Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Mid life crisis? Or just a case of seeing a horizon filled with the wrong type of work

Work-life balance - an odd expression, especially when you have run up against an iron railing of a work-life balance-dilemma. With railings you generally have two choices - pass through them if there is a gate, or if you are thin enough (!!!!! NY resolution is at risk of becoming a February resolution) and the space between the railings is wide enough to accommodate you, or climb over them. There is however a third option - you can pause, sit, put down roots, procrastinate and stop; this equals inertia and is not a happy place to be. You can't go backwards because that is the past and history cannot be rewritten, but something is preventing you from making progress. I can give many names to that something - it is indecision, fear, uncertainty, endless excuses - washing up, ironing, walking the dog, shopping, drinking coffee, lacking confidence, and putting everyone but yourself first. You know that the future lies beyond the railings, but you can't see how to get there - you can probably see exactly how to help everyone else get through their own personal sets of railings, but you just seem incapable of doing it for yourself. And you dither - for weeks! Getting nowhere fast.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that faced with decisions about work - which actually feel more like decisions about work, life, the universe and everything - I .... well, you know what I do - I'm doing it now. I didn't declare myself a pretty good procrastinator a few blogs back for nothing!

Perhaps this is a mid-life crisis - the big what next moment. But why call it a work - life balance? To balance two things is to establish an equilibrium between them, the two things are different but equal - work-life balance therefore implies that work and life are separate and that work is not part of life. So when I feel dead at work, perhaps I am!

Mmmm - solution? The usual ... eat chocolate! And procrastinate a bit more.

... so, these February Resolutions ...

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Madness, thy name is Guilt

Triple whammy for poor old me, Four-legged-friend, this week:

  • The forecast is bad - frost, snow (perhaps), a bit more rain, maybe some fog - general chilly outlook.

  • Mum has to work - far away and far too long, most days.

  • Curling up next to the Aga has become far too ingrained a habit - says who!! It's lovely!

Mum was obviously worrying about my creature comforts this afternoon, because she carpeted my kennel!!!!

Um ... in my opinion, that's a bit of an impractical colour - but it's all about the warmth, apparently; something called insulation

So now I have a padded cell

Actually, with the door closed and the bolt screwed back on (because she lost the padlock key!) it's quite dark in there - will it be warm? - I'm sceptical, but I'll let you know. A few hot water bottles, or a big cushion in the corner, and a marrow bone, some hot soup and a duvet might be good. 

Think Mum's secretly hoping I won't spend my time in prison kennels ripping the carpet back off the walls. Could be fun! ...

Wet, wetter and shadow pictures

Pssst! Do you think Mum will notice if we jump in?

What? - do you mean like this?

Nooo! She'll probably notice when you get stuck though ...

And when you find more water and splash it about a bit - then she'll definitely notice!

And she'll notice when you deny having water in your wellies and find the walk home a bit too long

Then she'll rescue you and teach you that it is in fact always better to walk holding hands:

And no matter how wet and muddy you are ... xx

P.S. Odd appendage is actually my elbow ... haven't turned into Mae West!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Fits and questions of independence

Ever since we moved here, almost twelve years ago, we have been visited almost daily by a large thick-coated, stripy-tailed and therefore probably feral, mean-looking cat. Once upon a time, we had a delightfully gentle, rescue cat, called Useless (husband has never liked cats!) who lived outside, loved having her head tickled, was great at catching mice, but hated being picked up. The feral brute would saunter into the garage, hiss a bit until Useless moved and then help itself to her cat food, or milk, and he used much the same technique to gain her bedding, an old pillow in a wooden wine crate at the back of the greenhouse. I became used to a skulking shadow edging away whenever I went to do the watering. Even though Useless had gone to cat heaven, the monster still treats our garden as it's own and on Sunday, nonchalantly strolled past the kitchen window. This resulted in such a frenzy of heckles, barking and leaping at the back door that poor Four-legged-friend stumbled and proceeded to have a full blown grand mal fit on the path outside.

So we have an epileptic dog. In retrospect, he probably had a petit mal fit last summer after falling onto a wall that he was trying to jump over to get at some food.

