Yes it has been quiet here hasn’t it but one pair of hands I have and trust me, I’m very good at burning food and leaving ingredients out of cakes this time of year. Hectic rushing does indeed send me into a headless chicken state.
Yes Frannie can indeed sleep two legged. This is her version of staying off the sofa.
Yes the cats sleep like that, how else does a cat sleep? Please let me know if your cat sleeps in a sensible spot.
Yes my teenager is far superior at decorating a trifle than I will ever be.
Yes Millie is at university and I’m still shocked about that but she’s home and there is washing but smiles too.
I wish you a peaceful time and with much love because it is always better than sprouts.
Shelter is a pair of legs and a nice tree. We’ve been caught out in some nasty downpours this week and it’s nice to know I’m trusted enough to be a shelter against the rain even if we do look like a pair of dodgy lurkers (in wellies).
It’s been raining for longer than I can remember.
That means muddy walks. Add in a rogue cat and we are now both needing showers.
October is here with it’s greywash.
I have been playing hokey cokey with the rain and the washing.
I love this game so much.
I lost. (A rogue shower flew in and dumped a car wash worth of water in two minutes).
I’m not drawing my face as you can guess the shape of it.
The evening light gets quite fiery this time of year. Lights up the hill and even makes the rubbish and the massive weeds in my front something extra. I adore an angry sky.
Having a right laugh reading my meters so I can tell the readings to the energy company so they can charge me the price of my kidneys to not turn the heating on at all this winter.
I should stop there really and let you enjoy the picture of my cobweb infested ceiling.
Queen Elizabeth the second died last Friday.
She’s currently lying in state in London. The queue to see her coffin is currently a couple of miles long. I don’t think you can go twice or perhaps you can (if you forgot to say something the first time around or if you left your coat I suppose). Her state funeral is on Monday and everything is closing for the day. A national bank holiday. No school, no work, nothing will be open.
My kids tell me it feels like lockdown is coming. It’s only for a day I say, it’s ok, the world will continue at breakneck speed the next day.
Books of condolence have been opened around the United Kingdom and online to write in.
I’d rather draw a picture. But then, I always did.
Even through lockdown and beyond.
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.
I look, I see, I draw.
Bonnie. This was your life. You were an illustrator’s dog. This is your legacy.
I’m breaking the blog and the internet today with dog drawings. Enjoy.
All tennis balls have been marked safe today. All socks and fluffy toys. All annoying spaniels. All cats and chickens too. Sausages have been marked safe today. Grass is less yellow, there is less hair and no mugs of tea have been knocked over.
You were the good girl.
There is a crater were an almighty heart once beat.
Your long legs and huge ears, the pneumatic tail, the gaze of absolute, unconditional love right until the lights gently dimmed.
Goodbye my sweet, gentle giant.
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.
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.
The streets around me closed for a bit at the weekend. They hooked up a sound system and blasted 80’s music and Tom Jones into the early hours. The sound of bouncing and laughing from the inflatable castle and a quiz that went on for quite a bit.
Questions for the Queen.
70 years of wearing a shiny crown is going to give one serious hat hair. How does one take the crown off and not giggle? I take a hat off and my hair is flat and the rest sticks out like an explosion.
Does the world really smell of fresh paint to the Queen or is she fed up of everyone saying that?
Do her corgis chew her slippers? (Frannie has so far this year eaten two of my best pairs of trainers).
Is her throne a recliner now she is a bit older so she can get nice and comfy?
When she puts on her cloak, does she do a maniacal laugh like a villain or does she want to be a superhero and zoom around the palace like Superwoman?
Oh and Frannie has added bunting to her barking repertoire. One is delighted at that. I bet her corgis are used to flags I suppose.
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).
I thought you’d like to have a peak inside the book…
Bob and Pat live in a big, busy city but there’s lovely parks to run and sniff in.
I wanted to create a busy, city landscape.
The park is based on Brockwell Park in London, there are amazing views of the city of London from here and I wanted to draw that tree lined city scape. I started with the brush pens I use for Doodlemum initially but the finished drawings are in watercolour and pen.
