Thursday 15th July 2021 15:10

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about choices.

The removal of all legal restrictions and formal recommendations here in England with regard to masks, social distancing, working from home, etc has led me to take time to seriously consider what my own choices will be moving forward; and at the same time to try not to dwell on how many people won’t even pause to consider that they have important choices to make.

The actions of our government in lifting all restrictions while the number of cases of the virus continue to rocket, are increasingly being widely condemned as “disastrous”, “potentially catastrophic”, “irresponsible”, “plain crazy!”, etc.. Topping them all in today’s headlines is the belief that our government is embarking on, “…a dangerous and unethical experiment”; a view backed by a growing number of highly regarded medical and scientific professionals across the globe, voiced in an open letter to the medical publication The Lancet.

Needless to say, the lifting of all restrictions is going ahead next Monday, 19th July anyway.

The confirmation this Monday was, eventually, tempered with (frankly ridiculous, given the context) pleas to everyone to “take personal responsibility” and to actually continue doing most of the things that the government are telling us we don’t need to do any more.

Leaving people to make a choice that could either save, or cost, someone else’s life, based on mixed messages, shows the most shameful and disgraceful lack of leadership and governance. The “responsibility” now falls on each individual, while those voted into office to lead and govern have washed their hands of the people they were voted in to serve. 

The government are saying they are making all of us responsible more than ever for making “the right” choices. More important though is what they’re careful not to say: that they are now putting us all at the mercy of other people’s choices.

I will try not to say any more regarding my feelings about that, and try to stop myself sinking into utter, disgusted despair for the way we have – every last man woman and child of us – been abandoned by the government. And I will try, instead, to focus on the three choices that I believe we all have, and endeavour to make the right one.

One choice that I have, but many don’t, is to hide away again; to avoid, as far as possible, all contact with others. To very definitely NOT look upon Monday as the much heralded “Freedom Day!”, but to, entirely as a personal choice now (ie with no government backing or support whatsoever, and possibly less now even from friends and family), go back into a self imposed lockdown. For those who can make this choice it gives the best chance of keeping ourselves (and everyone else, a point I’ll expand on in a moment) as safe as possible. This choice brings with it, for our individual sanity, the necessity to also accept that what will be will be out in the wider world.

The second option is to choose to go out but continue to use face masks, and to socially distance, wash or sanitise our hands, etc etc. In this respect though, far from being able to ease off such practices, we must ‘up our game’, particularly with regard to face masks. On the understanding that many other people won’t now be wearing one to protect us, it will be necessary to rely only on the highest grade that offer protection to the wearer as well as to other people; thin ‘paper’ or washable fabric masks, while protecting others, offer very little or no protection to the wearer, and in this new society where it’s “every man for himself” they’ll be rendered, in many situations and ironically, pretty pointless.

All those people not wearing masks will be like someone who chooses not to take a waterproof jacket with them on a rainy day walk with you, because they know they can bully you into taking yours off and handing it to them. You take the sensible precaution, and yet you’re the one that ends up soaked.

With this second option too comes the need to accept that it’s now a question of “probable” not “possible” that we will catch the virus – certainly if we become lax with the protections and if cases surge as they’re predicted to. Hopefully we’ll be protected by the vaccine sufficiently to avoid severe symptoms, hospitalisation and death, but always remembering that the vaccine carries no guarantees…

Nevertheless this second option will sound a sensible compromise, I’ve no doubt, to many – maybe most – people, but there are two caveats that need adding, and they are very very important. 

If we catch the virus we may be fine ourselves (remember, no-one has ever claimed that to be a guarantee, and of course then there’s long-covid), but we run the risk of also transmitting it. In some ways, the less severe our own symptoms, the more likely we are to be spreading it without even knowing we have it. Whilst many people – particularly many vulnerable people – have been vaccinated and therefore have a reasonable hope of a good degree of protection from serious illness etc, for some people, for reasons of underlying health issues, medication, or otherwise, the vaccine, assuming they’ve not been prevented from getting it at all, will offer little or no protection. Those people now will have no enforced restrictions to protect them. Many will not be able to take option 1 and just stay shielding. On the 19th July the world for them will become a far far scarier and certainly a more dangerous place than it’s been even for the last 18 months.

The second caveat, and one that requires very careful consideration for even the most selfish among us, is that by raising the probability of catching (and spreading, whoever it is to) the virus ourselves, we risk being directly responsible for giving the virus the opportunity and the means to mutate; and the potential for that mutation to be more – or heaven forbid, totally – resistant to the vaccine, is high.

It is pretty simple to grasp that if the virus mutates to a variant that the vaccine doesn’t protect against, we are all back in deep doo doo!

