I’m still alive!

Hey guys! Hello! Yes, yes, I know that you were worried, but… What’s that? You’ve been putting up ‘lost’ notices on lamp posts and milk cartons? Aww, that’s lovely, but honestly… Police? You told the police I was missing? Ah, bugger – well, that’s a bit more of a problem, isn’t it?

Well, for what it’s worth, here’s a much-belated happy Thanksgiving, merry Christmas, a happy new year and, if I missed it, a very happy birthday to you all. I guess I’ll phone the police later and tell them that no, I’ve not been brutally murdered and had my corpse secreted away by a rampant serial killer – I’ve only been busy doing some other ‘life stuff’, which has sadly distracted me from doing much in the way of arty stuff.

On the Saturday just past however, I finally completed that tiger piece I started what feels like months ago (pics soon!), but I have to admit that I’ve been having a little difficulty in getting the creative cogs in my brain turning again. Yes, once I’d completed that piece on Saturday, I done that irksome thing where I sat staring at a blank piece of paper for a while, feeling completely uninspired – but I’m hoping that inspiration will strike shortly and I’ll get a new piece started. I’ll be back here as soon as that’s actually happened… But if I’m not, please do not send out any search parties or call the police.


Tiger, Tiger

Hello?  *tap, tap* Is this thing on?

Ah, yes – there you are!  You’re looking good today – got a healthy glow, so you do! Me?  Pfft, I’m fine – just rejoining the rat-race after two weeks off and… Well… I’d love to say that it’s a nice feeling being back at work, but in all honesty I’d rather be back at home with my pencils, paper and pens and a hot mug o’ coffee.

I got up to various things during the two week break, but importantly to this blog, I managed to start and am nearly finished a new piece of art.  I bet you’re excited, huh?  I can tell by your face.  Before I get into that however, I’m going to have a little rant and regale you with a tale about an experience I’ve had when trying to purchase my first set of Copic Ciao marker pens…

After deciding on Friday the 28th that I was going to make my first purchase of a few of them, I had a mooch around the interwebs and decided to buy ten of them from ‘copic-shop.co.uk’.  With a URL like that, it was surely going to be the best place for me to get them, right?


The experience of purchasing the pens from the site was simple enough, but from that point onwards things took a very sharp dip, as although the order confirmation I received via email said that my pens had been picked and dispatched, the tracking number and link to the Royal Mail tracking service website brought up the message ‘The system is currently unable to confirm the status of your item.  Please try again later’.


‘It’s ok’, I thought.  ‘Perhaps it’s just a Royal Mail blunder’.  They do tend to blunder with great and magnificent frequency, so the tracking error didn’t necessarily mean that my pens had been lost somewhere in the system or hadn’t been posted.  Right?

In this age of Amazon Prime and ‘I wants my goodies and I wants ’em naaaow’ next-day delivery times, it’s easy to find your patience dwindling when things haven’t arrived within two or three days, but when it came to it being a full seven days since I ordered the pens and they still hadn’t arrived on the Friday, my alarm bells started ringing.  It prompted me to do the first thing that most people would do in my situation; I contacted the shop via email.

I got a fairly fast response more or less telling me to wait a few more days.

I waited until the postie had been on the tenth day (and, surprise surprise, no pens dropped through my mailbox) and after getting no response to a further two emails to them, I resorted to picking up the phone and speaking to the shop.   I explained the situation but the chap at the other end of the phone said that he couldn’t do much because the manager wasn’t in.

Yeah.  Great.  

He then went on to more or less tell me to wait another 2 weeks as the pens could have been delayed.  This was unacceptable, but it was clear that he was going to be about as much use as a wet fart in a hurricane.

Rather thankfully, I paid for the pens via PayPal so have started a dispute/claim process with them so will hopefully be able to get my money back at some point.

The morale of this story is DON’T BUY ANYTHING FROM COPIC-SHOP.CO.UK.  Seriously, don’t give them your business.  Go somewhere else to buy your pens.  If, by any chance, any of you have a recommendation on a good (and cheap) place to buy Copic pens in the UK, I’d be delighted if you’d leave a comment.

Easy, Tiger

Now that I’ve got that grumble out of the way, let’s get back onto the art.  As I said, I’m just about finished a new piece and I’ve decided this time do do something a little different this time.

