Back to school.
Find me a phrase that drives up emotions in you like this one does, go on, have a try.
Then add in that you are young, with those said emotions.
A backpack, new shoes, and a dread so deep that it still wakes you up twenty years or so later in a cold sweat and a racing heart.
Now we are talking the stuff of nightmares. But then we realise, it was all a dream and we laugh at how it used to be. The relief is wonderful.
I don’t have to go to school any more!
And then we drop our own children off as the leaves gather colour.
I see you brave ones who hate school. Draw pictures in every exercise book. Day dream in maths lessons of better days. Draw on your arms in biro, draw on your rulers, on your rubbers, (stick holes in it too). Draw of robots and lasers, draw that evil student that hates you with a big asteroid plummeting towards them. Draw that teacher that shouted at you in the classroom being chased by a hungry minotaur. Draw of superheroes and villains and gather stories that make you snort aloud in the middle of French because it contained farting noises (and something awful in the dinner queue with a cheese and onion sandwich).
Draw it all and hold fast.
Just one woman with a pen and a sketch book who still really doesn’t have a clue how she thinks of the world. I guess that’s real honest drawing, I’ll figure it out. I always have perceived my world through these lines. Mistakes after mistakes. Processing and redrawing. I drew Bonnie after six goes, it helped me to do so.
On difficult days the only way for me to process events is to draw. A language in itself of sense.
I’m deeply grateful for all your well wishes regarding Bonnie’s passing, you’re all in it with me, some of you for ten years now. It’s not the Never Ending story though, it’s my life on concrete streets and there’s no dragons I’m afraid.
Just this cat who really is going to be the death of me. I make no apologies for the anatomical mess in this drawing, I will look like that if she gets me one day. Much love.
Todays the day.
Bob the Dog Get’s a Job by Tracey Hammet and illustrated by myself is published today!
It’s a gorgeous picture book story for young children about Bob the Dog and Pat the Cat who are the best of friends. Bob is a super busy dog, Pat is Pat, a cat, who does just that.
It’s an adventure in ice cream with all sorts of interesting people who they meet along the way.
I’ve had a great time developing the characters, I hope you enjoy it. It’s available through Graffeg or in all good independent book shops and online book sellers. If you are outside the United Kingdom, I would suggest you try Book Depository for world wide shipping.
The Great Escape.
Have you any idea how much two little characters can absolutely take over ?
Bob the dog and Pat the cat.
Oh you really, really don’t.
Pat is obsessed with my paint box, I had to redraw so much of the book because she could not keep still. Bob isn’t really that much better and being constantly watched in case I pull out a nice biscuit is most distracting.
It’s very, very hard working around this chaos.
To make things worse, while I was drawing, they climbed out of the window. Tracey is going to kill me, I was meant to be keeping an eye on them. I’m in big trouble.
I wanted my nice quiet space back but I think that may be a thing of the past now these two are on the loose.
They were last seen sprinting down a side road near to me after the ice cream van so they could be anywhere by now.
Send help, (and ice cream) because Bob is on the way and will be hitting the shops very soon and will hopefully be out of my studio so I can tidy up. If you do see them, please send me photos so I can track their whereabouts.
I know you all know how I am happiest when I am drawing in my sketchbooks.
Bob came out of my sketchbooks so here’s a little gallery of how I developed the drawings from rough sketches.
She started quite wolf like. (Obviously my own dogs had a bit of a say here and Pat the Cat is looking a bit like Renee…) Bob is a very clever dog and I felt the best place to start was with a smart pair of pointy ears… I drew Bob doing awesome things. (predicting sunny weather in Wales is awesome ok?)
And then I tried making her legs shorter and her ears fluffier. There was lots of room for expression here. I gave Pat a white face so we could see her better.
And then I added some colour…
And then, make some roughs.
Bob isn’t any particular breed of dog, I didn’t want to draw a specific breed, I’m probably biased towards mixed breed dogs anyway haha but I like the fact you can’t tell what she is. She is simply Bob and rather brilliant at solving problems in her own way. Pat is along for the fun too, in her very cat like way, (there under your feet and then gone in a flash).
