Tag Archives: children

“Sometimes,’ said Pooh, ‘the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” A.A. Milne.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I recently saw the new movie ‘Christopher Robin’.  It was (perhaps predictably) very sweet (although not sickly sweet enough as to cause a sugar coma) and, as an early and adoring reader of A.A Milne (especially the poems . . . ‘I found a little beetle; so that Beetle was his name . . . ‘) evoked nostalgic memories of happy times I spent along with C.R. and his friends on their many rambling adventures around the Hundred Acre Wood . . .

Now I know that movies are movies and real life is real life and movies (more often than not) take diabolical liberties with the truth (the real Christopher Robin was probably turning in his grave) but the one thing I especially liked about this movie was that all the little critters actually looked like the real toys I had always imagined them to be, rather than the prettied up Disney versions that have so eclipsed E.H. Shepard’s wonderful original drawings.

Pooh and Piglet and Tigger and Eeyore (‘ . . . it’s not much of a tail but I’m sort of attached to it . . . ‘)  were all a little careworn and grubby and frayed around the edges—just as any much-loved childhood toy should be.

Below is (most obviously, I hope) not a sketch of that most beloved and humble Winnie.  It is, however, a sketch of another bear who carries the same telltale scars of being on the receiving end of a lifetime of deep love and devotion . . .

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Posted by on September 28, 2018 in Uncategorized


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‘Never have more children than you have car windows.’ Erma Bombeck.

I think Erma Bombeck is being rather optimistic here, implying at least some form of orderly conduct is possible as long as each child has a window of their own.  Then again, I imagine she was probably also talking about children of the two-legged variety, rather than those of the fourlegged persuasion.  Anyone who has ever had more than one dog in a car at any given time will know that, no matter how many available windows there might be, every dog will be absolutely desperate to look out of the exact same one . . .

Adding to the general car-chaos in my household is the fact that none of my girls actually like being in the car in the first place.  Even when I do get a day when it appears they have all decided to be good and are happy, smiling and sitting nicely, I can almost guarantee that before we are even out of the driveway they will have somehow managed to transform themselves into a confused and tangled little mass of collars, leads, legs and grumbly, snappy little faces.

(And if (God help me) one of them also gleans that we might actually be on the way to the v.e.t. instead of the beach, any hope of establishing the slightest modicum of doggy-decorum immediately flies out of the very same window they are all still arguing about . . . )

And the fun doesn’t stop there.  By the time we eventually arrive at our destination all three of them will have wound themselves up into such a frenzied state that I will need all my wits about me to get them out of the car again.

I know that as soon as I open the car door Maudie will make her break for freedomand she is fast!!  I have to make myself as large as possible in the doorway and make sure I have her leash well in hand before I allow her any space to move at all.  (Still being clipped in to her seatbelt has never been an issue when trying to escape the car . . . )

While attempting to wrangle Maudie I will also be watching Molly as she is always an accident waiting to happen.  Molly is somewhat clumsy on her feet these days (and a tad portly to boot) and if she were to jump from the car without my help she would be more than likely break whatever leg she landed on first or even completely forget to put her legs under her at all and bellyflop hard on to the ground.  (She’s knocked all the wind out of herself one more than one occasion!)  She is also a slippery little sucker when she doesn’t want to be caught . . .

And, of course, by the time I have cornered Molly and placed her gently on the ground next to Maudie, I am likely to find that Maudie is, actually, no longer where I thought she was.  Somehow she has managed to get herself back inside the car again (why?  why?) and is now hiding beside her sister Mabel, who has positioned herself (immovable as a rock) as far away from me as she possibly can, having obviously decided that no matter how much she hates the car whatever is outside is much, much worse.  Sigh.

I’ve been considering for a while now what best to do about the situation.  Apart from never (ever ever)  taking the girls in the car again which, unfortunately, isn’t really feasible, I’ve decided that something similar to the option below might be the way to go.

I’m not quite sure about the legal ramifications though . . .


