Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
Wishing a very happy and safe Christmas to you all.
Mabel, Maude, Molly and I hope that every single one of you discovers a new favourite thing this Christmas . . .
It’s that time of year again folks (can you believe it?) and I assume many of us are now knee (neck??) deep into their preparations for the fast-approaching ‘silly season’.
We’re making our lists (and checking them twice) . . . and then we’re re-writing those lists (at least four times) because the dog ate the first one and the second went astray somewhere . . . and then we had to make absolutely-positively-and-for-sure nothing whatsoever was left off . . . and then we had to do it all over again to make sure it was colour-coded in order of priority . . . We even delegated some of the jobs to friends and family (why shouldn’t they get to join in the fun?)—before waking up in a cold sweat at 2.00am the next morning to the perfect certainty that none of those jobs were ever going to get done unless we did them all ourselves . . .
And the party lights and sparkly decorations and (slightly worn and wonky) Christmas tree need to go up, like, right now! (preferably out of reach of next door’s cat . . . ) but we’re not quite sure where they are. We know we packed them all away safely last year but they’re not quite where we remembered they’d be. Maybe they got moved into the garage?
And the food! Oh good grief—the food! All the food needs to be organised and prepared—and taste tested (can’t possibly be anything other than fabulous for the visitors. OMG the visitors! Did we all add ‘scour the house’ to our lists??)
Okay—I’m teasing. Well, sort of. I admit I don’t spend a lot of time or energy in preparation for Christmas. I make one list and then it’s done. I haven’t put up a Christmas tree in years (although I do have a rather cool tin Santa which sits on my dining room table) and decorating the house itself and then leaving the dogs alone in it seems to be just asking for trouble. Nor do I cook—but if you have been following my blog at all over the last few years you already knew that!
But I do like to shop and I do love to buy presents for friends and family so there’s every reason to celebrate right there. And I know Christmas is supposed to be all about giving rather than receiving and I’m all for that . . . but, you know, I reckon if I am out and about looking for that one last perfect gift to finally cross everything off my list and I just happen to come across a pair of shoes that would go perfectly with my new blue dress . . . or some spunky new cushions for my living room . . . or those new paints I saw on-line . . . well . . . I can’t see that it wouldn’t be so very bad to treat myself to a little something too.
So—as I am sure you are all excruciatingly aware—the end of this year is upon us and the start of a brand new year is fast approaching. I am not quite sure how that happened again so soon (it feels like I have just gotten over last Christmas and New year) but nevertheless here it is and so it seems like a fitting time for a little self-reflection. (You have my permission to run screaming from the building . . . )
When I started this blog in 2015, I admit, it was on a bit of a whim. I didn’t know anything about the mechanics of blogging, and in fact, I don’t think I even read any kind of blog on a regular basis. I can only imagine that it ‘seemed a good idea at the time’. I was doing a bit of writing for the college brochure (just a paragraph a term) and perhaps thought it might be fun to see if I had anything to say on more a regular basis.
(Well—that’s the party line. In all honesty I was probably bored rigid and looking for a new ‘project’. I think I probably fully expected that I would give it a go for a couple of months and then it would all fizzle out, like so many other of my pet projects—’Cure for an obsession: get another one’—Mason Cooley . . . )
Anyhoooo—imagine my surprise then when last week I realised that I have actually been posting my scribbles and sketches for over two years now! Two years! That seems incredible to me and I was immediately prompted to ask myself a couple of questions. One: what did I do with my ‘spare’ time before I started blogging? . . . and Two: what on earth did I find to write about during those last two years?
I have no idea what the answer is to question number one (slept more, probably) but the answer to question number two seems to be anything and everything . . . and (often) nothing of consequence at all. Taking some time to go back and re-read some of my much earlier posts has been a weird experience. Some of it I remember writing and some of it not at all. Some of the writing seems quite readable (trying to look at it objectively) but at other times I wonder what on earth I was thinking. Very strange.
I have never considered myself a natural writer and I have never found writing easy (you know those people that say ‘the writing just flows out of me . . .’? Well, bully for them. Personally, I just want to poke their eyes out with a sharp stick) but I do think I assumed it would get easier the more I wrote. It seems like I was kidding myself for, in fact, I found almost the exact opposite to be the case. I am not even sure whether this is a good thing or a bad. Is the writing getting more difficult because I am trying harder—or am I just running out of things to blather about?
So, here’s the thing. Here’s what I have been asking myself. Should I continue? Should I continue to write my weekly missives or have I run my course? Seriously. I’m asking. I don’t think I am ready to stop writing entirely (although there are certainly days . . . ) but then perhaps I have already passed my ‘use-by-date’ and you lovely people who regularly drop in to catch up with me are just all too polite to tell me.