The third option of course is to throw our masks away on Monday 19th July, and spend the next weeks hugging strangers and partying the nights away, simply on the grounds that “the government have said we can”; every man for himself indeed. I would take a bet that the people who make this choice are the same ones you’ll find huddling together and yelling their displeasure loudly on “anti-lockdown” marches later in the year, when all hell breaks loose again.

Which choice will I make? I would love to get out and about just a little bit now. There are people I would love to see, hugs I am missing more than words can say. Feeling fairly confident that I won’t get seriously ill if (when) I catch it, the second option is therefore oh so tempting. I may venture out a little, FFP3 valved mask on, disposable gloves, brass door opener, and 70% alcohol sanitiser in my bag. But I can’t shut out of my mind the thought of those who I will encounter who may not only make fun of my choice, but actually take enjoyment from attempting to break through my defences. And if I do then find I’m carrying the virus, then what of those who I will almost surely infect along the way. Strangers who have no choice but to continue working in shops and the like, with no protection offered by their employers or the public. Maybe with a vulnerable child at home…

So in all likelihood it will be a continuation of the past sixteen months for me. I have my routines, the difficulties are only going to start when those I rely on or live among – delivery drivers and neighbours for example – start to ridicule my choice, and even think it amusing to try to put me at risk; and if I’m told that I now MUST take any job regardless of how ‘risky’ I may perceive it to be. Well I shall have to build better barriers and deal with living on thin air when the time comes.

One final choice I absolutely have to make now though, for my own survival mentally, is to do my utmost to accept that this is MY choice, and to not be dismayed or to despair at the choices of others.

That’s the hardest one.

Why It’s A Hard Time To Have ADHD And Why I Wish More People Had It

Tuesday 21 April 2020 13:50

People with ADHD don’t tend to become politicians.

We don’t have what it takes to be ‘yes men’. We’re not followers – oh we’re not leaders either (that needs focus and single mindedness)! We’re questioners.

People whose brains are wired in an ADHD way see and hear everything. It’s why we get irritated by the use of the word “deficit” in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s not a “deficit” of attention, it’s an “overload”;  everything gets our attention, like it or not.

Our brains are wired in such a way as to constantly be aware of the ‘Big Picture’, and we’re aware the whole time of not only all that is happening, but also all the possibilities of what might happen; good and bad. We’re bombarded by a constantly running array of “what if?” scenarios in our brains. 

While this is quite mentally exhausting, it has benefits.

I would put good money on the fact that those people in the world with ADHD wired brains could see how this virus situation would pan out long before the rest of the population (and the politicians). If governments had a few more ADHD wired brains in positions of power, I guarantee there would not be a shortage of PPE, lockdowns would have been applied much sooner and enforced with much more severity. And in all probability, a lot less people would have died.

But there’s a caveat.

Those with ADHD wired brains need trusted and trusting – the latter being of equal or even greater importance – ‘partners’ in the fight, who have not one shred of ADHD wiring. Those people are needed to focus on the tasks that need to done, but they need to do so with absolute trust in that which they can’t necessarily see, either right in front of them or, crucially, lying ahead of them.

The politicians with the power to carry out the tasks needed at the moment, must trust the scientists who are asking the “what if?” questions and doing the modelling, and the people must trust that the politicians are right to do so. This is not about something as petty and pathetic as party politics. This is not a time to be placating ‘the people’ and to be asking them politely and meekly to “abide by the guidelines, if you wouldn’t mind, we know you’ll do the right thing, thanks ever so”. This is not a time to be afraid to be authoritative.

Those people in authority who do believe what they’re being told by the scientists, must keep their focus entirely on that, and give clear, firm instructions to the people they’re tasked with protecting. This is not about finding favour, or about necessarily being ‘liked’, either now or looking back. This is about preventing a vast and increasing number of human beings dying. 

Here in the UK, it’s just not happening.

Our politicians, our law makers, and our law enforcers are tip toeing around, anxious not to upset anyone, and none of them are prepared to give the firm clear message that if you don’t do as your told, you will (at the very least) be served a hefty fine (a real fine, not a pathetic £30 for pity’s sake!). We are not seeing or hearing anyone prepared to say they accept that the people may be upset, even furiously angry with them for restricting everyone’s movements, but that they’d rather the people they are charged with protecting were upset or angry with them, than dead.

I am seeing, right here, outside my window, right now, people who think that it’s fine to not quite abide by what, after all, are only “guidelines”. In their eyes a little bit of “bending the rules” is to be expected. No-one (certainly around here!) is enforcing anything. No-one has actually TOLD us not to carry on as normal.

