Monthly Archives: January 2021

Zoye’s Fludde

I’ve got a few pot plants in the cloakroom on the windowsill. They’re all succulents and they don’t get watered very often, so the compost gets too dry to soak up water. Yesterday afternoon, I popped them in the washbasin, put in the plug and added a little water and left them for half an hour or so.

I forgot, of course. And it wouldn’t have mattered except for two things. The tap drips just a little bit. And the overflow isn’t connected to anything.

It’s a lovely Edwardian washbasin, which we bought from people we knew when we lived at our last house – they bought an old house and modernised it considerably, selling off all the original features. It’s painted and glazed, but it’s fragile. Trying to stop the tap dripping cracked the china slightly, so we daren’t try any more. You can stop it dripping with care but evidently i didn’t. Soooo – when I went in after lunch, the basin overflow had released a whole lot of water onto the carpet. Luckily, I have a good carpet cleaner – it’s like a big upright vacuum cleaner, with two reservoirs; one for clean water plus soap and the other for sucking up water from the carpet. The next hour was spent sucking up that water. It was probably not the best idea to fill the clean reservoir too, thinking that I might as well wash the carpet while I was at it – when I realised just how much water there was, I washed the hall carpet instead – but at least it was a lot quicker than using all the towels in the house. I couldn’t remember how to use the hose attachment with the small nozzle, so couldn’t suck up the water behind the toilet pan and there’s newspaper and bathmats there, but most of it has been done.

Knackered now, frankly, and it’s only half past nine. This sort of nonsense takes it out of a Z.

Z fails to draw part 12. Z draws a cat

I have a favourite photo of Eloise cat from September 2015. What I particularly love are her forward-pointing ears and her little snub nose. So I thought I’d draw that.

I am not going to pretend it was a success. Frankly, both Tim and I agree that the muzzle is more dog- than catlike (I really appreciated his constructive criticism, it was a help and confirmed what i thought, but would be fine if it was something I hadn’t realised, too). I didn’t get the brow bone right, nor the curve of the nose. The legs are actually the wrong way round, it looks as if the left leg is at the front but behind the right one. However, I know what I did wrong and I’m going to try again until I get it right.

What was good about the experience – I observed carefully and concentrated well and I took some trouble over the shading. The eye isn’t right but I managed a bit of highlight and I got that pale streak at her neck and on her leg. The ear isn’t quite right, but it isn’t bad. Next time, I will just do the head and see if I can do better.

I had tried to do a drawing of her, using the picture plane, asleep on my lap. But I had to balance the plane on my stomach and it moved every time I breathed. I can use it to draw my hand and I could put it against a window to draw a scene but how to hold it while drawing freehand puzzles me. I just can’t keep it still enough and, if it moves the least bit, the whole focus changes. I don’t have anything to rest it on and Betty doesn’t explain. So I’m just going to get better, for now, at what I can do and return to the book when I feel able to. I get the principle of negative spaces and I can look for them – but a drawing of a chair is both difficult and boring and carrying on with that is, for now, setting myself up for failure.

Z thinks about pickles and says no

Starting a sixteenth year of blogging seems momentous, but nothing happens at present. I made spinach soufflé for dinner and that is truly the highlight of the day.

Tim wanted to know if I’d like to keep last weekend’s Guardian food supplement. It was about pickles and fermented foods. I read everything and, actually, it was a bit dispiriting. We agreed that we don’t really feel the urge to make sauerkraut, when the local Polish shop has it anyway and, keen as I am to achieve zero food waste, cauliflower leaves and stalks pickle is depressing, even with beetroot in attendance. The help section asked “My pickled veg is fizzing. Is that OK?” to which the answer is clearly no, botulism is nasty, just bin it. Pickled sushi ginger, which I adore, was the only recipe that attracted me and, frankly, it’s not that much bother to buy.

I haven’t drawn anything either, it just doesn’t appeal today. But we are happy enough. The soufflé, as I said, was a highlight and I wrote a mildly petulant email yesterday (polite, luckily) that had a genuinely helpful answer. I have no tax to pay and a refund to look forward to. My sister is recovering well from her operation and, though I probably look quite terrible, I don’t mind at all that my hair is now long enough for a ponytail; not that i’ve resorted to one yet. Even the chickens are happy. I’ve given up on their drinkers and put a big tray in the run that will take two gallons of water, so they’re okay for a day or two.

Tim has promised to make an especially delicious cabbage soup, if I can remember to buy some leeks to go in it (yes, I know, cabbage is diluted already). He also needs white bread. So up myself I’ve become that I prefer to make rather than buy it. Lockdown fever, evidently. But anything that keeps us busy. *sigh*

Cheery-pip, darlings. I’m more cheerful than I sound.

15 years and a second post

Leaving my drawing frustration behind, let’s be more positive. Today is the Razorblade’s fifteenth anniversary. Fifteen whole years of blogging seems quite remarkable to me, though I know some bloggers, such as Blue Witch, Gordon and Diamond Geezer, have been going strong for much longer. DG is particularly remarkable because he still writes every day.