Unlike my previous pointillism efforts, which have been mostly solid blocks of dotty goodness, I’ve decided to add big, bold blocks of black to this latest one and I think it’s worked out rather well.  My subject this time (as you many have guessed) is a tiger, which is a fair bit more detailed and larger than anything I’ve attempted so far, which also means that it’s taking a fair bit longer to complete.

I’ve also decided to take some progress photos to document my work this time as I’m going along, so here’s how it started…


…A simple sketch, yes?  Well, no – not quite.  Apologies with regards to the horrible image compression, but you can just about make it out.  Note the grid in the background.  I tend to use a grid to copy the main shapes from a photo reference, then get jiggy with a dash of artistic license.


Using the brush tip on my black Copic Ciao pen, I then did the tiger’s facial markings in thick, chunky slabs of black.  Sexy.


…And continued to keep doing this, adding more detail with technical pens.  Gratuitous fur.


…And let the dots begin!  I usually start out laying out the colours in large dots using the chunky nibs of my Sharpie markers first, then bolster the colours with multiple layers of tiny dots from my Stabilo Point 88 pens, which appears to be a winning combination.  It does however take a heckuva long time to do.



…And this was the most recent photo I took of the piece, resplendent with the pens I’ve been using.  It’s almost finished.  I decided to make the whiskers black in the end, and by my reckoning it’s ended up turning to look almost a bit like an Andy Warhol rendering of a Tiger, which is totally unintentional.

That’s all you’re going to get to see for now – I’m building up a portfolio of my pointillism pieces and will dump the completed piece(s) on Etsy when the time has come to do such things – and of course there will be links to them in my currently-unused Shop link above.



The shy boy

Something happened recently that came to us as a bit of a surprise.

Jo & I were (and undoubtedly are) still reeling from the loss of Maurice, and part of our coping mechanism comprised of us deciding to take a whole bunch of stuff that we had for him (along with a hodgepodge of random household items such as a slow cooker, some shoes, books and the likes) to donate to Lothian Cat Rescue, a wonderful cat rescue and sanctuary place in Bonnyrigg.  We tend to go there every now and then, usually when it gets to the point that our garage starts almost bursting at the seams from the amount of stuff that we’ve been collecting for them – and it was no different this time as Wolfgang’s boot was stuffed full, with other bits and bobs spilling out and onto his back seats.

It’s good for the heart, so it is.

Before we set off, we decided to take our cat carrier with us ‘just in case’ and duly headed down the road to the rescue place, which is a good seventeen miles away from home. Once we’d arrived and disgorged Wolfgang’s boot of its many and varied items and carried them into the rescue’s reception area, we decided to ask the staff if we could take a peep at their cats. Y’know… Just because we were there and it would’ve been rude not to.

We were guided around the place, which comprises of a rag-tag collection of small and incredibly well-maintained outbuildings, by a lovely chap who quite correctly perceived that we were the ‘right type’ of people to rehome one of their cats.  He shown us a total of four cats which he reckoned were suitable for us since we both work full-time.

The first cat that he shown us was a big bruiser of a ginger tomcat (I feel bad that I’ve forgotten his name) who had a head that was roughly the size of a very large grapefruit and didn’t appear particularly friendly.  Next, we were introduced to a lovely little eight year old lady-cat called Coco, whose owner had recently passed away – she was playful, cute as a button and evidently a bit stressed by the upheaval she’d been through, so made a good candidate for rescuing.  We were then introduced to a very chatty little black & white boy called Bruce.  This cheeky chap was going to have absolutely no problems finding a home.  Finally, we were shown a big tabby boy called Tommy, who was cowering behind a tub in his little room.

Tommy broke our hearts the moment we saw his eyes, as they looked so sad, worried and utterly, utterly terrified.  Even though it was evident that every fibre of his being didn’t want to, he accepted a stroke on his head from us both without showing any aggression.  Tommy desperately looked like he needed a home.

The chap that was showing us around decided to leave us to have a think about things.  It took approximately a nanosecond for Jo and I to decide that Tommy was coming home with us, so we returned back to the reception where various forms and things were signed while the chap who shown us around set about the task of bundling little Tommy into our carrier.

We said our goodbyes to the staff and headed back home, with Jo sitting in the back seat of Wolfgang with Tommy, cooing and talking to him all the while and trying to decide on a proper name for him. He was very quiet but surprisingly looked happy and unstressed.


