Monday, 31 October 2011

Out of the mouth of Littlest

Little people are blessed with many gifts, but one of the best of these is the ability, without guilt or embarrassment, to tell it like it is.

Our diminished family of girls visited a castle yesterday. The man at the entrance asked, "One adult, three children?" Then looking a bit closer at Eldest, corrected his tally to two adults, two children.

Later, we debated whether Eldest was flattered or annoyed to be considered a child. And I said, "If he had called me a child, that would have been extremely flattering!"

Littlest looked me up and down, with a puzzled frown that clearly said what planet are you on mother, before stating, "But he wouldn't, would he?"

The pile of hands game

Boys banished to the far ends of the earth - New Zealand, India ... and kennels. Girls left to do things together:


But we do miss the chaps. Honest!

Shadow picture - Girls on Bangor pier

Me and my girls (and a blue post)

Shadow picture - Littlest

Littlest scootering

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Wonderful words

Just returned from North Wales with an idea for a new blog topic (new for me; suspect it has probably been done before): wonderful words, words that are remarkable in their noteworthy onomatopoeic strangeness. While I am sure there are examples in most languages where modern life necessitates the invention of new words, in Wales this happened with the microwave. What do you do with a microwave oven? - pop the food in and wait for the ping. So, guess what it's called?

I actually have no idea how it is spelt - probably as it is Welsh, with a bucket load of consonants - but phonetically the word is pop-tee-ping. Brilliant!

I wonder what the machine-that-goes-ping in hospitals is called - cheattee-death-ping, resus-me-ping, heartee-ping ... ?

Friday, 28 October 2011

King for a week: part 5

Damn it!

I knew I'd heard someone say something about kennels. I should have guessed! Littlest spent all morning packing, which meant moving her collection of furry, but pretend, rabbits, from one room to another,until she found a bag big enough to hold them all (what's the point of a pretend rabbit? - I wish I could tell her, 'If it can't hop, it can't be chased, so it ain't worth it. And a mouthful of rabbity fur is no fun if it can't wriggle - don't tell Littlest, but I've tried). Then, Mum came home all in a flap with "far too much to do." The signs were all there, but no-one had the courtesy to tell me. It's like telling someone they are going to the Dentist, only when you arrive at the dentist's front door: not fair, not fair at all. Luckily for Mum, I didn't have to pack anything.

Sadly, at the end of my week's reign, I was just beginning to get everyone - all my girls -  into a routine. Food, lazing around, sleeping, more food, sniff  around outside (real rabbits; real rabbit droppings - furry ones are just constipated with stuffing, which is not yummy at all! and tends to explode out if you worry them a bit), eat again and discover new places to sleep (mainly at or under the girls' feet and as near as possible to any food they were eating; that is a particularly favourite sleep of mine - the one where you look totally comatose and perhaps dribble a bit for extra effect, but all the tine have one eye just open a slit, focused on whatever tasty morsel might be abandoned in my reach; I am the king of wishful thinking).

I won't get a chance to be king at the kennels - "Young Upstart!" more like!  

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The midnight meanderings of a procrastinating procrastinator

I am completely useless - at going to bed early; at filling bean bags with polystyrene beads (snow of tiny balls all over the kitchen floor); at windsurfing - can't do it, therefore won't do it; at remembering people's names; at remembering where I put the amazing recipe I want to cook now or tomorrow or next week; at recalling the names of plants; at catching up with paperwork - it's boring, so frustrating, so put it off, so more frustrating, so tidy it away into a different room, so face accusations of hiding it, so frustration levels reach a climax, so do it, so wonder in frustration why didn't do it earlier, so resolve to do so the next time, and don't, so frustration recycles ... perpetually. And when full of the cold even simple decisions become pretty impossible

Apple, lemon or orange? Sacrilegious toddy part 2.

And you're no help

Or are you hinting that I'll end up on the floor if I have a toddy?

Two nights in a row (toddy, not floor!) ... habit forming? No. Medicinal? Yes.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Hot toddy sacrilege?

