Sunday, December 31, 2006

Looking back over my shoulder

It’s the time of year when traditionally one looks back at the past year and forward to the next. I think it can be summed up quite succinctly …

Get lost, 2006! I can’t wait to see the back of you – you’ve been total pants. A year of redundancy, debt, illness and death. Good fucking riddance.

I loathe and detest New Year celebrations, but usually have to stay up to calm my animals who’re terrified of the blasted fireworks set off by inconsiderate bastards who care nothing for the mental wellbeing of pets, farm stock or wildlife. Luckily the weather’s pretty horrible now and worse is forecast so hopefully those who want to celebrate can do so indoors and leave the rest of us in peace. I’m having an early night.

Be warned, 2007. I will not tolerate another year as bad again, so make sure you sodding well co-operate or I’ll do something we might all regret. So there.

Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s hope 2007 brings us all better fortune.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

You'll think it's tragic when that moment arrives

I tore off the wrapping and eagerly I opened the book. Inside the front cover was a Love Chart to help you decide astrologically whether you and your boyfriend are compatible (apparently Ned’s not The One, but will lead me to him. Oh well, I don’t think I can be bothered to change now). I turned the page, and swooned at the picture of Daaavvviiiidddd!!! Then to the Editor’s Foreword, which begins “If you’re reading this compilation, I’m guessing you were a young girl back in the 1970s.” That seems to be a pretty fair bet, which leads on to the conclusion that most people reading it are now hovering around their half-century, with all that entails. So why is the print so flipping small? But I love my ‘Jackie’ annual!

*goes to find reading glasses*

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Needles and PINs

When I was on shift at the vet the other day I was horrified slightly alarmed to see that the receipt roll for the credit card machine was about to run out and I've never changed it before, and had no idea where the destructions instructions were. I toyed with the idea of leaving it for the next person on duty because there weren't many appointments booked, but that doesn't mean it'll be a quiet shift sales-wise so I didn't dare. I cautiously opened or removed all flaps and covers and thought it looked reasonably straightforward, so I got a new roll ready (I'm not entirely stupid), took a deep breath and removed the remnants of old roll. I carefully fed the the end of the new roll through any appropriate-looking slots then panicked as I realised it needed mechanical assistance for the final stretch. How?*

A brainwave! If I used my own credit card and made a dog's breakfast of the sale it might still feed the paper through. I duly inserted the card, logged a sale for £0.01 and pressed random numbers because I have no idea of my PIN. This would ensure a void sale, I'd be asked to remove the card, the recipt would come through and all would be hunky-dory. What are the chances that the random numbers I pressed were right?

I left a note explaining the strange 1p sale on the receipt (yes, it worked. It seems I do know my PIN after all) in the cash box, which today was found annotated by BossVet "What the !!!!? See me"


*If I'd been looking at the machine the right way up I'd have noticed the button marked 'Feed'.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Another one bites the dust

Good idea, that is. With our current situation I thought I’d had a brainwave, and suggested that, rather than the Boy buy me a Christmas present – I’ve pretty much grown out of the desire for presents – he should put the money he would have spent on me into his savings account, because that would genuinely give me the most pleasure and help me relax a bit. My suggestion apparently has come too late. Bugger.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Slow down you're gonna crash

So, a couple of weeks ago there’s a squeal and a bang outside the house as a twunt drives into the back of Boy’s car when he came home for lunch. No injuries thankfully, and only minor damage. Independent witness standing by, and bloke accepts liability (“Why did you stop?” “Because I live here” “Sorry, the sun was in my eyes”) and I get all the details and photograph the 57' skidmark and start dealing with insurance. The garage estimate is a touch under £800 as long as nothing goes wrong; the car’s not dangerous – the main problem is that the tailgate doesn’t shut securely so the back panel needs pulling out, and possibly a new tailgate. Parts are cheap* – labour and VAT are expensive. I refuse to allow them to say the car’s not worth that much and write it off, because they wouldn’t give us enough money to buy a suitable replacement. We’re still waiting to see what the various insurance companies decide as to who’ll pay what, but if they won’t play ball we’ll have to cancel the claim and try to come to an arrangement with the other driver to get repairs done ourselves. Surely they can't force us to hand the car over if we don't want to? Surely the other guy's insurance must cover the repairs?

*comparatively speaking.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Little donkey, little donkey

PuzzleDonkey, RIP? It's been unavailable for a couple of weeks now (and not just on my computer either). Is this the end?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Just a traveller in time

The very very worst thing about claiming benefits is the endless completion of increasingly complicated, tedious and appallingly-badly worded forms. No sooner have you summoned the strength of will to actually sit down and complete the first 20-page (I kid you not) booklet of irrelevancies than another one thuds through the letterbox. The latest just takes the biscuit though. The Powers That Be seem to have got really shirty that that I've got another part-time job and have demanded why I haven't sent them my last 5 pay slips. Bearing in mind that I only started the job two weeks ago and am paid monthly, that would be a bit of a challenge. Not only that, the letter is dated 4th December 06 and tersely demands a reply by 11th September 06. I think I'm losing the will to live.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Living in a box

Clover came home today, at last. She was first sent home a couple of weeks ago but the box they'd put her in was, in our opinion, quite, quite horrible. Far too ornate and fussy. I wouldn't be seen dead in it so I didn't see why she should either. In fact looking at it was rather like losing her all over again. I mentioned this to the vets and together we organised a replacement.

This was much more to our taste, being smaller, simpler, and a more suitable accompaniment to those of Bella and Polly. So at last she's back with us again.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

We are family

We have three dogs. There are five dog beds (don't ask). So why ..........?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Why don't you get back into bed?

The waterlevel's fallen nicely although the river's still higher than normal. The dogs are very thankful.
Several feet of difference.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

And the tide rushes in

Well, not a tide as such, but the overnight rain made our morning walk a tad damp underfoot. Harry was brave and decided to lead the way, forgetting that there was a stream there. He had his first swim.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Driftwood on the shore

Every time we visit my mother it always surprises us to rediscover that East Sussex motorists are miseries. When we walk the dogs along the side of the road up here we politely thank motorists for giving us room and generally receive an acknowledgement, from total strangers as well as acquaintances. Not down there. The best you can hope for is a glare. Surly gits.

One afternoon we took the dogs to the seaside for a change. The tide was in which was a shame as it meant there was no sand, only shingle, but on the plus side it meant the dogs couldn’t run too fast or too far. Harry changed his mind about eating a large fishhead he found on the tideline which was good. I found a lovely hole with a stone around it and a stack of slipper limpets. There must have been about 15 or so forming a spiral so I took them back to Ma’s to show her, thinking they were just empty shells stuck together by concretions. It was only later when I picked up the stack that it seemed a bit loose, but tightened up again when I wiggled it. Ooops! They were still alive-alive-oh. My brother’s advice was to do what he did with such trophies as a child; put them into a bucket then abandon them under someone's bed for weeks. I didn't.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

All I have to do is dream

Thinking ahead, Ned asked me if I thought hosting a Burns' Night Supper would be a good idea and, if so, who should we invite. When my first three choices of guests was vetoed I lost interest. After all if Sean Bean, Harrison Ford and George Clooney aren't attending, what's the point?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Travelled down the road and back again

Thank you, everyone, for your kind thoughts and words; it means a lot to have such good friends. It's been a very strange few days, preparing only three bowls of food instead of four; accidentally putting Beattie's food down in Clover's place (because that's where the first bowl has been put for years) and having Beat staring in horror; waiting for the fourth dog to catch up on walks; and not being imperiously woofed at and a tail rotating like a windmill when play is demanded. When Clover sat beside you on the sofa and you put your arm round her she'd tuck her head under your chin and put her arm across your front and onto your shoulder, returning the cuddle. She was the best. The others knew that something was wrong with her when she was so unwell - they'd sniff gently at her then back away. I'm not sure that Beattie's entirely happy being queen rather than regent but the pack dynamics don't seem to be too disrupted.

Mermy, I found the picture you took - unfortunately I don't seem to be able to unred-eyeify it though.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

All cried out*

We lost the battle. Clover was helped on to the next stage this afternoon, when it had become clear that there was no hope of recovery and to stay would only mean further loss of dignity and the discomfort turning to pain. To see our valiant soul trying to walk with her legs giving way beneath her, and being unable to keep even water down long enough to avoid dehydration was too much to bear. She'd never let us down; now it was our turn to do the same for her.

Goodnight, sweet girl. We loved you dearly and miss you dreadfully; 14 years is a lifetime, yet not long enough. We'll never forget you, poppet. Sleep well. See you in the morning.

*A lie. It's only just begun.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Now scrub good an' hard

So, I’ve washed my hands with Dettol, TCP, Hibiscrub and bleach, but they still feel unclean. The reason is that Clover’s very ill indeed; yesterday morning she didn’t finish her breakfast, and was reluctant to go for a walk. Ned took the others and she and I ambled on a short walk, but plodded slower and slower until she finally ground to a halt and had to be carried home. Her temperature at that time was 103.2°; a dog’s normal temperature is 101° - she wasn’t well. Of course, surgery in the village was over, so I called the main surgery in Leamington and told them we were on our way.

