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‘We’re like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.’ Jerry Garcia.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

I blame Megan.  Seriously.  I hadn’t thought about licorice in years.  I don’t remember the last time I even ate a piece of licorice.  But just after Halloween, while we were discussing the perils and pitfalls of buying the right ‘type’ of Halloween sweeties for children, Megan (our newest staff member at the college) related a story about how some kiddies had come to her home trick-or-treating and all she had to left to offer them was licorice. The children were less than impressed ( . . . ran screaming from the building . . . )  That was it.  Just a short funny little story about licorice.  But the weird thing is,  since then it’s all I’ve been able to think about.   I have developed a real craving for licorice . . .

I know licorice is not for everyone.  There seems to be no grey areapeople either love it, or they hate it.  I love it.  All sorts (see what I did there?) but sadly, these days, when it comes to confectionery at least, it has become harder and harder to find real licorice that hasn’t been drastically tampered with.  Although I still love the idea of licorice straps, licorice jelly beans, chocolate covered licorice, and coloured licorice, many of these products don’t actually contain much (if any) real licorice.  Instead, they contain anise oil  which has the smell and taste of black licorice but it’s not actually the real deal.

Mmmmmblack licorice.  Makes my mouth water to think of it.   And, of course, once I had the notion in my head (definitely your fault, Megan!) I had to have some (and I had to have it NOW!) so I went in search of my very favourite licoricethe Pontefract cake.

Now if you are not a fan of licorice you may never have heard of Pontefract cakes (also called Pomfret cakes).  They are small roughly circular black sweets made of licorice, and were originally manufactured in England in the Yorkshire town of Pontefract (hence the name) although I am guessing they were not then in the same form they are now.  It has apparently only been since the 19th century that licorice was used extensively for confectionery, before that it was used for medicinal tonics for both humans and horses . . .

Well one man’s medicine is another girl’s candy.  I have very fond memories of receiving a little pack of Pontefract cakes tucked into the toe of my Christmas stocking every year ( . . .  and as neither of my sisters liked them I didn’t have to share . . . ) and that is the licorice I was craving now.  Soft and chewy.  Not too salty and not too sweet.  So I went searching . . .  and searching . . . and searching.  Could I find any of my most favourite licorice in the local area?   Of course not.  That would have been far too easy.  (When I asked at a couple of local stores and supermarkets if they carried Pontefract cakes, I was met with blank stares or sent to the the bakery section.  Sigh. )

Never mind.  If that is my biggest disappointment this week I have little to complain about.  I found I can still buy my favourite licorice on-line but until that arrives I did manage to find myself a very tasty alternative to subdue the immediate cravings and  ‘tide me over’ and, as an added bonus, the pretty black and gold packet it came in also gave me something fun to sketch.

Soa win-win all around really . . .

The ancient Egyptians believed licorice aided in vitality and longevity.
Large quantities of it were found with in King Tutankamun’s tomb — perhaps he was hoping to live longer in his
 next life?

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.’ Marilyn Monroe.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

‘It never rains but it pours’—isn’t that how the saying goes?  We’ve had no decent rain for months and months and this week we have been deluged.  I’ve literally been paddling around the back garden.

That’s not a complaint though—we’ve desperately needed the rain . . . and at least I’ve had the right ‘shoes’ for the job . . .

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.’ Anatole France.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

I have never met this wee dog but I loved him as soon as I saw him.  I guess my soul is good to go . . .

Original photo by Australian photographer Alex Cearns
(I love her photo books of animal portraits and they’re also great as photo references for me to practise new techniques and try out new art materials.
Although, having said that, here I am back to using my trusty old blue biro . . . )

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Emus live in pairs, or alone, or in groups. They mostly feed at night . . . or during the day.’ Russell Coight.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I like emus.  I just thought I’d put that out there right up front.  Remember what I’ve said in the past about critters with attitude?  Well, cue the emu.  They are cool dudes.  And although I thought I knew quite a bit about them in general, while searching for a quote to go with my sketch this week (quotes about emus are extremely hard to come by I might add) I was surprised to learn a whole lot more about these wonderful quirky creatures . . .

