The 28 Drawings Later Challenge has ended in the nick of time!

The 28 Drawings Later Challenge has ended in the nick of time!

For the last few years, I’ve entered this online challenge, where you produce something creative (or at least work on one – and it can be a scribble, a doodle, a piece of knitting, bark sculpture, or as one person did on a day they were short of time, a face made by hoovering the carpet just so) every day for the whole of February. This year, I actually managed to put something up on time every single day!

Fortunately it’s all over, not because I didn’t have a lot of fun, but because this week I not only got offered extra days at a different office, covering long-term sick-leave, but also I’ve been accepted for some piece-work; technically I am Lady Three Jobs for the foreseeable, and there will be no time for such self-indulgence, by crikey!

Because I am just as great at timing as I am at making money (none of these are particularly well-paid gigs, I’m hoping to save up a bit simply by sheer… mass?) it is also the season to start on the garden after its winter sleep, there are gallons and gallons of wine to be racked off, and I took on being treasurer of a charity, didn’t I, because nobody else was available. For free, of course. None of us are getting paid for any of this!

Meanwhile, the 12 Days of Cthulhu-mas proofs came back and they are BORKED, so I have to do them over even though I have little idea what caused them to go wrong in the first place. I can see this being a Groundhog-Day-esque fiasco where I endlessly tweak the template and pay my money and wait three weeks and get back roughly what I got back last time.

I’m a bit scared of how much I have bitten off, in short, and am thinking wistfully of how, if I didn’t need to sleep, I would have two whole extra days in the week to get stuff done!

…Mind you, there is something psychologically very comforting about the way sleep breaks life into manageable chunks. ‘Eh, I’ll deal with it tomorrow,’ I can say, tossing the borked proofs wrathfully into a corner.* ‘Eh, I’ll deal with it in… seven hours and forty four minutes’, by contrast, really lacks a certain something.

*I didn’t. That was earlier this week. I still haven’t, and probably won’t for some time.

Anyway! Here be a whole lot of pictures; not exactly 28 of them because some were works in progress, and some are from January. My theme this time around was ‘Skyrim’, if anyone’s familiar and wants to play ‘guess where this is’, please feel free! Just don’t look at the names at the bottom which I did not know about when I uploaded them, ha. Live and learn.

While there is either little or no artistic Value to these (I cannot sell them, they are not originals, etc), I had a lot of fun playing with the lighting and colours, and I feel confident that I could use the practice as a good basis for turning flatly-lit and boring photos of castles (of which I have many) into something a good bit more striking. I could even, or such is the dream, sketch out my own structures purely from imagination and bring them to life!

…Oh wait, I’m Lady Three Jobs. Never mind!

Woo! My first ever picture-book is at the proof-printing stage!

Woo! My first ever picture-book is at the proof-printing stage!

I really shouldn’t start everything with “woo!” but I am easily excited, and clearly quite immature.

Anyway. After much labour of drawing, scanning, editing out pixels (and then almost the same amount of time again wrangling PDFs, because you know where you are with a virtual eraser, just saying) the publishing company reckons it can make me a proof of the book and in about 2 weeks I shall discover if I have to do the whole process over. Excitement! Dread! Etc!

And now I will be fit for nothing for the rest of today and probably the next fortnight, go figure.

I am in no way prepared to deal with this emotionally!

Well, it’s been a mediocre Monday doing admin in the office, a lustreless evening of doing freebie admin for a local charity I do the freebie admin for, and then I checked on Amazon’s progress and lo, congratulations to me, it’s a paperback!

I believe this traditionally calls for champagne, but I have to go back to the office tomorrow too, so I might settle for hiding under the bed and hyperventilating.

I finally made a Thing!

I finally made a Thing!

So it’s been over a year, but I finally got around to an actual paperback version of my book. Look at it sitting there on the shelf, next to the Real books! (I guess I shoulda put it with the P’s, but that would put it in front of the Pratchetts and that seemed a bit… sacrilegious, really.

Also, it just took me six attempts to spell ‘sacrilegious’ there.)

So when what I hope is the finished proof comes back, sometime next week, it might be good to go! Excitement! Terror! Etc!

What I did on my Summer Break in Skyrim:  Day Four – Some Field Tripping happens (Finally)

What I did on my Summer Break in Skyrim: Day Four – Some Field Tripping happens (Finally)


I felt a bit better about things when I woke up; which I almost immediately recognised as a bad omen, given recent events, but I can’t exactly just stay in this bed. I’ll be penniless by the end of the week, for one thing, and still out on my arse.