Tommy in transit

There was, however, a bit of a problem; we had dropped off Maurice’s (admittedly broken) litter tray at the local recycling station and packed away his toys and things, so I had to pop into the Pets@Home store in Straiton on the way home (while Jo waited in the car with Tommy) to buy a new one, a comfy cat bed and a few other bits and bobs. By the time I got home, I had to run into the garage to get the food, litter and things that we’d packed away.  While I was doing that however, Jo had discovered that the base of litter tray that I’d only just bought had a great big hulking crack and hole in one of its corners, and had come running out of the house to show me.

I may have uttered a few expletives, as I had never thought to inspect the tray for damage in the store, and since the top cover of the tray was attached to it when I bought it, I hadn’t noticed it.

We’d been here before with litter trays from Pets@Home.  Despite the fact that they charge £30 for these ‘premium’ litter trays, they’re manufactured using cheap-feeling plastic that’s stiff and brittle, rather than being flexible and strong.  This was basically why we thrown out Maurice’s old one, which had cracked while Jo was (carefully) cleaning it one day.


To make matters worse, despite hunting high and low for it, I couldn’t find the receipt for the litter tray.

Again, I may have uttered several expletives.

I had to resign myself to the fact that I was going to have to take the broken tray all the way back out to the Pets@Home at Straiton and hope that they would be willing to give me a refund without me being in possession of the receipt for it, so I jumped back into Wolfgang and started my journey.

If this was a movie there would undoubtedly be a montage at this point, with me zooming along the Edinburgh City Bypass towards Straiton, while Jo had to leave Tommy in the carrier and go in search of a better litter tray elsewhere.

When I arrived at Pets@Home, I was horrified to see that all of the checkout staff that were stationed at the tills had earlier changed; including the girl with the long, dark curly hair who had served me.  I had no choice but to rock up to the counter and explain my plight, describing the girl that had served me earlier and admitting that I’d lost my receipt, without sounding too whiny.

As luck would have it, the girl with the long dark curly hair who had served me turned out to be the supervisor/manager of the store and had remembered serving me, so I had absolutely no problems in getting my refund. I was able to breathe a sigh of relief – or at least I would have if I hadn’t had to jump back into the car and check with Jo to see if she’d found another tray.  It turned out that she had indeed found one in B&M for the bargain basement sum of £10, and said that it felt ten times tougher than the frankly crap £30 Pets@Home one.

I turned my key in the ignition and headed back home.

The Vanishing Act

When I got back home, I came through the front door to find a rather puzzled-looking Jo armed with a torch, peering into the various nooks and crannies in the house.

It turned out that the moment she’d opened the cat carrier to let Tommy out, he’d shot out of it like a rocket-propelled and greased otter and had hid briefly below the bedroom radiator before vanishing.

As we searched, my overactive imagination made me wonder if Tommy was in fact a magical cat that had transmogrified himself through a window or phased through the back door to escape the house…

After looking in every obvious hidey-hole and crevice in our hallway, kitchen and bedroom that could harbour a mog, I eventually turned my attention to my wardrobe in the bedroom, which sits on four short legs in the corner of the room and has a small gap of roughly four or five inches between its base and the floor below it.

I lay down on my tummy and shone the torch beneath the wardrobe and… Aaah, there you are!  There were two green kitty eyes gleaming back at me from the gloom.

Before I get ahead of myself however, I must say that we decided that Tommy is most definitely…

Not a Tommy

Although Tommy is a perfectly good and serviceable name, this little tabby boys gentle, shy nature and resemblance to a supper-cuddly teddy bear means that the name ‘Ted’ came up pretty early and we kept coming back to it.

So Ted it is, then.

The magnificent Theodore ‘Ted’ the first. Teddy-boo. Teddy-tootles. Ted. He’s most definitely a Ted.

The Scaredy Cat

To call Ted ‘Timid’ or ‘Skittish’ would in fact be a bit of an understatement.  An unexpected noise or the sight of one of us moving a bit more quickly than a snail’s pace can be enough to send him scurrying to his sanctuary beneath the wardrobe.

Having never had a cat before that’s utterly terrified of seemingly everything and everyone, we decided that the best way to let him get used to both us and his new surroundings would be to leave him alone so that he could make his own mind up about things, so for the first couple of days we didn’t see him at all, nor did we go out of our way to look at or bother him in any way.