La de dah.
Hark at me getting the landscaping done in my garden.
Frannie is planning a moonscape (or dogscape) she hasn’t decided yet. It’s obviously going to have mostly two foot deep craters as Frannie loses interest and moves along to the next virgin patch of grass once she’s dug the thing. My ankles are really loving the new rugged terrain.
Another question. Why does the laundry pile grow in the spring? Because everyone has outgrown their clothes again and nothing fits so everyone throws out said clothes to be washed and for me to put it back once dry and the cycle continues…
Did I mention I’ve illustrated a book?
Sunday baggage check. Filmed too because it has been a while (because I’ve been up to something rather exciting).
The bottom of a school bag is never a pretty place. Don’t go there. If you’ve lost something in your bag, accept it’s loss, just stuff more books back on top. It will turn up in a few months with that old banana skin you forgot about.
Let the wet one in.
Wet cat alert. Racing through the garden, scaling up the side of the house in sideways wind and rain and screeching at the window.
Now happily purring and drying off in a pile of clean, (was dry, is now not), laundry.
Back to school.
Oh that phrase. Strikes anxiety into the hearts of every school child that didn’t think summer would ever end.
Like a guillotine for fun times and lie ins. The harbinger of Autumn.
Here come hard shoes and stiff trousers, time tables and breaktimes, packed lunches and P.E., assemblies and assessments. Gym hall smells and nippy mornings.
Heads down parents, morning battle has commenced, get on the road and growl at the morning traffic.
Lockdowns and isolation never stopped growing bones.
Obligatory family drawing to show that my clothes budget was grossly underestimated this year.
Gruff is saving all his growing for night time, coming downstairs in the morning, visibly taller.
It’s all change they say.
You’ll look back and wonder, where has the time gone?
A big fast moving blur just happened and we’re ten years on.
And then I see all the drawings and I smile.
Artistic snapchat, illustrative Instagram, whimsical facebook all in a little sketchbook and all from the day I’d lived.
Technology is indeed great and I love it too but there really is something lovely in looking at your day and picking out what mattered to you, what was funny, what was hurtful, what was just great and then detangling it through lines.
Still life. (Hot weather edition).
Humidity and thirty degree heat means one thing. Ice lollies, shade and fan on.
Frannie is being kept in as she has only one fast speed setting and Bonnie is setting a lovely example of a dead dog and sprawling her long bones wherever I seem to step.
Everything is sticky.
Swansea is baking hot today and our old stone terrace house has heated up lovely and is roasting us slowly.
It’s a bit hard seeing a whole stadium full of football fans shouting for their teams on the television yet you can’t leave the house because there’s been a positive Covid case in your year at school.
Last week of school before the summer and it’s back to online learning with the cats.
Miya likes to come in through the roof window this time of year. Obviously as late as possible and normally making quite a racket as she plops onto the floor of the loft, startling Millie.
How does she climb up?
Well, she scales a stone garden wall and then leaps vertically up the side of our house to access the roof. Terrifying.
Both agree the swift show is wonderful and are very happy the sun is warmer and the clouds are bubbling high into the long, light evenings.
There are drop in clinics running this weekend for currently the youngest portion of the national Covid vaccination program, the eighteen year olds.
Millie had her text through a few days ago notifying her she could attend one of these clinics.
She had to take a photographic identification so we dug out her passport.
I drove down with her to the enormous film studios on the outskirts of the city, it was quite something driving into it, lots of run down industrial units colonised by flocks of noisy seagulls.
We parked up and she put a mask on and joined the queue with lots of other young people. Red stripy tape and orange bollards, they all stood apart without being asked. Some on their own, some with mates, some with parents, most on their phones probably checking in with a nice selfie and a hashtag #gotstabbed
Our children have had many vaccines in their lives already, this one felt different. Probably because of it’s newness and it’s immediacy. The other vaccines as babies you knew there was a slim chance of them getting the said diseases. This one is different isn’t it?
