Monthly Archives: November 2016

‘From black and white to a sepia tone, some dreams come with a tint or in monochrome.’ Shing02.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

My take on recreating an old sepia photo . . . well, except for the stamping part, that wasn’t on the photo, that was just for fun . . . and the biro I used was black, not brown . . . (I have enough arty paraphernalia in my home to start my own shop and while searching through it I discovered I have every colour biro made by man—except brown.  Sigh.)

So, if I am totally honest, I didn’t really recreate anything truly sepia at all, but it was fun anyway. . .


1 Comment

Posted by on November 29, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , ,

‘I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.’ Douglas Adams.

stressI can’t be the only person who finds this a really stressful time of year—can I?

Sure, I know we are on the ‘downhill stretch’ to the end of the year now (and I have some holiday time booked which I am really looking forward to—3 weeks to relax, recharge and do as little as humanly possible, I hope) but therein also lies the problem—there is so much still to be done and so little time left to do it.

deadlinebwI wish I could feel the same way as Douglas Adams when it comes to deadlines, but I can’t.  I do not like to be late.  For anything.  Not for paying a bill, not for meeting friends, not for going to the movies . . .  not even for a dental appointment (and I hate going to the dentist).  I am one of those annoying people who always turns up 15 minutes early wherever I go.  If I am not there 15 minutes early—I am late.  The same goes for deadlines—I don’t like them (even the word sounds ominous—deadlines) but I definitely don’t want to be late for them. Unfortunately, at the moment anyway, all I can see is an unending stream of deadlines laid out before me . . .

headstuffThis week seems to have been a particularly busy one.  In my head at least. My brain is chock-full of lists of things that need to be done and deadlines that need to be met—end-of-year data and statistics . . . and college courses wrapping up . . . and what Certificates still have to be issued . . . and I haven’t even started on next term’s Brochure yet . . . and the car failed its Pink-Slip and needs to go back for more repairs . . .  and the ‘Rego’ is due . . . and I have a house inspection next week . . . and what will I write in my blog this week (ha—at least that one is sorted) . . . and Mabel needs to go back to the vet about her ears again  . . . and I haven’t even thought about Christmas shopping yet . . . and . . . well, you get the picture.  Nothing desperately awful or life-changing.  Nothing different to the stuff that goes on in anyone else’s heads (except maybe for Mabel’s ears).  Just stuff.  Too much (first world) stuff.  Sigh.

I like to think I do a pretty good job of not letting the day-to-day drudge get to me, but I have lately realised that I am probably just kidding myself.  Until something happens to make me glaringly aware of it, I can often be oblivious to how stressed I actually am.

snoopy-danceWhen I get home from work I am always greeted ecstatically at the back gate by my three girls, who bark madly, dance around in circles and (in Maudie’s case) pee in their joy and excitement at having their mum home again.  It’s lovely, and the next ten minutes are usually spent telling them what good girls they are, how much I’ve missed them . . . and how nice it would be if they could all just calm down a tiny bit now . . .

Last Tuesday was no different—at first.  We went through our ‘mum’s home’ rituals of hugs and pats and I followed the girls inside and went about my usual routine (kicking off my shoes, putting my bag and keys away, flicking the kettle on, etc etc) —until, all at once I realised it had suddenly gone very, very quiet. Surprised, I looked up to find all three girls sitting in a row on the sofa, silently watching me.  Although nothing had seemed out of the ordinary to me, something in my demeanour had alerted them to the fact that their mum had had a long day and probably needed just a little bit of ‘quiet time’.  It seems they are better at reading me than I am myself.   Bless.

dogzenIt didn’t last long, of course.  As soon as I changed into my walking gear the madness and silliness started all over again (yay—we’re going to the park!) but that short, quiet, lull had been enough for me to stop and take notice of what they already instinctively knew.  I needed to stop.  Relax.  Take a breath.

So we are now at the end of another week and nothing much has changed.  All those jobs still have to be done (and a few more have even been added to the list) and the deadlines still have to be met, but that’s okay.  I feel calmer about it now.  It will all get done.  It always does.

pugpeeingAnd if it doesn’t?  Well, I guess I could always take a leaf out of the ‘Doggie-Handbook-Of-Life’ and practise their ‘handle-every-stressful-situation-like-a-dog’ thing . . .

You know . . . just pee on it and walk away . . .


Posted by on November 25, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , ,

‘There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.’ Janet Kilburn Phillips.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

gardener1I was going to begin this post by telling you all what a very ‘ordinary’ gardener I am.  However, after reading Janet Kilburn Phillip’s statement, I have decided to rethink that.  If you look at it from her point of view—I am actually a gardening-experimenter-extraordinaire!