We did have a couple of small worries initially, though.  We really, really hoped that he wasn’t going to be doing his ‘business’ beneath the wardrobe and we worried that he was going to be starving, so we pushed plates piled with chicken slices beneath the wardrobe which he quickly polished off, so he was at least getting some food.  During the comfort of  darkness when we were in bed however, we could hear him crawling from beneath the wardrobe and have a mooch around, crunching biscuits, eating food and scrabbling about in his litter tray (thank goodness), so those worries were at least laid to rest.

We had to suppress silent ‘squee’ noises when we heard the tinkle of bells and the sound of him playing for the first time.  It turns out that he’s a big fan of ‘Lurkey Turkey’, a small, floppy catnip toy we’d bought for him.

Big Brother

It occurred to me that I’d been trying for months to flog a webcam on Ebay that I’d acquired when I was in the practise of accepting ‘free samples’ from Amazon sellers (long story cut short: I had to stop doing that because Amazon were not happy and threatened to close my account), so I decided to break it out and set it up so that we could keep an eye on Ted without bothering him.

It’s a nifty little pan/tilt number with infra-red night vision, meaning that we can pan and tilt it around to keep an eye on him, pretty much wherever he goes in the room.

This was the first image I captured from it…


Tommy beneath the wardrobe

It’s actually worked out as an invaluable way to keep an eye on him, particularly when he’s such a timid wee boy.  He pays it absolutely no attention, too – so can can spy on him at any time of the day without having to peer at him under the wardrobe while laying on our bellies.

Plucking up the Courage

It’s now two weeks since we first brought Tommy-now-Ted into the house and we’ve seen some changes in him since then.  He’s still incredibly skittish and timid, spends a good deal of his time in his sanctuary beneath the wardrobe, and is in no way ready to approach us and let us touch him.

Jo and I have adopted a somewhat strange set of behaviours when he emerges from his sanctuary; we try to act in a way that he will interpret as friendly and submissive, even going as far as making ourselves as low to the ground as possible (even moving around on all fours) and not staring at him directly.  We also speak softly, with an encouraging tone to our voices and it actually appears to be working as we’ve had a few ‘breakthrough’ moments.

The first was the evening when he sat just outside the wardrobe and tolerated me getting close to him when I had to clear out his litter tray.  Instead of looking terrified, he simply looked curious and even moved to have a wee sniff of my hand when I was clearing the tray out.  I wasn’t going to attempt to push him on that; he’ll come to us when he’s ready, but it was a delight to see.

Since then, he’s gradually been coming out of his shell and will now sit for ages studying us as we sit on the bed.  He’s getting braver by the day and really appears to be settling in, getting used to the bowls of food that we’ve placed in the hallway.  This morning, however, he had yet another breakthrough while I was in the kitchen making coffee.  I saw his wee face peeping around the corner at me at the end of the hallway and was astonished to see him slinking along the hallway towards me.  This was a first, as I’m so used to see him running away from me, so I sat on the floor and let him nom his food without bothering him.

Right now, he’s allowing us to move around the bedroom without watching us constantly and looks incredibly relaxed.  He’s so cute that there’s no denying that we’re absolutely desperate to stroke and fuss over him, but his debilitating fear of us will probably prevent that from happening for weeks, if not months.

It’s going to be so rewarding when the time does come that he gets over his fear and lets us, though.   And I cannot wait for it!

Back to the art

If you’ve been following my posts, you might have noticed that the billowing sails of my newly-launched artistic venture have had the wind knocked out of them recently with the horrible business of having to deal with Maurice, our beautiful, sweet puss-cat who we had to get put to sleep.  On Saturday, I decided to climb back into the saddle (so to speak) and managed to complete a new piece.

My latest subject is still equine-based, albeit one with a slight fantasy slant as I’ve decided to do a Unicorn; the fabled and mythical horned beast which farts rainbows and can bring people and other creatures back to life with a drip of one of it’s teardrops.  The appealing thing about doing a unicorn is that it would allow me a chance to really have a lot of fun with colours.  Here’s a low-res sneak peek at the semi-finished article…



As you can see, I’m bravely forging onward with the pointillism work, which seems to be working out rather well and I’m really pleased to say that I can see a big improvement with my technique in this piece when compared to my last one.  I could have went down the route of just using a single pen for each of the blocks of different colours, but no – I’ve decided to use a technique where I’m using 2-3 pens (Sharpie & Copic Markers and Stabilo Point 88’s in this piece) to embolden each of the colours and blend them into one and other.  It’s working pretty good, methinks!

