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‘Did you know that there are over 300 words for love in canine?’ Gabriel Zevin.

When I arrive home after being out of the house all day I am always met at my front door by my small (but extremely loud) pack of fur children (I swear the whole neighbourhood knows when I get home).  Molly will run in circles barking at the top of her lungs.  Mabel will wriggle, grin her lop-sided grin and yip excitedly . . . and then there’s Maudie . . .

Maudie comes at me like a doggie-sunami, sweeping aside anything in her path (including her sisters).  She will shriek with excitement, hopping about on her back legs and waving her front paws wildly in the air, and then, quite suddenly, she will realise something is missing.  She will skid to a halt, do a complete about-face, and hurtle headlong back into the depths of the house in search of that missing something.  She’s forgotten to bring me her ‘Ball’ . . .

Ball is one of Maudie’s 300 words for love.  It is her comfort and joy.  (Think Linus and his blanket.)  She takes her ball to bed with her in the evening, and it is the first thing she looks for in the morning. She takes it outside to sit in the sun with her and it has its own special place beside her on the sofa in the evenings.  The only time I ever see her really upset is if Mabel steals it from her and refuses to give it back.  (This causes such a ruckus that I usually have to intervene on Maudie’s behalf.  Mabel can be a real little *&#% when she wants to be . . . )  

Unfortunately, Ball is now in imminent danger of being loved to death.  Comprised of some sort of dense squishy foam the constant and unyielding onslaught of Maudie-love (along with Mabel nibbling pieces off it occasionally just to stir her sister up) has seen it begin to disintegrate at an alarming rate.  It used to be the size of regular tennis ball, but has now shrunk to the size of a (weirdly shaped) golf ball. What happens when Ball crumbles completely and Maudie is left bereft doesn’t bear thinking about.  So for the last few months I have been quietly searching for some kind of replacement.  It has proved no easy task.

It’s not that Maudie doesn’t love a new toy—quite the opposite.  Every new thing I have brought home for her has been a joy and a delight.  For about five minutes. Then it has been gently discarded and rarely looked at again.  Nothing (so far) has come close to competing for her affections.  I was beginning to despair.  And then a couple of weeks ago I came across a site selling cat balls.  (That doesn’t quite sound right.  Perhaps I should have said ‘ balls for cats’ . . .  )

Anyway, these seemed to be about the same size as Ball is now and made of the same squishy material.  (I couldn’t get a green one but I thought (hoped) that she might be more concerned with the taste and texture than the colour.)  In fact, so convinced was I that these balls were exactly what I was looking for that I bought a bunch of them (6 balls for one dollar.  Woo Hoo!  ‘Hey big spender . . .’ )

When they finally arrived early this week I was so excited to show them to Maudie that I gave them a huge build up.  I worked her up into a frenzy of anticipation as I slowly undid the wrappings.  And she loved it. Her eyes grew wide and she yipped excitedly and pawed at the packet.  I held up one of the new balls and she launched herself at it, grabbed it and took off running.  She ran twice around the house in glee—yay—a new ball!  She threw it in the air and caught it and threw it again.  She took it outside and showed it her favourite sunny spot in the back garden.  She rolled it around in her mouth and chomped on it and even rumbled a warning at Mabel when she wandered too close.

Feeling very pleased with myself and confident I had at least found a contender I took myself off to do a couple of chores and make myself a nice cup of tea.  When I returned I found the living-room littered with shredded wrapping paper (I should have seen that coming) and a scattering of small, brightly coloured balls.

And there was Maudie—fast asleep and snoring happily on the couch . . .

. . . and nestled safely between her two front feet was . . . you guessed it . . . her old, decrepit, smelly, beloved Ball . . .

‘Maudie Maudie Maudie—go find me a ball . . . ‘

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘The palest ink is better than the best memory.’ Chinese Proverb.

I have been feeling a little bit despondent about my sketching lately.  I have still managed to work myself up to doing a bit of drawing during the week but I have felt somewhat . . .  uninspired . . . to say the least.  I look at the fabulous sketches of my fellow online students and arty friends, and see that they have done their sketches ‘on the bus’ or ‘in my lunch break’ or ‘in the doctor’s waiting room’ and I, who have no (valid) excuses for not sketching (and obviously a lot more free time on my hands than some of these people) feel like a complete wastrel.

This feeling is not entirely unexpected of course.  I’m in the doldrums.  It’s happened before and, no doubt, will happen again, but . . .  sigh . . .

In the past, feeling like this has resulted in me stopping drawing altogether, sometimes for years, but I am determined that is not going to happen this time.  I am going to try and push through, and if that means a sketchbook full of crappy, uninspiring sketches, then so be it!   (That sentence was full of false bravado by the way.  ‘So be it!’  Ha!  Who am I kidding?  I still get really upset with myself when I do a crappy, unspired sketch, but I am trying a little positive psychology on myself so I’ll let it go . . . )

In an effort to suck myself into a more positive frame of mind I looked back over my very first sketchbook, which I started last year. In it I found one of the first ‘outdoor’ sketches I attempted.  With it I  wrote — ‘. . .  just to be clear, the pots are actually standing on a garden of bark chips (not just a patch of concrete)—but I have no idea how to draw bark chips so I just pretended they wasn’t there.  I also ignored the rest of the garden—the back fence, the Hills Hoist, the three madcap dogs chasing each other in and around the pots—and anything else that was too hard.  I think that’s called ‘artistic licence’ . . .’