So I set off to find this dragon-stone thing. Before I get side-tracked with that, though, I’m going to make some notes on the local buildings, because this is what I came here for, by thunder. Even if it was just to get out of a summer beating carpets.

In fact – and none of my family better ever read this – I didn’t really want to be an Orchitect in the first place. I mean, I didn’t really not want to, either, and I’m glad Stompa went into Sums so I didn’t have to, because that looks dry as corpse-dust, but… Well, I can see where Gran’s coming from. She was a humble legionary, she gave birth to Mum on the campaign trail, she lucked out when a dray shed its load of carpets over the bridge into the dry river-bed she was camped in (or so she says)… and one thing and another, Mum ended up as a rug-trader. So one generation claws its way into the mercantile class and of course they want the next to do even better, don’t they? The three of us are going into Society, like it or not. So Corporagoth’s now Dorctor Corporagoth, with a fancy practice in the city, and Stompagoth’s letters are all signed off ‘Stompagoth ORCA (Orcountancy Registered Colossal Arse)’ ha, not really, I just say it to wind her up.

Point is, I suggested Orchaeology, only that’s apparently way common and smacks of grave-robbing. ‘Stick to the present’, Dad said, ‘or better still, the future. Don’t make a living with your hands if you can make one with your brain; what if something happens to your hands?’

(I did say, ‘but you still have to hold a quill’, and I said it only that one time because Mum overheard me giving Dad backchat. My ear rang for a week.)

Orchitecture’s not that bad, I guess. I’m not sure I’m great at it, but I can now look at the Nordic buildings and give my comparative observations. So here we go: exhibit A, typical Nord house.

NORD HOUSE – WHITERUN

That looks… human. Very typically human, in fact. Walls not really thick enough, funny insistence on right-angles. Observe the pointy bits, and the presence of the second floor (why? It is an unnatural practice that should be avoided whenever possible, and there’s plenty of clear ground around it to build sideways instead). On the plus side, the windows are small and few, so strangers can’t just wander up and peer at you going about your business. Bonus points for no chimney – no jest, we spent a month on the Perils of Having A Chimney (ghosts and rain get in, the smoke gets out, yada yada yawn) and that end-of-term essay on the subject will stay with me forever.

Unfortunately, so will the way that dragon just threw down a really solid stone tower just the other day. I don’t think I’m ever going to get over that. So I’m really not looking at these buildings with the clinical detachment I’m supposed to. In fact, now that I’m seeing Whiterun in daylight I can’t help noticing that the city walls all seem to have been levelled off just above gate-height and – well, recent events have proved that even if they weren’t, so bloody what, but still.

What did that? Dragons? Giants? Why is there no sign that anyone is doing anything about it? Is it because there is no bloody point?

I… don’t want to think about this, actually.

Anyway. This dragon-stone involved going back to Riverwood first of all, so at least I knew the way and I’d cleared out all the ‘obstacles’ last night on the jog here.

The wolves were back. I mean, different wolves were back, the other ones are all dead, but still, surely that was a bit quick. Also, they all seem to attack on sight. Is that normal for wolves?

Despite my massive amount of misgivings, plus the reception I’ve been getting round these parts, I put my shoulders back and my fangs forward and went to make conversation with the locals. Humans love making conversation, right, none of this minding-your-own-business with them, so I figured I could maybe show them I’m all civilised and everything too. (Better than civilised, I haven’t ever tried to murder anyone coming down the road the other way). Might even pick up some helpful tips, as well.

So within five minutes I’d met this Elf guy who told me all about this human woman he’s got a thing for and how she’s got this other human (a bard! Ha! Mum was right!) moping after her, and could I give her this fake letter from bardy to make him look like an arse. Um, seriously?

I also met an old woman who told me to shove off, which was reassuringly normal, a kid who made a point of telling me he wasn’t scared of me, ditto, and a guy running a shop who told me all about how bandits had run off with some golden claw thing he kept on the counter as a conversation piece or something and could I go get it, otherwise his sister was all for doing it herself. Since she’s even more twig-like than I am, and it turns out to be in the same place I’m headed for anyway, sure, why not.

Stompa would be better at this Sum, but I calculate roughly half the non-murderous Nords I’ve met have no problem with asking a total stranger for a favour right off the bow. Is this normal?