By the time we were seen her back legs had given way completely and her temperature was up to 104. Bloods were taken and AB and anti-inflammatory injections given and we came away with a further supply of tablets. Yesterday lunchtime she had a little drink then went back to sleep. When I got home soon after six there was no improvement – in fact she’d continued downhill and was barely conscious, so again I warned Leamington we were on our way. This time we weren’t expecting to bring her home so I rang Boy to warn him.

When her temperature was next taken it was 105.6° - the vet was surprised she was still alive. His examination of her tummy (it's not easy trying to hold up a dog who's legs are like a puppet with cut strings) released a flood of wee (the second of my dogs to wee on him!) but no hint as to what was wrong. The bloods had shown normal apart from an extremely low white blood count pointing to a massive infection. But he still thought there was hope, so we came back again (Boy was relieved – we got Clover when he was six and she’s more his dog than anyone’s) with instructions to keep her hydrated. It’s not easy syringing fluid into someone’s mouth when they can barely swallow.

At 5.30 this morning when I woke she was still alive, which was a pleasant surprise. Her temperature was down to 102.6° and she was a lot more responsive. The day’s been spent squirting hydrating fluid into her and buttering AB tablets to make them slide down her throat. She’s certainly stronger this evening; she’s managed to stagger round the garden and squat for a wee, and best of all went over to the bowl for a drink of water all by herself. Unfortunately the action of taking fluid in one end causes the most disgusting vileness to ooze from the other which needs immediate mopping up, hence my obsessive hand-washing.

She’s by no means out of the woods yet; we can but hope.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Brewing up double all those tiny little troubles

Oops! I seem to have got myself a second part-time job, again doing something I've never done nor ever really wanted to do before. Nothing like adding to mental pressure when you're feeling fragile. :) Especially when you seem to have been employed by the husband of one of your friends who's in the middle of an acrimonious separation. And it was her job.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Do the mashed potato

For the past I-don't-know-how-many years, every time we've been to a food show or farmers' market or somewhere there's been a stall for the Supreme Sausage Company Ned's always said that we really must sign up, because the sausages are really very very good; very meaty and not full of fat and cereal. And a few weeks ago he finally put his money where his mouth is and signed up - our first 6-month supply will be made and delivered next week.

The day after he arranged this delivery a farmer friend of ours phoned asking us if we wanted half a pig for the freezer (Gloucester Old Spot), reared not half a mile from our house, at a good price. We know how good the meat is from Andy's pigs and sheep so naturally agreed, and twenty minutes later he arrived on the doorstep with a box of pork joints and ...... about 25lb of sausages!

Guess what's on the menu tonight. And tomorrow. And the day after ...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Harp and carp along wi' me

In the ponds in the garden we have fish. The small bottom pond has five golden orfe, which went in at about two inches long and have now grown to about nine inches. The top pond has regular goldfish; a big mummy fish and her babies (daddy fish died). Over the years the babies have mostly changed from black to gold, and most are about three inches long in comparison with their mum who's about six or seven inches. One of the baby fish, however, is very much bigger than the rest and is about the length of the mum and is now enormously fat. She (I'm assuming it's a she-fish who's full of spawn) seems to be expanding by the day and is beginning to resemble a startled puffer fish even down to the spiny appearance; she's so fat that all her scales stick out instead of lying flat. We've called her Mrs Creosote and are searching for the piscine equivalent of a leetle waffer-theen meent to offer.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's where we stop and look around us

In a light-hearted moment of frivolity I completed an internet questionnaire about mental health. The result was that apparently I'm suffering from 'moderate to severe depression', which sounds like a forecast of stormy weather ahead, possibly over my Dogger Bight. I told Ned what it said and he first checked my life insurance document, then got out a bottle of gin and arranged the paracetamol attractively and temptingly in a bowl beside me. I'm a very lucky girl to have such a thoughtful and considerate husband.

Addition: Ned's just done the test too, and got the same score as me. I'll go and get another glass and a larger bowl.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Do you promise not to tell?

Big Boss Vet – the one who was recently up to his elbows in Piglet’s innards - has issued an edict invited all the staff to lunch at a bistro in Leamington in a couple of weeks’ time, refusing to divulge the reason other than saying “It’s a celebration, there’s only one other person involved, and I’ll be glad when it’s all over”.

Is Mrs M pregnant? No.
Are you selling the practice? No.
Are we all getting the sack? No.
Are we all getting a payrise? NO!

Some staff reckon it’s an anniversary, but that seems a little mundane for all the secrecy – unless it’s to avoid people feeling they ought to get a present. My money’s on him being selected as a contestant on 'I'm A Non-entity, Get Me Out Of Here' and he’ll get to eat witchetty grubs and kangaroo’s danglies.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Playing silly games

When two people of a certain age dance giggling through the shopping centre avoiding treading on the cracks and stepping only on the white stripes of the zebra crossing (run and jump!) because they don't want to be eaten by bears, other people stop and stare as if the loonies were out. I wonder why?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Another one bites the dust

The dogs barked as the boy pushed the local paper through the letterbox. I went to collect it and scanned the headlines while I prepared supper. "New bridge not wanted, say residents"; "The Mop comes to town"; then, in a corner I saw "Village youth dies on B4451" It was a shock to read that yet another young village lad has been killed in a car accident.

I read on - who was it? Then I spotted the name - not a lad I know personally but I know his dad and we always chat whenever we meet. The boy was his only child, and like many teenage boys had been 'challenging' for some years and had been living on the edge, as they say. His father is an honest, hard-working man who really doesn't deserve this blow.

Is this a national phenomenon or is this village cursed in some way? With a total population of only 3,000 we lose on average one teenager a year killed on the roads, and always around this time of year. It affects the whole village, because when you've seen them grow up from babyhood they become part of your extended family, and the whole community mourns.

Rest in peace, Craig.

Friday, October 13, 2006

I know you've deceived me, now here's a surprise

There was a trailer on TV about the recent publication of political diaries about the rise (and fall? we can but hope) of New Labour, described as being by the man who ‘Saw It All’.

I laughed more than a little. Surely that's not merely a careless choice of words? The diaries are by David Blunkett – probably the only man who Saw Absolutely Nothing.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'm so dizzy, my head is spinnin'

We’ve now got the results of the analysis of Piglet’s stone from Minnesota (100% ammonium acid urate, which was pretty much expected) and a report on how to manage the situation. You’d think that’d make it simple, but in fact it only creates more dilemmas (dilemmae?). Encourage him to drink as much as possible – not a problem; he’ll drink a couple of pints of water containing a hint of milk, then an hour later go out and pee for England. We should allow him to urinate as often as possible – see previous answer. Prevent him getting overweight – if only! It’s always been difficult getting him to put weight on! Then it gets tricky. The recommendation is that he should be fed exclusively ‘Brand X’ food with only distilled water to drink. No chance. That food would cost a quarter of our gross income, even with my staff discount. Even more seriously, I’ve been sent a report which states that the long-term feeding of this diet (and others severely limited in protein) has been linked with several cases of congestive heart failure (in the dogs, not the owners!); out of the frying pan into the fire.

So my chosen task, with the help of others who’ve been in this situation as well as the UK and American breed clubs – because this is a breed trait – is to devise a diet which is low in high-purine proteins but can be fairly high in low-purine proteins. Yes, exactly.

It's also suggested that fewest crystals are found in the urine if the dog is fed once (in the afternoon, not the morning) rather than twice daily. But feeding once daily increases the risk of gastric dilatation and torsion, which is another emergency.

Nothing's ever simple.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Sports prepare, the laurel bring

What's wrong with 21st century children? There are several horse chestnut trees in the village and, even after school's finished and all the children have walked under them to go home, there are conkers still lying uncollected. The world is turning upside down. (Non-British readers will find this enlightening.)

*The title must be one of the worst puns I've come up with to date. I feel very proud*

Friday, September 29, 2006

Don't stand so close to me

Sparks fly when you get two working terriers who don't know each other in a waiting room no bigger than 6' by 8'. Looking on the bright side, they were already at the vet's.

Edit: Apologies to hutters - Blogger was playing up and double-posting and I could only delete the double post by deleting both. *rolls eyes* I seem to have lost the comments, but I agree that your link was one of greater sanity than most of such articles! Perhaps you could relink it?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Especially for you

For DoGGa's delectation ...

You see before you Harry, Beattie, Clover, Millie and Piglet. Clover is mum to the rest; Beattie's from her first litter, and Harry and Piglet are from her second. Millie's also from the second litter, but lives with another family and came back for holiday boarding (beause she hated kennels) last summer. She fitted in as if she'd never left - after being away for 6 years.

