Author Archives: Z

Z fails to draw – part 4 – the twist

Today’s exercise was in two parts. And I found, to start with, that I’m hopeless at symmetry, even if I’m really trying. I knew that, of course but I know it again.
The second exercise was drawing upside-down. That is, copying a picture that’s upside down; in this case Picasso’s drawing of Igor Stravinsky. It’ll take about 40 minutes, the tutor advised.

It was certainly hard and my concentration flagged by the end – or perhaps it was the left side of my brain clamouring for attention, because I got bored before I finished. I didn’t find it hard to concentrate and focus, but had to push myself to keep going, I really wanted to dash off the last part quickly. Since this was an upside-down face, which was really difficult to do, I couldn’t. Thing is, you know what a face looks like, even the wrong way up, so you know you’re not doing it very well. I was quite gratified by the rest, though and even the head was better than I expected it to be.
So, here we go.


The well known optical illusion of a vase or a pair of profiles. I tried it twice and did a lot of rubbing out and trying again of the right-hand side. I wasn’t unhappy with the left one, the first one I did – it wasn’t good but nor was it awful. But if I looked at the picture and copied it, it didn’t match the first side and if I tried to copy my own drawing in reverse, it was quite confusing because I was going out when I was looking at in. Still, never mind.

As for the Stravinsky, I had to overcome the temptation to draw the spectacle lenses the same size. The hardest part was keeping everything in alignment. I started with the top – that is, the bottom of the picture – and worked back and forth, trying to manage proportions. I note that the tie was better than I expected – very tricky – but I haven’t really managed the collar at all. He’s rather a chinless wonder and the upper lip and the moustache are all one. But I did try really hard and was tired and headachy by the time I’d finished.

The twist is a literal one, of course; twisting upside-down.

Z fails to draw Part 3

Except that I didn’t fail to draw, I took the plunge. I should, perhaps, change it to *fails to draw well* because I certainly did that. I failed wholeheartedly, however, by attempting the picture of my mum (rather than a stick figure) – yes, it’s laughably bad and I can’t think of anything good to say about it except that it’s the face of a woman rather than a man or a llama. My picture is marginally better – looking in the mirror, I had a bit more idea about drawing a nose, but the whole thing was extraordinarily difficult and it’s going to take willpower to see this thing through. I don’t mind doing it badly and I showed all three to Tim, which shows I have no vanity to care about, but it’s hard to convince myself that it’s worth persevering. I am taking the correct view that the teacher knows what’s what, so if I fail it’s down to me. And, since this is my choice, it’d be stupid to give up at this stage. I genuinely wonder why I’m bothering, though – but I’ve worked it out. It’s a learnable ability that I’ve never been taught and it’s about time I learnt. No point in doing so unless I genuinely want to and am prepared to work at it.

*sigh* I could just dabble in watercolours and not do it very well, but amuse myself by buying a whole lot of equipment. I know people who’ve done just that.

The book says to put my pictures away, once I’ve studied them to see what I like about them, and not look again until I’ve done the course and repeated the experiment. Fair enough, so my apologies for not showing you them yet.

A longer post

I shopped for food for the first time in a fortnight (apart from the Christmas roast) and, I’m glad to say, Simon the greengrocer had opened the shop again. I bought a lot of fruit and veggies, though did actually restrain myself, because I’ve eaten so many nuts in the last ten days that, healthy though they may be, a Z can have too much of a good thing and I find them hard to resist. Harder than chocolate, certainly, though I did eat a couple of those after lockdown was announced. Because, although I accept and welcome it as necessary, I wish it were not necessary because of the actions of those who spread it to places where the idiots have second homes or persuade people to let holiday homes illegally. I’m still feeling very sad and sore about Jo’s death, don’t expect me to be my usual measured self.

Anyway, we’re stocked up. Also with deli stuff. I trust that the ready meals I bought there at startling expense will prove absolutely delicious when Wink is isolating before her op. I don’t begrudge the cost at all – but they’d better be good.

I had to ask my accountant for some papers that either hadn’t been sent or I’d lost. I’m honestly not sure which, but we’ve both apologised, which is the right way. They were sent encrypted, so I had to go through the ‘create a password’ rigmarole, which I’ve promptly saved on my computer. I’ve told Tim and Wink how to access my info if I were to pop my clogs. Their immense grief would turn to vast irritation in moments, if they didn’t know how to get hold of all the Stuff. All The Stuff, that probably should be.