Our laid back, but sensible vet reassured me that fits are relatively common in dogs - he may never have another one, or he may go on to have them frequently in which case he would need medication. However, it is apparently not normally considered much of a problem "because he will never have to operate machinery or drive a car!"

Guess the holiday game of chasing stones into Scottish lochs is probably a thing of the past though.

Thinking about Scotland for a moment - on what planet is a question starting "Do you agree ..." considered balanced - it's like asking 'do you agree that everyone should have a piece of this cake that I have spent all afternoon baking'- of course everyone is going to say yes, either because they genuinely want a piece of cake, or because they fall into the group of those who aren't sure, have eaten already, or don't want to hurt your feelings and have picked up on the hidden aggression in the 'do you agree' part of the question. It's almost as bad as that other favourite of politicians and bullies everywhere who follow an expression of their opinion on something with 'don't you think?' It is extremely hard to say 'no, I don't think' and actually if you break the question down, what they are actually saying is 'don't ... you ... think' i.e. a rather aggressive 'don't think!" - meaning don't dare to contradict me. So - without expressing any opinion on whether my country of birth should be independent ... or not (note the balance!!) - I hope that the baker of the great cake that has been cooking in Edinburgh for the past few years will have the good grace to ask fairly, "Would you like a piece of cake or not?"

Friday, 20 January 2012

Dreich, drookit and mauchit

Sometimes regional dialects can describe things far better than standard English (whatever that is) - like the Australian crook - as in "I feel a bit crook" - immediate visual image of being not quite upright, and the audible emphasis on the double oo for 'eurgh, I'm sick'.

But for sheer onomatopoeic brilliance the Scots are hard to beat:

Take today for example -

The weather is cold, grey and damp, visibility is reduced by the constant rain, and there's a breeze that finds the gap between your jacket and neck and chills you to the bone. Thirty words, where one would suffice: dreich - pronounced dree - followed by the soft ch as in loch - something that most Englishmen completely fail to master; but whereas 'lock' is just about tolerable, in a have to feel sorry for them sort of a way, 'dreik' loses its meaning altogether. So try it - it's like the gentlest clearing of your throat, a soft wind across the back of your tongue - loch, dreich. Got it? Today defines dreich.

Four-legged-friend, out for a walk on a dreich day, became totally, but happily drookit; helped by plunging into a stream swollen by recent rain.

Drookit means drenched. Absolutely. "Dr-ooooo-kit" - say it and you can hear the image of dripping, hanging, sodden wet dog, who is now steaming and smelly by the Aga.

Lastly, mauchit:

My mauchit wellies - splendidly muddy!

So dreich, drookit and mauchit - a trio of miserable weather gnomes, Damp, Drenched and Dirty - or three fantastic words which deserve a wider audience?

Sunday, 15 January 2012

A truth universally acknowledged

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a person in possession of a Four-legged-friend, must be in want of a comfy chair - the warm, low, wicker one next to the Aga - but is completely unable to sit for more than 3 seconds, without being nudged, pushed, pawed,  nibbled and dribbled on.

The result? coffee spilt all down my pyjamas, sticky trails of drool strung between my knees, and total evaporation of snoozing time - this had been my only chance of a long-lie all week til some canine friend woke me up needing his breakfast.

Also I'm no longer in possession of the chair ...

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Chilly bottom and cold feet

"How long are you going to make me sit here, Mum?"

On a cold and frosty morning it's best to adopt a bounding gait, that way your feet remain in contact with the ground for as short a time as possible and with practice you get a decent distance away from Mum where she can't see what it is you are sniffing 

Failed shadow picture - 'cos I caught up with my shadow

Tip of the day - in the event of finding yourself lost in the countryside, on a frosty morning, without a compass, and with a hangover sufficiently bad to have forgotten your way home, or amnesia - which way is North?

Birthday milestones and socks

They say it is a sign of getting older when it becomes a struggle to put on your socks. It might be a surprise to any of my friends reading this who hopefully are thinking she's not that old, but putting on my socks is not a mere struggle; it's well nigh impossible!

