3BT – boat/bow/taxi, Norwich castle & town, dog/broad

1. The boat isn’t quite as cold as the day before.

1b. Breakfast on the bow.

1c. I use a strip of kitchen roll to measure the distance and we decide that it’ll be all together easier – and not that expensive – to get a taxi the whole way. The chatty driver does himself out of a return journey by telling us about the bus routes.

2. The castle looks too new to be truly interesting – but then we see it’s just a facade. The Norman keep inside is still anciently impressive, with old graffiti carved into the stone. We drop coins down the well and count as they fall. We also enjoy the aural exhibit to illustrate the castle’s toilet facilities and the smooth wood at hand height on the thousand year old door.

2b. There are more hippy shops than I would have imagined – my kind of town. (The two or three impressive yarn shops helps its cause too.) And the waffle house, let’s not forget the waffle house. The menu isn’t clear and we are a little perplexed about the idea of salads on waffles but we roll with it. The chicken on my caesar is succulent and flavourful. We have dessert waffles too: my chocolate mousse is thick and rich, like uncooked cake batter sprinkled with cocoa.

2c. A book shop, a games shop, and an antique shop where the building is more impressive than most of the items for sale.

2d. On the way out, we spot a ginger cat on a lawn and when we return, its getting a hug from its dad. When he sees us, he lowers the cat to the ground, as if it’ll ruin his image to be seen as a cat hugger. Too late, mate: you’re one of us and we know it.

2d. I think we’ve reached the halfway point back to the car park but actually we’re very nearly there.

3. A perfect dog – a black ‘working’ cocker spaniel – comes over to say hello.

3b. The broad is even quieter than the previous night – a boat side-on down the staithe stops the single late incomer from mooring at our end.

Review: ‘The Worrier’s Guide To Life’ (and the ‘Doodling for…’ books) by Gemma Correll

A few weeks ago, this image – a play on the ‘Warrior’ yoga pose – popped up on my Twitter timeline and it made me first nod and laugh, then almost instantly follow the illustrator Gemma Correll and buy her books.

The Worrier Pose picture is a perfect example of the majority of the content of “The Worrier’s Guide to Life” – cute, funny illustrations about what it’s like to be a person prone to worrying about EVERYTHING. (The fact I’d seen it before I bought the book is also a perfect example of my main problem with the book – looking at Gemma’s Twitter feed had “spoiled” a good third of the illustrations for me. Still, her online work amuses me so I’m happy to support her.)

Like Soppy which I reviewed a few weeks ago, it’s a collection of vaguely themed illustrations rather than a narrative – I am being very generous to myself including it in my graphic novel count really ;) Correll makes lovely use of colour (or perhaps I should rephrase that to “use of lovely colours”) and her style has the perfect “voice” for the ‘worrier’ – cute but they feel alive and based in reality, not overproduced to the point of sterility — and that’s what inspired me to buy her “Doodling for…” books as well: “Doodling for Cat People” & “Doodling for Dog People” (for I am both).

The books follow the same structure, built around a core of step-by-step doodling cats/dogs in various poses and states of fluffiness. I love step-by-step drawing tutorials – I think they’re a perfect confidence builder for hesitant doodlers like myself – and Correll’s designs are simple yet full of potential for customisation. Aside from the full body poses, there are sections focusing on facial expressions and accessories (cats in hats!) for adding further character — I was surprised how quickly I could whip up cartoons of our three goofballs with enough differences to distinguish them and their character quirks.

(I have, for obvious sad reasons, focused mainly on the cat book so far. I did though flick through the Dog book and was a little disappointed to find there wasn’t a step-by-step for a spaniel – when they are OBJECTIVELY the best type of dog. She does include examples of lots of different breeds at the start of the book, and a cocker is in there.)

Since they’re designed to be a “drawn in here directly” workbook, there is a lot of empty space in the books and there is some filler too (including some pages directly duplicated between the two books). They’re pretty expensive really for the amount of content.

