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 . . .
I think I may have mentioned in the past how much I have always loved cats. I know I only (Only!! Dear God please don’t tell my girls I said that!) have dogs these days but I was owned by cats long before I was owned by dogs.
My last lovely old cat, Cleo, passed away many years ago now. She was 18. She and her brother Jesse (who had passed away the year before) had been with me since they were tiny kittens. Although I missed them both deeply, at that stage I also had two dogs, one of whom, Harry, came out of the womb hating cats. Although he eventually learned to tolerate (under severe sufferance I might add) ‘his’ cats, he nevertheless continued to consider every other cat on the planet to be ‘fair game’ and nothing I ever said or did over his long, long life could disabuse him of this view. Once Cleo passed I really felt that bringing another cat into the house might be pushing his patience a paw too far . . .
And even after Harry himself had wandered off over the Rainbow Bridge it was not very long before puppy Mabel made an appearance, followed closely by Maudie . . . and then Molly and . . . well . . . suddenly there were lots of little doggie feet coming and going and I found I had more than enough to keep me busy (and amused) without contemplating adding a cat to the mix.
But then a couple of months ago a new kitty-cat moved in next door and suddenly all those wonderful things I had loved and missed about my own dear cats came flooding back to me. Their sparkly eyes and deafening purrs. Their air of disdain and complete belief in their own superiority. Their lovely squishy kitty-cat feet . . .
Our new neighbour, Sable, is around 8 months old, soft and glossy and sleek and black . . . and very, very cheeky (and we all know how I like critters with ‘attitude’.) He’s very young yet and still getting his bearings but it won’t be long I think until he has the whole neighbourhood under his sway. But, for now at least, he seems happily content to spend most of his days reclining regally on my garage roof, gazing benevolently down upon his new kingdom and all his adoring subjects.
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 four–legged 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 freedom—and 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 . . .
Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
One of the (many) issues I have when sketching is knowing when to stop. If I am not entirely happy with where my sketch is going (and, let’s face it, I rarely am) I will inevitably end up tinkering and fussing with it, ad nauseam, in a vain attempt to ‘get it right’. Of course I never do get it right and, quite often, I make it worse . . .
Last month, in an attempt to get over myself in this regard, I took a short online Sktchy course called ‘Make Your Mark’ run by artist Joan Martin. The course appealed to me because I was told I would be using materials and techniques I had probably not used before and this would, hopefully, force my work to become looser and more expressive. It would also, I was promised, teach me to learn to accept the limitations of the materials I was using, and become more creative with my ‘mistakes’.
And, as far as I am concerned, the course delivered on its promises. Although I did use some materials I had used before (paints, inks, pencils etc ) I also used them in ways I hadn’t tried before. For instance, I have sketched with biros quite often but I had never sketched with a great big fat marker pen in one hand and a biro in the other—using both hands at the same time! That was trippy. It just about did my head in and the results were somewhat bizarre to say the least! In other exercises I moved paint around with the edges of credit cards or torn up cardboard and I painted with pipettes and feathers and string. I even used candle wax . . .
The sketch below began as an exercise where we were asked to scrub an ordinary white wax candle randomly across our paper. This formed a barrier of resistance (in varying degrees) across the page—and consequently did really weird things with the graphite and pens I tried to use over the top of it. (I nearly wore a hole in the paper trying to get doggo’s nose right!) However, as promised, it also produced some really cool, unexpected results . . .
Was I entirely happy with all (any?) of the sketches I produced while working my way through this course? Not even close (some of them were just plain awful) but there’s no denying I learned a lot. And it was fun to try out some new techniques and materials. I feel I’ve become a tad more adventurous and a little more accepting of my own abilities.
As to that ‘knowing when to stop’ issue—well, I’m still working on that. Perhaps this old dog and I can teach each other a few new tricks . . .
Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
For the past week my girls and I have been playing host to a lovely wee dog called ‘Cinder’. I am not sure Cindy is quite two years old yet (she might be just short of that) but I have to say, after living in her exuberant wake for the past week, I reckon Jerry Seinfeld’s blender analogy is spot on . . .
Cindy has stayed with us before but not for a whole week and I was a little concerned about how that would go. Earlier visits had only been for a weekend or a few days and I had been at home to supervise. This time I was going to be out working for a good part of her visit, and, as anyone who has fur-children knows full-well, you are never entirely sure what’s going on at home when you’re not around.
I tried to prepare my girls for Cindy’s impending arrival with constant reminders—‘Cindy’s coming to stay for a while. You remember Cindy, don’t you? She’s a lovely girl. You liked Cindy . . . ‘ —so they had plenty of time to brace themselves but, unfortunately, as little dogs are wont to do, they often hear only what they want to hear. The look my my Mabel gave me when Cindy actually launched herself through our front door . . .
Now don’t misunderstand me, Cindy is a lovely girl and a very sweet-natured dog. She’s polite, affectionate and well-mannered and there isn’t a mean bone in her body, but my girls are all grown up now (I still can’t quite believe they are all now classed as ‘senior’ dogs) and they like their little routines and their quiet life . . . and I guess we had all kind of forgotten just how much energy a young dog can have!
Take going for a walk, for instance. Walking my girls these days consists of a short saunter to the park where I let them off their leads so they can bimble about in the undergrowth and check out (and pee on) all the new smells that have been deposited since our last visit, followed by a slow wander home. It’s all quite sedate. Not so this week . . .
I quickly discovered I couldn’t let Cindy off her lead at all. I did try once, in the early early morning when there was nobody else around and I imagined there would be less to distract her. I don’t know what I was thinking. Apparently anything can distract you when you are not quite 2. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to coax her to come back to me. She would come juuuust within reach and then . . . whoosh . . . she was galloping off again, laughing madly as she went. Cindy thought that was the BEST.GAME.EVER.