And me? I'm the one behind the camera, not in front!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Getting better all the time

Ten days after his operation it was time to take the Piglet’s stitches out. He’s been very good about being restricted to being on the lead and we’re all looking forward to him being able to run again. We were a little concerned for him because he’s not the bravest of dogs and relies very much on back-up from the others (and us, of course) to help him through difficult situations. (That’s one reason why he still has all his bits and pieces; if his source of courage was removed he’d be much worse. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.) He’s particularly unsure of other dogs and can’t always be relied on to be friends with them until he’s met them a few times and realised they’re okay. And if they run, he’ll chase. Anyway, he’s not been awfully keen on us checking his stitches (“Grrrr, gerrroff, you perv”) and we were a little afraid he might rumble at the Vet; at least we knew he wouldn’t snap or bite – he wasn’t going to be pushed beyond his limit. In the waiting room he clambered onto my lap and quivered. In the surgery he sat on the table and quivered while Vet (not the one who’d done the op) had a look. Ned held his head (Pig’s, not his own), ready to react if needed.

“There, all done!” said Vet. Not a flinch, not a murmur from Piggy, even though some of the stitches had got quite tight and cut his skin. What a brave boy!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

When I'm calling you-ooo-ooo-oooo

pah! It seems that nobody reads the Fora on Mongers's's's's's site any more. Or if they do, they don't reply ...

*wonders if that hint was subtle enough*

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Out came the sun and dried up all the rain

One's unwelcome, two's excessive and three's beyond a joke. They were big ones too. A sight like that first thing in the morning can do serious harm to one's mental equilibrium.

I'm both disappointed and relieved that it's out of focus.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Help me make it through the night

We’ve had a horrid 24 hours. Yesterday morning when I was taking the dogs out I noticed that Piglet was cocking more than usual. So I watched with more interest than usual and noticed that absolutely nothing seemed to be happening. We cut our walk short as he started getting more and more desperate, got home and rang the vet. That was the start of a day of to-ing and fro-ing between Leamington and home, with Piglet’s day getting worse and worse. The first visit involved a mild sedative (what a lovely quiet puppy he was) and the judicious use of a catheter. The vet knows what position not to stand at now, as he found himself wearing a substantial quantity of the three-quarters of a litre of strong urine Piggy had been collecting. Dalmatians are the only breed that produce uric acid instead of urea, and are prone to urate stones which, due to the anatomy of males, will cause a blockage far sooner than with females. A sample was tested and we went away with a supply of appropriate food for the condition and some antibiotics in case the catheter triggered an infection. So far, so good, and Piglet was walking with a smile again and a spring in his step.

Three hours later we were back to square one. Cocking, squatting, straddling, straining – all to no avail. By this time of course Saturday surgery was over so we had to call the emergency line. Ten minutes later we were on our way back to town again to meet the vet there. This time we took several x-rays, with Piggy being very good and not struggling too much when he was laid on his side (which he hates) and being tied to the table by legs and head and being weighted down by sandbags to keep him still. Ned stayed stroking his head reassuringly while Vet wore a lead pinny and I was shoved behind a screen. I didn’t notice Ned glowing in the dark last night so that’s all right. The plates weren’t really terribly helpful (I’ve learned that urate stones (as opposed to struvite stones, more common in other breeds) often don’t show up well. But there were certainly anomalies, so we realised he’d have to be opened up.

I’m amazed how unsqueamish I was as I sat in my corner and watched as my puppy was knocked out and opened up. Another litre of urine was drawn out of another catheter; Vet gave a good running commentary and I learned a lot and I earned myself some brownie points by making pertinent remarks, to the extent where his response to one comment was “How the fuck do you know that?” Anyway, after a certain amount of groping around in the bladder a small stone, about 5mm by 3mm was removed. Very small for all that trouble, but that’s boys’ anatomy for you. It'll be sent to Minnesota for testing to determine its composition so we can know how to adjust his diet. The catheter was used to give the system a good rodding and then he was closed up again, given time to recover and then we brought him home.

When Piglet sneaked onto Ned's chair when we were washing up we didn't have the heart to turf him off as usual, which left Harry totally gobsmacked, practically pointing at Pig and looking at us and saying "Mumumumumumlookathim!He'sabadboy!" Then he sulked. At bedtime though we were doubtful Piggy was going to make it till morning. He was very poorly, sore and sorry for himself. Sleep was reduced to the exhausted coma one slumps into for a few minutes before the nightmares begin. Then, at the third nocturnal visit he wagged his tail at me, turned over and settled down again! Hooray! His early-morning painkiller was readily taken with a little food, then an hour later we had a tentative turn in the garden. At my suggestion he went over to a vertical, straddled and tried to pee. I held my breath. Ned held his breath. Piglet held his breath. Nothing seemed to be happening until … a drop! Then another! There followed, not a stream exactly, but certainly a flow, albeit of unusual colouring. Ned heaved a sigh, I cried and Piglet closed his eyes in bliss. We were over the mountain.

Now it’s a matter of post-op care and dietary alteration to prevent a recurrence. And to remember never to have boys again.

The wound.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Then up from under the ground

And now, an update specially for Omally. :)

According to this page, a grown-up daddy-long-legs doesn't 'munch on bugs', thus doing something useful. All it does is mate and lay eggs in the grass that hatch out into leatherjackets which eat the roots of your grass and ruin your lawn or (more importantly) the grazing for your livestock. QED: the daddy-log-legs species is utterly pointless and I can continue my campaign of eradication with no addition to my guilt complex. :)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm such an ug-i-ly bug

Yuck eeeeeeww eeuurrrrgh. It's daddy-long-legs season again, and they're blundering into the lights and bouncing off the walls like drunken miniature remote controlled helicopters. I'm sure I've told you about the time one flew up my nightie when I went to the loo. Honestly, what is your purpose on the planet, apart from giving people the heebie-jeebies? Die, you horrid things, die.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The king of wishful thinking

At work the other day a girl brought in a shoebox. I’ve already learned that unusual boxes mean interesting contents; the first time I came across this phenomenon was when the bringers said that “it’d been hit by a car and we couldn’t leave it”. When I cautiously peeped into the box a very tetchy buzzard tried to get out. My, they have sharp pointy bits and very big wings in a small waiting room. However I reckoned a shoebox couldn’t be all that hazardous and slowly lifted the lid, to reveal two very pathetic kittens. The girl (who turned out to be one of The Boy’s friends from junior school) had found them on the farm where she lives and knew they wouldn’t survive if left. They were very young - much younger than Tigger had been when we found her. They were about six inches long, nose to tail-tip, and their eyes – what you could see of them through the gunk – were blue. One was clearly very poorly indeed, lying on the base of the box with its legs splayed out, barely breathing. The other was a bit brighter, lifted its head and peered over the edge of the box. When I put my hand towards it to stroke it with a finger it cowered away. Their coats were a dull black and they were absolutely crawling with fleas. When they were taken through to the consulting room (I got a bit of a ticking-off afterwards because I’d been so busy chatting to the girl about what she was doing now, how she was getting on, wasn’t her brother doing well for himself (a lovely lad who stopped The Boy being bullied at school; he’s now an actor, in TV and movies – last seen as Ivan in Emmerdale) and all that sort of thing I hadn’t logged them onto the computer) I heard myself tell the vet that if they were saveable I’d take them.

What? Where did that come from? I thought I didn’t want kittens because of the dogs. I don't want kittens. If I did want kittens I certainly wouldn’t choose such dull, manky-looking specimens as those. Sorry, but they were. These kits couldn’t be more different from Tigger whilst still being the same species. She was everything they weren’t – healthy, friendly, clean, parasite-free; having seen these two I’m even more convinced that Tigger had only recently been dumped. Isn’t it silly – every time we walk the dogs up to those fields we look in the same place to see if there are any more abandoned kittens. What are the chances of that happening?

The kittens weren’t saveable and were quickly and quietly put to sleep, poor little scraps.

*hardens heart for next time*

Friday, September 08, 2006

Every breath you take

The latest news on Libs is that this morning she woke briefly and made eye contact with a nurse before falling asleep again. The amount of help given to her breathing is gradually being reduced and she can respond to voices and physical contact. So thanks for all your positive healing thoughts and keep going!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

If the sky above you should turn dark and full of clouds

I'm begging everyone who reads this to send their strongest healing thoughts to my friend Libs, who, after months and months of being told nothing's wrong, is now on a life support machine with a very poor outlook. She's one of the nicest people it's ever been my pleasure to meet and doesn't deserve this.

That is all.

Friday, September 01, 2006

It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it

In my job I have to be very diplomatic and know my place (that of ‘minion’) which makes it extremely difficult to watch someone taking a course of action which has been advised by others but seems to me to be the wrong thing to do (because it isn’t working), where a much simpler and cheaper method (frequently advised by specialists) exists which will either solve the problem or prove that the problem has a different cause. Today my tongue has been well and truly bitten. The saddest thing is that the victims don’t deserve it. Surely there’s a way I can orchestrate an accidental meeting with the person and put my idea forward – but if it gets back to Big Boss it’s possible it’d be construed as disloyalty.