I’d say all these books are designed to be gifts – not exactly great value for money but fun, intelligently produced (nice designs and the spines fold flat as they should do for the drawing ones) and in the case of the latter two, pleasantly interactive & inspiring. I’d recommend them as gifts but think the “Step-by-Step Drawing Animals” (which I bought for our 9 year old niece) is better value for money if you’re buying it yourself to work on your doodles.

Twelve Days of Thank You Letters


…A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Dear Darling My True Love,

Thank you so much for the partridge in a pear tree. I never say no to more fruit trees and the partridge will be a fun addition to the garden too.

Love you for always and forever.

…Two Turtle Doves and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Dear Darling My True Love,

Thank you for the pair of turtle doves and the extra pear tree/partridge combo! The doves have already made a nest in the leylandii and I’ll watch them throughout the year and think of you. Love you.

…Three French Hens, Two Turtle Doves and…

Dear My True Love,

Thanks for the French hens, the turtle doves and the third pear tree/partridge combo. Can’t wait to eat some homegrown eggs alongside my potentially bounteous pear harvest! I’ll make you the most delicious breakfast, my darling.

…Four Calling Birds, Three…

Dear My True Love,

Calling Birds! You remembered how I told you about waking up to bird song in the morning! Oh how sweet of you! xx


Dear My True Love,

Five gold rings – now you really are spoiling me! Love you! For this, I’ll make you an omelette – there wouldn’t be any shortage of eggs now the coop is full of hens.

…Six Geese a-Laying, Five…

Dear My True Love,

How kind of you think of providing a little variety: now in addition to my nine – no twelve – French hens laying eggs, I’ll have geese eggs too! And five more gold rings – one for every finger – wonderful!

…Seven Swans a-Swimming, Six…

Dear My Love,

Swans! Oh you are a creative giftgiver! My pond isn’t very big but they’ll look beautiful it, one at a time. I do hope they won’t fight with the dozen geese milling around the lawn – they can break your arm, you know.

PS. I know I said I’d never say no to more fruit trees but the garden is getting pretty full now.

…Eight Maids a-Milking, Seven…

Dear My Love,

I’ll admit I was a little apprehensive when the doorbell rang today – the birds you’ve been sending have been getting larger and larger, I was worried you’d send an emu or eight of them! Ha ha ha!

The milk will be a welcome change from all the eggs. Oh, I don’t want to sound ungrateful but I’m eating eggs for every meal – what having 18 hens and 18 geese – and it would be nice to be able to shake it up a bit with custards and whatnot. (I think Nigel Slater has a recipe for pigeon quiche – I’m sure partridge or dove would work the same way.)

PS. Do I … do I own these women now? Are they slaves or do I have to pay them? Do you think they’ll accept eggs, pears or gold rings in payment?

…Nine Ladies Dancing, Eight…

Dear My Love,

More ladies! More birds! More rings! More pear trees. You don’t do Christmas by halves, do you?

I’d write more but it’s hard to hold a pen with all these rings on my fingers.

…Ten Lords a-Leaping, Nine…

Dear love,

Men this time. And more of all the rest. Gosh. I really don’t know what to say any more.

Yes, yes, I do: I’m going to be honest. You know when I said that I wanted something special for Christmas? I was thinking of an iPad, or that for you to book us on the cruise around the fjords that we saw advertised in the back of the magazine that comes with the newspaper – that’s why I told you, on several occasions, how many holiday days I had left to take before the end of March. I thought we could go away somewhere nice, somewhere a bit different, somewhere we could make Slartibartfast or dead parrot jokes and have some precious time together.

Now I’m going to have to spend those holiday days cleaning up bird poo. It’s *everywhere*. The chicken coop is filled up every morning and the geese, swans, partridges and doves shit everywhere. I tried to get some of the maids to help me with it but they refused, saying they’re only here to milk. I pointed out that there isn’t anything to milk – it’s not like I’ve got room for cows or goats (and if I did they’re wouldn’t be anything to eat, now the two dozen geese have stripped the lawn bare) – but they refused to budge, saying their job description just said “a-milking” and nothing about poo-shovelling. You haven’t so much got me a gift as bestowed upon me a begrudging, pedantic workforce.

