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‘Did you know that there are over 300 words for love in canine?’ Gabriel Zevin.

When I arrive home after being out of the house all day I am always met at my front door by my small (but extremely loud) pack of fur children (I swear the whole neighbourhood knows when I get home).  Molly will run in circles barking at the top of her lungs.  Mabel will wriggle, grin her lop-sided grin and yip excitedly . . . and then there’s Maudie . . .

Maudie comes at me like a doggie-sunami, sweeping aside anything in her path (including her sisters).  She will shriek with excitement, hopping about on her back legs and waving her front paws wildly in the air, and then, quite suddenly, she will realise something is missing.  She will skid to a halt, do a complete about-face, and hurtle headlong back into the depths of the house in search of that missing something.  She’s forgotten to bring me her ‘Ball’ . . .

Ball is one of Maudie’s 300 words for love.  It is her comfort and joy.  (Think Linus and his blanket.)  She takes her ball to bed with her in the evening, and it is the first thing she looks for in the morning. She takes it outside to sit in the sun with her and it has its own special place beside her on the sofa in the evenings.  The only time I ever see her really upset is if Mabel steals it from her and refuses to give it back.  (This causes such a ruckus that I usually have to intervene on Maudie’s behalf.  Mabel can be a real little *&#% when she wants to be . . . )  

Unfortunately, Ball is now in imminent danger of being loved to death.  Comprised of some sort of dense squishy foam the constant and unyielding onslaught of Maudie-love (along with Mabel nibbling pieces off it occasionally just to stir her sister up) has seen it begin to disintegrate at an alarming rate.  It used to be the size of regular tennis ball, but has now shrunk to the size of a (weirdly shaped) golf ball. What happens when Ball crumbles completely and Maudie is left bereft doesn’t bear thinking about.  So for the last few months I have been quietly searching for some kind of replacement.  It has proved no easy task.

It’s not that Maudie doesn’t love a new toy—quite the opposite.  Every new thing I have brought home for her has been a joy and a delight.  For about five minutes. Then it has been gently discarded and rarely looked at again.  Nothing (so far) has come close to competing for her affections.  I was beginning to despair.  And then a couple of weeks ago I came across a site selling cat balls.  (That doesn’t quite sound right.  Perhaps I should have said ‘ balls for cats’ . . .  )

Anyway, these seemed to be about the same size as Ball is now and made of the same squishy material.  (I couldn’t get a green one but I thought (hoped) that she might be more concerned with the taste and texture than the colour.)  In fact, so convinced was I that these balls were exactly what I was looking for that I bought a bunch of them (6 balls for one dollar.  Woo Hoo!  ‘Hey big spender . . .’ )

When they finally arrived early this week I was so excited to show them to Maudie that I gave them a huge build up.  I worked her up into a frenzy of anticipation as I slowly undid the wrappings.  And she loved it. Her eyes grew wide and she yipped excitedly and pawed at the packet.  I held up one of the new balls and she launched herself at it, grabbed it and took off running.  She ran twice around the house in glee—yay—a new ball!  She threw it in the air and caught it and threw it again.  She took it outside and showed it her favourite sunny spot in the back garden.  She rolled it around in her mouth and chomped on it and even rumbled a warning at Mabel when she wandered too close.

Feeling very pleased with myself and confident I had at least found a contender I took myself off to do a couple of chores and make myself a nice cup of tea.  When I returned I found the living-room littered with shredded wrapping paper (I should have seen that coming) and a scattering of small, brightly coloured balls.

And there was Maudie—fast asleep and snoring happily on the couch . . .

. . . and nestled safely between her two front feet was . . . you guessed it . . . her old, decrepit, smelly, beloved Ball . . .

‘Maudie Maudie Maudie—go find me a ball . . . ‘

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘The palest ink is better than the best memory.’ Chinese Proverb.

I have been feeling a little bit despondent about my sketching lately.  I have still managed to work myself up to doing a bit of drawing during the week but I have felt somewhat . . .  uninspired . . . to say the least.  I look at the fabulous sketches of my fellow online students and arty friends, and see that they have done their sketches ‘on the bus’ or ‘in my lunch break’ or ‘in the doctor’s waiting room’ and I, who have no (valid) excuses for not sketching (and obviously a lot more free time on my hands than some of these people) feel like a complete wastrel.

This feeling is not entirely unexpected of course.  I’m in the doldrums.  It’s happened before and, no doubt, will happen again, but . . .  sigh . . .

In the past, feeling like this has resulted in me stopping drawing altogether, sometimes for years, but I am determined that is not going to happen this time.  I am going to try and push through, and if that means a sketchbook full of crappy, uninspiring sketches, then so be it!   (That sentence was full of false bravado by the way.  ‘So be it!’  Ha!  Who am I kidding?  I still get really upset with myself when I do a crappy, unspired sketch, but I am trying a little positive psychology on myself so I’ll let it go . . . )

In an effort to suck myself into a more positive frame of mind I looked back over my very first sketchbook, which I started last year. In it I found one of the first ‘outdoor’ sketches I attempted.  With it I  wrote — ‘. . .  just to be clear, the pots are actually standing on a garden of bark chips (not just a patch of concrete)—but I have no idea how to draw bark chips so I just pretended they wasn’t there.  I also ignored the rest of the garden—the back fence, the Hills Hoist, the three madcap dogs chasing each other in and around the pots—and anything else that was too hard.  I think that’s called ‘artistic licence’ . . .’