Stuff it. A brief chat in passing wouldn’t do any harm, would it? I simply can’t stand idly by and not try to help. Although I wouldn't class myself as an expert, I do have 30-odd years of adult dog-ownership under my belt and do know alternatives to conventional wisdom. I hate possible conflicts of interest.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Give them a low-down beat

Stu mentioned in passing in his blog that it’s conventional, when entering an apartment in Finland, to remove one’s shoes. I’m sure Finland is a lovely country with delightful people, but the shoe-thing crosses it off my list of places to visit. No offence intended to anyone, but you see, I simply can’t bear the habit of removing shoes in other people’s houses. When did it start? Perhaps it’s a generation thing, but when I was a child we were taught to wipe our feet on the doormat before we went into a house – the mat wasn’t just there for show! If you were going to curl up on the sofa to watch TV or read a book, then you took your shoes off, but put them on again to walk about the house. Perhaps it started when central heating became more common – the houses tended to be too darned cold to go without shoes! Elderly people especially find socks on hard floors slippery and dangerous, and those of us who have trouble with our feet often find walking without shoes is actually painful too, so apart from feeling compelled to be impolite (on a par with being invited to fart or pick one’s nose in public) there’s physical discomfort as well. And bare feet mean everyone spreads their athlete’s foot and verrucae. Eeeewwwww! Maybe I’m foot-phobic and it’s entirely my own problem, but I simply hate having to do it and it makes me miserable. So I won’t, unless not doing so would cause a scene, which would be even worse manners.

In my own home I certainly don’t want other people’s stinky socks all over my carpets, and I don’t want to risk doing the same to other people. I won’t tell you to put your shoes on again if you do take them off – the laws of hospitality forbid making guests feel uncomfortable. It’s highly unlikely that visitors have just washed and powdered their feet and put on clean socks before they come to the door, so visitors, please simply wipe your feet on the doormat to leave the dirt outside. If necessary I’ll hoover after you’ve gone!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

We can make it if we try

Helping The Boy move into his new place reminded me how shit rented accommodation, especially student rented accommodation, is. It’s a strange house; from the front it looks like a normal three-bedroomed semi-detached, but there’s been an odd extension on the rear (yes I know ours is weird too but this is odder) making the kitchen longer and putting another room (Boy’s bedroom) on beside it. However this has meant that what used to be the back room downstairs (now used as the communal sitting-room) is now sandwiched in the middle and has no natural light at all. The floorboards on the landing are decidedly dodgy, but the bathroom’s modern and lovely (redone this year, according to Boy). After taking the first carload over we rushed back for the rest and I also took over my vacuum and cleaning materials and gave it a bit of a sprucing. The carpets were still grimy and the kitchen was … sticky. And there were crumbs in the drawers.

Last night none of the others he’s sharing with had arrived so he went to his pals’ house for some company, but they’d gone to a party. So he watched their TV instead. My heart went out to him when he told me.

When they organised the rent for the house he was still planning on being at Warwick, and it would have made very good sense, because only first-years are allowed to live on campus and Leamington’s halfway between home and the University. But because he’s left there it’s now actually further away (and more expensive) from the college he’ll be at than if he was at home. When I chatted to him about it he told me that if he’d known he wouldn’t be at Warwick this year he wouldn’t have arranged to live there, but he did, so he’s there.

I know he’s a grown man now, and I understand that he needs to be independent, and thank God for it – there’s something not quite right with a person who doesn’t need to strike out on their own. Perhaps if he was in a job and able to support himself I’d feel happier. Perhaps if he had a better grasp of finances I’d feel happier. Perhaps if he wasn’t actually further from where he’ll need to be than Home is I’d feel happier.

I’ve never been good at Letting Go, and these apron strings are bloody hard to cut. But I'm a carer by nature and inclination, and the day I stop wanting to care is the day I should be shot. We need to win the lottery and buy a great big house with enough wings and floors for all our family and friends to have separate apartments and yet all be close together.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Just the two of us

Something always goes wrong when you’re moving house. When we moved to Genie Towers (it was only going to be temporary, but 17 years on we’re still here) we were at the back at 9am loading our van for the first time, ready to bring stuff here, empty it and return for the second load (it was only a small van) when the large van of the person buying our old house turned up at the front. We hurried and hastened and I took a car laden with plants, dogs, toddler and sundry other belongings to the estate agent’s office to get the keys to the new house only to be told the money wouldn’t be transferred till lunchtime and I couldn’t have the keys till then. This being in the days before mobile phones I then drove back to the old house to pass on the good tidings, having stopped at the new house where the men with our van were waiting patiently. We managed to get the keys when the office opened again after lunch and it all turned out all right in the end, but the experience was traumatic.

So I was right not to expect The Boy’s move to go swimmingly. We loaded his car and ours, and he set off to the estate agent to collect the keys, and we were to meet him at the house. His phonecall saying that one sharer’s first month’s rent and deposit hadn’t been paid and could he borrow £400 rather caught us on the blind side.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Another one bites the dust

Good intention, that is. The Boy's moving out tomorrow, so I planned a special meal for the special occasion, but was told when I'd started cooking it that something else entirely had been anticipated for days. Apart from not being able to justify the expense of a Chinese takeaway right now, perhaps if something had been said sooner it might have been arranged and we might not all be left feeling somewhat disappointed. And the gorgeous steak, although not entirely wasted, would have been properly appreciated.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The first cut is the deepest

We have a bit of a dilemma, and don't know what to do. Clover who, as you may or may not know, will be 14 in a couple of weeks so not in the first flush of youth, has several lumps and bumps in various places on her body, none big or bothering her. But she has one, less than a centimetre in diameter, on her neck which has decided that it won't heal. Harry and Piglet keep trying to clean it for her which of course knocks off the scab again and keeps it open. We've tried various ointments and unguents and powders and incantations at the full moon but nothing works. If we want to sort it out properly it'll have to come off, and one of the vets I work with is happy to do it with me assisting - because leaving her in a strange place with strangers would be very stressful for her and simply isn't an option. But that'll involve a GA which can be risky at the best of times, and although her heart and lung function are good I'm loath to put her through that unless it's absolutely necessary. We just don't know what to do for the best.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

You keep saying you've got something for me

Remember I thrilled you all with a picture of my poor worn-out old sandals? I searched the shops and the internet and couldn't find any the same, so I bit the bullet and ordered a pair of a different style, but which looked okay. I'm not keen on buying footwear on spec because I've got strange feet and not a lot of shoes fit anyway, and over the past few months my left 'had none' piggy has started randomly going into spasm in certain shoes, feeling as though it's been bent right back and is about to snap off. Then it gradually eases and I'll be able to walk again. So I was a bit dubious about buying without trying, but they were cheap ...

I placed the order on July 20th, and the confirmatory email said they would be released on 24th July, and that they always aim for delivery within 7 days. That was okay - they wouldn't take too long and I'd have some hopefully-comfy sandals for the summer. The days came and went and nothing turned up, and there was no reply to my email, so I phoned customer services, and spoke to a pleasant but brisk and slightly dense young man who told me there was a delay getting them in stock and they now wouldn't be despatched till August 18th. I told him this was very disappointing because it meant I'd have no sandals to go on holiday with (Cropredy being before then) so he took it upon himself to cancel my order. I told him I might as well carry on with the order, but apparently he was unable to reinstate the order and I had to go through the performance again. "We have an offer of either a free bag or a free pair of sandals with every order madam, which would you like?" and put me down for sandals, even though I thought an expandable bag might be useful, and flip-flop type sandals give me blisters. But by this stage I was losing the will to live and left it.

On August 7th I got an email telling me that the free sandals had been despatched and should be with me shortly. By today they hadn't arrived, and a delivery charge had been made to the credit card, so I phoned again to query, and spoke to Gary.

"Oh no, madam, we allow 10 working days for delivery."
"That's not what it says in your brochure or on your website."
"That's our policy."
"That's by-the-bye. Am I going to be charged a second postage fee for the main order?"
"Oh no madam, only the one fee per order."
"Phew, that's a relief. And the main order will be despatched tomorrow as I was told?"
"Hmmm, let me see ... no, there's been another delay and they won't be in stock until September20th."

That's when I told him to cancel the whole damned lot and refund me the postage charge for the bloody freebie I didn't even want. I'll be watching the next credit card statement with interest. And I won't be ordering from them ever ever again.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

It all comes round again

Hi kids, we're home! We went to Cropredy. It was fabuloso.

Steeleye Span was just brilliant. I’ve wanted to see them live for about a zillion years and I wasn’t disappointed. Happy 59th birthday for tomorrow, Maddy Prior; your voice is still as stunning as ever. I missed the music during Friday because I had to go to work, but got back to the site in time for supper then to go and see 10CC who were incredible. Hit after hit after hit, from Graham Gouldman’s 60s tracks recorded by the Hollies and The Yardbirds etc, to 10CC stuff, both before and after the split with Godley and Crème. Cracking.

It was on Friday night I learned I had more children than I’d realised, when someone called Benjamin called at the Blogring Manor (Mal and Maddy, Lorry and Kronky and Ned and I were all camped together, with a gazebo in the middle so it was very sociable) first asking if we had any ice for his sister then offered to sell us some jam, and sat down (“Is this your dad’s chair?”) when Ned had gone off to the loo; he then said perhaps he shouldn't talk about jam in front of 'your mum' – meaning me. Hmmm. I was known as Mum by all for the rest of the weekend. I’ve been called worse!

