Monthly Archives: March 2017

‘For all the advances in medicine, there is still no cure for the common birthday.’ John Glenn.

Today is my birthday.  I am now 58.  I don’t feel 58.  Well—that’s not entirely true—some days I feel every bit of 58, but . . . in general . . . if I haven’t recently over-indulged in food . . . or drink . . . or had a sleepless night . . .  or done a solid four hours of weeding and pruning in the garden . . .

Okay . . . maybe I’ll qualify that.  What if I say my brain doesn’t feel like it’s 58? Hmmmmm . . . I’m not really sure that’s going to work either . . .

Last Sunday, while I was out mowing my front lawn, one of my elderly neighbours stopped by to chat.  Ronny is an ‘old soldier’ and as he knows I was in the army myself several centuries ago, he occasionally likes to ‘pull up a sandbag’ and reminisce. That day, however, while chatting, he asked a question which pulled me up short‘So, when was it that you were you based in Germany, Sal?’  A simple, straightforward questionand for the life of me I couldn’t answer it.  I mean, I remember being in Germany (my mind has not completely abandoned me . . . yet . . . ) but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what year I got there or when I left . . .

In my defence, and before you start giving me a hard time about my advancing years, I should point out that I have always been dreadful at remembering what-happened-when.   I also always think something happened much more recently than it actually did.  I reckon I would immediately become the number one suspect in any murder enquiry when the interviewing officer asks ‘ . . . and where were you on the morning of *insert any date here* ?’—because I wouldn’t have a bloody clue . . . )

Anyway, as it seems I can no longer completely rely on my body or my brain, perhaps I should say my ‘inner Sally’ doesn’t feel 58.  That might work My ‘inner Sally’ doesn’t feel any different than she did ten, twenty, or even thirty years ago.  (At least I don’t think she does,  but, you know, my brain . . .   If I can’t remember where she was 30 years ago, chances are I probably won’t remember how she felt either.  This is getting tricky . . . )

Seriously though, turning 58 honestly bothers me no more than turning 57 did. As a good friend of mine likes to (constantly) remind me‘any day above ground is a good day’and if adding another candle to my cake means getting a bigger cake, so be it.

It is probably just as well I have a sense of humour about these things anyway. Last week it was gleefully (a little too gleefully I thought) pointed out to me that soon I would be able to tell people I was ‘no longer middle-aged’.   WTF!   Me? Middle-aged?  I don’t mind owning up be being 58, but who said anything about being middle-aged?  I want to see the proof . . .

 ‘Sure-fire signs you’re in the throes of middle-age

Losing touch with everyday technology such as tablets and TVs

(I have a computer, tablet, kindle, TV and mobile phone.  Okay the mobile is kaput and I haven’t replaced it yet, but I do have one . . . )

Feeling stiff, groaning when you bend down, talking a lot about your joints / ailments
(Not so very much.  Honest.  And I mostly only mention it to the dogs . . . )

Needing an afternoon nap
(Hardly ever . . .  except maybe after a particularly taxing morning, or a workout, or mowing the lawn, or an extra-late night . . . )

Thinking policemen / teachers / doctors all look really young
( . . . and, hopefully, cute . . . )

Choosing clothes and shoes for comfort rather than style
(Sniff.  I like to think I still have some style even if my heels are becoming slightly lower . . .)

Forgetting people’s names
(I’m sorry—who are you?)

Booking on to a cruise
(Not yet, but I have friends who have . . . you know who you are . . .)

Misplacing your glasses / bag / car keys etc.
(Okay.  Possibly.  Sometimes.)

Complaining about the rubbish on television these days
(Well.  Seriously.  There really is a lot of crappy TV out there.)

Gasping for a cup of tea

(How is this a middle-aged thing?)

When you can’t lose six pounds in two days any more
(What do they mean ‘any more’?)

Falling asleep after one glass of wine
(It’s a BIG glass)

When you know your alcohol limit
(see above)

Post Script:

As far as I can see the list above proves nothing.

You will note that nowhere . . .  no.where . . .  does it mention the number 58 . . .


Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.’ Aesop.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

. . .  because you may not even get a chicken!  🙂


Posted by on March 28, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘You may not be able to read a doctor’s prescription, but you’ll notice his bills are neatly typewritten.’ Earl Wilson.

Did you know that handwriting can indicate over 5,000 different personality traits? I didn’t even know there were over 5,000 different personality traits, but handwriting analysts maintain that the size and shape of your letters, the spacing between your words, and even the pressure you apply to the page when writing, all signify different personal characteristics.  How you dot your ‘i’s and cross your ‘t’s can reveal much more about you than you might wish to be known . . .

But you know, this may not be much of a worry for us in the future.  I mean, what happens when people stop hand-writing altogether? How will they (the ubiquitous ‘they’) analyse all those thousands of personality traits then?  ‘Never going to happen’ you might say.  Perhaps.  But many schools no longer teach cursive (‘running-writing’) to their students and schools in Finland have become the first to completely phase out handwriting lessons at all in favour of typing . . .

At first I was surprised by that . . . but then I thought perhaps they had seen some of the handwriting that is prevalent these days and decided they were fighting a losing battle . . .

I admit I have been grumbling (loudly, often, and to anyone who will listen) about the sad decline of penmanship and the depressing illegibility of many of the handwritten documents that have come across my desk of late.  

Please bear with me while I have a little ‘vent’ . . .

In 2015 a new initiative was introduced in the education sector in Australia whereby each student enrolling in a nationally accredited course was required to obtain a ‘Unique Student Identifier’ (USI).  This USI was a 10 digit computer-generated mix of letters and numbers, individual to each student, and no-one would be able to enrol without one.  This USI would (eventually) be used to create a secure online database of all student training records.

Sounds fair enough, doesn’t it?  Sure.  Why not?  Except that now, two years down the track, I spend half my working days peering at incoming enrolment documents, desperately trying to correctly decipher these (handwritten) USIs so they can be entered into my own student data system.  ‘Is that a 2 or a z?  . . .   or a B or an 8? . . .  a 7 or a T?’   Without the context of a sentence to ‘guess’ at a poorly written letter or figure, it is often impossible to tell.

(Added to my aggravation is that my computer could care less.  If I don’t get that USI exactly right, it won’t verify it.  Period.)

In my less fraught moments, I get it. I really do.  Advances in technology have meant that many people don’t need to hand-write anything much any more so it’s hardly surprising that these skills have taken a back seat to typing (or texting).

But . . . don’t you think that’s a bit of a shame?

I am not completely naive.  Technology is here to stay and we will all need the skills to deal with itbut do we have to entirely forgo one skill to take up another?

Setting aside for the moment the fact that trying to read poor handwriting is increasingly driving this humble office worker further into madness, handwriting is, as the analysts point out, the outward manifestation of an individual personality.  Is that not, in itself, reason enough to nurture the skill?

Don’t you think it would be great to see all the world’s fabulous individual personalities reflected in wonderful, bold, beautiful, creative, colourful (and legible—please let it be legible) handwriting?  I do.

What about you?


Posted by on March 24, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree …’ Emily Bronte.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

Before I moved back to the coast about 13 years ago I lived for many years in Armidale, up high on the Northern Tablelands.  Armidale is a beautiful place, and unlike much of the rest of Australia, it also has four distinct seasons.  My favourite season has always been the autumn and I especially loved those Armidale autumns.  The nights would be getting cooler and the early mornings would often be foggy, but when the fog burnt off the days were bright and sunny and still quite warm . . .

. . . and the city itself was gorgeous—everywhere you looked there were corridors of trees all dressed in the most magnificent autumn colours . . .

(I realise I might sound a little nostalgic here but I would like to point out that I am very happy living here in the Camden Haven and I am not remembering Armidale entirely through ‘autumn-coloured’ glasses.  Armidale autumns were gorgeous, that’s true—but the winters were downright vicious.  It was those long . . . long . . .  long . . . icy winters that eventually drove me away and back to more temperate climes . . . )


Posted by on March 21, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘It was a dark and stormy night . . .’ Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

I learned a long time ago to pay attention to my dogs’ moods and behaviours.  When the girls are sitting happily idle, or playing with their toys, or dozing (and snoring) I know there’s nothing to worry about—all’s right in our world.