I waited an hour in the car watching other parents in their cars, watching the shuttle bus pull up bringing more young people. It was busy.
Millie texted me while inside, in her words:
There was no daylight inside, the building was really big but the ceilings were low and everywhere was white..
Corridors were white too with small windows in where I could see people sat inside. Lots nurses and doctors walking around in their uniforms often wheeling trolleys with large computers on and stacked up carts with the medical supplies on.
I sat in a waiting area next to another girl (well 2 metres next to her) and we chatted about stuff. When it was my turn, I was taken through to a station and they asked me some questions about if I was well. Then I received the injection and waited for a few minutes to make sure I was feeling fine.
And then out she came, clutching an information sheet and asking for lunch.
Pointy nose, perfect shape for sneaking in pockets.
We have a pocket thief and she loves tissues. Tissues are very nice and tasty, sweet wrappers are lovely too.
Child on wheels.
It’s the art of making things look funny when really I’m hating every minute and would rather be sipping espresso martinis on a beach in Barbados with sunburn and giving no hoots about beach body ready or any of that rubbish.
The news has caught more people going to parties, having their hair dyed in car parks or actually being outside and having the audacity to drive somewhere nice and drink a coffee. We are told we must wait another few weeks and see if we are allowed out to travel to a destination for exercise without infecting each other with more variants named after nice places.
But the sun is shining!
Do you not know how lovely it is in Swansea when the sun shines? It’s so rare that a day without rain would be classified as a drought. I walked to my local park and felt the warmth and smelt the fumes from a passing moped piled on with screaming teenagers.
But anyhow, children on wheels are much easier to manoeuvre.
Stop everything. It’s snowed!
Just hearing the silence and knowing that there’s a snowfall on the roads and not just because it’s lockdown.
There’s children screaming all around my area from tea tray sledge rides on an icy road and snow down the backs of their necks. They’re all off their screens and legging it down to the park to enjoy the light dusting from the skies.
And yes, my son is in shorts and wellies. I care not, he’s outside and he’s laughing.
Yellow snow, gritty snow, icy snow, roll in it and look up at grey gentle skies dusting us with frozen kisses.
You have been chosen, fortunate one.
Don’t move while we get comfortable.
Put the bowl down before the cat explodes please!
Back to school.
Back to school.
Nothing. Nothing prepares you for that wave of emotion watching your child walk into school like this.
Teachers in masks.
Marked out spaces.
Playground cordoned off.
Gruff is beyond happy to be back, don’t get me wrong.
I’ve got mother of the year award as I sent him with a back pack not a disposable carrier for his lunch.
I’d like to wish all teachers the best of luck dealing with what is a very difficult and emotional return.
You’re all stars.
School run returns.
I have just dropped Evie off for her first day back after four months.
We drove past playgrounds taped up, school buses driven by masked faces, empty roads and a cloudy blustery sky.
We both thought it felt like a September day.Cold wind, grey sky, showers on the horizon.
Evie jumped out the car and legged it up the road without a backwards glance.
I sat in the car and bloody howled. I howled all the way home. Big red puffy snotty howls. Nice one Angie.
Good luck to all the little dudes starting school in Wales today.
Us mums will be there to hose you down in the garden when you come home
My guys are real tech fans, they love a gadget, why not, it’s fun.
All the screens in the world however, will never replace a massive, cardboard box.
Endless worlds travelled to.
Infinite possibilities within four walls of brown.
Just the best thing in the world.
Climb in and make your den your own, (with the two cats and the dog as well please). Drag in all the cushions and throws in the house, fill it with cars or fluffy animals.
Eat your lunch in it, try it, food tastes brilliant in a box.
Within the parameters of four walls, embrace boredom and overcome it with imagination and fun.
Seeing my boy staring out of a box gives me a perspective on how this lock-down has played out for my children.
Just hang on a minute.
It’s going to be a while.
No I’ve got to blow it up first.
Well it’s got to fill with water.
It’s going to be a while.
No it’s not ready, bit longer.
Might be a bit cold at first.
