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‘I reckon being ill as one of the greatest pleasures of life, provided one is not too ill and is not obliged to work until one is better.’ Samuel Butler.

I am not at all sure what Samuel Butler was thinking when he said being ill was ‘one of the greatest pleasures of life’.  What a strange thing to say.  I have been what my father used to call ‘sick as a dog’ all week and I can see absolutely no pleasure in it whatsoever . . .

(And, before I go any further, what kind of odd expression is ‘sick as a dog’ anyway?   Why do we always blame the dog?  (dog tired . . . dog in the manger . . . dog’s breakfast . . .  go to the dogs . . . )  Although I have also lately heard the expression ‘sick as a parrot’  too.  Not sure what to make of that one either.  )

As you can probably tell, I am a mite grumpy.  I don’t like being unwell and I have felt absolutely miserable for over a week now (nothing life threatening—just some flavour of miscellaneous virus that happens to be doing the rounds . . . along with a cough . . .  and a runny nose . . . and a monster headache . . . ) and at time of writing I am showing very little sign of improvement.

(I don’t get sick very often but when I do I go all in. I know they say things usually get worse before they get better but hey—give a girl a break—please!  I am well and truly over it. Well, no.  I’m not over it, as in ‘I’m feeling better’. I’m over it, as in ‘I’m fed up’.  Perhaps I should have said that to begin with. Oh dear God I’m rambling . . . )

Anyway, I think the thing that bothers me most (apart from the actual feeling like crap part of course) is that there is very little I can actually do about it.  I can take a tablet for my headache, and another to stop my nose running, and I can keep up the fluids, and rest when I can . . . blah, blah, blah (we all know the drill) . . . . but in the end I really just have to wait it out.  My body will heal itself when it is good and ready and not before.

You know, it’s so easy to sink into the mire when you feel dreadful (nobody likes me, everybody hates me, think I’ll go and eat worms . . . ) and I find I have to constantly pull myself up and remind myself—’It is only the flu, Sal!  You will get over it.  This too shall pass . . . ‘

And perhaps, in a round about sort of way, that is what Samuel Butler was getting at.  Perhaps he meant that by being ill (but not too ill) one might be forced to remember what a pleasure it was when one felt well . . . 

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?’ Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

Every year I look forward to the cooler months of autumn and winter.   As we come to the end of another long hot summer I always start to think how nice it is going to be when the temperature drops a little and I will able to get back into wearing something ‘with sleeves’ . . . and the girls and I will be able to go for longer walks again without fear of Molly ‘overheating’ (and me having to carry her home) . . . and we can spend our evenings cuddled up on the couch together, all warm and snug in front of the heater . . . 

And then the cooler weather finally does come in, and I pull all my jumpers, jackets and scarves out of the wardrobe, and the air is crisp and clean and fresh, and it’s great.  For about a week.  And then I start to remember that I never actually really liked the cold weather much.  (Or ever.)  I have even moved cities (and countries) because I didn’t like the winters.  Sigh.

But there’s always a silver lining.  Tomorrow is the winter solstice (Australian Eastern time)—the shortest day of the year.  Yay!  That means it is downhill now all the way to Spring . . .

So until then I am going to do as my Maudie does—find a cosy spot (and my own hot water bottle) and hunker down to wait for the return of the warmer months.

It’ll be nice to not have to wear ‘sleeves’ again . . .

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks.’ Doug Larsen.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

I’ve just been watching the early morning news on the telly.  I’m going to stop doing that.  Seriously.

I am an early riser.  I am up before 5.00am every day (yes, even at the weekends) because it really is the best time of the day.  It’s quiet and calm and peaceful and I like to take my time and kind of ease into the day.  The girls and I usually go for an early morning walk (although they have apparently decided that winter is here now and there will be no more of these until summer comes again), then I take a long shower, get my clothes and gear ready for work and settle down for a leisurely breakfast while catching up with what has been happening in the rest of the world.

