Well it’s all been happening here.

If you read my last entry, you’ll know that I finally got a date for the back surgery I’d been waiting (not-exactly-patiently) for since 2019, then I was told it was going to be delayed. Happily, the surgeon stepped in and advocated on my behalf and it ended up going ahead after all. With four days notice.

Needless to say this made it a little more stressful than it should have been, but everything went well and now I’m able to sit at my desk more comfortably with both sacroiliac joints singing from the same hymn sheet. Hilariously though, my pre-op revealed some reflex/balance issues which the surgeon suspects are being caused by wear and tear in the vertebrae either side of the C6/7 fusion in my neck. Yep, my spine has reached the ‘Forth Bridge’ stage… just as I’ve got to the bottom, the top needs fixing again.

…*sigh*…

In other news, speaking of wear and tear, Luce turned 50 in July! As we’re basically living on a plague island, we kept our celebrations Covid safe. That was pretty much all Luce knew about what was coming, until she walked into the garden to find our best mate and master mixologist, Sandra, making cocktails at the (poorly constructed) Cheeky Tiki Bar on the patio:

No it’s not your eyes, the photo of Luce is a bit blurry, having been taken by a drunkard… *ahem*…

We placed a drink in her hand, chucked a lei around her neck, popped on her ‘delightful’ new Hawaiian shirt, and she was ready to go. Turns out you *can* have a party with three people if they are the right three people. Spiced rum, a disco ball and a 1971 playlist help enormously with this.

Let’s see, what else have I been up to that hasn’t involved drinking or attempting to walk with – and then without – crutches? Umm, not much if I’m honest. Much more exciting news from my brother in law, Paul, who has recently opened a doughnut shop!! Sadly for us it’s in Belgium, although I suppose that means there’s less chance of us having to be winched from the house through a window because we no longer fit through the doors…

If you are lucky enough to live near Chaussée de Bruxelles 195, 1410 Wat erloo pop in and see them! You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Paul is a massive fan of ‘The Sandman’ by Neil Gaiman*, so I got out All The Colours and had a play with his logo. He was a bit pleased. I’ve got form for this, having previously drawn him as Dream with Luce as Delirium. We took that one on a visit to Edinburgh to see ‘An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer’ and they were both kind enough to sign it. This is literally the only way to get something for Paul that he hasn’t already seen and ordered!

*If you are not familiar with Mr Gaiman, stop reading and Google him immediately. In fact just pop to your local bookshop and buy everything they have in stock. I’ll wait.

I had such a good time with this. When I finished, I needed to replace a few of my watercolour pencils and couldn’t resist treating myself to some new colours. Fear my mighty pencil rolls!

And finally, speaking of being creative (and a bit cheeky)… now would be a REALLY good time to support me if you can. It’s been a rough few months and my ongoing health issues mean I will probably have to stay retired (ugh) from running a full-time business. I will never stop making art and I would love to get back to offering things for sale, but art materials are expensive. Maintaining a website, promoting a business… everything is expensive! Above all, I really want to keep connecting with the fabulous community of like-minded creatives and art lovers I have met over the years. If you can spare a few pennies, hit the ‘support’ button above. If not, sharing this blog or anything else I do is free and always hugely appreciated.

BONUS MUSIC VIDEO

Neil Gaiman sings the occasional song with his wife, Amanda Palmer. This one is from a project they did with Ben Folds and Damian Kulash, called ‘8in8’. They attempted to write and record eight songs in eight hours. Neil wrote these lyrics and the story goes that, at around 3.30am and much to his horror, they realised it had to be sung by someone with an English accent…

I love this perfect little video, made by Hey Crystal Makes (subscribe to their YouTube channel here!) in eight hours. You can download the whole 8in8 album free/name your price via Amanda Palmer on Bandcamp:

8in8 Nighty Night

BONUS MUSIC NERDERY

The title of this entry is a lyric from ‘Broken Flag’ by Patti Smith, from the album ‘Wave’.

“What will rend will also mend
The sifting cloth is binding
And the dream she weaves will never end”

Remember my last blog? I ended by saying “…as delightful as March has been, I am ready for April now, pleaseandthankyou. What could possibly go wrong?” Well, let me tell you…

On the 8th April I had more spinal surgery as planned, the first of two procedures to fuse my sacroiliac joints. Everything went really well and I already feel much better. My right SI joint is recovering well and the surgeon also had the foresight to do the necessary diagnostic/painkilling injections in the left side while I was anaesthetised, to spare me that unpleasantness at another appointment. I was lucky enough that the operation took place first thing in the morning and I managed to escape from hospital after only one night, feeling very pleased with myself. Silly me! This is still 2019.

Our good friends Sandra and Sonya helped out with dog-sitting so that Luce could visit me in hospital and collect me. They had visited Ruby and Lola before and they are now their favourite aunties, obvs. As Ruby demonstrates:

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We are used to the whole back surgery thing now and everything was going brilliantly until a couple of days later when Luce started to feel unwell. By the next day, a Sunday of course, she was having severe abdominal pain and we had to call the emergency doctor. Really? Oh yes. Turns out the universe can indeed be that hilarious and she ended up spending six nights in hospital having a nasty appendix diagnosed and removed. She has now joined those of us who are ‘abridged’ (thanks to her friend Maebh for the lovely turn of phrase!) although things have moved on a lot since I had mine out about thirty years ago. This is now keyhole surgery, so she doesn’t have the classic lower right hand scar, more of a bowling ball arrangement of three small puncture wounds, as if she’s lost an argument with a very small triceratops.

Luckily for us, Sandra and Sonya immediately stepped in; between them they took over dog-wrangling, shopping, cooking etc, drove me to the surgery to get my staples out and to the hospital to visit Luce as soon as I was well enough to travel. I honestly don’t know how we would have coped without them, they have been absolute stars.

We are both recovering well now, but we also remain grateful for professional dog walkers, online grocery shopping and everyone involved in the invention of modern painkillers. On the plus side, it has given us a kick start towards a healthier lifestyle. We’ve been so stressed lately that things have slipped a bit. Luce is going to be taking time out from full-time teaching to do a PHD in family law over the next 3-4 years and we’ve been talking about getting into better habits now that we’re able to plan our time more easily. Neither of recommends this particular method, but we’ve both undergone a fairly radical unintentional ‘detox’, so we might as well make the most of it!

Most of all, I’m planning to use this time to get back to just enjoying being creative again. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to do that, because I’ve been so worried about keeping my business going, but I know I will be having surgery to fix my left SI joint fairly soon so there’s no point rushing things. Better to be patient and come back as strong and healthy as possible.

I daren’t look forward to May. Let’s just wait and see. This is Lola, waiting and seeing. I basically have the same expression.

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Bonus arty farty bit:

As ever, if you recognised the lyrical reference in the title of my blog, come and talk music with me! For those who are interested, My Blakean Year is a song by Patti Smith from the album ‘Trampin’:

“From pattismith.net : “[William Blake’s] life was a testament of faith over strife. he suffered poverty humiliation and misunderstanding yet he continued to do his work and maintained a lifelong belief in his vision. he has served as a good example in facing my own difficulties and feeling a certain satisfaction in doing so”.

I first heard ‘Horses’ as a teenager and Patti Smith opened my eyes to what music could be. These lines from the Introduction to the Songs of Experience from William Blake seem apt:

Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past, & Future sees
Whose ears have heard,
The Holy Word,
That walk’d among the ancient trees.
(whole poem here)