The one thing about doing work like this is that it takes absolutely ages to do, with this piece taking the best part of ten hours from beginning to end.  It’s still early days for me with this technique though, so I’m no doubt going to be refining it and getting a bit more brave with the things that I’m doing in future pieces.  Knowing me, this most likely means that it will probably start taking even longer to complete them as they’ll start to become more elaborate.

Zen Drawing

The best part, for me, is that I actually find this whole pointillism way of doing art incredibly relaxing.  Applying the colours dot by dot to the paper with good quality pens puts me in a very ‘Zen’ state of mind, which actually really helps as it keeps my mind off other things in life that can otherwise be fairly stressful.  In fact, when I start a piece and begin to do the pointillism it always surprises me at how addictive it is and how quickly the hours vanish as I’m doing it, to the point where I’ve completely lost track of time a few times.

If (and it’s a very big ‘if’) I was somehow manage to get to a point where people are interested in buying prints and originals of my stuff and/or I manage to start doing commissions, it would mean the world to me. To be able to quit the 9-5 rat race and sit at home doing art, drinking coffee and listening to music sounds like my idea of heaven, so I need to buck up my ideas and carry on creating stuff.

What’s next?

Well… That’s a very good question.  I think I’m going to create several more of these pointillism pieces with an animal theme before moving onto something else.  I think I’ll stick with the pointillism, but who knows?  It’s the beginning of what feels like an exciting journey at the moment.


A digital memento mori for Maurice

It’s the week after what Jo & I can only describe as the worst weekend ever and we’re now adapting to living in a world without our beloved Maurice.


Maurice back in June 2014

In the end, his passing was incredibly peaceful.  At the vet practise we always took him to, we were lucky to have got one of the older vets – a lovely lady-vet called Kay – to help him on his journey over the rainbow bridge and she did so with a great amount of compassion and love.

It felt deeply odd leaving the vets with an empty pet carrier.  We drove back home in a daze, feeling oddly misplaced and disconnected from reality.  When we got through the front door of the house, it became immediately apparent that the place felt very strange indeed.  Although we were both within its walls, the house felt like its very soul had been removed.  Maurice was always such a seemingly-perennial presence in the house that the sudden lack of him being in it was – and still is – difficult to deal with.  It was always the case that if you made your way into the kitchen, he would silently appear like a little furry ninja and would follow you around the place like an ever-present shadow, would boop his head against your shins and twirl around your feet in his constant quest for noms – or he’d sit down and stare at you, breaking your will to resist with those gorgeous eyes of his and cheeky chatter.

Our fallibly human minds are so familiar to Maurice’s presence that we’ve been reduced to tears on more than one occasion over the past few days because we keep expecting him to appear – which is possibly an attempt at wilful deception by our minds to try and convince ourselves that he’s not gone.  There was and is the imagined movement seen in the corner of an eye; a tail vanishing around a corner or a vision of his feline form slinking up the hallway.   Items settling in cupboards, the noises and creaks of the house heating up and cooling down could be him in his litter tray or pottering around in the hallway.  Phantom memories dancing in the ether of the mind.

While the lack of his presence is raw and like an open wound at the moment, we are able to temper it with the thought and justification that we did the right thing, even though it was was so difficult to go through with it.  Like I said in my previous post, we had watched him gradually get worse for the last few weeks, but a strange thing occurred on Sunday where we started to feel guilty.  We began wondering if we should have perhaps had him put to sleep weeks ago, ending his suffering sooner when he was a bit more capable, but I’m of the opinion that it would be pointless for us to beat ourselves up over this.  There’s was definitely an element of us not wanting to let him go, which ultimately boils down to the simple fact that we loved him so much.

Farewell Maurice…

I’m currently sitting here in my office at work with an ominous feeling of dread pervading my every thought and feeling. Jo and I have been talking for weeks about the fading health of Maurice, our much-loved and incredibly elderly cat of twenty years of age, and only just yesterday made the decision that the fateful time had come for him to cross the rainbow bridge. This, as you can imagine, was a collossally difficult decision to make and I was given the task of making a phone call yesterday to the vets to make the arrangements, which I could barely do over the phone without my voice cracking and tears streaming down my cheeks. It completely and utterly crushed me.