Now, I rarely, if ever, wake up in a bad mood but I can tell you this—ten minutes of watching the incessant, arrogant, posturing and listening to the inane, condescending drivel some of our politicians and ‘world-leaders’ spout (and expect us to believe) is enough to seriously damage my early morning calm . . .

But don’t worry—I am not going to vent further about it here.  Frankly, I don’t have the time or the energy for it (and I don’t want to make myself even crankier).  Suffice to say I think we all need to be far more careful in future about to whom we hand over our city (and country) keys.

And, in an effort to preserve my early morning good-humour for as long as I possibly can, I have decided that from tomorrow I shall be searching for alternative viewing while enjoying my porridge and coffee.  In fact, I think I saw somewhere that one of the channels is now showing re-runs of Pinky and the Brain . . . 

. . . although, come to think of it . . . watching a cartoon about a couple of small insignificant creatures (‘one is a genius—the other’s insane’) who are constantly hatching plans for world domination?  How is that so very different from watching the early morning news anyway . . .

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Happiness is a warm puppy.’ Charles M Schultz.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

Last Sunday was the most stunning autumn day—bright, cloudless and warm.  The girls and I spent the morning out in the garden—me doing a bit of weeding, tidying and sweeping up after the last rain storm—and girls pottering around after me, supervising and offering helpful suggestions (in between bouts of dozy little doggie-naps in the sunshine . . . )

Around mid-morning I settled myself onto the garden bench to enjoy a quick cup of tea.  Mabel sat on my lap (why on earth would she sit on the dirty old grass when my lap was available), Maudie went to investigate whatever it was that was rustling in the undergrowth down by the shed, and Molly stood guard by the back gate (‘cos you never know who might try and sneak in while she’s not looking).  As I sat basking in the warm morning sun my mind started to wander (as it is wont to do) and I started to think about a telephone conversation I recently had with my mother where she asked me one, seemingly simple, question —”Are you happy?”

I remember being a surprised by the question (Where did that come from?  We were talking about her moving house . . . ) and a bit taken aback.  I had to stop for a moment to think about it.  But, you know, I couldn’t pause for too long or Mum might have imagined the worst (because mothers usually do) so I laughed it off and answered, “Well it’s all relative isn’t it?   . . . but I’m definitely not un-happy . . .”

On and off since that conversation I have wondered about her question—and my reply.  Am I really happy?

The word happiness originally derives from the Norse word ‘hap’ meaning luck, chance or good fortune.  A modern dictionary defines the same word only as ‘the state of being happy.’  I think I’ll go with the original definition because, while I certainly wouldn’t consider myself to be in ‘the state of being happy’ all the time, I do, however, feel I have been fortunate in my life.  I have family, friends, my health, a job, a place to live, and of course, my lovely dogs.  I could be a whole lot worse off.

Perhaps I would more readily describe myself as someone ‘cultivating contentment’.

Are happiness and contentment the same thing?  I don’t know.  What I do know is, that Sunday morning, sitting peacefully in the sun with Mabel all warm and sleepy on my lap and Maudie and Molly pootling cheerfully around the garden, I felt pretty damn content . . .

. . . which, truth be told, also made me pretty damn happy . . .

How could this adorable sleepy face not make anyone happy?

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘The dog is the perfect portrait subject. He doesn’t pose. He isn’t aware of the camera.’ Patrick Demarchelier.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

I am not sure whose dogs Patrick Demarchelier was speaking about when he made that comment but it certainly wasn’t any of mine.  My girls are all complete ‘posers’.  All three of them love the camera and can go from fast-asleep-and-snoring to wide awake ‘pick-me, pick-me’ party smiles, olympic-worthy cartwheels and posey ballerina-leg-lifts within seconds of a camera being pointed in their direction . . .

Unfortunately, they also seem to have figured out that my sketching presents the same opportunities for them to shine and I can assure you that if Maudie had been awake while I was trying to sketch her this weekend she would have been right up in my face, pointing out her ‘best side’ (and giving advice on which pencils I should use) and it is unlikely there would have been a completed sketch to share here now.

