Tuesday, May 31, 2005

We are family

And then there were five Posted by Hello

And we can all squint at the camera and look really silly.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Good day, sunshine

This morning we returned to Burton Dassett and found yesterday’s elusive cache instantly. Yes, I had picked up the container without realising – very very cleverly hidden! Blindingly obvious yet incredibly subtle. Excellent! So we liberated both Travel Bugs and took them to a couple of other caches a few miles away. Usually we’d only take one, but this cache hadn’t been found since February – I’m sure their owners will be happy that they’re on the move again. One cache which received a TB contained a pirate’s eyepatch, which of course had to be liberated!

After walking the dogs we visited several pet shops and eventually managed to get a new lead for Millie, very similar to her old one. Then, having recently joined the National Trust (so we can park for free in Cornwall – yes, I’m not sure of the logic either) we popped over to Charlecote Park just before the teashop closed; verdict: not bad at all. We must have a look round the house some time. I'm still wondering why the guide in the Victorian kitchen, who we asked for directions, was wearing a pirate's hat ...

Sunday, May 29, 2005

It's good to touch the green green grass

Because Millie can’t do much tarmac walking without making her toe really sore, we decided to take her to the local country park and see if we could finish off a multi-cache we’d started some weeks ago. To keep the other dogs happy I took them to the fields for a gallop so they’d be content to wait at home while we went out in the car. We got Millie’s lead on, loaded her into the back of the car and she settled down as good as gold. There was a bit of rustling, and paper-tearing and chewing noises, but we thought nothing of it, until we’d parked and went to get her out. She’d chewed the handle off her lead. Oops! Into the petshop tomorrow to buy a replacement! Luckily we’d taken the extending lead as well, so she still got her walk - a couple of miles up and down hill. She's a bit stiff now - oops again! (And no, despite getting stung to mongoosery we didn’t find the cache.)

Edit: Since logging the DNF we had an email from the cache owner giving a further hint. Would you Adam and Eve it, I actually picked up the damned thing without twigging? Tchoh! Amatuer! Guess where we'll be tomorrow.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Sweet as sugar candy

We've got Millie staying with us again - this time for real! Her family are going abroad for a week, so if anything goes wrong there's nobody to rescue her - or us! But so far (all of 3 hours in ;)) it's going great. When they arrived she dragged her 'mum' to get into the house, wagging her tail and pleased to see all of us. She sniffed at Clover's nose - who she'd immediately attacked last time - Clover curled her lip and Millie immediately backed off. So hopefully they've got their relative positions sorted ... Millie at the bottom! They all seemed to reassume the positions they had when she stayed the first time. And now she's feeling brave enough to start playing a little bit with the others. She is a poppet. She has a very sweet old-fashioned look about her; if she hadn't damaged her leg so badly when she was younger and could have had the proper amount of exercise I think she'd have done pretty well. Her front assembly, even though it's under too much fat, is well made, and that's quite a failing in a lot of the breed.

Anyway, I'm sure with more exercise playing with the rest of them, and coming on longer walks (not on tarmac as it makes her foot bleed) we can shift a little of her weight. I wonder if dabbing her pads with surgical spirit will harden them enough to make roadwork more viable? However, what's important is that they all get along in the house, and that's looking good so far. I think (crossing fingers and not trying to tempt fate) this might work ...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Please tell me who I am

Today on the radio they were going on about ID cards. I didn’t hear all of it (probably due to my shouting at the asinine dorks spouting drivel) but we listeners were assured that if compulsory ID cards are brought in then the level of crime will tumble. Now perhaps I’m being particularly dim today, but I’m not sure how they’re going to make us all safer. Perhaps they’re magic cards where, if you have one in your pocket, you become physically unable to burgle someone’s house?