(I, on the other hand, was terrified she would fixate on something really exciting and head off into the swamp . . . or the river . . . or across the road and down the street . . . and I’d be left having to explain the dire consequences to her mum!)
But, differing energy levels aside, it was a good week. My initial concerns about leaving Cindy alone in the house with my girls all day proved to be unfounded. Apart from a couple of thoroughly deconstructed and de-stuffed doggie toys (it’s astonishing to me how much stuffing can come out of one little toy) and, on one occasion, coming home to a rather wild-eyed and ruffled Molly (who Cindy occasionally tried to use as her own personal squeaker toy) there were no major dust-ups or dramas and yesterday Cindy was delivered, happy, excited (and unharmed) back to her mother.
Today we are almost back in routine. Most of the debris has been cleared away (although I am still finding stuffing in the oddest places), special favourite toys (which I had, thankfully, the foresight to store safely away before our visitor arrived) have been returned and much needed nap-time has been (and, in some cases, is still being) caught up on.
It’s all good.
Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
You know what I was thinking about most of yesterday? My feet. Seriously. I was thinking about how much of my life I must have spent dealing with tired, aching, sore feet. I mean—supposing it were even possible to calculate such a thing—what would that equate to in hours . . . days . . . months . . . years?
It’s not as if I were even wearing horribly uncomfortable shoes—they were, in fact, one of my oldest and most comfy pairs—but at some point yesterday I became suddenly aware that all I was thinking about (seriously—nothing else going on in my brain at all) was how I could not wait to get in my own front door and kick my shoes off ( . . . and my bra too actually but that’s probably TMI for this particular post . . . )
Sadly it seems, no matter how much I might wish otherwise, gone are the days when I could don my high heels at 7.00am, run around in them all day (literally), pop into the supermarket on the way home to do a bit of grocery shopping and still feel able to stand around and gossip with one of my neighbours for half an hour at the end of the day. These days I barely make it to lunchtime before I become increasingly aware (as my old dad used to say ) ‘my dogs are barking‘ . . .
But the thing is—I love my heels. I really do. I have always owned flat shoes of course (who doesn’t?) but no matter how cute they are, for me flats have always been for schleping around at home, or going to the movies (navigating all those steps in heels in the dark—I don’t think so), or walking the dogs. They’ve never been ‘proper’ shoes. Heels make me feel taller and slimmer and . . . dressed. That’s it I think. I have never considered myself properly dressed unless I’m wearing a fabulous pair of heels.
What to do, what to do? I know what you’re going to say—I should stop wearing my heels right now and give myself a break, right?
But I do think a compromise might be in order. I think I might just be able to convince myself to buy a couple (or three or four) more pairs of extra-cute flats that might nicely complement the heels I already have. Then I could wear my beloved heels for part of the day and surreptitiously swap them out for a similar (flatter) pair when I feel the need to give my aching tootsies a rest. What do you reckon?
Sounds like a fine plan to me . . .
Autumn is here! Finally! Well, according to the calendar at least. (Okay, so the weatherman says it is going to be hot again today so it might be a little while yet before we start to feel any real benefit but—YAY!—Autumn!) Autumn has always been my favourite season in Australia and I have to tell you I have been seriously hanging out for it this year! I have not enjoyed this summer—at all. I can just about deal with the heat (that’s what air conditioning is for) but the oppressive and constant humidity we have had to deal with over the last couple of months has been off the charts. I have been longing for some cooler weather . . .
(Before I go any further, my sincere apologies to those readers living on the other side of the world who have been (and in some cases still are) trapped in the depths of a freezing winter. There can be nothing worse than listening to someone complaining about an endless run of steaming hot sunny days when you are all freezing your bits off. However, when it gets to be proper winter here and I start to complain about it (as I most assuredly will) I promise I will not be mortally offended when you write and gloat about how lovely the weather has been where you are . . . )
I am not the only one in my household who has struggled with the heat this year. My girls have been exceedingly listless (in Molly’s case almost comatose) and their days have been mostly spent dozing fitfully, drinking gallons of water, going outside to pee all the water away again, staggering back inside to drink even more water . . . and then dozing again. Now I know that doesn’t sound all that different from any of their usual days, but this time all these ‘activities’ (and I use the term loosely) were all done in exaggerated slow motion. (Except when I had the big fan trained on me and was required to briefly move from my seat. Then all three dogs developed an amazing ability to immediately transport themselves miraculously into ‘my spot’ only to become completely unconscious again and therefore entirely unable to move back out of it! )
But never mind—it’s autumn and all that uncomfortable heat and humidity will soon be far behind us! I’ll be able to do all sorts of things I haven’t been able to do in months.
I’ll be able to take hot showers again . . . and eat hot food again . . . and drink hot drinks again . . .
I’ll be able to get into my jammies and woolly socks and slippers as early as I like without feeling guilty about it. (I’ll be able to actually wear jammies and woolly socks and slippers again . . . )
It’ll be less crowded outside and there’ll be less dodging and weaving around pushchairs and prams and scooters and bicycles when the girls and I go out walking. (It’s amazing how many ‘fair weather walkers’ there are around here. Autumn and winter is mostly left to who of us who walk purely for the joy of it—or for our health—or who have four-legged family members who would make them crazy if they didn’t . . . )
Oh yes. I think I like the idea of Heaven always being Autumn.
(Provided, of course, that heaven is also going to be loaded up with hot chocolate . . . and jammies . . . and slippers . . . and woolly socks . . . and dogs . . . )