Saturday saw Dave Swarbrick’s return to the stage after his double lung transplant (he calls his band Lazarus) and the premature (in 1999!) publication in the Telegraph of his glowing obituary. (He was in hospital in Coventry when he read it. Apparently his reaction was “Ah well. It’s not the first time I’ve died in Coventry.”)

The weather was pretty rubbish on both Friday night and Saturday night, and Fairport’s Saturday set was more suited for a warm, mellow evening; the sunset had been so promising.
Great sounds but not jiggy enough to help people keep warm. But it was good, and I got a few hours of ‘travelling’ – getting into that mental state where you’re not quite awake, and not asleep, and your mind forgets all the issues that have been worrying you for so long. All without the use of any substances, either legal or illegal! There was an annoying group of yoofs very close by (William Anker, Tom Osser, Richard Head, Charlie Unt and Paul Ratt) who would be greatly improved if they were disembowelled. They either lurched off after an hour or so or shut up. They weren’t missed. And Lorry had made some lovely gloopy splotty stuff which was perfect for warming our frozed insides when we got back to the homestead at the end of the evening, and the rain started to chuck down.

It wasn’t as good as previous years – it was the first time we’ve preferred the earlier evenings’ music to the final evening. But I wouldn’t have missed it. Who’s coming along next year?

'King Mally appeared to fall off his chair before even bothering to unfold it this year.

Monday, August 07, 2006

We play the game, we pay the price

As you know, the Cropredy Festival is very much a 'must go' event. For the past few years it's been the second of our summer breaks, following an earlier week in Cornwall (preferably before the school holidays). This year circumstances have denied us our Cornish break so everything was being pinned on Cropredy.

My job, being shared with two other people (I'm summer cover for the usual third party) is normally very free and easy regarding who's on duty when. As long as someone's there the boss doesn't care who it is, and you only get paid for the hours you do, so nobody loses. I normally do the Friday morning session, and as Cropredy's Thursday, Friday and Saturday I hoped to swop my Friday for Wednesday so I could enjoy the festival atmosphere* with plenty of time to sober up.

Guess which week one of the other people's away (in Cornwall, just to rub it in), so I have to do one shift every day?

Ned'll have to set up the tent without me on Thursday morning (if he can arrange things with Mally and Lorry to all arrive at the same time we can camp together - can you co-ordinate, please?) while I'm at work, then I must rush into Leamington, then get home again, then he can come and collect me, then I must go home again on Friday morning to work Friday afternoon then gallop back again (hopefully I can arrange appointments so that the vet leaves on time!) to catch the later acts. I predict that's when I might relax spectacularly.

*Wadworth's 6X

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I've told you once and I've told you twice

If they don't want people to loiter, why do they make you read the information twice?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Who do you think you're fooling?

It beggars belief. And they try to convince us that educational standards aren't falling. Yeah, right.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Be careful with that axe, Eugene

Nearly done; but the chainsaw's jammed.
Be careful ...

*sighs and wonders if today's comments will be less **innuendous
**invents new word

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Let's stick together

Today's plan had been to make a final assault on the remaining timber from the felled tree and reduce it to logs for the winter, because it really doesn't make a very attractive addition to the patio, and makes relaxing on the bench very difficult.

Then Ned told me about the logs he'd ordered from Steve. "Logs? How many?" (suspiciously)> "Erm ... two loads" (guiltily). "Two loads? Why two?" (aghast). "Bogof!" (brightly).
Steve duly filled the drive with logs and Ned and I spent the day splitting and carrying them round to the stack. I'm sure it would have been easier with a conventional wheelbarrow (we have a beautiful wheelbarrow; it's just that the wheel doesn't turn. Bloody French workmanship) but we won't go into that. At 5 o'clock we stacked the last of them.

We still haven't started on ours. Maybe tomorrow, if our backs still work.

Monday, July 31, 2006

I'm on the hunt, I'm after you

Some of you might remember my July 16th blog when I wrote about the dreadful behaviour on the M25 of a driver for Hunt Bros. Transport of Warrington. They don’t have a website but Lorry managed to get details of their whereabouts (Sankey Valley Industrial Estate, Junction Lane, Newton-le-Willows, WA12 8DN), and on Monday 17th July I telephoned them (on 01925 222068) to make sure these details were correct. The man on the phone said that yes, their lorries did indeed have that livery, so I asked him who I should address a letter of complaint to. He told me that Mr Robert Hunt, the Transport Manager, would be the best recipient, so I posted the following:

Dear Mr Hunt

I am writing to inform you of the appalling behaviour of one of your lorry drivers.

Travelling on the M25 on Sunday 16th July, there was heavy congestion and a 40mph speed limit had been imposed between junctions 13 and 16, and the overhead gantries advised motorists to stay in lane. After J15, between 18.30 and 18.40, we witnessed one of your trucks (registration number MX03 NYW) weaving from lane to lane, causing car drivers to swerve to avoid being hit by his trailer (number HBT28). On the occasions that he found no way past motorists who were obeying the limit he was tailgating them and flashing his headlights.

I’m well aware that HGV drivers are restricted in the hours they can drive but that does NOT give them the right to attempt to force other vehicles out of the way. It’s been very many years since I last saw such aggressive driving; it was absolutely disgraceful, and it was only due to the quick-thinking of other motorists in taking avoiding action that there wasn’t a serious accident.

This man isn’t fit to be in charge of a tea-trolley, let alone a motor vehicle of any size. I would appreciate your assurance that there will be no possibility of this happening again.

Yours sincerely,

Two weeks on, and I haven’t even received an acknowledgement of my letter. How rubbish. But I'm pleased to see the July 16th blog is at the top when googling them!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Man, you got a warped groove

Look what was lurking under the shed!

Monday, July 24, 2006

I saw you, I saw you

When Ned decides to prune things they darn well stay pruned.

In other news, The Boy loathes and detests his new job because being part of a factory conveyor is mind-numbingly tedious. They have to build 5,000 post office bikes by October, and today he was putting the front wheels into the forks. By 8.30am he was at screaming point. And he's sharing it with us. Oh joy.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

He sleeps all night and he works all day

Oh, how the adrenaline flows when you realise that the tree wants to fall in the wrong direction.

Oh, how pleased you are when you realise your neighbour is out.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

I'm on the road again

Ned's sister-in-law chose what must have been one of the hottest days of the year to throw a surprise party for Ned's mother. After overhearing something she'd said about how sad it was that a person couldn't enjoy chatting to their friends at their own wake S-i-L decided to organise in effect a Living Wake. Just nobody ask her where her box was.

It was a horrid drive down. The last time we went down the motorway gantry signs advised of "QUEUES AFTER NEXT JUNCTION" but we took a chance and ended up stationary for 2 hours. Today, seeing the same message, we looked at each other, screamed in horror, and left to go rural. From one of the worst junctions to get a decent route for our destination.

Because of Guilfest I thought it best to avoid Guildford itself, so worked out a nice A-road route around it; when I explained the route to Ned he went very quiet, which isn't a Good Sign. He knows the roads there better than I do, and apparently this was a dreadful way to go, but by then we'd negotiated Woking town centre and were committed. Then, when we were nearly past the second-worst bit, we came to a police roadblock and had to turn around and go back. Oh joy. So we went through Guildford after all.

Ned thought I'd fallen asleep at one point - in fact I'd felt a bit wibbly from the heat and had passed out for a while.

Anyway, the party was a success and Ned's mum was delighted, which made it all worthwhile. It was interesting to see that Ned's cousin's daughter quite closely resembles The Boy in looks; put them side by side and you'd think they were brother and sister. Genes are curious things.

Then it was time to face the (at least) 2-hour drive home. There was a congested stretch of the M25 where there was a 40mph speed limit, and this is where we witnessed the most appalling driving we've seen for years. There was an HGV belonging to HUNT BROS. TRANSPORT of Warrington whose driver clearly thought he owned the road. He was weaving from lane to lane (when the gantry instructions said to STAY IN LANE), causing other drivers to swerve to avoid being hit by his trailer, and when (shock, horror) he found himself behind a vehicle obeying the speed limit to avoid a speeding fine he tailgated them, flashing his headlights. I can't find an email address for the company, so I'll post on here that the numberplate was MX03 NYW and the trailer was number HBT28. This incredibly aggressive driving took place between junctions 15 and 16 of the M25, between 18.30 and 18.40 today. I know that HGV drivers have restricted hours for driving, but that doesn't give them carte blanche to risk so many other people's lives. If anyone knows a contact address for this company, please can they let me know so that I can tell them what an appallingly dangerous driver this employee is. Maybe he should be reduced to pushing the tea-trolley in the offices. He's certainly not fit to drive a motor vehicle.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

She's leaving home, bye bye

It’s just as well Mr & Mrs Sixty came to see Kitkat fairly early, because it got absolutely scorching later. We’d stressed to them that if they decided for any reason (not striking enough markings, too wild, too big, too small, anything) they weren’t to feel obliged to take her; there were enough alternatives for her, and none of them involved going to the Cats’ Home or being advertised. But despite Kit not following instructions to be cute and charming, instead choosing to hide under Ned’s chair and only emerge when tempted beyond resistance by the judicious wiggling of bits of paper and string, and leaping out of their arms when placed for a stroke, they still seemed to fall for her, so we gathered her belongings into a metaphorical spotted hanky and off she went to Leicescescestershire. It’ll be quiet without her – although Ned’s beard’ll stand more chance of survival after her recent fascination with it! Remember to send piccies, you two!