To Bob, everything is big too, she’s not a huge dog but if there is a problem, she’ll find a way….not the obvious way….Bob’s way!
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?
One of Renee’s many sleeping places is a little wicker basket on the landing. She likes it here very much as she can place all her knitted kitty puffs in one basket before a days screeching (carrying them all around the house and leaving them in random places).
This was a fine plan.
Until we got Frannie.
Stair gate is up but skinny necked pilferers do find a way.
Kitty Puff numbers have declined rapidly since the introduction / invasion of this blonde, dog tornado.
Renee is not impressed.
I need to knit more.
Little short of how I draw Bob and her friend Pat the cat.*
I can’t wait for you all to see! If you’ve followed me for a while you can see that dogs and cats are a big part of my life.
I have a lot of inspiration around me that’s for sure!
Creating these two characters was a lot of fun to do. I think they will going on a lot of adventures…
*The picture book is called Bob the Dog gets a job. It’s going to be out in June through Graffeg publishing.
I’d like you to meet someone.
This is Bob.
She’s the reason I’ve been a bit quiet. She’s been very, very busy… I’ve had quite a time keeping up with her.
There’s a book coming! I hope you like ice cream…
It was bound to happen wasn’t it. A matter of probability that the little blighter of a virus was going to show it’s face.
And it hasn’t disappointed. Tiny but mighty in flooring us all like a mini slayer of giants.
Gone through us like a spring breeze, we have all dropped to it’s charms.
Chills, thrills, coughing, runny noses and more coughing.
Starts with a little line on a lateral flow test, then the sore throat, then comes the fatigue and the fun.
Welcome covid to our house. Please close the door on your way out. We really would like you to leave now.
(we are ok though, just fed up of feeling rubbish).
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.
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.
I blinked and I missed it didn’t I?
The electronic billboard that appeared a few weeks before the start of the pandemic in 2020 on the side of a house on my evening walk, the one that featured images of the giant Coronovirus and telling us to stay indoors to stay safe. The one that lit up my night time walks with garish primary colours of resilience.
Just a freshly rendered golden pebble-dashed wall.
And my dog cocks her leg and wees on the wall while a discarded mask blows past me.
I’m probably the only one that’s noticed (or remotely bothered). I can’t decide if I’m actually bothered or that my icon of the Pandemic has just got fed up and gone to another wall to advertise holidays. Covid 19 is so yesterday.
And just like that, the skies over Port Talbot (Mordor)light up as the blast furnaces get going for the evening shift.
Mud in the veins, mud in the soul.
Mud in the hallway and over the door.
Mud on my shoes, mud on the dog.
Hello January, you’re very muddy this year.
I felt a watercolour touch was apt as I haven’t actually dried out from walking in the rain for over a month.
Had to paint the window for Christmas, other windows in the house have had a makeover too. Beats cleaning them.
We got a tree!
Millie and myself chopped it down ourselves too and carried it off the hill.
Talking, laughing, wiping pine needles from our hair, our car filled to the brim with prickly branches and laughter.
I care not for mess, I care not for resentment, I care not for mistakes. I care about my children, growing up and becoming free.
And it is the most liberating experience watching them fly.
I am proud.
Job done good Mam.
Swansea is glowing. NASA have confirmed we are shining out to the universe a message of neon and tinsel through the endless, cold rain and wind. Even through the grey, permanent cloud that envelopes the city in a wet hug, we are shining. I haven’t tripped over in the dark all week, it’s lovely and bright.
Every plug socket, overloaded with nine cable extensions, of course it’s safe, they’re LED’s, plug it in Mam, light it up.
We are so bright, we are shining, come on then Santa we haven’t got all month you know, can’t you see we’ve been ever so good?
Now pass me a mince pie, no it is my first one, honest.
No not quite there with the coming back to me. In fact it’s a hilarious game of catch me if you can. Being a sight reactive dog is a tricky one to navigate as Frannie is very fast and there is no way I can catch her. Poor Bonnie is too old to join in and too busy sniffing out crisps to eat.
