Who let the dogs out?

A few months ago, Julie, one of my Dear Readers, asked me if I could draw a zentangle of her mum’s dog as a gift for said mother. I agreed (not knowing what kind of dog it was) and Julie sent me a photo of the dog.

I can’t find it now, but it was a terrier of some kind (Sorry, Julie! I can’t remember what breed now!)  I think it might have been a Border Terrier

the most famous of which is Eccles, from “Coronation Street” as pictured above

Anyway, I searched t’Internet and found a drawing of said terrier breed. And I started my Zentangle….But it was difficult. I was worried I was getting too much Zentangle and not enough dog (if you see what I mean…) So, discouraged, I put it in a drawer and forgot about it. Then last week, I was looking through my old blog posts for something, and came across my offer to draw a zentangle for anyone, and Julie’s request for a dog for her mum. So, rather guiltily, I dug out the half finished drawing and searched t’Internet for some inspiration…which I found in this Zentangle Shih Tzu

So off I went, Zentangling mojo back, and I finished the terrier in a matter of days. Julie has it, and will be giving it to her mum, so I can show you the finished article (click on the picture to biggify it):

Finally I was pleased with how he turned out. I hope Julie’s mum likes him too!

If I’ve promised anyone else a Zentangle please do remind me in the comments…Or if you’d like one doing. Please say – I seem to be ready to do another…

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Support a new kid on the blogging block

Some of us have been blogging for ages – I started in 2009 OOOH! I’ve just realised I passed my 10 years’ Blogiversary on 24th August. What a shame I didn’t realise on the day. It would have made for a blog post!!

Anyway…some of us have been blogging for a long time, some of us not so long.

My nephew-in-law has started his blog “The Stay Abroad Dad” He & my niece, Ruth, and their two Littlies are living in Malaysia at the moment. Ruth is working in a new school, and Dave is the Stay At Home Abroad Dad. He writes quite engagingly, so please trot over to say Hello and encourage him in his blogging efforts. I look forward to reading more about their adventures.

Book Review: The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square ****

NetGalley did not send me this free of charge. I paid good folding-cash-money for it (well, click-and-buy on Amazon, actually. Which is a very dangerous thing, and needs to be used with caution!!)

The blurb reads:

They want him to save the world. But, first, he must save himself.

Kirkwood Scott is having a bad day. Languishing in a dead end job and recently dumped by his girlfriend he struggles with a crippling form of OCD which manifests itself in the form of Colonel Augustus Skelly, a phantom voice from Kirkwood’s childhood who controls his every waking moment via a series of tortuous routines, ‘The 49’.

Kirkwood has little to look forward to, bar a weekend of drunken oblivion in Belfast with his equally deadbeat friends. All that changes when he meets Meredith Starc, a young homeless woman struggling to survive on the streets and come to terms with her own troubled past. Kirkwood realises Meredith may hold the answer to him finally being free of his mental demons.

But what if Skelly is more than just a voice? Kirkwood and Meredith join forces to unearth a supernatural battle raging on the city’s back streets between ancient forces of good or evil, the outcome of which will decide the fate of the planet. Between them, they hold the key to saving mankind from a new Dark Age but can they survive long enough to do so as Skelly unleashes a legion of vicious ghost soldiers upon the unsuspecting city?

‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square’ is a fast paced and darkly humorous supernatural fantasy guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

My review on Amazon reads: I found the book engaging and well written, giving me a “just one more” feeling when I reached the end of a chapter. The story is enthralling – in the sense that I was enthralled, I wanted to know what happened next, how the characters fitted together, what the outcome would be. While certain descriptive passages jarred a little, and some of the scene setting went on a tad too long (in my opinion) I felt “secure” in the hands of the author. I look forward to the next instalment.

To add a bit more to the review, I did find the first third of the book dragged in places: the description of Kirkwood’s banal life became a little too tedious. I got that he went to seedy pubs, drank a lot, and had hangovers, and then went out drinking again: I know that the author was trying to emphasise the change in his life, when Meredith entered the scene, but I felt the point was a bit too laboured.