I have always liked gardens—other people’s gardens—but I never really had much luck when trying to create one of my own.  It seemed to be all about keeping the lawns mowed, the paths swept and the weeds at bay.  It was also true that, over the years, I have had very, very, many (failed) gardening ‘experiments’ . . .   

triffidHappily, those days now appear to be (mostly) behind me.  Since I discovered the fabulous ‘succulent’ my garden has been totally transformed.  I never even try to grow anything else any more.  I don’t need to.  Honestly, once a succulent is planted it mostly looks after itself (at least mine do).  In fact, it’s just as well the majority of mine are actually confined to pots because if some of them got a foothold outside of those pots I am sure they would simply run amok. This became even more apparent to me last weekend when I went outside to do some general ‘tidying up’ and found that, almost overnight, most of my plants had begun spewing ‘succulent babies’ of every colour, shape and form imagineable all over the place . . . 

So it appears that a good deal of my upcoming Christmas holidays might now be spent out in the garden—separating, thinning-out and repotting.

You never know—I might even get the time to sketch some of them too . . .



Posted by on November 22, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , ,

‘If everything else fails, read the instructions.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Before you go any further, please scroll down and read one of my earlier posts (it doesn’t matter which one—you decide).

flatpackYou didn’t do it, did you?  That’s okay.  I didn’t really expect you to.  I probably wouldn’t have done it either.   Like so many others (like you?) I often tend to skip over written instructions.

I wonder why so many of us do that?  Maybe we think we are too busy to spend that extra few minutes.  Or maybe we are so excited about our new purchase we just have to dive right in—’Pffftt. How hard could it be?’  Unfortunately, we often find out.  How many of us have attempted to assemble toys, or (the dreaded flat-pack) furniture, or programme our phones, televisions and VCRs, by nothing more than the force of sheer determination, only to (grudgingly) then go back and rifle through the packaging to find the discarded instruction manual?  

Woman Reading Long ListI have certainly have, on more than one occasion, and although my initial tendency is still to ignore them, these days I do try and at least ‘skim’ through any instructions I might receive with any new purchase—just in case.  I mean, you never really know what you might learn . . .

Last week I bought myself a pair of crocs—just a nice pair of flat summer sandals to slob about  in.  (Don’t judge me—they were in an on-line sale at 50% off!)  They arrived, all in good order, in two days (and they fit) so I was very happy, but it wasn’t until I was taking the tags off that I noticed they also appeared to have come with a set of instructions.

As the tags were attached to the shoes themselves I thought they must be ‘care’ instructions (e.g. rinse, wipe, repeat—they were only rubber after all) but on reading them I was somewhat surprised to find that they were actually instructions (in six different languages no less) in the art of using an escalator (presumably whilst wearing new crocs, although that was not mentioned) . . .pug

(To avoid severe personal injury when riding escalators and moving walkways—stand in the middle of the step facing forward; do not contact any surface next to the moving tread or step; step carefully when getting on and off; hold child’s hand and supervise at all times.)

All good advice I am sure, and if we had any escalators here in North Haven (and if I could borrow a child’s hand to hold) I would definitely follow said instructions to the letter . . .

So, possibly, there is part of the answer as to why we tend to gloss over the ‘Please Read Carefully Before Using’ bits.  They can be (at least on the surface) not particularly relevant, often poorly written, overly complicated, or conversely, so simple as to make little or no sense at all.

Yet it appears that some manufacturers will still go to extraordinary lengths to protect their customers with absurd warning labels, or blatantly obvious explanations of how their products work . . .

insert-treatOn a hair dryer:  Do not use while sleeping.

On packaging for an iron:  Do not iron clothes on body.

On a Swedish chain saw:  Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals.

In a microwave oven manual:  Do not use for drying pets.

On a bottle of laundry detergent:  Remove clothing before distributing in washing machine.

On a muffin packet:  Remove wrapper, open mouth, insert muffin, eat.

A sign in a street in Hong Kong:  Beware of people.

Rules on a tram in Prague:  Beware! To touch these wires is instant death. Anyone found doing so will be persecuted.  (And no, ‘persecuted’ is not my typo!)

follow-the-instructionsIn a lift in a Japanese hotel:  Push this button in case anything happens.

On a toilet cleaning brush:  Do not use orally.

On a blowtorch:  Not used for drying hair.

On a bottle of hair dye:  Do not use as Ice Cream topping.

On a toaster:  Do not use underwater.

On a mattress:  Do not attempt to swallow.