A probable 24,000 + deaths in the UK SO FAR, including those in the community. But they personally haven’t suffered, so it’s ok to bend the rules…


Protect the NHS.


Are these idiots who are behaving as if nothing’s happening, really thinking, “Yes, I know what that’s what the government keeps telling us, and splashing across our tv screens, and on hoardings, and across news sites – but they don’t mean it, not literally.”?


So, it’s ok for them to have family dropping round, to swop between each other’s homes every few days, to go out in their car for long and unnecessary journeys several times every single day because they want a “change of scene”. If they get stopped they know they can claim that it’s their one journey today, that they’re on their way to do “essential shopping”, or they can lie and claim that they live in a tiny flat in an urban situation that provides nowhere for their “one hour of daily exercise” (ie not the reality of a large detached house with ample private garden in a quiet estate with many green open spaces). And they can drive on with a smug smile on their face because in their view they “got away with it”.

They see a tiny bit of the picture, that revolves only around themselves, and is concerned only in this moment. They are consumed by selfish, irresponsible, stupidity and ignorance, and I guarantee that even if they knew the potentially catastrophic consequences of their actions, they would deny any culpability.

Because “the Government haven’t said that might happen”…

Oh mon Dieu! Je désespère!

Anyone can be carrying the virus, and be thus capable of spreading it without being aware that they have it. It’s been proved that symptoms may only present several days after the virus has been caught. Some ‘lucky’ people don’t even present any symptoms severe enough to cause them concern. But they can still spread it.

So ‘what if’ the selfish ignorant irresponsible smug git who goes off in his car for no good reason is carrying the virus. And ‘what if’, when he’s pulled over by the policeman who is putting his life on the line trying to get idiots like this one to see sense, he passes that virus on, maybe by doing something as obvious as coughing involuntarily, or maybe just by the transference of tiny droplets while talking, or maybe any one of a myriad of possibilities. And the officer, during the course of his duty over the next few days, before falling ill and dying himself, and before he’s even aware that he now carries the virus, passes it on to his colleagues, and other members of the public. And they take it home, and pass it on to their partners, and children…

Or ‘what if’ the copper that pulls our arrogant idiot over, himself has the virus already, and what if he does the involuntary cough, or the over spraying speaking…

Or ‘what if’, just because the sun is shining and he’s feeling a bit cooped up at home, the shortsighted and narrow minded self obsessed fool goes off for a drive and has an accident. And the emergency services that are called out could be attending a small child suffering with the virus, who is having a serious, and as it will transpire with lack of immediate care, fatal asthma attack? Or ‘what if’ the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident is carrying the virus and in the chaos and panic of smashed vehicles and trapped bodies, social distancing is completely forgotten…

At this point I’m sure many of you are laughing and declaring something along the lines of “Oh for goodness sake, you can’t worry about what might happen, you’d never do anything!”, or words to that effect. Well, no, I agree in the normal course of life, if you were so afraid of having an accident you never got in a car, that would be extreme. But these are not normal times. In normal times if, heaven forbid, you were alone in your car and you had even a serious collision with another solo driver, potentially two lives might be lost. At the moment, just such a scenario could result in a spreading of the virus that ultimately extrapolated to 20, 80, 500 people dying.

These are not normal times. The ‘normal’ rules simply and crucially do not apply.

Having a brain wired in the way of ADHD is a huge advantage in being acutely aware of the dangers at the moment, and of the means to avoid them; but it’s also a huge disadvantage for much the same reason – or rather, for being acutely aware that other people astonishingly, just, don’t, get it.

Having to constantly observe the actions of others – aware of the potential consequences and yet realising that they either aren’t, or they just simply don’t care, and recognising that I can do nothing about it – is mentally exhausting and paralysing. Seeing (not watching, but unavoidably seeing) the actions of my neighbours repeatedly, throughout each and every day, that have the potential to put an unknowable number of other lives at risk, and being unable to do anything about it, is completely mentally overwhelming. I have very little problem with the lockdown; I’m terrified by what’s happening outside my windows.

I have spent the last few weeks descending into what feels like a sort of madness, and I have now to protect my mental wellbeing as much as my physical health. I realise I have perhaps two options: close all the curtains or at least stay away from the windows (not easy in such a tiny house with rooms, and indeed windows, on one side only), while keeping the windows and doors closed and playing music or podcasts so even the sound of cars coming and going is cut out; or live at night, when the rest of the neighbourhood is sleeping.

I’ve extended the coloured film that I originally added to part of my lounge window so that I would not be in the direct gaze of my unpleasant and frightening neighbours opposite, so it now blocks out their coming and goings entirely. Sadly it also means I can’t wave to friendly passers by, and I lose most of the view of my soon to be blossoming rose. It has helped though.