Honestly, they must think we were all born yesterday! How are these cards even going to make crime-solving any easier? Unless a mugger drops his ID card (maybe even his real one, not one of the many fakes that’ll be hot off the presses in an instant) at his victim’s feet it’s going to be no easier to trace him and pin the evidence on him than it is now. (Actually, it’d be quite easy to pin an ID card on someone, but they’d probably squeal a bit. Perhaps not such a bad idea.) The terrorists who flew the planes on September 11th had ID, and it didn’t seem to stop them committing crimes. Visitors to the country who intend to stay for less than three months won’t need one, by the way. That lets all the suicide bombers off the hook then.

We were also assured that they’re very quick to produce, only taking 45 minutes. Hang on, there are 60 million of us living here (officially) or thereabouts, aren’t there Elly? At 45 minutes per card it’ll take over 5000 years to make them all. By the time mine arrived it’d no doubt need renewing because I bet my photo would be out of date. It's worth remembering that all 60 million are going to be wanted within a very short space of time, unlike passports which are done to order as and when. If the entire population needed a new passport within 6 months there'd be terrible production problems!

(And apparently one of the problems with the trial sample is that if you develop a cataract the iris recognition system rejects you ... )

What I mainly object to is the fact that they intend to make us pay for something compulsory. I’ve got no real objections to carrying yet another card - they were compulsory during the war after all - but with all the other ones I have it’s my own choice. If I don’t want them I don’t have to have them, and I certainly don’t need to carry them at all times. But these ID cards are going to cost us £93 each and I assume will need regular updating because they’ll have photographs on them. It's compulsory to have a birth certificate, so you're issued with one for free. We're all issued with a card with our compulsory NI number - for free. If ID cards are to be compulsory (and you won't be able to get a passport - to be paid for as well - without one) then they must be free as well. I don't mind paying for a passport (even though they're not your property; they always belong to the Crown) because that's voluntary - nobody's forced to go abroad. If I’m going to be forced to carry something at all times I’m damned if I’m going to pay for the privilege.

PS: Update from yesterday; my friend contacted the NSPCC who told her that telling the school should have set in motion a chain of events that would draw in Social Services and the police, that writing a formal letter to back it up is exactly the right thing to do, and to request a formal written response on what measures are being taken in consequence to safeguard all the children from a repeat of this. That way it can’t be swept under the carpet, which has got to be good for all concerned.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Keep your head together

A bit of a tricky day today, trying to give sensible advice to a friend whose five-year-old son is having problems at school with one of the boys in his class. This other child is older but has special needs, so is in the reception class. Apparently he’s been taking my friend’s son into the toilets, pulling down his pants and behaving ‘inappropriately’. (I confess I had to chuckle when the Freudian phrase 'never regions' was mentioned!) We decided last night that the best course of action was to see the class teacher and the headmaster and write a formal letter to the school governors; this morning my friend learned that this boy was excluded from his previous school for the same sort of behaviour. At seven years of age.

Something is very wrong – how has this child learned this sort of thing? He needs help PDQ – should my friend contact Social Services or ask the police for advice in case this boy’s being abused at home?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Because time - it waits for nobody

This is very disappointing, you know. Somewhere along the line I’ve lost my stamina, because I’m still not firing on all cylinders after Saturday night. This is very, very wrong. I’ll be reduced to indulging in a cup of cocoa and a gentle novel before turning in at 9.30 before long. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

PS. I forgot to say, there was one thing yesterday that made me feel about 6 years old rather than 60. We watched the Dr Who we'd taped from Saturday, and it was fantastic!! I've not been so spooked since the Cybermen were on the rampage way back. The sentence "Are you my mummy?" is now one of the most spine-chilling in the language. I can't wait for the final part this weekend! If you're waiting for it in Amerikaland, it's the story called 'The Empty Child'.

*moves sofa away from the wall in readiness*

Sunday, May 22, 2005

If you really mean it, it all comes round again

The Fairport Convention gig last night was fab! A bit of irresistible piratical nonsense occurred before we went in (Om has the pics), and the only downer was that the management wouldn’t allow the Boy’s girlfriend in because she’s under 18, and by the time Ned got it sorted she’d gone home. It was a very small, intimate affair – Cox’s Yard is only licenced for a maximum audience of 200, and I reckon there was roughly 150 there – so there was room for me to jig about, though I tried not to get too enthusiastic. Lorry and I were ‘shushed’ at one point (I’m sure it wasn’t just me!) which made us giggle. Mal and Lorry were stalking the mandolin-player who looked incredibly like Stu with long hair, though when we found pics of the guy on Google to show to Stu neither he nor Sarah could see a likeness, but what do they know about such things?

