Grey skies are back with the rain, the smell outside is earthy and heady. Blossom and fabric conditioner from a neighbouring tumble dryer on the go and petrichor.
News is arguing with itself about the death numbers.
They’re higher in care homes now but they’re old and they weren’t included initially as they didn’t die in a hospital (because they weren’t tested so they didn’t belong in the Corona death party) and now they are because the news realised they were human too.
The rest of us are just folding washing and wondering what is going on.
The dry weather we have had since the middle of March has no sign of letting up. We are no strangers to rain in Swansea, I have often joked that a day without rain is indeed a drought around these parts.
Spring has unfolded itself, pretty much rain free and the longer days and warm sunshine have made this lock-down feel most surreal.
The dry streets, now littered with plastic don’t feel like Wales. There are few puddles. The grass is growing, the trees have leaves again and there is blossom.
The birdsong is easier to hear with less cars on the road and the jackdaws flock on the rooftops in full nesting fever. There isn’t a chimney around here without a battle of black wings and chattering.
Just the humans, locked up, safe from the world.
So we’re washing our hands at every opportunity as we’ve been told to.
Shops have been stripped of painkillers, soap and bog roll.
“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.
What I tell my little ones as they drag themselves into Monday.
Anything else can wait.
Anything else is just that.
I’m dedicating January to the birds that come to my garden. I have no exotic varieties, just your average Joes of the bird world but to me they are wonderful and they think I’m great right now as I’ve hung three brand new feeders from my studio in an attempt to encourage more into my little urban garden.
My house is part of a Victorian terrace built by the miners and their families 150 years ago. A descendent lives a few doors up and says that they were built to house the families who kept chickens and grew their food here.
Fast forward a century or so and the city has grown around these houses and the mines have gone. But the wildlife is still here, hanging on and adapting to the pace of life and the endless rain.
Today’s post is in salute to the starlings that frequent my garden. Sleek and noisy little birds. Starlings are wonderful mimics of sound. They will copy what they hear and repeat it back with relish. Well you can imagine that Swansea is a feast for these little flocks of sound machines. From car alarms, mopeds to mobile phones it is never ever quiet around here and these little birds congregate on the telephone lines in the winter and belt out their whistle and chirps.
In deepest January they are most welcome to strip my feeders, tease my chickens and entertain me in my studio to a Swansea mega mix of noise. Demolishing fat balls within ten minutes and then entertaining me with their sound effects.
One summer morning you could hear the noise of a single alarm clock coming from an open window, within seconds, the voices of twenty alarm clocks were ringing out over the rooftops and telephone wires.
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.
I think the girls out did themselves this year. Evie’s wig was spectacular and Renee worked that Halloween cat vibe like the sassy puss she is. Millie ever resplendent as a 1920’s flapper girl.
(Wondering how long that feather will last with two cats in the house though).
Organised? I laugh in the face of organised and bring you morning anarchy!
I’ve just been looking through all my drawings on Doodlemum. There’s so many now. (2285 posts so at least that many drawings so far). It’s really made me quite proud I’ve kept going.
Anyhow, Evie has now turned twelve so here’s an Evie montage of my beautiful, sassy, fiery book monster!
Enjoy this selection of drawings of her over the years.
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.
Yes I have the knitting pattern right here. Use for your cats, use for yourself, knit millions and take over the planet with little woollen puffs. Knit kitty puffs, knit chickie puffs, knit lion puffs, raid your wool stash and get knitting.
The pattern is very easy and quick so great for beginners.
You don’t need much materials, a small amount of wool, if you have to change colour half-way through, great, your puff will look even better.
Get an old pillow and take out the stuffing, stuff with some cat-nip for very happy pusses.
Cast on 18 stitches.
Row 1: Knit
Row 2: Purl
Row 3: Knit
Row 4 : Purl
Rows 5-20 (repeat rows 1 and 2 8 times)
Row 21 : [K2TOG] across row – 18 stitches
Row 22 : Purl
Row 23 : [K2TOG] across row – 9 stitches
Cut your wool leaving a very long end. Thread the end into a needle and go back through the last 9 stiches left. Pull tight. Face the right sides of your puff together and sew up the seam until you reach the original cast on stitches.
Turn back out so the right sides are facing back out.
Stuff your puff.
Sew up the cast on edge with a running stitch so it creates a flat edge. You can get creative here and try and pull up little ears if you want. Doesn’t matter if your puff looks strange. You cat will still adore it.
Sew on a nose with a different colour wool and a mouth.
Sew on eyes.
Leave somewhere for your cat to stare at it for days until four am in the morning when you will hear the happy yowling of a cat with it’s puff.
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.
Spent most of it trying to remove a pair of knickers that got rammed down the vacuum cleaner.
Our two cats are very different personalities. Miya is the younger, newer addition to our tribe and is very much the extrovert and mischief maker. Renee, however, is not one to be bottom cat in the pecking order and will make sure our new little cheeky puss has the occasional back of her paw.
Doodlemum book is six years old now!
Six years ago, a wonderful, extraordinary thing happened. Doodlemum got published in a book. Here you can see my grinning face as I signed my very first book for a friend. It felt wonderful.
So why was it extraordinary? Good question and if you have ever had the time to trawl your way back through the 2250 posts that I had placed drawings onto, you can see my journey from a shell shocked mum who just wanted to tell someone about how boring mopping the floor was.
