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.
My blinds take a daily battering as Renee likes to “post” herself through them and then stare back at me.
I thought it appropriate to capture this athletic moment in my cat’s 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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
The cone has it’s fun for a pup that misses her favourite toys.
Throw them into the cone for chewies.
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.
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.
Not all bullies are big.
Bonnie would not sleep in her crate tonight until the tiny terror vacated her position in the stinky den.
Had no idea she’d slunk in there and claimed her throne until Bonnie started whining.
I know a lot of parents have worried about screen use during lock-down.
It’s not been a problem.
I send the heavies in.
Got all three to step outside tonight with dog, me and a boomerang.
Up on a hill, long grass, a warm breeze.
And big sky.
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.