A Scot who doesn't like whiskey, who has a stinking cold, who wants to sleep, who has a very sweet tooth, who has failed so far to find/invent a cure to to common cold, who despairs of her failure to walk Four-legged-friend yet again, who is working far too much this half term, who can't wait for the weekend  ... who needs to go to bed and fancies a wee something - a night cap - but can't face the usual whiskey (eurgh), honey (noooo) and lemon (=indigestion) has a new recipe to share.

Try this. It's naughty, smells medicinal (in a good way) and is really scrummy.

Take a big mug (porcelain, not husband). Boil the kettle. Find some hot chocolate powder - the better the chocolate powder the better the drink.

Pour a generous finger of Cointreau into your mug. Add the chocolate powder, then top up with boiling water and hot milk. Take to bed, sip, slide down the pillows, dream (and worry about your teeth in the morning). Sacrilegious? I think not.

Good night

King for a week: part 4

A day of kingly demandingness? (see King for a week: part 3)

First, I demanded a walk, but Mum was either out somewhere - twice! - (I think she called it work, but I don't know why she has to go out to do that, because I could find plenty of work for her to do here), or she was still all sneezy, so I sulked a bit and went outside, where I put my helpful hat on

Mum (home for her lunch break) put the leaves in the bucket - I nuzzled in between her and the brush and her legs, and ate some (leaves, not legs), and pulled a twig out of the bucket which sprinkled (only a few) leaves all over the ground, and caught a beetle. She hinted that I was unhelping, but I was checking on her mental health. This was most definitely necessary after she said she had to sweep up some helicopters:

I know she has been feverish, but when she said the helicopters were really baby-trees-in-disguise, it was me that had the headache. Bones were a safer option

In conclusion, as a day of regal demands, it was a complete failure. We are not amused!

And so to the evening and Mum's at it again - keeping me awake! There's a  variation on the theme of last night - this time her spluttering explosions are oddly out of time with some music called my lotto or mylko zylko ... or perhaps mylo xyloto (it's brilliant, apparently, but I'm just a dog, so what would I know?)

King for a week: part 3

How do I lodge a complaint? - I'm the only male in the house; in charge for a whole week, with three girls to feed, pamper and walk me ... and that's the point: what happened to the walks?

Mum looks decidedly peaky; her nose is dripping and she keeps doing loud spluttering explosions - in other words, she not only fails to take me for walks, but also - right now! - prevents me from sleeping. Imagine that - preventing someone from sleeping; I'd never do anything so selfish! (see King for a week: part 2)

Maybe, I'll take myself for a walk tomorrow? Hmmm - haven't figured out the gates yet, so could find myself trapped in the garden. Plan B? - don't have one of those, but surely a king can demand a plan B from his loyal subjects.

So tomorrow, watch out girls, I'll be more demanding than usual.

P.S. What's a hot toddy? Smells weirdly soporific, or is it a cure for sneezing?

Sunday, 23 October 2011

King for a week: part 2

You know all this 'being the only man in the house' stuff - the big strong brave one who protects the rest of the family? Well, I thought I'd get off to a good start last night; let any potential burglars know I'm here.

So I yelped, whined ... and barked! ... from the time that mum went to bed until 5.30am. I thought I was doing a really good job. Strangely, though, mum didn't.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

King for a week

Dad and long-legged-boy have packed bags and flown away.

"Flown!" - how did they do that? Close examination of long-legged-boy before he left did not reveal any erupting wings. But flying is what he said he was going to do, so who am I to argue?Although, if I had been about to attempt air travel, I would have taken a lighter bag; no point helping gravity to make it more difficult.

So, for eight days, I am the only chap in the house.

Do you think I might get away with doing this all week?

Mum's pretty tolerant; I reckon I might be lucky. 

But did someone mention kennels?

Sunday, 16 October 2011


Mum and I got lost this morning.