I have been going back and forth about it in my mind for a couple of months now and I have decided I need to clear my head. I am therefore going to give myself a couple of weeks off. I mean really ‘off’. The college closes next week and I will be away from the office for three whole weeks!!! During that time I have determined I am going to do as little as humanely possible (perhaps I should say as little as ‘doggily’ possible. My girls have it down to a very fine art and I am going to observe them closely . . . ) and that includes taking some time off from writing this blog too. (Was that a collective sigh of relief I just heard?)
So dear readers, I am going to now take this opportunity to thank you all for following me thus far and for your much valued friendship and support. I’ve learnt a lot, I’ve made some fabulous new friends and I’ve even reconnected with some very old friends again too. It’s been great.
But for right now Winnie and I need to take a bit of a break from thinking so hard, so I want to wish you all a very happy and safe and carefree Christmas (eat, drink and be (really, really) merry!) and a fabulous start to the New Year and, with a bit of luck, a much clearer head (and I’m hoping a vastly renewed enthusiasm) I look forward to seeing you all again in early 2018 . . .
As I am sure you all realise we are fast coming up to the end of another year. Yay! But also—Yikes! I’m not at all ready for it. Well—yes I am, but also, no, I’m not, if you know what I mean. I am really looking forward to the Christmas break when I know I can take a couple of weeks off and just lie around the house and veg out (no phones, no computers, no students!) and play with my girls, go to the movies, do some sketching and catch up on my reading (and sleep)—but I am also very aware there is still so much I have to do before then.
To tell you the truth my brain aches. I have never had any trouble relaxing my muscles—in fact you could say I am a bit of an expert at it (sloth is my favourite deadly sin)—but my brain is a whole other story. Although I can see Stirling Moss’s point about not relaxing your brain totally, it would be kind of nice to at least be able to switch it down a notch—or three. I like to think I am pretty good at dropping into relaxation mode when I need to and I can’t say I consciously feel overly stressed about anything—but every now and again my brain likes to kick in and and remind me that I am obviously not as good at switching off as I think I am.
This past week I have woken every morning around 2.00am (wide awake—bam!) to find my mind running through lists of things that really (really, really) have to be done this week. Because once they are done—there are all these other things that need to be done the week after that . . . and the week after that . . .
‘. . . the festive season is thundering towards me and I have barely given it a moment’s thought . . . the car has to go to the garage on Friday for its MOT . . . got to think about the new term timetable now ‘cos if it’s left until the New Year all hell will break loose . . . I have a house inspection this week, I’d better get go over it once more to keep the rental people happy . . . did I actually transfer those last course results on to that other database, or just think I did? . . . I’ve got to get the brochure away to the printers at the end of next week . . . Marg’s puppy is coming to stay with us for the weekend (shhhh, I haven’t told the girls yet) . . . what the hell am I going to write for this week’s blog . . . ‘
You know, that kind of thing. Sigh.
Of course I am no different to anyone else and, if I am perfectly honest, my life is undoubtedly much less complicated and a lot less busy than many others—but there you are. It’s not their brains keeping me up at night, it’s mine. It’s not as if I can do all that much about it either (short of getting really really good at meditation in a hurry and that seems unlikely) and I do know that all these ‘things-that-need-to-be-done-right-now’ will eventually resolve themselves in due course. They always do. (In other words, suck it up and ride it out Sal.)
But you know, in spite of knowing all that—sometimes . . . just sometimes . . . it does a body a world of good just to have a bloody good grumble about it anyway . . .
Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
Pressies are wrapped, tagged and ready to be distributed (please don’t let me have forgotten anyone because I really don’t think I could face having to go back to the shops again today . . . ) The fridge is full of yummy food and drink (‘we elves like to stick to the four main food groups’) and I can’t think of a single thing I still have to do. Sigh. I might even go and have a little nap . . .
Christmas I am ready for you. Bring it on . . .
Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
I had the telly on a lot last weekend. I admit, most of the time I wasn’t even watching it, it was just background noise. But every now and then, when I needed a break, I’d stop what I was doing, go make a cup of tea and settle myself onto the couch and ‘drop in’ to watching whatever was on at that moment.
This time of year, of course, it’s pretty much Christmas movie after Christmas movie. Many of them I have seen before (some of them I can even recite the dialogue . . . ) and most are fun to watch again (although, even at this time of year I can only digest so much sugar . . . ) but it still strikes me every year how seriously weird it is to be watching Christmas movies where everything is all over ice and snow, everyone is rugged up in coats, scarves and boots—and I am dressed in a sun-frock and have all the doors and windows open hoping to catch even the slightest of breezes . . .