I’m planning to buy a new phone. It’ll be an iPhone, that’s the only sort I’ve had for more than 11 years and it would be daft to change now. I bought Russell a different smartphone once, thinking that an iPhone would be wasted on him as he wouldn’t use any of the features. We both loathed it. HTP, I think but the initials could have been in any order or even a bit different. Awful thing and worse, Russell dropped the wretched thing and cracked the screen, so I couldn’t even sell it when I put things right by buying a new iPhone and giving him my old one. But that’s by the bye. I have to choose which vastly expensive phone I want and I can’t even go to the shop to choose it. I want to be beguiled and enthused, not pick something dully online. Still, the anticipation piques my interest. I should add, my present phone is more than four years old and the battery isn’t what it was. It’s still pretty good, in fact, but I don’t think I can rely on it for too much longer.

A short post

My children were talking about school yesterday – Weeza and Dilly both have a son at primary school, Gus’s school had already shut but Hadrian’s hadn’t. Dilly didn’t want him to go and we agreed that it was pointless and unnecessary. Because it would undoubtedly be just for a day, and so it’s proved.

How on earth is it that the government is taken by surprise every single time? They have had time to learn, but they just don’t.

Anyway, back to the Zedery. Wink has been doing more unpacking and I’ve helped her move furniture, so now even the back room is looking much better. She’s ordered more picture hooks, so putting up pictures will be next on the list, along with putting away the rest of the books. It’s all going very well. But, my word, how on earth do people manage if they’re considerably downsizing and have to do a full move in a day?

My drawing stuff arrived today, but not until the afternoon and I might be busy for the rest of the week. No great hurry, I want to be able to give it due attention. Tim’s a bit bemused by the whole thing and trying very hard not to be discouraging. Not actively discouraging, of course, but he can’t quite think of anything positive to say. It’s okay, I’ve long since learned to be self-reliant and be prepared to laugh at myself, and I don’t mind.

Z thinks about food (constantly)

At this time of year, my tastebuds have two, at least, wildly different inclinations. One is for crunchy winter salads, with sharp, tangy dressings and the other is for loads of spice and vegetables. In fact, there’s a third, which is comforting casseroles and a bit of stooge. We’ve rather gone through them all in the last couple of days. Tim made a beef rogan josh yesterday, we had gravadlax and salad for lunch and a cauliflower cheese for dinner. Tomorrow, I’m not yet sure, but we are developing a minor egg mountain. Only two or three eggs a day, but we haven’t really eaten any since Christmas. However, Tim is planning to make his Famous Leek Quiche tomorrow, so that’ll use a few.

There’s not the least chance I’ll get involved in the restrictions of Veganuary – just can’t be bothered with substituting perfectly good butter and cheese with substitutes, let alone worrying about making vegetable stock when I’ve got the chicken sort in the freezer, but I do want plenty of fabulous veggies just now, probably as a reaction to eating a fair bit of meat over the last week or so. The newspaper has recipes from a current book at the weekend and I’m very tempted by two of them. Both Indian cooking, as it happens, and I can’t pretend I really need them. I have a feeling that I’m actually just missing India. It’s eight years since I’ve last been there and I’ve no idea if or when I’ll go again. My sister hopes to visit her friend in Chennai next year – Kamala is over 80 now and each meeting is precious; K won’t visit here again, though she used to be an enthusiastic traveller.

Frankly, going to spend a night at Tim’s house in Reading is a pipe dream at present, so better not think about it.

As we shared the gravadlax this lunchtime, I remembered the time I made a version of it – it was for a blog party, probably the third one. I cured a whole side of salmon, can’t remember which recipe I used but it contained beetroot, I remember the edges of the fish being stained red. The difficult bit was slicing it, that I do remember. It was very tricky to hold it, for a start, and to cut thin slices at an angle. I remembered a very thin knife my mother used to have, which would have been perfect, but which I last saw at least thirty years ago. As long as a carving knife but with a very sharp, flexible thin blade. “I know just what you mean,” said Tim, “I bought one like that in Newlyn some years ago, for filleting fish.’ Of course he did and of course he has. He’s very good like that. When he does finally get to Reading, he’ll look it out. Though I’m not really entirely sure that the game of home-curing salmon is entirely worth the candle. Those rollmop herrings were good, though. More work, actually, but I think they’re worth it.