Feeling slightly glum afterwards (we’re rubbish at rehoming animals – selling the pups is a nightmare of tears) especially as The Boy had come downstairs shortly after they left and grumbled about not being woken to say goodbye to her, Ned and I decided to do a couple of caches to cheer ourselves up. I wish I’d taken my camera* because I missed a fantastic photo. While we were waiting at the traffic lights in Banbury a motorcyclist pulled up beside us, and in his rucksack, head out, dozing, was a very laid-back brown terrier. He was completely relaxed; obviously the cool breeze as they roared away and his ears flew straight backwards was pleasing.

*either of them: the digital with the infuriating shutter delay that means one either needs precognition and press the shutter a couple of seconds before the action, or my old fillum one (with new fillum because I was so hacked off at missing action shots of Kit – I wonder how long it'll be before I use up the fillum).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I must think of a new life, and I mustn't give in

I love my mother dearly, but she does drive me wild sometimes. She's been oohing and aahing over the kitten (or Kitkat, as she's presently known), and saying how I mustn't send her to a Cats' Home - that if nobody else wanted her she was sure she could manage; that it probably wasn't sensible, but ...

Now, Mother's 83, and none too steady on her legs. If she tries to turn round without holding on the something she's likely to lose her balance. If she bends down it's possible she'll just topple over. She's rattling around with pills to try to help her vertigo but they don't seem to do a lot. However, she's been the only person living in her house since my dad died in 1987, and been the sole occupant entirely since her elderly Golden Retriever died last year. Before she got the dog she asked my brothers and me if one of us would be able to take him if she died first - that she wouldn't have a puppy otherwise. That wasn't a problem, so she gave Tim a lovely life and he was marvellous company for her. Someone to talk to, and care for and who responded to her with affection. But now she's completely on her own, and I know she's lonely. Although her own mother lived to be 93, with the best will in the world Mother's unlikely to outlive a kitten, and so there'd be a rehoming problem to be dealt with in the future, and cats are harder to rehome than dogs.

Anyway, I think Mother's been indulging in a flight of fancy about having a gentle little furry to curl on her lap and purr, forgetting that young kittens are incredibly active, and pounce on your feet and leap on your back and generally behave like potential assassins. Kitkat's nearly tripped me up several times by launching herself at my feet from behind the curtains or under the bedspread; Mother wouldn't be able to save herself from falling. Also litter trays are at floor level, and a person needs to bend down to pick them up to clean them. Mother's hands are knotted with arthritis anyway, and not being able to stoop safely ... in a couple of days she's gone from telling me she's a fall-back option to deciding she's the Number One choice. (That's what comes from having nobody to talk to - you make up your own world that doesn't necessarily have a lot of bearing on reality.)

I was very pleased that the Sixtys were interested in having the Kit because they can provide the sort of home my little poppet deserves - plenty of attention and liveliness! Now Mother's telling me that she's quite disappointed that someone else wants her ("But what'll happen when your friend has a baby?" "She'll have a cat and a baby, Mother").

I must be strong, and not allow her to put guilt on me. Besides, Mrs Sixty did express an interest before Mother did, and is much more likely to be offering a forever home - and that's got to be in Kit's best interest. I shall make enquiries about whether Mother would be able to adopt a more mature cat, which would be much more suitable - and less likely to cause Mother to break her neck!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

I walked through a field that just wasn't real

My favouritest comfortablest sandals have had it. :( They've carried me without complaint along the Cornish Coastal path, up and down cliffs, across fields and through towns. They've been marvellous, and I've been looking for another pair to carry on their good work.

Naturally, that style is no longer available.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Cheap, never cheap

Actually I'm trying to keep things cheap. I've only bought cat litter (which is in the (clean) oil-changing tray) and scoop, one tin of Denes kitten food and a 50p ball. I got a cat wormer and a sample of Hills kitten food from work, and I already had Frontline spray. So she should be healthy.

I'm determined not to name her. Once she's named it'll be difficult to move her on, and although if the dogs would accept her I'd love to keep her, but realistically I can't see that happening with Piggy. But it seems rude to simply call her 'the kitten' (especially with the connotations the word now has!) so I've still been running through names faster than Liz Taylor got through husbands; she's a very old-fashioned looking kit, so I've tried (and rejected) Ethel, Mabel and Florence. As things stand it looks as though she'll be here for the weekend because nobody's made any enquiries about her so I've moved her pen from the dining room to our bedroom so she doesn't spend so much time alone. The dogs aren't allowed upstairs anyway, and with the door shut I can safely let her out to play. This when she got yet another name. You remember Inspector Clousaeu's manservant in the Pink Panther films? Well because of the way she lurks beside the bed ready to pounce, 'Cato' seemed appropriate.

To while away the time in the bedroom while she played, I sat on the bed and started folding clothes. I didn't half jump when, instead of playing nicely on the floor, she took off, landed on my head then leapt for the windowsill. It would have been even more impressive if she'd reached it instead of hitting the wall below and landing on the floor with a thump and a startled expression.

I'm trying hard to get a picture of how small she really is, but she doesn't stay still for very long. The Boy took this one of her sitting on my hand. But of course she stretched up at the critical moment and enbiggified herself again.

I wonder if she'll let me get any sleep tonight?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Where do you belong?

We seem to have acquired a lodger. Ned and I were taking the dogs up to the fields, and in the gateway there she was. She started to come towards us - Piglet was nearly apoplectic - so Ned held the leads and I went to pick her up and take her to what I assumed was her home. But they'd never seen her before, and I know that Ricky and Charlotte in the next house wouldn't have got a kitten because Charlotte's hideously allergic. I obviously couldn't leave her on the road so the people lent me their cat basket to take her away.

She's been scanned at the vet (no chip) and I've asked everyone up and down the road if they know anything about her, and nobody does. She's very sweet and friendly, so not feral. Both the local vet surgeries know we have her, and I've made a nice secure cage (with lid!) from the puppy panels we had stored in the garage. So ....

Do we take her to the RSPCA (not renowned for their helpfulness with strays) or the nearest Cat Rescue? Or (perish the thought) do we keep her and hope she doesn't end up as a tasty snack for one of the dogs? She's very tiny - about 6 or 8 weeks old I reckon (although an expert tells me she must be older than that because her eyes aren't blue any more) - and last time I had a kitten I was 12 years old. I haven't a clue ...

Edit: She's litter trained.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I'll shout myself hoarse for your supernatural force

My brother (not the one with the bionic hip, the other one) phoned me to pass on natal felicitations and, naturally, to wind me up (fraternal Law). The lucky bugger had some draught Spitfire (advertising slogan "Downed all over Kent - just like the Lüftwaffe") about his person, and invited me to listen to him slurping it with enjoyment.

"You do that, you bastard, and I might have to kill you" (or words to that effect) was my retort.

"No chance, you're too far away. I'm safe at this distance."

*sssssssllllllllluuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrpppppppp .... coughcoughcoughcoughcough*

It was several minutes before he could speak again, having nearly drowned. The beer had gone down the wrong way. It was even longer before I could speak again, being so weak from hysterical laughter.

That'll teach him not to doubt his little sister's Powers.
*cackles evilly*

Monday, July 03, 2006

How many kinds of sweet flowers grow

The current heatwave (82°F at 9am) suits the flowers, even if the lawn is desiccating. In the morning the air is filled with the scent of roses
New Dawn
Zepherine Drouhin mingling with ... erm ... a white climber
Rosa Mundi
And in the evening the scent of lilies wafts in.
Lilium Regale

What's even better, nobody's ruining it with stinky barbecues! Hurrah!

Friday, June 30, 2006

You practice lies and deceit

Well, that's the cleverest wheeze on how to get cheap labour I've ever come across. You send someone a letter that they receive on Friday, after completing a week's work, telling them that they were made redundant on Tuesday. You have to admire their audacity. Then you go and blow their fucking* heads off.

*Those who know me will realise how very, very cross I am.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The only way is up

Well, that's what we thought, but sometimes Life goes from shitty to even shittier. And then goes downhill.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

They're uncultivated, of breeding bereft

Today I have mainly been disentangling bindweed from the currant bushes.

Okay, so it doesn't really look very different, but there were several armfuls taken out!

