Friday, 10 October 2014

If animals could talk...

If animals could talk, I am pretty sure they would be sarcastic and have a profound sense of injustice. 

My mother has a miniature dachshund - he cries for a lengthy period of time every time she leaves the house.  He watches mournfully at the living room window until she gets home and then forgives her unequivocally for her absense, no matter how long, every time she returns home.

The cat meanwhile treats any absense with disdain.  He reappears when she gets home, just in time to turn his tail towards her and head away before leaving the mangled corpse of some woodland creature in the hallway.  I know people say these are gifts, but come on, cats are intelligent creatures - there is no way they perceive the ensuing screams as a sign of gratitude.  This is intentionally inflicted horror.

I don't know if you do the same, but it seems to me that all animals have a very distinct 'voice' and I find it highly entertaining to imagine it.  Yes, I should probably get out more but whatever, see what you think - maybe they're saying something different to you...

'If I hide under here, maybe it won't be Monday tomorrow ...'


'oh grow up...'

'I think I can, I think I can...'

'just chillin'...'


'Sometimes I just like to dress up...'

'Stop biting your nails...'

'Tried yoga ... Yep, pretty sure I'm stuck ... Little help?'

Friday, 30 May 2014

I think I'll Be Six For Ever and Ever

I have a new friend. He's quite short and blonde, and he's promised me a water pistol fight the next time we go to the beach as long as the miniature dachshund can be on his team. I think it is the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

This new friend of mine, Jesse, is six. Now I have never been a fan of the adage that your childhood constitutes the best years of your life; I love getting older - every year brings something richer than the last and certainly no amount of payment would entice me to relive any age between 11 and 17. Plus, as a grown-up I can have chocolate any time I want, and that's important. I've probably said that before.

Nonetheless, AA Milne and his astute sidekicks, Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin were onto something with their poem, Now We Are Six ... 

When I was one,

I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I'm as clever as clever.
So I think I'll be six
now and forever.

One of my dad's favourite stories about my brother is all about when he was around the age of six as well. They had gone to some sort of important football match - so important I can't remember who was involved, but it was all terribly exciting. 

As these things so often do it went on rather late and the score was tied. Desperate for Benedict to see his team win my dad went against character type and rather than leaving before the final whistle to avoid the mass exodus, the two of them stayed in the winter chill, well past bedtime, watching with baited breath.

Inevitably, as the final seconds ticked past the opposing team scored and won the game. My dad crumbled to his seat, head in hands muttering 'I'm sorry Ben, I'm so sorry', to which Benedict responded with a knowing little smile on his face and patting my dad on the shoulder in a display of British masculine affection: 'it's ok dad, it's only a game. We had fun didn't we?'

I am not sure that Ben is still that wise, and I think that was one of those moments when my dad felt about as tall as a Borrower, but it does make me think that there's something very special about being aged six.  I think I'm going to try to remember that sometimes.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Zebras Let Loose on The Internet

Hurrah for the Internet! Hurrah for Microsoft Office! Thanks to advances in technology I, like many others, have been left to run wild and unedited in virtual public.  I have (as you will know if you are unfortunate enough to be friends with me on the omnipotent force that is Facebook) published an e-book.

How You Know You're a Zebra is a children's picture book (because I like to paint stuff) about how the zebra discovers who he is by trying on all the different 'outfits' of his friends before deciding that it's best to be unique and different.

The whole process has been a learning curve, an exercise in overcoming one’s own psychological hurdles rather than any real barriers, but most importantly it has been, and continues to be, a lot of fun!

The whole process has been a learning curve, an exercise in overcoming one’s own psychological hurdles rather than any real barriers, but most importantly it has been, and continues to be, a lot of fun!

I had to chuckle to myself (with unreserved and disproportionate levels of excitement) when the book made it's way into the Watford Observer and Radlett News lately: 'local woman publishes first book' it said.  ‘That's me!’ I thought, ‘how exciting!’ and ‘how much better it sounds than the seeming reality that is '”local woman uploads Word document”’. 