At Sketchbook Skool they teach that there are no ‘bad’ drawings.  Each sketch we do is a learning experience and therefore important in itself.  Although I still struggle internally with this concept (I still believe that some of my drawing ‘experiences’ have been, and continue to be, pretty gruesome) I have tried to take this on board and so, although at times still sorely tempted, I no longer rip these offending pages out of my sketchbooks.  I may not ever show these horrors to anybody else but there they will remainpale (or sometimes scarily bright) memories of my ongoing artistic endeavours.

Finding that earlier sketch put me in mind of another I did, much more recently, of the same garden. It’s from a different angle (it was a cold day so the girls and I sat in the warmest spot we could find) but otherwise much is unchanged.  The bird bath and many of the plants are the same—and I still haven’t worked out how to draw bark chips or the dogs racing around the gardenbut, in spite of that, I do like the second drawing more than the first, and that’s definitely a step in the right direction.

So, sketching slump or no, I will soldier on.  I am not going to give up.  Realistically, how could I anyway?

What on earth would I do with all the cupboards (and drawers and boxes) still full of lovely (empty) sketchbooks. . .  and pens . . . and inks . . .  and pencils . . . and paints . . . and pastels and . . .

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I can resist everything, except temptation.’ Oscar Wilde.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

Why is it, do you think, that the moment I decide—and I am talking the instant the decision is made—that I am (absolutely, definitely, starting right now) going to lose those extra couple of kilos which have somehow sneakily (re)appeared on my already ample backside since this time last year . . . that, suddenly, inexorably, all I can manage to think about is what I am going to eat next . . .

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Come cuddle close in daddy’s coat Beside the fire so bright, And hear about the fairy folk That wander in the night.’ Robert Bird.

Earlier this week I was at the park with the girls and had let them off their leads for a while so they could go exploring.  While they were pottering happily about I stood in a sunny patch of late afternoon sun, looking at the water, not thinking much about anything, until I gradually became aware that someone was standing in front of me, laughing and waving their hands in front of my face.  “Sorry,”  I said, “I didn’t see you there.  I was away with the fairies . . . ”

This is an expression I have long used when (rudely) brought back to reality from some internal mental wandering.  I am not sure when I first heard the phrase or even when I started saying it myself, and I am also sure I never thought much about where the saying came from either—until I recently came across a book which gave me a whole new insight into the mythology, and superstition, of fairies.

fairy1Fairies have never really been on my radar.  I have always loved fantasy books and films but even as a young girl (when young girls are supposed to like these things) I don’t remember being particularly fond of fairies. At least not the type that were around when I was growing up. Those fairies were all delicate gossamer wings and flowers in their hair and danced about mushrooms at the bottom of your garden.  Not really my thing.  (I prefer my fantasy Middle Earth style—with warrior elves and dragons and goblins.  I am a LOTR tragic and make no apologies for it . . . )

But then I read ‘The Good People‘  by Hannah Kent.  This book, based on a true story from 19th century Ireland, tells of three women, a disabled child and a village steeped in folklore and superstition. The fairies (‘the good people’) of this story were as unlike J.M. Barrie’s ‘Tinkerbell’ as anyone could imagine.  They were respected, revered—and feared.  The local villagers believed, beyond doubt, about a nether world populated by all manner of other-worldly creatures, and fairy abduction—the snatching of a healthy infant from its cradle and leaving a ‘changeling’ in its place—was a thing to be feared and protected against at all costs.  Those poor stolen babies were remembered by their kin as being ‘away with the fairies’ . . .

It’s fascinating stuff, and the book is a step back to a time and place few of us can now imagine.  So, if you are looking for a good read—a serious, haunting, bleak, compelling read—this might be well worth your time.

But be warned—you may never think of ‘faerie folk’ the same way again.  I shall certainly think twice about describing myself as sometimes being ‘away with the fairies’.

I now find myself a little more anxious now about what I might meet on the other side . . .

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I believe every woman should own at least one pair of red shoes.’ Terry Tempest Williams.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

Amen to that!!

(I have three pairs of red shoes . . . and one pair of orange . . . and two pairs of blue . . . and several pairs of multi coloured . . .  and six pairs of black . . . and two pairs of grey and . . . well . . . you get the idea . . . )

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘A camel is a horse designed by a committee.’ Alec Issigonis.

Camel milk.  Yes, you heard me right—this post is going to be about camel milk.  Why?  Well, it’s like this . . .

As usual, it got to about Thursday this week before I realised I had not even begun to think about what I might write for my regular Friday post.  (I keep thinking this is going to get easier but it never does.  Sigh.)  Anyway, in a bit of a panic, I went in search of my little ‘blog book’ where (when I think of it) I note down items that have caught my interest and therefore might (hopefully) also be of interest to others.  I hadn’t seen that little book in some time and it took a bit of searching but I eventually found it hidden underneath 4 sketchbooks, 2 pencil cases, a pile of scrap papers and a bunch of crayons which had come loose from their box.  This did not bode well . . .