I started Doodlemum as a way to cope with lots of things, and I still do use it as a means to talk about my funny, ordinary world in my way.
You see, when you write about things in your way, it becomes special. It grows arms and legs, pictures appear and stories happen. You stop caring about what others think and you run with your imagination and your pen.
Not only did my progress as an artist develop but my abilities and confidence did too. At the time I started the blog, I was quite depressed and very sleep deprived, there wasn’t much confidence there.
Today is a very different picture I am drawing, I have confidence in my own abilities but that doesn’t mean I go around shouting about it, I sit down and draw and write (and sometimes I do other extraordinary stuff but that will be a whole other blog that will be coming soon).
So happy book anniversary and please, whatever you do, always grab onto your dreams and if you can, run with them with all that you have because you never know where they will take you and it is always worth the risk.
Gumball decided she was off to bigger pastures this morning. Never nice when they go.
When the sun returns and warms the earth, there is nothing better to do than to feel the new air move through your fur and whiskers. Both black dog and black cat know there is nothing better than sun on warm fur. The other little one is busy half way up a tree, chasing flies.
I left some jaffa cakes in my gym bag. Guess who discovered my jaffa cakes?
Music playing in the background is on Spotify (to which I subscribe). It’s called Howl by Jake Houlsby.
New cat, how will this one fare with a nice, sparkly tree?
Answers on a postcard…
Here’s to all struggling with winter spew virus. Those who’s washing load just tripled over night because sheets and clothes need incineration. I share your pain and frequent need to scrub your hands in bleach.
May the soothing kitty of purriness ease your woes and may the spew cloud of misery pass soon.
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.
This one’s for the mums. We are all bonkers and amazing. Love to all mums doing their best to just get through the day in the hope that tomorrow they will find the floor free of toys and lego. Hold fast.
How on earth did Evie get to be eleven? Time has galloped at breakneck speed and I now have a beautiful, passionate, blue eyed artist with a love of books, drawing and cake.
Happy birthday Evie. Stay fluffy, always.
I’ve been looking at all my drawings of Bonnie and thought you might enjoy this little selection of her best moments.
Bonnie, the hurricane, the bottomless pit, the legend, my girl. Still ever the wiggle machine and all round stinkpot of love.
Explosive start to Monday with a vacuum rammed washing basket. You can imagine my sheer joy at working through that. Isn’t this fun? Bet Snow White held those animals at gunpoint to get them to tidy up her bloody cottage.
It’s just glorious. Low, warm sun to warm the bones and the heart.
Walking up the garden is a bit of a dance to avoid the dewy spider webs that have been ambitiously spun overnight. I’ll leave the lying down to you Bonnie as I’ve had my fair share of garden spiders in my hair today
I love walking barefoot, it’s a simple pleasure but there’s something about letting your feet feel the earth that soothes me. (Maybe I was a tree in a past life or something).
The ivy in our garden is now flowering profusely and it’s perfume leaves a heady scent in the air.The droning from the hundreds of bees on it is wonderful. I’m glad I didn’t cut it back, it’s an autumnal feast for insects.
Go find some and enjoy the show.
I suppose Evie is right. Technically it is on her body, therefore she is wearing her coat.
I am not happy.
Yeah it’s autumn. I give up. Heater’s on chasing all chills out of my studio. Dog is in heaven. Don’t like Autumn much, back to school misery and school runs turn me into a right grumpy cow.
But for now, Northern Soul is blasting, sketchbook is open, tea is steaming and my head is elsewhere.
Our new puss has quite a penchant for little toys. She has already amassed an impressive collection of little fabric mice, stars and patchwork, catnip hearts.
They are stored in a little plastic tub every night and every night, when everyone is asleep, Renee starts her fun.
One by one, each little toy is carefully removed and starts it’s journey through the kitchen, into the lounge and up the stairs…so that in the morning we are greeted by a scattering of little soggy presents on the landing.
Even Bonnie is not forgotten, she normally gets a nice feather in her water bowl
And so, every morning, I bring down the little collection back to its box so Renee can do it all again.
Here is a life lived in washing piles and fluffy toys. A life that padded out gently last week but never ever will be forgotten. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed drawing them. Break the internet with cat drawings and purry love.
Poorly Evie this evening, not even cat nurse is helping, (even with purr set to mega).
Ninja is sitting on some eggs and they’re not hers, in fact they’re not from any of my hens. They’ve been brought in from our local community farm.
It takes twenty one days for fertile chicken eggs to incubate and we’re almost there. This time next week, we may hear cheeping again in our nursery coop.
She rarely leaves her nest, only coming out once a day to stuff her face with corn. The other hens have been cordoned off for now until we see what’s hatched.
Don’t smile, don’t try to smile, in fact don’t even think about smiling ok?
First walk of the year down to Three Cliff’s beach. Warm sun, warm breeze, sparkling sea. Time to thaw out after winter.
Bonnie found an old, battered football on the beach today. Washed up by the tide to be joyfully pounced on and shredded by my joyous hound…
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…
Go away cold, go and take a hike I’m fed up of sneezing and it’s no fun drawing when you’re dripping like a tap.
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.
A kitty shaped pumpkin this year as the only pumpkin that grew in our garden was oval shaped!
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).
Bonnie loves puppies. Really loves them. She will make a beeline if she spots one in the park and will saunter up to them whimpering.
She will play with them too.
But don’t ask her to share her ball, that’ll never happen.
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.