Random Thoughts On The First Days In Lockdown

Friday 27 March 2020 14:30

There are no longer different days of the week. Just “daytime” and “nighttime”.

(Does nighttime really have two “t’s” in it?)

As my brain continues to be a little fuddled, I’m increasingly grateful for Spellcheck.

9pm now feels very late and “way past my bedtime”.

Video links are no longer thought an odd way to catch up with friends, even local ones.

I’m writing my Will at last. It would have been sensible to have done it ages ago, but I’m only now realising who truly warrants being included.

I’m appreciating the option of including “in the event that they pre-decease me” alternatives, but wish I didn’t feel the need to.

My brother is right up there on the list of people I don’t want to lose.

I find I’m now just a little frightened of strangers who are innocently walking by.

My partly hidden entrance way is now an asset not a nuisance.

The Screentime limiting feature on my iPad is coming into its own.

I don’t need to eat nearly as much food to stay healthy as I think I do.

“Comfort food” really isn’t, and it may need to be Supper one day.

You can exercise indoors with just a staircase.

Suddenly not remembering the thing you went upstairs for until you’re back down again is a health benefit.

I’m not as ‘law abiding’ as I thought I was when it comes to sneaking garden trimmings into the household waste bin for collection.

Jiggling and pausing to air dry instead of using toilet paper after only “spending a penny” is neither a health hazard, nor a cause for discomfort.

I’m reminded of a saying I heard a great many decades ago, “Sometimes I just sits and thinks; sometimes I just sits.”.

The pile of books in the bathroom are being dipped into more often.

When this is all over, I shall save a fortune on toilet paper.

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.

Quick Thought For The Ladies, To Start The Day

Friday 20 March 2020 10:40

(I’m still working on a photo for this one 🤣)

All you ladies hunkering down to self isolate, and even you young healthy lasses who are social distancing, just think…

Now is the time to wear all those big pants, and frayed bras that are so comfy! 😁

Cos you’re not going to be out on the pull for a while 😉.

Stay safe. Sing loud. Dance energetically.

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.

Everybody Is Good At Something (or, “Can You Find This Tree?”)

Wednesday 11 March 2020 19:35

A few days ago our local canal society posted a little puzzle on their Facebook page. In the course of dredging the canal, a drone had been found, presumably having crash landed in the water some time before. Whilst the drone itself was no longer working, and was worthless, miraculously the camera card was still readable, and had footage that might be precious to someone. The challenge was on! Could the owner be found?

The society folk posted a still shot on Facebook showing an aerial view of part of the front of a house. The shot tied in with other footage and was likely to be where the owner lived, and although there was no guarantee of course, the assumption was that this property was near to where the drone crash landed; but they didn’t say where that was.

I looked at the photo and instantly something about the house rang a bell. I was sure the colour of the brickwork and roof tiles was a style used on a very large estate – a combination of housing and industrial units – where, 35-40 years ago, I worked, and where at lunchtimes I’d sometimes go for a run along the canal that passed nearby.

Over to Google Maps.

Now I must confess at this point that this is a bit of hobby of mine, trying to find exact locations based on snippets of photographs or descriptions. So from hereon I was in my element (and before you cry out, “Haven’t you got better things to do?”, I would respond by asking how many games of Solitaire or Freecell have you played in the last week?).

The first step was to ascertain which parts of the estate were nearest to the canal, then dive down into Street View and try to find the house, or at least identify the style and narrow down the location. I thought from the photo that it was a terraced house, as indeed that was what the majority of the houses were, but search though I might, I couldn’t find any with the sloping roof beside the front door; and the garage too was unusual as they were rare. What I didn’t realise was, the photo was misleading me by only showing part of the frontage!

Almost at the point of giving up, I thought I’d just try spreading the net a little wider to the fringes of the estate, and bingo, I finally found an example of the type of house, which turned out to be a very different design to the majority, being semi-detached and quite large.

Once the actual style of house was identified – though not yet the actual house in the photo – I zoomed out to the aerial view of Google Maps and studied the shape from above, then scanned around the estate as a bird would, searching for the same shape, diving down into Street View whenever one was located.

None of them matched the photo, but then I had a brainwave.

I’d been concentrating on the front door design and the driveway. But Google sometimes don’t revisit an area for many years. Front doors get replaced. Driveways get altered. I needed to focus on something else from the photo, and that’s when I realised the key to it all was the tree! Find a house of the right design, with a lamp post and silver birch tree just to the left of the driveway (on a large estate that spans both sides of about two miles of the canal). Hah! Piece of cake.

And that’s how I found it. From that point on it really was very easy. I was pretty sure I’d narrowed it down to a cul-de-sac on the opposite side of the canal from the main estate, and walking along the street in Street View it was easy to find the lamp post and make doubly sure by zooming right in to the markings on the tree. There’s about 7 years between the images (Google last visited there in 2012 apparently) but luckily tree markings may grow and stretch a bit, but they don’t change much (and lucky too, no-one chopped the tree down).

What has all this got to do with anything? Well, it comes back to the old negative voices I suppose. I submitted my findings to the canal folk, and they were overjoyed, and full of praise for the quality of my ‘detective work’. I just had fun with it, but it reminded me that it is something I’m good at – I’m sure it’s an ADHD thing, seeing the big picture and then hyper focussing down to the tiny details – and before, again, I hear the cries of, “Yes but it’s not going to earn you any money is it!”, actually. I remembered that in the past, it has.

A few years ago I made a cool fifty smackeroonies when someone asked me to find “a big house, right on the coast somewhere either Hampshire or Dorset, that was used as a hospital or convalescent home during WWII”. He’d spent a brief spell there during the war after being injured, and had glimpsed what he thought was it during a tv programme, but couldn’t remember any other details at all! (Yes, I not only found it, but I also was able to put him in touch with a local history guru nearby, and – as it, now a private house, had been recently up for sale – sent photos.)

I don’t think I’m about to set up as a Private Detective, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded that skills that might seem a bit ‘off the wall’ are skills nevertheless. You might be the only person for miles around who can balance a tomato on their nose. Be proud. And who knows, one day you might be just the person someone else is looking for.

A Migraine, Some Scanning, and Small Successes

Friday 6 March 2020 23:59!

Quick post as it’s almost midnight and I’m pooped.

I overslept a bit, and was disappointed to realise I had to accept that the slightly ‘off’ feeling I woke with was rapidly developing into a full blown migraine by lunchtime. Thankfully I caught it in time with a tablet and by late afternoon I was functioning ok and able to do a bit of work.

It may seem surprising, but I’ve never bothered with scanning my artwork. Posting online I simply take a photo with my phone or iPad. I’m not that bothered about quality, as long as it’s fairly sharp, and I’m certainly not bothered about the colours being precise. If I’m going to be creating prints though in due course, that’s a whole different ball game. So today I did my first scans, testing to see if my existing printer’s scanning function was up to it. Thankfully it seems like it is.

Second task for the evening was to make sure my Affinity Photo app on the Mac was updated, and then do a very little bit of ‘tidying’ of last night’s soup can sketch in preparation for making a tutorial video of the very basics for my patrons.

I didn’t get as far as recording the video yet, but did take a little example ‘before and after’ to give an idea of a simple neatening process, cleaning up some white lettering, and some edges.

Finally I tested my cheap lapel mic on the Mac, and it seems to be working fine to record audio for Patreon. I really need to be able to do everything I want to do with my existing equipment and software, so lots of positives today.

Not at all the wasted day I feared it would be this morning, but a long day. Forgive me for not proofreading this!

Night night.

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!