Thursday, March 31, 2005

Little things that you say

You overhear some odd conversations in queues – well I do anyway. Today I was standing in front of two young chaps (“ooh, Young Maaaan!”) who were moaning about what computerish things they had to do for their respective girlfriends’ families. One smugly recounted that when his GF dumped him he rubbished up her dad’s website that he’d been doing, while the other explained how he was conning his GF’s mother. Apparently he tells her what hardware and stuff’s needed, she gives him the money and he buys cheaper stuff instead, pocketing the difference (“She doesn’t need top stuff, but I’m not telling her that.”). What complete shits these two were.

This afternoon I heard Terri Schiavo has died in America. I’m not a believer in ‘Life at all costs’, but the way she was killed was inhumane. The deliberate withdrawal of the means of survival is killing, in any definition of the word. But to purposefully watch a creature starve and dehydrate to death is not the action of a civilised person, especially not when there are more humane methods of destruction available. If there’s no legal method of killing something which is humane then I don’t believe that makes an inhumane method acceptable instead. Mass murderers in the US can be given a lethal injection which kills them in minutes. What appalling crime had this poor woman committed, that justified her being tortured for two weeks? Surely not merely that it had become too expensive to keep her alive? That would be unforgivable.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Diddly dum, diddly dum, WOOOO-oooo

Hooray! Doctor Who's back! And it's looking very promising. I've never quite been reconciled with shop-window dummies since their last storyline (early 70s?), so tonight's introductory episode reinforced that particular heebie-jeebie. But now I can add wheelie bins to the list of spooks. Happy days! :)

Step stats: only 14,698 so far today.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Your mother warned you there'd be days like these

Today I have mostly been walking - or at least that's what my feet are telling me. After I took the dogs out this morning I had to go into Leamington (funny how there were so many parking spaces where I usually have to hunt on a working day, but I needed to go to the top of the town today) to assess a dog for rehoming. Trying to get an overview of of a dog with problems and deciding how serious they are isn't an easy task. This particular dog's main problem seems to stem from poor socialisation and ill-treatment from before he was picked up as a stray some years ago and rehomed through a national organisation, and has left him wary of men and definitely dog-aggressive. His aggression coupled with total lack of recall means that his owner's afraid to let him off the lead, which in turn makes him hyper with pent-up energy, which makes him pull on the lead and makes walks a misery ... Catch 22. The problem's come to a head because the owner's teenage son, who used to do most of the walking, is now confined to a wheelchair following an accident, so the living-room is being converted to a bedroom for him, and the poor woman is at her wits' end. I do hope we can help them.

After that, and walking my dogs again, instead of test-driving a car (the jammed central locking still won't let anyone get in), we did three canalside caches as the weather was so lovely. My pedometer (FTF reward last weekend - thanks Wombles!) tells me I've done over 16,000 steps today.

Favourite current single: McFly's "All About You".

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Food, glorious food

The Boy and I watched some of the recent TV series by Jamie Oliver and we were both aghast at the vile muck that these poor children were being served for their school dinner. The more we watched the more we were horrified at what was revealed. In ‘the olden days’, at my schools anyway, the dinners were cooked on the premises and served at tables seating about 14 children. There was a teacher, prefect or monitor at the head of the table, who served the meal in either regular or small (if it was something you disliked) portions onto china plates which were then passed down the table until everyone was served. Vegetables were in large dishes on the table and people helped themselves to those. To drink there were large jugs of water. When all the people on the table had eaten their main course the plates were collected and taken back to the kitchen, and the pudding collected. Again, this was served out at the table. There was no choice of menu – we did have one diabetic girl at school who was supplied with an alternative pudding if what regular one was unsuitable, but vegetarianism was almost unheard of – very hippy, and no allowance was made for whims. There was also a ‘top table’ where the rest of the staff ate. And yes, they ate exactly the same meal as the children.

Which is why I was so appalled at the state of modern school dinners. Nutritionally unbalanced portions of junk food are splodged onto plastic airline-style ‘plates’, main course and pudding at the same time, so by the time a child has finished their main course the pudding’s gone cold. But what a vile-looking main course! There seems to be a choice of deep-fried mechanically recovered reformed animal by-product and chips, or pizza and chips, with cans of pop to drink. Table manners have gone out of the window, with children eating with their fingers.

So Jamie Oliver decided to see what he could do to change this. Do you know, lots of these London children didn’t recognise what vegetables they were being shown? One thought rhubarb was an onion; another that a leek was a potato. They haven’t a clue – because their mothers don’t cook properly either. One mother admitted her child’s evening meal was a packet of crisps, a Kitkat and a can of Coke. So junk at home as well. A doctor from the local hospital was interviewed and said that they often have children brought in with severe constipation because they eat so little fibre. Some haven’t had a poo for six weeks; and when they puke their vomit contains faecal matter, they’re so bunged up. It’s reckoned that these children have a shorter life expectancy than their parents – the first reversal of the steady improvements that have been made over the centuries.

