How Now Ginger Cow

A few weeks ago I talked about the Town Moor; a huge open stretch of land lying North of the city of Newcastle. It is home to soaring sky larks, grumpy crows and Whippet Dave. But there is another animal that lives on the moor and that is the humble cow.  They graze the coarse grass from Spring to Autumn, arriving around Easter time and departing just before Bonfire Night on the 5th November.

Cows on the moor

The people that own and take care of The Town Moor are the Freemen of the City and they have the right to graze their cattle there. There are hereditary Freeman who can trace their right to the land back to Anglo Saxon times. And then there are honorary Freemen and these include, former US President Jimmy Carter, Bob Geldof, Nelson Mandela and Newcastle footballer Alan Shearer.

Cows on the moor 2

No more than 800 cows are allowed to graze.

I used to have a problem when the cows arrived on the Moor because Mischa Skinnydog liked to round them up. But seven years of training and we’ve got it cracked.

Cows and Mischa

The cows are usually quite shy, but last autumn I met a particularly friendly one. (I’m saying cows but actually they are all boys.) I saw him in the distance with a Magpie riding on his back.

Cow and Magpie

Old Ginger and the singing Magpie.

“Gee up” said the bird and they trotted over to say hello. What a beautiful beast he was wrapped up in a thick ginger coat. He batted his long curly eyelashes then bowed deeply before me. “What a pleasure to meet you Ziggy.” he said then trotted away with the Magpie singing Ghost Riders in the Sky. 

Cow and Magpie


I imagine he’s “a ploughing through the ragged sky” by now, which makes me sad because he was so friendly. But there’s a whole new herd arrived on The Town Moor just waiting to make Mischa’s and my acquaintance. We’ll see what they have to say.

Ginger Cow

Fact or Fiction? You decide.


Would You Read a Blog Post written by a Dog?

Hello, this is Mischa SkinnyDog sneaking onto Ziggy’s blog.

Ziggy has been very busy lately writing her very first novel for young adults. Given her inner turmoil it may be her last. I wish her well, I really do. I have been happy to wait hours for her to remember to feed me and walk beside her while she completely ignores me muttering about first person versus third person limited. Clearly I should be her first person and that would be limited to just…well…me!

Anyway, not having the attention I fully deserve I have taken to reading. Ziggy has lots of books, many of which have pictures in and I love nosing through them. Of course when you get to the end of a good book you want to talk about it to someone. Ziggy is too busy so I thought I would embark on my own blog and find people to have a bit of Book Banter with.
Do you like books? Do you like looking at beautiful illustrations? Would you read a blog written by a dog? If so you can join me here.

But dogs can’t read or write or blog I hear you cry! But if you believe in elves then you’ll believe a dog can blog. The trick is I use a tablet; I just dab my nose all over the Gorilla Glass (I thought glass was made from sand but.. hey?) and voila! I even Tweet. When it all gets a bit slimy a quick swish of my tail and I’m good to go again.

Also this IS a dog talking because it’s not in ickle wickle baby talk. If you ever see a dog writing about his hooman’s then his owner is talking for him. Trust me, dogs talk to each other just like you….except we do it telepathically. Plus if you look at the top of this post you’ll see it’s written by The Literary Lurcher NOT Ziggy Shortcrust. Proof, if proof were needed.

I know Ziggy will be back on here soon. After all she wants to talk to you about Hotrods, python handling, dressing as a Viking for the BBC, and very scary leather clad knights.
In the meantime please take a look at The Literary Lurcher and share in some Book Banter.
Love and Licks
Mischa x

You will believe a dog can read

You will believe a dog can read


A Final Farewell to Honey the Skinnydog

For me a home is not complete without a dog or two lounging around it. Over the years I’ve had some fabulous canine companions to sprawl across the sofas with. They’ve always been rescued dogs who have enjoyed a second bite of the cherry and the most recent hound to join us has been Honey the Skinny Dog.

Hunny on the Moor

taking the occasional rest

A dog of very little brain but a huge heart who has given us so much love since bursting into our lives back in September 2010. I have not met a creature who fizzed with energy like Honey. For her, every day was an adventure that had to be attacked at 100 miles an hour. But sadly, last Saturday morning Honey suffered an embolism in her spine leaving her back legs totally paralysed and her front legs partially so. 48 hours in the vet’s care saw no improvement. Honey was not a dog to lay still for the rest of her days watching the world go by, so, we had to make the heartbreaking decision to say a final farewell to this beautiful dog.


Honey had springs for legs


A great pal for Mischa the Skinnydog

But I don’t do sad or regrets. Yes, sure, I bawled my eyes out holding her head in my hands, feeling it grow heavy as her  life ebbed away. And heaven knows what her world was like before us; she was found as an emaciated stray. But we had two and a half fabulous years together. My regret would’ve been not to have given her a home and not to have known her.

Tattoo Honey

Honey inked up

So raise a glass to all those pets who bring so much love and companionship to us feeble human beings. Tip your head back and give a howl of happiness.