Posted by on September 14, 2018 in Uncategorized


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‘Simply because the nanny-state wants to hug you doesn’t mean it’s not tyrannical if you don’t want to be hugged.’ Jonah Goldberg

Australia has always been known as a relaxed, laid back sort of place.  A country that praises character, individuality and celebrates the weird and the wonderful.  People are known to be easy-going, generous and generally hard to ruffle and any slight indiscretions are more likely to be met with a ‘No worries, mate, she’ll be right’ attitude rather than a standup argument or a psychotic rant on social media.  Well, that certainly used to be the case but lately I fear our live-and-let-live attitude is being sorely tested on a daily basis . . .

I absolutely understand the need for rules and regulations.  People need to feel safe, comfortable and deserve not to have their individual rights stomped on by those of a less considerate nature and although I may not agree with them all I have never considered myself to be a rule-breaker.  (A rule-bender, perhaps—it would be kind of un-Australian not to be—but not a rule breaker.)   At least I thought that was the case butwowit seems I was mistaken.  Looking around at the multitude of do-not-must-not-absolutely-definitely-prohibited signage I see these days it is quite possible that I (and probably everyone else I know) have been easily breaking at least one law every day without even realising it, just by quietly going about my humdrum life.  And it is really beginning to bother me.  Maybe it is my age (ahem) but I suddenly find myself becoming very, very tired of seeing ‘not allowed’ every time I turn around . . .

I can’t quite remember what prompted the conversation but earlier this week we spent a very funny morning-tea happily reminiscing and relating tales (and hilarious consequences) of some of the games we used to play as kids.  Among them were British Bulldog, Red Rover, Dodgeball, Freeze Tag and Scrag.  (That last one I hadn’t heard of but the college manager (who is a Kiwi) assured us that dropping a rag into a rain puddle (of which there were always plenty) until it was saturated and then hurling it at your friends, was an absolute hoot . . . )  

None of the games we loved best would ever be allowed in today’s school yards of course (although how a person is ever expected to get through life without learning how to  ‘duck’ is beyond me).  Even seemingly simple pursuits like running, jumping or cartwheeling are now frowned upon at some schools, and in NSW and Victoria swings, see-saws, flying foxes and roundabouts have already been banned.  The once staple of our playgrounds, the monkey bars, have also been removed from many schools.  (I know I have never had children of my own and am therefore not allowed an opinion but—really?)  

Of course, children now will grow up dealing with the laws that are in place today and they know no different, so I guess this does set them up well for when they eventually become adults and have to deal with the morass of (ever-increasing) rules they will have to learn to live by.

Still, it seems a shame to me that many children today will never grow up to knowing the pleasures of playing frisbee or sand volleyball on the beach (so dangerous!) or riding a bicycle without a helmet (how all those Europeans manage to stay alive is a miracle) or, when older, having a quiet beer or glass of wine sitting in the sun while watching their own kids play in the local park while celebrating Grandma Alice’s 95th birthday.  (Good luck finding a park that will allow you to bring beer or wine and please also remember, if Grandma’s family revellers number over 20 people you’ll need a special permit to use the park for your picnic . . . and don’t you dare bring the dog!)

Ohand by then of course, everyone in their family will probably, by law, have to be wear a hat, and protective eyewear and ankle-to wrist-coverings before being allowed to venture out into the lovely Australian sunshine because, naturally, your average Australian obviously cannot be trusted to decide for themselves whether they are likely to get sunburnt or not.

Do I sound like I am over-exaggerating?  GodI hope so.

Now look what’s happened.  Writing about this has made me all bad-tempered and cross.  Still, hopefully, sooner or later, a lot of other people are going to become bad-tempered and cross about it too and decide enough is enough with the silly minutae (perhaps we should start teaching the concept of personal responsibility again—there’s a thought) and maybe we can persuade the government to spend their time and energy (and our money) on more pressing issues and leave some of us lesser mortals to work out some of the smaller details ourselves.  I guess time will tell.

So anywaythat’s my rant for this week and now I find I have only one more thing to say on the subject of our burgeoning nanny-state. . .

(. . . but don’t get caught doing this either.  The Crimes Amendment (Sexual Offences) Act of 2016 bans mooning (and streaking).  First time offenders face up to 2 months in jail . . . )


Posted by on November 10, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘OK, this is a secret, but I think that nursery rhymes are the most relaxing and fun songs.’ Karisma Kapoor.