It was an uphill struggle for Jamie. The dinner ladies didn’t know how to cook, and they didn’t have proper equipment anyway, because education authority policy had dictated that meals should be centrally cooked, transported to schools and merely reheated on the premises. Many of the children were too afraid to even taste the food which was prepared because they’d never seen anything as exotic as spaghetti bolognaise or mild chicken curry with rice. One small boy was too scared to sample a fresh strawberry.

But they took the bull by the horns, banned the junk food entirely and struggled on for a month, all the while fighting not only the children's horror but also the education authority's refusal to pay the dinner ladies any overtime for the extra hours they were putting in. However, after the month was up, the teachers had noticed a marked improvement in the children's behaviour, especially their concentration after lunch, and, even more tellingly, the school nurse said that none of the asthmatic children need to use their inhalers any more ...

I could go on and on and on, because I was so shocked and appalled at what I saw on that TV series. They say ‘you are what you eat’. I do hope not, because that’s writing off a whole generation as being junk. And this is the generation that will be earning the money to pay our pensions, and the people that will be looking after us oldies when we’re decrepit; some of them will be making our laws. Selfishly I’d like to think they were healthy and strong enough to do this. It's not often I feel strongly enough about a subject to sign a petition, but I do about this one. Please, back this campaign. Your children's health is at stake.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Time after time

Dorothy sighed as she put down the TV remote and slowly got to her feet. What a Godsend those contraptions were for the arthritic “And the lazy!” she chuckled to herself; having to struggle over to the television every time she wanted to change channel had long since meant far too much pain and effort, so she’d either had to tolerate watching a load of rubbish that she really didn’t want to see, or to turn the dratted thing off altogether. But her grandchildren had clubbed together and bought her a very swish, up-to-date model with all the latest ‘must-have’ features, a remote control thingy being the most important. Now she had the opportunity to make those smug, arrogant know-alls on Question Time dance to her tune – do they realise how silly they look, ranting away with the sound off? she wondered. She really should get around to discovering what the all the other buttons do. Maybe tomorrow though. Not tonight.

Slowly she made her way into the kitchen, putting up the fireguard and turning out the sitting-room light as she left the room. A nice cup of Horlicks would be just the thing to sip in bed as she read a few more chapters of her library book. It wasn’t a very good story – absolute twaddle, if truth be told – but it was entertaining twaddle, and helped pass the time.

She took a bottle of milk from the fridge and poured some into a mug. A minute in the microwave, stir in a spoonful of Horlicks from the jar and it was ready. So much easier than having to make sure the milk didn’t boil over in the pan, and then having to wash the pan afterwards before the leftover milk welded itself to the inside. Taken as a whole, she thought, the changes she’d seen over her life had generally been improvements over ‘the good old days’. What couldn’t she have done in her life if she’d had today’s opportunities when she was a girl?

She turned off the kitchen light and took her drink upstairs to bed, taking care not to slop any on the carpet – now that her hands were so arthritic it was difficult to hold a cup steadily. With the mug safely, and unspilled, on her bedside table she got herself ready for bed. It was a bit disappointing to have to put some teeth in water at night, but as she ran her tongue over the gummy gaps between her teeth, she consoled herself that she still had more of her own teeth than most people her age. The hearing aid has come as a bit of a shock too; at first she’d thought people were just mumbling and talking quietly, but when it became obvious that nobody else seemed to have any trouble keeping up with conversations she’d visited the doctor who’d got her sorted out and back in the world of the hearing once more. It did have the advantage that she could turn it off at any time and have a bit of peace and quiet – like now, as she took it out of her ear and settled down with her book and started to read.

Gracious! It was two o’clock already. Although she hadn’t slept well for years she usually tried to turn the light out before it got too far into the next morning. It’d start getting light soon, which always disturbed her sleep, and she still liked to hear the birds in the bushes outside her window starting to twitter in the grey light before dawn. It was more trouble now that she had to put the aid back in her ears to enjoy their chorus, but usually it was worth it – especially if the blackbird was around. So carefully she put the marker in her book and put it on the bedside table. She had a sip of water from her glass, switched off the lamp and settled down to sleep.

Dorothy had always loved the floaty feeling that happens when a person’s between sleeping and waking; she imagined it was like those ‘out-of-body’ experiences she’d read about where people could travel freely through space and time. Just recently she’d thought she was starting to be able to control where her thoughts drifted without being jerked back to wakefulness by the realisation of what was happening.