Today has been a day where powerfully raw emotions have been assailing our already-traumatised minds; the natural cycle of doubt, denial and fear prompting us to say things like:

“…Are we making the right decision?”
“…But he looks brighter today.”
“…Hold on. Shall we cancel the vet appointment and see how he goes?”

…But the hard, cold reality that we’re hopelessly trying to deny is that his kidneys are packing in, he walks at a snails-pace as he’s riddled with arthritis and he’s been doing that caterwauling thing that old cats do when they’ve lost their marbles for ages now. The purr-monster he used to be has faded to near-nothing, he’s a shadow of his former self and it’s reached the point where we’re beginning to see the signs that his quality of life has started to suffer as a result.

Cats are very clean and proud creatures, but poor Maurice has reached the point where he finds clambering into his litter tray too difficult, so he’s pooing in a few different locations in the house, such as at the end of the hallway and at either side of our bed. This isn’t great, as you can imagine, and it means that we were having to buy puppy training pads and place them at these spots in an effort to save our carpets. It’s not a problem though, because he’s undoubtedly worth the effort. It’s not helped at all that he’s had almost constant dihaorrea for the last few months, which has made the act of cleaning up his mess less than pleasant.

His indignity only increased in more recent weeks as he’s not even cleaning himself all that much. This means that his once-glorious and thick fur, which caused me to refer him the ‘luxury cat’ in happier times, has started to become matted and greasy. It’s been absolutely heartbreaking to witness.


If you’ve ever had to go through it, dealing with the loss of an animal companion is without doubt one of the most painful things your heart will ever have to suffer through. The first time I had to deal with this was when Corey, my little blue budgie, died quickly from a tumour in his chest. I must’ve only been twelve years old or something when it happened and it taught me that loss was an awful thing to deal with and I remember crying for days afterwards.

In my adult life, the first time I had to deal with the loss of an animal companion was unfortunately not long after I met Jo. Kincardine MacDougall (Dougall or ‘Doogs’ for short) was the first horse I ever got to know. He was a mighty and handsome beast of a Highland Pony.

Dougall’s death came completely out of the blue – we were out seeing him one night and he seemed absolutely fine, but when I turned up to see to him the next day it was immediately apparent that something was terribly, terribly wrong with him. To cut a painful story short, we had to quickly transport him to Edinburgh’s Dick Vet equine hospital for emergency surgery but it turned out that, despite our efforts to move quickly, it was already too late. He was already in shock and was in a state of multiple organ failure. Something called a strangulating lipoma had wrapped itself around his intestines and effectively killed his guts, causing catastrophic, toxic shock to his whole body. The only viable option the surgeons had was to put him to sleep. The acute misery and pain this caused Jo and I is difficult to put into words, and it turned our whole world upside down.

Having been through that, I have to say that there’s an awful lot to say about the death of a beloved animal when the control of its fate is completely out of your hands; when its death is sudden, shocking and heartbreaking and hits you like a sledgehammer. It’s an incredibly distressing thing to go through at the time, but after it’s happened and you’re through the worst part of the grieving process you can take a step back and sort of feel thankful that you never had to make a decision to end their life. It’s a million times worse when you know that their health is in a decline and you can see the gradual change from them being happy and vibrant to dull and listless and, in the end, start to sense that things are taking a turn for the worse.

We’ve watched Maurice’s health decline for a long, drawn-out time; possibly as much as two to three years, but in the last six months it’s been much more apparent – and for the last week or so it has become noticeably more acute, which set the alarm bells ringing for us.

Wind back the clock

I first met Maurice when he was the already-grand old age of thirteen, and back then he was a vibrantly intimidating ball of menace. He was stuffed to the tip of his furry tail with ‘cattitude’ and would happily let you stroke him for a while until he had decided ‘that’s quite enough of that, thank you very much’ and would turn his fangs and claws on you without as much as a twitch of a warning. A tummy-rub was never part of the agreement. Ever. Everything with this boy was on his terms only. No negotiation.

When I first moved in with Jo, I’m not going to deny that I found him mildly terrifying. She had given me prior warning that he was either going to adore me or despise me. Fair enough, I thought – I’m like that with most humans too. Thankfully, as fate would have had it, he chose to adore me and was sitting on my lap and purring like a wee tractor within minutes of visiting her house for the first time. I was very honoured, apparently, because he despised most people.