At Sketchbook Skool they teach that there are no ‘bad’ drawings.  Each sketch we do is a learning experience and therefore important in itself.  Although I still struggle internally with this concept (I still believe that some of my drawing ‘experiences’ have been, and continue to be, pretty gruesome) I have tried to take this on board and so, although at times still sorely tempted, I no longer rip these offending pages out of my sketchbooks.  I may not ever show these horrors to anybody else but there they will remainpale (or sometimes scarily bright) memories of my ongoing artistic endeavours.

Finding that earlier sketch put me in mind of another I did, much more recently, of the same garden. It’s from a different angle (it was a cold day so the girls and I sat in the warmest spot we could find) but otherwise much is unchanged.  The bird bath and many of the plants are the same—and I still haven’t worked out how to draw bark chips or the dogs racing around the gardenbut, in spite of that, I do like the second drawing more than the first, and that’s definitely a step in the right direction.

So, sketching slump or no, I will soldier on.  I am not going to give up.  Realistically, how could I anyway?

What on earth would I do with all the cupboards (and drawers and boxes) still full of lovely (empty) sketchbooks. . .  and pens . . . and inks . . .  and pencils . . . and paints . . . and pastels and . . .

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I can resist everything, except temptation.’ Oscar Wilde.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

Why is it, do you think, that the moment I decide—and I am talking the instant the decision is made—that I am (absolutely, definitely, starting right now) going to lose those extra couple of kilos which have somehow sneakily (re)appeared on my already ample backside since this time last year . . . that, suddenly, inexorably, all I can manage to think about is what I am going to eat next . . .

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I believe every woman should own at least one pair of red shoes.’ Terry Tempest Williams.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

Amen to that!!

(I have three pairs of red shoes . . . and one pair of orange . . . and two pairs of blue . . . and several pairs of multi coloured . . .  and six pairs of black . . . and two pairs of grey and . . . well . . . you get the idea . . . )

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Geologists have a saying—rocks remember.’ Neil Armstrong.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I wonder if that’s true?  I hope so.

I’m hoping that if I stare at these rocks long enough they will remember (and remind me) what it is I’ve forgotten . . .

 

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.’ Oscar Wilde.

I have never kept (or even started) a diary.  Well, not a proper ‘Dear Diary—this-is-what-I-was-doing-this-is-what-I-was-feeling’ kind of diary . . .

(To clarify—I do keep a date-diary for important things (‘pay day’, ‘holidays start tomorrow’, ‘day trip to Forster with Pammy’) and appointments (‘M, M, & M due to get their nails done this week’) because my old brain just doesn’t remember these things for itself any more and there are only so many post-it notes that fit around the edge of my computer.)

. . . but I had also never really felt any deep-seated urge to write my daily thoughts and feelings down on paper either.  Truth be told, before I started this blog I never wrote much of anything—apart from a couple of short paragraphs in our college brochure each term (which I was coerced into by my boss I might add.)

However, now that I am writing more (and kinda-sorta-sometimes enjoying it) I can see that there might well be advantages to writing something . . . anything . . . every single day.  I can go for days and days without putting pen to paper because I ‘can’t think of anything interesting to write’.  I have the same issue when it comes to sketching (I can’t decide what to draw—so I don’t draw anything.  Sigh.) The fact that I know that the longer I leave it the more difficult it becomes to start up again appears to hold little sway.

But a diary?  No, I don’t really think a diary is for me. I would have nothing as sensational to write in it as Oscar Wilde, but even if I did (or maybe, especially if I did) I am not sure I would want to commit it to paper. It seems to me that private diaries seldom remain private.

Still, I definitely could benefit from the discipline of writing every day, and thinking about this reminded me of a book I read years ago ‘The Artist’s Way‘ and Julia Cameron’s ‘Morning Pages.  What are morning pages?  Morning Pages are one of the basic tools Julia advocates for unleashing creativity.

‘Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.  There is no wrong way to do Morning Pagesthey are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mindand they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page . . .
and then do three more pages tomorrow.’
(Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way)

I remember when I read this book all those years ago I thought these morning pages sounded a bit . . . ‘Really?  Sigh.  How that is going to work?  Maybe I’ll give them a go.  Some day . . . ‘  But I never did.  Maybe I wasn’t ready then.  Perhaps I am now.  Now I kind of like the idea of writing without thinking and not having to worry about spelling, or grammar, or making sense to anyone else.  I like the idea of doing them longhand (perhaps I can even doodle around the edges and that will cover me for the ‘draw something every day’ (unkept) promises I also made to myself) and I also especially like the fact that (unlike a diary) I can tear the pages up immediately afterwards if I want to, so no-one is ever going to read them (ever) but me.

At worst I will have wasted a little (more) time in the morning.  At best—well, who knows.  I might surprise myself.  Anyway, my creativity could do with a bit of unleashing so I’m going to give them ago.  I’ll let you know how I get on.

But until then, just so you know I am not a complete diary-phobe, I thought I’d finish with an excerpt from a diary I read just the other day . . .

“Morning: Slept.
Afternoon: Slept.
Evening: Ate grass.
Night: Ate grass. Decided grass is boring.
Scratched. Hard to reach the itchy bits.
Slept.”

Jackie French
Diary of a Wombat

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Without my dogs my wallet would be full, my house would be clean, but my heart would be empty.’ Anon.

Stories from my Sketchbook  . . .

  • Three heartworm injections,
  • Three C3 injections,
  • Three ears-eyes-heart checks,
  • Three nail clippings,
  • Three pinched, poked, prodded, over-excited, over-wrought and now very tired little dogs . . .
  • One exhausted mum . . .

(and one very quick, very loose (and very rare) sketch of all my three girls together)

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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