Z fails to draw Part 2

Slightly cheating, admittedly, because I haven’t done any drawing, even failing at it, so far. I needed a piece of glass or clear plastic as a picture plane. I don’t know what a picture plane is yet, I haven’t read that far. But I did know there was a piece of perspex hanging around in the chickens’ greenhouse so I fetched that up. It needed the protective film removing and then it needed to be washed – and then I looked at the book and realised it was about six times as big as I needed. So time to think again.

It occurred to me that I might find a smallish picture that I didn’t want to hang, and I could use the glass from that. So up I trotted to the room where stuff is dumped and I found just what I needed. It was, rather oddly, an aerial view of the village hall and the houses around it. No idea why it was acquired but it was in a glazed frame. The suggested size was 8″x10″ and this is 10″x12″ and that seems quite close enough for me. I’ve put sticky tape all around so that no one cuts their hand on the glass. And so I wait until Monday when the post arrives. Then I have to actually start to fail in reality.

In the meantime, I’ve ironed all the pillowcases, a duvet cover and two of Tim’s shirts. That was quite enough for one day – oh, but I hoovered and also diligently cleaned out the dishwasher. So, if anything, I’ve overachieved, if not at drawing.

Z marks time

It’s been cold and dreary, with the sort of freezing fog that hardly lifted all day. It was also Bin Day – that is, the bin men (people? I’ve never seen a woman emptying bins, it’s always been cheerful, burly men) come early tomorrow morning. So we took the task of emptying all the indoor bins into the wheelie bins and taking them down the drive, as well as Tim taking out the compost bucket and washing it out (which he had to do at the kitchen sink because the outside taps are frozen) as one of today’s achievements. The other was taking down the Christmas decorations. I usually leave them until Twelfth Night but honestly, whatever Yuletide spirit there was this year dissipated quite quickly and we only kept them up this year because Wink was coming through for a sedate New Year’s Eve party. Come to that, they were only up at all because there were small children coming over.

It’s all looking bare and tidy, apart from the pine needles in the corner of the room that I haven’t hoovered up yet. It really has been a day for hunkering down with a slightly sulky air and not doing anything we didn’t need to do. Which might be the pattern for the year, if the last one is anything to go by.

Z fails to draw Part 1

I have ordered, from Evil Amazon I’m sorry to say, the materials recommended. Whilst I haven’t splashed out on the expensive drawing paper but a cheaper version, I’ve gone with the rest (because, with my frugal soul, pencils and so on are reusable, paper isn’t). So now I’m committed and I turn to page 15.

Absolutely sensibly, she wants me to do some pre-instruction drawings, signed and dated, so that I’ve got a baseline to compare to later progress. Numbers 2 and 3 are okay. A self-portrait, looking in a mirror – I can get that. I expect it to be poor, obviously, but I will do my best. Ditto, my own hand. I think that might even be interesting. Number 1 is impossible, however, A person, drawn from memory. (a) I don’t have that sort of visual memory. It’s taken years of practice and genuine effort to even recognise someone I haven’t seen for a while. (b) I can’t draw. I can not draw. How on earth am I supposed to draw a person? It’s impossible if I’m looking at them, it’s beyond belief to think I can do it from memory. It can be a head, half-figure or a full-length figure. Yeah, right. A stick figure is doable and I’m not wasting time on anything else. It is literally impossible to draw anyone I know. Although, Cousin Itt, perhaps? After all, hat, hair, glasses. Do that badly but it’s done. Sorted. Thank you, left side brain. You have rationalised the situation and found a solution that’s marginally better than an anonymous stick figure.

Or I might be conscientious and try really hard – but how? I can’t see people with my mind’s eye, even if I know I’d recognise them when we meet. I see the whole, not by parts. I have no idea what someone’s nose or eyes or hairline looks like, nor how to portray any of those. I can almost see the picture of my mother from 1968 which I noticed yesterday at my sister’s – she always maintained that she was horribly unphotogenic but this is a lovely one. A fly landed on her nose and everyone laughed and she was still smiling naturally when the photo was taken and she looks lovely. I can see it, but I’ve no idea how to portray it. I can barely hold a pencil. Her teeth are showing, for goodness’ sake.

Stickman, Itt or Mummy. No idea which I’ll go for. Not today, anyway. I’ve decided to go with Australian, or possibly New Zealand time, so it’s already the early hours of January 1st 2021 here at the Zedery. Please may 2021 be a whole lot better than 2020 – let’s face it, it doesn’t have to try hard.

Reading the news

I drove out for the first time since Christmas – any significance being just that it was the first time since the Christmas Eve flooding. A house in the village had several piles of sodden carpet outside and the house next door still had sandbags leaning against the garage. As I drove down Bridge Road, there was more of the same and the houses at the end, where the ground is lowest lying, had builders, cranes and lorries outside. It was rather sobering.