We all tried to dodge the raindrops as we headed back to the car afterwards, and Lorry and I carefully held the handrail of the dark, wet, slippery steps to the carpark and convulsed with giggles when Lorry found that the rail she was pinning her faith on wasn’t actually attached to anything at the other end. Ned, Mally and the Boy steadfastly refused to look back and see what was going on – maybe they thought they’d be turned into Lots of Wives, or something. (Biblical allusion, in case you hadn't realised.)

It was after we got home that the Great Mistake (on my part) was made – I wasn’t sensible like Lorry and I didn’t go to bed as early as I should have. Instead I stayed up chatting to Ned and Mal and before we knew it, it was half past three in the morning. When the alarm went off at half past seven I didn’t feel at all rested so Ned, who wasn’t as hungover tired as I was got up and managed the morning routine as I dozed till I felt able to surface. Sort of. Today has been a bit of a write-off, really. An early night is called for tonight, I think.

A big thank you to Mal and Lorry for coming up – we had a lovely time. :)

Friday, May 20, 2005

How much is that Doggie in the window?

I’ve managed to buy another copy to add to my growing collection of Observers’ Books of Dogs. I now have copies from 1987, 1979, 1973, 1967 and 1964. I’m not sure how many editions there were in all, but it was first published in 1945. I’ve been having a look on the net and the ones from 1957 seem to be going for about £20. Blimey! I’m not going to pay that much – I’m sure if I look around I’ll eventually get them all, and at a more reasonable price.

The older editions are fascinating, showing how the breeds have altered over the years. The main differences seem to be purely cosmetic, with coats being much more profuse and glamorous; however they aren’t necessarily practical for the breeds’ original purpose. Bearded Collies, for example, now have long, straight coats which often have a parting down the centre of the back, which would be disastrous for a decent working dog. Rather than being weatherproof, any rain will get straight to the skin – a stormy day’s work rounding up sheep in the hill country where the breed was developed would leave a dog seriously chilled and not able to do its job properly. Some of the breeds in the earlier editions seem to have disappeared entirely, while other varieties, rare at the time, are now quite commonplace.

The later editions are re-written/edited by Catherine Sutton, but the earlier ones were the work of Clifford (known as ‘Doggie’) Hubbard, who I had the pleasure of meeting on his bookstall at the Championship shows. And it was indeed a pleasure to talk to him – he was a delightful man with a shock of white hair and an enormous stock of anecdotes; I once nearly missed my class listening to him recounting how as a boy he did a ‘Dick Whittington’ and walked from his home in Bath (though he was born in Wales) to London to look for work, sleeping in haystacks (and once on top of the ovens in a bakery – cosy!) as he had no money to spare for accommodation. The show scene lost one of its most knowledgeable and more colourful characters when he died.

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Boy! Crikey, that's come around quickly.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

It's apropos of nothing

Thought for today: LeAnn Rimes.

No, it doesn’t.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

If you know what I mean

I have a new game! Yesterday I put a site monitor (see how casually I slipped in that technermological achievement? No mention that it took me over an hour. Some of the time it works) onto the blog because I was curious to see who found me and where they came from. The further into the bowels of the system you click the more details it provides. One visitor arrived (and disappeared again in less than a second) via Google, and it showed what his keywords had been. I was surprised to discover that if you type in
Odd parents biscuits
this blog is top of the list! I wonder what he was really looking for?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Hey, good lookin'

Well, there I was at work, busily trying to think up questions for the trivia database, when I hit upon the idea of basic history (though what I consider basic may actually be fairly advanced if what I read in the newspaper’s true). So I bashed out a few about Romans then started working my way through history. The Princes in the Tower and the Wars of the Roses were quite productive, as was the Mary Rose and then the Civil War, Commonwealth and Restoration. Then came the Jacobite Rebellions. Searching reputable sites for accurate details such as dates, correct spellings etc, I came across this page. My colleegwees were startled when I let out a squeal of astonishment. Some of you might recognise the handsome throat-slitting chap on the left of the picture.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Where do you go to, my lovely?