Illustrated Letters 8 and 9; off to Germany and California

I have embarked on a challenge to revive the art of letter writing by composing one a day for the year. But not just the written word, each one is illustrated with a Ziggy elf.

Here are letters 8 and 9 for two lovely people who agreed to join in. Firstly a little elf is off to Germany to live with Geralin, creator of The Colourful Sketchbook. She deftly produces with simple lines delightful images. Take a look. I can’t show the contents of the letter, it’ll spoil the surprise for Geralin, but I’ve illustrated the envelope. Somebody had to get a Skinny Dog and Geralin is the first.

Letter number 9 is going all the way to Southern California. I wish I could squeeze into the envelope and bask in some of that lovely sunshine. But I don’t think Hansi would be too keen. He is the recipient of the latest letter and creator of Hansi’s Hallucinations. How can I describe his blog? Do you know, I don’t think I could find the words to adequately do it justice. His tag line is “The Drawings and Rants of a Mad Man” which does it nicely. Head on over and say hello. Hansi gets a VDub Splitty ‘cos campervans and California go hand in hand.


Illustrated letter 8 Geralin


Illustrated letter 9

But if I am to complete 365 I require some help. I need more people to send them to. If you would like an Illustrated Letter you’ll find the details here.








The SkinnyDogs; Most Popular in 2012

Mischa and Honey Skinny Dog are little Miss Popular. Who knew? The WordPress helper-monkeys that’s who. According to their annual number crunching stats report my post The Skinny Dogs Sketched and Tattooed received the most views of the year. I haven’t told them, it would just go to their heads. But it just goes to show, dogs trump elves in the blog world.

The top search term to find me was skinny dog, Nick Sharratt, Nick Sharratt drawings, illustrations for Jaqueline Wilson (they are by Nick Sharratt) and My Sister Jodie (illustrated by Nick Sharratt). Probably because I wrote this piece about my admiration for….Nick Sharratt. So if I draw the skinny dogs Nick Sharratt style I wonder what will happen. Hmmmmm…..I feel a blog post coming on.

All the best to everyone in 2013 and especially all those who have taken the time to view, like, or pass comment on the quite frankly ridiculous blog posts here at Ziggy Shortcrust. I leave you with the very popular Skinny Dogs.



Hey Honey, prick up your ears. We were the most popular thing on Ziggy’s blog.




Whoop! I could just jump for joy.


Stop jumping and head for the sofa to pose.
Ok, just as soon as I’ve unstuck my tongue from my nose.







Hello! Anybody out there admiring me?


I laugh in the face of elves. Hahahaha!


Campervan Skinny Dogs

Are Skinny Dogs more popular than elves? You decide.

The Cinder Track Boggle

Just a few yards from my mum’s house in the North Yorkshire village of Burniston is The Cinder Track; the old disused Scarborough to Whitby railway line. It was in use from 1885 to 1965 but is now a route through delightful countryside for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. I’ve been walking the skinny dogs along the stretch between the villages of Burniston and Cloughton for many years and it looks beautiful in any season but last week it was particularly festive. Mother Nature had decorated the trees with giant fuzzy baubles and shiny red globes. Garlands of frosted ivy clung to dry stone walls while pale bare boughs thrust upward to the sky like picked clean turkey bones. The air was sharp and clean and the winter sun cast a glow to rival any string of fairy lights.







The skinny dogs and I were having so much fun exploring The Cinder Track that we failed to realize how late it was. Dusk was falling.




It was then that Mischa Skinny Dog heard something in the hedgerow….


Out from the undergrowth came crashing a hideous creature. I instantly recognised it to be a Boggle, an unpleasant breed of elf. A few miles up the track is Boggle Hole, a cave in the cliffs where these mischievous little characters dwell. What was he doing so far from home? I had little time to ponder the question as he grabbed hold of me and dragged me toward an old gnarled tree. An opening appeared and we disappeared into the trunk with the Skinny Dogs hot on our heels.  How they fought that hairy beast. The Boggle quickly surrendered and pushed the three of us back out onto the track.

I swear we were gone but minutes and yet I found three weeks had elapsed with Christmas nearly upon us! Strangely, no-one had missed me so I fear a Ziggy Changeling may well have been abroad. She kindly did all my Christmas shopping and snogged all the men at the works Christmas Party. (Something I clearly would never do.) But she appears to be technophobic as my blog has not been attended to.

But I am back now, and would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. May the only elves you meet be Santa’s Little Helpers.


The Cinder Track Boggle

Fact or fiction? You decide.


How to Train Your Baby Dragon

It’s always a busy and exciting time at work as we say goodbye to one exhibition and welcome in a new one. Seven Stories, the national centre for children’s books, has just bid a fond farewell to “Daydreams and Diaries; The Story of Jacqueline Wilson” which has proved a huge success over the past year and I loved the Nick Sharratt illustrations, as you’ll know from a previous post here.