Last Sunday Maudie came to me and dropped her little black Sheep onto my lap.  It’s not what you’re thinking.  She has not suddenly chosen Sheep to be a replacement for her beloved (and rapidly disintegrating) Ball.  Nor did she even want to play.  It’s just that, on occasion, Maudie will appear at my side carrying one of her many (many) toys and nudge me with it until I take it from her. Once I have done so (and thanked her profusely) she will smile happily and wander away.  I am not sure why she does this. Perhaps she just thinks I look like I need a toy to play with  . . .

Anyway, on this particular occasion I decided to indulge her and play with her toy. Or at least make a quick sketch of it, which is kind of like playing.  As I sketched, I sang the old nursery rhyme ‘Baa baa black sheep . . . ‘ to Maudie (she likes me to sing to her—honest) and that set me to wondering . . . is there anyone around who doesn’t know that nursery rhyme?  I mean, it feels like it’s been around for.ev.ah.  (Well, not quite.  I looked it up.  It was first published in 1744 in what is believed to be the earliest surviving collection of nursery rhymes—’Tommy Thumbs Pretty Song Book’.  Perhaps forever’ was overstating it somewhat.  Suffice to say it’s been around a loooong time.)

I remember hearing a while back that there was talk of banning this nursery rhyme in some kindergartens because of it’s ‘racist’ overtones.  Well, I am not even going to go there (good grief) but when I researched where the rhyme originated it seems that it was actually written as a bit of a diatribe on the harsh tax on wool in feudal England—one-third would be taken for the king and nobility, and one-third for the church, which consequently left very little for the farmers . . . or the little shepherd boy ‘who lives down the lane’.

On further reading I discovered that other nursery rhymes (like many fairy tales) also had pretty gruesome origins. Take the lovely ‘Mary Mary quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells And pretty maids all in a row’.  Sounds like a lovely little ditty about a girl and her garden doesn’t it?  Nope.  Many believe the original Mary to be the Catholic Queen ‘Bloody Mary’ and her garden was actually a graveyard which she filled with unlucky Protestants.  The ‘silver bells and cockle shells’ were instruments of torture and the ‘. . . pretty maids (or maidens) all in a row . . .’ were guillotines!  Lovely.

And there’s ‘Ring around the Rosy, a pocketful of posies. . .’  What harm could there possibly be in that?  Well, only that you might actually be singing about the symptoms of the bubonic plague which included a rosy red rash in the shape of a ring on the skin. People often filled their pockets with sweet smelling herbs (posies) due to the belief that the disease could be spread by bad smells.  ‘Ashes, ashes, we all fall down . . . ‘  Eeerk.

After reading a few more of these origin stories I have decided I am not going to do at any more research on this subject.  Karisma Kapoor’s ‘relaxing and fun songs’ now seem a tad disturbing to say the least.  I won’t be able to sing nursery rhymes to Maudie ever again without wondering what the hell I am really singing about.  Never mind.  I’ll go back to my old standard instead.

There couldn’t possibly be any troubling undertones in ‘You are my sunshine, my only sunshine . . . ‘  Could there???


Posted by on September 29, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘My name is Arsenio. That’s a very unique name for a black man. In Greek, it means Leroy.’ Arsenio Hall.

I have been thinking about names a lot this week.  Why?  I am not really sure.  I don’t recall thinking about people’s names all that much before—aside perhaps from the usual eye-rolling on reading the latest celebrity-baby-name revelation in the latest gossip rag . . . (Aha—I think I may have just answered my own question . . . )sally1

I have always been quite happy with my own name and never wished it to be anything else.  (‘Sally’ is a diminutive of the more traditional ‘Sarah’.)  It is a fairly ordinary name (compared to some) and you wouldn’t think it liable to upset anyone unduly—unless, possibly, you live in Morocco.  Apparently, in Morocco your child’s name must reflect ‘Moroccan identity’, so although you may legally name your baby ‘Sara’ (the Arabic version), you may not name her ‘Sarah’ (the Hebrew version).

whatnameThat’s okay.  As my birth certificate actually states my name to be ‘Sally’ rather than ‘Sarah’, this may, hopefully, be enough to keep me out of trouble should I ever decide to visit Morocco, but it also makes me wonder—if a name as simple as Sarah can be deemed illegal in a country because of the letter ‘h’, how are some of this generation’s children, many of whom have, shall we say, increasingly ‘interesting’ personal monikers, ever going to be able to go out and about travelling the world without causing some sort of major international incident?