I don’t know how much longer the old-fashioned personal, not for financial gain blog will carry on. I think there has been a slight resurgence this past year because we’ve all been stuck at home so much, but the blogging communities that there used to be have diminished hugely. Sometimes, a friend will restart a blog and find it’s just not the same, but I don’t know if they’re the same themselves in blogging terms, I don’t think they read and comment on other blogs as they used to, so it’s hardly surprising that no one knows they’re there. But it does take some commitment.

I don’t suppose that a blog party will be possible this year, but I hope that I might see some of you. Thanks for visiting, however that has happened.

Z fails to draw part 11 (and doesn’t enjoy it at all)

I was supposed to draw the outline of a chair, the point being that I was drawing the negative spaces, not the chair itself. I hated it. I tried with a fairly complicated dining chair and became irritated. I then tried again and thought I was getting somewhere. I identified the shape I wanted to start with, then went on to the next shape, then the outline of two legs – but then I couldn’t do negative bits without noticing the chair itself because the width of the rungs had to be put in and it was harder to manage than drawing the chair would have been. I struggled for a bit longer and gave up. Nothing to show, I wiped it off.

Betty suggested a chair that has lots of interesting detail but I can’t do that. I’ll try later or tomorrow with a much simpler chair and see if I can find something to succeed at, or at least to find engaging. I’m right back to feeling as I did for the first few lessons and I need to find a way to shift my outlook. This, along with the difficulty of transferring a sketch from the glass to the paper (as I mentioned yesterday) has to be thought through and solved, or else I’m not going to make any further progress. It’s actually worse than at the start, because it was boring as well as difficult, which I suppose is my left brain taking over.

Right, okay, I think (from writing this) that I have to start with looking for shapes within objects. Draw a single interesting shape without worrying about carrying on to the whole space-around-the-object. Just fragments until I get practised enough to feel some confidence. But not today, I’m not in the mood and it will not go well.

Z fails to draw part 10. Z draws but not enough to write home about

Hmm. Yes, I’ve practised a few times. Once quite well, once my hand was a bunch of bananas, the rest were something in between. I’ve not enjoyed it much. My hand isn’t that interesting. The next chapter is on perceiving spaces; that is, negative space, the part that isn’t there. This interests me quite a lot – I’m quite good on the idea of the abstract, the switch of vision between one view and another. But I have a problem. As before, you start by making your drawing (a chair, in this instance) on your picture plane and then transfer that to paper and then you draw it from the chair, using your transfer sketch as a guide. But the bit I find immensely hard is transferring the picture plane template onto the paper. Betty recommends a single crosshair in each direction, but that’s not enough for me to get any idea of placement or scale. I don’t know if I should just try harder or add more crosshairs. I’m inclined to the latter, because repeated failures are discouraging and the last thing I want is to discourage myself. I get all she says, but when she says that a number of crosshairs make many of her students count and over-analyse, I don’t think that would be the case with me. I”m just not very good at scale and need more help.

Anyway, having read all the chapter, which she wanted me to do before trying, I realised I needed more of a setup than I was going to start on at 6pm. So I’ve put it off for another day. I’m feeling slightly put off by the thought of the transfer, not by doing either the picture plane drawing or the still life drawing. Any advice from someone who knows what I’m talking about would be appreciated. Though I’m not going to over-think this. I’ll just do it and if I do it badly, it’s no big deal. I’ll try again and, eventually, do better.

I’ve always found it best, with a challenge, to take on something far above my abilities. Sink or swim, that’s another of my mottoes.

JFDI, it’s not a competition, sink or swim. Have fun anyway.

By Mere and Wold

Not (if you know your Saki), By Mere Chance, the book that everyone denied having read.
But I digress already, sad to say. Wink and I are in her former home village of Mere, sitting by a log fire drinking tea. She’s doing very well but is tired. I know the four-hour drive home will be an ordeal and I’ve advised bed as soon as we arrive, I think she’ll need plenty of rest for a couple of days. Tim has volunteered to cook mushroom risotto for dinner, which will be a nice, soothing meal. This morning I caught a (metaphorical) spinning plate just before it fell, when I remembered using all the risotto rice a week or two ago, but not buying more. The Little Green (wholefood) shop is too small to allow customers in, so we stand just inside the door and we’re brought what we need – as long as we remember what that is. Actually seeing things jogs the memory. I used the last of the flaked almonds with Monday’s trout, so I called in when I left home to buy both.
I must start drawing again as soon as I’ve got time. I feel a bit daunted, somehow. “Just do it, it’s not a competition” really does help, oddly enough.