The newsagent is closing down, which means that the post office, housed inside the shop, already has. I went to pay my final bill. We have pre-paid vouchers for our papers – and they were posted off to the new company that’s taking over deliveries, back on the 17th December. It didn’t occur to someone, presumably the manager, to sort out customers’ accounts to the end of the year before that was done. The knowledgeable, helpful J looked tired and harassed. I assured her that it didn’t matter. I’d sort it out with the company and they’d reimburse me and send back the remaining vouchers. Because it had been assumed that everyone would just carry on with the new company, based in Stoke on Trent, but we’re not. We had a nice note through the door from a small local business which is offering a delivery service. This will suit us much better. When we go away and cancel the papers, we simply pick up the vouchers and use them wherever we are, usually at Tim’s house or Pembrokeshire. It really won’t be very convenient to do that if we have to keep posting them. Anyway, I rang up the company and the vouchers haven’t been processed yet, which isn’t surprising, but at least I’ve cancelled delivery and been promised a return phone call. Two businessish phone calls in a morning quite unnerved me and I needed a little sit-down after that. The nice local chap’s delivery charge is half the price of the newsagent and still appreciably less than the replacement service; not that this was why we chose it, but the difference is well over £100 a year.

The snow forecast has been cancelled but it’s still pretty cold. The chickens don’t mind being shut up at all, especially Jabba the Cluck, the remaining big black hen, who’s moulting worse than ever. She asks for treats (and pecks if she doesn’t get them, hence Jabba), so seems to be perfectly well. While I was bending over the feed bin, getting her some mealworms, one of the naughty young bantams hopped up onto my back and fiddled with my hair. Perhaps she thought it was worms or spaghetti.

The greengrocer says that a member of his family, not one he lives with but saw briefly a few days ago, has tested positive. So he’s shut the shop for a week, just in case.

Z looks down

The day started perfectly well. Wink came through for coffee before leaving for Wiltshire, because she’s got a pre-op appointment at the hospital in Bath tomorrow morning. I gave her our last few slices of bread because she’d run out, so got a loaf going. Then I sorted out the Christmas beef, prepared a cottage pie from the little bits and put aside the chunks for Tim to make a rogan josh and sliced some onions and garlic for French onion soup. Eloise cat appeared looking hopeful, but I’d saved her some snippets of beef so she was very happy.

It all went very well until around half past three this afternoon, when Weeza texted, very upset because someone had slashed their tyres in the night. They’d left their car in the road – not blocking the road at all and mostly in their own frontage – for a couple of nights because they had two loads of wood being delivered. They have no idea why anyone could have done such a thing. Their car, which they bought second-hand, has London numberplates and perhaps someone thought it was a second home owner, illicitly visiting from the city? Or some random nasty person, but why pick on them? Anyway, the police have the details and it’s going to cost them £500 for new tyres; the only small consolation being that two of them were due to be replaced soon anyway. This is a country road in a lovely rural village, the village pub is shut so no one was lurching home drunk (not that it’s really that sort of pub) and they’ve upset no one. They’re devastated.

Then a friend phoned to tell me that our mutual friend Jo has died. 96 years old, so it’s not as if it’s a premature death, but she was in hospital because she’d had a minor stroke and she caught Covid there. If you’re one of those who says “aha, but did she die FROM Covid or WITH Covid,” please don’t to me. She wouldn’t have died two days before Christmas if she had been allowed home for her sister to look after her, as they both desperately wanted. I grieve for her sister Lilian, also in the 90s, who will struggle to find the will to live without her, especially now when friends can’t rally round as we’d like.

So I can’t be very upbeat this evening, but at least I invented a reasonable meal tonight. I had half a pumpkin, cooked, which I layered with fried breadcrumbs, browned pine nuts, fried tomato and fried halloumi. Cream flavoured with nutmeg was poured over and the whole thing was baked, while I cooked mushrooms in butter, then added white wine, garlic and cream. I think that more creamy sauce would have added to the pleasure but I don’t really want to eat a lot of cream at one time, so perhaps puréeing some of the pumpkin into the cream, let down with a little milk or water, would have made it more saucy. Anyway, it was a leftover-storecupboard thing, so that’s always good. The chickens will love the little bit of pumpkin left over.

And now I’m going to bed and will start again tomorrow. Goodnight, friends.