I am not complaining. At all. I spent a number of Christmasses in Europe (albeit many years ago now) and although I have very fond memories of them I honestly do not miss that kind of cold. It looks all very lovely and romantic on chocolate boxes and yuletide cards and in Christmas movies, but the day to day getting about and living in it is a whole different story. So, weird as it feels sometimes, I am quite content to watch those kind of Christmasses from afar.
But to my friends and family overseas who do enjoy a cold and frosty Christmas—go for it! Eat, Drink and be Merry! (You can fill me in on the details later . . . )
The girls and I are thinking of you all . . . and sending warm (literally) and sandy hugs across the miles . . .
Well—that’s it. Today ends my last full week of work for another year. I will be in the office on Monday and Tuesday next week but, hopefully, just ‘tidying up’. (Actually, I take that back. If you are a work colleague reading this and have just remembered something you need to forward to me for completion before the Christmas break—I am absolutely, positively NOT going to be in the office next Monday and Tuesday.) On Wednesday I will be joining the rest of my College colleagues at our Staff Christmas Lunch (we’re going back to Oasis as we had such a good time there last year) and then I am on holiday. Woo Hoo!
Since people found out I am going to be away from the office for the next three weeks (that is worth saying again—three weeks!) I have constantly been quizzed on where will I be going, what will I be doing, what plans do I have for my time off? Well, I am here to tell you people—I have one plan, and one plan only. I plan to be flat out busy doing nothing . . .
Does this sound all very familiar?
Well it is. It is exactly what I did this time last year, and it worked so well for me then that I have decided to do it all over again. I know from experience that the time will go by in a flash and before I know it I will be back in the office, head down, bum up and starting all over again . . .
Time is a weird thing isn’t it? It is an oft-observed phenomenon that time seemed to pass much more slowly when we were younger. When we were kids each hour spent indoors in the classroom seemed to double in length as the day stretched on; the term between Christmas and Easter holidays was excruciatingly drawn out, and we hung out for birthdays which never seemed to come around often enough.
On the plus side, summer holidays (when we finally got to them) stretched out in an endless stream of hot days spent outside, trips to the beach, eating ice-lolls and watermelon, and (in my case) getting horrific sunburn and sand in places it just really wasn’t meant to be. (To be fair, people with school-aged children probably still feel that summer holidays are endless—but for totally different reasons.) Tempus fugit. Now it seems to me that Christmas and Easter may as well be the same festivity for the space we get between them, holidays are still fun but are over in the blink of an eye—
and, well, don’t get me started on how often birthdays come around!
I wonder why the passage of time seems to pass so differently at various stages of our lives?
One theory is that each unit of time that you live through is only a small portion of your total experience, so, for example, for a one year old child, one year is, literally, a lifetime. To a ten year old, a year is one tenth of their total experience, and so their ‘clock’ has really just begun to move. For those who are 70, 80 or 90, one year is nearer to 1% of their total life experience and so the shorter time that is left races ahead and the past stretches out far behind. Or, perhaps it all has to do with ‘anticipation’ and ‘retrospection’ . . .
Why time passes the way it does doesn’t really matter though, does it (and reading up on the psychological, philosophical or physical theories on time can just about do your head in. . . ) so I am just going to accept it for what it is.
I am going to take this time to relax and recharge. I am not going to feel pressured into thinking I should be doing something . . . anything . . . with my precious time off.
Feel free to join me—we’ll find a quiet spot, open a bottle and put our feet up . . .
“Only 15 Sleeps to Christmas” the sign outside one of our local shops shrieked at me as I walked past today. Oh good grief! That means I should probably have posted the family’s gifts off to England weeks ago. Now they might get them in time for Easter next year (if they’re lucky). Sigh.
It’s no good . . . I really do have to ‘get with the programme’. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about how quickly Christmas is closing in on me, because I have. (How could anyone not—with the constant bombardment of Christmas shopping and food catalogues, bouncing elves and those incessant Jingle-Bell ditties which have been playing in every supermarket and boutique since early November . . . how those poor shop assistants do not go into complete meltdown and start poking candy canes into customers’ eyes long before Christmas Day arrives is beyond me . . . )
However . . . as I was saying . . . I have (honestly) been giving some thought to the holiday season—albeit possibly only in the deep, dark recesses of my mind—and I do distinctly remember thinking about putting a Christmas List together way back in September . . . and then again in October . . . and then reminding myself again in November that Christmas wasn’t all that far away . . .