I get up shortly after dawn and tend my little bit of garden that immediately borders the pavement outside – I won’t risk being out there at all when the constant stream of passers by are inches away; I may in due course just let that part of the garden go wild, or die. I don’t sit outside at all. I keep the curtain closed upstairs beside my desk on the side of the scary neighbours. At the moment I still like to watch people coming and going on foot further along the road. If I witness any more acts of threatening behaviour or vandalism – like the young people spitting at passers by, or the two who thought it amusing to set fire to the rubbish bin – I will close those curtains too; or take that final, and rather drastic action, and move into the night.

The actions of those around me will not improve, in fact I’m sure they’ll get even worse as this lockdown, in their view, “drags on”. I realise that my brain wiring is unable to allow me to do what others would find so easy, that is to ignore it. So I have to take what would otherwise be extraordinary steps to prevent my being aware of what they’re doing, in order to preserve what’s left of my sanity. I’m not sure that actually makes sense to anyone else. But if it works, that doesn’t matter.

So I will continue to do whatever I need to for my mental health, and I have the means to stay safe physically, and I’m grateful for the ability to have seen just how essential that was going to be even before it all became official. Now I just need to deal with the “deficit” bit of the attention – the bit that makes focussing on the essential tasks required to stay safe frighteningly haphazard. But that, as they say, is another story.

(I realise I could have subtitled this: Judy’s Slow Decline Into Madness. Hmm. You decide.)

Focussing On Gratitude, and The Need To Be My Own Parent Now

Tuesday 24 March 2020 11:10 am

It feels strange to be so deeply grateful that the free country I’ve called home all my life is in almost complete lockdown. But I am. It won’t stop all of the stupid selfish people, but it will stop some, and that means that those I love – and I – stand a slightly better chance of surviving than we did yesterday.

I’ve wondered, over the most recent days, if having ADHD at this time is a real curse. I’ve felt so alone in seeing ‘the big picture’, all the gathering storm in pin sharp detail approaching from all around us, while others seemed able to cling on to the certainty that everything would be fine (or maybe a bit of a nuisance now, but all cleared up by June). I felt like the child playing musical chairs who had no seat when the music stopped.

Everyone else’s focus seemed to be on ‘knowing’, or thinking they did, exactly where they were, while outside their narrow field of vision, the chairs were bolted to the floor, the seats were smeared with super glue, and the fire alarm was about to sound…

They had no idea how lucky they were, all those people who were spared the anxiety of seeing the approaching storm. I can’t though, help but wonder, if only more of those in charge had ADHD wired brains, we might have been safer, sooner.

It’s academic now. I’m shutting all the websites with stats and forecasts – keeping those with real verified scientific facts and advice that I may need to check from time to time in a list of links that I visit only when it’s absolutely necessary to do so.

I’ve let myself become exhausted with caring about the world. Now I have to care for myself.

Keeping the world out now is my priority.

I know I’m lucky, and being ‘home alone’ in itself doesn’t feel like a hardship at all (only knowing I must not see the person I love most of all – that tears at my heart, but I do it because it helps keep us both safe). Somebody told me the other day to imagine myself in my favourite place, and seemed a little taken aback when I immediately laughed and replied, “I’m in it.”.

It’s what’s outside that scares me.

I wish I had a garden that wasn’t so vulnerable to other people. Today for the first time I’m keeping Jessie indoors, and will be doing so for days ahead. Until the child who lives opposite stops kicking her football in the street and across to my garden, and until any remaining danger from it and her being there has passed. Jessie hates being in, and so do I, but the threat is too great, and the risk that the child is unknowingly carrying the virus is too real.

So we are indoors, looking out on the sunshine, and I’m starting to plan our new life. I’ve begun what will become, I’m sure, a huge colourful sanity saving project of thinking of all the people and things I love, and have loved, in my life, and all the things that I’m grateful for. I’m writing each on a post-it note and sticking it wherever it will stick and be constantly in my line of sight. At the moment that’s on mirrors, and the now forever dark screen of the lounge tv that stopped working last week. I’m aiming to include walls but need to find a better non-permanent glue; luckily I have a lot of mirrors, the small space dweller’s best friend.

I have hundreds, maybe thousands, of books – and, I just realised, the time to count them – and cupboards full of art supplies. The tiny old tv from the bedroom now sits very cutely in the corner of the lounge, and of course tv and so many other options for entertainment are available online. I have cupboards that need turning out, at least two years’ worth of filing, and a LOT of tidying to do. With literally no spare space anywhere indoors or outside, it will be hard to de-clutter because there’s nowhere to de-clutter to (and not even space outside for a tiny incinerator, let alone a bonfire), but while we still have bin collections, I will see if i can do at least some throwing out.