However, when they go very quiet (suspicious in any instance) ears cocked and listening (usually followed by a sudden, explosive volley of wild barking and a mad headlong dash to either the front or back door)—then I know I need to pay attention.  There is definitely something ‘out there’ . . .

Sometimes the girls are simply letting me know that the neighbours have visitors (they’re nosy, my girls, and they assume that I am too), or the postman’s delivered something for them, or (the nerve of it) next door’s cat is sitting in their front yard.  But sometimes they are telling me, the only way they know how, that it could be time to take the washing off the line, close the doors and windows and batten down the hatches, because there is inclement weather on the way . . .

I pretty much know the ‘storm’s-a-comin’ signs now.  When the girls start to pace, tense and on their tippy-toes, with ears’ pricked and noses’ twitching—it’s not visitors, or the neighbour’s cat, or the postman—it’s for sure there’s a storm approaching. (I swear they are more reliable than the BOM.)   So with the turn of the season now upon us and a sudden onset of seemingly neverending rain-and-thunder storms over the past couple of weeks, you would be right to imagine that doggy-tempers in my household have been somewhat fraught . . .

I myself have never minded storms.  I mean, I would really rather not be caught outside in the middle of one, but if I am inside at home, or at work, the boom of thunder and flash of lightning doesn’t bother me at all.

Because of this I have always assumed that if I remained calm and unruffled during a storm my dogs would pick up on that, realise there was nothing for them to worry about, and stay calm themselves.  And this approach worked very effectively when I had my first dogs, Harry and Frank.  They were never even slightly fazed by extreme weather. Harry would happily snore his way through a pounding thunderstorm, and Frankie used to like to sit, half inside and half outside his doggie-door (with his backside in the warm house, and his front feet and head outside in the wind and the rain) and watch the tempest rage around him.

That same approach has worked pretty well with Maudie and Molly.  Although they still definitely don’t like storms I find that talking to them in normal tones or sitting quietly and reading (with both of them sitting on my lap of course) is usually enough to calm them enough to see the storm through.

Mabel has been harder to convince.

Since she was tiny Mabel was always the first to let me know when a storm was imminent.  She would become whiney and agitated and snappy with her sister (who would, of course, respond in kind) and she would prowl the house, shaking and whining and panting.  Like most doggy loving parents I tried everything (short of medication) over the years to try and ease her through these trying times and I eventually found that a Thundershirt did the most to help relieve her storm anxiety (although she always did look somewhat embarrassed when wearing it . . .  ‘I’ll wear it but please don’t let anyone see me . . . ‘)

It has taken a couple of years but I am now happily able to report that we haven’t had to resort to the wearing of the humiliating thundershirt in quite a while now. (I hope saying that out loud hasn’t jinxed us).  Although it has taken a lot longer than I had hoped I think my perseverance has finally started to pay off and my calm, quiet, relaxed approach to storms is finally working on Mabel.  Don’t misunderstand me. Mabel will always be frightened of storms, and the first thundering boom will still send her flying across the room and on to my lap (momentarily scattering the already settled in occupants) but she gets nowhere near as terrified as she used to.  I’ll take that.  It’s a blessing.  For all of us . . .

. . .   and especially so as the BOM says we are in for another round of storms today and more over the weekend.  Sigh.

But, you know, when I left the house this morning my three little weather-trackers were all cuddled up together and sleeping soundly, so hopefully we might have at least a couple of hours respite before another ‘dark and stormy night’ sets in again.

We can but hope . . .


Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘A sure cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree.’ Spike Milligan.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I live in a coastal town.  The Camden Haven River runs right past the end of my street and North Haven Beach is only a short walk away.  I really like living so close to the water.  I like the sound of it and the smell of it and the beauty of it.  Even on a crappy, overcast, rainy day our river is beautiful . . .

And because we are a coastal town, everywhere you look there are people in, on and around the water.  People paddling, swimming, surfing, kyaking, and boating.  Especially boating. There are boats all over the place.  They are on trailers parked in driveways (and on front lawns), and in queues lined up at the boat ramps, and idling about in the lagoons, and chugging up and down the river, and moored in any one of our small local marinas.