Maurice was an outdoor cat in his younger years, but due to a catalogue of incidents and close-shaves, Jo was forced to take the decision to keep him indoors – which is how I’ve always known him to be. In the latter years of his life, he really took a shine to me and part of his nightly routine – without fail – was to sit on my belly/chest when I lay down in bed and purr endlessly. If I stroked him he would have literally sat on me for hours, his nose within an inch of mine, but in a lot of cases – as cats tend to do – he decided when he’d had enough and slinked off to lay at the bottom of the bed where he’d sleep for the night, or until he got hungry and would pester Jo to feed him.

He was such a character in a lot of ways. When he was more agile, he was prone to having moments of madness where he would scream up and down our hallway, bounce onto the bed, then scream up and down the hallway again. More often that not, this was the direct result of him having a particularly satisfying poo. He also weirdly loved carrots in bags, salt & vinegar crisps and Vitalite spread. Yes, he was indeed very odd. But that’s cats for ya.

In the morning…

It’s now 8am on the Saturday morning and the clock is ticking closer and closer to the event that ever fibre of my being doesn’t want to go through with. The vet appointment is for 9:15am, I’ve barely slept and Jo and I are still trying to cling onto the distant hope that the vet is going to say that he’s fine and insist that we take him back home again. In our heart of hearts however, we know what the outcome is going to be…

Who is ClockworkSatan?

If you’ve been reading my blog and am wondering who the heck I am, then I suppose I’d better shed a light on some things.

Just in case there’s any doubt, I should make it clear right from the get-go that I’m not a mythological über-demon that’s powered by a ticking, spinning array of cogs, dials and springs. Rather disappointingly, I’m just a mere human.

I came up with the the name/handle ‘ClockworkSatan’ a few years ago while i was an avid gamer and it’s stuck to me ever since then like a particularly potent pong. It grew and evolved and since you’ll now have noticed it emblazoned at the top of this page in a frightfully funky logo, I guess you could say that I’m trying to make it into an actual thing. I have of course had thoughts and worries about people finding the ‘Satan’ part of it offensive and have toyed with the idea of coming up with a ‘fluffier’ name, but y’know what – why the heck should I? If an individual is daft enough to think that the name implies that I’m a devil-worshipping, child-eating member of the church of Satan, that’s their problem and not mine – life’s too short for me to let mine be constrained and subdued by people who are judgemental, superstitious and narrow-minded.

A little bit of history

In terms of who I am, I suppose I could start at the beginning.

At some point in the latter half of the 1970’s, I was born in Simpson’s Memorial Hospital and grew up in a council estate on the west side of Edinburgh. When my hands grew dexterous enough to hold a crayon or a pencil, I became fascinated with the simple joy of applying wax/ink/graphite to paper and the creativity it lent me made my neurons pop and fizz more than anything else.

In my early years of education, I was painfully shy and found a good deal of solace in scribbling and doodling – and more often than not I found preference in retreating into the worlds of spaceships, dragons and my doodles over socialising with other kids my age. I have no doubt whatsoever that had I been born post-2000, my parents would have been told that I was ‘on the spectrum’ to a degree and that I would have possibly been made to go to ‘special’ classes or something. Rather thankfully however, the 70’s and 80’s were kinder to weird kids unless they were well into the ‘batshit’ end of the spectrum, so I was left to grow into my oddness.

I didn’t remain painfully shy forever, though. By the time I was in secondary school I had started to come out of my shell and began to show some sociable traits, making a few friends and trying to figure out which path in life I was going to meander down. I initially did that whole ‘I-must-own-a-pair-of-those-cool-trainers-and-jeans-that-the-cool-kids-are-wearing’ thing for a while as I attempted to appear ‘cooler’ than I actually was, but I suppose I knew deep down that it was nothing more that forced peer-pressure. Once I’d given up on that pursuit, I quickly realised which side of the slice my bread was buttered and hung outside the art and music rooms with my small group of friends, nerds and social rejects, where we messed about, swapped video games and talked about music, movies and nonsense. Those were happy times.

Back to the pertinent subject of art, it’s with an ironic twist that I deliver the fact that I spectacularly failed my higher art examination. I suspect that my head was in the clouds while the rules for the exam were given to the class and instead of doing the thing that I was meant to do for the exam – which was, if I recall, a still life painting – I did something completely different which didn’t even involve paint. I could say that I wish I’d done the right thing and passed the exam for doing something utterly boring such as a painting of some flowers in a vase, but a part of me is pleased that I rebelled and failed because of it. That’s a character building moment right there.