I must have aged by about 10 years at lunchtime. The dogs were helping me bring the shopping in from the car so when I’d got all the bags in the house I called them in from the front garden and pushed the door shut. It took a while to put the shopping away, having to remove interested heads from the bags, and put the frozen stuff into the freezer before it became toxic. Then I made a cup of coffee and had a stroll around the garden making a note of all the things that I should have been doing. Then it was one o’clock and time for the dogs’ biscuits, so I got the Bonios out of the cupboard and called the hounds. Only three turned up – no Clover. Assuming she was deeply asleep on a chair I gave the others their lunch and went to find her. And I couldn’t find her anywhere. She wasn’t in the house so I searched the garden. She wasn’t there either. This was when I realised what must have happened. When I shut the front door she must still have been outside. So I opened the door to let her in. She wasn’t there.

This was when I started to panic. Clover’s getting on a bit and has poor sight so she gets lost easily. I knew she wouldn’t have gone far, but in which direction should I look? There was no sign of her up or down the road as I ran past all the neighbours’ houses looking in their front gardens. No sign. So I ran back and into the village where we go for walks, in case she’d taken herself off. No sign. Getting distraught by now I ran back and up the road to the fields, calling her. Nothing. As I ran back yet again a neighbour drove home, said she’d put her dog in and help me look. She quickly came back out saying that Clover had been in to visit her semi-disabled husband (in the back door, pottered around their kitchen, out into the back garden for a sniff then wandered out again) who waited for me to go past with the others and pick her up. When I didn’t he made a note of which way she’d gone and tried to find my phone number.

So at least we knew she’d gone towards the fields instead of into the village. Off I ran again, calling her and feeling increasing desperate. What if someone had stopped their car and taken her? Although tattooed she wasn’t wearing her collar – I might never get her back. Then Di called me. Clover had emerged from another back garden and was pottering homewards. She called Clover’s name, who stopped still in surprise, not being able to see anyone in the bright sunshine, and as I ran towards her I couldn’t stop myself bursting into tears of relief. Three-quarters of an hour of hell, and she’d been about 100 yards away. No matter. My lovely old girl was safe.

Those ants that invaded my pants; finis

Ooh, it appears we’ve been tagged. I wonder what that means? It appears to be something about fillums and chain lettery type stuff. Oh well, seems harmless – but tricky because we don’t really ‘do’ fillums – and we don’t have many friends either! Oh well, here goes:

1. Total number of films we own on DVD: none.
2. The last film we bought: never bought one.
3. The last film we watched: About A Boy (cos it was on TV)
4. Five films that we watch a lot: Difficult. Like I said, we don't ‘do’ films. ‘Some films that we’ve watched more than once will have to suffice!:

The Italian Job
Brief Encounter

Erm ... that's all folks!

Tagged in return: Elly, Miss Sixty, Mrs Mort, Henry, Aoj (who for some reason won't enlinkify).

Friday, May 13, 2005

To wander in the fear of a never-ending lie

How very strange. I thought I’d read that when you had a Blogger account that name was always yours and nobody else could use it. But when I clicked on the link to Morty's blog from Scotters' blog I did indeed get taken to Mort’s old Sam Vimes blogname, but now it seems to belong to someone called James T. Mortling, is there something you haven't told us? And Scotty, you might like to update your linkification!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I got a brain in left hand drive

A long one today, sparked off by an interesting chatroom discussion the other day, which made it clear to me how the same technical term can vary from one application to another. We were discussing the basic principles of animal breeding, and how, in cats the term ‘out-cross’ means crossing two pure breeds, whereas in dogs the same term means mating two unrelated animals of the same breed. That lead onto a discussion about breeding and genetics in general, but as it was late at night there simply wasn’t time to explain it properly.