We get sneaky and cunning. We use sausages and chicken, we throw fluffy toys.
Today was a new tactic.
Keeping still and lying flat on the ground.
Click, back on the lead.
Here’s the highlight of the season, hunting for my dog’s “gift” in the beautiful autumn leaves.
Autumn is a quiet time of year. I am a bit quiet on here after the chaos of last year.
Life has needed to slow down, and enjoying the winter months is something I look forward to each year.
So hello soggy leaves and drenched, muddy clothes.
You can’t see me.
I am very very sneaky.
I am so flat on the ground, like a little golden pancake.
This pancake is stalking you and I will pounce on you and eat your shoes.
Or I might just chase that crisp packet…
No really they’re not allowed up.
Not at all.
There is no dog here, I have no idea what you are talking about. It is simply a messy pile of cushions admiring the autumn sun streaming through very wonky blinds.
No dog here at all.
Yes Autumn is most definitely here. After a period of denial and a few weeks of early morning school starts, we can safely say we are on the downward slope of darker, wetter evenings.
But do not doubt the resilience of the people of Swansea to get their washing loads out on their scaffolding pole lines in between the showers and lob a beach ball over the back gardens while doing it.
You are just not living unless you are.
Come at us Autumn, we’ll get the bedding dried and folded in between your deluges.
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.
We’ve had Frannie a whole year now and only now has she realised who the boss is in this house.
It’s a small black angry creature who eats, sleeps and screams if you get in her way.
And she is very very angry that you ate one of her kitty puff babies.
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.
I hate socks right now. Who invented socks? Please show yourself and pair all these please.
That is all.
There’s a dog on the other side.
We must make contact.
We must let them know we are here.
And then tell them that we’re bigger than them and their mum.
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.
Lots of creepy crawling flowering plants grow in little places on the old stone walls. They always have thrived and grow on everyone’s walls. Brightest of purples this time of year with the happy drone of busy bees.
I’ve added lots of pots this year with herbs and trailing flowers. It’s plant chaos and I love the mess.
The lavender is enormous this year so the bee party is going to be lovely. I’m hoping to see a return of the hummingbird hawkmoth I saw one year, it really looks like a little hummingbird.
No chemicals, no weedkiller, just a pair of hands and a cat interested in digging.
Today on the menu, AstraZeneca part two.
Part one was four days of feeling a little rough and a sore arm, not much to get concerned, I grew no second head and disappointedly I didn’t develop an affinity with anything Microsoft.
I drove to the same building as I originally went to for part one, a small community centre, one way in and one way out. I waited 5 minutes before being ushered to a chair where a trolley was moving up and down the line of waiting people. One to inject and one to ask the questions.
Are you well?
Are you allergic to anything?
Whispers in my ear…Are you Pregnant?
My enthusiastic shaking of my head went on a little too long.
Fifteen minutes of waiting and wondering will this make a difference. Will enough of us get the vaccine? Will it work? Truth is we will have to wait and we will have to hope that it will. I feel very small again, insignificant in the bigger picture.
I got my phone out and ate melted sweets from my glovebox.
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.
The council weed killers were out last week spraying down the walls and pavements to get rid of the weeds.
Most unfortunately, it poured down right after and washed most of it away judging by the explosion of colour between the cracks and the gutters.
The smallest little flowers, easily ignored by big feet but loved by little bees and insects. I never really noticed myself until I was drawing on the pavements last year during lockdown. They grew through discarded masks and broken bottles.
Last year, because of the pandemic, we had less spraying and as a result, the most beautiful wildflowers grew on the pavements and the gaps between the old walls.
Beats all the grey any day.
Two hedge trimmers in action, one cuts the other shreds. It’s a good combination.
My hands are filthy with cool earth because the cat is lying on top of my new gardening gloves and I’m not getting swiped.
A small packet of seeds with 100 count, how many to sow, to broadcast or a few in a tray? (There’s no way my long sighted eyes can read this tiny packet print).
You know the answer already.