I didn’t realise until after I’d left that – I think – that was the woman Elf-boy gave me the letter for, too. How was that even supposed to look? ‘Hi, you’ve never seen me before but here’s a note, supposedly from some guy you know, in some other guy’s handwriting?’ Guess who’ll end up getting their face slapped over that one.

NORD HOUSE – RIVERWOOD

Now look at that. Not a right-angle in sight, pleasing curves, sturdy construction, no gaps apart from the doorway. Only one storey. That is a Grade-A piece of building-work; almost Orcish, even. Except, of course, that cow will have that fence over in minutes.

(If I’ve learned anything from college, you always have to have a piece of criticism in there. Everything could be improved on, even if it’s only theoretically, and that’s the difference between a B+ and an A-.)

I ran afoul of some more locals on my way to this ruin. Of course I did. They were hanging out in this ruined tower that I thought at first was my destination – bandits, check; ruin, check – but of course it wasn’t. These were different bandits. You could throw a rock with your eyes shut round here and hit a bandit. Also, seriously, the snow is a foot deep in places – this is summer, mind – and these people are just living in half a tower with no roof? The stairs, if you can call them that, were just this slope of wooden slats fastened onto the outside of the ruined bit. I swear, I threw up in my mouth a little bit, trying to creep up that. I didn’t want to, but some guy at the top kept peppering me with arrows and I had no idea how long he would keep it up if I just left. What if he followed me? The sort of people who chose to live here might choose to do anything.

The bandits I was supposed to be getting down and dirty with were round the corner in a different ruin. Yeah, no, I dunno what I was expecting either.

Actually, I tell you what, I was not expecting this:

BLEAK FALLS BARROW

Just… what? At first I was thinking, ‘well, use of the arch’ blah blah – I was being peppered with more arrows at the time, made it a bit hard to concentrate – but when you look more closely, there is no physical reason I’m aware of that any of this should still be standing. Hell, none of it should still be standing if it was built yesterday, but it seems to be centuries old. Possibly more, given what I found inside.

Oh hairy bollocks, what I found inside. Animated corpses, I jest you not. The place was huge, though almost entirely composed of winding passages lined with alcoves for the dead, only some of them were… no, that’s not right. They were just as dead as all the other ones, only they’d merrily wake up and attack you. I eventually noticed you can tell which ones will do that because they’ve been buried in armour. So… whoever built this place – or whoever stashed all these corpses in it, maybe not the same person, eh – knew in advance this would happen. Did the guys who became the corpses know? Did they agree, or is this… blech. This is necromancy, is what this is.

There was also some weird caper with the golden claw thing, which I eventually got off this thief who’d been caught by a giant spider. I say eventually; he offered to give it to me if I freed him, but then he laughed and ran off and I found him dead round the next corner. I feel there’s a valuable lesson in keeping my own word, there. Anyway. The claw fit into this hole in this bizarre contraption of a gigantic stone door – kind of like a key, I guess – and on the other side, guess what?

More corpses, of course, half of them looking for a fight. I wasn’t a bit surprised.

There was, however, this big alcove that was… whispering. Well, maybe sort of shouting, only quietly. Is that possible? Ha, yeah, it’s a wall. Making a noise. I eventually went to have a closer look, and yeah that was a mistake wasn’t it, because part of it started glowing and this wind blew up and… I don’t know what happened but the glowing bit sort of got into my head. I feel ill just thinking about it. Is that how the corpses were made? What am I going to tell Dad? What if I tell Gran and she decides to exorcise me with an axe?

Anyway, I got that dragon-stone thing. Those bandits aren’t needing their bed-rolls anymore, and they look clean enough. Definitely cheaper than the tavern, too. Besides, if I’m cursed or something, better if nobody’s around when I wake up as a ghoul, right?

I never thought I’d miss Gran’s campaign tent.

How I spent my Summer Break in Skyrim: Day Three – Some Nordic Culture

This guys’ family were amazingly chilled about everything. Seriously. He was all, ‘so you may be wondering why I’m not at work, but this dragon totally burned it all down at no notice, also you may observe I have someone a bit novel in tow, well, she was about to be executed but as luck would have it…’

There was no eruption about how did he think he was going to earn his keep now his workplace was ashes. There was no explosion about bringing home strangers of ill repute (all strangers are of ill repute in the boondocks, right?) They actually thanked me, for my help, and said I could take anything I wanted; ‘within reason’.

