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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
Organised? I laugh in the face of organised and bring you morning anarchy!
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.
There are morning people and there are people who shouldn’t see morning at all.
It’s autumn, it’s lashing down with rain outside. Curl up with a good book and get lost somewhere.
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….
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.
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.
I suppose Evie is right. Technically it is on her body, therefore she is wearing her coat.
I am not happy.
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.
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.
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…
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…
Gruff’s spent all morning making his own robot out of tin foil and, a shoe box and a lot of sticky tape.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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…
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…
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!
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.
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.
If you can put the deck chair up yourself you can sit in it….well that one backfired didn’t it?
We are going camping. Gruff has packed all his teddies and toys into his minion rucksack but he has a dilemma.
We are not going just yet.
a) Unpack all of said teddies and toys so he can sleep with them.
b) Sleep with the entire rucksack?
Answers on a postcard.
Two weeks ago I harvested the last of our brocolli from our garden. It was riddled with green caterpillars. Evie had collected a fair few of them and put them in a mesh cage, (with the hope that they would pupate into butterflies).
This didn’t exactly go to plan. Most of the caged caterpillars were infected by a parasitic wasp and the resulting emergence of its larva wouldn’t be out of place in a Ridley Scott film.
One was left and had started to pupate in the cage but we noticed that there was another one attached to the window in our kitchen where an escapee caterpillar had chanced its luck.
We went away this weekend and came back this afternoon to the sight a newly formed cabbage (muncher) white butterfly emeging out of its chrysalis.
There never was a happier girl.
Evie has taken on the task of letting the hens out in the morning.
Today I noticed that the keys to the hen pen were missing. After scouring the house I gave up and decided to collect the eggs…
…and found a lovely warm set of keys under one of our hens.
Evie has been on her Brownie pack holiday this weekend and has been sorely missed by everyone. (Especially Gruff).