I sow the lot and I’m hoping a few will come and not be like last year when I couldn’t bear to thin out one seedling and ended up giving the whole street tomato plants potted into toilet rolls or any container I could fill with soil.
This year there are vegetables but also flowers.
Catmint or the snuggle plant as I like to call it as my cat will snuggle the poor plant the minute the first tiny leaves appear in the spring.
There will be violas, phlox, cornflowers and poppies. Nasturtiums and hanging pots with trailing flowers.
For now, empty soil trays with little labels.
I’ve just to wait.
The cone has it’s fun for a pup that misses her favourite toys.
Throw them into the cone for chewies.
I think they call it mindfulness these days.
To be present and part of the moment without self conscious thought or overthinking.
I’m absolutely rubbish at it.
I can see the moment like no one else and I can slow it down, turn it upside down, take it somewhere and show you.
To watch a moment and the hand to produce a heap of lines on a page that my brain understands. That’s crafted over and over and over for years and years and never perfected but perfect in it’s imperfection.
That’s drawing. I like drawing, the only reason I ever started was not because I wasn’t any good, (I was just a toddler) I just saw the moment.
I was a young child sat in a church silently drawing with my finger, the backs of people’s heads sat in their benches.
I was a sad teenager with no escape from my head so I drew my moments that gave me hope.
I was a tired mum with seeing no value in my life that picked up a sketchbook and saw a moment.
I’m getting older and my glasses are thick (and give me huge eyes) but the moments are there and they matter.
So I will draw.
Four days back in school.
One positive Covid test in the year group and it’s back to isolation for the whole of that year and back to online learning.
This is very hard, this is very frustrating. We understand but it’s not easy.
Masks have been handed out to each school child to wear. Shops have free masks in their entrances.
Hand gel in every pocket, mask in the other. Don’t forget your car keys, your phone and your mask and know the year you live in.
Covid is here to stay.
When you run at one hundred miles per hour over broken glass it’s not going to have a great outcome.
Enforced rest and knocking over of everything for the next few days while the superglue and antibiotics mend those power pads then it’s back to flying.
Wild garlic and a cacophony of bird song, there’s no social media in the woods, just the excited chatter of a new season.
It’s been a week of snow, sun and dying Royals. A week of sad television.
We all go the same way, we’re all earthworm food.
I’ve always liked that thought, I don’t want a golden carriage, just chuck me in the hole and plant a cheeky dandelion on top.
I had a lovely hair cut and colour the other day. The first one in a long time too.
I wore my mask and enjoyed it being styled and cut.
Then I went home and popped it back in a bun.
The march of the dandelions and my dog is as relentless as the flying masks in the spring breezes.
The sun is coming back…well now, in a minute, as we say.
The first invitation for a vaccine has landed on our doormat.
Frannie likes fluffy and soft things to chew.
Anything inanimate or living, no preference really, slippers, shoes, Bonnie’s legs, cushions, cats, chickens, it’s all lovely.
So we’ve given her a little blue unicorn to love.
He has now been loved very much for 2 minutes and there isn’t much left of him.
But everyone else is safe and my shoes…for now…
Millie and her classmates are testing for Covid 19 twice a week before school. They do it themselves. For the record I have tried a test to gain some empathy for this process.
There will be sneezing and retching.
Do not touch the fuzzy bit of the swab.
Do not let the dog touch the fuzzy bit of the swab.
Do not let the dog touch the test.
No silica gel is not the liquid.
Did I mention do not touch the fuzzy bit of the swab?
Enjoy your day at school.
Little nip anyone?
Training is underway, teenage pup loves to nibble and it’s easily redirected. Just don’t give up on them, they want to be good.
The cats love home learning, piles of paper and warm laptops.
Makes essay writing a challenge but I have it on good authority they have never missed an assembly.
Our lockdown restrictions are slowly starting to lift. We can stay local, schools are opening next week on a gradual slow return, more people are receiving the vaccines and Covid infections are for now, very low.
This three months of lockdown has felt an awful lot longer. Two of mine are taller, one has got into college and one dog has grown gangly legs.
Feels like spring is coming and with it, more changes.