It’s easy to laugh I know, but perhaps we shouldn’t rush to judge.  Even the best and brightest of us can sometimes get it completely wrong . . .

Years ago at the college we purchased a small blow-heater which we were going to keep under the Reception desk.  As one of our colleagues (who shall remain nameless) unpacked the box we asked if there were any instructions attached (it was a bit of standing joke—she never read instructions.)  Sure enough‘We don’t need any instructions,’ she said. ‘There’s nothing to do.  I’ll just plug it in and it’s ready to go.’  And she promptly did just that.

oops1A little while later—’Can anyone smell burning?’  We immediately rushed to the new heater, turned it off, unplugged it and picked it up.  After turning the heater on our colleague had, very carefully, set it down on the floorwith heating vents facing the floor, instead of facing outwardsand there was now a lovely, deep, dark, shiny, melted patch of carpet where the heater had previously been sitting . . .

Ooops . . .


Posted by on November 18, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: ,

‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ Nelson Mandela.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

drumroll-gifThis week (drum roll . . . . ) I finally filled my first sketchbook.  YAY!

(Okay—I had already begun another before I filled the first one up.  In fact, I had already begun several others (different sizes, different shapes, different papers—who knew buying sketchbooks could be so much fun?) but that is beside the point. I actually finished one.  Go me.)

So I know it’s not really that big of a deal to anyone else, but when I first opened that first lovely new pristine sketchbook I never really thought I would get to the end of it.  I was so hesitant to make a mark in it, and every time I finished one sketch I was scared to start another—just in case I spoiled the whole book.  (I still have issues with that but I am slowly getting used to ‘looking past’ the sketches I am not happy with.  I am also discovering all sorts of sneaky new ways of covering crappy sketches up . . . )

That nice, new pristine sketchbook isn’t quite so pristine any more.  It has a couple of torn pages, a couple of nibbled pages (although none of the girls have owned up to that yet) and a lot of wrinkly, blotched and smeared pages.  But now I find, surprisingly, I am quite fond of those wrinkles, blotches and smears. Who’da thunk?

Now please excuse me.  I have a couple of other sketchbooks to fill . . .



Posted by on November 15, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , ,

‘Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons—for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.’ Anon.

I have always had a fascination with dragons.  Being a bit of a sci-fi and fantasy geek may have something to do with that, but also, from an arty perspective, even the scariest and meanest ones are usually quite beautiful to look at, and (if Smaug is anything to go by at least) they also have wonderful resonant, sexy Benedict Cumberbatchy voices . . .

dragonThis fascination is not mine alone.  Stories about dragons appear throughout history and almost every culture has their own mythology. Scholars say belief in dragons probably evolved independently in Europe, China, the Americas and possibly even Australia too.  (It is generally thought that these myths were first inspired by real creatures like dinosaurs, snakes, crocodiles and lizards. This may be true, but it doesn’t really explain where the fire-breathing and flying comes from—a little more artistic licence perhaps . . .)

IM000542.JPGI always thought it would be kind of cool to see a real dragon (from a distance at least)although I admit, because of all the mass destruction (the burning, the killing, the eating of whole populations—with or without ketchup) it is probably quite a good thing they aren’t really roaming our skies.  I shall have to be content observing some of their smaller (less murderous) descendants.

silly frogThat should be easy now as the summer is not far away and that means our local reptile population is slowly starting to reappear after the colder months. I am not at all happy about the impending reappearance of snakes (I really do not like snakes—nearly all of them here are deadly and that is good enough reason for me)—but I do not have the same horror about lizards.  A healthy respect yes, but not a horror.  Which is unusual really as I have a bit of a history of being spooked by lizards . . .

Years ago, one very hot Sunday afternoon, my two dogs (Harry and Frank), two cats (Jesse and Cleo) and I had taken to my bed for a long lazy afternoon siesta (as you do).  The blinds were drawn but the back door and windows were all wide open, trying to catch what little breeze there was. Somewhere in the middle of that afternoon nap I became aware I could hear an odd, undefinable sound.  Then there was a dull thump.  Someone was in the house . . .

blue_tongue-1030x688The dogs were up in a flash and by the time I got to my feet, still groggy with sleep, there were volleys of alarm barks coming from the kitchen.  The intruder turned out to be a very large (and now seriously frightened and pissed-off) blue tongue lizard who it seems, had come in through the back door looking for a free feed of cat food.  He was now puffed up to twice his usual size, had his mouth wide open, blue tongue flashing, and was hissing ferociously.

running-lizardAfter a short period of what can only be described as bedlam, I managed to remove all the dogs and cats from the kitchen (all locked in different rooms and howling their displeasure), entice the still very cranky lizard onto the end of the garden broom and very carefully (at broom’s length) walk him through the house, out of the back door and set him down gently on the vacant block of land behind the house.  I then turned and fled home as fast as I could—just in case he felt he needed to further vent his displeasure upon me.