As it was, the weather turned all wet and cold and rainy on Sunday and the girls, being the sooky-la-las that they are, decided (en-masse) that winter had finally come and their best option was to try and sleep their way through it.  Thus Maudie found herself all warm and dozing in the prime spot for winter warmth—on her blankie in front of the heater in the living room.

Well, perhaps not the prime spot—that actually appears to be my lap—but after a short, sharp kerfuffle Mabel beat her to it and Maudie was relegated to the next-best-thing.

I have to say—she doesn’t look too unhappy about it, does she?

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Sometimes the best hiding place is the one that’s in plain sight.’ Stephanie Meyer.

Stories from my Sketchbook  . . .

Out on an early morning walk through the park last weekend I stopped for a moment to take in the quiet and stillness.  The girls were puddling about happily in the undergrowth (school holidays, although over now, had brought lots of new visitors and their dogs to the area so there were still plenty of new smells to investigate), the river was ambling silently by and the sun was just coming up.  We were the only ones out and about.  Or so I thought . . .

Calling the girls to me so we could begin to wend our way home I had to do a quick sidestep to avoid tripping over Maudie who, as usual, had tried to charge ahead of me.  In doing so I pirouetted (gracefully, as you might imagine) and found myself looking directly at a low slung tree branch.  What I did not expect was to find was that low slung tree branch had bright orange eyes—and was looking directly back at me!

Once I got over the initial ‘ . . . what the . . . ?’  I realised I was looking into the eyes of a large Tawny Frogmouth.

What a treat!  The Tawny Frogmouth is  a fabulous bird but although they are quite common around here and I hear them a lot (they make a deep ‘oom-oom-oom-oom-oom’ sound) I hardly ever get to see one close up—not only because they are nocturnal, but also because they are so damn good at camouflage.  After their nightly hunts, when they are ready to settle in for the day, they like to roost on low bare branches (as in this encounter), tree stumps, and even shady patches of ground.  I must have come across this fellow just as he was bedding down and probably surprised him as much as he surprised me.

I stood back a bit to get a good look at him.  He had already frozen in place and now closed his eyes and I swear if I didn’t already know he was there I would never have seen him.  How many of these incredible birds do I walk blindly past every morning I wonder?

I said hello to him, and told him he was a beautiful bird (one does these things when no-one else is watching) but he was having none of it.  He moved not a muscle.  Not even a peek under his eyelids to see what I was doing.  I watched him, fascinated, for a couple more minutes but, as he seemed determined to pretend he hadn’t seen me, I reluctantly decided I should leave him to his rest.

Looking around to see where the girls had got to (they had all gone suspiciously quiet) I found them all sitting at my feet, exchanging nervous glances and looking worriedly up at me.  I imagine it could be bit alarming for any child, even a four-legged one, to watch your mum engaging in what appears to be a one-sided conversation with a rotten old tree stump . . .

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ William Morris.

I have always been a bit of a pack rat.  I like my ‘stuff’.  I like my books and my clothes and my shoes and my ornaments (‘dust-gatherers’ my mother calls them, but I like ’em) and I like my art materials and my pretty bottles and jars and . . . well . . . stuff.

I doubt that will ever really change but a couple of years ago I decided enough was enough and I was going to at least try to become a little more discriminating about the kind of stuff I keep.  And I think I have.  My stacks (and stacks) of books are mostly gone (although, admittedly, most of my favourites have managed to slowly reappear on my kindle), clothes and shoes (and scarves and handbags and earrings . . . ) have been drastically reduced and I have even managed to downsize many of the ticky-tacky ornaments I had managed to accumulate over the years.

So, why, after all the clearing out and culling I have already done, do I still have so much stuff?  If I sat down and counted every single item in my house, how many ‘things’ would I have?  5,000 . . .  10,000 . . . 15,000?  More?  That’s a lot of stuff for just one person (and three small dogs).  And why, after decades of accumulating, do I now feel the urge to get rid of so much of it?