There was a lot of confusion about ‘in-breeding’ and ‘line-breeding’, with some expressing the view that these are wrong. However, people who are experienced in the practical aspects of breeding animals as well as having qualifications as geneticists explain it thus:

In-breeding is where the mating involves close relatives, such as grand-father to grand-daughter, half-brother to half-sister. This system will quickly ‘fix’ good points in the resultant offspring, and will also expose any major faults carried in the family line. It cannot create problems which aren’t already there - it can only bring them to light, which, if you’re concerned in trying to eradicate hereditary problems and breeding only healthy stock is a definite benefit to the breed as a whole. It can be used with great success, but only if the parent animals are of better-than-average quality to start with, and the breeder is knowledgeable enough to recognise when to stop. It’s certainly not a system that should be used without careful thought and planning, and a wealth of knowledge about all the animals in the pedigree, not just as names, but as individuals. This is the form of ‘marriage’ which, if it involved humans, would be forbidden by the Church.

Line-breeding involves using animals with common ancestors in their pedigrees three or four generations back, and is used by the majority of dog breeders. It helps ‘fix’ characteristics at a slower rate than in-breeding, but there’s less chance of potentially serious problems coming to light. They’ll still be lurking in the woodwork, though. If applied to humans, this marriage would be perfectly legal.

Out-crossing uses animals from totally different families. Offspring produced by this system will vary tremendously, and although the occasional super example will be produced, the vast majority will be mediocre at best. A carefully chosen out-cross is used every few generations to bring a new quality into a family, and then two or three generations of line-breeding will try to fix the good points and eradicate the bad ones that will inevitably have been introduced at the same time.

Providing the parents and grandparents are healthy (research, research!) basically the system that is most likely to produce the healthiest offspring is line-breeding. Out-crossing is a complete gamble. Also gene mutation is completely random and shouldn’t be associated with any particular breeding system. Indeed, a mutation is as likely to be of benefit to the species as otherwise.

In the effort to breed healthy pets for people to enjoy sharing their lives with, it’s vital to only breed from animals who aren’t carrying serious conditions. Where possible you make the most of the screening tests (BAER, hip-scoring, elbow-scoring, ophthalmic tests etc) while DNA tests are slowly being developed. In-breeding is one of the tools that, in the absence of laboratory tests, can be used to bring to light hidden conditions. When you know they’re there you can start to do something about them. If you deliberately avoid discovering them then all you’re doing is disseminating them to spread more widely in the population. And not just the ‘pedigree’ population.

Of course, the ultimate gamble, both looks- and health-wise, is a mongrel. Everyone knows that various breeds usually have a tendency to suffer from hereditary conditions – just like people do. What a lot of people forget is that crossbreeds and mongrels frequently suffer from the same hereditary diseases. Just because the parents are of different breeds it doesn’t mean all the ‘bad’ genes are instantly removed. Each parent passes 50% of their genes to their offspring, whatever breed they’re mated to. If a Labrador with dodgy hips mates with a German Shepherd with dodgy hips then the resulting pups are just as likely to have dodgy hips as if both parents had been mated to their own breed. The people who tell you that mongrels are healthier simply aren’t telling the truth. So if you choose a crossbreed (the offspring of two different pure breeds) or mongrel (where more than three breeds are involved in the first generation of the ancestry) - and there’s no denying they can be delightful animals - you really need to know the breeds which have gone into making them. But as many mongrels are the result of irresponsible owners allowing their pets to roam as the mood takes them the pups could be carrying absolutely anything in their genes – undoubtedly something from all the breeds that have gone into their make-up – and could be a timebomb. There again, they could have got lucky. What’s certain is that their parents won’t have been screened for genetic conditions, which is something responsible breeders do.

Don’t forget, the ultimate aim of the game is to produce animals which are most likely to live long, happy, healthy lives – not just take a chance. Reputable breeders do this by trying to identify carriers of hereditary conditions and remove them from the gene pool, leaving only those who are clear of the various conditions.