And though the friends I am blessed with are far away, they come and visit through the magic of the internet and video calling and virtual meeting rooms, so I’m not really alone.

I would really like to survive, and am desperate for those I hold closest to my heart to survive. Nothing else matters right now. If I only have sardines to eat and have to drink tea without milk, I care not. I can even jiggle and air dry to save toilet paper!

Losing what I hold dearest to me is the only thing that makes this so hard to bear, and the child in me just wants to cry and grieve from morning to night. So just as all the parents worldwide are doing, I have to distract that child, give her fun things to do, let her be silly, let her dance and sing very loudly, tire her out so she will get the sleep she needs to stay strong, and feed her as well as I can with what I can find.

I have to be my own parent now. And fight fiercely for my own safety and survival, just as I would for my child’s (and do for Jessie’s), while ensuring that the child who survives is even happier, even stronger, even more knowledgeable and skilled, and never, ever, this scared again.

Setting Seeds Free and Not Pretending We Have The Luxury Of Normal

Sunday 15 March 2020 12:50

This is not going to be an easy read. It’s certainly not easy for me to write. In fact I’ve not posted here for a few days because I can’t write in anything other than a very serious way, and people don’t want to read that; ‘serious’ is already all around them. We all want to carry on as normal and pretend it’s not happening. But we mustn’t.

Only by taking this seriously will we beat it. So this isn’t about drawing, or finding ways to make money creatively, but it is about my life (and yours, and everyone else’s) – very much here, and very much now; and I find that I have to write it.

Those of you who are “carrying on as normal” please, stop; now. There is nothing about the entire world today that is normal.

If you are lucky to be young and healthy enough to survive a bout of the Covid-19 virus, then please, I am begging you, take responsibility for the millions who aren’t. If the spread of the virus isn’t controlled millions of people are going to die unnecessarily in the coming weeks.

Here. Now. I’m frightened, very frightened, and my heart is breaking.

The people I love the most are included in those who are most at risk; as an asthmatic, so am I.

If those I hold closest to my heart catch this virus, they will die. There is also a very real possibility that my own life is at risk. I have to be sensible and am ‘putting my affairs in order’, making provisions for the worst case scenario. I hope it will turn out to be just another job out of the way that needed to be done anyway, but the importance of doing it right now is real. Paperwork and planning I can do. Persuading strangers and even friends to take this seriously and not put anyone else in danger, that’s not so easy.

I’m used to ‘self-isolation’. For me, in itself, that is no hardship. But the thought that I may never see again people I love; that causes me untold grief. Already. They’re still there. I just can’t hug them.

Not “carrying on as normal” seems to be unthinkable for some people. The idea that they should not go out, meet friends, touch, breathe in the same air that strangers just breathed out. So what if they get “this fluey thing”! So they’ll be a bit poorly for a few days… But what of the people they will unwittingly infect before they decide they really need to take to their beds? The people who touch the surfaces they just touched (after coughing into their hand), the person sitting next to them on the bus, the retired person they garden for who they happily took a cuppa from and then rinsed it out lazily declaring they’d washed it. The elderly relative they called in on to return something borrowed, but not cleaned…

Carrying on as normal may mean you end up spending a few days feeling absolutely crap. Carrying on as normal may mean – unintentionally, unwittingly, unknowingly even – you cause the death of another human being. Perhaps a loved one. Or a friend. Just as likely, a stranger.

At the moment there is no normal. Yes we must carry on, but this is not pretend. For too many it still seems to be a game. For hundreds of thousands of people, others “carrying on as normal” may be the difference between life and death.

Think about every move you make, and if it involves any possible risk to other people, please, think very very carefully if you really need to make it.

If you woke up this morning thinking you’ll just carry on as normal…

Please. Stop. Now.

Not Marching Forth (Or Even Fifth)

Thursday 5 March 2020 22:35

I’ve stalled.

I’m floundering in a bit of a depression at the moment. Not managing to do much of anything, just when I need to be ‘up and at ’em’.

Mostly I’m not getting around to drawing until late at night – when I’m tired and the tremor in my right hand is at its worst – like this cafetière that I drew last night. It’s completely wrong of course. My intention was to add watercolour, but having inked in the coffee I was so tired I just carried on with the big fat black pen… 🙄.

Despite the shiny bits being so completely wrong though, each time I’ve looked at it today, I find I’ve grown a little fonder of it. Through no fault of its own it doesn’t look like it should. Like me at the moment (the nasty shingly blistery bumpy painful rash thing is back with a vengeance).

In fact, looking at the drawing now I remember the handle was the bit that I thought would be impossible, and it’s the one bit that pretty much worked.