Monday, June 26, 2006

I put a spell on you

In the brief minutes of calm between the arrival of the vet and the arrival of the first appointment, we generally make a cup of tea and chat (a good way for me to pump for information!) about various animal-related topics: the plummeting reputation of the RSPCA since the bunny-hugger coup in the early 80s; the problem of bovine TB and the soaring badger population; down to more personal anecdotes. The other day I during this lull I was telling the duty vet about Beattie’s lick granuloma and how difficult it is to get it to heal. It’ll be almost better and then she’ll have another go at it and we’re back to square one. As if she wasn’t bad enough, a couple of days ago I had to scold Piglet because he was licking it for her!

There’s no guaranteed ‘cure’ for these things other than prevention by various means while you try to discover the reason behind the licking. It’s usually for one of two reasons – physical discomfort (a cut, an itch, a thorn, arthritis etc) or mental upset, rather like a child thumb-sucking or nail-biting for security. With Beattie it started when my work routine changed, but I’m beginning to think she might be getting a touch of arthritis in the joints of her paws as well. Either way the result’s the same – the more they lick the sorer it becomes so they lick more to ease it. It ends up a bit like Lady Macbeth where however hard she scrubbed her hands with the wire brush she couldn’t get rid of the blood …

But I digress. The vet and I were talking about the possible prevention methods; bandaging (either the bandage gets chewed off or they start to lick somewhere else instead), a lampshade collar (distressing for many dogs, and as soon as you take it off they start again). The best thing is to keep an eye on them and distract them whenever they start. Then it was time for surgery. And it was very strange – no matter what the appointment was really for, whether for a booster injection, or stitches out, or a sore eye, four out of five of the owners mentioned that their dog had a place that they kept licking and making sore! I wonder what interesting topic we should talk about next to see if we suddenly have an influx of sufferers.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

So here's my litany

Today we went to Purgatory. Despite the evidence in the mud of cloven hooves (Satan or cattle? You decide) it was surprisingly pleasant.

Friday, June 23, 2006

This old house is gettin' shaky

Ned drives past this house every day on his commute. It looks quite nice from a distance...... then you realise it's made almost entirely of corrugated iron.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

De-Fraggle rock

Today I have mainly been trying to defrag the compluter. I understand the principle of it okay, and know how to get the thing to start doing it. But it’ll get to about 10% and then inform me that the drive’s changed and it’s restarting. I asked several people what I should do and was advised to make sure that no other programs are running at the time as they’ll be causing the problem. Righto – how do I do that? On desktop, hit Ctrl/Alt/Del I was told, then shut down the programs on the list one at a time.

I’ve found a snag with that. If I click End Task at the bottom of the box, the highlighted program certainly stops running, but the list box also goes away. If I Ctrl/Alt/Del in an attempt to get it back so I can stop more programs, the computer shuts down. No matter what I do I can only stop one program – not all of them (I was told to leave Explorer running to keep the computer going). Last night I had to restart the computer 4 times as I worked my way through all the available options. I can’t even manage to highlight all the programs I want to stop at once. Usually holding Ctrl while clicking down a list selects more than one, but that doesn’t work with this.

So I thought I’d google for instructions on defragging. D’oh! It’s not really helpful to simply be told that ‘It’s best to shut down all other programs while defragging’ without being told how. So I kept on trying and eventually succeeded on getting it so that only Explorer was showing as running - screensaver shut down and everything. Hurrah! Here we go!

Nope. Just the same. Gets to 10% then says the drive's changed. I’m stumped. Suggestions? Or do I learn to love the effect of wading through treacle?

Edit: Gordon, you're a star! F8ing at Startup and going into Safe Mode did the trick. Thank you!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Yeah yeah, it's not fair

My computer's arsing around and has forgotten how to access Lorry's blog. Please can a lovely chummington email me the password? Ta ever so!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Does your chewing gum lose its flavour

By the pond near the back door we have a large mock orange blossom shrub. I've no idea what variety it is - certainly different to any other I've seen anywhere. It has a hugely powerful scent, which also is unlike other mock oranges (or 'Philadelphus' if we're being posh). This one smells exactly like Juicy Fruit chewing gum. It's a mass of blossom at the moment, reminding me of a frothy lacy wedding dress,
and the delicious scent blows in through the open windows and door. It's growing right on the boundary so next door get to enjoy it too, which is only fair as they've planted a large climbing rose at the front boundary fence which fills the rooms at the front of our houses with scent. In this hot weather it's just wonderful.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Just a kid roamin' around travellin' through a little ol' town

Usually I think that jail sentences handed down to law-breakers are far too lenient (I’m normally pretty much of a ‘throw away the key’ persuasion) but on this particular occasion I think the judge was too harsh. You may remember last November there was a car crash just up the road from us (at Badger’s Drift, actually, which is just along from where I was knocked down when I was walking the dogs by a car about twelve years ago. It’s obviously a dangerous spot) and one of The Boy’s friends from junior school was killed. Kelly had been a front-seat passenger in the car and died at the scene; the rear passenger injured both knees and needed to be cut from the wreckage but the driver was merely bruised, although severely shocked. They’d all been at a party and all had had quite a lot to drink. The girl driver should never have attempted to drive, and the passengers shouldn’t have agreed to get in the car. A taxi between three, even at midnight in the country, isn’t going to break the bank. But they were foolish enough – at 19 we’ve all done stupid things – to use the car, and were unlucky enough not to get away with it.

The girl who was driving wasn’t allowed to go to her best friend’s funeral (which as a parent I can understand, although it was hard for her to bear) and hasn’t driven since. She regrets what she did every day, and will never forgive herself for the rest of her life.

Although she broke the law and there were tragic consequences, she didn’t wilfully intend to hurt anyone at all, let alone her friend; there was no crime of intent. That’s why I think three years in prison is too harsh and will do her no good. All I can think is that it was a sentence designed to deter others, and she’s just a scapegoat. I don’t think she should have got off scot-free, but there must surely be more suitable punishments for what she did - something that wouldn't have another devastating negative impact on her life? After all she's no danger to society. It just makes an even worse mess of a terrible tragedy.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I’ll come bouncing back to you

At last I had my chance to be surgery assistant as well as receptionist! Bob and Dave duly arrived and we completed the consent forms. They were weighed and, because there was 20 minutes before the next client, we decided to make a start, and painkillers were injected with only mild protest, and given a few minutes to take effect. So far so good. Then came the sedative. This should be injected intra-muscularly not subcutaneously and stings (the reasoning behind giving the painkiller first). Dave, the bigger of the two, was very amenable and was soon back in his basket sleeping peacefully. Meanwhile we were wrestling with Bob, who simply wasn’t interested in the idea of either cooperation or placid resistance. A cat weighing 2½ kilos is equipped with many lethal weapons, and we were both soon fully acquainted with all of them; and he wasn’t quiet about it either! The minutes were passing, the next appointment time was fast approaching and Dave was likely to stir, so Bob was caged and covered over to calm down, we mopped up the blood (ours!) and Dave was discombobulated. A quarter-inch incision, a squeeze and a pull and one was gone. Rinse and repeat. All done and dusted, and Davina was wrapped up warm and left to doze during the rest of surgery hours.

Round 2. Bob was still pretty miffed so rather than distress him any more, not to mention risking more injury ourselves, the sedative was applied into his scruff instead. It does work like that, but takes a bit longer. While that was rendering him unconscious Dave was given the reversal jab and was tucked up again. Once sleeping Bob soon became Bobette, his manhood joined Dave’s in the bin and we heaved a sigh of relief. Thank goodness there are no stitches to be taken out later! An hour later and they were carried away home, still somewhat woozy and resentful - especially Bob!

We might be doing a ferret next week ...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Oh deer, what can the matter be

Perhaps the deer wouldn't be quite as dangerous if they weren't allowed guns.