I took an apple and some ale. I thought it was a trick. I did have a go at making this armour a bit better at the guy’s forge – been a while but you never forget, eh. It’s the proverbial swinging a hammer.

Wish I’d chanced my arm now, right enough. An apple a day isn’t terribly filling. Plus, the implications of having lost everything are beginning to sink in; especially now I realise I might need a lot more than I’d originally packed. The weapons are starting to look like a bare necessity, put it that way.

In return for the apple and the ale – and I’d thought I should maybe put a bit of distance between myself and whats-his-name’s Uncle in case they changed their minds – I agreed to take the news of the dragon to some guy called Yarl in some place called Whiterun. They said it was a simple enough journey. Yeah, no. It was only about a half-hour’s jog and I was still attacked by a pair of wolves and some guy who wanted my ‘valuables’. Ha again. When I told him to shove it he tried to stab me to death – admittedly this was far less surprising than it would have been, ooh, yesterday – but I triumphed. Somehow. Maybe those guys in Riverwood knew it was dangerous out here and just wanted me gone. I mean, if this message was that important, someone would have come with me, right?

Anyway, civilisation finally dawned upon me. As such. City walls and guards and so forth, and sweet, familiar shops. Once they let me in, which they were not much for doing at first.

Amazingly bad prices one gets round here for a haul of second-hand weapons. Maybe it’s because they’re so numerous or something. Stompa would probably know about that.

I took the message to the Yarl, which I now know is a title not a name, and he was all, ‘great, well done, now there’s this ruin that needs investigating for this stone to control dragons or something’… and it would be great if I coulddo it because everyone else is busy. Apparently. This, at least, sounds a lot like spending the summer at home.

He seemed to suggest how maybe I should go at once. Yeah, no. It feels like a week since I got any sleep. Couldn’t they have rustled up a bed for me or something? A corner would have done at that point. I trailed back out into town, discovered a tavern, and spent rather more on food and board than I’d made on those weapons. I probably won’t mention this part, assuming I get home, because it’ll just add to everyone’s conniptions, but I did stay well away from the local bard. He seemed to be staying well away from me, too, which is… not what I expected from their reputations.

Actually, thinking about it… The bad prices. The way everyone’s been very grateful – as they’ve hustled me out the door. The way I’ve had three different people, who I’m sure didn’t know each other beforehand, shout ‘die, Orc filth!’ as they tried to murder me pretty-much on sight. Hairy bollocks, I am right in the boondocks.

Fine, I’ll still get this dragon-stone thing. I don’t like the thought of that big beastie just lumbering round the sky waiting to drop on who-knows who and burn them to cinders. Besides, if I go home now… No. I’ll get some shut-eye and head out in the morning to make the best of this.

Oh, I almost forgot. On my way into town, there was some sort of commotion and it turned out to be these three locals killing a giant. Literally right across the river from town. A giant. I got heckled by the hucksters for not joining in – as if I was going anywhere near that carry-onwhich I ignored because it’s been quite a day already. Only, thinking about it, what sort of people cut about all dolled up in war-paint and give total strangers grief for not dropping everything and wading in?

People who are on the pull, is who. I might be in, there.

How I spent my Summer Break in Skyrim: Day Two – A Surprising Reversal of Fortune


So… things could have started off slightly better.

In fact, things could have started off a walloping load better, and if they’d started off only slightly worse I wouldn’t be writing this at all, so I suppose there is that. We hadn’t even crossed the border when, I swear, there was actual snow on the ground. The stagecoach got so cold, then as soon as we were – allegedly – over the border, the driver dropped me off. Very unceremoniously, and not even at anything remotely resembling a way-farer’s station, either. The guards made ‘drawing their weapons’ motions when I protested – I jest you not – and then they all drove away while I was tumbled in the snow. Charming.

I gave the situation due consideration, as well as much swearing, then legged it behind some bushes to put on Gran’s thermal campaign undies. I mean, two generations have passed – whatever might have inhabited them at the time had to be dead by now, right?