If anyone’s bothered to read through to the end of this, and is remotely interested in the subject, this and this may be of interest. I suggest they also read the works on genetics, both practical and theoretical, by Dr Malcolm Willis BSc, PhD. He can explain it so much better than I can!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

It ain't what you say, it's the way that you say it

Today I hurt my chin. You’ll recall I was advised to phone local boarding kennels to find out what they charge and ask half that for looking after Millie. Today, being a day off, I decided to do just that, and got out the phone book. Gosh, it’s quite expensive, isn’t it? I called a few of local ones first; the first one didn’t answer; the second charges £12/dog/day; the other £9.50 + VAT/dog/day. Then I called one that’s further away but sounds quite upmarket – from the advert it’s the sort of place I’d consider for my lot. They do indeed sound lovely and charge £10/dog/day. Then I tried the first one again, and the conversation went like this:

Me: “Good afternoon! I was wondering how much you charge to board a medium-sized dog?”
Him: “What time of year, duck?”
“Errm - early June.”
“What sort of dog? Is it a crossbreed?”
“No, it’s a Dalmatian.”
“We don’t take Dalmatians. Goodbye.”
With that he slammed the phone down.

My chin? I think it got bruised when it hit the floor.

Monday, May 09, 2005

I'm in pieces, bits and pieces

Some time ago our up-and-over garage door became reluctant to both ‘up’ and ‘over’. The little roller on the right-hand side had been in the habit of falling off, but had always been directly below it’s assigned place (gravity can sometimes, when human bodyparts aren’t involved, be a marvellous thing) and was easily replaceable. Then one day it pinged off and vanished. As the months passed we became used to the excruciating squeak the door made as it was hoisted aloft, and then last week the cable attached to one of the weights snapped. Something Had To Be Done. So Ned bought new cables and on Saturday, shortly before Millie was due to arrive and time was tight, decided that it would be a good time to get this mended, squeezed himself into the garage (does anyone have space in their garage for a car?) and removed the cable housing.


Bits flew off in all directions and much cursing was heard. Two important plastic spacers, one from each side, had vanished. As a dutiful helpmeet I managed to find one of them, volunteered my assistance (refused) and retreated, because I simply can’t cope when DIY gets agitated. When I returned shortly afterwards I was told that another plastic spacer had vanished. Now we were lacking two spacers and one roller from the right-hand side. With the door forced fully open and propped up with the metal housing (the air had been blue with oaths when the door, lacking both counterweights, had clanged down onto Ned’s spine) I boldly suggested we clear some of the garage contents to find the missing (and vital) objects. This we did. Seven bicycles (don’t ask), a trailer, two barrels, a bucket of ash from the fire, a large ceramic table lamp (no idea where that came from) and numerous boxes of Important Stuff later the space was cleared.

The only explanation is that the garage contains a Black Hole that swallows important components. None of these missing items were in the garage. Anywhere.

I think we need to buy a whole new door. Bugger.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Now I'm tired and I don't want to walk any more

By eight o’clock last night all was peaceful, with all dogs off leads and relaxed and dozing in their chosen spots. Marvellous! So Ned and I had a couple of Masterbrews, watched a tape of Casanova, took all the dogs into the garden for a late-night wee and went to bed. We’d thought it wise to have Millie sleeping apart from the others so that there was no chance of a spat breaking out. The kitchen and utility room were therefore out (girls’ and boys’ dormitories already) so we decided to put her bed in the hall where she’d decided to pass the evening – probably waiting for her mum to come and save her! So we settled her down with a biscuit and a bowl of water and went upstairs.

At 2.23 am she woke me by whining, so I got on dressing-gown and slippers, went downstairs to put her on a lead and took her out into the front garden in case she needed a wee. We pottered about for a while – I looked at the stars and she sniffed the plants. After 5 minutes or so I gave up and we came in. She got back in her bed and I went upstairs again.