You're in their sights ...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Slow down you're gonna crash

It's incredibly reassuring to be told "Don't worry, it does that sometimes. Just do payments without the computer and make a note of the details and I'll sort it out tomorrow. Then phone Leamington and ask them to reboot" when you're in the middle of a transaction with a queue of clients and the computer says that the program's made a fatal error and will now shut down. I don't think I screamed in horror very loudly.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Then you’ll spread your wings and take to the sky

This weekend, to make a change from caching, and because it’s been tooooo hot for long hikes, and because we’ve only just got roofbars for the ‘new’ car, and also because it’s been chained to the hedge since we got burglarified, we decided to get the canoe into the water again and go for a paddle. So we hoisted it onto the roof and set off for Leamington, where the river flows through a park and there’s a boat-hire place and they don’t mind people putting their own boats in there. Luckily we’re good enough paddlers to be able to steer it okay so didn’t make an ass of ourselves with an audience; in fact we could hear “Oh that looks fun, why don’t we do that?” as we glided under the bridge. It’s a lovely place, because as soon as you’re under the road bridge at the end of the park you’re in open countryside on the edge of town with only the wildlife for company. It was a beautiful evening – the sun was still hot but the trees on the banks provided shade; the fish were jumping and I’m sure the cotton was high. On one stretch we saw a heron perched in a tree,
but it took off as we approached, along with a pair of ducks. I was cursing the shutter-delay of the camera because there was one perfect moment when the three birds were framed in a gap in the branches, flying in formation like the Battle of Britain Flight, with a Lancaster bomber leading, supported by two fighters. But by the time the picture took, they were out of sight around the corner. Dammit! I need a digital that obeys! Anyway we paddled for half an hour upstream, then turned for home. Messing about on the river is the best way to unwind.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Meet me on the corner

I’m a fan of ‘Midsomer Murders’ (“What are you doing here, Cully?”) on a Sunday night, even though I need to watch each episode two or three times before I know whodiddit. That’s because it always starts when we’re well into our first bottle of wine, and by the time it finishes our powers of recall aren’t always great. Anyway, the scenery’s always pretty, a lot of the time is spent saying “ooh look that’s whatisname who was in thingy, isn’t it?” and you can hear loads of magpies in the background but never see them. The real Midsomer area is in Somerset, but the series is filmed in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire which confuses many people who go to Midsomer Norton (real place) to see Midsomer Worthy (fictional place). The fictional area has loads of interestingly named villages in true English fashion (it was only recently I learned that Danby Wiske, a character in a series of historical novels, is a village in Yorkshire); there are such names as Midsomer Malham, Stranglers Wood (I wonder what happened there?), Fletcher’s Cross and Badger’s Drift. Which is what I’ve named the corner near the field up the road, now that the verge has been mown*.

*see blog 24th May

Monday, May 29, 2006

So follow me, follow

We took the Boy down to Sussex to visit his granny at the weekend, because it’s been ages since he saw her last. We’ve been trying to work out exactly when it was – definitely August 1999, but surely he’s been down there since? I’ll have to look through the old calendars. Anyway, it seemed sensible to visit while we could, even though it was a Bank Holiday weekend with all the associated traffic joys, which meant it was 11pm by the time we got there, having abandoned the M25 and gone cross country (freelance, ignoring Henrietta the Navigator, who got into a right strop).

While we were down there we introduced the Boy to the joys of caching, and although he doesn’t seem mad keen I think he quite enjoyed the experience - especially the bit where Harry and I went different ways, and at different speeds, around a stump. It’s lucky there’s a drought or I might have vanished entirely, but my hand (without the GPS) reached solid ground at about elbow-depth. It was more than a tad damp underfoot; in fact we wouldn’t have been surprised to see alligators slipping into the ‘puddles’.
Drought conditions

That particular cache was the Boy’s first find, which was good; the next was a Did Not Find, which rather spoilt it for him. It was disappointing for us too, as we had a Travel Bug that desperately wants to be in the area for collection by his Merkin owners next week. In the end we had to leave it at A Pile of Blogs and hope someone either moves it on in time or its owners can get there themselves.

Talking of the Blog Standard series …. Come on you lot, when are the rest going to be placed? Surely it’s not stopping at five? If so, what does a person who’s found them all* do with the numbers?

*hint hint smug grin*

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pop goes the weasel

A couple of weeks ago I noticed, when walking the dogs, a freshly-dead badger on the verge by the road. At this stage it was almost completely unoffensive, but as the days went on - this was during the recent warm weather - it began to change. As the process of decomposition advanced it not only began to stink (a smell that can never be mistaken for anything else) but also the gases trapped within made it start to balloon. It was fascinating – from lying on its side it ended up on its back with its legs in the air, looking just like a stuffed toy. But it was at this stage I began to get nervous walking past it; I didn’t want to be in the vicinity if it went pop. Luckily (?) the weather cooled again and the grasses and hedge-parsley have grown up around it, and it’s now invisible (although the smell lingers). Soon the verges will be mown by a tractor flail to ease visibility for motorists … it could be very messy …

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Went to mow a meadow

To tell the truth it wasn't one man, it was one woman, but it was certainly a meadow! In fact after all the rain we've had recently the lawn in the back garden was visibly growing as you watched before it became a veritable jungle, possibly harbouring several water buffalo and a tiger.

It's now back down to a manageable level although even the rotary mower made heavy weather of it because it was so wet, and spewed out great gobbets of mulchy grass which Harry made a beeline for to scoff as much as he could before I noticed and yelled at him. Sometimes I wonder about that dog's parentage - the way he grazes anyone would think he was half sheep.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

These foolish things

It's very disappointing when a person whom you always believed was reasonably intelligent as well as being in possession of a modicum of common sense does something so jaw-droppingly stupid that you want to take them by the shoulders and shake them till their teeth rattle, then round it off with a good slapping.

Oh yes, and Happy Birthday, Boy. None of us will forget this one in a hurry.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Put yourself in my place

I had a young woman come into the vet’s today, asking for advice. I can do advice, so that wasn’t a problem. She said her dog had snapped at her toddler three times and she wanted to know whether she ought to muzzle her dog, rehome him or have him put down. Luckily I know to ask questions; is there a pattern to when it happens; for instance is the dog guarding his food, has the dog been ill, or hurt himself? The first two times the mother said she didn’t see what had happened, but the last time the dog was lying down and the toddler sat on him and bounced, and the dog snapped at him.

I was very proud of myself - it’s very difficult to be diplomatic when you want to scream “You effing stupid woman!”. I explained that small children are too immature to realise that other people and animals have feelings, and need to be taught that pets aren’t toys. Children can unwittingly be very cruel sometimes. I sympathised at how difficult life is with a toddler, and how you need eyes in the back of your head to stop them getting into scrapes, and told her that the general advice is to never leave dogs or cats unsupervised with small children; if she can’t be with them then they need to be separated – baby gates are good for this. She looked rather gobsmacked and said they’d got gates but had ‘lost the fixings’ … perhaps she ought to buy some more? An excellent idea! I agreed. She seemed a tad surprised at the intimation that it was caused by the child’s bad behaviour and that it was up to her to control him better (not that I put it in as many words, of course, but she certainly didn’t get the response she seemed to be after!). I have no idea whether she’ll do it, though. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll begin to realise that an pet doesn’t deserve to be bullied, and will defend itself if the owner doesn’t take the responsibility. Dogs in pain or frightened are likely to snap, even the sweetest-natured one, and even rational people get short-tempered if they have a headache or tummy-ache. Why do so many people think their pet has no feelings? Maybe she should rehome the dog – to someone who’ll respect it. What’s certain is that she shouldn’t muzzle it yet still allow the child to bully it.

PS. The cat who was to be castrated didn’t turn up for his little appointment.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Cause we believe in you

There’s been a quite heated discussion on another site about the subject of what constitutes bullying, and what should be done in certain situations. I was brought up with the mantra “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”, so to me, verbal teasing doesn’t constitute bullying. Just say “yeah whatever” and the meany-pants soon gets bored and goes to find someone who’s willing to become a victim.

However there was mention of a particular situation which I find very worrying. A 12 year old girl was teased about having ginger hair, and got very upset, and her mother allowed her to have her hair dyed brown. Apart from the fact that this fosters the belief that ginger hair is freakish and something to be ashamed of, this girl doesn’t actually have ginger hair; it’s already naturally brown! As I see it, not only has this mother allowed her daughter to feel victimised, she’s also encouraging her to feel that problems can be solved by altering her physical appearance - and look how successful that’s been for Michael Jackson. Instead she should be shoring up her daughter’s self-esteem on the bedrock of truth and not settle on the shifting sands of a lie. I know that children's egos are very fragile but to allow her daughter to over-react to another child's poor joke is in itself a form of abuse.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The look of love

The Boy popped home the other evening to ‘borrow’ something and I seized the opportunity to take a photo of him with his shorn head to add to my collection. I think it starts at Day 2 or 3 of his life; my legs didn’t work till then and it’s all a bit hazy – those painkillers were very effective! Anyway, there was the usual problem of getting me to the right height so that I’m not a) staring up his nose (he’s a lot taller than me – when he hugs me my face is squished at armpit level) or b) having to stand on a chair and feel wibbly. So he crouched at the knees and we both got a fit of the giggles. The resulting photo (which he doesn’t want enNettified) isn’t flattering! In my opinion he definitely looks better with hair at least six inches long – a couple of years’ time perhaps. Whatever – to me he always looks gorgeous; I’m his mum, after all.

He’s moving home again at the end of the month! His pal Oliver whose house he’s sharing is changing his job, and it’s a tied cottage, so I get him back. :D

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Accidents will happen

As we were driving home through the village we saw stopped traffic and a bit of a crowd opposite the Post Office. The people parted slightly and there was a small dog lying in the road. I got out of the car to see if anyone had called the vet – people were trying to resuscitate the little thing – then I saw the fallen zimmer, and I knew whose dog it was (it’s not a big village!). A lady I often speak to when she’s waiting for the bus to take her to visit her Downs syndrome son who’s in a coma in hospital with no hope of recovery has now lost her little dog as well, because someone was driving too fast through the village. I don't know whether the fact that he's Polish is significant, but my friend wishes he'd stayed there. Ned and I drove her home and I carried her little dead dog in and laid her in her basket. A person's life can change in a split second.