Things I already knew:
Emus are big.  The emu is the second largest bird in the world (the largest being the ostrich).    Emus can stand from 150 to 190 cm (59 to 75 in) in height and weigh between 18-60 kgs (40-132 lbs).
Emus are flightless.  They have very small, almost useless wings.
Emus are fast.  They have very long, very strong legs.  When at a full run their stride can be almost 9 feet long and they can sprint up to around 48 km (30mph).
Emus are long-lived.  Emus can live 10-20 years in the wild and up to 35 years in captivity.
Emus are curious. Anyone who has ever been to a wildlife sanctuary will know they have a tendency to sneak up behind you and look over your shoulder to see what you are doing (and to see if you are eating something you might be encouraged to share . . . )
Emus make weird noises.  Emus have a pouch in their throat which, when inflated, allows them to make deep booming or drumming sounds which can be heard up to 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) away.  (Apparently they can also issue a rather blood-curdling hiss . . . )

Things I didn’t know:
Emus have 2 sets of eyelids—one set for blinking and the other to keep out dust.
Emus can jump.  Apparently their strong legs also allow the birds to jump up to 2.1 metres (7 feet) straight up.  (How freaky is that!)
They are good swimmers and like to play in water (and mud) (I have to say that until now it never occurred to me to even think of an emu having a fun day at the beach.)
Emus have no teeth so they swallow small stones and pebbles into the gizzard which help to grind up and digest their food.  (Tasty!)
Australia once declared war on emus.  (Say what?)

I’ll say that again.  Australia once went to war with the emus.  Seriously.  It became known as ‘The Great Emu War of 1932’  . . .

Stay with me.   At the end of the First World War returning Australian soldiers and a number of British veterans, were given land by the Australian government to take up farming in Western Australia.  With the onset of the great depression the government encouraged these farmers to increase their wheat crops, promising assistance in the form of subsidies.  However, wheat prices continued to fall, the government failed to deliver on the promised subsidies, and things became increasingly tense as the farmers prepared to harvest, while also threatening to refuse to deliver the wheat.

The farmers’ woes were exacerbated by the arrival of up to 20,000 emus who descended on the area as part of their breeding season and (yahoo!) found the abundance of food and water now available to them beyond their wildest dreams.  They proceeded to rampage enthusiastically around the district damaging crops and fences, eating everything they could get their birdy beaks around and causing general mayhem.

The besieged farmers relayed their concerns to the government (quite forcefully I imagine) and the government obligingly sent the army in to sort the problem out.  It was soon discovered that taking single pot shots at the offending emus was having little effect (apparently the emus realised quite early on that if they stayed just far enough away the guns weren’t accurate enough to hit them) and so, on further pressing, the Australian Minister of Defense then gave the soldiers access to . . .  wait for it . . . machine guns . . .  (I swear I am not making this up . . . )

Long story short—several military assaults were then launched upon the errant emus, with less than spectacular results.  The maurauding critters proved far trickier than anyone anticipated (seems they tend to scatter and flee in all directions when threatened, instead of patiently standing in a crowd waiting to be mown down) and after a very short space of time (and some seriously scathing reports in the media) the government decided it was all a bit too embarrassing and withdrew their troops.

So there you go.  The emus had won the war.  This might go a long way towards explaining why many of us today have never even heard about this bizarre little slice of Aussie history . . .  and why all emus still seem to possess that same smug mess-with-me-if-you-dare stare  . . .

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.’ Douglas Adams.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

There is no earthly reason for this post this week other than a funny quote and an excuse for me to sketch a cute duckling.  Well, that and the fact that the last couple of weeks has finally brought us some long awaited and much needed rain.

That old expression ‘Fine weather for ducks!’ seems wholly appropriate . . .

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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“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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‘Pink isn’t just a color, it’s an attitude!’ Miley Cyrus.

Stories from my Sketchbook  . . .

When I pulled into my driveway a couple of days ago I was greeted by a largeand extremely rowdyflock of pink and gray galahs foraging for their supper on my front lawn.  I am not sure whether they had been rowdy for as long as they had been there, or whether they just became so when I drove in, but they certainly weren’t backwards in coming forwards in venting their feelings about my untimely intrusion  . . .

I think that is one of reasons I like them so much.  I love critters with ‘attitude’ (as if you hadn’t guessed) and galahs really have that.  In spades.

Being mostly pink just kicks things up another notch . . .

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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