IT’S TOO COLD!
Can I have a sketchbook please? Need to draw some monster hands.
From the boy who hasn’t drawn since lock-down.
I’m beyond smiling. But I am being very cool about it and trying not to look. Of course I always have spares because to run out of sketchbooks would not be worth thinking about.
It’s hard not to peek okay?
Get off my sofa and wash those feet, they are as black as soot!
Myles attached an old plant pot with an old viking shield to make a basket ball hoop onto the side of my studio today.
Gruff has not stopped all afternoon. Evie and Millie have played with it too.
Within the course of the afternoon various toys experienced the joy of being hurled through the hoop and being fished out of the compost heap (which is to the side of my studio).
Gruff is now filthy from fishing things out of the compost heap and his feet are black from being barefoot all day.
The laughter and cackles were wonderful to hear.
No school today.
There’s no school today.
We can’t go out darling because I’m not well.
That means we have to stay in just in case, to make sure we don’t make anyone else ill.
It will be ok, Mam is just a bit sick and I’ll be better soon.
And you will be ok too. We have to make sure no one else gets ill so the shops may be shut for a bit.
It will be ok.
“I have something for you mum” are words that every parent knows are laced with a few meanings.
The first is innocent and lovely, probably a little handful of daisies or a hug.
The second, however, is something unwanted, sinister and must be approached with extreme caution and cynicism.
“Oh yes?” comes my reply (raised eyebrow). I am the master after years of being tricked, poker face is on and braced for impact,
And there they are in my hand, a scrunched up pile of months and months of school letters, casually handed over without a single drop of sweat shed.
Months of letters.
Suppose it could have been a slug or a dead spider.
Puberty meet menopause.
Puberty one end, menopuase the other. Both made better by hugs.
I don’t want my children to have the same experience I had, we talk and we laugh about things and how rubbish hormones are. We slam doors and shout and cry. It’s good to.
I can’t protect them from the outside world though and it stinks that my daughter is constantly questioned over her decision to have short hair.
She’s twelve and she’s having to already fend off questions about appearance.
I tell her sometimes people just aren’t ready for fabulous but to carry on anyway and to be just so.
If you have a stroppy teen in your house, remember how much it hurt to be that age, it sucks majorly and you as mum are there to keep them going until they are ready to be a big person.
Until then, hold fast and try not to think about the hormonal plughole that you’ve become.
There’s magic in drawing. Not sure how it works but it’s made me stop in my tracks today.
I painted this about 15 years ago, long before Gruff was born.
We were tidying up his room today, so we dusted it down and cleaned it up.
We were laughing as he asked me did I paint this for him (as it looks exactly like him right now).
It has always been in his room on his shelf.
I said well how could I?
I loved the idea of a gangly, little boy with messy hair, running so fast like a cheetah. I like to draw animals, I always have.
Here he is in my house, today. My little running bean who loves to run.
Cwtch is a Welsh word. It means cuddle.
And cats all over the world know exactly what it means when it’s cold and there is a warm lap waiting to sleep in.
Soggy, wet night needs soggy cat cuddles.
Have you got everything?
Organised? I laugh in the face of organised and bring you morning anarchy!
Gruff brought home his school photographs today.
Wait till your daughter gets home. `
In comes the herd of arms, legs. noise, bags and school letters. Remove shoes with a lovely hands free manoeuvre only children can do with carefully bought school shoes.
Some days are longer than others. Some days have seen homework disasters and others brilliantly funny things involving a protractor, a frog and a how so and so from the other class thinks something that is so stupid.
And hit the sofa with a biscuit of triumph.
And Mum’s head spins.
Morning is broken.
There are morning people and there are people who shouldn’t see morning at all.
A good book.
It’s autumn, it’s lashing down with rain outside. Curl up with a good book and get lost somewhere.
March of the kitty puffs.
Just so I’ve kept you in the loop. Renee was adopted by us last year shortly after saying goodbye to her kittens who had also gone off to loving homes.
Renee had just been spayed and was calling for her babies for a few nights before she settled down and enjoyed the life of a pampered, happy puss.