Yes! Completely stuck without a compass and walking in the wrong direction. And we were only ten minutes from home. Bit of a silly idea to go for a walk if you ask me, but then, I wasn't asked. When we stepped out of the back door and found a blanket of white resting on the ground - Mum said it was called fog - that should have been her queue to return me to my warm spot next to the Aga. But no, on we went, into the familiarish unknown - I mean it smelt the same, but this time it wasn't only the footpaths that had disappeared, but the trees, the sky, the sun and the rabbits (I could hear them, but not see them - which was really frustrating; at least if I can see them, I can choose to ignore them, when I can only hear them, their rustling startles me and then it looks really uncool if I don't act like a dog and chase them, except I can't see them, so it's difficult knowing where to chase).

So we were lost:

Which way's home, Mum?

Then we found the stile

But after this we hit 360degrees of nothingness...

And after turning through 360 degrees neither of us knew where we were. So we blundered on for a bit - like a game of blind-man's-bluff, but with the fog wrapped round our heads instead of a scarf.

Suddenly we could see again

This was a bit of a surprise: not where we thought we were at all. Parallel dimension? No, parallel field and not a footpath in sight, but then there wouldn't be, as there isn't meant to be one here. Oops!

But even more of a surprise ...

Where had home gone?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Me and my Shadow

 "Biscuit Mum?"

Mystery of the disappearing footpaths

Yesterday, Mum and I went for a walk. One of our usual walks. One where we normally amble along, smelling things, chasing bits of bread or carrot, upsetting the odd pheasant, and seldom meet anyone else.  We follow the path in a wide circuit until we get home, have some food, curl up and go to sleep. (Mum doesn't curl up and go to sleep, that bit's all me!) So it's an activity that doesn't require much thought. Until yesterday ...

Here's the sign for the footpath. But where's it gone?

I'm sure it was here last time.

Maybe I can sniff it out. Got to get Mum home somehow. My tummy's starting to rumble.

Think I'm onto something here

Yep, definitely found it. But just when I was getting confident that the food was only minutes away ... this happened

Pssst ... Mum, there's no path! You don't seriously expect me to follow you. I'm a law abiding dog and besides, the farmer's bigger than me. If his big tractor-thingy ripped up the path, just think what it could do to me. Oh, you've got a clue for me ... okay, I'll come as long as it's a tasty clue.

The stile! Not exactly tasty, but at least it means there was once a path here.

We eventually got home; (I) ate, curled up and went to sleep.

The disappearing footpaths are still a mystery, though. Mum says our feet will bring the paths back. What!!! The only things my feet bring back are lumps of sticky mud on wet days, and bits of grass on dry days. How are my feet going to bring  a path and where will they bring it from? Humans can be so confusing. And so wrong sometimes!

Brown and wrinkled

Something very strange is happening to me.

Something similar is happening to the trees : my hair is falling out; as for the trees - well they don't have hair obviously, but they're dropping leaves all over the ground. It's littering on a grand scale.

I can't help losing my hair so maybe it's the same with trees and leaves. The hair I'm losing is brownish and sort of grey, which is odd because my coat is black. But it's not as odd as the leaves - they are green and soft and bendy on the trees (I know because I've eaten some) and on the ground it's hard to believe they are leaves; I hope bits don't start falling off me and turning all brown and wrinkled and touch-me-and-I'll-crack-into lots-of-dry-pieces.

The dropping activities of tree and dog have the same effect on mum however- it involves a long-handled bristly thing and lots of sweeping. And the occasional bit of spluttering and muttering under her breath. Particularly, when I try to catch the bristly thing.

This is me and some leaves outside the back door

I'm saying, "That was a lovely walk, Mum. Pleeeease let me in for some food and a sleep." The leaves are probably saying, "Look we've been helpful and gathered ourselves into a convenient pile."

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Heaven vanished

Littlest is now having formal RS (Religious Studies) lessons at school and this has led to the sort of tricky philosophical questions that innocent seven year olds do best.

We have a 25minute car journey to and from school each day, which is usually a time to practice times tables, recite poems, sing, discuss who has been nice/nasty that day, what it takes to be a good teacher (you have to smile a lot), how very extreeeeemly sore it is to have a graze on your elbow, what fillings are best in baked potatoes, or if  tired, to gaze vacantly out of the window. The driver, particularly at the end of the day, often feels like gazing vacantly out of the window too ... but now the brain is kept awake trying to help Littlest sort out weightier issues - Should she believe in God? What is God anyway and where is he? And what about other peoples Gods - some of them are easier to believe in apparently because you can actually see them, like the half man half animal gods of Hindus? Why can't we see our God?

Then yesterday - she wasn't sure if she should believe in Heaven. "Some people think it's up there, in the sky - like there's a great lid above the clouds. You go through the lid and line up."

She however thinks that heaven probably isn't in the sky. "When you get put in your grave, your body sort of sinks, and goes deeper and deeper into the earth. Until it has vanished.That must be where heaven is."

... Earth to earth? How poetic!

Sunday, 9 October 2011


Bless-my-doggy-soul * the newspaper delivery lady thinks I want to eat her too! Beep! Beep! Beep! she went this morning.

How am I to get the message across that I don't eat human, never have, and really don't want to?

Or could the beeping possibly be saying something else? I'm beginning to suspect that it might. 'Stop!'  is a definite possibility.

* I'm not sure if I have a soul. What is a soul anyway? There's a place far, far away called Hollywood, where they'll pay fifty cents for your soul, but for some reason a kiss is worth a thousand dollars ... although, I'm not sure that anyone would pay me a thousand dollars for a sloppy, bacteria-laden, doggy kiss. Apologies to Marilyn Monroe for the misquote, but if her soul was only worth fifty cents, then that would suggest that the soul of a mere dog is worth considerably less. And if worthless, then need I argue for its existence at all. Should I be bothered? Probably not ...

And anyway, when I shuffle off this mortal coil, I'll be happy, as long as heaven doesn't beep at me!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Whether the weather don't eat human meat

Four-legged-friend posting today: mum's a bit busy - in-laws staying - so in order not to stress her too much (or to help her de-stress) I thought it best to take her for a nice long walk. Problem - long: yes; walk: well obviously; nice: well, if you call going out in light drizzle; then getting pelted by hard white nuggetty things falling out of the sky; being so soaked that my coat needed a jolly good shaking and mum stripped in the utility room when we got home, nice, then maybe it was, but in my opinion ... I've had better chases through long, nettle strewn grass, on an ice cold blustery day.

This is me - those white lumps on my coat aren't the worst case of doggy dandruff ever seen, but the nuggetty things that were falling out of the sky

One thing that bothers me, every time we are go out for a stroll, are the holes in the hedges -

These ones are just frustrating - there's a small one and two big ones in my garden and I haven't figured out how to open any of them yet

These ones are a struggle for mum - she has to climb over them and after rain that can be a trifle tricky, as the green wood step gets very slippery; for me, it's easy peasy. Wouldn't be so easy if I ate too much, or for a horse, or pig, or elephant even - but then, we don't get many of them around here.

As far as holes in hedges go, these ones are the best, easy for everyone, and a whole herd of elephants could fit through - they'd probably have to walk in single file though.

Even though it dropped nuggety things and then rained and then was sunny, mum was pleased I'd brought her out for a walk. And I was a good boy - that beeper thing won't let me not be a good boy! So good in fact, that I sat while mum waved her talking flashing box thing at me and gave me some bread.

Shortly after this we had to rush home. Mum said it was something to do with these dark clouds racing towards us. But I've never been chased by a cloud before, so I don't think she knew what she was talking about.

Strangely and rather worryingly, I think the in-laws must suspect I want to eat them, because when I get too frisky around them, trying to jump up and give them a kiss, or chew their sleeves a bit, they beep at me; just the same as all the mum-calls-them-unmentionables that I find under my nose when I'm out walking. Someone needs to tell them I don't eat humans ...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The darker side of walking the dog

Guess what this title refers to -

Four-legged-friend is a black labrador, equally dark on all sides, so it doesn't refer to him

Gloomy thoughts while WTD? - no, thoughts today were all about brambles - which are I have to admit dark, but don't have a dark side - and how I am to remember to take a bag with me tomorrow for the collection of many, plumptious, previously undiscovered brambles in the ditches along our walk

Distress at having to work this morning - this makes me uniformly dark, so not that either

Still unseasonally warm, sun bright and shadows cast - definite dark side therefore when out walking, but no it isn't this either

No - the darker side in question refers to dark matter ... what is it with me and matters physical at the moment? I did disasterously badly in Physics at school (always reckoned someone in the admissions department  made a mistake when I was accepted to university with an E grade in a science!) but I find it fascinating in a I'm-totally-in-awe-of-all-this-and-understand-not-a-jot-of-it sort of a way. So back to dark matter - let me explain

Dark matter is the magic bit, or the imagined bit, or the baking powder bit that makes the cake work, that is used to explain the unexplainable bits of gravity and why sometimes the maths to define gravity doesn't quite appear to work. Bear with me a moment longer and you might see where I am going with this

The Nobel prize has been awarded to three physicists, who have looked at supernovas and what happens to the light coming from these exploding stars - it apparently undergoes a red shift, which is something to do with how far back in time they are looking, and how bent by gravity the matter from the star is. Anyway, they have discovered that the universe, which is expanding after the big bang - an event that occurred so long ago, that all the exploding bits should be slowing down now, a bit like the ripples spreading out when you drop a stone in calm water - is actually expanding faster; accelerating, even. And this might in turn prove that dark matter exists - the bit they have invented to explain what can't be explained, must exist if the unexplainable is proved by observing it. Or not, perhaps.

Where does this leave the neutrinos that appear to travel faster than light? And if matter can travel faster than light, in this dimension or from another, would that not rather distort the measurements of time across the universe and maybe even make its expansion appear to accelerate? And in what dimension are these supernovas being measured anyway?

Amazing what passes through one's mind when walking Four-legged-friend.

The darker side was the shady side of the field, necessary due to the head ache I had after musing upon the existence or otherwise of dark matter, whether it matters, and reassuring myself that I am never in this rapidly expanding universe going to understand Physics.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Time shift

Nearly drove off the road this morning: maybe it's my age or something, but there are so many things on the radio, in the newspaper, on TV, online, that trigger a McEnroe moment and make me want to shout "WHAT????? YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!!!'

Last week, it was neutrinos, that if they weren't moving faster than the speed of light to get to their destination possibly before they left, were maybe coming from a different dimension .

This week, it's the news on @BBCr4today that good old Greenwich Mean Time has not been the gold standard for time measurement since the early 1970s and, more preposterously, that there is currently a proposal to move GMT to Paris. PARIS!!!

Clearly, no-one has thought through the consequences of this - that would put us all in 'PMT' plus or minus a few hours.

PMT is defined as a time of irrational, irritable, often depressed behaviour, occurring once a month, to a greater or lesser extent, in a woman's hormone cycle. If mother earth is in PMT time, maybe that explains a lot - the wobbles in global finances; unseasonal hot weather (flushes?); and our indecisiveness ... or rather my procrastinating procrastination. I'm good at this (as I have said numerous times before) but this time I am not going to let the world's PMT ensnare me too - TODAY I WILL SUBMIT, and walk the dog, and pack and post the parcel I have been promising Eldest for days; and sort the mountain of papers in the kitchen; and  .... probably write here about my failure to do so later.

One last thing, if time does move to a baseline through Paris, does that mean we can blame the French for the world's woes?

No elbows on the table - what about wheels?

This Indian summer-that-isn't-an Indian-summer continues and another hot day followed yesterday's record breaker.