I like looking at all these boats too―there are so many different shapes and sizes and styles (and names―there are some hilarious names out there . . .’Ship for Brains’―HA!) and it always looks like everyone on these boats is having a simply fabulous time (except perhaps those still parked on the lawn or in the driveway . . . )

But that’s as far as it goes.  Looking.  I like looking at boats.  I have no overwhelming desire to actually be on one.

To be perfectly honest, even sketching these boats from my nice, stable, dry spot (under a tree) was starting to make me feel kind of queasy . . .



Posted by on March 14, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.’ Mark Twain.

With the wane of summer and the cooler weather on the horizon I have been prompted to start going through my wardrobe again in readiness for packing away my light summery clothes and bringing my cooler weather gear to the fore.  I like this seasonal ritual.  It reminds me of what clothes I have (far too many), what I might need (absolutely nothing, but I doubt that will stop me from buying anything new), and there is always a surprise to be found in those deep dark closet-y depths . . .

(Sometimes the surprise is good―”Wow!  I forgot I even had this and, even better, I still really like it.” . . . and sometimes the surprise is not so good―”Oh dear God, did I really wear that last year? What was I thinking?  . . . ”  This year, so far, I have found a brand new sweater (it’s still got the tags on) and rediscovered an old (but fabulous) pair of boots I haven’t worn in years . . . )  

But the thing that struck me most this time was the range of sizes that my wardrobe now encompasses.  I guess that’s not really that unusual.  My weight has done such a merry dance up and down over the years that it is hardly surprising that the clothing in my wardrobe reflects this.  But, wait a second.  Didn’t I spend days last year sorting and culling and getting rid of everything that was too small, too big (or just plain ugly)?  Wellyes I did.  So that means that all the clothes left in my wardrobe now, regardless of their size labels, all actually fit me, as I am, right this very minute.  Mmmm . . .

It has been many years since I concerned myself too much about sizing labels.  At my current size and shape I ‘should’ be (according to the size charts the fashion industry insist on foisting upon us) a standard Australian size 12. (Ha―’standard size’―who thought that one up?) but I have no qualms about ‘going up a size’ (or two) if the style or material of the garment I like demands it.  (I got over that particular vanity years ago. Besides, a sharp pair of scissors cuts offending labels off quite nicely.)  When shopping in a ‘bricks and mortar’ shop I will often try on several sizes of the same garment and if a larger than usual size is more flattering, so be it.

 (I’d much rather do that than cram myself into my ‘standard’ size and have all my ‘wobbly bits’ on full display for all the world to see.  I still have some vanity left . . . )

But I don’t only shop in bricks-and-mortar outlets.  In fact, most of my clothes shopping these days is done on-line.  And I don’t only buy Australian-made clothes either.  So this adds another complication to the shopping experience, because every country has completely different parameters for sizing their garments.  (An Australian size 12 equates to an American size 8, an English size 10, a European 38 and a Japanese size 11.)  And then there are the XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, 1X, 2X sizings to contend with . . . and don’t even get me started on ‘One Size Fits All’.  On what planet does one *&^%ing size fit all??  (A more appropriate tag would be ‘Fits Where It Touches’ . . . )

(By the way―if I think it’s difficult getting my own clothing sizes right, I am no better with the dogs.  The last time I ordered the girls new winter jumpers, I did all the measuring up beforehand to get their right sizes but, unfortunately, I failed to take ‘girth’ into account. Mabel’s sweater was a perfect fit, but by the time I managed to shoe-horn Maudie into hers (after much wriggling and squealing (by her, not me))―she looked like a stuffed sausage. Having been in that same situation myself a number of times I took pity on her and sent the offending sweater back . . . )

So why is it such a chore to find clothes that fit? (These (First World) problems are sent to try us.)  But you would think that someone, somewhere, on a planet of around 7.5 billion souls (all needing to be clothed) would come up with a solution to this irritating conundrum.

Unless, of course, they already have and just aren’t telling us . . .

A conspiracy theorist might speculate that if clothes really do ‘make the man’ (or woman), perhaps making it impossible to find clothing that fits and flatters is all part of some nefarious, insidious world-wide conspiracy to keep the seething masses shoddily dressed (or naked) and ‘people of little influence’ . . .