I sat down and started to read through my notations.  Nope.  Nope.  Done it.  Nope.  Boring.  Sigh.  ‘Why would anyone . . .?  Nope.  Camel milk.  Say what?  Camel milk.  Huh.  I have no recollection of reading, or watching, anything (ever) about camel milk.  I realise of course that camels do produce milk—they have babies after allbut beyond that I don’t recall ever giving it another thought.

But I had noted it in my book and my interest was piqued (again??) so I went in search of camel milk . . .

And guess what?  It turns out that camel milk is the ‘next big thing’!  Who knew?  Not me, and seemingly not very many other Australians either.  Camel milk might be big business elsewhere in the world but in Australia it is still a fledgling industry.  There are only around 10 camel dairies in the whole country but from the amount of buzz online it would seem reasonable to assume that these enterprises are set to expand and develop.  They seem unlikely to have any issues around stocking their dairies at least—Australia is home to the world’s largest population of wild camels.

(Camels were imported here in the early 19th century to be used for transport and heavy work in the outback but when they were no longer needed they were set loose to fend for themselves.  Designed ‘by a committee’ or no, they found themselves particularly suited to the harsh Australian conditions and they throve.  There are now hundreds of thousands of them roaming free across the country.)

Of course, just because there are so many camels wandering free doesn’t mean they are automatically willing to happily stand in line and wait to be milked.  Catching them is difficult (and expensive) and once caught it can then take another 2-6 weeks to train a wild camel to the point where it can be milked. They also yield around four times less milk than a cow, so I guess it is hardly surprising I haven’t spotted camel milk on any of our local supermarket shelves just yet.

But give it time.  These camel dairies (sorry, but that still sounds so weird—’camel dairies’) are gaining momentum and heading out of cottage industry status into more commercial concerns so availability will slowly go up and prices will eventually come down. And, reading the research, there certainly do seem to be significant health benefits (if you are in to that sort of thing).  Camel milk has more fat and protein and less cholesterol than cow’s milk.  It is three times higher in vitamin C than cow’s milk and 10 times higher in iron.  It is also high in unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins but lower in vitamin A and B2.  (Oh, and apparently it tastes good too.)   And if you are not much of a milk drinker (like me—hardly ever touch the stuff) other products like cheese and ice-cream (much more enticing) are now also becoming more widely available.

Wow.  Considering I knew nothing about the subject when I started I seem to have just written a substantial promotional advertisement for the camel milk industry! Yikes!  Sorry about that.  (I swear no one was paying me for it—but perhaps they should have been!)

Still, I have left it all too late to re-write now so there you have it.  Camel milk.
All I have to left to say ishere endeth the lesson!

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Donald Duck. “Quacking” people up since 1934 . . .

A couple of months ago, David, the owner of our local movie house, The Plaza Theatre, asked me to do a tidy-up job on an original 1940s advertising board he had recently acquired.  Having never tackled anything like that before I was a bit nervous about taking it on, but I said I’d give it a try.  

(This was ‘sight unseen’ of course.  When David told me about the board I had it in my head that it was going to be about the size of a sandwich-board, so I was somewhat taken aback when he brought it around and I realised it was actually taller than I was!!)

I regret now not taking a photo of it as soon as it arrived it but I didn’t think about at the time.  By the time I did think about it (first photo below) I had already spent two days cleaning, scrubbing and hand-sanding 60 years of dirt, mould and general ickiness off it.  (My girls helped, as you might imagine.)  It had seen some wear and tear for sure.  The sides and edges were particularly knocked about, and it was covered in dings, dents and cracks, along with thousands of pin holes and lots of tiny little (almost invisible) nails (possibly the remnants of long-ago staples) which I discovered when I started sanding and repeatedly caught my fingers on.  (I can honestly say I worked on this until my fingers bled . . . )

It took a couple of weekends and a good deal of trial and error as to what materials to use (and not to use) and many repeated admonitions to the girls of  “No.  NO.  NO!  Go over there.  Go sit over there. You’re good girls, but PLEASE DON’T STAND ON THE BOARD!”, but in the end it was done, and I was reasonably pleased with the final result.  It was a fun project and I enjoyed having a try at something a bit different.

To cap the whole experience off, David unexpectedly gave me a bunch of free movie tickets for my efforts as well!!  Woo Hoo!!

A few fun facts about Donald Duck . . . .

Donald Fauntleroy Duck was created by Walt Disney when he heard Clarence Nash doing his “duck” voice while reciting Mary Had a Little Lamb.  Nash voiced the character from 1934 to 1983.

Donald first appeared on the silver screen on June 9, 1934, in the animated short film, The Wise Little Hen, dancing to the Sailor’s Hornpipe. He then went on to star in seven feature films and won an Oscar in 1943 for ‘Der Feuhrer’s Face’.

Donald has an uncle (Scrooge McDuck) a girlfriend named Daisy, a twin sister named Dumbella, and three mischievous nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie . . .

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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