I say “loosely” locked down, because we can travel 5km from our home now, and by next Monday certain shops will be open. I might be able to buy a vital piece of plumbing paraphernalia, which would mean I would be able to commission my en-suite bathroom (all the white ceramic bits – the sink, loo, bidet and shower – were bought years ago). However, I will miss the creative ways husband Marcel berates son Paddy for excessive bathroom occupancy. My favourite was when Marcel said something particularly outrageous: when Paddy came out he went back to his room saying, “This one’s getting a cartoon strip!” I swelled with pride. “My work here is done,” I thought.
It’s a beautiful day. To celebrate our 5km, I suggest we go to Moran’s and have a picnic. Moran’s is a seafood restaurant on the far side of the river behind our house, and while we love going there, it’s been closed for months. If you walk past Moran’s you are very quickly on a green road (unmetalled path) that runs alongside the river, climbing higher until you are on a steep bank from which you would sustain serious injury should you fall. Then it falls again, veers away from the water slightly and you are flanked on either side by fields of cattle, horses and sheep depending on the time of year. At the end of the green road, the road becomes a very narrow grassy path, with elderflower bushes and masses of wild flowers stroking and poking you as you pass with their rudely healthy tendrils and twigs: in shorts you have a good chance of being scratched. All of a sudden, the path stops, and you come to the sea.
Liv (15), Paddy (18) and I took sandwiches and ice cream and found ourselves at the seashore. The shore comprises stones and seaweed and it smells of anoxic seaweed and mud, an acquired taste, for sure. But despite the vaguely sewage-y smell, it is very clean and you will see lots of wildlife: herons, cormorants, egrets, tiny crabs, mussels and lots of seagulls. “Watch your step,” said Paddy, “there are logs everywhere.” Despite being a grown-ass man, Paddy still adores lavatory humour, and the logs to which he referred were the guano of geese who hang about on the shore, in particular on the grassy promontory where we decided to spread our picnic rug (in a log-free patch).
We ate our sandwiches and Reuben the fluffy white terrier barked and yowled at rocks, as is his wont. “The next dog we get will have to be auditioned,” said Liv. “We’ll bring a rock with us in the boot of the car, and see if the puppy has a meltdown when it sees it. If it does, we shall politely decline.” I began to sketch, and Reuben very much wanted to join us on the picnic rug. Paddy is fastidious and may have had visions of goose logs stuck to dogs’ paws; he kept batting Reuben away from the rug. This meant rapid twisting and turning and made my sketching rather a challenge. He cared so much more about Reuben getting onto the rug than my sketch being a success. Never mind: Liv dozed in the sun as we listened to life-lessons from Kevin Hart on audiobook, and other than patting Reuben occasionally with the hand I was trying to draw, she made a far more cooperative subject. See that foreshortening? Nailed it! Paddy…not so much.
I’ve been sewing since early this morning. I love sewing, especially if it’s a small, crafty, easy thing like a face mask or these little pouches. Since my workshops have been put on hold, and my teaching cannot take place in the usual way, I must find other ways to earn an income these days. I do what I know: I continue to teach through Zoom, I write books and I sew things I believe are beautiful and useful. I use my own specially designed fabric. There are two designs: Sketchbook Safari, which has an elephant in a circle, and Barbershop, which is a collection of my own urban sketches done while I waited for Paddy to have his haircut over the course of a few years. Sketchbook Safari is the name of my sketching holiday business. The slogan is “Never Forget” (hence the elephant, geddit?) because when we sketch, we remember everything in our sketchbooks vividly. I haven’t yet thought of a way to include the slogan in my design. Hmmm. I’m thinking…. So, as well as my Barbershop face masks (available very soon!) these pencil pouches will be available on my website. They are lined and squidgy and boxy and are perfect for pencils, or for use as a cosmetics case: sadly, they’re going to get mucky either way.
The Arts Council of Ireland asked artists to come up with their personal response to the Covid-19 crisis. They offered funding for our time in bringing such a project to the public. When I heard about this, I was already 25 days into my daily “Lockdown Blog”, and so I thought I was in with a chance. Well…I guess I was. I was one of 324 lucky Irish artists to be awarded this funding, which is worth €3000. Someone asked me what I intended to do with the money: with my workshops postponed for the foreseeable future, I’m afraid it’s less likely to be spent on frivolities and more likely to be spent on food (and maybe a bottle or two of wine, it must be said).
Allow me to take this moment to thank you for reading my blog, and for your lovely comments. Without them I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to apply for the award. Receiving it feels wonderful. It is the first time I have been recognised by my own country for what I do. Yes, I have a (small but perfectly-formed) following from around the world, but the recognition by your fellow countrymen means a lot. If they get you…it’s not because they have an interest in Ireland, or something different…if they like you, you’re doing something right. It’s a genuine affirmation and I am delighted.
I hope you continue to read and hopefully enjoy my corner of Ireland in words and sketches. I aim to please.