Not sure really, it’s a strange dog, lady creature clutching milk bottles and dressed in pyjamas. Blinking at the bright morning light and scowling at a passer-by for daring to look at her and her two dog heads peaking out of her legs.
The schools in Wales are starting up for the older children, staggering the return until full time education resumes after the Easter holidays. They have been learning from home for three months this time. It’s been challenging and lonely for them, the lack of interaction has been hard.
There will be years ahead when we will see this play out I think.
Summer catch up school brings a look of sheer horror to my three’s faces. I can’t imagine there will be much enthusiasm at the prospect of that.
Covid infections are now at levels we saw in October 2020. The vaccination program brings me hope we will see normality of some sort and a return to leaving the house very soon.
Nearly a year in a new captivity, a new world of masks, home learning and fear of getting close.
A year of extremes.
A year that screens became the window to the world.
A year of superheroes in blue.
A year that saw my children grow out of their shoes and I didn’t need to replace them.
A year of insomnia and stars I didn’t know existed, early morning breath and bird song, dogs racing through discarded masks and gloves.
A year where the doorstep and the sky outside felt too big.
A year we are still here, lucky to continue, reluctant to move forward for fear of leaving behind that which we’ve lost.
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.
Last week Boris Johnson gave tentative dates for England to come out of the lockdown.
Wales, where we live, gave a more tentative approach to lifting the restrictions we have been living under since before Christmas. We are still under lockdown, we are still very much restricted to no travel and no unessential journeys, meet ups or socialising.
The media have erupted into euphoria.
I can’t share that sentiment. I am not euphoric, I am far from euphoric, I am tired and I am fed up and my hair is resembling an aged Rapunzel. My children are all still at home, their school lessons are still on a screen. They struggle, they can’t see their future as all they can see is the back of their bedroom door.
But moan as I do, Hope has been lobbed at us, like a big floundering fish that might flop away and slide slowly back into the water while I in slow motion grab it with both hands and miss.
Frannie is a year old now and in the middle of being a beautiful terror in our lives.
But when she runs, she flies. If she had wings, I don’t think we’d see her again. Once this lockdown is over, we are going to walk for miles on long sandy beaches. Until then it’s apologies to the *seagulls in the park.
*No seagulls were harmed. She just enjoys the chase, if it was a crisp packet it would be equally fun.
Stepping outside in a sideways ice blast to get those milk bottles is as far as I’m reaching today.
Dog print pyjamas, bobble hat and complete the outfit with some fluffy socks. A passer-by scurries on past either oblivious or terrified at the sweary mess of a women trying to keep her glasses on and picking up milk bottles with hair writhing in the cold wind like the wicked witch of the morning.
Where is my coffee?
The wind is bitingly cold today. Straight from the North Pole and very bitter it is. Flurries of snow in my face and my hair.
A boot full of food to last the next week, no end to the lockdown as yet but we all are holding our breath and hoping.
The house we live in was built around 150 years ago by miners and their families working in the area. That means that at one point. there were families in these very houses, going through the last pandemic of 1918 when a flu virus ravaged through the world and took out indiscriminately, from our communities.
Also a place of birth, I know Gruff wasn’t the only baby born in this house, there have been many births too. He arrived on a mid Tuesday morning cheered on by a small handful of midwives (and a few neighbours stood outside listening to my swearing).
I have dreamt of death a lot in the last year, of about people I have lost, often I have conversations in these dreams with these people and they are angry at me. I’ve got no idea why, (for probably talking too much?) In real life I have no idea what I would say as I would really rather dream about dogs or food or a nice day on a warm beach getting sunburnt.
They say death is an end, but also a beginning, and of better times ahead. I’m clinging on to that thought a little to much right now.
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 going “out out?”
That, in Swansea, means out on the town, all glammed up, drinkies, heels and hair done.
No I am not. I’m dressed in yesterday’s jumper, my shoes are muddy, my coat is soaking and my dog is clearly delighted to be dragged around the block in sideways, January sleet.
Still no winter beach, no big sky.