One night, we heard an almighty yowling (similar to an air raid claxon). In she marched with one of Evie’s *kitty puffs in her mouth, gently placed it on the floor and went back to find another one. At this point, we all came to the same conclusion.
We gave her all the puffs we had.
Last nights puff activity was off the chart. Howling galore from Renee. We woke to puffs outside our door, on the stairs, in the sink, in Bonnie’s crate, one even found it’s way inside a wellington boot.
Renee, is now busy sleeping off her antics ready for tonight’s mass movement of puffs.
*Kitty puffs, for your information, are little balls of knitted wool, stuffed with stuffing and have sown on eyes and a nose. They are my idea in response of Evie asking me to knit something fluffy and cute. They come in various colours (whatever is in my stash of wool) and I think I’ve knitted at least over a hundred over the years for various children as they are very cute and totally squidge-able…anyway…I’m digressing….
Little box of happiness.
Evie has a box.
Not just any old box.
It’s a box of happy things.
So when things get bad or sad.
She pulls the box down off the shelf and looks through it.
The box changes throughout the year.
(I think there’s a few conkers in there right now).
Sometimes mum sneaks in some chocolate…
There’s a bar of soap too as it smells lovely.
There’s fluffy and shiny things.
Small things of wonder that when picked up, replace sadness or worry with smiles.
What would be in your box?
So Renee and Miya have decided to “allow” Bonnie upstairs.
We didn’t know this was happening as Bonnie would slink off downstairs as we were stirring.
It was a 2am trip to the toilet that they were all rumbled, happily snoozing on the landing.
So my mornings now look like this. I really don’t need an alarm clock and there’s one animal per child to wake up with purrs or licks.
Millie and Evie joined millions of children across the world today to send a message that it is time for a change.
They made their own sign and took an alarm clock to ring out at one o’ clock.
The turnout was wonderful, so many school children came to make their stand for our beautiful planet.
Well done to all the children who protested today.
I hope the world is listening.
Evie started her transition week for high school today. I remember drawing about her first adventures in school when I first started the blog.
And now there she is off to new ones.
And I’m reaching for the higher strength glasses to draw about it.
Chocolate chickens on the menu for breakfast this morning.
All pva and newspapers here today.
Quick on the draw.
Thought it would be fun to film my blog post today. Enjoy.
Onesie not amused.
Winter is here and we will now commence after school onesie club.
My how you’ve grown.
I wake up in the morning and he’s visibly taller.
Installing Gruff, version 9.0 complete with sword upgrade.
Happy birthday bigger dude, you make me ridiculously proud to be your mum.
She wears it well.
I suppose Evie is right. Technically it is on her body, therefore she is wearing her coat.
I am not happy.
It ain’t half hot.
I’m busy. Filling up the paddling pool and various inflatable animals for the after school paddle club.
Think there may be other little paws wanting to cool down today.
Can’t be shown, won’t be shown. Has to learn it himself. Can’t think who on earth he gets that from.
When you are eight.
You are allowed Thor’s hammer and a light saber in the same battle.
Gruff worries, his big worries all seem to pile in at bedtime when he’s tired. The cat helps out with furry cuddles which seems to make things better.
Worries are worries no matter how small you are.
The sun finally dragged itself from behind the Swansea perma-cloud this weekend for a brief, glimpse of warmth before the next rainy deluge.
It was what the wildlife in our garden was waiting for. All the bugs, bees, butterflies and other pollen loving beasties made their annual pilgrimage to our flowering ivy.
Evie was the first to immerse herself in fluttering red admirals. She dipped apple slices in sugar water and stood by the ivy waiting for one of them to sample some sugary loveliness.
There are two mornings in the year that are terrible. They are so very terrible because there is nothing you can do to hide from the fact that there is school that day.
The first terrible morning is the morning after the summer holidays. Like a dark shadow cast over the summer that went on forever, the morning marks the death knell of a season of bare feet and adventures.