Then again that’s the joy of having so many online platforms available at your disposal isn’t it?  It’s there for you to have a go and not wait for someone else to approve your dreams, which is just awesome.

On another note, if you happen to be kicking about in the Radlett/Hertfordshire area any time from 3rd June until the end of the month, the drawings from the book are going to be on display at The Radlett Centre.  Pop along, give me a shout, we can have coffee and talk stripes.

Point made anyway, hope you’re having a wonderful weekend, and if you read the book do let me know what you think! 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Why Dragons are Real and it's Disappointing Not to be Dinosaur Height

I always thought adults were taller. When I was growing up I mean.  I remember looking at grown ups, it must have been at around the time when my head reached their hips. You know, the times when you went to hug your dad and you found yourself wrapped around his knees? How parents don't spend all their time falling over I will never know.  Anyway, my point is, when I was little I remember thinking that adults were ENORMOUS - practically dinosaur sized, and how amazing it would be one day to see the world from that high up.
Now I am not what you would describe as short. Neither am I particularly tall. I am in fact rather unremarkably average when it comes to height. However, I am definitely not dinosaur height, and this is something of an anti climax on the growing up scale.  I mean seriously?  This is IT?

My colleague and I have discussed this a lot of late, because she is taller than me by a fair amount, which I think is wonderful. Such is the nature of girls of course that she in turn wishes she was around my height.  Difficult customers aren't we?

I have begrudgingly made peace, over time, with the fact that apparently I am not ever going to be dinosaur height.  I think it's a bit of a cruel trick that perspective has played, but in the grand scheme of things it's probably for he best ... finding jeans must be a nightmare if you're that tall.  So I have relegated the notion to the place where lots of childhood misconceptions need to go at some point - the same place that looks after the thought that parents know everything and toys come to life at night. All of which are not true ... probably ... I think ... maybe.

Some things are definitely real though.  I was asked to paint a dragon this week for a really beautiful story.  I might not be able to grow tall like a dinosaur but I know what a dragon looks like; it's whatever I imagine it is ... and that's something that's always possible!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

What To Do At A Baby Shower

‘Can you talk about anything other than babies?’
‘I don’t know’
‘Do you get a baby shower for all your children, or just your first?’
‘I don’t know’
‘What do you even DO at a baby shower?’
‘I don’t know’

Thus went my conversation with my colleague as we mulled over the details of forthcoming baby showers – a first in the social calendar for both of us, simultaneously proving that this is a stage of life (much like all others) for which I am totally and utterly ill-equipped.

I rather like babies and children.  I sort of wish they had volume control (Dad used to say that turning our ears would make us quieter, like the knobs on a radio – I tried it on my brother, it didn’t work), but other than that I rather like their unbridled honesty; not happy, definitely going to shout about it; happy, will make that abundantly clear too.  Nonetheless, baby showers are a whole new realm of entertainment, so I really had no idea what to expect on one sunny February afternoon.

Fortunately, I have friends who do know what they are doing, and accordingly their meticulous planning comes with equally meticulous instructions.  The perfect invitation (handmade since you asked) came with the perfect number of details: the perfect pre-planned present suggestion – a contribution to the start of a library for the new arrival in the form of one of our favourite books (mine is The Elephant’s Child – no one should be without that book); the perfect location (house by the sea – a view that is surely the source of all happiness); and the promise of the perfect food for any afternoon – cake, which was, I hasten to add, perfect.

Unsurprisingly given those details, you will be pleased to hear that it was a completely beautiful afternoon, which has served to arm me well for any future occasions of a similar ilk and also provided me with at least some of the answers for my curious colleague:

1) No, you don’t have to talk about babies all the time, but it’s safe to assume the topic will come up at some point.

2) I think it depends on your friends.

3) I don’t think it really matters what you do at a baby shower, the important thing is that it’s a chance to get together.  Becoming a mum, particularly for the first time must be really scary as well as exciting, so I think ultimately it’s just about supporting your nearest and dearest, because that way you’re all in it together, aren’t you, and you know that everything is going to be ok … that and the cake … I think the cake is really quite important.