My only essential travel is to buy food and growl, masked at people who come close. It’s hard to feel so anxious when people forget and reach over to take stuff off shelves. What on earth do you do?
Bonnie looks at me…
She’d growl first…
I might try that next time.
It’s going to take time for the cats to accept this bundle of puppy energy. We’re six months in and tuna is the magic that brings these two opposing parties together.
Today was let’s eat Tuna together and not chase or swipe.
We sit on the stairs as that is neutral territory, both can retreat if it gets too much.
Frannie sits as still as she can but the tail always betrays her, the faster the swoosh, I know we have imminent chase pending and to cancel negotiations quickly…
On some nights, the steelworks on the horizon in Port Talbot, light up the clouds with a fiery glow (like Mordor from the Lord of the Rings). It’s eerily beautiful, you can see flames reaching high into the sky. Last night, it was full aglow, quite something to look at and I was very much enjoying the view.
I was so busy staring, I very nearly collided into a man holding his small dog high on his head cursing my little evening day dream and accusing *Bonnie, (on the lead, by my side, looking as puzzled as myself) of wanting to eat his small furry thing.
I muttered an apology along the lines of “So sorry, miles away, lovely hat” and scurried away.
Cue a fox running across our path and I really wondered where I was, Mad Max or Swansea.
Swansea in a pandemic, Mad Max is little too sensible right now.
*Being a big sized dog, she quite often gets accused of wanting to eat smaller dogs but she’s actually a huge fan of dogs smaller than herself as she can play Queen.
School days are a strange business during these lockdown days.
No car run, no rush out the door in the morning.
Still, early to rise, in the dark for a morning check in, registration or daily work download.
Gone are the assemblies, singing and hanging up of coats and hellos to friends.
It’s find a space away from whiskers and paws and chewing mouths.
Please let mum have a coffee and I’ll figure out that maths I promise.
Dressed and ready but no where to go.
Funny, lonely business this learning on screens but there we are right now, in the midst of a pandemic and figuring out the area of Tom’s Toblerone chocolate bar.
Let me tell you a little secret, us mums are looking at you and are very glad it’s not them having to do this.
Children of 2020, you’re doing amazing, don’t ever forget that.
Very cold right now, just above freezing and it’s decided to rain so we are slipping our way around the streets tonight.
Even the billboard is half arsing the light.
There are warmer and lighter days ahead but this month is the queen of dark and cold and she isn’t shifting herself in any hurry. January won’t be rushed.
Dragging our way through this lockdown January.
The giant cul-de-sac that is 2020 is gasping it’s last wheezy covid filled breaths, slowly melting at the bottom of my beer.
I won’t miss you.
New year does not promise much either but we can hope and hang on through the dark months.
I’ll raise a glass to that.
Best wishes to you all and all the love from a small sketchbook in Wales.
It’s Christmas Eve 2020.
Put down your worries, put down your mobile, turn away from the television, switch off the radio, it’s six o clock. Come on, now, hurry!
It’s time to go to door with your bells, open it and listen. Our street is ringing out into the dry, cold, clear night. You can hear them!
The sound of bells all around, up on Townhill, over to Brynhyfryd, even on Kilvey hill, there’s a fella with a bell app ringing it while sucking on a cigarette. The scrambler bike stops and toots.
We are ringing them. We are little but we are shouting you Santa and you must come this year. The adults have been rubbish, please do your magic.
The moon is lighting the way and we are calling you Santa.
We’ve been so good this year and we’ve tried out best to wash our hands and do our work.
Please come this year, please bring a present.
A letter has arrived from the local council and health service reminding us to remember to stay away and stay at home. Infections here and in the surrounding areas are very, very high. Our hospitals are in danger of being overwhelmed if numbers keep rising.
The electronic bill board is still promoting Christmas deals with the odd public service information asking us to keep our 2 metre distances and stay at home whenever possible.
In other news, the cats have decided Gruff’s window is wonderful to watch the birds from and bring their muddy paws in.
It’s still raining, we may need a boat soon.
The rain is playing games with me.
Every day this week, I’ve arrived at the park and the heavens have opened.