Sometimes the easy things are hard, and the things you think you’re going to struggle with, aren’t so bad at all.

I need to remember that.

Facing Up To Some Very Old Demons

Monday 2 March 2020 14:00

At noon New York time yesterday, I finally hit the “Launch” button in Patreon. I expected all sorts of interim screens: “Are you sure?” “Absolutely sure?” “Don’t want to phone a friend?” “OK, then first you need to…”. None of that happened, it just burst onto my screen throwing handfuls of confetti and cheering, “Congratulations!! Celebrations are in order!!”.

And a huge weight lifted.

I’d done it. No biggie.

I’d spent the day – several days in truth – listening to a growing crescendo of every negative voice that has ever told me: I’m useless, will never amount to anything, that whatever I do is pointless, that I’m wasting my time, etc etc, By Sunday morning the whispers had become a cacophony that I just couldn’t block out; and I believed them, every single one.

School teachers. Family. ‘Friends’. Lovers. All I could hear were the voices of every person who had had a negative impact on my life (some of whom have been dead for decades!) telling me that no-one – NO-ONE – was ever going to pay one single penny to read anything I had to write.

By yesterday lunchtime I was quite literally pacing the floor. I was getting myself more and more stressed – more than stressed, I was in a full blown panic, over something that I had chosen to do, and knew I could equally choose not to do.

I went for a walk in the woods and along the canal. I was sure that would clear my head and calm me down, but it didn’t really seem to help much, I just got back completely exhausted. Too exhausted, I thought, to make any decisions. I was ready to delay the whole thing, but knew 24 hours wouldn’t of itself assuage the doubts and fears. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a thought came to me that changed everything.

This year. This blog. Everything that I am doing, is geared towards seeing if I can make a living from writing and drawing. The whole year – of which ten months still remain – is about doing my darndest to make that happen. If I am saying now, that I believe those voices when they say no-one will ever pay to read anything I write – well then I need to get myself down to the Job Centre, because this all stops here. If I really believed that the very thing I’m aiming for is impossible, then I’d never have started this…

It was as if I’d been shaken awake from a troubled dream!

Why would I give up when I’ve barely begun. It’s too early to know whether anyone will ever want to buy anything that I’ve written. It’s up to me to work at my craft until I produce something that they will.

In the meantime, why would I give any power over my life to anyone who doesn’t have my best interests at heart, far less people who aren’t even around now to say, “Hey you know what, we might have been wrong.”?

So I launched my Patreon page yesterday – at noon New York time, in honour of my American friends who celebrate success, not failure; and all those disapproving voices were gone.

What will be will be, but I realised at a minute past noon NY time, that I’d already succeeded when I hit that button. What’s that old saying? Ah yes. “The only real failure, is if you fail to try.”

And as for what happens next, well, we’ll see…

Join 61 Not Out on

Biting The Patreon Bullet

Thursday 27 February 2020 20:30

On Sunday I will be launching my Patreon page, allowing followers to support me, if they wish, with a small monthly amount, and in return get lots of extra updates, videos, drawings and how-to’s.

It’s taken a lot of gentle but firm persuasion by lovely friends who believe this is the right move for me to make, and I understand not everyone will be ‘on board’, and that’s fine. This allows those who would like to offer support, and who are interested in following my journey in greater detail, and learn along with me, to do so in a very easy way.

For those who’ve not heard of Patreon, it describes itself as a membership platform, allowing creators to offer extra content to their supporters in return for a small monthly pledge. You can find out more about it on their website.

This isn’t going to change what I’m doing on this blog – I’ll still be writing about the journey here, but on Patreon I can offer more: extra in-depth posts, videos, how-to’s and drawings.

Importantly too, the support I receive on Patreon will also allow me to continue promoting the Drawing4Health idea. I’d like to work towards setting up a not for profit company that will then mean I can apply for funding to both promote the idea, and to set up more free Drop-in and Draw community spaces around the country, but that takes time and effort and money. I’d like it to be so much more than just one space in a garden.

For some time I’ve enjoyed supporting several other creators on Patreon, and am now looking forward to building my own community on there too.

For those of you who would like to come along, I’ll be adding a link in the sidebar on the left after the launch on Sunday.

Sowing The First Seed

Friday 21 February 2020 22.25

Photo courtesy of space2grow

On Wednesday I met up with the delightful chap who is project managing a community garden not far away, called space2grow. At its core is the wish to provide a space for people who may be facing challenges in their lives, or who need some unwinding time, to simply enjoy being in the outdoors, to have a garden to tend where perhaps they otherwise wouldn’t, to be with other people, forget their problems for a while, chat together, have fun and foster a feeling of community.