Littlest wriggled into our bed at silly-o'clock and wriggled and wriggled until I gave up and we both got up. In what century did I last have a long lie? I'm not really complaining, because with eldest away at University, I am only too aware of how brief the years will seem when Littlest is still happy to climb in for a cuddle in the mornings and wriggle restlessly, full of energy, waiting to bounce, joyously, into the day. I suspect I left my early morning get-up-and-go in the last century, with my lie-ins.

On a hot, early autumn (the leaves are falling off the trees) day in England - particularly, a hot, early autumn Sunday, it is a fact - no, almost a law of human nature - that the menfolk will rise late, and peer outside, before declaring, in a statesmanlike, bossy, terribly important puffed-out-chest sort of way, 'get me my oven glove, manly apron, and sharp weaponry (long handled fork, spikey thing and metal tongs) for I will cook the last barbecue of the year.

Of course, this is no surprise to womenfolk, who being capable of reading the weather and more than capable of understanding the primaeval instincts of men, will have already been shopping, or in primitive man language,  left the home to hunt down the raw ingredients and deliver the killing to her man. And after she has done this she hovers nearby passing basting sauce, bottle opener, damp cloth for the wiping of the furrowed brow and she witnesses his incredible need to spear the sausage (ensuring it is dead), burn the chicken into submission, inhale lots of smoke while blinking at the beer bottle and swigging from it - no girly glasses here!

And no glass of wine for his wife - he is far too busy. It's just as well she put a bottle in the fridge. (Editing note of honesty here - my particular specimen of manliness, although keen on barbecueing, is not as Neanderthal as I may have implied - he usually remembers the wine!)

So we were having a BBQ:

Time to chuck together a marinade for the chicken legs

Olive oil; balsamic vinegar; mixed herbs, salt and pepper, tomato paste; mango chutney and juice of one orange - mega yummy; mega sticky. Tossed; fried to brown the chicken; oven baked on a low settling for an hour and finished off on the BBQ.

Four-legged-friend and I went foraging - the most successful thieves have an accomplice, someone to seek out the tastiest bounty and then watch out for cars, or farmers, or a passing rabbit and bark a bit, to warn them off; very territorial and protective.

Foraged fruit, plus sweet shortcrust pastry, plus victoria sponge cake mix, produced a bramble bakewell tart. Dusted with icing sugar.

Love my cookery books, love recording who cooked what, for whom and when. But when it comes to Victoria sponge - what with four children all needing birthday cakes, fairy cakes, pudding toppings etc etc - I am beginning to run out of space:

And the best bit - in 2008, Littlest wrote this - mummy loves 'Littlest' - we had just baked her birthday cake, with lots of chocolate

Memories are wonderful things.

Back to the BBQ on a hot, hot, hot and windy afternoon - due to breeziness and need for shade, we moved the garden table and chairs to the back of  the house and narrow back patio.

Who (can you see him) set a place for the Panda?

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Not an Indian summer then

Not an Indian summer apparently, because a) it is still September, so too early, and b) we haven't had a frost yet. So that clears that up, but what to do when it is unseasonally hot? You could do a bit of motherly multitasking - the usual round of washing, ironing, putting clothes away; cooking; washing up; lamentable lack of dog walking (pact with Four-legged-friend - who strangely enough  is better now that there are no apples left on the tree - to walk him tomorrow; and curtain hanging (the pair of the one nibbled by mice - see Bl**dy mice! blog); grass cutting; sorting packing boxes; tidying absent son's room; and attending village harvest supper.

Alternatively, you could read a book in the sun; pick brambles and make jam; remember Littlest's piano practice; stop procrastinating and submit, submit, submit!; make ice cream; give Four-legged-friend a bath; and even walk the dog. I didn't do any of those things; might I do some of them tomorrow? Probably not.

But I also didn't spend the day planning my trip to Nepal to attend the opening of an orphanage for disabled children that I have helped to build - awesome and truly humbling discovery about friends' philanthropy, over supper this evening.