Nothing stopping Frannie lightning bolt puppy, she’s been busy herding the crows and seagulls and did attempt to herd the red kite that soared over our heads but it wasn’t having any of it.
We are now very wet, muddy but happy to see open space, (even if I’m soaked to the bone).
The news is pretty grim right now, Swansea still has stupidly high levels of infections. Social media is full of experts.
I’m just an expert in tea making and puppy drying. I don’t smell very nice right now.
Midnight last night we went into a full lockdown again.
The news was announced a few hours before and the ensuing rush in my city to the shops was like a tsunami of panic. My social media filled up pretty quickly with images of miserable queuing and cars gridlocking car parks in the rain, in the dark with the backdrop of blinking Christmas lights.
I walked the dogs later and the roads were very busy with speeding cars and honking horns, you could genuinely feel the atmosphere. One of anger and frustration.
The news says it’s a new variant, it spreads faster. We’re all to stay at home indefinitely, there will be a review in three weeks but numbers are flying here as I’ve said before so Christmas day is the only day we are ok to go out and see our other “bubble”.
A very strange Christmas this is going to be. I’m quite deflated to be honest with you as I imagine the whole of Wales is right now but I understand why.
More milk it is then.
I have a problem.
I want cakes.
But the plastic bag that I have to put my hand into won’t open and I can’t lick my finger.
My glasses are also steaming up so it could very well be a bread roll I’ll be picking up instead.
That’s going to cause riots.
I’ve drawn the bottom window, Millie got the top window.
We might be stuck at home in lockdown but we can brighten the world up a little.
Had a text to tell me to isolate Gruff today as one of his class mates has Covid. I hope they’re ok, this is going to happen, this is a virus. Truth is we’re all locked down till the 9th of November so there won’t be much change for him.
Halloween is coming up but we won’t be trick or treating nor answering the door this year.
A very strange year and just getting stranger. Halloween all year round right now.
Wake up, pee, eat, destroy bed, eat the remote control, sleep.
I want to be a puppy!
Tangles of arms legs, paws and wiggles.
I thought about drawing this one again but I think it pretty much describes with accuracy the chaos of cuddling two dogs, one of whom is a little chewy monster with sharp teeth…but very lovely.
They get on very well, Bonnie lets Frannie chew her legs and in return, Frannie lets Bonnie chew all her puppy toys.
The cats are coping with the blonde Romanian invader, Renee can now share some chicken in her presence but we have more work to do and that always takes time. I think it took me five or so months to really stop Bonnie chasing poor Arnie. Sausage and chicken is already better than chasing pusses so we are getting there…
Back to school and here come the sniffles, (oh we are smothering with it).
Here comes a tissue eating puppy.
And a list of symptoms to check off just in case it’s Covid symptoms.
Numbers are still rising again and mask wearing is compulsory indoors in school and in public spaces for children over 11 years of age.
In schools, the children can mix in their class as a “bubble” so if in the instance of someone getting infected, only that class affected needs to self isolate at home. It makes for a strange playtime but it’s a compromise to continue education after so long off school.
Some counties are already in special localised lockdowns restricting movements. There is talk of a bleak winter ahead on the news.
Frannie found a sock in the park today and tore off like a cheetah with it, sprinting with a snotty nose at 46 years old after a puppy makes my face go a strange colour…
Oh god I’m so sorry. My glasses fogged up again. Yes I do wear them on top of my mask but somehow I’ve misted up again. I didn’t see you there in front of the bananas, have a nice day…
Everything needs a little chew.
Stair gates, socks and especially nice toes.
Chewy chew chew.
Bonnie’s leg has been tried and found very nice, Bonnie doesn’t think that it’s very nice and tells Frannie in a very growly way to stop.
So back to socks and toes it is.
Apologies for the silence but the storms blew in a five month old street-puppy from Romania. I think she’s a keeper. Very scared right now but she’s joined the right family.
Meet Frannie, our new stowaway. Been with us a few days now and settling in so very well after a bumpy start of snarling and being all street tough.
I think we have a very clever pup here, she’s walked this earth before.