And I am not only talking about celebrity baby name choices either.  (Admit it—you thought of a couple of those right away too didn’t you?) Well, it seems there are plenty of ordinary people out there who are ready, willing and (seemingly) able to give their children the most extraordinary and bizarre names imaginable.

icelandMost countries do have laws in place about what you may or may not call your children, and some are stricter than others.  In Germany, you must be able to tell the gender of the child by the first name, and the name chosen must not be negatively affect the well being of the child. In Iceland the name must only contain letters in the Icelandic alphabet, and must fit grammatically with the language (so no Caroline or Christine as there is no letter ‘c’ in Icelandic.)  Denmark has a list of 7,000 pre-approved baby names.  If parents want a name that is not on that list they must get special permission from their local church and then it must be reviewed by government officials.

bensonNew Zealand also requires parents to run prospective names by the government.  Its naming rules are similar to those of Australia but recent applications received by their authorities seem just a tad more ‘out there’.  Over the last few years New Zealand has repeatedly rejected applications for people to name their children Lucifer, Christ, Mafia No Fear, 4Real and Anal. (Seriously.)  However, in spite of rejecting those names, in 2008 the same authorities made international headlines when they allowed a set of twins to be named ‘Benson’ and ‘Hedges’ and also agreed to the name ‘Number 16 Bus Shelter’ . . .  (I really feel that I should comment on this, but honestly, speechless . . . )

uniqueAlthough I am not a parent (to any two legged children at least) I do understand that some parents might want their child’s name to be special or unique, and I think that is a lovely idea.  I am also not entirely averse to being a bit imaginative or creative with spelling choices (and you might have to be if you live in Morocco or Iceland), but, in all seriousness, one would hope that any parent might give at least a moment’s thought to the fact that said child will have to go through a significant portion of his life having to bear that nameat least until they are old enough to throw themselves upon the mercy of the courts to have it changed.

So, anyone out there in the position of thinking of naming a child, I have only one thing more to say.  Enjoy the process!   Have fun.  Be original . . . be innovative . . . be creative . . .  and, please . . . be kind.

And spare a thought for the eight year old girl who was removed into care because her parents refused her appeals to have her name changed from ‘Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii’.  I kid you not . . .


Posted by on December 2, 2016 in Uncategorized


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‘Every dog should have a boy.’ Mr Peabody.

boy runningWe  had a little visitor to our house last weekend (and no, unlike most of our visitors, he did not have four legs.  This little man had only two legs—although he often moved fast enough to make you believe he might have had four).  His name is Ryan.

Ryan’s nanna, Pam, is good friend of mine and her daughter Emily and grandson Ryan were in town visiting for the Easter week, so we had some fun ‘catching up’.  I was struck at how much Ryan had changed since I last saw him.  He is looking more like a proper ‘little boy’ to me now—although at 2-and-a-half years I imagine he is technically a ‘toddler’?? (Not having had children of my own, I am happy to stand corrected.)

pets welcome(For those of you who don’t know me, I thought I would just point out that not having children was a deliberate choice for me, and one I have never regretted.  I don’t want to offend anyone but, as a general rule (and with notable exceptions of course) I just really prefer dogs to children.  A copy of the ‘Pets Welcome . . .  ‘ sign, left, really is on my front door.)

Anyway, during the week of the visit we were all chatting and decided it might be fun if Pam, Em and Ryan all came over to my house so that Ryan could meet ‘my girls’.  Pam is a regular visitor but Em hadn’t been over in a long while, and Ryan never. I was curious to see how my girls would react.