The dancing ladies aren’t any help either. Yes, they look pretty doing their twirly but terraced houses weren’t built with ballrooms. There are eighteen of them now, doing endless waltzes and quadrilles in the hallway, or using the bannister as a ballet barre. It makes answering the door quite a chore – I’ve had more than one delivery man snap at me for taking too long and got called an “ungrateful bitch” when I replied that I wasn’t exactly in a rush to sign for 23 more sodding birds.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Perhaps that UPS guy was right, I should be thankful that you’ve gone to all this effort. I guess I’m just tetchy because I haven’t been sleeping that well recently. I keep waking in the night feeling like the down duvet you got me for my birthday is smothering me. And the songbirds make a terrible din outside my window from before dawn and that wakes up the swans, which wakes up the geese and so on.

…Eleven Pipers Piping, Ten …

Dear you.

Do you never want me to sleep again?

Pipers. Piping. PIPERS. PIPING.

I’ve already had the neighbours round complaining – they were just about coping with all the birds in the garden but they say the pipers are the last straw and they’re going to the council. Not just for a noise complaint but for overcrowding too. With this last bunch, there are 91 of us living in this two-bed through terrace. They would be eating me out of house and home if it wasn’t for all the eggs.

As if that wasn’t enough, one of the jumped up Lords knocked over a vase of flowers and one of the ladies slipped on the water while in the middle of a demi-pli√©. She’s suing now – not him, but me. Says I don’t provide a safe dancing environment. A court date has been set for February, bang in the middle of my work leave, when we could have been navigating the inlets around the Scandinavian coast.

Right now, I’m fuming. One fumer fuming.

…Twelve Drummers Drumming, Eleven Pipers Piping, Ten Lords a-Leaping, Nine Ladies Dancing, Eight Maids a-Milking, Seven Swans a-Swimming, Six Geese a-Laying, FIVE GOLD RINGS, Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens, Two Turtle Doves and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Dear Sender


3BT – white belly crew, leftovers, dog day

1. The white belly crew have a quiet day on the sofa. Lily sleeps deeply, catching up on what she had missed the day before, and Strange snuggles close, catching up on what she missed the day before (human and canine company).

2. A little dish of leftover curry and daal warms up my body and spirit after our walk.

3. John comes home with tales of springers, sprockers and little tiny puppies. I’m quite jealous.

3BT – misdirection, variety of green, stack

1. A quick flick with my foot sends the hidden bone behind me. Lily keeps looking in the wrong place for a moment then noticed and with a puppy pounce claims her prize.

2. A wet walk in the woods. I notice the variety of plant life on Wood Hill, yet more at Wood Green and a carpet of wild garlic as we descend to the beck.

3. A stack of neat squares. I count them: half a blanket.

3BT – before I get up, texture/new/lift/slashes/sunset, cats

1. I don’t have much time before I have to get up, but there is always a little time to read some more of my book.

1b. We hear a noise in the garden: two foxes fighting (or building up to … sexy fight) at the edge of the stream.

2. Touches of texture on smooth little pots.

2b. I try something new, a total experiment for me which I push on with even in the face of doubt from others. It works perfectly so I replicate it several times in quick succession.

2c. The moment the drying clay lifts away from the plaster mould.

2d. Slashes of yellow, flicked on with unusual confidence.

2e. When was the last time I left the studio in daylight? The lengthening days allow me to enjoy the snowy hills at sunset.

3. The cats have clearly been saving up their cuteness until I arrive home: Strange meows at me through the door then Kaufman stands on his back legs, leaning on the back of a dining chair, so he can reach up for a stroke. Tilda is nowhere to be seen at first but when I go into the bedroom, I hear a meow coming from John’s (now closed) t-shirt drawer.