At 3.20 am she woke Ned by whining, so he got his dressing-gown on, went downstairs and took her through the dining-room and out to the back garden, where she pottered about for five minutes till he got bored and brought her back in, settled her down and came back to bed.

At 4.14 am she woke me by whining, so I went downstairs and did the front garden routine, fruitlessly, so walked her up and down the road a few times. No result, so we all came back in.

At 5.27 am she woke Ned by whining, who did the back garden routine. Hurrah! A wee and a poo! Back to bed.

At 6.12 am she woke me by whining. I put my head under the pillow and tried to ignore her.

At 7.18 am we started the day. At first she tried to beat up the girls but a yell from me convinced her that was a Bad Move, and after that they were fine. Piglet was a good boy and behaved himself, and she wasn’t bad on her morning walk – though she pulls on the lead if she thinks she can get away with it! When she realised she can’t, she stopped trying.

Her mum came for her shortly after 11 am, and was pleased to see how well they were all getting on. The upshot is Millie’ll be staying with us at the end of the month. The first day may be awkward again, but now we know it’ll get better. Also, she’ll be sleeping at the other end of the house next time! We were asked how much we were going to charge, which rather stunned us as we hadn’t thought about that aspect at all! Chums on the net say to find out how much local kennels charge and ask half that, which seems fair, so I suppose it’ll be round about a fiver a day.

Now all I want to do is sleep.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

When you're in love with a beautiful woman, it's hard

Sorry about the suggestiveness of the title, but it’s a little fraught at Genie Towers tonight. We have one of Harry and Piglet’s sisters staying the night. Her owner’s going on holiday at the end of the month and last time Millie was in kennels she hated it badly, so we’re seeing how she fits in back here to find out if it would be feasible to have her here for the week. I’d had it all worked out in my mind how each of ours was likely to react to a stranger in our midst – and I was wrong on a couple of counts. Beattie doesn’t appear to be as jealous as I thought she’d be, and Harry’s being a complete gentleman. He invites her to play by bowing and spinning, but she’s not sure so he goes and lies down. Clover (their mum) who has the sweetest nature of any dog in the whole wide world, went to say hello and was very confused at being seen off, and is now pretending Millie isn’t here. It’s Piglet who’s really surprised us. He’s not really a ‘dog’s dog’, and tends to be standoffish when out. He’s also very territorial about his house and garden, and we thought if anyone was going to be aggressive to a stranger it’d be him.

Piglet has fallen in LURVE bigtime. Or at least as near lurve as a dog with a very small brain can manage. He’s having to be kept on a lead, and his serenading her to the best of his ability. Unless he pulls himself together overnight I can see that having her to stay for a whole week might be too much for us all. Pity – she’s very sweet – although very overweight! I’d love to have her to stay for a while to get her back in shape and get her nails right, because they’re too long too. But that’s because when she was a youngster she badly broke her leg, resulting in the loss of a toe and some pad, so she can’t do a lot of roadwork without getting a very sore foot. She’s not overfed (well, obviously she is overfed because she's fat, but she doesn't actually eat a lot) – she eats less than ours (she brought her lunchbox with her); she just doesn’t get the exercise she needs. Not only do ours get long walks they also play together a lot and use up energy that way.

Millie Posted by Hello

I must admit though it’s reassuring to see that the dogs I’ve produced have got pretty good temperaments. A lot of research went into planning the litters, travelling a couple of hundred miles to the right stud dog each time (the nearest is never the most suitable – it’s the law). Good show specimens and great, healthy pets, combined in the same animals. I must be doing something right.

Friday, May 06, 2005

A distant bell and stars that fell

They tell me that this Sunday is the 60th anniversary of the end of World War Two. I’m sorry, but no it isn’t. They’re wrong. It’s certainly the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe, but that was only part of the conflict. The War was still raging in the Far East, where my father was fighting.

I remember him telling me of a visit by one of the Top Brass (I can’t remember whether it was Auchinlech or Slim) who mentioned in his speech to the troops that “You may have heard that at Home they’re calling us ‘The Forgotten Army’. That’s not true. You can’t forget something you’ve never heard of.” That stuck in my father’s mind, that there they were, fighting and dying and the people they were doing it for didn’t give a toss.