Can you believe things actually got worse? They did. I got ambushed in the middle of getting changed. As in hauled out at sword-point, bound at the wrists at sword-point, prodded onto a cart at sword-point. I didn’t even see where they took all my stuff. I ended up sat in the cart with this guy who was gagged and this other guy who just wouldn’t shut up, which is maybe why they’d gagged his mate. And this other guy, who kept telling the un-gagged one to shut up. I guess it was nice nobody thought to comment on Gran’s thermals, which were the only thing I was wearing, except it turned out they had other things on their minds because we ended up at this castle and – I am not joking – the whiny one got shot while trying to run away. The one who’d been telling him to shut up, he got his head cut off, so really, no indications of what was the better move there. Then they told me to give my name and business and – even though I wasn’t on their list of whoever they were after – the guy told me I had to kneel down to get beheaded too. He did apologise for it, so I suppose there is that, but really?

All I could think of was how Stompa managed to get out of beating carpets all summer by just scrawling numbers on a board and pretending to do Sums on them. I hadn’t done anything worse, and now look.

So at the last minute, this actual dragon turned up and burned the place to the ground and I escaped.

Yeah, ha, that sounds really great, doesn’t it? As well as absolutely unbelievable. It was exactly the opposite of all of that. It was all just noise and heat and rubble being smashed down all around me – I swear, every-way I turned it was there in front of me. This guy – the one who had apologised for me being murdered – yelled at me to follow him and we went up this tower. Boom, smash, dragon comes through side of tower. That stone was as thick as my arm-span is wide. The stairs fell in behind us, we had to jump. We fled into another tower, this time heading downward, and I swear to this, too, the dragon actually stuck its head down through the cobbles or whatever into the room we were in. It went away again, but… what?

Well, so, I kinda just did what he said, after that. Yeah, even with him being wrong about everything all the time. I didn’t have any better ideas. Only, first he said we should try and get some gear together, and granted, I felt a bit better about everything when I had some metal between me and the drafts, but then he said he meant weapons, which ha, yeah. Let’s stab a dragon that can stick its head straight through a stone wall with, like, daggers and stuff!

Ha. Turned out he didn’t mean the dragon. He meant about a hold-full of other people we met under the castle, and in this load of caves beyond it. I think some of them might have been on his side, technically, given that they were torturing people in there and seemed quite territorial about the place and all? Except I think some of the other ones weren’t, so what is even going on here with such bad watches being kept? I thought of Gran, and how she keeps saying all she wanted for us all was to be better than hired swords, and how I don’t know anything about using a sword because why would I ever need to. I did a lot of flailing and quite a lot of screaming, and hairy bollocks but I just killed more people today than I’ve ever even kissed. Which is none, so much for college life; but the number of people I’d killed as of this morning was also none.

There were spiders, too – ha, yeah, ‘carpet-spiders can get really big, like the size of your hand’ – no, these were bigger than me, I swear. I… thought crawlies needed warm climates to get big? And a bear. Just, you know, all hanging out in these caves like it was no big deal. I’m amazed I’m here to write this. Like, Dad’s always been all, ‘ooh Corpora’s got your mother’s mighty thighs’ and ‘Stompa’s got your mother’s biceps’ and when it comes to me, it’s always, ‘well, Beshie… you got your mother’s fangs,’ but there’s always this sort of pause? I’m not a runt – I’m nearly as tall as he is – I just haven’t filled out yet.

Anyway. I’m alive, and currently holed up at the mouth of the cave writing this with what I stole, but I don’t think Gran would be proud.

In fact, I think she’s going to be bloody furious, because with hindsight I reckon her tent got torched in the dragon attack. That was the tent she gave birth to Mum in, that was, and the legion just kept on going without her. Sort of a family heirloom, that tent.

I don’t really know what to do now. I guess I’ll go with this guy to his uncle’s place because he’s keeping on and on about how we should get moving. Do they have that thing about chaperones here that some humans do back home? I hope not. Also, I do hope the dragon didn’t burn anything important of his, or we will get such a bollocking when we arrive.

How I spent my Summer Break in Skyrim

I know, I know. I have so many plans for Proper projects and a limited amount of time and energy. Why waste it on this?

I could call it drawing practice, I could call it baby steps. I could say, I don’t want everything I do in my spare time to be done with an eye to making a buck (and anyway, I suck at marketing). I’m enjoying it, is why I’m doing it. Plus, it’s an excuse to play Skyrim, then write up the adventure and draw from the screenshots I finally learned to take (thereby wasting even! more! time! Woo!)

And that, your honour, is why I will never be famous. Good thing, too.

Here’s part one.