The house where we’re staying is really appealing but the layout is odd, so I asked Wink if she knew its history. Apparently, one end used to be a shop and the rest was two flats when her late friends bought it on their retirement, thirty-something years ago. The shop had already been converted into a home and the whole place was turned into one house. Coming in the rarely used front door, you’ve got the dining room to the left and a door at the end to a passageway and the kitchen. Turn right and you’ve got a music room/study, the drawing room and the morning room all leading into each other. Off the morning room is a back hall, the back door and the other end of the kitchen. I can’t quite put everything together in my head on a floor plan. Upstairs there are four bedrooms and two bathrooms and two long passages. It’s all a bit unusual, though it works very well. There’s a courtyard, not a proper garden with workshops and a big garage, which is ideal for the family who inherited it and live abroad, so stay when they visit. It’s very comfortable and they’re being so kind. Wink was a true and loving friend to their parents for many years and I know they’re happy to be able to help her in return. Anyway, tomorrow morning I’ll change the bed linen, make sure everything is clean and tidy and we’ll be off back home.

Good things at the Zedery

No drawing today, I’ve been busy. It has, however, been a very good day. The post brought two welcome letters, one for me and one for LT. Mine was from the taxman, confirming that my sizeable tax rebate will land in my bank account soon (that this indicates a significant loss of income in the 2019/20 tax year can be taken as read, but I got through it and I didn’t actually burn through quite all my savings, though it was a bit of a blow at the time) and, more significantly, Tim’s invitation to be vaccinated arrived. He went straight online and he’s booked in at Oulton Broad, which is where I grew up as it happens, on Monday.

The next welcome news was a phone call from Wink, who has the all clear to travel after Friday. So I’ll drive down on that day, we’ll stay overnight and come home on Saturday. She will need to see her surgeon a month or so later and then that’s it.

I was a bit short of jam jars, so had been decanting spices that I buy in bulk from pound jars to spice jars to free a few up, but then on the local Facebook page someone said she’d got a quantity of jars and would anyone like them? I asked nicely and she kindly left them out for me. About a dozen and a half jars and I left a pot of marmalade to say thank you, so we were both happy. I bought more oranges on the way home and the jars are now full. I don’t know her but I like the food she buys (as far as the jars show), she can invite me to tea any time….

Anyway, by the time I’d made two more batches of marmalade, done some washing and a few other domestic goddess things, I was too tired to do any more. I had a little lie-down on the sofa and then had a long, relaxing bath. We’ve had kippers and fried potatoes for supper – one can hardly call such an unsophisticated dish “dinner” and I have no plans except reading and playing online Scrabble for the rest of the night.

The next two days will be busy because I’ve got to get Wink’s place ready for her and I seem to have bought rather a lot of vegetables that have to be dealt with, but busyness suits me. I’m rather sorry to say that, because I dearly love laziness, but too much of it isn’t good for me.

Z fails to draw part 9. Z draws

I used the graphite stick for the first time, to prepare the paper. And drew crosshairs and a border and then I looked at the drawing of my hand that I’d done on the glass picture plane and – well, I didn’t know where to start. I looked at my hand and at the paper and wondered where to make the first mark. The idea was to do a light pencil sketch, then place my hand in the same position and draw it, using the sketch as a guide.

Betty said that she had tried teaching with the use of gridlines but found that too many of her students counted them and used them too precisely and just two lines is quite enough. I’d have preferred a couple more lines each way, I was confounded. But – just do it and it’s not a competition. So I had a go. And when I had done the sketch and carefully positioned my hand and had to draw that, I enjoyed that part of it. It’s so interesting.

I found the middle finger very hard, it was bent slightly towards me but not enough to really distinguish that. The thumb is too narrow and there’s a whole lot else wrong. Objectively speaking, it is not at all good. But in terms of achievement, it’s something I’m proud to have done. I tried, I didn’t stop until I’d done it and it’s actually the best drawing I’ve ever done. There was, of course virtually no competition there.

I didn’t rub out the crosshairs and I found trying to add light and shade was rather beyond me, for a first attempt. I did at least know what I wanted to achieve and how it should go in theory, I would have wrecked the drawing entirely if I’d tried. Here it is.


I took a sofa day yesterday. It was snowing, but not pleasantly – damp, windy and very cold and, much as I enjoy building a snowman, I didn’t feel encouraged to by the weather, especially as it was due to rain later on. Lots of people did build snowmen, though and put pictures on social media, so I must admit to being a wuss.

Eloise cat certainly enjoyed herself, snuggled up on me for a few hours. I did a few more hand drawings – managed to find a finer felt-tip pen, which was easier and better – but I haven’t got one I want to transfer to paper yet. Today, I made bread and marmalade instead. A multi-grain seeded loaf and a dozen white rolls, plus two batches, comprising 16 jars, of marmalade. It required good timing but it all worked out very well and I was finished by 4.30. I’ll buy the same weight of oranges again and make two more batches and that’ll be plenty for the year, with a few jars to give away. Assuming I can find up enough jars, I’m running a bit short.

Wink phoned this morning, sounding cheerful. She’s still really tired and sleeps quite a lot but I reminded her that this is what she should expect. It’s only a few days since major surgery and a general anaesthetic. I checked back here to December 2016 and I was the same – I felt fine while I was resting, but as soon as I was up and doing anything, I wanted a nap.

Nothing on this coming week – that is, lots in the diary, but it’s all cancelled. So there is absolutely no reason not to get on with drawing practice. None. Not in the least. I’ll just do it.