She opened her eyes and found herself floating through swirling coloured clouds, rather like those extraordinary photos taken by the Hubble telescope of infinitely distant places like the Swan nebula, with towering mountains of gas lit by innumerable suns. This was a very strange feeling – Dorothy was sure she was moving, and moving very fast at that, but there was no sensation of wind on her skin. And if she rolled over she still felt as though she was the right way up. She stretched her limbs and luxuriated in the absence of pain. This was marvellous! The freedom of movement reminded her of when she was a young girl! She could roll and tumble like a dolphin, without having to worry about coming up for air.

Air. That was a strange thing. She couldn’t remember when she last took a breath, but it didn’t seem to matter at the moment. This was a wonderful dream! It would be a shame to wake up.

However, gradually she started to become aware of the passage of time. Her surroundings were changing. She felt … different, somehow. Less free, more … confined. Now she could feel her skin again, and the rolling became more of an effort. There was definitely an up and a down now, too. There were strange noises, too – but how could that be when she wasn’t wearing her … whatever she used to have in her … ear, that was it … oh never mind. She kicked out a bit, and now her feet met soft resistance. It was odd how she now didn’t seem able to stretch out as she wanted to, and she started to fidget, but it didn’t seem to help any more. She frowned, curled up a bit tighter and ran her tongue over her gums. Somehow it didn’t seem to matter that there were no teeth there.

It was nearly time to be born.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


You'll be pleased (yes you will) to learn that I slept very much better last night. In fact when the alarm went off at 7 o'clock I felt well enough to get out of bed and head for the bathroom for my ablutions before donning the work-clothes I'd left ready on the radiator the night before.

Just before I left the room Boggy-on-the-radio said it was Thursday the 17th of March. That puzzled me. Why was I awake and getting ready to go to work? I don't go to work on Thursdays.

I went back to bed for half an hour.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Hello darkness, my old friend

Isn’t a night a long time when you’re awake through it? It was very strange – I was fine for the first few hours, sometimes managing to nearly drift off, but at 2am the worries started – what had I got to do in the morning? If we buy the car we’re looking at what’s the best way to transfer funds to finance it? Where are the student loan forms I’ve got to fill in? And suchlike thoughts. So I firmly put them to one side as being silly at that time, and settled down again. But at 3am the demons hit. All the vile things that happen on the news were re-enacted in my head; all the deliberate cruelties and tortures of living things by Man, and wartime atrocities. Not conducive to restful sleep. It was about 4am before I finally managed to doze off, so when the alarm went off at 7am I wasn’t really ready to wake up, and I haven’t properly caught up all day. So I’m amazed that it only took me 2 hours to uninstall and reinstall the computer’s anti-virus software which had decided not to run any more. Blimey, that’s complicated - almost as complicated as the Student Loan application form is turning out to be. I’m getting in such a muddle. Time for a cup of cocoa liberally laced with paracetamol.

PS. Our pond is full of froggies giving each other sepcial cuddles and making lots of tapioca.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases

On Thursday night I bathed Harry, cleaned his teeth and dremelled his nails so that he was nice and clean and sparkly for his stint at Discover Dogs at Crufts. It’s always a bit of a worry how he’s going to behave – one nightmare year there had been an in-season bitch around somewhere and he got An Idea in his head, which wouldn’t be shifted, no matter how sternly I spoke to him. Anything, luckily only on four legs, showed potential, and his sister got extremely miffed with him. This year he was on the stand with a ‘stranger’ bitch, and my heart was in my mouth when they met. But he was completely calm and very well behaved, which made the whole time a lot less fraught.

I was a little taken aback when chatting to the visitors and answering their questions when a voice said “Can you tell me about dalmatians?” and a large microphone was thrust into my face. My immediate response was to say “Eeek!” and step backwards, unfortunately onto Harry’s foot, so he squealed and mayhem ensued for a brief while till he calmed down again. Flipping ‘Crufts FM’ – I could have done without them, but it seemed to go all right, and the other club members said I did very well, not over-selling the breed. Too many people think they’re a fashion-statement rather than a very active dog which’ll cover you with hair.

But it was very crowded even on Friday (though better than at the weekend), and I didn’t get to see the things I wanted to. I was interested in seeing the Lagottos, but the effort of negotiating the crowds with Harry and an awkward bag rather put the kibosh on that. I’d also wanted to find a stall where I could get a plain ordinary rolled leather collar and lead, as Harry’s hasn’t been the same since he ate the handle of the lead, and the D-ring of the collar’s coming loose. Could I find one? Not likely. Pink leads, diamante collars, show leads by the zillion, rope slip-leads a-plenty, but ordinary workaday stuff? No chance.