That fellow turned out to be seriously ‘small fry’.  You know that saying ‘Be careful what you wish for’? Well, this week the girls and I had a close encounter with what is probably the nearest thing to a living dragon we are ever likely to come across.

monitorWalking past the swamp (remember the swamp?) we had stopped for a moment (waiting for Molly to pee—again) when, without fair warning, a huge monitor lizard (Godzilla-like proportions—swear to God) launched itself onto the path in front of us and then up the nearest tree, where he froze and turned to gaze (unblinkingly) down upon us.  (Trying to decide which of us looked tastiest no doubt.) After a shocked moment of silence the girls quickly decided that dealing with this critter was well above their pay grade and began retreating quickly back down the path (although still brave enough to hurl doggie-insults as they went).  I was more than happy to follow!

After giving ourselves a moment to restart our hearts we continued on our walk (deciding to go the ‘long way round’) and later met a gentleman who told me that this particular lizard is a long time local, well known in the area.  Apparently he can often be seen in the early mornings and late afternoons—perched high in a tree, overlooking the bush and the river, sitting atop a large (and presumably now abandoned) ant nest, which he seems to have made his home.

And now I wonder . . .

I wonder how many years he has been sitting there, watching us mere mortals wander up and down the river path, day after day. . .

I wonder what he thinks of us . . . I wonder if he thinks of us at all . . .

I wonder what is in that ant’s nest.  Do you think he guards a treasure in there?  Or maybe that’s where he keeps his wings . . .



Posted by on November 11, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

‘Colour is like food for the spirit—plus it’s not addictive or fattening.’ Isaac Mizrahi.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

colourpotsI admire people who use colour well in their artwork.  Some people really seem to have the knack for it.  I love colour (especially as it is so non-fattening) but I always seem to use too little—or go to the other extreme and never know when to stop.

Last week, in an effort to force myself out of my comfortable little box (which was hard, because I actually like my comfortable little box) I decided to go back to an exercise I had in one of my Sketchbook Skool classes (also I was desperately trying to think of a way to cover a completely failed sketch, but that’s a whole other story).  So I splashed a couple of coloured washes onto the page (only two colours though—I wasn’t ready to launch myself too far out of my box . . . ) to see what would happen.

frustratedAnd then I sat and looked at it . . . and looked at it. . . and looked at it . . .

Okay.  What the hell am I supposed to do with it now?  Sigh.  Honestly I have so little imagination at times it scares me . . .

So I closed the book and walked away.

After a couple of days of  (unsuccessfully) trying to ignore this page in my sketchbook I decided to crawl back into my box, retreat to what I know best and do a biro sketch over the top of it.  Et voila!

So, trying to look objectively at it, I don’t entirely hate it—but I am not sure I like it very much either.

But that’s okay.  I’m glad I persevered. There was a time (not all that long ago) when I would have just ripped the page out of my sketchbook in disgust at my ineptitude.

Perhaps that means that I am actually a little bit further outside my box that I thought I was?  I’ll take that.

Now I can turn over the page and try something else. Baby steps . . .



Posted by on November 8, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , ,

‘To invent you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.’ Thomas Edison.

Anyone who has been following any of my posts will know that, for the past couple of years, I have been assiduously divesting myself of a lot of extraneous ‘stuff’ I seem to have accumulated over the years. (Although, perhaps ‘assiduously’ is too strong a term—but I really like how that word just kind of rolls off the tongue . . . assssidduossssly  . . . )

patonbackAnyway . . . I have also spent a bit of time patting myself on the back about how good I have been.  I’ve rid myself of books and clothes and shoes and old bits of furniture, and, the most important part, I haven’t done what I thought I might do and replace it with all new stuff.  (Well, okay, I admit, I have bought some new stuff but not nearly as much as I could have.)  I figured I had this downsizing thing down pat.

And then last weekend I went looking for some blu-tackone of those things that you need once every five years or so and you just know you have some in the house somewhere but be damned if you know where to find it—and, after unsuccessfully searching through all my ‘arty’ drawers (which, by the way, are now are hugely pared down with all materials organised into lovely plastic see-through boxes—not in any way, shape or form a sketching procrastination tactic . . . ) I finally had an AHA moment.  I knew exactly where that pesky blu-tack would be.  How could I not have thought of that first?  The drawer in the kitchen.