How I spent My Summer Break in Skyrim:
Day One – A Cunning Plan

Since Dad’s spent two terms dropping lines about how I’d ‘better not think I’d be moping about, Reading, all summer’ into his letters, you’d’ve thought he would be pleased when I got home and announced my alternative plan. Or, not; if you know he was gearing up to ‘and it’s carpet-moth season so someone needs to be beating rugs in the warehouse day and night’, like he was last year. Ha, yeah. No. Summer is clammy, carpets breed dust, I’ve looked like a ghoul from schools-out to schools-in since I was six. Plus, I’ve had years of watching both my sisters get out of it by pleading ‘coursework’ – and really, how hard is it to tend to a bucket of leeches, Corpora? Ha. Now it’s my turn.

The news that I had a field trip didn’t go over quite as well as I’d imagined. Mum was immediately all, ‘and who with?’ and ‘where to?’ and, of course, ‘why didn’t we get a letter out about it?’ Well, that was why I waited to say it until college was shut for the summer, duh. Professor Grimgin should be quite pleased, come autumn, that I showed some initiative. Probably. I hope.

Gran was a lot sharper; just, ‘and how is this being funded?’ Yeah. She doesn’t just pinch pennies, she squeezes them between her thumb and forefinger until they bend. Then she claims it proves a questionable pedigree on the part of the coin – ha – and browbeats the prospective buyer into handing over more of them. Why they come back, I do not know.

Yeah, saw Gran’s input coming too, though. ‘Oh, I only have to pay accommodation-’ Ha, yeah. Dad doesn’t want me hanging round taverns and ‘learning table-manners’, Mum doesn’t want me ‘getting sweet-talked by any of these bardish types’, and Gran doesn’t want me spending money. Any money, if possible. So here I sit, with a load taller than I am; including my sketchpad, notepad, Gran’s old tent she used to sleep in on campaigns and, unfortunately, Gran’s old thermal underwear she used to wear on campaigns. Yeah, no. How cold could Skyrim possibly be? It’s high summer and it’s not that far north.

Still, whatever happens has got to beat thrashing carpets in a hot, dank cave of a warehouse.

Ah, here’s the stagecoach. More of a cart, really, but eh. Let’s just ignore that I only get free passage if this load of carpets does too…

2019: Already a year of change and loss round here

I’ll start with the more humorous stuff. This week, for various reasons, I donated my hair to charity. It was a bit daunting, because I wasn’t sure how much they were going to take off, but the answer is, this much:

jan 2019 haircut

Sorry to disappoint anyone who had a mental image wherein I looked Flattering, eh

Anyway, that all looked fine and dandy – even if very much shorter than it has been since I was two – and she didn’t even charge me, so there was a lot to do with running around doing publicity pics as best I could (local business, support, etc). After which I went for a nap and woke up looking like Tom Baker. Despite my best efforts with mousse, I appear to be doomed to stay that way, at least until it grows out. My prediction is I’m gonna end up with a Brian May before this is all better.

Two days after that, just as I was attempting to get the Twelve Days of Cthulhu-mas into a publishable format (and discovering I was probably going to have to do the whole. Thing. Over. Because I do not understand the difference between a JPG and a PNG, oh cruel stupidity)…

Dogface woke up ill. Like, really ill. I will spare the details in case anyone who knew him ever reads this and doesn’t need to know, but it was clear he was on his way out. Despite this, he faithfully tried to guard us as he always did, following us from room to room despite the way his legs wouldn’t carry him half the time, and generally just breaking my heart. I couldn’t concentrate on the redoing of the (possibly) publishable, and I feel really bad about that because one of the G Monster’s mates offered to help me out with that and as far as I know she’s upholding her end of the work.

Dogface got put down this evening. I’ve only had the one dog, so I don’t have any real comparisons, but he was the most stubborn little bugger I’ve ever seen. Once he decided it was time, he fought against every pill, injection, offer of food, syringe of nutrients, you name it. He was also utterly faithful. I know he was just a pet, and we only had care of him for a year, but he would be mortified if he understood he was thought of as just a pet. He did his best, even at the last, to guard us and count us and make sure we were safe, just as he did since he arrived; it’s just civilisation outstripped evolution there.

I’m still catching myself looking round to check he’s okay, though it’s only been a few hours.