What I try to do, of course, is buy potential Christmas gifts for friends and family throughout the year, wherever and whenever I see them—because I want to choose something a person will really, really like, rather than a last minute rushed ‘Oh my gosh this will do’ sort of present. So when I see the perfect gift I buy it, put it aside, and by the time Christmas comes around I am then (hopefully) well ahead of the game. This makes perfect sense to me.
What doesn’t make so much sense, however, is that I always seem to pack these lovely purchases away and store them ‘somewhere safe’—and then promptly forget all about them! Not only that, but when I do eventually come across them again (often after Christmas is long gone) I have usually forgotten who I bought them for in the first place, because, apparently, I also think my memory is good enough not to warrant the attachment of a quick post-it note with a name on it . . .
15 days. Mmmmmm. That’s okay. I can do this. There’s still plenty of time left to get everything done. All I need is a plan . . .
So—from this weekend I am going to make a determined effort to ‘get into the spirit’ of it all. I am going to drag out my Christmas decorations (kicking and screaming from their dusty boxes) and shooz up the house. The girls will love that. (Oh Oh. Thinking of the girls has just made me remember—Cinder is coming to stay this weekend. Remember Cinder—the now six-month old cavoodle puppy who stayed with us back in September? She is a darling girl but there is such a thing as tempting fate. A boisterous puppy, tinsel, and sparkly balls? I mean . . . what could possibly go wrong . . . )
I am also going to scour the house for buried treasures as there are bound to be all sorts of surprises hidden in the unlikeliest of places. I might even score a couple of nice little pressies for myself . . . you know . . . if earlier purchases are no longer needed, or inappropriate, or might look better on me . . .
Then I am going to finalise my ‘List’ (after I have started it of course). I’ll wrap and tag what I found during my treasure hunt, decide on what I still need to buy (online shopping here I come) and then . . . if we are talking about getting into the Christmas Spirit—I might just have to finish the weekend off with a nice bottle of something red, along with an assortment of Christmas yummies (which I have been studiously avoiding until now but which really do need to be taste-tested before I could possibly send them out as gifts . . . I’m a good friend like that . . . )
12 sleeps to Christmas.
I have a plan.
She’ll be right . . .
3.42am and I was woken by an earsplitting, inhuman howl which seemed, inexplicably, to be emanating from directly behind my left ear. I peeled myself off the ceiling, flicked the light on and was attempting to calm the dogs down (who were by this time all running up and down the bed, barking and growling and snapping at each other in their fright) before I realised that the sound was actually a cat fight going on underneath my bedroom window.
Now I like cats but—damn—why does it always seem to happen outside my bedroom window. Going outside to shoo the cats way only seemed to wind them up a notch, thus inciting dogs Harry and Sasha from next door, and Max, Storm, Caesar, Turbo and Rosie from further down the road to join in with the unholy racket. Somehow I don’t think I am going to be the only cranky-pants, bleary-eyed pet owner on my street today.
Eventually the caterwauling stopped. I guess they got bored—or realised they had successfully woken every person and every dog in a three block radius and had therefore done their work. My girls went back to sleep immediately (so irritating) and I was left to lie there, waiting, hoping, to fall back asleep. I didn’t.
By the time I was beginning to get sleepy again the ‘dawn chorus’ was starting up. One lone kookaburra started to chuckle quietly to himself and I remember thinking, ‘Here we go’. Sure enough, he was followed by an answering giggle and and then a full on belly-laugh, and before long they were all laughing hysterically—no doubt gossiping about the outcome of last night’s cat commotion. Then the magpies joined in, in full voice, and once I heard the first black cockatoo screech I knew it was all over. Who can sleep through that? Time to get up.
It was barely light yet but at least it was dry (we’ve just had four days and nights of absolutely torrential non-stop rain) so I decided to walk them down to the beach. This morning Molly decided she wanted to come with us. This was unusual. Molly doesn’t ‘do’ mornings. In the world according to Molly, mornings are for stretching, breakfast and straight back to bed. Mornings are definitely not for walking. (Molly could give Garfield a run for his money when it comes to laziness and food).
But today she came running up and did her little ‘take me, take me’ dance. In spite of the fact that she was so enthusiastic (and she definitely needs the exercise) I was hesitant. I have been bitten before (figuratively speaking). I like to stride out with Mabel and Maude in the morning and get a good long walk in. Molly gets all gung-ho and raring to go—and then we get to the end of the road and around the corner, and she will suddenly stop dead, and sit. And sit. And sit. Once she has decided she will go no further there is no moving (or dragging) her. Believe me I’ve tried.