Now, I know you know which drawer I am talking about.  I’ll bet you have one too. The junk drawer. The drawer of detritus. The drawer where all your odds (sometimes very odd) and ends go to die . . .

junkdrawerOMG!  I swear I open that drawer at least twice a day (obviously to toss things in rather than take things out) but I am not sure when the last time was that I actually looked at what was inside it.   And worse still, now that I was looking, it seems that items within that drawer (presumably deciding they needed more room to move about) had surreptitiously started to infiltrate several surrounding drawers as well. Sigh.

Why?  I mean—really—why?

Why is it I can manage to give away two hundred books and half the clothes in my wardrobe but I seem unable to stop myself from ‘saving’ such flotsam and jetsam . . .

four sets of broken scissors
(did I think I was going to get them mended?  Never going to happen.)

fridge magnets
(well—once upon a time they were fridge magnets.
The decorative fronts were still on them but they no longer had magnets attached.)

various pens and markers
(none of which seemed to be working)

(now completely un-sticky because of the all junk-draw fuzz stuck to it)

safety pins and thumbtacks
(every single one lying face up and every single one stabbed me before I saw it)

a hammer (WTF?)

dozens of loose toothpicks
(because where else are you going to keep them?)

various over the counter headache, cold-and-flu, and hayfever tablets
(I have never, ever suffered from hayfever)

3 bottle openers and 2 corkscrews (ahem)

doggie poo bags (thankfully all pristine and unused),
along with several now-too-small dog-collars (so cute),
half eaten dog chews
(erk) and other doggie doodads.
Oh, also a little bottle of what was left of Mabel’s ear drops from the infection she had
—2 years ago

a number of rusty keys
(no idea what they do, or do not, open)

several tubes of superglue
(one which had divested itself off all its contents and will never be removed from the drawer,
or anything else it came into contact with, ever again)

a dozen or so buttons of varying shapes and sizes
(I couldn’t tell you the last time I sewed a button on anything,
but in spite of this I apparently can’t throw them away either . . . )

lightbulbAnd those are only some of the more identifiable items.  There were a couple of other things in there which (grimace) I am still not sure about.  Nor have I even looked through the other two drawers yet—that may be a chore for this weekend.  (Oh joy.)

It’s a shame Edison is not still around really.  He would have had a field day . . .

Oh, and P.S.—I still haven’t found the bloody blu-tack . . . 


Posted by on November 4, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , ,

‘You can observe a lot by just watching.’ Yogi Berra.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

I have been really slack with my sketching over the last couple of weeks.  I know.  I seem to be saying that a lot lately, don’t I?  But it’s a constant struggle and I am still not really sure why.

gloomyI did great for a while, sketching (almost) every day.  Even if it wasn’t much of a sketch, at least I was picking up the pen and doodling a bit.  But lately days and days go by without even an attempt.  Sometimes I pick up my sketchbook and flick through it, thinking it will inspire me . . . and sometimes it does, but often it doesn’t.  Oh, I have all sorts of excuses (I’m too tired after work . . . I don’t have enough time today . . . I really need to finish sorting that other thing out first . . .  and that old chestnut—I can’t find anything interesting to draw) but I know they are only excuses.  I have heard (made) them all before.  I am in the drawing doldrums.  Again . . .

But I am trying to see it for what it is and trying not to get down on myself about it.  I reckon I just have to get into a bit of a rhythm again and I will be fine.  And, you know, it’s not all bad. One thing I have come to realise is that since I took up sketching again earlier this year (even if somewhat sporadically) I have definitely become more observant.

blindfoldIt’s not like I wandered about looking down at my feet all the time, because I didn’t.  I still noticed my surroundings—the houses, the water, the river, the birds—but now I find myself really seeing things in a different light—the way the branches of a certain tree hang over right down into the water along by the riverwalk . . . the ‘sticky things’ growing up through the mangroves . . . the ricketty old verandah on the house on the corner.  (Has that always been there?  How have I never noticed that before?)  It’s surprising to me—and, to be honest, a little bit freaky.  It makes me feel like I have been walking around in a bit of a fog for years . . .

So really, all I have to do now is work out a way to transfer those new-found observations onto the pages of my sketchbook . . . on a regular basis . . .  and I’ll be set!  Right?

How hard can that be?


This is a sketch of one of Maudie’s favourite toys.
I had never really looked at it properly before but when I did I found it was a really interesting mix of materials and textures
—along with, shall we say, some rather ‘exotic’ smells . . .


Posted by on November 1, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: