Saturday, 28 June 2014

Feeling Ruff

I’d really like to write something cheerful, but right now I’m still absolutely furious about my elderly beagle being attacked by two Weimarinars on Saturday afternoon.  Sometimes you need to let rip.  This is one of those occasions so…everybody stand back!
          If you are thinking about getting a dog, or have recently acquired a dog, please take on board that it is your responsibility, no, DUTY, to teach your dog basic obedience, manners and respect.
          Over the years, I’ve owned many dogs and, with the exception of one, they were all rescue dogs.  I had no idea of their background or why they were no longer wanted.  It is a tough decision taking on a rescue dog when the animal is an unknown quantity.  Has the animal been badly treated?  Could it, as a result, bite?  If you have children, is the dog going to be good with them?  If you have a cat, will the dog be tolerant?  There are a number of questions you need to ask yourself and these are just a few.  Ironically, the only dog I ever had a problem with was one I welcomed as a puppy.
          Many years ago, our ancient family dog – an old Collie by the name of Bob – fathered a litter of twelve puppies.  He was immensely proud of himself, but the effort obviously took it out of him.  Not long afterwards he keeled over.  The owner of the bitch our dog had wooed was, understandably, aghast but blamed herself for not getting her bitch spayed.
          ‘Can you help me out here,’ she asked, ‘and offer one of these puppies a home?’
          So we did.  After all, it would be like having a little bit of Bob.  We named our pup Max.  And he was adorable.  Until a friend’s child, learning to walk, fell on him.  And from that moment on, Max couldn’t abide kids.  And when I say abide, I actually mean detest.
          When my son came along, I dithered about re-homing Max.  A number of questions ran through my head.  What if the re-homing centre in some way failed to properly pass on information, so that the new owner didn’t know this dog abhorred children?  What if his new owner let Max off the lead at a local park, and he bit a child?  I couldn’t risk it.  The alternative decision was to put him to sleep.  That said, the dog had never actually bitten a child.  It was a double dilemma because he was young and fit.  I decided to keep Max and make sure he never had an opportunity to be alone with my baby son.  He’d never been an ‘indoor’ dog.  I think his Collie genes just couldn’t cope with it.  Long ago we’d turned one of the stables into a heated kennel, and fenced off a large section of paddock as an outdoor run with external shelter.  So when my son was finally born, the house was a safe environment.  And whenever Max encountered my son outside, he was always on a lead.  Strangely, he never gave my son a second glance.  But with anybody else’s child, he was a nightmare.
          There was one heart-stopping moment when a mother, toddler in a buggy, ventured into our private stable yard unannounced while Max was loose.  The dog zoomed off, like a greyhound after a hare, skidded to a halt in front of the buggy, and gave one deep baritone bark before zooming back to me.  I was expecting hysterics from the mother and thinking, ‘This is it, I’m finally going to have to have him put to sleep.’  Fortunately the mother acknowledged she had come onto private property with a sign that screamed BEWARE OF THE DOG, and thank God her child was unharmed.  But it was a horrendous moment.  The whole ‘what should I do about this dog’ situation was resolved when Max was diagnosed with unexpected bone cancer, and had to be put to sleep anyway.  I would be a liar if I didn’t say that, despite the tears, there was also a sense of relief.
          If you know your dog is unpredictable, can’t stand the postman, the dustman, bike riders, and has issues with other dogs, cats, or children, then it is up to you to take every step possible to ensure that your dog doesn’t cause an accident or bring harm to others.  Letting your dog off the lead and ‘hoping for the best’ is just not on.
          The last time my current dog was attacked was by a traveller’s dog.  Afterwards, I went out and bought one of those tennis ball launcher dog toys.  The plastic handle is absolutely ace for bashing the cr*p out of an offending dog.  Regrettably, after moving to our new abode, I stopped carrying the tennis ball launcher out on walks with pooch stupidly thinking it was no longer necessary.  However, if my dog recovers from this attack, I most definitely will be arming myself with it.  So, owners of unpredictable dogs, WATCH OUT!  Which reminds me.
          Mrs Green was walking to the Post Office when her neighbour came up to her and said, ‘Hello, Mrs Green, how’s your dog?  I saw it yesterday chasing an old man on a bicycle.’  ‘That wasn’t my dog,’ said Mrs Green.  ‘Are you sure?’ asked the neighbour.  ‘Most definitely,’ said Mrs Green, ‘my dog can’t ride a bicycle…’


Saturday, 21 June 2014

A Short Story

Yesterday my daughter offered me three pairs of her old shorts.  When I say old, I don’t mean ancient.  I use the word more in the context of ‘no longer required’.  And why are they no longer required?  Because, after a year of pole fitness and physical theatre, she weighs eight stone seven pounds and has a body slimmer than a pencil.  Well, not literally a pencil, but you know what I mean.
            ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ I told her, ‘they won’t fit me.’
            ‘Yes, they will.  They’re huge,’ was her response.
            In this next context, please understand that huge still means ‘Size Small’, it’s just that they’re huge on her because she’s now Extra Extra Small.
            ‘Here,’ Eleanor held a pair out, ‘try them on.’
            ‘Do you think I should?’
            ‘Erm, I was thinking more along the lines of whether it’s acceptable to be seen in them.’
            ‘Hmm.  I get where you’re coming from.  Leopard print probably isn’t for you.’
            Indeed.  Not unless I wanted to look like a fifty-two-year-old hooker.
            ‘Well what about these?’ Eleanor offered.  ‘They cost a lot of money.’  She was holding a pair of black cotton hot pants covered in silver spikes and tiny metal skulls.  A reminder of her Emo phase.
            ‘I’m not sure they’re really me.’
            ‘Okay.  What about this last pair?  They’re boring as anything.  Just like y– .  I mean…they’ll totally suit you.’
            I gazed at the pale blue denim.  Levi Strauss.  And lovely fringed sawn off legs.  Oh, yes!  I stuck one foot through the leg hole, then the other, and pulled them up.  There was a pause as the denim hit my thighs.  A bit of a tug.  After all, you can ask your thighs to breathe in, but you won’t get a response.  A firm yank, and they shot upwards nearly garrotting my private parts.
            My son wandered in, looking vague.  ‘I’m in the middle of revision, and stuck.’
            ‘I’m in the middle of trying on a pair of shorts, and also stuck.’
            ‘I’ve gone blank on the definition of volatile.’
            ‘It means tense, uncomfortable, or uneasy.  A bit like me in these shorts.’
            ‘I’m talking about the word in chemistry terms.’
            ‘They fit!’ Eleanor exclaimed.
            ‘Well, they’re on,’ I said cautiously, pulling the waistband together to do up the stud button.  There was a gap of two inches.  Okay, I’m lying.  It was three inches.
            ‘Oh, I remember now,’ said Robbie, ‘it means a liquid that easily evaporates at room temperature.’
            ‘I wish my waist would evaporate at room temperature.’
            ‘Oh, shame,’ said Eleanor, trying not to look appalled at her mother impersonating a particularly porky sausage in the grip of a very tight bandage.  Or a pair of shorts in this case.  ‘Take them off and I’ll give them to the charity shop.’
            Removing the shorts was not an experience I wish to repeat.  As I went to pull them down, they jammed over my hips.  How on earth had I ever got them on?
            ‘Help,’ I wailed.
            ‘Keep still, I’ll tug with you,’ said Eleanor.
            So we tugged. Nothing happened.  Visions of reaching for the kitchen scissors danced through my mind.
            ‘One more try,’ said Eleanor.
            Thankfully the second attempt had the shorts coming down.  Along with my pants.
            ‘Do not ask me,’ I gasped, trying to protect my modesty, ‘to ever attempt trying on your clothes again.’
            ‘You could always go on a diet,’ my daughter suggested helpfully.
            Which reminds me. 
I’m trying the new Pasta Diet.  The Italians have been using it for centuries. You walka pasta da bakery.  You walka pasta da sweet shop.  And you walka pasta da ice-cream shop…


Saturday, 14 June 2014

Breakfast with the Bryants

Earlier this week, my daughter and I – due to an uncharacteristically early start to the day – ended up having breakfast at my parents’ house.
          My mother, unused to being awoken at what she calls the crack of dawn (it was nine in the morning), and recuperating from her recent operation, was still floating about in her nightie.
          ‘Put the kettle on, Debs,’ said Mother Bryant, ‘while I go and get dressed.  You know where everything is.’
          ‘Indeed,’ I replied, before turning to my daughter.  ‘What would you like?’
          ‘What is there?’ asked Eleanor.
          My mother immediately did a U-turn and shuffled back into the kitchen.  ‘I have ten different varieties of cereal, or there’s muffins, or bread for toasting – you can choose from brown, white, oatmeal or gluten-free – there’s also croissants…plain and almond, or scones with either currants or cherries, I’ve got teacakes, or you can have fresh fruit…bananas, blueberries and strawberries.’
          Only my mother can offer such an array of goodies.
          Eleanor pondered.  ‘Is there anything else?’
          Only my daughter can still remain indecisive.
          ‘Boiled eggs and soldiers?’
          Eleanor’s face lit up.  ‘Yes please!’
          ‘I’ll let your mother take care of it for you.  I must go and get dressed.’
          My father came into the kitchen.
          ‘Are you taking care of Eleanor’s breakfast?’
          ‘Yes.  I’m doing boiled eggs.  Do you want a couple?’
          ‘No, thanks, I’m going to have toast.’
          My mother immediately shuffled back into the kitchen.  ‘No you’re not, Tony, you’re going to finish off the yoghurt.  It’s two days out of date and needs eating up.’
          ‘Right, dear.’
          ‘Do you think it wise to eat dairy that’s out of date?’ I asked.
          ‘Certainly,’ said Mother Bryant, ‘when you’ve been through a war you’ll eat anything.’
          ‘Do you want to share some yoghurt?’ Father Bryant turned to Eleanor.
          ‘She’s not having any yoghurt!’ Mother Bryant cried.  ‘I’m not risking my granddaughter getting listeria.’
          ‘But it’s okay for me to get listeria?’ Father Bryant asked.
          My mother thought about it.  ‘Yes,’ she nodded her head.  ‘Now excuse me, because I must get dressed.’
          There then followed a couple of minutes where I side-stepped my father to reach the hob, and Eleanor danced around her grandfather to grab the kettle, and my father jiggled around the pair of us to open the fridge, and then my mother shuffled back in, still in her nightie.
          ‘Dear Heart,’ said my father (you can tell he’s irritated when he refers to her as Dear Heart), ‘there isn’t enough room in this part of the kitchen for all of us.  What are you doing?’
          ‘I want to warm the bowl for Eleanor’s eggs.’
          ‘Surely the eggs will go into eggcups?’ asked Father Bryant.
          ‘No, she likes them turned out.  Now get out of my way please, I want to warm the bowl.’
          ‘You don’t need to warm the bowl, Grandma,’ said Eleanor.
          ‘I’m warming the bowl!’ said Mother Bryant in a tone of voice that defied argument.
          There then followed a minute while we held our breath, Mother Bryant daring us to interfere, as the tiny woman with the stoop picked up a boiling kettle and, with a violently wobbling hand, slopped scalding water into a china bowl.
          ‘There!’ she said triumphantly as the kettle banged back down on the worktop.  We all exhaled with relief.  ‘Now excuse me.  I must get dressed.’
          I then watched the water boil in the egg saucepan, set the timer, and a couple of minutes later turned the eggs out into the warmed bowl.
          ‘Oh dear.’
          ‘What is it?’ asked Father Bryant.
          ‘The eggs aren’t cooked enough.  They’re all watery.’
          ‘Oh, Mum,’ Eleanor peered over my shoulder, ‘that looks revolting.’
          ‘Not to worry,’ said Father Bryant, ‘we’ll put them in the microwave.’
          ‘How does it work?’ I peered at the old-fashioned buttons.
          ‘Everybody out of my way,’ said Mother Bryant lurching back into the kitchen, grabbing hold of door handles and backs of chairs for support.  She was still in her nightie.  ‘I’ll set the timer for you.  Will ten seconds do it?’
          ‘I’m not sure,’ said Eleanor.
          ‘We’ll try it,’ said Father Bryant, pressing the start button.
          ‘Stop!  Stop!’ shrieked Mother Bryant.  ‘The timer says nine minutes fifteen seconds!’
          ‘No, it doesn’t, Dear Heart.’ (Dear Heart again, see.)
          ‘Yes it does.’  Mother Bryant pointed a knobbly finger at the digital display.  ‘See?  There!  Are you blind?’
          ‘That’s the clock, Dear Heart.’ (Said through gritted teeth.)
          ‘It isn’t.’
          ‘It is.’
          ‘It isn’t.’
          ‘It is.’
          ‘It isn’t.’
          ‘It is.’
          ‘Grandma,’ interrupted Eleanor, ‘I don’t think it can be the timer because nine minutes and fifteen seconds in a microwave would cause the eggs to explode.  Several times over.’
          My mother thought about this.  ‘Don’t you want the eggs well cooked?’
          ‘I think thirty seconds will suffice.  Why don’t you let me do it, and go and get dressed?’
          ‘Yes.  Good idea.  I keep meaning to get dressed, but everybody keeps interrupting me.’  My mother then shuffled over to the kitchen table and sat down.  ‘Actually, I’m too exhausted to get dressed right now.  I’ll do it in a little while.’
          The eggs came out of the microwave looking extremely unappetising.
          ‘Are they okay?’ Father Bryant asked Eleanor.
          ‘Um, yes, I suppose so.  They just look a bit dodgy.’
          ‘What about some marmalade?’ asked Mother Bryant hauling herself upright and shuffling across to a cupboard.
          ‘Not on eggs, Grandma.’
          ‘No?  Well what about something else?  I’ve got Nutella, Marmite, strawberry jam, or peanut butter.’
          ‘I think I’ll just have butter, Grandma.’
          ‘Okay.  I’ve got Lurpak, Olivio or Flora.’
          My daughter took the Lurpak before taking a mouthful of egg.
          ‘How is it?’ asked Father Bryant.
          ‘If I don’t look at it,’ Eleanor replied, ‘it’s passable.’
          I put my piece of toast down and glanced at everybody around the table. ‘I’ve just remembered the dream I had last night.’
          ‘Why, did it have micro-waved eggs in it?’ asked my father.
          ‘No, it had angels in it.’
          My father and daughter exchanged a look.  One that clearly said she’s away with the fairies again.
          ‘I’m listening to you, dear,’ said Mother Bryant indulgently, ‘even if these two aren’t.’
          ‘I went for a spin around the globe with these two massive angels.  And very nice it was too.  Oh, and they kept chanting three words as we flew.  Love, Mercy and Forgiveness.’
          ‘Probably in relation to your egg cooking skills,’ muttered Eleanor.
          Which reminds me.  What day do eggs hate the most?  Fry-day…



Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Other Man

There is a man in my life who sees me in ways that only a husband should.  And a husband of longstanding at that.  And yet…he is not my husband.  This is a shameful thing to confess, but confess I do.  Every morning I wake up, minus make-up, hair dishevelled, and greet this man in the seductive attire of pyjama shorts and a mis-matched top.  This relationship is now in its eighth month.  Sometimes he leaves me little notes too.  There’s a parcel behind your wheelie bin.  Yes, I’m talking about my postman.
          Earlier this week, I greeted my postie possibly looking like his worst nightmare, and it dawned on me that postmen up and down the country must see an awful lot of ladies looking…well, not to put it too finely…rough.
          In fact, I know this is true.  Because I recently bumped into my postie in the local supermarket, said hello, and he didn’t know who I was.
          ‘It’s me,’ I beamed, ‘you don’t recognise me with my clothes on, do you!’ It was only then that I registered the flabbergasted woman standing next to him.
          ‘My postman!’ I explained.
          ‘My husband,’ she snapped.
          ‘Well, yes, of course,’ I gabbled, ‘and I’ve got one of those too,’ I assured.
          ‘Excellent. And I’m sure you wouldn’t want me greeting him in my birthday suit every morning.’
          ‘Oh, but I haven’t.  I mean didn’t.  I wear pyjama shorts you see.  And a top.  Obviously.  Well, apart from that time when he got me out the shower.  I had a towel around me on that occasion.’  Mrs Postie looked affronted.  This wasn’t what she wanted to hear.  ‘Absolutely lovely to meet you,’ I trilled.  ‘I’m just off to dig a big hole for myself under the tinned soup aisle.’  Well, I didn’t really say that last bit.  But I definitely thought it.  Why is it that the most innocent of things can sometimes become a minefield?
          In my old house, the door had stained glass windows.  So if the postie rang the bell, I was able to hide my pyjama shorts and mis-matched top behind the patterned glass and just poke out my head, as if on a lollipop stick, and take the proffered parcel.  In those days it was the dustmen I used to scare on a weekly basis.  There was many a Friday morning that I’d forget the bin men were coming.
          ‘Damn, the dustmen are here,’ I’d say to Mr V.  ‘Quick.  Go and put the bin out.’
          ‘I’m not dressed.  You put the bin out.’
          ‘I’m not dressed either.  I’m wearing my pyjama bottoms and mis-matched top.’
          ‘But I’m only wearing my underpants.’
          ‘I don’t care.  You’re the man of the house.  You do it.’
          ‘You’re always telling me that you run this house, so you do it.’
          ‘Oh for–’
          Followed by a crazed blonde catapulting out of the house and legging it after the dustcart with a wheelie bin bouncing in her wake.
          In my mother’s day, there was yet another man who used to find the ladies in a state of undress.  The milkman.  These days everybody buys their milk at the supermarket, but when I was a child the sound of the electric milk float was common place.  My mother would greet the milkman every morning, a vision in a nylon nightie and hair curlers.  Sometimes, if it was the weekend and she was hoping for a lie-in, she’d leave a note folded into the empties.
          ‘Dear Milkman.  Please leave an extra pint today.’
          On one occasion, her note was misunderstood.
          ‘Dear Milkman.  I missed you yesterday.  Do you have any strawberry yoghurts?’
          His reply:  ‘Strawberry yoghurts behind the planter.  And I missed you too.’
          Fortunately my father saw the funny side and recognised that our milkman had a sense of humour.
          One evening, my mother put the empties out and scribbled another of her hasty notes.  Never great at spelling, she didn’t realise that she’d asked him to leave an extra pint of paralysed milk.  Which reminds me.  Here are some genuine notes that have been left in milk bottles for the milkman:
          I’ve just had a baby.  Please leave another one.
          Cancel one pint after the day after today.
          Please close gate behind you as birds keep pecking the tops off the milk.
          Do not leave milk at Number 14 because he is dead until further notice.
          My child wants a milkshake. Do you deliver? Or do I shake the bottle?
          Please leave details about cheap milk as I’m stagnant…