And clearly they still don’t. Yes, let’s celebrate 60 years since the end of the last European War. But the Second World War wasn’t over till August 15th: VJ Day. That’s when I’ll be remembering, celebrating and mourning.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cause you ain't got time to check it

It’s The Boy’s first chance to vote in a General Election, and I’m pleased he’s taking it very seriously. We’ve had long discussions about the policies of the various parties, and whether it’s better to vote for the candidate who’s most likely to represent the constituency, or to vote for the party with the policies you agree with – or the third option of voting for the leader you want. As I pointed out, leaders are transient; policies are more permanent. His interest probably won’t last very long because we all become very jaded and disillusioned with politics, but it’s good to see him taking an interest at least once.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about Gottler's election blog regarding postal voting, and he raised a couple of points that are very serious. Postal votes are sent some days before the actual polling day, and once they’re in the postbox that’s that. Now, the chances are that, sadly, some people are going to die in between posting their ballot and election day – which means that certain dead people are now enfranchised. Also, some people will come to trial, be convicted and sent to jail. Convicted prisoners aren’t allowed to vote – except the ones who’ve voted by post. So that’s two categories of postal votes that legally should be annulled. I bet whatever you want they aren’t though – after all, they’re supposed to be secret!

But does anyone else know folks who chose a postal vote because the husband finds it awkward to get to the Polling station (Village Hall this time), but don't trust the postal service so drove 12 miles into Stratford to deliver it by hand? Ah, village life ...!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

May I enquire discreetly

Hmm. It seems as though the suspicions I had three months ago are being proven true. I queried the result and scoured the house looking for evidence of extra unauthorised activity, but can find no evidence. Searches of The Boy’s room for signs of standby drew a blank, so I’m afraid I must be the guilty party. I bought the washing machine. That’s the only change that can possibly have put our electricity bill up by £100 a quarter, unless it is indeed pouring out of sockets and soaking into the carpet. We’ll just have to set a fashion for wearing grubby clothes. Or become nudists.

Apart from that, I heard a cuckoo today – the first this year (though Ned says he heard one yesterday).

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Inside out and round and round

How very peculiar. The Bank Holiday weather was lovely and sunny and hot, with only rain at night, and when everyone was back at work again it started raining. Have I climbed through into Looking-glass Land, or has the world turned upside down and is about to explode?

Monday, May 02, 2005

All good friends and jolly good company

It’s been a lovely weekend! We got our car back, fully MOTed, from the garage on Saturday, and on Sunday the lovely Lorry and the King arrived to help paint the fence, a job which was much quicker and more fun with their assistance than it would have been otherwise. It was perfect duelling weather, and much green was liberally applied to the combatants. Much gossiping intellectual discussion occurred and there was a competition to see who was small enough to paint the panel behind the shed; the bony king won. Strange messages appeared while I was walking the dogs – I think the perpetrators should write it out correctly one hundred times before morning. You can’t get the staff, you know.

Graffiti Posted by Hello

When the job was completed and cup of tea enjoyed (and the King claimed as Harry’s own in that special way) we went up to Spring Hill so that the visitors could get a head start on the Blog Standard series. Despite being given a map showing the positions of the footpaths they decided to make it more of an adventure and set off into uncharted territory. Ned and I listened to the crashes and yelps in fascination, and wondered if the SimonG school of navigation was spreading. Several wounds and asthma attacks later they reappeared, successful (don’t forget to log it chaps!), and after admiring the view while they got their breath back we adjourned to the pub for a interlude before supper.

Surrender! Posted by Hello

It was when supper was finished and drinks being shared – sometimes willingly - that things became a little woolly, especially for Piglet, who proved himself to be a lightweight with his (or rather Lorry’s) beer, and spent some time shaking his head presumably to try to keep the room still. Silly Piggy. However he had no signs of a hangover this morning, and helped Harry catch a rabbit for their supper, so no harm was done. Except to the rabbit, of course.