On the flip side of what I just said though, had I actually paid attention and followed the instructions and passed my higher art, it might have opened doors for me had I wanted to pursue a career in which I could have used my creativity to make a living, but no – I bombed out of high school with decent results in the other creative subjects (music and English) and not much else, and headed out into the terrifying world (at the time) of paid employment.

Being a young, unskilled upstart meant that employers weren’t exactly queuing up to offer me a job, but I eventually got a sales job in a now-defunct electrical retailer. Art was still my first love, and in quiet times in the job I could usually be found scribbling doodles on scraps of paper with a biro, usually illiciting comments from my colleagues that I was in the wrong line of work.

Skipping forward a few years (and thereby skipping what I now consider the ‘dark ages’ of my life), I am so very lucky to say that I eventually landed on my feet when I got a proper IT job within a college in Edinburgh which I stuck in at and was able to move to another IT job in the University of Edinburgh, where I work now. Not too shabby for a kid who left school with practically nothing under his belt, eh?

Home on the ranch

Almost exactly seven years ago, I met my wife-to-be Jo and was plunged into the weird and wonderful life of horses, veganism and awesomeness. I now own half of a horse, am getting riding lessons and live outside of Edinburgh on the edge of the countryside. Jo means the world to me and is the first person in my life who has been actively encouraging me to do something with my artistic ambitions – so an awful lot of what I’m doing right now is entirely down to her.

Big boy Einar

Another big inspiration is my big boy Einar, a beautiful Highland Pony who is without doubt the centre of our universe. He’s the most gentle, friendly creature you’re ever likely to meet, and has become the subject of a few of my scribblings. The big lad has also unfortunately been blighted with various health problems and in three weeks is about to go into Edinburgh’s Dick Vet equine hospital for potential surgery on his back legs, so we’re obviously rather worried at this point in time. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about that in due course!

Cartoon Einar

Paint the world green

Another thing I can credit to meeting my lovely Jo is my turn towards veganism. It pains me to say that for the first 35 years of my life I ate meat. In fact, I ate a lot of meat – more than I can even bear to think about. I rarely, if ever, questioned the origin of the food that was on my plate and meat was just one of those things that was tasty and convenient and could be bought in supermarkets, nicely sanitised and freshly wrapped in plastic with no hint of the dark and bloody nature of its origin.

Meeting Jo changed all of that as she had been a fully-fledged vegan for most of her life at the time that we met. Although she never forced veganism upon me at any point or preached her views to me (well, not to a in-my-face degree), there’s no way that my conscience would have sat comfortably with me tucking into meaty things at dinnertime next to her after I moved in to live with her, so I quickly turned vegetarian for a short while before deciding to take the big jump into full-on veganism. I was in completely uncharted territory at that point and had a few worries that it was something that I was going to really struggle with, but I shouldn’t have worried at all. I found the switch to veganism remarkably simple and found the challenge rather interesting and exciting. I did have a couple of instances of falling off the wagon to begin with (fish & chips was my last hurdle) but once I got the hang of it, I began to really thrive in it.

There were only a few things that I could say that I truly missed; eggs probably the most followed by fish, but after reading countless articles on the myriad benefits of veganism not only from a health perspective, but also in terms of the horrific animal cruelty and the damage the meat and fishing industries are doing to the environment, it didn’t take me long to commit to it 100%. The most difficult part of it was initially dealing with the comments and machismo bullshit my male colleagues in work attempted to taunt me with, thinking that eating a bacon sandwich noisily in front of me was going to upset me. It didn’t. It just made me believe that I was making the correct decision.

If you’ve got to this point and are worrying that I’m going to constantly harp on about veganism, I should making it clear at this point that I don’t intend on turning this into a ‘vegan blog’. I’m sure there are plenty of those already and it’s a subject that some people still have trouble with dealing with, but there may be points where I mention it or post pictures of vegan dishes that I’ve made. I’ve been fully vegan for five years and it’s an integral part of my life now, so it’s only fair that I get to talk about it while I’m not rambling about my art and nerdy things, yes?

Anyway, that’s probably enough about the history of moi for now. There’s a blank sheet of paper that’s ready for me to scribble on, so I’d better get on with things!