The second terrible morning is the morning after the Christmas holidays, the decorations look stale, the tree flops to one side and it isn’t even daylight yet.
That moment looms before you have to wake them up and bring in the morning. I’m a mum alarm clock. I try to be cheery but I think that makes it even worse.
I’ve tried matter of fact but that just makes me sound cold.
I’ve tried distraction, “oh look it’s sunny” but that deepens the despair.
It’s like ripping off a plaster, make it quick, make it over with as soon as possible.
Love is cheep.
Evie loves to wander down the garden when she gets home from school. She lets herself into the hen pen and has cuddles with her little brood.
Poorly Evie this evening, not even cat nurse is helping, (even with purr set to mega).
It’s not very exciting here at the moment. I had a wisdom tooth removed yesterday and while a drawing of my swollen face would be amusing, I’ll start with how useful a dog can be for a multiway leaning post…
Wibbly wobbly toothy peggy.
Evie’s just had another front tooth come out ready for the new one behind it and Gruff has finally discovered his first wobbly tooth. He’s not too impressed that he has to do the work though…
Home time buddy.
Home from school to happy purring cat.
All at sea in a beautiful sofa boat.
Red riding hood.
I suppose Evie’s wearing her coat…
Gruff’s spent all morning making his own robot out of tin foil and, a shoe box and a lot of sticky tape.
Winter is coming.
This year’s hat selection includes a gothic black knitted beanie, a sparkly unicorn and a Pokemon Pikachu to keep their heads happy and warm.
Seven years in Swansea.
Gruff is now seven years old.
There has been another football added to the growing army of bouncy spheres in his possession. There are more wrestlers and cars. More noise and more opinion too.
Best of all is that there are more laughs and hugs.
Be like Evie.
This is Evie.
Evie wears sparkly swirly things. Evie also likes maths, dinosaurs, unicorns, science and drawing.
Evie knows that every day can be a sparkly day.
Be like Evie.
How to train a house dragon.
This takes a lot of careful research, jaffa cakes and an awareness of other creatures that may take exception to your dragon (eg. cat,dog, chicken, teddy bear).
“Express yourself” I said.
Nine years long.
When on earth did Evie turn nine? I’m missing time I’m sure I am. Oh hang on, here’s a few thousand drawings here telling me…
I’m not allowed to talk about it.
It’s getting colder, think I need to put the heating on. We have a cold cat in need of heat.
End of September mornings are tough. Even alarm cat has slunk off to snooze somewhere.
This is Millie’s expression on finding out that I may have bought her a “pink” scientific calculator.
I didn’t obviously but was it a bit cruel of me to let her entertain the thought for a while?
Seriously though, if you’re going to make calculators, at least start with a T.A.R.D.I.S. design not a pink one, although they may need to figure out how to make fluffy ones for Evie…
Gruff reads one and then I get a turn…eventually…
I think I need a fog-horn to get through that tv induced daze…
Interview at Gwernyfed High School.
I was interviewed by the Creative Champions at Gwernyfed High School in Brecon today.
I talked to them about how blogging has helped me as an artist creatively. I thought it only fair to draw them as they interviewed me. As you can see, some of them directed me in how they wanted to be drawn.
It was a pleasure to visit such a beautiful school. Thank you for having me today!
Wrapping your own exercise books for school.
It’s that time of year when Millie brings home her exercise books to be covered for the year.
I’ll leave you with Millie on this one…
There is a particular way of getting into a conker. Leg up, heel aimed at the spikey little sphere and smash down with full force revealing your shiny prize inside.
Gruff has bought a new skateboard with his pocket money. It has shiny yellow wheels and a very cool design on the back.
It’s a tricky thing to master but he’s putting in the practice.
Splash loads of fun.
We have been kindly treated to a lovely visit at Swansea’s LC which has the biggest waterpark in Wales so I thought you’d all like to see what we got up too.
So good to have understanding neighbours, especially when your son decides to invent a new form of golf (involving a jedi sword and a giant inflatable ball….)
The moment when you realise your teenage daughter is perfectly capable of watching television and being on her phone all at the same time.