—rather than you might just think it’s cute!)

They require less exercise than many other breeds, but they also love to go out on adventures with their family.greyhounds in cars

Their polite and gentle nature makes them excellent buddies for travel
and meeting new people and pets.

greyhounds laughingThey come in a gorgeous array of colours.

They are a robust, healthy, long-lived dog, with a life expectancy of 10-13 years.

You’d be saving a life (and making Mahatma proud)

And two very important reasons why you should consider NOT adopting a greyhound—

Dogs need affection, time, company and security.  If you are unable or unwilling to provide these basic needs, don’t adopt a dog . . . any dog . . . 

If you can’t be as certain as humanly possible that any dog you adopt
will be part of your life, for all of its life,

just don’t do it . . .

greyhound2

NOTE:
The photos I have used in this post are all from the web.
The dogs pictured are all obviously 
beloved pets and although I can’t acknowledge their owners here as I don’t know who they are
I hope they don’t mind me using their lovely images.
🙂
 
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Posted by on July 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘It’s pointless to have a nice clean desk, because it means you’re not doing anything.’ Michio Kaku.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

That might be easy for Michio Kaku to say, but I can quite easily manage to have a lot of stuff on my desk (at home at least) and still not actually be doing much.

I’ve been thinking some more about what I wrote in my last post.  Do you think ‘art stuff’ could be classed as just ‘one thing’?

Because if I have to count every single pen, pencil, paintbrush, ink bottle, rubber stampe, eraserI’m screwed . . . .

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Posted by on July 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Less is more.’ Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

shoe addictI was looking for something in my wardrobe the other day when it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t bought a new pair of shoes in months and months and months. Now this may not seem like a big thing to you lovely readers out there, but this realisation was somewhat of a watershed moment for me.  Did I actually need to buy a new pair of shoes over the last few months—absolutely not.  I know for a fact there are shoes in my wardrobe right now that have hardly ever been worn.  But, if I’m being really honest here, when it comes to shoes (and, sigh, handbags) ‘need’ never really came into it.

(Shoes, handbags and puppies—you can never have too many—that was my mantra—although I hasten to add I was always much more responsible when it came to the puppies . . .)

toomuchstuffSo why such a watershed moment?  A couple of years ago it began to dawn on me that I had far too many possessions for just one person.  (I swear the foundations of the house were starting to sag.)  I had (literally) hundreds and hundreds of books, and although I loved them all, some (most) of them had not been cracked opened in years.  I also had drawers full of cds I never listened to, dvds I never watched, boxes full of arty stuff I never used (okay glad I saved that as, yay, am using it now) and wardrobes stuffed with old or unused linen, clothes, shoes, and enough handbags to start my own store.  Not to mention all manner of odd broken bits and pieces that had started to gather together in the garage, along with bucket loads of ‘I-won’t-throw-that-away-just-yet-as-I-might-need-it-later’ stuff.  I was starting to suffocate under the weight of it all.

cleaning outAnd then I came across The Minimalists —two young guys writing about how to live a great life with less stuff. The answer to all my prayers—right?  Well—yes and no.  Although I have always liked the sound of minimalism, and I love the philosophy behind it—I also know that I really like a lot of my stuff too.  Owning less than 100 things was never really going to be a viable option for me.  But the more I read the more I came to realise that it did not have to be an all-or-nothing thing—there could be a happy medium—and over the next couple of years I made slow but serious inroads into divesting myself of a lot of my extraneous stuff.

dogdig1I gave most of my books to Rotary and even managed to not buy more to replace them.  (Well, not ‘proper’ books anyway.  My Kindle now needs two hands to lift it but it doesn’t take up any more space than it ever did.)  I cleared out wardrobes and drawers and gave away bags and bags of clothing (and, yes, even shoes), linen, crockery, ornaments and the like to the local Op Shops.  I’ve thrown away boxes full of ‘WTF did I hang on to that for’ paraphernalia, and even (Sssshhhh—not so loud) managed to bin some of the oldest,  most decrepit (and smelliest) doggie toys without them being missed (Maudie probably still thinks they are hidden in her ‘special place’ in the back yard . . . )

tinyhouseDid I miss any of the stuff I got rid of?  Maybe.  For about a minute.  Out of sight out of mind.  In fact I was happily surprised at how much I didn’t miss it.  That doesn’t mean, of course, that I wasn’t tempted to buy more thingsold habits die hard (and there are so many pretty shoes out there) so before I start to sound all holier-than-thou, let me assure that if I was to try to move into a tiny house today, I would possibly the only one alive towing a tiny house, two garages and a garden shed . . . .

work-progress-post-14479087So, still very much a work in progress and that’s okay.  Little by slow works for me.  I have had a couple of days off work this week and have used some of that time to do a bit more clearing out (it feels a bit like spring cleaning, but it can’t be that ‘cos it’s freezing outside) and I am still finding myself constantly surprised at how much I can look at and say ‘I wonder why I didn’t get rid of that before?’  (Could it possibly be because the local council only sees fit to provide us with teeny-tiny rubbish bins and then only allows the bin-men to come and empty said teeny-tiny bins once a fortnight? Mmmmm . . . )

Anyway, I have decided that ‘Less is More’ is my new mantra (although . . . the puppies . . . sigh )  Whether or not I will be able to stick to that for the long haul it is anybody’s guess, but I have started and hope to go on.  I know I will be sorely tested later today as my friend Pammy and I are going down to Forster for a day’s shopping—and I do still love to shop.

Perhaps it will be okay if I only buy teeny-tiny things that will fit in my future teeny-tiny house . . .

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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