We have a number of chairs in our kitchen - wooden dining chairs; a rocking chair; two sofas and a wicker chair that really wants to be in a conservatory, but as we haven't got one has to make do with the warm corner next to the Aga - and they come in a variety of heights, but it doesn't matter which one I choose, socks in hand, I just can't get them on. If I can see my feet, then my arms aren't long enough; if I can reach my feet, then I can't see them. I've tried doing it sideways; standing with my foot up on the chair; leaning backwards with my foot somewhere near my ear and even wedging myself up against the table so as not to overbalance. It's impossible!

There just isn't room for me, my socks, my feet ... and Four-legged-friend's great black lump of a body trying to help. The only solution is to put him out. Then it's easy!

... Until I find he's taken one of the socks with him.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Carpe diem

Think this should have been my New Year's Resolution: 'seize the day'. Or even better in Horace's original - Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero - live for today and don't rely too much on the future.

I know I played the tease and didn't actually admit what my resolution, or resolutions were - suffice it to say that I haven't kept them ... yet. I still mean to, but the timing needs to be right, before I actually get round to them. Sounds a bit familiar? Putting it off - procrastinating - again! And why replace all my resolutions with carpe diem? Because everything I promised myself was about becoming a better me, not being a better me right now. And let's face it, procrastinators procrastinate in order to put off doing the things they either should do, or want to do. And I'm up there with the gold medallists of procrastination. Delay today what could be done in the future: I should be doing my tax return; I should sort the washing and tidy the house; I should edit the first chapter of my story after it struck me how silly I felt reading it to a dear friend yesterday, who gently told me it was too long, too wordy and - she didn't actually say this, but her fidgeting did - too boring to keep the reader turning the page; I should let Four-legged-friend in before his barking annoys the neighbour, and I should finish that bar of chocolate so that tomorrow can be the day I stop eating too much and start a new healthier life.

Does everyone have these problems? Perhaps perfectionists, sportsmen and bankers don't - perfectionists because their life is perfect so problem free, sportsmen because if they don't live for the match today, there will be no tomorrow, and bankers because surely none of them would have been bankers if they could have seen what was coming tomorrow.

For the rest of us though is carpe diem a step too far?

I have on the wall next to my desk a framed card titled Zen Dog. It states:

'He knows not where he's going
For the ocean will decide -
It's not the DESTINATION ...

...It's the glory of THE RIDE'

Maybe that's my form of carpe diem: enjoy today, because we don't know where we are going or what the future holds, but if we make the most of every day we'll sure enjoy the ride.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Of walks, washing, and university holidays

Last walk of the holiday:

I bow at the feet of your stick throwing skills, oh great custodian of the bread tit bits.

C'mon! Just chuck it!


It's great being a dog; they get home, shower (why? My swim in the river was colder but much more fun!); burn meat in the oven; stare at a big paper book thing that a nice chewy lady delivers at the weekend (apparently it says something in the papery thing about me not being allowed to chew the nice lady any more. But I don't think she minds; not really - she seems to quite enjoy racing me to the gate, and she always has a big smile on her face when she gets there first and slams it behind her. In my face); disappear off in the car looking sad, and come back without the friendly tall one, looking sadder; then sit round a table moving cards and sheep!!! round a board, arguing and laughing and playing something called a game, which Littlest won; and do washing; and hardly sit around at all - while I get home and well, it's the best thing to do after a hard day's  walk work:

Saturday, 7 January 2012

P-p-p-pigeon ... mmm!

Hi! It's me here: Four-legged-friend. It's about time I had a turn at the old blogging sport, Mum's been rather hogging it recently - by which I don't mean she's been hog-like (although, you should have seen the amount of  food she and her chums put away over Christmas - it's not surprising she's been attacking the garden; needs the exercise if you ask me), but that she's had all the fun herself; telling you all about her imaginary friends, who she calls felonious kleptosquaters, and her hopeless resolutions. Well, I thought I'd have a bit of fun today - and I discovered a cunning variation to my game of getting extra food to fill my tummy.

First, I caught a pigeon. Actually, I caught a pigeon which was lying on the ground just waiting for me to find it. It looked a bit chewed. And it was headless. But I still caught it. I tossed it around a bit to get mum's attention. And  caught it again. Then the fun started. Mum grabbed a fork; no - she didn't want to share the pigeon with me - it was a big fork, the sort she uses to arrange leaves into piles and to stab holes into the ground. And she chased after me. We've played this game before and she never wins. I drop the pigeon, or rabbit, or cow pat, just long enough for her to think she can lunge at it, but at the last minute I grab it and jump around a bit, while she dances from side to side in front of me, waving the fork. Then - and she always does this too - she shrugs her shoulders and sighs and turns her back on me, dragging the fork slowly across the ground. I pretend I don't know what she's up to and creep up close behind her ... closer ... closer ... closer. And leap away just in time as she spins round. It's the same every time. Next, she throws the fork down and -  Yes! Yes! Yes! - she goes inside to get me some food. Which I eat at the same time as managing to beat her in our little cat and mouse over the pigeon. Honestly, I should really train her better. You'd think she'd learn. She's never going to win this game. I am always going to eat her food and the pigeon. But while she's happy to play, and happy to give me extra food, I'll keep her playing stupid.

Only problem is - it's tomorrow now and she still hasn't given me my dinner.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Frying anyone tonight?

Arrived home from work at lunchtime to receive the somewhat alarming news that my sister had returned from her New Year holiday to find the bedroom window blown open; the bed soaking wet; and had just phoned to say that she was going out to buy a "defibrillator!"

Given that she is a beauty therapist, I wondered if she was branching into a bizarre Sweeney Todd-style electrification treatment of clients - she could advertise "Instant hair whitening", or guarantee to "Reach the muscles that botox misses", or did she plan an experiment with live electric blankets - "So hot, you'll sizzle!", or was it a brutal trick to ensure the dog would never sleep where she wasn't welcome ever again?

Or did she (or Littlest, who delivered the message) perhaps mean a dehumidifier?

Monday, 2 January 2012

New Year Resolutions - fulfilment of: Part 1

Think I rather rashly said something about the fruit cage and sorting it out, in my list of possible, but not confirmed, New Year resolutions.

Four-legged-friend and I thought we had better assess the damage and the extent of labour required - or, as you have probably guessed, it was me staring distressed at the enormous amount of work needed and Four-legged-friend coming along for the walk. And to see if there was anything he could eat: dead rhubarb was a hit!

Rather than start immediately, I decided that a period of reflection and planning was essential i.e. I was distracted by an entirely different, and far simpler task. Much easier option; easier to execute and easier to complete. Weeding!

Four-legged-friend did his best to help. Ate a few weeds. Dug a hole. Stood between me and my bucket. Dropped ball on my toes. Tried to wrestle glove off my hand. Normal behaviour really. Then it struck me - could I persuade the felonious kleptosquaters out of the house and into the garden, where instead of helping themselves to pairs of scissors, car keys and boxes of matches they could instead steal weeds?!!!!! Maybe, I could tempt them with odd socks draped across particularly overgrown shrubs. Then it struck me - they are, of course, outside already. How else to explain the loss of trowels, secateurs, even spades? And the loppers - where have they gone? And who but the kleptosquaters would hide a half finished cup of coffee - complete with thick layer of green slime - on an upturned bucket next to the garden steps?

It reminds me of the elusive coffee cup inside the house. Every day, I make a cup of coffee and start the housework - sorting the washing; then the phone rings and when I've finished talking, I go back to ... the washing up. Just when the sink is full of soapy water, Littlest asks me for a snack - "elevenses" - and when the banana is sliced and chocolate milk poured, I go back to ... washing the utility room floor. I've almost finished, when Four-legged-friend clatters his nose into the dishwasher that I've left open. Four-legged-friend marched outside and dishwasher re-stacked, I return to ... making the beds and vacuuming the floors. Then, I hear someone trying to come in the back door, finding it blocked and pushing harder. And the clatter of mop and splash of water as the bucket I had left there is upturned all over the floor. Then, someone empties coffee grounds into my clean but now cold sink and the phone rings and I have no idea where I left the hands free phone earlier. I trip over the vacuum cleaner lead on my way to the washing machine, where I find both phone ... and cold cup of coffee.

Me or felonious kleptosquaters? - mmm, I wonder ...

P.S. If felonious kleptosquaters puzzle you, you will just have to read my previous blogs to find out who they are/might be.