This is very much what I’m wanting to do with the Drop-in and Draw spaces. They’re using gardening, my idea uses drawing, but the whole ethos of a free space that is available to everyone, and the fostering of a community by taking part in a gentle, positive, creative pastime is the same.

When I visited on Wednesday, the usual volunteer gardening had been cancelled due to the fact the garden was completely flooded by the nearby stream overnight. The ground had mostly drained by the time I got there, but there had been some disruption and damage. The ground was completely sodden and muddy, most of the plants in their bare winter state, the weather was grey, with a chill wind, and persistent drizzly rain. and the whole area was – quite beautiful.

We had a squelchy wander around and I was blown away by what they’ve done so far, and excited by all they have planned. We chatted for an hour and a half, and I tried to clarify a few details while explaining that at this stage all I had was an idea.

To my absolute joy I came away with the enthusiastic agreement to my setting up the first Drop-in and Draw space for them, based in the beautifully renovated wooden pavilion!

This whole idea of a Drop-in and Draw space stemmed from me having a picture in my mind of a bunch of happy people, quietly working away in a public space, with paper and pens, drawing. My original thought was the unused area that used to be a cafe space in our local shopping centre. It was a practical choice, but far from beautiful. I couldn’t have dreamed of a more beautiful space than this garden and its pavilion.

It’s early days. and when I explained that this is still just an idea and not that i already have a group of people and was just looking for a venue, we agreed it would fit perfectly to simply add the drawing opportunity to what is already on offer to the existing users of the garden, ie the volunteers and other local groups. It’s perfect! And the garden and its surroundings, changing as they do throughout the year, make the perfect subject to draw.

If I can encourage others to, maybe for the first time, pick up a pencil and draw, and if they enjoy doing so and find it beneficial, I shall be very happy.

On the Drawing4Health website I’ve done quite a bit more, in particular adding some of my early drawings as background and featured images. I was hesitating to add current drawings as I felt they wouldn’t give the right impression. It’s important not to make it about producing ‘good’ drawings; it’s about the process and how that is beneficial, not the results. Then I remembered some of my very first sketchbooks from five years ago.

The website is still not launched publicly yet as I want to be more clear – firstly in my own mind, and then literally in the site itself – on the aims and content (for example I’m considering including the prospect of, in time, a growing database of Drop-in and Draw spaces around the country). There are lots of possibilities!

A Trip Down Memory Lanes

Saturday 8 February 2020 18:50

(…and other ramblings from a brain still foggy with flu.)

“Who is that apparently tiny, slim redhead in the picture?” I hear you ask, “It’s not…!”. Ah, read on Macduff…

Although I was, and am still, feeling completely Charlie Romeo, yesterday I decided I was going a bit stir crazy. The car desperately needed to have a run and the sun was shining, and so – probably unwisely – I took a little road trip.

My destination was Seawhite’s Factory Shop, in West Sussex. They’re known as “Seawhite of Brighton”, so I always thought they were in the depths of the city. However, I discovered a couple of weeks ago that in fact they’re on the edge of a tiny village, just an hour’s drive away from me; or so Google Maps told me.

(For those of you who don’t know, Seawhite make really good, affordable, sketchbooks. They sell directly to educational establishments and retail outlets, but their factory shop has loads of reduced stock, and even other art supplies like brushes and paints.)

By pure coincidence, the village where Seawhite are happens to be where some of my ancestors, on mum’s side, were from, and I did think of visiting the churchyard while I was there, but as Google’s estimate of the journey time was rather optimistic, it was not to be.

Anyway, I digress.

How does all this link up to the young ginger haired cyclist on the book cover – and yes, dear reader, ’tis me? Well, the route to Seawhite’s took me along roads and lanes that I haven’t travelled since my cycling days, almost forty years ago. Then they were all very familiar to me, although I confess it was largely the pubs that I recalled, but also the village names; even occasional ordinary landmarks, like gateways and old houses, brought back memories of Sunday rides with dear friends, many of whom are now sadly long gone (one of whom I married!).

On my way home, in another village, slowed to a crawl in a line of cars waiting by some roadworks, I glanced at the boarded up building beside me and was transported back to the day that photo was taken…

But I’m jumping ahead.

I knew that my drive to Seawhite’s would take me along familiar routes, but there were surprises too. One in particular was a now slightly run down roadside diner, that I suddenly recognised as having once been the Little Chef where – one summer’s afternoon – I met up with my mum and my aunt; me on my bike as always then. I remember we spent a lovely couple of hours there, sitting outside in the sunshine chatting, before mum and her sister went on to do some family history research… at the very village I was heading to yesterday.