The truth is out there folks.  The truth is out there . . .


Posted by on March 10, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. It’s what the sunflowers do.’ Helen Keller.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

Our summer this year has been a real scorcher, even here around the mid-north coast where we are used to a much more temperate climate.  But thankfully (at least I am thankful for it) the summer heat is finally starting to wane.  The days are still sunny and warm but they are getting a tiny bit shorter and there is something in the air that smells just a little bit like autumn—and autumn is my favourite time of year . . .

But before the summer finally leaves us I thought I would do one final quick ‘summer’ sketch . . . and there is nothing more summery than a sunflower.  I like sunflowers. They are big, bold, happy ‘in-your-face’ flowers.

And, it turns out, they’re even kind of fun to draw . . .



Posted by on March 7, 2017 in Uncategorized


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I wanna make a jigsaw puzzle that’s 40,000 pieces. And when you finish it, it says ‘go outside.’ Demetri Martin.

wakefulAt 2.30am this morning I awoke with a start.  ‘Andalusian’, I thought.  That was it.  That was the answer. 14 down—’Spaniards having a change of land in USA’—Andalusian.   Good.  Great.  Now I know.  It’s a bit of a shame the old brain couldn’t have come up with that answer when I was actually working on the crossword puzzle earlier in the day but . . . that’s okay.  I got there in the end.  I can go back to sleep now . . . Hello? . . .  Brain? . . .  Can we go back to sleep now? . . .  Please? . . .  sigh . . .

crosswords2_clipboardYou know, when I joined Sketchbook Skool at the beginning of last year I distinctly remember one of the tutors saying (rather assertively I thought)—”Once you start sketching every day, you’ll never ever do another crossword puzzle.”  Well—he got that wrong!  Even though I am sketching more regularly now (if not every day at least several times a week) that has not distracted me in the least from getting my daily fix of puzzles. I definitely get a bit ‘twitchy’ if I don’t do at least one puzzle a day.  Especially crossword puzzles.  Leaving a pristine black-and-white grid empty is simply not an option for me.  I just have to fill it in . . .

mathBut if I can’t get my itchy wee hands on a crossword puzzle, a logic puzzle will do.  Or a sudoku.  Or a word-search.  Or a word-block.  I even recently attempted a mathematical crossword puzzle and, as I am and always have been, absolutely crap at maths, that really did stretch the old grey matter!  (In the interests of full disclosure I didn’t fully complete that puzzle (algebra—eeerk!) but I did manage to get  a lot of the answers to correlate—so—woohoo—Go Me!)

cart-puzzleSo why is it, do you suppose, that we (and I say we, because I know it is not only me) voluntarily spend hours of our time and energy struggling to solve problems we really don’t have to?  Don’t most of us have enough ordinary, everyday problems to solve already without making more for ourselves?  Apparently not.  Judging by the sheer volume of books, toys, websites and apps I found online devoted entirely to one form of puzzle or another, our appetite for puzzle-solving seems infinite.

puzzleI can’t speak for everyone else (no matter how I try) but there are lots of things I personally like about puzzles.  I like that they seem to relax me (well, not my brain so much—but the rest of me at least).  I like that I can do a puzzle anywhere (not a jigsaw puzzle obviously, but as they are my least favourite puzzle that is not really an issue for me).  I like that I don’t have to clear my schedule to do a puzzleI can start and stop at any time, and go back and finish it later (although preferably not at 2.30am . . . )  I like that puzzles are cheap (I would probably be bankrupt otherwise) and I like that puzzles are silent (I really like that puzzles are silent . . . )

But most of all I like puzzles because they always have a right answer.  I might not always find the right answer—but I know there always is one.

bearPerhaps, in the end, that is why we all like puzzles so much.  There are so many variables in our day-to-day lives.  So many choices.  So many possible-maybes.   Sometimes it just feels really good to deal in absolutes.  With puzzles there are no half measures, no grey areas—the answer is right . . . or it’s not.

There’s something very satisfying about that . . .


Posted by on March 3, 2017 in Uncategorized


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