At least that’s what my friends taught me anyway.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

I Believe in You

Just when I thought than John Lewis were officially going to take over the Christmas ad crown, Coca Cola have gone and made one little, perfect change to the message that is perhaps singularly successful in making both festive advocates and cynics, smile. 

Tapping into lots of layers of fantasy – from the somehow renewed belief in fairytales to individual hopes and dreams, they have introduced the ultimate feel good factor; not only, do we now fully believe in Santa, but apparently, thanks to Coke’s personal hotline to Santa’s inner thoughts, he believes in us as well.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a massive fan of the Hare and Bear – as someone who is naturally a big fan of anything illustrated or animated, particularly when it’s in the vein of an updated animals of farthing wood, and I have most definitely been amongst the cavalcade of people ooing and aahhing at John Lewis’s 2013 masterpiece. 

I have also very much enjoyed the stoically averse characters determined to find fault in it – my colleague resolutely asserts that convincing children that bears are anything other than dangerous is unforgivably irresponsible (Paddington doesn’t count in case you were wondering – he is clearly a teddy – it’s not the same).  Added to that is the (fair) point, that the hare wakes the bear not only in the middle of hibernation (thus presumably adding to his potentially dangerous temperament) but decides to do it at 7.46 in the morning, which by anyone’s standards is unsociable.

Coca Cola however have no such controversy as far as I can see, because there is something infinitely powerful in its closing gambit.  It is something we all need to hear from time to time, more than believing in fairytales, and Father Christmas, and fairies at the bottom of the garden; “I believe in you.”

What a lovely message to have this Christmas, even if it is from a giant corporate brand with the capacity to multiply our calorie intake and rot our teeth.  Warm, fuzzy feelings all round.  In fact, I think I will make sure that it is something I say more often instead of just thinking it. 

It’s a powerful message … although that said, probably not powerful enough to make me buy Coke.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Good Life

I am not a fan of this time of the year as a rule because it makes me terribly sad to see the summer fading before my eyes.  That said, there are some things that the fading heat leaves behind as a rather glorious farewell, and this weekend served as a great reminder of them thanks to a friend of mine who I think would give Felicity Kendal (love Felicity Kendal) a run for her money when it comes to wholesome weekend pursuits.

She and her boyfriend (who is serving as a marvelous Richard Briars) have been slaving away over their allotment throughout the year, and round about now are reaping the rewards.  So this weekend was taken up with harvesting a large chunk of the orchard and using it for its primary purpose – making cider. 

This, so that you know, requires a factory line of individuals sustained by barbeque food (vegetarian and the traditional sort because this is a 21st century factory line in Hertfordshire), sitting under a tent in a field, in the sometimes sunny/sometimes rainy weather, wearing barbour jackets and taking wheelbarrowfuls of apples through various stages of pulverization, all under the watchful eye of a herd of sheep.

This, I tell you, is the stuff that happiness is made of.  Throw in a spot of blackberry picking, and a good inspection of the progress of this year’s pumpkins, and I defy you to find a happier afternoon, or at least one that will leave you with rosier cheeks and a better night’s sleep.

What’s particularly lovely about these activities, which these friends see as a vital part of their way of life, is that as a result they manage to make it an opportunity for their friends to also feel momentarily closer to the great outdoors (there is also the possibility that they see it as an opportunity for cheap labour – although not that cheap judging by the amount of halloumi we all managed to get through), and I think that is something we can all do with every now an again … or at least I do. 

Similar days have also involved discussing the pros and cons of beekeeping  - Richard Bryers and I are in favour, Felicity Kendal has her reservations and is now reluctant to leave us to converse on our own for more than a minute and a half in case we come up with anything else.  I can’t see a downside – if we surround them with some well placed lavender we will have the dual benefits of awesome tasting porridge and immunity to hayfever as long as we don’t stray out of the Hertfordshire area.

So while I carry on dreaming of being a poor interpretation of Felicity Kendal and taking advantage of the home made produce of my nearest and dearest, if you haven’t been out blackberry picking, or collecting apples for cider, or damsons for crumble, then what are you waiting for?  It’s one of the happiest things about this time of the year … or at least I think so anyway!