He was well-known to the G-Monster’s entire family, having previously been cared for by his sister, his mum, and his brother, so there are lots of people grieving for him right now. On at least four continents, apparently, which is not bloody bad for a dog. Especially one who wasn’t expected to make it past ten weeks, let alone past fifteen years. Ha, we were so pleased that we had managed to take him on so many adventures in the past year, but on comparing notes with the G Monster’s sister tonight, turns out a lot of the places we’d taken him, in the hopes that they’d be exotic, were places he’d been with her, too.

I’d go into more personal details but I know he was other people’s dog too, so I will leave it at this: I was kindly leant copies of his puppy photos. Here he is, oldest photo I have to newest.

baby simba

simba

Awww. RIP. And yeah, Dogface, you didn’t manage to cost us all our money, as predicted, but you sure did break my heart.

2018 – a retrospective

Ah, it’s that time of year when I get to get all about me in public (oh wait, it’s a blog about me and my artistic endeavours, I do that every time I post, whoops).

So, how do I feel I did this year? Well, it started out on target:

1. Fix greenhouse.

The greenhouse we finally put up last autumn lasted a whole week before a storm ripped the sides off. We reinforced it with batons, I spent a happy week building lots of bespoke furniture for it, and it managed to house my first successful tomato crop before the storms ripped the roof off instead. So we went back in with the batons and reinforced the roof, too.

Status: so far so good. Unfortunately, all it needs is a really good storm and the whole thing is away again, no matter what we do to it.

2. Get new job.

This was kinda urgent since the old job was a contract. My boss got it extended, which was very sweet, but all good things come to an end. As luck would have it, I got a new job that began the very next day. Miles and miles further away, slightly fewer hours, slightly lower pay, but any port in a storm, what? Status: sorted.

3. Get taken back on at old job.

Would you Adam and Eve it, almost as soon as I started the new job they needed someone to fill in at the old one again. So I took on both.

Status: ker-ching!

Sadly, this had a bit of an impact on the old free time, as did:

4. Organise hen-do for best mate

As the only bridesmaid/ maid of honour for me mate’s wedding, it fell to me to do the honours for the hen-night. And with only three weeks’ notice, what! There was no time to get money out of everyone up front (hassling people you don’t know for cash is always the best way to make friends before you see them all at the wedding, right?) so I told them it would be free and hosted it at mine. (See under: ker-ching, above). I mean, we had room to sleep twelve. Just about. If I got more beds. And gave the place a thorough sprucing-up; by which I mean, not only moving everything out the way and giving the place a hose-down and several coats of paint, but also building some walls that had been left unfinished when we first got the place. Yes, myself and the G Monster had quite merrily* lived in that squalor for over a year while doing up the main house, but asking other people to do so? Unthinkable!

*For a given definition of ‘merrily’, obviously.

In my panic, I went a bit balls to the wall with the nautical theme (the wedding was at a lighthouse) – sent them on a cruise, hired a naked butler, put up an ‘under the sea’ theme for the lounge, bought pirate-themed cocktails, made the guests fish about in a paddling pool filled with coffee and cocoa powder with their toes for coins (I ran out of time to make them walk the plank, which was going to be done blindfold in the hopes that they would believe they would fall into water rather than just being on the lawn).

Status: There were inflatable parrots everywhere in the morning, including in the toaster, so I think it was a success?

5. Build lean-to log store

lean-to

I did this in a couple of days out of only what was lying around, and very pleased with myself I was too. Unfortunately for me, next door promptly built a lean-to too, only hers is professionally-made by a team of workers, and is a gigantic thing made of all the shiniest materials. You have an excellent view of it from my lean-to, which you could easily fit twenty of into her one. In fact, our house would fit into it. She is lovely, so I am not jealous at all. Am not.

Status: Okay, I totally AM.

6. Me mate’s wedding

I got through this without participating in any arguments, letting the bride down or making a Scene, which is my best-case outcome for social interactions. Also, the lassie who did my make-up made me look like Katie Perry. Although according to the photos I actually looked like a giant blue pineapple, but you can’t have everything. The bride looked wonderful, the cake was an octopus attacking a lighthouse, the first dance was in a bouncy castle, the photos were amazing.

Status: It was awesome.