As you might already have guessed, my girls are not used to children.  We see them when we are out and about on our walks of course, and because the girls are all so small and cute, children often come running up to us to ‘see the puppies’. dog paws on headThe sudden onslaught of a group of children (i.e. more than one child at a time) will often send them into ‘silly as a box of frogs’ mode and scatter them in all directions, but they will, on occasion (and if I hold on to their collars and cajole them a bit) deign to be patted . . . if the children aren’t too big or too loud . . . or on bikes . . . or scooters . . . or skateboards . . . or carrying fishing rods . . . or wearing red . . .

But even though they are often jumpy and nervous around children, I have never worried that they might bite a child.  Experience has shown me that when they get scared Maude will stand her ground bravely (directly behind me) and bark like a maniac, Mabel will try desperately to climb up my leg until she is picked up, and Molly will turn tail and run for her life.  Biting (happily) does not seem to be in their repertoire.

nobarkAnd, true to form, when Ryan appeared in their living room, Mabel begged to be picked up, Maude set off a volley of barks worthy of a dog three times her size (all the time making sure that either I or the coffee table was between her and the small scary person) . . . and Molly ran and hid under the sofa (and also barked, just in case Maudie wasn’t getting the point across).

They needn’t have worried.  As it turned out Ryan was much more interested in the house itself than he was in them, at least to start with (perhaps they have a budding designer or architect on their hands?)  While we adults chatted (and attempted to calm the dogs down) Ryan took himself off on a little inspection tour of the house and garden, pottering in and out of the rooms and making mental notes, with Maudie shadowing him (from a safe distance) the whole time.

Ryan's Notes

Ryan’s Notes

Having completed his visual inspection he then set about ‘collecting’ items from around the house—a couple of pens, a notebook, my glassesand disappeared down the hallway happily humming to himself.   We laughed, wondering was was going on in his head, until his mum got a little nervous when it all went very quiet (even I know that can be a bad sign) and went in search of him.  We found him sitting quietly on the couch in my office, still humming to himself, wearing my glasses and writing in my ‘blog’ book.  (I had a look in that book later.  He has made copious notes but I am not quite sure yet if they are notes on the state of repair of my house and garden, or new ideas for my blog.  When I decode them I will let you know.)

So, although I am not sure my girls will agree with Mr. Peabody’s statement just yet—the visit turned out to be a great success.  And I could tell that my girls, albeit reluctantly at first, were actually starting to enjoy themselves.  When Ryan had finished compiling his notes he came back out in the living room and started to interact with the dogs.  Very funnyand very loud.  My girls don’t seem to be able to ‘play’ quietly. Maudie even managed to learn to bark with her ball still in her mouth. Quite a feat I thought.

apology(And here is a good spot to put in an apology to Scott, Ryan’s dad, who rang his wife hoping to get a lovely ‘facetime’ chat with his family while he was away on his trip overseas, only to be met by a scene of absolute bedlam with Ryan running, dog’s barking, spray-bottle squirting (and that’s a whole other story) and no chance of making himself heard above the din at all. Sorry Scottie.)

snoopy kissAs the visit wound down, and in calmer moments, Ryan did manage to get sloppy kisses from both Mabel and Maude (in his eye and up his nose) which he seemed quite happy about.  Molly got pats from her favourite Auntie Pammy and I myself got to have several long chatty conversations with Ryan which I enjoyed very much. 

(Thankfully Ryan’s mum and nanna were on hand to help with the trickier translations.  I am fluent in several dialects of ‘dog’, and have a smattering of ‘cat’—but ‘toddlerspeak’—not so much.  If I were more fluent I would have asked him the next day why all my drink coasters (which I hadn’t even realised were missing) were later found arranged in a very intricate pattern around the bathroom floor. Perhaps there is something about that in his notes . . . . )

snoreAnyway, I am not sure how Ryan slept that night but the afternoon’s excitement was all too much for the girls.   The three of them were fast asleep and snoring almost before Ryan was even packed up in the car and out of the driveway.  And, as lovely as the afternoon was, I know exactly how they felt . . . .

P.S.  Sad news yesterday that Ryan’s great-grandfather, Bobby, passed away this week, aged 85.
I met Bobby several times over the years and he was a lovely, sweet and gentle man and will be missed by all his family and friends.


Posted by on April 8, 2016 in Uncategorized


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