Tuesday, 3 July 2018

It seems you CAN teach an old dog new tricks! - by Fran Hill

This site's title - 'More than Writers' - is apt for the story I'm telling today. It's about me trying to be more than a writer: having a go at something new.

To do that, I need to talk about parcels.

My birthday in April brought me several parcels via the post. One was a special present from my sister.

Not all parcels are so welcome.

For instance, last Wednesday the doorbell rang mid-morning. It was a postman bearing a large box, addressed to me. 'Ooh!' I said, hugging it to myself. 'I wonder what this is. I wasn't expecting anything!'

'Enjoy!' the postman said.

'Definitely!' I trilled.

I put the box on the table and ran through possible exciting options. Surprise gift from one of my children? Something luxurious I'd ordered a while back and forgotten about? My husband, sending a penitential gift to say sorry for all the times he annoys me when he peels potatoes one an hour, or scrapes his bowl with the spoon as though cereal was embedded in the china?

I rushed for a pair of scissors to slit the box open, folded back the cardboard, and revealed .... ta-dah!

.... a box containing ,,,,,,,

a new ...........

..... squirrel-proof bird feeder.


I was like a popped balloon right then. Anticlimax doesn't describe it.

It turns out that, while my husband was staying with our daughter last week, she was ordering herself a squirrel-proof bird feeder and he said, 'I need one of those for our garden. Can you get them to send one to our address?'

Why she put it in my name and not his, I don't know. Suffice it to say, it made the disappointment far worse to find something addressed specifically to me and THEN to find it was not chocolates, wine, flowers, sequinned ballgown or expensive perfume, but a - but a - I cannot bear to say it again.

The disappointment returned me - painfully - to those first years of marriage, before I'd convinced my husband that buying me an ironing board cover, camping lamp or teatowels for my birthday was not acceptable behaviour.

Anyway, back to the parcel my sister sent for my birthday - much more welcome.

It was a book called 'How to Draw', plus supplies of proper drawing pencils and charcoals. I'd told her how I'd like to try something new and that learning to draw seemed as good an option as any, mainly because if anyone ever said, 'Can you draw?' I'd laugh and say no, as though they'd asked, 'Can you fly?'

But, on what basis did I say I couldn't draw? I'd never really tried!

What do you think of my first attempts? The book teaches you to draw something step by step, first with some basic shapes, then filling in more and more detail. So far I've done a cat, an alligator and some clothing. If you are a real artist, please look away now.

The rest of you, I hope you can discern which picture is which, without captions, because if you can't I've obviously chosen the wrong new hobby ...

Have I signed up to art school to forge a new career? Thank you - it's kind of you to ask. But you won't be surprised to hear me say no.

However, considering I have spent 56 years saying, 'Pff. I can't draw for toffee,' the drawings are passable for early attempts.

I showed a friend the drawings. Had I traced them? she said. Rude!!

A few months ago, Philip Davies, writer of a series of fantasy novels, ran a 'Writing Fantasy' workshop at my local ACW group. 'I don't write fantasy,' I said. 'It's not my genre. I don't know how to. I don't understand it.' Other group members felt similarly insecure. And yet, under his instruction, we all wrote something recognisable as fantasy.

Every one of us was surprised by what we could achieve.

Perhaps we shouldn't limit ourselves so easily. It's so often due to a lack of confidence, or fear of trying and failing.

I'm not going to lie, though - not all my drawings have gone well. The horse ended up three miles long with a frozen tail, a thick neck, and all its legs at different lengths.

Fran Hill is a teacher and freelance writer based in Warwickshire. You can read all about her and her writing by visiting her website here or contacting her at ;)


  1. Ha ha this made me laugh, as always. I am a fellow 'I can't draw-er'! I used to pass my French book to my friend, Anna, if vocabulary illustrations were required! A good encouragement too - thank you!

    1. Thanks, Georgie. I'm curious about your friend, Anna - do you know whether she followed an artistic path?!

  2. I think your drawings are good Fran (the horse made me LOL though -sorry - think it was your comments rather than the actual drawing). I've recently started dabbling in painting, mostly abstract if you know what I mean. Definitely not worth showing a real artist! But it keeps me occupied and happy :)

    1. And that's what matters, Mandy ... anyway, opinions about art are notoriously subjective, so who's to say we're not geniuses?...

  3. What an inspiring post! Those drawings are great too. Well done!

    1. Thank you, Mrs J. It keeps me out of mischief, anyway. (If such a thing were possible.)

  4. Love that Fran! I am another one whoma,ways says I can"t draw or can't do this or that but often we just need to try! Loved the horse!