I didn’t always get on with the humour, or understand the cultural references either. While this didn’t exactly spoil my enjoyment of the book, I did get a bit irritated. In fact I emailed Stephen, (I read his blog) to ask about something that I thought was a typo, but which was, in fact, a reference to a song lyric. Should it matter if your readers don’t understand your cultural references? I don’t know – but from time to time something jarred with me, and I had to pause and “get over myself” before continuing.

HOWEVER I loved the actual story, and warmed to the characters I was supposed to warm to; the descriptions of OCD and mental health issues were sensitively handled. Despite it being a fantasy, I found it eminently believable, and I await the next in the series with interest and anticipation.

I gave it four stars, because of the problems with the humour/cultural references, but don’t let this put you off. It’s a great read!

Thank you Kezzie…Part III

Kezzie  has provided the inspiration for the last two posts, and finally for this one too! Answering 60 questions about oneself. Here’s the last 20

41. Cooking or baking? Hard to choose as I enjoy both (although the everyday cooking gets a bit boring!) (Hence the reason for my answer 40) If I had to choose, I suppose it would be cooking, as one cannot live on cakes alone.Baking is more pleasurable however; I don’t “do” yeast though. It rather disturbs me.

42. Favourite Baked goods? Oh, how to choose?! I think flapjacks – so easy to make but so delicious!! Note that is UK Flapjacks not US flapjacks (which are pancakes. What’s that about?) Recipe here, should you wish to try it! If you can’t get golden syrup, then honey or Agave syrup can be substituted, but the quantities & cooking time may need adjusting.

43. What is something you wish you could be good at? Gosh, there are so many! A not-particularly-useful thing is singing. I’ve got a loud and serviceable singing voice, but I wish it was better. A more-useful thing would be being organised, or as Kezzie said, not worrying about stuff. There’s an envelope saying “Important Information Included” waiting to be opened. I worry about what’s inside it, so I don’t open it. Stupidstupidstupid.

44.  Skiing or surfing? Like Kezzie, neither. I never took to skiing, and surfing seems just as difficult with the added “bonus” of getting seawater up every orifice. I have wobbly ankles and no balance.

45. First celebrity crush? As far as I can remember it was Ben Murphy, from “Alias Smith & Jones” I had photos of him stuck onto the lid of my desk at school.

 

Then…and now (I actually prefer the “now”!)

46. Most recent celebrity crush? Alan Rickman, always Alan Rickman. But actually Ben Murphy has just surprised me!!

47. What colour was your prom dress? Proms didn’t exist when I left school. We had a Leavers’ Meal and Disco, somewhere in Liverpool city centre – very grown up! I have no idea what I wore!! I do remember that for my 21st birthday party, held at college (university equivalent) – which I shared with friends Diane and Lynne – I wore a cream knee-length dress.

48. How do you manage stress? I don’t! As a result of my hormonetherapy, I get stupidly over anxious.

49. What do you do to relax? Blog, read blogs, art “journalling”, zentangling, reading.

50. Shoes or bags? If the question is asking what do you have more of, then I guess it’s shoes. I’m always on a quest to find comfortable shoes, that are also elegant. I haven’t found them yet. Especially as I can’t walk in heels of any height. I like bags, but don’t buy a lot of them (handbags, that is. I have myriad tote bags, but I’ve not bought many of them. They’re mostly gifts) I am very frugal buying handbags though – the ones I like are usually far too expensive to buy!

51. How do you know if you’re in love? Crikey! How to answer? I like Kezzie’s answer (more borrowing!) Worrying about that person, wanting to make things better for them, still loving them even when they are mean to you or drive you mad.  Not sure really.

52. Who do you turn to when you’re sad? Usually I turn in on myself. I’m not very good at sharing sadness. Mr FD only wants to try to “fix” it, or rationalise it, and that doesn’t really help.