Once, in my frustration, I even dropped her lead and walked away with the other girls. I walked blocks and blocks and when I looked back, there she was, a tiny black dot, sitting in exactly the same place I left her. Stubborn as. And by the time we got back to her she was still sitting, unmoved, like a little doggie stuffed toy—and, once she realised I was no longer going to try to persuade her to go further, she happily trotted all the way home. I can still see that little smug smile on her face.
(Seeing how well it worked for Molly, Mabel tried the same trick once. I dropped her lead and walked away from her and got maybe ten feet before she came hurtling up behind me, crying ‘Don’t leave me, don’t leave me’. Bless.)
Anyway today Molly swore to me she would walk the whole way, so I gave in. And, surprisingly, she was as good as her word. She huffed and puffed a bit but she didn’t pull up once and we got to the beach, just as it was coming light. I did a quick scan up and down and saw we were the only ones there so I let the girls off their leads so they could have a good run around.
Or at least Maudie could have a good run around. Maudie loves the beach. As soon as she hits the sand she is away, and she runs and runs and runs. No direction, no purpose, just pure joy. Mabel (you may have already guessed this) is scared of the beach. She will stay as close to my ankles as she can without tripping me. The delights of the beach are totally wasted on Mabel. And Molly, on the few occasions we have actually managed to get her that far, likes to potter around in the bushy, grassy areas of the dunes, looking for good smells and dead things to roll in.
So I was a bit taken aback with slow and steady Molly, whose top speed is usually a slow waddle, suddenly shot past me at full throttle and hurtled back the way we had just come. It only took one look over my shoulder to see why. #$%&*. Kangaroos. A small group of ‘roos had silently appeared and were grazing quietly in the dunes close to the bush.
‘Oh how lovely’, you might think. And you’d be right. They are beautiful, gorgeous creatures. When seen from a distance. And when not being chased by a small, fierce, hopped-up-on-adrenalin Pomeranian. Up close and cranky they are a lot bigger than you’d think and they can be pretty scary. One could easily kill a Molly-dog if provoked. Molly, of course, could give two hoots about that. Molly is a Wolf in Pomeranian clothing.
There was nothing for me to do but run along the beach after her, calling desperately for her to ‘Stop. Stay. Heel.’ All to no avail. She was ‘in the zone’. What a sight we must have made. Kangaroos bounding gracefully along the deserted beach. Molly, little legs going ten to the dozen, pelting after them. Maude, running after her, laughing, and looking over her shoulder at me—with no idea what all the excitement was about, but loving the game anyway. And me, a long way behind (me—running on sand—dear God—seriously?) and carrying Mabel, who was so upset by the sudden dramatic turn of events she looked like she might need resuscitating at any moment.
And then, quite suddenly, the kangaroos and Molly left the beach and vanished into the thick bush. #$%&*, again. Even if I could have seen where they went I couldn’t take the other two girls into the bush after them, so all I could do was wait on the beach, pacing and calling, my heart in my mouth, and hope that Molly would soon reappear. Thankfully, she did.
Fifteen minutes later she wobbled out of the bush, exhausted, covered in sand, bits of bush and other debris sticking out of her fur at all angles, and her little pink tongue hanging out about a foot. I was so relieved she was all in one piece I couldn’t even be cross with her. Besides, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her quite so happy . . .
Of course, she was also so pooped I had to carry her all the way back to the house.
An hour later we were all safely home, clean, fed, and in the case of the girls, sleeping again. What more could three little dogs ask for?
They got to shout abuse at cats in the middle of the night and and encourage all their doggie friends in the street to do the same. The got to go to the beach in the early early morning and play in the sand and bark and run and chase kangaroos—or at least, chase Molly who was chasing kangaroos. They all got hugs and kisses from their Mum for being good brave girls during all the drama (even Mabel) and they all got a yummy Christmas breakfast when they got home. And now they are sleeping on their brand new Christmas beds, with their new Christmas teddy (which Maudie has killed twice already) and the remnants of the Christmas wrapping paper (which was Mabel’s favourite present). Best.Christmas.Day.Ever. And the day isn’t even half over yet.
So they’re happy, and that means I’m happy (and also in need of a stiff drink and lie down). And I hope you are too. Happy I mean—not in need of the drink and the lie down . . . although it is Christmas. I also, most sincerely, hope you had a gentler start to your Christmas Day.
So—from me to you— ‘Merry Christmas, nearly everybody.’ (I am not extending that greeting to the owners of last night’s cats. I am still pissed off about those cats . . . )