Well, the new exhibition is entitled “A Vikings Guide to Deadly Dragons with Cressida Cowell.” The main focus is on Cowell’s How to Train your Dragon series, with lots of original artwork and manuscripts but there is also going to be items on dragons in general and their place in myth and legend. You can get a taster here.

The other day I was chatting to a friend and colleague about the exhibition and my fondness for dragons and how much fun it would be to have my very own pet dragon. Imagine my surprise when she came to work the next day with this little chap.

He had just hatched and needed adopting. Did I want to take him on, she asked. I was overwhelmed. Of course I would take him. I’ve named him “Sedgwick” after my favourite author Marcus Sedgwick and he will need quite a bit of training.

He is very small.

Tries to camouflage himself against my laptop. And is very inquisitive.

I thought he would be meat eater but he has a strange fascination with vegetables.

(I grew that pumpkin)

He has also made friends with the skinny dogs…..sort of.


Poor little Sedgwick! He was understandably rather frightened and flew off to the vegetables and hid in a cabbage.

Where eventually he went to sleep.

I think that part of his training should be to avoid cabbages as it would seem, given this video, Brassica can be fatal for dragons.

 Hopefully, Sedgwick will be well enough trained to leave the house in order to see the opening of the new exhibition at the end of October. I’ll keep you posted.

29 Faces in September; Scrumping Sprite

No, not the drink. I just couldn’t think of anything alliterative to go with “elf.”

Just as dusk fell this evening The Skinny Dogs grew restless. I let them out of the kitchen door and they sped off toward the bottom of the garden, barking with excitement. Fearing they were on the tail of a neighbourhood cat I followed. But no. They had disturbed this little creature who was scrumping from our apple tree.

He fled empty-handed but became Number 22 in my 29 Faces in September challenge.

(I’m not sure if it’s a universally used word, but scrumping means to steal apples or pears from an orchard. Usually a children’s past-time and it doesn’t count unless you’ve skinned your knees climbing over the orchard wall.)


Fact or fiction? You decide.

Dub Lovin’ at Druridge Bay

Today was my first VW event of the summer (I use the word summer loosely). It’s the third annual Mighty Dub Fest held at the very beautiful Druridge Bay in Northumberland. Not surprisingly it was very muddy under foot but I was wearing my knee-length Doc Martin’s and was invincible.

The very first stand we approached sold rustic wrought ironwork, but we had to scarper as Skinny Dog#1 ate the roast vegetables on the wrought iron kebab display. A few stalls along and Skinny Dog#2 squatted down in front of the pie and pickle stand causing a lot of “eews” and “urghs” from passers-by. So we high tailed out of the festival grounds to have a look at the vans in the camping area beside the lake.

We then felt brave enough to re-enter the festival as the dogs had by now shared a Northumbrian pie, snaffled scraps of food out of black bin liners and pooped for England around the lake. (please note we do collect the poo and dispose of it responsibly).

Probably because of the appalling weather not as many vans had turned up this year. So, the following photos are a mix from today and last years event. See if you can spot the difference.

This is Lulabelle, a van full of cakes…..scrummy!

A time for reflection.

Festival boots and paws.

 I talked about herbs in my van in a previous post……so here are todays fresh bunch; oregano, chives and thyme. Not that we did any cooking today.

And finally, the test of a British summer festival; mud proof footwear.

Not All Elves have Long Faces

As you will be aware, I have a fondness for elves, in particular the Urban Elf. They are far more common than many would imagine but to glimpse one takes time and patience. They are exceptionally fleet of foot when they want to be and are extremely camera-shy. However, I have discovered over time that the Urban Elf is not averse to being sketched, but you have to be quick. You can see some examples here.

This morning I headed down to our local park with the skinny dogs. It was a little after 8am and the air was cool and misty. After playing fetch until the dogs chests heaved and their panting resembled miniature steam trains, we walked across to the woods. We like this area. About an acre of land has been given over to nature, with a copse, and pond, currently teeming with tadpoles, and guaranteed interesting sniffing time (for the dogs that is). Children use this corner of the park as a shortcut to the local school so I took little notice of a child playing near the wildlife pond. She was crouched down at its edge, a stick in her hand, poking around in the shallows. So fully absorbed in her task she failed to notice us until the dogs launched themselves into the water for a paddle and drink. The child squealed sitting back onto her heels and her gaze fell directly upon me. Now it was my turn to be surprised. She had eyes as black as a raven’s wing, a sharpened chin and two delicately pointed ears knifing through tousled hair. I then noticed that her fingers, still wrapped tightly around the stick, were infeasibly long and bony. She leapt to her feet and fled into the cover of the trees with lightening speed. I waited but she didn’t return.

The skinny dogs were somewhat put out to be clipped onto their leads but I had to hurry home so that I could sketch her likeness as faithfully as my memory would allow. However, she has answered a question I have long been asking. Do all elves have long faces? The answer is clearly no, they do not.

Fact or fiction? You decide.