So I came home, along with the flu-bug I picked up there and which has laid me low since. Wonderful.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I was feeling insecure

I’m feeling rather snippy at the moment, so I apologise if I snap at people and over-react to stuff. I think it comes from seeing my mother looking so sad, and noticing how frail she’s become in the weeks since I last saw her. I suppose it’s brought it home to me that Anno Domini catches up with all of us, and that it’s probably getting close to the time when I lose her forever. And it’s frightened me.

So I’m sorry, and I’ll bugger off for a while till my defences are up again and I’m not perceiving slights where I’m sure none are intended.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Gee but it's great to be back home

I’m so glad I was able to get down to the Deep South and visit my mum, especially for Mothering Sunday. The only real problem on the M25 was the roadworks around Heathrow, where there was a 40mph speed limit, and almost no traffic (yes, really, even today!), which made crawling along with all that open road ahead unbelievably tedious and frustrating. The surface around the junction with the M23 was slightly off-putting because they’d been very enthusiastic with the salt, leaving the road entirely white. Unfortunately this had the side-effect of making the lane markings completely invisible.

It was a great relief to me that I was with her when the vet phoned to say that Tim’s ashes were ready for collection. Her sister, who’s not a ‘pet’ person, would have thrown a wobbly at the very thought, and refused to have such a thing in her car, so mum would have had to get a taxi to bring him home. But I’ve been to collect dogs’ ashes in the past (we still have Bella and Polly in their caskets on a shelf because we haven’t yet decided what to do with them) and I know how upsetting it is. We were able to have a hug and a little weep together, which I think helped Mother. So many people scorn you for mourning what they see as ‘only an animal’, which is incredibly hurtful. Some are even so callous as to say that ‘you can always get another one’, which is unspeakably unkind. Anyway, Tim’s home again, and Mother knows there’s no rush for her to decide what to do with the ashes. I’ve agreed with her that if she dies before she’s decided, then I’ll put them in her box with her, although I’d have to be discreet because the vicar might get arsy.

But it's good to be back home again.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

What would I do without you?

This morning we managed to turn what could so easily have been a disaster into, if not a triumph exactly, at least a worthwhile exercise. Some weeks ago the Boy had a letter from Uni asking him to confirm his offer of a place by the end of April (still time!) and to invite him and us to a ‘Family Day’ at the site. This was to be held on March 5th. So we made a note of the date on the calendar, pinned the letter to the board and put it to the back of our minds. Yesterday evening I asked him his plans for the weekend, and gently reminded him about the Uni date.

Boy: “Ooo yes, well remembered Mum!”
Me: “What time is it, and where do we go?”
Boy: “Dunno. ‘Spect it’s on the letter.”

So I go and get the letter and have a read ... and pop upstairs again.

Me: “Have you actually read this letter?”
Boy: “Yes”
Me: “All of it?”
Boy: “Durr, yes of course.” *rolls eyes*
Me: “Including the bit about having to book by March 1st?”

Long pause as Boy snatches letter and reads it.

Boy: “Where does it say that?”
Me: “On the other side of the paper.”

Another long pause.

Boy: ”But that’s stupid! Nobody reads the other side of pages. How can they expect me to look there?”

The future of the nation isn’t looking bright if turning a page is too technical. Especially for a prospective engineer. Anyway, we went, and discovered that, as I’d suspected, it wasn’t actually that formal and it didn’t really matter that we hadn’t booked. What’s more it was interesting and we learned some useful info about scholarships and applying for loans and all that sort of stuff. Which is good.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The nearer your destination

I hope the snow in the south-east clears soon, because I want to go and visit my mother at the weekend (not only because it’s Mothering Sunday, but because I love her and I’m worried about her), and it’s not looking promising. We’re all phoning her every day to prevent her losing her power of speech through lack of use, but I’m sure she’d like physical company too. She’s seeing ghosts again, which means she’s lonely. She saw my father very clearly, but he dematerialised before she could speak to him. I wish we lived nearer each other.

Changing the subject, isn’t Wikipedia fun? I’ve had a lovely time correcting typos.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Things are never quite the way they seem

Count them! Posted by Hello

You would never have thought dalmatians are particularly well camouflaged, would you? When they stand still in patchy snow they disappear - Piglet especially.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Let's be friends

I laughed out loud at work when I found this. I think I got away with it though.

PS: Ooh! Yesterday was my blogiversary. And I got a letter saying that I'd won a prize (4 bottles of wine)! So that was nice. :)