I don’t really know, I just do.

Well someone out there must have been listening in on my musings and decided to give me a little shove.  I was browsing one of my favourite blogs (The Minimalists) and came across what they call the ‘Minimalism Game’.  It’s simple enough.  You play the game for thirty days.  On Day One you get rid of one thing.  On the second day, two things go out the door.  On the third day, three.  And so on.  It doesn’t matter what you get rid of (books, clothes, ornaments, furniture) and it doesn’t matter what you do with it (donate, sell it, re-gift it, throw it away)—it just has to be gone.  By the end of 30 days you should have 465 less things in your house.

Okay.  So, instead of sitting muttering to myself about being weighed down my belongings I decided to take up the challenge.  I was going to follow William Morris’s example and only keep anything I thought to be useful or beautiful.

However, having made the decision to go ahead with the challenge I had to also admit that there was absolutely no way (no how) I was going to be able to keep the momentum up on a day-to-day basis.  Things would happen (work would be frantic, one of the dogs would go wackadoodle, the phone would ring, someone would turn up at the door) and by the time I settled into bed I would realise I had completely forgotten to toss something out that day.

So I decided I would tackle the challenge week by week for a month.  I would gather up my sacrificial items over the week and each weekend I would count them all up, add to them if I had to, and out they would go.  (Feeling quite smug and pleased with myself about getting rid of a whole lot of stuff all at once would be an added bonus . . . )

I also made up a few rules of my own.  Ordinary trash or recyclables do not count.  One piece of paper does not count as one thing—a sheaf of papers can be one thing.  One pencil, no.  A fistful of old scraggy worn out pencils—okay. (Although you never know when you might need a pencil . . . Sigh.  See what I did there?  I have to watch myself all the time.  I seem almost pathologically unable, or at least unwilling, to get rid of those just-in-case items.  I’ll keep that ratty old bag with the handles that look just about to drop off—just-in-case.  I won’t toss any of those (dozens and dozens) of old gift bags—just-in-case.  And those beaten and battered folders—well, you never know when you might actually need a beat-up, battered old folder . . . )

Week 1—Days 1-7.  That means 28 things have to go. Easy-peasy.  I was on a mission.  I went through my closet and the linen cupboard and had selected 28 things before I knew where I was.  This was going to be a breeze . . .

Week 2—Days 8-14.  77 things.  This time I moved into the living room and started ransacking drawers.  Old cassette tapes (yikes!) and video tapes (Why did I still have these? I haven’t had a tape or video player in years), old remotes, electrical bits at pieces left over from god-knows-what, doggies toys (ssssh don’t tell the girls.  They were all fast asleep and I don’t think they’ve noticed yet), and a couple of totally unidentifiable items which I had obviously once thought should be saved but now had no idea what they even were.   Out they went.

Week 3—Days 15-21.  126 things.  Laundry, pantry, kitchen.  Done, done, and done.  (Who knew I had so many mismatched cutlery, plates, bowls, dishes and wine glasses in my house?)  I even managed to put a couple of extra thing aside to count towards . . .

Week 4—Days 22-30.  234 things.  Phew.  That’s a lot of things.  Time to dig deep . . .

To be honest I am not sure whether I finally made that final magic 465 number, but I made a bloody good stab at it.  When I stand back and look at my house now, it actually doesn’t look much different.  There are still pictures on the wall, books and knick-knacks on the shelves, doggie toys still littering the floor.  But it feels different.  It feels somehow . . . lighter.

So I am happy I took up the challenge.  There is more to be done but this was a great start and (for now at least) I am happy to wallow in smug self-satisfaction of a job well done.

I am also going to try really hard to keep my promise to myself to not replace all the stuff I just got rid of.

Unless, of course, it is with something very useful . . .  or very beautiful . . .

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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