7. Operation Windbreak

It’s a bit windy here, almost all the time. A lot of the time it’s very windy. I had tried planting all the fruit bushes along the front very close together, but they still hated being the first thing the gales hit after the wind-farms you can see on the horizon. I’ve been feeling a hedge might help – despite the fact that we have a big hedge, and a big fence, along the side, and sure, you’re still blown off your feet on especially windy nights – but I had to talk the G Monster into it. However, with all my spare cash from working two jobs, I now had money to burn. I just had to build some mighty raised beds for the fruit bushes to move into, dig out 45 bushes and move them, dig a 33m trench and prep it, shift all the strawberries that had escaped into the lawn while I was working two jobs, make some planters, put up a trellis, and get it all done before 130 baby trees arrived in November.

operation windbreak 1.jpg

November came and went with no baby trees. Or confirmation email, now I came to think of it. So I repeated the order. 260 baby trees turned up, nearly giving me heart failure.

Status: if this works, it will be the densest hedge in all Christendom.

8. Dogface!

dog with hair

I’ve spent years saying I want to get organised and disciplined enough to get up early before work every day and take some exercise. Last Christmas the universe sent us a dog, so now I damn well have to, let that be a lesson for everyone reading this. He turned 15 in November, and the G Monster’s sister came to celebrate with him. We have fallen in love with him soooo hard. This year we took him to Wales, where he got ill, and Stonehenge, where he walked 10 miles in one day (and got ill), and Arran, and the Lake District, so whatever he was up to for the first 14 years of his life, he’s been about a bit now. I don’t know if it’s possible for dogs to be on the spectrum, but he does have a number of… odd… habits:

  • If you throw a stick for him and it lands on the path, he will tidy it away to the side.
  • Shortly after arriving, he banned himself from going on the furniture.
  • If he wants to go out to the loo in the night he will not bark. Or whine or make any sort of fuss, despite being repeatedly told we really don’t mind (not when the alternative is playing “where is that godawful smell coming from” in the morning. So much fun when your schedule means you have to leave for work now, but you can’t just leave that on the rug for twelve hours). He will, however, put his nose over the side of the bed and whiffle hopefully; this works if you’re sleeping facing the right direction, but not if he just gets your hair.

Obviously your dog (or cat, or tortoise or whatever) is objectively the best one in the whole world, but Dogface is the best one for us.

Status: yay, Dogface. Never leave us. Oh wait, one day you totally will.

9. The Twelve Days of Cthulhu-mas

I am laying the blame for this on the G Monster’s sister. When she came up for Dogface’s birthday she said she would commission a portrait of one of her own dogs but “didn’t want to do it right before Christmas because you’ll get stressed trying to do that plus Christmas”. This was very sweet and thoughtful on a number of levels, but sadly I got a fever right after and, knowing I was free of the stress of trying to do a Commission Plus Christmas, I spent the next three weeks doing something far more stressful instead. Go me. I should be proofing it for stray pixels right now, in fact, because having got this far I might as well go the whole hog and attempt to put it out as a novelty book.

Status: who the hell do I think I am, eh.

10. Volunteering

I’ve spent years saying I want to get organised and disciplined enough to do some volunteering, because I am conscious that I have a very idyllic, me-centred life and ‘should give something back’, and also, see under 8) above, I am incapable of learning from my mistakes. I was more specific about this notion, however – it has to be volunteering that doesn’t involve a) going anywhere or b) meeting people or c) interacting with people. Lest you think it’s laziness, it’s not; it’s simple cowardice.

Comeuppance arrived the week before Christmas when the G Monster’s mate needed someone ‘reliable and conscientious’ to help out with some charity work at short notice; all those people were busy, so she got me. Boom boom.

Status: I have spent the festive period on one hell of a learning curve.

11. But, wasn’t 2018 supposed to be all about the art and writing and stuff?

Yes, yes it was. I just wanted to get my feet clear first. Never do this. It’s like in Red Dwarf (the book, not the series) where Kryten, the droid who is programmed to clean up after humanity, is on his way to escaping from Better Than Life. Only he sees a pile of dishes that need washed, so he decides he’ll just get that done before he goes. Three months later the pile is no smaller and he realises he’s been conned. If you never do anything creative until you’ve got your feet clear, this will be you. It’s certainly me.

Anyway. Here we are in 2019, which I am starting with a bugger of a head-cold. The dishes are done, the world outside is so frozen I just had to use a pick-axe to break up the mound of left-over earth that the G Monster has been giving me meaningful hints about getting out of the way, Dogface has been taken for a three-mile walk over the moors and is curled up asleep by my feet, and all is well with the world. Quick! Time to get creative!