It was a sweet memory, as were all of them, but as I remembered, I knew I was a very different ‘me’ back then – absolutely no self confidence for one thing, no idea of what lay ahead, full of doubts and fears that seem utterly absurd now. It felt like a lesson: that far more is possible than we sometimes believe, that fears pass, and we can achieve not just the seemingly unachievable, but also the unimaginable.

When I was driving through those lanes yesterday, I thought that I could teach that young, shy me a few things, show her how much her future held. Now I think it’s more likely that she reached back in time and has taught me.

At the time the handbook in the photo was being planned, I was working for what was then called the Cyclists’ Touring Club – now Cycling UK, and the cyclists’ version of the Automobile Association – as their Technical Officer and National Event Organiser, and unofficially, also the Archivist and Historian. Amongst other things I sat on the relevant British Standards Institute committees in London, and was consultant to the Consumer Association on cycling equipment for articles in their Which? magazine. I also tested all manner of equipment on behalf of the CTC (including whole bicycles), and wrote technical articles for the magazine that was available through major newsagents across the country. I organised the annual rally and exhibition based on the Knavesmire Racecourse in York, hosting equipment manufacturers such as Raleigh and other well known names in the cycling world. I was young, quiet, and shy, and lacking in self confidence – but I did all those things; and I forget…

If someone suggested I take on a role like that now I would feel utterly incapable and unqualified. But I’ve sat in a stuffy boardroom and won the arguments for the safety and practicalities of cycle equipment with a bunch of old men in suits who cared only for their profit margins. I’ve organised events attended by thousands. I’ve written articles that were published in a widely read magazine (and I suddenly recall I even illustrated at least one). I’ve even appeared on the cover of a little book sold – albeit briefly – in shops across the land!

Why on earth am I doubting what I can do next?

As I was passing that boarded up pub yesterday, and I remembered the day all those years ago, it made me smile and prompted me to dig out the little handbook in the picture above. On the day of the photo shoot, we – the very tall young man from The Ramblers’ Association and I – were treated to lunch in that pub, and I remembered with a smile that I had been disgruntled to realise that the very smart maroon shorts I’d been given to wear were too tight to allow me to eat! Ah, then as now I enjoyed my food, and to turn down a meal – a free meal at that – completely over rode any excitement I might otherwise have felt at being a ‘cover girl’…

Some things never change. I still have no more need for fame than fortune – comfy clothes and to be treated to a hearty meal now and then, and I’m happy (and to write and draw, and create more happy memories). That’ll do me.

(Oh I would like to get shot of this cold though!)

You Can’t Find A Solution Until You Know What The Problem Is

Thursday 30 January 2020 21:35

I woke this morning with a light bulb moment of understanding of last night’s gloom (sorry about that folks). I’d been beating myself up for spending time on something that wasn’t concerned with making some income (looking for a space locally for a creative group) and I was forgetting that this ‘journey’ isn’t just about money, it’s also about creating a life that sustains me in all ways, not just financially.

I wasn’t feeling hopeless, I was berating myself for feeling hopeful about what I thought was the wrong thing.

Having cleared that up I went back to sleep, but just before I did, I decided on a name and a more precise aim of what I want to do; thus Drawing 4 Health was born. I even have a logo in mind.

The whole thinking behind “Drawing 4 Health” is encouraging people to discover the benefits to their mental wellbeing, of just picking up a pen or pencil and having a go. When I got up this morning I decided I really should take my own advice…

Hey, it works!

I stuck a virtual pin in a list of possible things to draw and came up with a video titled “Very Easy! [that caught my eye immediately – I felt today was the day for Very Easy] How To Draw a 3D Hole”. Not something I’d ever have thought of searching for, but oddly perfect. (Which my first attempts weren’t, but that was fine.)

It’s called “anamorphic drawing” I discovered, and I soon realised this is the stuff that those amazingly talented pavement artists do, where you see apparently vast gaping holes, and stranded people perched on the top of pillars of rock that descend into the underworld. I’ve always wondered how they do it! Wow.

Oh boy and it’s fun. As I was filling in the black bands on the first hole I could literally feel the stress and the gloom melting away. It did dawn on me, after I’d added the footprints and the prone body deep in the hole, that it could be misconstrued as being linked to last night’s mood, but it really was just coincidence.

The illusion of depth is all to do with the angles and the shading, and in these very first two attempts I haven’t quite got either of them right, but it’s fascinating, and even already, as you swivel the paper round or change the angle, the holes change. Double wow. I’m hooked.

Picking up my sketchbook today and just playing, made the biggest difference to my mood. I didn’t need to draw proper pictures, or get everything “right”, I just needed to play; and the magic happened.

That, is what it’s all about.