53. What are you most enchanted by? The night sky.

54. What is your biggest strength? No idea. If we ask what am I good at – teaching, preaching, Some have said I’m a good listener, and am empathetic. I don’t know if that’s so. I like to think I’m usually kind, but I can also be very ungenerous.

55. What is your biggest weakness? I’m very lazy. And disorganised. And a worrier/panicker. Mr FD says I panic first and ask questions later, and that’s becoming more and more my default position. I don’t think I’d be very good in a crisis.

56. What are 3 words to describe living in your city? I live in a small town/big village. Quiet…humdrum…pleasant…

57. Cutest thing on planet Earth? Probably something with baby animals, especially kittens

58. Favourite colour? I honestly don’t have one! It rather depends on my mood.

59. Favourite time of day? The moment of silence when I turn off the car ignition outside my house after a long day’s work. Especially if I know Mr FD has cooked dinner!

60. Favourite band? I don’t have one – but here are a few that I really like: Elbow, Rend Collective, Big,big Train, The Divine Comedy.

Stealing from Kezzie: Part 2

Here’s the second part of the series of questions that I’ve borrowed/stolen/copied from Kezzie

21. How do you start your day? It depends on whether it’s a work day or not, but it usually involves some cat wrangling! I prefer to be showered and dressed before I have breakfast.

22. Would you ever live anywhere beside where you do now? Yes, quite happily. Now we have lived in France – which had always been a dream – I would be prepared to move back to the UK….though I think we’d be looking at Scotland, rather than England. Depending on what happens with Brexshit we may have to move back, but probably not.

23.  What is your favourite dessert? I don’t really have one. Although I love chocolate, I wouldn’t usually choose a chocolate dessert; I prefer fruity ones.

24.  Is there a dessert you don’t like? See above: anything too chocolatey-and-cream-laden.

25.  It’s a brunch! What do you eat? Full English breakfast, please, followed by toast-and-marmalade. And lots of good coffee.

26.  Where was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Ach, there’s too many lovely holidays to remember, all of them special for different reasons. I couldn’t choose!

27.   Favourite Disney animal? Don’t really have one. Maybe Puss in Boots from Shrek. Is that Disney?

28. What is a book you are planning on reading? “Iris & Ruby” by Rosie Thomas. “The Last Runaway” by Tracy Chevalier – I came across both of these as I was clearing my bookshelf and thought I needed to re-read them.

29.  What did you read most recently? I read “The Virgin Blue” by Tracy Chevalier while on holiday, as it was partly set in the region where we were staying. And also “Skelly’s Square” by Stephen Black as it’s by someone whose blog I read. Both were very good.

30. Favourite solo artist? I don’t have a favourite, but among those I like are…Hafdis Huld, Sting, Paul Carrack, Richard Hawley….

31. What is something you’re tired of? Brexshit. ‘Nuff said. And joint pain.

32.  What is a city you want to visit? I’d like to revisit Amsterdam. I’d like to vist Copenhagen, Rekyavik, maybe New York, Prague…

33.  Heels or flats. It has to be flats. I can’t walk in heels of any height.

34.  Where does one go on a perfect toad trip? Anywhere that appeals! The French countryside is hard to beat!

35. What do you do on a rainy day? It depends on my mood, but often it’s blogging or art work of some description.

36.  What is your favourite exercise? I’m afraid that’s an oxymoron to me!

37.  What was your worst subject at school? I was no good at maths – Up to the last year in Primary school I loved maths, but then we were taught Binary numbers, which I couldn’t understand. It put me off for the rest of my life (except for a brief spark of interest with some kind of graph) When I found out I’d passed maths “O”level, I told my maths teacher, who responded with “Well, Alison, life is full of little surprises!”

38.  Which animal do you identify with most? Cat – I love sleeping and eating.

39.  What do you usually eat for breakfast? On a work day I have a big glass of orange-juice-and-water, egg on toast, and coffee. I’ve just started having a pro-biotic yoghurt too. On a non-work-day, it’s the juice combo, toast and jam, and coffee.

40.  What do you usually eat for dinner? I don’t “usually” have anything. In fact Mr FD sometimes complains that I’ll cook something nioce and then we never have it again! I’ve got loads of home-created recipe books with different recipes in. If we have the same thing twice in a month it’s unusual! I’m trying to have fish once a week, vegetarian twice a week, and less meat on the other days…but it doesn’t always work out like that.

 

 

 

Stealing from Kezzie…

…or maybe, being inspired by Kezzie!

Not sure what to blog about (now I’ve finished the epic My Holidays posts) I thought I’d borrow/steal Kezzie‘s recent posts, which she borrowed/stole from Bev, which she borrowed/stole from… and so on!!

So here we go: 60 questions Part 1

1. What’s the best thing that happened to you this month? This has to be my holiday, I think. Though a friend offering to pay for a cleaner to come in to clean the house comes a close second!! (And, yes, I’m taking her up on the offer!)

2. What’s your favourite game? I don’t play many games, to be honest. I like Cribbage – we took the crib board away with us, but didn’t play – and I’m currently playing a lot of Simon’s Cat “Pop Time” on the phone, but I’m not much of a game-player.

3.  When are you most inspired? Not often….I suppose nature quite often “does it” for me, or sometimes a few words from a Bible verse or poem.

4.  If you could teach one subject at school, what would it be? I wouldn’t want to teach any one subject, as that implies we’re teaching in secondary school, which I certainly don’t want to do!! If I was teaching motivated, well behaved people then maybe it would be back to Religious Studies, which is what I specialised in at University. Or drama…but I don’t think I’m good enough to teach it.

5.  Favourite beverage: red wine. Or maybe single malt whisky. No, I think red wine.

6. What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received? I honestly don’t know. The one I remember (though not word for word) was one from a parent at the end of a difficult school year with her son. He had been extremely tricky to work with, but we’d persevered, and for the first time ever he’d received his green certificate (they went green-blue-gold) for merit points. She wrote me a poem to say Thank You.

7. What is your favourite birthday cake? Any birthday cake I’ve not had to make for myself!

8. What is one thing you still have from childhood? I still have Pooh Bear – he wasn’t actually my bear, but I rather took him over. And I still have the blanket my grandmother crocheted for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the blanket, and Pooh Bear. If you’re wondering about the strange blue hat, this was my (failed) attempt at crochet! Instead of being flat and square, it came out round and hat shaped. So Pooh and Shaun are modelling it. And Shaun is sitting on the blanket crocheted by Nana.

9. What is your favourite film? Either “The Princess Bride” or “Truly, Madly, Deeply” Both fabulous in their different ways.

10. What is something you can’t do? Crochet (as demonstrated above) Or roll my tongue.

11.  Window or aisle seat? It depends if there’s anyone sitting next to me. But usually aisle, as I need to stretch my legs out after a bit, as my knees start hurting if they’re bent for too long.

12.  What is something that makes you laugh no matter what? Not sure, really. There must be something, but I can’t think what.

13.  What are your favourite lyrics of all time? As Kezzie said: Not a clue!! There are lots of lovely lyrics by talented writers. I couldn’t pick just one.

14.What is your favourite holiday? Presumably this means “public holiday”…both Easter and Christmas, for their religious significance. Christmas for the rest of the “trappings”. I like presents!

15. What’s heavily played on your music play list right now? I don’t have a “playlist” as such, but I’ve recently listened to a lot of Big,Big Train and Hafdis Hult.

16. If you could raid one woman’s closet, who would it be? Aargh. No idea! If I was the right shape, maybe it would be Hazel, over at World of Joy who always looks so well put together. But she and I are different shapes!!

17. Must have purse item? Keys…purse…phone…painkillers. If I’ve got them with me I feel OK.

18. What did you want to be when you grew up when you were 12? An archaeologist. This was my dream until I was told I couldn’t be one as I’d not learned Latin at school. Which is a load of rubbish, but as it was the Careers Officer at school who told mer this, I believed her.

19. What is something you will not be doing in ten years? Working? I’ll be 69 by then, but who knows what the pension age will be! Maybe I’ll have to work!

20. What is an important life lesson for someone to learn? I think I agree with Kezzie who said: That you do not have to follow what everyone else is doing? You can do something you feel very strongly is morally right, even if it makes you unpopular. If you do it, others will start to get it eventually. But, to try and be kind when doing it. Also to trust in what you believe.

I think this is important. But, put simply, maybe those words from Micah are a good lesson to learn…that one should Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our Lord.

 

Slightly jealous…

One of the blogs I read on a regular basis is “Fractured Faith“, written (mostly) by a guy in Nor’n Ireland, recounting his family life, thoughts, ponderings on living a Christian life…a well written blog. Sometimes his wife, or children, chip in with a post, but it’s mostly Stephen’s words.

One of the themes of the blog has been Stephen’s struggles writing a book, and then getting it published. He writes honestly about his difficulties, the sacrifices made and how it seemed to take over his life at times. But, very quickly,(it seems – but I might be wrong on the timescale) it was snapped up by a publisher – testament to its great writing, I feel.

Each time I read an example of Stephen’s writing I feel a bit downcast – how could I have thought my novel good enough to publish? But then, I remember that I haven’t really tried… Stephen worked, and rewrote, redrafted…contacted people…looked for agents… and didn’t give up. Whereas I bleat a bit about not knowing how to set about getting it published…and then put it back in its (metaphorical) drawer. Basically I’m a lazy so-and-so, and Stephen isn’t. I even had two kind people read my novel, make suggestions about it, and I carefully kept their notes and did precisely sweet Fanny Adams about them.

So maybe I’m not so jealous of Stephen’s talent (though there is that!) but rather of his tenacity!

Whatever it is, I wish him (through slightly gritted teeth) every success with this book, and the ones that follow.

The blurb from Amazon for his book reads:

They want him to save the world. But, first, he must save himself.

Kirkwood Scott is having a bad day. Languishing in a dead end job and recently dumped by his girlfriend he struggles with a crippling form of OCD which manifests itself in the form of Colonel Augustus Skelly, a phantom voice from Kirkwood’s childhood who controls his every waking moment via a series of tortuous routines, ‘The 49’.

Kirkwood has little to look forward to, bar a weekend of drunken oblivion in Belfast with his equally deadbeat friends. All that changes when he meets Meredith Starc, a young homeless woman struggling to survive on the streets and come to terms with her own troubled past. Kirkwood realises Meredith may hold the answer to him finally being free of his mental demons.

But what if Skelly is more than just a voice? Kirkwood and Meredith join forces to unearth a supernatural battle raging on the city’s back streets between ancient forces of good or evil, the outcome of which will decide the fate of the planet. Between them, they hold the key to saving mankind from a new Dark Age but can they survive long enough to do so as Skelly unleashes a legion of vicious ghost soldiers upon the unsuspecting city?

‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square’ is a fast paced and darkly humorous supernatural fantasy guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

It doesn’t sound at all my cup of tea – I generally avoid fantasy – but it has a feel of Phillip Pullman about it, and I really enjoyed the His Dark Materials trilogy (well, most of it) and this one is written from a Christian pen, rather than Pullman’s staunchly atheistic pen. So, let’s give it a go, I thought, and downloaded it onto my Kindle. If you are looking for a new author to read then why not give Stephen Black a try. I’m going to…

My holiday reading makes strange bedfellows:

“Skelly’s Square”…and “In this House of Brede” – about a successful businesswoman who enters a Roman Catholic convent!

And the last word goes to enviousness:

…just because it made me smile!